Blade and Soul (Chapter 42)

edited August 2017 in Original Stories

Latest Chapter: Chapter 42
Updated: Wednesday, 16 August 2017

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Hi there destroyers!

I'm John Ethan Reddcliffe, author of the Siva Light Novel Series (currently in the last chapters of Volume 5 and turning on to Volume 6). A friend of mine invited me to join here and thought I could post a new story I've been, well, been planning for quite some time now. This is a sideline story I've been writing for only whenever I have free time to insert while writing the updates on [Siva] so please do forgive me when in the future, releases will be slow... like... 2 chapters per week. Or maybe just one... but it's a sure that I'll be inserting effort for this story as well since this is a "sideline" story that can be considered to be connected to my main story, Siva, one way or another.

Also, this is a background story for another Title I'm currently writing. You can treat this as an [ME] for that title. I love writing and it just so happens as well that that's the only thing I'm capable at the moment. I have a "thin" physique, you see, and a weak constitution so I don't go out very much often and do my exercises at the small garage at my home.

Well, I just thought I could share this work with you guys and see if you'd like it.

I myself like it, honestly speaking, since I am a fan of magic and such (not by Harry Potter but "Arcane Magic" by Doctor Strange) but I don't know if you will too so since this is a xianxia/wuxia site... but, anyways, here you go.

Please do take note that English is not my main language. It's third, actually. Nyahahaha... so there's bound to be some acute grammar errors here and there in this read. So I implore you to mention them to me if you can. Lastly, for those who are interested to read my Siva Light Novel Series, you can read the [unedited] version here. Or just search my name, "JE_Reddcliffe" and it should appear.

Enjoy the read guys.

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Blade and Soul
---By John Ethan Reddcliffe

Story Synopsis:
Van is an orphan and a cast away who only wanted to change the course of his miserable life by studying magic. He died one night at the hands of a Devil, only to awaken a vengeance millions and millions of years sealed in his soul. The news of his death changed the lives of many... including the life of the most beautiful and most talented Mage in the city, and the life of the doted Princess of the Emperor of the Land. Van's awakening ignites a chain of events millions of years in the making as he unleashes his fury towards those who bar his path and sparing no expense to make the traitors pay, with the weapons being his blood, sweat, blade, and soul.

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For you guys who wanted to check out my other stories, please visit my blog; just click this "The Terran Universe" and there is an option on the top left corner to choose the stories you wanna read or see.

Also, for those who have a Wattpad Account, you can visit me there. Just search for my name: John Ethan Reddcliffe.

I hope you guys will enjoy this story.

Send me a feedback if you can.

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Comments

  • edited June 2017

    Chapter 1:
    Severe Luck Deficiency


    Spoiler:
     A walled city in the spring season of the 19th year of the Immortal Era, standing in the middle of the Monster Plains and home for a magic-centered civilization with a population of around 12 million people…

    It is the last and the newest of the five Major Cities of this territory, encharged of five Minor Cities, and is 3rd in the five slot rankings of cities that had a large Magician Population.

    This city is in the midst of a festive mood.

    From almost every corner of the city, pink petals adrift the gentle winds harmonically danced along the birds and decorated the atmosphere with a lively and a very nostalgic air.

    Blankets were spread on the floor. It is also the season where Sakura Trees blossomed with their beautiful resplendent flowers. Being the promoted sightseeing sights of the city, dedicated parks were also there for their sole appreciation.

    The streets were filled with people from all the corners of the lands –Wizards, Witches, Merchants or not… buying, selling, looking, trading, watching, shouting, calling, and perhaps even dreaming… everyone is gathered in this Major City for today was the day of the Affinity Testing Ceremony; a time for young geniuses and late blooming wonderers to be known by the whole world!

    And although it is an event solely centered for the young aspiring Magicians, it was also the time for adults to showcase what the Magician World can offer.

    Battle Stages or Arenas were set as magical barriers are erected. Small to large-scale auctions happened while the barkers screamed their lungs out to promote their own magnificent displays.

    Starting from the Open Market in the 1st street followed by the Smith Centers in the 2nd, then the Hunters Association in the 3rd… and etcetera, etcetera, the Central Square close to the City Lord’s Palace in downtown center were all but full from the comings and goings of the visitors night and day… especially last night where the influx of visitors all started.

    Merchant caravans, travelers, and adventurers all gathered in the City of Creon for the sake of this special event. Wizards in batch groups were arriving one after another, carrying their colors, and promoting their own sects and schools alike.

    On the Red Light district, pubs, taverns, and even the brothels were in business for more than they did in 24 hours. The waitresses and floor masters had little to no sleep at all and it is in this season could they only wish that the people stop coming on their stores.

    At the back streets and alleys where only those in-the-know knows, they drowned themselves with ale paired by roasters –fresh from the spits where their fats and oils dripped on the hot coals, painting the air that peculiar smell as the noises of the main streets are drowned by the billows of crusading drunkards or siblings fighting over on whose turn it is to wash the dishes.

    On some peaceful parts of the city, even, giggles and laughters from beautiful maidens echoed as some boys and young men chase that which makes the days worthwhile and livelier.

    Smiles could be seen on 9 out of 10 people as they all felt the excitement of this once every four years event. The rest of the 10, however, may not have the smiles but they have the whole ‘business’ atmosphere for they have a very good reason why they came visiting the city at this time.

    “How much is this Black River Mouse Horn?”

    “For sale! Iron Rhino Claw!”

    “Bargain! Bargain! Magical weapons sharpening!”

    “We’re a House of Alchemists, at your service!”

    “First class sewing in magical gems and artifact!”

    “I will paint your nose better!”

    “Weapon enchantment! Weapon enchantment!”

    “…going once! Twice! SOLD to that red hatted gentleman over there!”

    On the squares, booths were raised and so the bidding war between patrons and sellers could be heard echoing from far away.

    Merchants scattered, goods were sold, and small-scale auctions for special items were held. The atmosphere of the city was a hundred times livelier than any normal day. The citizens themselves couldn’t get enough of it.

    Hunters carried their hunts as Peace Keeper Knights in shiny armors patrolled the streets with clanging metals. The hammering and grinding of metals in the smitheries echoed while arrays upon arrays of tailors and enchanters showcased their magical trades.

    In some areas, bards and dancers gathered to offer their specialties and on some larger streets were concerts from songstresses that had been known for their distinctive styles.

    Priests and shamans doing services in exchange for fees were also present… in short, Creon was in its liveliest state for four years since the last!

    Getting in the city wasn’t that hard but staying in it was. Just overnight, hotels of varying classes were booked for the whole week.

    Far from all this, on a particular sidewalk uptown north, carrying a bundle of books is Van walking the outskirt streets of the city going towards the direction of the Cemetery.

    Plastered on his face was a wide smile of excitement and this smile was all the more reason why his ‘observers’ all had a frown on their faces.

    The clamours of downtown behind him, Van’s mind focused on dodging the glares of a pair of local Magicians mixed in on the small crowd.

    He hugged the books as he prepared to run and when the two local Magicians fifty meters behind him made the changes on how they looked at his direction, Van snapped into a run and turned to another corner of the street before vanishing from their detection.

    It was just a snap of a movement and the local Magicians following his trail immediately lost all traces of him in one go.

    “Damn it.”

    “The trash escaped.”

    “What should we do?”

    “What else? We have to report it to the boss.”

    One of the local Magicians brought his wrist up and then sent a strand of his Mana to activate the formation in a bracelet. A flash of light emerged and then vanish the instant it appeared. Not long after, a voice transmission was sent over the two from the bracelet.

    “Where is he?”

    “Boss, he escaped.”

    “What?! A mere mortal escaped two Wizards? I paid you good gold to catch a simple trash and yet you two disappointing trashes are useless!”

    The two couldn’t utter a reply. The boss came from a very influential family and the reason why he was frantic this time to end the so called trash is because he heard very disturbing news from his father.

    It was the reason why he sent these two local Magicians and then paid them a large sum to shut their mouths regarding this deal.

    “What else can we do? Don’t follow him on the cemetery. Who knows what kinds of traps he had setup there for intruders… for now, I will handle it myself.”

    “S-Sorry, boss.”

    “I don’t Fudgeing need your apology! Hurry the Fudge back in here.”

    The transmission was cut and the two local Magicians exchanged looks. They didn’t pursue their target any longer and only turned their backs as they left the scene.

    Far away from them, Van was already quite a distance from his pursuers and he was running, panting, occasionally looking back to check if they were still following his trail.

     

    *****

     

    “I’m still tired from the long travel. I still have plenty of hours so I may as well sleep here and recover before going there.”

    In a forgotten park placed awkwardly above a hill, a traveler wearing a worn out maroon hooded gold laced cloak with a large sword wrapped in white cloth almost the same size as her petite body looked over the solitary Sakura Tree in the corner of the park.

    Since the tree was alone and the place wasn’t maintained for who knows how long, its many branches have stretched into a perfect shelter, the shadow cast underneath it gave a very relaxing feel.

    Pink petals danced off around the tree, the soil below a perfect khaki brown laced with the green of short grass.

    The traveler, a swordswoman, took a moment to appreciate the scenery. For some reason, the brave and scowling fiery determination in her eyes slowly turned into an enchanting smile. She looked back and saw the lay of the city in a haze of the early yellow afternoon. Pink petals of the sakura trees ride the gentle wind, dancing with the swallows as they flew further and further.

    In her travels, she had seen much such scenery before but she still couldn’t help beaming a smile whenever seeing such nostalgic background.

    In the not so far of a distance, she could see a few crystal powered flying arcs traveling from one area to another.

    Moments later, one of the bigger sized passenger arcs even passed through a hundred meters away behind her. For some reason, she couldn’t help turning her body to look at that flying arc and from the passenger window she focused her eyes and met face to face with one of its passenger.

    She didn’t pay much attention to it since that passenger wasn’t even looking at her direction.

    In fact, that passenger was looking at the solitary Sakura Tree.

    The traveler sat down, one knee bent while the other resting flat, and hugged the blade body of her sword as it leaned to the tree where the visible hilt made a dent to the bole. One could only guess as to how heavy the sword was.

    After that, she gradually closed her eyes and began to meditate while hugging the large heavy sword.

     

    *****

     

    “Young Miss, your father has sent a transmission just now asking you to return to the manor immediately.”

    Addressed as the ‘Young Miss’ was a black haired young lady wearing an indiscernible emotionless face. She heard her servant’s words but she just chose to ignore it, not even paying as much as a look to her direction.

    By this time, she was appreciating the image of that familiar solitary tree over a hill that they’ve passed a few moments ago, especially that one person who turned his head over their direction.

    Memories of a certain day resurfaced in her mind, blocking all interference of her reality.

    The ‘Young Miss’ superimposed that hooded image just now into that melancholic figure in an old professor coat sitting in a chair in front of a canvas, trying to paint that tree. In her heart, that person changed her world and since then, she had thanked that person by being by his side.

    Time went by and it’s already been three years since that time. She made out a sigh before she closed her eyes to reject the mundane world.

    Seeing this, the four female servants around her couldn’t help but let out a helpless sigh as well.

    Even though there was no change on her expression, they knew at this moment that her mind had already left her body and flew away.

    All they could do was let out a sigh and of course, clench their fists in anger as they knew that their destination was, again, the home of that trash.

     

    *****

     

    Van leaned his back on a building, panting, sneaking a look into the edge, checking if they did follow him to where he ran.

    When he was sure that he had no followers, he checked the area where he was and sighed in deep resignation for he once again wasted his precious time just escaping those bastards.

    “My life is… miserable.” he sighed in bitterness as he gathered his self to move on.

    Just now, he wasn’t a bit tired. But the pressure exerted by a Magician against a mere mortal like him was genuinely frightening that’s why he was trying to catch his breath.

    Comparing a Magician, even if he’s just on the Apprentice Stage, to a mortal was like comparing an ant to a mountain… there was just nothing to even compare about!

    “Lost them, at last…”
  • This looks interesting, well, might just give it a try.
  • I really can't post anything anymore.

    Tried many things but really can't post any chapter long enough to be worthy of reading. The chapters are always being put to a [subject for approval] pop up message and the chapters I've managed to post are actually limited to 600 characters.

    I don't know where the problem is but it's getting into me.

    I can't even delete my post nor my thread.

    Admins please help. Please delete my main thread post.
  • I've tried my best to preserve your posts, but after finding there were 90 something copies, I've just had to delete all of those. I don't have time to skim through all of them. I've managed to preserve the things from people that posted 8, 9 or 10 times. But almost 100 it's something I can not do. Your user has been whitelisted. If you want to post the chapters again, this time arround you shouldn't see any notice and the chapters should appear as soon as they are posted.  
  • Yn5an3 said:
    I've tried my best to preserve your posts, but after finding there were 90 something copies, I've just had to delete all of those. I don't have time to skim through all of them. I've managed to preserve the things from people that posted 8, 9 or 10 times. But almost 100 it's something I can not do. Your user has been whitelisted. If you want to post the chapters again, this time arround you shouldn't see any notice and the chapters should appear as soon as they are posted.  

    I see... I think I understand what happened now.

    It took me a while to investigate and learn from a few trusted developers (just a few minutes ago actually) that there are sites with an automatic function to the forums (much like what happened to me here in WW) to regulate the posts and uphold the rules and fairness to all users.

    My impatience an inexperience had resulted on your trouble, I deeply apologize for that.

    Also, I thank you gratefully for taking time to check on my problem.

    I shall do my best to follow and respect the rules you have imposed on your community and I thank you as well for the opportunity to post on your site.

    ---Sincerely, JE_Reddcliffe

  • edited June 2017

    Chapter 2:
    Fang Yuna

    Magicians, after all, are not normal Muans. They all have better eye sights, better hearing, better memories, better in all aspects than the rest. Only because Van had developed this cowardly way on preemptively detecting dangers to his life that he was able to dodge them entirely.

    If they don’t have their ‘ill-intention’ towards him in the first place, he wouldn’t have been able to sense their presence.

    As such, before he was even put into trouble, he already chose to preventively avoid them.

    “Someday…” he vowed bitterly. “Someday, I will prove my worth in this world…”

    For many years, he was already used to them hurting him on their whim. But who would get ‘used’ to being bullied almost everyday for the last twelve years?

    No. Not bullying. He wasn’t being bullied. He was being persecuted for a crime that he has no power to reject or deny. For that crime itself is both his living hell and his only blessing in his life that was deprived of a company.

    In fact, these ‘aggressive’ assaults all began three years ago, when he met that girl… at that time, she was both the light and dark of his world, the reason why he couldn’t collapse even if he was on the verge of breaking down.

    Though not all of those local Magicians that’s after him wanted him dead, at least 60% of them does because of the second of two reasons. 

    The first reason is because of his condition, SLD.

    Severe Luck Deficiency.

    It was a condition unique only to him. in fact, if you would check the diseases registry in every information archive, you will not find it anywhere.

    And yet, SLD was created because of him. SLD is a condition where a person is deprived of a Karmic Wheel in their Soul Realms thus they are unable to naturally attract Karmic Strings that can decide one’s LUCK.

    Luck is an important attribute for Magicians and Mortals as it attracts Karmic Fates.

    Chance…

    Destiny.

    Calling.

    Fortune!

    Karmic Strings connect all things (people, place, objects, events) to one another and to attract the strings, the Karmic Wheel gets into action.

    The Heavens decides the Karmic Wheel quality of a person upon birth. As the Door of Life opens and closes, memories, experiences, and as well as the karma of a soul will all be judged in the cycle of reincarnation, thus the criteria of giving the quality of one’s Karmic Wheel.

    The more righteous a soul was in his past life was, the better his Karmic Wheel will be on his next life. It is the rule.

    As ‘Karma’ determines their fate in their current life and of the next incarnation, one can only guess as to what kind of life someone with the SLD condition has in their past life.

    With the Karmic Wheel removed, or missing, from one’s Soul Realm, one could only imagine what kind of crime or Bad Karma Van had committed in his past life.

    Having that said, as people are generally afraid of incurring a miserable fate, Van (having such a rare unfortunate condition) was violently pushed off by local Magicians, thus the way they treated him.

    In any other normal day, he would be kicked or punched in the face in some alley; dragged into some corner, into a mechanical trap; or thrown out the city on the edge of the monster plains to be fed to the hungry monsters alive.

    …this is their reaction for the first reason.

    They wouldn’t want to stain their hands off of a trash that doesn’t have any talent in Magic.

    40 people out of a hundred, they will hurt him because they are afraid of incurring that bad luck.

    That’s it.

    But for the second reason…

    Those 60%...

    They wanted to not only kill him but to make it slow and painful. All for the ‘reason’ of having their primal male instincts ignited because of the person he saw sitting on a bench in front of his ‘home’ as he came back.

    Seeing her seated there, her long hair fluttering to the gentle wind, a long held breath escaped his lungs and came out his mouth as a sigh while he calls her name.

    “Yuna.”

    Van can’t help but smile warmly seeing the young lady sitting prettily at the wooden chair he built himself in front of the mausoleum –his home– on the cemetery, north of the city.

    Years ago, he planted some plants that already turned into trees. Van built that chair underneath a particular tree and the shadow cast by the afternoon sol gave the lonely girl a somewhat gentle and loveable feeling.

    Seeing her was like the warmth of the early spring morning washing the coldness of winter. It’s the kind of warmth that a seaman feels after escaping the monstrous storm of the night and basking himself in the clear light of the sol. Or like the warmth of the heart of a prisoner locked in the dark after so many years and freed.

    The mere sight of her caused Van’s worries to vanish… caused his fears to disappear… caused his desolated world to have beautiful colors… again.

    “Yuna.”

    She was his only solace, his reason to smile in this world filled with dangers and troubles.

    “Yuna.”

    That name was his world’s light.

    Van knew that Yuna heard him call her but the girl did not turn her head to look at him. She just continued to gaze at the city from her seat, allowing the wind to gently caress her hair. On that point, she seemed like a goddess. The beauty and magical talent of this young lady is said to have been gifted by The Heavens. It was also the reason why almost every man in the city wants him dead.

    Because as close as he was to her, they were as far from her as the clouds in the sky. Not even a glance was given to them by her while he had the privilege to be waited by this goddess in his humble abode.

    Knowing her wasn’t luck. Both of them had some unfortunate circumstances and through the fates of people who had a miserable childhood, they came to find each other.

    Two years ago, she suddenly came to his world, in that same spot where she was sitting at the very moment. Just like how he was looking at her right now, she just suddenly barged into his world just like that.

    She never said anything, she never introduced herself. Alas, from two years ago and until now, perhaps the only word she had ever said to him was “Mn” when he said something about himself or “Ah” when she was surprised of the number of bruises and injuries he had after being cornered by the local Magicians.

    Fang Yuna, she came from an eastern family and so it was in their culture to let their hair get long and would braid them when it was to the point that it was extending beyond their butts. In her case, she maintained a straight flowing length that reaches her waist. Her hair was so silky black with no wave as her posture was like a ‘Hime’ of a prestigious eastern family –straight back and dignified.

    In just a glance, anyone who will see her would think that she was a goddess that looked down on a world of the mundane.

    There were thin strands on her temple dangling down to her cheeks, and some locks that touches her pink lips through the gentle wind.

    She just sat there, unmoving, staring, watching the city pass this busy day.

    Her absorbed expression and quiet temperament can melt any man’s heart. Van wasn’t an exception but on the two years that they had known each other, Van had learned better than to offend the Fang Clan –the number one business empire of the West, most especially her father, Fang Yu.

    Van fixed his bearing and he walked closer to her from the side. He looked around. Sure enough, hiding in the shadows and in the mausoleums in the distance were her sword maids, glaring at him with contempt and disgust… and deep hate.

    “Yeah. They’re here alright.” He smiled bitterly.

    Looking at that lonely figure, she seem to really  have the image of a goddess.

    If he could only take out his painting set, he could have painted her here and then. But he instead chose to dedicate a part of his heart and mind into imprinting this scene into his consciousness.

    Van stopped three paces away from her, then placed himself behind as he gazed on the same direction and angle that he thought she was looking at before smiling. If he didn’t know her by now, he wouldn’t have the right to be her friend.

    Yuna’s hobby were consisted of two things. His paintings and that chair. No. To be more accurate, the scene when sitting in that chair.

    The city was indeed beautiful at this angle and it was also the reason why he built that bench under this particular tree. It was only in the last two years that his complicated feelings regarding this city were shared to her.

    “You haven’t seen it but the view at night is the best. Especially last night when the visitors all had started to come. There were many lights from the flying arcs and also the cars that came from afar all converging to the city. It’s like I was watching a meteor shower not from the sky but from the horizons, all converging towards the city…”

    When he was retelling the details, Van was also looking at the city and recalling the feeling he had when watching the lights come.

    The eyes that Yuna had when looking at the city seemed to have a different expression as she try to imagine the view at night. She didn’t turn to ask him a question. She didn’t even move a bit from her seat but she did changed the way she looked at the view of the city.

    “I’m gunning for the test again.” Van abruptly said and then hugged the books he carried. And, to only her, he removed the fake eye glasses he was using to hide his unique sky blue eyes. “I will apply at the Scholar’s Hall again. This is my last year of qualifications, after all, but if they still fail me after this, then… I…”

    Van’s voice began to be solemn in the midst of his sentence and this made the girl turn her head as she stood and went close to him. Her head was lowered, seemingly afraid to look at his expression. She just stood there for a few moments more before she inhaled deep and took a glance at his face.

    There were no signs of her blushing but she was looking at Van with a profound look that even Van himself cannot decipher.

    Van looked her as well. No words were spoken but there were the deep rooted emotions that he was trying to hold in.

    “Failing this test… I will train to be a Hunter.” He said and then dragged his resolute gaze towards the Creon’s busy northern district.

    Chapter 3
    Heaven Decimating Sword

    Spoiler:
     Van could feel that there was a pair of eyes that had a complicated stare at him. He doesn’t have the courage to accept those eyes because he was afraid that he will be beaten by her guards.

    A complicated yearning emotion was on the way she looks at him. Underneath that were the look of confusion or unwillingness… because even if she doesn’t know how dangerous hunting was, she at least heard the staggering amount of casualties brought back to the city every day.

    To Van, this was really the closest the two of them have been and he was surprised as to why she suddenly approached him.

    She used a few moments to study his expression before she secretly pulled a ‘very tiny’ edge of Van’s sleeve with her trembling fingers and then nodded softly, released his sleeve, before finally having the courage to turn around and leave.

    No words came out from her pink lips.

    The way she behaved was like a sisterly friend, like a faraway degree shy elder cousin, or a newly arrived girl next door who only had one friend her entire life which is him.

    Or better yet, like the way Van felt towards her, he was her light in her world…

    The last part of what Van said felt like a premonition of parting to her ears and that was the reason why she felt unwilling to let him go.

    But even so, she still can’t voice out her feelings.

    She was still afraid of something and so Van could only let her take it slow. To be used as her medicine, to be her pillar of support as she try to forget and recover from the pains of her past.

    Van knew that this is her conversational method, her way of expressing messages, and her only ‘safe’ way on establishing connection.

    After all, he had that particular talk with her father before and so was aware of the circumstances as to why she was behaving like she was right now.

    It may look like one sided where he talks and she listen then nods occasionally, but Van, having had that particular talk with her father, Fang Yu, had been aware what his role to her recovery was.

    This side of her was her most adorable but since he already had that talk before, he knew better than to let any of these feelings slip by.

    It was enough that they knew each other and he is already contented being her friend. Perhaps her only friend.

    So… Van could only watch her back.

    In his mind, he was pondering. Watching the fleeting image of her back, the figures hiding in the shadows also followed behind her while one of them jumping out towards his direction. That was the senior protector.

    Carrying a Katana as long as her hair in one hand, the Sword Witch silently handed a small bag of gold towards him before silently leaving in a flash of image.

    Van looked at the bag of gold and thought that it was of the same volume as before.

    “I wasn’t doing this for the money but if I don’t receive this, I will be beaten up again by that witch…” he said bitterly to himself.

    He knew that this bag of money, despite being enough to support him for months, were both a ‘payment’ to his ‘service’ and also a way to step on his pride and dignity.

    Fang Yu was such a strict man. He will impose his will into him no matter what and without even any concern.

    Van didn’t say anything and only turned his back to go back to the tomb, his home, and whispered to himself in resignation.

    “See you later then.”

    No man could ever try to successfully ‘suppress’ their emotions when facing such a beauty. But he did because he knew who he was and had not even a single thought of making it hard for Yuna.

    Who knows if what they say is true?

    That sticking around with him had a very serious setback on their fates. He knew Yuna knew his circumstances as well but she still come here every so often to either hear him talk one-sidedly or just share a cup of tea which she brought from her home. Either way, she was Van’s only friend just as he was her only friend. This kind of friendship was actually somewhat complicated in some degree but it still persisted.

    Only, he did his best to never cross the line that Fang Yu had set. He had already tolerated the fact that the two of them even know each other.

    A creak resounded as he opened the metal fence gate.

    Van’s home… in the past it was the infamous abandoned mausoleum on the very northern edge of the Northern Cemetery. Its size is big and has its own courtyard despite being only a tomb for the dead and so the locals all thought of it as once being owned by a very big family.

    Of course there had been plans in the past to use the area it occupied and sell it to the other big families to expand the city because no one knows who this mausoleum belonged to.

    In fact, location wise, the mausoleum was too far from the cemetery to even be considered as part of it, much less when considering the fact that in between it and the cemetery itself, there was a very large gap of 200m forested area.

    Adding in the 100m large courtyard of the lonely tomb after the 100m inclined climb of the hill where the mausoleum was located, that’s a total of a more or less an unspecified 10,000 square meter unoccupied vacant land space.

    –enough to build multiple commercial buildings!

    That’s a large amount of realty cash!

    Furthermore, the position of the hill itself was facing the southern sky while behind it is the 5km away North Wall that separated the city from the northern forest edge of the vast monster plains.

    Naturally, developers are all aware of these facts.

    But there was an old imperial decree in the palace of records stating to never touch this mausoleum and so no one ever paid attention to it since then.

    Alas, not even one person ever tried to maintain the place and so Van used this place as his headquarters.

    Of course, regarding this Imperial Decree, Van had no idea about it –especially given his history.

    But to serve as his ‘rent’ when staying, Van fixed the place and made it look properly maintained.

    He cut the grass, rebuilt the roof, he repainted the walls and fixed the ceiling. Van made sure that it was looking like a properly maintained mausoleum in the outside and also his tidy and orderly home from the inside.

    But, as part of his discipline, he made sure to never ever desecrate the tomb by laying down on it or even sitting atop of it even once.

    Most especially because of the weird symbols in the tomb itself that forms an entire barrier formation that Van never even thought of ever trying to anger the dead. It was enough that he was already living in it for twelve years, he never wanted to add yet another debt.

    Every full moon, just like tonight’s moon, these mysterious symbols emits a very dim, almost unnoticeable glow that was as dark as the night.

    At first he was afraid of it since he was living in its mausoleum and thought that he was offending the dead’s spirit but as months and years passed by, he became used to it and eventually treated it as an inspiration for studying barrier formations.

    He was, after all, aiming to be a Scholar and a Scholar’s main drive in life is to study and develop strong Barrier Formations for the Empire.

    Even so, throughout the years, he had only unlocked less than 1% of the intricacies of the tomb’s barrier formation. But that 1% had given him the chance to advance through his efforts to be part of the Imperial League of Scholars.

    Today, the reason he came back to his home is to get the ‘package’ that he had been planning to use against the panel of elders that will conduct the tests on the testers.

    “With this,“ he thought to himself. “I doubt they will still have any reason to reject my application.”

    After he opened the steel gate, he went directly at the back area of the courtyard going straight into the shed of a bush in a particular corner.

    There, he stepped into a patch of soil as a steel plate jerked up from two feet from his foot. He pulled open the plate and a large satchel full of the same bags as what he had in his hand was in a neat packaging.

    Van opened the satchel and then threw the bag of gold. There were now twenty four of them bags of gold and adding their sum would reach him a staggering amount of almost a hundred thousand… or even more.

    “Senior Yu might be money-headed but he was also still generous.” Even though Van thought of this, he never once pulled a single gold from any of the bags of gold in the satchel.

    After this, he closed the lid of the small pit and then arranged the bush as it was earlier, hiding the pit from plain sight.

    He then went inside the mausoleum.

    Even though there was the darkness as there were no windows in the burial chamber, the dim light of the patterns were already beginning to emit that dark light that was unique every month.

    Seeing this, Van was surprised. “Oh? Tonight was one of those nights huh?”

    Van recalled those nights where the dim lights of the tomb were brighter than usual and would emit a very dark yet bright glow.

    “I don’t have time to study it now. Maybe tonight or tomorrow… depending on how they will treat my application this year.”

    Van pulled a package from his bed and then checked the contents. When he was sure of the contents of the package, he hurriedly walked out of the chamber.

    Locking the door, he sent one last glance to his home and thought bitterly, “If I succeed today, I will not be able to maintain this place and… she might never come here again. If that happens…”

    Van looked around him and saw the product of his years of labors that he had spent many nights to cultivate. The fruit trees were already ripe with fruits, the vegetables and the medicine plants in his garden were almost in the right time to be harvested, especially that tree that she loves to sit on…

    “This place is just a tomb but this is my home…”

    He looked back to the mausoleum and sighed. He can’t ask her a favor to take care of the place since he was only 80% sure that he can pass the tests this time.

    “I have staked all my preparations in this year’s enrollment. I have to pass.”

    With that, Van turned around and then went towards the city carrying his hopes with him. His destination, of course, is the Grand Scholar’s Hall –center of the Scholar recruitment of the city.

    Passing through the straight path towards the cemetery is a forgotten mini park for children.

    The park was supposed to be for the planned housing project if only the area occupied by his home actually pushed through. But because of the decree, the urban planner was disheartened and so the money invested in the nearby places were treated as wasted investment. One of the things erected on those wasted investments was this park that had a single sakura tree.

    The spring season was the cherry viewing season where the bright pink petals would fall from the tree and rides the wind somewhere. It drifts through and falls, then flies again. The cherry tree in the mini park was in full bloom and every year, Van would visit here to unwind.

    As soon as he stepped forth on the park, he went directly in to the bench on the side overlooking the entirety of the tree 15m away.

    It was at that moment that he noticed a pair of legs under the tree.

    Apparently, there was a person there. A girl, based on her legs and the thickness of her arm.

    Van’s curiosity won over his logic. He knew that people doesn’t like him and they all tend to be violent against him but Van felt that there was something about the owner of that pair of legs that was unique and different from the others.

    Leaving his books and documents on the bench, he walked over with gentle and quiet strides. He did his best to hide his presence, just like how he does whenever he was ‘secretly’ attending the Scholar classes on the local Scholars Halls.

    He circled around the tree and slowly entered its shelter, seeing for the first time a beauty that could rival his only friend in the world.

    On the side were her chest armor, she was also covered by a maroon cloak. But under her cloak was a vulnerable set of clothing that’s so thin that any man would be tempted to harass her.

    Still, Van wasn’t that surprised. He had developed a subconscious sense of leveling beauties and he knows how to NOT be surprised by them –even if the girl was like the one in front of him who was sleeping with her skirt up and her cleavage seen on her thin clothes.

    But right now though, Van held  his breath.

    The girl’s head leaned on the blade body and so he was able to see how beautiful she was. Her red shiny lips, most especially, was enticing to his senses but even so, that’s not the reason why he subconsciously held  his breath. The reason he held his breath is not because of the vulnerability of the beauty in front of him, but because of the overly large sword she was hugging on her slender legs. Its hilt was leaning on the tree and it actually made a dent in it that screamed just how heavy it was.

    In that sword, etched as part of the two feet long handle, were letters that he knew came from the Ancient Drifters’ Language.

    Thanks to him studying those ancient-looking runes and symbols in the tomb back at his place, and also thanks to the Emperor making the public library open to those who had desire to learn, he was already familiar to how to read them.

    Because of his extensive obsession on magic, he could naturally read it. It was part of his useless arsenal of information which he found even more surprisingly useful at this moment.

    And as soon as he did read it, he gasped.

    “Heaven… Decimating… isn’t this is the emperor’s precious weapon? If so, then…”

  • edited June 2017

    (NOTE To read the chapter, just click the [...] thingy below the chapter number. ;] )

    Chapter 4
    Grand Scholars Hall

    Van gasped and lost all composure as soon as he realized what those words meant.

    All she could feel was a very small presence of a person. In her training, she was told to never ever let anyone get close to her. And yet right now, as soon as she felt that there was a presence close to her, she opened her eyes in a snap.

    She looked up, looked around, but never saw even a tinge of a shadow of a person. She then drew her hand into her chest and took out a pendant of a shield.

    The pendant had a glimmer of gold and a slight tinge of blue in it. The golden shine made sure that no person with even just the smallest speck of mana will be able to get close to her.

    Its effect will make any Wizard or Mage below the Grandmaster Level to feel that the 100m around her was like being in the bottom of the deepest ocean. They will be unable to rotate their Mana, an invasive coldness will enter their bodies, and their breathing will be hindered as if a mountain is pressing upon their chests the closer they got to her location.

    As such, when she knew that it was still active, she was sure that what she felt was only her overly cautious self.

    But then, as she was about to bring back the small pendant into her shirt, her nose twitched and a sense of dread filled her chest.

    “Someone was here!” She exclaimed and jumped into her feet and took a fighting position, pulling the sword and assuming a pose. “I can’t believe I was too careless! Mortals can still have their own ways in assassinating Magicians!”

    She looked around and sure enough, saw the footprints on the grass behind her.

    In her fear, she did not even mind that the cloth was still draping on her blade as she tried to spread her Mana Sense in the nearest 200m area. It was the maximum distance she can extend her Mana-enhanced senses and from there, she felt no one in that distance and only a few rodents and a lot of wild flowers.

    She bit her tongue and still did not lower her guard as she checked the footprints on the grass then closed her eyes as she enhanced her sense of smell with her Mana.

    “Male. Around my age. And this smell… it’s… it’s medicine and… metal? Is he a blacksmith? But there was a trace of smell of medicine…”

    She opened her eyes and turned her gaze to the city. She then looked up and checked her body, her belongings, and then her surroundings.

    “There wasn’t any trace of malicious intent but he still saw me. This is unforgivable…”

    Clenching her teeth, she fixed her dress and a slight pinkish tinge can be seen on her cheeks.

    She only now realized that her clothes were actually exposing her skin and this made her anger burn even more intense in her heart.

    After she tidied herself, she dedicated a part of her mind remembering the smell of the person who saw her vulnerable and exposed state as she wore the same maroon hooded cloak, and strapped the sword back behind her back.

    “After I renew the seal, I will definitely find you.”

     

    *****

     

    Far away from her, Van was leaning on a building, trying to catch his breath.

    “Fuck. Fuck! I can’t believe of all people I would see in that place, I would actually encounter the heir of the Emperor at that! I really have the worse of the luck in the world!”

    With bitter tears, Van cursed himself and then laughed bitterly while wiping those tears in his face.

    He hugged the old worn coat of his father as he imagined a scene when he was six years old, before everything, before all of this had befallen upon him and his family, before the night where his life changed towards doom’s direction… Van imagined his father’s hand messing up his hair because he wore this coat which was his uniform to work. He imagined how his mother used to fold the long sleeves to the length of his arm and then nurse him to sleep.

    And then time froze. His mother’s image fused with that devastated picture of his mother back in his hometown. He couldn’t forget that soulless eyes as it constantly stared outside the window of her room, waiting for his father that will never return from work.

    Right now, he thought of all those memories because he was afraid that the wrath of that young princess would befall upon him any minute.

    He was afraid. He was so afraid.

    And yet, beyond his cowardly attitude, a sense of unwillingness lay within. It was that thought that was hidden in his heart that was pushing forward to be a Scholar.

    And in the middle of that image, his father’s eyes, stolid and firm as ever, with blood dripping out of his mouth because of that sword that was stuck in his chest… and more than that, his stubbornness was also because of his promise…

     

    *****

     

    “Son… promise that you will save our people… promise that you will protect your mother… take care of ‘them’ better than I did…”

     

    *****

     

    “Dad, I’m sorry if I die today. I can’t keep my promise to you…”

    Van was pushed so low by this Magician society that he was even thinking of himself as trash as of this moment. After all, compared to the princess that inherited the Imperial Sword, the symbol of strength of the Four Nations Empire, he was worth less than a coin from her pocket.

    And yet that promise, was keeping a strand of lit stubbornness in his heart, not allowing himself to despair to the point of committing suicide. It was that power behind his obsessive thoughts of becoming a part of the Magicians World and being able to uphold that promise at that time.

    “Dad…” He murmured and rocked himself back and forth to try to calm his panicking heart.

    After a few minutes of no harm befalling his way and also in fear that he may not make it in time for the closing of the Grand Hall, Van’s eyes had a firm resolve as he sent one last look in the direction of the park and then run.

    “Well then, if I’m gonna die either way, then its better I die while on my way to the Grand Hall.”

    He ran with all his might. He ran with all the speed he was capable of.

    Minutes passed, he grew calm as he saw more and more people in the streets. Ignoring their glaring gazes and the harsh and degrading words, Van made his way through.

    30 minutes later, he was already standing in front of a large gate and seeing this, the fear he felt on the princess’ wrath had subsided.

    By now, he was 70% sure that he had escaped without waking her up.

    Van never looked at anyone else and only gathered all his wits trying to condition himself to the tests up ahead. He slowly put the matters of the princess on a corner of his mind and then looked up to the Grand Scholars Hall of the city.

    It wasn’t his first time applying for the Scholarship and definitely not his first time going to be facing those wicked old bastards.

    While the Affinity Testing Ceremony attracts a lot of people every four years, the Imperial Scholars League gathers the ‘less talented’ individuals of the ceremony to give a chance for them to still work for the Empire and learn a different path of magic known as ‘Barrier Formations’.

    The longer you give your life for the empire, the better the privileges in the future.

    The Four Nations Empire, a country made up of Four Nations, was established more than 10,000 years ago. Compared to the super powers that surround this empire, it can be considered a very young country with its vast age.

    Perhaps because of pride, these superpowers consider the Four Nations Empire young and weak so they do not touch their borders nor did they put up any implication of even conquering it.

    And also for another reason; because of the existence of the Heaven Decimating Sword and how it complements the infamous Von Duchesse Sky Fire Emblem Sword Arts, along with the legends that it possess, many powers are reluctant on trying to provoke this small country.

    But His Majesty, Emperor Von Duchesse, knew these powers are just bidding their time so he is always trying to ‘secretly’ strengthen his military power by means of ‘secretly’ training Military Personnel who never signed up for the Military.

    And this is indeed the Isle.

    The Imperial Scholars’ League –The ISLE

    The Scholars’ main job is to study ‘Barrier Formations Magic’ and this task is masked to the fact that they are not trained to be militaristic and instead is focused on ‘magic’ that can make the life of people easy… and protect it.

    It is an open secret but the culture of the citizens had been planted the idea that the Scholars are only responsible for Barrier Magic, nothing more.

    As such, since the Imperial Knights Order had such a high standards and the Sects and Schools that allied themselves on the Empire also had their own standards to follow, those who are not able to pass their screening are all invited into the Imperial Scholars League.

    This is information not many are privy of and only a select few have the intelligence to actually ever notice or realize this. One of the latter is Van and it was also the reason why he was obsessed of entering the Imperial Scholars League.

    Not only it was part of his promise to his father, but it was also his way to prove to the world that he wasn’t a trash. That his intellect had a use for the glory of the empire… because, as proof, even if he was a mortal, inside his ‘package’ is one of his master pieces!

    When he finally felt that he had calmed down, Van inhaled deep and then began to take his first steps into the Grand Hall.

    But it wasn’t even his tenth step, he was already kicked from behind.

    It was actually a light ‘attack’ rather than just being a casual kick. His back was hurting to where the kick had landed; a clear sign that it was a kick that came from a Magician with intention to injure him badly. He fell down face first on the ground, rolling once as he staggered to fix himself upright.

    Van was late to realize and he stumbled like an idiot with his face falling first.

    After his hilarious display, the mocking laugh exploded from around him and when he turned to look at the person who kicked him, he was shocked to realize that the man in red robes was actually an elder of the Grand Hall.

    Not only that, by the dangling badge on his left waist, he was able to tell that this elder was one of the Core Elders.

    “What are you looking at, huh?” the elder said and he took a step forward to totally look down on Van from his towering height. “Why are you in the middle of the gate? Are you trying to be eye-catching, huh?”


    Chapter 5
    Mana Affinity Testing

    Van immediately tried to stand and ignored the pain on his back as he bent his head down for an apology.

    It was also at that moment that he realized that there wasn’t even a line behind the elder.

    Moreover, the gate was ten meters wide and he was actually on the least left side of the gate and so him, being ‘in the middle’ was actually unjustified. He bitterly realized that it was this elder who deliberately went out his way to kick him from the behind.

    “What the fuck are you looking at? Do you want me to pluck your eyes out?”

    “S-Sorry, sir… I don’t mean to…”

    “Shut up!” The elder yelled and then slapped Van on the face. The pain woke Van up and the bitter and iron taste of blood swelled in his mouth. “Did I give you permission to reply? When I am talking, you will listen!”

    “Y-Yes…” Van was about to say another word but another slap was sent his way on the same angle and same place on his face.

    The laughters around him rang louder and the snickering and jeering echoed like thunder into his ears. The elder seemed to have taken a liking to humiliating him as the smile on his face widened as he slapped Van for a third time.

    And yet, none of the pedestrians and applicants were going their ways to help him. Not even as much as to appease the elder and stop his slaps, Van was totally left on his own devices.

    “With your get up, you probably are a son of a poor bastard who lost his job. You poor fuckers are always loitering around the Grand Hall! What do you think is this institution, huh? We are not a charity that can accept all applicants every time they apply! Even those young geniuses, if they wanted to be a Scholar, they would have to be screened within the standards! In your case, what the fuck are you able to give for the Empire if ever we spend a sum to nurture you? You don’t even have a talent!”

    Whether it was a tongue slip or he deliberately scolded Van, it just proves Van’s thoughts that before he even actually face the interviewers, he was already going to be kicked out.

    They all review the histories of the applicants and even if they give chances until the applicant is 18 years old, their records are always updated.

    As such, this elder was already aware that he was the bastard of the city, Van ‘The Trash’, that’s been rejected over and over for the past 12 years.

    The ISLE opens their gates every two years. Two years ago, it was in this same manner that he was unable to apply. Before he even get to be interviewed, he was already trashed by some of the applicants, as well as those ‘jealous’ bunch that had their eyes set for Yuna.

    When he was slapped for the fourth time, Van’s heart couldn’t bear the bitterness and so he glared hatefully at the Elder.

    He can’t fight back. He can’t utter a word. If he so much as to retaliate in every way, it will be used against him with the reason that he was being disrespectful towards the elder of the ISLE. This is enough grounds to cancel his application.

    So, since he can’t fight back, he only lifted his chest out and steeled his resolve, allowing the elder to slap him over and over.

    Fifth… sixth… seventh…

    The crowd noticed that even though the resounding slaps remained its power and crisp, the face of the bullied one wasn’t even in pain.

    As if to take notice, the elder frowned again and just as he was about to unleash the ninth slap, he advertently glared at Van’s eyes.

    Like a wall, his hand stopped midflight. He clicked his tongue and then spat saliva at Van’s feet.

    “Tsk. It’s not fun hitting you anymore.” He murmured then stepped back and straightened his red robe.

    The elder was about to pass through Van when Van’s eyes unconsciously went into a corner of the gate where a group of local Magicians were all looking at his direction.

    Furthermore, what actually attracted his attention weren’t their smiles of ridicule and mockery but actually that person in their midst.

    “Gang Dugong!” he thought angrily.

    Dugong was one of the avid suitors of Yuna since his family’s business was in partnership with her family’s city branch in Creon.

    A year ago since this partnership was established, a party was held and in that party, the two met.

    For face’s sake, Fang Yu introduced his daughter to the father and son duo where Dugong had the idiocy to think that it was a marriage proposal. It sparked his obsession for her affection.

    Just a few days after the party, he came to know the relationship between Van and Yuna and so he immediately went into a rage of jealousy, saying that she was his fiancé or something, while at the same time launching a campaign to capture him for torture.

    Dugong’s talent could be considered one of the top 20 in the city and thus he had a large head that enables him to think that he can do anything to him in this city. Dugong’s crooked nose was his ‘best’ noticeable aspect and that nose was also somewhat hereditary in his family so the first thing Van noticed that was similar to this elder was that nose.

    As proof, as soon as the elder passed through him, while Van was staring at Dugong who had a smile of victory, the elder’s voice sounded on his ears layered with cold murderous intent.

    “Stay away from the ice princess.”

    It was only six words but the message was sent.

    At the same time as he heard this threat, his foot ached as the elder deliberately stepped on it, using a force that crushed a few sensitive bones.

    Van bitterly clenched his fists as he did his best to stop his urge to shed tears of anger and hate. He knew that snapping out here would only make him look worse than bad and he knew as well that no one will side at him even if he was in the right.

    All he could do was endure the pain and ask the same questions he’s been asking for the past twelve years.

    “Did I murder innocent people in my past life that I get to have a life like this today?”

    He bitterly thought of this question over and over and until now, this one of the many questions he had, had no way to be answered. All he could do was endure.

    Endure the humiliation. Endure the anger. Endure the pain. Endure the shame. He bore his chest and engraved the words in his heart like an undying tablet of promise. It was only one of many but this one attempt of this elder to consciously sabotage his last chance was the most significant of all.

    When the elder passed, he joined his hands behind his waist and leisurely whistled towards the inner area of the Grand Hall as he did nothing.

    Van was left there, left cheek bleeding from the inside. His anger boiled in his heart like molten lava ready to explode but had no way out.

    Thankfully, he was prepared for these kinds of situations and as soon as he saw the elder leave, he went into a corner and started to apply ointment to stop his cheek from reddening and swelling. He had to be physically fit for the tests!

    When he was finished, he stood up and glanced over the direction of Dugong while Dugong also looked at his direction. Their eyes met. Dugong lifted his hand and made a beheading gesture with his right thumb into his neck. After that, Dugong turned around and left followed by his lackeys who wore the green robe of the premier magic school in the city.

    Van on the other hand, tidied his things and saw the looks of disdain sent to his direction by the other pedestrians and applicants. Not one of them ever had the looks of sympathy to his direction.

    After all, both Mortals and Magicians despise him to the point of almost murdering him whenever they get close to him.

    So what he did was ignore them.

    Even though it was a practice that’s been years and years been welded into his bones, being the only subject of those kinds of eyes, and also having that dying promise that his father had put on his shoulders… the pain he had to endure was so much that he could only cry inwardly.

    His face may have the brave expression on it but his heart was bleeding from the inside, asking the same question over and over again…

    “Why should I save these people?”

    *****

    Van walked in for the registration. As soon as the other applicants saw him, he immediately received his normal greetings.

    “What the fuck are you doing here?!”

    “You’re already too old! Fuck off!”

    “Do you even have a skin?”

    “You are bad luck! Get away!”

    Men, women, their ages were around 13 to 17 years old and it was rare for an 18 year old like him to be lining up for the registration. In fact, even 17 year old Magicians who are still unaffiliated with any of the Schools or Institutions are actually rare.

