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An infrastructure stood underneath the raging skies in a despaired husk of its former self. The redbrick walls were almost completely peeled off of their once lustrous, white paint. And as Jered ventured forth, shards of broken glass crunched under his shoes. Toys, clothes, and a whole host of personal belongings littered the front yard as if someone had partied there and left without cleaning it. His eyes roamed the abandoned asylum, from its whining gates to the ramshackle pillars supporting it. Some of the windows were bare of their glass, allowing the brave one to steal a quick glimpse of the dusty darkness that was the asylum’s insides.
“This one was not quite as lucky as Gravewall,” Rainey’s voice carried a tinge of melancholy; it fitted perfectly with the broken-down building towering in front of them. “A lot of torture, sexual abuse, and who knows what else, took place here. While this asylum was officially closed in 1992, many people at the time protested about the lack of humanity transpired here. The case went on for a few years, before the higher-ups swept everything under the metaphorical rug. And no one has ever come here since then.”
A crack of thunder rolled overhead.
Jered’s smile became wider with each sonorous rumble. It seemed that every time he had to enter an asylum, the weather would play its role as the background soundtrack. “You need to work a bit more on your narration if you want to make it scarier than it is.” he smiled cheerfully, “So I have to go inside and ghost hunt?”
“Weeell… you don’t have to hunt it, you just have to bring it back. Mana itself doesn’t affect ghosts and demonic entities, but they can—and will—affect you. You’re still too weak to deal with them,” Rainey opened her hand, and hovering a few inches above her palm, a transparent pearl materialized in a smoky firework of lights. “I hope you have learned enough because today you’ll be on the defensive. Someone is in there, and they’re pissed.” she flicked the pearl towards Jered, who caught it mid-air, “Use that to capture it. You just need to get close enough to it, and the pearl will do the rest. Of course, you must make sure the entity is willing to get inside, and if it isn’t… hmm heh, a bit of elbow grease and a prayer should help.”
He stared at the magical device in his hand, his nose twitching in reaction. “It’s okay,” he winked at her, “I got this.”
She unwrapped a chocolate candy, “What heart-fluttering words. Don’t get yourself too hurt,” and popped the confectionery into her mouth.
Jered faced the asylum, and…[You have triggered your second quest!]
… a notification zoomed in out of nowhere.[Quest of Redemption: Life is but another circle of hell. Not all who die find peaceful sleep, and not all who sleep peacefully are dead. Let the resentment guide you, and there you’ll find what is still living in its past.][Reward: 1000% experience on a skill of your choice.]
Now he had another reason to push that door. And so he did. With a firm grip on the handles, the frames creaked ominously, and Jered found himself welcomed by a mildewy abyss. He spawned a few Mana Orbs around himself to pave the way. He’d use his phone’s flashlight, but Rainey explained that it was highly likely that the ghostly presence could turn it on and off. Rusty trays trolleys were discarded left and right among piles of debris. The atmosphere was somber, funereal. It felt like he had stepped into another world; another time. Graffitis chalked the walls, with arrows pointing towards random directions.
He followed them. Only his footsteps echoed off in the foreboding silence of the psychiatric ward. Jered couldn’t afford to maximize his Mana Orbs’ brightness, he needed to conserve every ounce of mana he had, so his radius of vision was only a couple of meters ahead—and around—him. To his right, his Mana Orbs briefed him of an unlocked room. He pulled it back slightly, allowing a broader view of its inside. The window was boarded up, offuscating the minimal pencil-thin light that sneaked in.
A mattress was laid on the broken tiles of the floor, ripped and yellowed. Its bedframe stood perfectly parallel beneath the window, in all of its oxidized glory. Jered explored the cement walls, highlighting a corner in particular. It was not any different from the others; same cracks, same blisters of paint falling off. However, that particular corner was a testament to the patient’s madness, because written in blood-red, was two unmistakable words.
He was momentarily stunned by the harshness behind the jagged handwriting. He took a step back, and due to his sudden movement, a white and black photograph slid out under his foot. His dusty shoe-print hazed the yellowed picture. He crouched down to pick it up, and after brushing a thumb across its surface, a young girl focused within the frame. She was flanked by two older people, most likely her parents. The woman had a hand on the girl’s shoulder, squeezing it affectionately—she was the spitting image of what the girl would look like if life had been kinder on her. The man stood on the right, slightly behind them, with hands tucked inside his pockets. There were subtle nuances of emotion here and there, but it all seemed fabricated, like a stitched smile.
