Zelos entered the office of Supreme Leader and greeted his father. He was confused after reciveing a sudden summon call from his father.
- ‘The trial has just ended with Val’s victory and father summoned me right after that. Then, this must be about him. Thinking about it, there were also a few unexplainable things happened during the trial’
Zelos was clever and aware of everything around him. It didn’t take long for him to deduct the situation. So, he waited while Asvaldur stood, gazing upon the dusk from a large window. They were both alone in the office and the silence beganto feel heavy.
- “Is it about Val, Father?”
Zelos spoke first,anxious of the reason that made his father think upon so long. After a short silence, Asvaldur started speakingin an emotionless tone.
- “The day he was born, everyone told us as if prophesizing that he will bring destruction on Kelnar. His birth was seen as a bad omen. A premonition for our bloodline”
Keep looking out from the window, Asvaldur reminiscence of the day Val was born. Zelos also vaguely remebered when the chaos had broken out in Kelnar but he as a 9yr old couldn’t understand anything at that time.
- “I beseeched the Goddess to tell me why he wasn’t blessed with her divinity, what was the meaning behind his birth. And the Goddess vaguely answered, saying that: Nobody can avoid their fate. So, I considered abandoning him but even if we wipe away the blood, the smell keeps linger”
Zelos wasn’t surprised by the fact that his father thought of disposing Val. He had often wondered why they had let him live.
- “Dead or alive, it didn’t matter. From the moment he took his first breath, he had already left a mark in everyone's memory and in our history. So, I arrogantly challenged their phony, prophetic words and strived to become stronger in order to protect Kelnar from anything, even the fate itself that Goddess had spoken of”
Then Asvaldur turned around toward Zelos, his demeanor exuding a divine aura befitting of few strongest individual of Lower Realm, but his usual expressionless face has now broken, revealing a small hint of irritation.
- “I’ve always looked outside for threats but my ignorance nurtured the disaster inside”
Zelos was surprised seeing expressions on Asvaldur’s face. His father was not someone who casually expressed emotions in any way. Asvaldur again turned back to the window and started sharing his observation of Val.
- “The day when you were chosen by the Goddess, I observed a change in Val’s mana signature. Furthermore, your mother also affirmed that Val wasn’t acting the way he used to”
- ‘I ‘ve never heard of anything like this before! There’s only one possibility that causes a change in mana signature and that’s when someone’s soul is altered’
- “Then, during his training with Zion, he suddenly awakened but we told everyone that it was a blessing from the Goddess”
Zelos was aware of that false rumor and at that time he also questioned Zion about their training.
- “However, it wasn’t a blessing or I would’ve sensed it. Now, this raises a question, if he didn’t recieve any blessing then what’s the reason behind his strength and temple rank?”
Asvaldur asked as if testing Zelos, his heir and the next Supreme Leader of Kelnar. Zelos realized this and tried his best to answer.
- “From what I heard from Zion, Val’s mana suddenly surged up massively during the training. If he doesn’t have any blessing it only means that the capacity of his mana heart has increased and now he has enough mana to exert strength equal to his temple rank”
Zelos was little baffled by his own deduction, thinking that the only thing contributing Val’s temple rank is just the raw amount of mana not any skills or blessings.
- “You’re both right and wrong. However, it’s foolish of you to think that the capacity of mana heart can be increased when it’s common knowledge that at 16th birthday the capacity of mana heart achieves its full potential, and after that it can only be increased by a blessing of God”
Zelos grew more confused at his father’s answer. If his deduction was wrong then what truly is the cause of Val’s strength.
- “Think more carefully, Zelos. Did you find anything strange during the trial?”
Asvaldur asked, giving Zelos a second chance. These little questions were meant to guide Zelos, a way to shape him into a leader befitting for Kelnar.
- “Yes, when he cleaved the walls of maze. During the first trial, he must’ve activated the enchantment of his sword, consuming the mana from his sword’s mana crystal. A single slash that he performed should’ve consumed all mana from the mana crystal but strangely, he performed 3 more slashes and even then the mana crystal still had abundance of mana”
Zelos remembered, and Asvaldur finally turned towards him.
- “Though, the reason behind his awakening is still unkown but I’ve learned about the powers he recieved from it. Apparently, Val can freely use the natural mana around him but he has limited authority over it”
Zelos’s mind went blank upon the revealation. Forget about the extent of control Val has over natural mana, but even just capable of using it had granted him with unfathomable potential.
