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Chapter 3

"This is the cause of the concerns in the Northern forest." I placed the purple stone onto the desk.

"This is the source of the magic?"

"Yes, after looking at the journal we found, the stone is definitely the cause of the decaying animals. This stone was, most likely, releasing corrupt magic. However, the magic must have dissipated over time since neither Nocturne nor I was seriously affected by the magic."

"A magical stone with such catastrophic capabilities does not appear from nowhere. It is most likely that someone with ill intent had placed their magic into the stone and then released its powers in the Northern forest.

"So, Prince Odin, what do you propose we do?"

Prince Odin sat behind his large desk, looking down at the purple stone. "Stella, I will need you to find the reason for this stone. The greatest concern of this stone is that someone else other than the nobles has decided to use magic for nefarious deeds. It will be a risk to the people if the creator of this stone is not stopped."

I nodded in agreement. Usually, only us nobles are born with the ability to use magic as well as a few kinds of high-class undead creatures such as witches, liches and high-leveled demons. However, there is the low chance that a normal person not born of nobility to be born with the ability to use magic. But the results end up being disastrous. Not only do they not receive the proper training to use their magic, but they are unable to contain the magic sufficiently since they are not part of the bloodline chosen by the ancestor King. Eventually, as the individual ages, the magic starts to consume them and they begin to lose all rationality. Their magic becomes corrupt, like the magic undead creatures use, and they proceeded to cause death and destruction in their path until they are stopped.

The finding of this stone is significant since it reveals that someone with corrupt magic is already using it for evil deeds. Although, right now, this person has only imbued their magic into the stone which caused the surrounding life to die. If this person is left on their own, who knows what the end result will be for the innocent?

"I shall set off as soon as I get a party ready." With those words, I bowed to the prince and exited his chambers.

To my expectations, I found Nocturne leaning against the wall outside Prince Odin's room. As he noticed me leaving, he walked towards me. "So what's the plan now?"

"We're going to find the source of this corrupt magic. The magic was put into that stone and left in the forest where it got taken into the temple by an innocent person. We have to find the one responsible for it and put an end to him."

Nocturne looked at me. "Will you be able to do it?"

I stopped my steps. "What do you mean?"I asked, puzzled.

"Can you end an innocent's life?" his expression serious. "It's not like that person asked to be born with magical powers and go out of control."

My head turned towards the ground. "I...I don't know."

I could feel Nocturne wrap his arms around me. "Don't worry," he spoke softly. "Just follow what your heart believes is right. I will stand by your decisions."

"Thanks," I nodded. "Alright, I need you to get some more supplies. We don't know how long we'll be away from the Kingdom. I'm going to ask a few other nobles to join us on our journey." Nocturne nodded with a reply and we both headed off to opposite directions.

Knock. Knock.

The room door slowly creaked open with Ren poking his head through the crack.

"Ren, please join me on my journey. I need your help with locating the source of this corrupt magic," I took the purple stone out of my pocket and held it out to him. He reached his hand out and took the stone from my palm. "Please meet me at the eastern outskirts of the town before sundown." Ren nodded and shut the door silently.

With the power over dark magic, Ren is able to use locating spells as well as easily use teleportation magic. Although his magic isn't very useful for offensive spells, he can also cast spells which weaken the enemy, making them easy enough from him to defeat on his own.

"Alright, now that that's settled, I'll go and ask Aeris to join us, and then we can set off."

At the outskirts of the town, I found that everyone had already arrived before me. Each of them had brought along a horse. I guess they expect me to ride with Nocturne, as usual...

Nocturne approached me, "Is this going to be enough people? What about asking Olber or Ace since they are more suited for combat?"

I shook my head. "No way am I going to be travelling with that annoying guy for who knows how long? And Olber is busy with other responsibilities in the Kingdom since he's the eldest noble. Plus, I trust your skills with a sword. And if you do get injured, I can just patch you up with my magic!"

Nocturne smiled helplessly. "I think you give me too much credit."

"No I'm not! You definitely are very skilled and you've been recognized for your strength."

