A/N: I think there are only a couple of chapters before the epilogue.
Only two gave me enough respect. Only two left the Kelp Confusion. Alrakis and Rastaban. They had taken part in the previous Bind war and they knew how terrible this poison could get. I would not blame them if they left. In fact, I wanted everyone here to leave.
Keeping the poison away from me was nothing. Even if it touched me or seeped into my soul, it would not be a problem for me. I was one of the strongest Immunes, and if this small amount of poison was to harm me, I would not forgive myself. Not to mention, I was Soul-Bounded. And this made me even stronger.
The problem for me was to keep the poison from touching others. I could not allow it to touch anyone here. Even Eltanin, Thuban, Atik and maddeningly even Dave. If it harmed anyone, I would be one Chaos would question. If they died by some other means, by Abyss, if they died by me killing them, I would not be put on trial. But if they were to die by poison and they knew I was near them, I would be punished without giving me a chance to explain.
This poison was the enemy of life and as Immune, it would be my sole duty to keep it out of the Universe. Does my fate sit together with its friends and decide how to make my life more difficult than it is?
To make me lose my mind, Elta was doing her best to release the poison. The poison was already raging for the fact that I had imprisoned it in the Kelps. And now, she was adding fuel to the fire. She was egging it to escape from my hold. But how could she succeed? Among the two, it was clear who was stronger. But the resentment the poison had was a bit too much for me. Had no one was here, I would have taken it all into my body and neutralised it.
Taurus left Atik and came to aid me. He did not ask another word, and without interfering in my work, he silently lent me energy. With his help, this might be enough.
Nox was next to Elta, saying something, but instead of calming her down, it was worsening matters for me. Thuban rushed to help whatever madness Elta was into, and Gaelan and Dziban tried to stop him. Alioth and Saiph were engaged in a fight with Atik. Could they not have picked another venue to fight?
Who cared about Dave now? As long as he stayed there, nothing would happen to him.
Even with Taurus helping me, something was off. Though my memory was messed up, I remember the poison I had sealed up in the past. The one before me was wild and vigorous. What had Elta done? Did she not know what a crime it was to release it?
“Can’t control it, Draco?” Elta laughed in high pitch. “Wondering why the poison became so aggressive?”
Maintaining the barrier on one side, I frowned at her. “What have you done, Elta?”
“I connected a passage,” she grinned. “A passage between these kelps and the poison beyond the barrier.”
To whom did she sell her reasoning? What possessed her to do this?
“What have you done, Elta?” I whispered.
Unless someone stops the passage, there would be an endless stream of poison here, and I would have to expend all my energy in vain. And not to mention, I would be left to fend against the raw poison all by myself.
“Taurus!” I said after collecting myself. “Guide everyone out. Out of the Kelp Confusion.”
“Draco?” he asked.
“No time,” I said. “Elta tore a passage between the raw poison and the Kelp Confusion. I don’t think I can contend against the entire poison. It would consume me. I can keep it away from the Kelp Confusion only for the time being. Get everyone out.”
Sending a part of his soul to me, he left my side. I could not concentrate on what he was doing. Nor did I have the energy to. Zyon was looking at everything with wide eyes, his mismatched eyes darting everywhere. Taurus was trying his best to bring Alioth, Saiph and Atik out, but he kept bouncing back.
“Elta!” Taurus shouted. “Did you seal this space?”
Despite losing her energy constantly, she smiled. “Of course. What did you think? You thought I was going to leave you guys? You won’t give me mercy. Why should I be merciful? If I am going to perish here, we all will.”
I truly wanted to know what Melantha spoke to her about this. We would not just die here. Our Souls would be forever destroyed if this poison was to touch anyone here. The poison would claim everything back to itself. Perhaps I might escape with a conscience, but who knew how long I would take to gather my soul back? But would I even have the will to live? After the poison claimed Taurus?
Alioth held that star and shook her. “What is wrong with you? Why did you do this?”
