Chapter 247: Not Alone
Air seized in my chest as I struggled to process what was going on. Elijah, who had been taken by Draneeve during the invasion of Xyrus Academy, was alive and standing in front of me.
“Elijah? W-What’s going on? How are you…” my voice trailed off as the two of us exchanged gazes. The expression he held was tense and he looked older for some reason. He was definitely Elijah, but everything about him seemed just a little off.
With a sneer, Elijah leaped back, his arms swirling with a black aura.
I responded in turn, igniting Realmheart Physique to its fullest extent. I needed to. Just from what he showed me, his spell formations were almost instant. If I was going to get out of this alive, I needed to know where and how his spells were going to form beforehand.
I could see my bangs turn white while golden runes began pulsating on my skin. As the otherworldly power of an asura coursed through my veins, I felt myself calming down—becoming more detached—as a cool blanket draped over my mind.
With a thought, I withdrew the only sword I had left in my dimension ring—the remaining sword of the pair that Senyir, Trodius’ daughter, gave to me.
The golden sword slid out of its scabbard with a soft hum. Tightening my grip around its handle, I faced Elijah, a whirlwind of ash-like mana converging around his hands, ready to be unleashed.
I need to stop him. I’ll pry the answers out of him after that.
I dashed forward, closing the gap between us in three steps. I aimed for his midsection but a black spike erupted from the ground between us, parrying my swing.
“Why are you doing this, Elijah?” I seethed, repositioning myself. I didn’t let him rest. The physical training I had done with Kordri kicked in. My feet blurred in a series of complicated footwork maneuvers designed for sharp directional changes.
“After what you’ve taken away from me, don’t you feel bad asking me that, Grey?” Elijah replied, voice laced with anger.
His eyes couldn’t keep up but the spikes that could be conjured from thin air and even faster from the ground seemed more like an automatic defense system rather than a willful conjuring.
Meanwhile Elijah continued to try and back away, his face tense but controlled as he continued preparing his spell.
I could see through Realmheart the form that this massive spell would take, pressuring me to move faster and hit harder. My initial plan was to confront him in close combat in order to conserve my mana and to exploit his weakness, but as our clash went on, I had the feeling more and more that it wouldn’t be as easy as it had been in my head.
Even while integrating elemental magic into my blade, the black flames swirling around his hands ate away and even got larger after consuming my attacks. I was able to slice through the black spikes that seemed to endlessly conjure and protect their master, but not without my blade sustaining damage as well.
With a blast of black fire, Elijah propelled himself back, putting distance between the two of us as I quickly discarded my outer robe, which caught on fire.
In that short span of time, a trail of the ash-like mana accumulated in a path from where Elijah now stood, all the way to the portal. Tess, Sylvie and everyone else all stood in that path.
Sylvie, I called out in my mind, sharing with her the path of Elijah’s spell. With a mental nod of confirmation, I turned my attention back to my friend.
“Damn it, Elijah,” I whispered. Dropping the steel scabbard on the ground, I imbued more mana and swung the sword at Elijah.
Not a sound was made as the blade sliced through the air, but the effects were shown immediately. Dozens of thin paths carved themselves like intertwining snakes on the ground as a flurry of crescents honed in on my old friend.
Elijah finished his attack prematurely. His spell was three-part—the first part made the ground crack and crumble, the second part raised chunks of the ground into the air, and the third part…
Thrusting his palms forward, Elijah unleashed a score of obsidian spikes from the ground and from the large chunks of stone floating in the air. Like the inside of a large tunnelworm’s mouth, rows and rows of sharp fangs shot out, tearing apart my spell.
Receiving a mental signal from Sylvia telling me that the three of them were at a safe distance away, I concentrated ahead.
Realmheart allowed me to see the locations where the spikes would shoot out from and even how large they were before the spikes even manifested.
I took a sharp breath, as electricity filled my body, stimulating and forcibly enhancing my reflexes. I tuned everything out and focused solely on the path leading me to my opponent.
Blood pumped through my limbs and the muscles in my legs and core tensed. I pushed off with my feet, feeling the paved ground beneath crumbling from the force.
I shot forward, trusting my body and instincts to take me to the exact location I wished.
Like a well-orchestrated performance, a black spike shot out from the ground just where my feet were, giving me another foothold to push off from.
Despite the seemingly random pattern that the black spears exploded out from the ground like deadly pistons, I was always at the right place at the right time.
I weaved through the jungle of black fangs as more and more spikes shot out in all directions before nearing Elijah.
Stabbing my golden blade forward, I released an arc of lightning that glowed black under the influence of Realmheart Physique.
