Ascension Rebirth – The hero’s journey (PART 2) (Chapter 21)

Ascension Rebirth – The hero’s journey (PART 2)

CHAPTER XXI

PART ONE

-500 Years ago- [Soumee: age 21]

With the sun at its peak the heat was oppressive. Wandering around in such temperatures, within a desert no less was near suicide. At least that would be the case for those not native to the southern continent of Arune.

Indeed, those who had been born and raised in the southern continent had all but grown accustomed to the land’s unforgiving conditions.

Even the animals understood that those who could not endure the head would have no business surviving, as a result most of the animals and monsters were brute and bulky looking.

If the term [survival of the fittest] was manifested as a physical object the entire continent of Arune would be it.

Under such condition there was a single carriage that had been travelling throughout the vast desert, driven by two large black horses that almost seemed to personify death.

Incidentally the inside of the cart was a stark contrast from the blazing outside. A single magician had casted a spell to keep the temperatures within at a bearable level.

The carriage marched forward until it stopped before a large concrete and steel wall.

Within this desert was a single city that was the heart of the [holy empire of Arune]. The capital city, also known as the [Arune Giga Fortress]. Contrary to what one might assume upon sight, it was not actually a series of buildings within a city, no, the entire city was a single structure.

A structure that combined the natural landscapes and human ingenuity. At the peak of the plateau that resides at the city’s heart was the Royal Palace of Arune in which the single most powerful man in all of [Eternis] resides.

Leaving the carriage, four people had stepped out from the cool interior of the cart to the blazing heat of the desert beyond the Giga Fortress.

“10 years.”

A woman with black hair had spoken to herself.

This woman was the crown princess of the empire; formerly known as Soumee Arune, now she goes by as simply Soumee after having given up her lineage for a mission from god.

Standing next to her was a tall man who a rugged appearance. Slung on his back was a slender great sword. Even though it was rather weak looking due to its design it had not seen a single crack in 20 years.

Hailed as the strongest knight in the entire of the kingdom was Lugh. He had fallen in love with the crown princess and had bore a child together with her.

A daughter by the name of Elly Arune. The daughter was eligible for the throne since she did not have to go through the same right as her mother since she did not receive any sort of mission from god.

With features similar to her mother she was being held lovingly by her father.

Finally the last member of the group.

Was Lorelei.

Just Lorelei.

A self proclaimed [Grand Magus], ironically she was actually quite powerful in terms of magic despite her unfortunate personality.

“Eh?”

Soumee turned towards Lorelei who made a rather dissatisfied face.

“Is something the matter?”

“I feel like someone is talking crap about me. I just can’t put my finger on it.”

“…”

Soumee didn’t know how to respond to that, she knew that her friend would sometimes show odd behaviour at times, thus she decided to do what she always did and simply ignored it.

She turned her gaze back to the walls of the capital.

After 10 years of being away from the capital for training, a rush of emotions had overcome her. Seeing the Giga fortress in all of its walled glory was enough to put a tear to Soumee’s eye.

Besides her, Lugh could only give a solemn smile as the nostalgia and struggle of his childhood came back to him. Those were both happy and tough times but it was undeniable that this city was his home.

“Mama, It’s big!”

Seeing the Giga Fortress for the first time, Elly was intrigued by it. A little ironic considering she was in fact the crown princess of the Arune empire.

She had a bright smile on her face as she pointed towards its walls.

“Yes, we’ll be going inside it soon.”

Hearing that Elly’s face glowed up even more. It wasn’t too much of a surprising reaction considering all her 2 years of life was spent in a small fishing town where nothing too exciting happens.

This was a real adventure to her. Something interesting and exciting.

“So why are we here?”

In the middle of such a touching moment for the three family members there was a single person who could not grasp at the atmosphere and ruined the entire mood.

“Mmh?!”

Lorelei turned her head and tried to survey the surrounding area.

“What’s wrong?”

Lugh asked, puzzled by her sudden movements.

“No, I just thought I heard something rude about me.”

“Stop being weird, we’re going in.”

“Right, but you haven’t told me anything, why are we here?”

She had not been told of anything in regards to Soumee’s true heritage or origin, thus it was understandable that she would be rather confused as to why she was there.

To her, Soumee was simply her best friend and just like her a simple, regular civilian.

Remembering that fact, Lugh turned around to give her a distant, contemplative look.

Sigh, I suppose since you’ll be coming with us, it’d be best to tell you the full story, we also haven’t explained it to Elly either so I guess it’ll be a good opportunity.”

His tone was extremely monotonous and bored that Lorelei couldn’t help but feel a little insulted.

“Why do you always give me such a bored look when talking to me/ what is this uneven treatment?!”

“Huh? Of course I’d treat Soumee differently! She’s my wife!”

Hearing that Lorelei had no other comebacks.

Teary eyed she looked back at him, prompting, momentarily, a sense of guilt. At this point she had resembled a small dog that had been abandoned by its owner.

“But! But still! Uu~”

“Now, now. You should treat her more nicely, she’s a delicate girl after all.”

In her defense Soumee came up and gave her a hug.

“If she could be described as delicate then a goblin could also be described as beautiful.”

“What did you say?!”

Hearing such an insult Lorelei could only shout back.