    Van supposedly belonged to the ‘Generation of Immortals’ which started on his birth year but in every generation, there is always those that The Heavens had neglected. They are those children.

    Considered as trash, the generation’s worst offsprings looked down upon by the world… the children born without an elemental alignment. In Van’s generation there were six of them and Van was their leader, the seventh one, the one that  had it worse than the rest for not having not only an Elemental Alignment, but also a Karmic Wheel.

    As the world revolved around Alchemists, Wizards, Mages, and Scholars, the forgotten ones live in a corner that forever gazes upon that world that which they are forever deprived.

    Being the worst case of the bunch of forgotten, he was pushed around like a trash he was and nobody was even glancing his way to have even as much as a look of empathy.

    Van still registered his name despite these noises and he sat down at the very low corner of the benches where the applicants waited for their numbers to be called.

    “Mana Affinity Testing.” Van murmured and for a moment, he forgot the pain on his foot as he held the ‘package’ in his hand. “I’ve prepared for this for a very long time. I expended my four year savings just to get that stamp from the premiere Shaman of the city. They have no reason to deny my application with his stamp!”

    There were around forty people in the waiting area and all of them had average talent in regards to their Mana Affinity and Elemental Alignments.

    Looking at them meditating while waiting for their numbers to be called filled Van’s heart with envy and jealousy. But he only closed his eyes, trying to do his best to suppress the pain mentally.


    Chapter 6
    For The Magician World

    He wasn’t a Magician who can use ‘Magic Arts’ to force their wounds to heal, nor was he an Alchemist who can formulate a magic art that can mend injuries, nor was he a Scholar yet who can ‘negate’ pain and bleeding by means of sealing his blood vessels and meridians with their own magical barriers.

    No. He was –is, a mortal. The only mortal around.

    The sight of him being around these Magicians was already astonishing on to itself.

    But he stubbornly persisted. In his hands were his ‘package’ that he carefully planned for the last four years. In it was the envelope that had his four years of painstakingly crafted efforts of a healthy and rigorous training and diet.

    Van looked up, assessing the time.

    “Around 3pm.” He murmured.

    Waiting there for an hour now, the pain on his foot was gradually worsening and it was getting harder and harder for him to endure.

    Adding that, every now and then, rocks and stones were being thrown at him from those who wanted to make his waiting time harder.

    Laughters would occasionally rung from behind every time they hit his nape.

    Van only lowered his head to avoid them but even so, these are Wizards and Mages. They are more adept than normal mortals and thus their aim was good, paired with a slight force.

    They were clearly trying to make him retire by the way of his injuries.

    A few bumps were already stacking on each other in his head but Van still patiently persisted and endured. If he break down now and succumb to hatred, then his four years of preparation would have been wasted and flushed down to the drain.

    The laughing only grew louder and more obvious, they weren’t even trying to mask the fact that they are bullying him in the open. After all, they knew that Van doesn’t have someone who’s going to have his back.

    The numbers kept on increasing, the people waiting in line only grew fewer and fewer.

    Finally, after what seemed to be the longest 15 minutes of waiting, Van’s number was called.

    The announcer looked around the remaining ten or so people and then called the number.

    “Number 699!”

    Van raised his head as if not believing that his number was called.

    When the announcer didn’t get a reply, he repeated the call again. This time, there was a layer of anger in his voice since he’s been yelling numbers the whole day.

    “Number 699! Raise your hand!”

    “Here!” Van raised his hand and stood up. When the announcer saw him, his scowl only became colder and his anger rising to the limit.

    “You were there the whole time and you have to make me call twice. Are you deaf? Come over here this instant!”

    Van did not argue nor defend himself because the pain on his foot was constantly gnawing on his attention, not even the many layers of bumps on his head could mask the pain he was feeling on his foot.

    “Sorry sir.” Van said as soon as he neared the announcer but instead of a reply, the man’s hand reached on his head and he hit him hard.

    “A trash like you making me call twice…” he angrily said and pushed Van to enter the door.

    Van endured the pain, and only remembered the face of the man.

    Upon entering the door, he saw the panel of elders in front of a desk with a chair in front of them for the interviewee. Van sat on the chair and chest out handed his application documents to the elders.

    The first of the two elders obviously know him while the second was someone new that Van was seeing for the first time.

    With this, the second elder was checking his own set of documents while the first glared at Van.

    “So you’re here again.” He said and this sentence surprised the second elder enough to raise a brow towards Van’s direction.

    “You know him?” he asked the first elder.

    “He’s a regular, you might say.” The first elder said with a chuckle. He didn’t even bother to read the documents in front of him as he asked, “What is new this time, Mister Kingsley?”

    Hearing the family name made the second elder frown in panic and he rechecked his documents before coming back to stare meaningfully at Van.

    “You’re surnamed Kingsley?”

    Van raised his head and displayed a look of firm and propriety as he nodded. “I am, senior, but I am not in any way related to the House of Islay from the Imperial Capital.”

    The second elder checked the documents on his panel and sure enough, he saw a family tree trace from the palace of records and this made his frown lighten up a bit. But then again,  he returned to some previous pages and began to read. After a while, he looked at the first elder then back to Van.

    “According to these papers, you are someone who had applied numerous times in the past and have been rejected many times as well for many different reasons.”

    “Like I said,” said the first, his eyes fixed on Van the whole time. “What’s new this time, brat?”

    “If I may speak…” Van began but before he could even continue, the first elder butted in in a forceful manner.

    “I only ask you one question, Mister Kingsley, what can you tell or show me that will give me the right reason to approve of your application at this stage of the interview?”

    Van felt the anger in his chest rising rapidly. He’s not even given a chance to defend his application and now he was being asked to show something that will make the elder approve his application?

    Rising up and down, his chest was heaving as he controlled his emotions to calm down.

    “I will repeat my question earlier, why are you here, Mister Kingsley?”

    Such blatant bullying!

    As of this moment, all he could do was shake. His whole body was shaking. He was shaking because of anger!

    But more than angry, he was ashamed.

    Ashamed that he was so desperate to join this organization that he was willing to lower himself and kiss their shoes just so he could qualify!

    But, what else can he do?

    Apart from joining the Isle, what choice does he had left to enter the Magician World?

    Thinking about that fated night, his promise to his father, that nightmare, that moment… Van could only gnash his teeth as he clenched his fists on his side, glaring back at the panel of elders.

    “I’m here to be a Scholar!” he said firmly.

    “We know.” The first elder laughed. “But, you, Mr. Kingsley, doesn’t have the qualifications…

    “Just face it.” He immediately followed before Van could even think of a reply. “I understand that you want to be a Wizard for the Empire by means of joining the Isle but Mister Kingsley, though we are not inclined to direct military activities, our work is still centered in Magic and we can only train Magicians that has at least the most miniscule of an Elemental Alignment.”

    Seemingly having realized the reason to why the first elder was treating the boy like this, he closed the documents with Van’s name in it and then joined his fingers in front of his desk.

    At this point, the first elder spoke blatantly.

    “Mister Kingsley, as you may have seen, we have also rejected some applicants before you. We rejected them not because they are of the same condition as you… but rather because they really have very low talents that it was beyond saving even for the Empire’s vast resources. And yet they are a thousand times better off than your empty soul realm. Furthermore…”

    After speaking, the two Elders exchanged glances as the second looked at a paper on his desk. From Van’s angle, he could see that it was a document that had the seal of the ‘Imperial Archives’.

    He knew then that that paper had his history.

    The first elder cleared his throat before he wore a fake mask of concern on his face.

    “…your condition, Mister Kingsley, is more than just more severe than theirs. Though they don’t have the chance to go beyond Elemental Experts  in their enlightenments their whole lives, unlike your condition, they are still a bit better by a mountain away since they aren’t as ‘Empty’ like a hollow block as you. At least, they can still find LUCK in their lives! (Ehem) Honestly, we would rather train a normal mortal into becoming a Magician than have you in our ranks.”

    His words had said it all. Van wasn’t stupid.

    Even though the elder tried to hide his real reason on rejecting him by using his condition, what they really fear is the rumors being true.

    They really don’t want him joining their ranks because of the fact that he had ‘that’ condition.

    What they feared wasn’t the fact that he will be useless but rather, they feared the rumors that he will attract ‘bad luck’ to those people around him.

    Such strident way of rejecting an applicant! Not only did they imposingly destroyed all his hopes of ever changing his life, they also don’t want to give him a chance on redeeming himself.

    But, Van expected it. He bitterly imagined that this will happen and so, he pulled a paper from his envelope and presented it to the panel.

    The signature stamp alone shocked the elders.

    He said decisively. “Elders, this part of the test is to test my Mana Affinity for magic! I have 100% Mana Affinity! I am the first in our Muan History to have such high affinity to Mana! I don’t believe that I don’t have a future in Magic only because I don’t have Elemental Alignment. With time and the proper resources, I can still train my affinity to be of help to the Empire!”

    At this point, Van also pulled a few papers from his envelope having a few diagrams of his own devising.

    These are diagrams of original Barrier Formations that he had learned to create by studying the runes and symbols on the tomb back at his home.

    Compared to ‘Magic Circles’ where a Magic Spell only has a single dimension or directional effect, Barrier Formations are regarded as ‘spheres’ where their effects are constructed to have a 360 degrees global result.

    Magic Spells had an ACTIVE property, only taking effect once initiated by the spell caster.

    Barrier Formations, however, can be set up to last forever, depending on the construction materials and the ‘core(s)’ of the formation.

    Also, unlike Magic Spells that can be cast by a single person, Barrier Formations are constructed by multiple people for they are an AOE spell and is also centered to have their own ‘specific rules and functions’ that differs from a ‘single effect’ Magic Spell.


    Chapter 7
    It's Me

    Though both can be considered as ‘spells’, their fundamental difference is that the first are activated primarily by a spell caster while the second is activated by (1) a spell caster and (2) by satisfying certain rules or conditions.

    When he presented these diagrams, Van’s voice was firm and vindictive. He already pulled out one of his trump cards and with this, he was 90% sure that these two bastards will have to acknowledge his work and his future capacity.

    “Elders, these are my original schematics for new barrier formations. I focused my studies on protective barrier formations and thus have confidence that I can help the Empire through this expertise!”

    The elders, upon seeing the diagrams, could only gasp and a clear look of amazement could be seen on their expressions.

    Upon closely studying one of the papers, the first elder frowned. He looked at Van with a cold look and raised a certain paper. “Class-8! This is Class-8! How are you able to… no, more importantly, this is incomplete! Where are the other parts?!”

    Van wasn’t intimidated. In fact, he was angry at the fact that that elder was looking at his paper with such greed in his expression, he wasn’t even trying to hide it from him!

    I am not stupid, growled Van inwardly.

    Who do you take me for? You local Magicians, I have known of your natures long ago and if I am not in a desperate situation like this, I am not willing to barter my hard earned sweat and blood formulas just for your stupid little stamp!

    Being angry wouldn’t do him good and besides, Van had long expected these Wizards to be like this when they saw his work.

    In fact, Van could have sold this one long ago in the Black Market but because of his own pride and his own ego, not wanting to sully his first work to be used somewhere without his consent, he swallowed all his regret in bitterness.

    At this point, Van pulled a blue paper. In that paper was a larger diagram and a barrier formation that had the same things written on the paper at the hand of the elder –only, it looked more complete than the paper on the elder’s hand.

    “This is the complete Class-8 Barrier Magic: Iron Sealing Chain Lightning Barrier. This is an original concept, using the Chain Lightning Barrier as the inspiration I added this Iron Sealing Barrier and integrated the two in one formula! Like I said, I came here to be accepted to be a Barrier Formations Researcher, a Scholar! This is already enough proof that I am capable of your program! Pass me and I will give it to you as proof that my loyalty to this Empire is true!”

    A moment of silence arose between the two elders as they exchanged glances.

    “100% Mana Affinity? Indeed. Unprecedentedly first in history. And it was also signed by Grandmaster Truman, the premiere Shaman of Creon. His name is also famous back in the capital, but…”

    “A completely useless trash like him able to design such a high-level Formation Diagram? If this diagram is known by the high elders back in the Capital, they would rush here and recruit this boy no doubt.”

    “But if he really do become a Scholar, and what if his curse was true?”

    “True or not, it will still lead us being humiliated by the other elders since it was us who passed this trash during our test.”

    “Is that curse really true?”

    “Many rumors, many proofs. You haven’t been that long in the city than I have and I can definitely tell you that he attracts trouble his way more than ten times a week.”

    “I see. But this diagram… just where did he learn how to do this?”

    “Not important. This diagram is ours. At this part, I do have a plan.”

    The two looked at Van for a few moments after exchanging those mental messages. A while later, the first elder took a stamp from his desk and then stamped Van’s papers.

    “Go.” He said, half angry and half unwilling.

    Van handed the blue piece of paper to the elder as if he was giving his daughter to a retiree to be his sex slave and then turned around to leave the room without looking back at the two. He knew that they will be ridiculing him behind his back and that they are also going to mock him from behind.

    He also knew that there will come a day that this ‘formula’ will be announced to the world and that one or both of them will claim to have designed it.

    But what does he care? It was already out of his hands as of this moment.

    He had no more qualms with it since he had already given up one of his legs towards these greedy bastards. The only consolation to his ache is the fact that Van did get a stamp to proceed to the next stage of the tests.

    Now it was the hard part of his qualifications.

    Physical Aptitude Test.

    Inwardly, he was cursing that bastard elder who deliberately stomped on his foot.

    “I’m willing to bet that he was related to that crook nose family!” He grumbled. “That guy really wanted to ruin my future!”

    Van was already sweating and he could feel his posture swaying left and right. He used the wall of the corridor to lean on and tried to do a breathing exercise to no avail. An exercise for those who had already developed their Mana Pool wasn’t suited for a mortal.

    A punch landed on the wall and he felt his fist aching a bit but it was a pain that he didn’t mind.

    The bitterness in his heart was more painful and it was the cause of the swelling tears in the corner of his eyes.

    Van walked on, using the wall as a steady. He did his best to suppress this pain on showing on his face or he would have admitted that they have succeeded on impeding his future, that they were successful in crushing his dreams.

    “This is the last test!” He said to himself and then proceeded slowly but surely. There weren’t that much people in the Grand Hall but there were still hundreds of them applicants.

    All of these people were applying for that same title that he himself had been aspiring for.

    Perhaps the only difference is that he was older than their average age. While some of them were in between 13 to 17, he was already 18 years old.

    The prime age for starting his enlightenment for immortality may have long passed but Van had long ago abandoned any notion of ever being an Immortal and only wanted to enter the World of the Wizards in order to fulfill THAT promise.

    Eventually, he arrived to the physical testing room where not much people were already in line. At most, there were only 15 of them.

    Upon arriving, Van realized that majority of the eyes were gathered to his direction. Some of them laughing mockingly while some of them were giving an angry look of disdain directly to his being.

    They didn’t even try to hide their contempt when discussing his history and some even, those with real jealousy and envy burning in their hearts because of Yuna, begun to throw little rocks and folded papers with spit on his direction just like before in the Mana Affinity Testing area.

    Van felt insulted but did not retort in any form possible and only gave his full attention to do his best not to be hit by those flying projectiles on his head again.

    Just like in the previous area, the numbers continued to be called and those watching on the sides even joined the fun of throwing those things at Van.

    Van even changed places, using the other applicants as shields but they aren’t stupid so they changed seats and angrily looked at Van who tried to use them as shields. Van wanted to suppress the pain on his foot as much as possible and so just covered his head and body as to lessen anything that will hit him.

    The people throwing things at him felt that they were being mocked as Van did not even seem to seriously mind their bullying and so the papers turned to rocks and the sizes continued to get bigger and bigger.

    The area around Van was full of those things and soon, it looked like he was the only person left there while the announcer of the numbers seemingly not taking notice of what was happening in his direction.

    Van felt really alone.

    A while later, his and the announcer’s eyes met but the announcer only turned to gaze on another direction as if he didn’t even see a person being bullied.

    Clearly, he was one of ‘them’.

    It was at this time that the bitterness in his heart grew even more painful and he was clearly on the verge of being taken over by this pain.

    Not even those newly arrived applicants tried to even once defend him. It seems that they, too, were on ‘their’ side… the side who wanted him dead or expelled on the world that surrounds the goddess of their dreams, Yuna.

    But Van endured.

    He did not retaliate. He did not say even a single word against their actions.

    Not even when he heard words being thrown at his direction like, “Coward” or “Trash” or “piece of shit” or the likes… No. Van did not throw any kind of any form of reaction and only endured the feeling of being oppressed and alone.

    But in his heart, he was constantly drawing the strength to endure from the person that gave him the reason to endure it all.

    “Dad…” Van bitterly recalled his promise and he swallowed the pain and stopped the tears from falling. At these crucial moments where his spirit was waning, he recalled that promise to his father before he died that fateful night…

    “…save our people…”

    Such heavy responsibility, such painful obligation was so terrible to him but on these moments, the only thing that’s fueling him NOT to respond in any way was that promise.

    His history was a secret.

    His life was a secret.

    His whole background was a secret.

    Van is a ‘secret’ that could decide the fate of an entire clan. And yet now… The people that he promised to protect and save were the ones who’re making his life a living hell.

    “Dad…” he murmured and did his best not to cry.

    The tears never fell and he forgot the pain on his foot until he heard his number being called.

    He raised his head and the objects stopped.

    The announcer looked around on the owner of the number and then repeated again, “Number 699. Who’s number 699?”

    “It’s me!” Van stood and yelled. “I’m 699!”

    Chapter 8
    Elder's Plot

    The announcer clicked his tongue in annoyance and inwardly wished he knew what Van’s number was so that he could have said that it was a number where the applicant quit.

    But he can’t do a thing about this fact. He had already called it and even though majority of the men, and some women, were all wishing to obliterate Van’s existence, there are still those neutral and honest ones towards the empire who will pity Van and is going to be on his side if he was denied of the Imperial Right to be here as an applicant.

    And so as Van made his way towards the door and was ‘guided’ heavy handedly with a push by the announcer, Van entered the room of the physical testing area.

    But just as the moment when Van entered the room, his happy smile vanished almost instantly as he saw the elder who was responsible for his physical impairment as of this moment sitting at the very middle of the testers’ panel.

    Seeing his reaction, the announcer looked over the direction of Van’s gaze and a look of joy couldn’t be hidden in his face.

    On the other side, upon seeing Van, Elder Gang, the elder that stepped on his foot, had a look of amusement and delight in his eyes when he was looking at Van.

    It was as if he was looking at an entertainment and not an applicant when looking at him.

    Van knew immediately that it was over.

    There were five people in the panel and Elder Gang was the one in the middle. Seemingly, he was the one encharged of the panel.

    What more, by the name plate on the front of side of their desks, the name “Elder Gang” was in gold letters and his “Gang” surname caught Van’s attention.

    “So he was indeed related to that Dugong!” Van cursed inwardly. No wonder he saw Dugong with an expression of happiness on his demise earlier.

    Van braced himself and then did his best to present himself properly towards the panel.

    Bowing with cupped fists, he spoke, “Van Kingsley, applicant number 699, requesting for your approval, Elder Scholars sirs.”

    Van’s bearing, if seen by any noble, could be spoken as courteous and elegant. He delivered his greetings in a fluent manner the way he had practiced it back ‘home’ for hundreds of times.

    Van called them “Elder Scholars” to address their status in the Imperial Court.

    He then finished with a courteous “sirs” that was equivalent on ranking them on the same level as the noble knights of the Imperial Court as an honorary to the stage of their cultivation and enlightenments, regardless if they are suitable to the title of a “Sir” or not.

    With this display of wit and daring attitude, the five elders excluding Elder Gang, all had a very good impression of Van as of this moment.

    But then, they took note of his family name. He was a “Kingsley” so does that mean…

    “Elders,” Van immediately added. “I am not in any way related to the House of Islay in the Imperial Court for my family tree originated from the North. As proof, here is my family genealogy.”

    Van brought forth the same piece of paper that he presented to the previous testers and when they saw the paper, the four other elders all made a unified nod at his direction.

    And then, the first spoke, “Alright. Now that it was cleared. Firstly, as seeing your name on the registry, it is not your first time applying for a slot in the ranks of the Scholars of the Imperial Court so… let’s skip the introduction of rules. Normally we will be testing your physical abilities using an illusion barrier but since you are already familiar with it, let’s just ask you a few things. Please, do enlighten us as to why we have to get you a spot on our training and development programs?”

    After finishing, Van was about to pull the piece of paper from the Imperial Hospital that certifies he was physically fit and is extremely healthy when Elder Gang from the center smiled at him.

    “Van… Kingsley…” He deliberately prolonged the pause between the syllables of the words. “For the past eight… no at least for the past four years, you have been applying for this spot without any success. Can you tell us here… why?”

    Hearing him, Van could only frown.

    –Why?

    Van bitterly cursed to himself. Should I tell you ‘why’ I failed? You had my record there in your desks, you have all the information! Why do you have to make things hard for me?

    Seeing that the quarter of the moment after his speech made Van bitterly panic searching for a reply, Elder Gang continued.

    “You see, I am new here and am a former advisor in the Imperial Capital’s Grand Hall for many years. In there, the center of the Imperial Scholars League, there was a new decree from the Right War Minister just last year stating that our NEW recruits on the Scholars Program should at least be capable of passing basic military training of the Knight Order. I believe this information was already circulated to this city before I was even assigned here, yes?”

    The four elders, all new elders from the Imperial Capital, only had the official information provided by the Central Information Network on their desk panels to rely on and so are not aware of the actual history of Van Kingsley in the city of Creon.

    The information on Elder gang’s prompting and hinting question, was, of course, already been known by Van even before a year ago.

    It was an official announcement from the Imperial Court because the last batch of Scholars had proven that Scholars, although not very inclined to be militaristic, had the capability to be of immense support for the Imperial Army.

    With their extensive knowledge with Runes Construction and Barrier Formations, and with the help of the now upgraded funding for the Isle, the Imperial Court had decided to establish the [ISLE] as a Military-Support Unit for the Empire.

    The previous notion that the ISLE is not a militaristic branch of the Imperial Court had been deliberately cleared out.

    It was all declared by the authority of the Right War Minister who currently held more power in the Imperial Court than the Left War Minister.

    Thus, one of their emphasis on selecting new candidates for their improved programs are that the applicants must be at least ‘physically fit’ to accept basic military training. It doesn’t matter if the applicant is already trained or not, or if he/she is talented or not, all that matters is that they are ready to be trained.

    It was the reason why Van frowned at Elder Gang because he knew that this was a deliberate set up. He could only inwardly curse at his heart.

    “Yes, Elder, I am aware.” Van said and tucked the paper on his envelope. By now, that piece of paper may have already been useless.

    “Okay then,” the first excitedly said. “90% of the people that went before you were all physically fit and was ready to be trained by the hall. We only need to test your physical body’s status and we will base your test results with them. No need to also test your current aptitude to Rune Formation and Barrier Construction knowledge.”

    Van could only swallow. Earlier, he had already forgotten about the pain on his foot but now, the pain had become even more unbearable and the beads of sweat could be seen forming on his forehead.

    What could he do?

    The last time he went to this test, he was subjected to an endurance test in the testing room using an illusion magic of one of the elders and even though he passed them on the limits of scores possible, he was still failed because of his background and the fact that ‘he doesn’t have any kind of proof’ that he was healthy.

    Of course he wanted to apply for reconsideration from a higher panel but he didn’t in fear that they will retaliate violently once they were humiliated.

    An elder, prioritizing personal matter over an applicant’s capabilities… even if they prove that Van was a liar, it was still going to tarnish their reputation and a violent retaliation is 100% sure to occur upon him.

    Him, who doesn’t have any backing and mostly doesn’t have any kind of ‘support’ behind him, could only swallow this judgment and thoroughly prepare for the next Tests.

    Two years ago, he was kicked out before he could even apply and so this year, it was his last chance.

    And yet now… this elder deliberately ruined everything he had prepared for. Elder Gang knew what his circumstances are because he was the one who did it. Van thought bitterly, recalling that ‘laugh’ from Dugong earlier.

    What else can he do? Right now, everything is playing according to Elder Gang’s tune. If he force his way here and try to open up this topic, he will be placed in a violent turmoil.

    Tarnishing a respected Elder’s reputation with lies, they will claim, is punishable by death.

    All Van could do was resign dejectedly. Chest heaving up and down, his wrath building in a very uncontrollable amount, at this moment, he can launch a pitiful attack against Elder Gang and then be killed or bound but at least he can show his ill centered feelings against this unjustifiable treatment.

    But…

    “Mister Kingsley?” The fifth Elder prompted since Van was silent there without any reaction from earlier. “Are you ready now?”

    Van did not reply and his breathing was short and shallow, his body was trembling, he was gnashing his teeth. Seeing this only made the smile on Elder Gang’s lips widen. He knew he had won.

    “No sir. I resign.” Van’s low hoarse voice rang and this surprised the panel of elders.

    “You resign?” the first elder was bewildered. “I was under the impression that you were totally ready for this test?”

    “I was… sir.” The enthusiasm in Van’s tone and manner was gone and only a solemn feeling of resignation could be felt from his lowered head and trembling fists.

    Van, at this moment, had been over by his sense of self-control.

    Raising his head, the shadow of his thick hair had covered his eyes as he said in between gritted teeth, “…but earlier before this, I encountered an imbecile and was stepped on purposely by that big lug of moronic ass-kisser. He was a maggot and he stepped on my foot and broke some bones, which needs some time to be healed. It will probably take me a year to be healed and probably a few more months for rehabilitation.”

    He was defeated, Van knew.

    But even so, at least, he will tell the others about their head Elder’s plot. He will not deliberately tell who this person was but at least, as he gave up this fight, he will speak of this person as the lowest existence he had ever known.

    It is only up to these Elders if their intellects are high enough to know that his application was sabotaged.

    If Elder Gang will react violently, then he will be as guilty as a naked chicken, ready to be cooked alive.

    So what if he gets retaliated against?

    He had nothing in the first place so he will just stand where he was, to face the imbecile who ruined everything he had ever fought for.

    Chapter 9
    Kiss The Floor Defeated

    Resigning?

    When Elder Gang heard how he was addressed, he could only suppress his anger as he was afraid that if he let it explode, even if he was a higher ranked Elder than the four, the feeling of humiliation is still going to tarnish how these four look at him in the future.

    He could only show his displeasure in a frown as the other four elders also followed as they were all angry at Van.

    “You impertinent bastard!” Exclaimed Elder Gang.

    Of course he will be the first to yell. Van was in a lighter mood now that he had brought up that kind of face on the worm.

    Being called a maggot and disregarding the ‘face’ at which Van did not give this panel, Elder had two legitimate reasons to be acting angry first.

    “You knew that you were injured and yet you dare to show your face here and waste the time of us Elders of the Grand Scholars Hall?! Who do you take yourself for, huh? Who do you think you are?”

    “Get out of our sight!” Yelled the first elder.

    “Never come here ever again!” said the third elder followed by the fourth.

    “I am revoking all your rights for future applications! I will put your name to the watch list in case you become a renegade practitioner!”

    Lastly, the second elder yelled as he tore apart Van’s application and supporting papers.

    “From this day forth, you and your kin are forever banned to be a part of the Imperial Scholars League!”

    Van did not have the heart to look at the torn apart papers and only sent a glare of hatred at the direction of Elder Gang who, for some unknown reason, felt a shiver ran through his spine, before Van opened the door of the room.

    Elder Gang was the only person who saw it but he took that ‘shivering’ as direct humiliation. Not only he was called maggot and an imbecile, he was also intimidated by that glare.

    Who was Elder Gang?

    He came from the Capital’s Branch of the Isle!

    Van was but a piece of trash that doesn’t have any ability to learn magic and has no title or whatsoever in him. So how…?

    How’s it possible that that look of hatred in his eyes was enough to send a shiver on his spine?

    He had never felt such intimidating feeling ever before and most definitely never experienced being glared like that by a lowly trash like him!

    “That fuckin* bastard!” Elder gang cursed to himself. “Just you wait, you piece of trash, just you wait!”

    Until Van opened the door, the angry voice of the elders startled the people waiting in line and they all looked at Van with mixed set of emotions.

    The majority who wanted his existence erased started laughing and those with deep jealousy and hatred on him even threw folded pieces of papers with phlegm and all kinds of humiliating liquids at his direction.

    Van, having lost all his reasons to continue, could only solemnly release his pent up emotions and raise his father’s coat to protect himself from the humiliating projectiles as he selected the direction of the exit to limply run.

    But then, one lucky projectile, and a rock at that, hit Van on the back of his head, hitting the same spot where there were already humps earlier, outbalancing him from the pain and force, and making him fall on the ground.

    With a dull thud, his knees hit the ground as the pain brought shock and tremor to his whole body.

    “Hahaha! Serves you right, trash!”

    “Trash deserve to kiss the floor!”

    “You talentless bastard, learn your place!”

    “The Magician World doesn’t need trash like you!”

    The laughter of the people became even stronger and those who felt sympathetic for him at this moment all could only look at those laughing ones for they couldn’t help Van this time.

    For many years, they have known of his circumstances –especially the rumors about him, being able to incur ‘bad karma’ upon those who will establish a karmic relationship with him and thus were all driven silent and could only watch.

    They were all Magicians and thus care about their chances of ever reaching Immortal Ascension.

    Their talents were low and so their path for magic could only rely on the training programs provided by the Isle. Afraid of incurring that ‘bad karma’, they retreated and can only watch.

    Van pulled himself up. No one helping him, no one defending him, no one cared.

    The pain of being abandoned was there, stronger and more sinister than ever, and all he could do was silently shed those tears and stand up…

    Defeated.

    He dragged his feet as fast as he could and escaped to the direction of his only solace.

    …his home in the cemetery.

     

    *****

     

    Back in the five elders’ room, the first elder sent one last curious glance on the updated profile of Van Kingsley and was surprised to see the label for Mana Affinity which was [100%].

    “In all my years…!!” He murmured and gasped.

    Of all the five, he was the only one who had the notion to check his profile one last time. In his hands were Van’s papers. The other senior four elders had already scrapped, burned, and torn theirs and only his own was still intact.

    “He was already eighteen… so this was his one last chance…” he thought to himself with regret.

    He felt that he had somewhat made a rash decision and was overcome with the emotion that was incited by Elder Gang’s statement.

    And then he recalled the boy’s last words. “…a maggot crushed his foot?”

    He glanced at the center of their group and an angry and scowling Elder Gang was there, looking at the door as if it was the most dreaded existence in the universe for him.

    “A maggot huh?”

    There was a weird look in his eyes as he secretly kept Van’s papers. But, even though he did, he only had this notion that tells him ‘probably, he was really destined to not become a Scholar’ that’s somewhat whispering in his heart.

    Unbeknownst to him, such was the effect of a person that doesn’t have a Karmic Wheel.

    One cursed being of such condition can only see and look at the karmic relationships of others, could only temporarily establish a connection, will be forgotten immediately by others, and can never affect or leave a strong lasting impression to anybody because of fate.

    –at least in this life…

    No karmic strings will connect him to anybody that doesn’t have any strong impression on him and so no one will ever mind him again once he was deemed to be not worthy of a fated relationship.

    For a person that cannot establish any fate to anybody or anything, Van’s condition was actually worse than he can imagine.

    Unless a person has special abilities or ‘special circumstances’ that regards Karma, then he or she will not be affected by his curse…

     

    *****

     

    His struggle is for acceptance and now, he was in an utter defeat. As Van followed the path to his home, he ignored the people that followed and mocked him endlessly.

    The pedestrians looking at the rowdy crowd only bid them a glance. Once they saw who the subject of those attempts of humiliation and bullying was, they only gave him a cold disdainful hiss and then whispered curses to themselves.

    The pain on his foot only got worse as the rock projectiles of varying sizes landed on his head and back, while the words hit harder and the laughter eats one’s soul like termites.

    At some point, Van wished that they were big enough to cause his skin to bleed and so he could have a reason to die by loss of blood.

    Or perhaps someone would have a great idea of staining their hands with blood and end his miserable and painful life right there and then.

    Possibly someone bright enough to plan an assassination and kill him when he pass the dark area leading to the cemetery so that he may no longer have to endure and could only give excuses to his father in heaven once they meet.

    But alas, these pests were bright children.

    They only used small stones or sand rocks to throw at him and the best damage it could make to him was a swollen lump on his head and skin.

    Van made the long cut towards the cemetery and when his harassers felt that they were nearing his domain, a dreadful feeling engulfed them as they stopped and retreated towards the direction of the Grand Hall.

    By now, it was already dusk. The terrain was inclining and Van felt surprised that he could see the sakura tree on the abandoned park.

    He wondered, for how many times already, why is there even a children’s park in this place?

    Suddenly, he had a notion on how to die quickly.

    With resolve, he endured the pain in his foot and then rushed towards the park. But alas, upon his arrival, the young sword woman was already gone and only an empty space below the tree was there. Van walked over that direction and then faced the twilight in the far horizon.

    By now, the moon had already slightly risen and is shining in a slanted position in the darkening horizon on the other side of the setting sol.

    For some reason though, the moon seems to be larger than normal.

    “But no matter, I’m going to die anyway…”

    Van felt somewhat happy. He wondered why and could only deduce that he doesn’t care anymore.

    The dark empty side of the sky began to twinkle with the stars as the ocean of cloud mimicked a shape like that of a dragon formed by the winds up high, flying towards the direction of the sol.

    Below, the city lights were lighting up one by one and their glows were somewhat dim and dark.

    Earlier, when he was retelling the beautiful sight he saw last night to Yuna, Van appreciated this view. But now, he felt immense hatred towards it… as if he was being forced to cut his arm for the sake of the world that doesn’t want him alive.

    “This city had never given me anything so why should I protect and save them? Save them from what, from themselves? They’re all Magicians. I am nobody with any talent! Dad, what were you thinking making me promise to curse myself?”

    Such ugly and bitter pain was squeezing his chest and Van could only shed tears and cry his pain away under that tree.

     

    *****

     

    Beneath that sakura tree, as the pinkish flecks of petals drifts in the air or fall on the ground near him, the howling cry and sobs of a young man could be heard echoing in the distance.


  • edited June 2017

    Chapter 10
    Tonight’s a Blood Moon!

    Unknown to Van, seemingly to add more ‘spice’ to his feeling of despair… back at the mausoleum, inside the tomb with the runes and symbols Van used as reference to his ‘Class-8 Barrier Formula’, was a coffin made of black wood.

    On the surface of the black wood were etched lines and symbols, runes and circles –a formation diagram that was more intricately designed and had a more ancient feel to them than the ones on the tomb outside, was shining brightly.

    In fact, even the oldest and most knowledgeable Barrier Formations expert in the whole World will still be surprised when they saw this diagram.

    Because it was in all its entirety a congregation of three magic languages that could only be said to be the stuffs of legends among legends.

    One language used is the local Muan Language.

    The second is the extinct Terran Language.

    And third is a language older than the second one.

    Considering the history of the mausoleum and the mysterious Imperial Decree to never touch or even get near it, the coffin itself is actually betraying such a grand history.

    It was, in all aspect and respect, unceremoniously dull besides being plain and simple. One could only ask if this is something really prepared by the Imperial Court. After all, the Imperial Decree had the seal of the Von Duchesse Family.

    But right now, the rune formation on the coffin was shining a bright resplendent glow. And yet, aside from the beautiful glints of lights was the sinister oppressive might coming off of it. On one part it was of yellow gold, on another it was of blue and green, and then at the next, it was of red… the red of blood, blinding to the eye, substantially and suffocatingly red that you could almost taste the iron and bitter sourness of it.

    As they shined, the intricacy and appearance of the formation became vivid enough to piddlingly make out a screaming face through the entire outline of the sealing formation.

    This screaming face was radiating a pulse. A pulse that can make one’s mind choked by the vibrating murderous desire of the one sealed inside it.

    The three languages that make up the Barrier Sealing Formation on the coffin and the tomb outside were enough to even make anyone to see it feel shocked. The glow of the barrier formation was increasingly becoming brighter and brighter until they had become somewhat glassy, like a golden colored lava that runs through all the cavities of that intricate design.

    What was most eye-catching there is the color of ‘Gold’… because no Magician in any Stage of Enlightenment is powerful enough to produce the color ‘gold’ on their spells.

    Not the ones on the Mortal Realm…

    Not the ones on the Earthen Realm…

    Not even the ones on the Heaven Realm.

    Only ‘Gods’ have the capability of doing it! Yet even so, only one person in the entire history of Magic is able to cast spells with the color of gold.

    And she is eons been dead!

    Brighter and brighter the diagram shone, until at such a point that its glassiness actually made a crack at which a sound could be heard by select a few with high enough Stages of Enlightenment.

    One specific person was actually that young woman that carried the large heavy long sword with the name ‘Heaven Decimator’ on its blade body sitting JUST outside the tomb.

     

    *****

     

    “I knew it! Living here for too long that his smell had drenched all over this place! He had done something to this seal!” Irritated, the girl had her giant sword on her lap as if it was a sleeping monster. Her hands were stretched towards the tomb, a set of intricate symbols and runes formation were floating in her outstretched palm.

    When she heard that shattering crack that was akin to a glass window being pressed on with a certain pressure, she lifted her head up and a look of worry and fear could be seen in her face.

    Her eyes snapped open and beads of sweat were forming on her forehead. It was clear that she was in a desperate battle for suppression.

    She glanced up as her sight seemed to go through the roof to see the large moon rising like a second sol in the distant sky.

    “Just my luck! Just my lavish luck! Damn it!”

    Panic rose in her heart. She immediately pulled the pendant from her under shirt and sending a strand of will-infused Mana to activate its effect.

    After that, she observed the glowing symbols on the tomb and narrowed her eyes. Following her action, a series of cracking sounds followed suit.

    “Not good, definitely not good!”

    She yelled and with one hurried step, she stood up and bolted, leaving a trace of shadow in the tomb area inside the mausoleum.

     

    *****

     

    Another being who felt the shattered seal was an old Wizard very far away in the southern territory of the Four Nations Empire, the person who had the direct link on that intricate formation.

    It was his direct ancestor that built it!

    When the old man ‘heard’ it, he looked up and had a look of shallow concern in his eyes.

    “Tonight’s a Blood Moon… an omen.” he said.

    Following his train of thoughts, he summoned a platinum strip from his Spatial Artifact pressing his Mana onto it.

     

    *****

     

    At an old dark castle in a place called the ‘Dark Plains’, was Azazel with his arrogant bearing and his frightening aura of murder making his purple and blue robe flutter even without wind in his private hall.

    Black colored Mana was swirling around him, the murderous desire in his heart, even if he tried to hide it, was manifesting as the black colored Mana –a symbol for someone who had rejected Mana.

    When Azazel heard that sound, he looked up towards the southern horizon and a look of rage could be seen in his frowning expression.

    “What devil’s luck! He’s so close to The Branded!”

    Azazel couldn’t do anything. Not only the passage towards the place where he was feeling the ‘brand’ was coming from had an insurmountable wall, it was also very far away that even given the level of his current strength and power, even if there was no ‘Wall’ placed in there, it would still take him at least a few months of travel. That was how far that pace was.

    What he could only do is to clench his fist as he tried to feel every bit of movement and changes into that aura coming from down south…

    …in the Continent of Mu.

     

    *****

     

    Back at the mausoleum, one part of the ‘seal’ had a chink in it following that ‘broken’ sound earlier.

    Next, a few more chink could be heard as more parts of the seal broke. Like a traveling chain of reactions, a series of broken sounds followed suit as more than fifty percent of the seal was actually broken –like shattered glass exploding from being overexposed in pressure.

    It was then that, in a span of a breath, the rest of the seal actually broke and a sinister laughing voice echoed as black smoke began to escape the opening on the lid of the coffin.

    “I AM FREE! Free at last! Hahahaha!” A cold and ghastly voice screamed delightedly and along with it was a feeling of violence embracing all living existences in the vicinity.

    Like a suffocating air, the plants and all animals in the surroundings all began to rot until finally the entire mausoleum began to crumble in to dust from the inside and out.

    Almost entirely as well, it reached the boundary of the Medicine Garden.

    Unable to hold, the lid of the coffin broke and it smashed on the small space between it and the tomb as the entire mausoleum itself exploded with the debris of its remains scattering in all directions.

    Outside, the surprised visitor brandished her sword and poised a stance, her mana escaping her body before igniting into a small cyclone of yellow flames with her being the center.

    It smashed all the debris that went her way through the sheer force of her escaping Fire-Attributed Mana. It was what had countered the rot-effect of the Black Mana as well! Everything behind her, including the tree with the bench by sheer chance of her angle and location, were protected from the explosion of the rotting smoke-form Mana.

    Swirling into an inner vortex as if being absorbed, the black smoke formed four limbs and a head, slowly taking essence with the aura of an entity also taking form with it. Gradually, red glaring eyes opened and stared at the swordswoman before a mocking blackhole smile emerged on where the lips should be.

    Van’s bed, cabinet, and the roof, the entire infrastructure itself was gone. What remained were the plants and trees that Van planted behind the swordswoman.

    Still, this did not mean that the one escaping the confines of the seal was worried by it. It was merely his Mana and its rot-attribute that had escaped the lid of his prison.

    “I am finally free! Free! Hahahaha!”

    His delighted voice echoed and he let his aura of rot spread through in all directions with him at the center of it all. This time, with force!

    The swordswoman felt a crisis brewing but she was slow to react as she stabbed the sword on the ground while bearing the force of that surge of rotting Mana.

    The figure noticed it and instead of surprise, what he felt was rage and… a somewhat confused look.

    Not too far away from him the swordswoman was glaring at the entity with both fear and disbelief.

    She was panting. Large beads of sweat on her forehead, with the entity’s Mana surge alone, she already knew that she was outmatched. While the entity was on his confused look, she had to at least know who her family had to hunt in the future.

    Thus… she held a treasure on her hand just in case.

    “W-Who are you?” She asked the entity.

    But the entity ignored her. It’s as if she wasn’t even worthy of wasting effort to look over. What he was doing right now was feeling  his surroundings for that one sole existence that was impossible for someone like him to ignore.

    His nose twitched and a look of delight could be seen on his middle-aged man’s face.

    “I can smell it! The brand! The sacrifice! It’s here, nearby, I can smell it!”

    It was at this moment that the girl and her large sword on her back began to emit an oppressive might towards the entity.

    The sinister Muan finally looked at her, his face scowling in disdain and mock-layered anger.

    “Von Duchesse successor?” he said.

    The girl wasn’t surprised that the entity was aware of her origins. What she was concerned about right now is the fact that she failed on her mission and that the demon sealed in the tomb had freed itself.

    It was all on her watch that it happened and so she had to do what it takes to hold the line until reinforcements arrive.

    “Fiend! To actually break the Nine Layered Seal is the greatest crime you’ve ever done that’s worthy of death! I shall now carry out your sentence in the name of the Imperial Clan!”


    Chapter 11
    Butchered and Eaten Alive

    When her voice sounded the lovely tone was nowhere, replaced only with the voice of authority and the bearing of a judge against a guilty prisoner.

    But instead of retorting like he would normally, the look of delight and unprecedented hunger could be seen in the dark Muan entity’s face.

    A drool could be seen forming in his mouth with some even flowing out uncontrollably and he couldn’t help but to look around, trying to sniff the general direction of the ‘smell’.

    “It’s here! It’s close by!” He declared happily and seemed to depart where the princess swords woman brandished her giant sword.

    “You’re not going anywhere!” she yelled.

    But instead of cowering under the might of the heavy sword, the entity only mockingly swing his arm, screaming in haste and rage, “Get lost, weakling! Your sword is dull!”

    And a loud explosion erupted, dust covered the scene where he was.

     

    *****

     

    At the same time, Van, seemingly already cried enough, stood up and was about to come home when he saw a shadow in the entrance of the mini-park.

    When Van saw that shadow it was not correct to say that it was surprising. Instead, he actually felt that it was to be expected.

    The reason being, he already lost hope.

    Being as weak as he was, and adding his overall constitution, is there any way for him to succeed his father’s wishes?

    As that said, instead of feeling fear, Van smiled at the ‘organism’ with mock and disdain.

    “So at last, the maggot had come to feed on a dead person?”

    “Do you believe if you call me maggot one more time, I will decimate you and your family?”

    Upon the maggot’s angry threat, Van only smiled and laughed derisively. “Heh. Maggot is actually using maggot language to speak? The maggot is actually this stupid?”

    –Come. End my suffering. End it!

    Van’s mocking tone, voice, and words were like flames that ignited inside Elder Gang’s chest and he abruptly released his aura.

    “Aah! That’s it! I’m going to kill you and I will kill your family next!”

    Upon his declaration, he charged up towards Van as he released the full might of his ‘Expert Stage’ aura. With his age of more than a couple hundred, being an [Expert] was considered below average. But given that he’s a Scholar, they are all actually expected to have very low stages when it comes to Elemental Enlightenment.

    This is not only due to the fact that they are all not talented, but rather, it’s because they are not talented individuals that Scholars chose to be Scholars in the first place.

    In terms of power against a Wizard, Scholars are but lowly Mages who can’t practice Elemental Mastery into perfection. Their only trait that’s higher than a ‘very average’ Wizard is their knowledge about Barrier Formations.

    Besides, the focus of the [Isle] programs aren’t the development of offensive magic but rather, of defensive magic and ‘magic’ that benefits the citizens. Aside from that, everyone else is weak.

    That’s all there is to it.

    But then again, Van is a mortal.

    Even just an Apprentice, two Stages lower than an Expert, could crush his soul into tiny fragments in just a span of a breath. What more an Expert that, due to anger, let out his entire murderous aura in a single target.

    The imagined results are all but expected to be bloody colorful and morbidly fascinating.

    Van felt his bones breaking. He felt his entire being collapse. He can’t breathe. He can’t even look straight to the man as, less than a breath ago his vision was okay, the next, his entire vision went black as his eyes went up to his eyelids.

    –Will I finally die?

    It was like a prayer. He waited to die.

    Van had purposely incited the prideful Elder Gang to boil in anger so that his death would be swift and instant. No pain.

    Calculations wise, he would die just about any moment now. And by the time that Elder Gang had  found out about his true and exact origins, he would be trembling in fear and would wish that he had committed suicide instead.

    But, all of a sudden, instead of him letting out a sound of pain, the sound came from in front of him. Bewildered, Van summoned all his strength and opened his eyes just as he was about to fall like a puppet who lost its strings to the ground.

    His bones were broken, his soul almost crushed, the pain he was feeling is unbearable and it was an agony to even stay alive.

    And yet, just as he opened his eyes, he saw the perpetrator of the maggot’s anguished moan.

    The maggot wasn’t dead but rather, he was brushed away like a useless stringless kite towards the distance.

    In but the fleeting glint Van saw upon his direction, he was actually brushed away with an approximate distance of around a kilometer.

    And that was just a ‘casual’ brushing as if the perpetrator was brushing aside dried laundry  hanging on his way.

    But then again, the perpetrator’s aura was more savage, more sinister, colder, ghoulishly sickening and crueler than the measly maggot.

    “What kind of…” Van thought before he met with the eyes of the Muan-shaped ‘entity’. In just that one single moment, he saw unprecedented happiness on the face of that… being… as Van can clearly see that its appearance was changing.

    “Huh?” The entity looked at his hands, arms, then his body, checking the change. “Demonization! Ho? After so many years of being trapped there in that wretched prison, I finally awaken!”

