A dozen beams of dark light shot out from Astria. Rather than going in a straight line, they were bending left and right, but their eventual destination was clear to me. I raised my blade and raced out to meet them. I cut the beams down as I jumped around. Anything the beams struck turned to ash.
“I’m not sure if I can cut too many more spells.” Alysia gasped. “It’s exhausting. I have to keep my soul sharp, and each time it gets stuck it becomes harder to maintain that sharpness.”
We had both been wondering what our limits were since we came from the Illusory Sword Dungeon, and it seemed like Alysia was reaching hers. A sword that struck too many times became dull, and when it was something so metaphysical as cutting mana, it was that much harder. If her blade could cut the spell, then it would be the same as the spell erupting right in my face.
“I’ve seen everything I need to see.” I panted. “It’s time we end this.”
I had only taken on another face and confronted Astria to see how things were. Now that I had heard enough, I didn’t need to drag this out anymore. However, I couldn’t just show her my face either. The one setback of Transformation was a slow spell. I didn’t have time to transform my face back to normal using the spell. Thus, I had to defeat Astria.
After fighting her for this long, I was pretty confident I could. With her being powered by the Mana spring, she was probably about as powerful as she had been in her lair of Karr’s dungeon, back when she could pull on the dungeon to enhance her power. I needed to cut off that power, and then suppress her quickly.
“Sharpen yourself as much as you can. We’ll cut her bond to the mana spring.” I gave Alysia the order.
I adjusted my jobs accordingly and then I used teleport to appear next to Astria. She expected this, turning and lashing out with her palm. I allowed the strike to hit as I did my strike. Her hand hit my chest, and I felt a strong pain. The pair of us separated, Astria and I both flew out from the mana spring, landing on opposite sides with thuds. I looked down at my chest to see a searing handprint. Astria was deadly as always, but I wasn’t the same Deek I had always been. Such a level of pain was bearable after what I had experienced.
That’s why, as soon as I landed, I teleported again. I fought through the pain that she likely had intended to be debilitating, and as a result, I came upon Astria just as she was getting back up again. I struck her with several spells using Drain and Weaken to amplify the damage the loss of power she got when she was severed from the mana spring.
She yelled out, but I refused to allow her to back away, keeping us close where she was most helpless. She was struck again and again as I forced her to her knees. In a matter of moments, Astria had been taken down.
“You…” She spat. “Just who are you?”
I looked down at her, and then I lifted my hand. “I’m your Master and it is time you become my slave. Enslavement!”
It might have been a brutal way to enslave her, but I wasn’t feeling very much pity. She had tried to kill me several times, and then there were also the citizens she was oppressing. I had beaten her down just as I had done to Xin. Now, I would Enslave her and reveal to her I was still alive. I wondered what kind of face she’d make when she realized the truth.
Of all the expectations I had when I used Enslavement on her, I had never expected her to let out a blood-curdling scream. All of the fairies who had been hovering above and ignoring us suddenly swooped down on me like a swarm. The woman herself let out shrieking cries of pain. Enslaving Xin had been difficult, and I had barely succeeded but attempted to Enslave Astria was many times worse. It was like trying to mount a tiger.
She began to lash out wildly with spells, many not even aimed in my direction, and some even backlashing and hurting herself. It had only been a few moments, but I realized there was no way I could Enslave Astria in this state. The fairies descended and I was forced to retreat. With several waves of my blade, I caused the fairies to fall from the sky like their wings had been cut. At that moment while I was focused on the fairies, Astria lunged at me and cast a powerful spell.
It exploded in both of our faces, and I felt like my body was on fire as I was thrown back. However, even this much pain was acceptable, and I forced myself to my feet. I cast a few healing spells and I looked around to see a broken Astria kneeling on the ground. I hadn’t intended things to go this far. That she would use such a destructive spell with no regard for her safety had left me confused. The spell had been so strong that the other fairies had all scattered in the wake of the violent eruption.
Astria wasn’t done yet. Her clothing was in tatters, and her body was covered in scratches, but she had her hand up and she was finishing an incantation. The previous attack had been just to keep me confused as she finished the real spell.
“Cut it!” I threw out Alysia, allowing her blade to fly free from my hand.
It shot out like an arrow and struck the mana weave going into Astria’s spell, but after a brief moment of sparks flying, the sword flew back and struck the ground.
“I’m sorry, I just didn’t have the strength.” Alysia cried out.
The spell was completed, and a few moments later dark shapes started to appear in the sky. I looked up with a frown, trying to understand what Astria just cast. When I finally realized what spell she had used, my face went white.
She had managed to cast Meteor. It wasn’t quite like my own spell. Instead of a single giant meteor like I got when I cast it using my dungeon points, it was coming down in a dozen smaller meteors. It would still do the job. It would destroy the mana spring, the nearby village, and everything in between! Astria was destroying everything!
The incoming meteor would take about a minute to finish descending. That was one of the weaknesses of this spell. However, the devastation would be immense. I could avoid the attack myself, but I’d need to choose who to protect. I could protect the village or the people in the palace. The other would almost certainly be destroyed by falling rock.
“I… will never be your slave. I will never be anyone’s slave again.” Astria declared, summoning up the last of her strength to force herself to her feet, stumbling slightly.
I lowered my head. “Did you… really hate being Deek’s slave so much?”
“Hate… Deek?” She laughed bitterly. “I loved him. I loved him so much.”
“Then, why?” I demanded.
“This is all I can do… to honor his memory, to protect his legacy.” She responded helplessly. “Even if you stopped me, Elaya took over the city. You’ll never defeat her. She rerouted all of the mana from the fairy spring into building her grand dungeon. She was corrupting it, the entire thing. I could only reroute a piece of it, to keep infusing it with mana, to keep it from becoming a dark miasma fountain. I need more energy, more fairies, more mana… or she’ll win and Chalm will fall into darkness forever.”
“You’re protecting Chalm?”
“It doesn’t matter anymore. If you’ve come, then others will as well. I cannot protect the existence of the mana anymore. The west will fall into shadow. My only wish is that Elaya’s darkness one day washes across your cursed Ost Republic, and you face the same darkness that you plunged all of us into when you took him from us.”
“I’m sorry, Celeste… I couldn’t keep you safe down there any longer. You will have to fend for yourself.”
“Celeste? She’s in the mana spring! That’s why you’re sucking out the mana. Celeste is sucking it up for her next evolution, and since Elaya’s redirecting the mana and started turning it into miasma, you were afraid she wouldn’t have enough miasma to transform, or worse, that the miasma contaminated her form, and she ended up a dark fairy like you!”
“Heh… you’re truly too smart for your own good. That’s why I know you’re capable of surviving this meteor strike too. So, I have been given no choice. My love, I will only ever be your slave, no one others. Know that in the end, I did everything for you.”
“Astria, enough of this. I’m De-”
“No!” I leaped forward as I felt a surge of energy erupting in her.
She wasn’t just going to bring down a meteor strike to level the place. She was going to destroy herself too, using self-destruct to distract me so I couldn’t get away or protect the mana fountain. Her actions had been ruthless, but not something that angered me anymore. How had things come to this? As I ran to her, I realized I had no hope of reaching her before she self-destructed. I could only watch, seemingly in slow motion, as her body tore itself and exploded. The backlash to me would also be substantial and followed by a meteor strike, I wasn’t certain I could survive, but that wasn’t even running through my mind at that moment.
As her body began to be torn apart, the mana spring erupted in a blinding white light. It exploded out, covering the entire area, us included. At that moment, I heard a voice gently whisper across the land like the wind.
“Mother can be so foolish sometimes.”
The entire world turned white.