Dyon's heart pounded. He was quickly reaching the limit of his stamina. If he let up on distorting space around him for even a second, he would lose consciousness and likely be torn apart.
Without thinking much, he took out the damaged stone puppet. He had been so distracted by this decision he hadn't even stopped to think that he could make use of his puppets since he was outside the confines of the ancient game now.
But, the relief on Dyon's stamina did little to ease the endless tension he was feeling… He didn't even take notice of the drastic changes the stone puppet had undergone.
All he could see was the pain of his fiancées. He could only watch as Ri's beautiful blue silver tails became dyed in red. He could only watch as Madeleine's lips dripped in blood as she pushed her stamina beyond her breaking point. He could only watch… Too distraught to make a choice…
'WHAT DO I DO?!'
Away from Dyon's mental struggle, two groups were approaching the enigmatic Epistemic Tower.
The first was led by a very familiar figure – Alidor Gautama.
"Brother, are you sure you want to do this?"
Alidor sat atop a scaled elephant silently as they crushed their way through a dense green forest. His sister was beside him, and about ten warriors sat behind them. But, he was completely focused. His eyes were in a perpetual state of gold as he constantly scanned their surroundings, changing the direction of the beast seemingly without rhyme or reason.
Noticing her elder brother's lack of a response, Keara sighed. "I know you're not satisfied with being an auxiliary branch family to the Uidah family, but that doesn't mean I think it's okay for you to risk your life like that."
The truth was that Alidor had been hiding his abilities as an innate aurora wielder since his birth as he secretly accumulated allies. He always used Bas and Liska as his proxies because he had no intention of revealing his plans until he was powerful enough. But, the more he studied the gates, the more his mind brightened to another possibility.
Alidor ignored his younger sister's words. "I received a report earlier that said it's likely Earth's innate aurora wielder died. This works to our advantage."
Keara, being used to her brother's antics, listened silently. Whether she could understand what he meant was one thing but asking Alidor for a full explanation was about the most difficult thing in the world.
But, in typical Alidor fashion, Keara got no explanation. Alidor simply raised his hand to his face, causing a flash of gold to appear. An instant later, it was as though he was a completely different person… a person that was the exact copy of Dyon.
Keara giggled, "Oh? Is this the poor boy who died? It's a shame he had you as an enemy, he's quite handsome."
Alidor didn't seem to get the joke. "I don't know whether he's alive or dead. All that matters is that he's no longer on the battlefield, so his appearance is useful to me."
A teasing expression colored Keara's features. "I heard from Bas and Liska that you insulted him. You never care enough to insult people. Did he get under your skin?" Keara playfully poked at Alidor's shoulder, a bit happy to see her brother display an emotion other than cold determination.
Although Alidor was inwardly stunned by his sister's question, he didn't show it. But, that didn't mean he didn't have a moment of self-reflection.
What Keara didn't know was that that moment wasn't the only time he acted out of character that day. Not only did he insult Dyon, he had done so twice. And that was on top of injuring Bas and Liska. Did he get angry because the first step of his plan had failed? Was it because Dyon might very well be his match? Was it because something was telling him that there was no way Dyon died so easily?
Moments of confusion for Alidor had always been rare. And moments of losing control of himself were even rarer. Ruling with fear was completely idiotic by his calculations. He'd never do something so stupid. Bas and Liska followed him willingly, not because he forced them.
Keara grinned. Alidor may have thought his face remained neutral, but Keara was quite adept at reading her elder brother. "Maybe if he's alive you should be friends."
"Don't be stupid. I attacked his woman and insulted. And even if I hadn't, I don't need friends. I need subordinates. If he's willing to do that, then he can call himself whatever he wants."
Keara giggled. "This is the most amount of words you've ever spent on a single thing, let along a single person. And plus, you attacked his woman as a distraction. Also, this is war. No one is safe just because they're a woman."
"You're naïve. People aren't rational when it comes to love."
Sighing, Keara grabbed onto her elder brother's arm. Truthfully, she was much too young to be in the gates right now. She was only about twelve, but Alidor was convinced that this was the safest place for them. They had been using the gate's cultivation cap to their advantage for years now. Often, the only people Keara had to talk to were her brother or Bas and Liska.
"So, you understand what it means to not be rational? Interesting." Keara pondered a bit. "Make me a tall blond with a massive chest and plump butt, oki?" Keara giggled lightly to herself as her brother completely ignored her, instead only slightly changing her features.
"Remember Keara. I'm only taking you with me this time because we're attack their towers now."
"Yea, yea, I get it. No one's left to protect the poor defenseless little girl." Keara pouted.
"It's good that you understand. Don't speak unless you have to and definitely don't act foolishly. The Epistemic Tower will be dangerous."
Keara nodded silently, gripping her brother's arm tightly as they finally burst out of the endless forest.
She gasped as she took in the sight.
The Epistemic Tower was so tall that she had no way of seeing its peak. In fact, it was almost like a black rod stabbed into the ground. The outside was completely smooth and without blemish – even to the point that Keara could see no doors, windows or openings.
But, that wasn't the most shocking thing. The forest ended not in a plain leading to the tower, but instead a sheer cliff! The ground around the Epistemic Tower was a deep depression that continued at least half a mile down.
That's right. The Epistemic Tower was in a pit with a diameter that was at least fifty kilometers. There was no opening, no obvious way to reach it… and the worst part? The spatial fluctuations were so violent that you could hear loud tearing noises rip apart the air. Seemingly innocent twinkles of silver and black appeared covered almost every inch of the pit. And it was clear to any observer that even the slightest touch from such a thing would only end in death…