“What’s taking him so long?” Ilsa impatiently complained.
It had been a while since the Knight went to inform Shazan, and he had not returned yet.
Keira lightly smiled at her and then turned her attention back to the murals that were all over the platform. A High-Guard by her side kept giving her the information on each piece of art.
Time passed, and when it passed the half-hour mark, Ilsa got more impatient. She stubbornly paced right and left, whispering stuff to herself. Her heavy steps echoed all around them. And though they wanted to stay serious, Isha and Keira were soon suppressing their laughter at her antics.
Ezio silently stood by the side of the Blood Knight.
The Four Elders were no longer making any ruckus there and sat silently in the corner with closed eyes.
The Elder in the Yellow Cloak was sitting cross-legged, concentrating all his aura into making his arm heal right.
Ezio was cruel, but he meant to teach the guy a lesson. Though the damage was serious, it was repairable. And that was why the Elders no longer pursued the matter. The message had been clear to them. And none of them wanted to take a risk. Who knew if the next time an arm would even remain?
Ella opened her eyes and helplessly sighed.
“What’s wrong?” Maira asked.
“More than half of the forces down there are not in the right shape to fight.” She informed her. “Most of them are going through Krytis, and it would take them a few days to be perfectly ready for the battles again. And the ones that are still able to fight are mentally haggard, and the majority of them would go into Krytis as well. It is only a matter of a few more hours or another day.”
Maira was shocked to hear those words. But soon, her heart palpitated in fear. Even if the news of the forces getting stronger was delightful, it was just as depressing.
What Ella said meant that they would soon run out of people to fight those creatures.
“What do we do now?”
“Don’t worry.” She smiled. “We will have the battlefield all to ourselves for a few days.”
“You think we can deal with creatures on our own?” Maira disbelievingly looked at us.
“For a day or two at max.” Ella nodded. “For us to stay safe for more than that would depend on the efficiency of the few people with us.”
Keira heard their conversation and frowned.
She trusted Ella, but the fact was that Ella had never before been in battles. Maira had never been in any battle either, and the same went for Isha.
Ilsa. Isha and Maira were all going to heavily rely on Ella for protection. And with them there, Shazan would never be at ease. Everything might work out fine, but in case of the unexpected, they would end up becoming a liability that could drag everyone down with them.
Keira wondered if the decision she had made on bringing them here was wrong. Shazan had not asked for them to come here. He only wanted Ella to be here.
She hesitated if she should talk it over with Ilsa and Maira, but the time did not give her a chance.
The Blood Knight returned and bowed to her.
“Emperor awaits your arrival.”
“Finally!” Ilsa rushed to her and grabbed her arm as she led her down the Stairway.
The rest of the girls followed them, and Ezio stayed, asking the Knight a few questions before coming down.
What they witnessed on the small platform outside the cave were dozens of High-Guards and Blood Knights. Most were sitting at the corners taking rest, but as soon as Keira arrived there, the Blood Knights shot up on their feet and bowed to her.
As impatient as they were, they were not rude enough to miss the presence of the King of Aryans there.
“Keira Silverstein greets the Aryan King.” She lightly bowed.
The Aryan king smiled at her and nodded.
“You seem well, First Queen.”
“And you need to take some rest, Lord Ayran,” Keira said in concern.
The man was more tired than anyone around him, but he still stood tall with dignity, not showing signs of weakness.
“Yes, yes…” The King shook his head. “We have been asked to get some rest. And we will get some rest now.” He answered assuringly.
A High-Guard stepped forward, holding a box that contained a few sets of black glasses.
“You will need them.”
Keira did not ask any questions and took one for herself and one for Ilsa.
“Are you sure about this?” The King asked her with a smile.
She knew what he meant. The worry in his eyes as he looked at Isha and Maira was real.
“We will be fine, Grandfather,” Maira assured him. “Please focus on taking rest for now.” She worriedly requested.
“Alright.” He sighed and nodded. “Be safe!”
