Chapter 223: In Her Element
‘Arthur. Take a look.’
Sylvie’s voice resounded in my head, pulling me away from the memories of my previous life that only seemed to get more vivid.
The sun had set, enveloping the undeveloped lands of the Beast Glades in a blanket of darkness. However, even from the tens of miles we were away from the Wall, we could clearly see the battle that was currently ensuing.
But it wasn’t the fierce battle that had the two of us perturbed—it was the location of where the battle was being fought.
They didn’t collapse the underground tunnel or even let the beast horde get close to the Wall. I gnashed my teeth in frustration.
Sylvie beat her powerful wings once more as we slowly descended towards the Wall.
Despite how thickly the moon was covered behind the clouds, it was easy to tell where the battle was going on. With magic involved, there were always spells lighting up the vicinity. It may have been a fierce and blood-filled battle from the ground, but from up in the sky, it was a beautiful—if not a little chaotic—show of colors.
I did my best to swallow and contain the rage building up inside me. After all, the plan I had set in motion was a suggestion that had been accepted by the captains.
But my decision to leave the beast horde and help Tessia was based on the fact that my suggestion would be implemented. It should’ve been implemented. Even before I left, the plan was already being implemented.
Ellie’s note was vague but it felt rushed, and urgent—desperate, almost. I took deep breaths, doing my best to submerge the rage that was beginning to evolve into a threat. The words ‘if anything happens to my family’ was on the tip of my tongue, itching to be said aloud to whoever was responsible for this deviation.
‘Arthur, we’re almost there,’ Sylvie’s voice sounded, snapping me out of my thoughts.
I gave her a mental confirmation as I activated Realmheart once more. Using it shortly after my fight with Cylrit sent sharp waves through my veins but I ignored it. The dark evening’s muted colors were washed away, replaced by motes of colors. Some of these wisps and specks were floating freely while others were being absorbed and clustered in preparation for a spell to manifest.
Homing in on the Wall, I scanned the top line where rows of archers and conjurers were stationed in search for Ellie’s distinct form of magic. This was the fastest way to find her in all of the chaos that came with large-scale battles.
I could only hope that my sister hadn’t run off somewhere.
We hovered high above the Wall enough for us not to be potentially shot at by alarmed soldiers, but it didn’t take long for me to find my sister. Not many mages were able to shoot such well-structured arrows of pure mana like she could, making the mana fluctuations around her fairly distinguishable.
There , I indicated to my bond, directing her to a battlement situated near the left edge by the conjoining mountain. I released Realmheart as we approached where Ellie was stationed.
Bolts of fire and ice drew arcs in the air as they rained down on the battlefield a few hundred feet further away from where the ground was supposed to collapse from under the beast horde. Alongside the the various spells and mana enhanced arrows were streaks of pale light shot out by my sister.
Sylvie quickly shifted into her human form as we neared our destination as I continued to take deep breaths in a losing fight against the anger building up in me.
It helped that my sister was still able enough to be consistently firing spells from her bow, but that couldn’t be the same for the rest of my family and the Twin Horns, who were hopefully somewhere behind the protection of this enormous fortress.
The two of us landed softly but still managed to alarm the soldiers around us, including my sister.
The soldiers, however, were all capable mages—mages that were able to clearly sense when they were outclassed. None bothered to raise their weapons, only barely able to slink away from the two intruders that fell from the sky.
It was only when I stepped closer to a nearby illuminating artifact that Ellie ran into my arms.
“You scared the hell out of us!” my sister said in a strange mixture of annoyance and relief. “The plan that was supposed to happen with the ground and the explosives—it didn’t happen! At first I thought that they were delaying the plan in order to draw more beasts toward the area where we set up the trap, but the soldiers that were sent out aren’t coming back.”
I pried my sister away, partly to talk to her face to face, partly to not let her hear my heart beating against my chest. “Ellie. Where are the others? Do you know who’s out there?”
Before my sister could answer, though, an officer in charge of this section came running toward me. With a salute, he hastily showed his respects. “G-Good evening, General Arthur. My apologies that we weren’t able to give you a proper welcoming. I am Officer Mandir, if there’s anything I can—”
“I’m fine, Officer Mandir.” While I didn’t mean to be rude, cutting him off along with the impatient expression made him flinch and shuffle away.
I turned my attention back to my sister. Sylvie had a consoling hand on my sister’s shoulder, calming her down enough to give us some solid answers.
“We’re required to stay in our positions but Helen, who was watching over me, was able to leave. She never came back, but before the beast horde arrived, I saw Mom in the medic camp set up on the ground level. Durden and Dad…I haven’t seen either of them,” my sister sputtered.
“It’s okay, Ellie. Don’t worry, your brother will handle the rest,” I comforted, forcing a reassuring smile.
“W-What should I do? How can I help?” Ellie replied.
I shook my head. “Stay here. You’re a soldier now and this is your post. You wanted experience in a real battle, right?”
“Okay.” My sister’s gaze hardened. After giving Sylvie a quick hug, she bolted off back to her station.
“Is it safe for her to stay here?” my bond asked, unable to pry her gaze from my sister.
“If they’ve decided to forgo my plan, it means that they’re trying to keep the Wall as intact as possible. That means it’ll be safer for the soldiers on this side of the battle.”
I leaped off the edge, ignoring the surprised shouts of soldiers and workers around us. The two of us landed deftly on the ground level behind the fortress and made our way towards the medical tents.
I pushed aside a tent flap for the fourth time before I was finally able to spot my mother inside one. She had her hands hovered over a patient, brows knitted in determination. She barked out orders to some of the other medics nearby to have the patient moved and properly taken care of before another gurney rolled in front of her with another injured soldier.
