The Beginning After The End | Chapter 310

The Beginning After The End - Read Light Novel

Beginning After The End Manhwa Novel

Chapter 310



 Chapter 310


Ellie


The little stream in our underground town built by the ancient mages was burbling away happily . It was lucky, I thought . It was able to simply exist, running among the rocks and singing its bubbly little song . Even when Boo swiped a glitterfish out of the water, it’s not like the stream experienced the loss of the fish . It didn’t have a heart to be broken .


But I did—and it was . Everywhere I looked I was constantly reminded of my family’s legacy of failure, loss, and death .


I was reminded of our failure in every tired, hopeless face, and in every sad, knowing look I got from the others .


Even if they had their own losses, they still treated my mother and me like glass—like glass trophies . It was like we were something to beam at, to keep out where everyone could see, but could not interact with…to treat like we still mattered, even though we were just a relic of better times, when the great Arthur Leywin still protected Dicathen .


When my brother and Sylvie disappeared, it was like the last piece of solid ground in the world had slipped away from under our feet, and now we were all slowly sinking into the dark waters of despair .


Or that’s how Kathyln put it, anyway .


It was weird . I’d have thought the death of her parents would have been a little more important to her than my brother’s disappearance, but I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised; everyone always loved Arthur the Lance, Arthur the general, Arthur the hero .


But I had loved Arthur the brother, Arthur the friend…when he was around, anyway .


My mother had faded into the background, happy to smile sadly and say “thank you” whenever someone offered their condolences . At best, she offered the occasional bit of healing to some injured refugee that the soldiers dragged back down into the shelter .


I think she had been so close to the edge of despair already that when Arthur didn’t return from rescuing Tessia, she lost hope for everything else . It hurt to admit, but if not for me, I think she’d have just curled up and gone to sleep, then never opened her eyes again .


Picking up a flat, smooth rock, I tossed it up in the air and caught it again .


How long had it been since Arthur and I had stood here on the bank of this underground stream and he had taught me how to skip stones across the water? Days? Weeks? I might as well have died and been reborn since then .


Letting out a scoff, I hurled the stone violently at the surface of the water where it splashed in a satisfying sort of way .


Boo, who had taken his catch and lumbered off to find a soft, mossy place to eat, lifted his head to gaze seriously at me . The dark spots above his eyes came together, which always made him look grumpy .


“Sorry Boo . I’m fine . ” Though I wasn’t sure he believed me, the giant bear-like mana beast snorted and went back to his meal .


“With an arm like that, have you considered throwing rocks at our enemies instead of shooting arrows?”


I turned, startled, but relaxed when I realized it was only Helen Shard, leader of what was left of the Twin Horns . Helen had been my mentor in the castle, teaching and helping me improve my ability to fire arrows of pure mana from my bow .


It had been a huge relief when she had arrived at the refuge with Durden and Angela Rose, and she had been quick to take up the role of my mentor again .


She seemed to have some sort of magical sense of when I was slipping into “a mood,” as she put it, because she always turned up to support me .


I flicked my hair in the girlish way I knew annoyed her and looked back at the stream . “I was trying to catch a fish for mom’s dinner . ”


From the corner of my eye I saw her raise a brow, smirking . “A fish? With a rock?”


“Shooting one with my bow would be too easy,” I said haughtily, turning my nose up slightly and putting my chin forward, the very picture of an overconfident, self-assured child . Helen had always pushed me to be different from the noble children in the castle, and it aggravated her to no end when I acted like them .


Turning serious, Helen gestured toward the water . “Let’s see it then . ”


Returning her serious look, I picked up my bow from where it rested against a nearby boulder and inspected the clear water . Every thirty seconds or so, a dimly glowing fish would swim slowly past, heading down the stream .


My brother had explained once that things you see in the water aren’t quite where they appear to be because the water bends the light . With this in mind, I drew back the string of the bow and conjured a thin arrow of mana . Then I waited .


A wobbly blue line in the gloomy stream told me a fish was coming . I waited until it passed into the wide, shallow part of the stream where I was standing, then prepared to take the shot . At the last instant, I tethered the arrow to me with a thread of pure mana, then let it fly .


The beam of white light slipped into the water with the tiniest plop, and the fish jerked, sending up a splash . I yanked at the tether, causing the arrow to jump out of the water and fly back to my hand, the glitterfish neatly impaled through the gills .


Helen began to clap slowly, shaking her head and letting her mouth hang open as if in awe . “Incredible, Eleanor, simply incredible . ” She then marched toward me, pulled the glitterfish off the arrow, gave it a single hard crack against one of the large rocks lining the edges of the stream, saluted me with the dead fish, and turned to walk away .


“Hey, that’s mine!”


“Consider it payment for a lesson well learned,” she said over her shoulder, not breaking her stride . “With a talent like yours, it surely won’t be any trouble catching another?”


Half irritated, half amused, I turned back to the water, feeling better . I decided that I might as well shoot a few more fish and take them home to Mom for dinner .


As I drew my bow again, though, movement on the other side of the stream caught my attention and I instinctively aimed in that direction .


“Oh!”


It took a second for my eyes to focus in the dim light, but when they did I immediately cancelled my spell, and the glowing white arrow fizzled and faded away .


“Sorry, Tessia . ”


After an awkward pause, her eyes probing me like she was trying to read my mind, Tessia continued her walk down the steep edge on the other side of the stream . It was a little deeper on that side, and there was an ancient hunk of petrified log embedded in the ground that made a perfect bench on which to sit and cool one’s feet in the water .


