- True magic Scarlett sneered.
Another pretentious name for my collection, then.
Why don\'t you come out Talking this way is tiresome.
What about my Professors Aren\'t you afraid of them meddling
Right now their surveillance mirrors just show you sleeping.
It requires a bit of effort, but I can tamper with them for a while. –
Lith swallowed a lump of saliva.
The monster wasn\'t lying, it could have killed him ten times already.
But that only made the situation even more scary.
- How do I get out without waking the others – A Warp Steps appeared in front of him, leading in front of the Scorpicore.
Fighting hard to keep his knees from shaking, Lith started weaving all his strongest spells, preparing for the worst.
Scarlett stared at him with an inquisitive look.
Despite being so close, it was hard to perceive any trace of corruption, and that was already a good sign.
What do you want from me Lith asked with one spell ready for each of his fingers.
I already told you, I just want your cursed object.
After that, I will get out of your hair.
My partner is no cursed object or anything.
Is just an artifact, you are clearly mistaken.
Do you even know what a cursed object is
No. Lith admitted.
You see, no matter how powerful an artifact is, it has no life.
It\'s just an object.
Scarlett handed to him its pince-nez.
This is an artifact, believe me.
Now, use your true magic and tell me, does it feel alive to you
Lith used Invigoration and Life Vision, perceiving many and powerful magics within it, but no life.
It had mana flow, but no mana core or life force.
- Solus, what about your mana sense
It indeed has more power than many of your Professors, but no mana core. –
That huge castle is a massive and powerful artifact, but is it alive Scarlett pointed to the White Griffon with one of its claws.
Once again, both Life Vision and mana sense reported a huge flow of mana, but no mana core.
No. Lith reluctantly said.
Now, what about your ring
Lith used Invigoration for the first time ever on Solus.
Just like in the past he had used Life Vision to see her mana flow and life force, Invigoration revealed a small yellow mana core.
- Why didn\'t you ever tell me you have such a weak core Lith asked, surprised by the fact that she was so weak, despite all the years spent together.
Well, you never asked.
Besides, what did you expect After almost starving to death, I was left with barely a red one.
I still need time to recuperate. –
It has a yellow mana core. Lith admitted.
Scarlett had to swallow down a huge scoff.
- That confirms my worries.
That thing is playing him like a fiddle.
There\'s no way a living artifact has just a yellow mana core.
It must be using some trick to cloud his senses. – Scarlett nodded, and proceeded with its explanation.
Life cannot be created on a whim, from nothing.
There are only two ways to give life to an inanimated object, and both require a terrible price.
The first method, requires a mage or creature very powerful and very insane.
A cursed object is when someone takes out a huge portion of himself, and binds it to a powerful artifact.
A Lich\'s phylactery is the most common example, but is not the worst kind.
Some creatures have a deep grudge or insane ambition, but no will to live forever.
So, they pass this obsession of theirs to the one object they are most attached, giving it life.
But beware, despite having a mind of its own and immense powers, a cursed object is most of the times just a shadow of the worst parts of his creator.
It entices its new master with promises of power and glory, but every time they are used, the boundary between master and servant gets thinner.
The mind link they share allow the object to tamper with the owner\'s mind, changing it little by little.
Until he becomes a copy of the object\'s maker, striving to complete its loose ends.
And when the user dies, they just search for a replacement.
What about the second method Lith was stalling for time, hoping someone would come to his rescue.
Well, that\'s even worse.
To the point it\'s part of the so-called forbidden magic.
Forbidden Lith had never heard about any kind of magic being forbidden, not even necromancy.
Forbidden magic is the most horrible thing a magical creature could do.
Using the life of others to empower his creations.
Such magic can give birth to miracles, but the price is too high, the risks immense.
It\'s an unnatural process, almost impossible to balance.
One tiny mistake can turn the miracle into a nightmare.
The most common case of forbidden magic, is when the mage is so obsessed by someone to resort to magic to bound him/her to an object.
The victim becomes doomed to an eternity of slavery, and after the death of its captor, the only things that awaits is madness.
Still a prisoner, incapable of free will, doomed to obey whoever holds the magic\'s focus.
I am no hero, nor a self-proclaimed ally of justice, but destroying such abominations is an act of mercy towards the victims of this perverted kind of magic.
