Lumia was sitting in the library and was busy reading a large volume. Since she began training with her Breathing Technique, her memory skills had frighteningly increased. Moreover, she had sorted out several Stat Points and put them in Intelligence; now, even though she couldn't yet match that monster of her brother, she would read a large book in a few hours and remember its whole content without much effort. Whoever would choose a Dao of Mana was forced to witness or take part in a number of carnages, but the benefits they would gain would be outstanding.
Her silvery little head was completely hidden in that overly large book. The volume was slightly leaned backwards; the bottom part of the binding was pressed against Lumia's chest, who made the book move with every breath she took. Her view was blocked, but from time to time, when her chest fell to the rhythm of her breathing, she would catch sight of the library.
The library was empty. There was no one there. Every time that she caught a glimpse of the opposite end of the table, Lumia shrugged. Very few people attended the library as regularly as they did. Helial though had made himself clear; they needed to get all the knowledge they could. The better they knew the world, the easier it would be to survive it. He had been this assertive that Lumia and Snowflake often spent the night reading volumes on secret, trying not to be seen by the others. Lumia had uncovered him, but she kept the secret and hadn't told Helial. Even if now and then she saw Snowflake and Helial quarrel, Lumia knew that they admired each other. Their initial hostility was evolving to a weird yet beautiful friendship.
Lumia was still immersed in the stillness of the library. From time to time she heard some sounds from the outer yard. Nothing else disturbed that ghastly quiet. Even the servants were so gentle that she couldn't perceive them breathing. Everything around her seemed to be dead.
The book kept swinging slightly back and forth to the rhythm of Lumia's gentle breathing.
Back and forth.
Back and forth.
Suddenly, her silvery hair was swept by a gust of wind appeared from out of nowhere. All windows were closed.
A spooky laughter made her hair stand on end and caused her to get the goosebumps.
The large volume the girl was holding fell on the table, allowing her to see what was before her. A kid with a black bangs was sitting on the table a few dozens of inches from her face. He was staring at her with two pitch-black eyes whose irises were impossible to distinguish from the pupils. The kid burst into another laughter and looked at her: "Today's your lucky day, little girl…"
Lumia, still shaky, tried to conceal the terror that had taken her aback a moment before. With a hint of fear glowing in her eyes, she angrily replied: "No, thank you. I already love my brother. Not interested in a little brat like you. Can you leave me alone, now? You're disturbing me."
Lumia grabbed her volume again as if nothing had happened. She plunged her head back into the pages.
The kid heard a sound of glass breaking inside his head; his brain couldn't stand that incestuous affair. Without giving up in the slightest, he started gliding through air upside down and floating around her in circle: "I'm not here to seduce a little girl you might be the daughter of the grandniece of one of my grandnieces of my… I mean, you got me. I'm here because in a week's time there's the entrance test of the Royal Academy."
Suddenly, Lumia furrowed her eyebrows, reemerged from behind the book and said: "So what?"
"So you, Snowflake, Frankenstein and Lulu will have to take it. Your brother is training Lulu, while I'll train the three of you. I've already begun with Frankenstein, whereas Snowflake is still reluctant. Actually, the cat wouldn't even need me. I'm just curious to see what he's capable of when guided along the right direction," said the Devil in a yawn. He was talking to himself more than to the little girl in front of him. "There's too many people around, so I'll create another temporary dimension for you too." The Devil yawned ever louder, so much that Lumia could not help but shout:
"Cover your mouth, rude pig!"
The kid swept his black bangs from the eyes, that were stinging. He had once been feared, revered, worshipped. And now? Now even snots scolded him!
"But who are you even?" Lumia asked. It occurred to her that she had never seen that kid before.
The Devil wiped the tears away from the corners of his eyes and answered: "Your brother's master. And now, for a little while, yours too." With a snap of his fingers, the kid generated a terrifying time-space stream.
Lumia shot her eyes closed and, when a second later she reopened them, she found herself catapulted in a completely different place.
Before her eyes was a rocky reddish wasteland. The kid's glare turned icy.
"Your brother told me to train you to make sure you won't be dead weights, Kyeheheheh," the Devil laughed. Helial's words had sounded slightly different, actually…
Lumia looked about herself and asked: "Did my brother ask you to train me?"
"Asked?" the kid raised an eyebrow, "more like he begged this magnanimous master, who…"
"Wasn't Caesar his master?" Lumia interposed.
The Devil gazed at her gloomily. "You must never interr-"
"Is he or not?" Lumia insisted.
"Just on paper. It's actually me who's guiding your brother since your arrival in Orma. If he didn't end up a cripple, it's me you have to thank."
Lumia gave him a puzzled look. In fact Snowflake had warned her that, in case of Helial's awakening, he would have needed weeks or even months to recover, and that he would have definitely become a cripple. However, not only had Helial waken up in less than a week, but he had also looked far stronger than he was before! Cripple who?
