Chapter 17: The Calling (3/5)

An exhausted Elric collapsed onto his own bed, safe in privacy at last. Today had been an especially rough and tiring day. Even despite not having any of the noblewomen watching him, or being graciously spared by the countess’ chastising, Elric felt depleted. Despite Hughesin’s mother being benevolent in her treatment of him, or how gentlemanly Hughesin was in his conduct by distancing himself from him, Elric felt frazzled. 

The ability to pretend to be a woman can easily be said to have been mastered by Elric by this point. The necessity to pretend to be one gave Elric confidence in his acting capabilities, but even despite that…Elric was drained. His body was fine and capable of maintaining this act, but his mind was not. The pain he felt was not a physical one, but one of the heart. It was a pain that threatened to swallow Elric whole from the inside out.

And the only thing Elric could do about it was grit his teeth for another three days for the banquet. Three days, he felt, was a very short amount of time in the grand scheme of things, but the days felt like weeks to him in his wretched state of mind.

A sigh escaped his lips as he turned himself over on the bed, only to painfully regret it when something solid jabbed itself against his rib. He hissed out in pain and broke out into cold sweat at once, cursing his exhaustion for forgetting about the countless things he wore for his disguise.

In order to better complete his womanly disguise, Elric had to wear several things in faux imitation of a woman’s features. Clothes worn by upper society also required several non-cloth additions to maintain the ‘noblesse’ attribute to them, such as girdles and corsets. 

It was because of such things that Elric worried he might actually break a rib or two in the future.

What Kebrilio handed to him earlier that day popped up in his mind as he rubbed at the sore spot. The green gemstone and scroll had actually came to him before, but Elric had been too tired then to think about its contents and had the two items squirreled away within his garments.

Slowly, Elric fished the gemstone out from its hiding place. Raising it to his eye, Elric studied it. The gemstone was more of a square than it was an oval and had a translucent quality to it. At its center, mysterious green light spiralled ever-more-closely to it like a bottomless whirlpool. Paradoxical considering the size of the gemstone. Elric didn’t need to guess twice to know something mysterious was hidden inside of it.

The curiosity of the secret cleared out his fatigue immediately. Hastily, Elric pulled out the scroll and began scanning the writing.

He realized right away from the elegance of the inked letters that this was written by the princess. A missive written with her usual indirect way of speaking. 

Elric groaned at once reading the contents of her letter—now he knew the true extent of his suffering. 

He knew Hughesin was a duke and most definitely a man of influence. He just never knew that he was also one of their greatest enemies as a Karthian imperialist and leader of the margraves.

Why had the goddess of fate forsaken him? Why had he fallen into such a difficult situation? It was bad enough he had to go through with this farce, but to have the influential Hughesin and his mother so earnest in their purpose? Elric’s head was practically splitting itself at the thought.

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Elric flipped the scroll over, dejected with what the princess had told him. The writing on the backside was noticeably more numerous than the front. Reading the contents, Elric realized it was describing the purpose of the precious stone in his hand. According to the scroll, the gemstone was known as the Heart of Reason: a hallow conferred by Atroh Tanskadt to humanity capable of calming the soul, releasing the limitations of the spirit, and safeguarding the mind of its owner against scrying.

A new spring of knowledge was always welcome to Elric, who felt elated at his discovery. Eagerly, he channeled his mana into the hallow as described. But nothing happened. Why was that? According to his knowledge, hallows all stemmed from the same source as spellcrafting. One just had to know how to use hallow to activate it. 

But the Heart of Reason was acting differently than from what he expected from a hallow. This one was refusing the mana he was giving. 

Why?

He was emotionally invested in the topic now. Sitting upright, he observed the Heart of Reason in his hand, trying everything he could to activate the hallow. But clearly nothing was working.

Monster’s presence made its way deep into Elric’s mind while the latter had been focusing. The past few days had been exceedingly entertaining to the demon—so much, in fact, that it never saw reason to return to Nadirheim even once. Being hidden in Elric’s soul allowed it to enjoy everything that happened to Elric. Many of these experiences were ones it had never experienced before.

The flowing of mana was actually what woke Monster from its slumber. The power radiating from the emerald in Elric’s hand felt familiar to the demon. It knew this hallow well.

In order to sow discord amongst humanity, Monster forged from seer stones multiple hallows capable of controlling the mind, the Eye of the Spirit. These seer stones, as was commonly called, were magical gems thought to be a medium in scrying. Through the Eye of the Spirits, Monster managed to splinter society and sway swathes of humanity toward demonkind. 

Godkind had a figure of their own to rival Monster—Atroh Tanskadt, the God of Wisdom. In direct opposition to the Eye of the Spirit, the god created a magical emerald later known as the Heart of Reason. 

The Heart of Reason was responsible for unraveling the chaos spreaded by the Eye of the Spirit, thus why Monster was so familiar with it. Were it not for its host’s situation, Monster would have no interest in the Heart of Reason. But remembering now how sensitive this hallow was to the magic of demonkind, Monster knew this hallow could potentially be the compass back to its height of power.

A question had to be pondered about, then. How would Monster manage to convince its immature host to help it regain its power?

The hallow activated when it channeled magic into it. As the hallow took effect and surrounded Elric in its bubble, Monster took the opportunity to materialize onto the physical plane.

On the other side, Elric felt his heart stop when the stygian appeared out of nowhere. Though Elric couldn’t be sure why Monster was doing out, he could at least link it to the hallow. It didn’t activate under his own mana, Elric knew that. Monster must’ve been the one that activated the Heart of Reason.

Then he heard Monster speak: “How curious…many millennia hath passed and yet the Heart of Reason continues its existence. Very curious indeed.”

“Atroh Tanskadt bestowed upon humanity this item in fear for the feeble-minded, a mean for the mind to be shielded from the eyes and deception of others. A medium for mankind to convene with the gods. Sages of aeons past were given these hallows. Used to peer into the abyss of magick and deepen their knowledge and mastery of the craft…”

  “……” 

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