“Aha~ please calm down, the two of you.”

After a moment the two calmed down from exchanging anymore banter.

“Still, this place is as big as I’ve heard. The walls alone stretch towards the skies.”

Lorelei commented as she observed. For a simple country girl it may have been an incredible sight but for Soumee it was one that held a lot of memories.

“We’re here to see father.”

“Father? So Soumee’s dad is a noble?”

Much of Arune’s capital city was inhabited by nobles, thus it was not strange for Lorelei to think this. Of course, technically she wasn’t wrong.

“Sort of, he’s the emperor.”

“The emper- what? No, what?”

“Emperor, my father is the emperor of Arune.”

“…” (Lorelei)

“…” (Soumee)

“…” (Lugh)

“… What?”

Thinking that perhaps she had misunderstood Soumee’s words she repeated.

“My father is [Emperor Eldwin Arune XIV].”

“… um. I’m just going to stand here, and wait until you finish your business in the capital.”

“… we could take up to a day within the capital.”

“Yeah. That’s fine, I’ll just stand here and pretend that I didn’t hear anything ridiculous at all. Please don’t mind me.”

“…”

“Don’t be dumb.”

Feeling a little frustrated at Lorelei’s inability to comprehend or believe anything she was told, Lugh intervened.

“I, I mean. It’s just a lot to take in right now please let me stay here for now.”

“I want to introduce you to father as well, please come.”

Soumee grabbed Lorelei’s hand in an almost seductive manner, prompting her to blush at the scene.

“… Okay.”

PART TWO

Their return was a quiet one. No celebrations or parades, only a few select people awaited for their return at the castle.

Soumee looked up at the castle that was elevated from all the other buildings, it had not changed in the last 10 years, a fact that had greatly relieved her.

The four were stopped at the gates of the castle by the guard.

“Halt! What is your business at the royal palace?”

He had not yet realized who they were. It wasn’t too surprising that this would be the case as they had changed drastically in the last 10 years.

Soumee turned towards Lugh who shook his head.

“We’re here to see the emperor.”

“Unfortunately regular civilians are barred from entering the castle unless specifically summoned by the emperor or any of the high nobles.”

“I don’t think you understand, we are not simple civilians. I am the empire’s knight, Lugh and she is the emperor’s daughter, Soumee Arune.”

“?!”

After the soldier inspected them more closely he did indeed remember their faces.

“I’m sorry, sir! I did not realize.”

“It’s okay. Will you let us in now?”

“Yes, of course! Right away!”

….

Upon entering the throne room there were only a few people. Among them was the emperor who stood in wait.

They did not exchange words and only gazed at each other. The reunion of a parent and child could not be expressed in words.

Soumee slowly walked towards her father, never breaking eye contact along the way. He was a lot older than what she had remembered. Not only that, he was also much smaller.

Of course she understood why this was, she was the one to grow up, however she could not stop the constant flow of tears rolling down from her eyes.

10 years. It was the first time in 10 years that they had met face to face.

“Welcome back. My daughter.”

“Oh, Father!”

She leapt into his arms to embrace him with all her strength.

“Ow, you’ve definitely grown stronger, my old bone can barely stand your embrace.”

Noticing that her father was in pain she quickly separated.

“I’m sorry father.”

“You’ve really tried your best. I’m proud of you.”

Just like in the olden days, her father would praise her. A rush of emotions came rushing back to her as she was reminiscing.

A wry smile came to her face as she noticed a few strands of white hair. The emperor was nearing the age where he would have to retire. It was Soumee who was supposed to succeed the throne and become the next empress worthy of her father’s rule, however that future was denied to her by her sudden call from god.

After a brief moment of thought of each other, a small presence had came to interrupt them.

“M, mama?”

A small voice had called out to her. The emperor, noticing this, shifted his gaze onto the small figure standing before them. The large throne room only cemented her small stature.

A girl that resembled the emperor’s daughter stood there scared stiff. In an instant the emperor had recognized her as his grandchild.

He crouched down and picked her up.

“?!”

The girl was surprised but did not seem to hate it. She stared back at the emperor with her large red eyes, contemplating on how to react.

“So you’re my grandchild. Could you tell me your name?”

“E, Elly.”

“Elly huh, that’s a nice name. Syllables taken from Soumee and Lugh huh.”

“Uwah~”

In the background Lorelei unconsciously spoke. It was the name that she had thought of. She realized now that she had the great honor of giving a name to a royal princess and wondered if it was ever going to be good enough.

“Your grace, I-”

Lugh suddenly interjected. It was obvious what he wanted to say. Which father wouldn’t be curious about the husband of his daughter?

Of course the emperor had already known Lugh since his childhood and had given him his utmost trust.

Due to this the emperor did not reject him. He simply gave him a satisfied smile as he asked.

“Are you taking good care of my daughter?”

“Yes, of course! She is very important to me.”

“I see. That’s fine then. I wish for you to continue doing so.”

“Of course, your grace. I am grateful!”

“Anyway, I understand why you’re here. You wish to leave Elly with me before you go, correct?”

“Yes.” x2

The two; husband and wife, had answered simultaneously. Their journey would no doubt become a perilous one, as such it was be horribly unwise to bring along their daughter. Leaving her here within the Giga Fortress, which was also one of the safest places in the entire world would be a better choice.

