Luke pondered over the meaning of these words as he gazed outside the window of his dark, dreary room.
Even from far away, he could see that Askanar Castle's last outer barriers were already on the verge of collapse, and the troops—fewer and faltering against the relentless attacks of the enemy—were slowly being overtaken.
He looked around his room, clean yet cluttered with books and ancient tomes before taking a deep breath to calm his nerves. After years of training his mind, he thought he was ready for what was about to come.
Not quite yet, apparently.
A sudden, rhythmic knock on his door urged him to compose himself at once.
"It is time."
Luke turned around and regarded the man who entered with a stiff nod. "Master Castarossa."
"The enemies are upon us."
"I believe you and the other generals were adamant that the Players won't break through our defenses this soon. What happened?"
"Our assumptions were incorrect. Several groups of humans paired with those damn undying curs used the cover of the night to mount a false attack on the Lion's Gate in the north, drawing out a sizable bulk of our troops before their main forces arrived and attacked the Ram's Gate in the west. They are bearing down on us as we speak."
"They have attacked the Ram's Gate? So, they have found our weakest side," said Luke with a frown. "I insisted on fortifying the barrier on that side of the wall before, did I not? I knew that they would not fall so easily for a mere concealment spell. Now, look at what happened."
As he spoke, Luke saw nothing but impatience and disrespect in Castarossa's gaze, and just like always, he did not complain. The feeling was mutual anyway.
"There is nothing that can be done now, so leave the matter be."
"And His Majesty? Any sign of him?"
"Downstairs with the magi, waiting for you."
Luke tilted his head. "So he finally returned? A bit too late now that the kingdom is surely about to fall, is it not?"
"Watch your tongue, illbreed. I may have taught you a lot of things, but disrespecting your king was never one of them."
"I am merely stating the obvious," Luke said with a straight face. "If someone like him was here from the start then The Coalition would not have made it this far. I know that even you would acknowledge this, master."
Castarossa's lips curved distastefully. "Enough of this. I have been tasked with raising you ever since you were but a mere gnat and you will not embarrass me in front of the king by speaking impertinently like this. Do you understand?"
Luke didn't even bother to respond. He simply gestured towards the door, urging Castarossa to lead the way outside which the old Asherian eventually did with a derisive snort.
He took one last glance at the entire room before shutting the door behind him. He barely took any pleasure in spending most of his time there for the past ten years, but the small, cramped room within the enormous castle was the closest thing he had to 'home' ever since he was taken by the Asherii.
The brief moment of sorrow caused by him leaving his room permanently, however, was eventually overshadowed by excitement as Luke continued to walk along the hall with Castarossa.
He felt giddy, in a way, for this was the last time he would have to ever roam the place that he despised the most. The last time he would have to ever see the prison that he had to tolerate living in just to get to where he was.
The journey hadn't been easy as Castarossa tried his damndest to raise him like a loyal, yet toothless beast. Though in the end, the old man forgot that a beast was still a beast.
Luke closed his eyes for a moment and muttered a command to himself. His mind's eye sparked to life, revealing his Stats Screen.
Name: Luke Kerril telos Ragnarossi
Race: Halfbreed [Boon Unavailable]
Corpus - 9.7
Sensus - 73.5
Animus - 11
While Luke hadn't been allowed to train in combat or to improve his overall physical fitness for the past several years to increase his Corpus, he was able to broaden his knowledge and improve his comprehension and memorization skills through reading and some other despicable method that was concocted by Castarossa that he didn't even want to remember, which in turn increased the value of his mind—the Sensus.
He noticed that his soul's value, the Animus, however, was more or less below average for someone who was part Asherian. It was fine though. He wasn't expecting the need to cast spells anytime soon.
In a world where a person's might, worth, and social status could be measured in exact quantities, Luke knew that had a lot of time for improvement in the future, or in this case, the past.
In accordance to the very first Providence given to the realm by the first god, Deus, every aspect of every single living being in Elyssia were represented in numerical values, and to that end, the ones sitting at the top of society had the highest Virtus—the sum and the measure of an individual's very existence.
Such was the nature of the Quantum Providence, known throughout the realm as The Providence of Elyssia.
In light of all this, a huge part of Luke's preparation wasn't to raise the overall value of his Virtus through improving all three facets of the Triforce unlike most royal heirs but to purely increase his Sensus instead
While he knew that it could work out in his favor in the end, Luke was still unsatisfied about only ever being allowed to improve his cognitive intelligence and his ability to store knowledge throughout the past ten years.