    After he spoke, he saw Van who fell on the ground and panting for life.

    “You are the branded!” The demon said happily and began to walk towards Van, smelling him, in a manner akin to a monkey checking his body with his nose. “You have the smell! It’s strong! Too strong! Aahhh…. I wanna savor your blood!”

    Upon speaking, the demon formed its hand into a sword and then used its other hand to lift up Van by his hair. Van’s coat fell off his shoulders and fell on the ground.

    Then, the demon walked towards the open area, looking up the moon above, Van still clasped in his other hand.

    “Hahahaha! This is just too perfect! I awaken after two thousand years and then am presented by a rare branded sacrifice! This is too perfect! Haha!”

    After speaking, the demon’s changing body had actually worsened as his skin became reddish and under the bright moon light, was more sinister and more horrifying than anything else.

    He had goat’s horns protruding at his forehead and then stretching back like a brushed up hair.

    Eyes were bloodshot with a fiery desire for violence and slaughter. A suffocating feeling of contraction was being transmitted by that homicidal gaze. Van had long forgotten how to breathe in these moments. Alas, he can’t even summon up the thought of doing so!

    All his mind thought was the image of this demon and the words he said.

    “Was I a delicacy? Branded sacrifice? Huh?”

    Nonetheless, in some corner of his mind, he felt happy since, finally, he was going to die.

    The demon raised his hand that held him on his hair while his other hand moved quickly like that of a sword and struck his body. It was painless at first but there was a thud and Van knew that something came off from his body.

    He could feel it. He felt lighter.

    A numbing sensation embraced the right side of his body. With a swift move, he was lifted up by the demon towards its face and he saw what came off from his body. That was the entire right side of his body!

    His arm and shoulder was there!

    His flank was there!

    Innards were also there!

    –Geezer’s…!! There was so much blood splattered there and… what?! He’s drinking my blood?!

    Like a drunkard drink beer from his stein, Van was treated like a large barrel of sweet tasting beer for this demon!

    It was here that Van could feel the agony slowly rising from the depths of his gut, waking him up from his half-conscious state of confusion and willingness to die.

    Then, seemingly have found the right noise, the demon stopped drinking and bit a chunk of meat from his body and lowering his head.

    “Delicious! Hahahahahaha!! Oooohhh! Oh!  Oh! A branded soul and its branded blood, what rare delicacy! What rare delicacy! I want you to savor every taste of it! I will not permit you to die just yet… not just yet! Hahahaha!!”

    The demon was not content, he once again raised Van and drunk more blood and this time, to Van’s despair, he was totally conscious and couldn’t get to lose his sanity.

    –What kind of scene was this?!

    –Why can’t I die?!

    At that moment, Van saw from behind, a shadow of a woman with flowing hair and on her hand was a giant shadow of a blade as well.

    Sensing her appearance, the demon stopped drinking and eating Van, angrily turning his head towards the woman.

    “You really are persistent, you trash?!”

    To Van who was now slowly slipping away into the arms of death, he could at least see that the one the demon called trash was exactly that terrifying existence under the sakura tree earlier this day.

    “Ah… Ah… Ah…” He wanted to speak, he wanted to warn her but he couldn’t breathe normally so what more is yelling

    –So, in the eyes of a real powerful existence, even a genius like her was trash.

    –Such a good thing to hear.

    If an untalented person like him was ant and that talented people like her… is trash… then perhaps there is justice in his measly existence!

    Such a dream is a pipe and yet he clung on to it.

    At least this way, there is a light in his dark world he could whole-heartedly embrace.

    “I really wanted to enjoy my meal and yet you just have to ruin my feast!”

    Van was dragged like an object as he was lowered by the demon at his side but still not letting go of him. He was perfectly looking at the wounded woman not too far away.

    She was, clearly, in a bad shape. And yet she still had that domineering aura Van felt earlier. What more, her intent to fight was so strong and her aura wasn’t as weak as he felt it earlier. The only change might be the fact that she was injured in some way or another because she was limping her way through to their direction.

    “I have enough of you! You’ve ruined my feast!”

    The demon’s anger was on the limit it can tolerate so he raised his right hand as if crushing nuts and the girl’s eyes went wide as she was hopelessly raised up in the air as if she was weightless.

    She struggled to be free but an invisible hand held her body and after she was two meters up, the demon gestured a palm as if to crush her to the ground and she was then slammed tyrannically towards the ground as the demon gestured it.

    –Telekinesis! A high level of Telekinesis!

    –There are actually so many laws at work at that single moment. Space, Wind, Gravity, Direction…

    –It’s just too many! That was a powerful magic!

    Van’s Scholarly mind was in action. He immediately bisected the magic skill that the demon used and, once again, became envious of Mages and Wizards.

    But as he was dying now, what use is there to be envious of Wizards? Van wished dearly that in his next life, he…

    “In my next life, I want to be a Wizard…”


    Chapter 12
    It’s Time

    The words escape his mouth like a low chant and as he was the closest to it, the demon raised him up and laughed as if it was the funniest thing he had heard in his life.

    “You?! Next life?! Hahahaha… you really have no idea that you don’t have a second life after I’m done eating you!”

    “?!”

    A forced look of despairing bewilderment was on Van’s face. He wanted to ask what he meant but had no more strength. Murmuring had already expended his last breaths and only his mind was at work, recording his last moments before he die.

    “A branded soul for feasting, wants to have a second life?! Hahahaha….!! Wait until they hear about this! Hahaha!”

    One bitter fact after another, to the sword woman’s ears, not only it meant despair, it also meant that there was a crisis.

    “So there are more of this fiend?!” she gasped.

    To Van, however, his despair couldn’t be more darker and painful than hers. After all he, he was the one suffering at the moment. He wasn’t stupid. He totally and clearly understood what the ‘branded soul’ part of this demon’s words meant.

    At the moment, a terrible sense of fear had now taken root in his heart and an insatiable desire to survive was born in Van’s mind.

    With tears in his eyes, he tried to speak but could not for he was on his last moments of strength.

    What more, the demon seemed to sense his fear and despair as it raised him to eye level and then made a sneer that had all the cruelty and violence in the world!

    “I can smell fear in you… good. Good! GOOD! Hahahaha!” when laughing, a look of pleasure and thrill could be scourged from the demon’s face and he swung Van as if he was a piece of cloth as he moved his arm. “This is just too great! The more fear and despair you feel, the more the soul tastes better! Hahahaha! Oh! Oh! I can’t wait any longer. I will savor  your blood later on, for now I will take your soul. Hehe… time for the main dish!”

    Upon the last words, Van was slammed to the ground like a butchered meat and the battered swordswoman in the distance, though alive, was already weakened to an extreme extent and could only look on as the young man slammed to the ground the way she had been earlier.

    On her angle, she could see Van’s mangled state clearly. And even though she was physically weak as of the moment, her senses weren’t dull in the slightest. From the distance, she could still make out the young man’s state and within the smell of blood, that peculiar smell of metal and medicine waft its way to her nose.

    “Ah! This… He was the guy earlier!”

    Though it was too late at this stage, the strong smell of burnt coal and metal with the aroma of medicine was in his skin like it was his perfume.

    There was no mistake that he was indeed that person who was able to sneak onto her immediate perimeter this afternoon.

    And yet, for the two of them to meet in this fashion, anyone could only say what kind of bad karma they had attracted that both of their lives would end this way.

    In her demented thoughts, a sense of regret had permeated her strong willed bearing.

    She thought back to her life.

    Ever since she was young, she was the heaven’s proud daughter. The only princess of the four siblings of princes and so she was doted heavily by her brothers and her father, the Emperor. Not only that, her magical talent was also highly praised and was even dubbed as the strongest Fire Elemental Alignment since the founding Emperor of the Four Nations Empire.

    And yet, though a life of privilege awaited her, old stories of her great grandfather’s quests sparked a seedling of a strong Sword Mage in her heart.

    Despite her father’s and her brothers’ protests and pleadings, she still proceeded to train to be a Swordswoman and was eventually awarded the Emperor’s Sword, their family’s inheritance, the Heaven Decimator, as her weapon.

    Given her Elemental Alignment and her limitless future as a Witch, she still chose to become a Sword Mage just like her great grandfather, the former emperor, Emperor Gillard.

    As her great grandfather’s test, she was tasked to venture alone in this city of Creon to renew the seal of one of the ‘Sealed Criminals’ that her great grandfather had once battled and won against.

    But little did they know that this particular criminal had been infected by a demon and was possessed unhindered for many  years.

    Not only that, the demon had successfully assimilated the criminal’s body, thus the process of Demonization being completed.

    After so many centuries being locked inside the sealed coffin, the trapped Demon was now free.

    “Was I too proud of myself?” she regretted. She thought back to the earlier events of the day.

    She had not neglected anything and wasn’t even a bit relaxing one bit when it came to the task of renewing the seal. In fact, she even started earlier than what she had originally scheduled the renewal process to be.

    And yet, because tonight was a Blood Moon and that it was also at the time that the seal is at its weakest state and had to be reinforced, the Demon inside instigated his escape.

    Now, an innocent civilian was caught in the trouble that involved the Imperial Family’s matters.

    As an heir to the family name, it was her responsibility. Even if she can’t save the young man, she at least have to know his name. It is her responsibility to live after this and honor the death of this young man.

    Thus she regretted being weak.

    So weak that she could only watch as the man was slammed like a ragged cloth and was about to be butchered and eaten alive.

    In her heart, she felt intense regret.

    Why did I have to be so complacent? I let the seal be broken and let the Dark Wizard sealed within escape! Damn my pride! Damn my ego!

    As much as she wanted to regret everything that had happened so far, there wasn’t anything she could do. She felt all the bones in her body was broken and even more so, she doesn’t have the strength left to even lift up an arm. All she could do as of the moment was to suppress the pain using her Mana and gradually, slowly, heal her injuries bit by bit.

    Even to her recovery fastest speed possible, it will still take her at least an hour to raise a hand and then another six hours to be able to stand. Even then, she still wouldn’t be able to use her sword that weight ten times more than her body’s.

     

    *****

     

    “Hahahaha! It’s time to eat!” the demon’s voice rang and the silence of the surroundings were obstructed by his will for carnage. “Your soul is mine!”

    The air trembled, the laws were bent, the aura of murder permeated into every living creature and was turned into monsters when they touched the aura that the demon released.

    Raiding a hand, the demon ignored everything else and focused his attention to plucking out Van’s soul from his body.

    Van, on the other hand, can’t even die even as he wished so dearly. His mind was there but his body betrayed his every command. And yet, despite it all, he somehow found himself forgetting the fear he felt earlier.

    Instead, in his heart, there was actually a sense of calmness that he can’t explain.

    –Why?

    The only question he could ask himself.

    Van stared at the hand, the bright moon behind him, mysteriously shedding light on the ugly smile of victory of the perpetrator of his end.

    This red hand was the same hand the demon used to chop off the right side of his body. Dazed, seemingly confused, yet he stared at it… calmly… descending onto his head.

    –Why?

    He could only ask himself.

    ­–Why indeed am I calm at this moment?

    Ever since he was young, there had been many weird things that he found normal to himself but unique to others, even to the point of them putting a distance away from him.

    That hand was descending upon his face, slowly, second by second… moment by moment seemed to last an entire day, and yet why is it that even when he knows that his end is near, he was not only calm, he also seem to be waiting for it?

    –Why?

    –Why is it so slow?

    –What am I waiting for?

    –Why is it that when I am about to meet my end, I can stay calm?

    –Kill me! Please! Kill me quickly!

    –Ah, is this what they call ‘despair’?

    –Have I already accepted my end easily?

    –Sorry father… I can’t fulfill my promise. But I promise, in my next life, will become a better son.

    Van was waiting for that hand to descend to end his life. Why indeed that of all the things to be waited, his death in this life was something that he had longed to happen?

    –And yet even that train of thought also seems to be somewhat…

    …different…

    –This life…

    –Was there another life?

    –If there was, then did I really murder a city in my past life?

    –Why is my luck this bad?

    Just what was it that was on the other side of death –on the other side of ‘this life’?

    –Well, who cares? I’m about to die anyway…

    Thinking to this point, the hand still continuously descended onto him like a sword made up of the hardest and most durable material. The hand of the demon weighted almost like an entire estate of a Lord that’s tens of tons heavy.

    It was this hand that made sure he will not be able to run and escape. The demon was hungry; he doesn’t want to let its prey run.

    But, more importantly, the demon wanted to not only eat his body, he also said something that he will consume his soul.

    –What… What was it with my soul that attracted this demon?

    –What is a brand?

    –When did this start? When was I branded?

    –More importantly… what are demons?

    Van’s right arm and liver area has been fully separated from his body. From his right shoulder down to his hips, he saw his innards spurt away from him. He knew that he was, at this moment, deader than a dead rabbit.

    And yet he still waited.

    He calmly stared and waited at the hand.

    No.

    His eyes weren’t looking at the hand. It was looking at the sky. The dark sky beyond the hand.

    There were so many stars and many of them had planets with life in it. There are so many people in this world that had done many crimes and yet why is it that this kind of fate had befallen upon him?

    Why is it that The Heavens forgotten about him?

    –Ah, there’s nothing to it… I’ll just accept it as it is.

    Van closed his eyes. Contentment on his face.

    Based on his calculations, the hand was almost at his head and he will definitely die. Who cares if what the demon said about  him having no other life after this is true. He’s dead either way.

    Lying there on the ground, he found himself not even capable of thinking anything else. For some reason, he felt like smiling and as he did, he voluntary closed his eyes.

    Then, as if bound by an invisible strong will, he said something to himself that reverberated to the surroundings.

    What more, he was smiling.

    The Swordswoman who was looking at him from far away was dumbfounded when she saw him smile and spoke at the last moment before the hand reached his head.

    “It’s time.”


    Chapter 13
    Resonance

    He doesn’t know why, he doesn’t know how, but saying those words felt like it was a sort of calling, like a mantra, like a long forgotten vow, like that very feeling when looking on a mirror…

    This is the beginning of everything, he thought, and even this thought seems to be unique.

    –I really am different from the others.

    While others would quiver in fear and think of their lives searching for any regrets before dying, Van thought of his life not wanting to regret anything but actually not wanting to forget.

    “I don’t want to forget.” He told himself.

    Somehow, he felt, this is not the first time he said these words to himself.

     

    *****

     

    The moment that the demon’s hand that’s stained with his blood touched the area between his brows, the world vanished with a flash of blurry visions, memories came at him like a surging tidal wave of emotions.

    After so many images passed it suddenly paused in a particular memory so painful to remember that it made Van’s soul shiver…

    “Your highness! Please, promise me… you will live and you will survive! Please, promise me!”

    –This person…

    “No, Ellie! Don’t let go!”

    “Promise me!”

    “We can go together! I won’t go without you…”

    –Those tears…

    “Your highness, the portal needs a price to be paid… (Smile) so, in your next life, find me. I promise to return your love better next time.”

    “No! Don’t let go! Ellie! No! Noooooo!!!”

    –I remember!

    “Please, don’t forget…”

    “Ellie, please…”

    “I love you.”

    “No! Don’t let go… Ellie. Ellie! ELLIE!!!”

    –I-I’m alive!

    –I remember everything.

    –I promised... I promised Ellie.

    –I will never forget.

    –Wait for me, Ellie, I will come find you.

     

    *****

     

    She saw Van got slammed on the ground and her eyes watched him get stabbed to the head by the demon’s hand. She wanted to look away but she couldn’t because for some reason, she felt that her sense of self was lost in that single moment.

    A premonition.

    Suddenly, time began to slowdown and she saw the peaceful look in the man’s face. His eyes were closed and his expression was nothing like that of a person who feared death.

    In fact, if she could put in her word with it, the man actually accepted death. He welcomed it!

    And on that very same moment, she heard a somewhat calm voice echoing in her mind.

    “It’s time.”

    That voice contained power. That voice contained a sense of supremacy that could cover the sky with a single finger, a power so great that… in her very soul, in her subconsciousness, in her very blood, is that primitive desire to bow down and worship the owner of that voice.

    A sense of fear so dreadful embraced her soul as she heard the voice.

    But in spite of the fear, there was also desire.

    No. To be exact, it was like the very core of a desire, like a longing, a sense of veneration that was urging her very soul to praise and adore the owner of that voice.

    And, to her great astonishment, the general direction where that voice came from was from the person with half his body chopped away. That person, to her, was the reason she felt warmth.

    She felt… comfortably warm looking at him!

    “What is…” her mind reeled and she never took her eyes away even just a moment. Because at this moment, she could feel that her blood was becoming warmer. Her mind worked and she used her Mana to circulate all around her, noticing to her great surprise that what was boiling inside her was her bloodline!

    Her bloodline, the Imperial Bloodline, was calling and venerating, SUBMITTING towards the direction of the fallen young man!

    “How is this possible?! Who is he?!”

    As the time began to slow down, the tip of that demon’s hand reached the head of the young man.

    On the next moment, as if a kite that suddenly lost its strings, the demon was flung away, pushed, even, by an unseen force making the demon roll many times in the air, flapping down hard to the ground and stayed there in all his fours as if being pressed down there forcefully by an invisible giant hand.

    “What… is… thiiiiiiiis?!” he screamed hatefully.

    It was like there was an entire planet pressing on the demon’s body and even just standing up was like an entire life’s struggle for him.

    “What’s going on!?”

    Even raising his head to look at Van’s direction was harder than escaping his confinement of many centuries.

    Clearly, the demon was enraged but more than that, he was astounded. Puzzled. Even more so, he was feeling fear. A sense of crisis that embraces the very essence of his being, a fear that lingers in the very depths of his corrupted soul! It was all coming from that young man, the young man that’s  supposed to be his meal!

    A very quick flash of light came from the man’s forehead. Then he floated up, body first.

    His body’s other half already healed in an instant.

    Van floated in the air as if he was experiencing ascension to the heavens, as if he was being called upon by the vast sky, as if he was a puppet whose strings are now in the process of being reconnected by an invisible force.

    By now, his arms are wide open to his sides as if he was receiving something from the heavens with his body.

    His body already repaired faster than a blink of an eye, Van’s entire being was basking and also releasing a bright light of Mana.

    Pure Mana!

    Even her, a princess, couldn’t help but gasp as the feeling of majesty was coming from this light that was made by the Mana surrounding his body. It was stimulating her bloodline legacy. It was as if she was being told that a venerated royalty was in front of her not by the language of mortals but by the language spoken by the power of bloodline!

    This light felt ancient. Archaic, even! Or more so, it felt that it was at the very apex, at the very top of the most powerful and strongest inherited bloodline of any power!

    It was this feeling coming from the very depths of her soul that the princess didn’t notice when she had started crying.

    Tears were flooding her cheeks like river!

    Her expression one of relief, of longing, of a very profound sensation of reverence and happiness, knowing that this existence had descended upon their lands… after a long time!

    She couldn’t help her body from shaking and she stretched her hand as if to reach that existence and be blessed by hiss grace.

    While on the other hand, the demon could only look at the young man basking in light with utter fear and despair.

    “Who are you?!”

     

    *****

     

    At the same time, on all of the powers with even just a speck of an inherited bloodline, whether they are sleeping, meditating, or on their last breaths, they all felt the power of their inherited bloodlines began to boil and a sense of lightness that could make them happy and satisfied, but more than that, a feeling of a need to pay their respects to the source of this profound feeling, was taking roots in their bloodlines.

    None of them could ignore this feeling because there was some sort of Spiritual Decree that demands them to bow down and submit towards this feeling.

    “Who?! Who is causing all of this?”

    “On what place is this coming from?”

    “I will never submit! I am the king of this country!”

    “This person must die!”

    “My bloodline is the purest! I will never accept!”

    Different reactions erupted from the different powers. Some were puzzled some were denying the existence of someone else with a purer and more powerful bloodline than them, while some accepted its existence and treated it as the start of a new era for them.

    But more than that, they all became aware that their belief of their bloodlines as the purest form of nobility had been but a self-fabricated belief and that this existence was the sole existence that towers above them all.

    As such, with many powers not accepting the existence of this person, some of them had, on the spot, immediately, declared war on all the noble families in the neighboring lands.

     

    *****

     

    Azazel, in his castle, was in the middle of meditation, wishing that the awakened demon does not succeed.

    But, in the next moment, he snapped open his eyes and a sense of fear and also deep hatred was in his face. He coughed out a mouthful of blood as his face paled the moment he realized what had happened.

    “Impossible… this feeling… A Terran descendant has appeared in this world?! No! Impossible! This is impossible! They should all be dead! DEAD!! It’s already been millions of years!”

    In a hidden sanctuary of a sect, kneeling in an altar that had a mysterious source of light even though it was in the middle of a large cavity underground, a young girl was praying on a big slab of rock.

    She had been like that for the whole night.

    At the moment that the knife-hand of the demon touched Van’s forehead, a voice seem to have called the girl’s name and she then awoke from her prayer as she became puzzled.

    “I-I’m… crying? What? Why… why am I missing someone? Who? Who is it?”

    Confused and afraid, the girl stood up and then run out of the altar, out of the cave entrance, out of the sanctuary’s gates, into the sacred abode of their High Priestess.

    “Your Eminence!” The girl cried in panic and her tone alone had alerted the two servants of the High Priestess outside her chamber’s doors.

    Seeing the beautiful girl, the two servants instantly bowed down even though deep inside their hearts, they were cursing her was deeply wondering why a talentless trash of a girl like her had her high status.

    Frankly, this girl belonged to that ‘group’ where they are different form the others. Instead of an Elemental Alignment, she had a Law Alignment.

    But even so, the High Priestess still declared that she get the status of the ‘Holy Daughter’ of their prestigious sect.

    “Claire! What’s wrong?! Why are you crying?”

    At this moment, through the opposite side of the corridor facing the chamber doors, a 30-something maiden in blue priestess garb came running in a flurry of worry.

    She was the Second Priestess of their sect, Priestess Monica ‘The Noble’, the person who, next to the High Priestess, was closest to Claire. As soon as she saw her tears, Monica immediately became worried and asked.

    “I don’t know!” Claire replied in panic. “But I feel that I… I feel that I am missing something! No, I am sure that it was someone! But this… I can’t take it! It’s too painful! Like something that I am missing my whole life had just appeared and I need to find it! I need to find him!”

    “Him?!” the Priestess and the two servants on the abode all gaped in shock. “Could it be…”

    Hidden in her worry, Monica was thinking of another matter that she herself was feeling at this moment. It had something to do with her bloodline.

    In regards to Claire stating about a ‘Him’ all of a sudden… in all the years they have known her, they are 100% sure that because of the High Priestess’s overbearing overprotectiveness of her, she had not even once stepped outside of the sect’s sacred grounds.

    So it was impossible for her to meet a man.

    And even if there are those gatherings before where she was proudly presented as their Sect’s ‘Holy Daughter’, she was also there and she was sure that she had never spoken to a man other than when supervised by the two priestesses.

    This is a fact that was known to everyone in the sect because she wasn’t like them. True, she was the most beautiful existence in their sect, and her beauty was enough to be dubbed as ‘country-destroying’ if she ever stepped out in the world, but it was also because of that that the High Priestess was paranoid of protecting her.

    She had a special background that none of the normal sect members are allowed to know.

    What they do know is that, she hasn’t started her enlightenment to become an immortal and that there is a special circumstance regarding her that the High Priestess is solitarily protecting.

    “Who is it?” asked Monica. She too was feeling the panic in the girl’s heart and she could only think of a few things why this was happening all of a sudden. “When did it began?”

    “When I was praying in the… in the sacred…”

    Claire couldn’t even finish her words. She was crying, wailing, and her voice was echoing in all the corners of the Sect.

    Monica frowned and she narrowed her eyes at her condition.

    “Was it a resonance?” She thought.

    Monica shook her head. “No. Impossible. It’s only a legend.” She couldn’t even believe what she was thinking but she can’t imagine anything else that was possibly connected to her bloodline running rampant and Claire’s sudden vision and premonition.

    All she could do as of the moment was carry the girl back to her room and endure the calling of her bloodline to cater to the girl’s needs.


    Chapter 14
    I Remember

    The King’s Dagger, Four Nations Empire…

    At the same time that Van was struck by the demon’s hand, Emperor Herald Von Duchesse, 11th reigning emperor of the Four Nations Empire, was looking at the shattered talisman in his hand in disbelief when his Imperial Bloodline erupted with that profound calling.

    He snapped open his eyes then called, “Grand Master Shin!”

    Upon being called, Grand Master Shin appeared in haste in front of him and bowed. “Your orders, Your Majesty?”

    “Send the Dragon Guards to Creon and find out what happened to Ysabelle! Use the Arc Gates and get to her aid immediately!”

    “Yes!”

    Grand Master Shin felt the urgency to the voice of the Emperor and did not waste any more time to ask unnecessary questions as he immediately departed to lead the Dragon Guards to the City of Creon.

    As soon as he was finished giving the orders, a voice rung in his mind of an old man as if the voice was in deep pain.

    “Herald!”

    From his chambers, Emperor Herald raised his head and then vanished from where he stood.

    When he appeared next, he was already on the chambers deep underground, on the very depths of the Elder’s Hall.

    “Grandfather…” he called as he knelt down.

    But the old man, former emperor  of the Four Nations Empire and now the Grand Elder of their empire, was in a frantic expression.

    “This kind of bloodline resonance cannot be permitted! Our Imperial Family must never be overthrown by anyone else! I want you to find out who triggered this kind of legacy! No matter what country, no matter what Sect, find them and destroy them immediately!”

    A complicated expression drew on the Emperor’s face as he closed his eyes to give a bow and acknowledge the orders of the Grand Elder.

    “As you wish.”

     

    *****

     

    Back at the park, at this point, the demon’s eyes were bloodshot because of anger. He was glaring maniacally to the direction of the young man.

    “Who. Are. You?!”

    From the light glowing off from Van’s body, his body gradually took shape as the bright light of condensing Mana slowly dimmed. He slowly opened his eyes and the light of Mana completely vanished from his body.

    When Van reappeared, he was looking at his left palm as if studying something.

    Everything that had happened beginning from when he was slammed on the ground until now only took a few moments but it felt like an entire night had passed because of the spine-chillingly heavy aura he was exuding.

    And yet his expression was of grave sadness and longing, of loneliness, of pain, of agony. It was betraying that sense of power radiating from his shoulders.

    “10 minutes.” Van murmured.

    His half-closed eyes, his droopy shoulders, his face and its expression, his breathing pace, the presence that exudes from his posture, his torn clothes, everything about him as of this moment was in a complete accordance to an innate feeling of sadness and a heavy feeling of loss.

    Nothing else.

    Even if  he doesn’t speak a word, he was still able to express such emotion just by the way he was looking at his palm while being lit up by the bright moon in the background.

    Around him swirls invisible strands of Mana that could only be seen by Wizards and Mages who had reached the stages beyond the Grand Master of Elements stage of enlightenment.

    That heavy feeling was actually caused by the swirling strands Mana that actually escapes his body from his palms and legs.

    If wise Wizards would see his state as of this moment, they would think that what was happening to him right now is like a suicide of sorts… like a cursed state where all of the magic foundations they have worked for many arduous years of cultivation and practice are actually escaping their bodies helplessly.

    Anyone would go crazy just thinking about their years of hard labor escaping their bodies just like this. But the princess on the other hand, though not able to see the strands of power swirling madly around him, could feel the power he was holding in those hand of his.

    Ysabelle Von Duchesse never minded that his clothes were tattered and torn. She could only see an existence that she can only revere to with all her heart while crying in happiness.

    On the other hand, upon seeing this state, an undeniable sense of fear had firmly taken shape in the demon’s heart.

    It was like in the depths of that loneliness, the cause of that suffering was him.

    Or more like, it was ‘his king’… or one of his Kings.

    It was here that Van looked at the demon and then pointed a finger at him. He then made the same grasping motion the demon did to him earlier and the demon actually rose up from the ground as the planet-like pressure was lifted on his body.

    But what Van did was only once and then he lowered his hands but the demon still remained in a crucified position in midair.

    “Wh-What are you doing?! Put me down!”

    “Demon.” Van’s voice sounded. It had the tone of archaicness and solemnity, like it was the first time he had spoken after so many years. And yet his voice was calm and instead was also giving off the sense of threat just by listening to it.

    This kind of intimidating feel was only possible for a person who was born a noblesse, a kind of noble presence that can pressure anyone with lower status just by being there.

    “You and your kind invaded our world in search of delicacies. You branded my people, massacred millions upon millions of innocent souls… now, in this world, you also appear and try to devour its people into becoming your food. In the crime of demolishing life without care for the balance of the laws of life and death, I shall bestow upon you the punishment equivalent to the sin of your foul existence.”

    Opening a palm towards the direction of the girl, Van made a grasping motion.

    The girl was startled and, from her hand, the sword of her family, of her Imperial Clan, the Heaven Decimator Sword, trembled as if trying to fight against –of all things– her control!

    “Ah!”

    Ysabelle was startled. She couldn’t fight the urge and the calling of that hand that felt like it was a summoning of God. The next moment, the large sword flew from her grip and then twisted in midair, its handle gently landing on Van’s hand as if a servant trying to curry favor from a master.

    “Demon.” Van’s voice sounded again but this time it was cold and was layered by a profound sense of destruction.

    That one word, like addressing a criminal guilty beyond doubt, had enough power of majesty that it frightened the demon to screaming like a mad entity.

    “No! Spare me! Spare me!” Pleaded the demon.

    “When my people pleaded for your kind to spare them, instead of freeing them, you cast a mind and body seal to stop them from dying and even showed them how you killed their family in front of their eyes... you raped the women of my people in front of their fathers and lovers… you desecrated our lands with your rot… you killed MY people without batting an eye…

    “My Royal Father…

    “My Mother…

    “My older brothers and my only big sister…

    “Ellie sacrificed her life to… to…”

    Van’s voice shook when he mentioned her name and he held the sword firmly as he glared at the demon with hatred in his eyes.

    “I remember everything!” Van said calmly yet his tone was coated with intense hatred, his voice was layered with so much hatred to his existence that it turned into a shapeless and traceless power.

    Van raised his arm that held the sword and then chopped the demon’s right of the body just like how his body was chopped off earlier.

    A  grand fluctuation of power erupted from the sword and a dreadful slash chopped away that side of the demon’s body.

    The demon screamed in pain as it remained in the crucified position but its right arm and shoulder was now gone.

    Next, Van’s sword arm moved again.

    The demon’s left leg was diced into millions of pieces, disappearing into thin air in micro sized cubes of gore.

    Another set of scream sounded from the demon.

    Not even a breath later, Van’s arm moved again and his left arm and shoulder was chopped off from his body.

    The demon couldn’t do anything and could only scream in agony and pain as he was slowly but surely reduced from a grand monster of nightmare into a one-legged freak show.

    And yet, Van wasn’t finished.

    With another movement of his arm, the last leg of the demon was also lopped off his body. By now, only the torso was left of the demon and all his mighty power of rot couldn’t do a thing against an angry Van Kingsley.

    With no fluctuation of a spell that manipulated the structural detail of the world when one uses even the most simplest of magic spells, the sword that sliced the demon only had its oppressive aura and nothing more.

    Finally, Van spent a breath to glare at the demon and then spoke.

    “For a child of darkness, forsaking reincarnation in exchange for power and Immortality in your present life, I shall now bestow the punishment as part of the duty of a Guardian Family of Terra.”

    Like a chant, Van’s voice echoed while being accompanied by a mantra. The melodies of Mana rung in the ears of Ysabelle and she herself felt that the grand laws and powers that surrounded her was frozen by the words spoken by the young man.

    Earlier, he wasn’t even a man worth looking at.

    Now, his words and actions could only be described as not only deterring but also absolute.

    Like a law of ages past, he was the judge and also the executioner appointed by The Heavens to uphold its Heavenly Laws. It was like what he was doing right now was the sole duty of his existence.

    “Was that the reason why I felt like my Imperial Bloodline is greatly inferior to his existence?”

    Ysabelle could only wonder.

    Finally, Van raised the Heaven Decimating Sword and declared, “By the power bestowed upon me by The Heavens; by The Laws set by Heaven and Earth; in honor of the Great Way of Mana with her endless love and benevolence, I judge you guilty of defiling and desecrating her creations and shall hereby eradicate your right to enter Nirvana...

    “Grand… Sword!”
  • edited June 2017

    Chapter 15: 
    Grand Sword

    As soon as Van’s words were spoken, the demon could only exclaim, “G-Grand Sword?! Judge?! Hah, you… you’re Terran! You’re from the Terran Imperial Bloodline!”

    In the sky, visible only to those involved during the process of judgment of the guilty, a grand formation of ancient archaic runes and symbols, of a magic spell formation comprised of hundreds and thousands of lines and circles…

    Thirteen grand magic circles all in all…

    Its line after line of magical symbols converged into a shape of a gargantuan golden sword in the heavens beyond the mortal heavenly plains.

    Even just the spectator on the side, Ysabelle was frozen in fear from the might of that magic! All she could do was freeze, not even daring to breathe as soon as she saw the sheer size of that magic sword in the outer sky.

    “It’s thousands of times bigger than Creon…” She gasped in horror.

    One could only try to compare how big the size of that sword in the outer heavens was. Even the clouds on their mortal heavens parted as it surrounded just the tip. Just tip, it was!

    In fact, not only Ysabelle, but all the demons in the world could see it and all of them could feel the horror behind the meaning of that sword appearing in this time.

    Seen from the outer heavens, the gargantuan heavenly sword suspended in mid-space had its tip facing down towards the expanse of the land of the Four Nations Empire.

    It was like it is threatening all existences!

    As an invisible pressure descended from the heavens, the demon felt an insurmountable terror seeing the Grand Sword in the sky.

    Especially that it was surrounded by thirteen sets of magic circles with the color of gold; Class-13 Bloodline Magic, meant to erase the soul and essence of the judged, it was a Magic that meant to defy and alter the rules of Life and Death and is enough to scare the wits out of the demon.

    He could only plead and cry for help.

    “No! Waaaah!! Help me! Your Highness, Dark Prince, help me! HELP ME!!”

    “Begone from this world!”

    Van swung the sword and the heavenly sword descended in a speed that shattered natural laws as it followed the speed at which Van swung the sword towards the demon.

    From the outer heavens, the giant sword can be seen to have descended a bit but in actuality, it crossed an entire nine-layered heaven within the instant Van swung his sword down.

    That one sword slash, the descending heavenly sword, Grand Sword, successfully obliterated every fiber of its being with a blinding gold light.

    It was the golden light of purification!

    And yet that light was only visible to the ones that are involved during the judgment: Ysabelle and Van, the two of them, although the only one that’s surprised and was utterly petrified by its might was just her.

     

    *****

     

    Away from any other mundane thoughts, Van’s mind was focused on another thing.

    He deliberately used the demonic essence of the escaped demon as a vessel to send the image of the Grand Sword to all demonic life forms.

    To him, he used it as a warning to them all. He used it as a means of deterrence.

    “I shall bestow judgment to you all!”

    *****

    “This…!!”

    From his castle, Azazel was clenching his teeth in anger and obvious fear.

    His whole body was trembling.

    The effect of Van’s ‘actions’ were clearly visible and effective, and even an almighty existence like Azazel with his almost unfathomable stage in his immortal enlightenments, could feel complete deterrence just seeing that large sword in the horizons.

    “Even to this distance, I could still see it!”

    The sheer size of the Grand Sword couldn’t even be explained in mere words for it was so ‘Grand’ that it was the perfect weapon for terrorizing demon kind.

    Azazel could only clench his fist and gnash his teeth in anger, “Terran! There’s a Terran in this world?! How is this possible? They have already been wiped out millions of years ago!”

    He was extremely angry. So angry, in fact, that the Mana emitting from his body had now turned black. It was the color of a traitor. The color of death that does not conform to the Laws of the Heavens; the color of corruption that aligns the Mana to the Law of Death!

    Mana is the purest form of life essence, it is the key to life and death, it is the force that which drives the cycle of reincarnation and also the ingredient for pulling fate and luck towards a soul.

    All in all, it aligns with life and its abundant gifts.

    It should never align with Death!

    And yet the aura of rot and decay, of the corruption of life, was emitting from Azazel like the air that he breathes. After a while, the sword vanished. Clearly, it has been used and the message had been delivered.

    Whoever that was, he knew that a judgment had been passed. Whoever was the unlucky demon who had angered that Terran is now 100% dead.

    And just then, just as he was lamenting who that unlucky demon was…

    “Hm? How come I also lost Boromir’s presence?”

     

    *****

     

    Ysabelle wasn’t someone who had newly acquired her Heaven Decimating Sword. It was given to her when she was 10 and since then, she never parted with it. Eight years passed and she can consider herself to know every speck and cranny of the sword itself.

    She basically knew every detail of its design, the weight of the blade, the partition of the bindings, the center-of-balance between the blade body and the hilt… she knew everything that had to do with the sword and yet…

    And yet, she never knew that it can also be used like the way the young man had used it.

    She may be called a Sword Mage but she wasn’t just any Sword Mage who focuses on Sword Magic and was completely a newbie in terms of Magic Arts. In fact, if other Wizards her age can’t train themselves on both sword and Magic Arts at the same time, then she might be one of those exceptions who was actually talented with both.

    Because aside from being a talented Swordswoman, she was also a talented Wizard with her Imperial Magic Art, the «Fire Sword Emblem». In all of the Four Nations Empire, none can compare to the power and might of their Imperial Magic Art. Because this was the same Magic Arts that had put their family into the throne for the last ten thousand years!

    Even so, she was utterly shocked. Shocked to the fact that she had never once been able to use the sword to channel a massive magic art just like how the young man in front of her did.

    The Heaven Decimating Sword, she grew up with it, slept side by side with its cold metallic presence, she had basically been with it since she was ten years old.

    In other words, the sword was practically like an extension of her arms and legs!

    And yet when she saw with her own eyes how the young man, despite being the first time he had seen it, not only called to it making the sword obey his summoning, he also used some sort of ability to communicate with the sword as to make it exert such a profound magical phenomena that obliterated a Demon who can annihilate her in any of its random whim.

    She had faced the demon back in its tomb. She was extremely sure how powerful it was than anyone else.

    However, such things were a blasphemy to her belief that she was a proud heaven’s daughter, a talented individual favored by the heavens to have been born during the first year of the Immortal Era!

    Just who are the proud children born during the beginning of the Immortal Era 19 years ago?

    All of them were existences born at the same year that that world-changing Elemental Storm occurred!

    If they aren’t all Chosen-level individuals with the talent to flip heaven and earth someday, then what are they? In fact some of them, even, had been so talented that they are now at a stage that can cover a city’s sky with their palms.

    But to her knowledge, none of those talents are still capable of doing what this person did. He just erased a powerful existence with his own hands!

    Standing there like an immortal executioner, she even forgot to breathe for who knows how long now that the instant she let out a long held breath was like a sin to the scene of perfection the young man created with his presence.

    At the same time that she did, though, she heard his gentle calm voice that startled her.

    “9 minutes…”

    Her mind reeled, “9 Minutes?” she thought and she couldn’t quite make up the connection of that time to what he just did. And yet, going back earlier, she was sure she also heard him say something like “10 Minutes.”

    Unable to process the word, her eyes was suddenly attracted to the large reddish moon that was slowly rising on his background.

    At that moment, she felt her ears burn hot as she ‘consciously’ imprinted his image into her heart.

    Because at this moment, he was looking at her.

    His clear blue eyes that radiates a profound deepness and clarity, lit by some sort of phenomena she can’t explain, those eyes that seem to look deeply at her soul, those eyes that felt like she was naked under his gaze… was actually looking at the ‘humble’ her.

    To her current state of mind, what emerged was a heart of a subject in front of her liege.

    “Humble?” She couldn’t fathom why but the pride she had regarding her Imperial Bloodline seem to be so tiny when in front of him. In fact, if Van willed it, she would immediately remove her clothes and prostrate herself to him naked and without reservation. That was how strong his current impression to her was. “Me, humble? What’s happ… this is so confusing. Just what’s happening to me right now?”


    Chapter 16
    Van ‘The Unlucky’ Kingsley

    Van only glanced at her at that small moment their eyes met before he lowered the sword and looked up to the night sky, closing his eyes, seemingly to bathe himself to the ‘air’ of this world.

    Currently, he was looking at the world in a much different angle. A completely different angle that  even he himself earlier, the one who had given up on everything else and wished his life to end, would laugh loudly at his face.

    “In my previous life, I was a coward. Now, I was still a coward… and yet, I was unable to part myself to the promises I made…”

    To his self-mocking words, tears of flowed out through his cheeks. Seeing this, Ysabelle couldn’t help but forget her own injuries and tried to stand up to wipe them only to fall because of her broken bones.

    Her reason for trying so was simple; she doesn’t want his sublime image to disappear yet. She was still in the process of imprinting his image to the deepest parts of her heart.

    By now, anyone who will see her will be 1 million percent sure…

    The headstrong and fierily hotheaded princess of the Von Duchesse Imperial Family had finally learned how the bane of all women felt like.

    A one-sided emotion was born!

    She was on his right side and the slowly rising full moon overlapped with his image. She could see the gentle wind caress his golden brown hair up and down. As the wind came from his side, the bangs on his forehead parted gently, the swaying branches of the sakura tree created a frame that beautified the scene behind him, its petals that bloomed freely flew off nearby decorated the air around him with a sense of nostalgia.

    It was like she was staring at an image of an otherworldly immortal.

    Her heart thumped, one loud beat after another as this image was imprinted in her heart like the painting of the gods. She didn’t realize that the tears on her eyes started to flow again but this time, a profound feeling of happiness could be discerned to have taken roots in her heart.

    To have witnessed his visage at this moment could be said to be her life’s greatest fortune!

    “Who are you?” she uttered.

    It was a question that’s been trying to escape her heart for a while now.

    Van, who had used a full minute to familiarize himself to his surroundings, glanced down at her with a set of eyes that made her heart ache.

    It was because in his cheeks were tears and in his eyes was a heart-rending sadness and longing that seeing it almost made her heart stop because of the pain.

    She could feel his pain just from his eyes!

    With such pain unable to hide on his eyes, one could only imagine how this mysterious man was feeling at the moment. It was the kind of pain that did not come from any physical injury but rather, or more like, as a woman herself, she could tell that it was the kind of pain a man would have when separated from his love.

    Even if she doesn’t know him, she could already tell that she was in love with him.

    It was love at first sight!

    And because she was in love with him, when she saw that look in his eyes, two kinds of emotions violently collided and mixed within her heart.

    First was empathy.

    …a feeling of wanting to console him.

    Second was extreme jealousy!

    …an emotion only possible for someone who had felt how to love someone who loves somebody else.

    It was their first meeting, no they don’t know each other and yet, she was already this madly broken from seeing only his eyes. But even so, she still chose stubbornly to know him. She wants to know who this man who kindled an unfamiliar emotion in her heart and then extinguished it before it even became a flame.

    Upon her question, Van did not answer her.

    Instead, he looked at the sword in his hand. “You have the ‘Heaven Decimating Sword’ with you but you are not of the Kumis Clan… what is your family name and how did you get this sword?”

    Van’s question, if asked earlier when she had not yet seen his image overlapped by the moon, she would have flipped in anger and obliterated him where he stood. But right now, not only she felt that she was wrong, even though his question sounded like she was being accused of something, she couldn’t even muster a single strand of anger in her heart.

    What she felt, in fact, was the feeling of guilt.

    It was complete and utter submission!

    And yet, when she processed the question asked to her, she couldn’t even think of the name.

    Kumis Clan?

    Heaven Decimating Sword being NOT of their Imperial Family? If she doesn’t have this overwhelming feeling in her heart for this young man, she would have accused him instead of treason against the Imperial Family’s dignity.

    Confused, she opened her mouth to reply but the feeling of ‘having done something wrong’ made her lower her head, unable to reply.

    This is proof that Van’s aura right now contained that wanton might of sovereignty and elegance.

    And yet, there was no strand of a forceful kind of aura coming from him. Thus, one can only think that this aura came from him ‘naturally’ as if it was his very essence itself.

    …the aura of a true Monarch!

    His question, his words, was more painful. It felt like she was being betrayed by the person she trusted the most.

    No one would even ask it was developing very fast at the moment.

    She was a girl that grew up being looked up on and so she was not used to actually looking up to someone else that had the elegance and supreme regalness of one’s existence.

    That’s because on the eyes of the Von Duchesse Imperial Clan, their bloodline was the purest of all the Imperial Clans out there!

    A mere word from someone of their kin would cause that person with a lower-tier bloodline, most especially those who do not have even a royal bloodline, to submit unconditionally.

    That is the power of a [Bloodline].

    And yet, tonight, she totally submitted, heart and soul, to this complete stranger. This is also proof that his existence is on a higher level than hers.

    Van, seeing this, sighed and instead raised the sword on his head level. He seemed to make his forehead touch the blade body and then murmur towards the spirit of the sword.

    “Show me your memories.” he said.

    Immediately, flashes of images, memories, began to flow in his mind starting from the day that it was given to the Kumis Clan by their family as reward for their loyalty to the Terran Imperial Rule, until that tragic day of the Devil Emperor’s invasion and how the sword decimated the Demons’ ranks, and then to the great migration and narrow escape…

    Until here, Van was familiar of the memories but after the sword entered the portal, it was black.

    “The sword was sealed? No. It was asleep.”

    Van continued to receive the memories of the sword and then, after the sword was awakened, it was already in the company of the Von Duchesse Clan, awakened when it was taken inside a temple.

    “Is this a tomb? So it seems that the survivors of that war couldn’t use the sword when it passed through the portal but at least they retained the ability to create a tomb in the old Terran way.”

    At this part, the memories had included no Kumis Clan but actually the Von Duchesse Clan before it became an Imperial Family.

    “Now that I realized it, the Terran language and the Muan language are fundamentally different.”

    And yet, when Van focused on the memories, he doesn’t need to know more since what he wanted to know was already revealed to him by the sword.

    Van lifted his head and caressed the blade of the sword, speaking, “Thank you, old friend.”

    Seemingly like a reply, a glint appeared on the blade of the sword and it seemed to have trembled in a microscopic manner.

    Van then looked at the girl, then frowned.

    “8 minutes. I’m wasting time here.” He muttered and turned towards the direction of the north. But before he could even take a step, he looked back to the girl one last time before sighing. “I can use her influence.”

    After he said the words, he waved his left hand as the girl was lifted up.

    Invisible power poured into her body and she felt her injuries healed; the broken and the fractured bones were mended together, fatigue gone, and, to her astonishment, she actually ranked up ten levels!

    “This…?!” She was surprised.

    What kind of blessing was this? Ten levels in just a simple gesture? This young man was able to give levels just like that?

    Her gaze towards Van were both of gratitude and deep reverence. With a ‘plop’ she bowed and gave her thanks to Van with all his respect.

    “Benefactor! Savior! Excellency! Master! Your Majesty, MY KING!!! I am deeply humbled by your blessings. My body may be immature to your liking but please, as repayment to your benevolence, I shall give my all to satisfy your needs!”

    Upon her words, she immediately began removing her clothes.

    Seeing this, Van was startled. “Stop!” he yelled and then looked around, making sure that no one was looking at the scene of her stripping.

