ARTHUR LEYWIN’S POV:
The night before~
“Do you really have to leave again? You just got here.” My mother heaved a sigh as she looked at me from the other side of the dining table.
“Brother, you’re going away again? Are you going to almost die again?” my sister asked with a straight face, making her latter question sting all the more. I could tell she was pouting by how her left cheek slightly puffed out more than usual despite her trying to keep a poker face.
“Eleanor! Don’t say such things to your brother,” my mother chastised as she pinched my sister’s cheek.
“Arthur, I consider you grown up now. I know that your decisions were made in consideration of your family. Father supports your decision to go… since it’s for the sake of your love,” my father affirmed as he gave me a thumbs up, the edges of his lips curling upward.
“Oh God, Dad, please stop,” I groaned at the misunderstanding of being taken as some kind of hormone-induced pubescent that had just been caught with a girlfriend.
“Hehe!” A giggle escaped from my mother’s lips. Despite her efforts to try and quickly cover her mouth and resume a serious face, it was already too late.
I could feel my face burning so I just looked down, shaking my head, unsure of which was worse: my parents worrying about me, or them teasing me like this.
Meanwhile, Elijah quietly sat next to me, wide-eyed, sucking his lips in to make sure he didn’t laugh as well; his expression seemed to to be saying, ‘I’m not doing anything wrong. Nope!’ making me sigh all the harder.
“Kyu!” ‘Papa will be fine! I’m going to protect him this time!’ Sylvie hopped up and down on top of the table.
“It’s only going to take a couple of days, and I’ll be with Grandpa Virion. Nesides, next week is the Aurora Constellate, so I’ll be back home for a while. Like I said in the beginning, this matter is serious,” I tried convincing my parents who were already lost in their own imaginations.
“Well, we can’t keep babying you forever. You are growing up, I guess, in more ways than one. Just remember that it’s better to take things slow, Art. Though, I’m sure you’ll at least do better than your father,” my mother mused as she looked helplessly at my father who got caught off guard by this surprise attack.
My father, who had been doing his best in both his duty as a guard instructor and in his training, looked like he was just stabbed as the teasing comments pierced through his body.
I couldn’t help but give them a wry smile before looking at Elijah.
“Don’t worry, I’ll let everyone know that you’re still alive and coming back soon,” Elijah responded as he put his hand on my shoulder while giving me a rather dubious thumbs up.
“I will be back soon,” I reiterated while letting out a doubtful breath.
I stood up, giving each of them a final hug, which had become a sort of customary thing to do in our family. Sylvie, who was caught in my sister’s grasp, struggled to break free.
Taking a quick glance at both my mother and sister, I made sure they still had the Phoenix Wyrm necklaces on them just in case.
Seeing the white-gold chains twinkle around their necks, I said one last goodbye to all of them and went into the carriage waiting for me outside, Sylvie scampering behind me.
Inside the well-suspended carriage pulled by a large horse, I began fiddling with the gold-speckled orb, trying to glean what exactly it was.
Every time I tried imbuing mana into the orb though, there wasn’t any sort of response or reaction, almost as if it was just what it appeared to be… a marble.
Clicking my tongue in frustration, I put the orb back inside my ring. The ride to the teleportation gate would most likely be the only time I would have to get some sleep so I tried to make the most of it.
It is necessary, King Grey…
It is of utmost importance to bring stability to our country…
To show the people of our country, YOUR country, that you are their King and that you fight for us, it is necessary to kill her…
Kill her, King Grey, so that the world will know not to trifle with your country…
I shot up from the carriage seat, gasping for air. The sound of my pounding heart hammered all the way up to my head and I felt the cold air, which leaked inside the carriage, against my sweat-filled forehead. It took me a bit to realize that I had just been dreaming. Sinking back down into my seat, I wiped the cold sweat off my brows as Sylvie, who must’ve fallen off of me when I woke up, jumped back onto my lap with a worried gaze.
As I squeezed my eyes shut, hoping that would help me get rid of the disturbing memory I had forgotten for a while, I felt Sylvie’s rough tongue on the back of my hand.
“It’s okay, Sylv. I’m fine,” I assured her while petting her ears.
Why did that memory have to come up now…
Unable to fall back asleep, I talked to Sylvie to pass the time. It started from small conversations about her time when she was training by herself to teaching her about the various objects and scenery we passed in the remaining duration of the carriage ride. Throughout the months, Sylvie’s mental growth had been rapidly increasing. Her knowledge and maturity had long passed a human of her age.
I wished at times that there would be more opportunities to train with my bond. Having seen Curtis and his World Lion in duels, I could tell that they spent numerous hours training together.
When we arrived at the destination, the moon was still high overhead, illuminating the warmly lit floating city of Xyrus. The guard stationed in front of the gate leading to Elenoir Kingdom hurried over to us with his left hand gripping the pommel of the sword strapped to his waist.
