Chapter 221: Grieving (2)
"Why did you ask for his help" Lith yelled to Scarlett while his fury was peaking.
"You knew he had never traveled outside the Trawn woods! This was too big for him, why didn't you leave him alone"
Scarlett's guilt was already eating at her from the inside, she couldn't reply to Lith because she was thinking the same things.
However, when she felt a slight tremor in the ground, she was forced to speak.
"You are right, it's all my fault.
Now please, try to calm down."
"Calm down" Lith's roar was accompanied by another tremor, this time strong enough for everyone to feel it.
All of his mana was seething with anger, darkness magic exuded from every inch of Lith's body, spreading the killing intent of a mad beast desperate enough to throw away its life for a single chance to bite back its enemy.
All the Professors could feel it on their skin.
The ones that were too injured from the recent fight to stand their ground, found themselves covered in cold sweat, retreating one step at the time.
Even Linjos's body reacted instinctively, a spell ready at hand to counter the imminent death threat.
- "I read the reports speaking about his ferocity, but this is unheard of for someone so young.
His mana exudes such a powerful pressure that a normal man would have already run away out of fear." -
With a wave of her paw, Scarlett Warped all the humans back to their apartments and sealed the space around the mining town to prevent the use of dimensional magic.
Being the Lord of the forest was much more than a mere title.
Like an academy empowered its headmaster, a forest empowered its lord.
It was similar to being a Guardian, but instead of being recognized by the planet's will, the Lord had a very limited area of influence and much lesser powers.
Otherwise, Scarlett would have faced and destroyed Balkor's army alone.
"You can ask me to calm down only after I have ripped off your tail and forced you to eat it!" A mass of clouds started gathering in the sky.
Scarlett knew a world tribulation was about to happen.
That was the reason why she had sent all the humans away.
While she had no idea what was causing the tribulation, the one responsible had to be protected.
Even if he was a young human Abomination hybrid on the verge of madness.
"Lith, please stop." Protector coughed.
Hearing his voice turned Lith's anger to pain.
A pain he hadn't experienced since Carl's death.
"What do you think you are doing I didn't ask for you because I want you to turn into the new Balkor.
Revenge solves nothing.
Did you ever pay attention when I spoke to you" Protector attempted to laugh, but it soon turned into a dry cough that made him spit black blood.
"I just wanted to say goodbye and ask you for a favor.
Please, tell Selia that I'm sorry.
Also, make up one of your ridiculous lies to explain to her how I died.
Tell her that I would have never abandoned her like this." A few tears streamed from the Skoll's eyes, before disappearing under his fur.
"Please, take care of our child.
I never had one with a human, I don't know if they end up resembling their mother or father more.
Male or female, they'll need your help."
"Why does everyone want me to take care of their offspring" Lith's scream caused several bolts of lightning to light the sky.
"I don't want to! I hate children! Live and take care of them by yourself." Lith hugged Protector's body, bawling his eyes out.
"You are the first friend I ever had.
You may be a magical beast, but you have always been like a brother to me.
You always treated me as an adult, annoying me with your words of wisdom and trying to make me into a better person.
Why are you leaving me Why"
"It's not that I want to." Protector's panting worsened, every breath was a struggle.
"It's just that sometimes you can't win.
Death is a part of life."
"I'm sick and tired of life trying to snatch away what's mine!" Lith ignored Protector, focusing only on Invigoration and the bleeding mana core.
"First, I wasn't old enough to protect my brother.
Then, I wasn't rich and powerful enough to even give him the justice he deserved.
After that, I was too weak to heal Tista, forcing me to watch her suffering for years!"
By remembering each of the people he loved, the hatred he felt towards everyone else increased without limit.
His body started to reshape itself according to the burning wrath that was consuming him.
Black scales replaced Lith's exposed skin up to his neck, leaving only his face uncovered.
His fingers grew longer and were now ending in razor-sharp claws.
Lith's eyes were now inhuman.
They had no pupil, iris, or sclera, only a burning blue light remained.
"Now I'm strong enough!"
Lith used Invigoration to call upon the world energy, not using it to strengthen himself, but to surround Protector's mana core and stop the leak.
He had just realized that, unlike the kid's core during the plague, Protector's had yet to turn grey.
Its bright yellow color gave Lith hope and the strength to attempt a desperate gamble.
After doing his best to prevent the damaged core from weakening any further, he started to shape an artificial core like Kalla had shown him a few hours before.
Instead of crafting it out of light and darkness, he used the surrounding world energy and of all of Protector's mana that Lith was unable to contain.
It was something incredibly difficult to achieve.
He couldn't force the mana to do anything without running the risk of contaminating it with his own, making Protector's core reject it.
Lith could only slowly and gently guide it to its destination, making sure it didn't fade away by protecting it from all external influences.
The world energy was naturally shapeless, like water, it assumed the signature of whoever managed to call forth its power.
As more and more of Protector's mana reached the fake core, it started to mutate until the two energy signatures perfectly matched.
Lith was experiencing an unbelievable amount of pain.
Not only because his body was already battered and his mana core running on fumes, but also because he had to take all of the impurities the world energy contained into himself to shape the fake core, allowing only the purest and strongest mana to become part of his creation.
Lith accepted the pain with joy, it was still nothing compared to what the void had done to him in the years following his brother's death.
The last step was the most dangerous one.
Lith knew that light magic wasn't enough to allow Protector's core and the fake one to merge.
Just like during Forgemastering, he needed something to connect the spell with the item.
Having nothing left, he used his own life force as a tool to achieve his goal.
When Lith's energy rekindled Protector's soul spark, Lith was able to experience the Skoll's life from the moment of his birth.
