ARTHUR LEYWIN’S POV:
The firm, mana-imbued stamp of my foot against Lucas’ pelvic region created a cacophony of snapping bones, squelching flesh, and splintering gravel, accompanied by a mind-numbingly shrill screech.
At this point, Lucas, an accomplice responsible for so much havoc and death—the one that drove me to this point—was now nothing more than a dying body. His mouth frothed, with only the whites of his eyes showing, as he continuously mumbled incoherently. I lifted my leg up from the blood-soaked pomace of the one that dared to harm those dear to me, and once again, I was glad that Tess was asleep for all of this.
The disaster that had befallen us was over. The perpetrator that had killed three professors and was responsible for the deaths of many more was now fatally wounded, slowly dying.
Yet no one rejoiced. There was still fear in everyone’s eyes, except, when it was once directed toward Lucas, it was now directed toward me. In the midst of this silence was a palpable tension radiating from everyone present, student and staff.
It had been a long time since I received stares like these. I relished it then, priding myself in my domineering strength, but now, only a helpless sigh escaped my lips.
A searing pain spread throughout my body as I was forcibly reverted out of second phase. My hair shortened as my long, silvery-white hair changed back to its normal short, auburn shade. The runes that ran down my arms and back faded as my vision returned to normal, although strained.
The recoil hit me a lot less this time than when I went up against the elderwood guardian. Although I didn’t pass out, I hadn’t used my mana very efficiently. While trying to make a statement, I used gravity magic which strained me since, without the help of my beast will, I normally wouldn’t be able to use it.
Still, I was barely able to keep my body from toppling over as I lifted my hand to deliver the final blow when a sudden piercing ring interrupted me, drawing my, and everyone else’s, attention.
The red-tinted barrier that surrounded the school shattered from above. The broken fragments of the barrier fluttered down, reflecting the vibrancy of the Aurora Constellation that was almost in full bloom, in the night sky; the bloodstained academy instantly turned into a scene from a fairytale.
Descending amongst the shimmering rain of the broken barrier shards were three figures. Even before I could make out their identities, the terrifying pressure they radiated told me exactly who they were.
“…ther,” a strained, gurgled gasp escaped from Lucas.
With my attention focused on the Lances, I didn’t realize he had gained enough awareness to speak.
Looking down, I noticed Lucas’ eyes fixed toward the Lances; he spoke again, this time more distinctly.
Before I could even react to what he had said, a sudden surge of light struck me in the chest, barreling me straight into the bell tower with such force that I broke through the mana-enforced wall, buried underneath the rubble.
Vomiting up blood, and what felt like my intestines, I tried pulling myself out, but it felt as if my entire body was glued against the wall. Confused and disoriented, I tried to make out, with my blurred vision, the one who casted the spell.
It was one of the Lances. I wasn’t able to make out much more than his indistinct figure through my unfocused eyes, but before he was able to fire another shot, I caught sight of Sylvie, unleashing a blast of fire at him.
‘Sylvie, no. You can’t fight them,’ I called out to her, my voice sounding weak even in my head, but it was too late. He blocked the blast like it was a toy ball before one of the other Lances trapped Sylvie in a dome of ice.
Even though every bone in my body felt like it was getting sawed in half and my head felt as if it had been punctured repeatedly, I was able to make a bit more sense of what was happening.
From her modestly curved figure and long white hair, the Lance that had trapped Sylvie in the cage of ice was female, and from the looks of it, Sylvie wasn’t able to break or melt it. Despite the position I was in, I couldn’t help but feel relieved that she had only been caged. It sure as hell beat the other options that the Lance could’ve chosen.
Meanwhile, the Lance that had attacked me had kneeled down beside Lucas. He seemed to be fairly young—maybe in his late twenties—and looking closely at his face, from the high-bridged, straight nose up to his narrow eyes, there was a very distinct resemblance to Lucas.
The last, much older Lance didn’t waste any time to gather and organize the remaining students and professors. He was already interviewing some of the students, nodding in response to their accounts and turning his head to look at me.
Whether it was because of how disoriented I was, or of how worried I was for Sylvie, It took me until now to piece it all together: Lucas had called out ‘brother’ to the Lance that attacked me…
Before I could even curse my own bad luck, the Lance I could only assume to be Lucas’ brother stormed towards me as his body released a torrent of yellow lightning.
