The Emperor’s body was still warm when Livia buries him in a small clearing between two towering trees in the forest of a mountain. It's only been a few hours since she escaped the palace. The night sky was still dark, and the stars still twinkle cheerily above her. The two sibling moons were at full mass, and Livia stared at them as a breeze blows her hair around her head. It cools the still damp tracks of tears on her face causing her to wipe at them with the thick fabric of the emperor's cloak.
Death was horrible.
No matter how many times she has witnessed it over the months, it still felt abrupt and too cruel.
A pale trembling hand hovers above the grave. Purple light sparks to life instantly between her slim fingers. Her magic dance in her hands, energetic and happy to be free and at full capacity.
Livia would have given anything to see it only days before. Her magic felt like another limb to her body and once it had been removed she had felt crippled and off-balance. She has been so desperate to gain it back. She had even been willing to endure the grave pain it caused her to access even a small droplet of it.
Livia sneers. Her hand whips over the grave aggressively and she turns her back to it. The small mound of dirt, the exact length of a human body, disappears from sight.
With her back still turned Livia closes her eyes and concentrates. Her arms raise up to the sky and she begins a long lengthy chant in a language completely unknown to the humans of the world.
It was the language of the Old Ones. They were the first to ever be born on the land of Ethetia. The ones who once ruled the land when the humans were barely learning the power of fire. Back when the elves were just starting to wander outside of their mystical fortresses, when unicorns were more common, when the faeries and the fae were still visible, and when orcs were still primal, when monsters weren’t as deadly as they are now when demons didn’t even exist.
It was a more peaceful time.
It’s a language she shouldn’t know, a way of magic that she should be completely oblivious to.
But Livia does know it.
The memories weren’t of her first life, in a world where magic was just fictional and where technology remains dominant and convenient.
No, the words echoed from another memory, one she realized came from another lifetime. Meaning, the life she lived now was not her second, but her third. Unfortunately, these memories weren’t so much visual as they were a never-ending stream of knowledge that she comes to know over time. It was dry and gave her little to no insight into her second life. But with the newfound information came a rather traumatizing growth in her magic.
She was powerful now.
Or more like, the power that she had been born with had been completely dormant until she regained her memories. It was almost as if she had to meet some sort of requirement to gain access to her magic.
Almost like a blockade has been lifted...
Now, Livia's chants steadily grow louder, the odd words flow out of her mouth as if they were as natural as breathing. She drops her right arm and turns her palm to the ground. Her hand had a scrap on it that was still bleeding. A single drop of her blood falls to the ground. The wind begins to swirl around her as an unnatural quiet falls over the forest. The very air around her hums along with her words, in complete sync.
Once the chant is finished there is no bright flashing light, no purple sparkles, or glowing sigil in the air. The natural sound of the forest resumes, the wind returns to normal, and Livia's arms drop limply to her side. If any other being had witnessed her, they would just see some crazy, delusional girl yelling at nothing.
The magic of this world didn’t require long lengthy chants, not unless you were doing a specific and outdated ritual. No, it was showy and pretty with bright beams of light, glittering colors, and so on.
The Old Ones' magic had no such thing.
It was an ancient and dangerous power that taped into the very nature of the world, wild and chaotic, finicky and fickle, push and pull, and generally invisible to the eye. It was no easy feat to tap into it. You had to be respectful but firm, and it required a level of focus that few would be able to keep steady. There was a deeply engrained balance to it. It was the type of power that couldn’t be abused, not without paying a price. But it was also the type of power that let you bend the very nature of the world like any other. It pushed the limits, it made impossible feats possible.
No, it was nothing like the magic that the humans, elves, demons, and other beings of Ethetia used. Livia wouldn’t be able to one-shot anyone with it. She wouldn’t be able to have a thrilling battle with it, like an overpowered adventure and hero or heroine. The Old Ones' magic was subtle. But just because it wasn’t seen and couldn’t flatten mountains doesn’t mean it wasn’t equally devastating, perhaps it was even more so. Livia likened it to a slow poison without a cure. There was something unmoving and almost inevitable about the ancient power.
Livia didn’t need the power. Just like every human on Ethetia she was born with a magical core. It was ingrain. With training, discipline, and practice, she could certainly expand her magic capacity, especially as an adventurer.
The thing is, there is a strict, intricate ranking and leveling system in the world of Ethetia. It’s something she never really paid attention to since she had thought her magic capabilities were nothing to give a second thought to. It was rather common. Not everyone had an expansive pool of magic power or MP to use. So, Livia had absolutely nothing to do with it and even avoided gaining access to The Ranks because of it.
She hadn’t wanted to be reminded of the one thing she failed at and could do nothing about.
Which leaves her very blindsided.
Livia has no clue what level anyone was at, what skills they might have, and so on.
This means she needs something to give her an edge over the rest of the world, something that no one could hope to defend against, something she could use to her complete advantage. While she did know the showy, and ingrained magic that all beings of Ethetia used, she only knew what she learned during her second life, and it only covered the basic defense, healing and offensive spells, and a whole lot of nasty hexes and curses. Apparently, whoever she was had not been interested in the glowly magic that everyone was using, not unless it was something vicious and mean. But a lot of others no doubt knew those same spells as well and who knows how many things have changed and been improved on since her second life.
This leaves her to the Old Ones' ways in magic, which was external and boosted her own to a certain extent. It was completely foreign. She knew it was because even in her second life it had been all but nonexistence. Now, there was not even a whisper of such beings.