"Stella," Ren interrupted, "I've located the source of the magic coming from the stone. But it seems to be coming from multiple directions."

"Ah, thanks for your work, Ren. So which direction is the nearest?"

"The Southeast."

"Alright," I nodded, "let's start to head out then."

We all mounted our horses; of course, I ended up riding with Nocturne. But we rode ahead of the group as we walked towards the path into the forest. This environment was a complete change compared to the forest surrounding the Northern temple. Everything was filled with life. Trees were lush and filled with leaves. Flowers were colorful and in full bloom. Animals roamed about on the forest floor. The sounds of the birds chirping filled the sky. It was amazing. This is how things should be. Everything should be brimming with life and not destroyed by any form of corrupt magic.

"So what's to the Southeast?" I asked curiously.

"The Kingdom of Sapientia lies in that direction," Aeris replied. "It is well known for their dedication in gathering knowledge. Their Kingdom holds the largest library in the continent. They believe that knowledge is the strength which can turn many situations to a more favorable manner."

"That's amazing."

"However in contrast to them, the Kingdom of Potestatem is well known for their adoration of power. Only the strongest one can be selected as King."

"I wouldn't mind trying my swordsmanship against someone of Potestatem," Nocturne commented.

Suddenly, Nocturne halted the horse and signaled for everyone to stop. I wanted to question why we had stopped but Nocturne had a serious expression on his face. He turned his head, as if scanning the forest ahead of him. "Come out, I know you're there," he called out.

Soon enough, the sound of horse hooves were heard behind us. Ace and his horse moved out from behind a tree.

"Why are you following us? Go back," I yelled, not trying to hide the irritation in my voice.

"Stella, let's hear what he has to say. There must be a reason why he decided to follow us," Aeris reasoned. We then all turned our heads to look at Ace.

"Yeah, I do have my reasons. I noticed that the air started to become tense a while back. But suddenly, the feelings got worse. I ain't going to sit around while there's some chaos wreaking havoc."

"He's here now," Nocturne whispered to me, "so you might as well just let him come along.

I pouted, "fine, you can come along. It's not as if you'd turn back just because I told you to."

Ace grinned. "You got that right, brat."

"I told you to not call me a 'brat', you insignificant insect!"

"What?! I ain't no bug!"

Everyone sighed as we pressed on our journey, leaving the two of us to continue arguing non-stop.

Nightfall soon covered the sky and we decided to set up for camp. Despite having to sleep outside at night, it was still not as terrible as one might have thought. Ace was easily able to set up a campfire with the use of his fire magic after we had collected some wood. At least he's useful for something. Aeris was able to instantly grow a fresh patch of lush, green grass for us to sleep on so we wouldn't have to sleep on the cold, hard ground. And food was no concern at all since we had all prepared some rations before leaving the castle.

After having some food, I decided to sit on the fresh grass and eat some of my sweet treats. I tossed two pieces of chocolate strawberry gummies directly into my mouth. Ah, so yummy!

"You're going to get fat eating all those sweets."

I jumped in surprise and almost choked on my candy. I looked behind me, only to see Nocturne leaning against the tree above me, like usual. "Nocturne, don't scare me when I'm eating! Are you trying to kill me?" I coughed a bit.

He chuckled as he reached his hand over my shoulder to take some treats for himself. He tossed three pieces in his mouth. Everyone had finished eating and now gathered around us.

"Alright, we should probably have someone take watch for the night," Nocturne suggested.

"Well, since Ace decided to tag along, he can be the first watch," I grinned at him.

"Yeah, yeah, I'll go," he said as he picked up his blade and went a few feet into the forest and sat down against the tree.

"We should get some rest then. We still have some travelling left to do," Aeris spoke. We all nodded in agreement and got ourselves settled down on the soft grass.

As I lay down, I noticed Ren and Nocturne speaking to each other just outside our campsite. I wonder what they could be talking about. But I decided not to dwell on the thought as I let sleep's sweet embrace take hold of me for the night.
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