Chapter 280
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Sebastion brushed past me. He took Lucia’s hand. Her face remained passive as he dragged her away.

I watched the two disappear into the blood mist with nostalgia. Their hazy figures overlapped with my memories of the two holding hands as children. The bright smiles I had not seen in decades were so vivid I could almost reach out and touch them.

I smiled softly as I nearly lost myself in the memory. Faint whispers echoed from the Chronicle in my hand. The memory shifted as more figures flickered at the edge of my sight. Closing my eyes tight, I shook away the vision, forcing it back down.

Gritting my teeth, I turned away. The ground rumbled as the giant serpent slithered closer. A small feline figure sat proudly atop its head. It was so minuscule compared to the mountainous snake that it looked like a hair on its head. It was only recognizable by the delighted meow that echoed through the blood mist.

Nox’s antics brought a smile to my lips. With a hop, my domain propelled me up to the fluffball. Crossing my legs, I sat beside the kitten and ran my fingers through its soft fur.

“Found someone new to boss around?” I teased. The cat purred in response as it curled up against my leg. “I guess we need to name this one as well, huh?” I spoke, talking to myself more than the cat. “I don’t think we can bring this one back with the golden fire, though… the energy needed to revive this giant thing would probably be more than this land can manage.”

I paused as I looked down at my hand. Two flames, one blue and one green, danced around each other. A small glyph started to take shape, but as soon as the two flames touched, the green fire greedily devoured the blue one. No golden flame ignited, and the glyph failed to activate.

“I’m not sure I can bring anybody back right now,” I mumbled as I sunk into thought.

I had an inkling of what might be causing the problem. Regaining my full strength was not a simple matter of quantity of energy but also quality. Now that I had reclaimed the core of my power, the green flames were far, far more potent than before. The balance I had worked so hard to create between the two forces was now completely broken. A drop of oil could not make the sun burn brighter.

Instinctually, I found myself tracing the symbols embroidered on the front of the Chronicle. The simple repetitive pattern overlapped again and again. The book almost seemed to hum under my touch.

The Chronicle was the solution. It always had been. The problem was the Chronicle did not present me with just one answer but three.

Three different paths that could decide my future.

Several hours passed as I sat silently, staring out at the blood mist. Nox was my only company. The giant serpent underneath us had fallen still. Its gentle breathing was the only indicator that we were sitting on a living creature rather than a mountain.

As time dragged on, dreams started to blur my vision. Each one was so real I almost forgot where I was on multiple occasions. Even my own name faded away as I began to lose my sense of self.

In the first dream, I sat alone in a dead forest, lonely and cold. There was no greenery anywhere where I looked. No animals scampered by. No insects buzzed through the air. There were only the trees, each one bare of any leaves. Their bark blacker than the darkest night.

In the second dream, I stood in a courtroom. Hundreds of eyes tracked my every movement. A man was forced to kneel on the floor by two soldiers. There was fear in his eyes as he waited for me to pass judgement on his sins.

The final dream was the one that surprised me the most. I laid together, side by side, with a young woman. The crash of waves against the seashore echoed nearby. The two of us watched the clouds together. A content peace washed over me. The sensation was so unfamiliar it was almost a foreign concept. It was not something I understood, and that scared me.

Night began to fall as the dreams overlapped and blurred together. At times I was one person before suddenly shifting to another so fast it gave me emotional whiplash. I didn’t even notice when the blood mist turned dark around me. It was only when I heard the sound of footsteps approach from behind that I was momentarily shaken from the dreams plaguing my mind. Still dazed, it took me a moment to remember where I was.

Mare walked up. Her hands clasped behind her back as she leaned over me with a grin. “How are the nightmares?”

“Not as bad as they could be. Do you want to see?” I replied, lightly tossing the Chronicle in Mare’s direction.

The girl’s eyes went wide. She leapt out of the way as if I had just thrown a flaming hot coal at her. I caught the glint of fear in her eyes as she scrambled back half a dozen steps.

Mare’s voice was little more than a growl as she spoke. “No, no, I do not. Trust me, neither of us wants what would come of that.”

I clicked my tongue in disappointment. “That’s too bad. I wouldn’t mind seeing a bit of your past.”

Mare chuckled nervously. Her eyes did not leave the Chronicle as she spoke. “All you will find in my past is famine and death. Very little of it is good, and I have no intention of reliving it.”

