The Beginning After The End | Chapter 273

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Beginning After The End Manhwa Novel

Chapter 273



 Chapter 273


Chapter 273: Being of Aether


I had grown accustomed to expecting the unexpected. As brash and cliche as that sounded, in an unfamiliar area that didn’t abide by the conventions of either of the worlds I had lived in, it was all I could do in order to stay above the crippling anxiety lurking within me.


Yet, the scene that unfolded in front of me as the innumerous crystals of black and purple parted was oddly…familiar.


It wasn’t grandiose like the hall of elaborate statues or mind blowing like the panels of light within a cosmic void of purple.


No. It just seemed like the laboratory of a person even messier than Gideon. The room was fairly large but felt cramped with the dozen or so tables strewn throughout the room, each ‘decorated’ with an array of beakers and test tubes. Lining the walls in this hexagonal room were tall glass shelves filled with various nicknacks and containers—some empty, some not.


Only one wall remained different and that was because it had a portal. Unlike most portals that shone in an array of multicolored lights, this portal looked more like I was looking through a glass screen. Clearly shown on the other side were guards clad in plated armor of black in an otherwise empty room.


“Huh. You’d think with an entrance like that, it would lead to something…more,” Regis began before his eyes fell on the portal as well. “At least we’ll finally be out of here.”


“Wait.” My eyes scoured the lab. “The voice in my head referred to me as the ‘Being of Aether and Flesh’.”


“There has to be something more to this place than this,” I said as my eyes continued to search every corner of the room. “I’m guessing it wouldn’t have let me in here otherwise.”


“Wait.” Regis narrowed his sharp eyes. “Is that why you didn’t want to go back with the other ascenders? You expected something like this to happen?”


“Somewhat,” I said while walking through the aisles of metal tables. “There are too many variables that I can’t put my hands on, like finding Caera’s brother in the forest zone with the aetheric millipede. But what’s certain is that my presence has an influence on all of these zones, so it’s reasonable to assume that whoever built the Relictombs only wanted beings inclined toward aether to get this far.”


“Then what about all of the past cases where Alacryans were able to bring relics of the past to the Vritra?” Regis pried. “It’s been mentioned by the ascenders and I’ve even seen glimpses in my memories from Uto.”


I paused, thinking for a moment before shaking my head. “It’s hard to say for sure. My best guess is degradation, though. The Relictombs might be powerful enough to keep asuras out, but there’s nothing that can last forever, especially something as intricate as this place.”


“Anyway, this room shouldn’t be something as simple as an easy way out.” I turned toward my companion. “Do you know what these relics look like?”


“Aside from the massive amounts of aether held within, they can look like anything, from a book, to an artifact, to a bone. But I know that the simulets that Miss Booty—Daria mentioned a few times were made using the insights from a relic,” he answered before perking up. “Do you think we can find artifacts in this room before leaving?”


There was something odd about this room in that it looked like a normal lab but there were key components missing. Comparing this lab to Gideon’s, what filled his lab even more so than the beakers, molds, and contraptions were books.


Whether they were textbooks or journals for recordkeeping, there was always an abundance of bound paper. There wasn’t anything like that here.


As Regis continued to search through the lab, hoping to find some sort of clue as to where we were, I took a different approach.


But even with my enhanced vision, I couldn’t sense anything made of aether here aside from the portal.


Did I think too deeply into it? Like Regis had said, was this place simply just an easier route to get out of the Relictombs?


I almost considered leaving as Regis waited impatiently by the portal, his shadowy tail thumping the ground, when the words the voice had said echoed in my head once more.


It had referred to me as a ‘being of aether’, so maybe just trying to detect aether in this room wasn’t enough.


With nothing to lose, I unleashed an aetheric aura, bathing the room in a suffocating pressure.


“What the…” Regis stiffened, confused by my sudden action until the room started changing. As if everything that I saw, smelled and felt within this room had been an illusion, everything started fading away…including the floor.


