Chapter 248: His Name
Frustration, anxiety, doubt, and fear—all of those emotions faded as a shroud of black lightning crackled around me. I let myself sink deeper into the cold embrace of Realmheart. The feeling reminded me of when I had talked to Lord Indrath, Sylvie’s grandfather. He had that lofty, detached air around him as if he wasn’t a part of this world, but above it. I started to realize why.
As aether continued to coalesce around me, weaving its ethereal tendrils into my body, I could see the runes spreading and connecting with one another around my body. I felt calloused, numb as the power from Sylvia’s dragon will flowed freely. It was an intoxicating feeling.
I was a king in my previous life, and I stood as one of the pinnacles of strength throughout an entire continent in this life, but what I felt now was true—divine—power.
‘Arthur! Stop! You’re hurting yourself,’ Sylvie begged in my mind, but I pushed it aside. I was tired of losing battle after battle. Uto, Cylrit, the scythe that had taken Sylvia—I had lost to all of them.
Not today, especially not against this fraud who had possessed the body of my closest friend.
The tendrils of lightning shifted in color as they coiled around my body. I could see the aether being drawn to me and the black lightning soon had a faint shade of purple mixed in.
‘Arthur!’ Sylvie said, her voice farther back now.
Confident and ready, I took a step. That earth-shattering step managed to carry me past Elijah fast enough that he was still looking at where I stood before.
I extended an arm and the aetheric lightning shot out like a whip. Elijah barely managed to shift his black spears in the way of my attack, but he flew back from the impact, crashing on the dented ground a few dozen feet away to where the other Alacryans were.
Taking another step, I cleared the distance and hung in the air. The shroud of lightning around me lashed out in all directions, arcing and forking towards the Alacryans closest to me and piercing through their armor and bodies as if they were made of paper.
A few Alacryans who managed to keep their wits retaliated with spells of their own, but it was useless. I ignored the blasts of fire and let the shards of ice and stone shatter against the lightning protecting me.
My eyes gazed down at the hundreds of Alacryans looking up at me like a god.
‘…hurting…sto—’ my brows furrowed in annoyance.
Suddenly a black inferno roared outward, enveloping me in a shadowy vortex.
The shroud of lightning and aether around me grew, striking out at the whirling darkness around me. Embers clung to some of the lightning tendrils and to my body but they didn’t bother me.
With another thought, the shroud of lightning was replaced by a nimbus of white fire tinged with aether. The black fire this time weren’t able to burn through and sizzled out of existence at the frostfire’s touch.
Slashing my arms out, a ripple of white flames undulated outward, freezing and shattering everything in its path.
With another flick of a wrist, a pulse of white aetheric fire burst forth, hitting Elijah and smashing him back into the frozen ground. As the mist and dust subsided, Elijah came into view, clothes and hair disheveled, and arms crossed as the remains of frozen black spikes lay scattered around him.
He looked back up at me, brows furrowed, sweating… biting his lower lip in a grimace.
I winced at the familiar sight. I tried to dig through my memories at why Elijah looked so familiar, yet so unfamiliar at the same time.
But the veil of apathy that had enveloped me clung on, pushing away the urge to question my opponent and focus solely on killing him.
As more and more of Sylvia’s dragon will pumped out of my core and through my veins, the stronger I heard the old dragon’s voice. Memories of my time with her in that cave after falling off the cliff began to surface, and I began to trust in that voice more and more.
I let the otherworldly power take control over my body and my mind for the sake of killing Elijah and getting Tess and Sylvie to safety.
Had I broken through past the white core stage? Was this Sylvia’s message to me—to destroy anyone and everyone for the sake of those precious to me?
That had to be it. There was no other reason why I would be hearing Sylvia’s voice right now. There was no other explanation for this sudden influx of power.
I pushed away my bond’s voice. She didn’t understand; she didn’t know. She didn’t know of Sylvia’s promise to me—that she had a message for me once I had broken past the white core realm.
My vision swam in a tinge of lavender as aether gathered around me. The motes of purple danced as if celebrating my ascension to the throne.
I truly felt like a deity…like an asura.
Shifting my attention back to Elijah, I noticed his gaze flitting off to the side as if he was waiting for something…or someone.
I let out a breath and the motes of aether fluttered in front of me. Raising an arm completely enveloped in a golden aura, I flicked my wrist.
Aether heeded my call, molding around the blade of wind that I had shot at Elijah.
