Chapter 455 Fire That Burns Too Fiercely Consumes Itself
The revelation of the Moon Guardian’s identity reverberated through the air like a harbinger of an unsettling, unfathomable truth.
Asher, his mind a tempest of disbelief and unease, struggled to reconcile the legend with the figure before him. Lupus, the Moon Guardian, a name etched into the annals of history and fear, was believed to have vanished into the mists of time over a century or two ago. And yet, here he stood, a being from an era thought long passed.
An injured Flaralis let out a warning roar at the old man and yet he kept walking without even shifting his gaze towards the dragon.
Rowena, her spirit still blazing forth, stepped forward, her resolve unbroken even by injury. But Asher, protective and wary, held her back. “What are you doing? You all should return, and I will see what he wants with me,” he insisted, knowing that the Moonbinder clan was only concerned with him. He secretly slipped the key into Rowena’s hands, making her look at him with a worried expression.
“Yes. You should listen to him, child,” Lupus’ voice suddenly echoed as he halted his advance a couple meters away from them.
Rowena’s voice, a mix of defiance and curiosity, broke the tense silence, “Senior Lupus…Your ancestor made a pact with my ancestor. Are you really going to be the first Moon Guardian to dishonor it?” she demanded, her fists clenched, her gaze unwavering.
Lupus shook his head as he said in a deep, calm voice, “I am not standing in your lands, am I? I would never dishonor the word of my ancestors.”
Rowena pressed her lips together as she couldn’t exactly refute him. They were standing in no man’s land. Asher, his protective stance unwavering, confronted the old man with a cold, questioning smile. “But why are you trying to have me killed? I don’t remember killing anyone from your clan unless you are just jealous of my existence,” he challenged.
Lupus, his head tilting slightly, regarded Asher with eyes that held the wisdom of ages, “Asher Drake. You are as strong as I expected you to be. But you misunderstand. All I did was try to make you strong,” he revealed.
Asher’s expression shifted to one of bafflement, the pieces of the puzzle before him refusing to align, “What do you mean?” he asked, his voice a mix of suspicion and the faintest flicker of curiosity.
“I knew that you are someone who refuses to die in the face of death and someone born with natural gifts to become unnaturally strong. So I knew you wouldn’t die but become stronger through the trials I made you go through…at least until you entered the Tower of Torment,” Lupus explained.
Asher’s eyes widened just like the others, not expecting to learn that the Moon Guardian had purposefully done everything to make him stronger.
But this only made Asher even more suspicious as he probed deeper, “Why do you care if I become stronger or not? Even then, you still sent Boragor to kill me after I conquered the tower.”
Lupus answered, “Because I knew he would cause a distraction and provide you the means to escape, and you did,” he said, his voice betraying no emotion, a calm sea with unknown depths.
The revelation sent ripples of surprise through Asher and the others, the prospect of the Moon Guardian possessing foresight a notion as intriguing as it was unsettling. However, he had heard rumors of Moon Guardians being able to have glimpses of the future. Were those rumors really true after all?
But what made Asher truly anxious was whether this old man knew about his past. What if in the future his past might get revealed and Lupus saw it? No…if that was the case then Lupus would have tried to use that knowledge to coerce him or something. Maybe he can’t know everything that happens in the future but only just mere glimpses as the rumors say.
“As for why I care… you have something I need… the key. Give it to me, and you all can go home,” Lupus stated, his request a command veiled as an offer, his outstretched hand a silent demand.
Asher’s response was a blend of defiance and scorn, “I knew it. So all this time, you were waiting for me to get the key? What makes you think I would just hand it over to you? I already stored it in a place where you won’t ever find it,” he retorted, his voice a fortress against Lupus’s demands.
Lupus’s reaction was a subtle shift, a quiet dismissal of Asher’s claim as he lowered his hand, “No, you didn’t. It is still with you. Drakar and the others may not know, but I know that the key is not an object that can be hidden by any means,” he revealed.
Asher was taken aback to know that he seemed to know more about the key, even more than Drakar. How was that possible? Just what kind of secrets about they key does he know?
Compelled by a mixture of curiosity and the need to grasp the full scope of the situation, Asher pressed on, “Why are you desperate to get this key? How are you planning to use it? It’s not as if your clan needs protection,” he inquired, his voice steady yet laden with the gravity of the unknown.
Lupus’s words, veiled in the guise of advice, “You are in no position to truly understand its power. That is why you should give it to me. As for why I need it…you need not concern yourself with that. You should be more concerned about the people depending on you and the decisions you make. So don’t make any wrong ones,” Lupus intoned, his voice a calm harbinger of potential catastrophe.
Asher, undeterred by the Moon Guardian’s veiled threats, stood firm.
His response was a declaration of his right, “I earned this key by literally putting my soul at stake. You didn’t earn it. You are just someone who hid like a coward until you arrived at what you believed was the right opportunity to steal what you don’t deserve. So no…I am not going to just hand it over to you,” Asher retorted, his voice ringing with the strength of his convictions.
