Chapter 250: Hello Darkness
Darkness. Complete darkness.
I was floating, hovering in an utter reflectionless black. Whether I was drifting along or suspended in place, I couldn’t tell.
All knew was that there was nothing else—no sound, taste, smell, or touch in this sea of perpetual darkness.
It was peaceful at first. I felt like I was both nothing and everything at the same time. I felt like a tiny spec in a vast universe, yet I also felt like nothing else existed aside from myself.
However, as time passed, I recalled more of what I was. I was a human…with hands, feet, and a body.
Yet, I couldn’t feel anything. I tried curling my fingers and toes. I tried flaring my nostrils, opening my mouth. I couldn’t feel anything. I couldn’t even feel myself breathe.
Fear took hold quickly. It didn’t come in any physiological signs that I was accustomed to. No thumping of my heart, no quickening of my breath, no trembling of my body.
Hell, I wished I could feel it—anything to verify that something more than just my consciousness existed. But I was stuck here as time passed by with no way to keep track.
I tried everything to stay sane. I screamed, yet no sound came out. I tried biting off my own tongue yet there was no sensation.
I simply existed.
And I grew more and more mad with each subjective second that passed.
Insanity effervesced, spreading and covering every corner of my consciousness. However, the hallucinations that I expected, hoped for—wished for—never came. None of the symptoms of insanity could be materialized in a world with literally nothing else and a body that I wasn’t even sure I had, let alone felt.
I soon grew bored of the incessant fear, anxiety, dread, and paranoia that gripped at my insides…if I even had insides. Memories that felt like they were on the tip of my hypothetical tongue were never within reach for me to truly recollect.
Time passed but in a state of nothingness, it was hard to even guess whether it was going by fast or slow.
It was only when I felt a slight prickle on my…arm—yes, my arm—that I jolted out of my stupor.
I had felt something for the first time. A few moments later, I felt another prickle, this time one that spread across my chest. Those prickles soon escalated into sharp piercing pains but I didn’t care. Even pain was verifiable proof that I existed outside of my consciousness.
I waited for the next bout of pain. The feeling of scalding needles digging into each and every one of my pores would have driven me insane from the torment they caused but after the subjective eons of literal nothingness, I welcomed each and every increasingly agonizing round of burning, piercing pain across every millimeter of my body.
More excitingly, my vision began brightening until the void I was in turned lighter and lighter.
It might’ve been from the sheer pain I was in but as the white overtook more and more of my vision, I felt like I had experienced this once before.
That’s when it clicked.
No. No. Please don’t tell me I’m reincarnating again.
A wave of panic overtook me as I approached the hazy clouds of white.
My eyes shot open to see that my blurry gaze was level with the ground, my cheek pressed flat against a smooth, hard floor.
Immediately, I tried to move, trying to reassure myself that I was once again not a newborn. I couldn’t start over again, not now. There was too much left to do, so many people I had to protect. My mother, my sister, Virion, Tess, Sylvie.
I struggled to even lift my head, the piercing surges of pain still encompassing all of my body.
This wasn’t a good sign.
My body felt foreign to me, heavy and stiff like wearing a suit of armor designed for a different—much larger—species.
I pried open my lips and forced a note from my throat. “Ah…Ahhh.”
The familiar clear baritone voice rang in my ear, filling me with some semblance of relief.
I gritted my teeth, and swallowed, sending a burning sting down my esophagus.
Teeth! I have teeth!
No longer fearing the possibility that I was once more an infant, I worked on trying to get myself off the ground.
Trying to lift my arms was the first major roadblock to my goal. I might as well have been trying to uproot one of the centuries-old trees in the Elshire Forest because my body wouldn’t budge. Instead, I was met with another wave of piercing pain across my entire body like someone was trying to massage me with a spiked mace that had been lit on fire.
After several attempts trying to—god forbid—lift my own body, and passing out several times from the pain that came after, I gave up.
Still, I was somewhat relieved by the pain. Not in a masochistic sort of way, but the fact that I could feel pain meant that my body might just be injured rather than completely paralyzed. And after all that time spent in everlasting darkness, the limited field of view I had in the room I was in was still a sight for sore eyes.
By the curved walls that ran across my field of vision, it seemed like I was in a large circular room. Smooth white pillars without a trace of decay held the ceiling up. A warm ethereal light glowed brightly from the sconces that lined up along the walls, spaced out evenly every few feet while familiar but indecipherable runes were etched in between them.
I pried my gaze away from the tantalizing lights and focused on the ground—or more specifically, what was on the ground.
Blood. Lots of it.
But the blood was dried brown and caked on the corners where the floor met the walls. It was hard to tell how long the walls and floors had been bloodied but as more and more areas of dried blood pools became visible the more carefully I looked, it seemed like this was some sort of grounds for injured people…or injured beasts.
I shivered at the thought of a bloodthirsty mana beast standing behind me in my vulnerable state. The only source of comfort came from the fact that I hadn’t been eaten already.
I tried moving again to little avail. I still felt like I was in some sort of shell whenever I tried to move, as if this body wasn’t my own.
