Chapter 295
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I could smell the putrid stench of sulfur as I held my hand out towards the small tear in space. It was too unstable to see what was on the other side, but the smell was enough of a dead giveaway for me to guess. Demonkin, for the gag-inducing stench to reach across such a small crack, there had to be hundreds, thousands of them waiting on the other side. All of them were ready to pounce the moment there was a clear path through. 

A tiny wisp of fire, barely the size of a grain of rice, moved towards the center of the crack. My domain formed a bubble around them both, preventing even the slightest gust of wind from interrupting. I pursed my lips in concentration as I watched the rift waver on the edge of collapse.

Lucia watched my actions, her eyes glistening with curiosity. Her domain spread around us to block any sound as she cocked her head to the side. “What exactly are you trying to do?”

Not looking away from the flame, I began to manipulate its intensity until it reached an equilibrium with the flow of energy leaking from the shimmering portal. Only once I was done did I have the focus to spare answering Lucia’s question.

“Half-formed portals are tricky things. Despite releasing cataclysmic levels of energy themselves, almost any amount of foreign energy will cause the entire space to collapse. However, if you are delicate and precise, it is not entirely impossible to inject a bit of your own talent into it. This trick is something Esther, the Creation Calamity, loves doing. Once you succeed in creating an equilibrium, your talent can actually feed off the portal without any effort of your own, and if anyone disrupts that balance, well… you will see soon enough.”

“And it will draw our spies into conflict with one another?” Lucia asked.

“Maybe,” I replied with a shrug, “Either way, it will be very entertaining. For now, we just repeat this process with a few more rifts until someone gets curious.”

Lucia was practically bouncing for joy as she nodded enthusiastically. “Why did you never teach me about this trick before? It sounds like so much fun!”

“First of all, because there were no unstable rifts in this realm when I ruled it,” I answered as I flew off in search of a second half-formed portal. “Anyone trying to force their way into my realm at that time would find themselves at one of the four stable portals I had already created. Regardless of the level of rift stone they used, the result would be the same. Secondly, and probably more importantly, what I am doing now is actually really risky. In the best-case scenario, one mistake and the portal collapses, but it is just as likely you could accidentally end up being dragged through it, and I don’t need to tell you the consequences of someone at our level passing through such an unstable portal. We would be lucky if even ten percent of our body made it across intact.”

Lucia visibly shuddered at the thought. I still remembered the first time I had shown her the sight when she was younger. Even though she was a teenager at the time, the recording of mutilated flesh from my undead failing to pass through an unstable portal had given her nightmares for years.

We flew in silence after that. Lucia dared not make a sound while I repeated the process of stabilizing energy inside a second and third unformed rift. She was increasingly on guard as well, her eyes darting around as if an enemy might jump out at any moment to interrupt me. In less than an hour, all three portals had been set up.

“The bait has been set. Now all we have to do is wait,” I said, placing my hands on my hips with a satisfied nod.

“What if they don’t take the bait?” Lucia asked.

“Then we just leave it as is,” I replied with a dismissive wave, “If you think passing through an unstable portal is dangerous normally, you should see what happens if you pass through one nurturing somebody’s talent. It should kill any Demonkin stupid enough to attempt it—” I did not even get to finish my sentence before the sky behind us lit up in bright teal flames. A malicious grin spread across my lips as the boom of an explosion rocked the countryside. “Looks like our spies were even more impatient than I thought.”

“What…” Lucia muttered. Her mouth hung open as the bright noon sky turned a dark bluish-green.

“Want to go see?” I replied with an uncontrollable giggle of delight.

Lucia nodded numbly as she flew behind me. In less than a minute, the sight of the second portal came into view, or at least where the second portal had been. The terrain was completely unrecognizable from what it had been before. Dense shrubbery dotted with trees was now a sea of fire stretching out in every direction. Flames rained down from the sky and blotted out the sun as if it were the end of the world.

“What did you do?” Lucia remarked breathlessly at the sight.

“Do you know how much energy it takes to form a rift between worlds?” I replied with a grin, “Even a portal the size of a needle’s point has the potential to level a city if it is completely converted into explosive power. All I did was borrow a small portion of that potential and then left it as unstable as the portal could handle. Even the smallest fluctuation of energy was enough to break the balance, and unfortunately for them, Demonkin and Guardian Beasts both radiate power unconsciously. The moment either approached to get a better look, my trap was complete.”

Lucia stared at the devastation for several seconds before shaking her head with a light chuckle. “You know, I had my doubts, but you really are Aurielle, aren’t you? Nobody but you would be insane enough to use a trap like this and consider it no big deal.”

“Glad I could dispel your doubts,” I replied with a chuckle, “Now, let’s go watch the show.”

As we flew closer to the smoldering landscape, the screeches of beasts began to echo through the air. Hundreds of wails stacked on top of each other into an ear-piercing cacophony. The sound alone was enough to cause nightmares, but it was nothing compared to the sight ahead.

Thousands of Demonkin filled the center of the crater. The numbers alone were enough to paint the landscape red. Under any normal circumstances, it would be an alarming development, but the way the Demonkin passed between the realms was anything but normal. 

Everywhere you looked, blood flowed. Pieces of bodies and hunks of flesh were strewn across the ground. Thousands of Demonkin had been pulled through when the unstable portal erupted but less than two hundred survived the trip. The others were nothing more than torn strips of meat littering the crater. Not that the survivors were any luckier, all that met them on the other side of the portal had been a sea of fire. The few that survived the trip fell silent one by one as their roars of anguish weakened until nothing remained.

“All this from one little flame?” Lucia asked as she viewed the destruction in awe.

“Violently destroying a portal often pulls in anything standing too close to it,” I explained with a shrug, “Envy has hundreds of millions of Demonkin all impatient to cross over. It is not that much of a surprise many were waiting near a newly forming rift.”

“That’s awesome! Can we do it again?” Lucia shouted excitedly.

I shook my head in refusal and pointed to the only living creature in the erupted area. A large bear, covered in rotten flesh, struggled as it pulled itself out of the rubble. 

“That would ruin the game we just set up. Stay back and watch.”

A few seconds after I spoke, the lightning began to crackle for the center of the crater. The sound of cracking glass soon followed. The rift between realms that had just imploded began to reappear. This time, however, a pair of sharp eyes could be seen on the other side.

“Someone actually dares to use this old trick against my underlings?” 

Envy’s voice was like a mixture of grinding metal and falling sand as his eyes peered through the rift. By this time, the fires that raged had already returned to a natural orange color, leaving no sign of my involvement. All that was left in the crater was the bear.

“A Guardian Beast?” the disembodied voice remarked with a slight chuckle, “Your kind always picks the most frustrating times to get involved. I will have to nip this bud early.”

Before the bear could even respond, the unstable portal began to collapse. Just as quickly as he appeared, Envy was gone. The lone bear was left standing there, dumbfounded. Her eyes roamed across the carnage in front of her before locking onto the two distant figures standing high above it all. Her nostrils flared, and fangs bared as she roared into the sky.

“Aurielle! You dare set me up?”

I chuckled in response, not deigning the bear worth an answer. “Come Lucia. Our work is done here.”

“We are going to leave? Just like that.”

“Yes, we don’t want to stay long. There is no doubt several of Envy’s stronger Demonkin and trackers are on their way. We shouldn’t be here when they show up.”

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