The Beginning After The End | Chapter 262

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Beginning After The End Manhwa Novel

Chapter 262



 Chapter 262


Chapter 262: The Platform

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Tempering my body in that molten stream for the past few days had been the right choice. I was now able to concentrate about eighty percent of the aether into my arms and focus up to thirty percent of my aether into my legs. That being said, my heightened control over aether made the climb back up to the clifftop a breeze.


I was tempted to stay longer in that fiery river—while excruciating, using the molten stream was a much faster way of forging my aether passages—but I had gotten lucky finding an aether crystal that large nearby. Without it, I wouldn’t have been able to make such drastic improvements in that short amount of time.


There were a couple things I wanted to do before crossing through the teleportation gate. First, I looked for a source of freshwater. I knew there had to be one nearby since I had accidentally managed to excavate a thin vein of water down within the cave while looking for an aether crystal. Even if I didn’t need to drink nearly as much water now, if I hadn’t found that, I would’ve had to make a trip back up to the giant rodents’ territory.


“Found it!” Regis shouted a few dozen yards ahead.


“Nice!” The dark dirt gave way to a lush field of blue grass once more as I reached the glistening pond of water.


Wasting no time, I gulped down mouthfuls of water and refilled my pouch before stripping my clothes and jumping in.


My body shivered at the cold touch of water on my skin but the sensation was blissful. After thoroughly washing myself, I couldn’t help but study my appearance once more.


The pair of eyes that gazed back at me in the water shone like two spheres of golden amber tinged with some blue—evidence of my former eye color. Locks of pale wheat hair draped over my face, emphasizing the solemn expression I bore as I stared at myself. I still looked like Arthur, but I kept looking for small differences to prove otherwise. In the end, it was just me being discontent that the most obvious traits that I had gotten from my mother and father were now gone.


Stop thinking like that. You should be grateful to Sylvie you’re alive, I reprimanded myself.


“Are you done checking yourself out?” Regis chimed.


Turning back, I shot him a withering glare, surprising him.


“Easy. It was a joke,” my companion muttered.


I let out a sigh. “I know.”


After getting out of the water, I got dressed in everything but the leather armor and teal cloak. I wanted to get adjusted to the changes in my body after tempering in the molten river. To do that, I needed to see exactly what I was capable of and what my limits were.


Without a proper punching bag in this field of blue and white, I was left having to strike the air and occasionally the ground, but I was able to get a grasp of how much I had improved.


Despite the fact that Regis used my own aether as fuel to unleash Gauntlet Form, I wasn’t able to duplicate that effect even after imbuing all eighty percent of my aether into my right fist. I was stronger—tougher—and the regenerative properties were heightened with so much aether coalesced in one place, but when I punched into the ground, the outcome wasn’t as destructive as I had hoped it would be.


Still, because I was able to more freely control my aether, Regis and I were able to utilize Gauntlet Form much more instantaneously and effectively.


One crucial limitation that I realized, however, was the speed at which aether travelled inside me.


Whether it was because my aether passages weren’t completely formed, or because I was still trying to treat aether as if it were mana, it still took a few seconds of concentration in order to siphon aether into the desired location within my body.


I still have a long way to go until I’m able to use advanced techniques like burst step. Still, I couldn’t help but get a little excited. This body would be able to bear the burden of burst step and much more.


Before we headed back to where the teleportation gate stood, I took out the translucent stone that held Sylvie inside.


“Let’s hope my aether is pure enough for you now, Sylv,” I muttered as I pushed aether into the stone. A shroud of purple enveloped the stone as I felt nearly all of my aether being drained from my core.


This time, I could feel much more of my aether reaching Sylvie, but it was all the same. While I had gotten stronger, at this point, I was dropping buckets in a pond, rather than cups. I really did have a long way to go.


After my core had replenished, we made our way back to the towering teleportation gate and stood in front of the undulating portal.

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I turned to Regis. “Ready?”


He let out a scoff. “Let’s see what fresh slice of hell awaits us next.”


The two of us stepped through, both excited and anxious of what we’d have to face on the other side.


Despite our preparation and even anticipation for something unpredictable and bizarre, we were still stunned silent as the bright white light finally gave away to a serene spectrum of colors. Despite having the accumulation of two lifetimes in two different worlds, my mind couldn’t quite make out what I was seeing.


“Well this is new,” Regis muttered as the two of us continued staring blankly at the scene ahead.


Glowing platforms the size of small houses lay suspended in the air, each one a different color and a bit higher the farther they were. The platforms were connected by a single set of glowing stairs that seemed to be made of the same material as the platforms themselves.


The sky itself, if I could even call it that, shimmered in a purple hue, making this place look as if it was in a perpetual state of twilight.


The teleportation gate we had come through was apparently one-way because behind us was just an expanse of the shimmering purple sky. No sun or moon, no obvious source of light or even a horizon…there was just nothing.


I stepped away from the edge of the platform we were standing on, not wanting to find out how steep of a drop it was if we fell.


