An invisible specter, it had always watched from the shadows.
It had stayed itself as men concealing hidden agendas infiltrated the city.
Had observed as plans were set into motion, and had done nothing as chaos enveloped the streets.
Even as houses burned around them, it did not move to intercede.
‘Protect my family.’
Such was the order given, and the destruction of the city was but a minor inconvenience, one that was ultimately none of its concern.
Its charges were safe and that was all that mattered.
“It’s a secret.” The young girl replied, grinning with the knowledge that they were safe.
Waiting alongside her, Hasen watched motionlessly as its shadows danced around the flames.
“Can I see it?” The older girl asked, extending a hand outward.
“Nnnnn… Kai said to always keep it with me no matter what.” The young girl hesitantly replied, as if unwilling to let it go.
With a crestfallen look, Sylvia pulled back and proceeded to pick up Lance.
“Maybe- maybe just a little.” Anise softly relented. “But you have to promise to keep it a secret from everyone.”
Surprised by the offer, “I promise.” The older girl swore, curiously moving to crouch next to Anise with Lance in her arms.
With the two rings in the center of her cupped hands, Anise brought them up to Sylvia’s face.
“Is it supposed to glow like that?”
“Shhhh.” With a sly smile, Anise continued holding the rings out.
As if on cue, “Anise?” the sound of a voice vibrated through the ring.
The young girl’s hands quickly collapsed around the rings. “Shhh!” she hushed, looking around suspiciously.
What they had been waiting for coursed through the ethers and into its mind.
‘Master…’ It promptly replied as their minds linked.
‘What is going on? That was Sylvia’s voice.’
“Kai. The house is burning. The neighbor’s house too, a lot of them.” Anise whispered as she slowly opened her hands again.
‘The house is burning?’ The question resounded in its mind.
‘The city… attacked…’ Hasen replied.
‘An outside attack on Ferrent?’
‘Yes…’ It confirmed, sensing unease.
“Kai? Kai, are you there?” Anise queried.
‘My parents. Where are they?’ The voice echoed loudly.
‘Safe… My shadows… watching…’
‘And the city? Is it still safe?’
‘No…’ it answered, and a wave of anger washed through its mind before quickly dispersing.
“Kai? I- *sniff* I’m sorry I broke our promise. Kai!” The young girl cried out, her voice no longer a whisper.
“There’s no need to be sorry.” Their master’s calm voice weaved through the air and the young girl’s expression instantly brightened. “The fires will be gone soon. Everything will be fine.”
Unlike the reassuring voice that soothed the child, ‘Those who had dared to disturb their peace. End them ALL.’ An unyielding command echoed through its thoughts as their master’s will and mana reverberated through its shadows.
‘As you will… So it… shall be…’ Hasen complied as a different wave of mana coursed through the ground beneath them.
Struggling to remain conscious, Lord Knight Commander Gelrin Ravon painfully shook himself awake as the sound of battle continued to resound before him.
There was a throbbing pain in his chest as if a searing hot iron poker had been plunged into his heart, and he could feel his strength seeping out through the wound.
‘You fool!’ He screamed in his head, looking up to the interloper who had protected him.
Yet it was not one of the knights he had commanded to flee earlier.
The man before him was wearing a battered blue uniform and had a head of thick red hair. The man’s trademark two swords were already out and gleaming darkly.
‘Troyle Paltos.’ The Varath guard’s name came easily.
“You ca-Ugh!” He tried to voice and bouts of intense pain shot through his chest, almost causing him to pass out.
With a deep breath, Gelrin lowered his head to look down at himself.
There was a hole in his chest plate the size of a man’s fist. It was also where the sharp and searing pain was pulsing from.
Taking another deep breath to lessen the shock in his body, he covered the hole with his left hand and turned his focus to the rampaging aleithian.
A powerful close combat mage, the winged man had killed four of his spellblades already. Even as an accomplished raiha spellblade himself, he had been overpowered by the man’s raw destructive prowess and verticality. Should the Paltos man continue fighting as well, he too will surely perish.
Ahead, the red headed man deftly avoided a frontal thrust with a quick sidestep.
Wielding his two swords like they were a part of his body, the Varath guard swiftly countered with two slashes of his own into the winged man’s left arm.