Luke sighed inwardly as he remembered that he could not fight, cast even the most basic spells, or even remember how to talk to other people normally since he had been stuck inside the castle for years with nothing but an old, diabolical grouch and several guards that don't even want to talk to him for conversation partners.
In other words, he was more of a glorified bookworm, through and through. A mere instrument to relay information gathered from the present back to the past because of some misguided prophecy his father had 'foreseen'. A prophecy that he didn't even have the slightest intention to fulfill.
No matter. I have gotten this far, so naturally, I have the chance to improve myself in other areas when they send me back in time.
Luke grinned as he thought of a memory—the only one he had that filled him with warmth and joy. He remembered a smile that belonged to the only person he ever held dear in his heart.
She was the only light that shone throughout his life that was filled only with loneliness and grief, and the one who gave him a shining example of what he truly aspired to be.
I shall see you again soon, mother.
"Good. You are not afraid."
The smile on Luke's face instantly vanished as he turned to look at Castarossa. He tried his best not to glare at the hateful man, which was already a tiring chore on its own. Especially considering everything the cruel bastard had done to him.
"What makes you think I'm not?" Luke asked while trying to hold back even the slightest hint of venom in his voice.
"Ones who would smile in these circumstances are either insane or hopeful. I know you are not one to lose your mind so quickly and break. I reformed you not to be so, after all."
"You're certainly not one to give out such flattery so freely, Master Castarossa. Why start now?"
"These words are not mere flattery, boy." Castarossa frowned. "Despite being born out of that mutt mother of yours, the king himself saw a vision of your divine undertaking to deliver the Asherii back to our rightful place. Above all the other insects, mutts, and monkeys that roam these lands. No. Our lands."
After hearing the same old tired rubbish come out of the old man's mouth, Luke struggled but ultimately succeeded in showing no signs of anger, or even annoyance.
He was nearly there, and if he had to take a few more backhanded insults along the way, then fine. Just as long as he'd have the last laugh.
"At last. Here we are."
As soon as they arrived at the throne room, Luke immediately looked for his father. It didn't take him long, however, as there were only five robed magi inside along with a man that stood by a black orb that was propped up on a large, ornate pedestal.
The Sphere of Temporea. I have been waiting for this moment for far too long.
For a brief moment, Luke cast a glance towards one of the most unique and magnificent Materia in history. One of the last few graces of Deus upon the mortal realm that was discovered by the Asherii centuries ago, and had been their kingdom's most secret cornerstone ever since.
A Materia that granted the power to transcend time itself. 'Three exact centuries', Luke remembered the Asherii ancestors reveal from an ancient written text.
It was the Asherii's trump card against the Players and the other races who united in revolt against their dominant and heavy-handed rule.
"Your Majesty, I bring to you your son, Prince Luke Kerril telos Ragnarossi," Castarossa said reverently towards the man as he motioned for Luke to move forward, but not before giving him a small, black crest—engraved with a magnificently carved horned serpent. The beloved symbol of the proud Asherii.
"You already know what to do with it," Castarossa whispered. "Keep the item with you at all times, even after you have used it."
Luke took the crest, put it under his tunic, then nodded. He moved forward slowly as he kept his gaze low while looking at his father.
The king wore no crown and was dressed no better than a commoner. He had a horn at the center of his forehead that did not stand out compared to any average Asherian and a long, flowing snow-white hair—a prevalent characteristic of the Asherii which bore no semblance to Luke's ashen grey hair.
Although, even with these traits that most would consider common or even dull for an Asherian, Luke caught a spark of pride and self-assuredness in his father's striking features. Adorned with nothing but an elegant, ivory longsword on his hip, his father somehow looked more dangerous than all of the people in the room combined.
Luke did not know what to say. He opened his mouth, but he simply could not speak. Even after he stood right beside the black orb facing his father, he could not find it within him to utter even a single word.
He did not speak, and neither did his father.
Then, much to Luke's disappointment, the king finally turned around without even speaking to him before nodding to the magi.
"Begin," his father simply said.
The king's tone of voice gave very little away, just like the blank expression he had on ever since Luke entered the room.
Luke's eyes narrowed at the sight of his father's back as the magi started casting a protective barrier around him and the Sphere of Temporea—their incantations drawing massive amounts of aether in the air.
The ritual for the Sphere of Temporea had finally begun.