Tales of Astora: Legacy (Chapter 25 out of 119)

Discussion in 'Original Stories' started by necrophedius, Jul 16, 2017.

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How do you find the story so far?

  1. Excellent!!! Keep up!

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  2. It's good but there are still room for some improvements

    1 vote(s)
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  3. Nothing special really....

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  4. Urggg! NOPE!

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  1. necrophedius

    necrophedius Member

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    Chapter 19: Apothecary



    Alastor was on his way to visit Shana again. He has become fond of her. It was almost like having a little sister for the first time in his life. He was used to being led around by Alice but now he felt really like a big brother. From afar he could see Shana waving at him. The little girl showed a cheerful expression, smiled brightly while swinging her cat tail excitedly.


    "Alastor, you are late!' said the running girl toward Alastor and hugged him.


    "Sorry Shana! I was a little busy this morning. But I brought you a gift!" Alastor took out a blue crystal like bracelet and gave it to the cat girl.


    "Wow it's so beautiful! But isn't it expensive?" asked the girl hesitantly. She clearly wanted it. However she was afraid that it would trouble the boy for giving her something so expensive. At least it should be since it was quite marvelous with an unique look on it. The craftsman who did it must be so proud of his product.


    Well of course he was since it was none other than Alastor who made it. He asked Stella to make a small crystal stone and Alastor would turn it into a bracelet. It still took the little demon lord the entire night since the crystal was extremely solid.


    "It's hand made by me so there is no price to it! Don't worry!" Alastor comforted the girl.


    The girl giggled looking at her present. Her eyes sparkled since it was the first time someone ever gave something to her. Not even her parents who abandoned her on the street. And here a boy slightly older than her whom she only met a few days ago, showed her kindness she has never seen before.


    A few tears dropped on her face but she held it back. She wanted to look pretty in front of Alastor. One could guess that these tears were simply tears of happiness. For someone who has never felt it, it was natural to cry. But there was another reason.


    "Why are you crying Shana?" the boy asked. "Did you not like it?"


    "No no! It's beautiful. I love it! It's just I was thinking about my friends." the girl sniffed.


    "What about your friends? Did something bad happen?"


    "I am just sad because a few of my friends were adopted by a couple a few days ago. Now I could not see them again. The priest said that they are now in a happier place so I am glad for them. But I feel a bit lonely without them. I want to see them again. Am I a bad girl for thinking like that?" the small girl was too young to distinguish the good and bad. But for a child to think about something like that. What a wonderful girl!


    "Of course not! It's normal to feel that way! Just wait for a few days. Maybe they will send you some letters or perhaps even a gift!" Alastor tried to console Shana.


    An orphan who was adopted could be considered a fortunate one. Not many children had the chance to have a family again, especially after they have been abandoned. Alastor has thought about taking Shana with him. But he knew that the journey might be too arduous for a small girl like her. And who knew how she would react when she learnt that Alastor was a demon? The boy himself had a few personal experiences of losing someone close to him. He was afraid of letting another one in his life, only to let them die because of him. While it was not his fault, he was aware of the danger surrounding him. The whole world was against him after all.


    Just when Alastor was deep in his thoughts, the priest came out of the house.


    "Hello Alastor! I see that you have come to visit us again. Great I have some good news. Shana, I have found a family who can take you in! They will come tomorrow!" said the priest.


    Shana was an active girl. A good news like this should make her jump in excitement. But instead, she only slipped out a forced smile. Alastor could feel her hand clenching on his.


    He did not know what to do. He was supposed to be happy for her. The little girl finally had a family now. Something he could not provide to her. All he could do was to smile for her, reassure her that everything would be fine, even if he may never see her again. Perhaps he should. At the very least that was what he was thinking about.


    That evening, Alastor decided to stay later than usual since it might be the last day he would ever see Shana. Under the moon light, the two talked a lot, although Alastor avoided or changed things a little when they talked about their past. It was only until Shana felt asleep that Alastor could finally go home.


    But that was his last chance to see Shana. The next day, when Alastor came back, the girl was already gone. The priest told him that the couple has come and took Shana away from the early morning.


    Sadden by the news, the boy had no choice but to went back. He thought he had prepared himself enough for this. He thought he did. But saying goodbye was never easy. Perhaps when this was all over, he would search for her, rekindle their friendship once more. To do that, he must continue, finish the journey. He was so distraught by the news that Alastor did not notice someone was keeping an eye on him the whole time.


    "No no! I am too late!" Said the shadow


    .....

    .....

    .....


    Alastor decided to make a visit to the apothecary he has been wanting to go since one week ago. Since he took down the poster no one should have completed it already.


    From afar he could see small wooden building locating in the middle of the woods. The building seemed a bit decrepit. An apothecary normally was supposed to stock herbs and such for medical purposes. Therefore the building must be in top condition or at least had a warehouse somewhere else or the medicines could rot. Especially in wooden area where it tended to get quite humid. Also why an apothecary in the middle of the woods? Understandable if it was the countryside or somewhere far away but there was a big city right beside. It was too weird.


    But standing here wouldn't do anything. Alastor knocked on the door


    White smoke came out the chimney above. Someone must be home. But what would he say? Perhaps nothing about the quest for now, just making small talks and see how it go.


    He knocked on the door. Alastor swore that the door almost broke from just a touch. Still there was no answer. He decided to go in. The inside of the house was even worse than outside. Spider webs tangled everywhere. There were some herbs and medicines placed on the shelves but they were the most basics ingredients for the common potion, could be found anywhere, even just taking a walk in the forest could get you something better than that. Alastor realized just how suspicious this store was.


    Then someone came out of the curtain behind the counter.


    "Oh sorry! I did not realise we have a client! I have just been sorting out the new patch of herbs. Bit busy since I am the only one here! But enough babbling from me. What can I do for you young lad?" said the dubious man.


    "My sister is sick so I am here to purchase some herbs for her. Do you have Twilight herb and some Cylia mushroom?" asked Alastor.


    "Oh...hum... Those....let me see if I have it!" the shady looked at the shelves, pretending to take out one basket of herb after another then put them back. He seemed a bit confused. Finally he took out a few leaves and showed to Alastor. "Should be this herb. Unfortunately I ran out of Cylia mushroom. If you want I can order them but it might take some days."


    "Hum... Isn't that the Celcia herbs? The Twilight herb does look similar to Celcia but its color is a bit darker and the edge is more sharp." said Alastor holding the leaves.


    "Oh you are right! Sorry I was a bit tired. I am afraid we ran out of twilight herbs too. How about coming back tomorrow and I will see if the supplier has it." implored the man.


    "Ok. See you tomorrow then!" Alastor said as he left the store.


    'This is no apothecary. There is no such thing as Celcia herb or Cylia mushroom. I just come up with some random names on place. And if he has twilight herbs, he would not be in such an establishment. It's one the rarest herb in the entire world. One leaf of that thing could earn an entire mansion easily. No way he could have it.' Alastor analyzed the encounter with the man inside the store in his head.


    But just before he went out, he saw something on the floor. Something shiny. He picked it up and looked at it in disbelief. In an instant, he appeared right before the man and held him on his neck on the counter.


    "How did this get here? TELL ME!" Alastor shouted angrily as he showed the scared man what he just picked up. A blue bracelet.


    "What? What are you talking about?" the man's voice trembled. How could a kid be so powerful?


    "TALK OR I WILL BREAK THIS NECK OF YOURs!"


    "Please! I don't know anything! They just pay me to tend to this shop and pay if someone brings demon blood for some quest I don't know! Please let me go! I really don't know anything else!" pleaded the crying man.


    But no. In a fit of rage, Alastor held the man's head and bashed into the table, smashing the table. Paying no attention to what he just did, he quickly left the store. The orphanage. He must go there. That priest must know something.


    He went as fast as he could. He just left there a moment earlier. That priest should still be there.


    But from afar, he could hear someone shouting. He hided behind a nearby tree and peeked at the scene. A white haired woman was pointing a sword at the priest.


    "Where are they? Tell me!" a woman yelled.


    "Who are you? How did you ...?" but the woman did not let him finish.


    "It's me the one asking questions here. Tell me! Where did you transfer them to?"


    Alastor decided to show himself. He had no time to sneak around now. Plus he knew the woman. It was the same one who he saw at Terrick's residence. The one who apparently killed the bishop.


    "Stop right there! I have some questions for him first!" shouted Alastor.


    The woman turned back and showed a surprised expression. She thought the boy was gone. But Alastor passed her without even looking at the woman. He stopped right in front of the priest.


    As he drew near, the priest realized Alastor was no common boy. The bloodlust he felt could not belong to just some kid.


    "Don't come any closer!" the priest shouted.


    "I have no time for your babbling! <Absolute Authority>" Alastor touched the man's forehead. Suddenly he collapsed down before standing up again but his eyes were lifeless. "Speak!"


    "The children are currently inside a facility to the south." the priest spoke in a monotone voice.


    "Why? What are you doing to them?" Alastor angrily said.


    "To bring a new age! One where God will descend from the heavens to Earth and stand beside humanity against the demon threat!"


    "I don't care about your religious gibberish! Tell me exactly what you are doing to them!" Alastor lost his calm.


    "They are infusing demon blood into the children!" a voice said.


    Alastor forgot that there was also this mysterious woman beside him the entire time. Was she one of them too?


    "Before you jump to any conclusion, let me make this clear! I am not one of them. On the contrary, I belong to a certain group that opposes this organisation. To summarize, this man is a member of a circle who calls themselves Sanctus. They consist of very influential individuals across Astora and control everything from behind the scene. But that's not the main concern here. Now they are kidnapping children and do experiments on them. If you want to save your friends then let me come with you! We don't have much time left!" explained the woman.


    "Why? What will happen?" asked Alastor.


    A memory flashed through the woman's mind. Something bad in the past.


    "Something very bad!"


    * * *




    Alastor's POV



    I was now on my way to the place where Shana and the other children were being held captive. The woman I met from earlier was right in front of me. She called herself Maria and claimed to be on my side. I had no choice but to trust her. For now.


    We finally arrived at the designated place. It seemed to be a small keep but in no way it was abandoned. Above nothing seemed suspicious but the priest told us that the facility was actually underground. There was no time for stealthy.


    With a single fireball, I blew up the main gate of the keep. The guards, understandably realized that we were not simple guests, rang the bell and rushed toward us. The mages, hiding on the balcony on the second level, together with the archers threw arrows and spells at us.


    As I took care of the ones above, I saw that Maria was indeed skillful. She used a two swords stance and cut off one enemy after another like flies. It was as if she was dancing on the battlefield. I could hardly keep my eyes on her as she was moving like a shadow from one enemy to another. Now that I thought about it, she used a similar spell to get away when I arrived at Terrick's mansion. Perhaps she had a darkness elemental affinity.


    Back the enemies, I absorbed all their spells with <Devour>, then converted it to my own mana. The mages could only make a horrified expression as none of their attacks worked.


    "Fire at the brat you idiot!" one of scumbags shouted to the archers. He was standing behind the lines of the coming swordsmen, right under the archers.


    So while his comrades were fighting down here, the boss holed up from behind. What a great leader! Time to test a new ability.


    I pointed towards the archers and used my ability: "<Asmodeus' Dominion: Oppression>"


    Suddenly the archers started screaming in panic. Of course they did. I took away their sight. Or rather I forbid them to use their eyes. This was one of the abilities that originated from Asmodeus but I was the one who developed it. As Asmodeus' main ability was about 'Control', instead of just taking control of their bodies, I could possess only a part of it. It made it easier for me as controlling multiples persons at once could be quite straining to my mind, as if I was doing two different things with both of my hands.


    Some of the archers, losing their sight, decided to shoot arrows in all directions but it only hit their own comrades. Bunch of idiots!


    Still some of them managed to shoot in the right direction and the arrows were towards Maria. I raised my hand and cast a protective spell.


    "<Wind Shield>" A wind gale formed in around Maria, deflecting all the arrows back to where they came from, killing all the archers. It also blasted away the foot soldiers surrounding her, allowing her for a clear path to finish them in a single swing.


    Shortly after, no one was left alive except for the two of us.


    "I did not need your help earlier you know!" said Maria as she swung her blades to the sides, throwing off all the blood on them. "But thanks!"


    "I need you alive since I still have a lot of questions for you. But that can wait after we rescue Shana and the others. They must still be alive." I said to her. It was true. She knew a lot of things I did not know. Terrick and this whole situation we were in. I needed to interrogate her once I rescued Shana.


    And so we walked inside. 'Shana I am coming to save you now!'


    Little did I know at that moment, how fate could be so cruel sometimes.
     
  2. necrophedius

    necrophedius Member

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    Chapter 20: Cruelty of fate



    While searching inside the building, Maria stumbled across a strange wall. But this was nothing new for her. She quickly managed to find the odd brick and pushed it, revealing a passage behind. The two followed the long stairways to the underground.


    "What the..." Alastor uttered as he saw where he was.


    They were now inside a grand hall. The room was dark as there was no source of light from the sun down here, except for the numerous candlesticks being lit on. At the end of the hall lay an altar.


    At first Alastor found it weird because of its red color but then he realized it. Traces of blood were present on the altar. Based on the trail, something or something must have been left to bleed to death on it.


    Examining the altar, images of Shana bleeding on the altar came to Alastor's mind. The mere thought of it terrified the boy.


    But when he looked at the woman beside him, she had an even grimmer expression. For she knew what kind of place this facility was. A living hell she wanted to let go, together with her dark past. The altar it reminded her of an unforgettable scene. And if she was correct, she knew what she would find next. Maria took a deep breath in, preparing herself. She thought she hardened herself enough after all these years, all the killings. Nonetheless it was not enough.


    "Are you okay?" asked Alastor.


    "Oh..yes... I am fine! Let us move on!" Maria shrugged.


    The two continued their progress, taking the door on the side. This place was huge. Room after room, Alastor found vials containing a red liquid in many of the chambers which seemed to be used as research room. But this many, just how many demons did they have to kill to have such a large quantity of it?


    Then Alastor heard a noise coming from the next room. The small voice of someone mumbling about something. He gave a silent gesture to Maria who has heard the voice as well. Together they carefully prepared their weapons, approached the door and kicked it down.


    In the corner of the room, a young boy was standing, moving his head forward and backward against the wall. He muttered so small Alastor could not understand what the boy was saying. He put his hand on the wall in front of the wall to stop him to hurt himself any further. As the poor boy saw someone else, he started screaming.


    "Please make it stop! Make it stop! I will do anything! I won't be a bad kid anymore." pleaded the boy as he covered his ears. Then he started to convulse violently.


    Alastor and Maria tried to hold the boy down without hurting him but the boy seemed to be much stronger than they thought. Then it stopped. The boy stopped shaking. He started talking to Alastor.


    "They are calling for me. Can you hear it too, Alastor?"


    Alastor was shocked. He did not know the boy yet how did he know his name? He was not one of the kids at the orphanage so he could not have heard his name before.


    The strange boy raised his hand to the dark ceiling above him as if he wanted to reach for something but he collapsed. Just like that the boy died.


    "Just what the hell is going on in this place?" Alastor turned to Maria. "Tell me!"


    "More than ten years ago, a researcher discovered that the key of the demon power resides in their blood. He wanted to harness that power and used against the demon threat. And so he kidnapped countless children and injected demonic blood into them. This place is one of his testing ground, or at least people who shared his ideal.


    I learnt from the document I retrieved back from Terrick that there is one such facility right outside Cedra. Sanctus uses the cover of an orphanage to take the children in without gaining suspicion and a quest from the guild to gather demon blood in pretense for medicine in case they run out. Unfortunately it did not say where it's located and I only found the orphanage this morning when I stumbled on you this morning.


    But now you understand. To those who live in comfort, who would care about some homeless kids disappearing or some demons turned up dead in the street? That's the society we live in." explained Maria.


    Alastor grinned his teeth at the lifeless body of the boy. They dared use children for their selfish goal. Alastor swiped his hands to close the dead boy's eyes. He stood up and walked to the next room but he was held back by the silver haired lady.


    "I just want you to know one thing Alastor: there is no helping them once the injection is made. Most will die shortly after. The ones who survive will suffer the constant pain for the rest of their life. It might be better if you...just end it quickly."


    "What? What are you suggesting?" exclaimed the boy.


    "You know what I am talking about. It's for their own goods. Trust me! I know!" said the woman in a sad voice.


    "No you don't! I won't do it!" Alastor furiously fumed. "If you have any problem with that, leave!"


    With that, he just left her and continued by himself into the next room. Hall after hall, Alastor ran as fast as he could. Until he could something else. This seemed to be the lowest level. Behind this door where the constant sound of moaning came from, Shana must be somewhere inside. She had to.


    He pushed against the door, opened it, only to stumble on a frightening sight.


    This was a prison. On both side of the wall were cell after cell. Inside each were children. At least more than thirty of them were trapped in these cages. Their clothes were dirty. Their bones showed through the skin, a result of a long term malnourishment. A few lay lifeless motionless inside, waiting for death to come. And their screams.


    "Make it stop! I don't want to hear it anymore! Please *hic hic*!"

    "ARGGGGG! Kill me please!"

    "I am scared mommy! Where are you mommy?"


    Others were just screaming in pain. Their voices echoing through the hallway. The agony, the despair, the fear. This place was truly hell on earth.


    'This is....' Alastor could not find the words to describe what he was seeing. But he was disrupted by a voice inside his head. A voice he did not hear for a long time.


    "Abominations!!!" said the voice in Alastor's mind.


    "Magnus? Is that you?" asked Alastor out loud.


    "Alastor, listen to me! Kill all these accursed immediately! You must not let a single one alive!" shouted Magnus.


    "What? What are you saying?"


    "There is no time to explain. Do it now before it's too late!"


    "NO! I will save them. Why do all of you just want to give up on them? These kids have already been abandoned by the world once. I will die before I let it happen again. I don't care what you are planning. I am not your pawn!"


    "You misunderstand child! They are not trying to create a powerful army to deal with the demon here. They are creating a ..." but Alastor shut his mind, making the voice vanish. He refused to give up.


    Meanwhile in the Abyss, sensing the boy's resolve, Magnus knew he could not persuade him any longer. 'Those damn humans! With this many vessels, She will surely notice! We could only hope that these children will die before that!' thought Magnus.


    "Ikarus, I need you right now! Follow the chain!" Alastor thought inside his head. In fact he was sending a message to Ikarus thanks to their bond, allowing them to communicate wherever they were as long as both remained conscious.


    Alastor decided to leave the children inside the cells for now. He has killed all the bad guys so no one should be able to harm them any longer. But he must find Shana.


    "Shana, where is Shana?" Alastor ran toward the end of the hall. His mind was filled with dark thoughts of what might happened but he shrugged it all.


    Finally he found a cell at the end of the hallway. Inside was Shana. He called out her name but she remained inert. Alastor broke the cell open and ran to her side.


    "Shana! SHANA! Please wake up!" he called out to her.


    The little girl slowly opened her eyes. When she saw Alastor, she made a gentle smile, showing how relieved she was to see him after all the horrors they did to her.


    "Big..bro! You..are...here!"


    "Yes I am here! I am sorry for taking this long to come! I am sorry Shana!" the boy cried out, hugging her gently. "I will get you out of here. I promise!"


    He took the little girl on his arm, like carrying a princess. But as he turned to the exit, Maria was standing in the way. She looked at the girl on his hands. And the spot on Shana's arm caught her attention.


    "What are you doing Maria? Help me getting the children out!" shouted Alastor.


    Maria showed some hesitation but complied in the end. The two needed to make several trips back and forth from the surface to the cell as many kids needed help to even stand up.


    "That's the last of them!" said Alastor as he put the last child laying down on the surface. Ikarus and Stella should arrive any moment by now. The kids were severely ailing but they would live. At least things started to brighten a little bit. Or so the boy thought.


    At that instant, all they children started to scream loudly. This time it was different from earlier.


    "It already starts! I knew it was a mistake." said Maria.


    "What? What is happening?" asked Alastor. Then Shana too started shouting in pain. Her hands were covered her ears, her body shook violently.


    "It's too late Alastor. She is already infected. If you don't her to suffer anymore then put her out of here misery. If you can't then I will!" affirmed Maria. The woman took out both her swords and slashed down toward Shana.


    "No I won't let you!"


    The attack was stopped by Alastor as he pulled a stone sword from the ground below.


    "It won't work!" said Maria as she put her strength into both swords, cutting Alastor' stone blade, sending him a few steps back. "Just because you want it doesn't mean you will get it. This world is not so kind to you or anyone else. Let me use this opportunity to teach you the cruelty of fate!"


    Without a moment to waste, she charged at him.


    "<Ice Lance>" a spear made of ice appeared in Alastor's hands. But it only gave him enough you to parry again. This strike this time was much more powerful as it staggered the boy. Usually the twin sword fighting style focused on speed to catch the opponent off guard as it was hard to follow two blades at once. However this style had a weakness: using one blade in each hand meaning you couldn't use all of your strength in one arm so the blades could be easily parried.


    However it was not the case for Maria. Each swing was as hard as a hammer strike and as sharp as a curved blade. And the most annoying thing was how she was able to move that fast. Alastor could barely follow her. He needed to do something to slow her down.