“State your reason for passage and proof of verification,” the rugged guard demanded as his left hand eased off his sword, seeing that I was just a kid.
For some reason, his voice sounded vaguely familiar, and not just in a he-had-a-common-voice sort of way. Shrugging it off and pushing that nagging thought towards the back of my mind, I focused on the situation at hand.
Uncertain of what to say, I remembered that I still had the silver compass Virion gave me way back when I was a child. It had the insignia of the Eralith family so maybe it could be use as sufficient proof.
Wordlessly, I stuck my hand in my pocket and took out the compass from my ring outside of the guard’s view and showed it to him.
“Hmm, I asked for the rea… th-this is the… right this way, sir. My apologies for being so disrespectful. I had no idea you had such close ties with the royal family.” The crude expression was nowhere to be seen as he bowed down and hurriedly went back to the gate, activating it.
After the runes around the portal entrance glowed and started humming in a low pitch, he jogged back to us with an apologetic look on his face.
“Unfortunately, the gate can’t immediately take you to the inside of the kingdom, but it will be in a relatively close vicinity to one of the entrances,” the guard disclosed contritely, as if it was his fault.
“Mmm, that’s fine. Thank you,” I nodded.
Hmm… it seemed this was more than just a simple compass.
The humming coming from the portal intensified, while the ancient magic runes opened the portal. I turned my head back to see the guard giving me an exaggerated bow.
As my right foot stepped into the portal and I felt the familiar sensation of my body getting sucked in; the guard looked up.
The rugged-looking guard with scars etched on his face was gone, replacing it was the old man from the elixir store.
With a cheeky grin, he gave me a wink before saying, “Have a safe trip, young lad.”
CYNTHIA GOODSKY’S POV:
When I reached a clearing in the woods, I heard the faint mumbling of chants with my enhanced hearing.
Dozens of nearly-transparent blades of compressed air whizzed towards me at a frightening speed.
Of course it was only natural that all of these spies would be wind mages.
I stood still, waiting for the wind blades to reach me before releasing a sound barrier.
Unscathed, I continued walking while I finished my second spell.
The unlucky birds and rodent in the vicinity fell victim and dropped dead from the trees they were hiding in; along with them, a few unprepared spies also took the brunt and fell from their own hiding places, clutching their ears in agony. I had all of their locations.
Before I had the chance to send out another spell, I was forced to dodge a needle that managed to avoid my senses until the last second. Taking a quick look down, I could tell the projectile was coated with poison.
“Avier, take the ones to my right,” I stated monotonically.
‘Aye,’ my bond confirmed back through mental transmission.
Avier descended from the moonlit sky, and before long, I could hear the brief groans and howling of the spies that became prey.
A pity that their screams would never be heard.
On my side, I had to control myself to keep at least a few of them alive and able so I could get some information out of them.
In the end, only one managed to survive long enough to be questioned…
“GAAAAAAAAHHH!” the spy that was currently underneath me wailed.
It was fairly simple to torture him after destroying his mana core. Without magic protecting him, his body were simply too frail. I proceeded to crush his bones from the inside after giving him the chance to answer my questions. He remained unrelenting.
“Heh! You think I’ll tell anything to a traitor? You made a big mistake. They’re slowly regaining their… former strength. Just from the questions you asked, you assumed this continent had decades left, huh? Pfft! the people of this continent… will have less than ten years before the war begins.” He smirked, spitting the blood congealing inside his mouth at my face.
My cheeks couldn’t help but cramp at the confirmation of my fears. Pushing down my frustration, I placed my hand on the injured spy’s head.
His voice choking on the blood accumulating in his mouth, he croaked, “Long live the—”
His voice was cut short as liquid brain matter began leaking out from his ears and blood started dripping down his other orifices as the sound pulse I inflicted on the inside of his skull mashed his brain.
Dropping the lifeless body on the ground, I let out a sigh. Turning back, I made haste to my next destination, careful to avoid the corpses scattered on the ground.
“Do you mind cleaning up the mess, Avier?” I said apologetically.
“Human meat is too stringy for my taste, but I suppose it will have to do for now.” As my bond said this, his owl-like body began to glow before transforming into his wyvern form.
With only the moonlight illuminating the woods, the crunch of bones echoed loudly as Avier feasted on yet another batch of spies that had come from my homeland.
I let out a disappointed breath of air from the fruitless night as I wiped the blood off my face while changing my outer attire. My years on this continent had made me too soft. The apathy that I had once built towards death and torture was gone—replacing it with a sour taste in my mouth, just from killing a few brainwashed soldiers.
But even still… this was too easy…
Were they just a diversion?
Avier, who rarely let me ride on his back, carried me off to our next destination. I just hoped that my suspicions weren’t correct.