“Did anyone ever listen to what my father had to say then?” Elta screamed. “Did anyone give him the chance to? Ursa just killed him. Without another word. Everyone here, do you all swear that your waves are clean of murder? Haven’t you all killed someone without a second thought? Don’t you carry that burden? Do you dare say that you all are innocent?”
We reached an impasse. I did my best to contain the poison. Pretty soon we would reach a state where it would overwhelm me.
“Then,” Dziban began slowly. “Do you dare say that you are innocent, Elta? That you are standing with justice now?”
Elta smirked coldly. “No. That’s why I want to pull you all with me now. We all must die. All must perish!”
All must perish!
Who said that? Someone else, another face, said this at another time. Death was taking them away when they said that. Was it a male or a female? Did they even have a gender?
All must perish!
They did try to make it come true. They were the ones to break the bind in the first place. They were the ones who released the Soul-Cleaving weapon for the first time. It was from them did Cosmos take it as her prize. It was from them I was involved in hiding the heir of Cosmos.
All must perish!
“All must perish?” Taurus whispered as if he was recollecting the same. “All as in everyone here? Or all as in everyone in the universe?”
“Everyone in the universe, of course!” Elta said. “Every soul is tainted! Every soul harbours a crime! Everyone must pay!”
Was it who I think it would be?
I shared a look with Taurus, who gave me the same troubled gaze. It was impossible! But if it was who I thought it was, then everything was explained.
Taurus said, “Draco. Give me the clearance. I have to kill Elta. Only then would this poison stop. She has tied herself to the barrier. If I kill her, then I can mend the barrier and you can contain the poison. If we don’t then this poison will not only consume us, but keeping this as the entry point, it will consume everything in the universe.”
Giving the clearance took energy from my part. And this was not the time where I could take a part of my concentration to give him my clearance. The poison was already getting vengeful, and it was getting harder for me to contain it.
“I can’t,” I struggled. “The poison is already too much. I can’t give my clearance.”
Gaelan rushed towards the source. What was he doing? But before I could say anything, he was sealing the breach. Against the poison, could anyone stand? He was thrown back and had it not been for me protecting him the whole time, his soul would have been torn by now.
“What if it was everyone?” Alioth asked. “We all could stand against the breach and-”
“It is getting violent,” Gaelan hissed. “Only because Draco had Soul-Bounded with Taurus is he standing there and giving us protection. If it was the past Draco, even he would not be able to stand this.”
Nox released Elta from Alioth hold. “Stop the barrier, Elta. there are so many innocent lives. All will be killed if we don’t stop this now. There would be another Bind War! Do you really want that to happen?”
“Do you really want to stop me?” Elta asked him. “You know, Nox? I had so many hopes for you. You are my Soul-Bound. You are supposed to stand by me! Help me! Not convince me otherwise.”
If he could convince her, it would be for the best. This poison was getting too high for me. If Elta was going to aid me, then it would be fine. But if I had to do it all by myself, then the hold would loosen in a matter of minutes.
He suddenly hugged her. “Elta! Please! Think of all the innocent souls in the River of Souls! All the unborn souls in the Origin. Do you want to kill them all? Even if you have to protect a thousand killers, you can if you have to protect one innocent. Elta! Think again!”
“Don’t change my mind, Nox!” she cried. “Don’t try to change it. They... they are innocent.” she paused for a while as if she was considering his words. “They are innocent. I have to stop-”
Thankfully, Alioth was nearby and pulled Nox away in time. Elta’s outstretched arm with that weapon told everyone what she was planning to do. Nox’s energy frequency became alarmingly low. If I did not know any better, I would think he was a dying star.
“You want to kill me?” Nox asked in a low voice.
Elta sneered at him. “I will not allow anyone to stop me! Not you, not Thuban, not anyone! I will see to the end of this.”
Thuban rushed towards her. “I will never stop you, Elta!”
