Book 7, Chapter 33

Pain And Struggle

The explosions continued to ring out in the upper levels of the Deepblue, the visitors and students in the lower levels remaining quiet as they watched the fight. Hundreds of the winged beings were at the middle levels of the tower, standing guard at the boundary. So long as no one crossed the lines, they would not attack.

Voidbones was someone who knew the Deepblue quite well. Instead of fighting a long, protracted battle, he had decided to give those who would rather stay out of it a chance to do so. Without the support of the external mages, those loyal to the Deepblue were no match for him and Tiamat.

The Deepblue was in no way weak; in fact, they had exceptional strength that could stop the polar north from invading southwards. Duergar, orcs, ice giants, gnomes… The Grey Court that ruled the north was one of the three powerful empires of the non-human beings in Norland. It was just that most of the Deepblue’s strength originated from Sharon and her most powerful students, namely Ensio, Yori, and Voidbones. With one of those three injured, the other defecting, and the third on another continent, while Sharon herself was asleep, all that was left was the grand mages and regular warriors who were only meant to keep order and support the primary military forces.

As a runemaster, Richard naturally attached great importance to armies and tactical battle. However, Sharon had always been so powerful that she just dealt with her problems herself; even her best students were rarely taken along for the ride. Sharon’s hibernation had caused the Deepblue’s strength to plummet, and despite what Richard assumed would be ample preparation of fifty rune knights and three antimages to deal with Voidbones, he hadn’t expected Tiamat as well.

Only a short distance from Sharon’s room, Voidbones hesitated to move forward. He knew that this next step would leave him with no return, and as he looked up his gaze pierced through all the obstacles to land on the recovering dragon atop the tower. He saw Ensio flying over from below, zooming past to get to the top as quickly as he could. Ensio was gravely injured, not even able to notice him despite flying close, but even with the draconic flames still burning him there was no hesitation in his eyes.

Voidbones’s hand suddenly trembled; Ensio was someone with a powerful bloodline that was supposed to live a thousand years just naturally. However, at less than a hundred years old he had already lost most of his life force; this legendary being with a vast future was rushing to his certain death.

The sight left him shaken, and for a moment he took a step back to rush over and help deal with the dragon. Every fibre of his being wanted to teach her a lesson for daring to insult Sharon, to teach the Tiamat that the legendary mage was not someone for her to own. But then he looked back and the greed filled his eyes once more. Despite his hesitation, he took a heavy step forward and then a second. While most of the Deepblue’s levels were tall, this was one that could be climbed in a single minute. One foot forward at a time, his hopes of the road never ending were dashed as he came upon the door.

Voidbones reached out and pushed gently, opening the door to the Mirror of a Thousand Forms. Feeling strangely relaxed at the familiar sight of the Emerald Dreamscape, he stepped forward as the beautiful waxy scenery around him gradually disappeared into emptiness. However, just as he was halfway through, everything suddenly changed. The verdant trees of the forest turned into black pine, the grass turning into desert even as the river faded into a deep wound across the earth. The blue sky was replaced by a variety of greys, making it unclear if there was any real space there. The space that was as beautiful as a fairytale had turned into a lifeless plain.

He froze up, recalling when Sharon had first taken a young him to this hall. She had told him that the sights of this place would change with one’s heart, that this was a place of reality and illusion that revealed the inner self.

“My heart’s changed…?” he asked himself, a look of excruciating pain on his face. However, he quickly hardened and his eyes started burning, “Master, I’ll be happier than anyone!” 

This sounded like a proclamation, but its purpose was more in line with hypnosis. Voidbones finally walked into Sharon’s room, seeing her lying still on the stone platform. The room was still devastated from Sharon’s earlier defence, pits everywhere from the orbs of lightning. He flinched for a moment, but pulled out a one-handed cross shield and placed it before his body. This was a legendary item that was known for its thunder resistance; he planned to use it to weather the attacks from the lock of her hair.

The one lock made its way out from the rest of Sharon’s blonde hair, almost staring at him with confusion; it couldn’t understand why this man had the courage to appear. Thinking about it for a moment, it summoned a number of beautiful orbs of lightning that slowly drifted in his direction; after the last incident, it didn’t want to cause too much damage to the room.

Voidbones looked at the orbs and held up his shield. Every orb exploded upon impact, blue lightning covering everything within ten metres, but after a few seconds the raging energy dissipated. Both the lock of hair and Voidbones himself immediately looked at the shield, specifically the scorch mark on its surface. There was damage, but it wasn’t serious.

The atmosphere in the hall immediately turned electric; it was made quite clear that the shield would last until Voidbones rushed all the way up to Sharon! He looked up and stared at the lock of hair, his eyes ablaze as his body flashed forward towards it. The hair started shaking as well. This time, it didn’t even bother with the orbs as it just launched a beam of continuous plasma towards the offender.

Voidbones held the shield in front of him as he flew through the plasma attack, forcing his way up to the crystal platform Sharon was sleeping on. The shield’s surface was cracking apart, but it would be enough.

However, he suddenly heard a soft crack. It was a strange sound, almost like a metal bending or a stone breaking apart. The sound was decidedly average, but as he heard it his eyes went wide; there should have been no such thing in this space!

Before he could register just what it was, he heard a click and another soft crack. This time it was like something rubbing up against itself, a machine scraping with rust. Refusing to wait any further for the plasma to dissipate, Voidbones immediately flew forward as fast as he could. He would be injured greatly just to save a few seconds, but he judged that it was definitely worth it: the sound had come from Sharon’s neck!

At some point, the lock of hair had stopped spitting out the plasma and hidden amongst the rest of the legendary mage’s hair. The attack was gone, but Voidbones suddenly stood still and didn’t seize the clear opportunity. The shield had completely fallen apart, the now completely devastated hall still boiling hot, but he couldn’t care less about the destruction of the beautiful crystal room as he looked and confirmed the sight of a vein moving on Sharon’s neck.

Sharon’s eyebrows locked together, her breaths speeding up. She looked to be uncomfortable and wanted to scratch her neck, but her body creaked with every movement like an alchemic machine that had been started up after centuries. The hand started to move, but a low buzz filled the room as she was forced to move finger after finger first.

Voidbones finally recovered from his shock, immediately dropping the broken remains of the shield and throwing himself on Sharon’s body as he tried to push her hands back onto the crystal. However, no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t so much as make her budge.

The legendary mage’s skin was still unspeakably soft, almost like a baby’s. As he clutched the hand, Voidbones couldn’t feel anything but her plush skin. However, this little hand contained an incomparably majestic force that he couldn’t hope to compete with, no matter how much he tried.

At this moment, he felt like an ordinary warrior trying to cling to the claws of a legendary dragon and pull them down. Actively swinging, the dragon didn’t even notice as it batted him away. A muffled crash rang out as Sharon lifted her right hand and successfully scratched her neck, her bones still roaring loudly with the effort. Voidbones flew into the dome of the hall, body buried into the crystal.

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OMA's Thoughts

Translated By: OMA

Edited By: Theo

TLC'ed By: OMA