Three black horns jutted in front of Elijah, conducting and redirecting the blast of lightning. The black tendrils of electricity spiraled down the thick black spikes that Elijah had conjured, destroying the ground.
Elijah’s lips quivered in a snarl as mana gathered around his lower face. A black fire roared to life from his mouth as he bellowed like a dragon.
The hellfire grew stronger as it approached, consuming the black spikes as fuel.
Under the influence of Realmheart, I stayed calm, calculating the best possible scenario out of this.
The cold whisper in my mind told me to activate Static Void, to close the distance and finish it cleanly from behind. I almost listened—even if I couldn’t land a killing blow, I could injure him heavily enough to change the tide of battle.
But Sylvie’s voice pierced through.
‘Block the attack or the teleportation gate is going to be destroyed! We can’t afford to travel to another one!’ Sylvie screamed.
Sharing our thoughts, I could sense Sylvie shifting back into her draconic form while Tess, Madam Astera and Nyphia fought off the remaining Alacryan soldiers.
Trusting her, I held my ground and released Thunderclap Impulse. The tinge of electricity around my body faded and I devoted my mana into my next attack.
I held my sword close to my body with its tip pointed at the approaching fire. A white fire ignited on the blade, shining brightly like liquid pearl as I imbued more and more of my internal mana as well as manipulated the mana around me to fuel my attack.
During this time, a concentrated blast of pure mana shot out from behind me, enveloping Elijah completely and creating another crater.
With the spell interrupted, the size of the hellblaze stayed constant, but continued its fast approach.
Gathering more and more power into my spell, I waited until the last moment before thrusting my sword forward, releasing the white flame that had covered my clothes in a layer of frost and had frozen the ground around me.
A swirling cone of white frostfire ripped out of my sword and clashed against the raging black inferno.
A shockwave of force as my spell continued to drill through the black fire pushed me back on my feet even as I used wind magic to keep me steady. The golden blade of my sword shattered from the stress of conjuring the spell, but the two spells managed to cancel each other out.
Is everyone okay? I asked my bond.
‘Yes. No one was hurt…on our side.’
Confused by her words, I glanced back to see the scope of damage from Elijah’s spell. The black fire wasn’t able to reach past me, but the spikes made it all the way to where the teleportation gate was.
Even more horrible were the bodies of Alacryan soldiers that were guarding the gate stuck on the black spikes.
I didn’t have time to dwell on them.
Can you guys reach the portal? I asked.
‘No. I can break the black spikes but even then, it’ll take some time to make it to where the portal was buried.’
As I cursed under my breath, my mind spun trying to make sense of everything and—more importantly—getting Sylvie, Tess, Madam Astera, and Nyphia out of here.
If I shot out a spell powerful enough to clear the forest of black spikes, I would also destroy the teleportation gate, but I also couldn’t just wait for more Alacryans—perhaps even a retainer or scythe—to come while we tried to fish the gate out.
Suddenly, a blast of black fire exploded into view from the crater where Elijah was.
With a hand clad in frostfire, I parried the sphere of hellfire, only for it to hit and bring down an entire building nearby. The fire ate away at the structure, growing bigger until everything was consumed.
Elijah walked out of the crater, unharmed.
“Who are you?” I asked, remembering what his first words to me were.
The corner of Elijah’s lips curled into a sneer. “You’re smarter than that. I guess the years of living comfortably in this world have made you soft.”
Elijah lifted his hands, but before his spell could manifest, I was already within arm’s length of his face.
Weaponless, I swung my fist down, wind spiraling from the speed of my punch. Another black spike jutted out to protect Elijah’s face from my blow but I didn’t stop.
With wind speeding my swing and pure mana strengthening the force of my blow, I crushed through the damned spike and landed the punch right on Elijah’s jaw.
The sound of crashing thunder resounded from the impact of my blow and Elijah’s body was buried into the ground.
“You’re not Elijah so I’m going to ask this one more time. Who the hell are you?”
Elijah stood back up from the hole his body had created in the ground. His jaw had been shattered and most of his teeth were gone but as a smoky black ember burned through his face, the injuries he had sustained were recovering.
Of course he has regenerative abilities, I thought, grimacing at the radiating pain stemming from the knuckles I had fractured from punching through the black spike.
My frustration grew as I saw scores of Alacryan soldiers rushing towards us from both sides. If things progressed like this, I’d have to fight hundreds of soldiers as well as Elijah.
“Arthur!” Tessia’s voice echoed from behind. Sylvie and Tess were running towards me.
“Stay back!” I roared, my voice coated with an otherworldly power as Realmheart Physique’s effects got stronger. I released an arc of lightning at Elijah before he could fully recover, trying to keep him from coming out.
