Chapter 35 – Reunion

 

“Is this… the afterlife ?”

 

This was a legit question. Thinking about it, I had been cut down by Arcadeus and I saw myself getting absorbed into darkness. And now I could no longer feel a pain in my stomach, where I was stabbed.

 

In fact, I could not feel any pain in my left arm either. And my left leg. Anywhere in my left side. After experiencing an unending pain for five years, the relief felt so surreal that I could not believe it. I had to look at it with my eyes to be sure.

 

Wait. Eyes ?

 

My left eye… it was there ! I was completely healed !

 

But… the only person who could have done that was a Sage and they started attacking me for some unknown reason. Which meant… that I was currently dead.

 

“I didn’t think that the afterlife would be a common room like this one. To be honest, I did not even believe in a life after death.”

“Who says you are dead, Joker ? You still have your vengeance to accomplish, right ?”

“W-Wahnsinn !?”

 

I finally noticed the golem that was looking at me ever since I had awakened. This was the Avatar Golem, in other words, Wahnsinn. Which meant I was most likely back to Aldenaf.

 

“How did I… hmm… if I was to guess, I’d say you teleported me, Wahnsinn, right ?”

“Indeed. Although I was unable to communicate because of the weak connection, I was still able to watch over you through『Shadow Skin』. But because of the mission you gave me, I was lacking the Mana to establish a link between the two of us strong enough for us to talk to each other.”

“Hmm, I see. Speaking about that, how many golems have you made since I was gone ?”

“Approximately 500,000 golems.”

“Ha, ha, ha, that’s quite the satisfying number. Even if that is only about a third of the Porcephone Empire’s army, that’s more than enough. So, coming back to what happened earlier, how did you teleport me if the connection was so weak ?”

“I asked Alae and the twins to pour Mana into the Altar when I saw how your fight with Arcadeus was going. Fortunately, they were in the castle when you started fighting him so they had enough time to reach the Altar. Although the twins did a fine job, Alae filled the Altar with so much Mana that it became overloaded and allowed me to teleport you via『Shadow Skin』. But there is something you seem to have got wrong. Your fight with Arcadeus wasn’t just a moment ago… it happened three days ago and you were unconscious all this time due to your wounds.”

“Is that so ? By the way, how did I get healed ? Could it be that Alae managed to awaken to Healing Magic ?”

“Yes, that’s right. She nursed you back to health for three days that she spent healing your burns. Considering a Sage was needed to heal these wounds, this means her power may be even higher than what we had predicted. The only thing she couldn’t regenerate was your left eye.”

“But I can see just fine with it… What did you do to it ?”

“Well it looks like she could not regenerate something that was entirely missing because of her current lack of knowledge of Healing Magic so we used one of Jerius eyes, the one we had kept as『Exit』. We transplanted it onto you thanks to her Magic. Who would have thought that saving the Elf’s eyes would come in handy ?”

“I need to thank Alae. She did an amazing job.”

“Well she’s right next to you in case you still haven’t noticed. I’ll leave you two alone.”

 

I turned my head and finally saw her. She was sleeping on my bed, resting her head against my right leg. She looked like she had not had enough sleep for a while and was even drooling a little. Even then, me talking with Wahnsinn was enough to wake her up. When she saw me awake, her eyes widened and an expression of extreme relief showed on her face. She jumped on me to hug me as tears were stacked in the corner of her eyes.

 

“Joker, you’re fine ! I’m so glad ! Oh, sorry for hugging you, are you alright ? Did I hurt you ?”

“I’m fine, ha, ha, ha. Although I’m a bit surprised… the only reason I recognised you is because I know there is only one woman in Aldenaf. You changed so much in five years.”

If I recalled correctly, she was now eighteen years old. The child I had left five years ago had turned into an adult. And what a change…

 

Her already long straight black hair had grown even longer, slightly past her waist. Her face had grown more mature but it remained innocent and youthful. Her figure had shaped into a pronounced hourglass one as she had developed some nice curves.

