— Library of Final Hope, Year: ???. Season: ???.
My chuckling continued, and I shook my head at the absurdity of the situation. An automaton with levels — with Intent! My eyes shined as I gazed at the large machine, but I wondered as to why the golem spoke in the language of magic. Every detail soaked into my mind thoroughly and I activated (Mana Sense) to further analyze the automaton.
“EY-YYAH!” I yelled out. The magic immediately stopped flowing to my eyes as the pain of looking at the sun left me in a momentary blindness.
“ You should not attempt to gaze upon the workings of a Realm Guard, a light punishment is given to all first offenders. A second offense will result in harsher consequences.”
“What are you? How can you have such stable conversation?” My Hero Golems would usually take a second or two to respond, but the Realm Guard was instant. The voice of Realm Guard Terra was mountainous and sounded like stones crashing against one another.
“Are you intelligent? Human-like?” So many questions threatened to burst from my mouth that I didn’t spare the time to go over the words of Terra. This was AMAZING! This was my goal. A stable and intelligent machine that I could program to stay loyal to me. This automaton held Intent and a level . That was unheard of.
Realm-Guard: Terra was roughly six hundred centimeters tall, almost twenty feet in height. It possessed two arms, and its outer shell appeared to be an ancient sort of armor. It showed no weapons on its person, but I didn’t doubt it held something. Just like the crown on its head, Terra’s shoulders held two earthy brown gems that shined with light, showing their charge. On its pointed armor were circular engravings of what I could only describe as a world. Underneath it were words carved in the language of runes I struggled to understand.
For the first time, the body of the automaton shifted as its head truly tilted down and gazed upon me. “ I am the Realm Guardian: Terra. Built as an unfinished prototype of a set of guards met to protect the Genesis Realm. My Creator Jaahgar — Master Smith, imbued me with the ability to think, process, and execute any actions I deem necessary to protect the Genesis Realm. I am not a human, I am what is known as a fully realized Living Spell. You should leave now, the Master will not wait long. ”
The last sentence of the Realm Guard brought me back to my senses, but it left me with more and more questions. A sudden burst of anger erupted, and I gazed at my only remaining hand.
‘ When do I possess the strength to receive the knowledge I seek? ’
Realm Guard: Terra tilted its head back into place and I gazed at it once more. In my eyes was a fire and passion for its secrets, but those took a step back as did all my passions and pursuits. There were big things in the picture and I could not afford to waste time. Edryan needs its [Chosen].
I gently walked past the automaton as I made my way to the left staircase and began my descent. It was only after I passed the machine that I truly began to take a scale of exactly how big this place was. It seemed endless as row upon row of books extended as far as my eye could see. Minerva would love it here!
The moment I touched down, I began to notice something I found strange. Several tables and chairs were present, yet each was far larger than the average human. It was like they were made for the automaton above to sit comfortably. I put the thought to the side and continued toward the massive bookshelves, only to notice the exact same thing as I came to my first shelf. It wasn’t clear earlier, as the excitement from seeing Terra blocked everything else, but this was not your… normal library. These books were massive, some almost as tall as me, and they were very varied in their styling. No two books held the same type of cover. I swallowed and craned my neck upward to gaze at the lettering on the side of the very first shelf. It was the runic version of the letter R. I was beginning to pick up a strange inference as I became more and more aware of the lettering and language that was common among whomever I found myself with.
The lack of servants and the sight of Terra left me with a few startling conclusions. Whoever the Master of this place was, they were powerful, very powerful, but I began getting the strange sense that no one else was here. I gazed longingly at the books in the R section of the library before turning away. It was time to meet the master of this place.
Rasheed watched the [Chosen] squeal at the sight of a Realm Guard. His head jerked back in surprise, horns nearly grazing the chandelier above his table from the action. Rasheed frowned and voiced his thought aloud, “ This is a [Chosen] of… Her ?”
“Excited over an automaton? Oh, how the realm has changed. If he saw the wonders Elrunian created, then…,” his voice trailed off as he continued to watch.
From the moment he awakened and stepped outside his room, Rasheed was aware of every single action he’d taken. It was the midst of the night since the trio’s third day staying in Rasheed’s abode, and the [Chosen] had only just awoken.
His actions were like that of a child finding themselves in a new place. It was… new and something Rasheed hadn’t experienced in eons.
“Hmph, he is a [Chosen] of Her. We will see how long this facade lasts. No doubt he will be like his predecessor,” Rasheed growled. There was pain in his heart and his mind flashed as a young ebony-gradient young man with red-gold eyes appeared before him. His face was similar to this [Chosen] but different. Their expression, walking gait, and more were similar, but Rasheed had yet to judge the weight of this new [Chosen] soul.