    "<Belphegor's Burden: Thousand Weights>" Alastor activated one of his abilities The control of gravity of surroundings objects.


    Suddenly Maria could feel a change in the air before succumbing to the pressure. She felt so heavy that she could not even move a finger.


    "It ends now!" shouted the boy at the crawling woman in front of him.


    "Not without me saying it!" in an instant, Maria used all of her strength to move her right arm and grabbed Alastor' leg. "<Bloodsucker>"


    Alastor could see the hand which was once pale white now turned into complete black as night. But not just the hand that was weird. He felt strange as he realized his nose was bleeding. At that moment Maria stood up casually despite being under the effect of <Thousand Weights>.


    "How...how did you?" uttered Alastor as he breathed heavily. Something inside him was bleeding.


    "I can damage one of your organs, make it bleed internally with a single touch. That's why they call me Bloody Mary. Everywhere I go, blood will spill as they said. Now stay there!"


    "Never! <Summoning elementals>" Alastor raised his hands.


    Five magical orbs rotated around Alastor as he stood up, still in pain.


    'Another strange ability! I have to be careful!' thought Maria before resuming her stance. But before she could react, she could feel the earth below her shaking.


    "I call upon the elements. Obey my command! Fire burns my enemies to ashes: Conflagration"


    Reacting on instinct, Maria jumped back a few foots to avoid the incoming danger. A column of fire bursted from the ground where she stood. Lucky for her she reacted in time to narrowly dodge it.


    "Water cleanses the sinners: Water Prison"


    Water appeared in mid air, rotated surrounding Maria and converged to her. The woman was now trapped inside a giant ball of water.


    "Lightning strikes down the wicked from the Heavens: Judgment Bolt"


    The sky darkened as black cloud filled the sky. Suddenly an enormous bolt of lightning struck the ball of water, electrocuting Maria. As the water orb vanished, she felt to the ground, still breathing. Still it was not over. She looked at Alastor.


    "Wind guides the lost to their path: Cyclone"


    Before Maria could even stand up, she was lifted by an air current and was taken inside by the sudden tornado. Using her blades to cut off all obstacles flying toward her, she tried to escape but to no avail.


    "Earth where all creations will one day return to: Forced Burial"


    The earth trembled as it split into two, creating a crack. The wind stopped and dropped Maria between the cracks before the ground closed again.


    Alastor has won. He leaned on the tree behind him, breathing heavily. He has never used so many abilities at once. It was risky but he did it. Too bad he had to kill her but Shana was his priority. He must protect her.


    Alastor stood up and walked toward the convulsing girl on the ground, together with the other children. He must do something to save them. But suddenly he felt the ground shaking again.


    "<Blood Geyser>"


    The ground bursted to the air as a red liquid stream gushed out. Blood. It was blood. The area now was soaked red as if it was raining blood.


    Alastor was surprised to see that Maria was still alive, walking from the geyser.


    "Don't bury me so easily my dear!" she charged to Alastor, thrusting a sword to him. Could he defend in time?


    But he did not. The sword impaled the boy right to a tree, making unable to move.


    "I did ask you to stay down, remember? Don't blame me for this!" said the woman. Alastor now had a closer look at her. All the injuries she sustained from earlier were now gone. She healed already? How did she?


    At that moment, Maria realized something odd. Even though she pierced the boy with her sword, there was no blood. He even remained calm, not showing the slightest of pain.


    "Yes and don't blame me for this too! <Ooze body>" Alastor's body changed to a transparent liquid, just like a slime's body. The Slime Scion allowed him to change any body part into a slime.


    Since slime was immune to all physical attack as it could just regenerate itself, a high level slime was considered a nightmare for all warriors.


    This was an improvised plan to be able to attack Maria head one. While she was confused by the act, Alastor pulled out an ice blade and thrust it into her heart.


    "Aaaaarrrrggghhhh!" Maria screamed in pain as blood gushed out of her chest. "Your body...."


    "Yes. No matter how much you slash me with that sword, it won't work. I want to keep you alive but I cannot let you harm Shana."


    "Ha...ha...ha....HAHAHAHAHA! We are so similar you and I!" Maria laughed out loud, despite her injuries. She slowly but firmly grabbed Alastor's hand and pushed his blade into her further. But no matter how much blood she lost, she still remained conscious."Do you get it? You are not the only one with a freak body!"




    * * *




    Ikarus and Stella were traversing through the woods toward Alastor. At first the celestial was startled by the message she received inside her head. Alastor has told her about it before but he has never actually used it. Right now an invisible chain, only visible to her, was coming out of Ikarus and pointed toward the direction where Alastor was, leading her to the right path.


    "What an useful contraption!" thought Ikarus.


    But again why did Alastor not make a similar bond with Stella? Was it because the doll was not considered a living being and therefore a connection could not be established? Or was it because of something else? Ikarus pondered these questions in her head.


    Suddenly Stella halted and looked above. Not understanding why, Ikarus did the same thing, only to realize that someone was flying right above them. A tall man with bat wings, the devil Mephisto.


    "Where is Alastor?" asked the man.


    "Why are you here? You are not supposed to follow us until we get back." said the doll.


    "I have heard the situation from Alice. Listen to me! You are not to engage with the Children of Dark. Bring them back unharmed to the castle!" Mephisto affirmed.


    "Why? What are the Children of Dark? Why do you care about them?" those same words again. Ikarus remembered seeing them inside Terrick's diary.


    "I have my own personal reasons. Let's just say it's an atonement for my sins. But it's not important right now. I have prepared a portal not far from here. Once we secure them we will bring them back through the portal. Now bring me to him!"


    Without a moment to waste, Ikarus led the way. At that time, Mephisto reminisced about what happened a few hours back at the castle.


    ....

    ....


    "What? The Children of Dark? Are you sure?" shouted Mephisto.


    Together with the usual members of the demon royal guards and Alice, they were holding a meeting inside the court chamber.


    "Yes! Alastor told me that he is going to save them now. However judging from the situation, they might die before he could make it. But you know what I am talking about don't you Mephisto?" Alice smiled at the tensed devil. He was being played by a little girl.


    Yet aside from Mephisto, the others were confused. They did not know what the two were talking about and theirs questions remained unanswered.


    "Amelia, can you make a portal to Cedra right now? No need for a big one! Only I will go. Then while I am gone, try to create another big enough for a large group at the same location."


    "I can. I don't understand what is going on but perhaps at least one of us should accompany you." answered Amelia.


    "No need! This is something I have to deal with myself. Let's just hope I will make it in time this time." with that Mephisto left the room to prepare for the departure.


    As he went through the hall, a flash of memories came back to him, making pondered. "Will I see you there, Maria?"
     
  3. necrophedius

    necrophedius Member

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    Chapter 21: Maria the Blood Huntress



    Alastor’s POV


    “Now the real fight begins!” proclaimed Maria.


    She took on five elemental spells and a direct hit in her heart. Yet she was still standing like nothing. Healing magic? No, there was no way for these kinds of injuries to heal that quick.


    She did say about I was not the only one with a freak body. Did that mean she had an immortal body? Mine only allowed me to evade physical attacks but I would still take full damage from magic and such. But hers was completely on a whole different level. Her body couldn't be human. Was she one of the subjects who received demon blood too?


    “May the world be covered by darkness: <Twilight Veil>” Maria raised her sword to the sky.


    A dark shroud enveloped the entire area, trapping both me and the woman inside. I tried to touch it but it repulsed me back. It seemed I could not get out easily.


    “Don’t even think about running away! Show me what you are really capable of! <Sanguine Blade>” shouted Maria as she extended her sword to a side.


    Suddenly all of blood tainting the ground from the crimson geyser earlier started to float and converged to her, engulfing her sword. That bloody sword was bad. I could feel it even from here.


    I manifested a few stones spears soaring around me. I should avoid coming near her as my melee and defensive capabilities were not as good as my range attack.


    Maria started swinging her swords from all sides. She did not even try to approach me. There was no need to. Instead her blood sword would do the job. It had massive range. Luckily I was able to crouch down in time, only letting it grazing me a bit. But when I looked behind me, seeing all the trees cut down like paper, I was glad to avoid it. Wouldn’t want to be cut into two even in this body!


    I fired the spears at her. To my surprise, it did hit her. However it was because she didn’t even try to dodge. She just took it head on. More blood gushed out of her wounds, pushing the spear out before her wounds closed again. How could her body produce this much blood? It was beyond my imagination. These kinds of attacks wouldn’t work I guessed. I needed to do something else.


    For an instant I lost my focus and let one the blade hit me, cutting my left arm right off the bat. However I could easily heal since I was now in Slime mode. At least it should. But nothing happened. I lost my left arm and it didn’t heal.


    “I figured your body would work in a similar fashion to the slime. As expected from the lord of monsters. But my tainted blood is special. It can stop all healing effect just from being in contact with the target. You shouldn’t rely on that body anymore if you want to live! Now come at me! Show me that you can kill me!” challenged Maria.


    “What are you talking about? Why do you want me to kill you?” I asked her.


    “Can’t you see that the children you freed are beyond saving? If they are lucky they would in a few hours. If not they will spend the rest of their lives suffering the pain this accursed blood causes. To both demons and the prime races, we are abominations who are not meant to exist. And they will hunt us down till we die. For what reason do you want to extend our suffering?” Maria shouted in anger. Her eyes were filled with hatred and rage. She paused to take a deep breath before continuing.


    “But I am not like the others. I can’t even die because of this cursed body. Ever since that day. However when I learnt of the existence of the demon lords and their unique abilities, I thought perhaps they would have something. Something to free me from this curse.


    That’s why I assisted you in your journey from the shadows. That’s why I killed all those bandits at your village to make sure no one would find out about you, to give you time to grow. So that one day you will end my condemned existence.


    But enough talk! Show me that you can kill me! Or else you will be the one to die here!”


    Maria plunged her sword to the ground. Following her movement, the blood soaked in the ground. It now took on a reddish colour like rust.


    “<Blight Field>”


    I immediately jumped up, dodging a red spike coming out of the ground. Then the silver haired woman took a stance and pointed the sword toward me.


    “<Blood Torrent>”


    From her sword, a stream of blood surged toward me. I cast an instant barrier, blocking most of it. A few drops fell on my cloth, disintegrated it and making a few holes. So it could melt everything it touched. If I had not raised the barrier, I would be dead by now. But her attacks were not finished yet.


    Since earlier all of the blood related attacks came from her left sword. Now her right arm sword was engulfed in a dark purple aura. Was that darkness element?


    “<Twilight Blade>”


    Maris swung her dark sword and created a dark wave toward me. Thankfully I could absorb it since it was just mana. But <Devour> would not work against that blood sword since it still counted as a physical attack. And I would not want to lose another arm just for the sake of testing.


    I have spent too long on the defensive. I should start attacking now. But how should I approach this? It didn’t seem like I had a choice. I should use it now.


    A magical circle appeared in front of me. The outlet of the circle was written in an ancient language which was lost a long time ago, even long before Ceadric or any current country even existed. This came from a demon lord named Sullivan whom I met in the Abyss. His ability was not useful in combat as it allowed me to store things inside a special dimension and took it out whenever I wanted. It was similar to the pocket dimension that many adventurers used nowadays. But there were a few major differences.


    First of all not everything could be put inside a dimensional pocket. You could not put something in that was too large for the pocket’s mouth. So you couldn’t put a caravan inside for example. Also living beings were off limits.


    Secondly you had a limited space depending on the price of the pocket but at most you would only be able to fill the same quantity you would put inside an average size cabin.


    However these limits did not apply to Sullivan’s <Infinite Dimension>. If I needed to store something, I just needed to adapt the size of the magic circle and bam! It would be gone. Secondly I could put a living being inside. I once captured a horned wolf and put it inside the circle for a week. When I freed it, it was still healthy so I deduced that time also flew differently inside that dimension.


    But back to my status, to prepare for a critical situation like this one, I stored something very special inside, or rather a few things.


    I put my hand inside and pulled out a black sword, as pure black as it could be. From a normal perspective it was hard to even think it was a sword as it was too dark to even figure out the details of the object.


    As I plunged the sword to the ground with the magic circle moved to my back and expanded greatly. It was impossible to look inside as the surface inside the runes outlet was something like a black liquid moving like the surface of the sea.


    “Another one of your tricks? Show me how you will fight me with it!” Maria grinned.


    “No I won’t be fighting you!” as I said the liquid surface of the magic circle started vibrating violently as if something was trying to get out. “They will!”


    From the magic circle, a hand reached out. It was cladded in black armor. Then another one and another followed it. Now ten identical knights in black armor were between me and Maria.


    “Legion of the Abyss! Listen to my command: Destroy our enemy!” I roared as I pointed my sword toward Maria.


    The knights rushed to Maria with their greatswords. Even though she quickly dispatched her blood and dark swords, they managed to dodge them all skilfully. Of course they would since I created these guys in the image of the mysterious knight in the Abyss. Their armor looked slightly different as I did not remember all the details but they all wore similar attire. Some were equipped with shields a long sword while others had a lance or a great sword.


    I made them thanks to Devas’ <Replica>. I just had to create a copy of myself, change their appearance and transfer the skills I wanted to them. Of course they were nowhere near as powerful as the original but in numbers they would get the jobs done. After that, I stored the knights inside the magic circle and just needed to pull them out when I wanted. Still I tried to avoid using them in public as it could reveal my identity or at the very least made me suspicious. But in this case, Maria seemed to already be aware so there was no need to hold back.


    Perhaps she thought that if I died, the knights would to. Maria sent a few blood spears toward me, only to be blocked by three knights holding a great shield.


    During the time, the other knights surrounded Maria, keeping her inside their circle. She whirled her sword in a circular motion, blasting away one of the knights. From behind the knight with the spear pierced her, making her scream in pain. Her body may heal but the pain would still be there. From the front, two knights rushed and impaled her with their swords, restraining her movement even more. Two others from both sides cut off her arms. The last one standing rushed toward her and chopped off her head.


    With her head fell off, her body stopped moving and collapsed on her knees. It was regrettable but I would not take any chance. Too bad that I had so many questions for you Maria.


    I approached her corpse, now packed with wounds with the spear and swords still sticking to them. In a way I pitied her. She was used as an experiment and went mad. For someone who has suffered so much pain, this was the least I could do for her. But I would not give up Shana. She could still be saved. She had to.


    I picked up her decapitated head and posed it next to her body. I swiped my hands to close her eyes. I should return to Shana.


    With a hand gesture, I made the knights vanishing in the shadows below. I stood up and turned away. As I walked, I realized something: the barrier was still here. Can’t be!!!


    “Too bad you failed!” a voice echoed from behind me.


    I looked back, only to see all the chopped up arms from earlier started melting into blood and flew back to her original position before taking on the form of an arm again. As the arms were now again attached, the body began to move again. It picked up the head and put it back on like putting a helmet. In an instant the scars healed as if they were never there.


    “It’s not enough to kill me unfortunately!” said Maria calmly.


    In an instant she vanished and reappeared in front of me.


    “Now it’s your turn!” using her hand Maria perforated my chest. How could I be so careless to cancel my slime mode? I could feel her hand around my beating heart. Would this be where I died?



    * * *




    Inside the Abyss



    The dark world was shaking heavily. Asmodeus and the other demons were stunned by what was happening to their world.


    “What the hell is going on?” yelled Asmodeus as she struggled to stand still because of the trembling earth.


    “I don’t know but it’s bad. Something must have happened to Alastor.” Answered Belz.


    “Damn it kid! You didn’t even use my power yet. You can’t die here!” roared the dragon Xenes.


    Above on the sky, a black orb with a red eye manifested itself.


    “Magnus! Do something! Save the kid!” shouted Lucifer.


    “Argghhh! That woman’s blood is special. We can’t interfere with it!” said Magnus.


    “Then what are you good for? Do something!!!” fumed the woman elf.


    Suddenly the earth stopped shaking. Things calmed again.


    “Did it stop?” asked Belphegor.


    The demons looked around, confused by what just happened. Did Alastor escape? Just how did this happen? However they were so absorbed in their thoughts they overlooked one thing. Except for the slime demon Devas.


    “Hum guys! When was the last time you see the sun?” said the slime.


    “What are you talking about Devas? Stop spouting nonsense….WHAT THE HELL IS THAT?” screamed Lucifer as he spotted the huge thing in the far horizon. His shouts made everyone else look back, only to be stunned by what they saw.


    A gigantic sphere made its appearance from afar. It looked almost like a sunrise, except for the fact that this sun was crystal blue. Then the sun kept get rising until it reached its peak.


    “RUN!” shouted Magnus to the demon lords below. They didn’t understand why they should run away from it. Sure it was weird but it seemed harmless. That was what they thought until from the sun, from afar, a small blue beam shot down the dark world below, turning every to crystal and making even more crystal appearing. And it kept growing in size.


    All the shadows started flying away in the opposite direction of the crystal field. As it started to reach where Asmodeus and the other demon lords, Magnus appeared in front of them, creating a dark barrier, stopping the advance of the crystal field.


    Seeing that, the other demon lords joined force and raised their hands to send power toward the barrier. After struggling for a while, the crystal beam disappeared and so did the crystal invasion.


    “ *heavy breathing* Is everyone alright?” asked Beelzebub as he sat down on the ground and breathed heavily.


    “Just what is that? This is the first time I have seen something like this.” Sullivan joined the fray. He was one the few demon lords who was originally a dwarf. For some reasons dwarf was the race with the least chance to turn into demon. Perhaps it was due to their natural magic resistance as they were rumoured to be descendants of the giants a long time ago. But whether that was a myth or not was another story.


    “Hahahaha!” laughed out loud an old man with a staff.


    “What is so funny, Nyx?” asked Asmodeus.


    “So he did inherit something from her. I was wondering when it would show up.” Nyx grinned.


    “Yes he did! But for it to be able to reform the Abyss to this extent…as expected of the Hero’s bloodline.” Said the floating black orb.


    “What you can’t mean….”


    “Lakyus’ bloodline has been awakened!”



    * * *



    Back in the real world, Maria has found herself in predicament. Just as she thought she had killed Alastor, the boy still lived and managed to push her away. But that was not what surprised her. It was her hand.


    Her entire hand has been frozen in crystal. Now many how she tried to use the blood to break it, it didn’t work. And the boy’s eyes. Normally both were red but now his left eye changed into a blue crystal colour.


    Even Alastor himself was amazed by what just happened to him. He thought he died when Maria reached his heart but then her hand was frozen in place and the wound on his chest quickly closed as if it was never there. It couldn’t be because of the slime body. He also deactivated it. Then what could trigger this regeneration? And that crystal magic. He remembered from one of Noroeth’s lessons that crystal magic was rare. While most masters of magic could cast crystal magic, only a few in the world could control it and his mother was one of them. Could this be her final gift to him? Whatever the case it saved him.


    The crystal on Maria’s arm continued to spread to her body. Now she was rendered useless as crystal magic actually consumed all the mana it found on the target, making them unable to cast magic. And Maria’s unusual body was no exception. This healing power came from the unconscious flow of mana inside her that continued to heal itself. But since now the mana source was depleted she could no longer heal or use her abilities anymore.


    At first the woman resisted, trying to get the crystal off. But then when she realized what it did, she gave in. Perhaps now she could finally die. She closed her eyes and expected the inevitable end. Yet it didn’t come.


    She reopened her eyes, only to see that the crystal has receded and disappeared completely. Now in front of her stood the boy she tried to kill earlier.


    “Why? WHY? Why don’t you let me die? How long do you want to torture me any longer?” tears fell on her beautiful face as she shouted in anger. Why did he let her live? She just couldn’t understand it.


    “Do you really want to die like that? To die with that hatred inside you? To die before you could have justice?”


    “For what? Justice won’t bring me back all the years I suffered. Justice won’t save all the people I lost. Only in death would I find peace! So give it to me!”


    “No!” Alastor bent down and gave the woman a hug.


    “What are you doing?”


    “I…I don’t know. My sister does this to me whenever I am sad. Seeing you like this, I just kind of think you need one!” smiled Alastor at the crying woman, only to be slapped in the face. But it was not an attack or anything like that. It was a normal reaction from a woman who was not used to physical contact with the opposite sex and wanted to hide her shyness and embarrassment.


    “You…idiot!” Maria turned away to hide her red cheeks.


    “Come with me Maria! I will show you the happiness you deserve.” Said Alastor. Sadly for the boy, he did not really understand what he just said. For him, it was simply because he wanted to learn about the information Maria got and because he pitied her for all the suffering she has endured, he wanted to make her happy.


    And of course the other party took the sentence in a whole different meaning.


    “…..Alright! If you hurt me again I will kill you!”


    "I just chopped off your head. Before that burning, drowning, burying alive. What could possibly be worse than that?" Alastor jested.
     
  4. necrophedius

    necrophedius Member

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    Chapter 22: Curse of memories



    Alastor's POV



    I thought this case would end well. I have gained another resourceful companion who could shed some light about this group called Sanctus. But when Maria lifted the barrier and we went back to the children, the transformation has already started.


    In front of me, the children began to change. Something dark spread across their entire body before completely engulfing everything. With her last ounce of sanity left, Shana looked at me and called out my name, before turning.