 

I surprised myself looking at her in a lustful manner. This scene was similar to that one time when I was wounded by Iron Boars, years ago, when Blume was on the side of my bed, waiting for me to wake up.But to be perfectly honest, I had now forgotten what she even looked like and amongst the distorted feelings that had driven me to commit murder in Aldenaf, jealousy and despair had disappeared.

Only wrath remained. A wrath I was fully directing against the Porcephone Empire.

 

That being said, I was (now) a healthy twenty years old and a girl very much to my tastes was hugging me tightly. I could not help but feel aroused by that. And considering the way my body had been destroyed for the past five years, I had not been able to relieve myself as I would have naturally needed to, making her display of affection all the more difficult to bear.

 

“I trained so long to try to control Healing Magic and heal you… but it was all fruitless until I hit my eighteenth birthday. Around that time I naturally started to be able to cure the twins when they got wounded during training. It’s like something triggered inside me as I became eighteen.”

“So the control of the healing attribute would be linked to biological development, huh ? That’s interesting…”

“When I heard from Wahnsinn that you were in a grave danger, I got so scared… I was so worried about you that when he asked me to pour Mana into the Altar, I ended up pouring enough to teleport you… We already tried to teleport you back before using the same technique, but the amount of Mana was never enough. This time however, it looks like I was able to fill the Altar, thanks to the help of Burs and Armius.”

 

Tears started rolling on her cheeks.

 

“Please… don’t scare me like that anymore… it was already hard enough not being able to be with you for five years… *sniff* but… thinking that you may end up wounded… or worse… *sniff* you are all I have left. So please don’t leave me alone anymore…”

“Alright, alright, I promise. I won’t leave you alone.”

“Ok then… *ahem* I’m sorry I showed you an unsightly side of me… Drooling earlier and crying right now, I-I…”

 

She blushed and tried to hide her face in embarrassment. She looked so cute that after hearing what she said, I could no longer stop myself from doing what I was about to do.

 

I moved her hands away from her face and as she showed me an expression full of surprise, I moved my head towards hers, lifted her chin with my hand and kissed her.

“Eh ? Eeh ?”

 

She looked astonished and confused. When she realised what was going on after a few seconds, her face became even more flushed than before.

 

As I said before, what happened when I was fifteen was an error, something that should never have happened. My experience with Blume, who I could barely remember, was nothing else but a nightmare… a bad joke.

 

In other words, I considered this kiss to be my first one. Feeling somewhat happy, I headed outside the castle and left Alae daydreaming on the bed.

 

***

 

I met with the twins in the backyard of the castle. They were training just like they used to before I departed. The difference is that both of them had turned into giants.

 

Seriously speaking, they were both two heads taller than me, despite being only sixteen and I was by no mean a small person. On the contrary, I was rather on the tall side so these two could be considered as giants.

 

I could however no longer differentiate Armius from Burs.

 

“Joker you’re back ! We were worried when you came back wounded but it looks like Alae fixed you well good, hehehe.”

“Burs, watch your speech for goodness’ sake. You’re talking to Lord Joker. Be more respectuous.”

 

After saying that, the twin I had identified as Armius bowed down to me. Soon after, his brother did the same.

 

“Oh, yes you’re right. My lord, welcome back. We have been training hard, awaiting for your return, for all these years.”

“Oh, I see Alae finally healed your burns.”

“Yes, that’s right.”

“But your eyes… they are not the same colour…”

“Ah is that so ? I haven’t had time to check them yet…”

 

Now that I think about it, what colour were Jerius’ eyes ? I could not remember a fine detail like that. I created ice with Creative magic and looked at my face.

 

It looked like a normal twenty-years-old’s face. Except for the fact that my hair was silver and that my left eye was light purple, in contrast to my dark brown right eye.