- “I...I apologize for lack of understanding but if he can use natural mana then that makes him capable of using the entirety of it. With a never ending supply of mana, he should’ve been all powerful but he’s not. Then, what is restricting him?”
Asked Zelos, barely able to get his head around this.
- “Even if his body is become capable of using natural mana but his mind is not ready. His brain will be overwhelmed andburst if he’ll use more than a limited volume. Think of his limitation as a sphere around him”
Asvaldur explained further
- “The natural mana within that sphere is acting like a part of him, that’s how it is contributing to his temple rank. That much volume signifies his authority over the natural mana and temple rank. Hence, the rise in temple rank means increment in volume and authority”
Asvaldur stopped after looking at Zelos who sank deep in thought, rubbing his chin and squinting.
- “It’s basic, so we can assume that he can use that volume in whichever form he sees fit. If his authority increases with rise in temple rank, then what about shrinking it. What if he intetionally lowered the volume to maintain a lower temple rank? Then maybe his current temple rank is just a facade?”
Zelos got goosebumpsafter blabbering out the possibilities. Asvaldur closed the distance and grabbed his shoulder, waking him up.
- “Zelos, he’s not Val. He’s been decieving us this whole time. He’s become something else, an unknown existence”
Asvaldur said coldly
- “Goddess knows? Maybe his authority isincreasing witheach use or even each breath. And if it’s true which I believe it is, then imagine what would happen if we don’t take any action. Worst scenerio, a God will emerge”
Asvaldur’s heavy words painted vivid pictures in Zelos mind like a prophetic vision. A premonition with a flash of scene: a hovering silhoutte of an unknown figure, screaming with an absolute presence as white aura ragedaround it like a sacred flame.
- “And not just any God, but one with no divinity yet stronger than many. It’ll not only disrupt the peace and balance of Kelnar but of whole Lower Realm”
Then Asvaldur loosened his grip and gently placed his hand on Zelos shoulder after a pat.
- “Soon, you’ll conquer the sacred trial of the Goddess and take my place without a doubt. There will be times when you’ll needto make some difficult decisions. Those times will put you on trial with peace of Kelnar on line. Conquer and it will be called an opptunity, fail and it’ll be deemed a catastrophe”
Zelos grew cold with each word of Asvaldur. This time Zelos knew that the person who was reminding him of his position and resposibilities was not his father but the Supreme Leader of Kelnar.
His words were the Goddess’s words, his will was the Goddess’s desire and his action was the Goddess’s guidance.
- “The opportunity has arrived earlier for you.Prove yourself, deal with him as discreetly as possible”
Asvaldur ordered in a dignified tone that also sounded like a threat. There was no room for failure.
- “It’ll be done as desire by Your Holiness”
So, Zelos answered like an emotionless hunter as his eyes glowed with golden radiance and body emanated a thin golden aura.
[ Back to Present ]
- “Do you think you can escape from me?”
Riding his beast, Zelos muttered coldly while glaring at Val who was ahead of him, rushing toward Dunnet-Un.
He mixed divinity with his mana, enhancing his physical strength, and his eyes started glowing with a golden radiance.
- ‘Where did he go?’
Val looked back but couldn’t find Zelos on his beast.
Zelos suddenly landed behind Val creating a ground shattering wave. Gehma and Val flew away by the impact and crashed to the ground.
- “You are not allowed to exist. Embrace your end peacefully”
Zelos stated, coming out from a small crater that his jump caused. His body covered in golden aura and his golden glowing eyes releasing immense killing intent.
Val realized that he can’t enter Dunnet-Un without facing Zelos. He quickly glanced over to Gehma, and found her lying in bad state beside him. Exhuastion has caught up to her with injuries caused by recent attacks.
- ‘Gehma will die if caught between us’
He pulled out Bell’s pouch from his invetory and threw a warding stone near Gehma. A green barrier quickly formed around her and then turned invisible.
Meanwhile, Zelos created a large fire arrow above his head targeting them but it suddenly froze up and shattered in the air.
- “I know you are not Val”
Said Zelos, looking at Val, who had his hand extended towards him.
