"Stop it! Stop it now you bastard!" Ortensia clutched at the bars that held her and the soldiers back. Her blue eyes widened in a craze. Fat beads of sweat flowing down her forehead only signified how little this princess cared about her appearances right now.
'Serves you right, bitch...'
Sparing just a single thought for his cheating wife, Layn refocused his attention back at the magic circle. With the seventh, innermost ring nearing its completion, his long-awaited wish could finally come true.
"My princess, I don't think your kids are here, why bring them up?" Barely moving his lips, Kasher threw a witty response. Three years ago such remark could sting at his master's soul. Now, after years worth of preparations, Layn's life-long student and friend knew he couldn't care less.
"How dare you! Men!" Suddenly calming down, Ortensia stepped aside from the magic gate barring her entry to her husband's chamber. Her previously wide-open eyes, now turned into slits. Just by looking at her face, one could tremble from the intense hate leaking from her pupils.
"We won't break his barrier. He is a damned archmage for a reason. Destroy the walls instead." For a moment, everything and everyone seemed to freeze. In one time and in one place. For a fleeting moment, no one moved.
"Yes, princess!" Then in the next, soldiers rushed at the stone walls of the Layn's mage tower. Using whatever they could find around them, they latched to the walls like some parasites, devouring it at a slow yet steady pace.
'But it doesn't matter now. Not anymore.'
There was no hate in Layn's eyes as he threw a quick glance at the soldiers. Ascertained that he had ample reserve of time, he brought his eyes back to the giant rune.
'This will be my first time invoking Gran Arcana. Well, I can only hope everything will go according to the plan now.'
Shaking the last shred of doubt out of his head, Layn lowered his tightened fingers over the floor of his chamber. Darkwood brush. Procured during one of his heroics of the past. Imbued with both the energy of the ancient and magic of modern times, it was one of the rare conductors, capable of infusing the magic into the runes as they were written.
A pioneering tool, creating a foundation for the entirely new field of magic, one that even Layn only started to poke around.
'Yet, today, it will be a tool that will change the world. Despite its infancy.'
After three years of living as a cuckold, after three years of slavery in the most luxurious prison of the world, Layn had more love for this tool than he had for his wife. More love than he had for someone who he risked his life on multiple occasions to please.
With the last stroke finished, the middle-aged archmage finally raised up on his feet. Taking a moment to look lovingly through his small group of loyal followers, he then turned his sight towards the barbaric crowd.
"It's all futile. My barrier stretches all around this place. Not even the attack from below you was preparing will penetrate it. Let's face it, it's over now. Or at least, it soon will be." Speaking towards his wife as if he was explaining a simple problem to his kids…
All of the sudden, Layn's face twisted in a gentle regret. Not one powered by hatred. One born out of betrayed love that he had for who he thought to be his children. Regret directed at those pure knobs of energy, who were not at fault for how much of a slut their mother was.
But it was way too little to change the archmage's mind now.
"Everyone, " turning his attention back to his friends, Layn's lips curved in a gentle smile
"I wouldn't achieve any of it without you. Even now, you are willing to sacrifice everything for my sake. For that, I will never be able to fully repay you." Lowering his head, Layn bowed to his faithful followers.
'Why is it easier to find real trust and friendship on the battlefield than in romance?'
This thought used to plague Layn's mind. Endlessly searching for an answer in the moment of desperation, it was this question that drove him forward. But now, it was something that he took for granted.
After all, what did that princess amounted to when compared to the ultimate loyalty of his people?
"Master." Just this single word was enough. Enough to bring Layn back from the realm of nostalgia and reminiscence.
"Brother." From another direction, a different call came.
"Teacher." Resounded in the air.
One by one, the small crowd called their leader out, each using the word that most fit their relationship.
"Everyone…" Pulling out a small, simplistic knife from his pocket, a knife fitting for the kitchen in the slums rather than the high rooms of the palace, Layn put it against his palm.
"Stop it! If you don't stop it right now, you will force me to use it!" Noticing that the preparations were now done, Ortensia started to panic. Even if she didn't know what Layn had in store, it was clear it wouldn't end up with anything good for her.
