The Beginning After The End | Chapter 274

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Beginning After The End Manhwa Novel

Chapter 274



 Chapter 274


Chapter 274: The Crystal


The dome of translucent purple shimmered out of existence and I found myself back in the hidden chamber. The entity I had just fought was nowhere to be found and I was barely able to remain standing, the mental and physical strain of my new rune gripping its cold claws around me.


Regis came bounding toward me, his expression a mixture of shock and concern. “W-What the hell happened? You got another rune!”


“Where is he?” I asked through gritted teeth, my eyes searching for any sign of the purple figure.


“He?” Regis echoed in confusion. “You were just blankly standing still a few seconds before this purple lightning started crackling around you.”


“I have never seen aether manifest in such a way before,” the familiar deep voice echoed in front of me.


I snapped my head up while Regis whirled around to see that the source of the voice wasn’t coming from that same entity…but the crystal floating atop the pedestal.


“Forgive me for the confusion. Seeing as I don’t have a physical form anymore, I took our fight into your mind,” the crystal stated, radiating a light that corresponded to the words it said.


My brows furrowed. “So that entire fight didn’t really happen?”


“The mind is a powerful tool that even asuras rarely exercise, choosing rather to hone their body and cores,” the crystal replied with a rather flippant tone. “But you seem to be different—in more than one sense.”


“Princess here is a bit of an oddball,” Regis agreed, nodding his head.


Even I had to admit that my case was anything but odd. However, I had so many questions and wanted to move forward. “So what happens now? Have I passed your ‘final trial’ or is there something more?”


“The fact that I have chosen to even speak with you means that you have passed,” the crystal answered. “That little spar was more for my curiosity and boredom, and you have done a splendid job in satiating both.”


Whether it was the Indrath Clan or the Vritra Clan, asuras and these higher entities always seemed to love satisfying their boredom without any care for those on the receiving end.


“To think that you would be able to receive a rune, and of the spatium edict no less,” the crystal continued. “Tell me. How are you able to control the flow of aether within your body with such precision? Is it the asura’s physique that aids you?”


My eyes narrowed. “I have no reason or incentive to answer.”


Regis looked back at me with a flash of panic. “Ar-Grey. What are you doing? Don’t disrespect the talking crystal.”


“No. Your master is prudent,” the crystal said to Regis before addressing me. “Grey, was it? Earlier, you indicated that you wanted answers. What is stored within this aetheric remnant is something that I believe you’ll want. All I ask is that you satiate my curiosity for a few more minutes.”


“You said that I had passed your trial. Am I not already entitled to whatever it was you’re going to give me regardless of whether or not I answer you?” I rebutted, tired of his antics.


The crystal paused, its glowing surface dimming for a few seconds before it spoke again. “Very well. I can grant you an additional small gift from my people.”


Exchanging another glance with Regis, I let out a sigh and began telling my journey after arriving here. I told the crystal about the beasts I had to fight, the trials I had to overcome, and what eventually lay ahead once I got out. I did, however, omit any of my relations to the Indrath Clan for obvious reasons.


***


“Fascinating! To think you were not only able to forge an aether core, but also forcefully temper your own internal conduits to control its output. Truly something that could only be done with the physique of an asura,” the crystal gushed, its lights pulsating excitedly.


“That’s what those runes covering your body are for, right? They’re used so you can control the flow of aether,” I confirmed.


“Correct. While our people have mastered spellform in order to draw in and manipulate aether, true mastery and the organic appearance of godrunes—such as that branch of spatium you had just received—only come through major insight.”


“So this godrune signifies that I’ve gained insight into a certain aspect of aether, right? By whom, or what?” I asked. “Is there a higher deity above the asuras that are bestowing these?”


“That information is not stored within this remnant,” the crystal answered. “But aether is all around us and can work in ways that are impossible to imagine. The path of obtaining authority over aether is different for everyone, and yours—by far—is the most different.”


“How so?” Regis asked.


“Our people were limited by our physical bodies. Most of our struggles weren’t about gaining insights, but rather figuring out ways to make our fragile bodies handle the burden of aether.”


“I may be speculating but I believe your new rune took on the appearance of lightning not because it is lightning but because that was how you conceptualized the abstract nature of that specific branch of aether,” the crystal went on.


“So the dragons of the Indrath Clan weren’t able to do what your people or I am able to do?” I asked. “They have the physique and aptitude to handle aether but not the knowledge and insights to conceptualize aether as their own, right? ”


I felt the hair on my neck stand as a heavy pressure spilled out from the crystal. “Those beasts do not deserve the title of asura for the atrocities they have committed. Their greed for our knowledge and fear that we may overtake their position as the true wielders of aether led them to kill not only our people but take prisoner many of our most powerful mages in the hopes to torture and learn.”


