In between the vast expanse of the remains of [The Forgotten Palace], two beings faced each other.
The intensity of the battle between the two was such that broken glass, pieces of walls and pillars, despite being made of Abyssal Obsidian, were spread throughout the vast expanse.
One lone figure stood resolute, gripping a sword firmly in his right hand, his stance unwavering, supported solely by sheer determination. He turned his face upward, finally being able to take a moment to catch his breath after the hellish battle.
On the other hand, the being in front of him lay bound to the shining wall behind her with tens of weapons.
“Huff…” exhaled Arcelius as he opened his eyes.
The bright moonlit sky greeted his eyes, as if trying to comfort him with the serene view.
The glass reflected the moonlight coming in from the sky onto Arcelius, illuminating the fatal wounds all over his body.
Despite the excruciating pain coursing through him, he continued to gaze down at the broken body of the being on the floor with his crystal blue eyes.
A puddle of blood poured out of Eveloire Hellborne’s mouth. The [Frostshard] stuck in her chest continued to drain her life force at a frightening pace. It had even pierced through the intricately designed artifact and only left it with an obsidian glimmer, making it devoid of any powers or magic it previously held.
The blue eyes of Arcelius and the red eyes of Eveloire Hellborne stared at each other coldly in the heavy atmosphere.
“Heh,” sneered Eveloire as her lips spread into a curve. She glared mockingly at Arcelius’s cold face from below.
“What are you sneering on about?” asked Arcelius as he raised his sword to Eveloire’s neck.
“…Ah, it’s just so funny. Even after so many decades, even when you have finally completed your revenge, you don’t look delighted at all. You don’t have anything worth living in your life, do you? Slaughtering others like a monster is the only entertainment in your life. You and I are not that different; yet, you continue to reject that and live while suffering from your own loneliness—KAGHHHH!”
Arcelius hated it—the voice that sent a chill down his spine every time he heard it. However, he hated the words that came out of Eveloire’s mouth even more. They were like a knife of truth that had stabbed him just as Eveloire had intended.
That’s why, before Eveloire could even finish her words, he swung down his sword and slashed off her arm. However, the arm didn’t fall off, it only continued to gush out blood while being bound to the wall because of the [Phoenix Feather Bolt] that had pierced it.
“Ha… ha… haa… HA. HA. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!”
Perhaps it was the pain that had made her go insane, perhaps it was the ego that was not able to handle defeat, or perhaps it was the fact that she was never sane to begin with—It didn’t sound so far-fetched. After all, Eveloire Hellborne was [The Demon King of Wrath].
Nevertheless, Arcelius kept staring at her with cold, blue eyes.
Even when blood began pouring out of her four eyes uncontrollably, even when her body began turning obsidian black, even when [The Demon King of Wrath]’s bright red mark on her forehead began dimming… Arcelius just kept… staring.
However, the moment finally came.
Eveloire’s face covered in despair at sensing her imminent death.
Finally, the cold expression on Arcelius’s face broke into an evil smile.
Eveloire Hellborne’s face contorted at seeing the one who defeated her relish in his victory.
Arcelius raised his sword, stared at [The Demon King of Wrath]’s neck, and said his final words to her,
“May you suffer forever.”
With that, he brought down his sword and beheaded Eveloire Hellborne.
The decapitated head fell down to the floor lifelessly.
However, as if he thought that wasn’t enough, Arcelius put forward his right hand and muttered something.
Instantly, the space in front of his hand shone, and a [Phoenix Feather Bolt] shot straight into Eveloire’s decapitated head.
Almost simultaneously, a powerful and menacing voice resonated through [The Forgotten Palace].
[The Demon King of Wrath has been defeated.]
Arcelius heard the words and stared at the notification window in front of him, but his blurry vision didn’t give him the luxury of being able to see anything clearly anymore.
Having finished his life’s final, and perhaps sole, purpose, Arcelius’s willpower to live began to decrease rapidly.
‘It’s not like there is anything worth living for in this damned lifeless land, anyway,’ thought Arcelius as his consciousness began to fade away.
The [Dawnbreaker] in his hand slipped and dropped on the ground.
Blood began to flow out of his wounds uncontrollably.
Arcelius’s face turned upward in hopes of seeing the serene view of the moon and the stars a final time, but his blurry vision didn’t grant him even that wish.
“What a… useless… life,” muttered Arcelius weakly.
Suddenly, the faces of his close friends surfaced back in his mind. Some willpower seemed to return to his body. Nevertheless, it was in vain. How can one deny death? One has to go when they have to go.
At least he would’ve thought it interesting, being able to confirm the theory he had learned in books. Alas, he no longer had a consciousness to think with.
Arcelius’s eyes lost the light in them, and his body slumped down onto the floor.
Not long after,
Amidst [The Forgotten Palace], a whisper of a breeze stirred.
It materialized as a gentle gust, weaving its way through the chaotic-yet-peaceful scenery of the utterly destroyed palace.
Surprisingly, the sparkling breeze stopped, as if it were a living being. Perhaps it was.
The sparkling breeze slowly began to enter Arcelius’s chest.
In a vast space that seemed to stretch infinitely beyond what any mortal could see, Arcelius opened his eyes.
“How peaceful,” said Arcelius. The first thing he felt after opening his eyes was how soft the grass he lay on, and how pure the air that blew with a cold breeze was.
Indeed, as he had said, it was quite peaceful.
However, not after even half-a-minute had passed since Arcelius opened his eyes,
In the boundless expanse that appeared to extend far beyond the grasp of mortal perception, an inexplicable occurrence unfolded.
‘What was that?’ thought Arcelius as he hurriedly looked toward the source of the sound.
Before he could even understand what was going on, the mystery unfolded chaotically.
With a loud Boom! the space high above shattered, and bluish-white light began to seep out from the shattered space. The radiant light spread in the vast expanse as if it was thin air, covering all that it touched.
A blinding figure began to descend as Arcelius stared at the light.
As if prompted by some cosmic symphony, the grass floor began to tremble violently.
Arcelius balanced himself and tried to prepare for battle in case he had been caught in the skill of an enemy, but…
‘No way! I can’t gather mana—No, I can’t even feel any mana here!’
Arcelius quickly changed his worried expression as he stared at the blinding figure. He did not want ‘it’ to know he was at a disadvantage.
While he couldn’t recognize it first, he soon comprehended what the figure was as the radiating light began to dim.
