CHAPTER 42 - Fury By Another Name (4)
Alex stared at Victa, who returned the gaze with a look of pure disgust. Her body was nearly as broken as the other two’s. He knew he had done that to her, but he didn’t feel the least bit upset. As he reached out towards her, ALICE’s voice invaded his thoughts.
‘Please leave her, Alex. Haven’t you done enough? This isn’t what we’re trying to accomplish, remember?’
Alex grabbed the woman’s hair and forced her to stare into his uncaring eyes. The reflection of his red irises in her own eyes couldn’t even stir his emotions at this point.
“I don’t know who you are or where you came from. But go back there.”
He dropped the woman’s head and turned to walk back towards ALICE.
“And tell them that I’m going to destroy every single person like you.”
He was almost back to his gear when he stumbled slightly. He turned around when ALICE alerted him. Victa had just finished a spell, and he braced for an impact that never came. He looked through his arms guarding his face, and Victa was gone, only a wisp of black smoke where she had been moments before.
He turned back to his goal and knelt in the grass beside the rifle and vest. He lifted ALICE and clutched her to his chest, his blood pouring over the white metal.
‘I thought I lost you, Fenrir. Your mind… I couldn’t…’
She sounded like she was crying. Like she had been doing so for days. Her voice was tired and hoarse. He squeezed her housing like an embrace.
“I promised you I wouldn’t die. Didn’t I?”
Alex never heard the answer as he pitched forward, falling face-first into the grass. His party members hesitated for a moment before running over to him. He was covered in extensive injuries, and Aundell immediately set to work.
Even unconscious, though, he was wearing his gentle, crooked smile.
Zach and Morgana sat in the dirt, a silver tray lined with small sandwiches resting between them. They ate at a leisurely pace, enjoying their mid-session lunch. As ever, the sky was a dark mass of clouds, making it impossible to determine what time of day it actually was. Despite this, Zach had rapidly adjusted to relying on his internal clock to know roughly when he had to wake up, eat, sleep, et cetera.
He reached for his last sandwich, leaving one more for Morgana, and stared up at that sky. He was in the middle of chewing the first bite of it when a question popped into his mind. He hurriedly swallowed before turning to Morgana to ask.
“So, why does the sky never change, anyhow? Like, where I come from, you can see the sunlight during the day sometimes, but here it’s always overcast to the extreme like this.”
Morgana picked up the last sandwich and held it in her rough fingers as she looked back at him.
“As far as I know, it has been like this ever since the Drain. Word has it that long ago, there was a great war between advanced civilizations using magic as the medium. So great was the consumption of the planet’s mana that it actually depleted entirely.”
Zach nodded, not really understanding entirely.
“So, what happened when the mana was gone?”
“Things died. Plants, animals, humans, demons. The mana courses through all of us, and without it, many things couldn’t survive. The world was turned desolate in a matter of a few years, less than one in a hundred entities surviving through the ordeal. I don’t know the particulars, as they’ve been lost to time, but I guess after a while, society started to rebuild. The planet slowly recovered, but the scars remained. Scars like the Outlands.”
She sounded sad, and both of them turned to look at the sky. Zach began wondering about the advanced society that could have caused such reckless devastation. He considered that it might have been similar to a nuclear winter, if this was how the planet had been left.
Such thoughts were interrupted, however, when a black smoke appeared over the grass in the courtyard, only a few yards from where they sat. Zach leaped up and grabbed his sword, feeling uneasy for some reason.
Morgana got to her feet and placed her hand on his, staying his blade. She walked over to where the smoke was gathering, a complicated expression on her face.
“I know this spell. It is one belonging to the upper members of Draco Albus. But none of them should be returning so soon.”
Zach slowly made his way over to stand beside Morgana as he watched the smoke begin to solidify into a humanoid shape.
“Do you think something went wrong, then?”
“That would be the most likely conclusion. But I suppose that we will know for certain in a moment.”
The smoke began to fade away, revealing a woman, broken and bruised, lying on the ground and clutching a peculiar staff. Morgana rushed over and lifted the woman to a sitting position, screaming as she did so.
“Victa?! What happened? Who did this to you?!”
Zach stared, slightly amazed that the woman was even still alive, given the condition of her body. Victa looked up at Morgana and pointed off into the distance. When she spoke, it seemed like it was taking every ounce of her strength and willpower.
“A traitor… He killed the others. You must… warn Her Majesty.”
Her hand fell, and Zach thought she was dead. Morgana checked the pulse on Victa’s neck, then turned to him.
“Run, find a light mage, Hero. We need to heal her!”
He nodded, still shocked by the sudden course of events. He spun on his heel and began sprinting through the castle.
An ominous feeling was growing in the pit of his stomach.
Something big was going to happen soon.