Chapter 252: Resolve
“Damaged? No, that’s not…” my voice trailed off as I felt the internal condition of my body.
Regis was right. When I tried to spread mana throughout my body, an act as natural as breathing by this point, I was only met with a slight tingle.
I tried once more, this time trying to gather ambient mana. This time, I couldn’t even feel anything—no blanket of warmth like before when mana once rushed inside me and coalesced in my core.
“No,” I muttered, heaving my heavy body up onto my feet.
I threw a jab, my punch painfully slow even as I channeled mana from my core through the necessary parts of my body needed to carry out a punch.
“Arthur…” Regis sighed.
Ignoring him, I pivoted and kicked forward. I stumbled and fell, unable to even keep balance.
Pushing myself up, I tried moving my body again. It was a bit easier this time, but it still felt like my time as a toddler in this world. My brain knew how to move, but my body just wouldn’t listen.
I fell, and I fell again, each time more infuriating and embarrassing than the last.
Finally, as my face hit the smooth floor, my arms unable to even react in time to cushion my fall, I stayed on the ground.
I roared in frustration, slamming my head into the ground. “What the hell is wrong with me!”
All of that hard work. Years upon years of training and refining my core, learning to control all of the elements effectively, all gone.
I pounded my head on the ground again, barely feeling anything more than a dull throb despite how hard the floor shook. I let out another scream that had been tugging at my throat, desperate to be let out.
Whether I had calmed myself or had just run out of energy, I didn’t know, but I found myself staring at the iridescent stone—the pocket dimension where Sylvie resided.
She had sacrificed her life for me and was reduced back to this state. Because of all of the stupid choices I made, she was the one that paid the price.
If I can’t get things together for myself, I need to do it for her. At the very least, I owe her that.
I got up and silently made my way back to the water fountain. Cupping my hands, I brought the cold water to my mouth and drank. Quenching my thirst, I splashed some water on my face before taking a hard look at my reflection.
A slightly older and sharper-faced Arthur looked back at me with piercing gold eyes. My hair reminded me of bleached sand as it flowed just past my shoulder in waves. Even the texture of my new hair mimicked Sylvie, sending another pang of guilt.
Ripping a thin strip of cloth from the tattered pants that I was wearing in my last battle, I tied the back of my hair.
“What do we do now?” I mustered, turning to Regis.
The floating black ball of fire with horns cocked a brow—or at least, that’s what it looked like—before saying, “You realize you’re asking advice from a weapon, right?”
I remained silent, staring at him until he clicked his tongue…or whatever he had in that large mouth of his.
“No fun,” he grumbled before floating toward me. “Well, it’s not like we have much of a choice, seeing as there is only one way out of this room.”
“So we just go through the door?” I confirmed, already heading through the large metal door.
“Hold it, Goldilocks,” he began. “Are you trying to get yourself killed?”
“What do you mean?” I asked before the familiar term registered in my brain. “And how do you know who Goldilocks is?”
“I’m made from you, remember? All of the things you know, whether from this life or your past life, has influenced what I am right now,” he answered. “So really, if you’re annoyed at my wonderful personality, you’re really just annoyed at yourself.”
“I don’t remember ever being this sardonic or derisive,” I retorted.
“Well…to be more specific, I guess I’m an amalgamation of you, Sylvia, your bond, and that charming stud of a beast, Uto,” the floating black fire explained.
That’s when it clicked. Regis had reminded me of Uto. While his horns were shaped more like Sylvie’s, out of the three, Uto’s nature was the most prominent in Regis—just a lot more toned down by Sylvia, Sylvie, and my mix of personalities.
“Anyway,” he droned, “You’re not in a state where you should be going through any sort of door haphazardly, especially if this entire place was meant to keep people out.”
“Yeah, I know,” I cut in. “My core is pretty messed up and my body feels like it’s made of lead or something, but it’s not like we can just stay here.”
“Disregarding your injured core for a moment, do you remember when I said that Sylvie used some pretty heavy aether voodoo on you to keep your body from basically destroying itself?”
I nodded my head. “Mhm.”