Elly had a difficult expression on her face as she sat in the emperor’s arms. It was unclear as to what she was exactly thinking but it seemed as though she had at least some semblance of an idea of what was going on.

“I understand. That is the best choice. You two still have a duty to fulfil for this nation after all.”

“Thank you, father.”

The emperor then focused his gaze on a figure he had never seen before.

Lorelei.

Her legs were shaking a bit from the situation, after all, she was a regular civilian who lived in the country side, and she was now face to face on arguably the most powerful man in the entire world.

“And you are?”

“I, I, I’m called Lorelei! P, pleasure to make your acquaintance your grace!”

“Ah, I see. You must be the one mentioned in the letters. I have read a lot about you from Soumee. You’ve been keeping my daughter company for a long time, for that I am grateful.”

“N, no, it was my pleasure!”

“Hahaha, I see.”

“Father, Lorelei also received divine revelation, she was given the same mission as me.”

“Oh, I see. With such a fine magician I can relax a bit more.”

“F, fine magician?! I’m not worthy!”

“Nonsense, I had heard much about your success with creating your own magic style, it is truly impressive for a child of your age.”

“T, thank you!”

PART THREE

The emperor had cleaned out his schedule and most of the day was spent trying to catch up on the events of the last 10 years.

Rather than the stories, the emperor was much more fond of just being able to listen to his daughter’s voice again.

Afterwards they had a small feast to celebrate the end of her training with some of the other nobles. However the main event was just starting.

“Are you ready, milady?”

A soldier who at least had double Soumee’s physique stood before her wielding a large sword and shield. The same weapon combination that Soumee herself liked to use.

It was now near night time and they had gathered in the castle’s training ground where many of the soldiers were gathered to see the spectacle fight between their captain and the princess.

The captain was a veteran of many battles and had built his entire career on being one of the strongest knights in the empire.

“Yes.”

Soumee replied. Even though the captain should theoretically have had much more experience and skill than her, Soumee still answered readily.

Along the side were various spectators, including the emperor and many of the high nobles and knights.

“Go mama!”

Elly shouted out from the sidelines while resting upon the emperor’s arms.

The first move was given to Soumee since she was the lesser experienced fighter.

Soumee charged with the shield and bashed into the soldier making him lose balance, following that up with a swift kick pushing him back a few meters before he fell.

The captain, visibly surprised at her movements, stared back at her. He then regained his composure and contested her once more. He had underestimated the princess’ battle prowess due to her inexperience but she was by no means weak.

The captain put out his shield in front of him to defend against any other attacks.

He then pointed his sword forward and started to dash.

This was a basic movement within the Arune empire’s military. Making a wall with shields and swords and dashing forward in unison with the other soldiers was a standard tactic in Arune warfare.

Usually this move would be done with numerous soldiers but the captain was big enough that he could do it alone.

The easier thing to do in this situation was to simply dodge the attack, however Soumee was a paladin. In fights paladins will act as a shield for the less mobile party members, if this was a real fight and she had to protect her backline then it would be unwise to dodge the attack, as it would simply crush the other members.

For this reason Soumee opted to take the hit straight on with her own shield.

With a loud thud there was a large spark of collision when the shields met.

Initially Soumee was pushed back a little but was able to keep her ground despite the massive size difference.

The captain himself was not identified as a paladin so he did not have access to the same defensive capabilities as Soumee who was. A particular skill from the paladin line was one known as [Divine shield] which increases the defensive properties of the shield and the user’s strength.

Using this skill Soumee’s shield started to glow with a golden light as she slowly started to push back the captain.

Realizing that continuing further with the shield battle would inevitably end with the captain’s loss, he strafed to the side to go for a counter attack.

However Soumee had already predicted this and followed up with a swift [shield bash] skill that sent the fully armoured knight flying before he crashed into the castle walls.

Combined with the [divine shield] ability, [shield bash] was incredibly powerful and almost doubled as a blunt weapon.

There was a loud cheer as the captain laid bruised against the wall. He had a satisfied grin on his face as he looked back at the princess who stood strong as the victor.

The emperor looked down at the defeated knight and shrugged his shoulders. The captain gave a thumbs up to signify that she was indeed ready for the journey she was about to take.

The emperor replied with a nod.

After the sparring session it was decided that Soumee and co. would be staying for the night and start their journey tomorrow.

When the night had fallen and the castle fell asleep, the emperor alone sat out near the open window peering up to the large blue moon. He was drinking alone as memories of his past had flooded in.

“Father?”

Soumee had entered the room, it was a scene reminiscent of the past. She would enter into his room innocently when she was younger.

“You should be sleeping, your journey starts tomorrow after all.”

“I know that, I just wanted to spend a little more time with you.”

“Hah, well that’s fine. Have a seat.”

Soumee took the seat opposite to the emperor at the small wooden desk by the window. She took a small bottle and poured herself a drink as well.

“Hmm, you’re old enough to drink now.”

“I’ve been for many years now, father, perhaps it’s time to stop treating me like such a child?”

“Hahaha! Of course, you’ve grown into a fine adult, you even have a child of your own. Which makes me a grandfather, hmm. I suddenly feel so old.”

“You’re not that old, you still have a long time left, so just take it easy.”

