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A note from Thedude3445

Whew.

I’m immensely tired, which is extremely perplexing considering I am currently asleep.

For all these months, every time I come to Mystix in my ghostly form, I’ve been stuck in this same exact palace room in the capital of South Spire. The Demon Queen Mestopholees will not allow me to venture beyond this place, and even though I ostensibly control an army of millions and possess vast riches so immense that their true value is unknown, I am essentially a prisoner in actuality.

And, of course, all this time I have been forced into an action known to all and dreaded by many, known as intense training.

Rare, my sibling who I am now apparently the enemy of, once promised to bring me back to life on Mystix. They were correct in their statement, but not in the way he expected.

“Again,” Mestopholees commanded. “Do it again, with less cooldown this time. Hurry.”

“I’m so... exhausted...”

“Five seconds already. Sloppy.”

I grin and bear it. With some manifestation of my powers, some vibrating sensation I cannot describe well in words alone, I conjure up an essence of myself.

That essence, in full Eryk Solbourne form, begins to manifest in front of my ghostly self, bit by bit, until it is nearly a fully formed individual. And then I myself merge with this structure—and I am now here on Mystix.

But I can barely hold it together...

The particles of my astrally projected self flicker and some of them pop off entirely.

Mestopholees, eternally wearing a sharp black suit and red tie even in the middle of grueling practice sessions, shook her head slowly in barely disguised disgust. “This won’t win you anything but pity.”

“I do not deserve pity,” I say. “I am Eryk Solbourne, B-Rank [Adventurer] and future hero of both Mystix and Earth!”

“Doesn’t seem like it to me.” She shrugs and turns around. “Guess I ought to go to bed. Not like you’ll be accomplishing anything worth watching today.”

“You’re goading me, aren’t you?”

“It’s almost been a whole year, and you can’t even master astral projection,” Mestopholees says. “The Anti-Mages are nearly equal in power to the New Slayers, and their armies grow closer to South Spire with every passing day. If they show up and you can’t even keep an astral form for more than ten minutes, then we barely have a reason to interact with each other anymore.” She begins to walk away from me entirely.

“Grr... I’ll show you!”

I exert as much force as I can, tapping into the full extent of my abilities. My [Demigod] self may be sealed up tighter than a jar of pickled cucumbers, but that does not mean I am weak. It means I am merely handicapped.

My astral form solidifies further, and the flickering stops. I let my projection teleport from place to place, all over the palace, and then right in front of Mestopholees.

“Got you,” I say.

“Or so you think,” she says. Then she swipes at him with a magic spell and the astral form dissipates in a wisp. My original footless specter returns, with a much more disappointed expression now. My 360-degree vision returns “I know you’re better than this, which is why I’m pushing you so hard. But my words are not insincere. You’ve fallen far behind, and it could risk us all.”

“I know. I have to try harder.”

“You’re, what, a billion levels up back on Earth, right? Maybe you need to take it easy there so you can try harder here. Mystix is way more important.”

I shake my head, or at least make some spectral facsimile of the action. “I cannot do that. My captors on Earth are not gracious with my time. I have been through... many things, and I very much do not wish to divulge them here.”

“Fair enough, but whenever we figure out how to revive you fully, that’ll all be over. Earth can finally just disappear into a bad memory as a part of Amaranth’s terrible life story.”

Amaranth... A name that, even all these months later, still rings hollow to me. It was the title given to me by the original Slayers, an entire century ago, but it is not befitting of my current self. It describes a fearsome, terrifying warrior who leads armies and conquers nations. A past version of me that simply does not exist anymore. I will take responsibility for the pain and suffering I have caused in my current life, but I will not bear it for what I did as Amaranth. For it simply was not me.

Mestopholees, who lived and thrived during those times, is more of Amaranth than I. She wears the Amaranth helmet, complete with its large horns on top, as well as the powerful magic-absorbing gauntlets. They do not mesh well with her suit and tie, but they serve enough of a combat purpose that she wears them regardless, even in a situation where the threat level is at a minimum.

To me, I must wonder if she simply does not feel safe at any point in her life.

“I do not wish to be put fully back to Mystix,” I say. “Earth is a wonderful place, despite my current status as a prisoner.”

“Well, like it or not, the New Slayers need you. I need you.” She says this last part with a slightly creakier voice, almost as if she is about to choke up on her words. I cannot tell if it is sincere or not, but I have reason to suspect it is. “If we can rule the system, we can rule the whole world and stop this foolish hundred-year war.”

“And the Anti-Mages? Must I harm my own sibling?”

“They will stop at nothing to destroy The Goddess,” she says. “They will sacrifice themself, you, their entire army, all in some feeble attempt to unseat a deity. You and I both know it will never work.”

“Indeed. The Goddess has immense powers, as I have seen, even if she does not seem fully equipped to handle them in the two times I have met her. She is not malicious, as far as I can tell, and Rare is a fool not to listen to their own brother when he tries to reason with them.”

“So you’ve got to realize that the Anti-Mages must be defeated, right?”

“I am coming to that conclusion, yes, but I cannot say differently about the New Slayers. The two factions are one and the same from my point-of-view. Two alternatives that are both despotic.”

Mestopholees sighs. “Enough of the debates. If you really want to convince me of something, show me the Mystix way.”

“You challenge me to a duel?”

She nods. “I’ll remove the gauntlets and the helmet, just to make it fair. Let’s see how your astral projection training really does, and we’ll judge just how evil the New Slayers are.”

“Fine. I’ll give it my all.”

“If you don’t, you’re doomed.”

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About the author

Thedude3445

Bio: I like to watch movies.

Avatar art by Mikayla Buan. https://twitter.com/mikayla_buan

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