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Published at 29th of April 2022 09:04:17 PM


Chapter 382

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A/N:  Hi, hey, hello, it’s TurtleMe. Many of you have been waiting patiently and eagerly for the arrival of Volume 10. During these past two weeks of writing the first few chapters, I really had to think about how I wanted to start this volume and where I wanted to pick up. It took some deliberation but I decided that it will start off almost exactly where we left off. I say almost because I decided to write a prologue for this volume in order to step back even further and actually start just a little before where we left off, but in a different perspective. This chapter was definitely bit of a challenge but I hope you enjoy, and welcome to the start of our journey into Volume 10 of TBATE! Thanks for sticking through with me this far!




 

 

Volume 10 - Prologue
 

ALICE LEYWIN

Time slowed and the very air around me turned viscous as the asura’s spear so effortlessly passed through Ellie’s body.

The asura’s heavy hand released me and the screams that had gone mute behind the ringing in my ears exploded as I watched Ellie’s body crumple to the ground.

I choked back sobs. “It’s okay, baby, it’s okay. I’m right here. I’ve got you, and I’m going to take away the pain, sweetheart, Ellie. I’m going to take care of you.”

My hands pressed into the wound in Ellie’s side, ineffective in staunching the flow of blood that came out in spurts with each beat of her weakening heart. Mana rushed out of my core and  through my channels, jumping from my hands to the deep wound as visible light, but I choked on the incantation in my panic, the magic flashing in and out.

But Ellie was smiling. She was smiling, her eyes closed, her face tinted a light purple. She wasn’t breathing…my baby girl was dying.

The asura’s killing intent was suffocating. It swelled just above me, and I knew what was going to happen. A sob shook my entire body, and the healing spell faltered again.

I pictured Reynold’s face, imagined him giving me that nonchalant smile and running his hands through my hair and along the back of my neck. His features shifted like wet clay, becoming Arthur’s. But even in my mind, in my memories, Arthur was covered in blood, his face half-hidden and stained black and crimson as he dragged himself back to me from some distant, deadly threat…

My eyes refocused on Ellie. She looked so much like him, now, lying on the ground covered in her own life’s blood…

I closed my eyes to the sight and waited for the spear to fall, for the asura to send Ellie and me to her brother and father…





“Regis, help my sister.”

 

 

My head snapped up. The purple light, I realized belatedly, was issuing from a shimmering portal that had come to life inside the portal frame. The words came from a figure silhouetted by the amethyst glow. I made out only his sharp features, bright hair, and golden eyes before he was moving.

Something else came toward me…toward Ellie. Help my sister. What did those words mean?

What could they possibly mean?

A wisp of shadow and energy flew into Ellie’s body, but nothing happened, nothing changed.

I nearly slapped myself. My hands pressed hard against Ellie’s side and I began chanting again. There were other words—and fighting—but I pressed it out of my awareness, focusing entirely on the healing magic. The incantation spilled out of me, as did mana, filling the hole that pierced entirely through my baby girl.

But there was something else, too.

An emitter’s magic touched something else, something just beyond the reach of my awareness that no one had ever been able to explain to me before. Mana alone couldn’t heal wounds like Ellie’s, but my spells drew it in, encouraged it, showed it what I wanted.

Like a guiding hand, the wisp of energy drew my magic along, feeding it with this external power, strengthening it. I felt…strong, powerful in a way I could hardly remember anymore. Muscles and bones began to fuse, veins and nerves knit back together, then.

The room spun wildly beneath my feet, sudden pain and confusion wiping all thought from my mind.

I blinked hard against a sickening ringing in my ears and suppressed the bile creeping up the back of my throat. My skull ached. I looked around, trying to get my bearings; I was lying on my back at the foot of the benchlike stairs, beneath the edge of the dais. I could just see Ellie’s arm dangling off the side of it.


The asura and the man with golden eyes clashed, their movements so fast I couldn’t follow.

I tried to move, to stand, but my head swam dizzily and I nearly retched. Someone took me by the elbow, tried to pull me to my feet. The world seemed to tilt, and there was an ear-splitting crack from above. I fell into myself, curling into a ball as the shadow of the stone ceiling descended on me.

 

Dust swallowed me, but a jagged, burning purple light cut through it. Uncurling, I looked up.

A huge mana beast towered over me, a large chunk of stone propped up on its back. Its wolfish body was wreathed with dark purple fire, and its glowing eyes met mine with obvious intent and intelligence.

Someone cursed from my side, a deeper voice gave a pained grunt from the steps at my back. I wanted to help them, but…

Scrambling on my hands and knees, I dragged myself free of the collapsed rubble and up the side of the dais. Ellie had been sent sprawling by whatever blast had knocked me off my feet, and she lay twisted awkwardly, her wound stretched open and furiously pumping out blood.

Nearly right in front of me, I watched the asura and the stranger struggle before vanishing into the portal. Stranger? some distant corner of my mind wondered. The words “Help my sister” echoed in my mind yet again.

“Ellie!” I rolled her over, pressed my blood-stained hands to her wound. Saving her was all that mattered.

