The Beginning After The End (Web Novel) - Chapter 338: A Weapon Against Him
Chapter 338: A Weapon Against Him
Night birds chirped softly from the treetops as I wandered the orchard outside Corbett and Lenora’s Central Domain estate, having been released for a brief moment of leisure after dinner – an awkward and tense affair due to Gray not showing up.
But then, I knew he would not appear, which I had tried to explain to the High Lord and Lady. Gray must have seen through their tactless attempt to manipulate him. After all, they sent Lauden of all people to the Great Hall to end the false judgment.
Kicking off a large seed pod that had fallen from the branches above, I watched it bounce down the path before hitting the thicker grass beneath the trees. Something small and fast moved in the twilight of dusk, racing through the undergrowth to survey the commotion.
Even though I knew Gray wouldn’t come, I was disappointed, an emotion that frustrated me more than the cause itself. It had been three weeks, but I was still struggling to accept what I felt for the man or what I wanted from him.
Maybe I should ask him myself: What does Gray want from me?
I let out a deep breath into the warm night air as I pondered the question.
Gentle footsteps creaking on the gravel driveway warned me that someone was approaching. I conjured a layer of mana that clung tightly to my skin and peered through the gloom. It was unlikely that I would be attacked here among all places, but only the High Sovereign is not afraid of treachery, as the saying goes.
Just when I finished that thought, the air moved behind me, and a long solid shadow melted out of nowhere, swaying towards my neck. I ducked under the attack, letting the movement take me into a cartwheel as the shadow whistled past my ear.
My own scarlet sword was in my hand and burned with black soul fire in an instant, but I could not sense anyone else in the orchard, nor determine the source of the black edge that had nearly ripped my head off.
Which meant it could only be one person.
Spinning, I swung my longsword in a wide arc over my head, black flames spreading from it in a destructive nova. There was a ripple in the flames just to my right, but the moment I erupted with a short, sharp punch, she was gone, and a razor-thin shard of purer black mana was pressed against the side of my neck. .
“Tsk, tsk,” the Scythe Seris said, appearing as if she were my own shadow. “If I were a murderer, you would already be …”
Soul fire leapt from my flesh and ran along the edge of her sword. With a snort of amusement, she let the conjured weapon disappear, but the fire of the soul still floating in the air between us condensed into a flickering arrow that shot toward her throat.
In the space of a heartbeat, a haze of dark energy swirled around her. My attack dissipated as the aura greedily devoured my mana.
“Your control over the fire of the soul is progressing very well,” she said, her lips twitching at the corners. “It seems that the mysterious Gray has pushed you past your most recent cap.”
I put my weapon away, turning my eyes to the gravel at our feet. “You give me too much credit,” I replied evenly, ignoring the blush on my cheeks at the scythe Seris’ taunt. “It is thanks to your training and mentoring that I have reached this level.”
She rolled her eyes and turned, her hair – normally pearl in color, but now a deep amethyst color in the low light – swirling behind her. “You have never been a flatterer [Lick ass], Caera. It’s one of the things I like the most about you. Don’t start now. “
Biting my lip to keep from smiling, I followed my mentor deeper into the orchard. “I wasn’t expecting you tonight, Scythe Seris.”
“I’m going for a while. I wanted you to be conscious. “
“To the other continent again?” I asked, clasping my hands behind my back. “Are you ever going to …”
“Yes,” she said, her voice low and heavy with intent. “To both questions. But now is not the time, Caera. “
We walked in silence for a minute or two while my thoughts turned to the war. The Denoir were one of the few high noble blood who had not claimed lands in the enchanted forest of Dicathen. Corbett and Lenora’s star has risen even higher as they suffered so many other bloods, some completely wiped out by the unexpected devastation there.
My adoptive parents had sent a good number of soldiers to war, of course. It would have made them look weak to stay out of the fight, even when it was an option. But when Corbett had seen the named bloodthirsty ones, already more than a few high bloods, run to claim chosen lands and slaves in Dicathen, they had only responded to his enthusiasm with a quiet smile, insisting that “Alacrya already has all that Denoirs need. ”
It turned out, over time, she had proved him wise, as much as she hated to admit it. It would have broken the hearts of my foster parents if Lauden had been busily establishing property for the Denoir when the asuras attacked. Not that I would have cared much …
“Apparently, the Ascender Gray’s trial was quite a show,” the Scythe Seris said to break the silence.
“It should have been a simple matter to resolve,” I said with a bit of bitterness. “It’s a shame, honestly, to know that our legal system can fail so dramatically.”
