Chapter 19: The Apex of Mioverold

The stillness didn’t help, not with the trembling. But the oppressive pressure from the village did recede, overshadowed by the man that stood in front of her. Jacquelyn wondered if even Veilantiff feared the Godvildian Pillars, more specifically — Masura Bloodseed. His aura exhibited a frightening calm, an amalgamation of years of blood, battle, and death.

“I suppose I should consider myself lucky,” said Jacquelyn, with a weak smile. “Of all the places you could have chosen to visit, you come to Veilantiff.”

“I’d rather you not,” said Masura. “In fact, I don’t particularly desire a fight either. If you could kindly let me know of the reason behind your presence here, that would be fine.”

“Are you saying that you would let me leave with just that much?” asked Jacquelyn, a surprised expression on her face. “I find that hard to believe.”

“Believe what you will,” said Masura, sighing aloud. “As unfortunate as it might sound, you don’t interest me, and neither do the other Relictan Lords.”

Jacquelyn frowned at the comment. She was far from ordinary, a combatant of the sixth tier — a battle genius even amidst the other Relictan Lords. But despite a confident exterior, she did fear ubiquity, and the idea of being perceived as such. It bothered her, to the point of madness even. But given the situation, the Relictan had little choice but to return to a stable state of mind.

With a deep breath, Jacquelyn allowed her aeter to fall into free flow, stirring it toward unpredictability. It was an odd sight, the act of rapid deconstruction and rejuvenation. As the aeter diminished in quantity, it heightened qualitatively. And in the end, all that remained was of miniscule value.

“It was fated for us to meet, Lord Bloodseed,” said Jacquelyn. “But the result of our encounter is undecided, still.”

“Intriguing,” said Masura. “I suppose your ignorance is something to be admired. Come, then.”

Accepting the invitation to battle, the Relictan Lord smiled and began chant. She gathered the grace of the winds and manipulated her aeter with an extraordinary level of finesse. Her aura shone of purity, meagre in its disposition, but with powerful effect. In time, her reign over the element strengthened, causing what appeared to be a dimensional tear. From within, something emerged, blinding in its movements. And then more.

They swirled to their summoner’s side, bird-like in their features and camouflaged in translucency. With a subtle gesture, Jacquelyn expanded her field of magic, and with it — her strength in numbers.

Summon Spirit: Wind Flights!” bellowed Jacquelyn, in completion of her spell.

For a moment, the Relictan paused to boast of the army behind her, of her power as a lord amongst her people. She raised an arm and held position, eager to understand her opponent’s move. Masura looked toward the heavens, shrouded in the darkness of Veilantiff’s magic, and then the winged spirits. He displayed little emotion, almost as if unfazed by what stood before him.

Upon signal, the Wind Flights descended, determined to seize the offensive initiative. Lethal in their trajectories, the spirits plummeted onto Masura — explosively and with murderous intent. It shattered Veilantiff’s silence but dampened without impact. Jacquelyn noticed the strangeness, more particularly in the way her spirits behaved.

Wind Flights are designed to either pierce or explode upon impact,” thought Jacquelyn, a confused expression on her face. “This is different; I can’t seem to put my finger on it.

On closer observation, the Relictan found her spirits dissipate within meters of Masura, who stood as is and without worry. When the last of the Wind Flights had disappeared, Jacquelyn shuddered, drowning into the fear that she had suppressed through pride alone. She lowered her head, noticing an involuntary tremble — a first.

“What did you do?” asked Jacquelyn, stammering through her words. “Wind Flights, they’re my strongest spirits; even you shouldn’t have been able to fend from such large numbers of the sixth tier.”

“I apologize if this comes across as condescending, but I did nothing beyond the ordinary,” said Masura, with a sigh. “The Godvildian Pillars, we’ve reached an odd plateau of aeter density. Anything below the seventh tier can’t encroach our natural aura.”

“You jest, surely,” said Jaquelyn, barely audible. In her mind, she added, “I’m not sure if I can fulfill my objective anymore; even getting out of this alive, is it possible still?”

On instinct, Jacquelyn’s aeter optimized toward thoughts of escape. Her body moved of its own free will, hopping upwards and higher still using momentary aeter-constructed footholds.

Circulus Magia: Spirit Walk,” whispered the Relictan Lord.

Masura followed, clad in an aura that wore the appearance of a ghostly flame. He eased into chase, and caught speed midflight, reaching his adversary with relative ease. His hands grabbed onto what was closest and with enough force to halt Jacquelyn’s retreat. Masura pulled, and then flung her back towards Veilantiff’s soil — all in one fluid motion.

Jacquelyn crashed onto the earthen floor, cratering to a halt. Incapacitated, she coughed, gasping for air and with the taste of blood in her mouth. Her eyes fell to the left, the right, and then slowly towards her feet.

“I can’t, I can’t move,” thought Jacquelyn, after assessment. “This isn’t how I imagined it, death.”

But just as she rested, Jacquelyn felt something hot. In a breeze, it blew against her face and with a bad smell — rotten, and almost dead. She opened her eyes to find a broad face, a hair’s breadth away from her own, locked in its gaze. It smiled, beast-like, and with teeth as sharp as the finest of Relictan blades. Blackness, and then a ghostly blue — not unlike Masura’s aura — atop it.

“A ninth-tier spirit from the other world,” said Masura, walking toward her. “It’s a hellhound; this is probably your first time seeing it.”

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“You’ve proved your point,” said Jacquelyn, in a whisper. “The least you could’ve have done is kill me yourself; a beast does me no honor.”

“I don’t think you understand the situation you’re in,” said Masura. “I do not intend to kill you. The spirit is here to motivate you towards speech.”