Elta huffed. “See and learn, Nox. This should have been you!”
Nox moved out of Alioth protection. “Even if it kills me, Elta. I will never stand by you.”
They could have their spat anywhere in the universe, why were they having them here? I was already losing it.
“I have the worst Soul-Bound ever!” she screamed.
Nox winced, but he stood his ground. Pain was written on his face. How much had he wished to be with Elta, I knew. He had waited for her all these years, loved the mere existence of Eltanin. But this was how he was being repaid.
These words... no one could bear to hear. No one would tell it as well. All these years, there had never been a single grievance between Soul-Bounds. Now seeing this, I could not help but wonder if Rionach and Melantha played a hand in Soul-Bounds like they did in mate bonds in earth.
Dziban pulled Thuban away from Elta. “We have to kill them.”
Atik pulled himself towards me, but before he could, Taurus shoved him.
“Taurus!” Atik wheezed. “Listen to me.”
“Listen to you?” Taurus asked incredulously.
“Yes.” His energy was feeble. He was being alive because of the Kelps. “This breach... Melantha got a space wielder to do it. Someone like Ursa. you and I can’t stop it. If you can manage to find a space wielder, then this breach may be stopped.”
“Why are you telling us this?” Saiph asked. “You are clearly on their side-”
“I would do anything for my brother’s child,” Atik said finally. “My niece does not deserve this. I thought that the poison would be confined here and only we would die, but if this was to spread out, then that means even she would be subjected. I don’t want anything to happen to her.”
“Traitor!” Elta hissed. “You actually told them-”
“Everyone you cared about either died or they are here!” Atik fired back. “But not for me. I would do anything for my brother’s family. I owe them too much!”
Alioth punched Elta hard. Hard enough that she doubled over and gasped.
“Find a bloody space wielder!” I shouted. “This will not hold for long!”
Alioth frowned and then looked at Saiph. “Do you know any space wielder?”
“Surva?” Saiph said. “But would she rush here?”
Dziban intervened. “Me-Leigh is Surva’s Huntress. She had once taken over me. I can summon her through me.”
“Do that,” Saiph said.
Just when my energy was failing, Taurus boosted me up. To be honest, if it had not been for this male next to me, giving me energy throughout this fight, I would not know how I perished.
My entire being burned with fervour. I never had this much strain, even during the Bind War. Back then, I had many Immunes working alongside me. But now, I was doing all the work by myself. This burn... this was how my energy burnt when I reached into the poison to save Gaelan.
Taurus’ energy was getting depleted. I had used too much of his. But right now, I had no choice. I shoved him aside lightly and used my reserve energy. If it went beyond the threshold, I might die. Everything started to blur. But holding on was the only choice I had. If not, what would happen to the male who swore to stay by my side?
“Draco!” I heard the panic in his voice. “Hold on!”
Then the aura changed. Leigh opened her eyes. What I saw was not Leigh’s usual brown. But Surva’s silver. Taurus stayed by my side no matter what happened there. Surva and Gaelan moved a few inches ahead of me and tried to seal the breach again. Alioth and Saiph aided. To my surprise, even Zyon aided.
Was I losing my energy and falling to oblivion, or was it truly happening? Since Zyon joined the sealing of the breach, it seemed to seal faster. Did this boy lie to me? Was he not the Zyon I knew?
If things ever went smoothly, it would not be my life. Elta came after me. But what did I do? I had even saved her many times in the past. And this was how she repaid me? Though she could not kill me, a momentary distraction was enough to allow the poison to seep in. Enough to kill everyone here.
Before Taurus or I could do anything, Nox came in between. No, he did not take the stab. He was the one stabbing her.
Agony wracked his soul as he plunged his dagger into her form. Her human form stayed for a minute before it shattered right in front of us. How she had lived, I knew. What a happy life she led, I knew. If only she stopped to listen to the reason behind her father’s death, she would understand why Ursa had to do that.