Keira glanced at Maira and found her stubbornly clenching her fists.
Seeing her Grandfather in such a state had made her anxious, but she was trying her best to stay focused.
When they entered the cave, Keira grabbed her hand and gently squeezed it.
“He looked so haggard because he was pushing himself too much. He too is in Krytis. The King would soon enter the Seventh Realm.”
Maira nodded to her, but the news did not bring a smile on her face.
“Come on,” Keira giggled. “Your Grandfather would look much younger the next time you see him. Are you not happy for him?”
This time, a pure smile crept its way on Maira’s face.
“I am happy for him…” She whispered and nodded.
Keira glanced at Ilsa and surprisingly found her lost in the carvings on the walls. But as soon as her eyes inspected the carvings, she slowed down as well and took interest in them.
“They are beautiful!” Isha exclaimed when she looked at the pictures of creatures with wings.
“Pray that not even a child of such a creature arrives here.” Ella lightly smiled. “I don’t want to die so soon.”
Her words made their hearts sink, and Isha took her eyes off the pictures in fear.
“How strong is that creature?” Ezio asked curiously.
“An adult would be stronger than a Guardian Beast of this Planet, and the child would be a little less strong than the Guardian,” Ella answered him with a polite smile.
Keira and Ezio both had enough knowledge about the Guardian Beasts, and their hearts tightened at the words of Ella.
“Aren’t the Guardians supposed to be the strongest existence in a world?” Keria frowned and asked.
Her question surprised Ella.
“Yes!” She answered. “Nothing is supposed to be stronger than a Guardian Beast in a World, but there are always exceptions. This world is only level one, and the Guardian Beasts here are all limited to the base strength of Three-Crescent Realms. If it was a Level two World, the Guardian Beast would be stronger than this creature with its intermediate Three-Crescent Realm strength. And these creatures are supposed to only appear on a level three World.”
“And there, the Guard Beasts are immensely stronger than these creatures?”
“Mhm,” Ella nodded. “Technically, the Guardian Beasts are enough to pass every test of Annihilation that a world faces. The present Guardians can kill the entire army of Annihilation Beasts of the first test.”
“Would they act then?” Isha hopefully asked.
“Never.” Ella shook her head with a smile. “They can not act in the matters of the tests of Annihilation. The army of Annihilation Beasts never fights against the Guardians.”
“But this is not a test…” Maira whispered.
“It isn’t. But we can’t be sure if the Guardians would interfere. The world isn’t on the verge of Destruction yet.”
Keira paid no attention to their conversation anymore. Her mind was in chaos as a familiar scent was ruling over her sense of smell. She hastened her pace and started running.
It was only after arriving before him that her mind stopped being cruel to her.
His gentle smile quickened the pace of her heart and when she saw him open his arms, she rushed right in his embrace, burying her head in his chest.
“I love you…” He whispered near her ear and planted a kiss on her head.
She hugged him with all her strength and kept her eyes closed in fear that her tears would betray her. And her lips were soon on his skin, that the torn piece of cloth couldn’t cover anymore.
The wound had healed, but the scent of his blood remained around him.
Keira could stay strong for him, but not before him. She only separated from his embrace after a good minute. And then she silently walked over to greet the rest of the people there.
“Sir Gerald,” She bowed to the leader of the Blood Knights before hugging the girl by his side. “How are you, Ann?” She asked with a bright smile.
“Fine…” A soft but melodious whisper answered her.
Keira turned to talk to the Aryan Queen that was sitting in a corner, recuperating.
“Queen Izna,” She politely bowed to her.
“Forgive me for not being on my feet, First Queen.” Izna lightly smiled at her.
“No worries,” She understandingly nodded before crouching down and placing a hand on the cut on her shoulder that had stopped bleeding.
Her brows furrowed when she tried to inspect it. The attack had brushed her shoulder. It wasn’t serious, but Izna could not speed up the healing.
