Supreme Magus

Chapter 82 Interludium

After lunch, the group fell asleep. The stress and the fatigue from the last two days weighted heavily on everyone, but Lith and Phloria were the most affected.

They had been on their toes non-stop since their arrival in the forest, the only moments of rest were those that they spent in the cave. Lith had pushed his body so hard during those days that he was aching all over.

He used Invigoration as much as he could, and that meant very little. From his experiments with the potions, Lith knew that the physical enhancing ones had side effects, just like fusion magic, that only proper rest could remove.

Invigoration could make up for them, but how could he possibly justify his ridiculous recovery speed? His mind kept searching for a solution, but without success. Restless, he started reconsidering his group's situation and chances of success.

The more he thought about it, the more the exercise didn't make any sense.

- "How the heck is a group of teenagers supposed to last for a whole week? With no prior notice nor someone capable of hunting, I can't see even a genius get past the third day.

The Headmaster's magical beasts attacked once a day, and each time it was much worse. If by tomorrow they get serious, it will be our end. And that's just the icing of the cake, there's also the fear, the need to search for food and shelter.

Not to mention things like those spiders that just want to eat you.

Sure, we could just hole ourselves in the cave, but if Solus is right, then we would only risk of damaging our grades. I don't know how long I can still hold on. The forced cohabitation is pushing me to the brink of insanity.

My hatred and rage are eating me from the inside, it's only a matter of time before I snap." –

Phloria's group woke up only for a frugal dinner, at the expenses of Lith's food stock, before going back to sleep.

The moon was shining bright in the sky, and from its favourite spot, Scarlett was contemplating the last piece of the puzzle that had fallen into its lap.

The Scorpicore was atop the tallest hill of the forest, the only place from where something of its size could sit comfortably while looking at its domain.

- "First, a group of five man-pups with six mana cores. That alone was beyond odd, but with the Clackers ravaging the forest, I had almost forgot about it. But then, somehow, one of those man-pups manages to remove from his body the Stunner Clacker's venom without it losing much of its potency.

I know it's not a big deal detoxify it with magic or an antidote, but extracting it from a victim? Not even a magical beast capable of using light magic would be able to accomplish such feat. Let alone a human, with their silly imitation of magic.

It would require to be able to locate and manipulate the venom coursing through the body with surgical precision. That's something that only an Awakened like me would be able to do. I need to have a chat with this pup, before this charade comes to its end." -

Scarlett's elite squad was in a deep slumber, resting to recover from the many wounds received that day. The Scorpicore set a powerful barrier around its beloved minions, so that no one could bother them without incurring in a sudden death.

Then, with a powerful flap of its wings, Scarlett took off, using his gold rimmed enchanted pince-nez to find where the anomaly was hidden. There were just a few dozen groups remaining, between that and its speed, finding the cave was a simple task.

Once outside, it suddenly realized to have overlooked a major problem.

- "Dammit, how the heck do I start a conversation without scaring the sh*t out of him?" Scarlett scratched its right ear with the back leg, searching for a solution.

"I got so used talking to Linjos and his minions, that I had almost forgot that my appearance can be quite intimidating. Kidnapping isn't a good ice breaker. I could enter after devolving to a cat, but why should he talk to me?

Damn, this is going to be harder than I expected." –

After pacing for a while, hoping Lith would somehow notice its presence and wake up, Scarlett decided to change its approach. Thanks to the pince-nez, it could see that the anomaly was a ring.

The artifact was different from everything Scarlett had ever encountered. Its curiosity was more piqued by the second. Scarlett decided that if the owner was unavailable, it could always try with the artifact.

Scarlett sent a tendril of mana, thin as a silk thread, to connect its mana core to Solus', establishing a telepathic link.

- "Whatever you are, I demand an explanation. What are you trying to accomplish in my domain? Why are you leeching energy from a helpless pup? Speak, or I will crush you between my fangs!" –

Scarlett didn't like humans much, but was still polite towards them, hoping to avoid useless conflicts. But when facing cursed objects, it would show no mercy, stooping down at their level and speaking the only language they knew: violence.

Hearing that alien voice resounding in her mind, Solus was terrified, instantly waking up. It had been such a violent intrusion that even Lith regained his senses, his conscience dragged along with hers.

- "What is happening?" He asked.

"I don't know, there's a voice in my head, and a giant monster thingy outside." –

Using Life Vision, Lith could see through the cave's walls Scarlett's silhouette and energy signature. His mouth went agape in front of the biggest and strongest magical creature he had ever seen.

- "Solus, what's its mana core?" His mouth went dry, Lith needed to lean against a wall to not fall on his knees for the shock.

"Bright blue, but there's something odd. The amount of mana it holds its beyond words. Is like the world energy is willingly seeping in its body. It's similar to your breathing technique, but unbelievably stronger. Lith, I'm scared."

"Same. Where the f*ck are the Professors? Without them we are dead!" –

Knowing there wasn't much he could do, Lith activated Invigoration, quickly replenishing all his mana reserves and restoring his physical strength. If he had to die, he would die fighting without holding back.

Watching the world energy flow inside the pup through its pince-nez, Scarlett winced of joy. One of its questions was already answered. He was clearly an Awakened too, now the problem was to ascertain how deep he had been corrupted.

Using another thread of mana, Scarlett created a separate mind link with Lith.

- "Fear not, I mean no harm, otherwise I would have just made the hill collapse, burying you all alive. I only want to understand the cursed object purpose and goal. I don't want to kill you, but if you try defending that parasite, you'll leave me no choice." –

Lith was so shocked hearing another voice in his head, that he started to believe he was actually going mad. Everything was happening too fast, and he could not make head or tails of those words.

- "What cursed object? Who are you and what do you want from me?"

Luckily, unlike his mind link with Solus, this one was active, not passive. It required Lith's will to pass information or thoughts, so he could channel his anger and conceal his fear.

"Do you deny having a living being at your finger?"

Since the monster knew so much, Lith realized that lying would be useless, the best he could do was hide part of the truth.

"No. But it's just a dimensional ring, it does no harm." Solus' real nature had to be kept hidden, otherwise the creature could take her for itself.

"You fool!" Scarlett sneered. "Who would give life to such a trivial object? Don't you realize how deep is its deception? I can't believe that despite being Awakened you are so stupid. It's clearly a lie, and you know it!"

"I'm a what?!" Lith asked. That conversation was making less and less sense.

Scarlett snorted, cursing humans and their inability to take care of their own.

"Another self-taught? Not bad, pup. An Awakened is someone that has learned to manipulate his own mana core. Not only it allows him to use magic the same way magical beasts do, guiding it with the mind instead of the body.

But also makes possible to refine the mana core, drawing in the world energy and permanently adding it to his own. It's what you just did, pup.

Now tell me, how do you call your talent? Every one of you I met gives it a different name: first magic, the supreme art, original magic, whatever."

"True magic." - Lith mind blurted without a second thought. He had finally met someone that could explain to him true magic.

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