‘…Is it a girl?’
As if it heard the question Arcelius thought to himself, the figure shone brightly and revealed itself.
Arcelius was flabbergasted. He had traversed the entire realm of Aetheris but had never crossed paths with someone as captivating and exquisitely beautiful as her.
The sparkling blue light spreading from her body covered all trees, plants, rocks, and everything else he could see. As soon as her feet touched the grass floor, the tremors completely stopped.
Her hair flowed like a mesmerizing blend of liquid silver and a delicate shade of cerulean, cascading in gentle waves down her back.
Her eyes, the palest shade of blue, held a depth that seemed to encompass the entire universe.
But it was her smile that truly took his breath away—a smile that seemed to captivate anyone who looked at it, a smile that spoke of ancient wisdom and timeless beauty.
As if drawn by an invisible thread, his gaze lifted to meet the eyes of the captivating beauty in front of him.
‘Her presence is overwhelming…’ thought Arcelius quietly to himself.
His heart was beating like a drum, both warning him and falling for the beauty who was silently smiling as she looked at him with each moment.
“Haah…” Arcelius deeply exhaled and tried to regain his sense of reason as he somehow closed his eyes.
He had lived far too long to not know that looks could be deceiving.
“Who… are you?” asked Arcelius warily as he opened his eyes and calmed down his thumping heart.
“Greetings, Arcelius. I have waited to meet you for so long,” she replied. Her voice, soft and tranquil, reached his ears like a sweet, enchanting melody.
The girl stepped forward with a grace that seemed to defy the boundaries of mortal existence. After all, what mortal had spirits that danced delicately at their feet with every step they took? And that wasn’t all—As her bare feet touched the ground, the earth seemed to yield beneath her touch, as though paying homage to her celestial presence.
The air itself trembled with a reverence, a silent acknowledgment of the divinity that radiated from her very being.
‘What the hell…’
Surprisingly, it was Arcelius, the one standing still, who staggered.
‘It’s so damn tough to not be affected by her presence,’ thought Arcelius as he hardened his mind and body.
“I asked… who are you?” again asked Arcelius as he stared at the enchanting beauty before him with wary eyes.
“Ah, I was so excited to meet you that I forgot to introduce myself. I apologize,” she said with a playful laugh. She continued as she placed her right hand on her chest, spread her left one a little bit and slightly lowered her head, “I am Mivitra, the Moon Goddess.”
“Hah, you must think I am an idiot. The Moon Goddess, Mivitra? Stop bullshitting me, no gods or goddesses exist in this world anymore. Even a 5-year-old would know that,” said Arcelius with a mocking laugh.
That was indeed true. The gods and goddesses of the world Aetheris had last been seen in the Age of Mythology. After that period, despite there being artifacts enchanted with divine powers, no actual incarnations of gods and goddesses were ever witnessed by anyone.
“Hmmm… so you don’t believe me… Then who do you think I am? How do you explain this place?” asked the one who called herself Mivitra as she put up her index finger and with a teasing smile.
“Aren’t you just an illusion? I bet the caster is somewhere nearby. Damn it, illusion magic wouldn’t even have affected me if I wasn’t in a near-death state. Well, it’s not like I will give you any of the artifacts I have; I have already locked them away. Do you hear me, you asshole of a caster who came after me when I was in such a bad shape?! Man, you sure are a pathetic coward, hiding away like a rat even in such a situation!” shouted Arcelius mockingly.
‘Even though I am just grasping at straws, I hope that the bastard’s ego can’t handle the provocation and makes them reveal themselves.’
After taking a moment’s pause to scan his surroundings, Arcelius continued, “Oh, and feel free to try to steal my sword. Hearing your painful screams as you get burned to death with it will be a little bit entertaining at least.”
‘Damn it, no luck huh?’
Arcelius understood his opponent had not taken the bait and started looking for a way to exit the illusion. After all, each illusion-type magic that he had ever experienced had a switch or an exit hidden somewhere. If he managed to find it, recovering mana would be a piece of cake.
Seeing Arcelius continue to search for the exit of the illusion, Mivitra stared at him and said coldly, “This isn’t an illusion, Arcelius. You are already dead.”
Arcelius stopped in his tracks and turned his gaze toward her as he heard Mivitra’s words.
“What are you even—”
Mivitra cut Arcelius off and snapped her fingers. And instantly, a screen appeared in front of Arcelius’s eyes from thin air.
Arcelius gasped in horror as he stared at what was displayed on the screen.
His face, far distinct from how he remembered it, was covered in bloody, open wounds. His eyes were staring at himself lifelessly. His lips, once warm and reddish-pink, full of vitality, were now an eerie shade of blue—a shade he had seen far too many times on the bodies of his dead friends. The armor he had worn last was broken, its pieces lying all around on the broken floor. The [Dawnbreaker], lying near his hand, no longer shined with vitality. His body lay still in silence, creeping up a chill in Arcelius, who stared at his own dead body.
With the snap of Mivitra’s fingers, the screen instantly disappeared.
“I apologize… I couldn’t think of any other method to quickly make you believe my words,” said Mivitra with a sorrowful expression.
Arcelius dropped to the ground and lay like a star, spreading his arms and legs, while staring up at the sky utterly stunned.
‘It wasn’t an illusion… The details were far too accurate for it to be one…’
Arcelius closed his eyes and painfully came to terms with reality. He didn’t know why he felt sad despite not having anything worth living for in that world. Nevertheless, he stifled his emotions, just like he had always done. It was a habit that had been beaten into him through years of rigorous training. However, even if the habit had not been beaten into him, his actions might not have been that different. After all, a man wasn’t allowed to be vulnerable. That was what he was forced to learn after living a harsh life—that vulnerability was weakness—and weakness was but a perilous path to death.
“It’s over…” said Arcelius as he opened his eyes and stared at the moon in the shattered space and the stars surrounding it.
“You fought very bravely and saved many worlds,” said Mivitra, trying to comfort Arcelius.
“Saved… many worlds? Hah… What was it even worth saving worlds that might or might not have been attacked by that damned Demon King of Wrath when I couldn’t even save my own world? If… If I had saved even a soul, I might have been comforted by your words… but it was a worthless life, Mivitra… The Demon King of Wrath was right, the only meaning I had in that life was slaughtering others for my entertainment… After all, she and I are not that diff—Cough! Cough! Argh! What the hell was that?!”