Whenever her father was not here, I was the one who raised her. To say she was like a daughter to me would not be false. To see her die before my eyes were something I never wished to happen. Even if this breach was sealed and everyone saved, I wanted to let her go.
“Elta,” he cried, but what was done was done. If he had not been her Soul-Bound, it would at the most just stopped her. There was one light smile on her face before she died.
With her gone, the breach was fairly easy for these people to mend, but the poison here was already too much for everyone. Even I was suffocating. My vision had already gone. If someone took me out of here in a matter of minutes, maybe I could preserve my sight.
Something swirled around us. It was sharp enough to tear my skin. In spite of that, that sharp thing never cut me. Though Alioth and Saiph yelped in pain, it did not stop. Nox groaned in a low voice. Had he given up to live?
The aura changed again. But what swirled picked its pace.
Some sounds occurred, and I heard Thuban choking. How did this happen?
“Taurus?” I called out to him. “What happened?”
“Dziban killed Thuban,” Taurus said, placing a hand over my eyes. “Enough Draco. The tear is sealed. Let go. Stop fighting the poison.”
I shook my head in his embrace. “If I do that now, everyone here would die. Even me. Now that-” I could not bring myself to say it. If I told it out loud, would it not become true? But what had happened had happened. Just because I refused to say would not mean that did not happen. “-that Elta has died, the barrier must have broken. Take everyone and get out. I will try to hold for a few more minutes.”
“Your sight is already going!” he hissed. “Let go!”
“I am too much involved in this poison here, Taurus,” I said. “If I let go, it will lash back. By then, no one can get out alive.”
“I don’t care about anyone here!” he snapped. “I care about you and only you. Now either take my energy and do this work or we both will die here.”
“You are already down to your last bit of your energy-”
“So are you!”
“Draco!” Alioth cried. “Stop it!”
What was she asking me to stop? “Stop what?”
“Stop it, Draco,” Saiph yelled. “Please!”
I tried to open my mouth, but my throat would not work with me. My larynx was snapped. Just like my vision. Even if I survive past this, would my senses be normal?
“Taurus?” I asked him. “What is happening? What are they asked me to stop?”
“You have created a sand storm, Draco,” Taurus said. “We are safe because I am of earth element. But they... not so much.”
“Dust,” he said. “Dust of the space. You are wrecking this place.”
“You did not think it was important to tell this to me?” I asked
“I don’t care about this place,” Taurus said.
“But there are others here!”
“I will take care of this sand storm. You concentrate on coming back to me.”
Could this be because my primordial energy thought that I was in danger and created this sand storm to protect me?
Then that aura came again. That soothing aura. The one that nearly made me to fall asleep now.
“Taurus,” Surva said. “Take him and leave. If you are to stay here another minute, Draco will no longer survive.”
“His soul is-”
“The poison has touched his soul...” she said. “Again. If his souls was to fragment again or get hurt, I can’t guarantee that he can live past that again.”
“Surva?” he asked. “What exactly happened? What is happening?”
“Get out,” she ordered. “I will tell you.”
Then, I could not even feel my Soul-Bound anymore.
I could see some shapes and a few colours. But that was all. Would my vision suffer, after all? As for my voice, I tried to say something. Though it was mild whispers, it gave me enough hope that I might regain my voice again. As for my vision... I had no hope.
A warm hand held mine. I saw his silver eyes, filled with concern. When he saw me frowning at him, he gave a smile. Though this smile may brighten my existence, I could no longer appreciate it.
My frown got deeper.
“You are awake.” The door opened and in walked Surva. With her entry, even I was affected. Comfort slowly replaced that agitation I felt when me was going to lose my vision. What if I was to lose my vision? I was a pulsar and when have I ever needed or depended on the five human senses? Was it because I had been a human for so long that I forgot was it was to be a pulsar? “That is good.”
“What,” I struggled to get the words out.