Rowena’s support was unwavering, her gaze alight with the same fierce determination that burned in Asher’s. The significance of the key, and the danger it posed if misused, was clear to her, solidifying her resolve to stand by Asher’s side.
Ceti blinked her eyes, shocked that Asher had insulted the Moon Guardian without any hesitation, though it also made her heart thump in pride to see that he was willing to stand by his beliefs. Isola knew what Asher was doing was right, but she didn’t want him to risk his life over the key. At least as long as he was alive, he can still do something about the key.
But she also knew he wouldn’t listen, and so she prepared herself for the worst.
Drakar began to stir awake, and his eyes widened upon seeing the old man standing just a couple meters away from him.
He could feel the air, heavy with tension, though the presence of the Moon Guardian was something he was having trouble digesting. The last time he saw him was when he was just a kid and he still couldn’t shake off the memory of what happened that day.
How can this old monster be still alive? But suddenly, everything started to make sense, including how Boragor managed to infiltrate his kingdom. This old bastard must have been planning for years to take the key from Asher and he even indirectly used his kingdom to help Asher. This cunning old wolf…
Drakar felt aggrieved since his chances of getting the key had become practically impossible. Lupus, unflinching in the face of Asher’s defiance, maintained his composure, his stance still the same, “Fire that burns too fiercely consumes itself. Your defiance shines bright, young king, but beware lest it burn all you seek to protect .No matter when I show up, the outcome won’t change. But you have a choice. Are you going to let your people die because of your pride, or will you do better?” he posed the question, his words a deliberate provocation, echoing against the backdrop of the skies that rumbled with crimson lightning.
Asher faced the gravest decision of his life. The weight of leadership bore heavily on his shoulders as he turned to Rowena, Ceti, and Isola, his voice barely a whisper against the brewing storm, “You all go back. I will be right behind.” Rowena’s protest was a soft murmur, a testament to the bond they shared, “No…Ash…” But Asher, with a firmness that brooked no argument, gripped her hand, his plea laced with the gravity of their situation, “Please…we have our kingdom to protect…you have to. Take the others and go.”
Asher’s grip tightened unconsciously as he wasn’t sure if Lupus was going to let them leave and wanted them out of there before he might change his mind.
Rowena, torn between her heart and the duty she bore towards their people, felt the heavy burden of the crown settle upon her. But with the key in her hand, she knew it was the only way to protect their kingdom. She also wasn’t in a condition to fight and would only burden him. But she also knew Asher wasn’t also in perfect condition since he expended a lot of mana, killing Drakar’s men.
But in the end, she stepped back, knowing Asher was right. They had a kingdom to protect with so many people depending on them.
But then her eyes widened upon seeing that Drakar was nowhere to be seen, and instead, she saw him standing beside Lysandra.
The realization that Drakar had used the chaos to his advantage, slipping away, was a bitter pill to swallow, yet it underscored the urgency of what she had to do now.
“We have to go…now!” Drakar said with gritted teeth as he pulled up Lysandra.
However, Lysandra’s gaze landed on Asher’s back as she unconsciously shook her head, “No…I…I…”
“Get your head straight. That old monster is somehow still alive. We aren’t in the state to linger around here. We will get them some other time,” Drakar said with gritted teeth as he too hated the fact that he was the one running away.
Rebecca saw Drakar and Lysandra leaving, but she could only watch helplessly as she didn’t have any energy left to fight.
But seeing the Moon Guardian, she knew she shouldn’t stay here any longer and decided to try and think of some other way to get her son back no matter what.
Rowena clenched her jaw as she saw Drakar and Lysandra flying away, but there wasn’t the time nor energy to take down Drakar again.
She then looked at Isola and Ceti, who were hesitant to leave as well. But feeling Rowena’s gaze and the hidden message in their eyes, the two sighed with a pained expression as they followed Rowena.
Rowena, Ceti, and Isola reluctantly turned to leave, their steps heavy with the weight of the moment, the air thick with the unsaid, their hearts heavy with the burden of leaving their man behind.
Lupus, his voice a calm harbinger of doom, did not mince words, “In your heart, you think you’re preserving them from harm, but the truth is otherwise. The key isn’t with you – I know that. But the consequence of your defiance might be their undoing, all for safeguarding what was never meant to be theirs,” he declared, his stance unyielding, a challenge laid bare.
Asher frowned and looked up, watching Flaralis carry his women to safety, feeling a momentary surge of relief which was swiftly replaced by a singular focus. The key, the kingdom, and the lives of his people hung in the balance, a delicate equilibrium that he was determined to preserve. But he was actually surprised that Lupus didn’t even try to stop them despite knowing that the key wasn’t on him.
Still, turning to face Lupus, his gaze alight with a fierce determination, he declared, “What makes you think I will let you have that chance?”