Chapter 103: Peculiar Congregation
ARTHUR LEYWIN’S POV:
There was an expression of ever-so-slight amus.e.m.e.nt reaching the raised brow of Windsom’s sharp eyes. The asura, still donning a military-esque uniform paired with a trim, side-swept hairstyle to match, held out my bond.
“Sylvie!” I exclaimed. I bolted up from my seat but was extra careful in picking her up out of Windsom’s hand. Upon careful inspection, there were no visible wounds on her body, and by the rhythmic breathing, it seemed that she was simply asleep.
Letting out a relieved sigh, I carefully placed my sleeping dragon on my head before regarding the asura standing before me.
“Thank you.” I gave him a meaningful nod to which he responded with a look a parent would give to one’s child after he or she had misbehaved.
“I had known you were rash, but to think you would get yourself and Lady Sylvie caught so soon, and by the ones involved with the Vritra no less,” he reprimanded.
“To be fair, I was saving the academy from the Vritra,” I half shrugged, as if that would validate my actions.
“You need to understand that you and Lady Sylvie’s safety should take the most precedence as of now.”
“Windsom, there were people inside that academy whose life I considered more important than my own.” My face grew stern, reflecting the resolve in my voice.
Windsom regarded me for a moment before speaking again. “Was it for the Elf Princess?” he asked as if he already knew the answer.
“It-it wasn’t just for her,” I defended, my voice coming out a lot more unconfident than I had wanted.
“No matter,” the asura sighed. “What’s done is done. Speaking of this, what I do not understand is why the perpetrator of the incident took your friend, Elijah, with him.”
“I don’t know either…” I was at a loss as well, and no matter how many times I pondered about it inside my cell, I couldn’t come up with a reasonable explanation.
“I don’t know,” I repeated. “But I need you to help us out of here, Windsom. I need to find out where they took Elijah and—”
“And what? Save him?” the asura cut in, his deep-set eyes cold and penetrating. “You can’t even escape from this place but you think you have the ability to save him?”
After letting out a deep breath, he lowered his voice and continued. “Besides, I know roughly where the man named Draneeve took your friend.”
“Really? Where?” I unknowingly grabbed onto his sleeve as I said this.
“After investigating the artifact left at Xyrus Academy, I suspect it was a teleportation device that Draneeve had used to escape, along with your friend Elijah… as well as the device he had used to…”
“… to get here,” I finished the sentence, a feeling of dread growing inside me. “They took Elijah back to Alacrya, didn’t they?”
“Most likely,” he replied, his voice cold.
I slumped back against the wall, staring at my feet as neither of us spoke for a while.
“Windsom, following my train of thought, I was going to suggest that I follow Elijah to Alacrya in the hopes that he would still be alive so that I can save him. You would then probably going to respond by telling me that I shouldn’t even dream of it since I’d get killed as soon as I step foot…” I looked back at him and a truly rare moment dawned on me where I had no answer. “So what do I do?”
“Well I wouldn’t say you’d die as soon as you stepped foot,” the asura smiled slightly, hints of empathy evident in his usually cold voice. “But yes, it would be suicide. Luckily, the p.a.w.n the Vritra Clan had sent left before you arrived, otherwise they would be much more wary of you. As of now, they hold an interest in you enough for them to want you in their possession, alive, but if they find out that you actually have Lady Sylvia’s innate will as well as her daughter, then I’m afraid even the asuras will have a hard time keeping the two of you safe.”
“What am I to do then? Just give up on my best friend?” I countered. “I calculated the possibility of receiving aid from the Elf King and I also knew you’d help us escape, but even thus, there wouldn’t be a safe place for us to stay. Considering that the Council is working for the Vritra, I would either have to stay where my family is hiding, or burrow somewhere deep within the Beast Glades.
“Staying hidden with my family, I wouldn’t be able to train without revealing my mana signature to the lances, endangering my family and Tessia’s. If I choose to go to the Beast Glades, I most likely wouldn’t survive long enough to get any reasonable training done.” I thought of the echoes of the giant mana beasts that we pa.s.sed on our way here, and how even the lances were cautious enough not to brazenly mow through.
“You seem to have quite a good grasp on the situation at hand,” the asura acknowledged, giving me a terse nod. “How much have you managed to connect the Vritra with the Council?”
“Enough to reasonably suspect that the ones most closely connected to the Vritra were the Greysunders. The humans seemed to be favoring the opinion of the dwarves as well, but I have a hunch that they are reluctant,” I thought aloud.
“Impressive,” Windsom admitted. Sliding back his left sleeve, the asura looked at his watch. “Arthur it is about time we—”
“Who are you.” a voice interrupted.
Both Windsom and I turned our heads to see that it was Bairon.
“It seems he has finished taking care of things,” Windsom muttered softly to himself.