My eyes widened at the crystal’s sudden outburst. I didn’t know how much to believe but if what it said was all true, then the Indrath Clan wasn’t so different from Agrona and the Vritra Clan.


I wanted to argue—to say that not all of the dragons were like that. Sylvia and Lady Myre were some of the kindest beings I had met that had taught me so much. But the thought of Sylvia brought on new suspicions. Based on her last message, it seemed as if even she had come to despise her clan. Were the golden runes she had a byproduct of their findings from these ancient mages?


Biting my tongue, I nodded solemnly.


The crystal seemed to be studying me before it spoke once more. “My apologies for my outburst. It wasn’t only my knowledge that had been stored in here but my emotions as well. As you surmised, the Indrath Clan—along with the rest of the asuras that their leader had fooled into believing we were a threat bent on destroying the world—had managed to succeed in their genocide but not in their pursuit of our knowledge.”


“Because of these Relictombs that you’ve built to keep asuras away?” I asked.


“Relictombs?”


“That’s what the people that delve down here call this place,” I clarified.


“How fitting. Yes. This place is the work of hundreds of mages adept in wielding aether of different edicts, as you might’ve figured. Time, space, and life all work differently here and more of it is from the natural course of time rather than our own design,” the crystal said with a hint of pride. “While our civilization had been ransacked and burned, we had created an ecosystem separate from that of the rest of this world, one that cannot be touched by asuras.”


“I don’t understand how any of that was possible though. With hundreds of aether mages, how did you guys lose?” I asked, more confused than before. “And also, how was it possible for your people to create a place where only lesser beings were allowed when the Indrath Clan—limited as it was—still had the ability to influence aether.”


“That is not for me to tell,” the crystal said. “And we were able to do so with the efforts of many spatium mages.”


Frustration flared in the pit of my stomach and Regis sensed it as well. He lightly hit my leg with his tail.


“Fine,” I mustered. “What about the lesser beings scouring this place, looking to loot anything they can in hopes to get stronger and find pieces of knowledge that you have stored here to bring back to the asuras they serve?”


“As you’ve most likely witnessed firsthand, we have devised safeguards for those contingencies so—”


“Well those contingencies are slowly failing,” I cut in. “It may hold for some time, but like I said, an asura of the Vritra Clan is already close to gaining insights into what your people knew about aether by using lesser beings to explore these ruins for him.”


“You must gain insights into aether faster then. Compared to the asura, who is not even capable of traversing in this plane, your unique physique and understanding gives you an advantage,” the crystal answered.


“It’s not enough. Agrona has had hundreds, if not thousands of years over me!”


The crystal dimmed. “But despite all of that, this Agrona sees you as a threat, yes?”


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I frowned. “Well, yes. But—”


“Then there’s hope. It means that there’s a possibility of you succeeding.”


It felt like I was talking to a rock at this point. Well, a non-sentient rock made of aether…


“My job is neither to guide you nor to reassure you. It is also not within my hands to control the outcome of Fate, merely to tip it in our favor,” the rock said, as if sensing my frustration. “And it is why you will be receiving these…”


Suddenly, the halos of stone revolving around the crystal halted and a flash of purple light enveloped me before I had the chance to react.


A slight tingle radiated from my right forearm as well as down my spine, but even that lasted only for a second. The light dimmed and the first thing I noticed was a black rune running down the inside of my forearm. “What is this?”


“That…” the crystal said, “is an extradimensional storage engraved directly into your arm. You mentioned to me about your regenerative abilities, so this rune is a bit special in that even if your arm is cut off, as long as it is regrown, this rune will stay with you.”


“So no one can steal anything stored inside there?” Regis asked, bringing my arm down with his paw so he could get a better look.


“Exactly,” the crystal replied. “This does limit the space within the rune but I’d say it would still fit about a crate’s worth of anything inorganic or dead.”


My eyes studied the complex geometric shapes that made up the rune running down my arm. “This…”


“You also told me that this asura you’re fighting against has created a civilization of mages with basic spellforms running down their backs to aid them in magic. In order for you to better assimilate, I engraved some useless runes down your back that roughly describes your aetheric spells as a rare subtype of pure mana,” the crystal explained. “I’m not sure how well they are able to read spellform but it should at least allow you to use your basic aetheric abilities without raising too much suspicion.”


“Wow. You’re totally an Alacryan now,” Regis teased, using his paw to lift up the back of my shirt.


Shooting my companion a glare, I swatted his paw away.


“Take caution. If you use an edict of aether, the godrune will shine above these faux runes,” the crystal warned.


