Everything happened so quickly that it took me a moment to understand what had transpired.
Irus and Moria engaged the three mages while Kei was shielding me from the horde of other undead. Besides Leone, there were two lanky figures fighting against my retainers. What was worrying me was how they were put into an unfavorable position as Irus didn’t have any magic prowess.
“Khmer!” yelled Moria, her gaze not leaving Leone and the other mage. “Take the lady to Vrivarya! Remember our mission!”
Kei gritted his teeth. He must have wanted to help them, but he had to protect me. I wanted to tell him that we should help them, but I knew I would just be a burden if I started moving.
Walang nagawa si Kei kundi sundin si Moria. He held my wrist and was about to night-travel us, when an invisible force shoved us backward, several meters away from our comrades.
I could hear his voice calling my name but it sounded so far away. It felt like someone hurled a boulder at me, crushing my body. I lay dazed, white orbs dancing in front of me.
My mind was still fuzzy when a face came into my view. His alluring red eyes bore into mine. A wry smile escaped his lips and pulled a strange-looking knife. I wanted to run away but my body wasn’t listening to me.
“Perish, Stryzyga,” he uttered. “In the name of Her Grace Lilith.”
He swung his knife toward my head but another metal clanged against it. Kei’s djall fended off the mage’s attack and he used that moment to night-travel the both of us.
“I’m sorry, lady,” she whispered, and the next thing I knew, the world had already blurred behind us.
My head hurt so much that I wanted to slam it against a wall. My eyes fluttered open but a sword swinging straight at me was the first thing I saw. My instincts kicked into gear and lurched sideways. I still felt queasy, but my condition seemed better than a while ago.
“L-Lady . . .”
Agad akong napatingin sa gilid at napasinghap ako nang makita ko ang kalagayan ni Kei. He was soaked in his own blood, struggling to stand up as he glared at the Mage who just attacked me. I rushed to his direction and tried to shield him from our attacker.
The Mage chuckled in amusement. The fog was slowly receding and for the first time, I saw his face clearly. His appearance was as unearthly as Moria. His red eyes complemented his porcelain skin, but he looked more intimidating because he was significantly taller than the both of us.
“Her Grace Lilith will be delighted to have your head,” he said, his eyes gleaming with malice.
Lilith? He mentioned that name earlier, too. Was she the undead they were serving?
Kei groaned in pain as he pulled me closer to him. “This is against the ancient laws, Alfonse.”
The Mage, whom he called as Alfonse, shot a dirty look at him. “Silence, Abhkim,” he hissed threateningly.
I glanced at Kei. “A-ancient rules?”
Before he could answer my question, Alfonse lurched toward us again. Kei pushed me away and met the enemy with his knife. But Alfonse thrust his hand and vines started sprouting from the ground, restricting Kei’s movements.
I struggled to my feet and was about to run to Kei but Alfonse was already in the motion to swing his knife toward Kei’s neck.
Seeing my comrade on the brink of death because of my uselessness filled my head with destructive emotions—fear, anger, and guilt. The familiar burning sensation coursed through my body; my eyes flaring with anger.
Panting heavily, I glared at the Mage and watched as his face got frozen in silent fear. Kei and Alfonse both watched in horror as black and purple blotches appeared on the latter’s arms.
The sufferings I had encountered for the past few weeks came like a crashing wave of memories and they intensified the rage boiling inside me.
“I’ve had enough,” I mumbled, my eyes getting hotter with every second that went by. “Leave me alone. Just leave me alone!”
Suddenly, the veins in Alfonse’s arm became visible underneath his skin, As if they were animate, his blood vessels squirmed in a turbulent way. Lines as dark as the blotches earlier formed around his wrist. But what horrified him was when blackened blood erupted from it.
I, too, was surprised for a second. Moria said my powers were slowly awakening and with my current strength, only extreme emotions could trigger it. Reminiscing how Moria had almost died when I channeled that strange ability at her made me lose my concentration.
As the intense heat dissipated from my eyes, so as my stamina. My knees buckled and it felt like the remaining ounce of energy in my body got sucked out completely.
“S-shit . . .”
At the same time, the roots around Kei loosened as Alfonse screamed in pain. He dashed toward my direction and was about to get us out of here, but our upper hand was short-lived.
Alfonse murmured some words, probably spells, and his severed right hand started connecting itself back to his right arm. The blotches, albeit slowly, was also disappearing.
“Lady, let’s go!” Kei said with urgency as he tried to lift me. “Irus!”
The moment he called Irus’ name, our assassin comrade appeared right beside us along with Moria whom he was carrying, too. Kei’s presence got overwhelmingly heightened, but something else was messing with my senses. When I glanced at the Mages’ direction, the other guy pulled an arrow and it whizzed to our direction. But before I could tell and warn them, everything was already spinning.
My body was aching so bad that I did not want to move. Ayaw ko na ring dumilat at gusto ko na lang manatiling nakahiga para palipasin ang sakit.
“Lady, are you okay?”
Hearing Irus’ muffled voice prompted me to open my eyes, but I immediately regretted it because his bandaged face was too close. Halos mapasigaw ako sa gulat at takot pero agad ko namang napigilan iyon. Damn it, I still couldn’t get used to his appearance.
Irus helped me get up but I froze when I saw Moria and Kei a few feet away from us. And then I remembered what happened before Kei night-traveled us.
“Kei!” I called, scrambling toward their direction.
Halos mapatakip na lang ako sa bibig ko nang makita ko ang kalagayan niya. Moria had removed the arrow from his left shoulder. The wound looked nasty. The skin around it turned moss green and it was slowly spreading. Kei’s face contorted in pain.
“The arrow’s tip was coated with poison,” she murmured as she tried to extract the contaminated blood. “And we don’t have any vials of blood left.”
I drew a shaky breath, realizing how crucial every vial of blood was. Curse those creatures. If only they did not make our journey more difficult than it already was, we would have enough supply of blood in case of emergencies like this.
Muli akong napatingin kay Moria. “Can you heal it?” tanong ko.
She gave me a forlorn look and shook her head. “Mages cannot heal others but themselves.”
My still heart sank in hopelessness. “T-then what should we do?”
“We need to get to Vrivarya,” Irus chimed in. “Now.”
When I turned around, he was looking at the ominous mountain ranges beyond the forest. That was when I realized where we were.
We were already at the border of our destination. We were few steps away from Vrivarya—their home.