Mivitra had forced sparkling stardust down Arcelius’s mouth, forcing him to stop his words before he finished his sentence.
“How can you be so hopeless?! How can you have no faith in yourself and compare yourself to a despicable Demon King?! Are you really the same person who kept fighting till his last breath so that other innocent worlds wouldn’t meet the same fate of your world?! Are you really the same Arcelius who, even in despair, didn’t let go of hope that you could revive your world?! Do you seriously remember none of that?”
Arcelius had not once seen Mivitra’s shouting expression yet. That’s why it was such a shock to him, the fact that a serene beauty such as Mivitra could make those expressions. However, soon enough, anger surfaced on his face as he registered Mivitra’s words.
“Hah?! The same Arcelius?! What do you even know about me?! The idiot who believed he could revive the ones he cared about has ended up dead! This is where the torturous choices of choosing to keep going forward like an idiot has led me! Why are you even here?! Just let me be in death, won’t you?! Where were you when I was suffering all alone? Where were you while my friends were slaughtered?! HAS MY LIFE NOT ENTERTAINED YOU ENOUGH? WHAT MORE DO YOU WANT FROM A WORTHLESS PERSON?!” shouted Arcelius as tears dropped down his face. The emotions that had compounded over decades had finally been released in a surge of anger. The words that had always been hidden behind a fake smile had been spoken. He was tired of fighting. He… he didn’t want to exist anymore.
A profound silence spread in the atmosphere as the aftermath of Arcelius’s anguished outpour.
Mivitra’s facial features had subtly shifted as she heard Arcelius’s self-deprecating words. Her elegant brows, adorned with the shimmer of moonlight, were now furrowed with a delicate intensity.
In her crystalline eyes, a myriad of emotions danced, a reflection of the storm of feelings that had just enveloped the both of them. Sadness pooled in the corners, mirroring the pain she perceived within him.
Her lips, previously holding back her expression from changing, now curved downward in a tender frown.
The corners of her mouth quivered ever so slightly, a subtle indication of the empathy that stirred within her.
In her gaze, there was a palpable understanding—an unspoken acknowledgment of the depths of his suffering, a shared lament for the trials that had led him to this moment.
“Huu…” Mivitra closed her eyes and let out a painful sigh as she saw Arcelius wiping his tears aggressively.
“I am sorry I was not able to help you directly previously when you needed it, dear Arcelius. However, that was because the Laws of the World did not allow me to. Th◼◼◼◼◼️ Law◼◼◼◼️ Deat◼◼Wal◼◼️.”
Strangely, Mivitra’s voice began to crack.
Arcelius slowly lowered his trembling hands from his tear-streaked face. Mivitra’s words seemed incoherent.
However, when he looked up, he saw an inexplicable phenomenon. Different shards of mixtures of colors seemed to have surrounded her.
“What the hell are you doing…” muttered Arcelius.
Amongst the shards, Mivitra wore a petrified look on her face. It was as if the shards were something that were not supposed to be there.
Arcelius and Mivitra’s gazes met, and Arcelius instantly recognized something was wrong.
At that same instant, the whitish-golden bracers on Mivitra’s forearms shone brilliantly, and golden light radiated brightly and destroyed the shards that surrounded her.
Before Arcelius could even process what happened, Mivitra’s bracers detached as they became fluids, and started circling around both Mivitra and Arcelius. They started acting as a hollow sphere shield against whatever dangers lay outside.
“What is going on?” questioned Arcelius seriously.
“It seems I have lingered for too long and our secrecy ha◼◼◼◼◼️ unveil◼◼ Damn it!” Mivitra cursed as she saw little shards appear inside the sphere.
Mivitra put her right hand forward, and a brilliant blue light radiated from it. Unlike the warm golden light that came from the bracers, this one felt cold yet much more intense, and it destroyed the shards in the speck of a moment.
Nevertheless, that wasn’t the end of the dangers that seemed to be following her. The ground began to shake violently. And the perfect surface of the hollow sphere began to be torn off by outside forces.
Arcelius’s heart began to beat faster at the sense of imminent danger.
Suddenly, Mivitra extended her seemingly delicate hands toward Arcelius, her hands glowing with an ethereal luminescence. As she grabbed the outstretched hands of Arcelius, a soft yet shimmering radiance enveloped him. The moment their hands made contact, a palpable energy pulsed between them, a connection that transcended the physical realm. It was as if time itself held its breath, acknowledging the union of two souls drawn together by fate.
And then, with a fluid grace that mirrored the dance of the spirits below, Mivitra began to guide their intertwined hands towards one another’s hearts.
“W-What are you doing?!” asked Arcelius, entirely flushed. He had not expected someone who claimed to be the Moon Goddess would be so direct, not to mention with a mere mortal.
Nevertheless, his actions of trying to free his hands were useless. He didn’t have the strength his physical body had before his death, but still, the grip of Mivitra seemed to contrast her build uncannily. It made him question whether Mivitra was actually serious about her being the Moon Goddess.
Mivitra continued with the process with focused eyes, the pale blue shining with a shade of silver. The motion was deliberate, each movement imbued with a sense of purpose that transcended the physical act. Their hands drew closer until they rested against their chests, fingers interlocked over the very center of their beings.
In that shared touch, Arcelius felt a profound connection—a mingling of essences, a merging of destinies. He could not explain it in words. But he knew he felt it. It was as though the very boundaries that separated their worlds had dissolved, leaving only the pure, unadulterated essence of their shared existence.
The moonlight radiating from her body enveloped both of them at once, calming down Arcelius’s thumping heart.
“I know you must have a lot of questions on your mind. Sadly, I cannot tell you everything because we only have a speck of time left. So, feel free to ask any questions you deem necessary. I will do my best to answer as many questions as I can,” said Mivitra.
Arcelius gulped. Every fiber of being was telling him that the current situation was dangerous. He didn’t understand everything about the current situation but he knew he had to take advantage of it.
‘I need to prioritize my questions in order to be prepared for what comes next.’
Arcelius exhaled deeply and calmed down his mind. He knew the question which would benefit him a lot, if not the most, at that moment.
He stared directly into Mivitra’s shimmering blue eyes and asked his first question.
“What is this place?”
“Huh… What an interesting question. Mortals have referred to this place with a lot of names throughout the centuries, like Astraflux Nexus, Reverie Veil, Aurorium and many others. However, the most common one among the Aetherians and many other races has been the Realm of Transition. To put it simply, this is the space that mortals come to before passing on to the afterlife,” answered Mivitra.