Using his sword as a crutch, Gelrin tried to stand up. “S-stop- NNhhnnnng!” An agonizing pain easily forced him to his knees again. Coughing and holding onto his chest, he anxiously looked around for anyone who could help.
There was no one.
No signs of his knights or the Mystiks guild.
Brushing the attacks aside as if they did nothing, “Bring m-m-me the black one!” The aleithian man hollered, lunging forward and swiping angrily with his right arm in a wide horizontal arc.
“Graah…!” Gelrin groaned painfully, forcing himself to stand up.
Ahead, the man named Troyle quickly leapt back to avoid the attack and slashed outward with both swords, barely managing to parry the powerful swipe. Twisting his left sword into a reverse grip, the guard shot forward as soon as his feet touched the ground. With his body low and both swords held to his side, he dashed past the aleithian man, slashing into the man’s left side.
Unfazed by the attacks, the winged man twisted his body and his left wing swept the air, instantly flipping his position upside down. Following the aerial maneuver with a swift and straight punch, the man proceeded to unleash a barrage of assaults while hovering with his legs in the air like he was playing around.
Gelrin pulled his gaze away from the action and glanced down at the hole in his chest. It was throbbing insufferably, and he could feel his clothes underneath getting drenched as his lifeblood continued to leak.
Gritting his teeth to keep down the pain, he coughed and blood spurted out from the opening. Quickly taking two deep breaths, he closed his eyes to refocus himself.
There were no other options left. Their opponent was covered in a thick barrier of mana and should he stay his hands, another man will die.
“Asiran. Za-Ean- *cough!* Za-Ean, Atarus Ehir Dasvaraz.”
With a swift incantation, he infused his body with the last of his mana to dull the pain before turning his attention back to the fight.
The battle had moved a good distance to his right side, and the Varath guard was being pushed back.
In the midst of slashing outward with claw-like hands, the winged man unexpectedly stopped and screamed something incomprehensible before hastily taking to the air.
“?!” Gelrin quickly turned as the road rumbled and a wave of mana coursed through the ground beneath his feet. “Run!” He screamed, and pain flared though his chest.
The stone road undulated upward, and the ground beside the blue guard cracked open. A mass of dark earth burst through the fissure, spewing out like a fountain and clotting together into an enormous arm. Completely disregarding the Varath guard, it gushed up into the sky.
“No! NO!!! Cheating!” The aleithian man screamed and rose higher into the air as the earthen arm grabbed for him.
Plunging his sword into the ground to stabilize himself as the quakes intensified, Gelrin froze as he stared toward the outer wards.
Dozens of gigantic arms were emerging throughout Ferrent, throwing up debris and causing large quakes as they slammed down upon the city.
An ear-piercing screech came from above and he quickly turned to look up.
High in the air, mana had begun gathering around the aleithian man. With another deafening screech, the man descended like a falling star, smashing through the earthen arm and blowing apart the stone road.
Dodging everything, the red headed guard hastily retreated a good distance away from where the winged man had landed and lowered himself into a defensive stance.
More mana began emanating from within the cloud of dust that had been kicked up and a deafening wind blasted the dust cloud apart. At its center, the winged aleithian launched himself toward the guard.
Sensing the imminent danger, Gelrin rushed forward as pain tore through his chest.
Seeing the red headed man hastily bringing his swords up to guard himself, ‘You cannot block that!’ He shouted in his head, having already seen two of his spellblades gored by the same attack.
Grasping his sword tightly with both hands, “GRRaaaahhh!” he screamed against the agony in his body upon intercepting the winged man.
Slicing upward, his sword was easily blocked and his eyes blurred as a wing slammed into his side. The taste of blood filled his mouth and he blacked out.
“…no more help! You die! Y-y-you die nowwww!!”
The shrill scream of a crazed man resonated through the air.
Coming to his senses, he was laying on the ground and his helmet had somehow came off. There was a raw pain on the right side of his face and the excruciating agony in his chest was now flowing down to his ribs as well. There was also a new jabbing pain in his body from the dent in his armor that had been smashed into his side.
*COUGH!* Spitting out the blood in his mouth, Gelrin sorely turned his head toward the screaming voice.