    A proud daughter of The Heavens and an Imperial Princess at that, giving her body to a stranger for a simple act of kindness…

    If her level of devotion to her true and genuine feelings towards Van weren’t real with this proof, then all eyes in the world are blind!

    Van, on the other hand, did not expect to receive such a reply from her. In the memories of Van ‘The Trash’ Kingsley is still that sleeping master of swords under that sakura tree.

    Moreover, if he was not in a hurry and if he had no use of her, he would have chosen to leave her there and let her wait for her actual rescue to come. After all, she was a princess. She wouldn’t NOT have emergency treasures with her to use when the situation calls for it, right? Otherwise, her father, the current Emperor, is a cold father at that –contrary to his benevolent rule of the land.

    And yet, when he saw the woman’s pained expression that’s about to cry, Van couldn’t help but to doubt if she was still a princess.

    “Y-You don’t want me?”

    Van could only click his tongue, he doesn’t want to waste time. He doesn’t have enough time!

    “Only  8 minutes left!” he cursed then faced her and wore his [Prince Face], the one he had used to capture many women in his past life. If only they weren’t in the open and if only he wasn’t in a hurry, he would have devoured her right there and then. “Princess Ysabelle Von Duchesse of the Von Duchesse Imperial Family, I have given you my life force as compensation for a favor…”

    “Whatever you need!” She said enthusiastically and, to Van’s EXTREME REGRET, even began to resume shedding her clothes.

    “But I don’t mean that favor…” Van said gently.

    “I-I’m sorry, My Lord!” She replied, bowing. She seem to be the type to escalate things one level after another. Benefactor, savior, master, king, and now a ‘Lord’?

    –did I really mistake her identity?

    And  yet, with all REGRET in capital letters, Van could only grit his teeth with his bad luck.

    “Why am I so unlucky with everything?”


    Chapter 17: 
    Van’s Magic Arts

    “I need you to loan me all of your Mana Crystals and money that you have… most especially if you have a Blue Gem. I have to set up a barrier to prevent any other demon from entering and attacking the city. I just released a demon cleansing grand magic and it is sure to attract demon kind.”

    The first part was the truth while the second was a half-lie. And yet, to her, it was vice versa.

    Hearing the ‘Blue Gem’ made Ysabelle display a look of shock followed by a sad look as she tried to explain. “I’m sorry, the highest grade Gem I have is a Red Gem.”

    As she spoke, she actually carefully dissected the things she heard from him. After a while, she also thought of the words ‘I have to set up a barrier’ from his statement followed by ‘to prevent other demons from entering the city’.

    To the entire Four Nations Empire as a whole, even an entire tier lower Top-Grade Mana Crystal is already a rare treasure, what more is a Gem, even if it’s only a Red Gem, which is a tier higher in terms of Mana Concentration than a crystal?

    She could only imagine what the Blue Gem was for and seeing what he could do with only his own power and the Heaven Decimating Sword, she had no reason to doubt that he was actually trying to set up a real barrier to protect the city.

    “That will do.” Van said hastily then felt rushed as his body clock felt the power escaping from his body entered a threshold. “Seven Minutes!”

    Ysabelle immediately took out her Spatial Artifact, a bracelet type and of the highest quality possible in the empire, while also removing her soul imprint on it before handing it to Van.

    Van moved swiftly, binding the Artifact to his soul then looking at the direction of his ‘home’ while also putting a hand to Ysabelle. Before he even did anything, he turned back and then his father’s coat lying on the ground floated towards him, renewed into a brand new one with just a single wave of his hand.

    Only when he had his father’s coat did he felt relaxed and moved.

    “Let’s go.” He said and Ysabelle waited to fly. She felt her feet lifting up from the ground as she was taken by the hand.

    At the next moment, she saw a magic circle appear on the young man’s feet and felt a surge of Mana escaping his body to expand beyond the magic circle’s limit. Then, with but a blink’s time in a blur, space shifted around them and they were already back to the mausoleum a good distance away from the hill.

    Ysabelle gasped in shock. “Is this Teleportation?!”

    A very high ranking Magic, «Teleport», moving from one location to another and ignoring the laws of travel in an instant.

    Such a high-level magic spell and it was done so casually, no wonder he was able to eradicate an existence that could threaten her life.

    He was the real deal!

    In the current Muan society, people who can do the ‘Teleport Ability’ are either people Wizards or a Sage. Thinking about it, then this young man is of that stage despite being so young!

    A real genius.

    The notion from earlier this afternoon that he was an existence that wanted to assassinate her was now gone completely. What question left to her right now is the reason why he let himself get injured before finishing the demon.

    But that was insignificant. Right now, she was just a hand’s reach away from him. She was actually imprinting his smell into her memory and she was also engraving his face into her soul.

    Tonight, she wouldn’t sleep just so she could ponder and think of him to her heart’s content.

    But right now, his actions were irrelevant. If she can help it, even though she could feel that he was in a hurry for some reason, if she could make him stay for even just a few moments more, she would do all that is necessary with 500% gusto!

    But, to her surprise yet again, Van looked painfully at the ruined mausoleum and the area around it before letting out a sigh and casually raising a hand as if in a grasping motion.

    She was beside him and watched as line after line and symbols after runes and symbols formed a complicated set of formation in his fist before it converged into a spell with 12 layers of magic circles which he threw towards the ruined building.

    “Goodness!” She exclaimed inwardly. “Class-12 Magic Spell! Just what is he doing? So was he not a Wizard but a Mage?”

    Upon asking this to herself, Van was actually gritting his teeth as he felt that he was wasting precious time by being limited in his multitasking.

    Not waiting for the spell to work, he also set up another intricately designed spell with his other palm before firing it on the floor where the first spell was forming.

    “In case something goes wrong.” He murmured.

    When the second spell hit the same area where the first was placed, a strand of golden light also escaped from the middle of his forehead and then landed on the second spell.

    His first spell was to rebuild the mausoleum into a new dwelling. The second spell was made for something else.

    “Next, the barrier…” Van said and then turned around to face the courtyard of the mausoleum, then faced Ysabelle. “In your authority, can you also loan this place to me? I will pay you later with things of the same value. What do you say?”

    Ysabelle nodded.

    In fact, she doesn’t care. She even wanted him to demand more things from her just so she could grab his attention more.

    Van nodded gratefully at her and even though he knew that he was pushing his luck, he had also included to his calculations her emotions and the fact that he just gave her 10 levels to improve her Mana Level.

    In his current state, he could actually give her a hundred levels but he needed every bit of what’s left of the Accumulated Mana of his past life to do all the tasks he had to do before being ‘depleted’.

    “Now, the third back up…”

    Van joined his hands in his chest, palms together in a clapping motion and then when his palms parted, a magic spell with 12 circles revolved in a sphere in between his palms.

    This, yet again, made Ysabelle dazed in shock.

    “Geezer’s …! One high-ranked spell after another is just too much for me! Even great grandfather wouldn’t be this adept at Magic Spells! Just who is this person? So far, he had displayed Magic Arts that should be of the Wizard Class when he defeated that demon but then he also knew Magic Arts that belongs to the Mage Class… and earlier, when he fixed his Coat, it was actually an Alchemist Class Magic Art… just what’s going on?”

    Even though there were already doubts in her heart and even her actions are different from her thoughts, it was still a fact that a young man like the person beside her was able to accomplish feats that are not actually possible in their reality.

    It only meant that whoever he was, he definitely had an impressive background.

    She doesn’t care what he was doing now, she just observed him and bathed her eyes to his graceful movements and expressions. Alas, even his frown seems to look handsome in her eyes.

    Ysabelle’s mind was beginning to construct the thoughts that shouldn’t even be forming. And yet she couldn’t help but set this newly found emotion free from its cage. As a result, her body felt hot and she felt her breaths shortening.

    It was the first time she felt like this and every moment spent near him was both agony and pleasure to her soul. She kept on twisting her body in a weird manner, trying to control it as much as she can to not obstruct his work.

    As a result, she looked at him with pleading eyes and hot, short breaths.

    Van, on the other hand, was in more agony.

    “I have a delicious meal here and yet I don’t have the leeway to enjoy it. What life. What a sad life! Aiiish!” Van could only shake his head in lament.

    His heart was in pieces. Such agony of men!

    So Van focused his mind to the spell in between his palms. He hurriedly knelt down and slammed the spell on the ground where a rumbling sound echoed in the immediate area around them.

    In front of Van, a magic circle one meter in actual diameter appeared on the ground and its details were shining in gold.

    Such color, to Ysabelle, was unique.

    “Now that I’ve thought about it…” she wondered about this for a while. “Most Magic Spells should be red in color. Green for spells used by Masters and Grand Masters while blue for spells created by stages higher than that.”

    Red Spells = Stages below Elemental Masters

    Green Spells = Master and Grand Master

    Blue Spells = Enlightened Being and beyond

    “But gold…” Ysabelle pondered deeply regarding this matter but since she couldn’t think of any kind of clue, she put the matter aside and tried to observe the gold spell.

    Again, for the umpteenth time, she was frozen in shock to see that on the golden magic circle, an image of a woman with seductive features and an amiable expression floated down.

    “I-Is that… an Elemental?! Goodness me!”

    She could only hold her breath for this was her first time ever witnessing an actual ‘summoning’ of an elemental spirit.

    Legends have told of ‘Summoners’, an invincible set of people who dabbled on the intricacies of «Contracts» with the elemental entities. Not only the formula to call an elemental spirit profoundly difficult to formulate, but to summon a spirit was actually harder than piercing oneself with needles 100 times every minute for ten years.

    Think that’s hard, try to randomly formulate any summoning circle and see if you summon a spirit with a temper. If you don’t die in one spark, then you will in two sparks. Such was the risks involved in the Spirit Summoning.

    Summoning is a very hard Magic Art to master and yet here, in front of her, Van just casually did something that many Mages had died trying to do in the past.

    The elemental spirit was green in color, naked, and in her head were vines of lustrous flowers that formed into a crown-like corona.

    “Summoner,” the spirit spoke and gracefully bowed then coquettishly smiled at Van. “I am called Edea, the Sovereign of this land. I was really attracted to this little forest you have here and could tell from the plants’ aura that you have taken very good care of those children. But then, earlier there was that demon who tried to destroy it so I had to use my powers to strengthen their life forces. It seems that he was gone now though, did you do it? Mnnn. With this favor, I am in my right to demand a contract, no?”

    Ysabelle gasped yet again.

    Sovereign?! Doesn’t that mean she’s a…!!


    Chapter 18: 
    Painting

    Her train of thought couldn’t even keep up to her surprises. Just how powerful is this young man?!

    But Van, in a hurry, cursed again as to not able to savor the seduction of an immortal spirit. He only had one chance like this in his current state and yet is also in a hurry so he forced himself to stay formal and civilized.

    Cursing upon his luck, he went straight to the purpose of his summoning.

    “Forgive me for disappointing you, Edea, but my summoning you here is for a simple request.”

    “Not a contract?” Edea replied with 10%frown and 90% flirting. Smiling at Van, she bit a corner of her lower lip and raised a brow as if pleading. “I am good at many kinds of jobs you know…”

    A tremor ran through Van’s body again. What spirits would pay just to be in the physical world?

    They are immortals by nature, born of Mana’s Whispers of Life. They can’t touch anything in the astral dimension and could only share words and stories with other spirits who managed to create a sliver of a contact to a physical being.

    They can see and hear the talks of men but the mortals have no way to see or hear them in turn.

    Even during time immemorial, they’ve always been envious of mortals’ sense of touch. It was a one sided loneliness to the spirits and it was also the reason why some of them, those who are desperate, would even accept any kind of summoner regardless of their morals just so they could experience the so called ‘sense of touch’.

    To be able to experience it was their greatest dream and so, they are willing to sign a contract to almost anyone who can summon them.

    Only when a contractor or a Summoner is present that these spirits can enter the physical world and experience the ‘sense of touch’.

    Van’s agony on one hand, and an angry princess on the other. Edea saw the glaring girl behind Van but instead of fear, she felt delighted in teasing the boy. To add more fuel to the fire, she even went towards Van and gently caressed his chest with a finger, leaning her lips to his hear while she locked her left thigh into his crotch.

    “Oh?” Edea giggled as soon as she felt an angry dragon roaring in his pants. She turned to face him and then continued, “Are you sure you don’t want my jobs? It’s a pity, I’ve learned so many kinds in my years of observation.”

    “N-N-Not now.” Van said and it was actually at the cost of so much life force.

    His heart was rent with those two words.

    Or was it four?

    The girl behind him, however, had her ears almost clap in happiness. Her smile betrayed her effort to hide her happiness and she looked like a cat with her whiskers twitching in delight.

    Though miniscule, she was still able to control herself as she looked in another direction, playing with her copper-colored forelocks. Nya?

    But then again, before he regretted it, Van added in, saying proudly, “The favor is an equal deal. I will give you the task to take care of my garden and once I return, I will introduce you to an excellent contractor.”

    “What about her?”

    Edea pointed a finger at Ysabelle and Van looked at her, pondering for a moment. When Ysabelle looked at them, she of course was not willing to have ‘a rival’ close to her so even if the spirit will add tremendous help to her personal prowess as a Wizard, she still declined with a firm “thanks”.

    “Well…”  Van was now obviously aware of these ‘feelings’ that Ysabelle is harboring in her heart.

    True, they’ve only met just now, but in his past life, he had chased so many women that she was actually scolded many times not only by his Royal Father but also his brothers and sister. He was of course aware of how women would react when in front of a rival.

    Edea was obviously overjoyed. She is, after all, a ‘Sovereign of the Land’ and thus still has pride in choosing her contractor.

    Before the princess could react, Edea put a kiss to Van’s cheek before nodding, “I have all the time in the world, darling.”

    Van smiled helplessly. “Alright. Then please take good care of that particular tree with a bench. A girl sometimes visits here to gaze at the city and when she finds out that I am gone, she might get worried.”

    “Mn. I will make sure. But, you have to promise me that contract, okay?”

    “I promise.”

    Edea bowed respectfully and then vanished into thin air. Van’s smile vanished at the next moment and he faced the princess who was still in shock to the words she just heard.

    A complicated expression was on her face when Van spoke directly. “I only have 5 minutes left. I will have to trouble you with something. In exchange, I promise that I will help you gain the approval of the Heaven Decimating Sword.”

    His words woke Ysabelle and she blinked for a few times before looking at Van in disbelief.

    “B-But the sword…”

    “Your ancestors may have found the sword in a tomb of legacy and helped them establish the Four Nations Empire, but it doesn’t mean that you have its approval. Even if you use the sword for many years and even if you are to become a Sage, it will still not recognize you and thus will not allow you to use its abilities in full. You’ve seen one of the things it can do when I used it, yes?”

    Ysabelle’s soul was lost and she only nodded like a puppet with a burnt mind.

    Then, Van walked towards the area near the first formation he laid on the ruined mausoleum, carrying the sword, he looked down on a rock.

    “Ysabelle, this sword will serve as the vessel of protection in this city against the demons.” Van’s words had put another shock into her soul but since she had been conditioned from the earlier shocks she had experienced, this surprise was only half-devastating.

    Van continued, “Until the day you are recognized by the Heaven Decimating Sword, it will be here, stabbed in this slab of rock, and will amplify the process of drawing Mana for the permanent anti-demon barrier I’ve placed.”

    After speaking, Van did indeed stabbed the large sword on a slab of rock in the middle of the first formation.

    Whether it was his bad aim or he deliberately made the sword inclined as he stabbed it, the feeling of a firm and direct rejection to any approaches was undoubtedly there and not only that, seeing it leaning aside a bit was actually a piece of art in itself.

    “This barrier formation is a long-term, permanent defense barrier magic against demons but it takes a lot of time to gather the necessary Mana to even activate the first layer because of its base permanent effect. The first layer will be finished absorbing the right amount of mana after a year and thus will be activated automatically. In more or less ten years, it should be completely capable of rejecting Sage-Staged demons that will enter the city. Until then, you have ten years to get its recognition as master. If not, the sword will seal itself and you will never be able to take it off this rock for ten millennia unless I say so.”

    Ysabelle gasped. Wasn’t this outright declaration that her ‘princess’ identity and the fact that the sword was her inheritance already void? What more, only Van had the say with the matter.

    If this is not dictatorship, then what is it?

    And yet, Ysabelle still understood what he meant and she nodded in pure acknowledgement.

    “Lastly,” Van said and smiled at her. “As my payment to the things you’ve loaned me, I shall now grant you two Magic Arts that will become part of your weapons once mastered. As you are someone who had inherited a bloodline legacy, you will automatically receive a bloodline magic that is unique to you alone. Use these magic arts that I’m going to give you along with your very own bloodline magic. Once you are able to combine at least one of them together, then you will see the purpose and the reason for all of my actions tonight.”

    After saying this, Van tapped Ysabelle’s forehead and at that moment, a vast and complex magical formula was imprinted into her mind.

    For three breaths’ time, Ysabelle was lost in the sea of information and once her soul was back to reality, she blinked many times with tears of joy forming in the corner of her eyes.

    “These are…”

    “Treasure them. As for the second spell I gave you, I will allow you to impart them to people you trust wholeheartedly. But do take note that you are the only one who can impart them to others. If one of the people you imparted that Magic Art tries to impart it to someone else, then you will lose everything I have given you this day.”

    “Your Highness, I… I will comply.”

    Ysabelle knelt down and seeing this, Van did not stop her. In fact, the sight of them looked like a proper lord and subject where Van had given her a gift that she treated a life treasure.

    “Rise.” Van ordered and there was no sense of lasciviousness in his eyes when he looked at her.

    There was only a feeling of fondness like a king looking at his own kin achieve receive something of a reward in exchange of great effort.

    He told her, “My name is renowned in this city in a particular way and everyone here treats this place as my humble abode. Once you became aware of my identity, I only ask that you keep it that way and not try to change anything else. If it’s possible, if they think that I am dead, then make them think so…”

    Saying this, Van turned his back around to her.

    He looked up and by now, the moon was already up in an inclined angle in the dark sky.

    He said, “You are the only person allowed to get close to the sword so you can train and meditate here, use the sword’s force to get stronger, make it acknowledge you and it will tell you directly how to use him properly.”

    Van’s voice was warm and gentle and this melted her heart as she nods with renewed vigor.

    So what if his ‘friend’ comes here so often, she was the only one allowed to get close to this special place where he personally taught her how to use the sword aside from the fact that she felt like he was her master because of the things he had imparted for her.

    In fact… he is indeed her master in every POV!

    Not only that, she was now more than a hundred percent sure that this young man is a noble of a family with a Royal Bloodline purer in quality and higher in stature than hers.

    There was a thought at the back of her mind in regards to the subject of ‘bloodline’ but she did not put a care to it since she knew who this young man was and knew that he wasn’t a bad person.

    “I promise to not disappoint you.” She said.

    “Mn.”

    After nodding, Van looked around and then sent his palm up as if asking something to an invisible person in front of him.

    In a distance where there used to be a thicket of grass, a metal plate floated and beneath it came out the brown satchel housing Van’s memories of Yuna and her father. It floated towards Van with a fast speed.

    In another corner, under the debris from a heap of rubbles of the ruined mausoleum, was a box.

    After that, from a corner debris was a painting…


    Chapter 19: 
    A Quest For Immortality

    This painting was of significance to Van and even if it looked like it was ruined due to the demon’s awakening, with his Transmutation Magic, or Alchemy, he repaired the painting and then pulled it towards him.

    The box also came flying towards Van at the same time as the satchel came. He immediately hid all of them to the Spatial Artifact and then faced the girl who was waiting for him with anticipation in her expression.

    Van wasn’t aware what she was waiting for but he knew that he had to get out of this place fast. He had places to go. He had to… become strong.

    “Less than 4 minutes…” He thought bitterly.

    Before leaving, Van walked over to the princess and spent a few moments staring at her eyes.

    He wasn’t stupid, he knew that he conquered the girl but the circumstances doesn’t permit him to plunge into pleasure.

    And so what he did was smile warmly at her.

    “Ysabelle…” Van paused, seemingly conflicted as to what the right words to say. “A war is coming.”

    Upon the words, Ysabelle felt her heart sank but as soon as she processed the words he said, the anticipation vanished in her expression and a confused yet serious look was drawn there instead.

    “War?”

    “Yes. War.” Van clarified. “The demon just now is but a meager soldier. If you recall the words he said, you will realize that there are a lot of them out there and so I will warn you now, the monster plains are just third to the things you have to be worried about. You have to be more wary of the existences of the demons. They might be your friend, father, sister, brother, family, teacher, or even a person you don’t know but is connected to you by destiny. Demons are like Elemental Spirits, they have no way to access the physical world. But unlike Elemental Spirits, demons have the ability to whisper things and once you listen to even just one of their whispers, you will be infected by their parasitic souls. Once infected, a soul will immediately undergo the process of Demonization. I don’t have to tell you what will happen if you become possessed. To prevent that from happening, or to cleanse someone you think is infected, use the second art I gave you.”

    As soon as she heard it, Ysabelle felt a sense of terror in her heart. She had seen and personally felt the might of a demon and knowing that there is no way to deal with a demon but death, all the more her terror became firm.

    On the other hand, she was also vastly surprised by the fact that Van was aware of all this. But then again, given the things she had seen so far, she didn’t pry any longer and only nodded.

    “Good girl.” Van patted her head and this simple act made her blush beet red.

    When Van removed his hand, Ysabelle raised her head with a look of resolve in her face. What more, the stoic and fiery temperament was gone now and is replaced instead of an expression of a girl who just wanted to be pampered.

    Is she had a tail, it would be wagging right now.

    Finally finished all tasks, Van turned around and prepared to leave. He walked for four steps when Ysabelle’s voice rang in tears.

    “When will I see you next?”

    Van tried to answer her but if he gave her a direct reply, she might stop working hard. She was of an imperial family and he guessed that their bloodline was in ‘Inheritance’ from the tomb of the Kumis Clan which is a genuine subject of their Terran Imperial Family.

    So instead of making her feel relaxed in training, he instead thought of a way to give her a drive to train herself diligently.

    “It will depend on you. If you make the sword bend to your will under five years, then I will consider having you at my side.”

    Babump!

    These words was etched to her heart by a dagger made of lightning. A quake traveled to her body and she felt her blood rushed in all corners of her body with extreme heat.

    “Until then…” Van said and then he took a step and vanished.

    Ysabelle was left there in a trance, blushing, her eyes filled with tears, heart thumping, hair being caressed by the wind.

    In her heart, the words of the mysterious young man was echoing over and over again.

    She turned her head and looked at the sword in the slab of rock. A look of resolve was drawn in her face as she quickly picked herself up and then started her meditation within the sword’s area.

     

    *****

     

    After Van left the cemetery, he appeared next 17km away from his ‘Home’ and is now standing in midair looking at his left palm… just like how he had observed his current status from the moment he ‘woke up’ back in the hill with the solitary sakura tree.

    In his mind, projected, was the empty space inside his Soul Realm.

    “Empty…” he murmured with pain. “…just like how they all said…”

    He clenched that palm and he did not even try to hide his anger as he let it explode with a scream.

    Right now, though no one could see his escaping power, he does and this is making him frown greatly.

    “Even if they call it ‘temporary power’ back then, it is still all my years of hard work…!! They have no idea just how painful it is for me as well. I’ve felt what they felt and I’ve lived their lives. I loved the people they loved and felt the pain of losing the people they don’t want to part with… but while they think that it was a convenient ability, they have no idea that… I… I have… lived multiple lives within a lifetime… and I remember every single bit of pain they did….”

    Van’s current strength is at the second stage of spirit realm according to Terran scales of Mana Attainments. But using the Muan standards of Stages of Enlightenments, he was at the Earth Realm, Sorcerer Stage.

    Mortal Realm = Elemental Mastery

    Earth Realm = Laws Enlightenment

    Heaven Realm = Immortal Ascension

    The differences between the path of immortality of Muans and Terrans were perfectly clear.

    For Muans, he can be considered a genius but in his past life, though he was part of the Imperial Family, he was ‘not someone’ in their society.

    Closing his eyes, he recalled the memories of his past life, integrating it on the last memories until his separation with Ellie.

    “…”

    Pain hugged his heart.

    Terrans were an Immortal Race.

    Although everyone is born a mortal, their innate talents and Mana Affinity develops in a steady pace into automatically becoming Immortals upon maturity. Their maturity ends at the age of 21 and from there they will stop aging as they start their Mana Attainments as immortals of the Terran Empire.

    But him, Van, he was born a mortal and his Immortal Soul never materialized.

    He was the only exception.

    Even comparing it to the Muans of this second life, his soul was still a Mortal Soul… unable to even start accumulating Mana in his Soul Realm no matter how high his affinity is.

    In the millions of years of history of the entire Terran Race, he was the only Terran born that had no Immortal Soul. Instead, he had a mortal soul.

    Back then it was a curse.

    Until now… it remained as is… and even worse.

    “If only I have awaked earlier…”

    Due to this, since he was fated to die like a mortal in the end, his family doted on him and treated his everyday as if it was the last.

    For immortals, 21 years of age is faster than fast, almost as fast blinking one’s eyes.

    To mortals, it was an entire lifetime.

    Deep in his heart, Van never accepted this fate and so he used his Bloodline Ability to find a way to change his fate.

    Van’s Bloodline Ability is called «Amalgamation of Memories».

    Anyone he touches, if he wills it, he can see their memories and learn what they have learned in their life without them even knowing.

    In his old life, this ability was called ‘cheating’ by his family and friends. Especially for their Elders who had spent considerable time researching their own Magic Arts, for Van to be able to learn them all in just an instant was really unfair.

    Back then, Van used this ability to learn all the magic arts and magical theories of his family and teachers, and even though he had learned the things they have learned, as monstrous as his Bloodline Ability was, it still had amounted into nothing for he was bound to die earlier than the rest.

    As Mana is the breath of life, since he can’t store Mana into his Soul Realm because of its property of being a Mortal Soul, no matter how much he researched and even though he did developed a magical technology that allows him to temporary store Mana around his body like a jacket, since it can’t be absorbed by his soul, he still remained as a mortal and is still bound to die earlier than the rest of his family.

    The Immortal Sages of their empire even said that he will not exceed 100 years of age.

    It was tragic.

    After so many millions of years, aside from the wars outside the Terran World, he was expected to be the first casualty of natural death.

    Still, Van never neglected his training. He trained in The Sword, in the Martial Way, in the Art of Summoning, in the art of Barrier Construction, in all of the Magic Arts available for him in the Terran Empire…

    Van became the Mortal Prince of his empire and did his best to prove his worth.

    And yet, even the weakest soldier of their empire was leaps and bounds away from him to reach.

    Immortals are really strong, especially beyond the age of maturity.

    Though he was able to force his strength and be graded to be at the second stage of the Spirit Realm, the lowest Realm, at the age of 21, it was still not enough and he was eventually stuck at that certain stage till that day when the catastrophe came into their world…

    All Van could do is watch as his people and his family were killed one by one, until he was the only one left and was forced to fight against the Devil Emperor in order to protect his escaping people.

    Van cursed the fact the he was weak.

    If only he was at least one stage higher than that moment, he would have made a difference and probably saved his people, saved his family…

    “…then perhaps Ellie wouldn’t have to open the Door of Life and sacrifice herself for me. I was so carefree and obsessed with my problems that I did not think there could be anything that can be of threat to our family. But he… that demon…”

    As painful as that memory was and as much as he wanted to forget about it, he can’t. He wouldn’t.

    Right now, it was what’s fueling him to finish the fight he had started with the Devil Emperor.

    “I have an entire civilization’s arsenal of Magic Arts and theories… as well as my past life’s work that hasn’t finished. Back then, I was only a single step away from succeeding. Now, I don’t care how I do it, I will succeed and I will not let this world fall into the demons’ hands.”

    Van filled his heart with resolve as he merged his thoughts and focused on the initial tasks.

    “Ellie… if you are also reincarnated here, I will find you, so please wait for me.”

    While he still has his past life’s stored power, he rearranged his thoughts and focused his mind to the plan he had formulated.

    “Four and a half minutes left.” He thought bitterly and then looked at a particular building with a tile plate on top of the door of its shop called [Gran Metallica] below him. “Old man, you helped and made me work for you for many years even though it can make your business bankrupt. Now, let me repay your kindness with abundance.”

    Van, in the sky, summoned his ‘territory’ and the magic circle with golden color spread from his feet as it expanded into 20m with him in the middle.

    After that, he let his Mana spread in the nearest 20km then made a hand gesture. A Magic Circle appeared in his palm but immediately vanished as he disappeared where he stood.

    Everything happened so fast that back in the cemetery, Ysabelle could only follow slightly that the Magic Circle had spread from his feet and can vaguely feel that his Mana had spread from him before they were teleported into his ‘home’.

    When Van appeared next, he was already at the shop where a dark skinned middle-aged looking bushy-bearded muscular bald man was in deep concentration, hammering his way with a molten slab of iron.

    The clanging of metal against metal echoing in the distance, Van appeared there in the door behind the man and then smiled, seeing his full hearted thoughts in the metal.

    Seemingly to feel that someone was there, the smith turned around and frowned when he saw Van smiling there.

    “Wot ‘dya think ya’r doin’ stand’n there for?”


    Author's NOTE: I know some of you might noticed already, it is much easier fr the chapters to be posted and read if they are stacked like this on every comment trade. Unfortunately, I can only post, like, five chapters on one thread so as to not make the chapters cramped up and incomplete in the later parts.

    That said, I will have to use [undeletable] comment spaces for future chapters until I can post them.

    For now, I beg for your patience. Please enjoy the read.

  • edited June 2017

    Chapter 20: 
    Van’s Death (1)

    “What?” Van feigned irritation.

    “Wot ’dya mean what? I thought ya want’d the day off so ya can apply ta zat cripp’n group o’ b’ggers?”

    Hearing this way of speaking, Van can’t help but smile again. This guy may have a funny accent and speak in sharp words but he had genuine love in his smith profession.

    Take away all these and he still had a kind heart.

    “It was done.” Van said and inwardly smiled.

    “Oh? Zen’f ya ‘ave noth’n else ta do, try ta sleep earlier an come early tom’row for work!”

    “Yep.” Van replied happily.

    Of all the people in the city that hated him, Gran was a rare one who never believed in anything but facts.

    The shop of course suffered the backlash of hiring Van but he never doubted his skills and is in deep belief that it’s only the people and not luck. He had taught Van how to be a smith and imprinted upon him even his family’s own secret style.

    Van looked at a side of the shop and there was the motivation of the smith, the «Orichalcum Brand», his family’s once priced possession.

    The reason there was the ‘once’ there is because the brand is now incomplete and can never be recovered.

    Its history of incompletion is because of a jealous smith family that swarmed their family’s household and massacred all its members.

    Van was told that it was during the time of Gran’s third great grandfather.

    The smith, Gran Metallica, both his brand and his name, had always dreamed of the revitalization of their family’s brand. But now, he was reduced to being a smith in a small corner of the city. The reason Van was aware of it is because through the years, he had pestered Van of its story when he gets drunk.

    “Hey, old man, I was just thinking about this Brand your family had before…”

    The smith did not look at him anymore and only continued to hammer the metal in front of him.

    “Wot o’ it?” he asked, seemingly irritated.

    There was swoosh and a pause, then the sound of metal clanging rang in the direction of the wall where the piece of iron with the incomplete magic formula of the Orichalcum Brand, came.

    “D’ fawk?!” Seemingly annoyed, Gran threw the metal he was working at through the pits and then ran at the direction of the wall.

    Upon seeing that the iron plate was gone on the wall and was actually on the table in front of it, his already short temper almost erupted when he noticed the difference from the piece of metal.

    His red face gradually softened into normal color and he slowly approached the table.

    There in the table, the cracked metal with their family’s original Orichalcum Brand had another half made of silver gold. And not only that, the ‘brand’ was actually complete.

    “Is this… mythril? Geezer’s mice, it is Mythril?!”

    For some reason, his accent and his words were somehow fixed just like his family’s brand.

    He lifted up the iron-mythril plate that was in all aspects melded and coexisting with each other without as much as a blemish on the middle side.

    As soon as he did, a piece of paper fell from the back and there, written, was Van’s note.

    Gran picked it up with a trembling hand and then read it. Upon doing so, he looked at the other side of the iron-mythril plate and then started laughing. It was a laughter that was accompanied by tears and also profound gladness.

    He didn’t stop laughing for a long while and when he did, he looked at the piece of paper again and to the ‘things’ written at the back of the plate before laughing out loud for a longer time.

     

    *****

     

    When Van reappeared again, he was actually some distance outside a particular window.

    He was 30km away from Gran’s smith shop.

    “2 minutes.” He murmured.

    Inside the room, a girl with long black hair and melancholic countenance had her back against the window, a light lamp floating above her head, reading a book about painting.

    Her room had a large veranda, the window was at the side of it.

    She was flipping at the pages and her reading was leisurely, not used with any kind of enhancement from her Mana. She clearly wanted to savor the time and immerse herself into the joy of reading.

    “Yuna…” Van’s vice trailed like a longing.

    After Yuna turned a page, she seemed to feel that someone was observing her as she turned around, looking at the view outside her window.

    She even spread her Expert-Stage Mana Sense  in its maximum limit of 600m. From the distance, as soon as Van felt this, he couldn’t help but feel a bit surprised and also relieved.

    “Goodness! 18 years old and already an Elemental Expert?! She really has all the gifts in the world aside from a nice family.”

    When she felt that no one was actually there in the distance of her Mana Sense, closed the book and then placed it on a table. After that, she then turned to her bed seemingly to sleep.

    But as soon as she laid her back to the bed, she was utterly surprised to see something ‘square’ on the veranda.

    She hurriedly scanned the area and when she was sure there was nothing but a canvas painting in there, she hurriedly went to sleep.

    But not even ten breaths of time had passed, she hurriedly ran towards the veranda and she froze.

    On her veranda, there was a painting there.

    “Waaaaaahh!”

    As soon as she saw the painting, she collapsed to the floor and screamed and cried so loud that it alerted everyone in their manor. Almost in that same moment, her guardians led by the Sword Witch, the young-looking ice cold woman with the long katana, rushed into her room and found her sprawled in the veranda, crying loudly like a child while hugging a canvas paining.

    “Princess!” the Sword Witch screamed in alarm.

    “He’s gone!” Yuna cried and for the first time ever, her trembling voice echoed in the ears of even the closest of her guardians. “He’s gone, he’s gone! Waaaahhhh…!!”

    No one tried to take away the painting from her grasps for they feared that if they do, she would lose her mind… again.

    Only her father and the guardians knew of who she was talking about and right then, the Sword Witch gave an order to one of her subordinates to check up on the whereabouts and status of the man in question.

    Yuna’s wails and tears were the most painful the servants had ever heard.

    A silent and almost detached woman that never associated herself with anyone else except for a single person, had spoken for the first time in so many years. And yet, the first thing she’d said is not about something significant but rather about a man she was so devastated to declare gone.

    “No! No! Waaahh..”

    The servants and the guardians didn’t know why but as soon as they heard the cry of their princess echo in all the corners of the manor, some of them even shed tears without knowing even the reason why.

    In her embrace as the product of that moment 2 years ago. The painting was of a sakura tree in the midst of its blooming.

    Nothing more.

    A shaky hand tried to reach for the canvas to examined it. Sure enough, it was the exact same painting she saw that day in that hill.

    Her mind trembled as she recalled that scene two years ago. A 16-year old young man, selflessly devoted in his attempt to paint a scenery with the sakura tree had captured her attention.

    It was his aura at that time. He was so immersed and was so peaceful that not a strand of any kind of harmful existence was released from him. He did not even realize that from the distance she was watching how the birds played around him, how the wind seem to dodge and not disturb him, how the world seem to stop whenever he moved his hand to complete a brushstroke.

    She was healed, at that moment, and she knew that the young man had engraved himself in her young girl’s heart without even realizing it.

    As soon as her hand touched the sakura tree in the painting, a surge of information invaded her thoughts. Right there and then, she lost her consciousness and collapsed on the floor.

    “Princess!”

    “The Princess!”

    “Summon Grandmaster Truman! Quickly!”

     

    *****

     

    From the distance, Van was watching in shock and anguish through a magnified round-shaped transparent panel –a Clairvoyance Mirror, how Yuna received his farewell.

    He thought that it was only him but it wasn’t.

    Surprisingly, she was as well.

    “I’m sorry.” Van cried, aguishly holding the trunk of the tree he was leaning on as if to attempt to stop himself from shaking.

    He felt the power leave his soul. He had poured all his magic into the things he left into that sakura tree in the painting. What meager Mana he had left was for the last task he had in mind.

    “’Tis my gift, Yuna. Know that in this life, I really did loved you. Farewell.”

    The last bits of power was almost gone in his body and only thirty seconds are left before he, again, revert back into becoming a mortal. The only BIG difference is, unlike the ‘useless trash’ he was before, he now had all his memories of his previous life.

    “I am going home.”  Van said and, using the last bits of his power, he teleported again 20km away from his location into the middle of a forest.

    He cast a spell in a radius of 20km in all direction around him and then, after a while, a loud roar came from the distance where a monster came rushing in his direction.

    Trees stumbled, the land quaked, and the air also trembled as a winged monster landed with a crash ten meters away from him, sending rocks and dust clouds in Van’s direction.

    “Are you the king of this forest?” Van asked in a nonchalant manner.

    The monster, a terrifying 30m sized Felisys-type monster where its wings doesn’t grow off their backs but instead through their arms, to the armpits, and then the body, lowered its long-necked head to bow in greeting to his summoner.

    A low growl escaped its throat when it saw the smaller sized monsters in the area trying to see who called on their king.

    The growl frightened the monsters and not even a few breaths, the area around them had been cleared off of monsters.

    “What’s your name?” Van asked and seemingly a reply came to his mind when only a growl and an eye-to-eye contact happened between them. “I see. Then from now on, Tierathul, I will make you the king of a larger forest and command an even greater and more powerful horde of monsters. Leave this place with me and be my ally. What say you?”

    The 30m monster with the head that resembled an adult male Tyrex but a body of a severely edgy masculine marsupial, gave Van a frown and a very intimidating grumble.

    Its sharp feline claws slowly formed into a small fist as it seem to press its weight in its front body.

    Of all the threatening things a Hunter would get from a monster, especially of the S-Class one that is this Felisys-type that is known for its violent temper, they would have now run away for their lives because this  stance of the monster was a clear indication that it was ready to attack.

    But Van only smiled amiably at it and seem to not have any intention to retreat.

    And yet, seeing this smile, the monster waited.

    “If you are not satisfied, then with this…” at this point, Van, on his last seconds of power, offered a magical formation in his left hand that the monster’s body absorbed in a flash.

    In the next moment, the monster’s eyes went wide and when it gazed back at Van, its frown vanished and it bowed its head in submission.


    Chapter 21: 
    Van’s Death (2)

    Van smiled in relief and secretly wiped a trace of sweat from his forehead.

    “If it didn’t accept it, I would have fled in fear.”

    What it gave the monster was a mantra that all beast creatures yearn for in their whole life. It was a mantra that can shorten the time of their enlightenment into having a Muan body.

    “From now on, Tierathul, you will be called Leon, bound to me by service through the agreement of mutual benefit and blood. Let the Will of Mana be the witness and judge to the hearts of the two parties…”

    Van pinched the tip of his middle finger and tapped its end into the monster’s forehead.

    “I concur.” Van said.

    An ancient magic formation appeared in the space between the finger and the scale on the forehead and then was absorbed to the monster in the next instant.

    The light that bored itself into the forehead of the monster can be seen in the place where it was absorbed to.

    It was of golden color.

    The monster’s closed eyes opened and it stared at Van, its mouth opened to speak the language of Terrans –not Muans.

    “I concur.” Leon replied, his voice gruff like that of a real herculean alpha male monster.

    The agreement ceremony completed, the golden detail on the forehead of the monster became real and was tattooed in place in a camouflaged manner in the same coloration of his scales.

    “Welcome to the team, Leon.” Van smiled.

    By now, his Mana was already gone and all the enlightened stages he had in his past life was now  gone as well. He was, thoroughly, back to being a weak and feeble mortal.

    Leon, with its massive body, frowned at him. “I still don’t recognize you as my master. We are in a mutual agreement and this forest is my father’s forest before his father inherited it as well. I will not abandon this forest. This forest’s citizens are my citizens.”

    “I understand.” Van grinned amiably at him. “But right now, I need you to accompany me to a place in the eastern side of this country.”

    Leon did not reply but instead lowered his head where Van leaped and placed himself into where his nape should be.

    “Go.”

    Leon didn’t say anything but he lowered his body as his limbs tensed up. Next, he jumped from the ground and Van felt crushed as they immediately reached a hundred meters in midair before reaching the apex of the jump and opening his wings to flap once.

    It all happened in only a second and Van felt that his life was already extinguished.

    He doesn’t have the protection of his Mana anymore and so the force of Leon’s ascend was almost enough to injure him.

    “It’s going to be a long travel.” Van said and patted the side of the neck where a flat area was located.

    “Stop it.” Said Leon angrily and began flying towards the east.

    Van lowered his head and then patted him again on the same spot. What more, he also gently caressed it as if polishing a mirror.

    “What’s that?”

    “Stop it! That! Stop doing that!” Leon roared and then twisted his head to glare at his passenger with the eye that faced him.

    “What? I thought you like it?”

    Van looked at him with a smile and then did the same caressing motion. But this time, he did it with both hands and he clearly saw how Leon’s eyes went up as if in pleasure.

    Seeing this, Van let out a laugh and this woke up the angry Leon and roared again. But instead of saying something, it only groaned and cursed.

    “Ahahaha… don’t be like that. I know you like it.”

    “I don’t!”

    “You do. Look at your face…”

    “I-I-I… ooohhh… No wait. Stop it! I’m a guy!”

    “So what? It relaxes your muscles, no?”

    “I don’t like being patted! No one has ever patted me before!”

    “Tsundere.”

    “What?”

    “Nothing.”

    “Urgh! I’m already starting to regret this deal.”

    Van passed the opportunity to tease his mount and looked back to see the city becoming smaller and smaller in the distance.

    They were already around 30km away and yet they can still see the city. It only proved how big the city was.

    But the real reason he looked back wasn’t for the small reason of saying goodbye to that city. Hell if he cares about that city. Its people never gave him a reason to love it.

    And yet, even so, he still looked back one last time and thought of the people he left there.

    Most especially Yuna.

    “I’m sorry. Goodbye.” He murmured.

    “Hmp.” Leon growled and thought himself highly as he heard the apology.

    Van laughed but he knew that Leon knows it wasn’t for him.

    Moreover, right now, his mind was on an entirely different matter as he looked ahead. That matter, of course, was the reason why he was coming back home.

    “Right now, my new lease in life will change for a new and grand beginning.”


    *****


    That night, the city was disturbed by a news that 99% of the people found to be very good.

    Some even rejoiced.

    When the Fang Clan called in the premier Shaman of the city, Grandmaster Truman, in a hurry, his assistants and maid servants immediately relayed the news to their amigos and amigas.

    Not even two hours passed, the news about the Fang Clan princess collapsing due to stress alerted almost all of the young male population of the city. But then, that news was also updated and the update almost made them vomit all their innards out because of anger and fury.

    The reason for the princess’ collapse was because of the news of the death of the bane of all male species, Van.

    Even so, Van’s death wasn’t confirmed anyway.

    On the other hand, another news also spread like wildfire in the city in just a span of a night.

    A massive army of Imperial Knights had appeared in the Arc Gates led by Grand Master Shin of the Imperial Court.

    This news was like thunder to the city and instead of sleeping, news-mongers were all mobilized for the latest tips and updates regarding this news.

    And as it turns out, the Imperial Princess was in the city! What more, she was related to the death of the baleful Van!

    Those who had grudges to his existence were all happy and a few of them even called in their friends into their houses to celebrate his demise.

    Some even held a banquet on the spot.

    One of them is the Gang Clan where the party is actually hosted by none other than a celebrating crook nosed Gang Dugong.

    People began to crop as news of the site where Van died was exposed.

    In another part of the city 5km away from the site  of Van’s death, a house owner reported to the peacekeepers about a loud explosion in their farm.

    Upon the peacekeepers’ investigation, a heavily injured Elder Gang as found unconscious in the said farm.

    Based on the investigation of the Peace Keepers, the direction of origination of the skid marks that Elder Gang left on the farm indicated a straight line from the hill with the solitary sakura tree.

    Information regarding this had also been spread at the same speed as Van’s death for it actually concerned a familial rivalry between the rumored fiancé and the detested Van.

    Elder Gang was brought to the hospital but as soon as the Healers touched him, he snapped awake from unconsciousness and screamed the word “Demon” over and over until he passed out again from fatigue and heavy injuries.

    All his bones were shattered and he lost his left arm and right leg.

    Even so, the detail saying that a “demon” being involved in Van’s death was not denied when the news of it also came from the Peace Keepers that are assigned to escort the Imperial Knights led by Grand Master Shin.

     

    *****

     

    And at the moment that they were led to Van’s so called ‘abode’, when they saw the princess in good health and seems to be meditating in front of her sword, Grand Master Shin immediately let out a sigh of relief.

    “Your Highness.” He called and Ysabelle opened her eyes with delight.

    “Uncle Shin!” She called and immediately stood up from her sitting position to run and embrace her Uncle Shin. “You’re four hours late.” She said and pouted.

    Grand Master Shin only scratched his cheek as he tried to explain. “We actually came as fast as possible because your father was worried for the reason why you shattered your talisman. We could have come earlier if not for the fact that there seems to be something wrong with the Arc Gate of this city.”

    “Why? Is it not working well?” Ysabelle had a look of pondering for a moment but then recalled her benefactor that she smiled with a blush and a dreamy expression, looking up as she spoke, “It must be his doing.”

    “His… doing… what do you mean, Your Highness?”

    Grand Master Shin was confused.

    Who is this powerful existence that can affect the flow of spatial dimension in this city?

    As far as he was concerned, only Sorcerers and above had the ability to do that since they are the only ones that can spontaneously use their own Mana to rend space and use the high-level magic spell «Teleport» that can only be used on those said stages of enlightenment.

    Shin asked with concern, “Did you happen to meet a powerful existence in this city?”

    Ysabelle nodded excitedly. “Mn! I don’t know his name but he lives here and that he’s really so powerful, he defeated the demon!”

    “Demon!?” hearing the word made Grand Master Shin gasp in surprise. It was a word that could just be said so casually by anyone. Especially for a girl who was only 18-something years old.

    The reason being, she was too young to actually meet a demon and more so, too weak to actually escape one. Even the founding Emperor of the Four Nations Empire had to exert all he had just to suppress an already cornered and weak demon in his time.

    And even that, to Shin’s memory of its record in the archives, the founding Emperor lost so many good soldiers and generals during their confrontation.

    It was also the same with all other reported accounts of powerful beings of the empires and kingdoms of the continent.

    “Are you sure you saw him?” Shin asked and he was so tensed up that he actually roused the attention of the soldiers that accompanied him in Creon.

    “Mn!”

    Ysabelle nodded strongly. She was about to add in another reply when her attention was brought to the Peace Keepers group behind her Uncle.

    In fact, she doesn’t even care about them at all since they’re only lowly soldiers of a small city.

    But the reason why they caught her attention was because one of the Peace Keepers just now kicked one of the medicine plants that Van planted on his small garden while wearing a look of disdain and laughing with his comrades.