I began to fall, and then just stopped. It felt like I had jerked awake from a falling dream as my feet suddenly found themselves firmly planted to a floor that didn’t exist a second ago.


I heard Regis let out a startled gasp, but my eyes were focused on the construct in front of me. A pedestal that stood ten-feet high with aetheric runes carved around it. Four revolving halos of glowing stones with the same intricate runes etched across its surface gyrated without ever touching one another.


Floating just above the pedestal in the center of the halos of stone was a small glistening crystal. It radiated a brilliant lavender light and, while it appeared rather valuable, the amount of the aether it emitted was miniscule. However, there was something in this room that held an unfathomable amount of aether.


Regis, although his perception toward aether wasn’t nearly as sensitive as mine, felt it too as he searched the room.


Looking around as well for the first time, I realized the deteriorated state of this room. Unlike the illusion of the lab we had fallen from, the stone rune-filled walls were cracked and chipped. There were even a few man-sized holes on the ground and in the walls with rubble still littering the floor.


What made me tense and almost fearful was the fact that this source of aether wasn’t just coming from any one spot. It was constantly moving and while I could feel it, it was the first time I couldn’t see it.


“Who’s there!” I roared, my eyes trying to follow the massive congregation of aether.


Suddenly, I could feel it rapidly approaching from the other side of the room. Unable to tell how large this invisible force was, I shrouded myself in aether and threw a blurring punch forward.


What was strange was that the strength behind my punch should’ve either gone through and hit the air, hit something and sent it flying, or injure my own hand and arm from the recoil. However, none of those things happened.


My fist had definitely hit something solid, but it felt like the force behind my attack had been completely nullified.


And manifesting in front of me, with its hand wrapped around my fist, was a humanoid figure that stood at about six feet.


“So you can sense me,” it said with an expression of pure shock.


I pulled my hand back and stepped away while Regis appeared beside me, teeth bared.


The figure was an opaque purple in color with short cropped hair of the same hue. The only parts darker were the tattoos of interlocking runes running over almost the entire surface of his body. It even ran up to his cheeks and forehead, leaving only his eyes, nose, mouth and chin bare.


The being studied me, brows furrowed and eyes glowing. “You have an aether core, yet no spellforms to protect your body.”


“Spellforms?” I asked while exchanging a confused glance with Regis.


Its eyes narrowed with intrigue. “I see. A human with the body of an asura—a dragon no less. What an unprecedented anomaly you are.”


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The being looked down at Regis, who flinched from its gaze. An expression of shock resurfaced once more on its face. “You carry an edict for destruction, yet the knowledge remains in the asuran human’s mind.”


“Who are you?” I asked, aether still cycling within me, ready to attack.


“I have waited a long time, yet what was brought to me is something even I didn’t know was possible.” The being waved its arm and I found myself in an impossibly large enclosing surrounded by a dome of translucent purple. The entity, who had been right in front of me, now stood several yards away and Regis was gone.


“What did you do with Regis?” I growled, looking for my companion.


“The pup is safe. This is a trial of your skills after all.” The being stepped toward me. “I know you’ve undergone many challenges so far but I sincerely hope that you pass this final trial.”


“You’re right. Ever since being thrown into this godforsaken dungeon, it felt like all I’ve had to do is face trials.” The edge of my mouth curled into a smirk as anger leaked through my voice. “At least, unlike the other monstrosities this place whipped up, you have the sentience to at least tell me some answers.”


“And that I will,” he said as a spear of aether manifested into his hand. “Given that you prove your worth, of course.”


I had landed in this ancient dungeon after failing to protect Dicathen. The only ones I could blame were far out of reach, and the only ones I could take my anger out on were bloodthirsty monsters.


Now, standing in front of me was a being of high intelligence and strength that deemed himself the ‘final trial’.


Prove your worth, my ass.


