The Beginning After The End - Chapter 216
Chapter 216: Battlefield
The mage stared at me with panic-stricken eyes as the crumbled fragments of the black stone fell from my grasp.
There was a tense moment as I waited for something to happen amidst the war zone besides the already-ensued chaos raging on.
Suddenly, as if a switch had been turned on, every mana beast in the vicinity seemed to have become provoked by my action.
The once glazed and lifeless eyes of the mana beasts now burned with fury. It wasn’t just at me though; the mana beasts began growling and hissing at each other, baring fangs, claws, and horns at one another.
It didn’t take long for hell to break loose. Beasts pounced on one another without even a semblance of sanity left amongst them. They leaped at me with reckless abandon, often getting caught by one another in the process.
Quickly drawing the two swords I had received from the Flamesworth blacksmith, I turned into a flurry of blades. I slashed and stabbed at the vitals of the mana beasts that attacked me until a mound of bloody carcasses accumulated beneath my feet.
However, despite the massacre that befell those who came close, the mana beasts continued to attack and throw their lives away as if possessed.
‘Arthur! I can’t hold on anymore!’ Sylvie’s struggling voice pierced through my mind.
I turned back to see the mammoth beast break free, eyes locked on me as he pawed the ground in preparation to charge while the pile of corpses continued to grow.
However, I didn’t fail to notice the subtle difference in the mammoth beast’s behavior. The way the beast glared down at me still indicated rage, but the very targeted, threatening act of scruffing the ground showed some level of intelligence.
It showed that it wasn’t thinking of blindly charging like before, but waiting for me to react somehow to its act of aggression.
As for me, rather than having the luxury to react to the mammoth beast, I was occupied by the neverending mana beasts that seemed hell-bent on ripping my limbs off.
“ Enough! ” I roared, releasing every ounce of murderous intent I had pent up over time.
To the naked eye, nothing had changed, but for anyone that had an ounce of sense, they felt it. Even the beasts, as deranged as they were, froze in their tracks and began trembling out of instinct.
This may not have worked while they were in their stupor moments ago, but now the beasts around me shrank back out of fear while some of the weaker ones even collapsed.
With finally some space to breathe, I took a step toward the mammoth beast. A path opened up as I walked, the mana beasts unable to bear being too close.
I locked eyes with the colossal S-class monster that stuck out above the sea of mana beasts wreaking havoc amongst one another, directing the entirety of my unabated bloodlust. It was a primitive thing to do, much like flexing your muscles in front of your opponent to discourage them, but it did its job.
The colossal monster broke eye contact with me, its body slackening. Finally, with a mournful bellow, the S-class beast turned and left, trampling smaller mana beasts with each step.
‘It’s been a while since I felt your bloodlust. A good reminder not to tease you too much,’ Sylvie said as she joined me at my side.
I cracked a smile before replying. It seems to only work on the more intelligent and powerful beasts, though.
The mana beasts that had been temporarily paralyzed by my intent had quickly broken free and resumed their mauling spree.
Turning around, I saw the Alacryan mage. Despite being bloody and incapacitated, he was still alive. None of the beasts seemed to even want to go near him.
Seeing how the crazed beast acted, it couldn’t have been out of pity or even out of loyalty to their supposed master.
“Now…” I peered down at the frightened mage. “I wonder how you’re still alive.”
Sylvie craned her neck and began sniffing at the mage I had nailed to the ground. ‘I’m not sure if it has anything to do with it, but there’s a rather repulsive stench coming from this human.’
The Alacryan mage let out a muffled whimper as my bond bared her fangs at him, but there was little else he could do.
As I contemplated whether to take the mage in for questioning or killing him on the spot and continue whittling down enemy numbers, the mage let out a slightly more coherent sound.
“Ah h-hell ooh, ah hell ooh,” he muttered through the melting ice binding his mouth shut.
Exchanging glances with Sylvie, I melted the ice around his lower face. “Speak. Any useless words and I’ll kill you on the spot.”
“I-I’ll tell you why they won’t attack me. Just promise you’ll let me live.”
I let the tip of my new sword rest on the mage’s mouth, just barely nicking the corner of his lips. “I hate making promises I know I won’t keep.”
Tears rolled down the mage’s cheeks as he glared daggers at me. “Then why should I tell you anything?”
The dirt and blood on his face did little to mask how young the enemy was, but it would be sloppy to show mercy. I pushed the blade just a little deeper; the mage let out a pained cry. “Because… a quick painless death is better than a long painful one.”
Using fire magic to heat the blade of my sword, I pressed it against the mage’s cheek. While the mana beasts around us were creating havoc, the majority of the beast horde was still making its way toward the Wall. I couldn’t waste too much time on this.
“All right! Please, just stop!” he screamed, stretching his head as far away from my sword as his neck would take him. “W-We have a serum that the corrupted beasts can’t stand during their frenzied state.”
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“Where did you get it? Who else has this serum?”
The Alacryan shook his head vigorously. “I-I-I really don’t know this! I just know it’s precious so everyone who even gets it only gets a little bit of it to spray on themselves.”
With a terse nod, I stabbed my sword down into the Alacryan mage’s heart. The young mage’s eyes bulged but what surprised me was his lips that curved up into a smirk.
“It’s useless…even if you know,” he sputtered, blood leaking out of his mouth. “Long… live…”
Unable to even finish his sentence, the mage fell unconscious from the shock. He’d most likely die within a few minutes, painlessly in his sleep.