    “HOW DARE YOU?!!”


    Chapter 22: 
    Van’s Death (3)

    Seeing this ignited a wrath in her heart so great that she unconsciously released her Mana just so the other members of that group wouldn’t desecrate what Van left behind.

    Even Grand Master Shin was surprised. Since he was the one who trained the girl since she was a young kid, she was of course aware of her Mana Levels.

    Just now, when she released her Mana, he also felt that it actually raised by ten levels.

    This surprised him a lot.

    But more than that, there was also something more powerful in her Mana. It was like the quality of her Mana had actually increased by notch. It’s not just in Mana Levels that she improved but even the quality of it was actually… purer!

    It’s like… if a normal Wizard had their Mana surging like a river in their bodies, then Ysabelle’s was like a the ocean that could batter and mince the rocks on the cliff walls!

    She was fundamentally more powerful than the Wizards on the same Stage and Level as her!

    But before he could even speak his surprise, the girl in question had already launched towards the group of startled and trembling Peace Keepers.

    They were all Wizards but being Peace Keepers, even though they and Ysabelle were on the same level and Stage of Enlightenments, her bloodline power was at work and this alone could suppress anyone who had no Bloodline Inheritance flowing in their blood, even if they are on the same stage of enlightenment.

    It just goes to show how important and overly authoritarian a Bloodline Inheritance is.

    “Who gave you the right to defile this place?!” an angry roar came from her and the Peace Keepers all bowed in front of the angry princess. “Who gave you the permission to ruin the harmony of this place? WHO?!”

    Her anger couldn’t be denied and the trembling and frightened Peace Keeper could only bow multiple times while uttering his apology.

    “Princess, please forgive my subordinate!” At this point, a gruff voice came from the side and also bowed. He was the captain and the Commanding Officer of the Peace Keepers unit of the city. “My name is Captain Schmidt, your highness, and I do apologize if my subordinate have roused your wrath over his actions. He doesn’t know what he was doing and most especially is not aware that this place is the Princess’s property.”

    “Whether it is my property or not, I wouldn’t be this angry of such small matters and I would understand if he is not aware that this place is also a property of the Empire, but no! I am angry BECAUSE of the words he said before he defiled the property of the owner of this land!”

    Captain Schmidt snapped a glare at the Peace Keeper in question and the man almost bubbled his mouth to the mess he had routed.

    But then, he came back to the princess and used his many years of conversation skills as a high ranking official of the city to apply for explanation.

    “Princess, please forgive me for asking, but isn’t this place a property of the Empire? Allow me to personally admonish a befitting punishment for the misdeeds of my subordinate. You don’t have to sully your hands, Princess, for it might ruin the beauty and splendor of your reputation.”

    “Ah, there might be a bit of confusion here.”

    Just when the topic of the commotion was in the heat of climax, Grand Master Shin’s voice echoed in the background.

    Everyone, including even the ranks of knights of the Imperial Dragon Knights that accompanied him all turned silent as to listen to what he was about to say next.

    This is to show how much authority he actually possess in the Imperial Court.

    “Uncle…?” Hearing this, even Ysabelle was a bit confused. “What is the confusion about?”

    “Well, firstly, this place is NOT a property of the Imperial Court. To be precise, it is a certain Duke’s personal property and was only handed over to the Imperial Court’s management as for show of propriety when–” at this point, Shin paused and gave Ysabelle a meaningful look. “–at the time, it is because of a certain incident by your great grandfather that a criminal had to be sealed in this place instead of being transferred to one of the Prison Worlds due to emergency.”

    Ysabelle now understood the reason why this is a mission that was actually abnormally unusual from the usual missions she had received from her father.

    Not only was this mission a task she is compelled to complete as part of her tests, it was also a part of an agreement to ‘pay the price’ of sealing the criminal that was supposed to be locked in one of the Prison Worlds, to a Duke’s Personal Property.

    This was an obligatory task of the Imperial Family!

    But, “But even so!” Ysabelle was still angry. All the more that as soon as she heard this explanation, recalling the words the Peace Keeper said, she was still unconditionally angry. Now, hearing the words that her Uncle Shin, she had found another ground to vent her anger. “Who are you calling a trash, huh? You have no idea who the person that lived here is! If it wasn’t for him, I would’ve died! You all would have died! None of you would have been able to come here wearing your sloppy armors and your despicable prides! Who told you to call someone else a trash? On what grounds are you so sure that you are above everyone else in this city?”

    Hearing what she said, the Peace Keepers all had a look of disbelief in their faces. Grand Master Shin was also confused and also curious as to the person the princess addressed earlier as the person who defeated the Demon.

    All the more, the Captain Schmidt who was also quite aware of the identity of the person who had lived here, was confused.

    Seeing that he was the only voice of these poor soldiers under his command was, he was the one to voice out their concern.

    “Princess, I think there was a mistake here. The person whose been living here is a talentless and poor person that had never learned any magic in  his entire life.”

    Hearing this, a flash of confusion was now drawn on the princess’ face. She was perfectly clear herself that the person who lived here was an almighty existence.

    Not only he was a young man around her age, he was also the most powerful Mage she’d seen in her life. He handled the demon that she deemed to be at the peak of Enlightened Being’s Stage in but a flick of a few moves.

    Even that, recalling the gargantuan sword that annihilated the demon that night, she just could not connect his almighty existence to the person  that the Captain speaks about.

    They were definitely two different people!

    But on the other hand, thinking about the words that the Princess had said, Grand Master Shin, as to have lived a lot longer than these individuals and possessed unfathomable experience, he was naturally the one to interject.

    “Captain, can you describe to me the person that you call talentless in magic?”

    “Mn.” Captain nodded and then started to describe the circumstances of Van. He also detailed how he was treated by the male citizens of the city because of his relationship with a daughter of one of the important figures of the city. “…naturally, throughout the years, he’d never once succeeded in his applications to the Imperial Scholars League.”

    Ysabelle only became confused with this story.

    At the side, however, Grand Master Shin was in a deep thought.

    “Could he be pretending?” he muttered.

    But as much as he patches any identity to this person’s conjectures, he can’t think of anyone else who were close to their powers that can neutralize a demon.

    One thing he was sure about is that in the young generation, no one is definitely able to defeat a demon that even he himself is not strong enough to fight without being injured.

    As the Sol was just beginning to rise in the east, they all heard a thunderous sound echoing in the horizons.

    Grand Master Shin and the others all looked over to the Southeastern direction of the city as a booming sound was echoing from that direction.

    Everyone’s attention was snatched away.

    “Who’s coming?” Asked Ysabelle. Being the one with the lowest enlightenment there, except for the Captain and Grand Master Shin, she was the one most curious as to who are these people that are coming in this place one after another.

    “It’s a Flying Arc.” Grand master Shin spoke and Ysabelle frowned. Who was coming in such a grand fashion and seems to be in a hurry?

    On the other side, Captain Schmidt wore a frown himself as he stared at that incoming flying arc.

    “Do you know whose party is coming?” asked Shin and the Captain nodded.

    “It’s that certain individual’s family. The crest on that flying arc I just mentioned to you belongs to that certain family. And being this early, I doubt it’s her father that’s coming. It’s probably her.”

    “Her?” a pang of pain somewhat stabbed Ysabelle on the heart and she stared at the incoming flying arc with utmost attention.

    From the time they detected the flying arc and at the time it approached, it actually only took only a few breath’s time. It just goes to show that, even though it may cause them a lot of reprimanding and a few violations of rules in the Peace Keeper’s Office, the speed at which the flying arc traveled was unprecedentedly fast.

    But, to the Captain and the others’, and most especially to Ysabelle’s surprise, the arc didn’t come to their location in the cemetery but instead to a location a few hundred meters away from them.

    The arc did not even stop its flight as a shadow of a person with long hair actually jumped from the arc followed by a few more shadows.

    “Ah, that’s…”

    “Isn’t that the Ice Princess?”

    “She came for him, eh?”

    “That bastard. Though he’s already dead, he still gets to have her attention!”

    “Damn it! He should just die quietly!”

    The young members of the Peace Keeper Corps all cursed inwardly while some of them actually voiced out their frustrations.

    Ysabelle heard a few of the curses and she was in quite the confusion herself as to who the person she saw and who the person these people were calling ‘trash’ is.

    Curiously, Ysabelle felt that the place the new comers were coming for was ‘that’ place and so, even though her mind don’t want to admit it, she had a 60% feeling that all these people were speaking of the same person that saved her life.

    She did not wait for anyone to say anything as she hurriedly ran over towards the location the person who jumped off the arc came for.

    Grand Master Shin and the Captain followed her and, with the help  of her Uncle Shin, they arrived at the location of the hill with the solitary sakura tree at the same time that the figures also landed near that location.

    Ysabelle’s heart thumped fast and she felt a kind of unfriendly premonition.


  • edited June 2017
    Update: 17 June 2017

    Chapter 23:
    Van's Death (4)

    A leading figure with slender curves, long black hair, and a gorgeously heart-wrenching beauty assailed her eyes. And, even though she was also a girl herself, she couldn’t deny the fact that the young woman’s beauty was actually sucking her soul with her eyes unwilling to let go.

    She even had the notion that her beauty was in par with her, if not actually exceeding it.

    But more than that, as she was a girl herself, she knew exactly what was the most attractive aspect of her… it was that lingering mature aura hiding in her vernal beautiful appearance.

    Her elegance in her posture, her melancholic aura while she ran, and the tears that escapes in her eyes with every step felt like stabs of needles even to her womanly heart.

    Ysabelle had felt that the premonition wasn’t a good one but she can’t help but erase any other foul feelings in her heart whenever seeing the black haired young woman. Ysabelle’s party landed close to the middle of the hill where the Team of SOCO (Scene of the Crime Operatives) encharged of the investigations of the blood stains were in the middle of their tasks.

    As soon as the girl saw the blood stains splattered near the sakura tree, her running motion slowly came to a slow-to-halting momentum until she passed through the group of SOCO without even as much as a resistance from them.

    They all knew of her relationship with the owner of the blood and, even though they are of the senior generation and is against it, as respect to the dead, they did not deny her rights to check and confirm the grave suspicions in her heart. The right to mourn for a friend was given to her on that spot.

    And just how they all imagined it, as soon as Yuna saw the blood stains, she lurched into a stop and then collapsed with a ‘plop’ on the grassy ground, her eyes seemingly lost colors, her shoulders trembling, her tears painfully flowed down her cheeks as rivers.

    Her sobs grew louder, her cries echoed in all the ears of the spectators like thunders of the heavens towards the mortal realm.

    They were all against the friendship between her and the trash of the city and yet when they think about her ‘open secret’ circumstances and also of the fact that the trash was the only person she had actually found with the same circumstances as hers back then to confide with, they couldn’t find themselves to hate the guy at this moment.

    All they could do is to give this glory of her tears on his death.

    Secretly, a solemn woman with a katana in one hand approached the head of the SOCO Team and asked in a whisper. The head of the SOCO nodded slowly and handed over a piece of paper to the woman.

    Upon inspecting the details of the papers, the woman thanked the head Investigator but did not return the piece of paper.

    She approached Yuna instead and knelt down to show the paper.

    Yuna checked it and, only with just a glance, her cries became louder and came as stabbing swords to the ears of all who can hear it. Even Ysabelle at the side couldn’t help but feel the deeply rooted emotions the girl had towards the man that owned the blood stains.

    Her every sobs and wails were proof of it and as she was also a woman, she naturally understood and felt empathy.

    And yet, more than that, the doubts she had in her heart were all confirmed.

    Her savior and benefactor, the man who had ignited an emotion in her heart, the man who, for her, towered over everyone else… was the same man that these Peace Keepers and their Captain all despised and called as trash… was the same person that this beautiful girl is crying her heart out and mourns for.

    It was at this moment that she recalled the words the man left her before he disappeared into the dead of the night.

    “…if they think I am dead, keep it that way…”

    That was his words to her.

    Now, he understood. Everything, all of the things and the reasons why he was in a hurry to leave, all that missed chance to form a contract with a Sovereign of the Land –a Spirit Goddess– was all for the sake of this girl.

    “So that’s why he was murmuring something about not having enough time…”

    Ysabelle felt jealous and envious of her but at the same time, she felt that what was between them was something she had no right to pry on.

    She confided and consoled her conflicting and chaotic feelings with this thought and, for the sake of this thought and proving the stability of her emotions and controlling the confounded possessive emotions she was beginning to harbor in her heart, she recalled his warnings about the whispers of Demons and so secretly used the mantra he gave her before leaving.

    At the moment she did, she felt her mind go at ease and the chaotic and sinister emotions began to be purified.

    She closed her eyes and isolated everything else to only focus on the mantra and, to the fact that, now, she might get a sister to open her heart with and be opened with.

    Opening her eyes, she had resolve in her heart as she moved a step.

    Her Uncle Shin all felt these changes from her and was secretly proud and also felt relieved that the chaotic Mana arousing in her earlier was now gone and was replaced by a mild yet burning stability.

    Ysabelle made one step at a time, approaching that mourning figure, entering that frozen world of tears and wailing.

    No one noticed her because they all had their full attention on stopping their own emotions from going out of control listening to Yuna’s cry.

    When Ysabelle reached Yuna, with a quick move, she snatched the peace of paper from her maid servant who felt surprised and alarmed but was stopped by an invisible hand from Grand Master Shin’s own aura.

    After reading it once, Ysabelle had confirmed even more that her benefactor and the ‘trash’ was actually the same. She threw the paper in the air as it burned then knelt down to Yuna.

    Yuna looked at her and then her cry stopped somewhat…

    “My name is Ysabelle Von Duchesse of the Von Duchesse Imperial Family. May I ask for your name, sister?”

    Ysabelle used her most courteous and friendliest tone and kindest and warmest smile to introduce herself and, having received the honor of being asked by a member of the Imperial Family, Yuna gathered herself up and then courteously replied.

    “Yuna Fang, of the Fang Clan from the Eastern Territory. Your highness, I’m sorry to have caused a scene to have roused your attention. I shall take my leave then.”

    Seeing that Yuna have misunderstood her intentions, Ysabelle quickly shook her head and replied. “Please, you don’t have to be so courteous I definitely am not here to rebuke or even do something that will dishonor you. I just want to confirm your relationship with the person that was associated with this incident.”

    Yuna wiped her tears and controlled her sobs and then answered, “He’s my… ‘only’ friend.”

    Yuna paused when he mentioned the ‘only’ in her sentence.

    “His name is Van, yes?”

    Yuna looked around them and seeing that there are people around them, she just looked at the girl and then her lips trembled in hesitation.

    But now that Van was ‘gone’, she thought that there was no reason as to why she had to keep his secret a secret anymore.

    And so Yuna sent her reply in a mental message using her Mana. “His real name is Van Kingsley, not just Van. He is also the grandnephew of the murdered King of the Eastern Territory of Callamore and the grandson of the Duke of Islay of the Imperial Court.”

    Ysabelle’s eyes went wide.

    Shit. She bitterly cursed to herself. “He is Grandpa Matthew’s grandson! Meaning he’s my… he’s my… but he is also grandpa Grimmjoe’s grandnephew! He was not just anyone! They’ve been looking for him for twelve years! To think that he was here all along?!”

    Not only she had connected the identity of the person Yuna was mourning for to the same guy who had become the highest existence in her heart, she was actually also surprised to discover his ‘real’ identity.

    When she recalled all of the things ‘he’ told her and most especially his instructions to keep his identity the way it is… he might have known that she was going to eventually know of this truth one or another.

    His insights in the future was astonishing, not to mention that his prediction was actually scary of being almost to the point.

    Ysabelle sent a mental message towards her.

    “H-How did you know all this?”

    “He told me.” Yuna replied unhesitatingly.

    Ysabelle, however, expected as much. Yuna felt she could trust the princess of the Imperial Family because, just like her, she could feel that Ysabelle had a special relationship with Van. Otherwise, Ysabelle won’t ask her these things.

    Feeling the same way, Ysabelle thought that the reason why she sent the message via a mental connection is because of the fact that Van’s late Royal Granduncle, King Grimmjoe Gilbey of the late House of Gilbey that’s now in ruins and was in a downfall since The King’s death, was actually rumoured to be assassinated by the Dark Elves hired by a big name in the Imperial Court.

    That big name was also ‘rumored’ to be their long standing enemy, the Greenback Family.

    The political war happening under the tables of the Imperial Court are more sinister than the actual war happening outside the territories.

    All of them may have sworn allegiance under the flag of the Imperial Family but their overall relationship with each other is not that good.

    One example is the relationship between two of the Noble Houses in the Imperial Court; the House of Islay and the Greenback Family.

    Because of the competition to become Imperial Consorts, the Greenback Family and House of Islay had been on each other’s throats. In their secret war against each other, many powers in and outside of the Imperial Court were dragged in its turmoil.

    That and the fact that more than twenty years ago, the current Patriarch of the Greenback Family who’s been ever so persistent in wooing Ysabelle’s mother but was continuously declined because of the heir to the House of Islay, Van’s father, Jonas Kingsley.

    Back then, it was rumoured that Imperial Princess Isabella and Jonas Kingsley already had an understanding and only the Imperial Family’s consent was the only decision left. Because of this, the grudge of the Greenback Family burned even deeper under the tables of the Imperial Court against the House of Islay.

    They didn’t even put in their eyes the third party who’s been rumoured to also have a relationship with the two’s secret.


    Chapter 24:
    Van's Death (5)

    For the sake of giving face to The Princess, the Greenback Family had to give way… only to be slapped in the face because 19 years ago, both Jonas and Isabella married different people.

    The two were just friends, as it turned out, and it was actually Jonas’ sworn brother, the third party the Greenback Family did not even take notice, Ysabelle’s father and the current Emperor, who was actually in love with each other and that it was one of the retainers of the Princess, a lovely non-noble woman and daughter of a chef, that Jonas actually chose to marry.

    This news not only enraged the Greenback Family but also forced the Patriarch of the House of Islay to banish his only son.

    And yet despite it all, Ysabelle’s parents still proudly announced that if their children are of the opposite genders, they will be arranged for engagement for sure.

    Since then, no one had heard of any news about Jonas Kingsley until his and King Grimmjoe’s deaths during an attack of the Dark Elves in the capital city of Callamore Kingdom, the Eastern Territory and also the First Nation of their Four Nations Empire.

    Many accounts said that there was a brief clash of the late King Grimmjoe and the Protector of the Greenback Family during the Affinity Testing Ceremony before the attack of the Dark Elves.

    They said that the Greenback Family was in the background of the deaths of the two people since of all the nobles in that place, only the two of them died.

    The Duke of Islay, upon learning of his only son’s death, was thrown in a fit of rage that, not only he neglected his duties as a member of the Imperial Court, but he also launched a campaign against bandits and cults that surrounded the Imperial Capital.

    Everyone knew how gravely devastated the Duke was and as soon as he learned of the existence of his only grandson, he immediately launched a grand search for him.

    Only, twelve years had passed, not a speck of the shadows of both Van and his mother was seen since then.

    And yet now…

    Shockingly, a random girl knew of this and yet she did not choose to let it known. The Duke of Islay had even announced a grand reward for whoever will be able to point any information in regards to his grandson’s family.

    Ysabelle could only wonder why that despite the circumstances revolving around Van, and even though there was a reward awaiting her and her family if she had only spoken about him, she still did not do so.

    But then, thinking until here, she felt only respect and admiration towards the woman.

    “Van has always been in danger. Always. He was hiding because the Dark Elves will kill everyone related to him because that’s their contractor’s orders. And because of his circumstances that…”

    Speaking at this point, Yuna began to cry again and Ysabelle leaned at her side to support her.

    “He was powerless to get his revenge and he was weak and feeble. I can’t pull myself to stay away from him because unlike me who let myself be beaten weakly, he, Van, was fighting… he kept on standing up despite how many times he was beaten up and kicked… he kept on living and he never backed down…”

    Yuna kept on sobbing. He was screaming on the embrace of the Princess that showed no signs of not even pushing her away.

    “…despite how many times he was ambushed by the bad people, despite how many times he was hurt, despite being rejected and oppressed by the ISLE for so many years because of being weak, he never backed down! I can’t put myself to abandon him because I don’t  want him to feel the same way I did! I didn’t want him to feel alone! He kept on standing up, he kept on trying to prove everyone that he was right… and yet, all I could do was stand. I can’t do anything for him aside from being there for him! Waaahaha…”

    Her hands were covering her face, crying, Yuna burrowed herself on the Ysabelle’s arms. 

    It wasn’t a matter if it was their first time meeting each other and all the more that it didn’t matter if she was actually an Imperial Princess.

    To Yuna, Ysabelle was the first person aside Van who she felt she could be comfortable with. She felt that there was something within Ysabelle that was making her remember Van unconditionally.

    To Ysabelle, Yuna was the first selfless person she had ever met. She could understand now why she had chosen to keep Van’s secrets.

    Basing on Yuna’s story, because she knew that Van doesn’t have the ability to protect himself against the people who had the capability to kill a king without fearing the consequences, if she were to announce his identity, before the news even gets to the Duke of Islay, the contractor of the Dark Elves would have gone to him first.

    Growing up in the Imperial Court, those heirs, princes, and princesses of the Noble Houses were all only approaching and befriending Ysabelle because she was the Imperial Princess.

    Take it all away from her and they will be like the ones treating Van the way she heard from Yuna.

    And, to add more icing to her already positive image of Van, to hear of his hardships and suffering from this city, added more fuel to her already burning rage.

    Ysabelle recalled that moment when the demon was flung in the air like a kite that lost its strings.

    She wasn’t aware of the circumstances that was circulating around the boy named ‘Van’, but she wholeheartedly believed the things she saw and also Van’s warnings of ‘The War’ to her.

    It doesn’t matter whether it was his plot to cover his identity by being a ‘trash’ in this city… or even the farfetched possibility of an almighty protector possessing his body at the moment of his death…

    Or even the ‘fantastical’ but the more attractive possibility that Van’s powers only awakened at that moment of him dying…

    No, none of it matters.

    As her eyes cast out towards Yuna’s retainers, to the SOCO Team who, despite being here for many hours, still hadn’t finished investigations, to the Peace Keepers and the things she heard earlier from their Captain, then to the ISLE Branch of this City…

    She felt that all of them have been unjust to the ‘Van’ in Yuna’s memories and so… she felt that these people were all despicable that they have oppressed the weak just because he was close to a beauty like Yuna.

    They are the reason why Yuna was in such a pain.

    All of these adding up to the fact that one of their male representatives desecrated Van’s medicine garden and called him many unscrupulous things, Ysabelle’s Mana was raging as she laid her eyes behind her towards the Captain of the Peace Keepers.

    “You.” Her voice echoed and it felt like a bucket full of cold ice that fell off his head. “Tell me again about the reasons why Van is oppressed by the people?”

    She didn’t even cover up her wrath and, despite her own strength only in the Specialist Stage, she was clearly using her status as Princess to actually order an Elemental Master like Captain Schmidt to explain something to her.

    And as such, the Captain knelt down and then he began to narrate, deliberately changing all details that had the term ‘the trash’ into ‘Van’ as they knew it. He even twisted some stories where the ‘Peace Keepers were roused by the powerful families of the city to hurt Van’ into becoming ‘they tried to rouse the Peace Keepers’ and such.

    But despite that, even if he had successfully and even blatantly coated the important details in honey and icings, the fact that he had let all these things happen to an innocent civilian is actually befitting of even the rage of Grand Master Shin who listened to the side.

    “You cretin! You don’t deserve your position of the Captain of the Peace Keepers of the Imperial Corps!” roared Shin. “Gather up all the people that are related to all the incidents regarding him and most of all, gather the Elders of the ISLE that is responsible for his application!”

    The roaring voice was like thunder as Grand Master Shin gave orders one after another.

    His voice was actually layered by power that as it hit the ears of the people, they felt that their own bodies had been hit by a massive tidal wave.

    Some of them even vomited blood right there and then.

    After a while, the trembling Captain of the Peace Keepers bowed his head and even slammed it to the ground as he asked for the forgiveness of the princess.

    “I will never forgive you people!” This voice came  from Yuna and despite being only a mere citizen of Creon, her burst of anger was actually the most shocking of all things they’ve heard. Even more so, it was more shocking for her to actually take the side of a dead person.

    “You, especially you!” Yuna’s finger pointed at the Captain and her teary eyes roared as her anger exploded with all its rage. “I clearly remember that incident a year ago where Van reported a criminal stealing from a Magister Shop to you personally but not only you didn’t listen, you actually pushed the crime to him and made him suffer a hundred full powered slashes from an Expert Mage! He was crippled for four months and couldn’t work because of what you did!”

    “No! No! Please, it’s a misunderstanding! It was just a misunderstanding! I listened to him and actually traced and punished the culprit!”

    “Yes, you did!” Yuna roared. “You only locked the culprit for a year, nothing more! What about Van and the hundred full slashes? What was his crime to receive such a punishment?”

    “I-I…”

    Captain Schmidt couldn’t even speak a word.

    It was clearly an incident recorded firmly in their archives that he did traced the thief and locked him up for over a year but the incident regarding Van’s slashes were not even reported nor recorded into any kind of document.

    But, all throughout the city, everyone knew that he was slashed and no one cared about the reason why.

    To them, especially the men, his very existence alone was enough to warrant him a million slashes from not only an Expert Stage Wizard but even of an Immortal.

    If it’s even possible, they just wanted him to die.

    And yet, based only to the Captain’s words and even though he did not deny nor admit anything, his very reaction to Yuna’s accusations is but the only reason for Princess Ysabelle to order a wrathful command.

    “Gather all the people related to all the incidents that had to do with Van! By the honor of saving a Princess’ life and saving the city against the power of a demon in exchange for his life; and by the authority bestowed to me as an Imperial Princess, I shall hereby order that an all-out investigation regarding to his heroic deeds be commenced at this very moment! Investigate all incidents regarding this city’s Van Kingsley who you all call ‘trash’ through all the years!

    “No great or small deeds will be left unknown!

    “To all the results of the investigations, I shall declare that the honorable will be receiving this Princess’ gratitude and favor! But to those who had done dishonorable deeds against him shall receive a thousand full powered slashes from a Master Wizard and shall never be allowed to lose consciousness or die during the event of the execution of the slashes to make them learn and remember that they shan’t do to others what they shan’t like to be done to themselves! Those who had deliberately made his life miserable shall be punished accordingly…

    “Starting with you!”

    An angry and stiff finger of authority was pointed at Captain Schmidt and the latter felt all his bones become jelly as he collapsed with a bubbling mouth on the ground.


    Chapter 25:
    Immortal Era

    “Take this thing away!” Shin gave an order and to the SOCO on the scene and to all the Imperial Dragon Knights that traveled with Grand Master Shin, the order of their little princess was carried out immediately.

    Yuna was still crying and after speaking like that after a very long time actually burnt all her mental powers and also her own heart.

    “This isn’t enough…” she said. “Van had done so much hardship for me and for this city and yet they still treated him poorly. I-I haven’t even said my thanks to him. And now he’s… now he’s…”

    Yuna’s voiced trailed off a painful mourning and even the Sword Witch behind her felt guilty of the way she had treated Van.

    Looking at it deeply, even though she was aware of some of the accounts that had something to do with Van, she only remained quiet and never let it known to their princess.

    It was because, all of them, her included, actually discriminated against him through all these years.

    Seeing their young lady crying for the boy and, now that she think about it, she knew of the existence of that satchel in the corner of the bushy fence at the back side of the mausoleum and knew that Van had never once taken a single coin off of those bags… she knew that Van had clean and honest intentions on helping out their Young Lady recover and yet they still looked at him with despise in their eyes.

    They had simply treated him poorly despite his honest and pure intentions.

    All of them, right now, could only lament in silence as the boy was already dead and it was already too late to do anything else for his honor.

    “It’s alright,” Ysabelle hugged her and based only on the things she had heard, with her intelligence and the things that Van said before he left, paired with how his eyes had that tinged of sadness in it as he looked around that place he called home, most especially when he summoned a Nature  Goddess just to take a look at his garden and a special tree, it was all for the sake of the girl she was embracing right now.

    Even though she felt jealous of it, she knew that she had no right to do so and, in fact, felt compelled to even tell her that Van was alive and that he left Creon to go home.

    “Ah!”

    Up to this point, she seems to recall something that was actually more important than anything else that she had learned so far.

    “That magic!” She recalled and her heart began to thump deeply. “He said that a war is coming and I know that the magic he gave me can be used against the demons! I have to tell her as well…”

    But before Ysabelle could even try to start off, a voice came from behind her.

    “Princess.” It was Shin.

    “Uncle?”

    “The Knight Captain with me just came to report that there is something wrong with your sword back at the cemetery.”

    Hearing this, Yuna raised her head a pleading look was displayed on her eyes as she asked the old Alchemist.

    “Senior, will you please allow me to visit his home? I…”

    “Little Miss, you are called Yuna, correct?” Yuna nodded. “I am called Shin but you can call me Uncle Shin from now on. And regarding to your request, it is not I who have the say to this.”

    Grand Master Shin prompted for Ysabelle at this point and the girl who was about to say something regarding Van’s instructions and also to the sword, like her Uncle Shin prompted, was taken by surprise.

    Yuna drew her eyes at her.

    “Of course,” Ysabelle said without hesitation. “I actually just wanted to take you on a private conversation to tell you some things that you needed to know.”

    “Okay.” Yuna wiped her tears and nodded.

    And at this point, a smile was plastered on her very attractive face that even made Ysabelle blush despite being a girl.

    But deep within her heart, Ysabelle was in turmoil because of the things she just learned.

    “Sorry Van, it seems I have to make an exception to your condition. Just you wait, we will find you.”

     

    *****

     

    “Hachoo! Ack! I think a girl had just imagined me embracing her tightly.”

    “Yuck! Don’t go fucking wiping that snot on –what the fuck was I just saying! Aaaarrgh!! Wipe that  off! Wipe that off!”

    “Ahahaha! Sorry. Your wings were on the way!”

    “I’m gonna bite you!”

    “Do it and I will never help you attain a body!”

    “I’m sorry master for my–”

    “Achoo!”

    “–aargh!! What the fuck!”

    “Aha! Ahaha! Ahahahaha!”

    If a regular Wizard would actually pass through and see the scene where a mortal was bullying a 30m sized S-Class Felisys-type monster, he would want to wipe his eyes and tell himself that he was not dreaming.

    –because as much as anyone was concerned, this is a scene where the impossible was possible.

    The mortal actually have the monster on its neck.

    One might even get the feeling of sympathy to the monster for he was being led by the nose in almost all the trips of the bored master.

    And yet, on the other hand, it only shows just how strong this ‘Master’ actually was for him to be able to tame an S-Class Felisys-type monster.

    But in reality, if they’d only know, he was a true and genuine mortal –only cunning.

    In Van’s last specks of power, he actually used it to use a classic Terran ‘Charm’ Magic to call upon the strongest monster in the nearest forest and then used a ‘bribe’ to be able to make the said monster follow his every commands.

    Although they are on a mutual benefit contract of blood, it was still outside of the fact that the bribe that Van gave him was of utmost importance and desire for the poor monster.

    Just like how the Elemental Spirits dearly wish for a contractor to call upon them so they could roam the physical world and experience the so called ‘sense of touch’, beasts also yearn to be able to walk the lands in two feet.

    In this regard, for them to be able to abandon their monstrous forms and stop being hunted down for resources and also escape the clutches of the High Dragons, they would have to be able to be enlightened of the Elemental Essences for them to have a physical Muan body.

    But unlike the natural born Muans, monsters are not born to have innate talent of enlightenment as they only have their basic instinct of eating in order to not be eaten alive.

    Higher sentient monsters are older monsters and before their life spans even come to an end, they could utmost only gain sentience in their entire life and not actually a true genuine Muan body to have the chance to gain Immortality. After all, it was every soul’s desire to be an immortal.

    So as a result, even against his will, the monster, now called Leon, was like a pet that’s being toyed with by its contracted master.

    Van was using a bribe that he could help him get a Muan body faster than just relying on the ‘gift’ he gave him during the contract agreement.

    Right now, the two were nearing the Nemea Mountain Range.

    The Nemea Mountain Range divides the Eastern from the Western Territories and connects the Northern Territory to the Southern Capital Lands via its vertical formation.

    The Northern Territory is called Tainan.

    The West Territory, Miranda.

    The Eastern Territory as Callamore.

    And the Southern Capital Lands as Dagger’s Sheath –where the reason for this name is because of the canal-like straight opening that connects the central part of the territory and the Southeastern Dark Seas called The King’s Dagger.

    Thus the name.

    Its name, ‘The King’s Dagger’, is both the name of the pointed river-canal and also the name of the Empire’s Capital City. Legends pertained to this place as a former land area where an Immortal’s battle had taken place.

    The point where the strip of lands expands out to the sea was said to have been because of one of the Immortals who battled here used a nature-destroying Magic Art that eradicated that strip of land.

    Other legends pertains to the story that its shape was because a God had once passed through these lands and stabbed his giant sword vertically across the lands towards the sky and that it was actually a very enormous sword that only half of it was stabbed in the continent where the other half was stabbed to the sea.

    For the tiny Muans, they treated the Dark Seas as a deep and unfathomable abyss of terrifying large sea monsters while the God of that time may only treated it as a patch of mud water, not even fit to be called a ‘sea’.

    All in all, both legends are unable to explain as to why the shape of the King’s Dagger was as such.

    In the whole continent, the King’s Dagger is treated as both a ‘sea’ and also a river that the founding Emperor of the Four Nations Empire, in a fit of a joke perhaps, also named his Capital City the same name as where it was erected.

    The size of the Nemea Mountain Range was also said to be second biggest in the continent when compared to the Wall of Dundee that separates the Western Dominion Cities from the Central Grand Kingdom. This Grand Kingdom alone had overtaken a very large piece of land in the central area of the continent.

    Seen from afar, snowcaps higher than the clouds could be seen even from the distance of around 800km from the mountains and even though they were already high up in the air and could almost feel the drop of temperature, Van and most especially Leon, couldn’t help but still hold their breath trying to scale and appreciate it.

    “And yet this is just said to be half of the size of the Wall of Dundee in the west.” Van whistled and a beaming smile could be seen on his face.

    What happened to his solemnity and his somber expressions? Whew, who knows? It may have been gone with the wind.

    To Van, although he had a reason to stay in Creon and be his old useless self, he knew that after what had happened that night and the fact that a princess was there, not to mention that there was also a demon that awakened from a deep slumber, he knew that the ‘war’ he was talking about is really coming.

    “If I don’t prepare, the same thing will happen again in this world.”

    Behind his smile, a great worry lies within.

    “Right now, I am weak. A mortal. I don’t have the power I used to cleanse that demon and if I am to be the same way as I am in my past life, I would also not be helping those I cherish in this life. I have to prepare for war as early as possible.”

    If other people could only hear his thoughts they might connect them to the fact that this is the 19th year of the Immortal Era.

    Immortals are expected to rise amongst their generation in the future!

    Wizards, Alchemists, and Mages are competitive people and aside from that, majority of them also believe that they are the sole Chosen One of the heavens and thus have pride in themselves. This pride will not allow anyone standing above them.

    THEY are the ones at the top!

    The path to Immortality is always filled with the bloods of those weaker than another. It has been like this and is a culture applied in all sides and faces of society.

    No matter the times, whether technology changes or kingdoms rise and fall, this is the only constant characteristic that all Magicians have.

    And yet, for Van who had experienced a past life that cannot even be explained with mere words, speaking of ‘war’ in his terms are not the measly struggle for personal power everyone takes in their lives.


    Author's NOTE: Next chapter(s) coming in for at least two three days. Gotta log out now from the com shop and rest. I updated Siva now though please enjoy the read.

  • edited June 2017
    UPDATE: 21 Jun 2017

    Chapter 26:
    Eccentric Lao
    Shang

    “Muans have no idea of the demons’ cruelty…”

    For him, for Van, every Magician that dies in their struggle for power is a waste of Muan resources and possible allies in the true war against an ancient race that is set to exterminating all other existences aside from themselves in the universe.

    This ancient race is really strong and even the weakest amongst them are in the Enlightened Being’s Enlightenment Stage.

    “To think that this world is already infiltrated and yet these people are still unaware of it!”

    Deep in the smile in his face was the real somber and melancholic emotion that he was hiding. It was filled with worry, filled with fear that he would be too late by the time the demons start their campaign of massacre.

    “They treat the demons as stuffs of legends and are unaware of the true origins of the magic they are using against each other.  Just what happened to my people? The current civilization might not be my own people but some of their legacies and their Magic Arts are the same as ours.”

    At this time, he recalled the items he needed and his emotions sunk once again.

    “Even the items and names are the same!”

    It was also this one reason he had why he was in a hurry to leave Creon. He had to investigate what had happened to his people after they escaped in the World Gate.

    The memories he saw when he spoke with the Heaven Decimating Sword wasn’t enough. Its memories are still intact during the last moments of the war before the Kumis Clan’s grand escape but after entering this world… the sword’s own spirit fell asleep.

    “Just how long was I sealed?”

    Pondering upon this thought, Van’s own face gradually frowned and he looked down to a minor city, surrounded by a small forest.

    “Let’s rest there for a bit.”

    Hearing this, Leon who’s been so absorbed on his flight was actually taken by surprise.

    “I’m still good. Though we’ve been flying all night, I’m still okay until noon.”

    “Although you’re strong, I also need to buy some supplies if we want to cross the Nemea Mountains.”

    “But the monsters there are weaker than me.”

    Van, hearing this, hit a spot on Leon’s long nape that the monster looked at him with a frown as it felt irritated.

    But when he saw Van’s serious frown, it felt like he did mistakenly agreed to be a ‘pet’ to a tyrant.

    That look on his mater’s face frightened him.

    After all, thinking about it, to be able to summon a monster like him with just a whisper meant that this guy was extremely strong. Though he looks and smells like a mortal right now, the world is very big that there are monsters amongst Muans who pretends to be a mortal… just like Van.

    He could only wonder why he was hiding his own strength pretending to be weak.

    Unable to retort, Leon grumbled.

    “You’re the boss.”

    Van smiled in approval to the slowly changing attitude of his mount. Without another word, Leon dived down carefully towards the outskirt of the city into the forest.

    If not for its foul mouth, Van would say that Leon had not only a very threatening appearance, he was also a very good flyer.

    The dive down was steep and also contained a domineering pressure that scared away any small flying creatures, but it was smooth and also more controlled than what Van imagined.

    “I praise your flying skills.”

    “Hmp.” Leon felt proud and raised his head upon landing ‘smoothly’ with only an air blasting off the sides and a muffled thud –unlike its very ‘grand’ entrance last night. “I’ve been alive for more than 50 years. Of course I will be good.”

    “Mn. As a reward, I’m going to teach you how to use that ‘magic’ in making your body small.”

    With a hand signal, since the contract they agreed upon was connected to Van’s soul, he sent a strand of thought into the ‘master’ emblem in his consciousness which the ‘familiar’ in Leon’s forehead received.

    Not wasting time, Leon used the meager amount of Mana he had and used the method that was given to him.

    The mark of a ‘familiar’ on a scale on his forehead flashed a light for a moment and his whole body was then engulfed by a brown and white colored wind, hugging all parts of his body as it became smaller and smaller in under a breath.

    “Bahahahaha!!!”

    When he opened his eyes again, Leon saw that he was a ‘baby’ version of himself and this made him glare at the laughing Van.

    “You tricked me!” he gnarled and wanted to do bite Van as he attacked his leg only to make Van laugh more because Leon’s domineering looks all vanished to be replaced by an adorable ‘baby’.

    His size were reduced into a mere palm size and even his folded wings with its former sharp claw now looked nothing like a pointy object for itchy backs attached to his short limbs.

    He was reduced into a tad chubby yellow furred creature instead of his domineering scales.

    “You tricked me! You tricked me…!”

    Leon repeated the same line over and over while he was biting off into Van’s textile jeans. Not only it made him more adorable, it was also more contrary to his arrogant attitude as a King of a Forest.

    Van pulled the angry ‘baby’ monster by the small protruding spike at his back which made the baby Leon grumpier and more embarrassed that his sulking face was even a weapon in of itself –only against women.

    “The magic I thought you,” Van explained. “Is a forming magic that corresponds to the actual age of the familiar beast converted to the master’s age realm. I have nothing to do with it but it all has everything to do with your mental state. Your current shape is your actual shape when using the ‘minimal’ form.”

    “…”

    Leon was still sulking as he didn’t speak a word for a while. “You still tricked me!” he declared.

    “How?” Van wasn’t even trying to hide his attempt to stop laughing. “Haven’t you noticed that you’re more intelligent now than before?”

    “…” Leon was silent for a moment. It was true that he could now hold a proper talk with Van.

    These were good signs that his ‘agreement’ with a strong master had advanced his intellect far greater than what he could gain on devouring other monsters the usual way.

    He heard of all of this from his father’s father a long time ago. An ‘agreement deal’ is far more helpful to a monster in achieving higher sentience than many years of preying upon other monsters and creatures.

    But Leon was still sulking. “You didn’t explain it to me!” he grumbled and his small baby voice made Van smile even more.

    “That’s because you didn’t ask!” Van said dropping the little fellow and dismissing the topic with a wave of his hand.

    “Grrr…” Leon could only growl in defeat while, in a surprising manner, he crossed his Felisys arms like that of a sulking kid. Even his little lips and little monster expression perked up in a frown.

    This is also cute and adorable in many ways that amplified Van’s laughter. And this laughter made the poor familiar sulk even further.

    “Anyways, these clothes won’t do. I need some other set of clothes.”

    With these words, Van pulled his satchel from the spatial artifact he loaned from Ysabelle. By now, it was half-filled with the original gold since he used the other half to transmute into Mythril.

    Back in the Terran World, such acts were a great challenge to the ‘Law of Equivalent Exchange’.

    After a while, he looked around him.

    Van walked to the edge of the forest then broke a tree branch from a random tree. After that, he also pulled out some of the larger barks of those larger trees and lined them in front of him.

    Then, he also picked up some leaves and very carefully made it so that they will be whole and is perfectly identical in shape and size.

    “Alright.” Van said with satisfaction and then he looked at the small puzzled kitten from the distance. He smiled meaningfully at Leon. “In one of his memories, he once saw an SS-Class familiar of a Lion Guard flying over his forest. So…”

    Ignoring Leon’s puzzled frown, a thought boarded Van’s train. He separated some gold and recalled a few useful circumstances on Ysabelle’s and the Heaven Decimating Sword’s memories.

    A mischievous smile curled itself on his lips.

    “There are times that I myself am surprised of my own cleverness. Hehehe…”

    He took his box of painting stuffs from the ruined mausoleum, and then took out the Red Gem from one of the things he had loaned.

    After lining up all his tools and materials, Van bid a nod of contentment. “From this day forth, my name shall be Lao Shang! Haha… haha… Hahaha… NYAHAHAHAHAHA!!!”

    Van laughed towards the sky and Leon covered his ears with both his little paws. The birds around the forest were disturbed and they flew off on their own chaotic directions.

     

    *****

     

    The city of Bell Grade, 14th minor city under the 3rd Major City of Elgrande of the Western Territory…

    Bell Grade is located nearest to the Nemea Mountain Range in the entire Western Territory and is also the nearest city to the 30th Minor city of the Eastern Territory beyond the Nemea Mountains. It was the trading town and gateway of each territories to each other.

    Although Creon was the 5th Major City, it was still just a newly established major city from being the 30th Minor City.

    The distance between Bell Grade and the Nemea Mountains is still around 300km but even so, from its sheer size, the mountain looked like a hulking monster as its nearest high peak reaches even the limits of the 1st heavenly sky.

    “I wasn’t able to appreciate this view last time.”

    Van was staring at the background of the high peak nearest to Bell Grade through the buildings of the street he was walking.

    Standing there and looking up to the mountains have attracted the locals’ eyes but when seeing the unfamiliar familiar species on his shoulder and that ancient-looking magic staff in his hand, they could only swallow their mocking words in fear that he would retaliate violently.

    A Mage-Alchemist crossover-looking man with a green striped short yellow furred familiar sitting very relaxed on his shoulder wearing a familiar golden laced maroon cloak, an ancient-looking oak wizard staff with a Red Gem, and a brown satchel over his shoulder, is walking the streets of Bell Grade towards the nearest plaza.

    In one look, he looks like a high-ranked Mage and the way he gracefully walked the streets, his ‘normal’ wizard clothes, and his quiet aura, were all in harmony as he made his way over peacefully without anyone interfering with him.


    Chapter 27:
    Special Guest Room

    To Van, this kind of peaceful walk was actually a first for him. Although he had awakened his past life’s memories, he was still Van Kingsley of this life and all experiences of this life weren’t all good and in fact were all but bad except for the time spent with Yuna and old man Gran.

    Every now and then, people with the same aura of seclusion and even the mode of attire just like him, could be seen here and there and so he was very successful in blending into the crowd.

    No one minded him when he bumped into the other citizens since all Wizards are have eccentrics personalities and there are also those strong ones who will try to pretend they are mortals, just like what he was doing right now.

    Van made his way but never let down his guard.

    The way he looked may be deemed ‘normal’ by the citizens but the reason why he dressed like this was because he wanted to make an impression to the owner of the Magic Shop that he was actually standing in front of.

    “A Magic Shop under the Black Flag Union… they are respected to be a very competitive business enterprise and values honor and dignity when dealing with their customers. They always provide quality services and products although they are very strict with the prices they ask.”

    Recalling all the details of what he knew, Van pushed the door of the shop. A bell rung from the top sill and the Shop Keeper looked at him to study his appearance.

    Van’s eyes surveyed the interior of the shop and felt ecstatic as to see many stuffs for magic use.

    In his two lives, this was the first time he had been into a Magic Shop. Back then, he would only ask the items he needs from his servants and the servants will get them for him instantly.

    Now, he was again taking the small steps into the road of Wizardry and Magic just like before. The only difference is that it was harder this time than in his past life. He still can’t call himself a Mage at this point but the purpose of him being here were all for the sake of those small steps.

    When the shop keeper felt there was no aura or whatever escaping on the man, he frowned and tried to search him again with his Mana Sense only to find the same results but surprised as he laid his eyes to his familiar.

    Most especially to the Red Gem on his staff.

    “I can’t see the properties of the Staff except that it felt like a normal branch of a tree. But it has the appearance of an ancient artifact with a Red Gem… this is a very high grade item since I can’t see through its protective formations. I doubt that he’s any normal Mage. His familiar is also of a Felisys-type but its appearance is not in any record I remember. Also, the fact that I can’t see through his Enlightenment Stage only meant that he’s a very strong Mage. Perhaps I’ll treat him as an A-Class guest for probing.”

    The evaluation of the Shop Keeper, being a very experienced Elemental Master for the Union, gave Van a high score. After patching the facts in front of him, he hid his doubts as he approached the customer with an amiable smile.

    “Dear Master Mage, my name is Trevor. Would you grant me the honor of knowing your name before we do business?”

    Van paused for a moment. Before coming here, he had already made an alias, a Wizard Name as they call it, for himself. He did not waste any more time and slipped into the role of his title, looking at Trevor with an unexplainable intent.

    “Lao Shang.” Van spoke in a low voice.

    “Master Lao Shang, it is an honor.” Said Trevor.

