The use of slave collars marked one of the Gorgon Empire\'s darkest pages of history.
Milea was young, but not stupid, she could hardly blame Leegaain actions, especially considering that she would wear one too if things didn\'t change for the better.
It took her a few days to find the courage to ask the dragon about one of her worst fears.
Leegaain, what\'s the origin of violent monsters like goblins, orcs or trolls Are they an evolution gone wrong of magical beasts, or are they man-made The question haunted her mind after reading some books.
Seeing her Mentor outrage towards human, she had started to doubt her kin more and more, especially after Milea found out that aside from rare exceptions, undead were all artificially created by humans.
Some of them, yes.
Humans have performed countless experiments trying to rob magical beasts of their magic, giving birth to the werefolk.
Undead are simply a by-product of their search for immortality.
Those you mentioned, though, are what we Guardians refer to as the Fallen.
Races that lost most of their magical abilities by going down the wrong branch of the evolutionary tree.
As humans keep doing, if you ask me.
Why, what did you think
I hoped they were the result of the Abominations\' work, to destroy mankind and rule the world. She blushed in embarrassment.
The idea sounded incredibly silly now that she had said it out loud.
Leegaain softly smiled at her, patting Milea\'s head with one of its giant fingers.
Kid, don\'t fool yourself.
The world is in danger only if you small guys decide so.
Abominations are natural magical disasters, they do not plot against anyone, nor do they care about world domination.
They only care about survival, just like you.
Two years later, Milea left Leegaain\'s lair, with a new set of clothes and a cape that covered her from head to toe.
Her mana core wasn\'t yellow anymore, but bright blue, and as soon her body finished adapting to the changes, she would be ready to turn it violet.
After expelling most of the impurities in her body, she had become faster, stronger and sturdier than most magical beasts.
The reason for her disguise, was that during those years, it wasn\'t only her mana core to have changed.
She had entered as a scrawny girl, 1.52 meters (5\') high, with frizzy unruly hair, and had come out as a 1.75 meters (5\' 9) high woman, with long wavy honey-hued hair and twenty more kilos (44 pounds) all in the right places.
Milea wasn\'t stunning, but she was a beauty nonetheless.
Even Warping hundred miles at a time, she needed to rest, and didn\'t want to make a massacre on the way home.
Her achievements allowed her to join the Gorgon Empire\'s Magic Council at only twenty-three years of age, becoming its youngest member ever.
At twenty-seven she was crowned Magic Empress, and her rule began.
Gorgon Empire, one week before Lith was summoned to the encampment.
After over a month of fruitless investigations, Milea\'s spies had found out the details about the situation in Kandria.
The existence of a highly infective plague thwarted her plans of invasion.
The reports spoke about it as something that defied logic and all the rules of light magic, leaving flabbergasted even her best healers.
Attacking now was suicidal.
If the plague could be spreaded through the deceased, the Griffon Kingdom could use the infected corpses as projectiles, turning the army of mages the Empire had spent years to train in the most expensive field hospital ever created.
In their shoes, that\'s what Milea would have done if cornered.
As long the plague was contained, it was their problem, she had no interest in making it her own.
As far Milea knew, she was the only Awakened one in the Empire.
Leegaain refused to create others, and she didn\'t trust anyone enough to pass her secrets.
If the Queen and the other seven Awakened ones at her service had yet to solve the crisis, Milea was afraid of what could happen if the situation spiralled out of her neighbours\' control.
She was confident about finding a cure, her Mentor had trained her well.
The problem was how much time would it take, and how exposed the plague would leave the Empire while she was unavailable.
For that reason, she had all the armies at the borders withdraw and alerted all the best physicians, healers and alchemists to stand ready if necessity arose.
She would read the reports along with the stolen medical files over and over, trying to understand the nature of the infection, but to no avail.
Fake mages were unreliable sources, the only way to find out the truth was to examine one of the infected herself.
That, or get hold on the one that engineered that whole mess.
Your Majesty, the prisoner is ready to be delivered to you anytime you wish.
Milea nodded at her attendant with a sigh.
She had ordered to carefully search Hatorne after her capture.
Milea had predicted that the genius alchemist would have left her home country and attempted to reach one of the small states surrounding the three great Countries.
In such a place, her abilities would have been greatly appreciated, allowing Hatorne to rebuild her life from scratch and never having to look her back again.
Going through the Blood Desert was suicide, only the tribes knew the safe ways to avoid storms and monsters, and if they caught her, death was the best ending Hatorne could hope for.
Her only option was passing through the Gorgon Empire, bribing her way to the border.
Hatorne had discovered at her expenses that the Empire was much less corrupt than the Kingdom, getting caught in a matter of hours after her arrival.
Coirn Hatorne stepped inside the throne room, her hands cuffed behind her back, chained along with her ankles to her waist.
The countless hours spent working on her experiments had left her with a hunched back, that made her hard to walk without a cane.
She looked at least seventy years old, with immaculate white hair in a bob haircut.