I burst forth, brandishing the white dagger in my hand. My blade was met with the shaft of his purple spear, and once again, the force of my attack was nullified. It was a different feeling compared to the ability to alter the gravitational pull of an opponent that Cylrit, Seri’s retainer, had. There was no delay or recoil that I could work off of.


My attack just stopped.


Stepping into my opponent, I followed up with a strike to his sternum, channelling aether in quick successive bursts through my arm like I had done with Burst Step to maximize strength and speed.


Again. My attack stopped just as it hit below his ribcage.


However, I had noticed something. The runes scouring almost every inch of his body glowed slightly as he channeled aether through them.


The two of us soon fell into a flurry of attacks, with me on the offensive. Using my dagger only as an extension of my right hand, I slashed, lunged, kicked and punched with the being matching every one of my attacks with a perfect defense.


Dodging a barrage of blurring stabs from his glowing spear, I used my left palm to redirect his last strike downward to my right and used the momentum to launch a reverse roundhouse stab at his head.


Like I had expected, his runes glowed once in the area he knew I would attack. And like I had expected, the tip of my dagger simply remained suspended just above his right ear.


He swung his spear, putting a distance back between us before lunging forward at me once more. While his nullifying defense was beyond frustrating, I had to admit that his technique with the spear was astounding.


The shaft of his weapon swayed and bent as if it were made of wood, curving and springing in the air with every stab and swipe he threw at me, as if his spear had come alive.


However, my martial techniques were nothing to scoff at either and my asuran physique only supplemented my abilities. I wove, parried and redirected his attacks until we were both at a stalemate.


That’s what I wanted him to think.


I had realized that his nullifying defense mechanism wasn’t automatic. The way the being’s eyes followed the movement of my dagger to block proved it.


The entity aimed for my left collarbone as his spear rushed toward me. Rather than sidestepping out of it, I dipped my left shoulder forward and grabbed the shaft with my left hand. While pulling the entity’s spear toward me, I imbued aether into the dagger in my right hand.


Again, the runes glowed and I could already sense the accumulation of aether protecting his stomach. And that would’ve worked had that been my intention.


Rather than strike at his stomach, I brought my right leg forward and stabbed past him before hooking my right arm right below his armpit.


He never saw the shoulder throw coming as I released a pulse of aetheric intent before letting go of my dagger and slamming him into the ground.


I followed up immediately by concentrating aether into the palm of my hand in preparation for a blast. Suddenly, the entity, who had been lying on the ground right in front of me, was now over a dozen yards away.


“What the,” I muttered.


The entity calmly stood back up, his expression a bit more serious. “Very good. I must admit that I’m embarrassed that you have managed to land an attack.”


With his brows furrowed in concentration, he stabbed his spear forward. I sidestepped, expecting his spear to stretch forward and reach me—he was a user of aether, after all—but the tip of his weapon disappeared in front of him and a sharp pain exploded from my shoulder.


The spearhead had sprung out of a portal made just beside me.


Expect the unexpected, I reminded myself.


Relying on my body to recover the wound, I imbued aether into my legs once more and rushed toward the tattooed humanoid. Except, I wasn’t getting any closer to him no matter how far and fast I sprinted.


The entity stabbed forward once more into a small portal in front of him, but this time I was able to dodge his attack. There was a slight delay between the fluctuation of aether and the spear emerging from the portal.


“Your technique and physical prowess is superb but your attack earlier was merely a fluke,” he stated as he prepared to stab forward once more.


Lowering my head, I hid my grin, letting aether flow freely from my core. I could feel the ambient aether react as the aether oscillated through every inch of my body.


I welcomed both the familiar surge of warmth spreading from my lower back and the knowledge that flooded into my head.


Then, I stepped forward.


And that single, divine, step brought me behind the entity, aether crackling from my body in branches of violet lightning.


“Is this a fluke as well?” I asked as my dagger dug deep into the entity’s back.


*

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