Jered’s eyes splayed wide open as he shot a curious look towards his arm. “Goosebumps…?” he mumbled. At first, it was just a chill in the air, a wet caress that nuzzled his right arm with shivers. It was only that arm’s hair that stood on its end, the rest of his body didn’t share the same experience. Then he noticed the increased tang of mana, colder, like breathing in the frozen air. It was more pronounced than the hallways. His Magical Radar would not be wrong.
Someone was there with him.
He abruptly turned around, hoping to catch the demonic entity red-handed.
No one was there.
Jered’s head swiveled around in a frantic game of hide-and-seek with the ghost. It was still there, he could feel it. Then he stumbled across a cracked mirror barely hanging on the wall. In its crooked, kaleidoscopic reflection, he descried a mop of dark, greased hair falling down over a silver face. Partially sheltered behind the half-closed door, the entity’s head braved a peek at him, before fading back into the maw of darkness behind it.
He ran after it, his Mana Orbs flashing a brighter white to capture the ghost within his peripheral. His feet eventually halted in front of a staircase. There was no shadow of the entity, just cobwebs, and strips of wallpaper strewn all over the floor. His Magical Hearing worked like a metal detector, buzzing intermittently while slightly spiking whenever something supernatural was caught in its area of effect. That’s why he was there. Something was waiting for him on the staircase’s landing. A hazy, white silhouette fluttered like a clump of particles, shimmering in and out of view.
He slowly climbed up, one probing step at a time. Jered couldn’t risk scaring it away, or worse, scare it into attacking him. Halfway through, an urgent series of footsteps reverberated rather vividly in the tunnel of darkness behind him. From a casual walk to a brisk jog. It kept getting closer and closer.
Jered whipped around, his hand clutching a swirling mist of mana, ready to lash it out at a moment’s notice. However, a strong push on his back broke his balance. With a painful thud, he bounced down the staircase and unceremoniously crashed on to the ground. He couldn’t afford to register the spike of pain—not when he was fully open for another sneak attack—so he rolled around, and fired off the Mana Beam brewing within his fingers. The bright, plasma-like energy sizzled off towards the staircase. A wave of heat rolled back towards him as the Mana Beam ricocheted off against the handrail, bursting into a rain of embers and rusty fragments.
Damn, his only method of attack was still weak. He would have consumed the other two tomes if they contained anything remotely useful to deal with the situation.
Was Rainey pulling his leg? Jered was being toyed around there.
He didn’t have time to mull over his odds of survival for he heard someone’s faint weeping. Meanwhile, the footsteps had disappeared, and the presence lingering in front of him followed suit. In the dead silent asylum, someone’s heart-wrenching sobs wafted through like a whisper next to his ears. His irritated frown gave away to a growl of frustration as he picked himself up. A pulsing sting spread from the back of his head down to his shoulders. Thankfully, his mana acted up and shifted there to relieve the pain and heal the bruise.
So he marched on.
What a load of bullcrap. His mana couldn’t affect them? His hands balled into fists. Jered didn’t like it. He felt ashamed, undermined, underestimated. He kicked a stray metal trolley out of the way. It clattered several feet away, its wheels whimpering from the worn-out, rusted suspension parts. The crying in the distance stopped. And in response his mana pumped out faster, stronger, filling his hands with the unquenchable thirst for violence. “Are you angry!?” he shouted out, his lips curling up into a smirk of sadistic satisfaction.
There was nothing there, no sound, no smell, no shadows. Just a tide of darkness that receded as his Mana Orbs pulsed in resonance with his feelings.
Meanwhile, outside the sky raged, lighting ripping through the inky clouds. Across the hallways, Jered’s ears could make out a chorus. It sounded like something that would make a better impression in a church, not a psychiatric ward. The voices were soft, warped, and had that echoing after-effect, as if they were traveling through the pipes. He stood still, planning out his next course of action.
With a resigned sigh, he raked a hand through his hair and drew his smartphone out.
—”Mom, I’m gonna be a bit late today…”
Synopsis: The online game <