    “Alas…tor…”


    In mere seconds, all the children I have saved earlier have assumed a new form: an unsightly beast. The creature was pure black with sharp tooth barring at me. They used their formerly human arms, now deformed, as their front legs, moving from side to side in an inhuman manner on four foot while still keeping me and Maria on sight, like a beast waiting for the time to jump at its pray. Their bones cracked as they moved. And their roar, so loud it could break a man’s eardrums if they were near.


    “Shana, please control yourself! It’s me.” I shouted desperately at the beast in front of me.


    Suddenly it jumped at me but was kicked down by Maria.


    “That’s no longer the Shana you knew! Now it’s just a monstrosity beyond saving. We need to kill it now, put her out of her misery. I am sorry, Alastor! I really do but now there is no other way.” Said Maria.


    Was there really no other way? All these demon lord powers, the ultimate crystal magic, were you telling me that despite all I got, I was powerless to do anything here? Was I supposed to standing here like an idiot watching another person close to me drift away again?


    “ALASTOR!” a voice from above called out.


    It was Mephisto flying down with Ikarus and Stella right behind. How did he get here? The devil looked at the children now turned into hideous beasts. I could sense a mixture of anger and sadness from him.


    “Not again…I am too late again!” he muttered. For a moment, I swore, when he saw Maria, his expression became strange all of the sudden. But at that time I did not pay too much attention about it.


    “What are you doing here, Mephisto?” I asked him.


    “Alice told me everything so I rushed here as fast as I could with the antidote. But…” Mephisto lowered his head in disappointment. He blamed himself for it but everyone knew it was not his fault.


    He mentioned Alice telling him about this. How did she know? I didn’t have time to explain to Ikarus what happened and Alice was already aware of this? Was that another effect of the chain?


    “Antidote? You mean there is a cure for it?” I realised what he just said.


    “Yes but it would only work if it was drank before the transformation. And I have only one dose, enough for one person only." Mephisto explained. He took out a small vial containing a red liquid.


    "How do you know? Did you test it?" I urged him.


    "Not yet but..." but I interrupted him and stole the vial from his hand. I rather died trying than do nothing to save Shana.


    “Sorry to interrupt but we have a bigger issue right in front of us now!” Maria reminded us that we were still surrounded by the creatures.


    At that moment all of them charged at us with an incredible speed. But an idea came to me. I opened a big magic circle right in front of us.


    Thankfully most of them fell inside on first try, except for one. That was Shana. While they all looked more or less similar, I still kept her in my eyes since the very beginning. As she sprinted at me, I turned the earth under her foot into mud and pinned her down. I immediately rushed in and poured the vial in her mouth.


    She struggled but finally stopped before falling unconscious. And her body began to morph back but for some reasons only the upper body. The lower body was left intact, traces of the beast.


    "What did you just do?" asked Mephisto.


    "I don't need to harm them if I could keep them contained inside a separate dimension. Not for long since despite being able to contain living beings, the dimension was not designed for that purpose and is actually very unstable. If the target resists, even a little bit, a crack could open allowing them to escape. Not to mention there are at least thirty of them here. We still have a few hours before they could break out of that space.


    I assume you come here using Amelia's portal. Let's just head back to the castle for now! At least there we have enough resource to contain them. From there we can find a way to bring them back." I explained.


    "I see. Then so be it. Let us hurry! The portal is just outside Cedra." Suddenly Mephisto stopped and turned toward a nearby bush. "But before that, how about you show yourself?" Mephisto shouted in nothingness.


    "It's alright, Scarlet! We are together now!" as Maria called, a shadow appeared behind her before turning into a young human girl. I remembered seeing at Terrick's mansion together with Maria. "This is Scarlet, a close friend of mine! If you don't mind I would like to bring her with me to the castle."


    "Why? I thought we are enemies." demanded Ikarus. It was true that I did not inform her of Maria yet.


    "No need to worry Ikarus! Maria is..." but someone else interrupted me before I could finish.


    "She is fine, celestial. She can come with us! If anything I would trust her more than you. More importantly we should go now." dictated the devil.


    Leaving a bitter celestial following behind, we headed toward the portal. On our way, I asked Mephisto about the vial.


    "Mephisto, who gave you this antidote?"


    "What do you mean? Wasn't it you who found the cure and asked Alice to make it so she can give it to me?" answered the man.




    * * *




    As everyone focused on the journey back to Ragna, no one paid attention to Mephisto who constantly stared at the two newest members of the party: Maria and Scarlet. While he did hear from Alice about Ikarus a few weeks ago, he should not have known about Maria and Scarlet. Yet for some reasons, his eyes showed something else.


    "Don't you need to tell your friends about you leaving?" said Mephisto to Maria.


    "I will but it can wait. How do you know that I have other friends Mr. Mephisto?" retorted Maria.


    "Just a lucky guess. Since I see that Karla....." At that moment Mephisto realized he has made a big mistake, blundered by his own emotion. And that moment of blunder has not escape Maria’s eyes.


    Hearing that name, Maria switched to a more serious tone. She looked at Mephisto, this time with a judgemental eye. She knew him from when back at Caine village where Mephisto and the others demons came to rescue Alastor. At that time she did not think much of him. But hearing that name from the devil, Maria began to think there was more to Mephisto than meets the eye.


    “How did you know about Scarlet’s real name? Who are you?” asked Maria.


    “….Mephisto, a member of the four demon royal guards. I thought you already know about me.” Said the man in question. “But here we are at the portal. Let’s leave the chatting for later.”


    With that, Mephisto dived forward and passed through the portal, followed by Alastor and the others. As Maria walked to it, she pondered about the enigmatic Mephisto.



    * * *



    As soon that the group arrived at the castle, without losing time for reunion, Alastor freed the creatures from the pocket dimension inside a large dungeon cell, each one with a chain around its neck shackled to the wall. To make sure that nothing would get out of hands, Ikarus, Stella, Naberius and Amelia were stationed nearby in case they broke out. It was perhaps too overdone but Alastor would take no chance.


    While this was a rather crude method to treat the transformed children, Alastor did so thinking it would be only a temporary measure. The cure from earlier, while it did not fully recover Shana, could at least halt the transformation and partially reverted back their humanity. To do so, he needed more of these antidotes. And apparently Alice held the answer to the question.


    Right now the boy, accompanied by Maria and Scarlet, were heading toward Alice’s chamber. Unfortunately, they met Azureus on the way, who told them that Alice has gone out to the spider’s nest but she should be back in a short moment. For now all they could do was to wait.


    With utmost care, Alastor put Shana on a bed. She was still unconscious ever since she took that antidote. It must be because of the strain she had to put up with the metamorphosis.


    As he sat down next the the bed, Alastor watched over the sleeping girl.


    "So your sister is out huh? I didn't even know you have one." said Maria.


    "She was with me during the fight between the celestials and the demons royal guards at the village. Didn't you see her?" Alastor replied.


    "Let's just say my eyes were fixated on you during the fight so I didn't notice anyone else." Maria mischievously smiled. "So you learnt from her the thing you did to me huh? I am even more interesting to meet her now. What's her name?"


    "Alice. You will get your wish soon enough." smiled back Alastor. "Hum Maria?"


    Alastor spotted a change in expression from Maria. A mixture of both bewilderment and fear, as if a bad memory came up. But she quickly regained her composure and smiled softly at him.


    'Alice...Can't be right?' was what she was thinking. However she stopped her contemplation when she saw his missing arm. His breath was getting heavy too. It must be exhausting for him after fighting a monster like herself.


    “You need to rest Alastor! No need to watch her, I can do it for you! I mean you lost one of your arms.” Maria pointed out, showing her concern for him.


    “It will heal as soon as I get your blood out of my system. No need to worry about me! I won’t let her out of my sight again! More importantly it seems like your friend wants to say something to me. Since earlier I have seen that she was eager to tell me something but still wavered about it.


    You said your name was Scarlet, correct? Why don’t you share with us about what you want to say?” asked Alastor.


    “You have quite the eye. Indeed I do have something to ask. But considering the current situation, I don’t know if it is appropriate to…..” Scarlet reluctantly expressed her concern. It seemed Maria just realized what Scarlet wanted to say.


    “We are doing nothing here so go ahead! I am listening!” affirmed the boy.


    “Hum….” But Scarlet was interrupted.


    “Now it’s not the time Scarlet! Leave it for later!” insisted Maria while showing a worried expression.


    “Now you just make me even more curious. Speak!” the boy insisted with a smile. But behind his smile, Scarlet could feel the pressure he put on. He clearly wasn’t in a good mood and hiding things from him might make him even ….unstable


    “All right I will be frank with you. In return I hope you will be honest with me as this will affect you much more than it would to me.” Explained Scarlet.


    “I promise! Speak quickly! I am starting to lose my patience here!”


    “Do you have trouble with your memories? Things like the feelings of forgetting something but can’t seem to remember what it was? Even minor things. Anything at all?”


    “Not that I am aware of. Why? What are you getting at?” the girl has certainly captured Alastor’s attention. Asking about his memories? What could she possible talking about?


    “I see. I suppose asking you would be pointless since the mark is too powerful. Then let me ask something else. Do you know of the Eye of Revelation? Or the name Veritas?” demanded the girl.


    “If I remember correctly, Veritas is a famous clan of assassins who specialize in magic and curse. They used to work for the Emperor of Zagon but vanished about a century ago when the king of Ceadric at that time wiped them all out.


    As for the Eye of Revelation, I don’t have a clue.” Answered Alastor. He remembered reading about Veritas from a book in the archives. An interesting fact but rather pointless at that time.


    “You are right about Veritas. What you don’t know is how they got their reputation. Let me show you something” Scarlet pushed her hair to a side, revealing her peculiar right eye. It had the figure of a star imprinted on it, constantly rotating from right to left in a circular motion. “This is the reason why we, member of the Veritas family, are specialized in curse. The Eye of Revelation, passed down from generation to generation.


    In ancient times curse was a common alternative to assassination to deal with your enemies in a, how should I put this, discrete and indirect way. While most curses can be undone with the right equipment by any experienced mage, it was very hard to detect if someone was cursed, until it became to late.


    But thanks to this Eye which allows us to see all traces of magic and therefore curse and such, we were the best of them. Nonetheless I am not here to talk about my family. What I am saying is that when I first saw you, I can see that you were and still are under the effect of a curse: the Curse of Memories.”


    What Scarlet just said shocked Alastor to his very core. Someone has cast a curse on him and no one was even aware of it? But could he trust this woman? First time he talked to her and already she told him that he was cursed. Supposedly that what she said was correct, someone was able to bypass Magnus and all the demon lords combined and put a curse on him. Was this even possible?


    “And that’s not all. You are not the only one who was inflicted with the curse. Everyone inside the village you were in also showed sign of exposure. At least everyone we found.” Added Scarlet.


    “Everyone at Caine? I thought they were all dead.”


    “Yes but just because the body died doesn’t mean the curse would be lifted. This way it would prevent someone using necromancy on the bodies to retrieve information as the souls themselves were still under the effect of the curse. But a curse that still binds its victim even in death is one of the most powerful kind I have ever seen.


    Unfortunately for that person since they didn’t expect me and Maria to be there after you left. We wanted to erase all traces of you there but when I stumbled at this, I just couldn’t ignore it. What or whoever did this really thought it through.”


    Everything was just too sudden. First Shana and now this? Just what was happening around this poor boy?


    “It’s not that I don’t trust you but do you have any proof of this? Surely you understand that all you just said is quite hard to swallow.” Alastor said. Before continuing their discussion in this matter, he at least needed proof that there was indeed a curse on him.


    “I don’t have any physical evidence nor can I show you my vision. Else it would be too easy. But it doesn’t mean we can’t prove it. In fact you already have the proof. You just can’t see it yet!” explained Scarlet.


    “Are you talking about the lost memories the curse caused?” Indeed if Alastor could retrieve these lost memories, it would mean that something or someone has removed it from him, curse or not.


    From her belt, Scarlet took out an unusual amulet. A triangular shape with an eye in the middle. From a glance, Alastor could tell its origin. The amulet had an insignia imprinted on the eye: the image of a cog, symbol of the Artificer. There was also one on the Anima Lantern he has taken from the Archduke. Could this be one of the Tempus Machina?


    “From your expression, I can see that you know what this is. Yes this is one of the legendary artefacts made by the Artificer, a Tempus Machina: the Ara Amulet. It can be use as a protection charm against magic by cancelling all spells in the surrounding area of the wearer, including your own. But most importantly in our case, it can disrupt the mana flow used by the curse inside your body to sustain itself. In short works, it will nullify the Curse of Memories. Why don't you try it?" Scarlet handed the amulet to the boy.


    The instant he put on the amulet, a sharp pain came in his head. The memories were coming back. It was as if he lived all those years he could remember again in a mere few seconds. All the emotions he felt, all the things he missed, Morgan, Gazel, it all came back to him now.


    Seeing Alastor almost collapsing on his own, Maria ran to his side to help him get up.


    "So did you remember anything?" asked Scarlet.


    " *heavy breathing* I don't believe so. Everything was the same as before. Nothing...Wait no! ....Everything is the same...No No NOOOOO!" Alastor screamed, clunching his head in pain. He realized it now, what he missed, the thing he forgot.


    Immediately Alastor ran outside of the room. Seeing his strange behavior, Maria and Scarlet decided to catch up with him.


    "No No no! It can't be... That's not possible!" as he passed through the hallway, Alastor muttered to himself in disbelief. He did not want to believe what he just remembered. Something so small, so trivial yet with so crucial. How could he have overlooked this? So that was what the Curse did to him?


    But then he was stopped by Maria. She held his arm firmly, not letting the boy go until he told her what just got to him.


    At that moment, a figure approached from down the hall. A little girl with her fiery hair, a girl with a small stature, brimming with innocence with her smile. And yet a mere sight of her was enough to make a certain person tremble in fear.


    "YOU!" Maria shouted in anger. She drew her sword, directing it to the small girl. But her arm was shaking, even though she tried her hardest to keep it down. For whatever reason, Maria was intensively afraid of that girl. What could possibly make someone fearless like Maria, who embraced death heartfully, fear from a little girl?


    "What are you doing Maria?" normally if someone pointed a sword at his sister like that, Alastor would have either jumped to her side to protect her or massacred that person before they could harm the girl. Yet he remained still, only showed his surprise to Maria's reaction. Did what he remember affect him that much?


    "Stay away from her, Alastor!" Maria moved between Alastor and Alice, still holding her swords ready.


    "Alastor, you said that only you and Alice escaped the tragedy at Caine and she has been staying with you for a very long time, correct? Now everything makes sense." Scarlet pointed a dagger at the small girl.


    "Alice you are the one who cast the Curse of Memories on Alastor!"


    "No it wasn't Alice. It can't be Alice!" Maria mumbled.


    "What are you saying Maria?"


    "Alice already died ten years ago. That thing is not Alice!"
     
  5. necrophedius

    necrophedius Member

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    Chapter 23: Path of Chaos (1)


    “Alice already died ten years ago. That thing is not Alice!!!”


    What an outrageous thing! Maria’s words echoed through the silent hall. Both Alastor and Scarlet couldn’t hide their surprise hearing those words. And yet, each didn’t raise any remark, as if a part of them already expected something, just not this.


    Finally the person in question spoke.


    “Hum…brother, I think your guests are a bit rude don’t you think? Coming to our house and saying such things. But what made me sad most is you brother. You don’t even defend me against those groundless accusations. Am I not your sister, Alastor?” said Alice. Strangely the usual cry baby didn’t even faze.


    “Yes you are my sister Alice. Always have been and always will be.” Alastor responded, making his sister give out a gentle smile. She walked toward him and gave him a big welcome home hug.


    “Alastor, stay away! That’s not….” But Maria didn’t even need to finish.


    “Just tell me one thing Alice…” said Alastor while being embraced.


    “Yes of course dear brother. Anything!” so did Alice.


    “Why haven’t you aged a bit for the last ten years?”


    At that moment Alice pushed the boy and took a few steps back. Suddenly she started crying hysterically.


    “He knows *hic * he knows! What do I do?” Alice sobbed as tears poured out of her eyes. All of the sudden her voice changed drastically to a mature womanly voice.


    “It’s alright! Don’t cry!”


    “But you told me that if I let him know, he will leave me *hic hic *”


    “It’s not your fault my dear. How about letting me take over from here? I will sort it out for you!”


    “..Okay!” After finishing talking to herself, Alice turned toward Alastor “Please don’t hate me!”


    Then she collapsed before standing up again. This time however she was completely different, behaving like an adult.


    “Sorry about that! Now that Alice is sleeping, we can continue our nice conversation, won’t you agree brother?


    And nice to meet you again, Maria! Did you like my present to you?” Alice made a joyful expression.


    “You evil! You are the one who made me into this… this monstrosity.” Raged Maria.


    “What is she talking about lady Maria?” asked Scarlet. Even though Scarlet was one of the closest friend of Maria, she has never actually told Scarlet or anyone about the origin of her cursed body. They assumed that it was probably an effect of the demon blood infused in Maria.


    "I remember that day clearly as if it was yesterday. Ten years ago when we were still in that facility, Scarlet. The day of the ritual!"


    "You can't possibly mean!!!" Scarlet shouted out.


    "Alastor, ten years ago we were just like those children you saw, subjects to their inhuman experiments with demon blood. And the man in charge of the facility we were in was Terrick.


    Despite being a clergyman of the Church of Light, Terrick belonged in an extremist group. Just like the brighter the candle, the bigger the shadow it cast, the Church has different factions inside itself. One in particular who called themselves Sanctus. Terrick believed that the power of the demon comes from their blood and that blood is sacred unlike their vessel which the Church considered unholy. With his experiments, he theorized that the demon blood could be used as a conduit to trace back to God. Which means that if a body created by God, a member of the Prime race, were to be compatible and possess the sacred blood inside them, it can be used as a vessel for God himself.


    This led to his mad experimentation on children as he believed children are still innocent, unlike their adult counterpart. After years of sacrifice with thousands of children dead by his hand, Terrick finally found what he has been looking for. A young elf girl with crimson fiery hair. On that fateful day, however, things went wrong.


    I, who managed to escape from my cell, thinking to escape, found myself at the ritual hall. And I saw it. As Terrick plunged a dagger to the girl's heart, I saw something descending from the sky into the girl's body. In a way Terrick succeeded his summoning. But it was not a God he called upon. But a fiendish being. With its new body, it massacred everyone around it. Only Terrick managed to escape.


    And it found me, hiding before a pillar. And it gave me... This this accursed body! That thing controlled Alice's body, bending it to its will. It's only trying to trick you Alastor! You must believe me!!!" pleaded Maria.


    "What a fascinating story you have Maria! But I would rather not have you calling me fiendish. The man named Terrick did get what he wanted. He wished for a God and I gave him one. What about you young lady? How did you know it was me who cast the curse on Alastor?" Alice talked in an arrogant tone.


    "The two of you have lived with each other for a longtime. From what I understand, everyone in that village is affected with the curse. Yet when I first see you earlier, you don't have it. Therefore it makes you the most suspicious person." Scarlet explained as she showed her Eye.


    "Hum the Eye of Revelation is it? Such a troublesome thing. I thought that line was extinct but it seems I was wrong. And to answer your question, dear brother, as you have realized, my body can't grow because of the ...let's say accident that day. But living with someone like that would surely make them suspicious. So I cast the curse on everyone I stayed with for more than a year to make sure no one would notice this...condition of mine. It's not like I took away their memories, I just made it so I am more forgettable, especially my body. But such a thing wouldn't bother you right brother? I am always your sister after all." Alice smiled softly.


    "Was all those years just a trick? All the time we passed together...was it all a lie?" mumbled Alastor.


    "Of course not. That was actually Alice who did everything by herself. The poor girl only wanted a family, to compensate for what she lost. And you provided it to her. It must be weird to hear me saying this but trust me when I tell you that she loves you. As for me, I merely intervened when it's necessary or when Alice asked me for it. Rest assured!" Alice implored.


    "Then all I need to do is to get rid of you to release Alice!" Alastor started charging his mana inside his body. For an entity who possessed others' body, soul magic seemed like the perfect counter as it would directly attack the entity without damaging the owner's body.


    "Now now! If you get rid of me, Alice will return to the original state before I found her: dead. So I suggest you calm down child!"


    "What are you exactly?" Alastor angrily shouted.


    "Why not ask your friend inside you? Actually, how about you come here to play, oh Great Soul Forger Magnus!" the little girl implored.


    "How do you... ARGHH!" suddenly Alastor felt a sharp pain in his head.


    'Sorry kid! We will take over from here' a voice echoed inside his mind. A black mist started coming from the boy' shadow, englobing his body. His eyes changed their color to a dark purple one. A red stone came out of his forehead, as if a third eye has appeared.


    "How nice to see you again, old friend!" Alice giggled.


    "Lilith, Mother of Monsters and Bringer of Flesh! We meet again!" Magnus, now controlling Alastor's body, spoke.


    "How wonderful for two of the Trinity to reunite like this! Let's celebrate!" Alice joked.


    All of the sudden, the sky darkened. Not because of the clouds but the sun itself. A giant black has englobed the sun.


    "<Eclipse>. Today you die witch!"


