Chapter 183: The Cost of Victory
Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
Ashes scattered in the sky at the hour when it was at its darkest.
The people controlled by Giza gradually regained consciousness. Some of them also regained control of their bodies. They embraced each other while fear still lingered in them, bursting into tears.
However, most of them had their body structures permanently altered by the Blood Mystic. When they awoke to that, they wailed and died under the ash-covered sky.
“I am Nicholas of the White Blade Guards. Do not panic!”
A pale man covered in blood walked among the crowd, holding a strange blade.
He rudely shoved aside a hysterical old man who was shouting at the other people, and strode forward.
“Everyone stay where you are! The government will send help in the name of the king!”
The title of the Star Killer stunned the commoners in Shield District. Though still in doubt, many of them quieted down.
There were still some particularly stubborn people. Nicholas had to force them to calm down by flashing his blade at them.
Panting, Nicholas walked to a ruin and grabbed a thick arm under a collapsed shop sign and pulled a man out.
“I thought you were dead.” The Star Killer dragged the injured man with some difficulty. “That calamity left you alone?”
Gleeward, the owner of the thick arm, the lame former heavy swordsman flicked off the dirt and ash on his body while he looked like death warmed over. With Nicholas’ strength as support, he crawled out of the collapsed sign.
“No.” Gleeward coughed. He leaned on Nicholas, raised a hand and touched his own bleeding forehead. “The man with the child…”
The veteran’s expression was stern with a deep frown.
“He showed me mercy… when I was under the monster’s control.”
Nicholas was stunned.
“A man? With a child?” The Star Killer propped Gleeward up. Suspicion grew in his eyes. “Someone who could move freely before the calamity… Did he have a legendary anti-mystic weapon?”
Gleeward staggered, shaking his head. “I don’t know. Maybe.”
Nicholas narrowed his eyes. He asked straightaway, “Where is he?”
“He was here a few minutes ago.” Gleeward chewed on something in his blood-stained mouth, spat out a bloody tooth, and grumbled, “Holy f*ck, that guy withstood the attacks from me and those monsters.”
Nicholas flung a plank aside. “He is strong?”
“Strong? No.” Gleeward paused. His eyes twinkled with wariness and graveness. “He is fearsome.”
The veteran pursed the corner of his lips, rubbing his nose that was reddened by the cold. “And his fighting style… I think we might have met somewhere before.”
The Star Killer’ expression changed. “You know him?”
Gleeward tried to recall a memory for a few seconds, but eventually shook his head. “I don’t know. I have sparred with too many men.”
Nicholas’ eyes showed a spark of shrewdness. He shoved the Severing Souls Blade back into its sheath. “So, it was that fellow who sealed the calamity?”
“I don’t know.” Gleeward shook his head with an ashen face. “Can you stop asking questions I don’t know the answers to?”
At that moment, Nicholas stopped walking.
“What?” Gleeward asked impatiently. “Hey, you’re still holding an injured man!”
Nicholas watched the ashes in the distance with a stern look. “You know… The Blood Calamity is uncanny.”
“So?” Gleeward snorted. “She’s pretty much a goner now, isn’t she?”
Nicholas shook his head, eyes focused in the dark, at a withered hydra tentacle. “This reminds me…
“In ‘The Legend of the White Blade Guards’, there is another account about Hero Raikaru, about his battle with the Blood Calamity and the hydra, Kilika…”
Thales took a breather amid his daze. A few pieces of black ash flew onto his cheeks and disintegrated. He gradually regained his normal senses.
‘What-what just happened?
‘My weapon—’ He lowered his head and blankly looked at the Blade of Purification. ‘How did it manage to stab her just like that?
‘And… Is it over?’
He raised his head, while still feeling muddled in his head, and watched the ashes in the sky and the ruined buildings around him.
Thales could not recognize where this was. He had run too far during his escape from Giza.
He could see the corpses on the streets. There was a white-haired old man beside his feet with an outstretched arm, as if reaching for the hope to survive.
Thales’ ears twitched, as if it had felt something. He turned around and froze.
Unharmed, Asda stood behind him, looking as graceful as usual under the ash-filled sky.
The Air Mystic stared at the Blade of Purification in Thales’ hand with a complicated look.
Thales took a breath, calming himself down. “Can you give a heads-up next time? Or send an invitation?”