A short distance away, the aleithian man had already repositioned himself and was flaring with power again.
Taking painful breaths, he tried to push his aching body off the ground.
“Aughk!?!” He grunted as the last vestige of mana within his body trickled away.
Like a smoldering ember latching onto dry tinder, the pain that had been held back because of his strengthening magic surged throughout his body.
Clenching his teeth to keep from screaming as blood gushed through the open wound in his chest, all he could do was watch powerlessly as the winged man launched toward the Varath guard once more.
Fighting to hold onto his awareness, ‘R-run…’ He voicelessly begged.
“W-wha-?! Nn-noooo! GYyaaarrrhhhhh!! Ch-ch-cheating!!!”
Yet instead of the guard, the winged aleithian’s own deathly screams tore through the air.
His eyes stilled, and darkness overtook his mind as a young girl’s tearful voice echoed through the silent nothingness.
An endearing child, she had always taken after him ever since she could talk.
Even as she learned to challenge her parents and peers, she had always listened to his every word as if they were infallible.
To see her so terrified and in pain, he had failed her.
Had failed his knights and the city, the people.
Taking a final breath, “Live… *Cough!*… Live Naleen…” Lord Knight Commander Gelrin Ravon voiced as his heart slowed and all feelings in his body faded.
“You! Y-y-y-ou!!! Gyaaaaa! NO! NOOO!!!”
Troyle stared as the winged man cried out before him, each scream more terrified than the last.
From one of his two swords, a black disc had exploded outward and easily caught the man’s dreadful attack. It had also sucked in the winged man’s outstretched arm and like a vice, was holding tightly as globs of pure black liquid began streaming out.
“L-l-l-let GOOOO!! Let me GO!!!”
In the blink of an eye, the dark liquid branched into dozens of black spikes and hurled themselves into the struggling aleithian. Piercing into flesh, they bore through the man’s arms and legs, even rupturing through the winged man’s back to interweave themselves into his feathered wings.
It was real.
Just like the last time he was in danger, whatever it is that was lurking within the swords had emerged to protect him.
‘Now is not the time.’
Troyle swiftly admonished himself and pried his eyes away from the unsettling mass.
Dropping the sword that the dark shield had materialized from, he pivoted around it to the aleithian man’s right side. Without waiting or allowing for the man to defend himself, he clasped onto his second sword with both hands and plunged the weapon into the man’s neck. *Kshnng* the slim sword penetrated straight through, unlike all the other times where his attacks merely bounced off.
Twisting his sword forward, he pushed against the back of the blade with his left hand and sheared through the winged man’s throat.
The sound of blood sprayed beside him as the man collapsed, and Troyle dropped to his knees. “Haaaa… Haaa…” Breathing heavily, he looked down at his hands only to see that he was still shaking.
Turning to his side, the dark mass had reverted back to its sword form, but the perforations on the man’s body–created by the spikes–were still there and welling up with blood. Taking another deep breath, he physically confirmed that the man was dead before attempting to calm his trembling self.
How wrong he had been to challenge the man.
Thinking himself stronger after regaining the full use of his left arm and years of training, he was still no match. Their whole fight had consisted of him fleeing and haphazardly avoiding everything, while trying to take advantage of whatever openings he could find. Even then, the attacks he did get in had served to do nothing but annoy the winged predator.
He cautiously reached out to pick up the weapon and stilled his hand.
In the span of a single breath, the unknown entity within the sword had immobilized his raging foe and rendered the man defenseless. It was the only reason why he was still alive.
‘Kai left them for me.’ His daughter’s words upon inquiring about the rings in her possession echoed in his mind.
‘My familiars.’ It was what Kaidus had called them, yet the entities were beyond the simple magic that their son had made them out be.
Discarding the hesitation in his throat, he grabbed the weapon and stood up. To his left side, he spotted the knight who had been forcefully knocked away earlier.
The man’s helmet had been blown to the edge of the street and upon approaching, instead of a young knight, he found an aged gentleman with a bloodied face and short white hair.
“Commander Gelrin…” Troyle voiced, seeing the old man.
The Lord Knight Commander’s eyes were wide open, but he could no longer see any signs of life within them. There was a hole in the lord’s chest plate and judging from the blood still oozing out, the old knight had just recently passed.
