“Damn it, Joey. Why did you not stop him earlier?”, Von reprimanded.
Joey could not believe what he just heard from his uncle.
“Uncle, shouldn’t it be you who should’ve stopped that boy?”, he argued.
“Damn the Elders, we need to do something to rescue that boy!”, Von panicked. It was unexpected that Zachariel would be grabbed by the dark mist.
`What the hell happened there? Such a thing didn’t occur when I approached those dark mist the other day around!`
They did not know how the dark mist worked since the corruption spread too fast for them to do any sort of analysis or research about it.
Who knows? Maybe the dark mist was playing around and decided to take things seriously this day.
“Rescue who, uncle Von?”, a familiar girly voice called out to him. It was Helena and Victoria.
The two jolted in fear.
`Oh no, they’re here.`
<Joey, listen. Don’t ever tell them about what happened earlier, okay? I’m going to find us a solution to this.>, Von told Joey.
He had a hunch that Zachariel wasn’t harmed by the dark mist. Otherwise, the young boy would’ve started screaming for help when he was dragged inside.
`Even the calmest fucker I’ve met would freak the shit out if they sensed that death aura. But that boy didn’t. We’ll see how it turns out.`
Still, he would have to be cautious. Helena was overprotective to her friends and with regards to Victoria…
`This silver-haired girl is supposed to be the other person I would ask for help. Ah, damn it, no regrets now.`
They then turned around and faced the two girls.
Victoria was wearing her school uniform. Her face had some bandages here and there.
Helena wore pants and some tight shirt and a red half-robe, distinguishing the fine lines and curves of her body.
They stood side by side, with Helena being taller than Victoria. Nevertheless, the combination of the two would flutter the hearts of many.
“Ah, Hele. You’re here. Wait, why are you here anyway?”
His stuttering made Helena suspicious. However, she let it go and replied.
“I’m here to check up on my mom, uncle. By the way,”, she grabbed Victoria’s hands and introduced her to them, “She’s my best friend, Victoria. I hope that you wouldn’t be as strict to her when she’s here in our household.”
Victoria’s heart melted when she heard Helena’s warm introduction of her. Her cheeks blushed, embarrassed that a person like Helena considered her as a friend, and even displayed her relationship with her in front of Helena’s relatives.
She had her reasons. After all, the nobles would usually pick on commoners like Victoria and wouldn’t welcome her in their households.
“Nice to meet you, young girl. I’m Von, Hele’s uncle.”, Von waved his hands.
“I-I’m Joey, Hele’s cousin.”, Joey scratched his head, then telepathically linked to Von.
<Uncle, don’t you think Hele is a hot-shot when it comes to white-haired people?>
His question angered Von.
`What kind of stupid analysis is this? Fuck, I should not put a lot of thought in this matter. Get a move on.`
Helena noticed the slight change of expression in her uncle, asking,
“Uncle Von, I’m going to ask you again. Who were you trying to rescue?”
“We’re talking about madame, Hele.”
The serious tone in his voice put Helena in an emotional state.
“I see. Uncle, is mom safe? I really don’t like this anymore. Please, tell me honestly how she is right now.”
“Hele, don’t worry. Your uncle will find a way about this.”
His words didn’t comfort Helena at all. Instead, she teared up and started to rub her eyes in sadness. Victoria felt bad for her friend.
Von weakened at the sight of Helena.
The barrier on the other side flickered.
Von turned around.
“The dark mist! They’re retreating! Uncle, he did it!”, Joey said something he shouldn’t have, covering his mouth in regret.
`You idiot Joey! Shit, I’ve got a lot of explanation to do!`, Von cursed.
The damn lanky guy didn’t control his mouth properly. He had a plan to fool the two girls but the current situation no longer allowed him to do so.
A siphoning force that drained a living being’s vitality suddenly originated inside Madame Lena’s bedroom.
Victoria’s senses tingled. This force was too familiar to her.
<Mistress! It’s the bearer of your mark! He’s there!>, Hakkusha linked herself to Victoria’s head.
`Inside? But how?`, Victoria was confused.
<I don’t how he got there, but you have to make sure he’s okay!>
Victoria followed Hakkusha’s instruction and went for the room.
“Young girl, you’re not going anywhere.”, Von stopped her.
<Mistress! Do not tell him that you know the bearer’s inside!>, Hakkusha reminded.
Von lifted his eyebrows in comprehension of what Victoria said just now.
“Uncle, there’s no time for hesitation right now! We need to save the boy!”, Joey didn’t want Zachariel to die in exchange for Auntie Lena’s life. That would be absurd on Zachariel and their part.
“Wait here, let me check what’s going on the other side. If the others get here, tell them that too.”
