Chapter 12 – Aetheria
The beauty of Aetheria was definitely one of its kinds in this world. With towering marble walls that extended throughout the city border, the city was filled with exquisite buildings which shot up to the sky with an overpowering sense of regality.
As the trio made their way into the city in the morning, they found themselves walking on a golden paved road where its pristine glow was tinted with the reflections of the laced clouds.
Aetheria may have been considered as an ancient city by others but its exterior did not show any signs of aging, as if it was just constructed today.
Even so, none of that could be compared to the mass Aether spawns that festered throughout almost every corner of the Aetheria’s buildings. Each and every one of the purple crystals was measured as tall as an average human, if not taller. Some even grew as large as a three storey high building.
“Luci, where are we heading right now?” Holding tightly on Lucianus’s hand, Setsura looked up to Lucianus.
“Oblivion Trials, that one over there,” he pointed to the huge cathedral located at the cliff far in front of them, his voice was firm and obviously, this is definitely not the first time for him to come to this magnificent city.
During their long walk towards the cathedral, there was no trace of life in Aetheria, not even the song of birds could be heard, like a ghost town.
The reason behind it was beyond the comprehension capability of the Setsura’s very own mind or imagination but she remained still on that since she got more important mission on her hand at this moment.
When they finally reached the cathedral, Lucianus held his head high with a mournful face, as if he was recalling his past. The woe portrayed at his face ached Setsura and she quickly turned her head away, biting her lips.
She must be stronger; Setsura sucked up as she consoled herself and finally lifted her head once more.
After a long pause, Lucianus opened the wooden portals of the cathedral hesitantly. As though the cathedral was untouched for a long time, the door creaked ajar with a deluge of smoke billowing out the cathedral.
Instinctively, the trio covered their eyes and nose with their arm and coughed as they gasped for clean air.
Within the delicate carved architecture of the cathedral, the long benches were badly scattered everywhere while some had broken into multiple wood planks.
Along with it, pieces of torn paper can also be seen dispersed all over the floor like a storm just passed by this area. Resting at the far middle of the cathedral, was an enormous two-storey high Aether.
Upon witnessing the Aether, Lucianus knitted his brow and his face darkened. His body began to quiver and he tightened his fist, unknowingly that his immense strength was hurting Setsura.
“It’s not there,” he muttered in a tone mixed with disappointment and anger.
“Oh, looking for me?” A gentle voice echoed in the cathedral interior suddenly.
From the source of the sound, it came from one of the column located at the left side of the Aether chunk.
When the voice went into Lucianus’s ear, his eyes dilated in shock and his body stood rooted to the ground. He recognised that voice and it was definitely not a mistake.
“Lucianus, oh my dear Lucianus, you haven’t change a bit, have you? As charming as ever you might be,” a young girl appeared behind the column and walked to the front of the Aether crystal.
“How are you doing, my love?” The young girl gave out a warm smile; her radiance was highly similar to Lucianus in many ways but that was not the reason that horrified Setsura the most – it was the young girl’s looks.
The young girl looked identical to Setsura, be it the face, the body or even the smell of it. The only differences between the two of them were the colour of the young girl’s hair and eyes which mimicked Lucianus’s.
The hair of the young girl was in luminous gold where its brilliancy could easily put the sun into shame while her blue eyes shone brighter than any jewel existed.
“…. Aria…” Lucianus quavered as he called out the young girl’s name. Losing his momentum from the shock, he fell on his knees but his sight did not leave her, not even a blink of an eye.
“Wait, what?” Lucianus’s gesture and words startled Setsura and she took a step back in dismay.
He must be joking… Setsura did not want to face the truth, the harsh reality where she looked exactly the same as Aria.
The response of the two did not seem to affect Aria and she approached the couple.
“That girl who shared my looks… who is she, my lovely Lucianus?” Aria chuckled and tried to caress Lucianus’s face with her hand but he immediately slapped her hands away.
That unruly behaviour of Lucianus surprised both Aria and Setsura.
“Who are you?” Lucianus glowered at Aria suspiciously, as if he did not acknowledge the person right in front of him.
“What are you saying, Lucianus? Is me, Ar…” Confused at Lucianus’s action, Aria tried to convince him on her identity but it was immediately ceased by his incoming blaze. On reflex, Aria jumped a few steps behind to evade it.
“You are not Aria. She is dead and her body is supposed to be encapsulated inside that Aether,” Lucianus pulled Setsura to his back to keep her distance from Aria.
A swirling flame emerged from his feet and surrounded his body like a whirling tornado.
Apparently, Lucianus’s wrath did not sway Aria a single bit and she broke out into laughter.
“Lucianus, if I’m dead, why am I not inside the Aether? I’m alive all along, ever since those faithful seahags attempted to revive me,” Aria gave out a sinister grin; clearly, she had lost her mind.
“That’s a lie, I’ve exterminated them before they could even start the ritual,” Lucianus swayed his right hand to the front and a fire streak mimicking a fire dragon rushed towards Aria, attacking her.