My opponent, his legs injured from my previous attack, chose to block my attack. Rows of black spikes, lit aflame in that hellfire capable of eating away at even water and mana, erupted from the ground in front of him, but the silvery crescent tinged purple that I had released mowed through the rows of black spikes like they were made of butter.
Elijah, realizing that his defenses were useless, barely managed to throw himself out of the way but not in time to get out unscathed.
He let out a howl of pain while clutching what was left of his severed arm. Even then, he dared to launch another attack at me.
A smirk rose from my lips as I took a step in the air. With control of spatium, the motes of aether converged into a bridge in front of me, and that single step cleared the dozens of yards instantly and without using strength. It was the very world that had folded in front of me.
Elijah only managed to widen his eyes in shock before I held out a hand. Aether converged around the stub of his right arm where his hellfire was currently regenerating the lost limb.
Under my influence, however, the black fire turned purple and rather than heal him, it was eating away at him.
“Not a match, you say?” I mocked, my voice tinged with an ethereal timbre.
Elijah bit his lower lip harder, stifling a scream.
With blood streaming down the corner of his mouth, Elijah scoffed at me. “I knew you’d show your true face. Whatever name and appearance you take on, you’ll always be the same, Grey.”
My eyes narrowed but the cool blanket of apathy abated the message of his words. The only thought that throbbed in my mind was how this person—Elijah, my once close friend—was trying to harm Tess.
“Goodbye,” I muttered, raising a hand to finish the job.
‘Arthur! Dodge!’ Sylvie’s voice suddenly screamed in my head.
Pure instinct took hold and I kicked forward, pushing myself back just as a blazing pillar of black erupted from the ground where I had been standing.
I berated myself for hyperfocusing on Elijah to the point where I didn’t notice the fluctuation of magic even through Realmheart.
The black flame barely managed to graze my left foot but the difference in power was evident. Even with the protection of aether currently surrounding my body, I felt a scalding pain radiating from my foot.
The intensity and speed of conjuration was on a different level from Elijah’s black flames.
Following the trail of mana fluctuation, I shifted my gaze to my right and up in the sky. As soon as I confirmed who it was, I couldn’t help but smile.
I could feel Sylvia shake in anger and anticipation inside me, as if even her will knew who was responsible for her death.
My body, bathing in an aether-tinged golden light, glowed brighter and stronger. This time would be different from the Castle.
The scythe arrived beside Elijah, his face a mask of indifference and poise.
He laid a hand on the purple flame eating away at where his arm used to be and it was replaced by a smoldering black flame that began slowly, but visibly, regenerating Elijah’s arm.
Rather than rushing in to fight, I kept my distance while healing my foot as well using life aether. I could also feel Sylvie’s healing touch as she continued keeping the Alacryans at bay with Tess. They were at a standstill, both sides not sure what to do in the presence of Elijah, the scythe, and myself.
“You made it clear to me that you’d win against your friend,” the scythe said.
“I can—I was, until he entered that form,” Elijah grimaced.
“No matter. The fault is mine. I let him live in exchange for keeping the Castle in one piece as Lord Agrona had ordered.”
The nonchalance that the scythe showed as he disregarded my very presence festered like an itchy sore until I wasn’t able to hold it back any longer.
The aether around me formed into a bridge once more, connecting me to where Elijah and the scythe were standing.
I stepped forward and the world folded in front of me, carrying me to them.
Aetheric lightning flashed I pummeled the scythe in the stomach.
A shockwave blasted outward from the impact, blowing Elijah back as well as many of the other Alacryans in the vicinity.
Cracks webbed out from where my fist clung to the scythe’s armor, but he hadn’t even needed to take a step back.
“We’re no longer in the Castle so it’s acceptable for me to be a bit excessive,” he stated, a smirk drawn across his face.
A chill ran down my spine as he swung his hand. A shadowy wave of fire erupted from his hand, engulfing me and everything behind me.
Aether swirled around me, protecting me from the hellfire that ignited even the air and paved ground.
Despite the cone-shaped devastation —that left every Alacryan in its way dead—I was still standing. However, the scythe wasn’t my only opponent.
I spotted Elijah flying over toward Tess.
The thought of Elijah reaching Tess was sobering. The cold blanket of apathy that had covered my mind shattered and the single-minded thought of killing the scythe and ‘winning’ faded until I could think more clearly.