“Death is not enough for the you. To do something so atrocious to a Wykes, to my brother…” He didn’t speak loudly. In fact, it almost sounded calm, yet his voice carried an alarming clarity that felt as if he had spoken directly into my ear. A storm of electricity trailed around him, dancing like restless cobras craving to be released as he made his way towards me.
I tried to move my body, but after a few desperate struggles, I realized I had been essentially crucified to the wall by what seemed like electromagnetism.
Despite the situation, I couldn’t help but praise the amount of control he had over lightning. For him, there was no need to concentrate on manipulating mana into lightning like I had to. Lightning simply bent and danced to his will like it was another limb on his body. Turning my gaze towards Sylvie, who was still desperately trying to escape from the ice cage, and back to the lightning-clad Lance, I finally realized just what white core mages were capable of.
“Bairon, you are not to lay a hand on him,” the older Lance ordered as he finished talking with one of the professors.
“Hah?” Bairon turned his head over his shoulder to look back. “That boy tormented and humiliated my brother before killing him, Olfred, and you’re saying that I am not to harm him? Do you wish to go against me as well?” The coils of lightning surrounding Bairon thickened, obliterating anything they touched.
“The boy was the one who saved everyone here from your brother. And since when did you grow enough hair on your balls to think that you could challenge me?” the man named Olfred spat back.
I used this chance to try and shift back into second phase, hoping I could gather enough strength to at least escape, but it was useless. My body wasn’t even able to gather mana at this point.
Turning my attention back to the two Lances, I could tell that Bairon was visibly confused. Still, whether it was because of his pride or his doubt, he chose to persist. “Do not test me, Olfred. I am in no mood to participate in your folly. My brother died in my arms; it is only just that I do what his killer did to him.” He whipped his head, glaring back at me with pure venom in his eyes.
Bairon began making his way towards me again when suddenly, two coal-black knights erected from the ground beside him, pinning him down.
“Olfred!” Bairon roared as he struggled in the grasps of the two knights that seemed unaffected by the lightning surrounding him.
Bairon suddenly unleashed a shockwave, knocking away the two stone knights before he charged towards Olfred, lightning manifested around his flattened hand, turning it into a crackling lance. Olfred had already turned his entire right arm into a gauntlet of hardened lava, but just as the two were about to exchange blows, the female Lance appeared between them.
“Enough.” Instantly, both Bairon and Olfred were trapped up to their necks in a coffin of ice. There was no gradual decrease in temperature of the air or water in the atmosphere to trigger the freezing process. The space around the two Lances simply froze, and despite the gauntlet of lava surrounding Olfred’s right arm, the ice didn’t even hiss or steam.
“Bairon, you are not the one to make this decision. It is up to the Council to determine what to do with the boy… and the dragon,” she said, not a tinge of emotion in her voice, to a degree at which Kathyln suddenly seemed like the protagonist in a soap opera in comparison. Even as she stared at my giant obsidian dragon, there was no emotion; she regarded her as something akin to a lamp post.
Assuming that the two had cooled down, the female Lance dissipated the coffin of ice, when Bairon suddenly whipped around and shot a bullet of lightning directly at me but was immediately blocked by an ice wall conjured with a swift motion of her hand. Fluidly, the female lance swung her arm towards Bairon’s neck as a thin sword of ice manifested in her hand, drawing a crisp arc as she slashed, just deep enough to draw blood. She kept her blade pressed against Bairon’s throat.
“Insubordination will not be tolerated,” she said tersely as ice slowly spread from the tip of her blade onto his neck.
By this time, I had already given up on escaping. If I had thought that me shifting into second phase gave me a chance at running away, I rescinded that statement as I watched the female Lance manhandle the other two with frightening speed.
Bairon eventually relented, not missing the chance to give me one more deathly glare.
I won’t lie—I might’ve winked back at him.
After less than an hour, the Lances had gathered enough information from the witnesses to piece together what exactly had happened. This granted me the privilege of being graciously unmagnetized by Bairon and, instead, having my legs and arms shackled together in cuffs of ice. I found the chance, during that time, to tell her that the dragon was my bond, and, for the first time since seeing her, she had a change in expression: a slight raise of her left brow. She freed Sylvie from the cage as soon as she transformed back into her miniature fox form, chaining her to my shackles as well.
