The Beginning After The End (Web Novel)-Chapter 411

If audio player doesn't work, press Reset or reload the page.
Chapter 411

Chapter 409: Taste of Magic


My insides seethed with nausea as the tempus warp returned us to Taegrin Caelum.

I had failed. Now, I somehow had to face Agrona and explain that failure. The Legacy had been defeated by a common Scythe.

Draneeve was waiting for us with a number of attendants. The crimson-haired, half-mad mage bowed deeply as I stepped down, arm-in-arm with Nico, off the reception platform. “Welcome home, Scythe Nico and Lady Cecilia. The High Sovereign is waiting for you.”

Despite the bone-deep exhaustion that had settled over me, requiring a full day of rest before I could even face the tempus warp, I knew there was no escaping this summons.

Nico knew as well. “Maybe he can help you understand what happened at Aedelgard?” he asked consolingly.

In my previous life, my handlers and the train of scientists and ki-optimization specialists they paraded through my life hadn’t understood what I was—not really. Even the name they gave me, “the Legacy,” seemed born from myth or legend, a term not of their own invention.

But Agrona, he understood me. He saw beyond the constraints of his own perception, and by doing so he gained knowledge that was inaccessible to others. But he shared little of what he saw, and he needed to work around my still-human mind, and so we progressed slowly and only when he decided I was ready for more.

“I am ready,” I said, more in answer to my own thoughts than Nico’s question.

Draneeve spun away, his unkempt crimson mop of hair splashing along in his wake. The other attendants—Imbuers, healers, Sentries, anyone who might have been needed on my return—fell into line behind us wordlessly, like a flock of ducks mindlessly following their leader.

My eyes were blind to the passing halls of the fortress. Unconsciously, I stared at Draneeve’s crimson and black uniform, the sight of him tethering me like a leash so that my feet could follow where he led, but my thoughts were in Sehz-Clar, stuck there as if a part of me hadn’t really left. I wished to understand why the barrier resisted me. No other mana that I had encountered was outside of my control, not even the purified particles within the bodies of other living beings.

And yet, somehow, Seris had found some way to bind the mana so completely that it resisted even my influence. Not only that, but even an omnidirectional bombardment on multiple fronts from thousands of powerful mages hadn’t shaken anything loose, either. And then there was the Scythe herself…I had already known she was dangerous. All the other Scythes regarded her with a wary combination of respect and fear. Now, I understood why.

At my full strength, I knew that I could have overpowered the mana void technique she used. But I hadn’t been at my full power, and so, had allowed her to overwhelm me and push me back.

At least I eliminated her retainer, I thought, but it was a small victory, and there was no pride or pleasure in it.

Draneeve stepped aside at the top of a stair that led down into the lower research levels. Nico was eyeing the stairs apprehensively, like a child afraid of the dark. I wanted to ask him what was wrong, but then glanced again at Draneeve and all the attendants. No, I could ask when we were alone. I didn’t want to draw attention to Nico’s discomfort, and remembering the mana core he had been hiding, I put two and two together.

“The High Sovereign will look for you where the phoenix roosts,” Draneeve said, his voice gravelly, his eyes darting and uncomfortable.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” I asked, confused by the unnecessary dramatization.

“I know the way,” Nico replied quickly. “You are dismissed, Draneeve.”

Nico took my arm again and led me toward the stairs. I glanced over my shoulder one last time, frowning at Draneeve and the other attendants, but got no more answers from them.

“It was a message,” Nico said after a moment, his voice very low, almost a whisper. “Agrona knows I met her. He…might even know about the core I took.”

“Oh,” I said, then, “Met who?”

“One of his prisoners, an asuran woman. A phoenix. After I was…after you healed me.”

The stairs were cramped enough that it was uncomfortable to walk side by side, and so I slowed, falling into step behind Nico, looking down on him from above. The lower we went, the darker the stairs became, until the black stone steps were almost indistinguishable from the shadows. “Why would it matter that you’ve met this phoenix? Did something happen?” I said after a minute.

Nico’s steps stuttered, and he started to turn around to look up at me. Whatever he was thinking, though, he quickly smothered it and resumed the slow descent. “No.”

I let out a little laugh, but stopped when the darkness swallowed the sound. “I don’t see the problem, Nico.”

“Just…don’t say anything about the core? Even if he knows I took it, don’t admit you know?”