Vision and mind renewed, I was deeply aware of everything going on around me, from Alacryans burning to ashes around me, to Tess, Sylvie, Nyphia, and Madam Astera fighting for safety rather than victory, and finally, myself. I was aware of the change in my body, and also the current state of my body. I chose not to fear the inevitable, instead, using it to fuel my motivation to get the rest of them back to the shelter. I guarded my mind so Sylvie wouldn’t find out, and I let out a sharp breath.
I was clear-minded and had control over the full, unrestrained, power of Realmheart. I could do this. I had to do this.
I immediately went after him. Spatium carried me to where he was in another single step. My fist struck him on his side and I could feel his ribs shattering under the force despite the wave of smokey fire that attempted to block some of the damage.
Elijah fell from the air, his body whirling out of control before creating a crater on the side of a building.
Mana fluctuations rippled in the air all around me, and I knew what was coming.
Pushing myself away with a compressed blast of fire, I narrowly dodged a series of sudden combustions in the air.
I was barely able to dance away, dodging as hellflames bloomed in the air like deadly black flowers.
The black conflagrations suddenly stopped as Sylvie launched a shockwave of pure mana from her serpentine jaw at the scythe.
Pushing aside my worries and trusting my bond, I flew over where Tess was still fighting the Alacryans.
Even while surrounded, the translucent green vines surrounding her acted as if they had minds of their own. Whipping, striking, piercing her foes, it was hard to tell who was actually at a disadvantage.
Deciding that she would be fine for now, I made my way to where the teleportation gate had been buried beneath a tide of black spikes.
There, I spotted Nyphia slow chipping away at the black spikes while Madam Astera held off several dozen Alacryan mages by herself.
Immediately, I closed the distance and unleashed a blast of frostfire at the Alacryans, freezing half of them in a single spell.
I ignored the rest, letting Madam Astera handle it while I got to work on the black spikes.
While half-tempted to release a torrent of lightning, I was too afraid that the gate would be damaged so I clad my fists in lightning and charged forth.
“Nyphia! Help Tess and get her here!” I ordered.
“G-Got it!” Nyphia scrambled out of the way as I punched through the scores of black spikes jutting from the ground and blocking the teleportation gate.
My lightning-clad fists shredded through the layers as I kept my senses clear in case Elijah or the scythe was nearby.
A piercing scream suddenly invaded my thoughts.
Sylvie! I called out as her mind clouded in a sea of pain that even I could feel through our shared minds.
‘Just keep… going!’ she sent with whatever was left of her sanity.
I could feel the ground shake with every explosion of black flames and pure mana in the distance, but I continued to push forth until I could see the faint glow of the teleportation gate.
Suddenly the sky darkened and a shadow cast just above me. Realmheart continued to cycle through me, burning away at my own body but I relied on it once more as I layered aether over the frostfire surrounding my two hands.
I pushed , sending out a shockwave of aetheric ice straight at the black hellfire descending on both myself and the teleportation gate just beside me.
As the two forces clashed, a shockwave rippled, shattering some of the black spikes. The teleportation gate also quivered and groaned, threatening to break and leave us stranded here.
Still, the ancient portal held strong and now there was a path directly to it. Tess, Nyphia and Madam Astera were running towards me as well. They’d be able to make it back.
“Hurry through the portal!” I roared as the three of them ran past me.
Tess turned back, facing me as she continued racing for the portal. “What about you?”
“I have my own medallion. I’ll meet you back at the shelter with Sylvie. Now go !”
“Grey! You can’t do this to me, not again!” Elijah shouted from above, desperately trying to get here in time. “Not after what you did to me and Cecilia!”
Elijah’s words struck like thunder, and I almost let him get to the portal.
With aether under my command, I closed the distance, just as he was about to fire a black spear at the gate, and intercepted him.
Wounded and tired, Elijah wasn’t a match anymore while I was in this state.
I gripped his neck and squeezed just hard enough so he could barely talk.
“How do you know that name?” I growled.
“Looks like you’re finally…sober,” he wheezed. “If you weren’t…under the influence of that power that’s…killing you right now, you might’ve already figured it out.”
I squeezed harder, making him gag, before loosening my grip. “Who are you.”
Elijah spat on my face before smiling, revealing his blood-stained teeth. “I was your best… friend, and the one whose fiancée you killed in front of me.”
My grip loosened and I felt my strained heart clutch. My mind swam and my entire body felt like it was submerged in tar. My throat tightened and choked as it tried to keep me from muttering the single word that pressed against my brain like a smoldering brand.