“What happened?” Surva asked. Behind her was an energy that I was very much familiar with. Megrez. Two other followed, but I did not know them. “Kelp Confusion is destroyed.”
Impossible. That was a connection. A dimension within a dimension. A place where time was frozen. A place where life was preserved all. A place where extinct races still lived.
“That is very much possible, Draco,” Surva said. “The price for destroying a soul.”
That was the price for destroying a soul? Was it not too high? Or was destroying a soul too high? But for a place like Kelp Confusion to no longer exist, we did pay a high price. Could we bear it on our shoulders?
“Isn’t it simple?” Taurus asked. “Surva, I know how mighty the price is. It cannot be as simple as destroying a place.”
“You mean to say that Kelp Confusion was simple?” Surva asked. “I thought you know better, Taurus.”
“It is not simple?”
I shook my head. “Kelp Confusion was a place that was made to revive races of the past.”
“Draco knows, don’t you?” Surva asked.
I nodded. “H-he did tha-that to avenge me.”
Surva smiled sadly. “Yes. I warned Qamar about this soul. But did he listen? This soul was meant to be destroyed. He thinks everything is in his hands. That everything is perfectly in his place. But he sometimes forgets the might of emotions. And he forgets that the first-generation souls are not under his control. As long as your emotions are in control, everything will go the way he wills it to be. But if you succumb to your emotions and take decisions that you usually won’t take, then the fate he writes will be altered.”
Megrez leant over me and touched my head as Surva spoke. Then she stood back and muttered something in the other star’s ears.
“What about Kelp Confusion?” Taurus asked.
Surva smiled sadly. “We managed to save only a few Kelps and a couple of sprouts. We just hope that they mature well.”
Just a few Kelps? That was all they managed to save?
“What do you mean?”
Surva sighed. “Taurus... you are usually clever. Why are you so dumb right now?”
“Surva!” he said testily. “Don’t test my patience!”
“The price for destroying that soul...” Surva said. “Do you want to know what price it would have been?”
“What?” he snapped.
“It was Draco’s death,” Surva whispered. “His death was the price. A first-generation pulsar dying,” she laughed silently. “With him gone, how can the balance be normal? If he was gone, then the balance between the stars and the pulsars would crumble. And because of you, the balance between the stars would fall.”
“H-his death?” Taurus choked.
Surva gazed at me limpidly. “You knew, didn’t you?”
I nodded again.
Taurus’s hold on my hand tightened. “What do you mean, Draco? In spite of knowing-”
“I realised about it when I was about to lose my sight,” I said.
“To think about it, he paid the price already,” Surva said. “The last time, he nearly died. His soul was fragmented so bad. Dagen had to take him to Abyss. Now, he is all healed up. I can’t see someone die before me, especially someone who I saved.”
Taurus heaved heavily, but he uttered no words.
“So I saved him,” she said. “And the price fell on the Kelp Confusion.”
I never expected that place to have a pulse, a life and that it would trade my fate with it.
“Kelp Confusion,” Surva said. “A place frozen in time. The Kelps belong to a race ancient than Cosmos and Chaos. They have seen each and every ruler of the universe. They possess no desire for anything. They just existed all over the universe peacefully until Aelius brought them under the Kelp Confusion.”
From the moment, I became the Lord of the Kelp Confusion, I knew it was not a simple place. From the way the Kelps whispered secrets, even I could not comprehend them completely.
“They are the reason behind the Immunes,” Surva said. “Kelp Confusion is a place where life is revered. Kelps... they were the first race that possessed the ability to fight against the poison. That was the reason why Draco was able to lock the poison in the Kelp Confusion during the previous Bind War.”
“Now that-” Megrez began.
Surva nodded. “Their existence is intimately linked with the Immunes. The Kelps existence, to be precise. Now that the Kelp Confusion is destroyed... I am afraid no Immunes will be born. And with no Immunes, there will be no one to fight against the poison beyond the barrier. The remaining Immunes... how long can they hold the fort? Now, Taurus, do you think the price is simple?”
