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Aethernea Chapter 153

Previously:

Nelaira decides to descend into the pit where Luki and Aurel had fallen in and gives Lorafiel her luggage and her Beacon. However, she doesnt give them the diary they found in the village ruins. Lorafiel sends the other two to restrain and search her for the diary. Nelaira realizes that during the battle it was them who hindered her escape which caused Aurel, and subsequently Laica and Luki, to fall prey to the Tainted.

Her own comrades send her flying into a pool of Ink causing her to take a bath in the creatures disgusting remains. Lorafiel explains the reason why they had turned against her. It is because she had continued to translate the diary they found, even though she was ordered not to. Lorafiel, as the hidden Overseer of the group, has been given the job of ensuring that forbidden things forever stay in the forbidden zone. And Nelaira, due to knowing things she shouldnt know became one of the things that should forever be buried in the forbidden zone.

Knowing that soon enough she would faint, Nelaira decides to hide and flee, to return only after she recovers. She creates a large area of effect Morph spell and escapes through an underground tunnel towards the exit of the Valley of Eternal Snow.

After a long escape, she finally faints. Upon waking up, her mind is hazy and filled with miscellaneous thoughts.


Episode 153 Divine Flower

How will you face everyones families? How will you be able to look them in the eyes? It was your responsibility to lead them, to protect them, to get them home safely.

Nelairas form shook and wetness slid down her cheek.

With both Laica and Aurel gone, their son would become an orphan. Laica had forsaken her noble title all in order to marry Aurel. Neither one of them were close to their sides of the family. Their son would be all alone, with almost no support from anyone.

Even if she returned, locked in quarantine, what could she possibly do?

But, but! Laica is close to her sister! She will take good care of Evin! Nelaira shook her head violently.

Will she really? That same voice whispered. She might want to, but Thayns will surely oppose her taking Evin in. After all, his mother had forsaken her noble status to marry out.

But, even if she cant directly take him in, she can still support him! Nelaira argued.

How? Financially? As if hed need money, Purge compensation for members lost in the line of duty is rather high.

Nelairas stiff fingers clenched into a fist. He is old enough to take care of himself. He is a strong kid with Laicas explosive temper. Not easy to bully at all. Hell be alright.

maybe. But what about Lukis kids?

The status of Lukis wife wasnt high in the Eeneva family to begin with, and her status in the Eryey family is not any higher. The only reason why they could live in peace so far was due to Lukis status as a capable healer and Purger.

But after he is gone

You should know the best how cruel infighting between nobles can be. The voice continued.

At least they still have their mother! Nelaira sniffled.

Her? With that gentle and submissive temperament, their children will most likely be protecting her instead of the other way around. And what about others? You werent very close to the other three, but they too had families, spouses, children, loved ones. Just like that, in mere seconds, the scourge mowed them down like grass. And you just stood there dumbly, unable to do anything. Were all your years of killing Tainted in vain?

Nelaira hiccupped, chocking on her own suppressed sobs.

If only she had aborted the mission earlier when they started running out of fasting pills.

Suddenly her eyes opened wide and she slapped her own face with both hands.

NO! She mustnt fall into this train of thought!

Her decision at the time wasnt wrong. Going back while they could still go on would have been going back prematurely. She couldnt have known what would happen if they stayed! If she was faced with the same decision in the future, under same circumstances she would have still made the same choice!

In this line of work, a Tainted could pop up at any point. This was not something she could control. Besides, it was the sacred duty of the Purge to fight Tainted, not avoid them! Even if that meant they would not be able to return back to their families.

Thats why everyone respected the Purge. Thats why everyone felt safe being protected by the Purge. Thats why people felt proud to be a part of the Purge!

Nelairas sobs slowly died down as her mind was distracted by a bright patch of red in front of her eyes.

Where am I? What is that? Her line of thought jumped to another track once more.

She didnt open her eyes all this time because she expected to meet darkness of the tunnel. But then, how come her surroundings werent dark?

She tried to concentrate, to process what she was seeing, but her mind buzzed with all kinds of voices, an unsorted mix of memories and sounds.

Her mind lagged and she couldnt make sense of what was what, she just knew that the image in front of her was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen.