Her expression, her presence, her demeanor made me freeze in my tracks. The mother I knew and grew up with was gone, replaced by a strong and level-headed medic carrying the weight of the countless injured and dying brought to her.
I thought back to the words she had said the last time we met… and fought. She mentioned her duties here and the people that needed her help. Then I looked at the countless patients slowly recovering thanks to her abilities and imagined how many of those would be dead already if it wasn’t for her.
“Are you okay, Arthur?” Sylvie asked, concern laced in her voice as she stayed by my side.
I continued to stare at my mother. Her white uniform was stained with blotches of red and brown and her face was grimy with dirt, blood spatters and sweat, but she looked so… admirable.
The patient she had been treating gained consciousness, and while his face was knotted in pain, he reached up to my mother and gently placed a trembling hand on her arm. Despite the frenzy of activity going on around us, I heard his words clearly.
While shedding tears of pain and whatever mixture of emotions he was feeling, he smiled at my mother and thanked her for saving his life.
“Oof! Sir, you’re blocking the passage. Unless you’re critically injured, please—” The nurse that had bumped into me stopped mid-sentence and scanned my body in concern. “Sir. Are your injuries bad? You’re crying.”
“No. I’m fine.” I looked away, letting my bangs cover my face from her prying eyes. “My apologies. I’ll get out of the way.”
I walked back out of the tent to gather myself.
Sylvie stood by me, tears welled up in her eyes as well from the emotions that had leaked from me.
“She was right—they were both right,” I breathed, looking up at the starry night. I could still hear the angry shouts from my father as he called me hypocritical and as the two of them tried to explain that I wasn’t the only one that could contribute to this war.
“It’s good that you’ve realized,” Sylvie answered.
I turned to my bond, watching her as she looked up at the sky as well. “So you thought so too? Why didn’t you tell me?”
Sylvie looked me in the eye and shot me a smirk. “I’ve been connected to you since I was born, Arthur. I know by now how stubborn and sometimes irrational you get when it concerns the wellbeing of your loved ones. Would you have listened to my words if I had told you back then? Or would you have played the ‘I’ve lived two lives’ card and say you know best?”
I opened my mouth to speak—to argue—but no words came out.
Sylvie’s smirk disappeared, replaced by a somber smile as she squeezed my arm. “Age isn’t always wisdom, Arthur. You’re learning that slowly.”
I shook my head, letting out a scoff. “I’m such an idiot. An arrogant, hypocritical idiot.”
My bond leaned her head against me, letting me feel the warmth radiating from her horns. A wave of tender comforting emotions radiated into me as she spoke. “Yes, but you’re our idiot.”
We spent another minute or so, taking a small break from the world and what it was throwing at us, before going back into the tent.
“Arthur?” My mother’s voice was a mixture of confusion and worry.
I held up a hand, “Hi, Mom.”
Sylvie mimicked my gesture and greeted her as well.
She flashed a smile at the two of us before focusing back on the task at hand. “Arthur, hand me a pair of pliers.”
Finding the bloody pliers in a metal tray, I handed it to her. Without looking up, she snatched the tool and used it to carefully set the snapped rib bone jutting out of the patient’s side back in place. The patient—different from the one we saw earlier—let out a gut-wrenching scream.
Unfazed by the howls of pain, she continued her spell, and I could slowly see the exposed bone mend together. I realized that she had narrowed her spell to only release from the tips of her middle and index fingers.
Minutes slowly passed as both Sylvie and I watched, entranced, at my mother working.
Despite the trauma that had haunted her all these years, I couldn’t see any traces of hesitation now as she worked tirelessly on these patients.
It was only after she had finished that she shifted her attention to us. “Sorry, Arthur. There are just so many soldiers that need my attention. Hopefully once the traps go off, it’ll be easier for our Rey, Durden and the rest of the soldiers out there.”
“Wait, So Dad and Durden are both out there right now, fighting?” I asked, a bit of panic rising in my voice.
“Not so much fighting but luring them towards the Wall,” she answered, confused. “Wasn’t that the plan? Bury the beast horde by sacrificing the underground passages?”
No one had told her. It made sense—medics didn’t need the most up-to-date information to continue doing their job. If anything, having them know might hinder their focus.
“What about Helen? Didn’t she visit you?”
“Mhmm. She stopped by earlier but left a bit after saying to keep it up.”
Helen hadn’t told her either, most likely due to the same reason that nobody else had told her. It was better if she didn’t know—there was nothing she could do about it anyway.
“What’s going on, Arthur?” Her liquid brown eyes peered into me as if searching for an answer. It was the same look she always gave our family when she knew we were hiding something from her.
“Mom…” I began.
There was nothing she could do about it, but she still had the right to know.
“The troops are a lot farther away than planned and there hasn’t been any signs of our soldiers backing down.”
“What? That can’t be right.” My mother’s brows furrowed. “What about all of those explosives placed throughout the underground passages?”
I shook my head. “It seems like one of the captains decided against the plan and switched back to their original strategy.”
My mother’s knees suddenly buckled. I caught her in time before she hit the ground but whether it was from her tirelessly using her magic to treat the soldiers or because of the news, she suddenly looked ten years older.
“Don’t worry, Mom.” I smiled as bright and reassuring as I could.
“I’m here now—we’re here. Sylvie and I are going to go out there. I’m sure the two of them are still kicking ass right now. I’ll make sure they both get back safely,” I urged, trying to get her back up on her feet. “I promise.”