“Really now, a pit stop between the grand afterlife and the bustling living world? You’re not about to say there’s some sort of cosmic traffic jam over there, are you?” said Arcelius with a tired face.
He utterly despised traffic jams with a passion that rivaled the heat of a thousand suns. The ceaseless cacophony of honking horns in the midst of traffic jams was like a relentless assault on Arcelius’s already fraying patience. It wasn’t just the wasted time that gnawed at him, but the sheer inefficiency of it all.
Mivitra widened her eyes at Arcelius commenting sarcastically even in such a situation.
‘How is he acting so carefree even now…? No way… Has his condition still not improved in the slightest despite being almost fully detached from his mortal body… even after all the hints I have given him?’
A sorrowful expression came over Mivitra’s face.
‘I see… Then there really is no other way than to move forward with this plan.’
Mivitra controlled her expression and answered, “Ah, no. Nothing like that. The Realm of Transition basically exists as a mystical intermediary between the realms of life and death. That means that although you aren’t completely alive, you aren’t completely dead either. Normal mortals are not even able to sense this boundary and pass away unconsciously.”
Strangely, Mivitra paused without finishing her explanation.
However, just when Arcelius was about to speak up, she continued,
“Nevertheless, transcend◼◼◼◼ such◼◼ yours◼◼◼◼ and on the sa◼◼ level can perceive—”
An expression of shock rippled across Arcelius’s face as he saw something unbelievable in front of his eyes.
Shards of crystals had pierced through Mivitra’s body, especially concentrated on her throat and face, stopping her before she could finish her words.
Blood poured out of her wounds like water from a broken glass.
Arcelius hurriedly looked around for the source of the attack, but strangely, nothing had happened to the strengthened barrier Mivitra had deployed using her whitish-golden bracers.
‘That barrier didn’t work…?’
Without a moment’s pause, Mivitra began to speak words that Arcelius couldn’t comprehend. However, it didn’t take him long to understand what it was.
“Verdantara amarimbra, sylpharion exilium, astrafiria trivandari, solis lumina!”
As soon as Mivitra finished her words, from the core of her being, a radiant white light burst forth. It emanated from her every pore, weaving intricate patterns of luminescence that covered her body.
Arcelius squinted, then forcefully closed his eyes as the blinding intensity of the light grew.
Nevertheless, the light continued to unfurl, touching every inch of Mivitra and Arcelius’s body and eventually covering the entire area around them.
‘What… this light feels much warmer than the golden one she used earlier.’
Arcelius was stunned. Even though this was the Realm of Transition, the light made him so comfy that he felt as if he was in heaven itself.
As he felt the intensity of the light reduce, Arcelius slowly opened his eyes.
‘What… is this?’
The scenery from before had utterly changed. Rather than the whitish-golden inside of the hollow sphere or the peaceful plains they were in, the surroundings lay adorned in the ethereal mantle of snow.
As his gaze turned upward, he noticed the silver moon gazing at him, the sky speckled with stars that glimmered as if they were painted on a canvas.
The moon, as if a radiant queen, cast its glow upon the landscape, bestowing upon it a ghostly luminescence that cast delicate shadows across the expanse.
Amidst this enchantment stood the trees, their boughs bowed under the weight of glistening snow. Every branch, every leaf, transformed into a crystalline sculpture, a testament to Mivitra’s mastery of artistry.
The scenery was one that whispered of magic, where the chill in the air seemed to hold secrets, where the silence seemed to carry the echoes of forgotten tales.
Arcelius, awestruck, glanced at Mivitra.
Her body had completely healed, no scars or anything of the sort visible on her smooth and glowing skin. The whitish-golden bracers had returned back to her forearms, leading Arcelius to assume that they had teleported somewhere else.
‘Incredible… she managed to do all this with a single spell?’
However, just as Mivitra looked up into his eyes, a sense of uneasiness came over Arcelius.
‘Is it just my imagination… or does she really look weaker than before?’
It wasn’t just Arcelius’s imagination. Her pale blue eyes, usually a reflection of wisdom and serenity, now bore traces of fatigue and vulnerability. Her breaths came in measured gasps, each exhalation a testament to the toll exacted by wielding such an otherworldly spell. Furthermore, a slight tremor coursed through her limbs.
Weirdly, even though it had been mere moments since he had met her, he was very worried about this being in front of him who claimed to be a goddess.
Arcelius grabbed Mivitra’s upper arms and asked, “Hey! What the hell happened? Are you alright? Where did you bring us?”
Mivitra answered with a self-deprecating smile as she looked away from Arcelius’s concerned eyes, “I apologize, Arcelius… I tried… but it seems I overestimated my abilities once again… We are… still in the Realm of Transition… Perhaps… No… I guess it was too selfish of me to want to talk to you for a bit longer…”
Arcelius’s grip on Mivitra’s hands tightened. The cogs in his mind moved at a frightening pace as he arranged the information he had learned so far to try to think of a way out.
“Wait… you said this is the intermediary realm between the realms of life and death, right? Then that means I am not completely dead right now! If we can escape from here, then you should be able to answer my questions without any limitations!” exclaimed Arcelius.
Mivitra shook her head with a dejected expression.
“To accomplish that… It’s nigh impossible. Even in my lengthy existence, only once have I met someone who was capable of such a feat. And that, too, was because he was a special existence beyond any other, someone who was capable of defying time and death themselves—”
“Still, it’s possible, right?” asked Arcelius, cutting her words short as he stared deeply into Mivitra’s eyes.
There was a pause before Mivitra let out a heavy sigh.
“Arcelius, you don’t grasp the depths of what you are saying,” she murmured, her eyes reflecting a distant pain. “There is simply not enough time for you to try that, let alone me diving into all the risks that might bring. And even if you manage to regain your vitality, going back to that body now would be nothing less than suicide.”
A confused expression came over Arcelius.
“Wha-What do you mean? Why would it be suicide?”
He was utterly out of the loop. The more Mivitra told him, the more he felt like he was going down a never-ending spiral of confusion.
Mivitra paused for a short while, questioning whether it would be appropriate to tell Arcelius the information or not.
“That’s because someone much more powerful than the Demon King of Wrath will be arriving at [The Forgotten Palace] shortly.”