    From the black sun above, hundred of projectiles fired toward the demon castle. Each hit was powerful enough to blast away a small keep. And it was raining of them. In a matter of seconds, the entire landscape surrounding the castle was reduced to nothingness. Strangely none did hit the castle, thanks to a magic circle floating above the castle, shielding it from harm.


    "Are you really gonna sacrifice everyone in this cycle just to kill me?" said Alice.


    "I will sink this entire continent to the ocean if it means killing you!"


    "What have I ever done to you? Aside from killing you a few times but we all did that once in a while right?"


    "You stole my FLAME. Then you gave it to Eden!!!" shouted Magnus.


    "And Eden did kill me for it. He tricked both of us. We have fought each other for millennia, even though we shared a common enemy. How about a truce? What do you say?" Alice extended her arm.


    "Don't think that I don't know what you are thinking. You just want the Key for yourself." but her offer was bluntly rejected.


    "So do you. But without me, the Key won't be completed. But you obviously know that don't you?"


    "......" Magnus could say anything. Deep inside, he knew Lilith was right. He needed her, no matter how much he refused to believe it.


    At that moment Alastor's body returned to normal and the boy took control of his body once again. He was watching the whole time but just couldn't do anything about it.


    "I take that as a yes! Perfect! So let's...." but Lilith was interrupted.


    "I am still here!!!" the boy spoke in anger "I won't let you use Alice's body like you want. And you Magnus, you didn't mention anything about how you can just take control of my body like that. You almost kill us all. Look around you! Don't ever do that again or I swear whatever your plan is, I will destroy it!"


    'Understood! Our apologies! We kinda lost ourselves' said Magnus in Alastor's mind.


    "I am sorry for my friend's wild behavior. Here let me take care of it! <Chronoshift> " said Lilith as she raised her arm.


    All of the sudden, all the damages from Magnus' attack started recovering. The trees and rocks returned to their initial position. In an instant it was as if his spell never actually happened.


    Alastor was left speechless by the one who possessed Alice. That woman could manipulate time itself? Who exactly was she? And how was she connected to Magnus?


    For the whole time Maria and Scarlet couldn't even move from their spots nor could they utter a word. Maria has seen herself as a monster, an anomaly for a very long time. Yet today, for the first time, she admitted she was much more human than the two standing in front of her. Magic so powerful as if it was out of this world. Just who were these people?


    "Now that everything is repaired, shall me resume our chat? Let's start with introduction. I am Lilith and I have been inhabiting inside Alice for more than ten years. A pleasure to make your acquaintance Alastor!" saluted Lilith using Alice's body.


    "What or who are you exactly? Why Alice? What does she have anything to do with this?" asked Alastor.


    "Like the miss said, I was summoned through a blood ritual by one named Terrick more than ten years ago. As for why it was simply I could not manifest myself physically in the world because of a certain reason and so I need a body in which demon blood flows in order to possess it. But only one that was strong enough to contain me. And that's how I met Alice. In a way I saved her life. Without me sustaining her essence, the poor girl would be long gone for now. So you can hate me all you want but spare the poor girl!" pleaded Lilith. It seemed the woman knew a bit of sympathy as well.


    "Alice is always be my sister and that won't ever change. So you don't have to worry about that. Still who are you exactly? And what's your relation with Magnus?"


    "Such a curious boy aren't you! I don't mind answering your question but how about we settle our current problem first? What did you do with the vial I gave to Mephisto?" asked the girl.


    Alastor suddenly remembered what he was looking for. Shana and the others children still needed his help right now. And to do that, he needed this strange woman's help.


    "So it did come from you. Unfortunately there were just too many children and they have already transformed into some kind of beast. I used a vial on one of them but she only reverted back partially. Can you help her? Please!!!" Alastor got on his knees, begging to the woman.


    Some said a man's pride was everything a man got. But Alastor did not care for such a thing. If begging could save Shana's life, he would do it a thousand times.


    "So she only took it after the transformation?....Such a pity!" Lilith gave out a long sigh. "You should probably go to her side, Alastor! Cherish this moment!"


    "Why? What are you talking about?"


    "...What the vial contains was my blood. It's not a perfect cure but it could halt the transformation. But only if you ingest it before the metamorphosis. Based on what you just told me, I reckon the girl has at most a few hours left. Same for the rest of the children...."


    As if a bell tolled inside his head, Alastor's mind seemingly shattered at that moment. Such an innocent little girl! She still had so much to live for. And now it was gone. For what? Because of some maniacs who killed in the name of their pathetic God? The child who was abandoned by the world...was it not enough? Did it have to kill her to finish her off?


    'Such a world has no right to exist!' a thought emerged inside the boy's mind.


    Without uttering a single word, the boy walked back to Shana' side. With Maria and Scarlet quietly following him behind, not a sound was made.


    "Was this necessary? Revealing yourself like that?" a voice asked. "You could just erase their memories all together again."


    "And how many times have I done that to so many people already? I am starting to get tired of it. And you? Thinking about revealing yourself yet?" Lilith turned toward a small shadow hiding behind a pillar. A roundish ball of slime.


    "When it's time I guess. But I am not important. Just a simple drifter!" said the slime.


    "Carefree as ever, old friend! But anyway let us follow Alastor. I want to give him something he needs to survive in this world. Just don't know if it is the right time..."


    "Now it's the perfect time. That girl's life is beyond saving. But at the very least her soul could still be salvaged. But again this is the first time this happens. Who knows what the future holds?"







    * * *




    Alastor's POV


    "Shana, please stay with me!"


    I said to an unconscious Shana as I held her hand tightly. I never realized it before but her hand was so small, so frail that I was afraid that I would break her. I wanted to know her more, to understand her, to share my happiness, no matter how little it was with her.


    'Beatrix, please!' I was now in the Abyss. Sitting in front of me was a woman covered with only chains and a cape.


    'She is going to die Alastor. The pain she will leave behind...it will scar you for life.'


    'Then let it will edge my mind, make it bleed so she will forever stay in my memories.'


    '...as you wish! <Chain of Bond> ! Although short, you and her have shared a deep bond together. Peer into her memories as will she into yours! Let's there be secrets no longer between you two!'


    As I watched her memories, since the very first memory she had, how she got separated from her family, how she ended up meeting me, I asked myself how she would react if she saw mine. She would know that I was a demon, that I killed people. What would she say to me? Then my strains of thoughts were interrupted. Someone must be calling me in the real world. I should get back. I have seen enough already.


    "Alastor! Wake up!" a voice called out to me. At the same time, I felt someone patting my head. For some reason, it felt soothing. I could stay like this for hours.


    I opened my eyes, only to see Shana looking down at me, smiling. Why were my eyes so blurry? Some liquid fell on my cheeks.


    "Shana!" I screamed out.


    "I am here Alastor!" the girl hugged me tightly in her small chest.


    "Are you feeling alright? Does it hurt anywhere?" I didn't know why I was asking these questions. She was going to die soon and what was I supposed to tell her?


    "I am okay. Just a bit surprised by the new legs I have" she pointed out the beastly legs. She made it sound to light but I could feel her heavy heart in her words. And her hands were shaking. She was afraid. Of course she would. Anyone would be terrified in her position. Yet she held it in. Perhaps to not to make me worry.


    "Shana....I....I don't know what to say..."


    Seeing my expression, my fear shown on my face, she already understood what I was going to say.


    "I know Alastor. You may not believe me but in my dreams, I saw you. How you grew up, Morgan, Alice and everyone else. Strange isn't it?"


    "But I am a..."


    "I know. But it doesn't matter what you are. To me you are Alastor! And that's enough."


    "But you..."


    "I know I will die soon."


    Those words. Why couldn't she blame me for not coming to her sooner? Why was she not angry? Why did she smile at me like that? These feelings of guilt were eating me alive.


    "Is there anything I can do for you? Anything? Just say it! I will do it."


    I wanted to know. If there was something I could do for this girl, anything that might make her feel better, I would do it.


    "You know, I have always dreamt about riding a dragon! Soaring the sky on top of the most majestic creature in the world. Wouldn't that be cool?"


    What? A dragon? Where would I find one in that short amount of time left? I panicked at the mere thought.


    "I am just joking! You being here is more than enough for me." the girl giggled.


    If only we could stay like this forever. But fate was cruel and time never stopped for anyone. Shana started coughing heavily, and blood has dripped out her mouth. We were out of time.


    "Alastor it's time!" a voice called out to me from behind. It was Alice, or rather Lilith judging by her tone. "At this rate her soul will just end up in oblivion."


    Oblivion? Why? When someone died, their soul would return to the First Flame in order to be reincarnated again. Wasn't that how it was supposed to work?


    "What do you mean?" I asked Lilith.


    "The demon blood inside her has cut her connection to the First Flame. That's it because it considers her as tainted, defiled, not longer fit to be reincarnated. Her soul won't return there. Instead it will be wandering in the void for all eternity."


    "What the hell do you mean? Hasn't she have enough of this bullshit? Now you are gonna tell me that she can't even rest in peace?"


    In a fit of anger, I trashed the table next to me, smashing it against the wall.


    "There is another way. A way to free her from that hell. However....its method is rather unorthodox."


    "Tell me!"


    "Devour her soul, Alastor! That way she will be sent to the Abyss, to where your soul is. You two will become one. You won't be able to see her but she will still be there, watching you!"


    "NO! I won't do it. Not only do you want me to kill her, now I have to eat her soul too? I....I refuse to do it."


    "Do I not get a say in this?" said Shana.


    "Of course you do!" I told her.


    "Then please eat me Alastor!"


    "Are you aware of what you are saying?"


    "Look at me Alastor! I am already dead. It doesn't matter any more. But if it means that I can still stay with you then do it! Do it for me!"


    "Shana...I....this can't be happening!"


    "Alastor...please....I"


    At that moment, Shana was clunching her heart. It really was time. With tears in my eyes, I held onto her hand.


    "Please...Alastor..remember me! Don't forget about me!"


    "I won't! I promise!" I sobbed.


    "Thank...you...for...everything!"


    I no longer felt any force from her. Her hand felt down on the bed and Shana gave out her last breath.


    "Shana?! SHANA?"


    But no matter how many times I called her name, she remained silent. I cursed the ones who made her life miserable. I cursed Sanctus. I cursed the world.


    "Drink this Alastor! It's my blood. It will lead you down a new path, one which is neither Light nor Dark: the path of Chaos. Follow your instincts! Kill your enemies! Devour your loved ones! Eat and evolve!"
     
  6. necrophedius

    necrophedius Member

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    Chapter 23: Path of Chaos (2)

    Ikarus and the others were waiting for Alastor's return. They were standing in front of the dungeon holding the children who turned into beasts. They have been quiet for a while now, mostly due to exhaustion.


    As for Ikarus, she has been feeling unwell. Not physically but for some reason she felt pain in her heart. The despair, the hatred, the sadness. Where did all these emotions come from? It was so grueling to endure them. But Ikarus had a hunch about where they originated from. And the steps from afar confirmed her suspicion.


    A young boy was carrying a small body on his arm. The body belonged to an unfortunate girl who did not survive the transformation. And the boy, trying to keep a solemn expression, silently walked through the hall. Yet dignified he may seem, he carried a great hatred to the world.


    Nobody knew what to say to the boy. They didn't even know why he brought her here in the first place. If the girl died, then did it mean that the antidote didn't work? Then what would happen to the children?


    Walking into the cell, Alastor gently put the body on the ground with her head placing on his knees. The beasts, seeing someone entered, started growling.


    "Here you are Shana! I will send your friends first alright?" the boy spoke softly to the corpse.


    His skin darkened before taking on a pure black color. His body started to grow to twice his normal size. His hair became longer, keeping their white color. His face became so dark it was no longer possible to see the details. It was as if everything just vanished, leaving only a creepy mouth behind.


    Alastor has become a ghastly dark creature with elongated limbs and claws. The head had nothing but a mouth filled with sharp teeth. Some kind of dark mist was constantly emitted surrounding the creature, making its appearance even more frightening. The hair, moving on air like a long cape, only added to the ghostly side of the creature.


    Suddenly from his hands, black tentacles shot out and impaled all the creatures, killing them instantly. Then each started to pull back, dragging something out of the bodies. A tiny orb of light came out with each tentacle and flew into Alastor. The bodies quickly disintegrated into dust the moment their light disappeared. Now all that was left was Shana.


    The boy thought he could do it. He has done it well so far. Just one more left. But he couldn't hold the tears back as they poured down from his absent eyes. But it was no tears that fell. It was blood, black blood.


    He raised his hand and plunged his sharp claws into Shana. Strangely it made no wound. Instead Alastor pulled out another orb of light. As he held it in his ghoulish hands, the boy spoke in an inhuman and malicious voice.


    "We will be together forever!"


    Then he opened his mouth and swallowed the orb as tears continued to flow down his face.


    "Goodbye Shana!" he wept.


    * * *



    "Where am I?" a little girl's voice echoed inside the darkness. The place was covered by a black mist, making it harder to see the surroundings.


    As she looked around, she found herself in the middle of two lines of knights wearing black armor. Not a dozen, not hundreds but thousands of them lining up on both sides, making a path toward a giant gate. Each knight was holding a great sword pointing toward the ground, standing firmly like a statue.


    The little girl confused by her surroundings, decided to move forward, following the path created by the knights. As she passed by each line, the knight kneeled down before her, as if saluting her in a praying gesture.


    At the end of the path, the girl found herself in front of the giant gate from earlier. No matter how much she tried to push it, the door just wouldn't budge an inch. Suddenly the door moved by itself and opened its large gate, revealing a large pillar of flame, a bonfire like a beacon in this darkness.


    Then she heard a clacking metallic sound from inside the door. The sound of armor rattling with something heavy being dragged on the ground. As the door fully opened, she saw a shape coming out of the darkness. A knight in an old armor holding a great sword moving toward her faster and faster.


    It was too scary for the little girl. She closed her eyes, hoping for her end to come. But alas nothing came. She reopened her eyes, only to see that the knight was already in front of her. She shivered in fear, thinking about what might happen.


    But the stranger did no such thing. Instead he led her in. The girl was now stepping inside this decrepit gate. She could finally see the whole source of light from earlier: the flame. For some foreign reason, it soothed her fear, calmed her and it was so warm.


    "Enter!" said the knight as he turned to the little girl outside the gate."Become one with the flame! To be consumed by it! Serve as its fuel!"


    "Will I be with Alastor if I go there? Will I be able to save him, to lift his burdens even for a little bit? I know he is sad and I don't want to leave him alone." asked the girl.


    "What you will become is up to you. Whatever you create will be his and it will be the manifestation of your will. For life exists in many forms!"


    The girl strolled to the fiery flame, stopped only a few foot away. In her heart, she was ready. If she could help Alastor in whatever way she could provide then she would. For he was her family.


    "May your soul find peace in the Flame!" proclaimed the knight. He raised his sword high and plunged into the ground before kneeling down with both his hands holding the sword in a prayer gesture.


    The girl walked into the fire. But it didn't hurt. Her body started to turn into tiny particles of light, embers but she felt no pain. A she peered into the flame, she saw the figure of a boy and ran to him, before completely disappear.


    Suddenly the fire burned intensively as it went up to the sky itself. Then from inside it, another flame appeared. This one however had a dark color just like a black flame, floated on air before splitting into three fragments and flew toward the sky.


    * * *



    The cell remained dead silent, aside from the sobbing of a young boy in the middle of the room. He just lost a member of his family. Although they were not related by blood nor did he know her for long, their bond was deeper than the ocean itself.


    The world took her away from him. The people who did that to her, the boy would make them pay for it. What was worst was that the world would continue on as always, as if nothing has happened.


    Alastor was no Saint. He was not a person of virtue nor he was a benevolent one. He did not care about other people's lives so long as they didn't bother him. But now he has lost someone dear to him.


    Though it may sound selfish, he would make it so the world would know his pain, her pain. He didn't care anymore. He just wanted to go in a rampage killing everything. It didn't matter who, he just wanted to kill.


    All those hatreds, those furies stacked up inside his mind. And it sparked a marvel. Unknown to him, for the first time in history, a new lifeform was born from the boy's will, from the bond he shared with the girl.


    Not even the Gods knew what might happen. The boy who had inherited both Light and Dark, and now the blood of Chaos flew inside him. What could happen?


    Suddenly Alastor, now in a form of a grim creature, felt a sharp pain, as if something was piercing him from inside out. He clench his chest tightly. Something was coming out but no one could see anything.


    The beast shrieked loudly. His roar made the windows in the room break into pieces. The people, completely unaware of what was happening, could only cover their ears in confusion.


    All of the sudden, a black hole appeared on his chest and a dark hand reached out from the boy's chest, making him scream in agony. A seemingly thin and frail long arm that sought something to hold on.


    But it did not stop there. Alastor started vomiting a black ooze leaking from his mouth. The liquid moved by itself as if it was alive.


    "Alastor!" Ikarus and Maria yelled at the boy who screamed in pain. But as they rushed to his side, an invisible force propelled them to the wall, stopping anyone from approaching the boy. The girls, unable to help him, could only watch the terrifying scene in front of them.


    "What is happening?" asked Ikarus.


    "Such a thing...I didn't know something like this is possible. He is creating life itself!" Lilith, in Alice's body, muttered in disbelief. Although not physically present, Alice could feel the boy's agony from their connection. And it was not easy to endure it. The chain only transferred a portion of the pain and already she was overwhelmed by the pressure. Just what could keep him going on conscious?


    Then they appeared.


    From the hole on his chest, something crawled out, revealing a body twice the size of an adult. The figure wore a white cloak with some dark spots on it, as if it was tainted with darkness rather than its true color. It seemed like it had no face as it was completely covered by the cloak like an one piece. On his head lay a golden crown which covered its missing face with golden mesh. Its skins, shown only by its hands, was pale as snow and even though it looked frail, it could break a solid wall as easy as cutting butter.


    The second figure, formed by all the black sludge converging together, formed a womanly body wearing a light armor with dark blue cloth. It also wore a transparent purple veil which glided on air, adding to its ghostly yet divine appearance. Again it had no face, not because it was covered by anything. Rather nothing was inside the helmet, only darkness. With thin but long limbs, the figure was even taller than the last. If it stood up, the ceiling might not be enough for it. But instead, it moved on four legs like an animal as wherever it went, a black sludge dropped from its faceless head.


    Nonetheless there was a third one but no one seemed to notice it. Perhaps it was due to the former two who already threw the others into panic. Or simply because it had no physical form. A formless entity.


    Then together they turned toward Alastor and walked toward him.


    "Don't take another step!" but they were stopped. A doll was standing between them and the boy, who was now half unconscious due to the pain he endured. It was a natural reaction. Seeing these strange looking entites coming out from the boy, everyone would assume that they were hostile.


    But they weren't. Although they had no face, they made a worried expression toward their creator, their Father.


    "I am Kaiser, the True Monarch. Born of Shana's desire, I am here to fulfill your promise." the figure with the crown spoke in a masculine tone.


    "I am Odium, Avatar of Spite. Born of hatred, I will kill those who dare harm my Father!" the womanly figure spoke.


    The third one however did not make a sound. Nonetheless it did speak, but directly into Alastor's mind.


    'I am Sinforma, the Abandoned One. For long the world has forsaken Mother, I will lead the forgotten and make them bid to your will!'


    Like every child would one day leave their nest, in order to help their creator, the children must now leave.


    Sinforma quietly disappeared into the sky without no one's notice just like how it appeared in the first place.


    Odium descended into its own shadow and vanished into thin air.


    Kaiser, from his back, grew a pair of decrepit wings. It looked like tree branches spreading into wings. With a single flap, he flew out through one of the broken window and disappeared.


    * * *



    Sinforma was now heading toward a particular location, where those who were forgotten lay in rest. Places like that existed everywhere in this world but the largest would be the World's Graveyard in the Theocracy's territory, where many of the past heroes and such were buried.


    However such a place would be so well protected to ward off the monsters who dared trespass or those who had hidden motives. Surely the corpse of a hero of the past or a saint would be a treasure among necromancers.


    But how would a barrier stopped that which had no form?


    As the formless one overcame the barrier with ease, it stopped in the middle of the graveyard.


    "Forgotten ones, you who were abandoned by the world, you who were trapped in this place, I release you from your eternal slumber. Take my soul and arise! Make the world know that you still exist, that you are here, ALIVE!"


    All of the sudden, a black flame manifested itself on the sky above the graveyard. Then it split itself into thousands or even more tiny fragments, falling on the ground like a rain of falling stars. From the soil, the dead shall rise again. The heroes, the saints, the sinful. It didn't matter who you were in life for all were equal in death.


    The March of the Fallen shall make the world awaken once more.


    * * *



    A shadow manifested itself in a forest. Although big, it managed to hide its presence by crawling near the ground. Sneaking through the guards like a mist, it was aiming for the Holy Fountain of the Elves. The fountain was said to be the source of the holy water of the entire kingdom as it was from here that every river in its territory converged and originated from.


    Needless to say what terrible things might happen if something were to happen to it. As the room containing the fountain remained clear of people, a black goo moved toward it like a serpent on the ground. Then it retook its original form: a giant figure wearing a veil.


    Odium stood up and spread her hand onto the fountain. She took her sword and cut herself. Her blood, black as the goo or perhaps it was the liquid itself, dropped into the fountain before completely dissolving into it. Strangely it did not change the water's color. Perhaps it was because the quantity of the sludge was too small or Odium herself made it so no one would suspect a thing.


