Johannan wasted no time and began his journey towards the mountain. His heart pounded with expectation and excitement. He didn’t want to get ahead of himself, but he couldn’t help it. His heart wouldn’t keep silent, it kept declaring within him that his travels would soon be coming to an end, that his beloved, Ayushi, would be healed.

The ground’s texture soon began to change. It felt harder, sturdier, giving Johannan a great sensation of balance. He knew he was approaching the foot of the mountain. Johannan glanced upwards. All he could remember was the pain and the hunger to find a cure for her vision. Every moment that he stared into Ayushi’s face, he wanted her to be able to see him. His enthusiasm reminded him of all the people that discouraged him, telling him to go home and that the Great Spirit never existed.

I must bring an end to this burning desire and finally snuff its fires.

With eagerness, he took up the challenge to climb the mountain; things were beginning to turn around. He clambered up the treacherous cracks and landings, and after many hours, he finally got to the summit. He waited there, refreshing himself with the streams of waters that flowed in-between its brooks. Apart from the gushing waters in the brook, there was not a sound to be heard. He expected to hear the fluttering of birds or any other signs of life. There was nothing, no sign of the Great Spirit. Just the usual empty sky. Where could he be? The sun was beginning to descend, the gentle night winds increased, and the bright, luminous full moon took its place in the sky. Johannan sat on a rock with his chin in both palms.

A slight whisper freed itself from his lips, “He has forgotten me.” He began replaying his journey through his mind.

Anyone else would have turned back by now, why am I out here risking my life? But, I can’t return empty-handed. What would Mama say?

“Johannan!” A loud tone breached the stillness. Johannan’s heart rolled like a drum as he vaulted to his feet. “I—I thought you had forgotten me.” He was delighted—finally he was here. “Where are you, Great Spirit?”

Johannan scanned around only to find large rocks and mountain rubble.

“Look up, Son of Nepal,” echoed the Great Spirit. Johannan gazed upwards and saw nothing. The full moon was all he could see in the sky until, after a while of searching, he noticed a single white nimbus cloud floating by. It was so small. Johannan frowned. Surely, he can’t be on that. He studied the small cloud as best as he could. There was an odd shimmer and a flame burning next to it—it must be him.

The cloud drifted forward. Johannan’s hands dropped to his sides as he gaped at two entities coming towards him on the cloud. One was in the form of a man, and the other was a giant lion with a mane of flames. Glowing cinders whirled up into the night sky like fireflies before a storm. The moon’s luminous face was distorted behind a window of haze. Johannan began breathing heavily, and his heart began to pound; this was too real. Perhaps coming here was not a good idea after all.

The appearance of the Great Spirit was frightening. Johannan’s fear insisted that he make tracks, but his sense told him that he’d never escape. He preferred the Great Spirit’s manifestation out in the desert as a storm or an earthquake—at least those things were natural. He had no option but to stay in one place, just like what he did before in the sandstorms, surrendering to his fate.

The same question kept popping up in his head. What is he going to say or do?

The entities drew closer with their piercing eyes of light that were focused on him. Johannan’s attention was undivided, so much so that he didn’t notice a change in his own appearance. His long, black, bushy hair began to lose its jet-black appearance. The roots of his hair glistened, transforming into a glowing white colour. This change of colour gradually extended to the tip of his hair. The colour of his eyes also changed from brown to blue-violet. The few strands of hair that grew below his nose and on his chin became more apparent as they were not exempt from the transformation. When the bright colour had covered all of the hair on his head, he resembled a man that had been crowned with stars.

Johannan, still not noticing the dramatic change in his appearance, fell to his knees as the Great Spirit drew closer.

“Well done, Johannan of Nepal, who has persistently travelled the wilderness of Gobi and has succeeded in the trials of the Ambassadors. In you, I am delighted.”

The lion fixed his gaze on Johannan. But Johannan hadn’t come all the way out here to complete a trial for some hero’s reward or the glory that came with it. All he cared about was his beloved Ayushi. Even through the shocking awe of the entities’ presence, he never forgot what he came for, and the thudding of his heart reminded him of that.

“Master! Great and powerful Spirit, I beg of you. Please restore sight to my fiancé’s eyes.”