Megrez choked. “We do have a few-”
“A few,” Surva laughed. “How long do you think it takes for a Kelp to grow?”
Megrez said in a faint voice, “Thousand years?”
“Naive child,” Surva said. “It takes about a million years just for the seeds to sprout. And for them to grow to a matured plant... I would not be surprised if it takes a billion years.”
“So long?” Megrez wondered softly. “But...”
“Kelp Confusion is relatively small compared to the Maze and the Dungeons,” Surva said. “And all these years only so few Kelps were alive. No one would dare to kill them. Can’t you think why their numbers were so low?”
She swore colourfully.
Surva looked at Taurus. “No more Immunes, Taurus. That’s the price of destroying a soul. Without Immunes... I don’t think I need to tell you what is to happen.”
Turmoil ran through him. He did kill Lana for me. Destroyed her soul to avenge me. But if he knew this would be the price we were to pay, he might not have destroyed her soul.
Just like Navigators, Immunes were equally rare. And if so few of us were to battle the poison like the last time, I don’t think we stood a chance at winning. Especially, when I knew who was the one behind all this.
Then she sighed. “Megrez... if you manage to grow the Kelps... maybe, maybe the Immunes might be born again. With five hundred thousand Kelps, we had a few Immunes. With just a hundred Kelps, the rate of Immunes will dwindle. Try to grow them fast.”
Megrez nodded. “I will try with everything I have.”
Surva touched my forehead. “But then again... it was your deeds that saved you from the fate, Draco. Saved you from death. You stood until the last minute to protect everyone there. You stood there even though you knew you might die. That’s what made fate change its design. That’s why you are alive and Kelp Confusion destroyed.”
“W-why?” I asked. “Why destroy?”
“Maybe...” She cocked her head. “It was predestined to happen?”
I frowned. “I-I don’t understand.”
Surva shook her head. “Unfortunately, neither do I. The Kelps are the most innocent race. Why to destroy them... I don’t know. But we do have hope. Hope that they may recover. If Megrez comes up with a way, maybe we can save them. Maybe if Ara gets her memory back, we can speed things up,” she shrugged. “I don’t know. I have never been in this position as well.”
I hummed. “Hope’s ac-actually on her.”
Surva smiled. “Yeah... before that, let’s get you healed up.”
Megrez pulled the silent star next to her. Despite my vision being blurry, I could tell that this young one was very shy.
“Healer?” Taurus asked.
Megrez nodded. “We found her a few years ago. Her healing powers are really good. Though not as good as the doctor I had before. That pulsar escaped through my grasp. But this star is good too. Can she heal you, Draco?”
“Yes,” I said. “She may.”
The young star timidly placed one hand over my head and the other over my chest. After she got her fear in control, she released her healing powers. Though I might have healed all by myself, it would have taken some time. This would speed things up.
The faster I healed, the better. Though I had matured, controlled the element like Lyra said I would, I still have to find that link to unlock my entire memories. Maybe hidden deep inside my mind would be a way to save these Kelps.
“Others?” I asked.
“Alioth and Saiph are resting in the next room,” Taurus said. “Atik turned himself to the courts. Nox left without a word and Zyon said he has to find his sister no matter what. He left to find her.”
“Gaelan and Leigh?”
“Left to find their son,” Taurus supplied. “Planning to go to a place where Melantha and Rionach would not find their son.”
That was for the best. After all, the powers Tristan possessed was too much.
As much as I hated to ask, I asked, “Dave?”
A cruel smile found itself on his handsome face. “I threw him back in Summer Coven. Right in the middle of people to whom he owes.”
My ray of sunshine amidst the darkness.
A/N: What do you think about the price Taurus pays? Was it too high or was it justified?
As for Draco... he will be alright. The road has not ended for them.
Until next update,