The Beginning After The End - Chapter 327
Chapter 327: 327
Chapter 327: Enough For Now
I forced my hand to relax around the relic, afraid of it shattering within my clenched fist, and withdrew my consciousness. My eyes opened to reveal the small cell in the Granbehls’ mansion as a broad grin spread across my face.
Ellie was alive!
I clamped a hand over my mouth out of fear that I might just burst into laughter, interrupted by a loud sigh from inside my head.
‘Nothing,’ Regis said with a shrug. ‘I just feel sorry for the poor sod that tries to actually marry your little sister in the future.’
I stifled another laugh, actually finding Regis’s sense of humor amusing for once, which took even my companion by surprise.
“Thank you,” I whispered to the relic as I held it up against my forehead. I repeated it again and again as relief continued to wash over me like a soothing balm.
The tension and fear that gripped my chest like an iron claw loosened and I was able to breathe fully and deeply again now that I knew my sister was okay.
It was still frustrating trying to piece together the conversation I’d witnessed in my head, but what was important was that Ellie was safe.
That was enough for now.
They were still hidden in the underground sanctuary, that much at least was clear from the architecture of the building as Ellie recounted what happened to her in Elenoir. The relic didn’t allow me to hear the conversation, but I followed along by reading her lips as best as I could.
A mixture of emotions bubbled up as I realized that my little sister had fought off a fully trained Alacryan mage all by herself. I was angry at her, scared and worried for her—and yet, proud of the warrior she’d become.
My brows furrowed as I considered Ellie’s description of her time at the Alacryan camp.
How could she be so reckless as to pretend to be a race of people she knows nothing about and infiltrate their base of operations? I thought with a sigh.
‘Are you being deliberate here or are you just blind to the hypocrisy?’ Regis asked.
Shut it, I snapped, ignoring the almost tangible sensation of Regis rolling his eyes within me.
It was bad enough that Elijah’s name had appeared from Ellie’s lips.The memory of that last battle with my reincarnated friend and the Scythe, Cadell, was muddled, but his animosity bordering on hatred toward me was clear, and it made me sick knowing that he had been so close in proximity to my sister.
But it wasn’t until Virion had started to speak that things got confusing. Even though I hadn’t been able to make out every word he said, his account of the attack was clearly different from what I had witnessed.
‘Huh. Well I guess you can’t blame a guy for wanting to deny that it isn’t just one asuran clan that wants you all dead,’ Regis chimed in.
I don’t think it was as simple as being in denial. He seemed so sure for some reason.
‘Then maybe he knows and just wants his soldiers’ attention on an enemy that he can actually fight,’ my companion offered. ‘A temporary, but maybe necessary, tactic.’
Maybe, I replied, but I wasn’t convinced. I rolled up into a sitting position and rested my elbows on my knees. He could have misunderstood Rinia’s warning, or maybe he’s just wrong. I’m not sure I’d have believed it either, if I hadn’t watched Aldir do it.
Ellie’s safety and health was a huge weight off of my shoulders, but it also felt bittersweet. An entire country, one that I’d visited multiple times, had been destroyed completely.
How many had died in the asuras’ attack? How many elves weren’t able to be evacuated during the Alacryans’ initial assault?
And what about Tessia?
Standing, I began to pace back and forth across the tiny cell.
Tess’s battle against Lord Aldir and Windsom, side by side with Nico, replayed in my mind. I pictured the way she’d fought, how she’d moved so awkwardly, like she was having trouble controlling her own body, and how Nico had defended her, putting himself between her and Windsom’s attacks.
And that look they shared, at the end…
I sat back down and rolled the relic around absently between my fingers.
‘While I would normally encourage these sorts of sentimental moments to a tin can such as yourself, I don’t think Nico making moves on your girl should be—’
It’s not that simple, I cut in, jaw clenched.
The last moments before Sylvie sacrificed herself for me, the memory I’d been so desperately burying, resurfaced:
“You said taking Tess isn’t going to bring Cecilia back, right? Well, what if it will?” Nico had asked me.
Tess was the vessel for Cecilia. They wanted to reincarnate Cecilia into Tessia’s body. Nico had told me as much.
I narrowed my eyes, focusing on a specific crack on the ceiling. Taking a steady breath, I forced myself to calm down. I needed to make a mental step back so I could think clearly.
I knew that my own reincarnation had somehow been the catalyst for Agrona figuring out how to bring Nico into this world. Nico had loved Cecilia and dedicated his entire life to her…and I had killed her right in front of him.
Watching that happen, living with that anger and fear and guilt as I went on to become king and cut myself off from my old life…I couldn’t bring myself to blame Nico’s resentment.
Or did Agrona do something to him to make him like this?
Blaming Agrona for Nico’s current state was easy, but that was also me trying to shift the blame. Most likely, the Vritra could only manipulate him because of our ties in our previous life.
Now, Nico wanted Cecilia back…but there had to be more to all this reincarnation stuff than just that. Agrona was calculative and manipulative—I couldn’t see him not doing anything that wasn’t a benefit to himself or his goal. He wouldn’t have promised to reincarnate Cecilia just to make Nico happy.
