Startled by Lys's piercing scream, Julia and El rushed to her side. The door was only about 5 meters away, and they reached Lys's bedside within a fraction of a second. But what astonished El was the fact that he barely noticed Julia's movement; she was already standing by the bedside when he arrived.
Moreover, he couldn't detect any mana fluctuations, which suggested that Julia had either achieved this level of skill through sheer physical force or was incredibly proficient at concealing her magical energy. While human physical abilities had improved significantly since the cataclysm, this level of speed still seemed implausible. Hence, the latter explanation seemed more probable. Nevertheless, this was an extraordinary display of ability.
Mana manipulation typically caused discernible fluctuations in magical energy. With his enhanced mana sensitivity, he could easily detect these shifts unless they were intentionally masked. However, managing such precise control while moving at full speed-presuming that was her maximum pace-within a fraction of a second bordered on the realm of the impossible. Frankly, he was more inclined to entertain the notion that this feat was accomplished through sheer physical might.
"El, could you please give me some space? I need to heal her." El's thoughts were interrupted by Julia's request. She had already started examining Lys with Sylv's assistance. After a few seconds of examination, it was certain that this situation was beyond Julia's capabilities. Sylv needed to intervene directly. She then asked El to move further away to provide enough space for Sylv to employ her advanced healing techniques.
Without a word, El complied, retreating to a corner of the room while keeping a vigilant eye on both Julia and Lys. His thoughts were still preoccupied with Julia's astounding display of power. He couldn't help but wonder how much more she might be concealing.
El had long recognized the mysterious nature of Julia. She made no attempt to conceal it, and over time, El had reached the conclusion that she had severed ties with her secretive history to embrace a new life alongside Marcus. Despite her puzzling origins, El had chosen not to maintain a perpetual guard in her presence. This decision was partly due to her devoted and nurturing role as a mother in Elian's life.
However, Julia's recent exhibition of extraordinary power had disrupted El's sense of security and prompted him to question her hidden depths.
'How much is she hiding?' El pondered deeply. He couldn't ignore the reality that, despite her role as a loving mother, her concealed strength presented an unforeseen threat. What if she were to turn against Elian, succumb to external influence, or fall under the control of another? El understood that he must be prepared to protect Elian, and Julia's newfound capabilities demanded his unwavering attention.
While he held genuine appreciation for Julia, the potential consequences of her hidden powers weighed heavily on him. He pondered the hypothetical scenarios in which she might pose a danger to Elian and grappled with the disquieting possibility. For him, arrogance could not eclipse the pragmatism of acknowledging the potential risks.
'I have to address this,' El resolved, his discomfort with the situation palpable. Although Julia's formidable abilities could be seen as a reassuring asset, for El, they were a source of unease. He understood that dependence on her, despite her role as his 'mother,' was a vulnerability he couldn't afford. History had shown that such trust, even in the closest of relationships, could lead to calamity.
Some might argue that El's concerns were rooted in pessimism, given the comfort of having a powerful ally like Julia. In response, El would affirm that
lightsΝοvel'No sane person would entrust their safety entirely to another individual.' This fundamental belief had driven El to train rigorously, despite being the son of the late and nationally respected Marcus. He acknowledged that Marcus's renown acted as a formidable deterrent against most potential threats. Nevertheless, El remained steadfast in his commitment to maintaining multiple layers of protection. One of these precautionary measures included honing a skill that would enable him to flee from adversaries of a strength comparable to that of Marcus.
This particular ability was a source of immense pride for El. It had been his assurance against danger, a contingency that allowed him to stand on his own if ever the need arose. However, the recent revelation of Julia's astonishing abilities had cast doubt on the efficacy of his precautions, causing a disquieting shift in his mindset.
He knew that there was no running against someone like Julia and that didn't please him at all. He realized that the goal he always fixed to himself- become stronger than Marcus- was just a joke. A self-deprecating smile crept onto his face as he remembered the elation he'd felt the day he landed a clean hit on Marcus. Back then, he'd believed he was inching closer to his objective of making Elian invulnerable.
He wanted to do so by becoming stronger than Marcus, one of the strongest people in the Kingdom.
'One of the strongest? What a joke.'
El's thoughts turned introspective as he grappled with the reality that Julia had hidden her true abilities for countless years. What assurance did he have that other masters weren't concealed within the Kingdom's borders?Furthemore, even if he were to become the strongest of the Kingdom, will he never leave the Kingdom? He might want to protect Elian at all cost, but he will never him restrain him in any way. It's his duty to adapt, not Elian's.
'How naive,' El mused, shaking his head at his past ambitions. The more he contemplated it, the more he realized that reaching Marcus's level was an inadequate goal. While Marcus might have been considered the Kingdom's best for centuries, there were beasts known to surpass him in might.
Why had he aimed to compete with Marcus in the first place? El understood the underlying motivation. He had begun training under Marcus from the moment he was 'born', starting at his weakest. Under Marcus's formidable strength, he had endured numerous defeats in their sparring sessions for years. How could someone as proud as El accept those beatings without harboring the desire for future revenge? Hence, El's aspiration to become stronger than Marcus had been born, a path to avenge the countless losses he'd suffered. As the years passed and his strength grew, he had disregarded those stronger than the General, consumed by his goal for personal vindication
Change was now inevitable. And the path forward was clear: more training. El's self-assured nature drove him to believe that he could readily enhance his strength. However, his current rate of progress was no longer acceptable. If he continued at this pace, it would take a decade to match Marcus's might and at least a century to attain the kind of speed Julia effortlessly demonstrated. The latter was a conservative estimate in Julia's case. El had witnessed her exceptional swiftness on only one occasion and struggled to even comprehend the rapidity of her movements. He conservatively estimated that she was at least 50 times faster than himself.
Just as he was considering new and improved training techniques, El noticed a furrow in Julia's brow. Concerned, he inquired, "Is something amiss?"