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71 Just a matter of persistence

Inside his room in the Royal Palace, Helial closed his eyes and cast his conscience inside his Soul. When he reopened them, he was in a grassy clearing under a sky filled with stars. Before him was the black-fanged boy, laying the table as usual; his life had no other purpose, apparently.

In that place where gust of wind dared blow nothing ever happened. There was only that kid intent on laying a table almost higher than him. He changed the tablecloth and the silverware fairly often. He would match the most clashing colors and, after an accurate examination, he would disdain the result and start all over with a frown on his face.

Helial furrowed his eyebrows and said: "You gotta tell me who you're laying that table for, one day."

The Devil kept laying without answering. Helial concluded he had better change subject; to be honest, he had a feeling that he would get no proper answer. He shrugged and sat down on the grass before saying: "The entrance test will be in a week. I ask you to train Lumia, Frankenstein, Snowflake and Lulu. Lulu is part of our team too." Helial had managed to find the girl and had asked her to follow him and join his group. Otherwise, it would have been impossible for him to protect her from all the bad-intentioned nobles of Orma.

The Devil finally turned and raised an eyebrow: "Isn't that Lulu you're talking about only a dead weight? Frankenstein and Snowflake, as well as your sister, show promise. But what's her potential? Her talent is non-existent and, what's worst, no flame burns down her eyes. She's an ordinary girl who has probably never wanted any different life than she has now. How high do you think she could reach?"

At these words, Helial curled his lips in a grimace and replied: "What else should I do? Abandon her? The member of the Sect of the Worthy would hunt her…"

"... down to the world's end, yeah," the Devil snorted in disdain. He turned back towards the table to fiddle with some forks. "Don't you think there's an entire lot of people who suffer abuse on a daily basis? Why are you convinced that by saving one everything will change? If she wanted a better life for herself, her eyes would glimmer with the same flame as that of the others, and I would get why you want me to be her teacher. But I won't train who doesn't want to grow stronger. Ambition is key, Shithead, if you want to get out of this shitty mud."

"So we won't help who was born untalented?" asked Helial with a gloomy expression.

"That isn't the point. The point is, you can't help someone who doesn't want to be helped," the Devil said without caring too much about Helial's indignation. "If she doesn't want to save herself, she might as well die choking on this shit. I won't waste my time with this kind of people."

"But if one were born in particular conditions which…"

"If, if, if. Do you have anything to say that's worth my attention? Look at you. Has life ever given you a reason to believe in yourself and yearn for more?" asked the Devil as he shook his head.

"No, but this doesn't mean that…

"It does. It does mean everything," the Devil interposed, "stop trying to save her life so desperately. I'd help her willingly if that was what she wanted. But her life doesn't mean anything to her either. She's never felt the least hint of ambition. So - yes, some people just choose to live on a lower step. And it's not about talent, Shithead. Some people won't step outside their degrade, that's all. They enjoy it, it's their element. But look at your face! Is this too heavy to bear? What do you think will happen to the girl? Even if she had an extraordinary talent, what would she reach without ambition? I might as well kill her now and spare her a miserable life, Kyeheheheheh."

Helial looked at the Devil. His gaze gave off pure disgust. Then he glanced up at the sky.

"What are you thinking about, brat?" sneered the Devil.

"Is this the belief system of Destruction?" Helial whispered to himself.

"Indeed. We believe we must accept reality," the Devil laughed.

Helial gave him an even more puzzled look and said, solemnly: "When I decided to follow you and take the life of someone of your choosing, Master, I considered you a terrifying Devil who was powerful enough to go against his destiny and that of anyone else…"

The Devil shook his head and said: "I never speak empty words. My Divination Technique taught me that fate is already written, and to change it-"

"But you don't even try!" Helial blurted out, "Your power is frightening and still you're afraid to change the destiny of a girl! To me, you're just as powerful as the most insignificant being on this planet!"

The Devil smiled. He seemed unable to get angry at the insolence of his pupil, whom he appeared to appreciate instead. "Kyeheheheh, well, well, well! How about this: if you'll prove me the girl's persistence, then I'll train her. But I wanna see it burning down her eyes!"

Helial fixed his gaze in the pitch-black eyes of the kid. "Fine. If I were to succeed though, I also want you to teach me that move. The one I tried to emulated in the Senate. I didn't even reach one millionth of the true power of that Skill. If only I could…"

"It's okay, it's okay. I'll teach you the principles behind that Skill. But only if you make her pass the entrance test." The kid kept quiet for a moment, his lips shaping a sneer. "Oh and by the way, Mana Control will be tested too. People usually think that Mana Control derives from talent, like some sort of innate gift. Tsk. In order to increase their Mana Control in a week time, your friends and your sister will need to suffer the tortures of the damned. Are you aware of that?"

