Chapter 290
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“Are you really Aurielle?”

Lucia’s words echoed through my mind. I had not expected her to notice so soon, but out of everyone here, she knew me the best. Her stern glare as she spoke was as if she was trying to bore into my mind and see inside. 

 “Probably,” I replied with a shrug.

“Probably?” Lucia repeated. Heat billowed from her body, and sparks filled the air. I knew that if my following words were unsatisfactory, she would turn against me.

I chuckled at the extreme show of emotion. It warmed my heart to know that despite being revived, she would be willing to turn against her savior for my sake. “I am Aurielle, but not completely. I have stopped worrying about it; not worth the headache. If you are willing to listen for a few minutes, though, I can tell you the story of what happened.”

The air around Lucia began to cool. She still looked skeptical, but after a couple of seconds, she nodded. “Tell me everything.”

I hopped up on the balcony railing and sat with my legs hanging over the edge. The distant ground drifted by as the building flew over a small cloud. “Do you remember a lecture I gave you long ago about seeing the bigger picture?”

Lucia frowned as she watched my actions with curiosity. “Yes. If I remember correctly, you reprimanded me for staying behind to heal a single wounded man rather than protect the west side of a village that was under attack. Several people died because of my actions instead of just one. It was one of the few times you ever got angry at me.”

I nodded, recalling the scene. I hadn’t understood her reasoning back then, but I did now. “I am sorry. I have never been a good teacher,” I said with a sigh, “I chastised you for saving that man, but when I was faced with a similar dilemma, I could not turn away either. If I had chosen to revive into one of my prepared undead instead, I would have recovered my full power much more easily. I would have been able to stop Envy’s renewed invasion before it even began, or at least delay it. Instead, I chose to be reborn as Wren. Exactly when I became this way is a bit fuzzy. My mind is a bit of a mess right now. This revival has led to no end of complications, but I don’t regret it.” I turned to smile at Lucia with a warm, genuine smile from the bottom of my heart. “I even have a family now, a cheery dad, a stubborn mom, and a bookworm brother. I wouldn’t trade this new life for all the riches in the world.”

Lucia blinked in surprise at my radiant smile. A second later, her arms wrapped around me from behind. “You are just too adorable!” she shouted exuberantly. 

I grimaced as Lucia’s monstrous strength held me tight. “Let go! I am still your teacher, not some doll for you to play dress up with.”

“Oh! That’s a wonderful idea. We definitely have to find some cute clothes for you to try on. I have so many ideas.”

“Absolutely not!” I tried to struggle free of Lucia’s grip, but much to my horror, I couldn’t get free. Despite being strong enough to bend steel, Lucia’s might dwarfed mine. All I could do was squirm in her arms.

“Aw, don’t be like that,” Lucia said with a malicious grin, “When I was a kid, you bought me all sorts of terrible clothes. I think it is time I returned the favor.”

I struggled fruitlessly in Lucia’s grip, but short of exploding in a ball of fire, I could not think of any way to free myself. After several seconds of unproductive protest, I slumped my shoulders in defeat. “Fine, I will make a deal with you. Help me with one problem, and I will wear whatever you want without complaint.”

Lucia raised an eyebrow curiously. “Hmm, it must be quite the problem if you are willing to go that far. What do you need me to do?”

“First, release me, then we can talk.”

“Fine,” Lucia replied with a disappointed huff.

I quickly distanced myself from the affectionate woman as soon as her arms loosened. She looked at me expectantly, and once I was sure she would not grab me again, I explained. “There is someone I want you to heal. My mom was injured fighting the Demons. If you can help her, I will do whatever you want for one hour.”

Lucia brought a finger to her chin with a smirk on her lips. “One hour seems small for someone so important. Don’t you care about your family?”

“Seriously, you are going to bargain with me on this?”

“You taught me that I should never let go of an opportunity to seize someone’s weakness in order to get what I want,” Lucia replied with a devilish smile.

I crossed my arms in annoyance. “Does your healing talent even still work after your revival?”

“That’s a good question. I’m not sure, but make the deal twenty-four hours, and I will make it work.”

“Nine,” I spat back.

“Sixteen,”

“Thirteen and not a minute more,” I growled, “but you have to succeed in healing her, or you get nothing.”

 “It’s a deal then,” Lucia said with a big smile.

Still scowling, I approached Lucia. “Then let’s find something to test your talent on. I would rather my mom not be your first experiment.”

“Any ideas?”

“Let’s go hunt a deer or some other wild game. If your talent works, no harm done. If it doesn’t, we get dinner for everyone.”

“Alright, let’s go,” Lucia agreed with a hungry sparkle in her eye, “I want to hunt something big. Ever since I woke up, I have been starving.”

“That’s normal. It will go away in a few weeks.”

With a nod, Lucia hopped off the balcony. The power of a domain rippled out from her body as she effortlessly glided through the air. Her excitement was infectious as I followed after her. With our abilities, it did not take long before we found potential prey. 