- “You should’ve told me sooner. It’s hard to put up an act”
Val stood up, indifferently. Theo never cared about hiding it, he just played along because he needed to escape from Kelnar. He also knew that they’ll not spread this fact for the sake of their image. Right now, entering Dunnet-Un was his only priority.
They remained motionless analyzing each other and sorting out the best choice of action. They both knew that long range will not work, Val's magic couldn't harm Zelos, and Zelos's attacks would be neutralized before reaching Val. Though, in a long run, Val will loose.
The odds were never in his favor. Zelos had become even stronger attaining the Cardinal Bishop rank after experiencing God Mode on the day he was chosen. Val, on the other hand, was maintaining the Arch-Priest rank.
Even though his real temple rank was also close to breaking into Cardinal Bishop, he can’t release his temple rank in one go or it’ll damage his body. He didn’t have any option but to fight with his current temple rank.
They both know how it’ll play out. Zelos didn’t have a sword on him and any weapon he’ll create using his divinity wouldn’t be able to hold out against Val’s enchanted sword.
- ‘Since, he’s faster and stronger than me, he’ll turn it into a fist fight. I can’t use my soul weapon, it consumes too much mana. Right now, my sword is my sole advantage’
Val counted his cards.
Finished thinking, they both started walking toward each other, emanating violent aura. Val extended his hand pointing at Zelos and quickly closed into fist, triggering natural mana around Zelos to turn into fire.
Large flames engulfed Zelos completely and Val lunged at him without any delay, unsheathing his sword.
With a snap of his fingers, Zelos turned the flames covering him into flower petals. His disguised armor was burned away revealing a chrome black full body tight scale armor.
- “Tch, I forgot how great of a privilege divinity is”
Thinking, Val appeared before Zelos, swinging his sword, activating the enchantment, but Zelos turned his body, easily dodged the attack.
Val then released a flurry of sword strikes on Zelos, targeting his vitals and locomotor muscles but Zelos dodged every attack with minimal movements and counterattacked Val with explosive punches.
The adrenaline turned him deaf to the pain so Val swung his sword relentlessly.
- “Is that all you can do?”
Zelos kneed Val in stomach after dodging his sword, sending him flying in the air. Val fainted momentorily by the excruciating pain.
Without any delay, Zelos appeared in the air above him with his fist glowing like hot rod. He punched Val down with an explosion.
Val crashed on the ground, forming a crater. His instincts screamed, waking him up with a jolt, and he saw Zelos jumping on him. Val quickly turned the natural mana around Zelos in a strong gale, causing him to suddenly fly away at left.
Blood seeped out from the corner of his lips as he laid there motionless and expressionless. Val had already exceeded his mana limit long ago. At this point, he was just abusing his indiffernce.
- ‘It’s getting worse’
Pain started to overwhelm his senses, his vision slightly darkened and he felt dizzy. He weakly took out a health potion from his inventory and gulped it down along with blood. His body healed up slightly, subduing the pain and exhaustion but he was still dizzy.
- ‘I need to work with the information at hand or I’ll just die without giving my all’
Thought Val while getting up, supporting himself with his sword
- “I overestimated you when you don’t even know how to utilise your ability. So much cheekiness for someone of your worth... I’m disappointed”
Zelos came out walking, peering through the dust cloud. Val quickly straightened up and sheathed his sword.
- “Don’t be...”
He raised his fists, one pointing at Zelos, and activated [Mana Sense]
- “... I haven’t started yet”
And his body started emanating violent aura. Val froze like a statue with blood trickling out from his lips, his eyes fixed not even blinking. He entered an extremely focused state.
- “Tch, still don’t know your place”
Zelos creeped out in disgust by his eyes and focused state. He charged towards Val, disappearing.
Zelos appeared in front of Val, fist heading for Val’s face but his fist didn’t make contact. Instead, Val suddenly appeared close to his face, their eyes peering into each other’s and Val’s fist connecting with Zelos’s diaphragm.
Zelos staggered backward, all confuse. For a microsecond he felt an immense twisting pain inside even though he was still covered in divinity. Moreover, he couldn’t understand how Val dodged him.
He looked at Val, finding him in same focused state but now his arms covered with condensed mana and the beige color dragon scales covering his arms, glowing with bright azure light while vibrating.
Zelos reminded of the trial when Val fought against Edric. Despite the huge gap in temple rank, Val had also dodged Edric’s insanely fast attack.