Thanks for the lesson, but my partner is neither. Lith clenched his fists, unwilling to submit.
Isn\'t there anyway to prove you that you are wrong He asked as a last resort, hoping to avoid a third death.
Of course, there is. Scarlett\'s tail stopped waggling, assuming a question mark shape.
Being the tail of a scorpion, rather than a cat, the gesture resulted threatening.
Lith took several steps back, his whole body ablaze for the mana he was about to unleash.
(AN: question mark tail means the cat is happy, waggling means nervousness.)
Sorry, habits die hard. Scarlett put the tail under its body, in a signa of peace.
I just need to touch you. The Scorpicore said raising its huge paw.
If I am wrong, which I consider highly unlikely, I will leave the both of you alone.
You have my word.
It made sense, even Lith needed physical contact to use Invigoration.
If the Scorpicore had a similar technique, it was bound to work the same way.
Lith nodded, and Scarlett pressed two digital pads on his forehead.
Being much older and experienced than Lith, its Aura technique not only had all of Invigoration\'s properties, but it also allowed Scarlett to get a glimpse of the subject\'s true nature.
Under the effects of Aura, no deception was possible, both the body and the mind could not lie.
What Scarlett saw sent cold shivers down its spine.
The body was fine, and so was the mind and the mana core, aside from a small imbalance caused by too much refining.
It was something that would fix by itself, with time.
But where Lith\'s true self was supposed to be, there was only a bottomless void, made of rage, grieving and hate.
Staring into that abyss, the Scorpicore could see the abyss staring back, trying to taint its mind with twisted logic and unbridled fury.
Circling the void, there where several lights, keeping the void at bay and preventing it to devour everything.
Getting closer to the lights, Scarlett was able to see that each of them had a face and a name.
Carl, Rena, Lark, and so on.
Only one light had a name but no face.
- Order and chaos, what the heck is this pup This is exactly what I would expect to find in a cursed object, not into any living being.
If the corruption spreaded so fast, it means it\'s way worse than I thought.
I will probably be forced to kill them both.-
To confirm its suspects, Scarlett touched the ring, only to once again remain completely dumbfounded.
Not only the mana core was yellow, making it the worst living artifact ever, but there was no trace of madness, pain or ill will.
There was only a light, like the Scorpicore was used to see in cubs and babies.
The being in the ring was so naïve to be upsetting.
The black dots encompassing the light had all the same name and face.
Being so close to the abyss for so long, seemed to have affected the living artifact, making it less trustful and cynic.
- By the Great Mother! Scarlett\'s head was spinning.
The human is corrupting this thing Not the other way around What madness is this!-
Because of the shock, the Scorpicore took a step back, trying to rearrange its chaotic thoughts.
Whatever you are, you are not a kid.
You are a monster. Scarlett growled.
Well, you are not that good looking either, at least according to human standards. Lith filled himself to the brim with mana with Invigoration.
The beast\'s tone and glare had already said all he needed to know.
Insolent whelp! Who cares about looks It\'s not about what you do…
Is because of what I am. Lith completed the phrase, remembering Protector\'s words.
- I\'m sorry, Solus.
It\'s been great knowing you.
It seems you\'ll have the find another partner.
Please, forget about me, and live as long and happily as you can. -
The disparity between Lith and his opponent wasn\'t something that could be overcome with dirty tricks or ingenuity.
Lith was preparing himself to die, his only hope was to give Solus enough time to run away from the mad beast.
- No way! It\'s only my fault.
If it wasn\'t for me, this thing would have left you alone.
I\'m not leaving you.
I have no chances on my own, I much prefer to go down fighting instead than running. –
Solus squeezed her ring form hard, preventing Lith to took it off.
Thanks to its Aura technique, Scarlett was still able to see both the mana cores, the ability had long lasting effects.
For a brief moment, the cores started to pulse in unison.
The yellow one took the excess energy from the cyan one, turning green and allowing it to stabilize to the next level.
The two cores resonation allowed Lith\'s magic power to go way beyond his limits, to the point that the ring grew and expanded, covering the right hand in the form of a fingerless glove.
It was still nothing compared to the Scorpicore\'s strength, and yet the creature stared in amazement.
Nothing that night made any sense, its patience had run out.
I yield. Scarlett said, leaving Lith and Solus as shocked as the Scorpicore.