After time had passed and I ran out of details on the walls, ground, and pillars to distract myself with, unwanted and painful memories that I had been pushing back began resurfacing.
Me, fighting against Nico, who had reincarnated into Elijah’s body. Actually, Elijah might’ve always been Nico—I remembered Elijah telling me how his memories before arriving in the kingdom of Darv was all a blur.
I remembered Tess sacrificing herself because I couldn’t win against Cadell, the scythe that had killed Sylvia.
I remembered, by some fluke, that I was able to harness aether in order to create not only a pocket dimension but a teleportation gate as well using the medallion made by the ancient mages. I knew by then that I wasn’t going to make it. My body was barely able to function thanks to Sylvia’s dragon will and aether keeping me alive. I knew that once I withdrew Realmheart, I would feel the full impact of my feeble ‘lesser body’ succumbing to the after-effects of exploiting both mana and aether to such a degree.
And that’s when the most painful memory resurfaced. As if it was branded into my very brain, I was able to recall my last moments with Sylvie, before she pushed me into the unstable portal, with such clarity that I could almost see her in front of me now.
Tears formed, blurring my vision, as sobs threatened to lurch out of my parched throat. Every time I closed my eyes, the memory of Sylvie disappearing right in front of me replayed over and over.
From the bond that we shared, I knew that she had used a powerful aether art to basically sacrifice her own physical body to save me.
I hated her for sacrificing herself.
But more than that, I hated myself for it.
I had been so caught up in trying to handle everything my way—to save Tess, to get my vengeance against the scythe who killed Sylvia, to confront and defeat Nico, my past—that I couldn’t appreciate the one person who stood by me through it all.
I took her for granted, assuming she’d always be here with me.
Now, she was gone.
My stomach lurched and my chest tightened as I held back another sob. I squeezed my eyes shut, grinding my teeth to try and contain myself.
But I couldn’t. I lost Sylvie, the only one who had stayed with me far longer than any other person in this world, trying to save everyone.
“Ghhh…” I heaved, letting out guttural sobs that echoed across the room as if mocking me. “I’m…sorry. I-I’m so sorry…Sylv.”
I couldn’t tell how much time I had spent wallowing in grief and self-pity but I was abruptly jolted by the sensation of pinpricks running up my entire body. It was jarring, as if millions of insects were crawling all over me, beneath my skin.
Another wave came, stronger this time—more painful. And the last wave I remembered feeling, it felt like the millions of bugs underneath my skin had erupted out of me.
By the time I pried open my eyes and felt the cool stickiness of saliva pooled underneath my cheek, I knew I had passed out.
Peeling my face off of the wet floor, I turned to my back.
The brief moment of elation at the fact that I could actually move was interrupted by an overwhelming sense of thirst.
Swallowing what little saliva I had left to moisten my dry throat, I pushed myself off of my back. The motion felt off and my body still felt stiff and alien, but I was still excited about my new range of motion.
Sitting on the ground, the first thing to catch my eyes were my own two hands.
“What the…” My hands were pale—almost white—but not just that; there wasn’t a single flaw on my hands that I could see. The calluses on my palms that had accumulated throughout the years of wielding a sword were nowhere to be found. The scars that were strewn across my knuckles from battles were gone. Even the scars on my wrist that I had received battling against that toxic witch—the first retainer I had fought against—were gone, replaced by smooth and pearlescent skin.
It seemed like Sylvie did much more than heal the wounds from abusing Realmheart Physique.
I gnashed my teeth, trying to push away the thought of my bond’s sacrifice before I succumbed to an even deeper pit of dread.
I continued studying my hands, noticing more and more differences with each passing second.
My arms were still toned with the muscles I had accumulated over the years of training, but they were also thinner. My hands also looked smaller and my fingers more delicate—but that might’ve been from the lack of calluses and scars.
It was only when my gaze shifted down to my forearms, more specifically my left forearm, that I felt a sharp pang across my chest.
The mark was gone.
“H-Huh?” I stammered.
Panic rose in me once more as I began frantically turning my arm to see if it was on the other side somehow. The mark was gone. The mark that I had gotten after forming my bond with Sylvie had completely vanished alongside all of the scars and calluses that had riddled my hands and arms.
“Before you get all weepy, look to your right,” a clear, cynical voice resounded nearby.
Not threatened by the voice for some reason, I turned to my right to see an iridescent stone the size of my palm.
My eyes widened, and out of sheer instinct, I dove toward the colorful stone and grabbed it to take a closer look.
“Yup. It’s your bond,” the voice said curtly before a black shadow appeared in my peripheral view.
A black will-o-wisp the size of a large marble came into view, except this black floating teardrop had a set of sharp, pure-white eyes staring back at me and two small horns jutting on the sides of its… head.
I felt my mouth open, as I tried to talk, but before I could continue, the black teardrop-shaped will-o-wisp with horns and eyes floated closer to me. It dipped, as if bowing to me, and spoke in an exaggerated tone.
“Greetings, my pitiful master. I am Regis, the mighty weapon that has finally manifested and crawled out of your metaphorical ass.”