Focus. She repeated to herself. I must come up with a way to deal with those three. I cant let them return home.

Yes, thats right. That was the most pressing matter. Regardless of what happened or what she needed to do, she couldnt let them return home.

After returning back, wouldnt these three become a part of Zels squad?

Would Zel drink and laugh with people who caused the death of his fianc without knowing the truth?

All the good times she had with her team flashed through Nelairas mind.

How the joked and laughed.

How they spared and jovially pushed each other around.

How they hugged each others shoulders spilling their beers as they swayed drunkenly.

How they sang loudly next to the campfire.

All of their slurred voices reverberated clearly inside her hazy mind, singing a morbid little song that was strangely popular among Purge:

10 Purgers on the team, 10 Purgers.

Tainted took one down and passed him around, 9 Purgers on the team.

9 Purgers on the team, 9 Purgers.

Ink made one drown and he spread it around, 8 Purgers on the team.

Would Zel let them guard his back only to get stabbed just as she did? Would Zel be the next one charged with the crime of knowing too much?

Veins in Nelairas neck bulged out. Never! She will never let them fool Zel!

8 Purgers on the team, 8 Purgers.

Oh, oh, what a letdown, the captain got cut down. 7 Purgers on the team.

7 Purgers on the team, 7 Purgers.

No way to slow down, no time to come around. 6 Purgers on the team.

Nelaira didnt know when or how she got up from the ground.

Her eyes dull, she stared at the bright color, her feet unconsciously moving forward.

6 Purgers on the team, 6 Purgers.

Oh, oh, one clown f*cking flew off the ground. 5 Purgers on the team.

5 Purgers on the team, 5 Purgers.

You retard, come back down, stop f*cking around! 4 Purgers on the team.

The red occupied the entirety of her vision, closer and closer, she could almost touch it.

4 Purgers on the team, 4 Purgers.

Tainted started to Meltdown, its the final countdown, 3 Purgers on the team.

3 Purgers on the team, 3 Purgers.

Team wipeout, total breakdown. Everyone got shot down. No more Purgers on the team.

She was now standing right next to it and could see what it was.

It was a flower. A stunningly beautiful flower. Her hand involuntarily moved towards it, wishing to caress those soft looking petals.

No more Purgers on the team, no more Purgers.

Oh, oh, go back to town, there more can be found, 10 Purgers on the team.

10 Purgers on the team, 10 Purgers.

And then

Everything grew completely silent and still.

Nelairas outstretched hand froze in midair and her previously dull eyes widened in clarity. As if the curtain of fog covering her mind had been cut open with a sharp knife.

What was she doing?!

She quickly pulled back her hand as if it had been seared.

If she touched the flower, she would taint it! She couldnt bear to destroy something so beautiful. The flower was so stunning that surely even herbivores couldnt bear eating it.

She looked at her hand. The color was off, as if someone smeared some gray paint over it in random patches. Some parts of it were still skin colored, albeit pale, while others had turned grayish white. Some of her veins were still blue, but others had turned frighteningly black.

Nelaira smiled bitterly. Wouldnt it be great if people could just chop off the tainted body part?

She would gladly chop her own limbs off if it could get rid of this unholy thing inside of her.

Too bad that Ink wasnt so easy to get rid of.

If she had chopped off her arm back then, she might have slowed down the progression of the taint, but nothing more. Even if she entirely abandoned her entire body, moving into a Replica, like she often did within the Replica dungeon, it would still be useless.

What had been tainted wasnt just her flesh but her mind.

One can chop off ones flesh, but how could one chop off ones mind?

Even if she kept switching Replica bodies like socks the Ink would further corrode her mind until she turns into a mere shell of what she used to be. At that point, she would be a true Tainted, even if her body wasnt tainted.

And there wasnt anything one could do about it.

No matter how much one compressed their Mind towards the center of their body, one couldnt make it disappear. It merely became a dense veil covering ones flesh. And as soon as her form had touched the Ink, even if Ink had just touched her uniform and had no direct skin contact, her Mind had already become tainted.

That was the scariest thing about Ink. It could taint life. That included everything that had anything to do with being alive. Mind and mana included.