Rasheed watched every step of the way and judged every action. He waited patiently for the [Chosen] and wished the young man would slow down. Doing so would give Rasheed more time to judge his character and formulate a plan. His gaze flashed through the halls and into the room where a sleeping owl sat as the young woman who continued to care for the [Chosen] stirred.
He remembered her franticness when she first came to and the way she never once stopped healing Lawruthian, even at the detriment of her health. Noble…, that was what came to Rasheed’s mind when he watched the young woman. So that was why he helped her. Since then, they’d held a few conversations, but the target of his desire never awoke. Perhaps now that the [Chosen] was awakened could his perk rise as well. The divine beast held something Rasheed’s Aspect longedfor. It was beyond that Rasheed felt that perhaps a clue and maybe even a solution to his dilemma lay within the knowledge stored within the perk.
Rasheed’s mind snapped back into place and his eyes opened to gaze at the second ebony-gradient youth to walk his halls. Red-gold eyes met his ancient golden orbs. Vertical slits studied the [Chosen] as he gazed at the young man before him. He stood at 190 centimeters tall with an angular masculine chiseled jawline that held sparse facial hair and thick bushy eyebrows. His nose was narrow at the beginning before broadening at its end while his eyes held an unwavering focused intensity to them. They spoke volumes about the resolution and ability the [Chosen] held within himself. His shoulders were broad and sculpted, but the [Chosen] was a muscular lean. It showed he took care of himself regardless of how attributes altered his body and soul. His right arm was missing, and the sleeve was up-rolled until the stump, this showed a strong-front character as he was unafraid to show off an obvious weakness. The coarse linen fabric the [Chosen] found himself in managed to look elegant in a way Rasheed found surprising. The [Chosen] noble bearings carried themselves through no matter what he wore.
I studied the creature, dragon …? The master of this place was as tall as Terra, and two ibex-like horns shot toward the ceiling like spears manned against a wave of charging enemies. A second pair of horns curled from the side in a way that made the four horns appear to be a kitchen knife. Golden orbs with slitted black irises gazed down on me, and the dragon lightly turned the page of the book placed before it. Scales covered it, his …? Scales covered the dragon’s body and much of its face but paused before it reached the central facial structures such as his eyes, mouth, nose, forehead, and upper chin. Those features showed light brown-red skin. There was no clothing to cover the creature as it sat with its legs crossed. It was shaped like a human, most likely the result of a polymorphism skill, but everything in my mind and body screamed one thing.
Dragons were not a creature that was often spoken of in the Elrunian Continent. Only one such creature was said to exist… and that creature was at the center of Wyvern’s Roost. The same large forest in which Imperius Academy freshmen take their final exam. If I was somewhere in Wyvern’s Roost, that meant I was less than a two-week journey from the capital. That is, if I wasn’t on the far side of the forest.
For precious seconds we studied each other, a steady, uninterrupted silence extended between us. Its eyes showed no emotion, but I felt a strange… wariness from the being before me.
“Greetings,” I began with an elegant bow. “I am Crown Prince Lawruthian, [Chosen of Madris], [Holy Prince of Edryani], and the [Forefather of Edryani Innovation]. Thank you for saving me, but more importantly, thank you for saving Madria. May I have the pleasure of knowing your name?”
The being, DRAGON , my mind repeatedly screamed at me, eyebrows raised silently in surprise. Its expression was lost upon me, as I already assumed it knew who and what I was.
“I am Rasheed — Aspect of Knowledge and the [Keeper of Records],” his response was slow, measured, guarded ?
His response was not in Edryanese nor Common, no he spoke in the language of runes but his words and meaning translated all the same.
My eyebrows slightly furled up. Reading expressions was a simple task for me, but what I read from Rasheed was something outside my expectations. Why would he be guarded against me ?
The conversation took an awkward pause here as Rasheed simply stated his name and a few titles. I spoke to clear the air of its awkwardness, excitement was once again building in my chest if what, I believed, was truly in front of me.
“I don’t know if this is rude to ask…, but… are you a dragon?”
There was another pause and Rasheed’s eyebrows scrunched in a fashion similar to mind before he answered. His voice was deep but not menacing. It was aged like that of a community’s elder, and his presence gave me the feeling of one. It was warm, nurturing, but strangely guarded against me. I held no doubt this being could flick me like a booger and I would be dead.
“Yes, I am.”
I pulled in a deep breath, my eyes sparkled as what, I thought, was confirmed. The moment I saw the scaled humanoid, the only thing to come to mind was the dragon, the dragon. The legends passed down were some of my favorite bedtime stories told by the palace maids.
