GOTA Book 1 Chapter 21
Gryfor looked out of the small glass window in the right wall of his office. Through here, he could see the various captives intermingle and talk with one another. He could see guards as they watched the perimeter of the compound, inside and outside. And from this window did he watch the spectacle from the day before.

At first he felt that his plan was a success. The captive named Taizen had gone out of control, had lost his sanity, and would serve as the perfect pawn. By having Taizen kill Mona in blinded fury, he would be free of trying to explain to his own superiors as to why the Aurum child had died.

Many in the upper echelons would be quite suspicious of any member from the Aurum bloodline dying. An order had been sent out prior to the war and invasions that any member of the Aurum family would be delivered straight to the capital of Alberdos, Merister, and placed in the hands of the Alberdan royal family.

With Mona dying in these strange circumstances, Gryfor could easily rid himself of the blame. Why did Mona die? He was just an unfortunate outcome of a prisoner's rage. Why did the prisoner lose self-restraint? He had consumed a dangerous pill to ensure Mona was dead. Why didn't you find this dangerous item before? Didn't you check his cell earlier? He might have smuggled it with another captive from another cell. I can't ensure perfection.

Oh how he was ready to answer those old men back in the Alberdan Empire. But how would Gryfor know what Fate had in store?

To his surprise, the young man afflicted with the Mortal Curse had actually survived the onslaught of an Aura Mortal level 7 supported by such a dangerous pill? Either this child was being protected by a God, or he was extremely lucky.

Being able to train in Aura? Him? Impossible. Gryfor looked towards the guards still repairing what remained of the courtyard after Taizen went berserk. A tinge of anger flashed in his eyes as he recalled how Mona was carried off, bloodied and injured, yet still alive.

If I told the outside world a mere mortal had survived such an attack under my watch, I would be declared insane. At that moment, Gryfor decided to keep the truth under wraps. He would send out a false order barring any of the guards that watched the event from leaving, unless they wished to die from his hands. All the various sentries would think is that the Warden wanted them to go through procedural fitness checks or something of that manner.

The left door to Gryfor's office opened, followed by a pair of heavy footsteps. The sound of this figure's steps was distinct to Gryfor. He had already heard it several times.

The figure began to kneel on his right foot towards him, head facing the floor. His words were full of worry and fear.

"Sir, the prisoner known as Taizen had attacked the young noble from the Aurum bloodline. The mortal is now severely injured." Ardor's words were bleak, his breathing ragged. He feared that Gryfor would punish him for the failure of Mona's death. He knew that Gryfor desired Mona's Lifeblood for his own using.

"No worries, Ardor. Everything is alright." Gryfor returned to his chair, looking towards his desk as he began to write on a piece of parchment. His hand glided across the sheet as he wrote an order. This should be fine.

"I want you to send out this order to all of the guards. No one is to leave the prison without my permission. There will be a physical examination in the following days. I want all of you to prepare. Those that attempt to leave shall die." Gryfor signed the parchment, then held out the order to Ardor.

"Yes, sir." Ardor stood up from his half-kneeling position, then reached out to grab the scroll, making sure not to crease the paper. He placed the scroll into the inner coat of his uniform soon after.

"I also want you to to take this." Gryfor pulled out a small vial from his desk. Inside was a pale white liquid that frothed back and forth. If there wasn't a stopper on the tube, perhaps it would drip over.

Ardor stood in a trance at the liquid. Deep inside his mind, he felt a strange sense of calm coming from the vial. It wasn't soothing, but rather he felt a desire to drink the liquid and go into a deep slumber.

"Be careful of this liquid. Not only is it precious, if you even come in contact with a single drop of it, your life will be in grave danger." Gryfor sat back into his chair, his gaze on the vial now in Ardor's hands.

"When you have the chance, I want you to feed this to that Aurum child. Be cautious as you feed him. Make sure that no one is able to tell you had anything to do with his death." Gryfor spoke once more, emphasizing the last sentence thoroughly. If he leaves even a trace, then I might be linked back to the scene of the crime. That would be troublesome.

"Sir, may I know as to what that pill was that I fed to Taizen? And this vial? Why is it that I --"

"It would be best that you don't know. Understand?" Gryfor stood in front of Ardor, his eyes flashing with displeasure. His large and muscular frame towered over Ardor, giving the head of the guards a feeling of insignificance. Clearly he didn't want Ardor to ask so many questions.

Ardor stood there, trembling all over. His heartbeat accelerated to the point he could hear it beating in his chest. The liquid in the vial shook back and forth within, small bubbles forming inside. Ardor nodded towards Gryfor, showing his agreement. He didn't want to be in Gryfor's presence any longer.