Instantly, the air around them grew heavy, suffused with a tense energy that mirrored the storm raging within Arcelius. He stood frozen, his eyes widening in disbelief as Mivitra’s shocking words hit him like a tidal wave.
“What… do you mean? I killed all of Eveloire’s major subordinates before her… No, even if they were alive, how would they become stronger than a Demon King so quickly? Who are you talking about?”
Arcelius was anxious. It felt like the possibility he had rejected long before was crawling up on him with each passing moment.
“Arcelius… you didn’t think Eveloire was the only Demon King out there… did you?”
A shadow crossed Arcelius’s face, a mix of anger, hate and frustration flickering in his gaze. The truth he despised had been laid bare before him, a bitter pill he couldn’t swallow.
“…Hey, do you seriously think that’s funny? Does even a goddess like you find amusement in turning others into jesters?!” shouted Arcelius furiously. His fingers dug into the flesh of both of Mivitra’s upper arms, an expression of his anger.
“That was not a joke in the slightest, Arcelius. The Demon King of Wrath is not the only Demon King who exists in this world. In fact, there are 6 other Demon Kings besides her,” answered Mivitra without a hint of hesitation.
Arcelius’s jaw clenched as he battled to process the revelation, a storm of conflicting emotions swirling within him. It wasn’t like he had never thought there wouldn’t be other Demon Kings, given that Eveloire had the specific title of “Wrath”.
He had simply rejected the possibility in his mind. He had too much on his plate solely dealing with Eveloire and her subordinates. And to deal with one or even more Demon Kings besides her? That would be worse than taking a bath in the infernos of hell or trying to make Eveloire feel pity for the Aetherians she was slaughtering themselves. His brain would melt from the stress if he accepted the possibility of the existence of other Demon Kings before he killed Eveloire.
His grip on Mivitra loosened as an expression of despair covered his face. He knew he was barely a match for Eveloire, and there were 6 other Demon Kings, not to mention including those much more powerful than her? It would be a literal nightmare even if he managed to get back to his body.
Slowly, Arcelius’s mind began to spiral down toward the depths of utter despair.
However, a voice, soft yet resolute, wove through the threads of his spiraling thoughts and broke him out of them. As if a sword cutting down a despicable enemy, the voice of Mivitra cut down his thoughts and snapped him out of the spiral toward despair.
“Pride. Gluttony. Greed. Lust. Envy. Wrath. Sloth.”
“Those are the 7 Demon Kings that exist in this universe—Those despicable beings who gave up on the world and themselves, and now traverse throughout the universe while destroying everything they touch,” said Mivitra, her eyes containing a fiery hate—something that Arcelius had thought would not exist.
“They have but one sole purpose—complete annihilation of this universe, every living being they meet either becoming one of their underlings, or dying pathetically while attempting to resist them. They do not care about anyone’s lives besides themselves, and toy with innocent lives for mere entertainment—They are beings who do not deserve mercy!”
Arcelius stood frozen, his very core rattled by an unexpected revelation. The notion that a divine being could hold such a seething reservoir of hatred for a being below them was something that made him question the very foundations of his understanding.
Throughout his life, the pages of countless books had etched gods and goddesses as embodiments of supremacy, serene benevolence, boundless love, and nurturing compassion. These were the virtues that were meant to define them, to set them apart from mere mortals, who were nowhere close to them.
A hint of wariness returned back to Arcelius’s eyes.
“Why are you telling me all this?”
“…What was that?”
Arcelius wasn’t sure if what he felt was right, but it felt as if the space they were in just shook.
Even though not a moment had passed, a tremor reverberated through the fabric of the space they were standing in.
What started from a simple crack in the sky soon multiplied, branching and weaving across the sky like a spider’s intricate web spun by unseen hands.
The scale of the area the cracks covered and the intensity of the tremors made Arcelius doubt if it was an illusion. However, it didn’t take long for him to consider the possibility of the space he was standing in being an illusion himself.
Arcelius stepped back while turning his gaze back to Mivitra—No, he tried to do it.
However, before Mivitra even came into his vision, Arcelius’s body staggered.
A searing pain and intense heat radiated from his chest and ran throughout his body, so intense that it almost made him lose consciousness.
As he looked downward to identify the source of the excruciating pain and heat, his eyes widened with shock. The slender arm of the person he had become far too familiar with in the last few minutes had pierced through his chest.
Arcelius quickly mustered up whatever strength he had left in his body and grabbed Mivitra’s right arm with both his hands. He tried his damn hardest to pull out the arm that had pierced him in one fell swoop, but his efforts were useless.
His mind raced, a cacophony of thoughts and emotions colliding in a chaotic storm. Why had he been so carefree with someone whom he had not even known for that long? Why did he trust this being who was sketchy no matter how one looked at it? However, he didn’t have the luxury of pondering right now.
The pain weighed down on him, pressing down the most on his chest as his strength began to wane. He felt his knees give away, the ground rushing up to meet him as his vision dimmed around the edges.
Nevertheless, Arcelius and Mivitra’s gazes met. And what he witnessed was absurd, to say the least.
“Crying… after stabbing me… crazy… bitch…”
Arcelius’s consciousness started dragging down to the abyss as his eyes closed due to lack of strength.
An intense flame radiated out of Mivitra’s body and snapped Arcelius’s consciousness back into place.
She then started reciting a spell without even waiting for Arcelius to say anything.
“Solimbrintha verolux, astrandor tempestia, thal’karia enshar, lumivara sylphindra.”
“What… are… you doing?”
“I cannot answer any more of your questions, Arcelius. However, I hope you understand that I am not your enemy. Although it might be hard to believe now, I truly am doing all this for your benefit.”
‘First she stabs me in the fucking heart and then she says she is doing all this for my benefit… How did I end up meeting a lunatic like this…’
Arcelius knew he would love to curse her for hours on end. Alas, he barely had enough energy to keep his eyes open.
Without giving an ounce of concern about Arcelius’s furious expression, Mivitra continued, “The things I have told you will guide you toward the answers you want and need to know.”
After a short pause, Mivitra grabbed Arcelius’s head with her left arm and pulled him closer to her face.
“I apologize, this might hurt a bit—Aismarva!”
As soon as Mivitra said the word, intricate rune-like designs began carving all over her body while radiating golden light from within. However, that wasn’t why she warned Arcelius. The reason for her warning became apparent the next second.