“But I could—”

He stopped his descent fully this time, and I nearly ran into the back of him. “Please?”

“All right,” I said, reaching out to lay a hand on the top of his head but stopping myself. Such little acts of intimacy still gave me horrible, wrenching nausea that I couldn’t escape. Damned body, I thought, suddenly angry. “But you shouldn’t fear him so much,” I snapped, venting that anger on the only target I had. “He isn’t a threat to you. Agrona is the key to our future.”

Nico’s shoulders went stiff and he curled in on himself ever so slightly, and I bit my tongue. Guilt and regret immediately overshadowed my anger. Seris’s words had shaken him, I knew. I could tell the moment she uttered the foul lie—telling us that Agrona didn’t have the power to send us back to our lives—that it had taken root in Nico’s mind, and I had watched it grow in him as he watered it with his thoughts and attention.

But what I saw when he turned to glance at me was a smile, and in his eyes I saw only his trust and love for me. Regardless of what trials we faced, at least I always knew that would be there.

We started moving again, continuing the slow climb down the winding stairs in silence.

It wasn’t long before voices began drifting up to us from somewhere below. Nico stopped again, this time holding a hand up to warn me against making any noise. Two voices, those of the Scythes, Viessa and Melzri.

“—treating us like common rabble, it’s absurd,” Melzri was saying, her voice echoing slightly in the narrow stairwell, low and angry.

“We are lucky to be alive, sister,” Viessa replied. The words seemed to creep along the black stone and tickle my ears like some haunting specter. “Take care with your words.”

“Tch, what is Agrona doing, anyway?” Melzri hissed. “Sequestering himself away for days at a time, holding back the Wraiths—Vritra’s horns, why not send the other basilisks to Sehz-Clar or Dicathen? His treaty with Epheotus is long since dust, along with the elven forests, and yet he has done nothing.”

“The lives of asura are long,” Viessa said, her tone lightly critical. “What, to us, may feel like ages, for the High Sovereign is a blink. Perhaps what looks like inaction is in truth only patience.”

“Then our failure should hardly matter, should it?” Melzri shot back.

Viessa started to respond, but Nico chose that moment to step down loudly as he descended. Both Viessa and Melzri went dead silent, their footsteps faltering.

When Nico completed another slow revolution of the stairwell and caught sight of them, he stopped, feigning surprise. “What are you two doing down here?”

“None of your business, little brother,” Melzri snapped, glaring suspiciously up at us both. “I don’t have to ask why you’re crawling down these steps, of course.” Her eyes burrowed like maggots into mine. “Perhaps the Legacy’s failure will sap some of the sting from our own, or at least make us look better by comparison. I should thank you for that, Lady Cecilia.”

“Enough,” Nico said firmly, then he began walking again.

I didn’t have the energy to care about her childish sniping, and I followed Nico wordlessly, eager to get the inevitable confrontation with Agrona where he expresses his disappointment over with. Then we could figure out how to take down Seris’s barrier, together.

Viessa shrank against the inner wall to allow Nico to pass, but Melzri stood firmly in the center of the stairs.

“Agrona himself has asked for our presence,” Nico said stiffly. “Would you like to be the reason we are detained? It may not be a particularly dark black mark on your record, but with everything else that’s happened, perhaps it will be the board that broke the wogart’s back.”

Melzri sneered and stepped aside. “I guess I shouldn’t blame you for your urgency. Since Agrona was happy to leave you for dead after your pathetic display at the Victoriad, I’m sure you feel compelled to prove you’re not entirely worthless.”

My fists clenched, and a fury of mana sprang unbidden into action around us, slamming Melzri and Viessa against the curved inner wall of the stairwell.

Tendrils of black mana writhed around Viessa, grappling with my own power, trying to extricate her and force me away. I grabbed those tendrils—her power—and wrapped them around Melzri’s throat, squeezing.

“Stop this,” Viessa hissed, her wide eyes staring helplessly at her out-of-control spell.

Soulfire rippled and jumped across Melzri’s skin as she attempted to burn away my influence, but I suppressed her power, holding it down against her, no more dangerous to me than smoke on the wind.

“For far too long, you’ve treated him—a Scythe of Central Dominion!—like a dog you can kick to make yourself feel more powerful,” I said, grinding the words out between clenched teeth. “Speak to me or Nico in this way again, and I will pull the core from your chest and drink its mana while the light fades from your eyes.”

