Lucius awoke with a loud gasp—his legs still planted right where he was before. It was as if not much time had passed since he lost his consciousness at all.
"Wh-What did you do to me?" Lucius said before doubling over while clutching his head. He then glared at Elrond—his vision blurry and head pounding as if countless nails were being driven straight through his skull while simultaneously being stirred around incessantly.
His eyes narrowed, however, as soon as he realized that tears were running down Elrond's face.
"O-One survived," Elrond said, his sobs echoing throughout the room. "After all this time, I..."
As if awakened from a stupor, the elf waved a hand towards Lucius, and just like that, the latter's headache gradually healed.
«Minor Heal» has been cast on you. Your health has recovered a little.
Vita: 100% (↑0.8%)
Lucius, however, wasn't the least bit grateful for the healing spell and growled. "You invaded my mind! I never thought that even an Outworlder would sink so low but how dare you!"
"I'm sorry. For everything."
That was all Lucius heard from Elrond for a long time, making him furious, but at the same time, confused. After all, if he had indeed fallen victim to one of the most potent and complex Encephomancy spells just like he suspected, then the Outworlder would've most likely tried to kill him right then and there.
Could it be possible that Elrond failed to cast that spell on him somehow?
Lucius ground his teeth.
No. I am certain of it. He just read my memories through a spell.
He'd seen Elrond kill five magi with one spell before, and there was no doubt in his mind that the elf was a highly competent magus.
So why then, was he still alive?
As if on cue, Elrond finally spoke, "I have no intention of killing you. I have had enough of senseless killings ever since I learned the truth."
Lucius frowned. "Are you still in my mind?"
"You look frightened, so I just—" Elrond caught himself. He sighed and rubbed his forehead, then continued, "Of course. Why wouldn't you be frightened? I apologize for my callousness, Luke."
"So you did cast that spell on me," Lucius said, ignoring how casually Elrond addressed him by his old name. "Using Encephomancy on a whim makes you no better than those slavers you speak of!"
"Because I had no other choice. Your face—I could still remember it even after all these years," said Elrond with a sad, lonely smile. "After all, how could I forget the last Asherian that I ever saw?"
Taken aback by the expression of pity on Elrond's face, Lucius tilted his head in confusion.
Is this compassion I sense? From a Player?"
He was already prepared for the worst-case scenario that ended with his instantaneous death by Elrond's hands, but instead, what he got was a teary-eyed Outworlder asking for forgiveness. Needless to say, he was baffled.
"You and your people have slaughtered my kind to extinction," Lucius said with a serious look on his face. "You've read my memories. You should know that I am more or less impartial with regards to the Asherii's fate, but even so, I am still their kin. Do you truly think I will trust you right away when you say you don't mean me any harm?"
"You don't have to trust me." Without even the slightest bit of hesitation, Elrond slowly lifted his left hand towards Lucius and continued, "But I can at least try to show you why you could."
"What would you have me do?" Lucius said although he was already vaguely aware of what the elf was implying.
"I will show you my memories," Elrond said before wiping his tears with a sigh. "I know that there's no excuse for the things we Players have done ever since we were sent to this world, but if you take my hand, I can show you why we acted the way we did all those years ago."
Time seemed to slow down as Lucius stared at Elrond's outstretched hand. He thought carefully about whether he should accept the elf's offer or not.
If he agreed, then he would gain a complete understanding of the origins of the Players and the reason for their absurd behavior towards the inhabitants of Elyssia. Not only that but the allure of obtaining new information, no matter what they were about, in an instant from simply seeing the elf's memories were nothing short of enticing. It would be just like reading, but without the boring, oft mind-numbing part.
Even without Castarossa's 'encouragement' ever since he was young, Lucius always longed to know more and learn more than what he already did every single day, and now, the opportunity to expand his knowledge exponentially was right before him.
But on the other hand, something within him screamed no.
Reading another individual's mind through Encephomancy was one of the most distasteful things Lucius could imagine. To him, it was like defiling a person's very existence by seeing what shouldn't be seen, for he truly believed that memories were part of a thinking individual's most important aspect of identity—an integral part of who they are and what makes them unique, and as such, should be seen by no one else.
Lucius despised mind magic. Through and through. After all, he had been on the receiving end of such spells far too many times throughout his stay in Askanar Castle that the mere thought of doing it to another person was sickening to him.
A few seconds of contemplation was all it took for Lucius to come up with a decision, and while he suspected that he would more than likely come to regret it later on, at least what little Castarossa left of his conscience was clear.
"Withdraw your hand. I am not willing to stoop that low for your excuses."