Von carefully approached the flicking barrier. After a few moments, the barrier broke and everyone saw Zachariel slumping on the ground and groaning in pain.
Victoria couldn’t endure the sight and arrived on his side.
`No, he shouldn’t die. I need to save him!`
Von noticed her late.
“Hey, little girl! Wait!”
Helena and Joey went after Victoria, both wondering about the worried look on Victoria’s face.
“Urgh!”, Zachariel groaned.
The dark mist surrounded his body, emitting sizzling sounds as if he was being fried. Some of it entered his eyes, mouth, nose, and ears.
“Zachariel!”, Victoria knelt and tried to touch him but it didn’t work.
`Oh no! It’s the same thing yesterday! Why is this happening?!`, she panicked.
<Mistress, it seems like the mist is merging with his body!>
`Merging? Will he be alright?`
<Yes, though he will have to endure the pain.>
Victoria didn’t like Hakkusha’s last phrase.
Helena, on the other side, was confused.
“Uncle, what’s the meaning of this? What is Zachariel doing in my mother’s room? Are you referring to him when you said you’re going to rescue someone?”
Her questions put Von in a tight spot.
`Damn the Elders! I don’t want to drag Hele on this.`
“Hele, I’ll tell you later. For now, let’s put him over there.”, pointing at the large soft couch in front of them.
“Why there? Why not at the Imperium Ward?”, Helena questioned his choice.
“Just listen to me!”, Von didn’t have the time to argue against her.
`I need to cover what’s going on here first.`
“Joey, go stay outside and bar anyone from going here. I’ll set up another barrier.”
Joey nodded. Von weaved a few signs. Light and dark mana essence gathered in both of his hands, incantating, “Deceptive Barrier”
He focused his mind on controlling the mana essences, guiding them to form lines and shapes. Six circles formed in the outer edges of the formation, while a huge circle formed in the center.
Half of the outer circles were composed of light mana essence, while the other half was dark mana essence.
Curved lines extended from the small circles, swirling towards the large circle at the center. The mana essences flowed through the lines, creating a harmonic mix of it that was the central circle.
If a slight imbalance happened between the ratio of the light and dark mana essence, an explosion would occur.
After the central circle was filled, another group of straight lines extended from the small circles, connecting themselves to each other.
The outer circles started revolving around the central circle. If someone looked at it right now, they would feel like they were being hypnotized.
Von then gathered additional mana essences, “Activate!”
The barrier glowed, with the revolving speed increasing as time passed by. After a slight moment, the glow faded away. They could no longer see what was on the other side.
Victoria was mesmerized by Von’s performance, `How fast! This is senior is so powerful!`
She herself was having a hard time gathering and conjuring basic spells, while Von waved his hands around like a madman and formed a barrier in a matter of 3 seconds.
`Senior Cassia said that formations would require attentive behavior and takes at least 10 seconds to form! But look at this! It’s like child’s play for him!`
After the small event, Von carried Zachariel to the couch and placed him there. His groans lessened and the dark mist seemed to have settled inside him.
`It’s working, but I still have to know if he’s alright or so.`
Von was deeply grateful for Zachariel’s help. He checked the body and didn’t find any external injuries. He tried to check the internal part but something blocked him from doing so.
`What’s this boy’s background to have this kind of protection?`
“How is he uncle? Is he alright?”, Helena asked.
“Yes, he is, for now.”, Von sighed and stood up.
“Now, I know, I know. You have questions, and I’ve got answers for that.”
He reassured the two girls who stared daggers at him.
`Wow, girls are scary, no matter the age.`, he gulped.
It was strange to think that a middle-aged uncle like him was scared of two girls who were centuries younger.
“Before that, can we check over Madame Lena first?”
The intensity in their eyes increased but died down when they heard Madame Lena’s name.
Von cleared his throat and turned on his serious face.
He and the other two girls approached Lena, who was sleeping peacefully in the king-sized bed on the right side of the room.
There were barely any decorations inside. No paintings, and none of those classy tiles. The floor was wooden that emitted a perfume-like fragrance that was neither allergic nor disturbing to the nose.
There were plants in the room. Its heart-shaped and small orange leaves were beautiful to watch.
Von observed Lena, “The dark mist in Madame’s body is gone.”, placing one of his fingers near her nose, “And her breathing is stable. Nothing uncommon.”
Helena almost fell on the floor, relieved to hear that her mother was okay after the suffering she experienced. Victoria caught her, “Helena, stay calm. It’s all fine now, thanks to Zachariel…”
In the mention of his name, Victoria was caught in a dilemma, `Why am I thanking that idiot?!`
Lena’s eyes wrinkled in annoyance, disturbed by the voices during her peaceful sleep.