“At least there’s only one way to go, right?” I said, kneeling down to inspect the platform we were standing on. This one glowed a soft white and was smooth to the touch.


Regis rolled his eyes. “Woohoo.”


I walked carefully toward the set of glowing stairs leading to the next platform, wary of any traps. Thankfully, I managed to reach the stairs without anyone or anything trying to kill me.


Climbing the stairs, I reached the next platform which glowed in various shades of red. After the two of us exchanged a wary glance, I stepped on the platform.


Immediately, the staircase behind me faded away, forcing me to fully commit to the platform. As both feet were planted on the glowing red floor, the entire platform began elongating, stretching to about quadruple its original length. Worse yet, I felt something pull at my insides, forcing me to stumble and almost fall.


My breathing faltered as wisps of purple aura leaked from my skin. Even as I closed off my aether core, I could feel the aether escape, slowly draining both my body and my core.


Regis was in worse shape as he fell to the floor, his entire form flickering and growing noticeably smaller by the second.


“Regis!” I reached out and grabbed him, allowing him to sink into my hand.


‘Thanks,’ Regis remarked without a shred of his usual blend of sarcasm and condescension.


Meanwhile, I couldn’t help but start to panic as more and more aether was being siphoned out of my core and leaking from the surface of my body.


I began hurriedly crossing to the other side of the platform where the stairs to the next level awaited. However, the rate that my aether was being sucked out from me increased the closer I got.


Thinking on my feet, I began concentrating aether to my right arm. With all of my aether coalescing in one place, I could only feel the aether leaking from my right arm.


Better than nothing, I suppose.


I was nearly at the stairs now but my gut told me to try and overcome this.


‘Uhh, the exit is right there,’ my companion sent, his concerned voice echoing in my head.


“I…know,” I said through gritted teeth as I stopped in my tracks.

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Rather than panicking at the sensation of aether escaping from my very grasp, I used every ounce of concentration into narrowing the aether from my entire arm to my hand, then to the center of my palm until I could feel the aether about to burst.


That’s when I felt like something had changed inside me. As if my aether passages dispersed and rose to the surface of my skin. A layer of purple clung tightly to my right palm while rune-like marks extended out to my fingers like a glove made of aether.


Suddenly, my hand began to burn.


‘Arthur! You’re going to destroy your hand at this rate!’ Regis cried, panicking. ‘Hold on! I’ll absorb some of your aether!’


“No, don’t!” I groaned. I let whatever anomaly was happening within this platform help me drain the aether coalescing in the center of my palm. Better yet, I let it help guide my channels.


Letting out a roar to overcome the pain gnawing away at my hand, I pushed out.


A deep thrum resounded, followed by a devastating torrent of violet flames erupting from the center of my palm.


I gripped my right arm with my left hand to help stabilize and keep my arm from ripping out of its socket.


The sound of my own voice was washed away from the deafening blast as I struggled to stay conscious.


My ears rang and most of the red platform that had seemed indestructible up until now had been obliterated.


I fell to my knees and I cradled my right arm. All of my fingers had been broken and bent out of place from the impact and my entire right arm had fractures. And without a shred of aether left in my body, I could already feel my body turning against me.


“—thur! Arthur!”


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I saw a blurry Regis shouting my name before shooting into my chest. Almost immediately, I could feel Regis injecting his own aether into my core, supplying me with most of what he had accumulated since manifesting.


Strength flowing through me once more, I staggered off the red platform and climbed the stairs using my hand and feet.


“Regis, are you okay?” I asked, worry laced in my voice.


Regis remained inside me, and I could feel he was still alive but he remained quiet.


Finally, my companion stirred and let out a groan.


‘You really are a fucking masochist,’ he grumbled weakly.


The two of us stared at the glowing orange platform in front of us.


Regis was no larger than the size of my palm now after giving me most of his aether. What was worse was that we weren’t able to stay on the floating stairs indefinitely. After a while, the stair we were on began trembling before fizzling out of existence. Eventually, we had been forced to the last stair before the platform, my arm still mostly broken.


“Remember, I can’t use Gauntlet Form right now,” Regis warned, hovering just over my shoulder.


“I know.”


“And don’t you even think about using whatever it was you used on that last platform! I mean, what the hell were you even thinking!”


“I told you. I need to risk my life if I want to stand a chance against asuras,” I stated. Despite my injury and close call, I had succeeded. I could feel the change in my body and the possibilities of what I would be able to do once I was strong enough to handle it. “But you have to admit, the result was worth it.”


“If it wasn’t for me, you would’ve died doing that dragon’s fart technique!” he yelled before letting out a breath. “Fine. It was pretty cool. Just don’t do it again until we’re someplace safe, yeah?”

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“It was a calculated risk…but I agree,” I answered before stepping onto the orange platform. As soon as my foot touched the floor, the entire platform began glowing brighter and started pulsating softly while the stairs leading to the next platform retracted.


“That didn’t happen on the last platform,” Regis stated grimly, looking at the stairs.