The old chant was for a spell that hid the truth from all but her. It used dark elements like the blood of the caster and the two full moons.
The body of the emperor hides a secret that Saer hasn’t discovered yet. Once he does, he would come looking for his brother's body.
In the original story, Saer simply retrieves the remains from the Royal Tombs underneath the palace, feels a small ounce of remorse, before carrying on and using his brother in an old ritual that let him gain access to the secret the Eastern Empire had once buried long ago.
By taking the 14th Emperor's remains and hiding them from all but her Livia is not only putting a target on her back but also actively changing a small element in the original story.
She doesn’t really give two craps about this, though.
Her thoughts were a mess. She was tired, dirty, and hungry, with limbs that feel like weights attached to her body. Livia just dragged a fucking corpse up a mountain while avoiding her fucking persistent as hell pursuers. She did not have the energy to care about the original story and all that shit. Her focus had been small and probably very petty. But she didn’t care about that either.
Fuck the empire.
Livia hated them all.
She wanted to get back at them, to throw a wrench in their stupidly destructive plans, and hiding the emperors' body was the only way she knew how, so she did it. And with a spell that no one could hope to ever lift.
Livia smiles and knows it isn’t pretty at all.
Then the sounds of distant shouts are heard and her head whips around in the direction it came from. Her body is already bolting forward, moving away from the clearing and back into the dense forest, but she stops just at the edge.
She looks back and is suddenly all too aware of the weight of his too-big ring in her hand. It just a pretty trinket now, one she had taken without thought but now claps it tightly with her other hand, slowly turning it.
The voices grow louder but Livia still makes the time to bow her head and say a silent prayer. Her lips tremble and a single tear escapes and falls down her face. She allows it. It’s the least he deserves.
I guess you are no longer an emperor, she thinks sadly, still not moving.
Livia recalls how he had once asked, very timidly, for her to call him by his name. She had shot down the idea ruthlessly. She had refused to see him as anything but The Emperor. He was her owner, the one she had to suck up to for her survival. He wasn’t her friend, he wasn’t her lover, he was just an obstacle she would eventually overcome.
I owe you this much...
“Goodbye Elias. You will be missed.” The words barely escape her lips, whispered underneath her breath, before she turns and runs.
The clearing, with the two towering trees and the freshly dug grave underneath them, goes unseen by the two guards that stand in the exact same spot as Livia. They inspect the area carefully before one notices the small fabric on a tree branch and rush off in that direction in hot pursuit of the girl with the purple hair, the one who was powerful enough to cut even the strongest of them.
He is known as a great swordsman, The Slasher of Winds, ranked at number two in all of the empire, now number one now that the 14th Emperor has fallen. At level 78, Saer Andre Kane was no easy foe to take on, but in a blink of an eye, he was bested.
At the base of the mountain, still in the garden, Saer turns over the severed harpoon in his right hand. His eyes it coolly with an expression that is hard to read.
His general speaks to a soldier before coming towards him.
“Sir, we found traces of the girl. It seems she is heading further up the mountain. Do you still wish to pursue her?” The general asks with impassive green eyes.
Saer ignores him, still looking at the damaged weapon. His arm has been dressed, but it still twinges with pain and blood slowly seeps into the bandages. It was still severed. If it had been cut with a blade or by normal magic, it could have been reattached by now. But that girl has used a hex. A nasty, destructive spell that was meant to cause permanent and lasting harm. Saer could feel the limb becoming steadily numb. It wouldn’t be long before he lost all feeling.
It was vicious and intentionally malicious.
To think his brother would be so foolish to keep such a poisonous viper so close to him.
And even worse...Saer let that woman escape right under his watch.
It was inexcusable. But...
Saer gets up and drops the harpoon. He walks to the secret escape door of the garden and steps through, his general calmly following him.
“It’s been two hours and forty-two minutes since that woman escaped,” Saer comments lightly. The soldiers that still linger outside the forest tense up, while the general straightens to his full height.
Saer turns to the general, his face carefully blank, “It seems that my army, the soldiers that I have personally trained myself is not enough to capture a single woman fleeing on her own feet.” The contempt in his words was thinly veiled.
“I apologize, sir, we hadn’t thought she would stay in the forest.” The general says, his brows crinkling slightly.
“Well, now that you know, I am sure it won’t be long now? It would be rather troublesome if I leave empire at such a... turbulent time. I’m sure you will personally make sure she is captured.” Saer stares at his general with hard eyes.
The general bows deeply, “Of course sir, but...”
“What,” Saer growls, stopping in the middle of walking away.
“You wish to have the girl captured? Not killed on sight...? I would think after what she had done, and the potential threat she brings...” The general trails off, not willing to continue talking once Saer turns around.
“I want her captured alive, general. Use the null weapons to subdue her. Without her magic, that woman is not a threat to anyone.”
The general was tempted to question the emperor further but holds his tongue. He bows once more, and nods, “Yes sir, I will spread the word.” He keeps his bow until Saer returns to the Palace.
Even after the general bark out orders, and enters the forest, he can’t shake the sinking feeling in the pit of his gut. The look on Saer’s face...it couldn’t mean anything good. He almost hopes for the girl's sake that she manages to evade them a little longer.
It was never a good thing to pique the curiosity of a man such as Saer.
Now the hunt for the woman who became the 14th Emperors' favorite in a short amount of time, the woman who was able to escape the Eastern Empire harem, and who wounded his pride, and put a dent in his winning streak, was on.