“These take time to heal.” Izna informed her. “It was the javelin that a Spider shot at me from point-blank. Wounds heal once you kill the creatures, but I was handling another creature, and the attack came after as a surprise when my battle was done. The wound healed a little, as I was still gaining benefits from killing one, but it was not enough to fully heal it.”
Keira knew that Izna was only giving her the details to make her understand the gravity of the situation here.
She could sense that no one here, including Shazan, was happy about her decision to bring them all here.
“Get well soon,” Keira nodded with a smile and got up.
She did not walk to the man that was standing close to the rippling Dimensional Wall and only greeted him with a nod.
“Where’s Caius?” She asked as Shazan was having a face-off with Ilsa.
“He’s in the Training Ground at the bottom of the Volcano. Krytis.” He told her and then narrowed his eyes at Ilsa. “Why have you got fat?”
A simple question hit Ilsa as if a mountain had fallen on her. The expressions on her face wavered, and then a flustered look adorned it.
The Kalstark Princess worriedly touched her face and inspected her hands.
By the time she figured out that she was played, nearly everyone there was either laughing or suppressing their laugh.
“I will kill you…” She marched up to him and tightened her fist, but before she could raise it, she was pulled in his arms.
“Missed you…” He smiled and spun her around with him.
“I hate you.” Ilsa grudgingly answered, but still wrapped her arms around his neck before leaning in to sip his lips.
Keira smiled at their behavior and turned to look at the walls around them.
There were dozens of flood-lights mounted on the walls. The mess of wires showed that everything here was done in haste. And a few sets of batteries were placed a hundred meters behind them to supply energy to these lights when required.
Now she understood why they were handed over the glasses. With these many lights here, it would become a hindrance to them as well. Her eyes were more sensitive than most, and even though they could adapt to different levels of light, it was better to have a layer of protection on them.
Ella stepped forward and hugged him as soon as Ilsa left his arms. Her cheeks were rosy in her blush, and there was the same peaceful smile on her lips that she always had in his arms.
“Interesting hair…” Shazan whispered to her and caressed her back gently.
“You don’t like them?” Ella looked up at him with a worried look.
“Why would I not like them?” He chuckled and stroked her cheek with the back of his fingers.
Their intimacy couldn’t continue as Amraaz announced the arrival of the next creature.
Ilsa who was closest to the wall had fallen back together with Amraaz. Ann stood by the side of Queen Izna, and Gerald stood by Shazan’s side.
“The three of you stay back,” Shazan warned Isha, Ilsa, and Maira when he saw what creature it was.
What Keira saw emerge out of the Dimensional Wall was a Giant Scorpion. For a moment, she thought that it was the most beautiful Scorpion she had laid eyes on, but then the reminder that it was an Annihilation Beast hit her.
“What do you think?” Gerald asked.
“45 seconds to one minute,” Shazan answered.
“One Minute,” Ella confirmed it for them.
They all looked at her in surprise but nodded.
“What are you guys talking about?” Keira frowned and asked.
“The duration of its Defensive Shield.” Izna got up on her feet and held her sword tightly. “I will stay back and Guard them.” She rushed in front of Maira, Isha, and Ilsa.
“No need.” Shazan smiled and told her. “Ella… It is all yours, but remember, Queen Izna needs to heal as well.”
His words surprised Gerald and Amraaz and they confusedly looked at Ella.
“Are you sure about this?” Amraaz asked again.
“I will be fine,” Ella answered them and disappeared from her spot.
Keira’s eyes couldn’t even catch her as she moved, but the instant she found her again, Ella was right in front of the Scorpion with a circular wall of fire around her.
To her relief, even though the Creature was immensely strong, it was not ridiculously fast.
She could still make out the shade of its Telson as it targeted Ella.
What they all witnessed was a girl in a beautiful red dress bullying a gigantic Scorpion. No matter how hard the Creature tried, it was not fast enough to catch her.
“Why is it not using its Claws?” Gerald asked in confusion.