“You’re right.”

The emperor stared at his daughter who took a sip of alcohol. Her silky black hair glistened from the moon’s blue light. She was radiant despite it being the night.

“You’ve truly grown Soumee. I’m proud of you.”

“Father…”

When Soumee had realized it her father was actually asleep, most likely due to the the effect of the alcohol, she carried the emperor over and laid him down on his bed and drew up his blankets.

Once more she looked down at her father. He was the same as in her memories but different as well. He was still strong and charismatic but at times she could see some signs of fatigue.

Ruling an entire empire for so long could not have been so easy on a single man. Yet her father did it without a word of complaint, she truly thought her father was a great man.

As he was proud of her, she too was proud of her father.

“I’ll do my best father.”

Leaving behind those words Soumee withdrew to her own room for the night.

Early in the morning four people stood at the entrances of the castle.

“We’ll be leaving now, father. Take care of yourself and Elly.”

“Of course, go with ease.”

“Thank you.”

“I am grateful your grace.”

“U, uhm! Thank you, your grace!”

“I wish I could do more for you all but it seems that you have all been fully prepared so I’ll just have to trust that you are all ready to face whatever will come your way. Still it isn’t a bad idea to take extra precaution so don’t rush into things too hastily. Lugh I’m leaving you in charge of these two so make sure you look out for them.”

“Of course, your grace. I will accomplish my task without fail.”

“Lorelei, I haven’t known you for a long time but I’m putting my daughter’s safety in your hands.”

“Y, yes! I understand your grace!”

“Umu, and Soumee, do help your friends, you are all in this together after all.”

“Yes, father.”

“I see. Then I will leave it to you brave heroes. I bid you the best of luck.”

“Thank you!” x3

With those words the three had left early in the morning. They left before Elly had time to even wake up, this wasn’t because she was unloved but because it would be harder for them to say good bye.

They would definitely come back for her so in the mean time she would have be under the care of the emperor, Soumee was a little worried but if it were her father then she could trust him.

In the same way they came, they left with on horse driven carriage. Their first destination was the port, they would have to make their way to the center continent of Ariadyne and then cross over to the Northern Continent.

PART FOUR

It had been a few weeks since Soumee’s group had left for the northern capital and there was a brief moment of peace in the castle. For the most part the work that was required to be done by the emperor had been completed and nothing major was happening in the country that required his attention.

The emperor was now simply watching Elly play around in the throne room.

It was then a soldier had sudden barged into the room in a panic.

“Your grace!”

“Hmm? What is it?”

“It, it’s! They’re here!”

“‘They’re’?”

The soldier was scared stiff and couldn’t explain further.

Two men walked into the room.

The two men stood out like a sore thumb.

One of the men was adorned in a black hooded robe with a white plague doctor’s mask to hide his face. As though he was the plague and death itself, he gave off a very foreboding and ominous aura.

Just standing in his presences would be enough to make even the sharpest soldiers into witless saps and devolve them into vegetables.

The other man had an incredibly buff build. White grey hair and golden eyes, his imposing body was filled with scars, each of which seem to tell a different story about an epic battle.

On his back lies a large, two handed war hammer. Encrusted with many different kinds of jewels and its handles coated in gold, it’s unknown which hurts more the hammer or one’s pocket after purchasing such a weapon. Though it’s undoubtable that a single smash from this hammer may destroy the target completely.

He looked at the emperor with a grin on his face.

Being the emperor he had to keep his cool in front of anyone, whether it be friend or foe. The fact that all of the soldiers seemed to have given way to their entrance into the castle seemed to suggest that they weren’t immediately going to turn into enemies.

“May I ask who you are?”

“Certainly.”

The man in the plague doctor’s suit answered. His voice was cool and charismatic, almost enchanting. He then continued on.

“We are loyal servants to the Supreme God of Arune: Nodens.”

[Nodens]. That was indeed the name of the supreme god of Arune.

Within Arune’s national religion there was only one god, the supreme being, however that being said, it was also written that there were lesser gods that were servants to the supreme being.

Their claims so far have not conflicted with this belief.

“Servants of the God, Nodens? Then you must be-”

The man in the plague doctor suit interrupted.

“Yes, it is as you suspect, I am [Dian Cecht], the [master of restoration].”

“And I am [Dagda], [master of war].”

Both [Dagda] and [Dian Cecht] are certainly names that the emperor has heard in his scriptures concerning Arune’s religions. From their appearance and aura alone, it is unmistakable that they are who they claim to be.

“I see.”

The emperor himself cannot lose face, his job is to be the symbol of the nation after all. Glaring back, just as intensely as the two lesser gods were doing, the emperor asks.

“For what reason have you come to my humble abode?”

“A mission. From Lord Nodens.”

Dian Cecht speak in an icy cold tone, it is very quiet yet for some reason it is almost impossible not to hear it.

“The supreme god wishes something more? If it’s the matter of slaying the demon lord, then I have sent my daughter and one of my most powerful men, alongside a very powerful magician.”

“No, a mission specifically for the emperor himself.”

“Me? What does god wish for me to do?”

“You are to prepare for his coming.”

“Hmm, how exactly does he wish for me to accomplish this?”