    "The world has gone far too long unpunished. The crime it committed, the sins it did, I will make it pay for its deeds.


    Take my blood! Let the corruption burn inside you! Feel the pain you inflicted to Father and Mother!"


    * * *



    As Kaiser soared through the sky, he muttered.


    "I am the True Monarch, the King of the world. I am above all but one. This world is mine and I shall make it submit under my rule.


    Rest assured Father! I will fulfill Mother's wish. One day you two shall witness my action from your throne, watch me as I burns this world to ashes.


    One day, I promise, you will ride dragons. For only dragons are worthy to be the new God's throne."
     
  7. necrophedius

    necrophedius Member

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    Chapter 24: March of the Fallen



    Sinforma's POV


    "Death is just the beginning.


    As we rest in the soil, the world continue to move forward without us. We, those who were abandoned, the forsaken ones, shall rise again to remind the world of our existence. Our legends may have been scattered, our legacies may have been passed on but as time went on, we were forgotten, relics of the past.


    Now we march onward, toward the capital of the living, to let them know that we are still here, no matter how they want to refuse us. For we are the Fallen. We are Sinforma."


    * * *




    The World's Graveyard was always a place under constant surveillance from the Church. After all, it was where they buried their Heroes and their Saints along with all their followers including warriors and clergy. For centuries, the cemetery continued to expand as the dead continued to pile up. But that was not the problem. The main concern of the Church was that grave robbers or necromancer might desecrate the tombs of the dead for wicked purposes. This was why a large wall was built along the frontier of the graveyard to keep outsiders out.


    To protect the wall and what lay beyond it, the Church established the Grave Watchers, a military force whose job was to keep an eye on the wall and to punish trespassers. Four keeps, each in a corner of the cemetery, was supposed to watch their wall. But It made you wonder: who would watch their backs if the threat was actually from inside?


    On the northern wall facing the capital of the Theocracy of Light, Deus Lucem, next to the North-West keep, two guards were standing on the wall in the middle of the night. The wind, as it flew through the surrounding forests, made the only sound that could be heard in this night. Along with the torches on the wall, the consoling gentle moonlight was their only source of light.


    "Another quiet night heh?" one of the guard asked.


    "As usual. I really don't know why they would spend so much money to keep this place running. When was the last time we see an intruder?"


    "Aye. But there are petty thieves who occasionally sneaked into this place. We just caught one a few days ago didn't we? But when I see what he managed to take, I suppose it's understandable. All these jewelry and such buried with some old skeletons. What a waste! Some of us don't even have enough to feed our families and some dead dude is even richer than us. It's not like it's useful for them."


    "Careful of what you say mate. Don't want to lose our jobs now. At least we got paid for doing absolutely nothing."


    The two men laughed out loud. The worst they saw was just some thieves who wanted a share of the offerings to the deceased. And the Church paid a decent amount to keep these keeps running.


    "HEY! Are you two slacking again?" an angry voice shouted at the two men.


    "Knight Captain!!!! Of course not sir! We are just talking about how dutiful you are!"


    But his lies did not work. Walking to the two, the captain smacked them both on the head. Even though they wore a helmet, it would still hurt.


    "Don't lie to me you dimwits! We are tasked to watch over the wall and it's our responsibility to do it. By God's name if I see you two slacking off again,...." said the captain. It has been more than ten years since he took on the job to watch the wall. While it was a quiet life compared to his former life in the army, he still took it very seriously. Not for the money but because of his faith. He saw himself as the keeper of theses graves, to help the dead rest in peace without obstruction.


    "But no one is gonna do anything here captain! I swear if we just put scarecrows in our places, no one would even notice the differences." the lazy guard contended.


    "That's a very good idea. Scarecrow doesn't need to be paid right? And they don't need to take a break either. I might as well replace you two with them." the captain mocked.


    "Wait just a minute! Please ignore what this guy just said! We will resume our duty immediately!" pleaded the other guard.


    "You damn better do it seriously. We are the only thing that stand between those greedy bastards out there and this holy sanctuary. I will die before I let anything soiling it."


    What a powerful statement! The defenders of the wall, swore to put their lives to protect the final resting place of countless heroes, champions and saints. But the night has only just begun and their nightmare has yet to commence.


    "Captain, is there another funeral or something tonight?" asked one of the lookout.


    "No, not that I am aware of. Why do you ask?" answered the captain.


    "Do you see those light over there? Look like torches to me."


    "What??? Let me see!" the captain seized the spyglass held by the scout.


    Through the lenses he could clearly see some moving light but it was too dark to see what exactly was out there. But inside that darkness, he could some shiny red dots moving along the light. What could they be?


    "Weird! Why would anyone be buried in the middle of the night? Could it be a family visiting? But still it doesn't explain why they go at this hour..." contemplated the captain. Indeed this was a strange occurrence.


    "Do you think it's like those...ghosts? The will-o-wisp? I have read about them. Nasty little things that will burn you to death." the guard said.


    "Don't be an idiot! Will-o-wisp only exists in unholy places as they are manifestation of the deads who were wronged. This is a sacred place. Every week a group of priests go around and purify the cemetery. It's impossible for them to be here."


    "Then what is that?"


    "I don't know. But I notice that they are moving toward us so they should pass one of our outpost! Bring me the parchment immediately! Tell the others to be ready just in case! I don't like surprises."


    The guard rushed away. A moment later he returned with a scroll in his hand and handed it to the captain. The knight spread out the parchment and put his hand on the circle imprinted on the scroll.


    "This is Captain Balmore from the North-West keep! Pass me to the outpost Five!"


    The paper shined lightly before a voice spoke out.


    "This is outpost Five. What can I do for you captain?" a woman's voice echoed from the scroll.


    "We have spotted some light moving toward your position. It's probably some priests wandering around but can you confirm the identity of these people and bring them here?" asked the captain.


    "Of course sir!... Oh I can hear steps from outside. They must have been lost. Me and my boys will bring them right to you."


    * door knock sound from the scroll*


    "Yes please wait a minute! Somebody goes open the door!" the woman continued to speak.


    * door knock sound again*


    "I get it. Just wait for a second can you?"


    But the sound persisted. Angry the woman ran toward the door.


    "Can't you just wait for ..... !?!?!?"


    The sound of door shutting rang from the scroll. Then nothing. Some whispers came through. It was the others guard at the outpost who didn't understand. They just saw their boss vanishing at the door.


    "Officer? Can you hear me? What's happening? Who are they?"


    Still nothing. Then suddenly.


    "HELP!!! They are attacking! Please we need reinforcement.....Wait what are you? Don't come any closer!!! HE..."


    The screams of the guards could be heard loudly by the captain together with the two guards. But he couldn't do anything. In fact he didn't even grasp what was happening to his men. He had no idea what was coming for him.


    But shortly after, from the darkness afar, the captain could see it. It was just a few light before. Now they were thousands, or perhaps even millions, light coming toward the keep. What was even more creepy with the number of red dots moving with the light. As the cloud moved away, the moon revealed the horror that was hiding in the darkness.


    An army of undeads. The skeletons, some still had flesh on them, made the clacking sound of bone hitting against each other. The zombies, while slow, spread a foul stench as they passed by. Those transparent beings that seemed like they were floating, wraith. Evil spirits of the deads who could not pass on to their next lives.


    How could all the foul abominations be in this holy sanctuary?


    "Impossible....what the hell are those???" yelled one of the guards.


    The captain too was dismayed by the hellish scene in front of him. But years of war has bolstered his resolve, made him able to face opponents he couldn't otherwise dare to look it. He quickly regained his calmness and gave out his orders.


    "Ring the bell immediately! Inform the others outposts! Request for reinforcement from the others keeps!"


    Archers, stay on the wall and cover us!


    Knights, you do with me to face them! Not a single one is to pass us. I will die before I let one of them reach the Capital!"


    The captain's heroic words, together with the bell tolled, acted like an awakening call to all the guards. The men quickly got into position just as their captain ordered. But they were only a few hundreds. How could they win against this army of the damned?


    The captain was on his horse standing together with his troops down the wall. The first line of knights was equipped with great shield to protect their comrades. Needless to say it took incredible strength of a man to hold a shield taller than he was. The second line used lances to pierce those who dared approach the shields. The rest had sword and a hand shield as their basic equipment. The archers stayed on the wall, raising their bows and waited for their captain's command.


    What a brave bunch! While they were greatly outnumbered, they could at least make a stand against normal undeads while waiting for reinforcement. Their hope has not been shattered, yet. But they forgot something. The place they were guarding wasn't just your usual cemetery. The people buried here were not the same as the common folk. Nonetheless no one noticed it before it was too late.


    The undead army stopped simultaneously. Now Balmore understood what were those red dots. It was their eyes.


    One of them walked forward. It was an old man who wore a luxurious white robe with golden laces and a odd looking hat, a tall folding cap rising to a peak and sewn together with some golden jewelry. He held a long staff with a crown at the top of it. The staff itself must be twice his height and judging from the way he walked, the staff seemed to be a bit too heavy for the old man.


    But it was not his ridiculous look that shocked the captain but rather who the old man was.


    "No...it can't be...you can't be here!" the captain spoke in disbelief.


    "Who is he captain? Some kind of big shot?" asked one of the guards.


    "Saint Vyncis, pope of the Church of Light!!!" he muttered.


    "What? The pope? What is he doing here?"


    "Because he has been dead for more than thirty years you idiot. He is buried in this very cemetery." the captain looked at the old man painfully. Memories of the past came back to him. The days when he still served as the personal guard of Vyncis. The day when Vyncis died of illness. Balmore has tried to forget about the days but he could not abandon his master and his friend here after all these years. If he could not protect him in life then in death it shall be.


    But no matter how he deluded himself, Balmore could not expect to see his old acquaintance walking this world again.


    "Your Holiness...I was not able to protect you when you were alive. But I won't let this destroying everything you have built. I will protect your honor, my old friend!"


    But as Balmore prepared to release his friend from this curse, the old undead raised his staff and pointed toward Balmore.


    Suddenly Balmore could feel a great pressure flying toward them. Something big and primal. From the sky, a great shadow dived toward the knights. A skeletal dragon.


    As he flew by, the dragon released a green toxic mist onto the knights. Anything that came into contact with it melt down in a matter of seconds. The knights screamed in agony as their flesh were consumed by the mist.


    Lucky for Balmore, as a Paladin, he immediately raised a shining light barrier to protect himself and a few of his troops. But the barrier did not help for long as it melt down a few seconds later. Still it was enough for Balmore and his surviving men to get out of the way.


    "Archers, fire! Aim at the dragon!"


    Balmore gave his command to the men on the wall. The archers released their arrows but none of the arrows worked. They did hit their target but what good arrows would do to something with only bones? The thing's very existence was already a violation against nature itself.


    Yet things did not stop there. Something was shooting cannonballs at the wall, killing all the archers. As the captain traced back where to the shoot came from. A large beastman with still his flesh intact but with red eyes was holding a cannon on his arm.


    Then from behind, the captain realized that half of his remained troops lay dead on the ground with their neck cut open. But Balmore didn't even hear a thing. The men didn't scream either. If a single one of them saw their friend falling down dead, they would have yell out. But nothing. Did it mean that all of them died at the same thing? All of the sudden, Balmore caught something in the corner of his eyes. He quickly grasped it and finally saw what killed his man. A scythe linked to a chain which was moving at incredible speed. Using all his force, he pulled the chain, revealing its user. A slim elf woman with red eyes with very light clothing and a cloth covering half her face.


    Not just these two strange undead were present. A lot more was fighting the watchers as they cut down the knights with ease.


    Balmore recognized them. Rather anyone would recognize them. They were the heroes of the past, those who gave their lives to defeat the demon lords. Some died while others lived until the end of their lives. In the end they all ended up here.


    The captain could see that he wouldn't get out of this place alive. How could he alone fight against all these legends of the past? He could barely hold off against one of them, not to mention there were hundreds of them out there. While they were already dead and probably their skills have faltered, it still made them dangerous opponents. But at the very least, Balmore must release his friend Vyncis from this.


    Undead was naturally weak against Light element. A sword imbued with light could kill an undead instantly. And Balmore had one in his hand. He charged toward the old undead. As he cut down one after another line of undead priest surrounding the pope, he could feel his strength leaving him. But he would not give up. For he made a promise that he would protect his friend, even in death.


    "Join us Balmore!" said Vyncis in a soft voice.


    "I won't let you defile him any longer!" Balmore jumped as he held his sword high.


    ....

    ....

    ....


    Alas not everything could be achieved with strength and resolve alone. However now the captain should be pleased. From now on, he would be able to protect his friend, to be his shield as an undead paladin.
     
  8. necrophedius

    necrophedius Member

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    Chapter 25: Game of Power (1)



    It has been several days since the elf kingdom Malatas fell into disarray. Talks of a plague have thrown the people into fear. The worst of all it wasn’t a normal disease. Rumours had it that those infected with the disease became violent and attacked indiscriminately everyone they saw. Their eyes also changed to a bright red colour. The symptoms were fever, headache, hearing voice even though nobody was there and vomiting a black substance.


    The king has offered a generous amount of treasure and promised the position of the court mage for anyone who could find the cure for this strange disease. If you wondered why the king didn’t ask the royal mage already, it was because there wasn’t one. The last court mage was the sage Theoron who valiantly perished at the hands of the demon lord more than ten years ago, or so the legend said. The old sage was renowned for his wisdom. If he was here perhaps he could have a solution to save the kingdom. Alas the vacant seat he left was too much of a responsibility for anyone to take or even deserved to replace him. And so the position was left empty for years.


    Yet that person might not be very far. A young elf woman who spent the last couple decades of her life into researching magic could still be considered as an apprentice as elf usually lived for centuries. However in her case, she compensated her inexperience with her effort and enthusiasm. While being far from powerful like the great Theoron was, Astrea had a vast knowledge pool left behind from her master combined with her unusual curiosity for magical phenomenon. And like every mage at this moment, her goal was to find the cure for this strange epidemic.


    Astrea, wearing a dirty witch robe but with feathers almost crow like, unwashed for days and a cone hat, was going through books after books in her sanctuary, a small room filled with dust because of her neglect to clean up her own house. For days she looked at these books but so far there hasn’t been record of any similar disease in the archive. Indeed such a malady would have been registered in history. Did that mean this was intentional and someone was behind all this?


    “What am I missing? Perhaps I should change my approach. If it’s a new disease then I won’t find anything here.


    Any epidemic must have a source. If I can find the source and study it, I can at least find a way to limit its propagation then find a cure later.”


    The young witch took out a mass of documents. They were scrolls containing information gathered by the Adventurer Guild and the King made public to facilitate the research. The people were already in panic. Rather than keeping it as a secret, the King thought it might a better idea to share with everyone the knowledge they had so at least it would appear that they did something. Also who knew people with talents could be right out there but just didn’t have the proper intelligence?


    Next Astrea took the map of the elf kingdom and decided to mark all the infected areas along with the date of discovery. With both the time and location, she could trace back to where the epidemic began. And she found it.


    The first case started right in the capital Galahad. A day later it spread to the surroundings areas but not all of them at the same time. In fact the closer the areas to the main river, the earlier the date of discovery. Could it be that something was in the water? It would make sense that if the water was contaminated then the disease could spread across the land in such a short time. But there were so much places to cover, where could the source be?


    At that moment an idea came up to the apprentice. First of all, the first victim discovered was in the capital. Secondly it travelled by the river to others part of the country. This could only mean one thing: the Sacred Fountain, the source where all rivers in Malatas originated from.


    There couldn’t be another explanation. Immediately Astrea packed up her things and travelled to the assumed source of the epidemic. She couldn’t hide her excitement as she ran across the town. Although she realized it was rude to take advantage of other people’s suffering, it was her chance to become the next court mage for the royal family, a position which was unthinkable for someone as young and with a rather lesser background such as her.


    And so by herself she arrived at the Sacred Fountain. She did not want to invite others people nor did she tell anyone else because she feared they might steal her well-deserved reward. After all she did find it by herself. Why should she share her hard working result with anyone? It was something from her own personal experience that in face of greed, people could change a lot.


    But something was weird the moment she stepped into this place. The Sacred Fountain resided right outside the Capital and was surrounded by a forest protected by the Sentinels, warriors and beasts who dedicated themselves to protect the Fountain. Because it was one of the most important and holy places of the entire kingdom, to make sure that no one could use it for their personal motives, the Goddess of the Elves Elemyr has entrusted this task for a small group of her most loyal followers, the Sentinel Covenant.


    Yet so far Astrea has not encountered a single one of them. Normally they would have stopped her by now for trespassing their sanctuary. Something was amiss. The forest was so quiet to the point of being eerie. How come there were no sound of insects or critters? Where have they all gone?


    Despite all these anomalies, Astrea continued forward into the temple. Her mind was clouded by the glory ahead, making her blinded to her surroundings: someone was watching her, following her every step.


    Opening the stone door into the temple, the witch was stunned by the sight: the interior walls of the temple was covered by a black sludge, moving as if it was alive. Yet despite all this, the water remained pure, or so it seemed.


    “Did this black thing cause the water the disease? Whatever the case I must report it to the regime. I could probably fix things with magic or potion but this seems more like a monster, a dangerous one.”


    However, as she slowly took a step back, she realized someone was behind her. Two knights in golden armours and a beast with a lion head and a goat head, a serpent for a tail and two wings. The beasts guarding this place were supposed to be majestic and divine creatures, how could such baneful thing be here? And the knights, they had red bright eyes shining even in darkness just like the infected.


    “Look I know how it looks but I am here to investigate the source of the plague haunting Malatas on order of the king himself. And I think I found it. Look it’s right….What are you doing? Let me go!”


    Before the naïve witch could even resist, the two knights have captured her and dragged her further in the temple. They were bringing her to the Fountain.


    Now in front of what she was searching for, the young witch could only fear what was happening to her. The Fountain was supposed to be crystal clear filled with holy water. Yet what was once a sky blue pool of water was now a filthy pool of sludge. If the Fountain was corrupted, how come the water outside remained its colour?


    “So it purposely changed back the colour of the water to make it look normal? It is no normal monster if it has that kind of intelligence.” Astrea muttered to herself.


    Then suddenly they brought her even closer to the Fountain. At that moment Astrea understood what they were trying to do to her.


    “No!!! No No NO!” but no matter how she struggled, she couldn’t fight back.


    One of the knights grasped her head and drowned her into the Fountain. She tried to hold her breath as long as she could but it didn’t work. The water surface vibrated heavily as the woman tried to resurface but the knight was too strong for her.


    By instinct the woman opened her mouth to grasp some air. However it was all it was waiting for. In an instant the black sludge entered her mouth, almost making her choke on it.


    The knights released the woman. There was no need for restraining her any longer. They accomplished what they wanted.


    Strangely the witch no longer tried to escape. She calmly stood up, looked around as if she has never seen this place through her eyes. She slowly fixed her cloth before realizing that she actually smelled a bit.


    “Does this woman never take a bath? She has such nice figure too….But then she died like the vermin she was. Ho ho ho! Now time to begin the next step. But first I should take a shower and cleaned up this place!”



    * * *




    “What? You actually found the source of the plague?” shouted the king.


    The next morning, Astrea has already gone to the palace to report her discovery, with some small alterations to the truth.


    “Yes, Your Majesty! From my investigation, the plague originated from the Sacred Fountain itself then spread across the country using the canals and rivers. The evidence can be easily seen if we use the map and the intelligence gathered by the Guild.


    Yesterday I have visited the Fountain and thanks to the Sentinel’s cooperation, we have found the cause behind this plague.” Astrea took out from the bag she brought with her a moving black sludge. “This is what caused the plague!” she held it high for everyone to see.


    The creature made a squishy and squirmy sound as it tried to find a way to escape Astrea’ hands.


    “What is that thing?” the king asked.


    “It’s a slime but a mutated one. Somehow it managed to bypass all the guardians of the temple and found its way to the Fountain before making it its nest. This thing secretes a toxine which caused the symptoms like what you saw from the victims. While I think it was by chance this thing was in the Fountain, this creature unconsciously caused the plague just by being in the water source of our kingdom.” Proclaimed the witch.


    “Poison? But you are holding by hands without using any protective equipment even though it’s poisonous.”


    “That’s because I found the cure to this disease Your Majesty. Every poisonous monster has something to counter the poison itself and in this case using the gland of this creature, I have produced an antidote right here!”


    Astrea took out a small vial containing a purple substance. She handed it to a retainer to give it to the King. As he held the vial, the King was convinced that this was the cure. Why else would the woman be able to hold the slime like that? But most of all, he was desperate so right now if you had evidence he would believe everything you said. What a gullible man!


    “My lords, I think we have found our court mage. Let the kingdom know that from today, Lady Astrea is our saviour and the next Minister of Magic.


    Astrea, in place of our people, I thank you for your contribution and name you Baroness Astrea of Malatas, Court Mage of Eregron and Minister of Magic.


    Does anyone object?”


    Why would anyone object in this situation? They found the cure and the plague could be considered dealt with. And now they gained a capable Court mage to serve the kingdom. Everyone inside the court hall agreed with that statement, all except one.


