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This time as Everett attempted to use the element of fire, Julius had joined them outside to watch after practicing some sword swings. Of course, Julius didn’t have anything to add, only instead trying to hold back laughter at the result: a tiny ember “poofed” out from in front of Everett’s finger.
“One-out-of-ten,” Emilio judged.
“Maybe next time?” Celly tried to assure.
That was the first and last day that Everett tried to learn magecraft while Julius was around-a totally immature, nuisance of a man at times of needed concentration. Still, it didn’t mean Everett gave up.
If there was one trait that Everett possessed, greater than his tough body, it was his unbreakable determination. Emilio connected with that, wanting to help his friend follow through with his own motivations if he could.
During the afternoon, he began helping the bumpkin study in his room, focusing on learning the fundamentals of understanding magecraft before the hands-on experience. Before there was any studying, he did have to teach Everett how to read properly, which was a task in itself. Though Everett’s desire to learn was certainly there, the man definitely wasn’t much of the studious or patient type, for that matter; oftentimes he fell asleep midway through lessons or would become preoccupied with the idea of eating.
“Hmm…What’s it mean here by ‘Envision the flow of dawn’?” Everett asked.
“It means sort of like thinking of how the wind feels when the Sun rises. Can you do that?” Emilio asked.
Everett rubbed his chin for a moment, sitting in a chair that was quite honestly a bit too small for him, though he didn’t complain, “Yeah, I think I can!”
“Then start practicing that spell. Once you’re able to cast it, we can move on to others,” Emilio told him.
“Right on, Teacher!” Everett playfully called him.
What Everett wanted to learn mostly were simple, efficient spells that could help him with his defensive specialties. Standing outside on a practice day, where Julius was chopping wood with his sword and Celly was studying her own grimoire, Emilio watched over Everett as he put what he learned into practice.
“Manifest as the shield of life! C’mon and protect those around me: Aqua Bubble!” Everett invoked.
[“Aqua Bubble”: a water-element spell that focuses entirely on defense, both to the caster and their allies. The bubble that is provided through the spell’s usage is able to deflect basic physical attacks and mitigate magical assaults.”]
Giving it his all to use the magecraft, Everett slammed his shield down against the grass, managing to manifest the spell as a protective barrier of aqua surrounded himself and Emilio.
“I did it…! Ha-ha!” Everett reacted in surprise.
Emilio smiled, giving a thumbs-up, “Good job.”
A high-five was shared between them as both felt a sense of accomplishment. Watching from nearby, Celly couldn’t help but smile at witnessing the student she once had become a teacher himself.
Winter was nearing, though snow had yet to begin falling, the weather had become noticeably more chilly. However, something else had developed-an indescribable feeling that made itself known within Emilio; one that he couldn’t describe to anybody else.
Sitting in bed amidst the evening where the skies had been painted to a warm orange, Emilio found himself overtaken by a strange feeling that had persisted for a few days at this point; a sensation that originated from his covered eye.
‘I can’t shake this feeling…Like something is wrong. Like something disastrous is going to happen soon. Is it the Primordials?…No, they can’t reach me from here,’ he thought.
Still, he couldn’t help but shake away the unknown feelings flooding through him as he decided to get up, looking at the others in his room-Everett and Irene were already asleep. During the dipping weather, everybody went to sleep earlier to get a head start on the cold.
There was a quietness he couldn’t describe as he slowly walked through his house, checking the guest room to see that Celly was asleep, and peeking into his parents’ bedroom to see they were both in slumber already.
‘…I feel like I need to go. I just need…to be away for the moment,’ he thought.
It felt like the weight of anxiety itself slept upon his shoulders as he grabbed his cloak, throwing it over his shoulders as he stepped outside to get fresh air. Nothing about what he found outside of his doorstep made any sense; pale snow rained down, befalling the ground and coating it a couple inches thick already in frost.
‘Snow…but winter hasn’t started yet,’ he thought.