She opened her eyes and noticed Helena with a worried expression on her face.
“Hele, my child. Why are you here? I’m still sick…”, she wanted to reprimand Helena but then noticed that her body was all okay now, “Eh? The corruption. It’s gone?”
“Yes, madame.”, Von spoke on her right. She looked at him and asked.
“Von, is this your doing?”
“Partly, but the one who should receive your full gratitude is that boy over there.”, Von extended his arms, pointing towards the unconscious Zachariel.
“Von, you didn’t kidnap him, did you?”, Lena’s voice lowered.
“Madame, I have no other choice but to do so.”, Von’s sweat trickled on his body.
Lena shook her head in disappointment, “Von, this is not the Central Continent. Your identity as a Knight still runs over, huh?”
“Okay, I know.”, she waved her hands to dismiss whatever Von was trying to say, “Before that, I want to know who this young boy is.”
She set the soft ginger-colored blanket aside and went over to Zachariel.
Von bowed, “Yes Madame. His name is Zachariel Strom, from the infamous Strom Household.”
“Oh, aren’t they those people with weird quirks?”
“Yes, they are.”
“And why him, of all people?”
Von paused for a moment, looking at Victoria before he sighed.
“Von, what’s the matter? Is this girl here related?”, Lena glanced at Victoria.
“Yes.”, he said with a bitter smile on his face.
“The moment you were struck by the dark miasma, I visited the Imperium Ward to check if there were any people who were corrupted by the dark mist as well. Unfortunately, didn’t find any similar case.”, Von shook his head.
“Things changed when a wraith attacked a room which this girl named Victoria and Zachariel were in.”
The three women were shocked by Von’s statement.
“Wait… senior, don’t tell me you… know?”, Victoria stuttered. If Von knew, her life might be in danger.
She grabbed Helena’s shirt and grasped it tightly. A fear emerged in her heart.
`Please don’t kill me!`
Von twitched his lips in guiltiness.
“Little girl, I’m not the type who would kill people that hold such a cursed power.”
“Cursed power? Von, are you referring to the dark mist?”, Lena asked.
“Yes, Madame Lena. As you can see, the situation is complicated right now. This girl and that Kane holds both of the same power, which the Higher Elders at the Tower know. Of course, they wouldn’t make a move on her if she behaves.”
Helena didn’t believe what her uncle was trying to say.
“But uncle! Victoria didn’t display any of that during the selection, nor even when we were practicing together! I don’t believe, you must be making things up!”
“Helena, it’s true. The reason why I picked this boy up was that I saw him put himself in danger, and that was when your friend displayed her hidden power. I reckon he must’ve known something about what this dark mist was all about, and how it came to be.”
“I followed them when they exited the Imperium Ward, and that boy was sure about his plan on being wrecked by those ghosts all along. He went to a large secluded area to make sure no one would witness what happened. Pretty clever for someone like his age, if you ask me.”, Von complimented, shrugging his arms in confidence as if he had deducted some great mystery.
Victoria was dumbfounded.
`He-he analyzed all of that and came up with this action? Wha-what kind of senior is this person?`
Lena turned her head around and looked at Victoria. The latter backed away, afraid that Lena would harm her.
Helena stepped up and covered Victoria with her thin arms, “Mom, don’t you dare harm my friend.”
The determination in her eyes could be seen.
“You’d protect her even if her power is the one that harmed your mother, Hele?”, Lena argued.
“Mom, the one that harmed you is Prince Kane, not my friend.”
“And what if she harms me tomorrow, Hele? Would you still protect her from me?”, Lena pushed her daughter to the edge.
“Mom, can’t you have a little faith in me, please? I don’t think Victoria would be a person like you think she is. If she wanted to harm people, she would’ve done so a long time ago.”, Helena didn’t back down.
“Von,”, Lena gestured.
Von moved and dragged Helena out of the way.
“No, uncle. Stop!”, she begged.
“Helena!”, Victoria was really afraid now. Her eyes were already teary and her body was trembling.
Lena stepped forward, and Victoria took a step back. She tumbled due to her clumsiness and fell on the flower.
“Ma’am, please don’t… kill me…”
Lena’s eyes emitted a frightful aura that Victoria couldn’t handle at all.
“Your name was Victoria, right?”
Victoria nodded like a puppy.
“Listen here. If you dare to harm my daughter, or the people of the Great Human Imperium, you’re going to get a taste of what justice is like. And I’m going to make you repent your wrongdoings, not until you have accepted your mistakes.”
Her cold voice ringed at Victoria’s ears.
“Do you understand, Victoria?”, Lena asked.
“Y-y-yes…”, Victoria replied. The pressure from Lena almost wanted her pass out.
“Good. It’s settled then. Von, release her.”