“Expansion. Arune is not nearly as big as it should be. You are to start a military campaign, expand your borders, assimilate other countries. By the time [Ragnarok] begins, this entire world should be renamed [Arune].”

The emperor closed his eyes.

He took a deep breath.

[Ragnarok]: the end of days.

The emperor looked towards Elly who was hiding behind a stone pillar.

A sense of guilt ran through the emperor as he spoke his next lines.

“I refuse.”

PART FIVE

-500 Years ago- [Soumee: age 23]

Almost two years had passed since Soumee, Lugh and Lorelei had started on their quest to defeat the demon lord.

During the time of their journey, they had encountered many different and interesting people, seen many things and exotic locales, some that they had thought only legend.

Their power and skill had increased exponentially during the course of their battles. They fought many monsters and demons alike, saved many people and places.

All in the span of 2 years the name Soumee, Lugh and Lorelei had ran throughout the various continents of [Eternis]. They were known as [Heroes] now.

Their journey had taken them all throughout the southern continent, they had traversed all over the center continent. Sometimes they had even taken detours through the eastern continent, however they were now close to the northern continent.

Their current location was the northern part of the center continent: Ariadyne.

Once they cross the seas separating Ariadyne(Center Continent) and Vertloch(Northern Continent) their journey would finally enter its final phase.

In a small tavern that reeked of sweat and booze, the trio sat, contemplating back on all the things that had taken place.

“Our journey is almost over huh?”

Lorelei started. She had a solemn smile as she spoke those words.

The other two didn’t reply but they had given a non-verbal nod. It would be a lie to suggest that they didn’t enjoy travelling around the world to see many amazing sights.

“What are you two going to do after all this is over? Are you going to go back to the capital?”

Lorelei asked, seemingly a little lonely at the thought.

It wasn’t a surprise that she felt this way, she was only s simple country girl, who had only befriended the crown princess by coincidence. Most likely, she herself would return to Fairshore and live out her days as a small time magician.

“I, I want to go travelling around the world again. With Lugh, Elly and Lorelei. Just to see the world once more and enjoy our time together.”

Soumee answered heartily.

“Soumee…”

Lorelei was on the verge of tears hearing her best friend say such sweat things.

“Besides, I’m not actually the crown princess anymore, I had to give up that position after I accepted this mission.”

“I see. Must’ve been hard for you as well.”

“Mmm, sometimes. But I truly think it was for the best, if it wasn’t for this, I would’ve never met with you Lorelei.”

“Soumee~!”

Lorelei leapt into Soumee arms, half drunk from the cheap ale that they were drinking.

Soumee accepted her embraced and gently stroke her head as Lorelei pushed her face deeper into Soumee’s breasts.

Looking around Soumee noticed that the atmosphere within the tavern was particularly tense. They had frequent this tavern so much that she could pick up on the nuances in the movement of adventurers.

“Hey did you hear?”

“Yeah, the border villages were attacked again, high levelled monsters have been showing up recently, it might be best if we stay clear for a while.”

“Yeah.”

From the distance the voice of chatting adventurers could be held. Upon hearing that Soumee got up and approached them without hesitation.

“Can you give me more details on the villages that are being attacked?”

The adventurers were rather surprised but didn’t mind disclosing simple information.

“Eh? Uh, sure. They say a few villages have been attacked by high ranking monsters. Usually high ranking monsters don’t really involve themselves with people but they have been showing odd movements ever since, because of that the capital is deciding to send in some soldiers to investigate. Rumor has it the next target would be the town of Cleom.”

That was all the information that the adventurer knew.

“I see, thank you.”

When Soumee returned to her chair she was met with a confident stare by her party.

“You’re going to fight the monsters right?”

Giving a defeated sigh, Lugh asked. By now he knew what Soumee was like, once she heard a story like this there was no way she would just let it go. She would go save the villages that were under attack even if it meant to delay the most important mission at hand.

Soumee gave a nod.

“Well, we should go to sleep earlier since we’ll have to wake up equally early to get to the villages.”

The other two agreed with Lugh and decided to end their little celebration there.

Waking up extra early in the morning the three of them got ready to move out, though it was only a theory and rumor, it would be prudent to move quickly before the villages were truly under attack.

“Ugh~”

After getting dressed in her usual light armour, she sat down hunched on a chair. Her skin had a pale complexion and her eyes darted all over the place.

“Are you okay Lorelei?”

Worried about her friend’s condition Soumee asked.

“Y, Yeah, I’m just feeling the effects of the alcohol from yesterday, don’t worry I’ll be fine in a bit.”

“Wait, just stay still for a moment.”

Soumee placed her hands out towards Lorelei and concentrated. Before long a small white magic circle had appeared in front of her and encompassed Lorelei.

[Healing Magic]. Though it was a forte of the [Cleric] class, the [Paladins] had access to basic healing skills.

Healing magic could be used to cure fatigue as well and sickness, it was the dominant form of art that doctors used after all. It wasn’t simply external physical injuries that it could heal, but ailments as well.

After a while Lorelei was feeling a lot better as her complexion returned to normal and she had a large smile on her face.

“Thanks! I feel much better now.”

Soumee had a small smile as she saw her friend return to her usual energy levels.

“Then, let’s go.”

Lugh and Lorelei nodded.