“Sorry,” Tessia said quietly, her gaze turned downward to the stream . “I didn’t realize anyone was here when I decided to come take a dip . ”


But you got here, saw me, and decided to help yourself anyway . “It’s fine,” I said in the tone of voice that told her it wasn’t fine at all . “I was just leaving anyway . ”


Slinging my bow over my shoulder and gesturing to Boo, I turned to walk back up the embankment, but my heartbeat quickened with each step I took, pumping anger and resentment through me until I just wanted to stop and scream .


Tessia hadn’t been out and about much since Arthur disappeared . I’d seen her a couple of times, but this was the first time I’d been close enough to talk to her, and I realized suddenly that I was overflowing with things I wanted to say to her .


Nothing you say here is going to change anything, Ellie, I told myself through gritted teeth . Shouting and cursing at Tessia isn’t going to undo—


I spun on my heels and met Tessia’s eye . “It’s your fault he’s gone, I hope you know that . ”


She flinched but remained silent, infuriating me even more .


“It’s your fault, and you’ll never, ever be able to fix it . ” My voice grew louder as I persisted . “He was our best chance to ever have a life outside of this cave again, but he was also a big, fat idiot who couldn’t just let you go! You should have known that!”


My voice constricted as I rubbed away an angry tear with the back of my hand . “W-why didn’t you just stay here? Why?”


The elven princess clenched her jaw as her gaze fell, but when she spoke, she was frustratingly calm . “I couldn’t, Ellie . I’m sorry . I’m so sorry . Maybe, if I knew then how it was going to end…but they were my parents . ” After a beat of silence, Tessia looked up at me, her turquoise eyes glimmering with tears . “Tell me, honestly, what would you have done?”


I wanted to grab her by her stupid, pretty silver hair and shove her headfirst into the water . She had run away from the shelter, defying both logic and the pleas of my brother and Virion, and forced Arthur to go after her . Because of her selfishness, Sylvie and Arthur had vanished .


Boo growled and stood up, sensing my anger . His presence gave me courage .


“I’d have listened!” I shouted, not even sure it was true .


“Then maybe you’re wiser than me, Ellie—and that’s why I need you…and maybe you need me as well . ” Tessia’s bright eyes locked onto mine, her gaze imploring and hopeful, but conflicted .


“I don’t need you,” I hissed .


A frown flickered across her face . “Don’t you think I notice how they treat you? Like you’re a child, like you don’t have anything to add? Like you only have value in your connection to Arthur? Don’t you think I know how that feels?” Tessia rose to her feet, her jaw clenched, her expression somewhere between stoicism and desperation . “I hear what the others whisper about me behind my back, Ellie, and many don’t bother to hide their doubts, but say it openly for all to hear .


“But you’re different…you’re so much more than a hero’s sister and I want to prove that to everyone . I’m not asking you to forgive me—I could never ask that of you after what I did . I know that if I hadn’t run away, Arthur might still be here with us, but nothing I can do now will bring him back, and—”


“You don’t get to just accept it and move on, princess . Arthur shouldn’t have saved you! You should be dead, and he should be here, with me!”


She smiled at me, sad and beautiful and infuriating . “I’ve thought the same thing . Over and over and over . If Arthur was here, now…and I was dead…” Tessia paused, took a deep breath, and forced the sad smile back on her face . “But he’s not . No matter how much I wished he hadn’t, Arthur sacrificed himself for me . And the price he paid for that is something that I will never be able to repay . ”


Practically shaking with rage, hot tears starting to run down my cheeks, I opened my mouth to tell her off, to curse at her, to empty my anger into her, but the words died in my throat . I wanted to hate her so much, but I just couldn’t .


I couldn’t hate her, because Arthur had loved her . He had loved her so much that he had traded his life for hers . That’s what she meant . Her life was my brother’s last act of heroism .


It’s not fair, I thought . Why’d you do it, Arthur? Why did you leave me for her—again?


Tessia waded carefully across the shallow stream and walked up to me . She hooked the chain she wore around her neck with her thumb and pulled a pendant out from under her shirt, holding it up to me .


“Arthur gave me this, Ellie . ” It was a small, silver leaf pendant . “He gave me this, and a promise . ”


Caught off guard, my voice squeaked slightly as I practically whispered, “What promise?”


“A promise only one of us could keep, it turns out . So I’m going to live, Ellie . I’m going to live for Arthur, do you understand?”


I stared as Tessia stroked the pendant like it was a newborn . The elven princess was a powerful mage on the cusp of being a white core, a beast tamer capable of leveling mountains…yet, her narrow shoulders and her thin, pale arms seemed so delicate .


Then those same thin arms were around me, and my face was pressed into her shoulder, my tears soaking into her shirt . I broke . I let the sadness and anger and fear and loneliness pour out of me, my entire body shaking as I sobbed .


“We’ll get through this,” Tessia repeated quietly, her hand caressing the back of my head . “And we need to be strong, because even if these people curse me and belittle you, they need us . Both of us . ”


“It just feels so pointless now, so hopeless,” I said breathily, my crying nearly exhausted .


Squeezing me tighter, Tessia said, “That’s how I felt too . Grandpa Virion held me and let me cry until I passed out, then when I woke up I kept crying . I lost my parents, I lost Arthur, and I lost hope . But Grandpa Virion wouldn’t let me give up, and I won’t let you either . ”


I pushed away from Tessia and wiped the tears from my face with my sleeve . “What are we going to do?”


Tessia looked over my shoulder to the center of the hidden village . “Dicathen may be lost, but it’s not gone . And if that means we need to train or we need to fight, we’re going to do whatever we can to get it back . ” The elven princess looked at me, brows furrowed in determination . “No more sitting on the sidelines . ”


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