Asda did not speak, but merely directed his gaze at him.
“Also,” Thales said with a sigh, indicating at their surroundings with a pout, “aren’t you a little late?”
Asda raised his head, gazing at the flying ash with a strange emotion in his eyes.
The Mystic spoke slowly, his expression unchanging. “Crawling back up from underground… needs time.”
Thales snorted. After experiencing the battle against Giza and heeding Black Sword’s advice, he had a sudden revelation.
The suppressed, suffocating fear and caution in the depths of his heart from when he faced the Air Mystic earlier had slowly faded away.
Compared to Giza, the person before him was just… a slightly stronger opponent.
Thales called Asda by his last name softly. “Right, Mister Sakern, regarding the matter about Mystics, I have made up my mind…”
The Mystic raised his eyebrows.
He looked up and gazed at Asda determinedly.
“I am not ready.” Thales met the Mystic’s aggressive stare. He spoke, enunciating each word, “That is my answer… and my decision.”
Asda’s handsome face was unmoving. They stared at each other in silence. After a while, the Mystic closed his eyes and sighed.
Thales spoke again. “However… I am not going to reject you, and will not resist becoming…”
Under Asda’s astonished gaze, Thales said casually, “I just need time to learn, understand, acquire knowledge about Mystics, perhaps even magic. I will need your help.”
‘Perhaps, the truth behind the Bloody Year as well…’
A mysterious blue light flashed in Asda’s eyes.
“Besides, you certainly know your current situation.” Thales turned his head to look at the dead bodies and wreckage on the street. “The world does not hate Mystics for no reason, even if you did this to protect me.”
At that moment, Thales felt suffocated by his depressing emotions.
‘So many lives… It’s all because of…’
He inhaled deeply, rejecting the emotions in himself, trying hard not to be reminded that the person in front of him was a ruthless killer.
Thales smoothed out his thoughts and said slowly, “Perhaps I can help you, as a prince… As the future King of Constellation.”
Asda raised his chin slightly. The corners of his lips turned upwards and a strange emotion flickered in his eyes. “You mean…”
“After learning everything about you, I might be able to find a path, a path that allows both the world and you to live without worries or conflicts.” Thales subconsciously raised the Blade of Purification and said firmly, “Mystics cannot continue to live like this.”
In the wind of black ashes, Asda watched the tiny red sword in his hand with a wary expression.
“If I indeed become a Mystic in the end, I will need to do this… for myself.” Thales nodded.
“Besides, a human king with power and an army will undoubtedly be more helpful than an invincible calamity.”
This time, Asda’s silence was significantly longer. Thales patiently awaited his reply.
For a second or two, the second prince swore that he had seen an unusual string of emotions on Asda’s face.
‘Nostalgia and melancholy?’ Thales had only seen this look when Asda was talking about the Magic Tower.
At last, Asda said, “Many people had the same idea—that Mystics may coexist with other races in peace, and even help each other.” Hidden in his voice was the pessimism he refused to face.
“Mystics, humans, even the elves… With numerous attempts and great effort. All have failed,” Asda said quietly.
The two individuals of different heights stood in the ruins. Thales returned the Mystic’s gaze with his own firm and assertive one.
He took a step forward without hesitation.
“Firstly, they did not try hard enough.” Thales’ voice echoed in the air. “Secondly…
“I am not them; I am not one of those losers.”
Thales felt the coldness in the air. His pupils contracted slightly, his tone was calm, and his voice was deep.
“I am Thales.”
Under Asda’s puzzled gaze, he said flatly,
“Thales TherrenGirana Kessel Jadestar, descendent of the Imperial Family Jadestar bloodline, and the future King of Constellation.”
Upon saying this, Thales inhaled deeply, and raised the Blade of Purification. He was not surprised to see Asda crease his brow and take a step back.
Thales flashed a small smile to himself. He wore a calm face and said confidently, “The Sealer of the Blood Mystic.”
‘And… a visitor from an unknown world.
Various mysterious emotions fluttered in Asda’s eyes, they were eventually outshone by a crystalline blue light. Thales put down the Blade of Purification and waited quietly for his reply.
Little did the Mystic know, Thales’ palm which clutched the Blade of Purification was sweating.
He did not forget Giza’s words before she disappeared.