I nodded in understanding, showing respect for the first time. “Thank you, truly. Both these gifts will help tremendously.”


“Don’t thank me just yet. The real artifact is within the extrademensional storage within your arm. It holds the insights needed to unlock another godrune.”


My eyes widened as I hastily withdrew the single item from the storage. A small cuboid stone rested in the palm of my hand, and aside from its shape and deceivingly heavy weight, it was unremarkable at best.


Still, I was excited at the prospect of unlocking another godrune without blindly trying to gain insight.


“Will this teach me how to create an aetheric weapon like you were able to do? Or maybe negate impact?” I tried guessing based on the abilities that he had used in our spar.


The crystal brightened. “No. This will be something far more worthwhile if you are able to decipher it.”


“Decipher?” Regis asked. “So that rock isn’t just going to give Grey a godrune?”


“If that were possible, I’m sure that the Indrath or Vritra Clan would’ve long since taken control over the edict of Fate,” the crystal replied. “No. This is but a mind’s compass into gaining insights, and it’s one that even I was not able to unravel while still alive.”


“Is it not possible for me to trade this artifact with another that would give me the ability I mentioned before?” I asked. “Learning to manifest a weapon or being able to negate physical attacks would be tremendously helpful in going up against the Alacryans and the Vritra.”


“These two edicts are minor branches that I believe you can gain insights to on your own,” the crystal stated. “On the other hand, that artifact holds an edict capable of aiding you in the areas of the ‘Relictombs’ you have yet to traverse, and also help you turn the tides in your upcoming battle.”


I stored the artifact back into the pocket dimension along with my bag that had Sylvie’s stone in it. “Fine, but you just said that even you weren’t able to decipher this artifact. If you could at least help me gain insight into manifesting an aether—”


Suddenly, we were back in the laboratory, the two of us standing in front of the glass-like portal.


“Did you really have to haggle with an ancient sentient aether crystal?” Regis sighed, shaking his head.


“I was able to get a few additional perks because of that, wasn’t I?” I rebutted.


With everything I had gone through since arriving in this Relictomb, I didn’t feel anywhere closer to knowing how this journey would unfold. Agrona wouldn’t stop until he succeeded in gaining insight into Fate, and it would be impossible to know whether my family, Tess, Virion—everyone else I cared about—would be safe.


Still, I had gotten stronger and received some tangible tasks I needed to accomplish.


Regis turned, regarding me with a serious gaze. “How were you able to gain insight into another edict of aether?”


“Burst Step,” I answered with a smirk. “Turns out that the technique I developed a few years back was already the first step into gaining insight into this specific edict.”


Regis tilted his head. “Pun intended?”


I frowned. “What pun?”


“Step… nevermind.” Regis let out a sigh. “So, what changed from the original Burst Step?”


While difficult to explain using words, I described the sensation that I had felt when using Burst Step against the titanic beast guarding the portal. Instead of stimulating just the parts of my body needed to take that ‘step’, I coalesced aether throughout my body. Different from when I used aether to strengthen myself, the knowledge that I had gained insight into guided me. It was almost like tuning the frequency of aether into a specific channel for a split second, allowing me to cut through space to a predetermined location.


As expected, Regis actually looked more confused than before I explained it. Without the insights I had gained at that moment, I probably would’ve had the same look as well. After gaining insights into both the edict of destruction and this specific branch of space, I could see why Indrath’s attempts at gaining insights into aether through torturing the ancient mages were fruitless.


It’s not that they didn’t explain, it’s that they couldn’t. Even this latest edict was different from when I had fully used Sylvia’s dragon will. Back when I was able to use this sort of pseudo Burst Step, that was me ‘folding’ space and taking a physical step through that fold in order to cross an impossible distance.


This, while having a similar outcome, was different. I wasn’t manipulating the space around me, but manipulating my body into this aetheric vibration capable of slipping through space at a near-instant speed.


“So it’s like Burst Step 2.0,” Regis surmised.


“It’s not true teleportation but I’d say it’s on a much higher level than Burst Step.”


Regis’ tail began to wag. “So like…Divine Step?”


I let out a sigh. “Must you give a name to everything? Don’t you think it sort of belittles the technique?”


“Only if the name sucks,” he responded. “Hmm…Asura Step?”


I raised a brow. “Our enemies, the ones we have to beat, are asuras.”


“You’re right,” he said before his eyes lit up. “Ooh! God Step.”


I thought for a moment before a smile crept up on my face. “God Step…I like it.”


“Great!” Regis suddenly jumped, disappeared into my back. ‘Are you ready for Alacrya, Princess?’


Taking a deep breath, I faced the portal, staring into the scene on the other side. I needed to take it one step at a time. Starting with this one.


“Of course.”


*

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