Without a moment’s pause, Mivitra’s face moved forward and her teeth dug deep into Arcelius’s neck. Before his body could even register the pain from the wound, something surprising occurred.
The intricate golden rune-like designs on Mivitra’s body started transferring over to Arcelius’s body through her mouth. Flames started pouring out of his body as if his very soul was ablaze. Of course, the excruciating pain of being ablaze came forth as well.
Mivitra pulled her right hand out of Arcelius’s chest and wrapped both her arms around Arcelius, hugging him tightly.
“I hope you forgive me for my mistakes and enjoy your new life…”
Her mouth continued to move as she said words, but Arcelius was unable to make out what she said any further because of the agonizing pain he was in.
And not many seconds after, in a cataclysmic surge, the very fabric of the space trembled and wavered as both of their bodies erupted in a symphony of the uncontrollable unleashed power.
The flames now surged forth with an intensity that defied the constraints of nature, engulfing them in a blazing maelstrom of energy.
With a deafening roar, a huge explosion covered the entire space. The trees splintered and shattered, the snow turned to steam in the searing heat, evaporating into the atmosphere. The flowers, once delicate and vibrant, were erased from existence in the tempest’s wake. Even the moon shattered, and the space they both stood in was utterly annihilated.
Nevertheless, quite shockingly, the bodies of the two beings could not be seen anywhere.
The sound of a heartbeat spread throughout the dark space.
‘It’s so warm here…’ —Those were the first words that surfaced in Arcelius’s mind within the dark space.
‘Where am I?’
‘Damn it… What’s with this pressure?!’
Arcelius felt like his entire body was being pressed down upon from all sides. It was truly horrifying, being in an unknown space and feeling like his body would be crushed at any moment. Nevertheless, the unknown warm energy wrapped him in a feeling of ‘Everything will be alright.’
Arcelius brought forth whatever energy he could muster and strengthened his body. He spread his limbs as he caught the sensation of light on his closed eyes. Slowly, the pressure all over him went away, and Arcelius’s eyes finally greeted light after what seemed like a lifetime. His vision was blurry, but it didn’t worry Arcelius too much as he could see it improving slowly. He understood it was probably because it had been quite a while since he opened his eyes.
‘Ah… My body feels heavy… Huh…? What’s this strange feeling?’
As his vision began to unblur, Arcelius began to comprehend what the objects in his vision were—like the intricate wall design, the golden-white vase, a glass of water. However, there was one thing far clearer than anything else—The thing right in front of his face—A face adorned with sapphire-blue eyes that looked so tired yet beautiful, her fiery red hair flowing down like lava down a volcano. Especially, the sapphire-blue eyes were gazing down at him like he was the most precious thing in the entire world.
Strangely, Arcelius pushed his hands to try and hold the face. It wasn’t something he had thought about doing, nor something he consciously wanted to do. It was more like an impulse telling him to do that.
However, what happened next was shocking, to say the least.
The palms that came in his vision were small—No! In fact, they were absolutely tiny!
Arcelius moved them around a bit more to check whether they were really his or not and… as expected, they were really his palms.
‘No, no, no, no. This can’t be what I am thinking it is, right?!’
A bright smile appeared on Emily’s face as she saw Arcelius waving around his tiny hands.
Arcelius’s face flushed in embarrassment.
“Is he already awake?!” An excited voice spread throughout the room.
As soon as he heard those words, another person came into Arcelius’s vision. However, unlike Emily, who was holding Arcelius, he had quite different features. His eyes were not the ordinary blue, brown, or green eyes that one might expect. No, they were a mesmerizing shade of crimson, like the deepest, most passionate red of a thousand sunsets. They were intense, yet filled with a tenderness that belied their otherworldly hue. His flowing mane of golden hair resembled liquid silk, enveloping a visage that exuded strength yet radiated warmth.
‘Huh… I can understand their language…? Wait! That means this isn’t what I was thinking it was! I should be able to speak as well then!’ thought Arcelius to himself, elated. He didn’t like the thought of being handled like a child.
‘Hey, crimson-haired woman! Put me down this instant!’
Arcelius finally put his thoughts forward—No, that was what he wanted to do. However, what came out from his mouth was…
“Mmmm! Gwuu gaaa! Guuuu gaaaa!”
‘Huh…?’ Arcelius stopped speaking as he felt a strange sensation.
‘No way, no way, no way. That can’t be right. It must be because I haven’t spoken in a long time so my vocal chords are a bit jammed or something. Yeah, let’s try again.’
“Gwaaaa! Waaaa…” Arcelius’s voice went lower and lower until coming to a silent as he realized the situation he was in. He lightly smacked himself with his little palm to really check if it was just his imagination or not.
“Hehe, look at him trying to speak,” said Emily with a soft laugh.
Lucas lightly stepped forward so as to not scare his son in the slightest, even by mistake. Then, he gently put his hands around his newborn son and took him into his arms from Emily.
With a gentle touch, he traced the curve of his son’s cheek, adoring the tiny, perfect features that mirrored theirs. His touch was so delicate as if he was handling something that would break with just the slightest of mishandling.
His hands were trembling slightly as he held his son, who despite being only a few moments old, was already among the people Lucas cared the most about in the entire world. His gaze was filled with both worry and love, the latter vastly eclipsing the former.
“He has your eyes,” said Lucas as he lovingly turned his gaze toward Emily.
“And your hair and face,” responded Emily, her smile illuminating the room.
The two locked eyes with a shared, profound love for their son, their gazes filled with an overwhelming tenderness.
Arcelius, on the other hand…
‘First, she makes a fool out of me, then she stabs me, then she sets me on fire, and then she sends me in this newborn body?! And she calls herself a goddess?! She?! A goddess?! Ahhhhh, how did I end up meeting a crazy witch like her?!’
Obviously, it doesn’t make sense for a newborn to make an expression of “frustration.” However, the expression of Arcelius was surely nothing inferior to “frustration.”
‘Hey! Are you there, Mivitra?! Answer me, you fake goddess!!! Mivitrrrrrraaaaaaaaaa!!!!’
Sadly, there was no response from Mivitra. And although he didn’t realize it at that moment, Arcelius was already being influenced by the newborn state of his body, throwing tantrums and such.
“What are you doing?! How did you make him cry already?!”
“I-I didn’t do anything, seriously!”
“Quick, give him to me.”
Lucas sighed deeply and carefully handed Arcelius to Emily.