‘How did you get in here?” The lance’s eyes narrowed as his glance flickered between the asura next to me and the supposedly locked up dragon on top of my head. Despite how rash Bairon had acted with me, I realized that he was actually very cautious and level-headed under normal circ.u.mstance. He regarded Windsom with caution, not leaving any openings in his stance even when they were separated by a reinforced cage.
“I asked how you got in here,” Bairon growled, his eyes glued on the mysterious visitor. “Are you with the other intruder?”
“Yes,” Windsom replied indifferently, taking a step toward the lance.
“Then an explanation is no longer necessary.” Bairon raised his fist like a loaded cannon as the gathered electricity crackled and popped around his arm.[Flash Ray]
I frantically jumped out of the way, upon knowing what was coming. Windsom had forgotten to remove the artifact strapped to my chest, disabling my mana flow. If I were to get hit with that spell, there wouldn’t even be ashes left to bury.
A condensed sphere of electricity shot out from the lance’s fist, disintegrating the reinforced metal bars as if it were tissue. However, Windsom stayed glued to his position as the spell rapidly approached him.
I braced myself for when the ball of lightning would collide with the asura, but as Bairon high-level magic reached Windsom, the asura simply reached up and caught the spell as if were a rubber ball.
I knew, undoubtedly, that Windsom would be able to handle the attack, but even I didn’t expect it to be done so easily.
Crushing the orb of condensed lightning in his palm, he turned to me, gesturing with a flick of his head. “Looks like we have our way out.”
I let out a snort of laughter, but before we could say anything else, Bairon had already reached Windsom.
“Child. There is no longer a reason for you to fight me,” Windsom said coolly as he easily dodged the barrage of strikes and kicks imbued with lightning. Unlike me, Bairon’s lightning magic seemed to mostly consist of external spells.[Thunder Lance]
Bairon activated a spell in the midst of his attacks, conjuring five spears made of lightning to stab down at Windsom.
I had moved in the cell to avoid the brunt of their fight, but as I continued observing, it looked to me like Windsom was actually… bored.
“Enough.” With a simple flick of his arm that seemed slow in comparison to Bairon’s rapid succession of attacks, the lance’s face was buried in the ground. The entire cell shook as a spiderweb of cracks split the reinforced floor, Bairon’s sunken head being the epicenter.
From catching his spell to burying his face, Windsom was doing a fine job humiliating one of our continent’s strongest mage.
“Heel,” Windsom said impatiently as the lance struggled to free his head from the ground. Although Bairon’s face was scratched and a little b.l.o.o.d.y, he was otherwise unfazed.
“Bairon, stand your ground.” My ears perked at the familiar voice. It was Varay, the female lance that had encaged Sylvie, and was capable of going up against two lances herself.
“I don’t understand. He’s with the intruder!” Bairon spouted, turning to face his fellow lance.
“HE is a deity, not someone you can be addressing so flippantly!” Varay snapped back, her voice particularly cold. “My apologies, O’ Great One. Our King humbly asks for your presence.”
Despite knowing what Windsom was, it still stunned me to see Varay actually bow to someone. In comparison, Bairon had such a look of confusion that it was actually pretty amusing.
“D-Deity?” The lance stuttered stupidly.
“Correct. And now that you know what I am, ignorance is no longer an excuse,” Windsom answered, looking down harshly at Bairon. “Bow.”
By the way Bairon’s head slammed into the ground again, it looked like Windsom had done something to forcibly make him kneel, but it was a pleasant sight to see nonetheless.
We were led back to the room where my trial had taken place, except this time I wasn’t chained. Bairon had very reluctantly broken my shackles and removed the artifact inhibiting my mana flow after the whole fiasco ended.
A different guard from last time opened the door for us, revealing the people inside the room.
“W-Welcome.” King Blaine was the first to speak, rising from his chair. His complexion, along with Queen Priscilla’s, was almost sickly as they sat around an oval table that hadn’t been there previously.
Sitting adjacent to the human king and queen were Tessia’s parents, Alduin and Meralith, along with their hooded lance that delivered the note to me the night before . Both the King and Queen of the elves acknowledged me with an uncomfortable greeting, but otherwise stayed silent. Also sitting on the table was Director Cynthia, who wore a baffle expression to compliment her disheveled appearance.
When I locked eyes with the man sitting next to her, I unknowingly leaped back on guard. All of the hairs on my body stood on end as every fiber of my being begged for me to run away from the elderly man that had a single eye on his forehead.
“Arthur. It is okay,” Windsom consoled.
I found it odd that the Greysunders weren’t present, but the rest of the people inside of the room, minus the one person I didn’t know, rose up from their seat and gave a small, respectable bow to Windsom.
Acknowledging their gestures, he motioned for me to take a seat with him at the table. As I sat down next to Windsom, I could feel the gears in my head turning, trying to make heads of the situation at hand. Here I was, sitting next alongside the Council and their lances; Director Cynthia, who had been a prisoner sentenced to death; and a man, whose ident.i.ty I had no clue about.
