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As soon as Rea stated my name, my eyes immediately jumped to her. Although she wasn’t that much older than the last time I had seen her, I was certain that a lot had happened. Her eyes had seemingly grown up quite a bit. More importantly, she knew who I was and her opinion of me was obvious. That meant that whatever event happened that caused Rea to hate me happened between the last time we met and now. Well, that would be for Rea chronologically. When it came to me, I had no clue. This entire temporal thing gave me a headache!
“I didn’t mean to abandon you all those years ago.” I tried to defend myself. “I really can make portals to the outside world, but I can’t go through them myself. If you returned to my world… eh… the garden world, I could make a portal for you.”
“Lies!” She hissed. “You’re nothing but a liar and a deceiver!”
“Look, I’m the only way out of this Abyss.” I declared, my tone much more severe. “If you want your freedom, then you’ll need to come through me. This guild master doesn’t care about you! They just want assassins for their murder machine.”
“Guild Master protected me when no one else would!” Her expression darkened. “Meanwhile, you’re the one who ruined my life!”
I held up my hand. “Look, I can show you… I can make a portal out of here.”
“I can do it right now. We can leave together, just like you wanted all of those years ago.” I tried my best to use my charm to its fullest.
I always considered my charm to be a curse that made it hard to know how people truly felt about me. Now, I suddenly felt like it couldn’t be enough. She stared at me suspiciously, but after I changed my jobs to some of the jobs that offered charm boosts, her eyes seemed to soften slightly.
“Y-you can take me from the Abyss?” She asked.
I nodded. “I can. My portals are very special. They can cut through the barrier of the Abyss.”
She bit her lip and then after a moment she nodded. “I… have to go get my things. When I return, you will take me with you?”
“I will.” I nodded.
She hesitated for another moment. “You’ll stay right here and wait for me?”
“Of course.” I smiled.
She finally gave her affirmation, and then left the room. As soon as the door shut, I let out a sigh of relief, and then turned and started casting the portal spell.
“Master, what are you doing?” Alysia asked.
“We’re leaving.” I declared.
“Without the girl?”
“I can sense that she was lying,” I explained. “Besides, even if Rea is willing, this soul world’s owners could have seen that conversation right now. That means that I’m exposed.”
“What if Rea was being honest? You’re just going to abandon her to this life?” Alysia asked.
“If she wants to escape, she’ll have to leave this place and join me in my soul world. She’s made it there before.”
Or maybe it was better to say that she would eventually make it there. I had seen her in the future. She had entered my world and jumped through my portal to escape while I was still in confusion.
The door slammed open just as the portal opened. Rea stepped in, but she was followed by a dozen other assassins with weapons out. The group seemed to be stunned for a second as they saw the glowing red portal. I looked one last time at Rea’s hate-filled glare, and then I jumped through the portal.
One of the tricks that I had picked up was that if you wanted to survive in a dungeon, you had to be decisive. That’s why I chose to leave the Abyss as soon as I was exposed, slamming the door forcefully behind me. I had even lied to Rea and manipulated her to do it. Of course, my intuition had been right and she had been planning to get reinforcements and attack me, but that was a different problem altogether.
“How did she figure out my face?” I asked, rubbing my chin.
I had still been wearing my disguise, yet Rea had been able to figure out it was me. I wasn’t sure how that happened. I hadn’t learned nearly as much about the Abyss or the assassin’s guild as I had hoped. I understood a little more about the turbulent and strange nature involving commerce going on. It seemed like people donated things to the Assassin’s guild, and in exchange, the Assassin’s guild killed whomever those people wanted. Allegedly, every kill meant the universe changed.
Since I was no longer in the Abyss, did that mean I was now a part of the changing universe? Had it already changed for me? Would I even be able to tell?
“Master… what is this?” Alysia spoke in an uneasy voice.
“Hmm?” I had been focused internally, so I hadn’t been looking around me.
The area around the Abyss was always a barren and desolate place, so it hadn’t surprised me when I came out on an ashy, broken landscape. Yet, as I looked out to where I would expect to see the forests of Dioshin, all I saw was death instead. Most of the forest was dead, and the few trees that were still standing were blackened and didn’t contain any leaves.
“This is Gaia…” Alysia confirmed. “The mana signature matches. Although… it’s a little different. It’s like it…”
“Hasn’t happened yet,” I responded.
After traveling in time to a few different time points, I could better gauge things. In the same way that a scientist could look at genetic information and determine where something sat on the evolutionary chain, I could sort of see how mana changed over time. I could see how the mana was in the past, and what it looked like in the present, and through that, I could extrapolate that this was what it would look like in the future.
“Master, you’re saying we ended up at some time in the future?” Alysia asked in disbelief.
I didn’t answer. Instead, I opened up my map and created a portal to Chalm. The portal didn’t form easily and required a bit more magic before I could force it open. That meant only one thing. It meant that there had been many changes to Chalm since I had last been there. With a deep breath, I stepped through the portal and came out into an area that didn’t look much different than the one I had come from.
It was a desolate land. Had there been a city there, it had been leveled to dust. It wasn’t until I turned that I noticed the only remaining standing structure. It was a massive castle, the very one that Astria and Elaya had been busy constructing. This version of it was complete, but it was also derelict, which became an extremely eerie sight to me.
“What happened here?” Alysia asked.
I shook my head. “Only way to find out is to continue.”
I started heading for the castle.
When I sent Raissa and our daughter through the portal, I never expected them to end up in the future. That said, I had seen no sign of them thus far. It was in Chalm that I had instructed Raissa to leave her sign for me, letting me know when and where I needed to meet her. We had discussed it all ahead of time and even picked a very recognizable spot that wouldn’t have been touched by all of the stuff I had done since becoming Chalm’s lord.
“Just how far does the Abyss reach?” I asked myself.
If we could end up in the future, then couldn’t we end up at any time in the future? Presuming the Abyss was created at some point a few hundred years ago, it would assuredly last for thousands if not millions of years. That meant that it was far more likely that someone would end up in the distant future than in the past. If that was true, it seemed extremely unlikely that we would have ended up in the past and not the future, simply by chance.
I shook my head, ignoring such dreary thoughts. I still didn’t know much about the Abyss to say anything. Part of me said that since we had failed to reach Raissa, I should just jump back in and try again. Yet, my curiosity seemed to get me again. I had to know how the world ended up at this point. I hoped that my castle would have some answers there. We entered the front door, and as soon as we entered, I heard a beeping noise.
It sounded like an intruder alert, but the sound was muffled and distorted. I headed toward the sound, leaving the main area and heading into a hallway that had collapsed. I heard a noise.
“In-in-intruders… approaching…” A muffled voice came from the rocks.
I immediately grabbed onto some of the rocks and started to move them. A few of them were extremely heavy, and I had to use Alysia to cut through them before I could move on. I slowly got closer and closer to the beeps until a rock slide occurred. I dodged out the way as several boulders came crashing down. It wasn’t until the smoke cleared that I realized that it hadn’t been boulders that fell, but a bunch of interconnected rocks.
This was what had been giving off the warning alarm. However, its voice sounded extremely odd. It was hoarse and distorted, like a toy whose batteries were on the verge of being used up. It could still make noises, but they were all strange and elongated. With some effort, I was able to turn the golem over.
“Golem, tell me what happened here.” I declared.
The golem’s eyes opened at my voice, and it gasped. It was only at that moment that I had a really bad feeling.
“M-M-m-mas-s-s-s-t-t-t-t-er?” The Golem asked, its voice still broken and barely intelligible.
Even if the body could lie, the bond could not. This was undoubtedly my girl Terra!