    In Van’s past life, no one treated him poorly like he was treated here –though no one also venerated his status as Prince of the Terran Empire because of his condition that warranted less concern from almighty immortals.

    His imperial status is still something and he used the freedom it possessed to go to many places in the Empire. He chased many girls using aliases and different personalities, and even went to places that he shouldn’t have because if there was any reason that he obsessed Magic for the most, then it is to earn the respect and see it on his people whenever he looked at them.

    The Terran Imperial Family loved him, yes, but it’s such a pain looking at their sad and longing faces because of the fact that their time with him was actually limited.

    No matter how they hide it, they are all both in pain and disappointed that Van was unique. But his father still had a dream before he was born and that dream became his name… Van.

    It was this drive that ignited Prince Van to do the things he had done in his past life.

    The fire of his obsession, the fuel of his drive…

    Because that was his reason for finding a worth in life, to forget about his frustration, to chase his dream of finding the cure to his condition and see the look of proudness in his father’s and everyone else’s eyes, he had to go to places that even his status doesn’t warrant him any right, and had to offend certain people just so he could get the things he needs.

    When he is found out, he had to also hide and disguise himself sometimes in order to escape the detection of his pursuers. When he was offending other people because of his actions, he had to often use aliases and disguises. In some sense, he had learned how to be another person just so he could escape some pursuers.

    As such, Van’s ‘Lao Shang’ persona has a different face.

    Even though Trevor can’t see his face clearly under the shadows of the cloak, Trevor could still feel the domineering eyes under it.

    Clasping his hands and rubbing it with each other, the shop owner looked at Van with shimmering interest. “So, what items are you in need of?”

    “Not much.” Van said with faked indifference.

    He paused for a moment looking around the shop before he faced Trevor to bid him a professional smile.

    “I’m just in need of twenty-one decks of Magic Cards. The higher the grade of the cards, the better. Two bottles of One-eyed Squid Blood Ink. If you have any elemental essence-imbued ones, regardless of how many elements are imbued on it, or if you have an eight element blood ink at that, I would like to have five bottles of it. Also, a Unihorn Thread paint brush or any pen with the same grade. And then finally, ten Light Stones.”

    Pause. The shop owner had a rather complicated face as he looked at the customer.

    He blinked as he tried to gather his wits to think of how to respond to him because except for the Blood Ink, not only the rest of the items he needs were of the lowest grade for a Magician, they’re all scattered for the Magician Class as well.

    Magic Cards are used by ‘Mages’ for low class magic arts that can’t even hurt another wizard and was only used for storing low-class magic.

    Some of those magic arts stored in a Magic Card can even be sold in the normal stores for cheaper prices. These items were only used by mortals for household chores!

    The blood ink of a One-Eyed Squid could be said to be the highest rarity on the items he needed but it doesn’t mean that he can’t provide them.

    But to need more than one bottle of it… Trevor was lost as to what kind of magic he was trying to create with them. He could only guess that this Magician is trying to use the Blood Ink to write the spells on Magic Cards. But then, doing so, since the Elemental Essence contained to the Blood Ink was high, it might burn the Magic Card useless.

    All the more if he’s requesting that the higher the element essence on the Blood Ink, the better.

    The Unihorn Thread paintbrush is for painting but it can also be used by few Wizards that practices a Magic Art related to painting. The most famous of the Artisan Wizards in the Empire was Eccentric Bushtache but he was a Wizard that had all what he needs in the Imperial Capital.

    It’s highly unlikely that he had taken a disciple like this boy, right?

    And a Pen with the same quality as the brush…

    Light Stones are rare items but it’s not uncommon since Alchemists use them to write transmutation circles for their Formulas.

    These items that he needs were really scattered in all the Magician Classes.

    “Could it be that he was just an errand runner? If so, then the person behind him was a really powerful individual that he could make someone this strong as only his errand runner…!”

    Though the possibility was slim, there have been man cases like that in the past and the Shop Keepers who had failed to establish a good relationship to these Mysterious Eccentrics were all punished by the Elders who managed the Magic Shops of that region.

    “I may have calculated wrongly.” 

    Trevor’s thoughts were in chaos trying to patch all the strings together. He had deduced the items that Van needs properly into their classes but he had overthought the things they needed them for.

    If only he did his job properly and don’t think of anything else aside from providing customers what they need, he would have been saved from these random thoughts.

    His fear of being berated by an Elder of the Union despite his age just because he had failed to establish an impression with the person behind Eccentric Lao Shang was more frightening and also shameful to him than anything else.

    Thought it’s true that Van needs all these items to conduct some Terran Magic, Van wasn’t some errand runner working for any other Mage.

    If Trevor could only know this, he might vomit a lot of blood just so he could recover his dignity.

    But alas, Van is a person who had keen eye in regards to openings and opportunities.

    Whether it was in his past life or in this current life, he had learned to treasure this lesson very thoroughly.

    “This Master Wizard isn’t worthy of an A-Class treatment. In order to gain favor to the one behind him, he deserves higher level treatment!”

    When Trevor’s thoughts came to this point, Van’s attempts for putting up impressions were rather successful than the amount he had anticipated.

    Trevor’s hands rubbing each other, he opened a door at the side of the shop that led to a stair that led up to the upper floors of their building.

    “Master Mage, if it’s alright with you, would you like to talk about this business on my Special Guest’s Room?”

    Special Guest’s Room? 

    Chapter 28:
    Door Number Four

    Van was stormed. He may have overdone his effort to impress the shop owner and was even invited to the Special Guest Room.

    If he doesn’t know what it meant, only guests with special status can be invited in the room.

    The reputation of the Black Flag Union was being the number one items dealer of the Empire. They have the empire as their backing and almost all of their customers were either high-leveled Wizards or reclusive superpowers of Sects and Schools.

    Even the Dukes and Kings of territories rely on the services provided by the Black Flag Union.

    After Trevor opened the door, he waved a hand and a seductively gorgeous woman in a black and white maid dress came from upstairs, bowing at them. Then, the woman, an Expert-Staged Magician reeking of a female’s charms, smiled at Van, passing through the door and taking the place where Trevor used to stand.

    “Close the shop for now. If anyone comes looking for me, tell them I have a meeting.” Trevor said in a stiff tone and the woman bowed like a good servant and replied.

    “Yes, Master.”

    “Come, Master Shang, let me pour some tea for you.”

    “You don’t actually have to. I…”

    “No, please, I insist. Courtesy of The Union.”

    Seeing the insistent look in the Shop Keeper’s face, Van had no choice left but to sigh as he followed the man upstairs into a wooden door.

    The door was just a normal wooden door and yet Van can’t help but to gasp as he could clearly feel a sort of feeling coming from the room on the other side of the wooden door.

    “This feeling…!”

    Astonishment filled Van’s thoughts.

    It was the kind of feeling that had the relaxing and easing air of a sanctuary.

    Van couldn’t help but recall the Sanctuary of the Gods they had back at the Terran Empire in his past. The Gods that gave them their magical gifts and the breaths of Immortality. In order to repay the Gods’ kindness, the first Generation Imperial Family built a sanctuary in honor of the gods.

    He distinctively remember, before the final days of that war, he spent a good time praying in the altar for the gods to descend and thwart the vile and wicked invasion of the Demon Race.

    The memory of that place left a bitter taste to his mouth as he felt that the Gods had forgotten about him because they gave him a Mortal Soul and did not even hear his prayers when his people needed them the most.

    “If only the Gods listened to my prayers! If only they had not forgotten about me! Maybe Ellie wouldn’t have to… she wouldn’t have to…”

    Shaking his head, Van dissolved those violent thoughts as Trevor pushed the door open.

    The bitterness he felt regarding their Gods was still in his heart. It was resentment that may not be easy to thaw with just being alive a second time just like now.

    As of this moment, Van saw on the other side of the door a garden with lustrous flowers bathing in the fair weather on a seaside. A tall willow tree with flourishing green leaves blocked the sol up above and cast a dancing shadow on a small table down below.

    Van’s heart raced. Memories of his previous life that is connected to this place resurfaced one by one. He became all the more familiar with that feeling from earlier.

    With mixed emotions, the familiar breeze of air and the sound of ocean, the smell of the flowers, the echoing whispers of the wind… the thickness and the unique property of Mana in this place…

    That same feeling of being in the Sanctuary of the Gods back in his previous world that he felt earlier is all because this ‘dimension’ is indeed part of that place.

    “So the Karma of my past life is at work here.” He can’t help but to feel complicated feelings in his heart. A ironic chuckle escaped him.

    Because this place is indeed the Sanctuary of the Gods of his old world!

    Van exhaled a long sigh. “Door of Nowhere.”

    Even as he recalled its details, the item they called «Door of Nowhere» in the Terran Empire was an item that can be classified as rare and also very dangerous.

    In all of the empire, only one ‘Door of Nowhere’ is created but his father banned its use because of the dangers it possess. In this respect, he ordered for a specific ‘event’ to happen and successfully sealed this ability of the Door of Nowhere.

    To regard this item being a forbidden item is an understatement. It might even be considered as being a calamitous item because when this item comes into possession of someone who really knows how to use it, he can even burn the Four Nations Empire in just one night.

    In fact, in his few unforgettable escapades, he had even utilized its forbidden functions to come out in places that shouldn’t even be visited by a mere mortal like him.

    Because the ‘Door of Nowhere’ has the ability to teleport its other side into any location the user desires –as long as he knew where its coordinates are and the fact that he had the right amount of Mana to support the use.

    “I know the real reason why the teleportation formation of this item was sealed. It’s because Royal Father was afraid that I will be trapped in a place that I can’t get out of, he sealed this item and instead made it so that whenever anyone uses it to go somewhere, they will always be led to the Sanctuary of the Gods where thousands upon thousands of guards are always stationed to guard it.”

    Van looked back and true enough, he was looking at a back garden of a manor with its back door open. The open door was of course leading towards the interior of the shop in Bell Grade.

    At the top of the door, there was a symbol there and he was all the more familiar with that symbol because it is the numerical symbol for ‘number 4’ in the Terran Language.

    Van chuckled at the irony of this meeting.

    “During the Great Escape, father and the elders created a sealed world in the Door of Nowhere and transferred the entire Island Sanctuary inside of it. They then split the door into nine sealed objects and included them in the first things to be taken away with the batch of escapees along the Kumis Clan… just… what happened back then?”

    Van could only think of some possibilities as to how and why the Spirit of the Heaven Decimating Sword could fall asleep. Not to mention that the Kumis Clan chief had a complete relationship with it, but the memories of the sword was even sealed for that long without waking up until the Von Duchesse Clan’s ancestor found it in a tomb made by the Kumis Clan.

    Van can’t help but feel helpless. “I have so much to do if I want to rebuild our empire… sigh.”

    The Manor itself was built in this seaside and the garden was located at the top most floor of the manor with only that wall with the door as its exit.

    Complicated emotions of nostalgia and hate was in his heart as he unconsciously made his way to the door’s right side to check if there are changes on its ownership.

    His hand touched the side and the door as it gave off a miniscule trembling only felt in the skin.

    A smile emerged in his lips. “It’s bound, huh. So he already owns this fourth seal? Fine. Just wait until I get my items, I will come back and will collect the nine of you.”

    With these thoughts, Van turned around and gave Trevor a smile and a look in his face saying that he was amazed.

    Seeing this, Trevor let out a proud snort.

    “Are you surprised? I found this item a long time ago in an ancient cave owned by one of the Ancient Muan.”

    “Old Muans?” Van asked in honest confusion.

    Searching his memories, Ancient Muans called his people Drifters or something… a nomad race with powerful magic that suddenly appeared out of nowhere. Van couldn’t help but feel that these records pertained to his only lead to his people and so he thought as is.

    There weren’t much information pertaining them in the public libraries because as much as time was concerned, the Drifters and the Ancient Muans lived a minimum of a million years ago while some of the information pertains to an even shorter time.

    All in all, there weren’t much information in the public library to actually tell Van when these Drifters actually lived.

    What they knew is that the Drifters lived with the current society’s progenitors and are their teachers in terms of Magic Arts.

    The Ancient Muans are those progenitors of the current society.

    Also, with some inherited bloodline legacies that is still thriving today, they are the strongest inheritances from the Drifters. Information about how old these legacies are weren’t distributed publicly by these families. Van, upon getting his memories back, instantly recalled about all these once miscellaneous information and immediately thought with 40% certainty that it was his people.

    So when Trevor addressed the owner of this item, the ‘Door of Nowhere’, as something that once belonged to an Ancient Muan, though Van still can’t guess how long his memories were sealed and how many times he was already reincarnated since the Great Escape, Van was still at least 50% sure now that the Drifters were indeed his people that he wanted to find.

    His only clues were the information and theories from the records in the public libraries and also any information regarding the legacies and the items that belonged to the Terran Race.

    When Van asked about the ‘Old Muans’, as he saw Trevor feeling very interested to share this story, he knew that he had to use this chance to gather more proof to his claim.

    He could have used his ability, but he chose not to. There are times that things must be heard if he wanted to learn a few important things.

    “Ah, those days…” Trevor began. Seeing that Van was quite interested, he continued his musings. “I was merely in the Apprentice Stage back then and had just stepped into the world of Magic. I was too eager to try anything, too eager to start my own path to glory… I took up missions and requests in a rather flaring way, not minding about effort and even time. In fact, I didn’t even mind about the difficulty of the missions. I just wanted to train and gain experience…

    “In one particular mission, me and my teammates encountered a mishap and the difficulty of our mission spiked from D to being A! Four of my nine teammates died from the monster’s attacks and I myself had been blown away by a blast from the elemental monster’s breath. I lost it there and then, only to wake up from an unknown amount of time in a mysterious cave.”

    At this point, Trevor had a look of ‘basking in the wonderful memories of youth’ in his face. His story was already at the middle part of how he had gained the door when the tea was brought by the same gorgeous servant before.

    Van, again, couldn’t help but eyeing the servant.

    There was something with her movements that was peculiar. It’s like she was anxious about something but is actually hiding it.

    Because Van had this ‘instinctual sense’ that can detect the type of gaze people had at him, he was able to discern that the Maid Servant was looking at him differently than before.

    It may have been from the moment that he had touched the Door of Nowhere.

    “Ah. This is chamomile tea. Good for the heart.”

    Shop Keeper Trevor courteously invited and handed Van a cup of tea. Van’s attention was snatched from the girl towards Trevor.

    Van took a sip and then a look of anticipation was in his face as he prompted, “Then? A mysterious cave?”

    “Right.” Trevor nodded and smiled after a sip. “I woke up and found myself in a mysterious cave when, looking up, I realized that I might have been blasted off a solidified wall of ice so hard that even the wall of ice that looked like it was a meter thick was actually broken. I felt my bones ache, alright. Very painful. Until now, whenever I remember that day, I still get the goosebumps!”

    Trevor sipped a tea again and he sighed after.

    “Ah, that moment… I don’t know how long I was unconscious but when I looked over the interior of the cave, I discovered a corpse who might have died in his meditation. Beside him was the open door and, to my utter amazement, beyond that door is actually this place.”

    Trevor looked around him and even used the cup of tea in between his fingers to prompt Van to look around him.

    “Every time I use this place, I can’t help but relax and feel refreshed. Although I can’t get inside the Manor and was only limited to a very small area in the Island when trying to probe its size before being led back to this place, I still find this place very helpful in relaxing myself after a day’s work.”

    At this point, Van was laughing to himself.


  • edited June 2017
    UPDATE: 25June2017

    Chapter 29

    Karma

    “Of course, you will always find yourself in a loop since not only you were not able to fully bind this item you also have to collect the other eight seal doors to complete the real Door of Nowhere.”

    Trevor moved his cup of tea and motioned for Van to look towards the horizons.

    “Perpetually at a late morning’s time… this place and this time is the greatest time to drink tea so I called this place my Special Guest Room.”

    Van made an attempt to appreciate Trevor as he chuckled. “A fitting name.”

    “Indeed. Indeed.” Trevor was satisfied and he sipped on his tea again. How deep is his cup?

    But as it turns out, Trevor was the kind who can’t help but gloat around with his attainments and is also the type to scurry favor once an opportunity comes in front of him.

    Right now, Van could tell that Trevor was trying to impress him by telling him that he owned this very place.

    –Should I prove how much he knows about the usage of this item?

    Van’s own thoughts, however, was on a rather different matter.

    “Sip. Ah… Okay, as I was saying, when I crawled over the location of the skeletal corpse, I found a jade medallion in his hand that had the simple instructions on how to bind the door.”

    “Instructions?” Van felt his heart skip a beat.

    He thought that if that skeletal corpse was one of his people, he definitely knew how to use it but in this regard, Van had his doubts.

    Glancing over Trevor under his cloak, he could tell that this person wasn’t even at the Grandmaster Stage of Elemental Enlightenments and basing only on his age and how he acted, he was either a good actor or he was actually really weak.

    With only him, he can’t possibly be able to use this door to its fullest capacity.

    “Yep. Instructions.” Trevor repeated and then he took out a green colored jade medallion. “It is this very medallion that I found in that cave.”

    Showing off this much, Van could tell that the person was actually just gloating in front of him.

    Van couldn’t help but ask himself why.

    And yet, looking at the words etched in the palm-sized jade medallion, the words were clearly of Muan Language and upon reading it, Van couldn’t help but let out a relieved smile.

    “So even that corpse doesn’t know how to use it and only thought of this place as a massive stock room where items can’t rot when stored.” A hint of smile appeared in his face but thanks to the fact that he wore a cloak that covered almost his whole face, the smile was hidden.

    “Clearly, you should be impressed of my humble self, eh?” Thinking this, Trevor smiled warmly as he gloated about his treasure with Van.

    Deep in his mind, even if he showed Van the jade medallion regarding how to bind the door, since it was still bound to him and he could control it to his will if Van were to move against him, and also given the fact that he was part of the prestigious Black Flag Union, he was positive that not even the superpowers of the Empire would dare to make a move against him.

    “This is quite an amazing treasure indeed and I am positive that if the Black Flag Union were to be aware of this treasure, they will definitely make all the moves to acquire this.”

    Hearing this reply, Trevor was quite impressed by Van’s words and was relieved that his actions’ message at this moment were all delivered very clearly to the man.

    Trevor retrieved the jade medallion and couldn’t help but to approve of Van.

    “Whoever was behind him really is powerful to be able to train someone smart like him to be his servant… or perhaps this man is his student… but either way, now that he knows my cards, it’s time to get on the deal itself. All this is for the glory of The Union.”

    Trevor was indeed an experienced Shop Keeper of the Black Flag Union. He wouldn’t even be able to wear the uniform of the Black Flag Union if only he knew how to gloat around and be arrogant.

    Both of them understood each other and so, Van, having sensed what he meant by all these, made his point known.

    “Well then, Master Trevor, let’s proceed to our main business. What can I do for you and what can you do for me?”

    Trevor smiled satisfyingly at Van and his formerly self-gratified demeanor vanished in his mask of somber professionalism.

    “Simple, Master Shang, I actually just want to know who you are working for and if it’s possible, build a… mutual relationship, if you know what I mean. In exchange, I will give you a 20% discount for the items you want and will even issue a Flag Card as a sign of good will and honest intentions. What do you say?”

    Van felt that perhaps he may have gained some LUCK at this moment. But almost immediately, he also erased that thought because he knew better than anyone else what is his condition was.

    With all the knowledge of an entire civilization’s Magic Arts at his disposal, that he had in his past and present lives share his obsession with magic and therefore had paid so much price in exchange for some knowledge regarding any magic formula that can reverse his condition, by that short time that he had regained all his sealed memories and the power he had once gathered before he sealed himself in his past life, at that very short moment itself, he was able to see and check for himself that his condition was indeed the same as before.

    Only, in this life… it was a little worse.

    Van discovered much to his shock that he indeed doesn’t have a Karmic Wheel and so therefore cannot attract LUCK to gather in his direction. To be lucky even just once in his life was something that he yearned and will pay a great price for.

    Trevor’s offer wasn’t luck. This, Van clearly knew from the bottom of his heart.

    It was Karma at work.

    In this current life’s Van, he had thought of some theories how he can attract Karma to his direction and one of the most promising theory is actually in existence… and is also been proven right now.

    His Karmic Relationship with his people!

    Based on what he knew about Karma, and based on the proven facts about Karma by these two worlds he knew, once a person makes contact with ‘something’ that changes ‘something’ in his life, therefore, Karma is made.

    The first ‘something’ can be an event or a series of coincidental meetings, perhaps predisposed, or even planned… but as long as it affect’s a life one way or another, then that ‘something’ will create Karma threads that binds (and attracts) other souls into its web design.

    In other words, the «cause» of Karma.

    The second ‘something’ can simply be defined as the «effect» for it is the product of the «cause».

    Being the «effect» hence moves (or spins) the intertwined threads of the people whose Karmic Wheel had been hooked to that «effect» and also therefore causes a chain reaction that attracts other Karmic Wheels.

    The more Karmic Wheels are hooked in a single Karma Thread, the better the rewards at the end of the road.

    And this chain reaction’s roots can be traced for a single word.

    Desire.

    For example, an adventurer stuck at his quest and can’t move on for many years and yet hasn’t given up on it in some corner of his heart, will find it ‘Karma at work’ or ‘fate’ as one day he saw a token being sold at a local store he just casually strolled into. He then discovers that that token had something to do with his forgotten and almost abandoned quest.

    Little did he know that the item had once been in the hands of a powerful individual who lost it as he was killed by a maidservant who’s actually his daughter from a woman he once raped.

    This… is LUCK. This is Karma.

    This is a genuine «cause» and «effect» scenario.

    LUCK, as has been proven, is the result of a strong «Karmic Wheel» in motion. The strength of attraction of a person’s Karmic Wheel can simply be defined by how strong and how stubborn is his desire.

    Strong desires makes the Karmic Wheel attract better Karma Threads. The more Karma Wheels powered by strong desire spins and attracts a single particular Karma Thread, the more violent the reaction and the more significant the chain reaction of the «cause» and «effect» will be. It can even give birth to numerous new «cause» and «effect» chain reactions, just how the given example had been.

    Some people call this phenomena ‘Gears of Fate’.

    But for Van Kingsley who was born with a mortal soul and doesn’t have an Elemental Alignment, who can’t attract LUCK and is therefore feared to one day become the cause of a Bad Luck… since he can’t attract LUCK to come his way, his only option left is to ‘ride’ the huge tidal waves in the already in existent Karmic Relationship he had with his people’s, the Terran Race’s legacies.

    Based on what he could guess so far, the Great Escape led them to this world and through the great passage of time, the survivors left many legacies and items that had Karmic Threads in it.

    As the Crown Prince of the Terran Empire, his relationship to these legacies and items are of the greatest and most significant of all Karmic Relationships!

    Be that as it may, with his goals in mind, he had to get and use whatever and all that is necessary in order to achieve his goals.

    Not to mention that his relationship with the ‘Door of Nowhere’ was already of a significance even before the Great Escape… now that he was in need of supporting items in order to realize his goals… why would he miss this chance to build and also ‘cause’ a Karmic Thread with him being the center?

    Besides, no matter the ‘effect’ of the action he was about to do, it was still Karma and what he was about to do is bound to create a Karmic Thread.

    Thinking up to his point and hearing Trevor’s very promising proposition, goosebumps travelled from Van’s legs to his nape as he felt that at last, his fate is moving.

    Somehow, it was all thanks to that Demon.

    Van smiled at Trevor’s words as soon as he heard it and he then, without removing the hood of his cloak, laid out all his Gold in the table and then spoke in a serious manner.


    Chapter 30:
    Lao Shang, Alchemist, Glad To Be Of Service

    “My master is a very reclusive individual and he is a man who does not meddle in mortal affairs. I was found by my master as a war orphan and was then brought here in this Empire because it is a relatively quiet country… far from the warring tribes of the North and West. I will have to ask for you to forgive me for I have not the right to be disclosing my master’s name. But know this that I will tell my master your good intentions and also promise that as long as we have a cooperative relationship, you can be assured that we will be of the greatest of friends.”

    Van’s voice was calm yet vindictive. He’d learned how to be vindictive when he was traveling their Terran Empire and his calmness was actually his two lives’ worth of accumulated experiences of near-death situations.

    Trevor, of course was disappointed but it doesn’t mean that he was outright rejected by the person in front of him.

    It wasn’t big but he still felt that his decision to show his cards and ask for a show off was true to be correct.

    He may not have gotten the information he want but he still got something better and can even be used to perhaps shorten his search.

    The West-North Dominion War!

    It was a fact that for over ten thousand years now is the West-North Dominion War. The Northern Icecaps and the Western Dessert Tribes have always been in war against each other.

    In the last ten thousand years, this war had been able to give birth to powerful individuals and it is also a fact that some of these individuals have already been fed up with the war that they chose to stay away from it.

    Van’s words: ‘I was an orphan’ and ‘the warring tribes of the North and West’ was actually an open secret announcement of his master’s origins.

    This information was enough to make Trevor smile and it was also enough for him to say that this gamble is a win for him.

    If he was able to maintain this sprouting ‘cooperative relationship’ and even manages to make it bloom into a ‘friendship’ then he may have indeed given the Black Flag Union a very meritable service.

    What is the small matter of ‘showing his cards’ to a stranger if The Union will recognize this small bit of compromise for a better reward of a higher position and even a bigger shop to manage?

    Perhaps even becoming an Elder…?

    Excitement arose in Trevor’s chest as he laughed out loud and patted his thigh many times and even asked for Van to forgive him.

    “Of course, of course! I shall not be presumptuous as to destroy this opportunity. As promised,” At his point, Trevor accessed his Spatial Artifact and then all the items that Van needed, including the items he proposed to give, were all laid in the table. “Here are the items that you need, Master Shang. And as promised, I also gave you a 20% discount and issued a Flag Card.”

    Van and Trevor collected their items before Van stood up and then cupped his hands and gently nodded at Trevor.

    Taking a few steps, Van glanced at the side and saw, again, that peculiar maidservant of Trevor.

    Van turned his back at Trevor and then asked, “I just want to ask. How many servants are working under you?”

    Van’s words startled the maidservant and Trevor himself frowned as he started at Van and then to his maidservant.

    “What do you mean?” Trevor asked curiously.

    Van glanced over the girl and then studied her face, then he took a step forward, and another, and then another, and until he was three paces away from the girl that he stopped. He leaned closer to the girl, looking directly at her eyes from the darkness of his hood.

    Everything happened in a span of four breaths.

    After a while of studying the girl, Van glanced over at Trevor then smiled secretly, “Nothing. I just want to know since she’s my type. Well, anyways, I will take my leave. I will come back again once my master had given his reply to our proposition.”

    Hearing this, Trevor beamed a wide smile as if he was finding it normal. After all, he did instruct for her to be as attractive as possible. And so with that, he waved a hand at Van. “I will be looking forward to it then, Master Shang.”

    “Farewell.”

    Van made one last glance over the girl before he also gave the ‘Number 4’ one last glance before taking his steps.

    Once he exited the shop, 100m away from there, he stopped his steps, turned into a corner, his the staff back into his Spatial Artifact, and then went into a frantic run with all his might.

    That’s because 100m away from him, someone was following his smell.

    “Where are you going?!” an angry voice screamed from behind. “Who are you? How did you know?”

    Van wasn’t afraid since he could tell that the one who was following him was actually the ‘maid’ whose disguise he saw through.

    If one thing, she was indeed his type but just the fact that she was somewhat spying on Trevor who Van is targeting right now, he had to at least give her something to worry about.

    As they run, they have already turned into many streets and avenues, bumped into other citizens, and even jumped over fences and climb low-level walls… she was actually chasing him through!

    Van was still a mortal and after 30 minutes of high speed running, he was almost nearing his limit.

    After turning into a corner, Van leaned on the very corner of the building and waited.

    Two breaths later, the Master-Stage maid that’s been following him turned to the corner and that was when Van tripped the girl.

    The girl was caught by surprise and, as stupid as it was, she fell victim into the simplest form of how to kill someone smoothly.

    But she was still a Wizard and so her reaction speed was still faster than normal.

    She twisted her body and raised her left hand, catching a hand that was about to grab her.

    “Hmp!” a snort escaped her mouth as she tried to pull the arm of the hand that tried to grab but she stopped midway because she realized that she had been caught. “You!”

    Her anger was raised another level and her face blushed beet red. “Despicable! Shameless! Lecher! Pig! Dog! Evil bastard!” she exclaimed and pushed the hand away. “You… you…!”

    “Sorry.” Van’s voice trailed in honest apology but his mind was etching the feeling of her soft chest in his heart. “You suddenly appeared there so I had no choice but to do it.”

    “Pervert!” she said and covered her body with her two hands.

    “I’m not.”

    With Van’s defense, the girl became angrier but she let go of that topic and went back to her main reason why she followed him.

    “Who are you?”

    Her eyes narrowed in wariness and she prepared her Mana as it circulated violently in her body. As of the moment, Van was feeling apprehensive for he hasn’t begun his preparation and yet he was already met with trouble.

    Such events were only natural because since he was only ‘riding’ on the waves threaded by those people that had interest on his people’s items, he was indeed bound to meet oppositions and also some trouble for doing so.

    Van, brushing off the topic of him grabbing her chest as well, bowed like a jester with one arm on his chest.

    “Lao Shang. Alchemist. Glad to be of service.”

    “Alchemist?” the girl frowned further.

    “My master’s order was just to buy a few things and he explicitly ordered me to never attract any trouble as I always do. So, I’m sorry but our short introduction had already been made. I will now take my leave.”

    With Van’s quick words and actions, the girl was caught off guard as she stared how Van took the familiar on his shoulder and raised it on his head.

    At the next instant, a strong gale of wind sprung from above his palm and the little monster vanished along with the gale only to appear next with its full 30m sized green-striped yellow-scaled Felysis-type S-Class monster.

    The girl froze and her heart almost stopped from beating as Leon’s diagonal eyes glared at her as soon as he appeared.

    “Take care, Lucia. Oh, and I advise that you do not think of stealing the door. And another thing,” as Van quickly mounted on Leon’s back, Leon raised his body beginning to jump when Van finished his sentence with a serious tone. “Tell your clan chief that I will be visiting him with violence if he still tries his hand on the door.”

    Hearing the threat made the maidservant, Lucia, both frightened and surprised.

    Frightened that the mysterious Master Mage was able to know her identity. Surprised because she had no recollection of ever meeting the man.

    “Who are you?” She could only ask as Leon jumped high and reached a hundred meters in almost the next second that he jumped.

    No answer came to her as she, and the other surprised citizens watched in horror how the 30m sized S-Class monster came and left their city walls.

    The Guard Knights of the city came late as they were informed late. Van was already far in the horizons when they arrived.

    Lucia was the one who’s more surprised.

    How did he know who she was?

    It’s been a long time since she used that name.

    Not even their clan chief knows her real name and yet the man was able to tell who she was where she doesn’t even know him.

    And his familiar… a frightening S-Class monster.

    To be able to discover her disguise was also a blow to her ego. She had mastered this art for a very long time now and yet she was clearly seen and has been exposed after just a few glance.

    Recalling all these details she can’t help but recall his warnings…

    The man known as Lao Shang actually warned that he will violently visit her clan chief if he still insists on putting his hand on the ‘door’.

    “So it was true that it was one of the doors…” she murmured and then, walking into another alley with no disturbed people, she torn apart her fake face and also used her Mana to burn off her fake maidservant dress.

    What was left was her real self, a purple haired vixen with the same seductive curves but a more daring and sharp persona.

    Her short bobcat hair style complimented her ultra-seductive curves and her lithe figure when she walks to the other side of the alley was even more emphasized by the dim lights in between the shadowed walls.

    Chapter 31
    Reversing the Curse

    She fixed her black leather jacket and brushed off a few dusts on her black leather pants… then, just as she recalled the young man and how she was treated like she was so below him despite their close age, actually brought a pain in her chest since her pride and ego was both trampled upon.

    Clenching her fist, she punched the wall on her left before sticking a hand on the left breast pocket of her leather jacket, taking out a gum, and putting it on her mouth.

    She leaned on the wall an sighed many times before she finally calmed down.

    “I have to report this.” She murmured and then cast her Mana to the Star Dial Bracelet. After a while, a voice came into her ears as the contact was established.

    “Report.” A gruff voice of a man said.

    “Boss, I experienced a mishap. We got a problem on our tails.”

    A low grunting noise came from the person she had established a contact before the same voice came back with a calm tone.

    “Details.”

    “Firstly, someone knows our plan. Second, my cover has been blown by this someone and he is actually a powerful Alchemist with an S-Class monster familiar that can change shape and size at will. The name’s Lao Shang. Third, this so-called Lao Shang works for a strong Wizard from the North-West Dominion War. Lastly, it’s been confirmed, there is more than one of the doors.”

    There was a pause as the man on the other side digested the information.

    Lucia, chewing the gum with anger in between her teeth, left the information about the warning because she believed that no matter how strong the Wizard behind Lao Shang was, their ‘clan’ and their resourceful ‘boss’ was still superior. If not, the organization that she belonged in wouldn’t have existed for a thousand years already.

    A while passed and there was no reply. But after a few minutes more, the deep voice rang on the other side of her communication.

    “It’s confirmed. Lao Shang is not a well-known Wizard from the West nor was he also famous in the North. Proceed with the plan. Secure your cover. I will send in support personnel to help you out on your mission.”

    Hearing this, he still couldn’t help but remember that calm warning earlier

    It was only just a few minutes ago but she still can’t forget how he seemed to relaxedly cast the changing of forms of his familiar.

    Such magic… she had never seen it before.

    As far as she was concerned, a familiar is tamed as soon as it was born. But to be able to tame a fully matured monster and change its form from being big to becoming small… it was unheard of.

    “Alice…. Alice!” the voice called repeatedly and the increased urgency on the last call startled her as she stuttered for a reply.

    “I-I’m sorry sir. I zoned out…”

    “Hmmm… is he that powerful?” the voice asked in a wary tone.

    Lucia thought for a moment before answering with a bitter, “Yes.”

    There was silence on the other end of the contact and it actually even lasted for a while before the gruff voice of the man spoke again.

    “Okay. Change of plans, we will carry out the plan as soon as possible. Secure the target and make sure that he doesn’t go out of the city. I will also go this time. Contact me again if anything happens or if that Alchemist appears again. Wait for us.”

    A look of worry was on her face and she frowned and looked up. “Boss, I’m kind of confused right now.”

    “Don’t be.” Said the gruff voice calmly. “Always remember why we are doing this.”

    Hearing this, Lucia’s chaotic thoughts were fixed and the motto of their clan appeared in her head and became like a mantra, being chanted over and over until she actually calmed down as if her thoughts were tamed by it.

    “Yes. I understand.” She replied coldly.

    “Good. This is for the Clan.”

    “For the… Clan…”

     

    *****

     

    Van and Leon flew in an isolated mountain wall in the Nemea. It took them roughly an hour and this is only an isolated mountain wall in the furthest and closest part of the mountain range.

    All this time, Van was quiet from the usual teaser and bully master so Leon was puzzled by this change. He knew his master was thinking.

    But even so, he knew how zipped Van was during that ‘escape’ and thought that the order he gave Leon to ‘intimidate’ the girl was in a way rushed and also weird. But Leon doesn’t have the gall to question Van since he was the master and he was only the mount, he had no call on whatever he decides during these times.

    They landed on a high steep rocky wall and Van pointed on a location and sent a mental command through the master emblem.

    “Make a hole.”

    Leon, following his master’s orders without a word and also sensing the seriousness of his master’s mood did not retort and only followed the command.

    He used his right ‘arm’ to keep himself in place on the wall and used the other ‘arm’ to punch his way through to the wall to make a cave.

    The shaking of the cliff wall continued for some time and curious little animal and some smaller sized monsters flew, hovered, and peeked on to in between some rocks to see what was happening on their peaceful mountain.

    When they saw a Muan and the large monster, as some of those with higher level of sensing danger saw Leon, they immediately fled but those with lower level even made their way closer.

    In the end, Van caught some of the little animals for food while some of those were eaten directly by Leon through his long neck.

    After a while, a hole big enough and deep enough to shelter the both of them was made and Leon made the final touches to smoothen up the inside of the cave with his own strength.

    “Let’s go.” Van ordered and they entered.

    Strategically, the location of this cave was directly facing Bell Grade City far away but it’s impossible to be reached by people and monsters that do not have the ability to fly.

    Van immediately pulled out items from his Spatial Artifact and looked at them with a serious mood.

    Four decks of Magic Cards.

    The four Top-Grade Mana Crystals he got from Ysabelle.

    One Light Stone.

    The Unihorn paint brush.

    One bottle of no-essence One-Eyed Squid Blood Ink.

    And finally, the Red Gem.

    Looking at them, a complicated expression was written all over Van’s face.

    “The quality of the Magic Cards is so much lower than I anticipated and yet this is what they call the ‘high-grade’ Magic Cards in this country?”

    Van was greatly disappointed.

    Back in his old life, this is what they call the lowest of the Low-Grade Magic Cards, made by a Card Artisan who was just beginning to learn the secrets of the trade.

    “With this quality of work, no wonder they only use Magic Cards for the lowest grades of magic used only for household chores…”

    Van was angry and he felt that Yuna’s gold was spent on trash items. But he can’t do a thing for he was trapped with a situation with very limited resources and no other choice but to resort to his desperate means to increase his resources.

    “I really need to get all those doors so that I can increase my resources and better help myself lessen the time it takes me to make all of the necessary arrangements.”

    With a disappointed sigh, Van sat down in front of his items and then sent Leon some instructions.

    Leon looked at him and then flew outside. He did not grumble nor said any whining retorts because he was afraid of Van’s disappointed expression.

    It was like he was looking at a Sovereign who was tricked by an enemy country to giving one of his bountiful lands away.

    He doesn’t want to anger that Sovereign so Leon did his best to procure what Van needs.

    Sitting down, Van focused his mind on the task at hand and recalled all the magic lessons he had ‘learned’ in his past life.

    “My Bloodline Ability was treated as the strongest and also the most dangerous ability in our Empire back then. Because of the ‘Inheritance’ Magic Art that Royal Great Grand Father developed, I can impart anything I have learned to anyone that I wish to without any limit…”

    Van first picked up the Magic Card and unfolded one deck. Fifty-two cards all in all and both sides of the cards are empty.

    “I can conclude that almost 80% of the Magic Arts and Magic Items of this world came from my people’s technology. Not only the name was the same but also the application and arrangements of Magic Formulas were also the same. Some of the animals, monsters, and even the surnames of some of the families are also few of the family names back in my old world. They are those who had managed to pass through the World Gate during the Great Escape…”

    Taking the Unihorn paint brush from its box, a mysterious aura of power bore pressure to the entirety of the cave. Van, as a mortal, felt this pressure and he could only curse at it in lament as he remembered how it felt when he was eight years old in his past life.

    “I was a kid when I first discovered this method of using Barrier Formations patterns in Magic Cards as substitute for not being able to use magic. It may be weaker, can’t be used immediately, and needed a catalyst before activated, it still enabled me to regain some honor into my name.”

    Thinking of his past life made Van emotional but he did not show any soreness at this moment and actually even thought of the bitter death of Jonas Kingsley in this life on that day… the day he received the professor coat he was wearing.

    Van added it as fuel in his obsession with magic.

    As he opened the lid of the Blood Ink bottle, he then dipped the brush inside.

    The Blood Ink in the bottle was a blue crystalline liquid and its mysterious properties were trapped inside the bottle by a unique barrier formation intended for the liquid.

    When the Unihorn Thread paint brush brought the liquid outside the barrier formation of the bottle, the blue liquid turned black and he could feel that the pressure inside the cave intensified by another degree and was enough to press on his chest to even affect his breathing.

    “I have to be quick.”

    Van quickly moved his writing arm, supported by his other, and led the brush tip to write a runic symbol on the fist-sized Magic Card.

    “According to the ancient Terran Scriptures, the Eight Elements represents the mortal body while the Four Laws of the World are the restrictions of Mana on the Immortal Soul. To practice Magic is to strive for Immortality; to be enlightened of the Mortal Limits and remove them one by one, and then to assimilate all Stages of Enlightenments to unite body and soul is the way of Immortality…”

    With quick and precise movements, Van finished the first symbol and the black ink immediately solidified and sipped into the Magic Card to form a single character.

    Looking at the finished product, one might even say that Van had just wasted a Magic Card.

    No magic phenomena happened after the Magic Card was used and even the character itself only looked like a drawing of an ancient Terran symbol.

    Van wiped the sweat from his forehead and then he looked at the Magic Card with a whining heart.

    “This is just the first symbol and yet the pressure was already enough to tire me. Back then, I had assistants that can lessen the pressure but now, I don’t even have the rights to whine… sigh… I still have hundreds of this torture to go. Life is so fucking hard on me.”

    Author's NOTE: 
    Next chapter(s) coming in for at least three days, max six days or five, maybe four, but at least three days. 
  • edited June 2017
    Chapter 32:
    The Three Kinds of Magicians

    “According to the ancient Terran Scriptures, the Eight Elements represents the mortal body bound by limits set in stone. The Four Laws of the boundless universe are the restrictions of Life and only by transcending these restrictions and becoming an Immortal by shedding the Mortal Limits using one’s enlightenments will one be fully deemed as to have used their Immortal Soul to achieve everlasting life…

    “To practice Magic is to strive for Immortality; to be enlightened of the configuration of the Mortal Limits; to remove these limits one by one; and to assimilate one’s Stages of Enlightenments to unite body and soul into one form is the way of Immortality and is a phenomena in itself as well…

    “All phenomena are made up of Mana’s «Words of Power» that connects and establishes events together, forming Threads of Karma…

    “Fates are made by Karmic Relationships sewn from these ‘Threads’; one Fate, one Thread, many souls intertwined… thus Karma is made…

    “Every «Word of Power» is made up of one or more ‘Runes and Symbols’ that totals up to one thousand and eighty components –the characters that makes up the «Language of the Gods».

    .

    .

    .

    “Everything starts and ends with Mana for Mana is the World, the Word, and Life itself…”

    Like a mantra, Van’s mind was recalling all of the Magic lessons he had learned on these two lives.

    In this life, he had focused his studies into the intricate mysteries and complicatedness of Barrier Formations, the practical applications of medicine confection, and the body strengthening on his job as a blacksmith apprentice…

    In his past life, he was obsessed at finding all of the ancient Magic Arts of the Terran Race, tracing their origins and learning the forgotten details of their Immortal Culture, and then tried to scrape and complete the list of the runes and characters that made up the «Language of the Gods»…

    Two lives one goal…

    …to try to formulate a way to change his mortal soul state!

    While Van’s eyes closed, he recalled a distant past…

    *********

    *****

    **

    Prince Van had just reached 29 years of age… he and along with his friends, discovered the most ancient ruins in the Terran World in a sunken city in the most dangerous and deepest part of their deepest ocean.

    Even the oldest living members of their race, the surviving Elders of the endless immortal wars that had passed… were surprised by their discovery.

    That ruin was actually the first place where their ancestors had unlocked the secrets of Magic and Harmony… where Van along with the most brilliant Researchers and Historians of the Terran Empire discovered an Ancient Magic they called ‘The World Gate’…

    …it is also the place where Van came upon the last piece of the puzzle that gave him the ability to finish his life’s work.

    “Unlocking the Mortal Realm creates a circle.

    “Reaching the Earth Realm makes a second ring.

    “To breach into the Heaven Realm completes the full circle as preparation for Immortal Ascension.”

    He called it «The Teneity».

    Prince Van was ready but fate had other plans.

    One night, a year after the grand discovery, after collecting all of the items that he needed to construct the ‘Unique Magic Art’ that will change his fate, the stars in their night skies began to fall and their brightest solar star also dimmed.

    Darkness begun to envelop the Terran World as the stars fell into their lands with lights as dim as the darkest night.

    Within the fallen stars were the burning children of darkness, feeding off of the life of the star and of whoever lived on their light.

    At that moment, havoc and destruction spread and all their lands were engulfed in a survival war.

    Van will never forget that day.

    He watched in despair as his people died in the invasion. He had to abandon all his plans and focus his efforts to helping the Elders to construct the World Gate. They knew that the Demons are here to kill them all.

    They had to prepare to face the worst outcome.

    It was the first and the last time they created the World Gate, without even a specific destination in mind. They opened the portal and began the procedure Van dubbed as their ‘Great Escape’.

    In order to preserve the Terran Culture and find a way to one day get revenge to the Demon Race, they gathered all their heritages; recorded their Cultural Achievements in gems, tablets, tomes, and even scrolls; prioritized the children over the elderly to preserve the young generation and so to continue the bloodlines; collected all species of creatures, monsters, and animals; and then finally did their best to pass through the World Gate as fast as they can.

    He watched it all happen. He knew that his world was done and could only look back one last time.

    But then on the final moments of their escape, the Devil Emperor descended from the dark sky and decimated everything he passed through.

    His Eldest Brother died beside their Royal Father.

    His Second Brother and Third Brother died while protecting his Fourth Sister –who also died trying to protect Van as he put all his effort to close the World Gate and let his people go.

    Back then, he accepted his fate. He accepted his death wholeheartedly for the first time.

    He used his own life to protect the closing portal and faced off the Devil that ruined his world.

    Because of this, the Devil Emperor’s rage made Van the last one to die and even cursed him to be a ‘Branded’ soul to make him suffer after his rebirth at the hand of demons, as he did so.

    “I will find you.”

    This is the Devil Emperor’s promise and also his curse.

    It was also at that moment that, even though he had accepted his death in the hands of the Devil Emperor, in the final moments just before the portal totally collapsed, a shadow of woman passed through his vision… pulling him over and activating an ancient spell they both knew well would have to be paid with a great price.

    Van could only watch everything happen and even the Devil Emperor was powerless to do a thing for the spell was Mana’s greatest and most ancient decree.

    It was all done to save Van’s life.

    Then, at the final moment, Van made the promise…

    “For as long as I live, I will never forget!”

    **

    *****

    **********

    ***************

    Van opened his eyes and calmly looked at his surroundings.

    The cold feel of the rocks penetrated his skin like the tomb of the mausoleum. The smell of fresh soil wet from his sweat waft the putrid air of the cave and irritated his nose like a tickling scent.

    Little Leon’s childlike snores beside him echoed on the walls as if trying to hypnotize him to sleep again while the sound of strong and cold rainy wind outside their cave gave the overall feeling of a giant giving out a  low continued hum.

    “Ellie…”

    Looking at the ceiling, he murmured the name, a sigh escaping his chest into the cold cave air.

    Van sat up and leaned on the wall, glancing at the inner part of the cave where a not so bright red glow was coming from a Red Gem in the middle of a Magic Circle.

    “Because I don’t have a Blue Gem, I would have to put up with you.” Van told it to himself with disappointment like telling these words towards the Red Gem as if it had done a wrong thing.

    The entire Magic Circle itself was made up of six smaller ‘component circles’ where one is comprised of eight ‘core circles’ while five are separated into their own respective core circles.

    Each of the ‘core circles’ had a deck of cards that’s stacked atop each other.

    That one circle with eight ‘core circles’ had 8 decks with 130 cards each deck, representing the Eight Elements Body: one element, 130 cards, 1040 different runic characters.