"Good. You may leave." Gryfor gestured towards the door, the anger in his eyes greatly diminished. It's good this fellow knows how to adapt. Otherwise...

Ardor bowed towards the general, his heart still beating irregularly. He walked out of Gryfor's room through the doors, his other hand placing the vial in another pocket of his uniform. That was close. I need to stop provoking this monster.

Gryfor smiled at the thought of Ardor. His obedience, however, is second to none. Even better than those other men I had to personally silence... He sat back into his chair, looking over files strewn all over his desk.

Ardor's steps echoed from the cobblestone flooring, his steps neither rushed nor slackened. He kept all signs of his inner turmoil from showing as he greeted the secretary goodbye and left towards the guards' quarters. There in the main board he tacked the Warden's order for all guards to see.

Guards at the sight of this parchment quickly returned to their quarters to train. No one knew what the Warden's requirements were, but based on the pale face of the head guard they didn't dare to think Gryfor would be lenient. Especially given the death penalty as punishment for leaving the compound.

Ardor soon after left the guards' quarters, wondering whether he should still the Lifeblood for himself. As he stared into the sky, he didn't see a single cloud.

If that child died earlier, I could have easily taken his Lifeblood for my own. Sigh. He looked towards the various cell blocks, his gaze frozen on Mona's cell. Now, the monster put up this order. I can't even escape with his Lifeblood. All I can do is hope I get some reward after he's dead. Ardor walked towards the Thorn Dungeons. If it wasn't for him, I wouldn't have to go through this. He gave a sadistic smile as he began to go down the stairs.

Back in Gryfor's office, Gryfor began contemplating as to how Mona survived. A treasure? It made sense, but based on the reports he got from the sentry stationed in the dungeon and various guards on duty the day of Taizen's rampage, there was no trace of it.

A treasure so profound it can't be detected? He thought it was possible, but for a mere mortal to have his hands on such a treasure. Gryfor didn't think it was possible. He had read up on the Aurum bloodline, and there wasn't a mention of any grand heirloom for descendants.

It doesn't matter how he lived. All that matters is his Lifeblood. A sinister arc streaked across Gryfor's face. He couldn't wait till he had Mona's Lifeblood in his possession. Then he could improve his own Lifeblood, allowing him to go further in Aura cultivation.

His patience was waning. Perhaps he would do it himself if Ardor failed once again and risk being caught. Nothing is worth more than advancing. 

*****

"How is he?" Reithar looked at Aeron, his face etched with worry. Mona had yet to be revived, and was still unconscious. Taizen's blow had knocked him into a deep sleep. It was a miracle that he didn't die.

Aeron's face was grim. He hesitated to tell Reithar about the inside of Mona's body.

"His organs are either shifted or torn. His bones are in pieces all over his body. His meridians are ripped apart, and several of his arteries are bleeding. My brother found that several of his nerves have been separated. I can't tell if he's going to wake up." He wasn't sure if Mona would live beyond this situation.

The terrible injuries Mona sustained would make him a crippled mortal. Aeron and Mithal wanted to know just how did Mona managed to live through all of this. His body showed no signs of Aura cultivation, nor physical enhancements. They couldn't say.

Mona sweated in his sleep, the drops flowing from his forehead down his temples. his arms and legs were broken through and through, and his chest had practically imploded. Mithal and Aeron's Aura disappeared into his body, working to heal him. But based on the size of the injuries, there was still a long way to go.

Aeron felt guilt about the whole affair. If I was still awake, perhaps...

He shook his head. From his brother, he learned that Taizen had consumed some kind of pill that gave the madman demonic strength in return for one's life. Such an attack would be devastating to even early Saints, let alone his Aura Mortal level 6. How could he defend against such an attack?

"Reithar, he will probably die." Aeron responded once again to Reithar, before shifting his gaze back to Mona. Would I be able to live through this?

Reithar looked at the stub of his arm. Through constant channeling of Aura, he was able to regenerate only two inches. Not including the damage to his life from his earlier battle with Taizen, he lost his whole arm.

To train the Finite Arrows Art, one need both arms to remain intact. One could be broken, but it still had to be able to harness Aura. Without it, he would instead face a backlash from forcibly training in it.

Reithar continuously took in the Aura of the world, converting it as his own with the Primal Fold technique, using it to mend his arm. This Aura technique was Lord-ranked, and it was also a body strengthening type. Thus, it would be able to repair his arm much more faster than other techniques of the same ranked.

I'm always the one that remains whole, and he gets injured... Reithar thought back to those moments he shared with Mona in the past.