“Then you are [ End of Adventure ], one of the final goals for all adventurers throughout the continent who covet your riches!”
My excitement was palpable yet still, I hadn’t moved from my spot. Although the master of this place hadn’t given me a reason to be wary, I was still a valuable target and hostage, and I wouldn’t go down without a fight.
My single exclamation seemed to break whatever tension was in the air as Rasheed harrumphed, his shoulders relaxing, and the atmosphere grew brighter. “Hmph, El, that damn fool set me as a goal since I refuse to participate in the Game or move to the Astral.”
I gazed up as the chandelier grew brighter and whatever tension was in the air faded. Rasheed gestured to the seat across from him, and I pondered on his words.
“The Astral? El … as in God El — The Adventurer …? The primary God of Elysium…?”
The seat in question was as large as me, but a simple hop brought me into its cushioned embrace. I turned and composed myself, not meeting Rasheed’s eyes for several moments as I recovered from the embarrassment of hopping up into the seat.
“Hmph, he and Madris have been doing their best to convert me to either side since the fall of Elrunian and the Genesis realm.”
With a few simple sentences, I was brought back down to reality. This being was a dragon. My mind flashed back to the Ruined Temple where I escaped from Alarax after defeating the [Mothering Tigress of the Den]. I remembered the [Paladins] and [Templars] swiftly arrived at the scene once word was returned of what exactly I saw.
‘Hopefully Lily is doing alright. I wonder if the mission into Edrya’s Adventurer Association headquarters has been successful. ’
My memories flashed to the mural and what, I believe, was the first successful creation of a magi-human, a young girl who held a striking resemblance to an Edryani. I shuddered as Elrunian’s gaze once again flashed through my thoughts. I’d never felt my body to be seen through in such a manner, and the story that was told through the mural was majestic. It told the story of…
“…Titans, Gods…, and… Dragons. The first creatures that were created by Realm Lord Elrunian,” I whispered. My gaze met that of the Dragon before me.
Rasheed showed a sharp toothy smile, his tongue forked. “Oh, you are not ignorant of the history of our realm? I do not have the pleasure of being crafted personally by the Realm Lord, I was created generations after through more… mundane means.”
“I only know that much,” I began with a grievance in my heart.
“…but I imagined your library holds many of the Elrunian Continent’s secrets,” I gestured around. I must have looked like an eager toddler in this large seat.
“Knowledge is a powerful thing, a blessing in the right hands…,” Rasheed clenched his clawed fist and the library held its breath. “…but a curse in others.”
He finished with a steely, narrowed gaze on me. My breath caught, and my body didn’t respond to me as the Intent of Rasheed smothered me. It felt like the weight of a world was placed on my shoulders as Rasheed’s Intent controlled the atmosphere. My consciousness began to slip and darkness consumed the edges of my vision.
My vision never wavered, an unrelenting gaze met that of Rasheed. Powerful beings, Gods, to the inhabitants of this world played a game of chess, and I was only a piece in this equation. A… King’s Piece , but I was tired… the game hadn’t even begun yet, this was the third God-like being holding their power over me… suffocating me only using the power of their Intent. No, as the darkness approached, the unrelenting momentum that began building in me only hardened.
“ NO ,” the words slipped from my mouth. I didn’t know how as my entire body was locked down, regardless a startling word emerged in the silence between us.
I gasped and Rasheed blinked and then shook its head, large horns nearly grazing the chandelier. The dragon appeared dazed and gazed at me, but didn’t gaze at me. His sight was on me but not on me directly, I didn’t know what he was seeing… but I wasn’t it.
“My apologies… perhaps it is best you retire to your quarters, your companions will be waking soon. You are free to explore through the corridors and food is stocked within the kitchen. Treat my home as yours but…”
My eyes narrowed, but I didn’t argue. It seems Rasheed was unsure of what he wanted to do with the captured King’s Piece. I hopped down from the seat after recovering myself, my mind flashing through a thousand thoughts per second as I left. Just before I was out of eyesight and earshot, Rasheed spoke once again.
“The name of this realm is Genesis, a shattered remaining piece of a greater whole that was destroyed. You… Saphens call it the Elrunian Continent or Realm, but both are wrong forms of address.”
I nodded, showing my understanding, and left. My vision steeled at the new piece of information. A single smaller piece of information quickly pulled up in my mind as Minerva began to wake up and my perk’s abilities began to activate upon her awakening. I recalled something I read long ago, and the information I read about a greater piece of the picture. I recalled the Genesis Zone. Through all this, there was one pressing question on my mind.
What were Aspects, and why were they in the Mortal Realm?