    The other five decks on the other core circles had varying numbers of cards each deck, representing the Four Laws of the World and the ‘Great Cycle’ of Life and Death…

    Law of Gravity… 10 characters

    Law of Time… 16 characters

    Law of Space… 3 characters

    Law of Harmony… 9 characters

    Life and Death… 2 characters

    –all in all, it is the 1080 characters of the Language of the Gods or in simpler words, just «The 1080».

    Between the cards, a bright golden light makes up the spaces as their runic symbols were slowly being morphed from black into golden ink.

    A clear surge of power was emitting from each of the deck and it was becoming heavier and heavier as the black ink becomes more golden. It was changing the overall atmosphere inside the cave.

    “Maybe it was this familiar fluctuation in the Mana of the surroundings that was making me remember all these memories…?”

    Van let out a sigh as he grumbled.

    The Red Gem in the midst became the catalyst of the change in the cards as a script made up of the combination of ‘The 1080’ was written using the Light Stones that formed the component circles.

    As small as his nails, these characters emitted a very dim glow as they only served as the ‘action’ of the ‘core circles’ that they joined.

    “The term ‘Magic’ is the very phenomenon that happens by mixing different combinations of the characters of The Language of the Gods. The Language of the Gods is divided into 1080 characters… with each character a single action and a phenomena by themselves where each and every combination of these characters equals into more powerful phenomena that affects and changes the properties of the Physical World. In my past life, we called this event the «World Alteration Phenomena» but in this life, it was simply called as «Magic»…”

    Van thought of the very foundations of Magic of his two lives and can’t help but feeling a little bit apprehensive of the irony of it.

    In this world, Muans divided Magicians into three categories…

    1)      Wizards
    2)      War Mage (or just Mage)
    3)      Alchemists

    ‘Wizards’ are Magicians who focuses on strengthening their bodies and practices majority of the Sword Arts and Martial Arts, relying on the degree of their Elemental Alignment.

    They comprise 80% of the total number of all the Magicians in the world. After all, it was easier to gain enlightenment on what element you are most aligned with.

    ‘War Mages’ focuses their studies and research on higher level of Magic application where they strive to be able to cast Area-of-Effect magic that can decimate an entire country at will.

    Their attention is set to increasing their Mana Pool Level so that they can cast higher-level magic, and focused lesser in Elemental Alignment.

    Scholars are part of these kinds of Magicians.

    Almost 20% of the entire Magician populations are Mages. But Alchemists, however, are the most powerful of the three as they focus their efforts on improving what was advantageous of the first two types of Magicians.

    Their Magic Arts can be considered unique yet also powerful. They can display a power that is one Stage, or even higher, than their own peers in the same Stage of Enlightenment as them.

    Alchemists have no specific hereditary Magic Arts for their Magic Arts are based on their Elemental Alignments (just like Wizards), boosted by the AOE application techniques and Magic Arts of the second type of Magician (Mages), to summon what general populace call [Physical-World Alteration Phenomena].

    They can manipulate molecular configurations at will!

    However, Alchemists, having stronger bodies and powerful AOE Magic Arts, are the hardest to practice and improve on as they spend more time on both the major points of the first two and also experience the drawbacks of the two kinds.

    Alchemists are VERY rare in the modern times.

    There are no specific helpful tips and teachings for them and they had to formulate–create–their own paths from scratch.

    As such, they are often left behind by their peers and are forced to forget their attempts and to be one of either of the two first types just so they can keep up with the members of their own generation.

    Only the most talented and the most powerful of the most stubborn on every Alchemist are able to climb up on the ladder of power.

    “If I had to categorize myself in my past life, I may be called a cheating War Mage. If not for my Bloodline Ability though, I wouldn’t be able to come up with this cheating method to use magic in my 29 years of life back then. Sigh… how easy is for me to just casually think and remember this like it just happened yesterday? I was freaking born a second time around!”

  • edited June 2017

    Chapter 33:
    A Desperate Van

    In the middle of his ruminations, Van told himself with a slight chuckle.

    Within the entire history the of Mu Continent, only a handful of Magicians have the patience, diligence, and iron will to ignore everything else and only pursue the ultimate goal in this road.

    As such, one out of every million really succeeds in it where every successful Alchemist is far in between on every generation.

    In the current generation, however, a living legend still breathes among Van’s current society and he was one of the retainers of the Von Duchesse Imperial Family.

    Grand Master Shin!

    Thinking to this point, Van couldn’t help but sigh.

    He stood quietly, going towards his Magic Circle, checking the current status of the transformation effect.

    “After so many days of hard work, at last, it is almost done.” He murmured and then, again, let out a disappointed sigh. “Not only I don’t have a Blue Gem… even the quality of the Magic Cards are poorest of the poor. At this point, I can only cast Expert-Stage Magic at desperate situations but even that, as the boost of the Red Gem is only 1/100th of a Blue Gem, the casting time is very slow as well…”

    After he sighed on this irony of his poor situation, he then checked his inventory as he sent his own thoughts to the Spatial Artifact.

    “I have food enough for a month… utensils… 40 Mid-Grade Mana Crystals… 80 Low-Grade ones… no Gold… a whole body mirror… a make-up kit… my painting stuff… a few clothes… and what’s left of the things I bought… sigh…”

    Knowing that there’s no point being depressed over it, he walked over the entrance of the cave where he observed the city of Bell Grade from a distance.

    “Good thing there was wine…” thinking to this point, he took out his wine from his inventory and then waited for the process to complete while he watched the rainy night pass by.

    In his mind, he thought of all the things that had bothered him after he woke up. Especially for that one sole existence that can cause his heart to skip a beat each time.

    Looking up, he raised the bottle of wine towards the dark grey sky, hoping that his cheers would reach her heart somehow.

    “Ellie… how are you today? Are you well? Please be safe and don’t skip your meals. I want you to be as beautiful as you have always been in my memories. I never forgot, just like I promised. I sealed my memories before I passed the Door of Life and so… please… wait for me… I will find you.”

    A bitter smile beamed on his face and he was murmuring these words since he was positive that no one would listen.

    From behind, Leon looked at his solemn back and he let out a low growl as he, too, thought of the family that he wouldn’t be seeing ever again.

     

    *****

     

    Priestess Monica ‘The Noble’, second highest in the ranks of the Priestesses of the Sect, is looking at a girl leisurely walking in their Rose Garden.

    “How many days has it been?” she mused. “I really missed this girl’s smile.”

    Ever since the incident on that particular day, the Holy Daughter of their Sect, Claire, had been quiet and had never left her room to do anything until today.

    The usual smiling and cheerful girl had lost her smile these past few days and all she does is stare at the moon at night or the sky during the day.

    Sometimes she would murmur some things, and sometimes she would sigh. It was as if she was carrying something that was both a bother and also a mysterious source of a mysterious feeling in her heart.

    When asked, all she’d say is “I don’t know” while shaking her head then go back to mooning.

    But then, in this particular day, Monica was really surprised to see Claire wearing a mysterious smile while leisurely walking to the Rosy Path of their Rose Garden.

    Claire’s attendants were behind Monica by her own orders and they too were marveling as to the root of Claire’s mysteriously charming smile.

    Ah, yes, it is indeed charming…

    No matter if they are also women, Claire had always been the most dazzling lady in their Sect and her smile, especially this smile right now, was even more beautiful than it has before.

    If before, she smiles because of her warm and cheerful character, now, that smile plastered on her face had a mature charm to it.

    They just can’t help but appreciate that smile.

    Even Monica.

    Even if Claire can’t use Magic and is also looked down (secretly) upon by some of the ladies of the Sect, she still retained a very easy to approach personality aside from the fact that she had a very trusting and open heart.

    But today, this morning, as soon as she woke up, she had a great smile in her lips and this smile, when paired by the hum she’s been singing for a while now… is multiplying her charms in an exponential manner.

    And so, even though they don’t know what’s happening to her lately, Claire’s attendants were still smilingly looking at her.

    “Claire…” Unable to help herself, Monica slowly walked over to her location and called.

    The young lady in question sighed while looking at a rose and then looked at Monica with a blush on her face.

    “I know I shouldn’t be feeling this but I had a dream last night and it felt so real and wonderful.”

    This reply surprised Monica but more than that, she was also concerned.

    “Is it connected to your… vision?”

    Claire shook her head. “I’m not sure.” A fleck of frown dashed quickly on her face before she made another sigh and wore the same mature smile. “I don’t even remember the dream. But I have the fleeting feeling of the sea… the water splashing gently in my feet… and… and I was, like, waiting for someone… oh, I don’t know…”

    Claire’s cheeks burned a hot pink. Her rosy white complexion became even more charming as she was instinctively hugged by Monica for an unknown reason.

    Even Monica herself was surprised of what she did because seeing that adorable conflicted look in the girl’s face was somewhat irresistible for even for her.

    She, a priestess, someone who had represented the Sect for many years on many occasions, had been rendered weak and fragile by this silly girl’s innocent look of confusion.

    In her heart, she feared that the vision may have caused something to spark within Claire.

    Whether it was a bad thing or a good thing, they are still unaware of it. What they knew, however, is that they can only bid the girl some time before she can tell them what it was that she had seen in that mysterious vision of hers.

     

    *****

    Two days later, at night, a flash of bright red light came from the formation in the cave. Van and Leon were startled awake when the pressure in the cave abruptly intensified into a frightening level and then also disappeared quickly after.

    “At last!” Van exclaimed in excitement.

    Leon crawled his way to his shoulder as Van made his way towards the now floating deck of cards.

    “Yes!” he cocked his arm and then knelt down on the center of the circle. He put his right thumb on his lips and then bit a small wound in it before he pushed his blood on the wound to drop on the now brightly lit Red Gem. “With this, I shall now be able to cast magic even if I’m not a Wizard. To hell if it’s temporary… at least I can!”

    Magic is the product of Stages of Enlightenment, increased Mana Pool Levels, and of course, one’s own Elemental Alignment.

    To change the construction of the physical world, to cast magic, there are three important components.

    1)      Mana to fuel the Magic Formula

    2)      The Magic Formula (or the effect) itself

    3)      And the medium (or ‘The Channel’) that connects the formula and the World

    In a way, to be able to cast magic even without a Mana Pool Level or even without Enlightenments is somewhat of a cheat in its entirety.

    But then again, his difference of a mortal soul from the ‘normal’ Muan’s Immortal Soul who had the capability to evolve and become immortal despite their low Mana Affinity and slow-to-weak comprehensive abilities, is still evident.

    Alas, even the ‘mortal’ citizens in the city, if they are compared to Van, are still ways off better for they have the Immortal Soul and had the ability to be immortals if they work hard for it. After all, there was still ‘LUCK’ that which Van does not have. His only difference from them is that Van is working hard to be one while they, having low Mana Affinity and weak innate comprehensive abilities, choose to give it up and just live a normal life until their life forces are depleted and die of old age.

    To say that they are ‘mortals’ are killing his hopes since he doesn’t have the same choice (to forget their chance of being immortals because they lack the comprehensive talent and higher Mana Affinity) like they do.

    Van had a mortal soul thus he is unable to support the Stages of Enlightenments and unable to increase his Mana Pool Level…

    And doesn’t have a Karmic Wheel that can attract ‘LUCK’ to change his fate…

    They have Immortal Souls but low Mana Affinity and weak comprehension and so choose to be a mortal…

    Both instances are of mortal cases but their overall difference is still the properties of their souls which Van was envious about.

    This ‘reason’ was enough for Van to ‘cheat’ his way into becoming a Magician.

    “Back then, this… method… that I’ve developed were both praised and despised. Praised by my Family and friends for being innovative and unique since only a desperate guy like me has the ability to come up with this. Despised (secretly) by the soldiers and the Grand Council because it was somewhat stepping on their prides and years of hard work…”

    But Van… desperate… doesn’t care–

    –did not care.

    Not before.

    And most especially not now.

    When the blood hit the Red Gem in the middle of the circle, the winds inside the cave danced chaotically while the cave walls seemed to have been burdened by the escaping pressure as they shake and tremble. The cards exploded into a formation around Van and began arranging themselves into three circles.

    Van cursed. “Aisssh… I really wish Ysabelle would have given me a Blue Gem! Aiiissh… I really don’t want to experience this again…” He was at the middle, seemingly holding the floating Red Gem, the core of the card formation, towards himself.

    The inner most circle of the card formation is made up of 1040 Magic Cards… the Eight Elements Body.

    The middle circle is made up of 38 cards… the Four Laws of the World.

    The last circle is made up of the 2 cards… the Great Cycle of Life and Death.

    All three rings were connected by a gold thread made up of the same characters, phrases, binding them together. These phrases were glowing in gold almost too bright to reflect back until Bell Grade City.

    The cards circled Van –No. To be precise, it was encircling, dancing around the Red Gem for it was the core of the formation and the catalyst to their change.

    Looking at it in front of him, Van was happy but also disappointed still.

    “At least a Single-Element One-Eyed Squid Blood Ink… even just a damned Single-Element Blood Ink… it could have improved the number of layers I can cast by at least one…! Sigh…”

  • UPDATE: 30 June 2017

    Chapter 34:
    The Ten Eighty

    The Blood Ink increases the number of layers that can be cast…

    –adds one layer (example: Class-1 to Class-2 at a single time of casting). This is equivalent to a normal Mage who had increased his Mana Level.

    The quality of Magic Cards to increase quality of the Magic that can be cast by an entire stage…

    –from Apprentice Stage to Specialist Stage (increases affectivity). The higher the quality, the more powerful spells that can be cast.

    The Gem type to increase the casting speed…

    –from ten breaths to one breath. Since this is the lowest of the lowest grade that he had, even if people would say that he was underestimating it too much, considering that all these supplies are very expensive and yet could only create such effects, and since normal Magicians doesn’t even need to do this since they can use Magic by either leveling up their Mana Pool or just gaining higher Stages of Enlightenment, for them the item in Van’s hand is a treasure but for Van, it was not.

    Van gritted his teeth as he recalled his miserable fate. Who asked him to be born with a mortal soul and have these kinds of troubles in the world of the Wizards? No one! Fate had its favorites and it was clear that Van was on the ‘least fave’ side!

    Looking at the Red Gem, Van had a complicated expression –a mixture of anticipation and PAIN.

    …of great PAIN!

    The entire process of stabilizing the formation of the cards lasted for a few moments, lifting Van up his feet, encircling around him in the cave, until all the cards’ characters burned their confinements then floated in the air in their golden splendor.

    Like a rosary, the smaller font phrases are the link that connects the 1080 main characters.

    Three rings enveloped Van in random axes and revolved in different angles with the Red Gem as the center.

    Van’s hair and clothes were being flung off from the fluctuations of Mana coming from the gem.

    After two breaths’ time, the Red Gem gave a glint and the floating 1080 characters rotating about around Van were all absorbed into the Red Gem like bees going back in the hive.

    The cave was silent and everything went still.

    The wind calmed.

    The walls that threatened to cave in earlier also calmed down.

    Even Van’s heartbeats also calmed down.

    He was looking at the Red Gem in his hands that now had an encircling formation of three small golden rings of unique characters connected together by a thread that if looked and examined very closely, were also made up of sets from the 1080 characters that formed phrases, creating a spherical space around the gem.

    These are the ‘instructions’ –the script to create the effect of the Magic Spell.

    Right now, Van was satisfied looking at his current life’s first ever chef-d'oeuvre.

    “Well, back in my old life, this Magic I’ve developed is considered neither as Magic Art nor a Magic Spell. So I can only call it ‘creation’ now and even back then. But thinking about the ways of Barrier Formation that is unique to this world, I can’t help thinking that what I’ve done is actually a combination of an Alchemical Transmutation to the Red Gem and also a type of Barrier Formation using The Teneity since its effects is the same…”

    Van stared at the ‘item’ in front of him and aside from the floating patterns of characters that made up a sphere with the Red Gem as its core, if a Muan would see this now, they would all think that this is a very rare treasure that can fetch a very high price.

    But to Van… this was a ‘better than nothing’ item.

    And even though it cost him all his money and a very priced resource like a Red Gem, it was still of the lowest quality that he was willing to compromise over since he was left with no other choice.

    “Well, desperate people had no right to choose.”

    As he told him that, he looked at Leon and then gave him a command.

    “Protect the cave for the next few days starting tonight. Because beginning now, I will be in my most vulnerable state.”

    Leon couldn’t imagine what was going to happen but since he was given an order, it was best to follow it or else, he will experience better bullying next time.

    Jumping from his shoulder, Leon transformed into his true form and flew out of the cave then landed on a ‘nest’ or rock he made atop the cave and lay there, folding himself.

    Van, having mentally prepared himself, gulped one time and stared at the Red Gem as if it was the most hated object in the whole world.

    Seemingly preparing himself from his mental to his physical state, a moment of profound silence engulfed the entire area.

    Bird stopped flying…

    The wind stopped blowing…

    Rivers paused to flow…

    Creatures stopped breathing…

    People stopped talking…

    At that moment that Van had a moment of deep hesitation before doing what he was bound to do, everything around him seemed to have given him that moment before he loudly exhaled and pushed the Red Gem into the center of his chest.

    The Red Gem with the golden threaded sphere of glowing characters was absorbed in his body in an illusory manner.

    There was some resistance but it was still pushed into his body, Van’s expression never changed.

    With much effort, Van was successfully able to push the Red Gem on his chest and even if he doesn’t have the ability to look at his Soul Realm for not having a Mana Pool, he was still able to feel that ‘feeling’ where the characters felt like a molten liquid flowing in every corner of his body.

    He did this in his past life and thought that he’s not going to do it again but…

    “I really don’t want to –GAAAAAHHHH!!!”

    He uttered his whining but was interrupted in the middle as a surge of sharp stabbing pain came from the center of his chest.

    The scream that escaped his mouth startled Leon and he raised his head to double check if it really did come from his master’s direction below him.

    The birds flew as if disturbed.

    The Wind howled as if frightened.

    The Rivers surged as if angered.

    The creatures in the forests below the Nemea Mountains looked up to its peaks as if they heard a warning.

    Back in the city, in that same moment, the sounds of whispers died as if stolen and the breaths of air from each citizen was interrupted as if they were choked down to the subconscious level.

    Some of the powerful individuals felt like looking up towards the Nemea Mountains, with some even further than the City of Bell Grade, further than Creon… further than the lands of the West Territory… towards all the directions of the continent centering the Nemea Mountains…

    From there towards the North, the East, the West, and the Southern direction…

    A ringing call, like that of a fast object passing 1cm away from their ears, rattling their senses… those Magicians with the most sensitive feeling… those who knew some dark magic and those who knew some ancient ones that could cause the same profoundly unique fluctuations in Mana…

    …they all looked at the direction of the Nemea Mountains.

     

    *****

     

    One Secluded Sage who’s been in meditation for the past six centuries slightly opened his eyes and then glanced over that direction, frowning slightly before closing them again and murmured.

    “An ancient ritual. It’s weak but still effective. I wonder who’s the bastard stirring things up?”

     

    *****

     

    In a particular frozen lake where a castle was built atop of it, the empty shell of an almighty expert that practiced an extreme Water Element Magic Art seemed to vibrate as if it was a resonance.

    Atop the lake, in the castle, a renegade Ice Spirit glanced over the direction of the Nemea and then chuckled as she spoke playfully.

    “That guy is interesting…”

     

    *****

     

    On a particular large iceberg floating in the seas near the Southern Islands, in a large hollow in its very core, a familiar creature’s snake eyes glance over Van’s direction and then sent a strand of thought towards the closest child of his bearing.

    “An ancient ritual… Panko, check out who is that individual. If he’s a threat to our plans, eat him.”

    “Consider it done.”

     

    *****

     

    In the Western Dessert Dominion, a man with a wine gourd in one hand, smelling and looking like an old useless drunkard like the others, was walking in the alleys of a secluded part of the city.

    At that moment that Van felt the surge or pain, the air between the drunkard’s ears seem to vibrate and he looked towards the east with a profound expression of surprise.

    “So someone knows this old stuff in this age?”

    His surprise vanished and was replaced by a sneer as he continued his way, drinking a sip from his gourd then swaying without a care in the world.

    “Ah! Immortals, when are you going to mature?”

     

    *****

     

    Some old undyings with experience also felt the same phenomena and some of them looked at the direction of the Nemea Mountains with varying expressions on their faces.

    One particular undying in a forest filled with black miasma, whose body filled with distinctive tattoos all over his skin, was peacefully lying on his coffin as it rested atop an altar of stone surrounded by flowers of black colored origins.

    Many sealing carvings were etched on his coffin, the ancientness and the archaic feel of the entire surroundings were indications of its old age.

    Inside, the undying opened his eyes wide, moved his coffin’s lid, and sat up from his coffin before frowning as he looked at the eastern skies.

    “Oh?” a hint of joy flashed in his old wrinkled face as he flew off in the sky and silently, wordlessly, hurried to the direction of the Nemea Mountains.

    When he was able to fully wake up every cell of his extremely wrinkled body, a vicious sneer and sinister aura escaped his old face.

    His once Muan eyes turned completely black and from the iris spreading at the entirety of the white of his eyes… his entire eyes became black!

    After a moment, from the dead center, small yellow irises retracted into a dot while looking at that direction. The old man was finally awake.

    “To think that I will be able to live until the day I find the last part of my Magic Art… hahaha!!! Oh, fate, thank you! Immortality is at hand!”

    The wind parted as the undying flew.

    While he was naked when he flew off his coffin, black Magician’s Robe slowly materialized on his body…

    His aura painted even the air black and left black miasma, a trail that can even be seen by the naked eye in the sky as he passed.

    Clearly, if Van would see him now, he would only think of one reason as to how this old undying is able to affect the air like so.

    It is because this old undying is already infected.

    He was in the middle of his transformation into becoming a complete demon.


    Chapter 35:
    Painful Magic

    Van’s scream echoed into the surroundings and he was clearly in a lot of pain as he rolled on the rock floor.

    Forget about appearances, forget about all kinds of pretenses, it was a kind of pain that can easily destroy a man’s dignity and pride to himself for he will be driven to insanity by such pain… hurting one’s self without knowing how or why.

    “How painful is it?”

    Leon could only wonder. Looking at Van from the outside of the cave, clinging on the cliff wall, peeking at his master like a scared a cat over the door, he saw Van knocking his fists on his head and his body, making himself bleed, venting all his anger and his hate of such pain towards anything.

    And yet Van screamed from the top of his lungs, his larynx overexerted, his veins making lines on his neck as they flowed through all his arteries like boiling magma.

    It was like acid flowing in his blood vessels. He can’t even die even if he wanted to. His veins were not even burning and yet he feels as if his whole body was being smelt in one of old Gran’s furnaces on his shop.

    Or like that feeling when hundreds upon millions of fireants trying to gnaw at your flesh and yet for every flesh they took, your wounds heals and the cycle repeats itself over and over.

    Leon thought that Van’s screams of agony were only at the beginning but as the night went to pass, the pain only got worse.

    By dawn, his cry were the creatures’ breakfast. It rattled the forest, the birds, even the clouds.

    It even became a symphony.

    Echoing on the walls of the cave, amplified by the wind potently ramming the face of the mountain, then bounced off by the open gorge below like a loud howl of a monster.

    The wandering hunters who thought they would have a nice bountiful day were all startled and scared witless when they heard the increasing volume of Van’s cries.

    Paired with the occasional wind that travelled along the gorge and the angry and irritated cry of the monsters who had been annoyed by his painful screams all night, all the hunters who heard the cry were both curious and frightened as they tried to approach the origin of the sound.

    But the closer they get, the louder it got. Even the monsters were nearing their dim wits’ ends as they were sent into a rampage that made them kill and hurt whoever was closest to them.

    Seeing this, the hunters can’t help thinking that whatever is causing that sound would have a very intimidating aura. The monsters were driven mad just hearing its vicious roars!

    The hunters thought that a powerful monster had descended on that part of the mountain and so a legend was born and the news spread to the city.

    *****

    As the rumors of the new monster ruling in the Nemea spread in the city, more and more people came to check the source of the cry. Days went to pass and a theory was born saying that a dragon was passing by when its shedding season began.

    Nemea Mountains, after all, is a nest for all kinds of monsters and a Dragon on its shedding phase is both an attractive target and also a great tragedy.

    Only strong and experienced hunters darted, willing to provoke such danger. They all wandered deeper, higher, checking all possible areas, closing in to the source of the agonized cry as hours pass.

    Van continued to berate the pain with fists and kicks, he was even hammering his own head to the wall just so he could somewhat divert the pain and lessen its burden.

    But no matter how much blood he spilled, no matter how much he punched the wall and the floor, the pain was still there. It was never ceding, never forgiving.

    Until it seems that his voice got tired, no matter how much he screamed, only blood was being vomited. There were no more sounds coming from his mouth. Only a gargled cry with blood spurting out his mouth as he did so.

    The cave floor and walls were already in a bloody mess and even Leon who had eaten many monsters and people who tried to hunt in his forest still can’t help but widen his eyes when looking at that disheveled figure.

    Van’s eyes were savagely red, the whites were filled with veins, and the blue turned a scalding deep color.

    Leon could feel his scales rising in spikes as he momentarily made eye contact with his master.

    He escaped towards his podium above the cave and that’s where he tried to calm himself, doing his job to make sure that no one tried to disturb his master during the whole process.

    Fear was not new to him and the reason why he agreed to ‘the deal’ is because he had already noticed that the hunters in Creon are becoming more and more powerful. But when he saw his mater’s eyes just now, a new sense of fear has taken root in his heart.

    Just what kind of degree of madness were in those eyes? They’re more barbaric, more vicious, more brutal than a ruthless monster like himself.

    It was like he saw the world had been burned and be filled in bloody deaths with his those eyes.

    What he saw was like a premonition!

    Leon knew, instinctively, that if he were to let any soul wander in his direction, it would be a sin to the poor soul for he will be sure to die no matter how strong he was.

    By the time the hunters nearly reached Van’s cave, Leon’s smell caught their wafting smells as he set out an angry roar that rattled the rocks and the air current.

    The hunters felt their skins being stabbed by millions of needles as the savagery of Leon’s S-Class ranking was layered upon his roar. They were left with no choice but to retreat if they still want to live another day.

    Leon, seeing the withdrawing hunters, felt proud of himself as he let out a cold snort.

    But then he sighed in his heart, kinking to a curl, as he also tried to share and endure his master’s pain… in his own little way.

    Gradually, Van’s gargled bloody suffering came to a slow until it stopped entirely after another day.

    The entire process took a total of four days.

    Leon’s head perked up as he ‘felt’ his master’s summons so he immediately leaped down to the wall and entered the cave, seeing the bloody visage of his master, face as normal as before…

    –only bloody and pale.

    “You’re still alive?” Leon said, half-joking, his yellow scaled and edgy brows rising up.

    Van knew the guy’s intentions so he just leaned at the wall of the cave and tried to get his bearing.

    After a while, he beckoned for Leon and the large beast understood immediately as he lowered his neck for Van.

    Van crawled his way to his seat as Leon jumped off the cave to the river on the gorge below. The monsters, not to mentions the wild animals that were having a nice day drinking water were disturbed as a bully came and drove them away.

    The entire area was for Van’s use and so he used this chance to lie in the river’s shallow waters, to let his body soak and feel the relaxing coldness of the stream.

    He can still feel the burning sensation in his veins but not so much as before that he just can’t help himself screaming due to agony.

    But he still can’t speak. He could feel his throat is wounded. Seriously so that he was still occasionally spitting blood off to cleanse his mouth.

    He closed his eyes and let himself be baptized by the cool water, not caring for how long, not caring for any danger since this is one of the biggest purpose why he charmed Leon that day.

    Leon curled himself near him, though looking like he was at rest, but actually vigilant of any changes in the surroundings.

    Time flowed on in hours. When Van finally felt opening his eyes, it was already night.

    He raised his head and it alerted Leon.

    Leon didn’t say anything nor he even tried to say anything on their mental link. Van had no aim as well as he just moved his hand as if catching a rain drop. A flash of light, a golden magical circle, a one-layered Magic Spell, emerged in his palm.

    Van didn’t waste a moment as he put the spell in his body and then cast another spell of the same nature, putting it in his body, and then did it again for at least four times more.

    From the first spell, ten breaths later, the area on his chest where he cast of that spell, lit up in a gold luster and the wounds on his torso healed as fast as he breathe air.

    Then from the second spell on his arm, the third on his feet, the fourth… the fifth… until the last spell he cast to his body, all one by one emit the same golden brilliance and healed whatever wound was on that area of effect.

    Lastly, Van cast three more of the same healing spell on his neck. After fourteen breaths of time, he felt that the wound on his larynx were healed and he spat a few blood and then sighed.

    The pain was a lot endurable than before.

    “I really don’t want to do that again if possible.”

    He smiled at Leon and then removed all his bloody clothes only to stop as he was naked, then looked at the direction of the southern horizon.

    Leon also looked at that direction but all he could see is just mountains and forest, nothing more.

    He turned his gaze back at Van who only bid a slight laugh and shook his head as he continued to change his clothes.

    “What was that?” Leon can’t help asking.

    “Just a tiny girl having a good peek. I bet she’s not going to be able to sleep tonight.”

    Leon was surprised. Not only he didn’t sense any kind of presence but Van was able to and also was able to tell the gender?

    “How did you know?”

    Van chuckled. “I’ve lived my whole life being targeted by many people and since I was weak, I learned how to tell what type of gaze they have whenever they look at me. Men are always brutal and their gazes would always either feel like a cut or a hammering blow. Women are much quicker and also milder and their gaze tends to feel like a few needles stabbing my body. But other than that, gazes that aren’t layered with malice are the hardest to detect… it’s just I now have a unique constitution than before and so is much more sensitive to any type of gazes they look at me.”

    Hearing this half-boasting, half-explaining manner of speech, Leon couldn’t help but think of biting his head off so he wouldn’t be able to be cocky.

    “Anyways,” Van said as soon as he finished. “How many days was I in there?”

    “Five in total.” Leon replied indifferently.

    Van thought for a moment before he glanced at the southern direction again, smiled, and then sent Leon a command.


    Author's NOTE: Next chapter(s) coming in for at least three days, max six days or five, maybe four, but at least three days.

  • edited July 2017
    UPDATE: 09 July 2017

    Chapter 36:
    Demanding Driver

    Leon looked over the direction and then flew up with frightening speed. Twenty breaths later, he came back and on his mouth, in between his sharp teeth, was a squirming young lady that was at least a year or two younger than Van.

    Seeing Van’s calm demeanor and the smile that was plastered on his face, the young girl with pigtails trembled and blushed.

    Hiding her face with her palms, she even ignored the fact that she was kidnapped by Leon as she did her best not to show her face to Van.

    It was evident that it was the same girl that he felt was spying on him earlier.

    Leon opened his mouth and the girl landed with a thud on the hard riverbed.

    She looked back in horror to the S-Class monster before turning her head back to Van who was now looming over her with his manly figure in a grey colored professor cloak.

    Van smiled at her. “Earlier, you got a good look at me and so as a compensation for seeing something that you shouldn’t have, I will have to ask for a few questions that you will answer with all your honesty and sincerity. Are we clear?”

    The girl looked at Van with horror and opened her mouth to reply but no sound came. So she just nodded her head tried to erase that image in her mind that had somewhat destroyed her pure and untainted innocence.

    But alas, Van’s smile was both scary and a little bit charming… but thinking of that frightening thing behind her and its low growl, the girl trembled as she prepared herself to lose her purity this very night itself.

    Van extended his hand towards the girl and the girl, accepting her fate, opened her mouth.

    “P-Please… if you’re going to do it, just do it but don’t tell others about it.”

    Van’s hand stopped and a look of puzzlement is displayed on his face. “What do you…” he did not continue his words as he realized what the little girl meant.

    Van spent a few moments studying her appearance and realized too late that she was actually cute… but short. A precocious little girl.

    With a slender waist, slightly above average chest size, lithe body, and an innocent demeanor, she’s actually every man’s fantasy if not for the fact that Van, for some miracle of a reason that even he himself would have to murder himself if it was the ‘him’ of the past, felt no sexual attraction to her.

    Van let out a laugh and told her, “Relax. I won’t rape you. I just want to remove something from your hair.”

    As he spoke, Van brushed her hair and then removed his hand after a breath.

    When the girl heard this, she looked up on him with tears in her eyes only to see a frown and a viciously angry look in his face.

    This made her tears form a larger bead and she was about to cry when Van’s expression abruptly changed again.

    “Forget the questions.” He said and then walked towards Leon who already received his mental command. “Elgrande is far from here, Sharon, and it’s already night. You’re alone. I’ll bring you to Bell Grade.”

    Hearing her name, her origin, and also her overall situation, the little loli, Sharon, was utterly aghast and couldn’t think of what to feel or say.

    “H-How did you…”

    “Come on. I’m in a hurry.” Van’s tone became a bit indifferent and this change of personality was both surprising and also abrupt that she can’t even keep up with it.

    But what could Sharon do? She was already on her way to her group’s rendezvous point when she accidentally came across him.

    She never intended to actually peek on him on that very moment that he was changing but when she saw those scars on his body, she couldn’t help but wonder what kind of past did this young man experienced to have them.

    Especially those large scars on his back…

    Remembering them was making her want to vomit. She just couldn’t help imagining that those scars, if they were still wounds, would have been so deep and so painful that the pain should pass through beyond his bones.

    “If you don’t want a free ride, then I’m going.”

    This time, Van’s indifferent tone and insistence on bringing her along was kind of conflicting. But then, thinking about her circumstances and the fact that she really wanted to go back to the city as soon as possible, even if her mind doesn’t like to trust this stranger, her body really wanted to have a bath in a hotel.

    Summoning her will, she ran and hopped towards Leon’s back and landed behind Van, sitting down with a soft thud.

    “Put your hands on me.” Van ordered and just as she was about to say her hesitation, Leon already jumped and flew up the air.

    Sharon could only scream her lungs out as she did hugged Van’s waist as instructed just to NOT fall.

    “Told you.” Van let out a chuckle. “I’m Shang, surnamed Lao. Just tell me if you want to sit in front of me, okay?”

    Sharon still didn’t open her eyes until she felt that the pressure of the ascent was gone, replaced by the night wind as Leon gently and expertly glided his way through towards the city.

    “By the way, Sharon, I just want you to know that whoever asks you about me, no matter what happens, never tell them you know me. Or else, your family’s life will be in danger.”

    Hearing this, Sharon snapped open her eyes and tried to angle herself to look at Van only to stop midway when she saw for the first time in her life how beautiful it is to fly.

    Unknowingly, she held her breath as she savored the marvelous sight of the forest down below and the twinkling lights of the city in the distance.

    After a while, she recovered her bearing and then asked in concern. “Who are you?”

    “Little girl, there are things better not knowing but for yours and your family’s safety, I suggest you follow my instructions or else.” Van’s voice was commanding but also layered with concern.

    Sharon at least could feel that much.

    Also, for some reason, the sudden flow of events were surprisingly fast paced for her.

    Thinking up to this point, Van spoke. “Little girl, in the city, you saw a group of people and recognize a large burly man leading the group, yes?”

    Sharon, with wide eyes, looked at Van incredulously as she tried to process that memory and recall its details.

    After a while she nodded but did not reply. Van felt this and leaned his head sideways. “So, as a payment for this ride, I need you to do something for me once we get back to the city.”

    Up to this point, Sharon was actually hesitant.

    This man was imposing himself on her business and she was not being given a chance to even utter a say to his demands as if it didn’t matter.

    If he was an ordinary mage, then she would have used her lineage and her name to frighten him.

    But alas, she knew that not only Van was a very powerful Mage, he was also a frightening being.

    Those scars… they’re probably from the endless fighting since who knows when. And not to mention that he has a familiar as dangerous and as vicious as an S-Class Felisys-type monster, her thoughts of using her surname might actually even backfire on her and allow her to meet her early end.

    She could only say in bitter consent. “What is it?”

    “I want you to know where they are staying and I need to know the results with an hour.”

    “What?!” Sharon was enraged. What an outrageous demand! But then, just before she could even add a retort, Van’s indifferent voice resounded on her ears with clarity that betrayed the wind on their face.

    “Use our bodyguards. Use your resources. I am in a hurry and I need the results as soon as possible so I won’t allow you to say no.”

    Sharon cursed inwardly, wishing that she never should have agreed to take this ride.

    What a demanding driver!

     

    *****

     

    In a particular window in the city, a girl was gazing at the sky filled with occasional clouds and the endless twinkling stars.

    It’s the middle of the night but she can’t sleep even if she wanted to.

    Right now, she was in her ‘real self’ mode.

    Her ‘real self’ who can’t hide the glimmering and dreamy innocence of lost youthful years… her ‘real self’ that she kept on burrowing in her mask of decisiveness and ruthlessness… the real self that no one knows except her.

    It’s the ‘real self’ of a purple-to-pink forelocked fragile-looking girl who loved looking at the stars and dream of a life different from the current from time to time.

    She thought before that this ‘side’ of her had been forgotten and had been ‘trained’ to be a brutal and emotionless bravo. But more than a week ago, upon meeting a young Magician, her ‘real self’ started to resurface arbitrarily without her consent.

    All because she was startled and was shocked to her core upon personally experiencing how her once proud martial prowess and ability to isolate her emotions from her ‘mission’ became invalid in front of pure and genuine strength.

    Being ‘touched’ was alright.

    She was used to it.

    But she was intimidated and was genuinely afraid when not only her cover and her identity seen through by the young Magician in just one glance, she was also knocked down in one exchange.

    And yet, in that short exchange, she became a hundred percent sure that he wasn’t an old expert but actually a young Magician around her age.

    Thinking about it, she can’t help but looking at her life as a whole while staring beyond the window… she was thinking… wondering… what would it be like to live a life of a free adventurer?

    She could only sigh.

    Her life had always been set on stone.

    Lucia Barnes was born of a poor family but with a very promising talent in Magic.

    Especially her alignment, a Compound Element.

    Poison.

    –One of the rarest Elemental Alignment.

    But since she doesn’t have any good background and that her family couldn’t afford the tuition fee of the other lower rate schools, they were forced to waste this talent and make her help in the field that her family manages.

    Her childhood was spent on the mountains as his parents were mortal farmers serving a tyrannical landlord with a peculiar taste on women.

    When the landlord found out about her aptitude as a Wizard, he was very pleased and immediately arranged for her to be kept by to grow up as one of his woman… buying her from her parents who had no choice but to say yes from the threats.

    Since then, she was trained by the landlord on a very meticulous pedagogy of ‘servitude’ as one of his personal male sleeve.

    Just like the other senior ‘slaves’ who had already matured to the ‘training’ they were taught, she was also scheduled to be baptized 10 years later.

    On the night of her baptism, she was just a hair’s breath away from being polluted as his ‘training’ took her to the ‘world’ that the landlord trained her for, not knowing what had happened and why it didn’t went through.

    That very night, the landlord was The Clan’s target and just happens to see Lucia. The Clan Chief took pity on her so she was taken in with the loots.

    The Lucia who had been trained to forget one’s self and be absorbed to her ‘purpose’, the Lucia who developed a rare mindset, was seen as rare asset and was taken in by The Clan.

    Although the years of her training was impossible to remove, it can still be used in a clever way. And it was this thinking that enabled the Clan Chief to use her ‘skill’ to train her to their cause.

    Since then, she only became strong.

    Chapter 37: 
    Poison Ivy

    From being merely at the Apprentice Stage, in just three short years, Lucia reached the Expert Stage of Enlightenment. Such talent was unheard of and could only be attributed to her single-minded dedication in her training in The Clan.

    Her talents showed itself, particularly in a certain field called ‘espionage’ and ‘assassination’, while her best asset would be on her ability to entirely erase her presence in the field and isolate her emotion and focus wholeheartedly on a task.

    In addition, her inner temperament led her to focus her interest on a particular kind of Magic called ‘Shape Shifting’.

    Perhaps only the Clan Chief would understand as to why Alicia would like that particular Magic Art.

    It wasn’t a highly treasured Magic Art from these great sects and schools of the Empire, but it was still highly regarded by a few second rate clans.

    Especially when used in the same perfect way as she does, this normal Magic Art became her lethal signature characteristic –almost becoming her very own unique personality.

    Since she was recruited, she had only shown the greatest of results in her services. She had been sent to experience infiltration missions and has also learned practical Martial Arts and some lethal poison Magic Arts that further heightened her lethality as a walking weapon.

    Her missions were always a success.

    Thus, she was even titled by her profession’s many competitors as ‘Poison Ivy’; beautiful but deadly.

    Unlike the usual Wizards who practices forms on their swords and martial prowess, her focused skills lies on precise and simple deadly attacks… assassination… coupled with some very useful knowledge and lifehacks.

    But then, in this particular night, she can’t help but to doubt her skills whenever she thinks of that short encounter with that Magician.

    Looking at the starry sky, Lucia –Alicia, to The Clan– murmured a name…

    “Lao… Shang…”

    She wasn’t even sure of her emotions right now.

    During the time of his visit in the shop, she already tested, and was sure, that it’s either he’s really a mortal or he’s just so powerful that he can hide his aura so much to make an impression that he seems to be a mortal.

    There was also an explanation to his familiar even if that monster itself really frightened her. It can also be that whoever he was working for had lent him that familiar.

    An S-Class Felisys-type monster like that is still too far from her to fight against. Even if she belongs to the Immortal Era’s new generation of talents, her skills and temperament wasn’t meant for battle against monsters… even a direct confrontation against an individual at the same Stage of Enlightenment as her was against her strengths and thus ensures her defeat.

    In the shadows, she can be regarded as god but a head-on collision is big no.

    Not to mention, if their fears are real, that Lao Shang is an almighty expert who had seen through their plans…

    Lucia shook her head to dispel the thought.

    If that happens, then wouldn’t everything she had done and everything their cause had done all these years be all for naught?

    As such, they cannot bid their time any longer and so moved the plan ahead of time.

    “We have to get that door.”

    She was on her room in the Shop, on her disguise as Shop Keeper Trevor’s assistant sent from the Black Flag Union headquarters.

    The sky was dark, the stars twinkling aflame, she sighed after a sigh after another, forging herself mentally, and waiting for the preparations of their Clan Chief who personally arrived in town to oversee the plan’s fruition to finish.

    Her task is simple and fast and she will come clean right after it was done.

    Looking at her Star Dial Bracelet, just as she was in her last moments of mental preparation, a flash of dim light glowed on its gem and a strand of voice in a whisper was brought to her ears.

    “Begin.” The voice said; one word to change it all.

    In the dead of night, Lucia sighed but after just a moment, her hesitations and her indecisions all vanished as her mask of indifference and ice cold ruthlessness emerged.

    She waved her hand on her attire and her maid servant’s disguise vanished as a vixen of purple-ness and smooth black leather attire appeared. A short haircut that hid the left side of her face bids a murderous aura, a segmented sword of brown and black metal hanging horizontally on her waist.

    As of now, the Poison Ivy had awaken.

    It was time for the mission to begin.

     

    *****

     

    Van was devouring the meat in the pits of fire like there’s no tomorrow. Seeing this is making the girl with a lassie temperament hiding in a small matured body both laugh and feel awkward inwardly.

    Even Leon was staring at the voracious manner of Van’s eating with curiosity.

    “Just how many pieces of meat have he eaten?”

    “Can’t he be more civilized in this?”

    Leon and Sharon, respectively, had altering kinds of thoughts.

    Almost an hour now, Van had done nothing but eat and replenish his energy. Unlike her who can use the Mana that exists everywhere around her to replenish her body, Van’s actions were causing her thoughts to actually become chaotic.

    As far as she knows, powerful experts don’t have to eat to live so why is a powerful existence like him doing so?

    In the middle of her thoughts, the bracelet on her right arm gave a glint and this caused her to be aware that the news that she was waiting for was already recovered.

    She sent her thoughts to it and then the Star Dial on her wrist gave another glint of reply.

    It was at this point that she frowned as she glances over Van’s direction.

    Even if she doesn’t want to look at him right now because of the oil and grunge of meat on his once good looks, she was ‘kidnapped’ for this purpose and so in order to be free, she had to comply with his ‘simple’ demands.

    And yet, the news that she was about to deliver had caused her initial doubts become complicated in another degree.

    She stuttered, “Umm… I got the news.”

    Hearing this, Van looked up at her then swallow the meat in his mouth, then smiled. Seeing the brown on his teeth actually relaxed Sharon instead of feeling disgust.

    “Do tell. Time is important.”

    “Erm… it’s about it…”

    Van felt that stalling like this was wasting time and as much as possible, he wanted to prevent The Clan from getting The Door if possible.

    “Sharon, the news isn’t good because the people I’ve sent you to search for aren’t good ones. My task is to protect this city and the people living in it  so please, I need the news.”

    It was clear that she still can’t fathom the depths of danger she was in. The frown on her face and the way she was stuttering and hesitating is also making Van raise a brow which intimidates her, which causes her to be afraid, which in turn stalls for more time.

    A moment felt like a minute for Van and from her appearance and her look, she was clearly afraid of the frown on his face.

    Van thought, “Was I really that scary?”

    Up to here, he sighed and put on a smile. A kind and amiable smile was plastered on his face and  seeing this made Sharon somewhat apprehensive how Van actually thinks.

    “S-Sorry. It’s just that, my men said that there are some movements on the group that was staying at the hotel. They said that there are others more that regrouped with them and that they are all gathered in a plaza in the west district.”

    “Plaza in the west district?” Hearing this, Van now  had reason to frown.

    When he made contact with Lucia before, he saw her memories –both of them– of the ones that she was sane and the ones that she was forcing her mind into that ‘empty’ state.

    Both memories told Van that they have plans to seize all of The Doors.

    What concerns Van the most was her ‘boss’.

    The so called Clan Chief…

    “No one had seen the Clan Chief, not even Lucia, but from how he interacts with his clan members, I can distinctly tell that he’s the deep schemer type and the hardest one to handle.” Van sighed then wore a serious face to think. “With my current strength, forget about stopping them, I can’t even follow them if they decide to teleport away from this city.”

    This deep concern became a frown on his face and Sharon on the side was looking at him with an intimidated gesture of taking steps back.

    Most of all, what concerns Van more is the place where they were gathering.

    “The West District Plaza is where Trevor’s Shop is located at. If my doubts are correct, they should have advanced their plans. Shit. I must not let them get that door.”

    At this point, before Van’s thoughts could even complete, the Star Dial Bracelet on Sharon’s wrist lit up and a sound message was delivered to her.

    Hearing this, her eyes widened and forgot about Van’s scary frown.

    “My men said that the men gathered in the plaza just attacked a shop.”

    Van snapped a glance at her and then to the city.

    They were in the forest a few kilometers away from the city but they are still in the western side of the city. From the City Gates, the West Central Plaza of the Western District will be a total of 15km way.

    Even if it was that far, as they were currently on a hillock overlooking the city, Van’s gaze pinpointed the general direction of the shop in question.

    “Old man Trevor…” Van’s whisper wasn’t made so as Sharon felt that she entered a pit that was too deep for her feet to recover from. Her female instincts were telling her that this was a trouble much bigger than her normal little world.

    At this point, another light emerged from the Star Dial Bracelet and Sharon reported, “My men said that the group had just abducted a fat old man and that there was a lady that was added to the party of the people you were searching for.”

    By this point, Sharon’s heart was beating fast and she now had a general idea of what’s happening and what would happen next.