‘”Beware of Asda.”‘
The Mystic was still staring at him with a calm gaze.
Thales gulped. His palm quivered.
Suddenly, Asda smiled. Thales was startled and stared at him oddly.
Asda’s bone-chilling smile appeared once more. “You know, you are not the only one…
“After what happened today, I realize that I, too, have not been prepared to deal with you.” The Mystic nodded slightly. “You are too unique.”
Thales’ eyebrows furrowed. Asda’s gaze drifted to the Blade of Purification. There was an unnoticeable pause in his voice.
“As a human prince, or as a…” Asda raised his hands and gestured at himself. “Hence, I will respect your decision.”
Under Thales’ flickering gaze, the Mystic nodded. “While I will need some time to study your anomaly—I am referring to your Door-knocking and the self-induced loss of control—perhaps your path will be smoother than ours, perhaps it will be rockier. I cannot be sure.”
Thales repressed the agitated emotions he had, presenting a calm and friendly attitude. He pursed his lips and smiled.
‘The negotiation… It’s a success. Asda will…’
“Yes, I will not force you to come with me, or urge you to become a Mystic.” Seeing his reaction, Asda smiled slightly. “However, since you intend to understand mystic energy and magic…”
Thales was quick to respond.
“I can free up some time, think of a way…” He raised an eyebrow. “Although I am a prince, I should have a ‘secret’ interest, or a hobby?”
He emphasized on the word ‘secret’.
“Very well, I will contact you… in secret.” Grasping Thales’ underlying meaning, Asda smiled an enigmatic smile, also placing emphasis on the word “secret”. “Of course, I will lay low for a while…”
Asda glanced around with a surprised expression.
“Look around at this mess… soon those curious things will gather here. The reappearance of a Mystic is no small matter, after all.”
Thales sighed to himself. ‘Who do you think contributed to this mess?’
Asda huffed. “However, after the commotion dies down, I will reach out through the same old method. Keep an eye out for the invitation.”
Thales openly rolled his eyes before Asda, who chuckled and said slowly, “So, we will meet again, Thales Jadestar.”
He gave mischievous and meaningful smirk. The look in his eyes was strange. It was the same expression he had worn during their first meeting under the chess room.
“… My interesting junior.”
Thales drew a deep breath and then slowly exhaled. He nodded slightly. “Thank you, Mister Sakern.”
Asda responded with a slight bow. His graceful figure faded to a blue glow. The blue glow slowly dissipated until it completely blended with the colorless wind. The wind ruffled Thales’ hair, making him squint.
“Alright, I will not disturb you two. She has been looking for you.” Asda’s melodious voice chimed in the wind.
Thales was left stunned. The sound of the wind died down seconds later.
Thales remained where he stood for a few seconds, clutching the Blade of Purification in his hand. After making sure that Asda was gone, he heaved a sigh. The nerves and tension in him loosened.
‘My god…’ He stared at the dark night sky and sighed in relief.
Giza’s expression before she disappeared, and Asda’s gaze before he left still lingered in his mind.
‘Mystics… What does your existence really mean? What does the world look like in your eyes?’
Thales then lowered his head and idly stared at his hands. The JC dagger in his right hand, and the tiny red sword in his left.
As he sighed mournfully, shoving the JC dagger back into its sheath at his waist. He touched an object and froze.
His head hung low and bit his lip. A sorrow he could not put to words rose in him.
At the moment, a timid voice came from behind him, “Tha-Thales… is that you?”
The second prince was shocked, turning around abruptly. His eyes widened.
Little Rascal, with disheveled and grimy hair, was hugging herself and shuddering behind him. She squinted, trying to see what was in front of her clearly.
Thales was stunned.
As if she had gotten used to the surroundings, Little Rascal sniffled, her eyes were red. She stretched out her arms, groping about and shuffling forward.
Surrounded by ruins and corpses, she ambled carefully, like a toddler learning how to walk, or like a helpless blind person, moving forward on her own in a dark world.
It reminded the prince of the time they met in the library, when she raised her head from the thick book she was reading.
“Is it… Thales?”
Little Rascal tripped over an uneven surface of the ground and staggered. Thales stared at her in a daze for a few seconds before he responded.
“It’s-It’s me! Little Rascal!”
Hearing a definitive answer, Little Rascal inhaled deeply and pursed her lips. Tears formed in her eyes.