The Scythe Seris responded with a graceful laugh. “High bloods have spent generations manipulating the system to your advantage, so much so that most of you hardly realize it anymore. Your surprise is proof enough of this. “
Hurrying to walk beside her, I looked my mentor in the eye. “Why don’t the Sovereigns intervene?”
“The best question is, why would they do it?” she asked, arching an eyebrow. “They have carefully worked out a system whereby the purity of the blood is paramount, haven’t they? They let the high bloods get away with murder, as long as it doesn’t interrupt their own machinations. No, the truth is, child, that the Sovereigns care little what the inferiors do to each other, as long as it is done with due reverence for the overlord of each domain. “
The Seris Scythe opened her mouth to continue speaking, then looked at me slyly. “Smart little mongrel. You made me change the subject. “
I straightened up, practically marching like I was in a military parade. “You’re kidding me again. We both know that you’re not going to tell me what you know about Gray, so I’m not going to ask. “
This elicited another delicate laugh from my mentor. “If you want him to trust you – to really trust you – this is knowledge that you will need to acquire on your own, Caera. I won’t give you any shortcuts. “
“But do you want me to stay close to him? You’ve hinted at that enough. ” I kept my attention forward, but I could feel her examining me. “Am I going to be your spy, Scythe Seris?”
“You are,” she confirmed. “But don’t think you are betraying him. After all, the boy owes me a lot. “
I stopped at the sound of heavy footsteps moving quickly down the path behind us. If anything, my conversation with the Scythe Seris had only made me more confused and conflicted regarding this situation, so I was almost relieved by the interruption.
My mentor and I watched as the figure of my assistant, Nessa, appeared in the gloom.
“Lady Caera, I …”
Nessa’s eyes widened comically when she noticed the Horned Scythe by my side, and the poor girl flung herself onto the gravel at our feet. “Please forgive me, Scythe Seris Vritra! I did not realize!”
My mentor glared at the terrified assistant. “She is more vigilant in the future.” Despite her tone, I could see that same barely visible twitch at the corner of her lips. Then, without telling me anything else, she turned around and disappeared into the night.
“You can get up now, Nessa,” I told her.
Trembling, my assistant stood up. “Lady Caera, again, I had no idea, I apologize for myself …”
I waved her apology away. “No matter. Can I only assume that my adoptive parents sent you?”
Nessa’s fast, labored breathing slowed, and she folded her hands in front of her and rearranged her facial features into a less terrified expression. Finally, after clearing her throat, Nessa spoke again. “Yes, Lady, you… must see your parents in the high lord’s study immediately. It took me a few minutes to find you, so you better go. “
A loud siren from nearby made Nessa jump and she took a step closer to me. “We’d better go,” she murmured, looking up at the dark trees.
When I got to Corbett’s study door, I found it ajar. Lenora spoke rapidly, her voice low and full of frustration. “How cheeky, Corbett, can you imagine? The Ascenders would queue up to fight in the streets just for the chance for a private dinner with us, and yet this man has the nerve to stand up to us? “
“That’s right,” Corbett said, the only word cold and sharp as broken glass. “You’d think the Ascender Gray has no sense of decorum or convenience.”
“Perhaps Caera is not as important to him as we thought,” Lenora continued. “If we only knew what the Scythe Seris Vritra wanted with the ascender …”
“And yet, once again, your information network has proven invaluable,” Corbett said, his tone softening a bit. “The fault is not yours, my love, but his. By the Vritra, if only this ascender was not so valued by our patron, I would have him thrown to Mount Nishant. “
Having listened enough, I knocked lightly on the door before entering. Lenora, who had been pacing back and forth in front of Corbett’s ornate desk, stopped and straightened when I entered. Corbett was sitting behind the desk, one hand wrapped in an empty crystal glass. He stared into the distance, as if he still imagined Gray being thrown into the caldera of an active volcano.
I took a look around the studio. Bookcases took up nearly every inch of the wall space, enveloping the entire room, with breaks just for the door, a large window behind her desk, and a brick fireplace. In many high-blood households, this collection of knowledge would have been for display only, but Corbett was an educated man, despite all his other flaws.
Above me, a black iron railing ran around a narrow hallway, where there was another set of bookshelves. Aside from the books, the shelves displayed a wide variety of tokens and treasures that Corbett had collected over the years.
“Caera, my dear,” Lenora said, flashing me her dazzling smile. “We have some news on your friend, Gray.”