[Cleom Village] was only an hour’s worth of walk from the tavern so leaving so early in the morning meant that they should arrive relatively early.

Most monsters were either during night or midday, so the morning was the perfect time frame.

Once they arrived at the village however, it was nothing like what they had imagined. The village was already under attack, almost half the houses and townspeople were killed and being assaulted.

Quickly drawing their weapons to confront the monsters they dove into the fray.

The monsters weren’t simply low ranking beasts, but various high level monsters were in the mix. [Cyclops soldier], [Minotaur Chief], [Armoured Dire wolves], [Vicious Wyverns].

They were all monsters that the trio had fought before but such a large group of them together was a first.

The monsters showed no mercy as they tore apart the humans living in the village, it was almost as though they were possessed; driven mad and the only thing to quell their lust was to destroy whatever was in front of them.

The battle was long and bloody, many of the villagers had been killed but in the end thanks to the efforts of Soumee’s party they were successful in repelling the invading monsters.

“Oh, thank you! If it weren’t for you we would’ve all been killed!”

One of the survivors had come out to thank them. He was an old man seemingly in his late 60s, most likely he was the town’s chief.

Looking back at the destruction of his village he had a sad face but he was relieved that many of them were still alive.

“I’m sorry, we weren’t fast enough.”

“No, please you’ve done a great service to us.”

Soumee felt a little guilty, she had thought that it wouldn’t be too late to take their time in coming to the village, but her estimates were already off, since the village was already under attack.

Lugh placed his hands on her back to cheer her up.

“Hey, it wasn’t your fault so don’t worry too much about it.”

“If you do not mind, would you stay the night in the village? I think many of the villagers are still weary of the monsters that may return soon, so I think your presence alone could help calm them down.”

Seeing the villager chief’s plea Soumee accepted. It also worked out in their favour since they also needed a place to sleep after all.

PART SIX

The trio were gathered in a small room. Since half the village was destroyed in the attack they had to make do with a cramped place. The elder had tried to give them his home since it was relatively large but Soumee had declined the offer.

When night had fallen, Soumee and Lorelei were asleep. However wide awake was Lugh, he sat near an open window and stared up at the two moons. Back in Arune only the blue moon [Akashia] could be seen but now the red moon was also visible.

The first time he had laid eyes on [Pandemonium], like the name suggested he thought he would go crazy if he looked at it too much. There were no real psychological effects from the moons, this fact has been confirmed by many magicians, it was just an individual feeling that Lugh got.

Perhaps it was due to the fact that he had never seen the red moon before that this phenomenon had taken place.

“Is something wrong?”

Noticing that Lugh was not sleeping next to her, Soumee came out.

“It won’t do if you don’t sleep, today has been a rather tiring day after all.”

“I know but, you weren’t there so.”

Lugh came up and embraced her.

“… Is something bothering you Lugh?”

“I’m wondering, why the monsters were rampaging. Most of these monsters should be one that keep to themselves, yet to came out.”

“You think that there’s some purpose to monster movements?”

Lorelei had awoken from the talking between Soumee and Lugh. She rubbed her eyes as she came out of the room.

“Perhaps, I just don’t believe that monsters would just randomly attack villages. Actually the entire premise is a little off too, we believe that monsters are the servants of demons, but as far as I know demons have always preferred to be hidden and away from any sort of attention, if that were really true then why did they send monsters in the most flashiest way possible?”

“I think you’re thinking too much into this, you don’t know what demons are thinking.”

“Hmm? What’s that?”

Soumee pointed out onto the darkness. There were small sources of light that were glittering through. Dancing around in the darkness as though they were alive.

The three were rather curious and decided to go have a look. Upon arrival they noticed a tense situation.

The lights were from the torches that the villagers were carrying. However the most curious part was that they were surrounding a few beastmen. Some of them were from the wolf tribe, some of them were from the rabbit tribe and some of them were from the bear tribe.

However the consistent thing among them were that they were all sick. They all had poor complexion and often times some would even cough blood.

They were all tied up.

“I knew it was you bastards that were the one to unleash the monsters upon us.”

The one who spoke to them were the village elders.

“Keh, of course it was. Who wouldn’t do such a thing after all the shit you’ve put us through. You treat us like slaves and work us to the bone. Many of us have even died because you overworked them. You even use us in your odd experiments for your strange drugs. Many of us have died from that as well!”

One of the beast kin spoke out. He was a [were-wolf], almost human in appearance except for a few key features like the addition of wolf’s ears and tail. They had considerably longer claws and sharper teeth as well, however those features weren’t as noticeable.

“Insolent fool! You are slaves! You are inferior to us! Have you gone so mad that you don’t even realize this?”

“Slaves, my ass! You kidnapped our children and made us work for you if we wanted them back! In the end you killed them all! Just who is the true monster here?!”

“Hmph, the whinging of losers, this world is based on the rule that only the strongest survive! You who have lost to that rule have no right to complain!”

“What did you say?! Keh, so that means that the ones that died from the monsters were weak huh? That’s good to know.”

“You bastard! It seems like you haven’t had enough.”

The village elder turned towards one of the villagers and gave an instruction. ‘Burn them’ he said and complying to the village chief’s request one of the villagers brought a torch to one of the beast kin and burnt them alive.