There was a palpable tension in the room, enough to drive a normal person out of this room in sweat and fear. I had placed Sylvie on my lap during this time so I was currently petting her when I heard someone rise from their seat.
Unexpectedly, the one to get up was the man I had instinctively wanted to escape from. It seemed as if he had three eyes, yet two of them were closed. His white hair was tied in the back, reminding me of Virion when I had first met him.
“For those who do not know who I am”—the purple eye on his forehead focused on me—“I am Aldir.”
“Windsom and I have been sent here to give you lesser beings a chance of survival in the imminent war with the Vritra,” the asura continued without pause.
“So, just as we feared, there really will be a war…” Alduin spoke aloud as if he was simply voicing his thoughts.
“I have done the first step of discarding the corrupted. My role here now is to oversee the remainder of what you lessers call ‘the Council’ and instruct you on the necessary preparations to fight against the Continent of Alacrya.”
As soon as the word corrupted came out, both Blaine and Priscilla Glayder froze, their complexion becoming paler.
“Y-Your Majesty. If I may say something…” Blaine was the one to speak, and by the manner of his speech, it seemed that something must have happened to make the King appear so meek. “You have clearly shown us your capabilities, enough for me to believe that you are not someone of this realm. The difference in our abilities are to the point where I am unsure of why you would need us. Can’t you simply go to the Continent of Alacrya and defeat the Vritra?”
“What did that other asura mean by discarding the corrupted?” I leaned towards Windsom, whispering in his ear.
“The Greysunders have been eliminated and their lances are now under my control,” Aldir answered in Windsom’s stead.
Everything made sense. It seemed like the asura killed the ones working directly for the Vritra while leaving the Glayders with some sort of warning. That was why the human King and Queen were such a nervous wreck.
“And as for your point, King Glayder. Yes it would be simple enough to gather the asuras and personally fight against the Vritra. However, the Vritra Clan, along with the three other clans that are under their command were all former asuras that have broken our law. Even we can no longer calculate how much stronger they have truly become. Moreover, a battle of that magnitude will undoubtedly level the world. And that’s me being conservative,” Aldir continued as he faced the frightened King.
King Glayder responded with stunned silence as we all tried to imagine the magnitude of a battle that could sink continents.
Aldir continued speaking, “We asuras and the Vritra Clan had agreed upon a treaty where no higher beings can directly attack one another or interfere with any lesser beings. Instead—”
“Hold on. Doesn’t the fact that you killed two ‘lesser beings’ go against your words?” I cut in.
The asura’s glowing, purple eye narrowed as it peered into me, but after a brief moment Aldir’s lips curled into a smirk.
“Dicathen had received no direct aid from us asuras, but is now up against a population governed directly by Agrona of the Vritra. Even with my actions, he wouldn’t be rash enough to break the treaty for us simply evening out the playing field,” Windsom answered in Aldir’s stead.
“What of the black-horned demons that have been invading our land for years? One was even responsible for killing a lance!” I countered.
“You’re talking about the owner of this fragment?” Director Goodsky was the one to answer, holding up the black fragment of the horned being that killed Alea Triscan.
“Boy, I see it wasn’t a lie when Windsom said you are not simple. The being responsible for killing the lance, and the ones that have snuck into this continent are not asuras. Those monsters were once lesser beings such as yourself that have gone through countless experiments,” Aldir spat, obviously disgusted.
“So there are monsters that are not asuras capable of destroying the strongest mages in our continent? Is it even possible for us to win?” Merial Alduin, Tessia’s mother spoke for the first time.
“Yes, but they are limited and Agrona’s precious trump card in this war. Now that he knows of my presence, he will not dispatch them so recklessly as before.” Aldir sat back down, his whole body turned toward me.
“Think of me as a general in this upcoming war. It is for the asuras’ best interest that we are able to defend this continent. Now, Windsom, isn’t there something you and the boy have to do? I will take care of the rest here. We require countless preparations before we could defend ourselves”
Giving the three-eyed asura a nod, Windsom pulled me up, leading me and the sleeping Sylvie out of the room.
“Something we have to do, Windsom? Isn’t it important that we partic.i.p.ate in the discussion? Shouldn’t we be there in the room as well?” I asked as I followed the asura.
“That is not your fight. Aldir knows what he is doing and will do his best to prepare you lessers for the imminent war. When that time comes, if you do not want to be useless, we need you stronger.”
“Makes sense, so what are we going to do?”
“First, we’re going to visit your family. You will need to say your goodbyes to them.” The asura’s back was still facing me, making it unable to determine whether he was joking or not.
“Goodbyes? What goodbyes? Where will I be going?” I pulled back the asura’s arm, surprised as he turned around so easily.
“I’m taking you and Lady Sylvie to the homeland of the asuras. Your training will be held in Epheotus.”