Swiftly, Aria dodged it again and returned him a rain of golden arrows, forcing him to fallback outside the cathedral with Setsura.
“Yes, of course you did. But remember this, before all of that, they’ve planted an Yggdrasil seed on me. And that, is sufficient for me regain my senses back through the course of time,” Aria walked out of the cathedral inside the golden arrow rain, unharmed.
“Or maybe this will convince you better?” Aria whistled gently and immediately, it was followed by a huge roar from the sky.
It was the Nidhogg that destroyed their airship last time. The Nidhogg circled around the sky of Aetheria and then, landed behind Aria, completely destroying the cathedral without much effort.
Lucianus’s expression darkened when he witnessed that. No matter how similar a person is to Aria in terms of looks and voice, a Nidhogg will never mistake its owner. She was definitely Aria, the Aria that had completely lost her sanity.
“Hey Lucianus, why are you so different right now? You were always obedient to my words,” Aria patted the Nidhogg’s head and shifted her attention to Setsura.
“Is it because of that imposter? Don’t worry, I’ll clear it for you and we’ll be able to continue our lives like before again,” Aria put up an ominous grin on her face and she threw out the golden arrow she summoned towards Setsura.
“Setsura!” Lucianus shouted and he attempted to rush to Setsura but the Nidhogg slammed its claw in front of Lucianus, blocking his path. Fortunately, before the golden arrow could even reach Setsura, it was easily deflected away by a katana.
“Aria, you old hag, I may be quiet but I’m not invisible,” Zakura stood in front of Setsura and her sharp tongue mocked Aria.
“Yo Setsura, want to try to kick that fossil’s butt?” Zakura sneered and returned to her katana form, allowing Setsura to grasp its hilt.
Aria, the one who Luci adored so much and yet, for her to be the same person to inflict pain to him… I will not forgive that. Setsura clutched the katana tightly and leaped towards Aria in a murderous aura.
“Cry, cry for the mercy of mine; for my blade is sharp and shine. May your bones be crushed and may your flesh be torn; for blood will be spilled under my ravage, under my name, in the defiance of Akuma Zakura,” the voice resounded the area as thousands of cherry blossom petals dispersed out of nowhere, all aiming towards Aria at the same time.
Realising she would be unable to dodge every single one of the them, Aria attempted to defend herself with both of her bare arms as the cherry blossom petals poured onto Aria like merciless bullets, destroying her and her surroundings.
Taking advantage of the confusion, Setsura dashed into the billowing smoke, attempting to give a final blow to Aria.
“Seriously? I can use sword too, you know,” Aria chuckled as she appeared behind of Setsura out of the blue and attacked Setsura with a Mysteltainn sword.
Her movements indicted that she was a capable fighter since she headed straight to Setsura’s heart with the sword on her hand.
Hitting the bull’s eye, Aria gave out a sinister grin but her excitement was soon smeared away.
Using the same old technique, the figure of Setsura which was stabbed by Aria scattered into cherry blossom petals and she appeared fifteen metres away from her original spot.
Setsura continued to pant as she remained at her attacking stance. Sweat drops could be seen dribbling down from her forehead.
On the other hand, Aria seemed physically unharmed after receiving all the attacks except for gaining some minor bruises around her body and a badly torn outfit.
“This is getting boring,” Aria yawned and shifted her view to the side to check on Lucianus’s battle with the Nidhogg, analysing the situation.
“How about this, let’s use our full strength on the next attack by using our swords,” Aria threw out a wild suggestion as she knew Nidhogg would not be able to hold that frantic Lucianus any longer.
“Sure,” Setsura agreed to it without cogitating; all she cared about right now is to have Aria wiped out of this world.
Gritting her teeth, she prepared for an all-out attack by having both of her hand grasped on the katana.
“Okay, great! On my count then,” Aria smiled and she relaxed her posture to make ready for her attack stance.
“Three, two… Nidhogg!” Aria called out her beloved pet’s name in a sudden and the Nidhogg growled, immediately rushing towards Setsura from the side.
The Nidhogg raised its huge claw and violently slammed on Setsura’s location. As usual, the figure of Setsura scattered into petals and she appeared on another spot.
Still, before Setsura had the time to react to it, Aria appeared right in front of Setsura.
Her motive was clear as she raised the Mysteltainn sword and attempted to shove the sword right into Setsura’s heart. Unable to dodge Aria’s sudden assault, Setsura swung her katana upright to block the Mysteltainn.
“It’s useless honey!” Aria grinned as both of their sword clashed at each other, just as she planned all along.
Since Zakura was a demonic katana, Mysteltainn’s true power was finally activated when it was in physical contact with another sword of its kind.
A sinister dark aura formed around the Mysteltainn and it began to absorb Zakura’s power in gluttony.
Within less than few seconds, Setsura’s katana, Zakura, was broken into half and the Mysteltainn was directly shoved right into Setsura’s stomach.