The breath that parted from his lips was misty, bringing him to trudge through the snow as he found himself perplexed by the mystifying scenery around him. There was not a single drop of snow seen before this moment; it made little sense. It was his own intuition and instinct that seemed to allow him to catch onto this, sensing the arrival of the premature winter as he continued walking forth through the light coating of snow.
The crops around had been killed by the early frost; grass was snuffed out, suffocated by the overbearing cold that consumed Yullim in an unforeseen winter.
“…No…What is this?” He let out in quiet disbelief.
As he arrived at the summit of the small hill that gave him sight of the town, he found himself filled with a feeling of shock as the humble town was a shell of its former self-it was completely annihilated. The buildings were decayed, as if rotted through centuries of stagnation and exposure to harmful weathering; worse, the people of Yullim were left devoid of life, laying on the ground around the town and left hollow as if all life had been siphoned from their bodies.
‘What happened…? Is this a dream? A nightmare? Is a Primordial playing tricks on me? What’s this?’ He questioned.
As he entered the town, moving slowly as he found his body as dense as lead, filled with such unquestionable shock, he found a body at his feet with a ponytail he recognized-an old, childhood friend of his.
“…Pip…” He quietly said.
“You felt it, didn’t you?”
The words signified a presence that he didn’t sense until just then, slowly looking over as he found a man with a cigarette in his mouth and jet-black hair standing against one of the ruined buildings. The mysterious man wore a black trenchcoat, possessing deathly pale skin and a scar that ran from the edge of the left side of his mouth and across his cheek.
There was no life in his eyes; only a darkness that Emilio recognized-something akin to the absence of life in the After.
“You felt it. That’s why you came here,” the man said, pulling the cigar from his lips as he slowly blew smoke out, “Emilio Dragonheart.”
“How do you…? Did you do this?…” He asked.
The empty-eyed man was casual in how he brought his cigar to his lips, blowing out smoke again before responding, “It wasn’t my intention, but I needed to draw you out. If I didn’t, the people inside your house would’ve ended up like this.”
It was a natural instinct; not only to avenge the town and its people he cared for, but to protect his family and friends from the figure of notable danger.
‘I don’t know who he is or what he wants, but that doesn’t matter right now. I have to stop him-here and now,’ he decided.
“I’m not here to fight you,” the mysterious man said, “Not here to hurt your family, either. The thing is, you need to ‘go away’ for a little while-your presence in Milligarde will cause problems during the war.”
“War?” Emilio repeated.
“Ah…I let that slip out, didn’t I?” The man scratched his head casually, removing his cigar from his lips, “Anyway, I wouldn’t recommend resisting. I’m sure you understand the strength of Primordials by now, don’t you?”
Those words caught him even amidst his growing fury as he looked at the man, who would normally be unassuming-an average build, likely middle-aged by his worn eyes-yet spoke of such a drastic concept.
“Primordials?…Who are you?” He asked.
“I guess you’ll be more likely to listen and make it so I don’t need to exert myself if I tell you. Cassian-I have the authority of the Primordial who embodies ‘Death’. Now, come and make this easy,” Cassian said.
In that moment, however, the opposite of the man’s request came as azure fire flared from the Dragonheart’s position, manifesting with a shock wave that blew a layer of snow away, causing steam to rise from the clash of temperatures.
“If that’s really who you are, then I can’t back down,” Emilio said.
BA-DUMP. BA-DUMP. BA-DUMP.
Pitch-black scales stretched over his body into a regal, draconic armor, producing a tail from behind him along with wings that sprouted from his back like a scaled cloak. A magnificent embodiment of destruction, refined for the goal of protection.
[Dragonheart System Activated]
[Current Stage: 5/10 Dragon Sentinel]
Witnessing the transformation, Cassian’s perpetually tired, uncaring look didn’t change as he discarded his cigar to the ground, “…Ah, what a bother. I wanted to do this without having to exert myself, but I already knew that was unlikely. Intel said that you’d be a pain in the ass.”
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