The sound of footsteps hobbled toward him as Lord Varath limped over to his side.
Stopping before the old knight, “This cannot be…” Lord Varath voiced, his tone shocked and eyes troubled as he moved around to the other side of the body.
“I had thought to help him, but it was he who protected me in the end.” Troyle lowered his head and respectfully sheathed the two swords still in his hands. Lowering himself, he crouched down and closed the knight’s eyes.
“Identify yourselves!” A voice shattered the solemn atmosphere and another set of footsteps came from ahead.
Looking past Lord Varath, he spotted a man in a white and red cloak quickly approaching them. A mage of the Mystiks guild.
Troyle stood up and moved to stand beside the lord.
Tall and well-built with a sturdy frame, the mage had a shaved head along with a large burn scar covering the left side of his forehead. The man’s cloak had been burnt half way up to his chest, but the distinct emblem of the flaming hand was still there.
Stopping a dozen paces away, the man vigilantly observed them.
“I am Alzin Varath. This here is Troyle Paltos, my personal guard.” Lord Varath promptly replied, acquiescing to the sudden demand. “Might I inquire as to who you are?”
“Lord Alzin Shuziel Varath?” The man questioned, not taking his eyes off them.
“In the flesh.”
After a brief moment, “I see.” The mage finally remarked and lowered his guard. “I am Valk Torkux, 11th ward mage and the right hand of Lord Thaxxus Terinthier. I have been charged with the guild in his absence.” The man answered, stepping toward them cautiously. “An abnormally large amount of mana originated from this area. What happened here?”
Troyle looked to Lord Varath and without saying anything, the lord stepped aside, revealing the old knight on the ground.
“That’s-?!” The mage’s eyes widened and he rushed over to them.
Looking down at the battered knight, “The knight commander saved us.” Lord Varath was the first to speak.
“I was too late…” The mage voiced as he knelt down beside the old knight.
Placing his right hand on the old man’s chest, a white flame emerged from the mage’s fingertips and instantly covered Lord Gelrin Ravon’s whole body before flickering away. “His knights had warned me, but to think such a thing could happen…” the man trailed off into somber silence.
Seeing the display, Lord Varath straightened himself.
Looking at Troyle, the lord turned and gave a curt nod to the mage. “Forgive our ungratefulness but-”
“Go on. I will see to it that the commander’s body is cared for.”
With a swift incantation, the mage placed his hand atop the old knight again and a layer of fire shimmered over the body. Without further words, the man stood up and began walking toward the dead aleithian.
Troyle motioned, and Lord Varath followed.
Yet before they could get very far, “Wait!” the mage shouted from behind.
The man had stopped a few steps away from the dead aleithian, and had already turned around. “This feeling… so it was you…” The mage voiced, his eyes igniting as his fists flared with white fire.
Taken aback at the sudden change in aggression, Troyle instinctively drew his swords. “What!?” One of them was glowing.
the sword vibrated in his hand and the glow immediately faded. As the light disappeared, the metallic weapon softened and melted through his fingers like water.
“Traitors!” The mage shouted and stepped forth, pushing the air with his flaming fists.
Confused and equipped with only one sword, Troyle hastily jumped in front of Lord Varath as a wall of white fire spiraled toward them.
Invisible to mortal eyes, the world shimmered around them and its strength swelled, as their master’s will flowed into its very being.
‘As you command.’ It replied, solidifying the link with their master.
In the distance, its sibling was already ripping through the confines of Lagus.
Bolstering itself with the endless stream of mana that was now flowing into itself, *KSSSSHKKKKK!* the entity instantly discharged the power throughout its temporary body and fell to the ground.
The command had been given and their restrictions lifted.
Those who intruded upon the city had been marked for death, and it was more than eager to comply.
Quickly restructuring itself and pulling on the minerals within the earth, Feziel lurched in front of the wall of flames. Expanding its body in the air, it shielded the two men from the inferno and continued after the mage.
Seeing its approach, the mage hastily invoked a series of incantations.
Mana coursed through the man’s body, and mana exploded outward, bursting into three different layers of white flames.
Feziel continued forth, undaunted by the barriers.