Thales heaved a sigh, biting his lip. He strode across the debris-covered ground and rushed to the girl.
He stood still a step away from her, panting, and stretched out his bloody left hand to hold Little Rascal’s palm.
Feeling a weight on her hand, Little Rascal shivered. She appeared terrified. But a second later, she decided to take Thales’ left hand in hers.
They stood in the ruins, holding each other tightly.
Thales gazed at Little Rascal with a complex expression and tightened his fist, feeling a weight taken off him.
“You- You’re fine?” he asked, stuttering.
Little Rascal’s emotional state seemed to have stabilized. Narrowing her green, very badly short-sighted eyes, she nodded in a shaky manner.
“Her tentacles… released me.”
The girl stood in front of him, her lips pursed slightly. Watching the shabby girl, Thales closed his eyes and inhaled deeply.
Little Rascal sniffled. Her hands that held on to his arm were shivering.
Before she could finish, Thales suddenly laughed. A second later, he stepped forward without hesitation, and pulled Little Rascal into his arms. Little Rascal was startled, but she nonetheless leaned on Thales’ shoulder. Her tears flowed uncontrollably.
Thales gritted his teeth and mumbled, “Good.”
He looked at the empty frosted street of Shield District, the corpses on the roadside, and the scattered ashes. He was hugging the only person alive.
At that moment, Thales’ vision became a little blurry.
“It’s okay,” he said gently. “We’re safe now.”
Little Rascal hugged him tightly, sniffling and soaking his shoulder with tears.
Holding the Blade of Purification, Thales wiped off his tears with the back of his hand. “At least King Nuven—”
Hearing King Nuven’s name, Little Rascal stiffened.
Thales evened out his breathing, smiled, and continued, “At least he will not hang me on the city gates for kidnapping a young girl.”
Little Rascal was a little startled, and then she laughed. Thales chuckled along with her.
A moment later, Thales let go of Little Rascal. His hand reached to his waist, grabbing the unnamed object.
“This is for you.”
Thales took it out and shoved it into Little Rascal’s palm. Little Rascal was surprised, fingering the object in her hands.
It was her most familiar possession.
Little Rascal snuffled, raised the item in her hands, and put it on her face, tucking it behind her ears.
The little girl’s clear green eyes fluttered open behind the dusty cracked lenses of a pair of comical, heavy, black-framed glasses.
The girl stared dumbly at Thales; at this boy who was covered in blood and dirt, whose hair was ruffled, and whose forehead had a red lump on it.
A few seconds passed. Then, the two children with grimy faces began laughing at each other.
At this moment, Little Rascal’s expression changed.
“You-Are you alright?!” she asked, frightened.
Thales raised an eyebrow. “Huh?”
In the next second, Little Rascal’s eyes widened with an alarmed expression. Thales furrowed his brow. He soon noticed something unusual.
He lowered his head with a pale face. A droplet of blood was on the ground, then a second drop, and a third…
Thales trembled suddenly. He stretched out a hand and touched his nose. His hand was soaked through.
Thales’ expression froze.
‘I… What is wrong with me?’
The Blade of Purification slipped out of his hand, fell, and was clattered on the ground.
Under Little Rascal’s shocked gaze, Thales stumbled backwards, subconsciously pressing on the left side of his chest.
The prince’s hands shivered uncontrollably. He stared at Little Rascal with wide eyes, as though he had seen the most horrifying sight in his life.
At that moment, Little Rascal thought of Alex’s face before she died. She covered her mouth and whimpered.
‘No… It can’t be.’
Thales collapsed as she screamed.
Little Rascal panicked, she quickly extended her arms and helped him lay down.
“Ugh…” Thales let out a miserable and restrained moan.
A heart-wrenching pain pulsed inside him, as if it wanted to rip his soul apart.
The pain that he felt when he was being hit by a Mystic Gun during a Psionic assassin’s attempt on his life; the pain that swore to tear through every inch of him… The price of using mystic energy…
‘It happened again… Is it… the price of victory?’
In great pain and on the verge of losing consciousness, Thales heard a solid, blood-curdling crack from within himself, as if his body was slowly crumbling.
“Ahhh!!” Thales spasmed and unleashed an agonizing scream.
Meanwhile, Little Rascal could only hold him in her arms, also screaming and shivering.