Chapter 6.5 - Shattered Destiny
The sky was pitch black. There was no moon and the stars were blocked by thick clouds.
So why was everything still so bright?
Ahh… that’s right. The boy finally remembered when he saw the limp body of his father next to him.
This is fire, isn’t it? That man… and those horrible creatures with him...
I need to get up. That was the only thought running through the boy’s head. But there was no strength left in his body. He had drained everything he had in that last magical attack, sending a blast of pure arcane energy at the invader. Unfortunately, it had only been reflected off his black armor like it was nothing.
His mind was screaming from the strain of mana depletion, but something was driving him.
A desire for vengeance.
A crippling fear of death.
Two conflicting emotions, yet both overwhelming. Using them as fuel, he somehow managed to crawl out of the burning wreckage of his home. He gasped to free his lungs of the black smoke that had filled them. There was a cough, followed by the sound of heaving as the boy vomited onto the grass.
When he had expelled everything in his stomach, the young mage looked all around him. Every building in the village had been razed to the ground. His people were dead, broken in so many different ways. Stabbed in the gut with a kobold’s spear, shot by hellfowl arrows, sliced in half by the armored invader...
Should I run? Or should I find that monster leading them? He couldn’t decide.
But before he could make a choice, it was made for him.
Like a demon emerging from some foul nightmare, Rukham the Monster King walked in front of him. His gold-trimmed black armor was covered in freshly spilled blood. The young mage felt a chill run up his spine as he gazed at the gray mask adorned with a black moon. Was this the face of death?
“Sorry about the misunderstanding, human.” The masked creature said. “I heard that there was a genius with strange magic in this village, so I thought… ah forget it. No hard feelings?”
Rukham extended a gauntlet clad hand, as if asking for peace.
The boy mage immediately casted another spell, drawing upon his already depleted reserves of mana. Paying with his life, the fireball he conjured had enough power to devastate a company of soldiers. Yet it merely dissipated once it came into contact with the Ascendant’s body.
“The locals are always so touchy.” Rukham sighed. “It was an honest mistake.”
* * *
This was always the hardest part.
It’s fine when an Ascendant is as eager as he is - all Rukham needed to do was cause a commotion somewhere and the other one would come running to do battle. Six months had passed, that was more than enough time for the two to find each other. But when the opponent is a coward? Then Rukham had no choice but to track them down through rumors or wanton destruction, waiting for the System to give him the notification.
At least the other Ascendant hadn’t killed themselves yet. That means they’re either hoping to avoid him entirely for this run or building up strength before the decisive battle. Maybe they’ll even turn the various human kingdoms against him. It was quite common for weaker Ascendants to manipulate the locals.
Rukham wasn’t confident in openly taking on a country, leave alone an entire continent.
“Maybe I should destabilize the regions to make things harder for them.”
Rukham muttered in contemplation as he studied the worn map he was holding. Sowing distrust between the human nations was easy. All he had to do was leave a few survivors during his raids and plant the right ideas in them. It wouldn’t get in the way of his search for the other Ascendant.
One step at a time. He was getting ahead of himself.
“Hmm, they say that the second daughter of Fernsworth Town’s mayor has miraculous healing abilities. I think my legion is strong enough now… just have to sneak past the kingdom’s garrison…”
Rolling up the old parchment, he called out to the hundreds of creatures waiting patiently behind him.