The girl kept staring at him strangely. She didn't show signs of gratitude for the creature who saved her brother's life.
Seeing her insolence, a vein started pulsing on the Devil's neck along with an uncontrollable urge to turn the girl into a meatball. Though, he shook his head and let it slide. Since she appeared to have the same attitude as her brother, there would be no point in arguing with her.
He resolved for a glare and sighed: "Any more questions?"
"So it was my brother who asked you to train me… But you've just opened up a new dimension, haven't you? What if you're lying?" said Lumia as she curled her lips.
The Devil shook his head once again. He felt depressed. The little snot was just like her brother; her analytic skills exceed those of everyone her same age as well as those of many adults. He gently massaged his temples. He looked at Lumia's silvery cascade of messy hair and said: "Your Mana shows a faint inclination towards Destruction…" He got into a description of the differences between Life and Destruction to explain to her which path was the most suitable to her.
"...which means, in the end, that Offensive Skills would definitely fit your Mana better."
"I only want to learn Support Skills. I can acquire one Offensive Skill maybe, but I just need to be able to support my brother. I want to fight by his side, but he looks already too strong. I could never match his destructive power, right?"
The Devil nodded slowly, in silence.
"I want to live by his side without getting in the way. What's a dagger for, when you already own a longsword?" Lumia heaved a sigh which betrayed some sort of melancholy bitterness: "What's this training about?"
"Wait," the Devil said. His gaze exuded an unheard of evilness. He licked his lips and went on: "You want to become as strong as your brother, don't you?"
Lumia furrowed her eyebrows and said: "I can't match his standards, can I?"
The Devil seemed to hatch an insidious plan as his face contorted in a sinister expression. "You can't yet you can. You'll never acquire as much destructive power as he has. Though, if you merely aim at Support Skills, then your Mana can match the level of your brother's Offensive Skills. He owns the strongest Qilin legacy, the toughest Devil Meridians and the most powerful Breathing Technique that a Destruction practitioner could ever dream of. His destructive power would be unparalleled even if he had half his talent and resolution. But when it comes to Support Skills, the requirements to meet aren't that many. So, even though you have no Legacy and your Meridians look awfully mediocre… I have a Breathing Technique that might suit you. But before laying hands on it, you need to reach the same Mana Control level as your brother."
Lumia looked puzzled. She asked: "Is it even possible?"
The Devil shrugged. "No, in theory. Mana Control depends on one's grade of knowledge of Mana as well as on the results one achieves on their Dao of Mana. Your brother went for a new path, as unique as his knowledge is. However, you haven't even reached the First Phase, and we're only talking about Mana Control. So let's say it's possible. The only restriction here is time. We have a week, but in this week I can let you go through the worst of hells. In an Illusion, time tends to dilate terribly, so I can easily make you live ten years. This is sort of a rudimentary approach actually, and I couldn't pursue it in a practitioner in a higher level. Anyway, since in Illusions you have your real Soul, if you survive, your Mana Control would get extremely stronger. Maybe as strong as that of your brother."
"So if I stayed in this Illusion for a week, you could dilate time to the extent of ten years?" Lumia asked in astonishment. It was only then that she realized how strong that kid must have been. She did not know how difficult it was to open a fold in the time-space and generate a new dimension from scratch, but she could imagine it vaguely.
The Devil nodded and said: "In the past fifteen years your brother has suffered more than a common person. However, he managed to grasp the deepest principles behind Mana only thanks to his marked sensitivity. We'll have to condense your training in three days in the real world, which means five years inside the Illusion. Then I'll teach you a Breathing Technique and we'll work on Skills. It doesn't only depend on… but never mind, it's too complicated. Are you in? Five years. You'll go through the worst of hells. You'll wish for death every single day. You'll have no one to turn to, not even your brother."
Lumia didn't speak for several seconds. Before she could reply, the Devil said: "I'll let you taste what a day inside the Illusion feels like. Then you'll decide."
Suddenly, the Devil appeared in front of her and tapped his index finger on her forehead.
A second later, Lumia was writhing in agony on the ground. She was bleeding from every orifice on her face as dreadful screams left her lips.
"HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!" The Devil shook his head and said: "It's only a foretaste. You'll have to experience this nightmare for as long as five years if you really want to suffer as your brother did. You'll learn what it means to have a weight on your heart that you can't share. To live with a shadow that's always about to take your life away from you. Are you ready?"
Lumia was shivering, lying on the ground. She gazed up to the Devil, wiped blood away from the corners of her mouth and tried to slowly stand up.
Did her brother suffer that much? What did Helial experience before she was born? What was so obscure about his past?
Lumia had many questions, but very few answers.
Once on her feet, she limped towards the kid, grabbed his hands and said: "I'll see you in five years." She put both palms on her temples and her gaze went out as she immersed herself in the most agonizing nightmare of her entire life.