The chant poured out of me, and mana followed it. Distantly, I heard the cries of pain and terror, the shifting of rubble, the shouts for help. Virion’s crushed-gravel voice ground over the rest, calling my name, but I couldn’t. I just couldn’t leave Ellie. Not until—

Her eyes snapped open, blinking away the dust and blood. “Arthur?”

My throat constricted. I choked on my own words, swallowed heavily, and tried again. “Hold still, Ellie. You’re still hurt. You’re—”

She tried to push herself up onto her elbows, despite the half-healed wound still piercing much of her body. I gently but firmly pushed her back down. Her hand grabbed mine, but instead of struggling against me, she only squeezed. “Mom. It was…that was Arthur.”

I shook my head, tears beginning to build up behind my eyes. “No, honey, no. Your brother is…he’s…” A cold blankness swept over my mind as I trailed off. I didn’t know what I’d seen, what I heard, but I couldn’t dare to hope. Not now, not yet. I couldn’t think about it. “I still have a lot of healing to do, sweetheart. Just…just lie back, okay? Just let your mother work.”


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My heart nearly broke as my little girl gave me a look I could only describe as pitying, but she did as I said, and I closed my eyes and began chanting again, letting the entire world fall away, nothing in my mind except for her and the spell.

Time became nothing, rushing past like an engorged spring river while simultaneously frozen, like a painting of the same. I knew others needed me too, but I ignored my guilt for saving my daughter, just as I ignored those who needed saving. The healing was slower, harder, without the guiding presence, but that was all right. Together, we had already healed the worst of her wound. And for what remained…

I was strong enough on my own.

Ellie’s hand gripped mine, gently pushing it away from her. “Mom, it’s okay. I’m healed.” Her voice was soft and consoling.

I startled, realizing she was right, and that I had been too intensely focused and not even sensing the wound, simply pouring healing magic into her. The spell faded, the magic dying out as I stopped channeling.

My attention finally turned to the rest of the people in the cavern. Many were still struggling with fallen rubble, searching for survivors. I could see more than a few unmoving bodies. Panic surged through me as I searched for the Twin Horns.

I found Angela Rose first, on the benches behind me, using gusts of desperate wind to hurl broken stone away from where I’d nearly been crushed, and I remember the hand on my arm, just before the cave in.

Helen lay against the wall not far from the entrance, her eyes closed, her dark hair matted with blood. But there was a subtle rising and falling of her chest, so I knew she was alive.

Before I could find Jasmine or Durden, the light of the nearby portal flickered, revealing a faint aura radiating out from the mana beast, who had been standing just before it, unmoving for some time.

My eyes widened as a silhouette once again appeared within the portal frame. The portal itself wavered and dissolved, momentarily becoming a pink mist wreathing the figure, then vanishing. The mana beast did the same an instant later, seeming to become incorporeal, then nothing but a ball of light, receding into the man’s back.

Golden eyes settled on Ellie and me. I searched them carefully, trying to prove to myself that the hope I felt was nothing more than a grieving mother’s foolishness.

His eyes were the wrong color, not Reynold’s sapphire blue, and they were cold…but curious, too, and looking at us with a certain…familiarity.

And this man didn’t share my auburn locks. Instead, wheat-blond hair framed a face as hard and sharp as a blade. The jawline, the curve of the cheeks, the line of the nose…no, the man was more mature, older…it couldn’t be him. I knew it couldn’t, as I knew the hope inside me would turn to poison if I let it linger, gave it light and life, only to be proved wrong.

Then Ellie spoke. “B-brother? Is that really you?”


The man seemed to relax, and the otherworldly glow of power that had ringed him like a halo faded, allowing me to see him properly for what I felt like was the first time. “Hey, El. It’s been a while.”

I grasped at Ellie’s arm as she jumped up and ran to the figure, throwing her arms around him.

Help my sister. That’s what he’d said when he arrived, before the thing went to Ellie. And there was something else. Words half-heard, but suppressed until the moment I could properly deal with them. Arthur Leywin? I’m glad you’re here. But it wasn’t possible.

This stranger couldn’t be my…

I flinched as Ellie suddenly slammed her fist into the man’s arm. “I thought you were dead!”

Those golden eyes met mine over Ellie’s back as our rescuer pulled her into a tight embrace. He smiled, and it was like a bolt of lightning ran through me. That smile…I never thought I’d see it again. It was Reynolds’ smile, and it both lit and softened the man’s face, letting the truth shine from him so bright and warm that the icy barrier I’d been building around myself melted away.

“Hi Mom. I’m back.”

Arthur…it really was him. My son.

I wanted to rush to him, to wrap him up in my arms like I could when he was just a little boy, hold him and squeeze him and make us both feel safe. But my knees were weak, and already I could feel the tears coming, stealing my breath away.

There was so much I wanted to tell him.

So much had been left unsaid, words that I thought I would never get the chance to say to him. How sorry I was, and how thankful. For him, and for everything he had brought into our lives. For how much he had sacrificed.

I wanted to tell him how much he meant to me. How glad I was to have him…as my son.

I wanted to. And I would, eventually. But in that moment, it was all just too much.

My hands flew to my face as my legs gave out, and I began weep.

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