I released my hold over the mana, and both their spells faded away. Melzri’s hand went to her throat where the void wind had choked her.

Not a single word was spoken as we moved down the stairs past them, and Nico was quiet until he must have been certain they were far above us.

“You shouldn’t have done that,” he said eventually, not stopping or turning to look at me.

“Why?” I asked incredulously, letting out a wry laugh. “The other Scythes become more irrelevant with each passing day. If anything, you should be more angry. Why aren’t you?”

Nico cleared his throat, then threw a dark scowl back up the stairwell behind us. “Like you said, they are becoming irrelevant. Why waste any feelings on them at all?”

After another minute or two, Nico led us through a door of black stone into a large, rectangular room with a high ceiling. A sudden and unwelcome series of memories flooded into my thoughts as the sight of the sterile space reminded me of the many similar rooms I had seen in my last life: places where I was cut open, drugged, and put through inhumane tests.

Vertigo made my knees tremble, and beyond the sickness of the sensation itself, there was also the deeper underlying shame I felt at being so weak. Only moments ago, I had felt so powerful putting the two Scythes in their place, and yet here I was, ready to curl into a ball and vomit at the sight of a few tables, tools, and bright lights.

“Cecil, are you—”

“Fine,” I muttered, blinking rapidly.

Nico must have understood, because he again put his arm through mine and quickly guided me across the room and into a long hallway. Cells lined both sides, but I had no mind for inspecting them, and Nico seemed to know where we were headed.

When that hallway ended, he led me left into a second, nearly-identical series of cells, then stopped in front of the first to contain a living occupant that I had noticed.

The woman on the other side of the cell’s shielding barrier was truly beautiful—or had been before her captivity. She looked young but felt very old, with tired eyes the color of fire and a smokey gray tint to her skin. It was the way her rich red hair clumped together in the shape of feathers that I found most interesting and beautiful, though.

Her power was suppressed, what little she still had shielded behind the barrier, but I could still sense her mana. It burned beneath the surface, like hot coals under a blanket of ash.

“The reincarnate returns,” she said, her voice a dim and dying rasp. Those glowing eyes settled on Nico, who shifted uncomfortably. Then, slowly, as if dragged by force of will, they shifted to me. Several heavy heartbeats passed, then they widened in recognition. “Legacy…”

My lips parted, a question forming on my tongue, but Nico spoke first. “She’s an asura, a phoenix. According to her, they have some understanding of rebirth and reincarnation.” He seemed distinctly uncomfortable, his eyes never alighting on the asura for more than an instant before he looked away.

Her dry, cracked lips turned up at the corners. “The dragons have their aether arts, the pantheons the art of war. Titans will claim to understand life best of all asura, but they only understand creation, just as the basilisks know corruption and decay. Life, and all the many facets that make it up, is the domain of the phoenixes.”

“You’re being uncharitable, Lady Dawn,” a deep voice boomed from just behind me, causing me to twirl around in surprise.

The sight of Agrona never failed to impress upon me a sense of awe. His lithe yet statuesque features maintained an evenness that settled my nerves, as the series of chains and jewels adorning his expansive antler-like horns caught the light and held my attention.

Beside me, Nico shifted back, away from Agrona, and bowed, his gaze remaining on the floor except for a single glance thrown down the hallway, right of where we’d come from. I knew instinctively the cell must be in that direction, the one he’d taken the dragon’s core from. He was wondering if Agrona had been down there, afraid he had been found out.

“High Sovereign Agrona Vritra,” I said, not smiling as I used his full title, something I rarely did. “I’ve come to report my failure to retake Sehz-Clar. The shield proved more robust than I anticipated, and in my weakened state, Seris’s void mana technique—”

He raised a hand, one finger extended, and I went silent immediately. His eyes, like two fathomless pools of rich red wine, drew me in. “It is my fault, Cecil dear, for not seeing the truth of things sooner.” Agrona ran his fingers through my hair, smiling fondly down at me. “I sensed Orlaeth’s signature in the barrier Seris has erected but assumed it was of his design. That may be the case still, but his presence within the magic is much more literal, I now realize.”

I reached for my understanding of this world’s technology, but it was still too limited, and I found only confusion.

Nico sucked in a startled breath. “You mean…but how could such a thing even be possible?”

Agrona grinned at Nico, but it wasn’t exactly a pleasant expression. “Olraeth was a paranoid genius. No doubt he built the shield to protect himself from me, and Seris somehow baited him into a trap. The truth remains, Orlaeth is certainly the power source behind the shielding mechanism.”