Contracting its body into a serpent-like shape in the air, it smashed through the fire barriers and slammed its tail into the mage, throwing the man backward along the road.
Coiling into itself, it shot through the air as a sphere before quickly expanding to wrap itself around the stunned mage.
“Nnhh!? MmmmnnnhG!!!!” Mana continued to flow through the mage.
Covering the man’s head to prevent anymore spells, Feziel liquefied its body and flowed around to the man’s front.
Reconstructing its metallic self, before long, it was standing face to face against the mage with a humanoid body made entirely of pure black metal.
Closing its featureless head in on the man like a standing shadow, “We… are NOT the enemy.” Its metals vibrated.
Lifting the mage up by the head, its arm flickered, tossing the man into the side of a building.
With a single motion, it trailed through the air to stand before the panicked mage. “You… and your order should remember that.” It warned as hundreds of metal spikes pierced through the rocky stratum and erupted into the air around them.
Overflowing with power, Feziel plowed into the ground as a pitch-black darkness descended upon the city.
The sound of wood crackling and stone crumbling echoed through the air and Adalina slowed her steps as the ground quaked. A short distance ahead of her, Reanne had already stopped running and was now looking up at a building to their left side.
Turning her head, she easily spotted the resounding destruction.
A person cloaked in black was running atop the row of closely knit buildings to their left, jumping from rooftop to rooftop. The air behind them was igniting into thick streams of orange flames and falling down to engulf the roofs.
Trailing after the flames, a giant hand was barreling through the houses and grabbing at the mage.
“Reanne!” Adalina shouted and hurried to catch up. “Why did you stop!?” She cried out again upon reaching her friend.
The woman’s eyes were closed, and Reanne was holding her hands out in front of her chest. Chanting something barely audible, there was a small white sphere hovering in the air between her hands. With each word from Reanne’s mouth, the ball grew brighter and larger.
Suddenly opening her eyes, “They did this, Adalina. They’re the ones burning the city.” Reanne stated angrily, not taking her eyes off the preoccupied mage.
Pulling her hands apart, the ball of light stretched into an elongated rod.
“Wait Reanne. We can’t-” fight them. But before she could even finish her words, Reanne had drew back her arm and hurled the rod toward the unknown mage.
The cloaked figure instantly stopped moving in the distance and turned in their direction. Extending a hand outward, the rod of light smashed into the figure’s hand and splintered into thousands of rays.
Refracting around the figure, the rays converged again into a beam and disappeared into the sky.
Instead of running, the mage turned to look behind and bent down, slamming both hands onto the roof.
Thick vines erupted through the rooftop. Coiling around the large earthen arm, the vines held it back as it attempted to slap down upon the mage.
Grabbing Reanne’s arm in an attempt to pull the woman away, the right side of her vision abruptly darkened for an instant, and Adalina turned in the direction of their destination.
A wall of darkness had emerged in the area of their residence, extending endlessly into the sky.
“Adalina!” Reanne’s terrified voice came from beside her, and Adalina quickly looked back to the mage, expecting some form of retaliation.
The strength in her body evaporated and she tightened her grip on Reanne’s arm.
Upon the rooftop, the mage’s head and torso were missing, along with the upper half of the large hand. Before she could even blink, a fleeting shadow phased through the mage, leaving nothing behind.
“H-Hasen…” The name escaped her mouth as the wall of shadow washed over them, turning day into blinding darkness.
Having expelled his mana throughout the city, he beckoned, and the earth had obeyed.
Nylen watched from his vantage atop the warehouse as his magic took form, rising into the air like furious giants and smashing down upon their enemies.
“How futile. At death’s door, yet instead of prolonging yourself, you waste your strength on such pointless antics.” His old enemy uttered in annoyance.
“Ha… Hahaha…” Nylen continued his laughter. “You overestimate yourself… Loryl.” He grimaced as pain filled his body.
The demanding spell had indeed stretched his strength thin and it was taking all he had to keep it from falling apart, but it was enough. Through his affinity with the earth, he could already sense the Mystiks guild mages spreading throughout the inner wards.
“It’s going to- Kuh… to take more than that… to bring down this city.”