    “Your Majesty, I think that’s a little hasty to decide the next Court mage like that. Certainly young lady Astrea deserves a reward for helping us solving this case but I think she might be too inexperienced for such a heavy responsibility. I propose we make her a noble and considers our options.”


    It was the chancellor who spoke. True Astrea was too young to be even considered as a master of magic, not to mention a sage. What the chancellor said was perfectly reasonable. That was if he spoke it without hidden motives.


    In fact he was very angry toward Astrea. He had planned to have his daughter, the Priestess of Solana, the sun Faction of the Elves, to find the cure and so to even strengthen his position further in the court. In needed he could just appoint someone else for the position of court mage, someone he could control.


    It was that not necessary as the King has already favored Solana for years but the chancellor would take no chance. However now his plan was shattered and an outsider, an unknown factor has joined the game. If somehow this person was to be with the Priestess of Luna, the Moon faction, it could mean a total disaster for him. As a worried father, as an ambitious man but also a member of the Council of Ten of Sanctus, he must eliminate this possibility.


    “Options? What options do we have chancellor Finor? She may be young but she found the cure when nobody else did. It already means that she is superior to them in that aspect. I don’t need someone powerful like Theoron was. We have the army for that. Who could? But rather I need someone with wisdom, someone who could assist me in the affairs of our kingdom.


    This matter is not up to debate. I have made my mind.”


    With that the court was adjourned and the chancellor had no choice but to swallow his defeat.


    ‘You think you can beat me at this game? Let me show you how a master of strategy plays your little game!’ a voice spoke in the void.



    * * *



    The news quickly spread across the country along with the new antidote. The common folk hailed the name of their savior “Lady Astrea” in the street to congratulate her new position. Now only did she save the kingdom but also she represented hope for the lowly. She who was of common birth, the low class, has surpassed all obstacles and became the next court mage.


    Now in her new position, the woman had everything a person could dream for. Richness, power, everything. Many has sought to meet this new member of the court, to ask for favors, to make acquaintance but most of all to determinate which side she was on. So far she seemed to be on very good terms with elder princess Elena and has been tutoring the young second prince Aldol. However both of these people were not related to any faction. Actually only first prince and heir to the throne Tanor was known for siding with Solana like his father but Astrea hasn’t spoken with him much aside from a few formal greetings.


    To put things simple, the court of Malatas has always been a place of power struggle between two religious factions: Solana the Sun faction and Luna the Moon faction. Solana worshipped the Sun while Luna the Moon. Yet both represented the two aspects of the Goddess Elemyr. How could they not get along with each other? But it simplified things for the court mage. She would take advantage of this for her plan.


    Astrea remembered a conversation she heard when she was in a different form looking for intelligence.


    …..

    “Damn that woman! She played us all. I thought I can at least get her on our side but she rejected right in my face. She must have been in cahoots with that moon bitch.” Raged the chancellor


    “Calm down father! We don’t know that! So far she has not make any move against us. Perhaps she is still considering her options before taking sides. She is still young after all.” A woman spoke softly. It was the Sun Priestess Eris, daughter of the chancellor. A rather gentle looking woman, unlike her father, at least from appearance alone. In fact she was quite cunning, playing as a kind hearted woman to lure in her followers.


    “Options? Even an idiot would know that we are the one in power here! In a few days when prince Tanor will be officially announced as the next heir and our position will be secured. The prince has long listened to my every word. More importantly I need to hasten the plan before reporting back to the council.” Said the chancellor.


    “Are you talking about Sanctus? I am not sure if we should associate ourselves with those guys. What do we even gain from that anyway?”


    “Shh. How many times have I told you to not speak of that name? You are still young, not seeing the whole picture here. We do not just aim for Malatas. We want to unite the world. But these idiot royalties will never be able to stay in peace. They only know of power and greed. That’s why we as Sanctus must guide them to the righteous path.”


    ‘So he belongs to Sanctus…Another one to add on my list! You will pay for what you have done to Mother!’ a voice whispered.

    …..


    ‘Solana has all the political power in the court. At this rate it would not be long before the Moon faction perishes. And that’s not what I want right now. Perhaps it’s time to clean up the table!’ thought Astrea.


    “Astrea, are you alright?”


    The witch was so deep in thoughts she forgot that she was sitting with princess Elena. The princess has invited her here for a tea session.


    From an outsider’s point of view, it just looked like two women making small chat. Since day one, Astrea has shown to be share a close friendship with the princess. Perhaps it was due to their age being young adults in this palace where the game of power struggle took place. They might only want to get away from that affair, seeking refuge and consolation together.


    Usually when someone approached a member of royalty, it was to ask them for favors, to be in their good grace. But the princess herself was not associated with any faction nor political power. This was due to her being a woman while the elf had a patriarchy system. The only case of a woman in power was when the King died without a son then the Queen would take over until the next heir was chosen. Or when the King only had girls for children then the elder princess would take his place.


    But that was not the case here. Not only did the King have two sons, he had already chosen in his mind his next heir. This meant the princess was very far in the lines for the throne. This led to her pitiful life despite being part of the royalties. The people who showed her respect only gave her empty words because she was seen as the King’s daughter or the sister of the future King, not Elena herself.


    Nonetheless Elena was not the weak woman everyone thought she was. They said a smile hided away the sadness and spite of a person. What would it be for someone who constantly smiled then?


    “Are you thinking about our exchange the other day?” asked Elena.


    “Please don’t worry princess! I have sworn my allegiance to you and you alone. To make this plan work however I will need your assistance. But I want to make sure that you are prepared to do what must be done. This is not to be taken lightly…” said Astrea.


    “Long have I been considered as a tool for political marriage, something to be given to when the time comes. I won’t sit down idle any longer and watch my brother takes away what is mine. He is an ignorant fool who was just being used by the chancellor to gain more power. And my parents, a load of lies, taking me for an idiot. I despite the whole lot of them.”


    “I sure hope you are up to your words princess. In that case I need you to hold onto this.” Astrea handed a small black vial to Elena.


    “Is that what I think it is?”


    “Just what you ask for princess. A drop will suffice to send ten men to their graves. When the time comes, you know what to do with it. I will assist you with everything I have.” Astrea made a bow toward the princess.
     
  9. necrophedius

    necrophedius Member

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    Chapter 25: Game of Power (2)


    It was the King’s birthday, just a few weeks after Astrea received her new position as the court mage and minister of magic. Many nobles and lords from across the country have come to celebrate the King but also it was the chance for some to see the court mage in person.


    Despite being young, Astrea has proven to be a very capable and resourceful woman for the short time since she became court mage. She has not only received affection from the royal family but also from the people. It was rare to have someone with those qualities.


    As soon as the party started, the music, the smiles on everyone’s face, fake or not, could only add to the atmosphere of festivities. Yet it could be seen that only half of the people present really enjoyed it and there was a reason for that.


    “Truly this day will be written down in history. Soon our prince will be crown and Solana will be forever in prosperity! Hahaha” One of the nobles laughed.


    “Of course it would. Serve those moon elves bastards for opposing us!” said another fat noble.


    Poor members of Luna could only swallow their built up anger. They really couldn’t do anything. If they tried to make a scene it would only humiliate them even further. Well all except one member of Luna, the priestess herself. It was strange for the leader of a losing party to be able to remain so pleased this evening, the day when her faction would probably lose their stance forever. Yet her smile and her constantly looking at Astrea seemed to indicate something else.


    The ceremony continued with the usual queuing of everyone competing to bring the best gift to the King. But that was not the main event of today. What everyone was waiting for, or at least half of the people here, was for the announcement from the King about his heir. For long Solana has rooted for the first prince Tanor to become King as it would assure Solana’s future. The Luna faction however has not been able to gain favor from anyone of the royal family, could only watch as their hope vanish.


    Both of the Priestess were present as a tradition to give their blessings of the King. But everyone knew it was just a formality so no one even paid attention to them.


    Gift after gift, none so far has impressed the King. Certainly being the leader of a country, he has seen a lot of present ranging from unusual to luxurious. And now it was chancellor Finor’s turn.


    “Your Majesty, to search for this present, my men have traveled across the entire continent to look for it for years. I present to you, the bottle of Bacchus, containing the best wine in the world. Legend has said that it was a bottle that fell from heavens on earth. Therefore I think that alone can justify the value of this item. And I believe such thing is destined to a great King such as you.”


    Or so bla bla bla. His words were so sweet even candies could not compare.


    “Hum. Really? Then I must taste it to know.” The King turned to his queen and his children sitting next to him. “You should all have a taste. If it’s truly a godly drink, I would rather share it with my family than drink it all alone. Remember my children! Family is the most important thing in life. It doesn’t matter if you are a king or a commoner. At the end of the day everyone seeks a home where they can be their true self. Treat your family well!


    I can see that everyone is dying to stop listening to my blabbing. Let me delay you no further. Bring me this wine, Finor!”


    “Father let me pour it for you and everyone!” the princess stood up and took the bottle from the hands of the chancellor. But no one suspected a thing. In their eyes, she was the image of a well behaved daughter. This was merely a gesture of a child who wanted to thank their parents for raising them. It must be right?


    Yet none would expect what would happen next nor how it would change Malatas forever.


    Just before taking the bottle, Elena has soaked her hands with a specific substance. As she touched each glass of wine, she made sure to coat the mouth of the glass with it without anyone noticing.


    “Here is yours father!” the girl handed the cup to the king then the queen and her brothers.


    “Dear, don’t you think Aldol is a bit young to drink? He is only fifteen.” The Queen expressed her concern for her youngest child. He was the most timid of her children unlike his brother.


    “Nonsense. I would say that fifteen is too late to even start drinking. Don’t you agree?” the king laughed out loud toward the audience, making everyone laugh.


    “Wow, this is truly delicious! Truly worthy of its title!” applauded the first prince Tanor.


    “Are you alright dear?” the Queen spoke to Aldol. He didn’t like it that much judging from his expression.


    “It’s a bit bitter for my taste. If you don’t mind, I will drink my own drink.” The young prince took out a bottle containing a red juice. “Grape juice, always my favorite!”


    “Hahaha. Look at him! Can’t even drink properly!” The king joked at his son. “But never mind that chancellor. He is just too young to know the value of wine. Truly a wonderful gift!”


    “It’s an honor your Majesty! Please enjoy!”


    The party continued with the gifting ceremony. People danced around with their hearts content. What a wonderful night!


    Now it was time for the main event. The King stood up from his throne and addressed everyone in the room.


    “My friends, I thank you for gathering today to celebrate my birthday. I want to use this opportunity to address an important subject to you all. As you have probably known, I am more than three hundred years old now. My bones are screaming each time I go up these stairs.”


    The people laughed again. Why not? The king of Malatas has been known for being rather casual in terms of formality and such. Something who was benevolent and loved its people. Although he might be a bit susceptible to flattery.


    “EHem. I have had a wonderful life, a beautiful wife and loving children. I don’t think I can ask for more. But like every king there is a time to step down and entrust the kingdom to the next generation. And for me that time has come.


    Tonight I present to you, the next heir to the throne of Malatas, princ……”


    Suddenly the King felt a sharp pain in his heart. He started sweating and coughed heavily.


    “Your Majesty, are you all right?” asked the chancellor.


    “I…am fine. I just need to…..ARGHHHH”


    The pain intensified. The Queen, seeing her husband in agony, quickly rushed to his side but not even halfway there she too felt a great strain in her heart. But despite being like that, she still tried to crawl toward her beloved husband and so did the king toward his queen. But fate was cruel. They both fell down, making their last breath as blood dripped out from their mouth.


    The people, horrified by what they just witnessed. The women screamed as some lords tried to get away fearing for their own lives. But it didn’t just stop there.


    “Father…Mother!!!” the to be crown prince Tanor turned blue as he coughed of blood. His eyes, filled with fear as he reached his hand toward his dead parents before falling down the stairs.


    “Prince Tanor!!!!” screamed the chancellor Finor. But his scream was overshadowed by an even louder voice.


    “Someone helps prince Aldol!”


    It was Astrea. The court mage held the young prince in her arms as he too seemed to be on the verge of death, writhing violently.


    Following his instinct, the chancellor looked at the last remaining member of the royal family: princess Elena. The girl seemed just fine, although a bit shocked by what just happened to her family. Finor was no fool. Immediately he made the connection of the princess’ behavior when she took the bottle from his hand.


    “Guards! Capture the princess! She is the one who poisoned his Majesty!” yelled Finor.


    But that didn’t scare Elena a single bit. In term of power, the court mage and the chancellor were of the same rank, right below the royalties. Having Astrea on her side would put her in safety, or so the naïve girl thought.


    The court mage remained silent. In fact she seemed to be more preoccupied with the dying prince on the floor than the princess herself.


    “The chancellor is right. Capture her! She must still have the poison on her!” yelled Astrea angrily.


    Receiving orders from both of the now most influential person in the court, the royal guards immediately seized Elena. The poor girl, confused by Astrea’s actions, realized that she had been deceived to be the scapegoat of this whole charade. But she would accept no such thing. If she went down, she would make sure to take down that witch with her.


    Yet nothing came out from her mouth. Not a single word of defense. In fact she couldn’t even control her body. What was happening to her? A voice rang in her head.


    “Kill him! Kill him!”


    She didn’t even understand what was going on. Why would she follow this strange voice? But in the end she did anyway, without knowing why. Perhaps because of her shining red eyes. However everyone was so shocked to even notice this small yet crucial detail.


    Suddenly Elena, as if receiving an incredible boost in strength, managed to throw down the guards and rushed toward the one person responsible for her demise, the chancellor Finor. She quickly grasped the sword from one of the fallen guards and plunged it into the poor chancellor.


    The other guards tried to subdue the violent princess but they failed miserably as she slaughtered them all single handedly. And so she continued with the next person she saw: priestess of the Sun Eris.


    The girl fell down on her knees, cowering in fear from seeing her father being killed just like that. As the murderous woman raised her sword toward her, someone stood between them and in an instant slashed Elena’s neck open. Someone whom no one would think to be willing to protect Eris: Cynthia the Luna priestess.


    Elena, released from her berserk as her eyes became normal again, regained her sanity in the brief moment left of her life. As she felt the warmth leaving her body, she looked toward the ceiling. Tears fell down on her face onto the pool of blood she created. But it was no tears of regret of what she had done. It was tears of pity for her own self, being a tool till the very end, unable to achieve what she always wanted. Not the throne, not the power but something so simple.


    ‘I just want to be happy!’ the girl thought as she drew her last breath.



    * * *



    “What an outrageous thing! To think the princess Elena was capable of something like this!” shouted a fat man as he hit the table.


    Right now the council of nobles, regrouping the most influential lords of Malatas, was having a meeting about what would happen next to their Empire after such tragic event.


    “Calm down milord! Elena is already dealt with. What is important now is to determinate what to do next. In a single night we have lost both the King and the crown prince. Who would lead us now? Even the chancellor has perished under the princess’ hands.” An old elf explained.


    “Well under normal circumstance, if there is no heir and the chancellor is not an option, then I suppose it would be the court mage to take control of the kingdom until the rightful heir is chosen.” Another man spoke.


    At that moment everyone looked at Astrea who was strangely silent since the beginning. They hoped that she would take control now, not for good reasons of course. Since she was young and not affiliated with any of the faction, if someone could invite her into his favor, it would be a great chance of promotion of even further. And mainly they thought she was young so it would be easier to manipulate. In any case who in their right mind would refuse such an offer?


    However her response was not what they expected.


    “Milords, I thank you for your trust in me but in my opinion I am too inexperienced to be considered a candidate. Being the court mage chosen by his Majesty was already a great honor for a humble servant like me. Yet I was not able to save him. Everything is my fault!” Astrea suddenly cried, surprising everyone in the room.


    “What are you talking about Lady Astrea? You have nothing to do with this.”


    “I was supposed to be Elena’s friend. I noticed her strange behavior lately, talking about how she would want to be crown instead of prince Tanor. But I disregarded that as merely jokes. If only I have paid more attention I could have prevented this tragedy from happening. If only I have been a better friend to her, she might not have to resort to this.


    Please milords! I can’t live with this sin. You have to execute me for my crimes.”


    Such words could make anyone to cry for the poor woman. She must have tormented herself so much for this. Even the lords with hidden motives now felt ashamed of their own conduct, thinking for only themselves while right in front of them such a person existed. She must be a saint in her past life if she was not already one right now. Such were the thoughts of the council.


    “Please Lady Astrea! Do not blame yourself for this. What the princess did have nothing to do with you. She shocked all of us. If what you said was right, then we too share the blame in this tragedy. Am I right milords?” an old man talked to the council. Everyone could only nod in agreement.


    “See lady Astrea! You are not the only one with this burden. Instead of torturing yourself, we should together find a solution to this problem. That’s what the King would have wanted.”


    “You are right. I apologize for my shameful behavior. I couldn’t hold it in me. About this problem I believe we have a much better candidate than myself.”


    “Really? Who? Tell us quick!”


    “The young prince Aldol!” said Astrea.


    “But isn’t he still in critical condition? I know it’s rude toward his Majesty but I am afraid we need to prepare ourselves for the worst.”


    “Milords!!! If we as the king’s loyal servants could not put our trust into the prince, then how can we face the king when we see him? Please postpone this matter while we wait for the prince’s recovery. Both lady Eris and lady Cynthia have spent the last few days praying to Elemyr. Now it’s the time to put our faith in the royal bloodline.”


    “…Very well! If you say so lady Astrea. I think everyone here agrees with your opinion. Let’s us wait for the prince’s recovery. May the blessing of Elemyr guide him!”


    “If you excuse me milords, I need to attend to the Prince’s injuries.” Astrea stood up, bowed to the council and led her way out of the room.


    Now Astrea was in the room with the prince Aldol lying unconscious on his bed. If for some reasons he died tonight, then she would be the next leader of Malatas.


    “You can wake up now. No one else is around!” said Astrea.


    “How is everything Astrea?” the prince slowly opened his eyes.


    “Everything is according to plan. Tomorrow you will miraculously recover and be the next king of Malatas. Congratulations your Majesty!” the maiden bowed her head.


    “Only thanks to you. I never thought that this day would come this soon. I was scared when you told me to drink the poisoned glass my sister prepared but no one would expect you to give me the antidote right after. I was right: grape juice is definitely my favorite.”


    “You seem strangely calm after killing your whole family. I didn’t know you were such a heartless man.”


    “I didn’t kill any of them mind you. It was all Elena. And she only did that because you tricked her. Still how did you make her kill Finor anyway?”


    “Using what caused the plague in the first place. That thing makes a person violent and kills the first person they see. All I did was to increase the dose a little bit, giving her a boost in her power. And trick is a strong word milord. I merely gave her a chance at the crown. But with such naivety she would not last long. Trust is a dangerous thing.”


    “So then I shouldn’t trust you should i?”


    “It’s up to you milord.” Grinned the woman.



    * * *



    “Malatas is now under my control!” a disembodied voice spoke in a dark place.


    “Congratulations sister! But such a twisted way to do it. You could have just massacre them all in one go don’t you?” another voice spoke. The formless Sinforma.


    “I could but I prefer this. This kind of betrayal, father against son, brother against sister, it gives me a certain thrill, exhilaration. Pitiful creature all of them. Killing each other for a simple chair. Don’t you think it’s funny?”


    “In the end they all died didn’t they? To me it’s all the same. Death is after all the end of everything.”


    “You don’t understand Sinforma. This is art! But anyway how about you? Doing anything interesting these days?”


    “Just the usual killing, recruiting and killing again. It’s quite stressful to control this many at once you know.”


    “Be careful of how you do things brother! You might attract their attention. We are not ready to take on the Six by ourselves yet. We are merely the vanguard!”


    “Vanguard? Is this another plan of yours?”


    “Just wait till you see it. I aim for the most powerful army in the world, no, in history."


    "Are you talking about them? The Dark Ones?"


    "Yes but they won't listen to me and to release them, I need Father’s help to achieve this. And he is not available right now!”


    “Is he still wandering the Void? You should drag him out of there before he gets lost in that place! Among all of us you are the one with the strongest connection to him after all!”


    “I don’t think I am the one he wants to see right now. As much as I hate it, the women around him might be able to do this better than I.”


    “I see….then what about Kaiser? What has he been up to?”


    “I don’t know….Kaiser is different from us two. Unlike we who are the manifestation of Mother’s negative emotions, her spite and her loneliness, Kaiser is created from something very peculiar, the thing that helped Mother survive this long.”


    “Courage. The enigmatic thing that helped Mother to keep going. Even in face of death, she embraced it with all her heart. Such thing I could not understand. Perhaps because I have never felt death. But Kaiser, he is relentlless and powerful enough to make his ideas into reality. He is like a straight arrow that doesn't know when to stop. But he has a crucial weakness however." Odium continued.


    "Really? Kaiser has a weakness? What is that?"


    "He is an idiot!"
     
  10. necrophedius

    necrophedius Member

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    Chapter 26: Birth of a new empire (part 1)



    The Oros continent was an ancient land to the west of Mara, inhabited by an enigmatic race: the dragons. Majestic creatures with the skin hard as stone, they were renowned as the world’s most powerful race. Even among their kind, there was a great variety in size, shape and power. You can find dragons at the size of a mountain but also those pygmies which were even smaller than human. Some had a serpent like body while others with a colossal body adorned with two wings. Because of this, it was quite difficult to discern between some dragons and monsters and some unfortunate accidents happened when adventurers mistook dragons for monsters and decided to slay them.


