Chapter 24

Before me were the remains of the ancient capital city of the Old Empire and it was a sight to behold. Immense structures littered the landscape despite the fact that thousands of years had passed.

With such a long period of time, it would only be natural that the entire city would have sunk beneath the earth. However, this was not entirely the case, much of the city had indeed sunk, but the structures were of such incredible size that many of them were still visible. I could only guess how large they must have once been to still be visible.

It had taken our group several days to get here and we were all anxious about what lie within. The closer we got to the ruined city, the less monsters we encountered which was surprising.  The lack of monsters might have had something to do with the eerie presence that permeated the ruins. I had felt it from afar and as we got closer to the city, the feeling only grew stronger as if it were enticing me.

“Tris, were you able to find anything?” I had sent Tris out to scout the ruins a bit knowing full well she was probably contacting her allies.

They would make their move soon, I was sure of it. Laila and Accadeas were following somewhere well behind our party. I had no idea where they were, but they wouldn’t be too far away. I had already given Laila the ‘Mark of the Void’ and we could sense the general direction of each other but it wasn’t something that was exact.

“Nothing, I can’t detect a single monster within the ruined city. The city is too large for just a quick scout. Given what we have experienced so far, I would guess there really aren’t any.” She seemed as surprised as the rest of us.

Allein, Reia and Nes had never been to the ruined city before, so they had nothing to add to her assessment.

“These structures…. If the old empire could build structures like these, they must have been very advanced.” I was thinking out loud and as I surveyed the the ruined city it almost seemed reminiscent of a city that you might find on Earth, minus the destruction and decay.

“Did you say something Fayde?” Reia was standing nearby and came closer to me.

“No, nothing, let’s go.” There was no point just standing around and we made our way into the ruined city which had now become part of the natural terrain.

Even though many ruined buildings remained, nature had recovered much of the city so navigating our way through the ruins was difficult. We didn’t have much information about the city, but from what we had gathered from the Khans, it had been built somewhat similar to a spider’s web with the palace located in the center.

It took us a few hours to finally find our way to the palace at the center of the city, and by the time we made it there, the sun was beginning to descend in the sky. The palace itself was mostly ruins but I could see the grand structure it once was and even with my modern sense, it looked as if it once was a magnificent building. What was most remarkable was that the entire palace was above ground and even though it was mostly ruined, parts of it still stood tall.

“How strange…” I noticed something as we approached, the palace seemed much more like an enormous government facility than it did an Imperial palace. It strangely reminded me of the Kremlin from Russia, although there were notable differences.

“It isn’t what I imagined it would be.” Allein was staring up at it with her brother.

“Let’s hurry up and get this over with, we aren’t here to sightsee.” I was getting somewhat impatient and said that harsher than intended.

We had finally made our way deeper into the palace, there was little to see within. Any furniture or decorations the palace once had were no longer there. I couldn’t help but get a creepy vibe from it all. I felt like I was in a zombie movie right before the zombies come swarming in. No zombies came out thankfully but the creepy feeling wouldn’t fade. I could still feel something pulling me deeper in and it was only getting stronger.

This really gives me Blue Gender vibes, or maybe Seraph of the End! I found myself slightly daydreaming but I snapped back to reality quickly. This wasn’t the time to be thinking about anime I once watched.

With the five of us, no one would be able to sneak up on us unexpectedly. There really wasn’t anyone or anything there anyway. It was a ghost town and there was no point jumping at shadows. I was even beginning to hope that something like a giant bug might jump out at us just to make this a little more exciting.

After walking through the ruined palace for a short while, we found ourselves within a large audience chamber. It was a huge room with columns on each side and I could tell that it must have once been very luxurious and imposing. It was mostly in shambles but many of the columns still remained intact. I could feel the strong pull I had been feeling all along come from within this room.

Visibility wasn’t an issue because of light streaming in through holes in the ceiling.  I could see a human like statue at the far end of the chamber and a massive sphere with a strange dark energy swirling within. That is definitely the source of the power I feel, it’s almost as if it is calling out to me.

The statue was very lifelike, there was significant detail in it and it seemed to radiate a power of its own. Is the statue feeding off of the energy in the sphere? What is this? I could only wonder at it but I could tell they were connected in some way. The statue’s eyes were the strangest quality of it. I could have sworn they were watching me.

I can’t wait to get out of this place! I couldn’t help but feel that way and I was sure the others felt the same.

“What do you guys make of this?” I turned to my group and asked.

Reia was the first to answer, “I was told you had to put your hand on the sphere but other than that, not much is known. None of the tribes know what the sphere is…”

“So the sphere really does have a crack in it… It’s leaking power too.?” I noticed the crack when I approached the sphere to touch it and I was probably the only one who could see the black substance trickling out of the sphere.

My body wasn’t absorbing it as I thought it might, instead the energy was entering the statue. I looked at the statue again but it was still the same as it was before and so I decided to put my hand on the sphere… nothing.

“Nothing happened.” How anticlimactic, I thought. “I guess we are done here….”

“Fayde watch out!” Reia jumped in front of me and deflected a magic attack with her sword, she had already been on guard and moved quickly to defend me.