Of course, he intends to use her. Just like how Vera used me. All Cecilia had wanted was peace, which is why she had…
I shook my head, pulling away from thoughts of my past life and forcing myself to focus on the present.
Elder Rinia had said that we had to keep Tess away from Agrona, that everything depended on it. This isn’t about Nico at all. It’s about Cecilia.
Maybe it always had been.
How strong would Cecilia—this so-called “legacy”—be in this world?
‘Well, given that a quadra-elemental white core mage and a darkness-spewing Vritra are needed to even summon her…’ Regis started, ‘I’d say pretty damn strong.’
My thoughts were scattered, jumping from one thread to the next before I could settle on any one idea.
I sat up again and rubbed at my face.
But none of this answers the question, why would Indrath choose to attack now? Unless—I swallowed past a hard lump in my throat—Agrona was successful.
“Damn it!” I threw a punch, stopping just shy of the closest wall. The last thing I needed was to accidentally break out of this cell and make things worse.
Even if Tess was now…Cecilia, it didn’t change the fact that I needed to play this trial out in order to move about freely in Alacrya. I couldn’t afford to risk facing Agrona and the Vritra and Scythes before I was ready.
What do you think, Regis? I asked, eager to hear any thoughts but my own.
‘That the answer I’ll give isn’t the answer you want to hear,’ he responded gruffly.
Have you ever given me an answer I wanted to hear? I let out a breath. You have my memories and a part of my personality, along with some of Sylvie’s and Uto’s. Just be honest.
‘Well, there’s a good chance your lady love has been erased and replaced with the super-powerful chick you murdered in a previous life. Sound about right?’
I bit back my immediate annoyed response. Yes, Regis, as you’ve so eloquently put it, but what can I do about it?
‘A passing gnort donkey can tell you that there isn’t a damned thing you can do about that right now,’ my companion cut in. ‘You’re trying to solve a puzzle with half the pieces. At this rate, you’re going to either get the wrong answer or have a mental breakdown trying.’
I ran my fingers through my hair, once again reminded of how far I had come—how much had changed—since I first came to this world.
Then what happens if Agrona can solve the puzzle before I can even gather all of the pieces?
‘Then you lose,’ he said flatly. ‘But remember what the djinn said, Agrona doesn’t have insight into aether like you do, which is why you even have a chance at beating him. Why give that up to try and do exactly what Agrona has been doing for centuries to try to win?’
I pondered over Regis’s words for a moment before responding. You’re right.
Anger flashed from my companion ‘No, no, you’re not listening to me. You—wait, did you just say that I’m right?’
‘Thanks…no, I mean of course I’m right,’ Regis continued. ‘Also, while you’re actually listening to me for a change, I don’t think that relic is going to be good for your mental health, if you know what I mean. Don’t get addicted to spying on your sister.’
I let out a humorless chuckle. Thanks, Regis.
The relic was still resting in my hand, smooth and sharp-edged. Looking at it gave me a sudden idea.
I only hoped that the relic had enough power left for a second use.
Holding it gingerly between my index finger and thumb, I pushed aether into it and thought, Tessia.
Mist swirled across the surface of the stone, but nothing else happened.
The clouds grew dark and the relic began to emit a soft purple light as it absorbed my aether, but I didn’t receive a vision.
No, it’s drawing on my aether, but it’s not showing me Tessia or Cecilia.
‘Well…try someone else, maybe? To make sure it’s still working.’
Feeling calmer now, I took a moment to consider my options, but there was only one other person I could think of that I wanted to see, so I thought her name.
White fog rolled around me, and suddenly I was back in the underground sanctuary beneath the desert in Darv. The massive cavern opened up all around me, and there was a small stream at my feet.
Across the stream, my mother sat on a gray log with her feet kicking in the water. Her rich auburn hair—a trait I no longer shared—had hints of gray throughout, and new wrinkles formed creases under her eyes and over her brows.
I didn’t know what I had expected—what I hoped—as I watched my mother, but I silently waited.
It was an odd moment of realization when I thought to myself that Alice wasn’t really my mother—not in a conventional way at least. I was an adult long before I was born into this world, with previous memories and experiences that should’ve deterred me from seeing this woman as a mother-like figure.
Yet, it grew harder and harder to watch her like this, small and alone. Memories of her smile, her laughter, her tears as I navigated my way through this world resurfaced, reminding me that I had never been alone—at least, not in this world.
Suddenly, my mother looked up and let out a sigh. Her lips moved, and even without sound, I could clearly hear what she said.
“How are you doing up there with our son, Rey?”
I felt a cold lump in my throat, and just as I tried to pull away from the vision, a sparkling fish the size of a large trout swam up and nibbled at my mother’s toes.
In that moment, I wanted nothing more than to tell her that I was still alive, and that I would keep fighting.
A brief smile flashed across her face, just a tiny upward curve of her lips before the fish zipped away downstream.
But it was enough for me.
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