"How can it be your fault?" Phloria raised her head, looking Lith in the eyes.
"You warned us multiple times. You wanted us to stay away from the academy."
"How can it be your fault?" Lith took her face between his hands, caressing her cheeks with his thumbs.
"You did all you could in an impossible situation. In your shoes, I would have done the same thing. We always give priority to those we love the most. My vision is a perfect example of it."
"I don't know about you two, but I'm dead tired. Taking down crazy Professors is way harder than I imagined." Jirni sat down, leaning her back against the wall and dragging Orion to her side.
She was happy the kids were having a moment, but she couldn't allow them to keep beating themselves up. They were clearly exhausted, both mentally and physically.
'Phloria has too much on her plate already. Yurial's death, killing humans for the first time, spectating all the horrors humans inflict on their own kind. If she doesn't rest a bit, when the nervous breakdown hits her it could be fatal.' Jirni knew her daughter well.
It wasn't a matter of 'if', the only variable was 'when'.
Phloria followed suit. There was nothing she wanted to say or hear anymore. She was so tired that words, like violence, could only cause her more pain. Phloria and Lith fell asleep almost immediately, leaning against each other while clenching their hands like they were a lifeline.
Jirni looked at them with a tender expression, before turning to Orion with her trademark "I told you so" grin.
"He snores." It was all he could think about for a snarky reply.
"And so does she. They make a fine tune nonetheless." Jirni rebuked.
"Look, I'm too tired to play this game." Orion sighed. "Why don't we follow their lead and get a little shut eye?"
"Because we are the adults and because we don't know if Nalear had associates or a back up plan. I'm not lowering my guard until we are back home."
Tyris appeared next to Amyla Farg, bringing her back to her peak condition with a simple touch.
She woke up abruptly, a Gatekeeper longsword appeared in her hand while she looked around for the enemy.
"I hope you have learned your lesson." Tyris said with a gentle smile.
"I hope everyone will." She sighed, looking at Billow and Thorman still laying on the ground, alive but unconscious.
"What happened? How could she recover like that?" Farg was shocked. She was still a rookie in the Corpse. She never expected for natural Awakened to be so different from the artificial ones.
"Awakening it's the first step towards becoming one with Mogar. She was a much lesser version of a Guardian, but still had access to an almost endless supply of mana." Tyris's explanation was cryptic on purpose.
She wanted Farg to understand her limits without giving her any hints about the Awakening process. Tyris had learned from experience that power couldn't be gifted recklessly. It had to be earned.
"What?" Farg felt her heart skip a beat, promising herself that from that moment onwards she would always put down an unknown enemy unless ordered otherwise.
"Almost." Tyris repeated herself. "Follow me, there is still much I have to teach you before the academy starts again."
Jirni's worries turned out to be groundless. Nothing happened for several minutes, until the academy's power core turned back online. It allowed the members of the army to cross the Warp Gate and secure the place.
Thanks to the royal override code, Jirni could temporarily turn off the arrays, making it possible for Phloria to bring Friya and Quylla back. Friya was barely able to walk, while Quylla was still out cold.
Jirni moved them all to the White Griffon hospital with a Warp Steps. For the first time in its history, the hospital was understaffed and unprepared to handle an emergency of such a scale.
There wasn't a single free spot. Its wings usually so orderly and quiet were now a chaotic mess. Manohar managed to check them up, marking Quylla as the only one in need of urgent medical attention.
After stabilizing her condition, he immediately returned to his most severe cases. Jirni had let them sleep until the whole academy was safe again, so Lith had regained a part of his strength.
'My body is still battered. Even with Invigoration, I can barely access to 60% of my full power. It's still much better than when I saved Protector. Yurial's body is inside a dimensional amulet, so there isn't much hope. If there is even a ghost of a chance, I must give it a try.
'I wish I knew how to contact Scarlett.' Lith sighed.
The Lord of the forest had saved him and Protector in the past. Her expertise with true magic was unparalleled.
Friya took out Yurial's corpse from her dimensional amulet, laying it on a bed.
Lith used Invigoration together with all the diagnostic spells he knew. Nothing worked. There was no life force, no mana core, nothing he could rejuvenate.
"He's really dead." Lith shook his head. He covered Yurial's corpse with a sheet, hiding the gaping wound that lesser healing magic had failed to treat.
The surviving members of the group hugged each other, sharing their pain. All hope was lost, the only thing left to do for them was grieving.
The following days were hectic, at least for the Royals and the staff of the White Griffon academy. Nalear's contingency plan consisted in releasing to the public all the video recordings and documents connecting many of the most powerful noble households to Archmage Lukart.
They revealed their plans for the civil war, proving the involvement of many influential nobles in funding Hatorne's work and providing her the necessary materials to realize the improved slave items.
Everything had to be double checked, since the source of the evidence was still a traitorous mass murder. The detailed financial records and shipments tracking documents made it easy for the Royal Constables to verify the information.
The Crown was finally able to purge many of the most dangerous elements of the Court, stripping their families of a considerable portion of their authority. In any other circumstances, the nobles would have rebelled, but they were caught in a perfect storm.
The Crown suppressed their finances, the army and the Mage Association ostracized their members, while commoners and the new magical bloodlines were just expecting the nobles to give them an excuse to burn them at the stakes.
Too many had died in a single day. The blame fell on them like the ax of the executioner, crippling the noble households.
One fourth of the White Griffon students and Professors were dead or mentally scarred to the point of being barely functional. Most of the survivors among the slave items bearers were quarantined, waiting to be interrogated.
"Nalear made me do it." Was too cheap an excuse. The documents proved that while some were truly victims, others were just perpetrators caught in their own scheme.
Professor Duke Marth was promoted to the role of new Headmaster. He was perfect for the role. Not too young nor too old, well liked, brilliant in his field and also a Forgemaster.