    Of course adult dragons wouldn’t go down easily but young ones were still vulnerable as their skin has not developed enough. Therefore, to protect its people, the dragon council which served as the government of the dragons, forbad any adventurer or everyone in general to enter Oros without permission.


    And yet here they were, a group of a hundred adventurers making a camp on the eastern coast of Oros.


    “All right everyone! As you probably know, we are here to hunt down a certain dragon. I know it sounds scary and while most of us here are no match for a dragon, worry not my friends! For this time not only do we have a great number of adventurers ranging from rank B to A, we also have the honor to be accompanied by three S -rank. I present to you ladies and gentlemen: the Sword of Justice party.”


    From behind the orator, walked up three individuals. From the left a dwarf with a long brown beard holding a giant hammer on his shoulder, from the right a sorceress with a floating crystal orb and finally a swordsman in the middle. The three formed together an S-rank party named Sword of Justice, a rather ridiculous name but mostly because of the captain swordsman who always proclaimed himself as a hero.


    “There they are, as glorious as ever. Mind you that there are no more than a twenty S-rank adventurer officially recognized in the world. They are seen as the epitome of power, the hope of the world against monsters and demons. And here we are, three of them are helping us in this mission. How more reassuring can it be? Please give a round of applause everyone!”


    The crowd joyfully cheered at the trio. At first many had doubt about this whole expedition. Dragon hunting was no easy task. The creatures were immortal, meaning they would live until someone actually killed them. There were of course exceptions but that usually was very rare. But then a member raised his concern.


    “But what about the dragon council? Sure we may be able to kill this dragon but if this gets out and they come after us, we won’t be alive for long”


    “That’s a very good question mate. There is no need to worry about any kind of retaliation as this is a request from a member of the dragon council itself. Therefore no need to worry friend!”


    If you were wondering on why on earth would such a quest be accepted by the Guild, it wasn’t. This was actually an illegal quest as dragons were considered as a Prime race, meaning this would be counted as assassination rather than monster extermination, therefore forbidden under the law of the Guild Master. However there were many kinds of adventurers and since the reward was unusually handsome, not everyone could turn a blind eye to it.


    “All right! Let’s do this guys! So which dragon are we hunting?”


    “Hum….dragon lord Celdora!”


    “…..”


    “…..”


    “The fuck man? I thought we are hunting some unknown dragon. Not only the guy is a hero, he is a freaking dragon lord for god’ sake. We will be slaughtered.” Shouted an adventurer.


    “Now now just wait a minute! I did say that we are hunting Celdora but I never said we are going to actually fight him. I value my own life as much as you value yours, gentlemen. I have a very simple solution to our problem.


    Celdora has a daughter who is barely ten. She hasn’t developed her scales yet. Even an A rank probably could take her on. Do you see where I am going?”


    “Ohhhh! But kidnapping a kid is a bit …. I don’t know….wrong no?”


    “Do you want the money or not?”


    “I will sell my grandma for that kind of money!” another said.


    “Well said! Although we don’t really want your grandma.” The orator turned back to the crowd “With luck you probably won’t even need to lift a finger. She is just a kid. And if things go downhill, we still have the Sword of Justice by own side.


    Now can I have a cheer for our early victory?”


    The group raised their weapons together on air, hailing victory even when they just got here, unknown about the terror they would be facing on this continent, not just from Celdora but from someone else.



    * * *




    “Hmmmm. I need a castle!”


    A figure was floating on the sky of Oros, looking down at its landscape. Aside from a tower at the center of the continent, Oros didn’t have any city as dragons, primal they were, preferred to live in their natural habitat with nature. They lived in clans or small groups, usually with dragons of the same family. Of course there were those who chose to live alone without care for the rest of the world.


    As there were not as many dragons compared to the other races, they managed to divide the entire continent into many small territories to avoid conflict with each other. Often considered lawless, the only thing that a dragon feared was themselves, or rather the dragon council who dictated only a few but most crucial rules. Anyone who refused to abide to it would be eliminated. Such were the world of dragons.


    Back to our stranger who just realized something he missed completely. While he saw himself as a king, he had no subjects, no castle, not even a throne. Kaiser only thought of taming the dragons before arriving at this land but now that he thought about it, how should he proceed?


    It has been a few days but still no sign of a dragon, only a bunch of humans, dwarves and elves who came out of nowhere wandering in the forest. Luckily they did not detect his presence, although it was unsure if it was lucky for him or them.


    But then from afar, he spotted sever figures flying toward him. At first it appeared to be tiny dots. As they came closer and closer, their forms started to become clear: wyverns. Dragons who could not develop their scales, leaving them only a protective skin nowhere near powerful as a true dragon were called wyverns.


    Although not as much as a threat compared to a real dragon, these creatures could kill any unsuspected warrior in an instant thanks to their sharp claws and enormous body. And now a few dozens of these were coming at Kaiser.


    “Wyverns. Hum, miserable creatures who fail to become a true dragon. I guess I would have to start with you first!”



    * * *



    “Hey, why do you think we are hunting Celdora? I mean he is still a hero after all. Shouldn’t we like praise him for defeating the demon lord for us?” an adventurer asked the guy next to him.


    The group has separated themselves into small groups of a dozen people each to search for the daughter of Celdora. One such party has just spotted a little girl walking in this forest and was on their way to capture her.


    “Beat me. Probably some kind of political play or something. The request did come from the dragon council after all.”


    “What do you mean?”


    “Celdora is the kind of guy who pissed off everyone he met. He doesn’t care who you are or who you are affiliated with. He just does whatever he wants, which led to the fact that he has many enemies. I am not surprised if he pissed off a member of the dragon council. And being a troublesome hero makes it even worse.


    Hey why are you stopping?”


    “Shhh. Up ahead!” the guy made a silent gesture and shut his friend’s mouth with his hand covering it. He then pointed to the direction in front of them, toward a small girl with short emerald hair playing by herself near a waterfall. Poking from her hair were two small horns, still developing. And her eyes, green eyes with pupils like a snake. Though such features would not deny her cuteness.


    It seemed she was the one responsible for the piles of pebbles next to her. Holding one in her hand, the girl threw with all her force the small rock on the water surface, wishing it would make as many jumps as possible. But she always missed it, throwing the rock onto the other side of the small lake.


    The scene did seem typical of a normal clumsy girl throwing rocks, until the two actually saw what was on the other side of the lake. Just some trees standing as part of the forest. Yet something was strange about these trees: it was covered with holes.


    At that moment they realized that this was no normal girl. She actually managed to throw the pebble all the way across the lake and pierced the trees on the other side. She must have put too much force into her throw. However her actions suggested otherwise. The slow movement of her arm, the gentle motion of her hand meant that she wasn’t even putting any strength into her hand. Imagine what would happen if she actually tried to throw a pebble toward someone. A bloody mess would be what was left.


    One adventurer was so scared he actually pissed himself seeing how a simple pebble actually made a hole in such a huge tree. They understood now that it was a mistake to underestimate the daughter of Celdora. But one of them remained his calm. An old soldier but also an A-rank adventurer who was seasoned after countless battlefields. A simple child wouldn’t scare him at all. After all a child was still a child.


    “All right listen to me! She may be strong but we have numbers and most importantly our wits. We can win this if you listen to me.


    Each of us has been given a special net, made from the silk of the arachnid, unbreakable even by dragon’ standards. What’s interesting is that the more the person trapped inside struggles, the tighter the net gets.


    We have six of us here. Make three pairs of two! Each pair will sneak up on her from each direction. Even if she spots us, her only option is jumping into the lake and that would slow her down.


    Use the net and it will do the rest! Just make sure not to hit your own people with it. Come on courage men! Or are you implying that six A-ranks can’t even beat a little girl?” explained the old soldier. Thanks to his years of experience, he quickly devised a plan that could work in a short instant. Truly worthy of a veteran.


    The men, slightly provoked by his words, decided to follow the elder’s words. What could go wrong? Didn’t people always say to respect and follow the wise words of an elder? Certainly! However things never went as plan, especially when there were wyverns fighting a strange dude right above your head.


    …..


    “Come at me lowly creatures!” shouted Kaiser as he was surrounded by a horde of wyverns.


    Each watched carefully at the strange individual in front of them. Wearing a luxurious white robe and a crown but most unusual was his faceless feature, the stranger gave off an aura of incredible power, making the wyverns shaken in fear, hesitating if whether or not they should attack as it wouldn’t end well if they did it.


    But Kaiser wouldn’t lose time for such futile behavior. A king acted through his actions and that was what he would do. He clapped his hands together, making an air shockwave, pushing back the cloud. But it was not an attack, only a forecast of what was about to come.


    Nonetheless, like mindless monsters they were, the wyverns saw that as a hostile action and decided to attack. Better to eliminate the target before it could do something. Yet it was too late.


    Kaiser raised one of his arm toward the sky. Black clouds started gathering above them, signaling the coming of a storm. And indeed a storm was coming.


    “<Decree of Thunderlord>”


    Thunder started echo the sky as lightning struck Kaiser’s hand. It was as if it was drawn toward him. Because of the continuous current of lightning, it looked almost like he was holding lightning in his hands.


    And then it hit. All the wyverns on sky were struck down by lightning. Some couldn’t have time to scream as their flesh were instantly incinerated. And they fell.


    …..


    The adventurers have already positioned themselves and waited for their captain’s orders. Each has prepared their weapon. They intended to finish this in an instant, making the girl unable to strike back. The element of surprise was after all an art of war. But what if you encountered something even more surprising and disturbing than what you have prepared?


    Hearing the sound of thunder, an adventurer instinctively looked up to the sky and saw the black clouds gathering right above them. How could it be possible? The sky was clear just a few seconds ago. And it didn’t end there. A storm was to be expected with rain, only this rain was a bit different.


    “IT’S RAINING DRAGONS!!!!!” the adventurer shouted, making everyone, including the girl looking at the sky.


    Indeed it was raining dragons, or rather wyverns. But such detail made little difference now. Their plan has been unfolded. The girl has seen them. They have lost their element of surprise.


    Spotting some strangers with weapons, even an idiot would understand what was happening. Ignoring the bizarre rain, following her father’s words “Be careful of strangers!”, the girl poked out two wings from her back and flew away. But no before she checked what was causing this curious phenomenon. As the girl flew high above the clouds, she finally saw the one responsible. And it applied to the stranger who spotted the girl looking at him.


    However he paid more attention to her wings and horns than the person itself. The two features of a dragon. Yet she had a human body. It could only mean one thing: a draconian. A crossbred between a dragon and another member of the prime race. If you wondered how it was possible physically, some dragons had the ability to transform into a human form, making things much easier. But of course these dragons were rare and crossbreeds were even rarer.


    Draconian used to much more in numbers, having a society building from peace between dragons and the others races. But such ideas were considered blasphemy by the dragon council and so they were wiped out from the pages of history, known nowadays only as legend and myth. If it was any normal dragon, it would have been executed along with its offspring. However Celdora was a dragon lord and a hero, therefore practically untouchable in term of power and he has already resigned from politics so the council left him alone. But that of course left some animosity between the two parties, along with the fact that Celdora would no longer be under the protection of the dragon council. Not that he really needed it though.


    And here stood a live draconian in the flesh in front of Kaiser. He must have her. But Kaiser followed a few number of rules set by himself. One of them was to never force anyone to serve him. If someone tried to hinder his plan, he would eliminate them without hesitation but as a monarch, he had to be an example for the people to be willing to serve. Without the respect of its people, there would be no king.


    “Who are you mister?” the cute voice awoke Kaiser from his thoughts.


    “Hum what?” he said.


    “I ask who you are. What are you doing in my house?” asked the girl.


    “What do you mean your house? I don’t see any house on the sky.” Kaiser retorted.


    “But this land belongs to papa. And he says that if I see anyone I should tell him.”


    “Ok…then why are you telling me this? Aren’t you supposed to go tell your father?”


    “But you save me from those guys earlier. So I won’t tell on you.”


    ‘Wait what? When did I save her again?’ but he decided not to ask her. If she already felt indebted to him, it would just make things easier. So why not play along?


    “Uhm yeah! You are right! I did save you from….those guys. So that means that you own me a favor no?” Kaiser stuttered. He had no experience with kids, despite being one himself who was just recently born. Although his birth was a little strange and he saw himself as an adult, if not an old one.


    “Mum said to repay my debts whatever it takes. What do you want mister?” asked the girl.


    “Do you have a castle?” Priority number one: a place to live.


    “Ohhh I have one! You want my castle, I will give it to you. Come with me!” the girl took Kaiser’s hand and dragged him away. Although Kaiser had quite a big stature, about twice of a normal adult, he was towed quite easily. Of course it was because he didn’t resist at all, just a bit surprised by the girl’s enthusiasm.


    …..


    “So this is your castle….”


    “It is. Don’t you think it’s beautiful! It has a dark ambiance of secrecy like the evil hideouts of a villainous sorcerer. And no one would suspect a thing.” Explained the girl proudly.


    “Of course no one would since it’s a cave!!! Why did I even trust you?” Kaiser left out a long sigh.


    Indeed it was a cave but a very large one. This cave went into the side of a mountain and probably served as a dragon’s home in the past. Kaiser guessed this because the entrance and the ceiling was unusually high and there were traces of someone living here, with the cave itself divided into multiples sections which could be considered as rooms. There were also several smaller passageways which led even further but it was roughly covered with either stones of leaves trees. Perhaps the owner didn’t want any unexpected guests coming from those holes.


    “Hey, you are being rude. It’s my hideaway whenever I want to run away from home.”


    “Why do you want to run from home?”


    “Papa and mama never let me go out and play. They say it’s dangerous since I am different. Even the others kids refused to play with me. They threw rocks at me, saying mean things to me.” The girl sobbed.


    Inside Kaiser’s mind, he understood. It reminded him of his Father Alastor who also suffered from this difference. The demons were different and because of that, they were slaughtered. Just how different were they exactly? Did it justify the dead of billions of demons throughout the course of history?


    But it was not like Kaiser didn’t understand the thinking of normal men. They tended to fear the unknown, rejected what they didn’t understand. That led to the fear of the unknown. And fear could cause disastrous consequences and desperate actions.


    “Difference means individuality. Just because everyone is the same doesn’t mean you have to follow the flow. Throughout history, men with talents were always those who were different. If everyone feared the enemy, how could victory be achieved?


    Take pride in your difference little one! For that would one day save your life!”


    “….” The girl remained silent. Perhaps she was surprised to hear something like this from a complete stranger. Perhaps she felt a small comfort in his words. Or…


    “What are you talking about mister? I don’t understand….” Or simply it was too much for a ten years old to understand.


    “ * sigh * I guess it’s was too complex for a kid. Never mind! Forget what I just say!” Kaiser shrugged.


    “But thank you! You just want to cheer me up right? Hi hi!” the girl smiled brightly. How quick she changed from sad to happy like that. A word rang inside Kaiser’s head “Youth!”.


    For an instant he almost cracked a smile, not physically because of his faceless feature. Now that he thought about it, this girl didn’t seem to be bothered by it. Perhaps she understood too well how it felt to be different, to be unique so she decided to ignore it all. So then the girl might not be that childish after all if she already understood that concept.


    “Oh I have to go now! Or else daddy will just get mad again! I will come back tomorrow. See you later mister….” The girl didn’t finish her sentence. Instead she tilted her head, looking for an answer from the stranger himself.


    “…Kaiser. You may call me Kaiser, the True Monarch!” the stranger presented himself proudly.


    “Monarch? What is that?” asked the girl.


    “Someone who rules over a certain territory. An example is your father who rules over this land. But in my case, one day, I will rule over the world little girl.” Explained Kaiser.


    “So you are a king? Where is your kingdom or your people?” the girl asked further. While she seemed persistent, she did raise a point.


    “I have none yet but there will be…soon!”


    “Then how about me being your first subject? You can play as the king and me your secret agent.”


    “Play….Listen I am not playing around here…”


    “Oh I know. I need to find you a chair don’t I? You are a bit big but I will see what I can find.”


    Kaiser gave up. He really had trouble with kids. Especially those like her. This was the first time he actually spoke with someone ever since he left Alastor in Ragna. And so far it felt like she was the one leading the conversation at her own pace.


    “Don’t you need to go now? Else your father is going to be angry.” Using her father as an excuse, he could finally get rid of this talking machine.


    “Oh yeah you are right! Bye bye mister Kaiser!” and she was gone. Truly it was a refreshing experience for the True Monarch.


    “Oh by the way, my name is Syralth. But you can call me Syra! Have a good day mister Kaiser!” the girl poked her head inside the cave before disappearing again.


    And so began a long friendship between two beings, completely different from the rest, which would shape the worlds for millennia: Syralth, the Emerald Sovereign and Kaiser, the Everlasting Monarch. However this would be a different story for another distant time.
     
  11. necrophedius

    necrophedius Member

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    Chapter 27: Birth of a new empire (part 2)



    It has been several days since Kaiser decided to stay in this cave. At first he complained how it wasn’t very worthy of being a king’s palace but then he started to get used to it, most likely since he didn’t want to let Syralth down. Then again it was not like the cave was a bad place to live in. It had a lot of space and only required some small adjustments to make it a nice lair.


    “All right guys! Time to work!” Kaiser proclaimed at a group of knights in black armor.


    Indeed those were the same knights Alastor used during his fight with Maria. But Kaiser didn’t really steal them or anything of the sort. Rather he created them himself. Perhaps it was an ability passed down to Kaiser when he was created, who knew. Though to be fair, a king did need an army and this one would do just fine.


    And the first job of this outstanding army was to refurbish this cave, making it into a fortress. While Syralth did say that the castle was his now, Kaiser made sure to ask the girl before redecorating her lair.


    Every day the little draconian came to watch over the works and even participated in the works herself. When she wasn’t doing that, she pestered her supposed new king for stories of the outside world. Being raised as a sheltered kid, the girl didn’t know much about things outside her home in Oros, not to mention what was happening in Mara nor the tension between demons and the rest of the world. But Kaiser didn’t tell her about such things.


    He told her about wonders of the world, myths and legends he knew from Alastor’s memories, the way old Gazel told bed story to young Alastor. Syra listened carefully to his every word, with occasionally some questions. There were even stories that Kaiser kind of made up by himself but being a sheltered child she was, the girl was gullible enough to believe everything he said.


    “By the way Syra, are you serious when you say you want to be my subject?” Kaiser raised an interesting subject. The question has been in his mind for quite a while now. The fact that Syra was a draconian already valuable but then he thought maybe she was too young to join him. His path would surely be filled with dangers and such a little girl might not make it.


    “Yes!!! It has been only a few days but you have already gathered an army and have a castle for yourself. And I really like it here. Lots of fun!” answered the girl cheerfully.


    “Fun…there will be people coming after me and if you are my subject, they will come after you too. So I ask you again, Syralth, will you be my subject?” Kaiser stood up and switched to a more serious tone.


    “Oh are we playing again? Yes!” so did Syra but her attitude suggested otherwise.


    “Answer seriously please!”


    “YES!”


    “Very well! I, Kaiser, the True Monarch bequeath my mark upon thee. Starting from today you are one of us, a subject of Ragna. Swear that you will serve Father Alastor as his agent! Serve him as you will serve me, your one true King!”


    “YEAH!”


    “Not YEAH! Say that you will!” Kaiser corrected.


    “You will!”


    “No YOU will!” he pointed to Syra. “Actually it’s fine. I give up!”


    “So am I your subject now?”


    “Yes yes you are.” Kaiser gave a long sigh. He just couldn’t keep up with her. “It’s late now. Go home before your father finds out!”


    “You’re right. Bye bye mister Kaiser!” and there she was gone.


    As much as he wanted to refuse it, Kaiser actually enjoyed the time with this small girl. It could be said that her presence kind of rubbed on him. ‘So this is how having a child feels. Not that I envy it!’ he thought.


    The peaceful time continued for a while. But the girl was so excited everything she went to see Kaiser that she didn’t notice her stalkers. The adventurers have found her and followed her back to Celdora’s lair.



    * * *




    “Syralth, have you been sneaking out again?” a green haired woman asked her daughter.


    “Hum..no. Why do you think so?” the girl fidgeted.


    “Then why did I found some dirt on your dress? You have to lie better if you want to trick me lady!” the mother scolded. She was the wife of the great Celdora, a mage named Nina. Once an adventurer herself, the two found each other and fell in love at first sight.


    Though they encountered many hardship and disapprovals from many sides, they persevered to stay with each other in the name of love. How romantic!


    Her secret has been unfolded again. The girl was scared to be grounded, not being able to see Kaiser and his companies at the cave.


    “..Will you tell papa?” she quietly asked, keeping her head down. She was waiting for a scold from her mother and probably some punishment from Celdora later. But the mother only patted her head and smiled back at her.


    “It’s alright dear. I won’t tell him. But you have to promise to stay safe and within our land ok? The world outside is not kind like you think it is. People can be very…. judgmental.