"Your ancient tricks won't work here." Ever-so-slightly tightening his jaws, Layn remained otherwise motionless. The knife made a cut on the inner part of his right hand. But no blood appeared yet.
"Are you sure about that?!" Screaming from the bottom of her lungs, Ortensia reached under her robes before pulling a fist-sized, black sphere. Nothing more but a sundry item at the first glance, only after one truly gazed into it would this orb's magnificence reveal itself.
"Pearl of the ancients? Really? To think that I was looking for it everywhere, only to have you bring it to me yourself! Magnificent!" Exploding in a burst of sudden laughter, unbefitting the grandeur of the ritual he was leading, Layn bent in half due to the convulsions of his abdominal muscles.
"Huh? Do you really think you will get me with such a cheap trick? But the fact that you are resigned to use such low methods only means one thing." Stepping forward and placing her hands at the magical gate, Ortensia smiled, certain of her victory.
"That you are at your wit's end. I call your bluff, dear. Now, I will tell this one, last time..." As if snapped out of a leash, princess' fingers clutched against the magical bars to the point where bones appeared under the skin covering them. "Stop whatever you are doing, Right. Fucking. Now."
'This has to be some kind of miracle…' Amazed with how his wife managed to control herself to the point where she didn't crush the orb with her hand, Layn leaned his head on his shoulder. Putting a finger at his mouth, he made the dumbest face that he could think of before speaking.
"But I no longer am doing anything? The crystals are thrown, the mountains are open. There is no stopping the river anymore." Using a line out of the poetry that Ortensia loved so much, Layn smiled as the giant rune below his feet started shining.
In fact, he could fully activate it at any given moment!
"Yet, you was right about one thing. I kinda lied a bit." Suddenly moving his hand up only to scratch his head, the archmage smiled gently towards the princess, as if he was watching his own kids playing in the summer.
"I was perfectly aware of that pearl. In fact, I was the one who pushed it into your hands. After all, isn't it amusing that you brought the key to this gran arcana right to my hands… yourself?"
With the corner's of Layn's lips reaching the furthest they could on his face, his smile turned quite devious, only to soften up a moment later. After all, there was absolutely no point in gloating. Not when taking what was about to happen into perspective.
"Everyone. Once again, thank you for everything. Now that we have the energy of the pearl, everything is set. And don't you dare to worry. I will be sure to find you all. Brothers, sisters... " Layn didn't take a momentary break to raise the tension. It was his throat acting up, blocking him from finishing his sentence.
'To think I would still find those emotions in me…' A tear flowed down Layn's cheek. Blood finally appeared in the cut on his palm. No longer paying any attention to the princess behind him or the soldiers desperately pounding at his barrier now that the walls were gone, Layn looked at his followers.
"Tonight, we change the world." Turning his hand to the side, Layn allowed a drop of his blood to fall on the shining gran arcana written over the floor of his chamber.
The droplet touched the runes on the floor. But instead of splattering all over it, it splashed, as if the floor suddenly turned into a pond. Under the influence of the blood droplet, a bit of this strange liquid jumped up.
All the energy vanished from the surroundings. It happened too fast for anyone to even see how fast this situation occurred. In what seemed like an instant, the black orb in Ortensia's hand liquified, before the raising droplet of the strange liquid from the floor sucked it all, along with the rest of the idle energy. The ancient artefact told to be capable of nullifying any and all the magic in the world was gone just like that.
And then, that raising little droplet, plummeted back down to its source.
To say that many things happened in an instant, would be a gross understatement. Once the gran arcana absorbed the foreign energy, it breached right through its critical mass. With all the force converging in the middle of the enormous magic circle, a disaster came.
For a shred of a moment, everyone and everything was consumed by the raging ball of magical plasma. The stone walls of the castle sizzled away just as quickly as the flesh and bones of humans in the face of this domineering outburst.
But then, just as the rest of the planet fell prey to the magical disaster, everything reverted back to how it was a moment ago.
"What did you do…?" Raising her eyes widened in terror at her husband, Ortensia asked with a feeble voice. "What diiiiddddd yooouuuu doooooooo????!!!!" Even though Layn wasn't looking, the princess' words funnily stretched in time. Then, the archmage's entire life flashed through his eyes… in reverse.
And then, there was nothing..