The Beginning After The End - Chapter 273 - Being of Aether
Chapter 273: Being of Aether
I had grown accustomed to expecting the unexpected. As brash and cliche as that sounded, in an unfamiliar area that didn’t abide by the conventions of either of the worlds I had lived in, it was all I could do in order to stay above the crippling anxiety lurking within me.
Yet, the scene that unfolded in front of me as the innumerous crystals of black and purple parted was oddly…familiar.
It wasn’t grandiose like the hall of elaborate statues or mind blowing like the panels of light within a cosmic void of purple.
No. It just seemed like the laboratory of a person even messier than Gideon. The room was fairly large but felt cramped with the dozen or so tables strewn throughout the room, each ‘decorated’ with an array of beakers and test tubes. Lining the walls in this hexagonal room were tall glass shelves filled with various nicknacks and containers—some empty, some not.
Only one wall remained different and that was because it had a portal. Unlike most portals that shone in an array of multicolored lights, this portal looked more like I was looking through a glass screen. Clearly shown on the other side were guards clad in plated armor of black in an otherwise empty room.
“Huh. You’d think with an entrance like that, it would lead to something…more,” Regis began before his eyes fell on the portal as well. “At least we’ll finally be out of here.”
“Wait.” My eyes scoured the lab. “The voice in my head referred to me as the ‘Being of Aether and Flesh’.”
“There has to be something more to this place than this,” I said as my eyes continued to search every corner of the room. “I’m guessing it wouldn’t have let me in here otherwise.”
“Wait.” Regis narrowed his sharp eyes. “Is that why you didn’t want to go back with the other ascenders? You expected something like this to happen?”
“Somewhat,” I said while walking through the aisles of metal tables. “There are too many variables that I can’t put my hands on, like finding Caera’s brother in the forest zone with the aetheric millipede. But what’s certain is that my presence has an influence on all of these zones, so it’s reasonable to assume that whoever built the Relictombs only wanted beings inclined toward aether to get this far.”
“Then what about all of the past cases where Alacryans were able to bring relics of the past to the Vritra?” Regis pried. “It’s been mentioned by the ascenders and I’ve even seen glimpses in my memories from Uto.”
I paused, thinking for a moment before shaking my head. “It’s hard to say for sure. My best guess is degradation, though. The Relictombs might be powerful enough to keep asuras out, but there’s nothing that can last forever, especially something as intricate as this place.”
“Anyway, this room shouldn’t be something as simple as an easy way out.” I turned toward my companion. “Do you know what these relics look like?”
“Aside from the massive amounts of aether held within, they can look like anything, from a book, to an artifact, to a bone. But I know that the simulets that Miss Booty—Daria mentioned a few times were made using the insights from a relic,” he answered before perking up. “Do you think we can find artifacts in this room before leaving?”
There was something odd about this room in that it looked like a normal lab but there were key components missing. Comparing this lab to Gideon’s, what filled his lab even more so than the beakers, molds, and contraptions were books.
Whether they were textbooks or journals for recordkeeping, there was always an abundance of bound paper. There wasn’t anything like that here.
As Regis continued to search through the lab, hoping to find some sort of clue as to where we were, I took a different approach.
But even with my enhanced vision, I couldn’t sense anything made of aether here aside from the portal.
Did I think too deeply into it? Like Regis had said, was this place simply just an easier route to get out of the Relictombs?
I almost considered leaving as Regis waited impatiently by the portal, his shadowy tail thumping the ground, when the words the voice had said echoed in my head once more.
It had referred to me as a ‘being of aether’, so maybe just trying to detect aether in this room wasn’t enough.
With nothing to lose, I unleashed an aetheric aura, bathing the room in a suffocating pressure.
“What the…” Regis stiffened, confused by my sudden action until the room started changing. As if everything that I saw, smelled and felt within this room had been an illusion, everything started fading away…including the floor.
I began to fall, and then just stopped. It felt like I had jerked awake from a falling dream as my feet suddenly found themselves firmly planted to a floor that didn’t exist a second ago.
I heard Regis let out a startled gasp, but my eyes were focused on the construct in front of me. A pedestal that stood ten-feet high with aetheric runes carved around it. Four revolving halos of glowing stones with the same intricate runes etched across its surface gyrated without ever touching one another.
Floating just above the pedestal in the center of the halos of stone was a small glistening crystal. It radiated a brilliant lavender light and, while it appeared rather valuable, the amount of the aether it emitted was miniscule. However, there was something in this room that held an unfathomable amount of aether.
Regis, although his perception toward aether wasn’t nearly as sensitive as mine, felt it too as he searched the room.
Looking around as well for the first time, I realized the deteriorated state of this room. Unlike the illusion of the lab we had fallen from, the stone rune-filled walls were cracked and chipped. There were even a few man-sized holes on the ground and in the walls with rubble still littering the floor.
What made me tense and almost fearful was the fact that this source of aether wasn’t just coming from any one spot. It was constantly moving and while I could feel it, it was the first time I couldn’t see it.
“Who’s there!” I roared, my eyes trying to follow the massive congregation of aether.
Suddenly, I could feel it rapidly approaching from the other side of the room. Unable to tell how large this invisible force was, I shrouded myself in aether and threw a blurring punch forward.
What was strange was that the strength behind my punch should’ve either gone through and hit the air, hit something and sent it flying, or injure my own hand and arm from the recoil. However, none of those things happened.
My fist had definitely hit something solid, but it felt like the force behind my attack had been completely nullified.
And manifesting in front of me, with its hand wrapped around my fist, was a humanoid figure that stood at about six feet.
“So you can sense me,” it said with an expression of pure shock.
I pulled my hand back and stepped away while Regis appeared beside me, teeth bared.
The figure was an opaque purple in color with short cropped hair of the same hue. The only parts darker were the tattoos of interlocking runes running over almost the entire surface of his body. It even ran up to his cheeks and forehead, leaving only his eyes, nose, mouth and chin bare.
The being studied me, brows furrowed and eyes glowing. “You have an aether core, yet no spellforms to protect your body.”
“Spellforms?” I asked while exchanging a confused glance with Regis.
Its eyes narrowed with intrigue. “I see. A human with the body of an asura—a dragon no less. What an unprecedented anomaly you are.”