 

I could feel a strange amount of power located in this new eye. Something that was all new to me. A fresh and cool feeling.

 

Wahnsinn came to meet me soon after.

 

“Your eye is still embedded with『Shadow Skin』you know ? You should be able to use Shadow Magic from your eye now.”

“Ha, ha, ha, I see.”

“Nice pun.”

“Thank you.”

“Anyway, now that you’re back, what are you planning to do ?”

“Well, I’m healed, you probably saw Spades as you were watching me and my army is ready. I just need to check on the twins’ ability and then all that will be left to do will be to march towards Naxus.”

“I can affirm that the twins have made major progress as Paladin warriors.They cannot use Creative Magic but they mastered Expert level Elementary Magic. Well you could just have a mock battle with them to test their abilities, if you feel better.”

“Yes, I was planning on doing that.”

 

Hearing this, Armius and Burs approached me.

 

“Hey bro, should we show Lord Joker how strong we’ve become ?”

“Burs, we shall show him proof of our training.”

“Ha, ha, ha. Ok boys, let’s do this.”

 

We readied ourselves. I had read about the way Paladins position themselves but it was nothing like the way the two of them did. They were standing close to each other in complementary positions that showed that they were ready to lean onto each other whenever they would need to.

 

Then they attacked.

 

It was a strike directly aimed at me launched simultaneously by them. They propelled themselves with『Whirlwind』and their swords slashed me with fire and lightning enchantments.

 

Or at least would have slashed me if I had not blinked behind them thanks to『Dragonfly』and『Shadow Warp』.

 

“I see… you are fighting coordinatively, huh ? That’s smart of you. Using combo attacks is certainly not something your opponent would expect or be used to. In that case…”

 

I spawned two『Stone Swords』in my hands which I enchanted with『Dragonfly』and hardened with my control of Earth Magic. I normally did not use weapons to fight due to my lack of ability to handle them but the extra reaction and movement time given to me by『Dragonfly』allowed me to make up for this handicap.

 

I had enchanted the swords with the same spell as well for some extra swiftness when fighting the two of them. As a result, the blades were so easy to manipulate that it felt like they were naturally following my mind as if they were a part of my body.

 

I then proceeded to spar with the two for a good couple of minutes. They had some very nice moves which put me in difficulty – simply because I had decided to fight them with weapons instead of unleashing my raw power. In the end, they did manage to unarm me and right when they were going for a final strike, I readied myself to use a shockwave to send them flying but Wahnsinn interrupted us by enveloping us in darkness and warping us at a different distance from each other.

 

“That’s enough. Any more than this and the fight could degenerate. But I gather you had a good chance at seeing the progress these two made, right Joker ?”

“You’re right, we wouldn’t want to end up with some injuries, although I wouldn’t mind getting nursed back to health by Alae once more, ha, ha, ha. But yes, the level they achieved is remarkable. Enough for me to brand you with titles.”

 

Armius lifted an eyebrow.

 

“Titles ? What do you mean, Lord Joker ?”

“Armius, you shall be known as Ace of Clubs. And Burs will be known as Ace of Diamond. Alae will be the Ace of Heart. And I, of course, am the Joker.”

“Does that make Wahnsinn the Ace of Spades ?”

“You’re quick on the uptake, Armius but no. Wahnsinn is a part of me so he is also Joker. The Ace of Spades… well you’ll meet him soon enough. Anyway, good work today. Rest well because we will soon depart for the Porcephone Empire.”

 

Burs brightened up and lifted his fist up in the air.

 

“Long live the Kingdom of Shadows ! The revolution against the Porcephone Empire is coming ! Hooray !”

 

We spent the rest of the day feasting with food prepared by Alae – she had developed some incredible cooking skills. We were getting the ingredients from the outside by teleporting to a nearby town from where Aldenaf used to be, Ardamant.

 

The next day, the Solitary Army from the Kingdom of Shadows would start its march upon the corrupted Porcephone Empire.

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