However, even as Regis was talking, I sensed something and moved my body accordingly. I spun on my front foot, pivoting to the right and grabbing the space in front of me with my left hand.


A slight prickle on my cheek told me that I wasn’t able to dodge completely but what surprised me more was the fact that I was able to react to the humanoid beast that had attacked me at all.


Aside from the fact that it was deadly fast, it seemed to be invisible. Even with the fact that I was able to see aether with my eyes, the beast simply looked like a faint blur of purple with two bladed arms and four legs.


“Regis.” I tightened my grip around the bladed beast’s arm as it struggled to pry free. “Be careful.”


My companion’s eyes widened at what he saw and hid behind me.


With my right hand out of commission, I tried throwing the beast off of the platform but it hit an invisible wall.


Imbuing aether into my left arm, I unsheathed my dagger and struck the humanoid beast underneath its chin and severed its head.


The entire platform shook from the impact and the headless beast slumped into the ground without a trace of blood leaking from its wound.


As soon as the beast died, details formed underneath its camouflaging shroud of aether.


“How’d you even see this thing?” Regis asked as he hovered over what could only be described as some sort of reptilian centaur.


I touched my cheek, wiping a bead of blood from the wound that had already healed. “I didn’t…I just sort of knew and reacted to it.”


“I wonder if it’s because of your new body,” Regis pondered.


“I’m not sure. I didn’t feel this way when I first woke up to this body. Even while fighting the chimeras and the millipede—I don’t think I would’ve been able to react this fast back then.”


My mind spun, trying to think of what could’ve changed. Maybe by forging my aether passages, the aether was further acclimating to my body internally, strengthening my nerves to enhance my perception and reflexes.


The sight of the reptilian centaur fading into nothingness snapped me back to reality. Soon after, the platform dimmed to its usual color and the stairs returned to its usual state, connecting this platform to the one after.


Regis tilted his head. “I guess…that’s it?”


We crossed the platform carefully, making sure there weren’t any more invisible threats, but after I had deemed it safe, the two of us took some more time to heal.


After a few hours of concentrated absorption of aether, I was back to full health and was even able to give Regis some aether. His body and horns were still half their previous size but he was at least able to use Gauntlet Form once.


“Let’s go,” I stated, curling and uncurling my healed right hand.


Reaching the end of the platform, we climbed the flight of stairs, much more confident than last time.


This platform was bathed dimly in deep blue light and when I carefully touched the floor with my foot, rather than pulsating like the previous platform, tiles shimmered into view, segmenting the entire area into smaller squares, each the span of my arms.


“Ooh, not ominous at all,” Regis said sarcastically, looking at the squares. “Too bad you can’t just float over them like me.”

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“You make it sound like your life isn’t tied to mine,” I shot back with a smirk.


Regis’s expression fell as he muttered weakly, “We don’t know that for sure…”


“Let’s not find out,” I chuckled before focusing on the task at hand.


I got low and tapped lightly on the square just ahead while watching out for any more invisible beasts sneaking up on me.


Nothing happened, but when I placed both feet on the same square, the entire platform trembled before it suddenly spun ninety degrees. Suddenly, I was on the left side of the square rather than the front side.


“Woah,” Regis muttered.


I carefully stepped on the square to my left, the one that was closer to the stairs leading up to the next platform. However, as soon as both feet were planted, the entire platform rotated once more, this time, counterclockwise.


“It’s a…puzzle,” I said, stepping on another square. “Like some sort of two dimensional Rubik’s Cube.”


The platform turned counterclockwise again, and the more I tried to get closer toward the stairs, the farther away I was led.


Minutes easily bled into hours as we stepped, failed, and retraced our steps before starting again.


“Forward, left, left, forward, right—no I think it was left?” Regis muttered.


“Shut up! You’re making this harder,” I snapped as I hopped through the memorized path until we were just three squares away from the staircase.


I stepped on the square adjacent to the one I was on this time, spinning me clockwise, but the move after that led to a dead route.


“Damn it,” I cursed, tracing back my path a few steps to hopefully find a different route.


“Can’t you just jump this distance?” Regis asked, his gaze shifting from me to the stairs.


I stared blankly at my companion. “Is that allowed?”


“You can get to the stairs easily from here,” he replied. “And generally, the stairs have always been safe.”


I thought for a moment and realized we could be stuck here for hours if not days on this giant spinning chessboard.


Imbuing aether into my legs, I jumped.


The distance was easy to clear but as I descended toward the flight of stairs, suddenly, a shadow loomed over me.


It was the entire platform.


My eyes widened as the entire blue platform flipped, and it came crashing over my head.


No… it can’t end just like this.


“Arthur!” Regis cried, falling alongside me despite his ability to fly.


I flailed my arms desperately in the air, trying to grab ahold of something in this purple void. I tried to gather aether once more in my palm but to no avail—I didn’t have nearly enough to launch an attack like earlier.


There was nothing either of us could do as we continued plummeting and the platform grew farther and farther away, until it faded out of sight.


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