Only divine things were immune to taint. And she was not divine in any way.

Nelaira closed her eyes tightly, her forehead creased in bitterness. And then she let out an exhale and opened her eyes again. There was no point for her to think about Ink. Or rather, she had no time to worry about it. It would take mere days for her to lose her ability to use magic. Mere two weeks for her to turn into a Tainted.

Before then she had to defeat Lorafiel and the other two, take their Beacon, and rescue Aurel and Luki.

With her mind set, and the clearest it had been since the battle, she looked around herself.

When she had lost her consciousness, she had been lying inside the cave of her own making, but now what met her eyes was not darkness but light, not snow but stone.

She was not inside a cave, rather, she was standing inside a relatively large shrine made from dark gray stone that had been frozen blue.

And in the middle of the shrine, right in front of her, stood the most mesmerizing flower she had ever seen. She had to wipe her eyes and shake her head for a whole minute until she was sure that the flower wasnt a mere hallucination.

It was a species of flower she had never seen before. It somewhat resembled a columbine flower, a lily, and even an orchid, but was neither of the three.

The edges of its petals were colored in the most beautiful shade of crimson she had ever seen, looking like one could squeeze blood out of it with a single pinch.

The red looked like a crown as it surrounded the pure white in the middle. The core of its being was so white, purer than the snow it was growing out of. It glittered under the soft light, its texture resembling the snow that covered the Valley, looking so fragile, so delicate, like it would melt with the lightest touch.

In the center of the white grew multicolored stamen, the tips of which glowed radiantly, resembling fireflies. The lights flickered, grew brighter and dimmer, glittering slowly, making one get lost in their beauty.

Even the filament of the stamen and the subtle veins spreading through the petals seemed to have multicolored glittering liquid flowing through them as if it was liquified magic.

Colored from inside out in various bright shades of green, the leaves of the flower surrounded it as if a royal gown, perfectly enhancing its allure.

The full image of the plant was so vivid, so bright, that it blinded the eyes with its beauty.

Nelaira felt like she had just taken off tinted glasses. Like she was seeing the world in its full, bright glory for the first time. As if all this time her entire world had been dim and gray, and now, she could finally see color.


Author Note

Here are some reference images to help you picture the flower:

For you guys who didnt read the most recent Patron news update here is a copy paste regarding the song:

Purgers like to sing it over a couple of beers. Though it will be funnier when you find out what Meltdown means and what it has to do with flying. Ill give you a clue: flying up out of reach while fighting a grounded Tainted is a recipe for a team-wide wipe-out. (Yes, there is a good reason why Nelairas team didnt just fly up in their battle. )

Song name: 10 Purgers on the team

10 Purgers on the team, 10 Purgers.

Tainted took one down and passed him around, 9 Purgers on the team.

9 Purgers on the team, 9 Purgers.

Ink made one drown and he spread it around, 8 Purgers on the team.

8 Purgers on the team, 8 Purgers.

Oh, oh, what a letdown, the captain got cut down. 7 Purgers on the team.

7 Purgers on the team, 7 Purgers.

No way to slow down, No time to come around. 6 Purgers on the team.

6 Purgers on the team, 6 Purgers.

Oh, oh, one clown f*cking flew off the ground. 5 Purgers on the team.

5 Purgers on the team, 5 Purgers.

You retard, come back down, stop f*cking around! 4 Purgers on the team.

4 Purgers on the team, 4 Purgers.

Tainted started to Meltdown, its the final countdown, 3 Purgers on the team.

3 Purgers on the team, 3 Purgers.

Team wipeout, total breakdown. Everyone got shot down. No more Purgers on the team.

No more Purgers on the team, no more Purgers.

Oh, oh, go back to town, there more can be found, 10 Purgers on the team.

10 Purgers on the team, 10 Purgers.

 

Coming up in the next episode:

When it came to gods, everything was possible.

Azizia was everywhere in everything. Azizia was the governing principle of the world, the law of heaven. Circular, endless, infinite.

Use Aetherneal key Nelaira muttered, her fingers brushing over the runes. Open Aetherneal gate

She inspected the pillars one by one, this time carefully examining all the images that were carved into the pillars.


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