“Hmph, not quite yet. That was just a warning. We have you surrounded, it would be wise for you to surrender.” The words were coming from a solitary figure who was on the other side of the chamber from us.

“Wait a second, I know you don’t I? That’s right! Dreg was your name. I guess you’re not here to play, so what do you want?” The fact that it was Dreg made sense since he had been with Tris and I when I was at training.

“I am here for you!” He seemed very confident and I couldn’t sense how many people were with him if in fact we were surrounded. I didn’t doubt him though.

“Well, yeah that is obvious, but what I haven’t been able to understand yet is your motive. It makes sense if I just consider it a human and Demihuman problem, but I first met you well before I had anything to do with the Demihumans.” I took a step closer and he warned me to drop my weapons and surrender.

While I was engaged in conversation with Dreg, Reia had slowly made her way closer to Tris without acting too suspicious.

“Okay, okay. Calm down, let me talk with my companions first. There is no need to fight.” I pretended to go along with his words and turned back to my companions.

I walked right up to Tris, “Tris, what do you think he wants with us?”

She acted as if she had no idea what was going on.

“You acted too carelessly, did you think we wouldn’t find out eventually?” I felt a pang of regret even though I had already accepted her betrayal.

“What do you mean?” She continued to put on the act but she seemed to be getting somewhat nervous.

“Reia.” I called her name and she already knew what I wanted from her, she used the pommel of her blade and hit Tris hard in the back of her head, knocking her out.

“Attack! Quickly!” Dreg having seen our actions ordered his men to attack.

I had already sent my ‘Void Element’ into my blade and was ready for the ambush. A fireball came flying towards us with frightening speed, the magic caster had already been chanting for this moment.

“Reia, the fireball, use your sword!” Both Reia and I swung our swords towards the fireball, sending out the magical energy which had been imbued within our swords.

Reia’s ‘Lightning Element’ and my ‘Void Element’ collided at the same time with the fireball causing an immediate explosion of power.  We had deflected the attack in time and none of us were harmed.

The enemy did not waste this moment to strike. A powerful mage began casting attack spells directly at us while assassins fired arrows from behind the columns within the chamber. Dreg had suddenly disappeared, only to reappear in front of us and he also began his attack.

There were only four of them since we knocked Tris out but they were fierce opponents. Nes engaged Dreg in close quarter combat with me, while Reia and Allein did their best to deal with the enemy mage and assassins. I had prepared for this in advance but Laila and Accadeas were certainly taking their sweet time to get here.

As I was thinking that last thought, the two aforementioned individuals came crashing through a wall startling the assassins who were taking pot shots at us from columns along the side of the chamber. It was Accadeas that had barreled through the wall with his sister in tow. She was holding on to her longbow and had already knocked an arrow.

Accadeas roared, shaking the chamber and startling the enemy assassins who had now turned to fight their new threat.

Dreg muttered a curse under his breath when he saw the commotion caused by Accadeas. He began to fight with greater determination, most likely because he saw that his plan was a failure.

Reia continued to deflect magic attacks with her sword which kept her pinned down in her position. She couldn’t move while under a constant barrage of attacks, but now that the assassins had encountered an enemy to their rear, Allein saw the opportunity and struck. The enemy mage could no longer sustain his constant barrage of attacks and went on the defense. Reia also sprung into action and ran towards the enemy mage.

Outnumbered, the enemy began falling one after the other, starting with the enemy assassins who were being crushed by Accadeas and his sister. Laila had already killed one of them with her arrows and was waiting patiently for her brother as he finished up the other opponent.

Still Dreg fought on, holding on to dear life but Nes wouldn’t let up and kept him occupied while I looked for opportunities to put an end to him. Even when the enemy magic caster fell to Reia’s blade, and Dreg saw that his cause was hopeless, he didn’t surrender. Surrounded and with his stamina mostly depleted, Nes finally finished him off.

Tris was the only one still alive but she was unconscious. As I stood over her thinking what I should do, I noticed Allein approaching the sphere.

“Allein, what are you doing?”

She stopped for a moment to look back at me. It was only a short pause, but in that one moment, I saw her face torn with guilt and sadness. Time flowed slowly as tears fell from her eyes and I could see the movement of her lips as she whispered, “I’m sorry.”

I saw her take a deep breath and then breathe a dark miasma over the sphere. Wait, those are black flames, not a miasma! She kept this a secret from me?

I had no idea what she was doing, but I could now feel the heat of the dark flames and the sphere melted, releasing the energy within. The release of the energy within the sphere sent shockwaves throughout the chamber. Everything around me became blurred as I felt my body lift off the ground suddenly and then slam down.

I gasped for air with much difficulty and tried to focus my vision to the best of my ability. From what little I could see, everyone had been knocked clear away. As my eyes began to refocus, I noticed a ball of dark energy swirling above the statue and the statue began to crumble.

The statue is moving? What the hell is going on? As the statue stood up, the outer shell had crumbled and was falling to the ground. I did my best to get to my feet but my body would not move the way I wanted it to. I could also see my other companions attempting to lift themselves from the floor as well.

As the dark energy floated, it began to spin violently and suddenly shot straight towards me. I could only look on in astonishment as it suddenly pierced my body and my whole world went dark.

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