I pulled out my sword with a quick jerk and moved on. There was a lot more work to be done.
I spent the next hours on the ground, hacking, stabbing, and shooting mana beasts with swords and spells. My guidance under Kordri had honed my body to last for days with the help of mana arts and martial technique. There was no wasted effort in my movements and attacks as mana beasts, whether in a stupor or in their frenzied state, fell lifelessly beside me.
Even the time spent training with Kathyln, Hester, Buhnd, and Camus bore fruit. Having experience battling against multiple opponents really helped knowing how to best react to the unceasing waves of mana beasts—some of which were even able to cast long-distance magic—without overexerting my mana. Coupled with the mana-measuring discs that Emily had test out on me, I was able to limit the strength of my spells to its utmost efficiency.
How’s everything on your end, Sylvie? I asked while letting out a grunt. I pulled my lightning-clad sword out from inside a giant mana beast’s scorched eye socket. Much like the S-class mammoth beast I had scared off earlier, this one had a hide strong enough to put a chip in my new sword.
The beast crashed into the ground, flattening a few unfortunate mana beasts below it. Its lifeless body still crackled with arcs of lightning while its limbs spasmed.
‘A bit tired, I’ll admit, but I’m fine,’ she responded, her mental voice clear even from the distance between us.
Tired already? It’s only been like four hours of nonstop fighting, I teased, stabbing and pulling my sword out from the ribcage of a large primate mana beast.
The shortsword I had received as a set with my longer sword quickly became unusable, leaving me with only Dawn’s Ballad and my thin longsword that had already grown dull.
While the two of us continued our onslaught, my main focus had shifted to finding the other Alacryan mages. The serum that the enemy mage had told me about capable of basically concealing the user from corrupted beasts was an enticing bounty, and I already knew what to use it for.
However, even after the hours of searching, our efforts were fruitless. Just the sheer number of mana beasts alone made it almost impossible to even distinguish larger mana beats, let alone a human.
“Damn it,” I cursed, thrusting both my blades into the thick neck of a reptilian mana beast. “We’re running out of time.”
‘The Wall is getting closer, Arthur. The conjurers and archers will be in range to attack soon. It’ll be even harder to find the enemy mages then,’ Sylvie informed.
You’re right. And once the beast horde reaches the Wall and the trap that everyone set up activates, it’ll be impossible to find them, I responded back as I slashed through another pack of frenzied canine beasts.
‘What do you suggest?’ my bond asked as she fought her way through the hordes of beasts between us to get to me.
There’s no choice but to rely on Realmheart to search for the mages.
There was a moment of silence in our minds as I felt Sylvie think over her next words.
‘I want to keep your family safe as well, Arthur, but is it wise to deviate from your obligations as a general and lance? Using Realmheart will take a big toll on you and even then, we run the risk of it being for nothing.’
Gritting my teeth, I jumped up on Sylvie’s back. Memories of my fight with my parents during my last trip to the Wall flooded out of my mind and into my bond’s. It was faster letting her know this way than trying to explain.
It’s not wise, Sylv. I know that. But please, just for a little bit. I need to be able to tell myself that I’m giving my all to keep my family safe, and finding a serum might just do that.
Assuming everything went according to plan, we’d have to sacrifice parts of the Wall and the underground routes, and it’d be much safer for our melee troops to fight. But, even then, with so many people I cared about participating in this battle, it was impossible to not be anxious and afraid for them.
‘I understand,’ Sylvie sent empathetically as her powerful wings beat down. With a blast of wind, the two of us soared up into the sky, shooting past any of the aerial mana beasts before they could even react.
“I’m going to be relying on you to fight off any mana beasts while I focus on searching for the mages,” I said aloud.
Taking a deep breath, I ignited Sylvia’s beast will from deep within my mana core and let its power flow freely out into my body.
I felt the physical changes to my body as the warm surge of power filled me from the inside. Long white bangs obstructed my view while the runes covering my body and extending out to my limbs grew brightly, even through the thick clothes I wore.
Soon, my vision turned into shades of gray before flecks of colorful light began emerging out of thin air.
No matter how many times I had used this skill, it was breathtaking every single time. No matter how many spells were flung by mages and beasts, it was when I was able to physically see the very substance that made up all magic in the atmosphere that it felt like I had truly fallen into a magical world.
‘Focus, Arthur. Can you distinguish any of the Alacryan mages?’ Sylvie said with a hint of envy. My bond had yet to grasp this ability despite breaking out of the seal that her mother had placed on her before birth.
“Not really,” I replied, narrowing my gaze to try and pinpoint mana fluctuations that seemed different from the magic that the beasts were able to cast.
Sylvie continued flying across the length of the army, avoiding or killing any flying mana beasts that got in her way, while I scoured for any signs of the Alacryan mages hiding amongst them. It wasn’t until I pried my gaze from the sight below that I noticed something odd up toward the Elshire Forest.
Sylvie, can you take us higher for minute? I asked my bond, trying to make out what was happening up north.
Sensing my confusion and worry, we immediately ascended until it was impossible to make out the individual mana beasts below us. But as expansive and threatening the beast horde appeared, my focus was on a much bigger threat.
It wasn’t only the mana fluctuations that seemed to be made up of tens of thousands of mages, it was the trail—a bright trail of mana—leading from the army of what could only be the Alacryans straight to the heart of Elenoir Kingdom.