The sound of a doorknob turning spread. The next moment, the door to the softly lit room opened without a creak, proving how good the architecture and maintenance was.
A female maid with raven-black hair and eyes that glimmered like liquid gold stepped inside with a tray in her right hand and closed the door with her left hand. The array of fresh fruits on the golden-white tray didn’t move a single inch, proving her skills.
With a hushed, respectful demeanor, she approached Emily and lay down the tray on a nearby table. The tray contained many fruits differentiated into separate bowls, like succulent strawberries, freshly cut slices of sweet apples, etc.
The maid then bowed deeply and said, “I humbly apologize for interrupting you both, Master Lucas and Mistress Emily. I brought some snacks so that Mistress Emily can regain her strength.”
“Thank you, Veronica. Perhaps I would actually be able to eat them if a certain someone didn’t make my dear baby cry.”
“H-Hey! I told you I didn’t do anything!”
“Shhh. It’s all right, Axalius. I know, I know. Your dad’s such a troublemaker sometimes, but don’t worry! Mama’s right here! Don’t cry, okay?” said Emily as she pushed Axalius close to herself and rocked him up and down, utterly ignoring Lucas’s attempt at defending himself.
“Wait… didn’t we decide to name him together, Em?!”
“Oh, right! I forgot to tell you, but Lady Aurora and I decided on the name a while ago, given your sense of naming.”
“M-Mom did…?” An expression of shock and despair came over Lucas. There were very few things he was afraid of in the world. Sadly, going against his mother was one of them.
“Hey, Veronica. What do you think?”
“I am sorry, Master Lucas, but there is no denying the fact that your naming sense is terrible.”
“Right?! I mean who names a bird Goldie just because it has gold feathers?!”
“And now you both are together…”
‘I feel like I am getting pushed around too much today…’
“Oh! Axalius fell asleep,” quietly said Emily.
“Even his sleeping face is so adorable,” said Lucas as his attention turned to Arcelius and he gazed at him lovingly. With a slight smirk, he added, “Well, he’s definitely going to grow up to be a daddy’s boy, huh?”
“No way, no way. Don’t you know that it’s the other way around, dear? It’s mommy’s boy. M.O.M.M.Y’S B.O.Y. See, he even calmed down and fell asleep so soon in my arms.”
“Hey, that’s just a coincidence! Just wait a few years, and he will answer that question himself. Moreover, I did half the work, so isn’t it fair I get at least half the credit?”
Veronica couldn’t help but smile a little, seeing the couple banter light-heartedly even in such a situation.
Lucas moved in closer toward Emily, their eyes staring at each other passionately, their faces coming closer to each other with each passing moment. It was obvious to anyone that he was going to kiss to make up for the previous banter.
And just as their lips were about to meet,
Lucas received a vertical smack on his head.
“Don’t do perverted things in front of Axalius,” said Emily, utterly flushed.
“Agh… he’s asleep, so isn’t it fine?” said Lucas, rubbing his forehead to soothe the pain.
“Not. Allowed.” responded Emily cold-heartedly, not taking even a single second to consider Lucas’s proposal.
“So damn stubborn, huh?”
“Of course, I learned from the best,” responded Emily with a proud smirk across her face.
Lucas again moved toward Emily. Peculiarly, he grabbed her by the arms and laid her down on the bed instead of leaning in for a kiss this time.
“What’re you trying at now?” asked Emily with a nonchalant expression.
“Aren’t you being too harsh to your husband?”
“Did you really think I wouldn’t notice you being tired, my stubborn queen?” asked Lucas as he took Axalius from Emily’s arms and laid him down beside her on the bed. He continued, “Don’t worry about Axalius and rest for a while, Em.”
Emily closed her eyes; the soothing words of her love had left her no other choice but to take a rest.
Lucas grabbed the towel nearby and began to tenderly wipe away the sweat on her body.
“Master Lucas, you don’t need to—”
Veronica tried to step forward and stop Lucas. After all, she was the servant here. However, before she could even finish her sentence, Lucas responded,
“It’s fine, Veronica. I want to take care of my wife myself too, and not leave it to you all the time, you know?”
“…I understand, Master,” answered Veronica as she stepped back.
“By the way, “Brilliant Sun,” huh? Axalius is a good name indeed,” said Lucas as he began to wipe Emily’s face and neck with the towel.
“Of course, it is,” said Emily, a little proud smirk shining on her face.
Lucas’s gaze turned to Axalius, filled with love and a subtle concern shimmering within the depths. There was clearly something worrying him, but he concealed it beneath a smiling facade.
Lucas leaned down, his lips brushing gently against Emily’s forehead. The touch was tender, a silent reassurance in the quiet of the night. He lingered for a moment, savoring the closeness, before whispering in a playful and teasing tone, “Goodnight, my love.”
After pulling away, Lucas playfully intertwined his right hand with Emily’s left, his tone carrying a mischievous edge as he quipped, “Also, aren’t you the perverted one here, thinking I was trying to steal a kiss while all I was trying to do was lay you to sleep?”
“S-Shut up and let me sleep,” Emily retorted swiftly, her face growing redder as she tried to hide it by pulling up the blanket with her right hand.
Lucas’s eyes held a spark of affection as he watched Emily’s flushed face, a smile tugging at the corners of his lips.
After a while, Lucas softly put down her hand on the bed as he noticed that Emily had fallen asleep.
Lucas got up and exhaled deeply after gazing at his peacefully sleeping wife and son. In an instant, his demeanor underwent a profound transformation. The playful and sarcastic facade of a father vanished, replaced by an aura of unwavering confidence and determination. Anyone who glanced at him would see not the affable joker but a resolute, unyielding presence.
Lucas quietly headed outside the room and Veronica followed him. The seriousness on the face of her Master reflected on her face as well.
Lucas advanced down the dimly illuminated corridor. He stopped in his steps as he reached a window, and there, before his eyes, stretched a breathtaking panoramic view of the outside.
With his gaze still focused outside, he said in a low, steady voice, “Veronica.”
“Yes, Master,” she replied, matching his tone.
“Each barrier is functioning well, Master.”
“Any suspicious movements?”
“No, Master. I ordered the servants to take a rest and not come toward this side of the mansion for a while. Furthermore, I didn’t detect any unknown presences. I also physically went and checked all barriers after aiding Mistress Emily in the birth of Young Master Axalius. As they all were functioning well and undisturbed, I am completely sure that there were no intruders or spies nearby.”