His question reminded Keira that the Scorpion was constantly trying to use its telson to strike Keira, and from time to time it shot sword-length blades at her, but it was not using its massive claws that seemed to hold the strength to crush anything.
The Spherical barrier around the Scorpion kept sizzling for a minute before Ella’s fire broke past it.
They all saw Ella form a ball of fire in her right hand while spears of fire kept shooting at the Scorpion. The ones that struck the Claws and the Tail left no damage, but soon the body of the Scorpion was lacerated and scorched.
Ella charged at the Scorpion and right before hitting her Fire Ball fist at it, she vanished and appeared behind it.
Her fist landed right at the joint that connected the telson to the tail, a fire blast spread, and broke it apart.
The telson fell heavily on the ground. A horrifying screech spread in the cave, and the Scorpion sprawled down, convulsing in pain, waiting to meet its end.
Ella landed on top of its back but did not finish it off. She looked at them for a few seconds.
“What are you waiting for?” She tilted her head and questioned.
Her words broke them all out of their daze.
“I..” Izna hesitated, but then nodded and stepped forward. She covered her sword in her Aura, and then penetrated it deep inside the Scorpion’s head, ending its life.
The body of the scorpion started melting, the silver blood evaporated. It only took a few seconds for the giant body to evaporate out of existence.
“Master!” Ella was back in his arms. “How did I do?” She excitedly asked, but there was a proud expression adorned on her face.
“You did way better than expected. Ella is strong.” Shazan smiled at her and praised her without reservations.
The smile on her face brightened and she tip-toed to steal a kiss.
“Ella,” Keira called out to her. “Why was the Creature not using its claws?”
“Because I am a Djinn.” Ella proudly answered back.
Of course, no one there understood what she meant by that. They all looked at her for an explanation.
“Come,” Ella stepped closer to her. “Punch me with all your strength. And make sure you infuse your Aura in it.”
Ella’s words baffled them.
“Don’t worry!” She assured with a bright smile.
“Yeah,” Shazan smiled too. “Physical attacks can not harm her. Do as she says.” He told the reason why Ella was so confident.
“Master, how do you know?!” Ella surprisedly looked at him. “I wanted to surprise you…” She complained.
“You did…” He chuckled.
Keira waited no more and smashed a fist right at Ella’s abdomen, but against all expectations, her fist pierced right through Ella, and she stumbled forward before Ella supported her.
Watching her arm disappearing inside Ella’s body terrified her, but when she observed that there was no blood, and instead there was fire oozing out of the hole, she calmed down.
She retracted her arm, and as soon as her fist was pulled out, the fire filled the hole. What was even more shocking was that the dress was fine as well.
“See!” Ella happily laughed. “It doesn’t hurt, but it did tickle.”
“You are over-powered,” Keira complained to her, but she was happy in her heart.
“It isn’t that physical attacks would not work at all.” Ella bashfully replied. “If someone is stronger than me, they can hurt me by infusing their Aura in their attacks. But the damage wouldn’t be much unless the strength greatly surpasses mine.”
“Why were you dodging the telson then?”
“Because I have to,” Ella answered her seriously. “Scorpion’s telson contains the essence of Annihilation. If it hits you, you will be sucked out of existence in a matter of seconds. I am stronger, but the damage it would do to me would be critical as well. The stingers that it throws contains traces of that essence as well.”
“You also need to stay clear of the Javelins that the Spider shoots, as well as the Acid of the Ants,” Ella advised and then turned to look at Queen Izna. “It will completely heal after killing off one more Beast.”
“Thank you…” Queen Izna nodded to her gently.
“Alright, I am going to get some rest now.” Shazan smiled when he saw a pair of creatures emerge out of the Wall. “All yours, ladies.”
He left the pair of small spiders to the girls to deal with them.
Keira, Ann, and Izna picked one, and Ella smiled at Maira, Ilsa, and Isha to team up on the other.
♛ Author’s Note:
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