chapter twenty | not her

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"S-so you're the one behind this attack?" Kiran demanded.

The witch narrowed her eyes as she swept them towards Kiran, wondering whether to answer his question or not.

Finally, she decided to answer. "Yes, and no. I'm only doing this for something I want." She continued on, "And I think all of you know who is behind this by now."

I turned to look at Lana. Her face was drained of colour, her eyes wide open and frantically moving around. She seemed to be frozen in place.

By now, a large commotion was forming by the other guests, the chattering hushed.

It was interrupted by another explosion, the room shaking once again with dust and bits of paint landing onto the ground. Fortunately, no one stood near the impact.

A man's voice rang from the entrance.

"I knew that this guild would have been assigned to serve as bodyguards... This is just perfect."

A blast of ice shards raced towards Lana. The Darkness mage remained still, frozen in shock. The shards- were they from Hikari? She was an Ice mage right? What was she doing?!

Before the ice shards pierced through her, Grim jumped before her, and with a wave of his hand, a gust of wind smashed the ice shards into tiny pieces that dropped to the ground. "That's cowardly, attacking someone when they're not ready for a fight," Grim remarked.

"Hikari! What are y-" I turned back and exclaimed before realising that the attack wasn't from her.

"I-it isn't Hikari... The attack was from him..." Lana finally managed to utter something.

A figure slowly emerged from beyond the dust made from the explosion. "Yes, my daughter is correct."

Lana shrieked and took a step backwards, almost tripped backwards.

"You're not her father. Her real father was gone a long time ago. You're just a hollow version of him after that experiment." Sienna stepped in front of her, "And don't even think of trying to steal any magic here, Morrison."

Emma, being a dragonslayer herself, cowered in fear at the mention of her supposed enemy's name. So it was Morrison. He and the witch were working together.

"Well, I suppose so. But she must miss her father, does she not? Besides, it was a foolish idea to gather all of you here... It only increases the amount of energy I'm going to get." Morrison gave a coy smile towards Lana.

"Shut up, shut up, SHUT UP!" Hearing this, Lana snapped. Her shadow took form and doubled, rapidly swerving towards Morrison, almost hitting a nearby guest. Her former father stepped sideways, dodging her attack as if he knew what she was about to do.

Lana wasn't thinking straight. The guests' lives were in danger. I had to think of a way to get them to safety.

Would a giant bubble work? There wasn't enough time to think it through.

"Aqua Bulla!" I blurted out a memorised phrase from a book I read in the carriage. A gush of water formed a shape of a giant sphere, leaving a small gap for people to enter. It took up the size of about half the height of the ballroom.

Kaito rested his weight onto a nearby chair, furrowing his brows as he muttered a few words, blood still leaking out from his wound. Iron steps materialised that led up to the bubble's entrance.

"Listen up! Get inside this bubble and you'll be safe. Hurry!" Akuma yelled, gesturing for the guests to climb up into the bubble. One by one, people clambered up the stairs as quickly as possible.

"Lana, calm down-" Sienna started, but was interrupted.

"That scientist... HE KILLED- He... killed my father and replaced him with this monstrosity... And because of that people are getting hurt..." Lana explained.

"Kaito! No-" Hikari's distressed voice cried as I looked back to see Kaito's eyes roll up and close. With a thud, he lost whatever balance he had left and fell to the ground, blood pooling around his injury.

There was too much blood loss. We needed someone to help as quickly as possible.

"You... You HURT MY BROTHER!" Hikari suddenly shrieked, lunging towards the witch with one of her throwing knives in her hand.

Dodging the blow inflicted by the Ice mage, the witch smiled and appeared before Lana. Before Lana could even react, she placed both hands on Lana's shoulders, and her irises turned into hyptonizing spirals that looked like they led to the depths of despair.

Lana's panicked expression and the cold sweat on her face disappeared, and was replaced by a blank one.

She was brainwashed.

"Help your father out by giving out most of your magic, Lana... He'll appreciate it..." she assured her.

"Lana, what are yo-" Kiran asked but paused when we all realised that she wasn't listening. The Darkness mage placed her palms as if they were holding a big globe. In the middle, a rushing sphere of darkness took shape and slowly increased in size.

"STOP!" Sienna cried, rushing towards Lana. Morrison flicked his wrist, sending a rush of wind towards her and throwing her backwards. Groaning in pain, Sienna used her arms to slowly pushed her to sit up.

"You must have a death wish if you want to interfere," Morrison remarked, arching his eyebrows.

The witch revealed a diamond-shaped capsule that seemed to be made out of glass and unplugged the cork. Lana seemed to be struggling against her own actions, but it wasn't enough to stop herself from emptying most of her magic into that bottle. The witch quickly closed the bottle before any magic would escape after handing the capsule to Morrison, allowing him to absorb a large portion of the magic, keeping the rest as her reward.

"Thank you for your kind attention, ladies and gentlemen." And with a mocking exaggerated bow, Morrison and the witch disappeared from the scene.

A dull sound filled my ears. It was like the sound of wind in a void.

...However, was it possible for there to be wind in a void?

It doesn't matter. I moved my glance to where the sound seemed to be coming from, which was Lana.

She seemed to be caught in time, her expression blank, her eyes wide open and unblinking as they seemed to be barely focused on her right hand. Speaking about her hand...

It started to slowly fade as black dust floated up towards the ceiling and gradually faded.

She was slowly dying.

"W-what's happening to her?!" Lyra squeaked.

"She's dying. Magic is the base of every mage's existence, and without it, the mage would die," Grim explained.

"Good thing is we know a little dream magic, so we can just enter Lana's mind and hopefully remove the brainwashing magic internally, 'cause it doesn't seem like it can be stopped from the outside." Reaper shoved his hands inside his pockets and stepped forward.

I hesitated for a moment, but decided to help as well. "Can I come with you two? I know how the mind works since Akuma enters mine all the time."

"Me too. I'm using a kind of dream magic itself, so why not? You need all the help you can get," said Kiran. I remembered that he used Illusion magic, and it all added up.

The two brothers nodded. Before we could say anything, Hikari approached Lana, muttered something which I made out to be a 'sorry about this', and with one swift motion, jabbed at the back of Lana's neck. The Darkness mage collapsed onto the bloodstained floor, motionless.

Hikari turned to look at us to give an assured look before turning back to tend to her unconscious and severely wounded brother.

"Somnium Ingredi," Chanting the spell, Grim beckoned for us to follow him. The both of us approached him.

And with that, we entered Lana's mind.

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