‘Elijah won’t kill Tessia,’ Sylvie stated. ‘He could’ve killed her multiple times before we arrived but he didn’t.’
There are more Alacryans coming. It’s still too dangerous—just get her out of here!
As if a burning rod pressed down on my brain, Sylvie’s anger exploded.
‘No! Why must you always go about life-threatening situations on your own?! I am your partner, not some gopher to escort your princess to safety.’
Sylvie, I pleaded. I couldn’t let either of them get hurt, and Sylvie knew that.
‘We fight together, and get out of this together,’ she said resolutely, her uneasiness leaking through.
Giving up, I shifted my gaze to Madam Astera. A deep crimson aura encased her sword as she and Nyphia slowly but surely began hacking down the hundreds of black spikes that stood in the way between us and the teleportation gate.
Damn it, Sylvie. Fine, you and Tess keep the Alacryans away from us.
‘Good plan.’ My bond sent me a mental smirk.
‘Elijah’ and I were roughly equal in terms of power. I was faster and stronger physically, but he was more than able to make up for it using the same unique magic that Uto was able to use, alongside an even more powerful black fire—the same as that scythe who killed Elder Buhnd.
And while it wasn’t appropriate, I was admittedly worried about Tess finding out about who Grey was after this.
Shaking away my concerns, I dashed towards Elijah. Close friend or not, I needed to stop him.
Seeing me approach, Elijah conjured another rally of obsidian spears and fired them at me.
I can do this, I thought. Elijah’s control over the black spikes and the speed at which they were formed weren’t on the level of Uto and I had gotten stronger since my fight against him.
With mana pumping through my veins and coalesced around my body, I easily dodged the spears with minimal movement before a wave of black fire shot out from Elijah’s palms.
Not willing to waste mana on confronting the hellfire head on, I leapt over it.
Mid-jump—out of the corner of my eyes—I could see the fight going at the edge of the crater we were in. Golden lights flashed from Sylvie’s attacks while tendrils of green whirled and whipped in a blur.
Comforted by the fact that they were doing fine despite the overwhelming numbers against them, I focused on my opponent.
Rather than going for raw power like him, I used my mana efficiently. With the control I had gained from reaching white core, I molded mana, coalescing different attributes together to form several condensed bullets of varying colors. With a burst of blue fire, aided by wind magic, the five bullets pierced through the air in streaks of light like multicolored lasers.
Three were blocked by the black spikes but one grazed his leg and another hit him squarely in his arm, burning a hole through his limb.
Following up, I dashed toward Elijah, frost accumulating around my arm.
“You’re not a match for me in this world, Grey,” Elijah stated as he jumped backwards and conjured a thin layer of smoke.
With Realmheart active, I could tell that this spell was similar to the very first retainer I had fought, who was able to conjure and manipulate deadly toxins and poisons.
“Don’t let that gas touch you!” Tess shouted from the edge of the crater.
The gas wove together and shot forth like a serpent striking at its prey.
Skidding to a stop, I used the ice-attuned mana surrounding my arms and slashed at the air. A shimmering crescent-shaped blade of white fire tore free from my swing, cresting through the air while leaving a trail of frost in its path.
The spell sliced through the snake-like spell, freezing it. The icy crescent nicked Elijah in the shoulder. Even as the effects spread, freezing his left arm, Elijah thrust out a palm at me.
Four black spikes erupted from the ground around me, only two of which I managed to avoid. One had pierced through my ankle and the other grazed my side.
I buckled as I felt a throbbing burn radiating from my wounds.
Meanwhile, Elijah’s arms, one frozen and another with a charred hole through it, were both healing.
Damn it. He’s just sacrificing his limbs to give me injuries.
My injuries were healing as well but the spikes that had pierced through me were coated in poison and it was interfering with my own regenerative abilities.
I looked for an opening to use Static Void once more—I needed to end this quick—but Elijah seemed to be conscious of my abilities. He had positioned spikes around himself at all times to keep me from getting into direct range without him being able to react. His black fire directly countered a lot of my spells while his spikes were able to conduct and redirect my lightning.
His weakness was confrontational combat, but he was smart and shrewd. Elijah was playing a game of tactics, keeping me in range while slowly whittling me down despite my superior speed and strength.
I have to assume that our mana pool is around the same, mine maybe even lower. If I want to win this fight soon, I need more power.
As I gritted my teeth, mind whirling to form a plan, a cool and comforting sensation resonated from my core. It was from Sylvia’s dragon will.
It told me to let it take control— Sylvia was telling me to let her take control.