Tess didn’t wake up until late into the afternoon of the day after. Virion had left in the morning to deal with what had happened to their home, and left a note on the other side of my door telling me to take “good care” of Tess until he got things sorted out. It normally would’ve sounded serious if not for the winking face he crudely drew at the bottom of the note, making me question what exactly Gramps’ definition of taking good care of someone was.
And furthermore, what was going on inside his crooked head.
I was meditating on the living room floor with Sylvie still sleeping on my lap when Tess came out, rubbing her half-opened eyes, bedhead ablaze.
“A-Art? Where’s Grandpa?” Flustered after realizing it wasn’t Virion who she had called out to, Tess quickly turned around, frantically matting down her hair.
“Good morning, or rather, good afternoon.” Smiling, I got up and handed her a glass of water. “Your Grandpa went back to your house in the morning to get everything sorted out.”
“Oh. Maybe I should go too… I was the one responsible for all of this, afterall.”
“There’s nothing either one of us could do. Don’t worry too much for now. Virion and your parents will probably be back here later tonight. We’ll go back to my house in Xyrus after making sure everything is okay since we have to go to school tomorrow,” I explained.
“Still… there must be something I could help out— wait, what? I’m going to your house?” She still had her hands glued to the side of her head when she reeled back in surprise, once again unleashing her bedhead in all of its glory.
“Yup. Virion asked me yesterday. It’ll be easier that way, and it’ll probably be more comfortable than staying at this inn.”
“I think my heart would be a lot more comfortable staying here.”
“Well, none of your family will be able to be here with you, so I’m sure Virion would feel a lot more reassured if you stayed with my family until we get to the dorms,” I rebutted.
She remained quiet for a moment before timidly nodding in consent. Even with her hair reminding me of an unkept lion’s mane, she was still somehow cute.
Sylvie woke up to the lingering scent of food and leeched a few bites to eat from Tess.
After finishing her breakfast, the princess sat down next to me on the living room floor where I was training and pet Sylvie, who made herself comfortable on Tess’ lap.
“Hehe, so cute,” Tess cooed as she rubbed my formidable draconic Asura’s belly.
“Tess, what did it feel like when you activated the first phase of your beast will?” I asked.
“Umm, it felt like a sudden surge of power spilled out and surrounded me. Then, all of a sudden, I couldn’t really move my body,” Tess explained. “It felt like I was trapped in someone else’s body, but I wasn’t really scared though, for some reason.”
“Mmm,” I nodded.
The beast will wouldn’t attack its host so it made sense for Tess to have a lack of fear. It didn’t make sense, though, for the beast will to have such a strong sense of defiance. Even if she skipped the integration stage, Tess’ body still had fully fused with the beast will. The will might be difficult to control and to use properly, but it shouldn’t have gotten that out of hand. Ironic as it sounded, it felt like the beast will had its own…well, had its own will.
“I want you to rouse the elderwood guardian’s beast will.” I kneeled down in front of her before instructing.
“W-What? Is that safe?” Tess looked up, her eyes widening.
“It should be; you’re not going to initiate the first phase. Just get a sense for the beast will inside of your mana core and let it stream out into the rest of your body. That way, I’ll be able to sense more clearly what’s going on.” I scooted until I was at arm’s length of Tess, making the princess shuffle away.
Wasn’t it her that so boldly initiated a kiss last time? Why was she being so shy now?
“I’m going to have to place my hand on your abdomen, Tess. Don’t move,” I sighed, scooting closer.
“You make it sound like touching a girl’s belly isn’t anything serious,” Tess pouted, clicking her tongue.
“It’s not if it’s for the sake of training.”
As she began meditating, I placed the palm of my hand on her abdomen. Closing my eyes as well, I began examining her mana core. Soon enough, as Tess began to release the innate mana from the beast will, a flood of emerald-green particles of mana flooded over the golden gray specks of wood and wind attribute mana that circulated inside her body.
Tess had a strained look as beads of sweat rolled down her cheeks. Small sparks of mana began bursting out of her body as her cramped face told me she was doing her best from releasing the beast will’s power which seemingly wanted to break loose.
“Tessia, it’s okay! Stop now!” I hurriedly yelled.
As the princess began trying to recall the beast will back into her mana core, she began convulsing. I put my hand back to her mana core to try and sense the activity going on inside of her body, and I couldn’t help but be shocked.
The elderwood guardian’s beast will, which occupied Tess’ mana core and was integrated with the rest of her body, was fighting back trying to take control over the rest of Tess’ innate mana.
What was going on? How could the beast will go against the host’s will like this? This was different from Tess actually manifesting the first phase of her beast will and having that go out of control. The beast will’s mana particles were still inside of her body when this happened.