"As long as they're willing to, and you don't try to kill them, I have nothing to object," Helial said. For a split second he was seized by doubt and was tempted to ask him to go easy on Lumia. However, he immediately pushed the thought away and kept quiet. Helial should let her free to make her mistakes and go through her sufferings if he really wanted her to gain her own independence. "So, according to what you told me, Mana Control is deeply affected by one's mental toughness and emotional resilience. I'll do my best to make Lulu's heart grow unyielding and let her develop a firm decision-making." Helial started pondering on how to best train Lulu.

The Devil smiled, his face betraying pure evil: "Alright. I can generate more than a spiritual body, so I'll train them individually. I'll provide every little friend of yours with a special training. Tell them that a great master will guide them. Go and work on the girl, now. I'll be watching."

***

Training ground

"Why did you take me here, Helial?" a girl with a greenish complexion asked the King's pupil. Before her stood one of the most wonderful people she had ever met. That human slaughtered three Goblins right in front of her. Then, after standing trial, instead of being condemned for his inconsiderate action he was acquitted on the basis of his strength. And last but not least, he razed half Senate to the ground. Lulu was frightened and mesmerized by him at the same time. "If they saw me with you again, Helial, I…"

"You're already marked for death," Helial said in a low voice, "I've spoken with Caesar. The Sect of the Worthy doesn't place any importance in your life. They think they can kill you without the King losing any face. When it comes to someone as uninfluential as you are, they don't think twice. You've got two choices now; you either follow me or die."

Helial was brief and concise. And pretty brutal too. At these words, Lulu's eyes began to sting. The girl was struggling. She tried to cling to any feeble ray of hope: "But maybe precisely because I am…"

Helial shook his head and said dully: "They'll kill you, Lulu. As soon as you don't have me protecting you, they'll kill you. They can't lay a finger on me, but they can hurt you and go perfectly unpunished. If you were to be alone, then your life will come to an end. You must train inside the Royal Academy."

"Inside the Royal Academy?" Lulu's eyes shot wide open, as though she had seen a ghost. "But with my little talent…" she started moaning, flopping to the ground with her arms around her waist as she shook like a leaf. A surge of piety flashed its way out to Helial's eyes, which he pushed aside immediately.

Lulu was weak, extremely weak. She was a Healer, or rather she would be one once in the First Phase. One could indeed pick a Class only after levelling up to the First Phase. Class-related Skills couldn't be acquired before. If Lulu kept crying and moaning though, she would probably never reach Level 60, the First Phase's milestone.

Helial moved closer to her. She was now weeping quietly. He kneeled down and smiled at her.

Lulu looked at him and, for a second, she saw again the Helial who had reassured her by saying that everything would be alright, that she should stop worrying, while the guards had been violently carrying him away. Helial had already saved her once.

"I…" Lulu began to cry quietly.

"Trust me. Here, hold my hand. If you immerse yourself in Darkness with me, you'll go through fear and pain but, once reemerged, you'll finally win the right to walk tall. As things stand, actually, you can only choose to follow me down this desolate path. But I promise you that I'll lead you to Light, one day."

Helial's smile widened with every word. Lulu felt her heart warmer as the temperature seemed to be dropped. She had accepted the ugly truth about her destiny.

Lulu hesitated: "If I follow you, then I'll live?"

Helial shook his head: "I can't assure you that. It mostly depends on you. I can't do too much. Just keep in mind that power doesn't belong to the talented. It belongs to whomever tries to change their destiny. If you keep hesitating, nothing will save you. But if you step forward and try to react, your destiny will lie in your hands."

Helial stretched a hand out towards the girl to help her stand up, but she wept even louder, turned her head and shut her eyes closed. Helial was about to give up; he thought that Lulu would refuse, at that point. One second before he pulled his hand away, though, Lulu gently laid her fingers on his palm and nodded, with her head still turned and eyes still teary.

An even wider smile spread across Helial's face. But a serious expression suddenly stole it over.

Can you create a Mana sword smaller than Curse of the Demon, Master? he asked secretly. No answer followed, but a translucent sword of black Mana flashed into existence and materialized in midair. He grabbed it, nodded and examined the sharp blade cautiously.

"You're a Healer, Lulu, aren't you?" asked Helial as he stood up in front of her.

"Yeah, I wanna be a Healer. I'm not keen on Offensive Skills, but I'm not bad with Cures and Buff Skills," she said with her eyes still closed. She hadn't move from her position.

Fwooosh

A gush of some warm liquid poured down on her tunic. Taken aback, she reopened her eyes. What she saw terrified her. Helial had thrusted the sword into his hip, and was now removing it! Lulu stared at him in astonishment. She had no idea how to react.

"You gotta heal me, Lulu, or I'll die," Helial smiled at her, increasingly paler as blood gushed down from his wound. Helial suppressed the regenerative properties of Body of the Qilin and kept the Mana inside his Meridians under control, so that the wound wouldn't heal over easily.

In the windless clearing inside Helial's Soul, the black-fanged boy whispered: "That guy is a fucking lunatic. So lunatic that… that it could even work…"
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