After leaving me, guarded by one of Olfred’s summoned knights, Bairon and the female Lance worked to completely destroy the barrier as the older Lance gathered all of the students and professors with the help of his other ten summoned knights.
I couldn’t help but admire the barrier that covered the school. It was very well-devised, seeing as it allowed access, but restricted everyone from going back out; moreover, the Lances had to break the barrier first, which meant that it most likely restricted who was allowed to enter.
Tess, as well as all of the other captives, were still unconscious during the whole ordeal. Eventually, after the two of them completely destroyed the barrier, a team of mages sent by the Adventurer’s Guild and Mage’s Guild hurriedly made their way to the scene, promptly healing all of those who needed immediate attention and taking away everyone who had been injured to a medical facility.
It was chaos; sobbing families of the students involved, people that looked like reporters furiously scribbling into their notebooks, and noisy bystanders all gathered around the front gate of the academy, hoping to get a better glimpse of what had happened.
Fortunately, the two guilds had taken precautionary measures to make sure no one came too close to the academy at some point. There were gates erected all around the campus to keep anyone from trespassing, with uniformed guards stationed every few meters or so.
Forced to stay behind until further instructions were given, I made sure to keep close to the female Lance so that Bairon had no way of launching another quick attack at me.
I whipped my head to find the source of the familiar voice. After a few moments of looking around, I found my family waving at me from behind the gates. Even from this distance, the look of concern was visibly etched onto the faces of my parents as my father even tried to jump over the gate, only to get held down by one of the guards.
I could tell my sister had been crying as she was clutching onto my mother’s sleeve. Next to her was Vincent and Tabitha who, I assumed, were searching for their daughter.
“Am I allowed to talk to my family?” I asked the female Lance, my voice coming out a lot more feeble than I expected.
Bairon immediately replied, “After what you did to my brother, you think you have the right to make requests like—”
“Boy, I’ll take you to your family,” Olfred interrupted. I didn’t have the strength or the freedom in my limbs to properly walk, so Olfred’s summon had to carry me there. Being held over the shoulder like a sack of rice wasn’t exactly the way I wanted to appear in front of the crowds of people present, but I was in no position to say otherwise.
The summoned knight let me down surprisingly gently in front of my family. Olfred stood behind me, turning his back; whether he did that out of courtesy or out of caution that Bairon might shoot at us both from the back, I frankly didn’t need to know.
There was a tense moment of silence as they stared at me, unable find the right words. Taking a look at my body, I cursed under my breath. I had dried blood crusted around my mouth and clothes from when I had vomited blood, and both of my feet were dyed in a crimson red. My clothes were in tatters and I was as pale as I felt. All in all, I looked like a homeless vampire that had just feasted on someone and then proceeded to dance in their pool of blood.
“Hi, Mom. Hi, Dad. Hi, Ellie.” I tried to smile, but that seemed to make them even more worried.
“Arthur, my baby, a-are you okay?” My mother stretched her arm through the fence and I gripped her hand.
“Son, what happened in there?” my father asked, worry creasing into his furrowed brows.
“I’m fine, Mom. I’ve seen better days, but I’ll be okay with a bit of rest. And even I don’t know everything myself, Dad.” I shook my head, tightening my grip on my mother’s hand to reassure her.
I turned my gaze to Ellie, who was still looking at me with an expression that still seemed to be deciding whether to be angry, sad, or relieved.
“Why are you cuffed?” my father spoke again, his eyes on the transparent shackles that bound my feet and hands to each other.
I didn’t know how to respond. I didn’t want to simply tell them I had killed someone and was probably going to be under investigation. My father might understand, but I didn’t want to have to say it in front of Mother and Ellie.
As I was looking for the words to properly explain, I noticed the female Lance approaching with an open scroll in her hands.
I stood back up awkwardly due to the shackles binding my feet to face the female Lance.
Without making eye contact, she began reading aloud from the scroll. “Arthur Leywin, son of Reynolds and Alice Leywin. The Council has decreed that, due to your recent actions of excessive violence and the inconclusive circumstances involved, your mana core will be restrained, your title as a mage will be stripped, and you will be incarcerated until further judgment…”
The crinkled sound as she rolled up the communication scroll echoed through my mind, clearly audible despite the massive crowd gathered around me. She finally looked up to meet my gaze. “…effective immediately.”