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Even though I had spent years expanding my soul, turning what used to be a difficult process into something I could do as easily as breathing, there was still a limit to that strength. As soon as we struck the edge of the Abyss, my soul began to fight with the soul wall of the Abyss. When Rea had created holes using her soul world, they were tiny holes created by other people, and even then, there seemed to be a chance those people would end up swallowed by the Abyss and disappear from time itself.
I was trying to push my entire soul world through, so such a thing couldn’t be easily done. Thankfully, I had already considered all of this before even attempting this. As we struck the edge, my soul world trembled and shook under the pressure. At another time, my soul world might have faced a calamitous event that destroyed the insides and forced me to start over once again, but that was a lifetime ago. I reached out and grabbed Rea, pulling her toward me.
Despite having gained significant experience, and quite a few combat skills, Rea had been too focused on the shaking world and didn’t notice me grabbing for her until she was already within my reach. She let out a little cry, looking like she wanted to resist. However, I pushed off, leaping into the air. At that moment, my soul world began to collapse. As I flew into the sky with Rea in my arms, the world around me shrank smaller and smaller.
At this point, Rea’s soul world could only be tugged along. The inhabitants of her soul were put into a timeless sleep as her soul world collapsed and became absorbed by my own. I didn’t swallow her soul world though and instead treated it like a transport car to my locomotive. My soul moved through this strange crack between time much like a locomotive. There was no hesitation as it barreled its way into the wall of the Abyss even while transforming.
By the time I reached the edge, my soul world became a blade. Holding Alysium up over my head, Alysia guided the way as she cut through the path. The world distorted and the bubble inside collapsed. The timing had to be just right, but I had a lot of time to think about it, and a few moments later we erupted from the Abyss. There was a thud, and then a whistling sound as we were sent out. The forces that had once been an unescapable suction seemed to have reversed, propelling us out like a rocket.
Rea let out a cry as I held her in my arms. The pair of us flew in an arc before finally landing in the no man’s land surrounding the crack. As soon as I landed, Rea shoved away from me. I let her take her distance, and she ended up stumbling back onto her butt. She was panting a bit. Her soul had undergone a backlash as it collapsed right as we made it through the bubble. Thankfully, I was able to make sure those who were still in her soul world were also sent to a place of my choosing. I didn’t bring them with us, as I still had some things to say to Rea, and I didn’t want to have to deal with a few hundred assassins at the same time.
“We’ve made it out?” Rea asked, finally managing to recover her breath as she got up.
“We are,” I confirmed.
She immediately gave me a suspicious glare. “Where is mother? Where are we?”
“Isn’t she right over there?” I nodded down the path.
It was some distance away from us, but with my eyesight, I was able to see them fairly clear. There was a young wolfgirl woman who was running. It was none other than Raissa.
“Mom!” Rea took a step forward, but I grabbed her arm.
She reflexively spun and tried to attack me with her knife, but I caught it as well. We fought a few swipes, but I got her arms trapped rather quickly.
“Watch first,” I told her.
She glared at me defiantly, but after a few moments, she took a breath, calming down before I finally let go of her hands. Rubbing her wrists, she turned to look at Raissa. Raissa hadn’t noticed the pair of us because she was otherwise preoccupied. Directly behind her was a group of men clothed in black. They appeared to be chasing her. She looked rather tired and haggard and it was clear she had been running for some time.
“Who are those people?” She demanded, looking like she was ready to attack.
“Listen in. Perhaps we can find out.” I waved my hand and the images and sound became clear as if we were standing right next to them.
“Come here, little doggy.” One of the men chuckled.
“Did you think we wouldn’t follow you into Dioshin territory? This place is our backyard!” Another added.
“Aggh! This brat!”
While they were trying to tease her, Raissa spun and sent out a series of knives. The men cursed as they tried to dodge them. One of them was unlucky and got hit. This only seemed to make them more furious in their pursuit.
“The Guild Master is going to pay a pretty penny for you!”
“They may even give us our freedom.”
“We figured out that it was you that Master wants.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Raissa panted. “Are you not here because of Deek?”
“Deek! We’ll kill him too when we get that chance!” One of the men growled. “He’s also on our list.”