“I see…” said Lucas as he rested his chin between his thumb and index finger and narrowed his eyes. Perhaps he had noticed something in the distance, or perhaps he was merely pondering over his inner thoughts.
Veronica’s heart skipped a beat as she wondered if she had missed something. She knew she had done her best, but she also knew she wasn’t as perceptive as her Master. And even though Lucas wasn’t a harsh person towards those whom he cared about, she herself wouldn’t be able to forgive herself if she had missed something… or someone.
“Haah…” Lucas let out a deep exhale as he relaxed and closed his eyes.
“Are you perhaps worried about Young Master Axalius’s unique skill, Master?” questioned Veronica as she noticed the distress on Lucas’s face.
“You noticed it, huh?” asked Lucas with a slight smile as he opened his eyes. Obviously, Veronica knew that smile was nothing but a facade to hide his distress.
“I would be ashamed to call myself your right hand if I couldn’t read your emotions, Master.”
“Huhhh…” exclaimed Lucas in a teasing tone. He soon continued, “You sure grew up to be good with words, huh?”
It was obvious to anyone that Lucas was trying to lighten the atmosphere.
“It’s all thanks to your benevolence, Master.”
“Eh, don’t say that. That doesn’t actually sound like a complement.”
“Understood, Master,” replied Veronica, bowing slightly.
Lucas’s robe flapped in the air as he supported his back on the wall. The moonlight coming inside from the window shimmered in his crimson eyes, giving him an almost majestic look in the night atmosphere.
“Well, to answer your question, I am worried about his unique skill, Veronica. To be completely honest, I know my son having a unique skill is a thing to be happy about. However…”
“…” Veronica stayed quiet, sensing the heavy atmosphere and waiting for her Master to finish speaking. The sound of birds chirping and the soft rustling of rabbits moving filled the air.
Not long after, Lucas continued, “It’s the golden light that I am more worried about. I heard the Saint had already been chosen a while ago, but still, this information must not be leaked in any way, at any time, to anyone. The only people who are allowed to know of this are Axalius, when he’s grown up, Emily, Mom, you and me. Especially, the Holy Empire of Valoria and Father must not get to know about Axalius’s unique skill at any cost.”
Lucas’s crimson eyes burned with a fiery intensity as he gave Veronica an order.
“I understand, Master,” said Veronica, bowing deeply. Her Master’s words were absolute to her, not to be crossed even if it meant death.
“Also, have you ever heard of a method to know if a unique skill can be tracked, or anything similar to that? I myself haven’t really heard of anything like that, but I thought it would be better to have your opinion as well.”
“I apologize, Master. I haven’t heard of anything like that either. If you allow it, should I research it later? I also think it will be best to send some spies to the Holy Empire of Valoria. After all, they are the ones who have most of their knowledge and techniques in secrecy.”
“Yeah, that will be great. Please handle it well, Veronica.”
“I will, Master.”
A smile of trust, respect and care exchanged between the two in the middle of the night.
“Haah… Man, seriously though, I can’t believe my son is already giving me troubles mere moments after being born.”
“With all due respect, I believe he takes after you in that regard, Master.”
“…Where’s the respect in that?”
“With all due respect.”
“You… sure are learning well from Em after protecting her for so long, huh?”
A vertical smack hit her forehead as she replied with a teasing smile.
Veronica exclaimed in pain as she held her forehead, “That hurts, Master!”
“Shut up. I didn’t hit you that hard.”
The playful and enchanting banter continued a while longer, bathed in the soft caress of moonlight, which seemed to bless their spirited exchange.
In the midst of the vast, obsidian void, a portal crackled to life with an otherworldly energy. Its arrival was like a cataclysmic force, a maelstrom of power that swept through the desolate landscape with unyielding intensity.
The broken pieces of Abyssal Obsidian on the floor shattered into a thousand fragments, the shards of glass burst and reduced to mere dust, the ancient pillars nearby broke down and burned with a black flame as the portal appeared.
The edges of the black portal pulsed with otherworldly hues, casting an eerie, iridescent glow across the now-barren expanse. The corpses flew away—No, to be precise, it was only a single corpse that flew away and smashed into the wall nearby. After all, the other headless corpse was bound to a wall with chains and tens of weapons, and the head was bound to the ground with a [Phoenix Feather Bolt].
Amidst the chaotic upheaval, the portal, now a luminous, blinding white, crackled with unrestrained power. It stood as a beacon of unfathomable magic in the midst of the dark abyss, a stark contrast to the destruction it had wrought.
From the heart of that radiant maelstrom emerged an eerie, enigmatic figure, her presence both ethereal and unsettling. Her hair, a curious fusion of black and white, framed her face with an air of paradoxical beauty, a portion cascading gracefully down her neck from the right side.
However, it was her eyes that held the most unnerving allure. Within the ink-black expanse of her irises, a long, crimson X was etched, a macabre symbol of otherworldly origins. The whites of her eyes remained, a stark canvas against the blood-red glyph.
Her hands, painted a sinister shade of red, appeared to drip with crimson, a stark contrast to the pale, ghostly hue of her skin. Two gleaming rings adorned her index finger, shimmering in gold and crimson, while a long, chain-like jewelry piece graced her slender ring finger on the right hand.
Her attire was a tapestry of contrasting elements, a testament to her enigmatic nature. A black shirt with raised collars flowed seamlessly into obsidian pants, exuding a sense of regal austerity. Over this dark canvas, she wore a white coat with raised white collars that contrasted and covered the black ones. The white coat billowed to her ankles, its interior adorned with a deep, velvety red, like the heart of some long-forgotten rose.
Upon the surface of her coat, rose-like petals unfurled, adorned with a kaleidoscope of radiant crystals that glittered like stars. Her hair, touched with the hue of fresh blood, hung in stark contrast to her clothing, a striking reminder of her unearthly presence.
As she stepped forth from the portal, the desolate, ravaged landscape trembled. A chill would seize anyone fortunate or unfortunate enough to lay eyes upon her, as if an icy grip had taken hold of their very soul.
Amidst the eerie silence, her velvet-red lips curved into a sinister smile as an otherworldly voice, simultaneously grandiose and unsettling, resonated through the very fabric of the atmosphere, announcing her ominous arrival.
[The Demon King of Envy has arrived.]
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