“Stop that! Why?! Why did you do that?!”

“Because you haven’t had enough. You haven’t truly understood who is the one in charge here.”

“You-!”

“Please stop!”

Not being able to take anymore of this Soumee came out to intervene. The sight of treating non humans in such manner had disturbed her. Perhaps a few years ago she may not have thought that much of it, Arune also had a human supremacy policy, many of the beast kin were treated as inferior creatures and used as slaves.

But on this journey Soumee had truly understand that all living beings are meant to exist as equals.

She had thought once she or Elly takes over as the next empress she would try to rectify that.

Certainly, a large portion of Ariadyne were also influenced by politics of Arune, as such it wasn’t odd to find many of the humans that lived on the center continent to show such an attitude towards non humans.

“You guys. When did you?”

The village chief was surprised that the three had witnessed this scene.

“It was you! Why did you kill the monsters?! They were only laying retribution to these fools who have lost their sanity!”

“No, I. no-”

Soumee could not respond to that accusation. Perhaps the beast kin were right, the monsters were only seeking retribution to the humans who have treated them horribly, yet Soumee did not believe this was how it should be done.

“We have to see each other eye to eye! We are all equal as living beings!”

Soumee pleaded but it fell on deaf ears.

“Keh! See eye to eye huh? That may have been a wonderful solution had we not all been terminally ill due to their experimentation!”

“Experiments?”

“That’s right, the area around these parts are not very forgiving to the people living here. The plants often sport many different types of poison so not everything can be eaten, the humans knowing that used us as test subjects to determine which plants were edible!”

“That’s…”

“Because of that, every single one of us are ill! We would die soon anyway! Before that we wanted to have the humans taste retribution! However you ruined it! You ruined everything!”

Speaking such lines the beast kin started to cough violently.

Soon one by one they all started to fall. Bleeding from their eyes and mouth, they were dying in such a gruesome manner.

“See this! Witness this human! It is because of you that we will die! The death of my tribe and many others are on your hands! The humans are truly detestable!”

With those last words all of the beast kin were killed.

Drowning in the pool of their own blood it was a horrible scene.

“I’m sorry you had to witness such things.”

The elder apologized but he seemed to have a small smile on his face. Most likely there is a reason for his hatred of the beast kin, however the way this had turned out as not the way that Soumee had wanted.

From the beginning everything as wrong.

There was only silence after that. All of the villagers and Soumee’s party.

PART SEVEN

The trio had left the village before dawn even arrived.

All three of them lost in contemplation of what had just taken place. The monsters weren’t sent by demons at all, they were only used in the revenge scheme of beast kin who had been horribly mistreated.

So then, who was the actual victim? Was it the beast kin who had been abused for a long time? Or was it the humans who had been killed in their vengeance?

Or perhaps they were both victims of a mentality that could only bring pain.

Soumee realized this. No, she had always known this.

The mentality of the Arune Empire was rotten, they may call themselves the [holy empire] but they were no different from bullies who subjugated all races that weren’t human.

She, herself was also guilty by association.

For a long time, Soumee had lived, ignorant of the way Arune had done things, it was only after she had left the southern continent and saw the world for herself that she finally understood that it was wrong.

All beings had the right to exist. Then was it wrong that they would fight to continue to hold that right?

When she thought about it in that way, she understood now, why Arune was subject to so many cases of rebellion.

All this time she had thought that Arune was justified in defending itself, but it was Arune itself that was horrid.

Then what of her father? Certainly her father should’ve know about this.

Arune’s emperor and the forefront of the empire’s ideology. Was her father also wrong? It pained her to think, but perhaps he was. She was no longer a child, she wasn’t allowed to think that the people around her were always justified and pure.

She didn’t want to think about it, but the reality stung her. It kept stinging her.

“Soumee?”

Standing next to her was Lugh. Arune’s strongest knight. The knight that fought to defend Arune’s ideals, what of him? Her very own husband. He was also guilty, in fact he was the one who had always gone out to destroy rebellion within Arune.

She averted her gaze.

She loved him, however it was a different story on whether or not she could accept his ideals. She was no different, her ignorance made her the same as any citizen of Arune.

She gave a wry smile as she shook her head.

“It’s nothing.”

She replied and started to walk forward. Perhaps she was thinking too much into this, or perhaps she was just not smart enough to come to a conclusion.

Then a thought came to her.

What of the one known as the [Demon Lord]?

Arune’s god wanted her to slay him, but was he truly evil? The demons had not done anything to threaten the balance of power in the world or its peace, in fact Arune would be arguably more guilty of such things.

Did she really have to slay the demon lord? Even if it were an order from god, did she really have to slay a potentially innocent person?

She shook her head once more. She will have a talk with the demon lord. If he is truly as evil as Arune’s god claims then she will take his life, if not then she will try to look for an alternative.

The trio had rented a small boat to sail across the sea separating Ariadyne and Vertloch.

Though it is known as a ‘sea’ in truth it was only a small distance apart. At most it would only take 2 days by boat.

It was a painful journey on the sea. Lorelei had succumb to sea-sickness multiple times.

While travelling on the boat, Soumee had noticed the presence of a large monster lurking beneath them, however she did not pay much attention to it as it did not directly interfere with them.