Raissa’s expression turned strange for a second. “I’m sorry to tell you, but you’re already too late. Lord Deek passed away.”
“If it were only so easy.” The man shook his head. “Everyone dies eventually, but in the Abyss, they never seem to stay dead. Life and death are an illusion. Time is subjective.”
“Wh-what are you saying?” Raissa demanded. “A-are you saying Deek is in there?”
The man grinned. “Why don’t you jump in and find out? Better yet, why don’t you let me kill you and bring your soul to Master.”
The men had used Raissa’s hesitation and the conversation to create a circle around her. At his word, the men all attacked Raissa at once. Rea tried to move forward again.
“She can take care of it.” I hissed in her ear.
“How do you know?” Rea demanded, looking at me with teary eyes.
“Because it already happened?” I blinked.
Rea shook her head. “You don’t get it. These are assassins from my guild. Why are they chasing after my mother? How do they even know?”
“Aren’t you the one who told them?”
“Why would I do that? I never let my goal be known to them, not since…” Her eyes widened.
“When you were a young Rea, you put up posters looking for her. Some of the men must have figured it out. I couldn’t have been the only one.”
Rea clenched her teeth. “I have to stop them now.”
She turned, but then stopped in surprise. All six men were down on the ground. Raissa was standing over them. I let out a soft chuckle.
“She’s more resourceful than you give her credit for. Your mother has always been a survivor.”
“If… she doesn’t need help, then why are we here?” Rea asked as she watched Raissa move over to the Abyss.
Raissa seemed to be peering into it with some interest.
“We’re here because this is the day it happens. This is the day Raissa fell into the Abyss!”
“You’ve taken us to this time?” Rea gasped. “Then… that means…”
She turned back to see Raissa holding her stomach. She was speaking quietly, but thanks to my magic, we could hear her.
“I won’t let anything happen to you. They said Master is in the Abyss. Should we believe them?” She thought about it a second and then shook her head. “Master wouldn’t be happy if we took risks. You’re our baby. I will protect you with everything I have. Even my life.”
“In the end… she followed through with that promise.” I sighed.
Rea glared back at me. “If she’s about to fall in, how?”
I shrugged. “She told me she was pushed. Ah, I can stop whoever pushes her though.”
“Then, what are you doing?” Rea demanded, reaching to grab my shirt before just stopping herself. “Go to mom, be by her side and keep her safe!”
“It’s not that easy though.” I sighed. “I could stop her from falling into the Abyss. I could even bring her to my time and deal with the temporal backlash of changing up events. However, there is another matter.”
“What matter?” Rea snapped.
Rea froze for a second. “Wh-what about me?”
“If I stop her from going into the Abyss, then you will never exist. You will be scrubbed from time as assuredly as if you had fallen through the crack that day.”
“I-I’m in her womb.”
“Rea… our souls are the lore we make. The experiences we face are what make us who we are. The Rea that currently exists, not just you, but that scared little girl who trained and cried and fought, both of you will no longer exist.”
Rea’s face turned stony. “Even so…”
“Raissa will no longer exist either.”
“The mother that had you, the one who spent years by my side farming in my soul world. The woman I had watched grow and mature and become some time-traveling soothsayer, she’ll also cease to exist. I can’t even predict what such an act would do. You’ve already caused so much damage to the temporal crack with all of your digging. What would happen if I started rewriting that last hundred years of history? Even my existence is dependent on that timeline.”
I thought back to the Tigerkin extermination that I had set off. If I had never caused that, then would I have ever met Lydia? If I had never met Lydia, would I even be alive at the moment? My chance meeting with Lydia in the dungeon was the only reason I had escaped it alive. Such an important event in my timeline couldn’t be tampered with.
“What are you saying?” Raissa demanded. “Are you saying we can’t save Mother? You said you could bring her back!”
“I’m just showing you the truth,” I explained, looking over at Raissa sadly. “The person who pushed her was supposedly an older woman. I don’t see any older women near her, do you?”
“An older…” her eyes widened. “No! That’s not…”
“It seems like the person who pushed you and Raissa into the Abyss… was you.”