"I kinda knew you would say that," Elrond said before pulling his hand back with a wry smile. "What that Castarossa fella did to you—"
"I do not want to be reminded of it," Lucius said, interrupting Elrond's words with a frown before he continued, "And of course you would know that. You left no memory of mine untouched, I see."
"Again, I am sorry," Elrond said, scratching his head as his gaze settled on the ground, unmoving.
A moment of silence passed between them, and for the first time since he entered the room, Lucius felt more at ease. For now, he could at least tell that he wasn't in danger of 'dying instantaneously' anytime soon.
"Now what?" Lucius said, breaking the ice. "Do you speak the truth? Are not going to kill me after all?"
"Since you refuse to go through my memories, I will instead tell you about it sometime."
Lucius nodded slowly. "And for now?"
"For now, Luke, you need to rest. Seeing that you have nowhere to go at the moment, then consider Antebellum your home," Elrond said with a sympathetic look.
The elf then told Lucius where he needed to go to be assigned a room of his own in the castle. A place called the Registrar's Office.
"Feel free to relax right after they issue an Identification Badge for you," Elrond said after telling Lucius the specific directions to the office. "I bet seeing someone who tried to murder you three hundred years ago probably isn't something you were looking forward to ever since you finally got your chance at a new life."
"It was like a dream suddenly turning into a nightmare, yes," Lucius said as he recalled the moment with a shivering sigh.
He paused for a second and thought of the most relevant question he could come up with at the moment. Something that could assure him that the elf wouldn't just betray his trust at any point.
"What is your motive?" he asked Elrond with a curious gaze. "Why are you helping me?"
Taken aback by the question, Elrond mused for a moment before nodding slowly to himself and said, "My guilt, I admit, is a huge part of the reason why, but it is more than just that."
"What do you mean?"
"Because our situations are more alike than you think," Elrond said with a long, suffering sigh. "The other races turned on us Players as soon as we lost our Providence. Thousands of us that were unfortunate enough to be logged in outside of Alavaria were exterminated like pests. Since then, we have become the hunted, just like you and the Asherii."
"I see," Lucius said with a short nod, not at all surprised with what he just heard. "But what does that have to do with you wanting to help me?"
Just like that, Elrond's expression turned grave and serious. "Do you ever wonder why Deus chose you?"
"Nobody chose me," Lucius said matter-of-factly. "The prophecy was a sham, and you know as well as I do that I don't want to do anything to do with it even if the Sphere of Temporea did send me back in time as the Asherii originally intended. And as you can see, it didn't."
"No, you don't understand boy. Deus—that bastard's always working towards something. There's always a purpose. Always. This too is part of the reason why I will stand aside and let you do your thing. I want to see where it leads."
Lucius gaped at the Elrond.
Did he just call The creator of this realm a bastard? But more importantly...
"Will you truly?" Lucius asked with a sideways glance. "Why even go that far?"
"Because believe it or not, I know you were sent here for a reason, Luke," Elrond said with a serious look on his face. "I have been conducting many studies in my free time for the past three centuries, and now I know for a fact that that Deus fella trapped us Players inside Elyssia as a part of its plan. The update to Version 2.0? It's just the beginning. It's an incomplete update."
Lucius's ears perked up after hearing what he just heard, but just as he was getting invested in the elf's ramblings, Elrond suddenly sighed and waved him away.
"Sorry for scaring you like that. Maybe now is not the time for you to know these things," Elrond said with a sad smile on his face. "Forget about it. We will meet again some other time. Maybe we can talk about it then."
Lucius wanted to argue otherwise, but he held himself back when he caught Elrond staring silently at the ever-glowing image behind his table.
"I will leave you now." Lucius bowed before he continued, "My thanks for not killing me."
Elrond, much to Lucius's surprise, chuckled. Did he say something wrong?
"I know it's a bit messed up to celebrate the day of your own kin's extinction even if you did hate them yourself, but please, do try to enjoy the Festival, Luke."
"I will. And my name is Lucius, Grandmaster El," Lucius said while looking around warily. "We never know if—"
"Ah, yes, yes. Caution, I know. Lucius, it is then. Clever name by the way," Elrond said before looking back to the image and grinning. "Go on, young padawan."
"What?" Lucius said while on his way out, utterly confused.
"Uh, nothing. Old habits, sorry," the elf said with a sad, apologetic smile. "Oh, and before you go, there's something I would like to remind you."
Lucius stopped and tilted his head, motioning for Elrond to go on.
"A lot has changed in Elyssia, Lucius. Don't forget to read the Patch Notes."
"The...Patch Notes?" Lucius asked with an upturned brow.
"Mhmm, yes. The Patch Notes."