I gasped, understanding coming at last. “Like she’s using him as a…a battery?”

“Exactly,” Nico said, one hand running down his face, his eyes losing focus as he looked at something only he could see. “So it wasn’t just about how much mana you could control, or how fine your control is, but also the fact that this mana is being controlled by an asura.”

“Which has brought us here,” Agrona finished, taking me by the shoulders and turning me around to face the phoenix, Dawn. “If you wish to counter asuran mana arts, you must first taste asuran mana.”

The phoenix clenched her jaw, a muscle twitching in her cheek. Her glowing eyes bore into me like hot pokers. “Touch me, and I’ll burn through you from the inside out, Legacy or not.”

Agrona chuckled darkly. “Lady Dawn, you are hardly in a position to make threats. If you were as vicious or powerful as you wish Cecilia here to believe, perhaps you would not have spent these many years imprisoned under my fortress.”

The phoenix scowled at Agrona, her chest swelling as if she were about to scream, but all energy seemed to leave her at once, and she sagged against her bindings and released a defeated sigh. “Do what you will, then. Death would be better than rotting here any longer.”

“Glad we’re on the same page, so to speak,” Agrona said, releasing my shoulders and waving away the wall of mana that kept her imprisoned. “Be glad that you, in your death, will be more useful than you ever were in your long and wasted life.”

She turned her head away, no longer looking at any of the three of us.

From the corner of my eye, I caught Nico shifting uncomfortably from one foot to the other, a guilty expression on his pained face. He seemed to realize it himself at the same time and forced his features into a passive blankness.

“W-what do you want me to do?” I asked, looking up at Agrona.

“Take her mana,” he said firmly. “All of it. Every last drop.”

I knew what he intended before I asked the question, and somehow the answer still managed to catch me off guard, sending a tremor down my spine and raising gooseflesh along my arms.

This was different from anything else I’d done. What was it I had thought while kneeling over Nico’s broken body after Grey pierced his core?

It is too cruel to take away magic once someone has felt the joy of it.

This wasn’t just taking a life, or even taking away the phoenix’s magic. I would be draining her life force—the mana that empowered her body and kept her alive—like an oversized leech…

I stared for a long time at the gaunt but beautiful lines of Dawn’s face, and wondered suddenly how old the asura was. She could have been thirty, or three hundred, or even three thousand years old for all I knew.

How much life could one live with so much time? And yet here she was, bound and powerless, her long life boiled down to this final moment of misery and hopelessness. It really was cruel, that she had to know it would be her power used against Agrona’s enemies. If his plan worked, of course.

I didn’t let these musings turn too far inward, however. Didn’t examine my own place in this cruelty. I was only doing what I had to in order to reclaim my real life. One day, I would wake up on Earth, in my own body with Nico at my side, and my time in this world would seem like nothing more than a dream, just like Seris had said…

Agrona shifted, a subtle movement that loudly expressed his impatience, and I stepped toward the phoenix.

She did not meet my eye as I began.

Though her mana was suppressed, particles were still thick within her physical form. While a human’s body needed blood and oxygen, the asura’s also needed mana, and I could see it imbuing every part of her. The hardness of her bones, the strength of her muscles, the durability of her flesh, even the electrical impulses of her mind: it all required mana to operate properly.

Which meant there was still a rather significant amount of mana infusing her body.

I reached out to that mana, gingerly at first. This was no simple mana relocation spell like I’d used against Grey; I wasn’t just trying to evacuate all mana in an area, I was specifically trying to withdraw the mana inside her body and bring it into mine. I would need to purify the asuran mana inside my own core in order to adjust to it.

Her mana answered my call.

It was slow at first, just a trickle. I could sense how she held back, tried to keep the mana in despite outwardly giving up all hope. It was instinctual, I imagined, like pressing a hand to a bleeding wound after seeing the first sudden rush of crimson.

Perhaps, if she’d been in better condition, less weakened by her long imprisonment and mana suppression, I wouldn’t have been able to forcibly take the mana. Or maybe it just would have been more difficult. As it was, there was a moment of back and forth as my will struggled against hers, then her control cracked like the breaking of a dam, the trickle quickly became a flood.