Her clothes were in pristine conditions despite the traveling and imprisonment.
The thing that struck Milea the most were the eyes.
Hatorne\'s face was full of wrinkles, resembling a spiderweb, but her eyes were young and full of energy.
Most importantly, they were cold and soulless, like she was the one in control.
Milea looked at her with Life Vision, discovering several magical items that had escaped detection.
Later she would examine them to determine if Hatorne\'s genius was to blame or her attendants\' incompetence.
Your Majesty, you are really as beautiful as the rumours say. Hatorne didn\'t even attempt to hide the envy in her voice.
Milea was over thirty years old, yet she hadn\'t aged a day past her twenties.
Spare me your niceties.
Prove me you can be useful to the Empire and you\'ll live, otherwise, I\'ll send you back without wearing down my stairs again. Milea pointed at the balcony.
Hatorne scoffed at her words, spitting in disgust.
You can\'t possibly be that stupid, if you managed to reach the status of Empress, child.
What you already know should be enough to grant me safe passage through your Empire one hundred times, if not for you to be beg me to remain here.
Milea snapped her fingers, lifting Hatorne like a ragdoll with spirit magic and making her get close to the balcony at walking speed.
Suddenly Hatorne didn\'t feel so confident anymore, she valued her life above everything.
Wait! I can give you potions that can break any men\'s will, parasites that turn the most powerful mage into a lump of meat, hidden weapons that cannot be detected.
Isn\'t that enough
Another snap and Hatorne stopped moving.
What you are offering me are new forms of slavery, diseases that can raze a country, tools that even the lowliest of fools could use to kill a powerful mage.
Just one of those things could destroy the world as we know it!
Milea couldn\'t believe her own ears.
Weapons don\'t kill men.
I am only an artisan, I\'m not responsible for what others do with my creations.
That\'s where you are wrong! Milea was outraged.
You create without thinking of the consequences, selling nightmares to whoever can afford them.
Power without control is the greatest madness.
Naive fool, with my help you could have ruled the world.
Instead you chose to die for your pathetic ideals! Hatorne pushed one of her teeth with the tongue, releasing from her mouth a barrage of poisoned needles, each one enchanted with a small array that would allow it to ignore air magic.
Milea simply raised her hand, blocking all of them in mid-air, like time had stopped.
Hatorne was still shocked, when the needles turned around and darted again, striking her to death.
Milea destroyed Hatorne\'s corpse and belongings personally.
The legacy of such a monster couldn\'t be allowed to survive.
Gorgon Empire, the day Lith killed the three Talons.
Why are you staring so intensely at the window Milea asked.
Because something unknown is happening, and it\'s baffling us Guardians. Leegaain replied, tapping with his clawed finger on the frame.
After Milea had become Empress, she had managed to convince him to give the Empire a second chance.
The deal was the same as in the past, knowledge, not power, in exchange for whatever law or regulation he wanted to be implemented over time.
Unknow how Milea considered her Mentor to be nigh omniscient and omnipotent, something unknown to him couldn\'t be good news.
Look at it yourself. Leegaain\'s human form hand touched her forehead, allowing her to share his vision.
Very far, somewhere inside the Griffon Kingdom, the world energy was seeping violently into a small figure, while the small figure emitted a pillar of darkness that the world accepted as its own.
That\'s the beginning of a world\'s tribulation.
Someone has been recognized by the world and his offer accepted.
Someone is becoming a Guardian Milea almost chocked at the thought.
Not even close, but it\'s a beginning.
There are countless tribulations each year, and they end up in failure.
What\'s baffling is that the darkness is typical of an Abomination, but it\'s not.
The tribulation is the one that usually happens to beasts, but it\'s not.
The mana it\'s drawing upon seems human but…
It\'s not. Milea caught his drift.
So, what are you going to do about it
Whoever it is, is barely stronger than you were when you found me.
Also, I don\'t care what it does, as long it doesn\'t mess with my turf.
It\'s Tyris\' problem, not mine.
Griffon Kingdom, Lith\'s tent.
Since the tribulation had started, the Talons had been experiencing excruciating pain.
The darkness that surrounded them wasn\'t eating their life force like it was supposed to, if was robbing them of their life span.
They aged decades each passing second, their nails and hair growing non-stop to absurd lengths.
Please, stop. One of the women managed to beg with a hoarse voice, her body dried up and thin like a mummified corpse.
Shut up and die! Lith replied, making the energy pulse even stronger.
He didn\'t care anymore for information, their numbers or the contractor\'s identity.
He wanted all of them to die, no matter if young or old, noble or commoner.
He had grown sick of mankind\'s madness; a culling was needed.
Unbeknownst to him, the world had heeded his call, and was considering the offer.
The energy coalesced around him, into an aura that resembled a much bigger figure, enveloped in fire and shadows, with claws on his hands and wings on his back, before dissipating.
No trace was left of the Talons, the energy storm disappeared as fast as it had come, leaving Lith and Solus flabbergasted.