His robe billowed, tugging at his frame as he made his way towards the center of the rooftop.
"If it weren't for this wind, I would have been done with this ritual by now."
The muffled cries of several voices reached his ears—sounds of despair, some even on the verge of a scream.
Raze's patience wore thin. "Will you all keep quiet? What could you possibly want to say?"
Below him, etched into the rooftop, was a radiant circle filled with intricate symbols and glyphs. It glowed white—not from any external power source, but from Raze's own magic. Bound with their hands and legs tied, within the circle were five individuals. Though no physical seals covered their mouths, their cries were reduced to mere muffled sounds.
"If I allow one of you to speak, will the rest of you stay silent?" Raze questioned, tracing a symbol in the air. A faint purple glow emanated from his fingers.
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At his gesture, one of the captives—a middle-aged man—found his voice once more. Drawing a ragged breath, he pleaded, tears streaming down his face. "Please, Dark Magus! Spare me. I'll give you anything! Please just don't kill me!"
Raze stepped closer, looming over the man. "And when that couple begged for their lives, what did you offer them? Where are they now?"
The captive froze, eyes wide with terror.
"How did you know?"
Continuing his circuit around the circle, Raze listed the sins of each captive. "Killed their lover in a fit of rage for looking at another person. Creating false reports of being abused, sending those that she dislikes to the pit. Selling illegal substances to desperate mages, causing their cores to burst."
The captives understood now—Raze was recounting their hidden crimes, the atrocities they'd committed and escaped.
But when he reached the last captive, he paused. "And you," he said, a note of mockery in his voice, "a zealous vegan, imposing your views on others. Truthfully, you're just here because I needed five, and time was running short."
Tension filled the air as more symbols appeared within the circle, its luminescence intensifying.
Just as Raze was readying for the next phase of his ritual, a defiant voice from among the captives challenged him. "So what! You judge us, but what about you, Dark Magus? How many lives have you claimed? How many people have you killed, you are no better than us!"
Raze opened his mouth before his response was interrupted by a bout of violent coughing, flecks of blood staining the ground below. "You're right," he rasped, wiping his mouth with his sleeve, "We all deserve to die."
Suddenly, a voice from behind proclaimed, "Not all, just you!"
The captives and Raze turned to the newcomers - five figures dressed in pristine white robes, descending from above.
"The Grand Magus! They've come to save us!" one captive exclaimed.
Among the mages, these were the elite, each holding the power to reshape entire nations. They were all 9-star mages at the very top. Due to their power, seeing them assemble like so came as quite a shock, even if they were going after the Dark Magus.
"I see you've received my invitation," Raze taunted, singling out one. "Enaxx, how does your wife cope, knowing you're... incomplete with just having one ball to play with?"
A sharp pain welled up from below, as a heat of anger rose to Enaxx's face, making him turn red.
"Raze!" One of the Grand Magus with long blonde hair stepped out before the others. He radiated with energy, lighting up the night sky around him. "I can't believe such a talented mage like you has become this!"
"SHUT UP!" Raze shouted back. "None of you, not a single one of you have the right to speak to me! You can all drop the act. All of you took everything I cared about from this world! You all know what you've done. Especially you, Idore!"
Dark energy started to shroud Raze in his tattered clothing, growing around his back even larger, causing the other magus to radiate their own energy as well.
Despite these taunts, Idore had a smile on his face.
"Did you think we didn't know?" He asked. "You're already dying, you already have one foot in the grave. Even if you did nothing, you would naturally pass away. But how could we let that happen? You, the Dark Magus, the most wanted man in the world, we need to kill you with our own hands."
"HAHAHA!" Raze let out a loud belly laugh. "Idore, Gizin, Ibarin, Trubin, and One ball. This is my last message to you all."
The magic circle from beneath was starting to light up. Cautious about what this would do, the Grand Magus shielded themselves with their own magic.
The captives inside the magic circle soon felt pressure building up in their heads. A great pain welled up, until *Pop*. The tops of their heads exploded, their bodies falling to the floor, including the man who stood in the center, Raze Cromwell.
Seeing this, the magic started to fade from the Mages, and they began to walk forward. They felt no traces of life and looked at the blood splattered on the floor.
"Do you think he's really dead?" Ibarin asked.
"He has to be, that's his body and his head, at least what's left of it," Gizin commented.
Trubin, the youngest of the mages, looked around, examining the magic circle and the blood splatter. That's when he smirked.
"Well, now I know what he meant by the last message."
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They all took a good look at the floor, and now they saw it as well. The blood had splattered in such a way, along with the magic circle, that it created a bloody image. An image of a large fist with its middle finger raised towards them.
"Raze Cromwell's death is confirmed," Idore stated, lifting his hands, summoning a ball of fire. He started to levitate, floating in the air, and so did the others by his side above the buildings. "Our secrets will die with him."
The fireball was hurled toward the building, and as it hit the roof, it expanded, setting everything ablaze in an instant, including all the dead bodies on the rooftop. As the magus flew away from the scene, they all looked back at a stain in their past, with a great sigh of relief.
'I can't believe I gambled my life away like that,' Raze thought. 'I put all my hopes into that book I received from the portal. I don't even know if it will work. I was dying anyway… I just wanted a chance to get them all back.
'Those damned smug faces. They call me the evil one, yet they would easily steal candy from a baby. All I would do is lick it when they weren't looking and give it back. Who's the more evil one?'
Memories of Raze's life started flashing before his eyes, especially the painful ones. Memories from his childhood, the losses he had experienced in his life, the memories that turned him into the Dark Magus.
Then, other images entered his mind: vast mountain tops, grand temples, lush greenery everywhere. Images of a man, a woman, and a young girl he had never seen before, wearing robes, and people fighting using just their fists.
'What is all of this? These aren't my memories! They don't even look like they're from my world!'
Flashing back and forth were memories that Raze could tell were clearly his, interspersed with unfamiliar ones. Intense pain pulsed in his head, sending shockwaves through his body, until Raze's eyes snapped open once again