A rather crude comparison popped into mind while thinking of this. People of this world didn’t really suffer from this, but from my world, non-practitioners who couldn’t reinforce their body with ki suffered from diseases and illnesses. While there were horrible diseases that aged the body twice as fast or burned the organs from the inside, I would have to say that the scariest disease would be the Drackins Virus. This virus would sread through the nerves and make the victim lose control of their limbs and eventually, their mind. Since the virus couldn’t infect practitioners, it was contained fairly quickly, but even then, the epidemic that lasted a year had over three hundred thousand fatalities.
This phenomenon that was happening to Tess reminded me of something akin to that virus. Just like the Drackins Virus, the beast will’s mana particles weren’t integrating and reinforcing Tess’ body, but instead weakening the mana formed from her own mana core. It didn’t seem to the degree of taking over Tess’ body and mind at this stage, but it was still eerily comparable.
As the internal battle between Tess’ innate mana and her beast will ensued, I could sense the mana levels in her core slowly dwindling. The beast will was clearly less rampant than when we were at the training grounds back in Xyrus Academy; whether that was thanks to the help of Windsom, I couldn’t be sure. However, I doubt even Windsom predicted that the elderwood guardian’s beast will that I acquired would be such an unpredictable outlier.
As Tess continued to fight, trying to contain the beast will that wasn’t even fully released, I gathered some mana into her body as well, making sure to incorporate all four elemental attributes so it wouldn’t be rejected, before transferring it directly to her mana core. While I didn’t give as much mana to Tess as I did to Prince Curtis back down at the dungeon, I still felt a tangible drain from my core.
Meanwhile, Sylvie circled around us, warily, knowing that something was wrong. She tilted her head and peeked around me, trying to get a better view of what was going on until Tess collapsed on her back, her chest rising and falling from the shortage of breath.
“Well, that didn’t go quite as planned,” I huffed, leaning back on my arms as well.
“Tell…tell me about it. I don’t get what’s wrong though. It feels like I’m holding onto a gate, trying to keep some sort rabid monster caged inside from breaking free.”
I couldn’t help but let out a wry laugh at the accuracy of such a metaphor. Tess’ mana core quite literally was serving as the “cage” that kept the rabid beast will from coming loose.
With still a pile of questions unanswered, we decided not to touch the elderwood guardian’s beast will for the time being. We were either going to have to find an unconventional way to have her gain control over this power or have her become stronger in order to properly keep the beast will in check.
Grandpa Virion, along with Tessia’s parents, Alduin and Merial Eralith, arrived at the inn suite later in the evening. Needless to say, the former King and Queen of the elves were relieved, seeing for themselves that their daughter was safe.
The five of us and Sylvie, who was curled up on my lap, sleeping, situated ourselves on the couches before getting into the topic of what’s to come.
We discussed briefly about what happened exactly at the castle, but when Tess tried to chime in, Virion cut her off and explained in her stead. Gramps played the whole thing down, mentioning that part of the explosion was actually his fault and that he was just trying to test the limits of Tess’ beast will.
I sat there, perplexed for a moment as to why he might have been hiding the true reason, but when our eyes met, his gaze told me that he would explain later.
It was decided that, while the Eralith Castle was being rebuilt, the family, minus Tess, would stay with Rinia.
Now that was a name that I hadn’t heard in a long time. I owed a lot to the granny that had the extremely rare gift of foresight. She was the one that allowed me to make contact with my parents after first arriving at the Kingdom of Elenoir after rescuing Tess at the time.
“Arthur, why don’t we go together to Rinia’s house before you and Tessia set out for Xyrus? The journey is a bit far after she moved but since you saw her as a child, I’m sure she’d appreciate it if you came by and said hello,” Merial chimed. “She is going to be very surprised at how much you’ve grown.”
“I’d like that,” I responded back with a nostalgic smile reaching my cheeks.
“Ooh, I haven’t seen Grandma Rinia in a long time too!” Tess leaned forward, her expression indicating that she was looking forward to it as well.
“Hmm, while you’re at it, having her get a good read on you should be a good idea.” Virion’s gaze was focused on some random spot on the ground as he pondered at the idea.
Alduin nodded in agreement before saying, “Yes, I think so too. Father, I remember you telling me how Rinia was rather interested in Arthur’s future.”
After that, it was decided that before leaving for Xyrus early in the afternoon, we’d stop by Grandma Rinia’s house, or cottage, to be more precise.
Needless to say, it was odd. I, myself, was sleeping on the same bed with Grandpa Virion while Tess and her parents slept in the other room. I was rather fine with it but sleeping in the same quarters as the royal family of the elves would put anyone else on pins and needles. I still wanted to sleep in the living room, for comfort’s sake, but Gramps refused, saying that only through sharing tight quarters did men truly bond.
That and bathing together in the nude…
Elves have some weird customs.