I stood stiffly, my hands clasped in front of me. Using a trick shown to me by one of the many tutors I’d had over the years, I took two breaths before answering to avoid sounding too anxious.
“Oh? Did he send you his apologies for missing dinner?”
Lenora gave a tinkling laugh. “No, I’m afraid we haven’t heard from Gray himself, but I received a letter from an old friend – an administrator at Central Academy – with strange news.”
My eyebrows turned into a slight frown. “What does this have to do with Gray?”
“That’s the news,” Corbett announced through clenched teeth. Leaning back in his chair, he spun the empty glass in his hand. “Apparently, there has been a rather unusual hiring at the academy.”
Lenora nodded along with Corbett’s words. “Three days ago, someone lobbied to hire an unnamed, untested promotion for an entry-level position. Very unusual, don’t you agree? “
“Yes,” I replied slowly. Despite understanding the suggestion Lenora was making, her words made no sense. “Especially if that same ascender was tried for murder …”
“He’s pretty smart, really,” Lenora said, leaning back against the desk and resting one hand lightly on the polished surface. “A total makeover and protection from the Granbehl in the deal. Although I confess that I am surprised that he has the kind of connections that it would have required. “
I resisted the urge to patrol the studio. Straightening up, I held my hands behind my back to hide the nervousness in my fingers. The truth is that I was as surprised as Lenora. First, the famous ascendant, Darrin Ordin, appeared to defend him, and now Gray had suddenly been recruited into one of the most prestigious academies in the central domain?
Who are you really? I wondered, imagining Grey’s golden eyes peering out from behind a curtain of pale blonde hair.
I stopped fidgeting when a thought came to me. If Gray was going to be at Central Academy, I could easily talk to him – and without tracing him back to the locket, which he had sworn to only wear in case of a serious emergency.
//Skydark(note): It’s almost coming XD… besides being a stalker… she won’t be yandere…//
I have to escape Corbett and Lenora first.
I considered my adoptive parents. They wanted him to be in debt to High Blood Denoir for no other reason than the Scythe Seris was interested in him, though they had no idea why. He knew he could use that.
“Lenora … Mother,” I said, knowing my use of the term would delight her, “how do you plan to keep an eye on Gray if he’s involved in the academy?”
If I could convince them to let me go to Gray …
As I had anticipated, Lenora smiled happily at me. “Well, that’s where you come in.”
Corbett cleared his throat and set his glass on a cork square on his desk. “We have already arranged for you to take on your own role at the Central Academy. You will be Professor Aphelion’s assistant. I’m sure you remember. “
I blinked. “who?”
Lenora moved away from the desk, walked over to me, and rested her hands on my shoulders. “This is important, Caera. I know you didn’t enjoy the academy while attending as a student, but this is about blood . “
I gave her a tight-lipped smile and stepped back, giving myself some room to breathe. While I was excited to leave the Denoir estate to spend time at Central Academy with Gray – and without even an argument from my adoptive parents, I also knew what they expected of me.
“You will want a report on his activities, of course,” I told them, my smile unwavering. “And that I convince Gray to… do what, exactly?”
“It takes more than an idle whim to turn the head of a Scythe,” Corbett said, getting up to walk around his desk and stand in front of the fireplace, even though it is not lit.
“The Scythe Seris didn’t… tell you anything, right?” Lenora asked tentatively. “About this ascender?”
“Of course not,” I said, bristling. “You know everything I do.” This was a lie, of course, but not significant. I had not told the high lord and the lady about Grey’s use of the aether, but otherwise I had told them everything I knew about him.
Which turns out to be not much, I thought, considering again his odd recruitment at the academy.
“He ‘s special,” I continued, “but I have no idea what the Scythe Seris wants with him, if she wants anything at all.” This was the truth, although perhaps not all. Seris knew Gray, somehow, but hadn’t been willing to give me more information after our last conversation.
Lenora walked over to Corbett, slipped her arm through his, and my foster parents watched me silently for several very long seconds.
Finally, Corbett spoke. “We hope you impress this ascender how much we would like to meet him – maybe even work with him in the future. If you remind him of the role we played in his liberation “- I felt a muscle in my temple contract as I avoided rolling my eyes -” so much the merrier. “
“And of course,” Lenora added, resting her head on Corbett’s shoulder, “you should let us know if you learn anything … interesting while working with Gray.”
“Okay,” I said, looking my foster mother in the eye. “I will do it.”
But I won’t let you use me against him , I added silently.