“Well, perhaps the one good thing that came out of all of this—aside from myself, of course—is your new body,” Regis explained. “Your body, while not being completely draconic, is pretty damn close,” Regis explained.
My eyes widened and I immediately lowered my head, looking down at my arms and the rest of my body. Aside from the color of my hair and eyes changing, the features of my face becoming a little sharper and my skin becoming paler, it didn’t feel any different from my body—actually, it felt worse than my usual self.
Regis answered, as if reading my thoughts. “I’m not sure how much pain you actually remember feeling, but you nearly died during this ‘metamorphosis.’ It’ll take some time and a lot of effort to temper your body.”
“How do I temper this new body of mine, and what happens after I’m able to?” I asked.
“Beats the hell out of me,” Regis quipped. “I’m knowledgeable but I’m not some floating encyclopedia.”
“So you just want me to wait here and hope that my body will get better?” I snapped. “What about you? You’re supposed to be a powerful weapon tailored for me, can’t I use you to get out of here, or is floating around and talking the only thing you know how to do?”
“Oh screw you!” Regis cut in, staring daggers at me. “I’ve been nothing but helpful after you practically killed yourself.”
“I wouldn’t have had to go so far if you had come out during my last battle, but I guess it wouldn’t have mattered if you did come out then. It’s not like you could’ve been any help!”
“Boo-friggin-hoo!” Regis mocked. “The only reason you are alive and sane right now is because of me!”
“What?” I asked, confused.
“Do you know why I have four very different personalities swirling inside me, one of which wants me to kill you very painfully?”
Thinking back to when the acclorite had absorbed most of the mana that was stored in Uto’s horn, I got even more annoyed. “Yes! Because you stole most of the mana from Uto’s horn—mana that would’ve helped make me stronger!”
“If it hadn’t been for me taking most of it, you would’ve been driven mad,” Regis snarled. “Instead, I get the pleasure of having oh-so-pleasurable psychopathic tendencies every so often!”
Stunned, I didn’t respond.
Time seemed to stop for a moment as we remained silent until Regis spoke up glumly. “I don’t know what I am. It might’ve been because I was forced out of you before I could fully develop, but I’m not even sure what sort of weapon I am either, and it’s been driving me crazy.”
I sank down on the ground and let out a sigh. “Looks like we’re both in a pretty messed up state right now.”
“True, but you dug yourself into the hole you’re in right now, pretty boy. I was forced into it,” Regis smirked.
I let out a laugh. “You’re right.”
Taking out the stone that Sylvie was slumbering inside of, I stared at it longingly. I missed Sylvie. She would’ve known what to do with everything I’d been told.
Panic rose inside me as I thought of Sylvia’s message and everything it entailed. If the Indrath Clan was capable of committing genocide just because they felt their authority being threatened, the asuras were no better than Agrona and the Vritra Clan.
Sylvia said that four ruins protected from asuras made by the ancient mages held the key to wielding fate…whatever that meant. Fate was such an abstract concept that even having reincarnated into this world, I still found it hard to believe.
But what can I do? My mana core is destroyed to the point where even if I can start using mana again, I don’t think it can ever get to the same heights as before. My body may be draconic now, but I don’t even know what that fully means, and the weapon that I’ve been waiting for…
“Get down!” Regis suddenly hissed, suddenly flying into my body.
‘Stay up against the wall and act dead, or at least unconscious!’ Regis asserted, his voice echoing inside my head.
I backed up against the wall and fell to the ground just in time to see a column of blue light appear in the center of the room.
Letting my bangs cover my face, I kept my eyes open despite Regis’s insistence.
As the pillar of blue dimmed, I was able to make out the silhouette of three figures. My heartbeat quickened, excited to see other people here, when Regis berated me, telling me not to even think about getting up.
The light completely faded, leaving only the three figures standing in the center of the room—two males and one female.
The larger of the two men was clad in a mixture of plated and leather armor that did little to hide his bulging muscles. He carried in each hand a spiked mace, both dripping with blood that matched the color of his short crimson hair.