“Fine, fine,” I replied with a dismissive wave of my hand, “Answer a question of mine instead.”

Mare hesitated for a second before nodding. “What do you want to know?”

I leaned over and picked up the Chronicle. Brushing the dust off the cover, I considered the choice looming over my head. “What name do I use in the future?”

Mare blinked in surprise. “Does it matter?”

“More than you might think,” I replied, barely speaking above a whisper, “I am currently facing a bit of a dilemma, and your answer could give me some insight into what I choose.”

Mare brought her hand up to her chin in thought. “Before I answer, will you tell me about it?”

“Sure, talking it through might help me come to a solution anyway,” I replied with a shrug. My finger once again began tracing the symbol on the front of the book as I began to speak. “You and I both know I am not strong enough to face Envy when he enters this realm. Even with regaining my previous strength and all the advantages you have given me, it will not be enough for us to win.” Mare’s eyes darted to the ground as I spoke, but she didn’t deny it. We both knew what kind of battle laid ahead. “I believe my best chance of seriously injuring Envy or maybe even killing him lies in the golden fire created by combining my two talents. If I can unleash my fully regained strength with an equally powerful blue flame to match it, the explosion alone should be cataclysmic. The question I am faced with, though, is how to quickly raise the level of my second talent to match one that has decades of growth built up.”

Mare bit her lip as she began to understand the choice I had to make. “So, you plan to use to Chronicle to cheat that growth? Something like that can’t be done without consequence.”

I nodded solemnly. “As I see it, I have three methods I can use to accomplish this feat. None of them are particularly appealing. The first would be to convert the core of my power from generating Aurielle’s talent into generating Wren’s. The only way I could do that, though… is if Aurielle no longer existed. I could store everything into the Chronicle. Her memories, her power, her soul, all of it would be recorded and stored for the singular purpose of bringing the power back out of the Chronicle for one final attack against Envy. Of my three options, this one would probably create the strongest explosion. However, I doubt her half of my soul would survive a process that destructive. Put simply, there is a very good chance Aurielle would cease to exist afterwards, and only Wren would remain. Even revival might not be an option.”

Mare thought for a moment before speaking. “I wouldn’t recommend that option. If Envy or the Leviathan somehow survive that one blow, you would be left weak with no way to call the golden flame out ever again.”

“That leads me to my second option of quickly increasing the strength of the blue flame in the time we have left. The Chronicle has recorded the process of creating an Angelic Sacrifice. With those records, Dragon’s Nest should be able to replicate the experiment. It can raise the level of the blue flames to a usable level for at least twelve hours, more than long enough for me to push Envy back.”

Mare frowned at my words. “I am beginning to understand the reason behind your question now. That experiment was banned for a reason. Sure, it can boost the power of your innate talent to incredible heights for a short time, but the backlash is equally severe. Your body, Wren’s body, would almost certainly die a few hours later.”

“That option would at least let us both have the chance for revival, but I don’t know how Wren’s soul would handle being reborn. I don’t like leaving something like that up to chance. That leaves only the third option left.” With a sigh, I stood up and stretched my back. “If I put everything on the line with the help of the Chronicle, there is a possibility I can combine the two talents completely. Then I wouldn’t have to worry about which one the core is empowering or how much energy is stored away. The problem is there is a very high chance of death. I have never successfully combined the two flames without creating an explosion. If I attempt this method and fail, there is no going back. I will die before Envy even arrives. However, if I succeed, I will have all the benefits of the other two methods without any of the downsides.”

“Worst case is, once again, death,” Mare said grimly.

I chuckled in reply. “I have never been afraid of death, but if I die before the battle even begins, we won’t stand a chance. The Demonkin are too numerous. Even without Envy interfering, they will overrun our army and wear us down unless I have an equally numerous undead army to match it. I can’t do that if I’m dead.”

“Do you want my opinion?” Mare asked.

“No,” I stated calmly, “I will make my own decision regardless of what you say. I just need time to think things through first.”

“Fair enough,” Mare replied with a shrug, “Honestly, my knowledge is limited anyway. I don’t know what option you choose here today, but I will answer your question. In the future I know, you will still be using the name, Wren as well as Aevus.”

I turned away from Mare to look out at the dark blood mist blacking out the sky. “That’s good enough. Maybe, at least, my worst-case scenario won’t happen.”