    I am sorry for keeping you like this. I want you to be free. Believe me I do! But…” the mother couldn’t hold back her tears. While she didn’t cry out loud, a few drops has fallen on her cheeks. The guilt has been eating for keeping her daughter inside like a prisoner. But she had no choice. Celdora was not welcomed at Mara in any country and the only place left was his home in Oros. Did she make a mistake for bringing this child into this cruel world? No, she thought to herself. Syralth was no mistake. She was a gift, a testament of their love and she would do anything to protect her daughter.


    “Did I do something bad mama? Why are you crying?” Syra asked worriedly, seeing that her mother was crying.


    “No no my dear! It’s just some dust in my eyes. I really have to clean up a bit. Haha!” the woman forced a smile to reassure her daughter.


    Suddenly the woman felt several presences outside the house. Who could they be? Celdora didn’t inform her of any possible guest they might had. And he was not at home at this moment.


    By her instinct Nina sensed trouble ahead from these peoples. Better to be overly cautious than regretting it later. She told Syralth to stay inside and kept the door close while she went out to check.


    As she carefully walked toward the entrance, without warning the door blasted open, throwing her back against the wall.


    “MOM!” the girl rushed to her unconscious mother’ side.


    “…Syra…run!” using her last ounce strength as her head was bleeding from the blast earlier, Nina ordered her daughter to run away.


    Then out of nowhere, a net was hurled onto Syra, trapping her inside. No matter how much she struggled, the net wouldn’t tear itself and only tightened further.


    “All right boys! Bring them outside!” a voice shouted as the adventurers quickly grabbed the captured Syra and Nina outside of the house. “


    “Where are you going?” asked an adventurer to the orator, representative of the person who proposed this expedition.


    “Just looking for something. Watch them carefully! Wouldn’t want to lose our hostages when Celdora gets back!” Then as he searched the house, throwing everything on the shelf to the ground and breaking it all one by one, he muttered to himself “Now where have you hided it Celdora?”



    * * *



    Kaiser was sitting under a ray of sunlight, the only one that could reach the inside of this cave. It actually came from a hole in the ceiling that shined directly under the stone throne that Kaiser recently added. Sitting down on a huge throne with sunlight on his head, the golden crown he wore was even shinier than before, showing his authority in this place.


    Yet something was missing he thought. Ah yes because Syra wasn’t here, or rather because she did come here but Kaiser wasn’t here at that moment so she decided to go back to her home. Telling her stories on this chair has become so routine that Kaiser actually didn’t know what to do now. But then he remarked something right next to his throne, a package with a letter from Syra.


    “Hello Mr. Kaiser!


    I brought you to eat but you weren’t here so I would just put it here for you. I have never seen you eat before so I don’t know what you like. I made this by myself so I don’t you if you like it or not. But there is a lot so you can share with your friends. Remember to tell me about it tomorrow!


    Bye bye!  ”


    What a sweet girl! Though Kaiser didn’t really have to eat thanks to his outlandish body. But what harm could it be?


    Wondering what kind of thing did she make since the package was quite big and roughly covered by paper and some strings, Kaiser decided to open it. It was actually a basket full of rice balls. It seemed that she only put salt on it and nothing else. And their shape was funny: some were enormous while others were flat like paper. How did she even do this?


    Kaiser couldn’t hold it looking at these ridiculous rice balls. He laughed out loud and his laugh echoed throughout the whole cave, making the knights wondering what their master was chuckling about. It was the first time they heard him laugh after all and it was hard to imagine someone without a face to laugh.


    “Hum hum… a bit salty!”
     
  12. necrophedius

    necrophedius Member

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    Chapter 27 (2)

    “Damn it! Where the hell is he hiding it?” the leader of the adventurer group has been searching for something inside Celdora’s house. He already ravaged through everything but he still hasn’t found what he was looking for. What would his master say if he failed this mission? Then he was disturbed by multiples shouts outside. It seemed the master of the house was back and from the look of it, he didn’t seem very happy.


    “You pieces of shits dared hurt my wife and my child? Say your last words before I turn you all son of bitches to ashes!”


    The great Celdora was finally here. Currently in his dragon form, he stood as imposing figure reaching the sky. An enormous body with a slender tail and neck that was covered in spikes. His two wings were so huge that they could wrap the sun itself. His claws, each at the size of an adult that could cut down tree as easy as cutting butter. And his scales, red as blood, served as an invincible armor against the attacks of these puny trespassers.


    “Stop right there Celdora! If you move even an inch we will kill the kill together with this bitch!” the leader said as he put a knife near Syra’s neck, holding her head. Her limbs were already tied up with these strange strings which neutralized completely all her strength.


    “You dare threaten me? If you touch her, don’t even think about leaving this place alive!” just his expiration from his nostrils has already heat up the air around him. Behind his razor-sharp teeth, everyone could see that he has prepared for a fire breath attack. With something at this size, it would set ablaze this entire valley in a single breath.


    The mercenary has just realized they might have awoken a sleeping terror. Compared to this colossal creature, they might as well be insects waiting to be crushed. The tension rose as fear began to eat them from inside. They sweat not just from the heat but also of what might happen to them. In fact they already knew that the only reason they were still standing here alive was thanks to his daughter.


    “Sure you can kill us but are you prepared to lose your daughter and wife in the process? Or perhaps these two bitches are not really worth your time anymore? Not that I don’t understand though. A cunt who loved a dragon and their freak hybrid. You have some weird taste here.”


    “DON’T YOU INSULT THEM! I SWEAR I WILL KILL YOU!” raged Celdora. His eyes were filled with fury. He wouldn’t let these people get away alive after what they did. But his family’s life was on the line. Would he risk it all?


    Living as a dragon may seem envious at first. Having all these power for yourself and you could do whatever you wanted. But when you lived for centuries, things started to get dull. Things you might enjoy to do didn’t seem that interesting anymore. Why? Because you were all alone.


    But Celdora found a place he could call home. A family: a loving wife and a beautiful daughter. He just wanted to spend the time he has left with his family, knowing that one day they would die before him. And now these people wanted to take it away from him? Him who was once known as the Crimson Terror of Oros?


    “So what is going to be Celdora? Which life do you care more about? Us or her?”


    The dragon had no choice. Not his family. Smoke came out of his body as it shrank down to the size of a human with two black horns on his head. A tall stout man with red hair and two snake like amber eyes. But the man had a defeated expression.


    “You win. Let them go!”


    The tide has turned. ‘Who knew Celdora was such a naïve man? This was the man behind tales to scare children, the man who killed the demon lord together with the other heroes and survived? What a joke’ thought the bandits. If they killed Celdora here, they would be famous across the entire world.


    “Not so fast. First give us the Crown Celdora!” said the boss. At that moment the seemingly defeated Celdora made a stunned expression.


    “Where did you hear about it? It’s impossible for you to know such thing!!” yelled Celdora.


    “It doesn’t matter who I hear it from. Now give it or I may give this girl to some of our boys here. One word of warning: they don’t like being gentle!”


    “Dad….I am scared!” sobbed Syra. She has never seen her father like this. Him unable to do anything? How could it be? Weren’t he supposed to be the strongest person in this world?


    “It’s alright honey! Daddy is coming to get you now.” The dragon turned to the man holding his daughter, clenching his fist in anger. “Fine! Take it!”


    Celdora took out a small pouch. A dimensional pocket. He put his hand inside, making all the adventurers nervous for a moment, and pulled out a certain metallic object. A not so impressive black crown but it had something special on it: the insignia of a gear.


    He threw the crown forward to be caught by one of the adventurer. The guy quickly brought it to their boss.


    “Now that wasn’t so hard was it? Unfortunately I can’t let you live. I have received my order and that’s what I am going to do. If you please, Sword of Justice!”


    Three individuals stepped forward: a dwarf, a human and an elf. The trio of Sword of Justice. Though how ironic for someone with that name to be doing this kind of thing.


    “Do we really have to? I want to fight him when he is on full force, not begging for his daughter’s life like a wimp.” Said the human male.


    “You have already been paid so stick to your job!”


    “…Promise me that you will let my family go unharmed!” pled Celdora. As long as they lived, Celdora wouldn’t mind sacrificing himself.


    “Yeah yeah! Go ahead! Do it now!” shouted the boss.


    “All right fine. Sorry about this old man!” said the human as he raised his sword. Normally this kind of weapon wouldn’t even harm a dragon but Celdora has already resigned his fate. If he resisted, his daughter might have to pay the consequence and that was definitely not his intention.


    “NO Dad! Let my daddy go!” yelled Syralth as she struggled even harder, making it difficult to hold her.


    The bandit did his best to hold her down but his carelessness for underestimating a draconian almost cost him his arm as she bit heavily his strangling arm, making him shout in pain. Now he didn’t care anymore. Not Celdora, not anyone would stop him from killing this kid. He slapped her in her face, making her fell down on the ground.


    “You fucking brat! I will kill you!” the guy took out a sword and lifted it to the air. “Die!”


    Suddenly a lightning strike fell down from the sky and hit the sword he was holding. In an instant the boss busted in fire and he screamed in pain before falling down. His charred body lied motionless, dead.


    Horrified, the adventurers had no idea what just happened. Then they noticed that dark clouds have gathered above them. How? It was so clear just a moment ago.


    Then they spotted a figure floating on the sky, slowly descending to the ground. A strange creature with black trees branches poking from his back, forming into two wings. Its body was tall, wearing a white robe and a golden crown which slid down into a golden mesh covering the faceless creature.


    Even Celdora was stunned by the appearance of this new party. At first sight, it was clearly none of the Prime race. And its aura that emerged from his body, a creature of Dark: a demon. But something else felt different about it. The Dark represented a calming but chilling to the bone place while this thing also had a certain … chaotic feeling about it. What could a such creature like this be doing here?


    Kaiser looked down at the frail girl lying on the ground. He felt something emerging from inside him. Sadness? No. Anger? Could be. Wanting to kill someone? A lot.


    “Are you alright?” he asked.


    “I am fine. But please save my father!” pled Syra.


    “You are my only subject. He isn’t so I have no obligation to help him.” Kaiser coldly replied.


    “But….”


    “HOWEVER…Consider this as thanks for the rice balls!”


    On spur of moment, two greatswords materialized in Kaiser’s hands. The right sword was coated in a flaming aura while the other one with darkness. He walked forward with both of his arms widen, exhibiting his weapons.


    At that moment everyone was sure of one thing: this creature was at least as powerful as Celdora, if not more. On its left, the grass enclosing it withered wherever it passed by, sucking out all of the life force from its surroundings. On its right side, the coiling sword has turned the ground into molten lava, incinerating everything on its path.


    “What the hell are you?” shouted an adventurer.


    “I was wandering looking for a dragon nest when I detect a large surge of mana coming from this place. But to think I stumble into something like this….Do you what is a king, young one?” said Kaiser calmly.


    “What is this guy talking about?” everyone was confused by the sudden question. This thing came out of nowhere and started babbling about king and such. How could they understand?


    “A king is the shield of his people. You who dare raise your sword against my subject, prepare to meet your Maker!”


    In an instant Kaiser vanished into thin air before appearing again in front of one adventurer. He flung his sword into the poor soul and raised it like a skewer. Without even realizing what has happened to him, his body shriveled as his life was draining from him, leaving behind a dried corpse like a mummy.


    Seeing their friend being killed in such gruesome manner, the other adventurers charged forward. Some mages stayed behind and cast support spells like barriers and protections for their comrades.


    “Insects!”


    With a single swing of the coiled sword, Kaiser created a vortex of fire ravaging the battlefield. Those unfortunate to be caught by it were flung into the air and trapped inside the whirlpool. But it wasn’t just a simple tornado. It was a tornado on fire, burning everything it caught. Just standing near it could burn your lungs as the air itself was boiling.


    Those lucky who managed to dodge that attack and come closer to Kaiser received another welcome: stabbing the fiery sword into the ground, Kaiser created a large explosion, turning the entire place into lava. Yet he remained unharmed.


    The last hope of the adventurers was the three S-rank of the party ‘Sword of Justice’. Only they could defeat such monstrosity. But there wasn’t just one beast. A shadow rose from behind. Its shackles were now gone. Whoever or whatever this thing was, it created enough chaos for Celdora to rush and grab both his daughter and wife.


    “Syra, are you ok?” asked Celdora as he removed her restrains. The mother was still unconscious and lied on Celdora’s back.


    “I am fine father!” answered Syralth.


    “Good. Then let’s get out of here!” Celdora wasn’t afraid of the puny men. But the safety of Syra and Nina came first. He took Syra’s hand and dragged her away.


    “No. I won’t leave him here alone! He saved me.” Syra pointed to Kaiser, refusing to go with her father.


    “Honey that thing is a monster!” Celdora tried to reason with his daughter. He knew nothing of this thing. Despite the fact that he knew some demons were good people, he was still on edge after what happened.


    “No!!! Mister Kaiser is a good guy! He tells me stories about the outside world, unlike you who just want to keep me here!” yelled the little girl.


    “I…” the dragon didn’t know what to say. He knew he was making a mistake when he tried to confine her at home. In a way he was an overly protective father who genuinely cared about his daughter. But her nature was a touchy subject, he thought he could protect her from the dangers outside as long she remained here. He had his fair share of troubles when he was outside so he knew. The world was not a kind place. But now even his home was not safe anymore. Clearly these attackers have been backed up by someone powerful. How else would they dare to infiltrate this place? If not for this stranger’s intervention they might not be alive at this moment.


    “Do you trust him Syralth?” asked the father.


    “I do!” said the girl.


    “Very well then. Take care of your mother! I will make sure none of these bastards reach you!” he put down Nina and carefully placed her head on the grass bed.


    Then he proceeded to charge into the ongoing battlefield, although at this moment it seemed more like a massacre.


    “Need some help?” shouted Celdora as he changed to his dragon form and smashed a bandit to the ground.


    “Hum as if I need your help to deal with these maggots!” Kaiser said arrogantly.


    “You think you can take on those three S-rank by yourself?”


    “Between a maggot and a high rank maggot, there isn’t much of a difference!”


    “HEY who are you calling maggot?” a voice shouted at Kaiser.


    It was the human S-rank. He has been listening to their conversation for a while now and it pissed him off when someone dared underestimate him, despite the fact that he was a S-rank.


    “Maggots don’t talk. They die! Now please die!”


    Kaiser created another firestorm targeting the human. The whirlpool engulfed the man whole as it burned everything else around him. For a moment it was thought that he died. But a S-rank was still a S-rank after all. He wouldn’t go down that easily.


    As the storm dispersed, a figure emerged from it. Though his armor showed sign of severe burns, the person himself didn’t seem too injured, a part from a few scratches.


    “I seem to be mistaken. You are not a maggot. I promote you to cockroach.” said Kaiser.


    “YOU DIPSHIT!” screamed the human as he charged hysterically toward Kaiser. “<Almighty Charge>”


    Englobed in a luminous light, the human deflected everything in his path at incredible speed. But Kaiser only needed to move slightly to the side, dodging it completely.


    Unable to stop in time, he charged into the forest and made a clear path into.


    “So he can only charge in one direction at a time. While it’s easy to dodge, if I get hit by that, it will hurt a lot! I have to be care….” But Kaiser was interrupted.


    A second person has joined the fray. The dwarf with his mighty hammer smashed down onto Kaiser. Using his two swords, he made a cross and defended against the attack. However it was so powerful that the ground underneath Kaiser made a crater.


    Suddenly Kaiser felt something moving under his foot. Using all his force, he pushed back the dwarf and jumped on air, evading the earth spike. The sorceress, staying well afar from the frontline, has planted many magical traps across the entire battlefield. One wrong step could be proven fatal.


    ‘This just keeps getting more interesting!’ thought Kaiser. It seemed that he underestimated S-rank adventurers.


    Seeing that Kaiser might be in trouble, Celdora decided to jump in. If he could take out the sorceress hiding behind, it would make the battle much easier for Kaiser as he wouldn’t need to worry about traps and sudden spells. For now she was too busy dealing with Kaiser. He could take her in one shot from here.


    However as if he has sensed the dragon’s intention, Kaiser threw the coiled sword right in front of him. This was his battle and he wouldn’t let anyone interfere with it. The two men, without exchanging a single word, each understood the other. With that Celdora stepped back, leaving the battle to Kaiser. He still had another task: to protect Nina and Syra from the leftover adventurers.


    Kaiser, now surrounded by three sides, had nowhere else to go. If he jumped on air, he would be vulnerable to the witch’s attack. Both the dwarf and the human have fixed their eyes on him. They were used to work together, therefore explained their perfect teamwork. Although it might seem cowardly to fight one with three persons, it wasn’t stupid if it worked.


    Remaining calm even in the direst situation, Kaiser relaxed his stance, lowering his swords. Such odd behavior in the midst of a fierce battle! Did he give up, seeing that he had no chance to win against three S-ranks? Or so thought the Sword of Justice.


    “Finally giving up? Now you understand not to underestimate us!” said the human.


    “Hehehehe! Splendid! Truly wonderful! You are the first to force me to use this. You have done well against a tenth of my power. Now let’s see how you will do against this! Come, my shadow!”


    Suddenly, the shadow cast by Kaiser started to stand up from the ground. Imitating his form, the shadow was black as nigh and held the same two swords as Kaiser himself.


    “Now let’s dance!”


    The shadow vanished again. The trio tried to look around to find it but they forgot that the real one was still there.


    “Don’t forget about me!”


    He swung his dark sword but the dwarf used his hammer’s handle in time to deflect it. What he missed was the shadow that materialized behind him and stabbed him with its dark sword. The dwarf quickly turned into a mummy as all his blood and life essence was sucked by the sword.


    “Agon!!! You will pay for what you have done!” screamed the sorceress, watching her friend’s corpse collapsing. She cast multiple fireballs and stones spears toward Kaiser.


    But her attempt was futile. Kaiser plunged both his sword into the ground and gave his command.


    “In the name of the True Monarch, I forbid the use of magic in this land!”


    An invisible dome covered the entire valley. All these spells the sorceress has cast instantly turned into dust. Without magic she was no more than a common woman. No matter how hard she tried, her magic didn’t work. How could it be possible? It didn’t matter as her end was already here. Without a word of warning, the shadow decapitated the woman and threw her head to the side.


    “Jana!!! YOU MONSTER!” shouted the human as he recklessly swung his sword, only to be dodged easily by Kaiser. His mind was clouded with revenge. His sword and his attacks now seemed so slow. Like a child holding a sword for the first time.


    Kaiser caught his sword with one of his hand and smashed it into pieces. He then proceeded to lift the human by his neck.


    Unable to breath, the human desperately hit Kaiser with his fist in hope that he might drop him. Yet it was difficult to tell if his punches were too quick or simply because Kaiser was too strong but none of that even made the Monarch flinch a bit.


    “Tell me your name human!” asked Kaiser as he continued to strangle the poor soul.


    Why did he ask him his name? Usually it was the killer who gave the name as a provocation. He obviously won the battle already. Why did he need to know this insignificant human’s name? But when face to death, people often disillusioned themselves. They would do anything to survive. Perhaps by abiding to what he said, the human could live. Or so he thought in his last moment.


    “Lu…kes” the human muttered.


    “Agon, Jana, Lukes. I will remember your names. For forcing me to use a fifth of my power!”


    “Wh…at?”


    Kaiser twisted his neck in a single motion.


    Three S-ranks have died today. Even if they were not the strongest of the Guild, they were clearly not weak. Yet they fell so easily. Though what they did was illegal, the Guild wouldn’t forget so easily someone who could kill three of their top members.


    “Mr. Kaiser….?” A small voice called Kaiser.


    “My apologies Syralth! I have made you saw some awful things.” Said Kaiser. He forgot that Syra was watching the whole time.


    “It’s.. alright! They were bad guys!” though she might have said it, Syralth was still a little shaken.


    The two remained silent, knowing not what to say to each other. And their silence was broken by the girl’s father.


    “Thank you for your help stranger! If you have not been here, things might have turned very wrong. Both me and my family own you our life.”


    “I merely do this on my own volition and since Syra is my first subject, it’s my responsibility to keep her safe.”


    “Subject?” asked Celdora. He didn’t hear anything about this. Was this some kind of play or game these two have been doing?


    “It’s a long story dad! I will tell you later!” explained Syra.


    “You better do! But still you save me and I am pretty sure I am not your subject!” added the dragon.


    “For that I have already receive compensation from Syra!” answered Kaiser.


    “Really? What did she give you?”


    “Rice balls”


    “You see my life as equal to some rice balls….”


    “They were quite salty.”


    “….”


    “…..”


    “HAHAHA! I like you! You have to stay and have a drink with me! It has been a long time since I have someone over!” laughed Celdora.


    It seemed Kaiser couldn’t get his way out of this.


    “Alright then!”


    All of the sudden Kaiser spotted an object on a pile of ash. It was the guy who took Syra hostage. He remembered hearing that he came to get this crown. What was so special about it? From outside, it just looked like a rusty crown. However it did resist the thunder strike from Kaiser without taking even a scratch. What was this thing made of?


    Most surprising at all, when Kaiser picked it up, a line of inscription emerged on the inside of the crown. And that specific line made Kaiser realize that this crown was much more significant than it looked.


    To my son Alastor: May you use the crown to shape the world to your will
     

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