“Does bear taste good?” Lucia asked, looking down at the beast as it tread through the forest.

“A bit gamey but sweeter than venison,” I replied with a shrug. 

“Awesome, let’s try it out!” Lucia shouted excitedly. She shot down towards the unexpecting animal like an arrow. 

The beast noticed her approach and roared fiercely. It reared up on two legs to meet the invader swooping down on it. In response to the bear’s swiping claws, Lucia raised her hand to parry. It was a simple action bolstered by her domain. Before her death, such an attack would have just knocked the bear’s paw aside. Now, though, when her hand came into contact with the bear’s, the tough hide of the bear exploded as if it were made of tofu. The entire arm practically disintegrated into a red mist that coated the forest floor.

The bear roared in shock and pain. It stumbled back with fear in its eyes. Lucia blinked in surprise at the unexpected splatter. She looked down at her hand in confusion.

I caught up with Lucia a second later. My knee slammed into the stunned bear before it could escape, cracking its spine in a single blow.

She looked up at me and then back down at her hand. “How did I do that?”

“I’ve told you before. My undead grow stronger the longer their bodies are tempered by my flames. You spent fifty years as one of my undead and, more importantly, drew power directly from the core I hid in the Chronicle. In pure physical might, even the self-proclaimed Demi-gods of the Seventh Division might not be able to match you.”

Lucia clenched her fist tight as she fell deep into thought. “This… will take some getting used to.”

“Don’t worry. We will get Svend to spar with you later. You will get used to your new strength in no time. Just try not to hurt anyone accidentally before then.”

Lucia nodded numbly before perking up and looking at me curiously. “Wait, it took more strength than that to hold you earlier. Why did I not have this incredible strength then?”

“All power is relative,” I replied casually as I picked up a loose rock from the ground. Tightening my grip, the stone shattered into small fragments. “You don’t have to worry about hurting me.”

“That’s good,” Lucia said with a sigh of relief. She then looked over at the bear lying on the ground. Its breathing was weak, but its eyes were wide with fear. She knelt down next to the creature and placed her hand on its head. The bear whimpered in fear as it tried to escape her touch, but it was too weak to do more paw at the ground. “Shhh, the pain will go away soon,” Lucia whispered softly.

The bear did not understand her words, but something in her voice calmed the creature down. With a spark, a golden flame ignited in Lucia’s hand. She looked at the fire with a frown and closed her eyes. Seconds ticked by in silence. 

I waited patiently, watching the flame flicker in Lucia’s palm. This was the most crucial moment of our experiment, and I knew better than to interrupt. Up until now, the only person I had revived with an innate talent was Marilyn, and due to the interference of the unknown man toying with the future, she was not a good baseline. Lucia’s talent was frighteningly similar to my own. There was no guarantee that the golden flame would not interfere with it. 

I rocked on the heels of my feet as I waited. After nearly a minute, there was finally a change. Wisps of soft blue light began to flicker inside the golden flame. Releasing a long breath, Lucia placed the fire on the injured bear. Immediately, there was a change. The bear’s mangled arm stopped bleeding, and, in its place, blue light began to glow. Little by little, the light started to spread. Bone, flesh, and fur were restored. In five minutes, it was as if the arm had never been missing at all.

I smiled in boundless delight. Mom could finally be healed! I couldn’t contain my joy as I ran up to the bear to examine it for any sign of remaining injury.

Lucia smirked at me. “Seeing you like this, it is hard to believe you really are Aurielle.”

I coughed to hide my embarrassment. “I’m just looking. I have always been jealous of your talent. It is incredible.”

Lucia puffed out her chest in pride. The now fully healed bear began to stand. Eyes still full of fear from the terrifying humans, it tried to flee, but before it could take more than two steps, Lucia reached out with her hand and grabbed its neck. The bear struggled desperately, but it could not escape the vice-like grip. With a quick twist of her wrist, there was a pop, and the bear fell still, its neck broken.

I raised my eyebrow curiously at Lucia. She shrugged as she wiped her hand on the hem of her dress. “What? I still want to eat it.” She said innocently.

“Alright, let’s get it back to Dragon’s Nest before it drifts too far,” I replied.

Lucia hefted the giant bear with a single arm, lifting it over her shoulder. Before we could take flight, however, an unnatural, putrid, rotting smell filled the forest clearing. The sound of branches breaking under heavy footsteps moved in our direction.

A growl rumbled, slowly transforming into words. “Typical humans, even one blessed with the light of life, cannot resist killing to satisfy their own selfish desires.”

I turned to the source of the growl. A giant, rotting corpse of a bear approached. Its body was covered in sores and open wounds. Even its ribs were visible on one side of its body. These injuries did nothing to hinder the creature, though, its footsteps were firm and definite. Each one felt as if it was claiming part of the forest as it walked.

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