Upon arrival they witnessed a land covered in snow.

They weren’t able to see through very much as the view to the distance was blocked by a heavy white mist.

White, everywhere they saw, it was white. There was a dreary and cold atmosphere in the air, almost as if the land itself was rejecting them who had landed on the shore.

Resolving themselves one more time they each took a step.

“We’re finally here.”

Lorelei commented. It was unbelievable how easy it was to reach this continent. Yet it had been uncharted for a long time, perhaps there were people who sojourned to his place a long time ago but they did not leave any records.

The only information on this continent was that it was filled with demons and monsters.

“Yeah.”

Soumee answered in a low tone. Right now she wanted nothing more than to get over with this mission and return home.

“Hmm?”

They noticed the approach of someone from beyond the mist. The trio armed themselves getting ready to retaliate if they were attacked. Not an unlikely possibility, after all they were now in the land filled with demons. Creatures that they had been told were evil.

The one who appeared before them was a small male child. He had an air of superiority about him and the way he carried himself painted the picture of nobility.

The boy was no older than perhaps 10, and the most intriguing thing about the boy was that he wore a small white mask.

“Greetings, Heroes. I applaud you for making it this far.”

“Who are you?”

Still armed even though the opponent was a child, Lugh asked. It was a well known fact that there were some races within the ranks of demons that have a long life span. So even if this child were to look as such it could be that he was much older than even them.

“My apologies, where are my manners. I am of the [Vampire] kin. My name is Kyrios and I have been sent by the Demon Lord [Balor] to retrieve you and invite you to his abode.”

“You think such a trick would work on us?”

Lugh accused, gripping more tightly onto his sword.

“If you think it is a trick then so be it, however it is to my knowledge that you will eventually get to our castle, if that is so then sooner or later you’ll have to come, if you think we are hostile then it shouldn’t matter since in your mind we’ll attack you either way, right?”

“…”

Lugh eyed Soumee for her decision on the matter.

“I guess we have no choice then.”

Soumee did not unsheathe her weapon but still decided to go along with what the demon had told her.

It was true what he said. Eventually they will get to the demon lord’s castle and when that time comes, whether it was a trap or not they will still be met with resistance, if that was the case then it would be far better to simple go along and finish this quest that much faster.

Darkness. That was the first word that came to Soumee’s mind when she entered the city of the demon lord.

The [Vertloch Skyreach] that was the name of this city; a city known to be covered in a perpetual night. The red moon hung over the horizon in its red glory.

From the northern continent only [Pandemonium] could be seen in the night sky.

However the moon could not be seen very well in this town from the ground.

That was because, as the name implied, buildings that seemed to reach into the sky existed here. Skyscrapers ascending dozens of floors with the highest building in the center of the city.

The demon lord’s fort.

It was larger and taller than any other building surrounding it. At the very top the red moon stood perpendicular. No doubt once at the top the moon could almost be seen from the side windows straight out.

As they walked down the city they were met with the many curious gaze of the demons.

It wasn’t just a single race of demons that lived here, many different races co-existed, a sight that would never be seen in Arune.

“What is this place?”

Lorelei asked, curious as the structure in this city was nothing like that in anywhere in Eternis.

“This is the capital city of the northern continent. The [Vertloch Skyreach]. Here is where our demon lord reigns.”

They were lead to a large singular structure, this one reaching much higher to the sky than the others. The walls were dark greyish but in the cover of the night it looked almost black.

“This is where the demon lord resides. As I’ve yet to reach a required level I am forbidden from entry.”

Soumee gave a small non-verbal nod and entered the large skyscraper, as did the other two.

Within the building was a completely different world. Soumee had expected it but the interior architecture was also vastly different from anywhere in Eternis. The doors were open via sliding sidewards, the floor was made of woven wood and the clothes that the attendants of the building wore were elegant.

Loose looking clothing tied by a sash.

As they proceeded further into the castle the situation got that much more tense, even the usual talkative Lorelei had shut her mouth and simply observed as he walked.

The demonic residents gave them powerful glares, everyone knew what was going to happen.

It seemed as though they had walked for hours when they were finally able to reach the top most floor of the large skyscraper.

It was a large dome-like room that had windows all on the sides and a single outside veranda-like protrusion at the far end of the room.

Standing at that far end was a single demonic figure. He had large ram horns growing on the either side of his face, his hair was red, almost as though it were fire itself, even his eyes glowed red which contrasted magnificently with the red moon, [Pandemonium] that floated directly behind him.

His left eye was covered by a black eye patch, however from behind it, a powerful force could be felt.

“I welcome you heroes.”

A charismatic and commanding voice. It was no wonder that he was the demon lord, anyone one would feel compelled to follow him with such a powerful voice.

Soumee slowly grabbed for her sword and shield, noticing that Lugh and Lorelei did the same.

“I am known as [Balor of the evil eye]. The demon lord: [Balor De Signa].”

END REPORT

[Status Menu]

Soumee. Level 87

PALADIN

Strength: 350

Dexterity: 55

Intelligence: 5

Insight: 55

[Status point: 0]

[Skill Menu]

-TBD-

Ascension Rebirth - The hero's journey (PART 1) (Chapter 20)
Ascension Rebirth - The Arune Inquisition (Chapter 22)
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