Before Mona was diagnosed with the Mortal Curse, they were close. Mona was warm as summer sunlight, joyous and playful. Although he had a weaker body, no one thought of it as being perhaps a disease. The days that they spent with each other in the Aurum Gardens playing hide-and-seek with the other children of the city were memorable

But that all changed. At age 10, Mona and Reithar were tested for their Aura capabilities. While Reithar had shown modest talent, Mona was unable to channel any Aura. Instead he spasmed on the floor, frothing at the mouth when Aura was guided into his body. That's when summer was followed by Mona's fall.

Winter followed with haste. Mona's personality became colder and colder, to the point he seemed distant. He was barred by his father from associating from Reithar, separating the two to only meet on the rare occasions as fellow nobility. The light of youth gradually left Mona's eyes, changing him from being an open and friendly child to a knowledgeable but aloof character. How times have changed so soon. Only he knew that at one time this mangled young noble once laughed and was naive, instead of being so calculating.

Mithal continued to charge Aura into Mona's body, not saying a word to Reithar. He was able to deduce that Taizen would be problematic early on. He meant to warn Mona, but stopped upon feeling the confident pressure the young noble gave off. One scene escalated to another, and now this young noble was flat on a prison bed, badly crushed and a step from Death's open arms.

But that was not what surprised Mithal. What intrigued him was really how little he knew. Not only does he have connections, he himself isn't a fool. Mona had too many cards, and Mithal wasn't able to tell just how big the deck was. Luckily, I made him an ally. If I was an enemy...

He didn't dare to dwell on that thought. This young noble survived such a strike, albeit injured. However, with remedial Aura infusions, all of that could be done away with in time. If he was able to channel Aura, he would be able to awaken in merely 24 hours.....but wait!

Mithal remembered the Primal Fold technique he was given by Mona. Suspicion lead to only greater shock visible from his eyes. Did he actually TRAIN in the technique? Isn't he supposed to be a mortal? Could the Mortal Curse no longer be present in his body.

"Brother, what's wrong?" Aeron looked at his brother, care tinged his eyes. He cared for his only family much more than he himself knew. Aeron thought his brother was at his limit storing Aura into Mona's body, and hence his brother's eyes were as wide as saucers.

"Nothing, nothing. I was just thinking back to something." Mithal quickly came up with a lie as he continued probing Mona's meridians. He didn't want to embroil Aeron into the situation. If his line of thinking was right, it would be best his younger brother didn't become involved.

What was that first verse? Reciting the verse inside his mind, Mithal Varlier felt the natural Aura of the world at first swell in his body and then strengthen his organs, his skin, his tissue, his bones. He examined Mona once more, imagining if Mona was able to use the Primal Fold technique.

After several moments of thought, he wasn't able to tell if anything was amiss. Nothing at all. Maybe he just was lucky after all. 

Mona laid there on the prison bed, slightly trembling. He could hear everyone, but his vocal cords were torn and he couldn't open his eyes, let alone breathe without difficulties. He knew that the Primal Fold technique was Lord-ranked, but didn't think it's effects would be so powerful.

I was stuck at the beginning of simple completion, yet it already saved my life. If I had the full technique...

Mona noticed that Mithal was scanning his body with Aura, and quickly responded. What little Aura remained in his body he sent it to be absorbed by his multiple injuries. I can't let them know that I can train Aura. Someone wants me dead. I have to leave this prison before I tell anyone. 

First it was Ardor's questioning inside of the Thorn Dungeons. Second it was Taizen's rampage in the courtyard. Mona wasn't an idiot. He knew that someone was behind all of this, but didn't know who. Shouldn't they want me alive?

Mona had overheard many guards speak throughout his time in the prison of how the Aurum family was to be delivered to Alberdan royalty as captives. If someone wanted him dead, they would be at risk of offended the royal bloodline of Alberdos. Few on the continent of Madrag would dare to do such a thing.

Mona simply didn't know. His consciousness shifted back to his injuries, the pain akin to when he assaulted the first blockage of the Mortal Curse in his stomach using unrefined Aura. Although he could withstand it, the thought of enduring it for 3 whole days wasn't something to be desired.

Mona made up his mind. First, I'll use the Aura to heal my injuries. Then...then I'll  find out just who is targeting me. 

The half moon outside glistened as it covered the desert with moonlight. Rays upon rays of light caressed the figures in Mona's cell, each able person to turn and look at the moon. Each in their own thoughts.

Deep within Mona's Bubble treasure, the cloak glowed like the moon. The aura it gave off before was no longer there, leaving only the pale silvery color of the cloak, shining inside of the bubble an ethereal light before gradually dimming down.

If Mona looked at the bubble right now, he would notice that the cloak had assumed the same form, the form from his night in the Aurum manor. Jet black like the cosmic voids of space, a single brush surrounded by white glowing runes. No one could feel its grandeur except Mona as it slowly pushing him into sleep.

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