The slimmer brown-haired one still was built like an athlete, with broad shoulders and toned arms underneath a brushed-silver suit of armor.
It was the girl that spotted me first with her two red eyes that shone like crystals underneath a curtain of midnight blue—almost navy—hair.
Her statuesque form layered in what looked more like a uniform than armor, turned my way as she studied me.
It only took a moment for the two men beside her to notice me, and when they did, they didn’t react nearly as subtly as the woman had.
The larger one swung his mace, splattering an arc of blood on the ground as he approached me, while the brown-haired warrior withdrew a longsword out of thin air and positioned himself between myself and the girl. His sharp eyes narrowed as a soft vibration hummed from his large blade.
I shut my eyes, afraid that they’d see me awake.
Shit, what do we do, Regis?
‘Stay down! You’re no match for any one of these three right now.’
He’s going to kill me!
‘Wait! Don’t move until I tell you!’
I peeked open an eye to see the crimson-haired man towering over me.
‘Not yet!’ Regis hissed in my head.
“Leave her,” the girl stated.
‘Pfft! She thinks you’re a girl!’ Regis snickered.
“She might be a threat to us in the lower levels, Lady Caera,” the large man warned. “There are those who feign weakness to make us lower our guards.”
“Have some pity on her, Taegen. The fact that neither of you were able to sense her immediately means that her mana core is broken,” the girl said. “She won’t be a threat. Now, let’s move. We’ll rest in the next sanctuary room.”
Taegen let out a dissatisfied grunt before turning around, following after the other two.
I let out a mental breath of relief as I began to relax when I saw it. All three of their outfits had purposely left their spines revealed, covered either by chainmail or a thin mesh that I could clearly see through. And running down all three backs, along their spines, were the same kind of runes I had seen on so many Alacryan mages.
Anger flared within my chest, and immediately, the man named Taegen whirled around to face me.
Calm yourself, Arthur, I said to myself.
Time seemed to crawl as the mace-wielder studied me, confused.
“Let’s go!” the other man called out to Taegen, and the crimson-haired warrior turned back.
I must’ve waited for over thirty minutes even after they had left through the door before I got up.
“Wow, now that got my little black heart pumping!” Regis exclaimed, shooting out of my body. “It’s a good thing that gorgeous woman has a heart as large as her ti—”
“Regis!” I snapped.
My floating companion shot me a wicked grin. “Aww, is someone still upset that they were called a girl?”
“You can check your pants if you want. You’re still a guy,” Regis cut in.
I let out a sigh. “I know, Regis. Now, why are Alacryans here?” I asked, changing the topic.
“You heard Sylvia’s message. Agrona has been sending his people down into the ruins that asuras can’t go into,” he replied.
Suddenly a feeling of dread washed over me. “Does that mean we’re somewhere below Alacrya now?”
“Beats me, but if those ancient mages were able to tinker with aether to an extent where even Agrona wants to know their secrets, I’m guessing that we can be anywhere in the world—this room that we’re in right now could be somewhere in the bottom of the ocean and that door could be a portal that takes us to the other side of the world!”
Closing my eyes, I brought up the locations of the four ancient ruins that Sylvia said she had imparted me with. What I realized was that it wasn’t some sort of internal map laid out for me to visualize. It was more like an artificial memory that had been embedded into my brain. It confirmed for me what Regis said earlier—we were inside one of the four ancient ruins. What it didn’t tell me was where this ruin was located in the world.
“So what’s the plan, Milady?” Regis chimed.
I kept my eyes shut as I took a deep breath. Relying on the habits I had developed throughout my lifetime as Grey, I bottled up the emotions gnawing away at my mind and body. I tightly packed and stored the feelings of panic and dread that encroached on my mind. I tucked away the stray thoughts that lay scattered about and wrapped it shut, leaving me with a simmering anger to give me strength, and the cool and comforting numbness to actually think ahead.
Whatever was on the other side of that door, those three likely took down or cleared through most of it. I couldn’t waste an opportunity like this.
I opened my eyes with newfound resolve and I turned to Regis. “Let’s go.”