“Don’t kid yourself.” A swift rebuttal. “Ferrent is already lost as evident by your pitiful state. Soon your mages will be devoured by those I have brought with me, and I shall worry no more of your incessant meddling.”
The building shook, and still connected to the earth, part of his magic coursing through the 3rd ward instantly vanished.
The stump on his left hand began itching and a grin crept onto Nylen’s face.
“I told you. I am not who you should be- *Cough!* Haaa… I am not who you should be worried about…” He repeated as the unforgettable sensation of power he had felt all those years ago manifested within the 3rd ward.
“What is this… what are you playing at?” The man’s confused face had distorted, and there was disbelief in his green eyes. “Who?! Who is it?!” Unlike the cool demeanor thus far, the man’s expression was one of fierce anger as he stared in the direction of the 3rd ward.
“It… its master is no longer here.” Nylen spat, coughing up more blood. “Even I had not dared to awaken it. *COUGH!*”
The man rushed over and grabbed his neck.
“What is it?!!” His old enemy’s composure was all but gone. “Tell me NOW!!”
“Death.” Nylen replied, and the city suddenly shook wildly as if splitting apart.
‘Two?!’ The question assaulted his petrified mind as another source of immeasurable power rippled through the 13 wards.
“This is a trick! This much mana, this much power cannot possibly exist! Tell me! How did you do it!?” The man pushed him against the back of his seat, “Nylen!!!”
Seeing the hysterical look in his old friend’s eyes and feeling the man’s arms tensing, Nylen smiled. ‘I warned you…’ The thought swirled in his mind as hate-filled fingers dug into his neck.
Unleashed from their master’s binding will and given purpose, Hasen soared through the dark city with limitless power. Having pulled the void of Lagus into the mortal realm, within this darkness, it was everything. Within this never ending abyss, it was absolute.
Extinguishing the consuming flames that had riddled the city, its shadows honed in on the various unsavory individuals strewn throughout the many wards.
Mages, smuggled into the city and set loose to create havoc and disorder.
Beings without moral, killing and slaughtering for an illusion of false glory.
“Ei’ln Svrash… Dhu… Ea Rhazashs…” Everything returns to darkness.
Hasen echoed, and its shadows ripped through the dozens of mages within its purview, erasing their very existence and casting them into the void.
“I… will not succumb! Seraxs!”
An unforgiving voice pierced through the darkness, and a powerful light spirit burst into being within the shadowy realm.
Latching onto the light, Hasen soared toward the failing resistance with its main body.
Upon the roof of a large structure, it found the source.
A mortal, one nearing the ends of their brief and fleeting lifespan.
An ephemeral being of greed and lust, fueled by a vicious fury that had darkened and twisted over the ages.
Mana streamed forth from the old man and he vigorously held back the shadows with the help of a light spirit, but struggle as they might, their strengths were quickly depleting.
Hasen surged toward the light and willed its shadows forward, slashing them against the circular barrier.
“This cannot be! I will not be denied this Victory!!” The man inside screamed furiously.
*CRASH!!* Hasen smashed into the barrier, wrapping its main body around it like an orb of shadow.
“Seraxs! Hold it back!” The mage shouted, and the light spirit’s shine expanded outward, pushing itself against the darkness.
Tightening its grip upon the reinforced barrier, the light quickly shattered and Hasen pressed forward against the mage.
A different kind of mana exploded outward from the old man.
The power had pushed its shadows back, and even shattered the dark realm briefly before coalescing around the mage.
Hasen stared at the translucent shard hovering in front of the man.
It could do nothing but watch, as a power that has existed long before the origin of time sucked the mage into the shard.
Opening his eyes, Kaidus hastily severed the link with his spirits. Bringing his head down into his arms, he fell to the ground.
A splitting headache ruptured down the left side of his head and was shredding through his back, all the way to his legs.
“NHHnnnaaaaahhhh!!!” He screamed as his body failed to contain the flood of power that was now rushing through the opening in his mind.
“Guhhh!! Aaaaaaaaaaaah!!!!” His screams intensified and unable to bear the pain any longer, “GRAAAAAAH!!!” He unleashed the excess mana out around him.
A warm encompassing light descended upon his position as the forest splintered, and the world faded into black.