The phoenix’s face fell, all fight gone out of her, and I thought she looked almost serene…

Something in the mana changed suddenly. Images began to play across my mind, thoughts or memories carried along with the mana, a vague impression of the phoenix’s life that leaked into my mind from hers. I saw a flight of massive winged creatures, huge dragonish bodies covered with ember-orange feathers, long graceful necks ending in fierce hooked beaks, bright orange eyes searching the horizon for their enemies, the dragons.

Then these phoenixes were in their human forms, but they were less of them. Disagreement had burst into shouts, threats, curses, and pleas, which all blended together in the memory. Some wished to stay and fight, others to flee and join the Vritra in the lessers’ realm, more still to beg the Indrath Clan for forgiveness…but when a man with unruly orange hair and bright yellow eyes raised his hand, the many voices went silent all at once.

Then there were fewer still, far fewer, and they were somewhere else entirely. The background coalesced as the memory focused on it: wild, untamed forests full of mana beasts. A hand on her shoulder, the handsome man with the yellow eyes, a sad smile on his face…

Images flashed past, moving more and more quickly, difficult to digest: dark tunnels and endless days of labor; strange-looking, tattooed people intermingling among the asura; the slow growth of towering trees, their silvery-gray bark shining like steel in the low light of a hidden underground cavern, their autumn-red and orange leaves fluttering like flames; a child, just a boy, running and laughing, his mismatched eyes—one burning orange, the other icy blue—full of joy and wonder.

A love that wasn’t my own warmed my heart and made my own eyes swim with tears…

The backdrop shifted again, and I was looking out from the phoenix’s cage. The shift from warm to cold was so sudden, I worried I might shatter like glass. Agrona looked back malevolently, a cruel grin like a slash across his face. “Mordain was foolish to expect I’d let his messenger simply walk free after having seen so much of my land and stronghold. I’ve heard much about you, Lady Dawn of the Asclepius Clan, and I find myself very much looking forward to testing the bounds of your rumored stoicism.”

The phoenix moaned, and the memory shifted, wobbling in and out of focus as I experienced days, then months, then years of loneliness, boredom, pain, and regret all forced together into a handful of seconds…then it was over, the memories were played out, and my mind settled into my own body again.

A warm flush was radiating out from my mana veins and core as the asura’s mana filtered into me. The mana itself was pure, as much so as any mana I had ever experienced, but it felt like fire. I wondered idly in an unoccupied space at the back of my brain if this was some inborn attribute of the phoenix race, but the rest of my mind stayed focused on the task.

Sweat was building up on my brow, now, both from the warmth and the effort of controlling the mana. Even as it entered my core, it felt like something wild, an animal only half under control, like if I lost focus it would toss me from its back and run free. Or like it will burn me up from the inside, a wildfire just barely contained. Like she said she would…

The thought made me clamp down even harder. My teeth clenched until they began to ache, and my core quickly felt swollen and tender. I forgot all about the memories, the threat, banished everything but focusing on maintaining control. But, even as the flow of mana picked up speed, more and more remained inside of the phoenix’s body, a massive reservoir that was difficult to wrap my mind around.

No. I had suffered worse than this before. Compared to the outbursts of ki that had wreaked havoc on my body, this was nothing.

“You are starting to feel it, aren’t you?” she asked, her voice a breathy whisper barely audible over the pounding of my own pulse in my ears. “Your spirit may carry your potential from one life to the next, Legacy, but you are still wrapped within weak elven skin and bones.” Her own skin had lightened into an ashy, sickly gray, and all the fire was gone from her eyes, but her colorless lips still managed to form a wry smirk. “Like the water hen who swallowed the wyvern’s core, you’ll…burn away…”

Nico was fidgeting stiffly, his hands clenching and unclenching, but Agrona was perfectly still and outwardly calm. If he harbored any concerns that this phoenix could be right, he didn’t show it.

He would never let that happen, I told myself. And yet…the more of her mana I took in, the harder it was to contain it, and the more I ached. Pressure was rapidly building in every part of me, so that I felt like an overfilled balloon about to burst…

A painful quake shook my core, and I let out an involuntary gasp of agony.

“Cecilia!” Nico said plaintively, reaching toward me.

Agrona’s hand grabbed Nico’s wrist. “Do not interfere.”

I closed my eyes, pushing away these distractions. Agrona said I needed to “taste” her mana, to absorb it all. There was more to it than just that, though, there had to be. Simply taking her mana wasn’t going to help me bypass the shield because…

My eyes snapped open.