    Given her intelligence, it wasn’t hard to think that her kidnapper’s next moves will be to…

    As if to confirm her thoughts, Van stood up and left the bonfire with the stick of a meat. Leon at the side of the bonfire unfolded himself then he stretched his body as he prepared to fly.

    Van moved without glancing at Sharon but before he even hopped on Leon’s back, he paused and motioned for her to come over.

    Sharon, apparently forgetting her original goal and the original situation, walked over.

    With a swift move, Van tapped the center of her chest, above her heart, and then said, “In the future, I will call upon you to serve a purpose so as an advance compensation, I have bestowed upon you a Magic Art that you can mix into your current «Sky Glazing Eye» Magic Art. You must train hard to its final completion and become strong so as to be of use. Oh, and don’t tell a soul about me. Well then, farewell and thank you.”

    Sharon was in a half-dazed state when Van spoke but her mind still processed the information and also the instructions left by Van.

    When he came to, Van was already high up in the sky and Leon was already flapping his wings in the direction of the city.

    Sharon could only watch them, hands clutched in her chest. By now, she had already understood the information that was given to her and as well as the ‘mark’ left to her soul by Van’s tap.

    That ‘mark’ held the Magic Art he was talking about and seeing this, she just can’t help but take a gasp for it was a Magic Art that can be mixed with anything… become anything… and most of all, is a very powerful Amplifying Magic Formula.

    She never had a good impression of Van and everything that happened just now was so fast that she was still confused by it.

    But the fact remained that she was still given a ‘very pricey compensation’ for a future task that she will undertake.

    To become strong was every Wizard’s goal.

    Facing danger is part of it.

    His future task might be dangerous but it was still worth it since everything can be considered as just being part of her training.

    At this point, the Star Dial lit up again and this time, when the body guard’s voice came, it was gargled and felt like he was in pain.

    “What?!” Sharon exclaimed. “It’s Poison Ivy?!”

    A famous person appeared in Bell Grade City but the news came late. Looking up, Van was already in the skies of the city.


    Author's NOTE: Next chapter(s) coming in at least seven days later. I'm working this entire week on a construction site and it's a stay-in.
  • UPDATE: 23 July 2017

    Chapter 38:
    Imperial Lion Guard Descends (1)

    Sixteen men, all wearing thick and heavy armors, were all following the orders of a large man in a black tattered cloth almost two meters tall.

    In the dark of the night and the dimmed light of the street lamps, the shadow of the face behind the tattered black cloth was barely visible. But even so, the aura coming from the man was cold and seemingly devoid of life. It was like they were being led by a corpse who can still walk and talk.

    At the back of this man was a large sword a little bit bigger in size than the Heaven Decimating Sword of Ysabelle who length and size were almost two meters.

    When Trevor was dragged by his men from the Shop, Poison Ivy, Lucia, was following them from behind.

    The man in black cloth stepped forward and he released his Mana that pressured down on Trevor like the weight of a building.

    A Grandmaster of Elements!

    Trevor was not a match for this man at all. And yet he still did not show the fear that should only be proper at this situation. Instead, he only sneered at the man who now towered over him one step away.

    “Heh!” Trevor snorted. “You are making a big mistake here, buddy. This is a shop run by the Black Flag Union. If you dare do something with one of their merchants, I assure you, this continent will be flipped from inside out just to trace and find you.” After he spoke, he then tried his best to look back at Lucia. “Especially you, bitch, you will regret this.”

    Lucia only looked at him indifferently and then walked over to the man’s side.

    The man in black cloth stretched a hand towards Shop Keeper Trevor, griping his throat and raising him up to eye level. The hand felt cold, as if it was a hand that had been frozen in the North Pole.

    Feet squirming for ground, Trevor supported his body with his hands as he felt that all the Mana Gates in his body were all sealed as soon as the hand touched his body.

    When he was raised to the man’s eye level, a red glow was all he could see before icy-white crystal breath escaped the man’s face in the shadows of his cloak’s veil.

    “Unbind… the door.” The man’s voice was cold and, just like his impression, sounded as if he was someone who was dead before and only woke up to live again.

    His voice was gruff, deep, and sounded very tired when Trevor heard it. His body trembled in fear as soon as he heard the command.

    Trevor hesitated for a moment before he looked down to Lucia who was looking at him with cold and indifference.

    After that, he looked back at the man who held him and then asked, “Who are you?”

    Trevor was stalling for time.

    Around them, a few people had already gathered and he knew that some of them had already called the Peace Keepers.

    The man, though, seems indifferent with this as he just tightened his grip to Trevor’s neck. Trevor gargled for air and he felt like the air was being choked out of his lungs.

    Again, that same cold voice resounded. This time, it was directly at Trevor’s face.

    Trevor was now visibly looking at the man’s face and he let out a muffled shriek as he saw the pale dead face but red eyes of the man. Such a person actually exists? It was clear that this was a corpse who woke up from his coffin to spread havoc.

    The red eyes had a black center, a starry shine is on the pupil of the big burly man.

    “Unbind the door.”

    A stench worse than the smell of a bathless rat or a smell of a panting perspiring deer, even worse than the smell of towel that’s been wetted for the first time after a decade, wafts on Trevor’s nose and put him in a more agonizing state than being choked.

    Trevor immediately summoned the ‘door’ from his Spatial Artifact and seeing this, the eyes of the men all lit up in anticipation.

    He reached out towards it and right then, a shadow loomed over them all.

    Screams of surprise and shock exploded from the crowd who came to overlook the commotion. The man in black cloth looked up in alert and then pulls Trevor with him as he and his men dodged the falling object.

    A loud explosion followed by the rattling of the ground came next. A cloud of dust expanded from the center of the fallen object and just as the man in black cloth was about to issue an order, Leon’s roar resounded.

    The roar was so loud, so monstrously intimidating and viciously filled with savagery that those with the lower Stages of Enlightenments than a Master staggered to just remain standing.

    Surprised horror was drawn to the face of the man in black cloth all the more to the faces of the ones weaker than him.

    Leon’s roar was from his S-Class Felisys-type pride that only comes from someone who ruled a forest for many years. It was an ability that can only be displayed by a real monster on his level of savageness and might.

    It might not bring any real physical damage but it was an attack that was enough to rattle the mind and soul of anyone it was intended for.

    At this moment, it was intended for the crowd.

    The roar startled everyone sleeping in the houses and inns around the western district plaza. The Peace Keepers that just arrived in the scene were also stunned and they immediately came to a stop on their run towards the plaza.

    At the center of the commotion, the dust clouds parted and Van –wearing an elaborately designed armor made of wood from somewhere, painted with his painting skills only for show, walked with a smile towards the man in black cloth.

    The man in black cloth was startled but then when he ‘scanned’ the man’s mortal aura, a wide sinister smile emerged on his face.

    “Who are you?” He asked and there was no sort of surprise nor intimidation on his ghastly voice.

    Van ignored this question and then looked at the trembling Trevor on the man’s grasp. He then directed his gaze at him and removed the smile as he pulled out a golden colored strip with the emblem of the Von Duchesse Imperial Family in shining silver glow.

    Seeing this, the Peace Keepers all saluted but then recovered. Seeing this, the man in black cloth removed his mocking smile and realized his mistake when he underestimated his aura.

    Because there are only two types of possibilities when facing someone with an unfathomable aura like Van:

    First is that he’s in fact a real and genuine mortal.

    Second is that he was so powerful that he was able to hide his aura against Mana Senses.

    A pause and silence.

    Time passed by one breath a time. Van’s steps  were the only audible sounds in the deathly silence of the astonished crowd. The man in black tattered cloth squinted his eyes and then glanced at the door. But before he could even make his move, Van summoned it on his hand and hid it on his Spatial Artifact without even the slightest of gesture and most especially without even the slightest of Mana Fluctuations.

    With this, the surprised crowd, especially the man in black cloth, immediately and instantly realized that Van, whoever he was, was of the latter type of individual.

    He was so powerful that his Mana manipulation abilities weren’t even leaving any signs of wasted fluctuations.

    “The name’s Shang, surnamed Lao, Imperial Lion Guard, at your service.” Van said and even made a gesture of a bow that made everyone think of someone introducing the actors in a stage play.

    Van’s presentation of himself was enough to make the men under the man in black cloth to rattle. They were all afraid of that name.

    Because in the entire Four Nations Empire, no matter how much pride the Sects and Schools have with their talented individuals, the Sword Sworn Knights Order of the Imperial Family are still the strongest forces of all.

    Ranked from highest to lowest…

    1)      Imperial Guards – Knights that guards the Imperial Family always in rotation and never leaves their sides

    2)      Dragon Knights – Knights that guards the Imperial Castle and the Imperial Court. It is also encharged of the facilitation of the Imperial Court’s processes

    3)      Lion Guards –  Knights that hunts down the criminals that offended the Imperial Court. Can only be dispatched if ordered by the Imperial Court and would always carry with them the Imperial Insignia of Dispatch Order

    4)      Raindragon Guards – Knights encharged of hunting monsters and providing all the resources for the Imperial Court

    5)      Peace Keepers – Knights dispatched in the cities and is the most numerous of the other Knight Orders

    When everyone saw the golden insignia, they all realized that this man was in a mission and just happens to be passing by at this location.

    No wonder he had an S-Class Monster as familiar.

    He was THAT powerful.

    No one present can see through his aura and the fact they can’t also fathom the grade of the armor he wore just goes to show that it was higher than their comprehensions.

    At this moment, Van’s smile became overbearing as he approached the man in black cloth.

    He stood in front of him without fear and even made eye to eye contact with the two meters tall man in black cloth.

    A moment passed, he then motioned for Trevor and the man in black cloth handed him without a trace of opposition. The man, even though he do possesses a power that can frighten anyone that has lower Stages than his own, since he can’t even fathom Van’s strength and that he also came from the Lion Guards Knight Order of the Imperial Court…

    Once he did something to him, he will be inflicting a serious crime against the Imperial Court and therefore will be hunted down like a criminal.

    It will sure affect their plans!

    They all have heard of what happens to all those people that offended the Imperial Court.

    All of them are sent to one of the Prison Worlds and will be forced to spend a minimum of 100 years in there, depending on the degree of their offence. In there, they either die or they submit to the Empire and then promise the ‘Unbreakable Vow’ of loyalty.

    Only by then can they earn their freedom and perhaps even be compensated, depending on their strength.

    But at this point, a Lion Guard dispatched in an official mission had the authority to carry out the role of judge and executioner when he deemed that a force is making it hard for him to perform his mission.

    That’s the reason why the man in black cloth did not even dare to continue with his plan. After all, what they have done today is only to offend the Black Flag Union, not the Imperial Court.

    When he was handing Trevor back like a sheep in a sack, Van’s hand stretched out a little further and made contact to the tall man’s deathly cold finger.

    That slight contact filled him with information and, to Van’s surprise, he discovered something that is not an entirely good thing.

    It was only for a moment so the smile plastered on his face did not change.


    Chapter 39: 
    Imperial Lion Guard Descends (2)

    The man himself did not mind it and he did also not noticed the change in Van’s smile that had a very minimal degree of change.

    As Van received Trevor, the latter also looked at him with incredulous eyes but didn’t say a thing.

    “Now, you have him back. We shall go.”  The ghastly voice of the leader resounded and it was at the moment that he was about to turn around that Van called out.

    “Wait.” Then, the man in black cloth angrily made a low growl but this act was only met with a growl of Leon instead. The man had no choice but to be submissive on the ‘halting’ notion.

    “What do you want?” His ghastly voice rang. The anger was evident and the gaps between the words were clearly longer than usual.

    Van’s eyes cast over from the man towards the girl behind him who was trying her best to hide from his gaze. She felt her body shiver and all of her indifference and her overbearingness vanish in just a moment when hers and Van’s eyes met.

    When the silent surprise of the crowd reached a peak, Van’s voice resounded with authority as he raised the ‘insignia’.

    “Poison Ivy Alicia of the Night Raven Clan, by the order of the Imperial Court, summoned in a sanction pertaining to the murder of a former Imperial Court Dragon Guard’s Captain’s grandchild named Bolus Tracy, I order you to stand your ground and accept your arrest!”

    Van’s voice echoed in all directions and with a prompt from him, Leon let out a roar that, again, frightened everyone around and even made the man in black cloth frown in irritation.

    Lucia, however, being put in the spot and even in a situation where she was facing an arrest warrant from an almighty member of the Lion Guards Knight Order, looked up for support from her ‘Clan Chief’ who only looked at her with a cold glare of indifference.

    “Clan Chief!” she cried but the man in black cloth made no attempt of any reply.

    With this, she felt her world collapse. Not even a word to fight for her. Not even the slightest hint of attempt to actually defend her, she felt that her life had been useless at this moment.

    Van, gestured a hand to Lucia who, for the last time, tried to ask help for her Clan Chief but was only given a cold and indifferent shoulder.

    “Please, help me!” Lucia cried and this was her ‘true self’ screaming for help. “It was you who…”

    “Silence!” The Clan Chief’s gruesome voice rang like a tide of murderous wind. It rattled the air and even went towards Van’s direction in a form of murderous wind. “You have sinned against the clan! You know the rules of the clan by murdering an innocent. Strength should not be used against those that do not have the power to resist. You have to lift your head up and accept punishment with dignity.”

    Hearing these words made Van somewhat feel pity for Lucia who, now, is frozen with shock and surprise from the words he said.

    The Clan Chief turned his back against Van and then left towards the Western Gate.

    Van did not pursue the matter because by now, he had already achieved his goal. If people could only feel his status now, they would know that he was already at the last of his strength.

    That blast of Mana was actually released in front of him and if not for the fact that he had cast four healing spells on himself secretly for four breaths, he could have been exposed.

    Everything… all of these… are just a show. If he didn’t have his past life’s experience of tricking even his father’s retainers just to get what he wanted, or the fact that even if he was born with a mortal soul property, he still have his quick wittedness and arsenal of ways… then perhaps none of these would have been possible.

    He now had the door. Removing the binding in it was easy. After all, this was an item that was originally one of his inheritances being the sole surviving members of the Terran Imperial Family.

    Also, looking at the still shocked Lucia, she also had a reason why he used this moment to save her form that Clan.

    It was a snap decision from earlier. If he didn’t saw those things from the Clan Chief’s memories, he would have allowed this talent to be used as that Clan Chief desired.

    –But no.

    When he saw the Clan Chief’s memories, he was shocked and alarmed and so, in order to achieve his goal, he needed people that he can call ally.

    When the Clan Chief turned his back at her, it was actually an opportunity given to him.

    As Lucia reached him, her gaze were but filled with fear. Her former antagonizing indifference is now gone and who was facing him instead is a girl who was the embodiment of weakness and fragileness.

    With the pangs of guilt hitting him, he tapped the girl’s chest and ‘temporarily’ sealed her Mana Gates so that she can’t escape.

    At the second breath’s time, he also added a Specialist-Stage Barrier Formation that put her in a paralyzed state.

    Van eyed Leon who understood immediately and then put Lucia at his back. Then, he faced Trevor who, all these time, wanted to ask a few things at him… especially the fact that Van still have the door, his prized possession.

    “Trevor.” Van called. This time, there were no longer any pretenses of cordiality. “They attacked you because of the door. I saved your life that was in the brink of being scourged earlier. If you continue to possess this item, you will only invite the same disaster at your direction.”

    “B-But…”

    Seeing Trevor’s inability to let go of the item, Van displayed a serious frown.

    “No buts,” He said. “I shall report this matter to my Imperial Court and thus, this item will now belong to my Imperial Court. Your compensation for your loss and this trouble will be sent to you after all of the processes for acquisition are completed.”

    After hearing this, a weird expression was on Trevor’s face. It was hearing this that they had a very peculiar tingling on their ears.

    Does it mean that Lao Shang is confiscating it?

    To Van, so what if he was pushing things too far?

    If he doesn’t do this, if he doesn’t create Karma, how can he move forward and achieve his plans?

    He needed to do this. He needed to use every type of card, no matter if it’s despicable or dirty, or even a little bit of trickery, as long as he does not take an innocent life, no Karmic Sin will befall upon him and he can make Karmic Relationships through acquisition of these items.

    To accomplish his plans, he had to become a type of person that everyone will love, hate, adore, fear, or even idolize.

    Only that way can he create Karma for himself.

    Since he can’t attract Karma, then he will create a permanent thread where he is the source and the end point itself. The entire Karmic Thread is he himself!

    Leaving these words, Van jumped on Leon’s back and then spent a look at the still unwilling Trevor and the surprised crowd.

    He was standing at Leon’s back as he summoned Ysabelle’s maroon cloak. After wearing it and making himself look like an indifferent knight that is actually in the middle of his mission, he made sure to tie his paralyzed ‘prisoner’ on one of the protruding bone spikes on Leon’s back.

    Without further ado, Lao Shang’s mount jumped and they were immediately a hundred or so meters up in the air. Leon stretched his wings and a large monster in their night sky appeared that frightened some animals.

    As soon as they reached the sky above the city, Van immediately collapsed into a tired state.

    “Whew… I so am never going to do that again.”

    *****

    Van’s flight direction was in the Northwest and seeing this, a slight hesitation bore on the Clan Chief’s thoughts.

    “Clan Chief.” The highest ranked man in their group called and bid a mild bow. “Should we follow him? He took one of our own. She’s… one of us… shouldn’t we at least do something for her?”

    The Clan Chief’s black cloth danced in the gentle wind as his dead red eyes stare at the departing figure of the Lion Guard.

    Standing at a secluded uphill neighborhood in the outskirts of the western district, this silence while thinking is making his men feel nervous. It was this aura of their Clan Chief at moments like these that they all fear.

    After a while of scrutinization, just as the Clan Chief was about to order to pursue him, the flying monster up in the air stopped flying and hovered as he flapped its enormous wings in place.

    The Clan Chief and his men were surprised and all the more when the man at the top of the monster turned his head at their direction.

    His distance from them was less than 1km but since they are all cultivators, it only seems that his image is just a few meters away.

    Lao Shang, atop his mount, turned around at their group wearing a serious expression.

    His eyes spoke as if he was challenging their ability to test his patience. All the more when, as if prompted by his thoughts, his wooden armor with leaves and vines and the feel of ancientness began to emit a slight glow.

    The glow was golden and the design was by no mistake a Golden Serpent Dragon!

    Its head was resting on his left shoulder armor, the body curled around its body pieces. The dragon came alive and then changed locations where its head, after moving around his body, placed it on his right shoulder pad before merging back to his armor.

    After this sight, the henchmen of the black clothed man gulped down their tension. They all could not feel the power behind that armor and all the more they couldn’t feel the power that the dragon resting on his armor was.

    Visually, it was just some pieces of wood with a few designs patched together. But never would they even think that it was actually a very rare kind of wood called Dragonwood!

    Dragonwood has a very unique characteristic of being ‘dead’ when removed from its tree. The only use it has is to be imbued by a dragon’s blood and by then, it can use the power of the source of the Dragon Blood and give a protection akin to the hardness of the source’s skin.

    Regardless of what kind of dragon the blood imbued on the piece of armor was, the fact that they can’t detect its power was relevant.

    They were so weak that they don’t have even the slightest of qualifications to detect its strength!

    After all, there are just 2 kinds of Masters in the world: the first are those who like to show off their strength to others; the second was the kind that Lao Shang belonged to… those who liked to have a very low profile.

    Between the two, the hardest to provoke is always the second type because not everyone knows how powerful they really are.

    When Lao Shang stopped and turned to face them with a serious expression instead of a smile, it only meant that he was actually sending a message to their Clan Chief.

    “Are you really going to provoke my patience?”

    Even if their Clan Chief was as silent and indifferent as a corpse, when he turned his back and went towards the darkness of the neighborhood, they knew immediately that he was choosing the option of not provoking the Imperial Court.

    Even if the strength of their Clan Chief is on the Grandmaster of Elements stage, the fact remains that the other party is a Lion Guard.

    After all, every member of the Lion Guard Knight Order are all at the very least in the Enlightened Being stage.

    Not only he was on an entire realm of trouble above their Clan Chief, there was also the S-Class monster to worry about. With that monster alone, they are already at a disadvantage. So why would they want to provoke the Lion Guard?

    The man who asked if they would pursue him earlier was the one who felt that the world was on his shoulders. He didn’t even try to exhale and create the slightest of noises for fear that their Clan Chief would be more annoyed than before.

    Every member of the Night Raven Clan followed their Clan Chief, none of them looking back.

    …none of them is even making a sound.


    Author's NOTE: Busy with work and writing my main novel's Volume 6 in Wattpad and Patreon. If you guys have the chance, please read my [Siva] Light Novel Series in Wattpad. See you in a few days... or a week. xp

  • edited August 2017
    UPDATE: 30 July 2017

    Chapter 40:
    Dark-eyed Junco

    Van made a sigh of relief as he felt that the gaze that bored like a large sword on his back was now removed.

    But he still did not try to relax.

    What he did instead is to keep looking at the city as he ordered Leon to proceed with the flight.

    From many different directions, there are still eyes that kept staring at his direction and while Leon sped off towards the Northwestern night sky, he spent a few minute trying to look back at those kinds of eyes.

    He was simply trying to tell them that he can ‘see’ them staring at him.

    Even if his aura is unfathomably hidden, he was spreading his senses all over the place and can definitely tell who they are.

    As such, after spending a few moments looking at them one by one, majority of the eyes that can put a threat on him had all but dissipated.

    Van also spent this time to assess his abilities and to also evaluate his own survival and fighting capabilities.

    “I’m not really good at fighting like my brothers and my sister… but when it comes down to it, my own strengths are on my foresight and my many ways to escape. Yet, from the memories that I’ve seen from that corpse, I have to train myself since I can’t escape the fates that are after the door.”

    When Van touched the ‘walking corpse’ earlier, he was surprised.

    Because all the conjectures of the clan members are all true; their Clan Chief is in fact a corpse that was brought back from its grave.

    What concerned Van more is that the person who brought back that corpse from the dead is in fact a very powerful Necromancer. Furthermore, that Necromancer knows the secret of the Door of Nowhere and he’s after all of them. Also, the Night Raven Clan is not the only pawn dancing on his palm.

    If he didn’t have his Bloodline Ability, the «Amalgamation of Memories», then perhaps he wouldn’t have known about that Necromancer’s plans and he wouldn’t be able to know just what kind of people he was dealing against.

    “If I’m not mistaken, there are only two possible reasons how that Necromancer is able to know about the secret of the Door of Nowhere. The first possibility is that he had read about it in the Archive of Treasures that Royal Father had entrusted the Kumis Clan to keep. The second possibility is that he had mind scourged someone who had read the Archive, or it may have been a Kumis Clan descendant who had seen the Archive itself.”

    A flash of worry was written on Van’s face. He is already filled with worries on how to deal with the threat of the Demons and now, there was also a threat that he had to face because of his added goal of collecting all the seals of the door.

    Van let out a sigh and sensing this, Leon looked back at him but didn’t say a word.

    “Leon, let’s fly the whole night. We’ll be heading to Elgrande. We need to adjust some of our plans because of this event.”

    After hearing this, Leon snorted. “I thought you had everything under control?” it was clear that Leon was looking down on Van. By now, he was sensing that for some reason or another, the aura of power that he once had when they first met, was actually just a show.

    His real strength is the current one that he has which is unacceptable for a glorious S-Class monster like him.

    When Van heard his mocking tone, an angry look flashed on his expression and his thoughts of slaughter and murder was forcibly sent towards Leon’s ‘familiar’ seal like a falling mountain.

    As soon as Leon felt it, he couldn’t help but making a face of apology because the man’s will of slaughter actually frightened him.

    Leon had been against many hunters with power and strength that almost killed him but none of them had the murderous desire and deep wish to conduct carnage that was as strong and as dark as Van’s. To test someone who can ‘tame’ him was actually a mistake on his part.

    Who told him to enlarge his head?

    He was already given a very big payment of being able to cultivate a Muan form in under a century through the ‘mantra’ that was given to him. Why must he get over his head just because Van was on his weakest state?

    The murderous thoughts and the will of carnage Van sent over was done on instinct and when he felt that it was making Leon feel suffocated, he immediately retracted it then wore an apologetic look. He patted Leon’s nape with sincerity.

    “Sorry, bud. Actually, you’re right. I also thought that I have everything under control but there was the appearance of an unforeseen problem so we have to make a detour to Elgrande.”

    Leon was quiet but he could feel that Van was sincere in his apology. He was also secretly happy that he was called ‘bud’ that he understood as slang for ‘partner’.

    He let out a howl and then energetically flapped his wings to fly faster.

    “Honestly,” After a while, Leon couldn’t help but ask. “What happened to your strength?”

    Van thought for a moment before answering Leon’s question. “I was cursed.” He said and Leon focused his mind to digest the words being sent to his ‘familiar’ seal. “A very powerful Immortal cursed my soul and my power had somewhat been taken away from me. Now, I have no choice but to start all over again and endure the pain of what you’ve seen me do.”

    Leon was silent. He recalled the four days of pain that Van went through in the cave in the Nemea.

    Thinking about it now, thanks to the level of intelligence that he received from Van, Leon was now able to patch the clues regarding why he had to willingly put himself in that painful procedure for a small benefit of using very weak magic.

    “So in short, that one’s not the last?” Leon asked.

    “To say it bluntly, if everything went well according to my plans, I would only have to go through that torture for at least three times more in the future… if «LUCKY» –which I emphasize with great fervor– then only twice more.”

    Leon couldn’t help but swallow. Through the seal in his body, he felt the degree of pain he had to endure back then.

    Though he didn’t experience the pain, he was still able to tell how it felt because the two of them were connected through their souls.

    Up to here, Van had understood more or less of what was running on Van’s mind. So he had to ask the other matter that was bothering him.

    “What about that baggage?”

    Van looked back at the unconscious Lucia, “She’s going to be of use to us.”

    “Hmp. If she betrays us, I will eat her alive.”

    “Don’t worry. I will make sure you won’t have to.”

    As Van spoke about this, he pointed into the sky and released a seal he’s been saving up earlier.

    Muffled booms rang out as a type of insignia had appeared in the skies of Bell Grade.

    It was of an ‘eye’ between two slanted parallel lines of lightning. In general, it was just an illumination art of a letter “H” that burned a golden fire in the sky.

     

    *****

     

    The sound of wooden soles echoes one after another in the empty and redundantly dull halls of a tunnel.

    One tap after tap after another, the tunnel made up of smoothened frozen granite and ice delivers a feeling of ancientness and draggy air.

    The person owning those slick shoes wore slacks of white silk, a red necktie on his blue sleek shirt under the hanged red Magician’s Robe on his stiff and stout shoulders.

    On this person’s left hand is a golden scepter with ruby and emeralds, diamonds, and of course, a Red Gem as the highest valued decoration. And yet, this particular scepter holds a very significant influence in the entire Northern Icecaps Region.

    It’s because this golden scepter belongs to the King of Northern Icecap’s biggest country, Elector.

    King Rhombus Diamante.

    In a secluded place somewhere in the Northern Icecaps, a large cavity inside an ice-filled mountain was transformed into a large facility that holds ‘test subjects’ of a particular kind of Magic Art.

    A towering shelf of books and tomes were on the eastern wall, a rack of different sized jars filled with Muan body parts was on the northern wall, a wall of doors and chambers on the west wall, and the tunnel entrance below a series of pinned-on-the-wall experimental subjects on the southern wall, was the environment that boomed at the King when he passed through the tunnel cavity.

    This is the place where he, ‘The Necromancer’, conducts his activities.

    At this moment, King Rhombus Diamante paused as soon as he entered the large cavity. He paused not because he felt any pressure from a powerful expert but because of the smell of rotten flesh that had accumulated over the years.

    Even if he was an almighty expert at the Sorcerer Stage of Enlightenment, the smell in this place is still enough to make even him pause and exert effort to dispel.

    He could’ve chosen to numb his nasal nerves with his Mana, or perhaps use his own Mana to filter out the putrid air, or even use a few Magic Spells to change the property of the smelly odor.

    But he didn’t.

    It’s because this particular smell of dead flesh and rotting bodies was actually created by the aura of an almighty Wizard.

    The aura wasn’t penetrative nor was it oppressive in any least but its nature and property is actually associated with the Law of Death that’s why he needed to put in effort to dispel the aura first before he can dispel the smell.

    Thaumaturge Junco, nick-named “Dark-Eye” Junco. It was the name of the Necromancer.

    Right now, he had his back turned to the King as he was actually on his study desk, having his hands full of the ‘body part’ in there. Beside the desk was a tied up person, dead, and his chest open with a large cut, as his heart is obviously at the hands of the Wizard.

    In fact, this person is but an accumulation of many different body parts from different people. One can even see different skin tones on the parts that were joined together. It can even be said that it is NOT a person but actually something else that borders between something and someone.

    For many, many years, his existence and his work  had been done in secret and this Magic Art of the so called Necromancy is but in fact just his hobby.

    His real profession was a puppeteer. His main Magic Art is dealing with puppets. His strength lies in controlling bodies that had no will of their own.

    And yet, there was a goal he wanted to achieve.

    He wanted to create a puppet that can think on its own and yet still under his control. He wanted to create a puppet that can use his abilities and Magic Arts perfectly according to his conditions and timing. As such, he researched it and developed a Magic Art that has the alignment to the Law of Death.

    Finished fiddling, Dark-eyed Junco put the heart on the chest of the body and then waved his hand as the wound closed and was stitched with utmost precision.

    When the wound closed, Dark-eyed Junco also drew a few patterns on the stitched chest of the body and then inserted a jade strip on the wound on the chest before totally burning it into a seal.


    Chapter 41:
    Sowing Karma

    After a while, the body opened its eyes and then looked around him. Emotionless at first but at the next instant, his face began to contort into an ugly expression of fear, confusion, pain, and finally, his eyes bled with fresh blood that also immediately followed by the holes on his head. He screamed but no sound came out. He tried to free himself but he was tied shut.

    The ‘man’ was in agony and he was bleeding.

    His struggle lasted for a while before his strength left his body. His eyes stilled and he lost all signs of life. After a while, the head turned towards the King and smiled in a frightening distorted form.

    Its mouth was red with blood, its eyes on different angles, the muscles on the face stiffened and stopped on a horrifying display as the ‘man’ smiled.

    Looking at it, the King couldn’t help but exert his effort on hiding his horror only to be surprised as the man whose back was turned against him, began to laugh maniacally.

    After his laughter, a grinding, ghastly voice, the same voice heard on the man in black cloth on the southern lands of the Four Nations Empire rang with a jeering tone.

    “Our puppet in the south met with an unforeseen obstacle by the name of Lao Shang. He claims to be someone from the North-Western War Front at first but then was revealed to be an agent of the Von Duchesse Family. He knows some weird magic and is a master at hiding his presence. Even I can’t see through him until the final moment he revealed his fangs at me.”

    Hearing this, the King of Elector frowned and his face contorted into an ugly expression.

    “A trifling nation trying to obstruct my plans?! If it wasn’t for the fact that ours and their country is divided by that asshole’s kingdom, I would have sent my men to deal with that country.”

    “Boy, do not be impatient.” When these words escaped the Wizard’s lips, a hint of murderous intent flashed in his eyes. “Even though we don’t want our plans being exposed, there is no need to worry about that matter. I have complete confidence that aside from us, no one else knows how to use the doors to their fullest extent.”

    When saying this, Dark-eyed Junco pulled out an item from his Spatial Artifact and it was, in fact, a few torn up pages of a once old book.

    The papers were old and already almost colored gold, thin, and looking very fragile. In its pages, however, were unfamiliar letters and symbols that needed some time and a few scholars to be translated.

    Of course, those translators are now dead.

    What was keeping it together was just the Mana that Dark-eyed Junco was imbuing the page.

    Seeing this, the King of Elector only stood there in a quiet state. Even if he doesn’t want to be used, the ‘cooperation’ between him and this madman was something that is going to benefit him greatly in the future.

    After all, those who knew how to properly bind the sealed Doors of Nowhere have the ability to use its indestructability as shield to any and all kinds of harmful attacks aside from its ability to hide an owner in its ‘Manor’ and teleport himself anywhere that the door had been placed to.

    What more if they can complete the whole nine set of the Door of Nowhere?

    It is said on these pages that once all the doors are put together, then a treasury will be opened and that a great power will also be acquired.

    As a king of a country, and most especially of a country at war, why would he not become interested with this?

    Thus, the King of Elector had no choice but to ride in this cooperation deal and share whatever treasure was on the Manor.

    *****

    The next morning, a frightened Lucia was untied and was woken up from her unconscious state by the smell of a delicious meat stew.

    Lucia was afraid, of course, and also confused.

    Confused because she was unharmed, confused because she was still not on jail, confused because she still has all her things, especially her sword which she personally collected the materials and asked a renowned Sword Smith to forge it, with her.

    Nothing has been taken away and confiscated.

    She looked at Van with fear since it was clear that his frightening impression was imprinted on her subconscious like a towering demon of horror.

    “Relax. Have a bite.” Van invited and then walked over her direction placing a bowl with a shiny grey spoon in front her.

    The bowl was jaded silver, expensive and heat resistant, while the spoon handle was shaped on the emblem of the Von Duchesse Imperial Family.

    From his utensils alone, it was enough proof that he was really from the Imperial Court.

    Van, on the other hand, was smiling dryly. How could he not know what she was thinking right now? Those utensils were actually from Ysabelle, part of the package of Spatial Artifact that she had loaned him.

    “Eat up.” Van said, feigning stiffness. “We have a long way to go. If you don’t eat then the big guy behind you will eat you instead.”

    Lucia jumped to her feet as she turned her head behind her only to see not the big monster but instead a yellow furred small –is that a rabbit or a dog– animal trying to catch some butterflies.

    A gleeful laugh came from behind her and her face blushed as she turned irritably at Van.

    But she didn’t say anything and instead looked around her, studying her location, finding ways to escape and return to The Clan.

    Seeing her like this, Van sighed and then fiddled the fire below the golden pot –another luxurious item from Ysabelle’s arsenal of luxurious items.

    “Forget about escaping.” Van said and then, with a thought, released the ‘barrier seal’ that he left on her body nine breaths earlier.

    Van’s spells are unique this way.

    It wasn’t powered by internally cumulated Mana so there is no fluctuation that happens when the Mana is released by the body. Instead, Van’s very unique magic was cast using ‘seals’ that can be used and cast one breath at a time.

    Since it was on the very lowest of levels possible, he can only cast up to one Expert-Stage magic spell. But after that though, the entire ‘item’ will break and it will become useless until Van gains the right resources to repair it.

    “Even if you’re five times faster than you are right now, even if you use your ‘disguise’ magic and pretend to be a tree to escape, I can still find you because I am stronger than you. If you are going to test my patience, then I will increase your sentence by a hundred more years. Do you understand where I’m heading with this?”

    Although in the surface, Van seem to be strict, in reality, he was just testing her.

    Besides, if Lucia really does want to kill him, she can do it easily in exchange of being eaten alive by Leon in return.

    After all, she is already in the ‘Expert Stage of Enlightenment’. Against a mortal like him, Van doesn’t stand a chance at all.

    That is, if Lucia would find out.

    But if they are really going to fight, Van’s defeat will be certain. His magic ‘spells’, right now, are very weak apart from being dependent on the number of ‘seals’ he can release every time.

    At his current level, that’s one layered (Class-1) seal of a Specialist Stage power every single breath’s time –ready to be released for use every ten breaths.

    If not released, the ‘seal’ formation will dissipate automatically after ten breaths. It can be cast with no one noticing and it will also dissipate without it being noticed as well.

    That’s because it is as natural as Mana since in the first place, it is he Language of the Gods. As Mana exists in everything and that The Teneity is also what creates natural phenomena as well as make up even the Mortal Body, then it can be cast and released without a Mortal Body noticing it.

    Only Gods can ‘notice’ the Language of the Gods.

    This weakness and strength can be blamed on the Blood Ink he used. As said, the ‘Blood Ink’ increases the number of layers he can cast at the same time. Because he used very low quality Magic Cards to create ‘The Teneity’, the highest spells he can cast are at the Specialist Stage while casting a spell with the power of an Expert Stage will break The Teneity.

    And with regards to casting speed, the Red Gem –yes, it is an extremely valuable resource on both of Van’s lives– regarding the high requirements of The Teneity; it is still the lowest possible requirement for it.

    The Teneity doesn’t have any classification that it can be grouped to. It was almost an item, halfway being a ‘Barrier Formation’, too far off as a Magic Spell, and most definitely is not in any way a form or type of Magic Art.

    If it can be considered as something, then it is only simply as Van’s lifeline: The Teneity, the Language of the Gods.

    He was the only one who can create it.

    He was the only one who can use it.

    He was the only one who understood its entirety.

    Because the «Amalgamation of Memories» is not just for viewing the memories of other people, it is entirely ‘living’ the life of the person up to the point of contact. Basically, Van had lived that person’s life until their point of contact and thus also learned what he had learned in life –in just a flash of a moment!

    The people he had viewed their memories in the past had their memories stacked like an archive of information in his mind.

    With such a large archive at his disposal, Van’s brain processing power is relatively frightening, monstrously godlike, and heavenly sharp!

    As such, it is the reason why the Terran Elders and magic Researchers hated him for leeching off their entire life’s works… especially when he had created The Teneity.

    This supposed intangible existence and can never be physically reproduced ‘Language’ was indeed all but a cheating engine created by a desperate.

    And yet, it has been done… twice… by the same person who actually patched together the entire myriad of formations of 1080 characters of the Language of the Gods from the many myriad of spells in the million years history of the Terran Empire as the materials.


    Author's NOTE:
     
    My main novel's Volume 6 is already out in Wattpad and Patreon. Please try reading my [Siva] Light Novel Series. Next update for this story will be on August.
  • UPDATE: 16 AUG 2017

    Chapter 42: 
    Second Chance

    Spoiler:
     Who knows how many memories he had ‘lived’ back then before he managed to formulate the entirety of The Teneity.

    And, back then, he was just nine years old.

    He created the ‘The Teneity’ and showed its might when he was ten. For the years after that, he accumulated a strength that was comparable to a Sorcerer-Staged Magician in the Muan standards.

    Poor, when compared to the almighty experts of both his lives, but for a hopeless case such as his, what he’s done was a large breakthrough.

    Van, at 19 years of age, begun his legend-creating troubles, defying the Terran History and culture, as he even defied his royal father’s orders, going to places using aliases and disguises, flirting with many princesses, queens and ­–may the Gods forgive– even priestesses and innocent acolytes, pretending to be an apparition or a Messenger of the Gods and visiting them demanding skinship in exchange for ‘Divinations’!

    Back then, he had offended not only Sovereigns of the Lands, but also Grand Rulers, Almighty Pontifices, and even Immortal Kings… all for the sake of finding a cure to his inescapable fate.

    As such, to have to put up with this weak version of his ‘Art’ is just too much for him to bear. And yet he had no choice in the matter.

    Since the quality of materials and the fact that he ‘only’ have a Red Gem as the core of The Teneity, he can only retire to the fact that he can’t use his other high-level ‘seals’ and would have to brace himself to experience the same level of pain once he upgrade The Teneity.

    When the seal was released on Lucia, she floated from the ground and her face was filled with the full expression of horror.

    She became more afraid of Van… she became frightened of the fact that she was floating in the air without feeling any kind of Mana fluctuation being released from his body until it exploded in her soul and sealed her Mana Gates.

    What more, Van did not even moved any of his hands to cast this magic. He was as close as five meters away from her and yet she did not see him move to cast even once.

    Not even Mana Sense can do this much without it being detected!

    After ten breaths’ time, Lucia was released and she fell down on the same spot and her butt fell on the ‘chair’ made of cut wood behind her.

    Lucia was horrified that she can’t escape so she could only tear up in defeat.

    She was sold by her parents, trained to be a sex slave almost all her life, left by the Clan Chief she treated as her father, and now she was arrested because of doing a mission she taught was all ‘for the sake of The Clan’.

    With a bitter fate such as this, she recalled about the term ‘suicide’. But even with just the thought of it, she can’t pull herself to do so.

    For some reason, she wanted to live.

    If she can survive the 100 years of imprisonment, then perhaps she can live a new life after that.

    Alas, she even felt anger as she felt that she was just like a replaceable pawn to the Clan Chief that she regarded highly of.

    Van was looking at her crying figure and couldn’t help but think that he had gone too far with the pretense. But, in order to totally save her from thinking that The Clan was what she thinks it is, a sanctuary, he had to erase any notion she have that they will come back and save her.

    Thus, he had to play the role of the bad guy.

    “Lucia Barnes.” Van called and Lucia sniffed to a stop with her tears. By now, all her disguise was removed.

    Even her ‘Poison Ivy’ disguise was also removed.

    What remained now is just the weak and fragile Lucia Barnes who she tried to protect by using many layered disguises.

    Van walked over brining the whole body mirror which probably is one of Ysabelle’s much priced possessions.

    Putting the mirror in front of her, Van spoke with a gentle tone. “Lucia Barnes, do you see yourself in the mirror as someone weak and fragile?”

    Confused, Lucia glanced at Van who’s behind the mirror and then looked at her reflection in the mirror. Come to think of it, when was the last time she had seen herself in a mirror? Perhaps it may have been a little more than three years ago, on the night that she was supposed to be deflowered by the landlord… she had tried her best to be beautiful because that was what the landlord wanted.

    Seeing herself right now, tear-laden, she wiped her tears with her sleeve and realized that she was still wearing the ‘Poison Ivy’ uniform which was also her devising so as to separate the weak Lucia from the strong and cold hearted Alicia.

    But with Van’s question, Lucia became more and more confused. Just where did this sudden burst of question come from?

    “Look at yourself.” Said Van, urging her. “Are you weak? Do you need someone telling you what to do? Do you like someone ordering you around? Is it enjoyable being used by other people like you are a puppet?”

    These questions were asked forcefully and Lucia felt angry from the way he asked them. It’s not that she enjoy it, it’s just she had no choice!

    And yet, no matter how angry she was, she just can’t put herself to release this anger for fear that she might offend the Lion Guard. Who knows if what he said was true? That she will be fed to the S-Class familiar if he tried something not good.

    But she had to say something at this point, so she opened her mouth and spoke.

    “What do you want?”

    “I want you to tell me how you see yourself.”

    “Why?”

    “…to help me decide.”

    “…”

    Lucia was still intelligent. After all, to reach the Expert-Stage of Enlightenment in just three years from Apprentice Stage is a feat possible only for people with high levels of comprehension ability.

    Of course she knew what he was deciding about now that he prompted her on it. But it’s not that she can’t answer him because she doesn’t want to, it’s because she doesn’t know what to say that she can’t utter a reply.

    “It’s just a simple question, Lucia, just be honest and tell me exactly how you see yourself. Your worth is your reply… that’s what I want to hear.”

    Van spoke those words with great gentleness.

    A warm smile is beaming on his face, he picked up the bowl of food and gave it to her, leaving her to look at herself in the mirror holding a bowl of hot food.

    Now that she think about it, for three years now since she was taken in by The Clan, this might actually be the first time she’s going to eat some food.

    Since Magicians can use the Mana of the Universe to sustain themselves, they don’t actually need to eat.

    Looking at the man before her, voraciously having his fill of a skewered meat and the stew he actually cooked himself, all the more she actually had the impression that his ‘cover’ was actually not only on duty but in fact all the time.

    But from the way he acts and eats, Lucia Barnes’s face drew a shock she didn’t expect. He strongly reminded her of the father she dearly missed all these years.

    And yet, as fast as that shock came, she also dispelled it off as fast as she felt it.

    “This guy…” a pang of pain gnawed her heart.

    He doesn’t wear the same Dragonwood Armor now but he still has that same maroon cloak. Its lace was of golden silk, the edges were also of the same luxurious lining and even the maroon cloth used… was of a luxurious fabric!

    Lucia kept on eyeing the stew on her bowl before going back to scrutinize the unusual behavior of the Lion Guard.

    “Hm?” Van raised his head and nodded at her. “I still haven’t heard your reply though. But, well, eat first then talk. It helps to relax.”

    As soon as Van said this, ‘the memory’ of her father that she hasn’t had the opportunity to see all these years struck her again.

    She remembers the nights where she wanted to tell him and her mother the things she had experienced during the day while in supper. She distinctively remembers that her father would always tell her to eat first before she talks.

    At this point, the tears in her eyes flowed like a river and she even sobbed as her shoulders shook aggressively.

    Her heart ached thinking of her life so far. And most especially the fact that she did not wish any of these things to happen at all, the pain she felt when she was asked if she like being treated like a puppet… if she liked the jobs she had done for The Clan… if she like being ordered around… if she liked the training she had undergone to during her early to young teen years… of how she was seeing herself…

    No!

    “–I just want to live freely! Waaahhh…” she ate the food while crying. Her sobs mixing with the way she swallowed the food.

    Relax? Yeah right. She was crying but she feel that she was more relaxed now than ever.

    She was about to be jailed for a century because of a crime that she did with her own hands. Even if it was an order by the Clan Chief, it was still done by her hands.

    The Night Raven Clan is a private security firm, the likes that which take on jobs for people with some sort of influence. Death is part of their job description but they ‘must’ never take the lives of an innocent.

    Back then, the charges against her, it was one of the official ‘missions’ of the Night Raven Clan but in truth the mission was just a cover to actually take out the target –which is the grandson of the former Captain of the Dragon Guards of the Imperial Court.

    It was all done, back then, for the clan.

    Her tears now are because of the irony of her situation. She can’t do anything to defend herself because the one pressing the charges are part of the Imperial Court.

    Even if she claims that it was an ‘accident’ and a failed protection mission, just the way they made it happen, the Imperial Court will still not listen to a lowly peasant like her. Such was the difference between the voices of the commoners and the nobles, especially the nobles of the Imperial Court.

    Thinking about it now, this kind of information is impossible to not be known by the Clan Chief. If so, it only meant that he really didn’t see her as someone of his own.

    In fact, right now, she felt that she had always been a puppet for the Clan Chief, a disposable object that just happens to have a talent.

    And so… Lucia could only cry because of the pain.

    Seeing this, Van felt guilty that she had made a girl cry but, in order to free her soul, she have to at least try to shake of the shackles that’s binding her in the first place. These are those shackles.

    Now that he succeeded, Van had to now give her a new lease in life, something that can be treated as her good fortune.

    Right now, Van was sowing Good Karma. Right now, Van was in the middle of creating his army and in his army, he needed people that both had the talents like that of Lucia and also the pure and kindheartedness like hers as well.

    Because these kinds of people are the ones that’s hard to corrupt as they have their anchor secured tightly on a principle and degree of virtue.

    This point in her life will only become her starting point. Van then smiled at her.

    It was the kind of smile that can melt a girl’s heart.

    But it wasn’t the kind that was meant to conquer her. No. It was the kind of smile that was meant to be shown to a friend. And this smile, upon seeing it, indeed melted Lucia’s heart.

    “I’ll give you a chance to redeem yourself, Lucia, because everybody deserves a second chance.”

    Lucia sobbed like a kid and Leon puzzledly looked at her from two meters at her right.

    “I’m sorry.” Lucia cried. “Please forgive me, I really didn’t know anything! I was ordered to… I-I was used! I don’t want to go to jail!” after saying this, she stood up and fell on one knee, bowing in front of Van. “I will do anything you want, sir, so please don’t put me to jail! I will swear my loyalty to the Empire! I promise to never betray you!”


    Author's Note: I'll be seeing you next update!
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