Jacquelyn attempted a laugh but coughed blood instead. With a weak scoff, she replied, “You’re wasting your time. I’d sooner die than betray my people.”

“Let’s not talk about that; I want to thank you, actually,” said Masura. “Politically, the Lords could have dismissed the incident at the Bridge of Souls as the work of disgruntled stragglers. But your actions here prove that the treaty is no longer in place. We assumed it, yes, but this is certainty beyond doubt.”

Jacquelyn felt her pride wane, shattered by what stood in front of her. Praised and doted upon as a child, the Relictan rose beyond expectation. And yet, here she was — fated merely to fall before an insurmountable force. She wondered if it meant anything, her purpose even, to have walked the path that she did.

“There is another thing,” said Masura. “It was very impressive, your aeter control. The understanding to prioritize quality over quantity, it’s valuable. But your formula is still incomplete, or rather — inefficient.”

“And how would you know?” asked Jacquelyn.

“Not sure, I might be wrong, even,” said Masura, with a smile. “But we’ll have to halt conversation for now; it appears that we have an unwelcome guest. Though, I suppose you’d be happy to see him.”

Jacquelyn felt Masura’s aura flare, and disruptively scale to a significant height. The Godvildian Pillar turned from his fallen opponent, leaving the latter in the care of his hound. He noticed something penetrate his natural aeter-field, something large and fast.

“A hammer?” wondered Masura.

Amplified in strength, and with strong defensive fortifications, the visitor skittered to Masura’s rear. A blur, at first, the man revealed his presence — hammer raised and ready to strike. He attacked without regard for the Godvildian, fiercely and with the intention to kill.

Circulus Magia: Mourning Hammer!” roared the visitor.

With a smile that widened through every passing second, Masura turned to meet the hammer head on. The collision rattled some of the older structures in the village, settling the region into obscurity because of the risen dust and debris.

Rahu traced the aeter of his sister, weakened and with little life; beside her — a spirit, emanating combat potential that rivalled some of the lesser Relictan Lords. As his adrenalin receded, he felt his weapon lighten, almost too unnaturally. When the dust cleared, Rahu noticed the state of his hammer with a grim expression on his face — broken and without form.

“Should I expect more of you to join?” asked Masura, seemingly unscathed from the ambush. “That was mildly entertaining.”

“My hammer was an artifact from the era of the High Humans,” said Rahu. “You should not have been able to break it. Tell me, what did you do?”

Rahu tossed what was left of his weapon aside and prepared for battle, holding onto his calm by a thread. He frowned at the thought of defeat, and what it meant. The stakes were different, especially with his sister’s life on the line. He began sprint and used the momentum to drive his fist ahead. But Masura wouldn’t budge, taking the blow head on once more. Rahu’s fist firmly rested on the Godvildian’s chest, but without effect.

Masura’s aura slowly wrapped around Rahu, penetrating the Relictan’s limbs — intrusively, and yet, without pain. Having lulled his opponent into a distraction, Masura grabbed Rahu’s face. His fingers pressed without rest, easing only at the sound of a crack.

“It’s my magic,” answered Masura. “Blessed by the divinity of both Ares and Mars, I stand at the apex of the World of Transition. Obliterate, only those I have deemed worthy get to stand before me — flesh or metal.”

Masura pressed harder still, reaching for blood. It was torture, without aeter — a display of physical strength alone. But as he pushed in for the kill, the Godvildian noticed something trigger, a sequence that he did not fully recognize. He treated it as inconsequential, breaking it apart with little effort.

“It’s different from your aeter formula,” remarked Masura, a puzzled expression on his face. “What was it?”

“An escape sequence; teleportation magic,” said Rahu, with a smile. “Ulric made sure to cast it on all of us, a safety measure set to activate on death’s door. You might have broken mine, but I think I did well enough.”

Masura released his grip over the Relictan Lord and returned to where Jacquelyn rested. He noticed fragments of the newly discovered aeter formula, but the body itself appeared to be well on its way towards safety. Masura chuckled at his own failure, amused by the simplicity of it all. He attempted a cursory scan to assess for Jacquelyn’s distance, but found nothing akin to her presence. She had escaped.

“Is this the first time you failed, Shadow of Suntaria?” asked Rahu, still in pain. “We don’t lack in creativity.”

“Apparently not,” said Masura, with a shrug. “And here I was, thinking about using you to pry her open. Is there nothing I can do to motivate your cooperation?”

“I’m afraid that’s not an option,” said Rahu. “Just know that we now stand against you, aggressively. I’m no longer afraid to admit it, not with what we’ve planned.”

“I wager that you’re here for the seal, then,” said Masura. “Odd. I thought we kept it hidden well enough. How did you come about this knowledge, I wonder? Well, not that it matters now.”

“Is that so?” said Rahu, with a smile.

Masura appeared to look away, addressing someone else entirely. He then said, “I’m sorry to have called on you without purpose. But you may have him.”

Rahu noticed something hastily scurry to his side, short and with a sturdy physique. As black as a moonless night, the creature licked its lips, eager to taste flesh. With a crackled growl, it sunk its teeth into the Relictan’s stomach. Rahu resisted the urge to scream, at first, but fell under the subjugation of pain. He mustered the strength to push the creature away but realized the futility of the effort under Masura’s watch. Angrier than it was previously, the hellhound returned, devouring the man whole this time.

“Akshay, are you still able to hear me?” asked Masura, walking away from the gore.

“Yes,” confirmed Lord Bahrain. “You seem to be falling behind, old friend. I didn’t think Jacquelyn would manage to escape.”

“My apologies,” said Masura, genuine in his tone. “But I suppose there is something to be happy about; their purpose, we know of it.”

“Is it what I think it to be?”

“Yes, they’re after him,” said Masura, coldly. “The reason behind Suntaria’s empty throne.”

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