I needed to understand.

Mana was all just mana, that much I knew. It took on the attributes of fire, water, earth, or air, depending on the environmental stimulus, and could then be further molded into deviant attributes by an appropriately talented mage, but—aside from purity, something determined by the clarity of a mage’s core—the mana utilized by one mage was identical to any other. Likewise, the mana itself I was pulling from the phoenix should not be different, and yet…

The physically superior asuran body required mana to even function, unlike a human body—or elven, I thought somewhat awkwardly—and that meant the core, veins, and channels were probably structured differently, too, if for no other reason than mana had to constantly, and automatically, be circulated, in the way my heart kept pumping blood without my focusing on flexing and unflexing the muscle.

Does that cycling of mana somehow make it stronger or more pure? I wondered, glad that my mind had a puzzle to work on, which took away from the strain on my body.

A thick stream of mana particles—mostly pure, though intermingled with some freshly absorbed atmospheric mana that kept its natural hue—was running out of the phoenix and being drawn into my mana veins, making us both glow with a bright orange-white light.

It could be both—but it could also be more attuned to the asura’s body…like blood-types in a human!

I made this final connection with a sharp breath. “Phoenixes, basilisks, dragons…the form of their pure mana has changed over the ages, hasn’t it?”

I directed the question to the phoenix, then realized that she was too far gone to answer. Her skin, now more pale blue than gray, had tightened unnaturally over her frame, and beneath it the muscles had atrophied and shrunk. The orange had leached from her eyes, leaving them a dull cloudy color.

“It is that evolutionary change that has fueled the deviation in our mana arts,” Agrona said softly.

A sudden spike of pain from my core drew my back inward, and I realized I was at the end of my ability to continue drawing on the phoenix. I immediately lessened my grasp over what little mana remained to her, but a strong hand gripped my elbow painfully.

“No, you must take it all in,” Agrona said firmly.

I met his eye, tried to read whatever alien thoughts or emotions shined back at me and failed, then said, “I-I can’t, my core is—”

Then, I experienced a second moment of realization.

Dawn’s entire body had been full of mana, and asuras had to circulate mana at all times to support their body. I lacked the physical attributes that made this possible for them, but I had something else even better.

With a single thought, mana spilled out of my core. Instead of being released from my body or focused into a spell, I guided it through my mana channels, into every limb, every organ, focusing on strengthening my physical body. Instead of stopping there, as most Strikers would, I guided the mana to keep moving, cycling from one part of my body to the next, and eventually back into my core.

Soon, my entire body was infused with mana. This, in turn, eased the pressure on my core and allowed me to drag the last particles of mana from the phoenix’s cold, lifeless husk.

I watched where the phoenix mana and my own intermingled, curling in and around each other like flames. Although her mana had been too warm and alien at first, I realized I had already acclimated to it, made it mine, and I knew with absolute certainty that, if faced with a phoenix, I would have no more trouble defending against their spells than I would any other mage.

This thought brought a frown to my face, and I looked at Agrona. Behind him, Nico was watching me carefully, his entire body tense as a compressed spring.

Agrona was grinning, beaming down at me pridefully. “Well done, Cecil.”

“Will it be enough?” I asked, thinking about Seris and her damned shield. “I feel it, the phoenix-attribute mana. I’ve already taken it into my body and made it my own. But the shield…will this insight be enough against basilisk mana?” A tentative thought was worming around in the back of my mind, but I was afraid to give voice to it.

Nico, apparently, had no such compulsions. “Is Sovereign Kiros still imprisoned? Cecilia could—”

“No,” Agrona said firmly, his grin cracking like thin ice. Then, softer, letting a shadow of the smile return, he said, “No, that won’t be necessary. I may have other uses for Kiros. An understanding of asuran mana will be enough.”

Nico held my gaze from behind Agrona, making no other move than a slight flaring of his eyes. It was enough to communicate his thoughts.

“There is something else,” I said, flush with the power rolling through me like a firestorm. “I saw other asuras. In Dicathen—in the Beast Glades.”

Agrona’s brows rose as he considered the withered corpse of the phoenix. “Interesting. So, Lady Dawn, all these years protecting Mordain, and you give him up as life leaves you. Tragic.” To me, he said, “Perhaps, after you have eliminated the mild threat that Seris and her ‘rebellion’ pose, you can sharpen your claws on a real enemy, Cecil dear.”