The joy of meeting his first mate and having pups together, followed by the pain of losing them to disease, hunger, or the hand of hunters.
Lith could feel how happy Protector had been when he encountered Selia, how strong his desire for a new family was.
Such happiness was something that Lith firmly believed he would never have, so he pushed forward.
He consumed more and more energy despite his whole body screaming in pain, begging him to stop, and his core began to crack.
Scarlett watched the whole process in awe.
Part of her hoped for him to succeed.
Another part of her hoped for him to fail, to get rid of the dangerous unknown factor Lith represented.
Yet all of Scarlett's being hated the world's will because once again it was just standing there doing nothing.
- "I have been through my fair share of tribulations and I have yet to understand why they are called so.
It's not like the world puts you to the test or something, it just watches you while the worst sh*t happens to your life.
Either you live or die, it never interferes, like our lives are nothing but a two-bit sideshow."– She thought.
From her throne in the underground dungeon, Tyris felt the second tribulation advent.
"That anomaly again." She thought out loud.
"It's better if I go check on it, before the others start pestering me about the lack of information." She stood up, appearing right before Scarlett.
It was easy for a Guardian to ignore the Scorpicore's dimensional magic seal.
"What does this mean, Forest Lord" She asked.
Scarlett instinctively knelt to her, explaining to Tyris all that had happened that night.
Another Abomination hybrid, it seems.
But this one isn't a man-made fake Abomination, more like a jigsaw made of different pieces.
He's already at the second tribulation, I wouldn't worry if I were you."
Tyris shrugged, preparing to leave.
"Wait, my Lady.
What do you mean" Scarlett was shocked by her indifference.
Unlike Kalla and Protector, she had no affection toward Lith, but he still was a child trying to save a precious friend.
After witnessing so much death in a single night, she couldn't understand how the Guardian could leave without moving a finger.
It would be easy for Tyris to save them both.
"You really don't know" Tyris turned back, raising an eyebrow in disbelief.
"Tribulations happen constantly to beasts, humans, plants, and undead alike.
Every single day.
They happen whenever Mogar, the world we live in, thinks that someone can be useful for its purposes.
"During every tribulation, Mogar evaluates the candidate's worth through their actions.
Success or failure depends entirely on the candidate, though.
The first tribulation is usually about the skill the world is interested in.
The second and usually last one, is about self-control."
"What self-control" Scarlett was flabbergasted.
"The kid is killing himself, burning his own life as we speak! Shouldn't the tribulation be failed already"
"You completely misunderstood the nature of tribulations." Tyris chuckled in amusement.
"A talent is worthless if someone lets it control their life, as most living beings do.
My talent is to inspire the change, but it could be easily subverted into bringing chaos if I was never content with the status quo and I did not give the changes the time to prove their worth.
"Leegaain's talent is knowledge and preservation.
Yet imagine how easy it would be for him to turn it into greed, hoarding everything and every life form for himself, turning from the keeper of the world into its warden.
"Salaark embodies the desire to rule and lead by example, but she could just as easily become a tyrant obsessed with world domination.
The self-control I'm talking about is the will to resist the urges your talent pushes you towards and do the opposite.
"Take the kid, for example.
Judging from his first two tribulations, the world seems to have chosen him to kill a lot of people, yet it's checking if he's just a soulless monster or if he has the will to choose the hard path and grant life instead.
"We all serve the balance.
There would be no need for a Guardian of destruction, the races do an excellent job by themselves already.
That's why you don't need to worry.
If he ever succeeds in passing all the tribulations, we'll just have another Guardian."
"What if he fails The prolonged exposure to the world's will has already altered him that much." Scarlett rebuked, pointing at Lith's scales covered body.
"Aren't you afraid of what he could do if he manages to control that kind of power"
"No." Tyris shook her head.
"That's just a promise of payment, barely cosmetic.
As far as I know, you have passed all of your tribulations.
Have you gotten any stronger"
I've learned how to shapeshift, but my strength is always the same, no matter the form I take."
Until he becomes a Guardian…" Tyris giggled at the idea.
"he will just remain whatever he is.
While if he fails, he will die.
As simple as that.
There is no do-over with tribulations.
The number of tribulations varies from person to person, but most fail at the second one.
Even if he succeeds, he could fail at the next one, or at the one after that." Tyris disappeared, leaving Scarlett more nervous than ever.
"This is great.
Now I not only have to worry about Scourge and Protector, but also about myself! I never imagined tribulations were so dangerous.
Gods, I wish Kalla were here.
She would know what to do."
"She would say to move your stinger-equipped a*s and help the child.
You always whine about the world's will being indifferent, yet you stand there doing nothing.
What's the difference between the two of you" A limping Kalla pointed out.
Scarlett flinched at her appearance, but recovered quickly and did as instructed.
Lith had already consumed several years of his lifespan to keep Protector alive and his core was about to crack too.
However, he had managed to fix Protector's core enough to allow Scarlett to finish the job.
She saved both their lives at once, before questioning the Wraith.
"How did you survive that blast"
"First, as you should know, no one can be harmed by their own mana.
So the only damage I took was from overloading my mana core.
It was a calculated risk.
My odds of survival were pretty good since my undead nature makes it really hard to kill me with both conventional and unconventional means.
"Unlike you, I never trusted the men's words or underestimated a fellow Necromancer's madness.
I had a contingency plan in case I was cornered and another one in the eventuality of my death." Kalla was referring to Lith's promise.
"Don't you mean your partial undead nature" Scarlett corrected her friend.
"Have I already mentioned all Necromancers are a bit insane"
Kalla used Invigoration to further her healing process, revealing to the shocked Scorpicore that her body held both a mana and a blood core.