The blood was coming from my eyes which just regenerated without even feeling. I then gazed around and was stunned for a moment.
Is this… Hell? → Shen
Ryu answered back with a serious voice.
The sky was completely covered in clouds of ash and smoke coming from active volcanoes which spammed for as far as the eye could see. The ground was either black or dark-red and filled with cracks through with vines of lava circulated in a steady manner. Through some parts, bubbles of lava would suddenly raise and break the ground. Scattered around, there were also little holes through with a red pillar of light shot out in the sky, penetrating the dark clouds and making them to spin. The only source of light was the lava everywhere around while the air was barely breathable from all the ash and smoke. The area was rocky with dunes of burnt dirt and ravines everywhere, looking like the land of the dead. However, what stunned me the most wasn’t the deadly environment, but what resided inside it. My eyes shot up in shock while starring in front after I just stepped out a cave from atop a mountain.
Aren’t those… → Shen
I asked in incertitude then I heard Ryu’s voice right beside me. His mad and cold voice made the hot air around to vibrate even stronger.
“Yes. They are our people. The ones who perished in that war against Thanatos.” → Ryu
His veins bulged while his aura made the ground crack, the air around to ripple. He stared with a mad look in front, his eyes completely dragonified. We both observed how a group of humanoid wraiths fought on their own against demonic spirits which took the form of the beasts we confronted in the war. Huge beasts tore apart the humanoid wraiths that shrieked in pain and anguish, then struck back in rage and fury, tearing them back just as wildly. Their spiritual bodies would reconstruct and fight once again while all the sufferings would turn into even more energy for the dungeon to use and at the same time, make them succumb even more into the darkness.
A little fairy smashed the head of a huge ogre with her staff, turning it into a paste, then herself got bitten by a Fire Tiger-type demonic beast and half her abdomen disappeared. The fairy then got up and her red eyes shone with a sinister light. Her injuries regenerated then a third arm appeared from her stomach, this one seemingly only bones and skin, but with sharp and deadly nails.
The wraith fairy screamed again and swung her new arm, cutting off the Fire Tiger’s head in one just one slash. I raised an eyebrow as I felt some familiarity for the fairy. However, her appearance was anything but familiar right now.
“Oho~? Isn’t that fairy somewhat familiar?” → Shen
“She’s Tama!” → Ryu
Ryu shouted out and in rage as a vein almost snapped at his temple. With one devastating step he leaped from the tip of the mountain we resided on, for more than 300m toward the beasts and started to clean them out with everything he had, going through the swarm of monsters like a truck… or train, sending them flying in all directions. The humanoid wraiths were outnumbered almost 1000 to one. If not for the bloodlust being too strong, making the beasts attack each other, then that group of only 200 or so would’ve been unable to even regenerate. Right now they were fighting 2 or 3 monster spirits at a time but even this was enough to injure them and make their dark feelings to torment their souls again and again.
“Haha~.” → Shen
For some reasons, I found this sight somewhat amusing, and incredibly detestable at the same time.
Aah~! This is no good. → Shen
I found it amusing because of all the pain and anguish visible on their angry and mad faces, while I felt disgusted over myself for feeling like this. I was fully aware that these feelings were coming from Rosabhi, and this only annoyed me more for being unable to actually control them even though that damn devil was right now chained like an animal.
I then shook my head, trying to forget these disgusting feelings. and tried to think of a reason why our deceased people’s souls were now experiencing such a hellish moment. Even so, an amused smile was still plastered on my face.
Shen! What are you waiting for?! Our people are fighting here! We must save them! → Ryu
Suddenly, Ryu’s irritated voice rushed me to combat, but I simply waved my hand while looking around calmly.
Calm down, Ryu. We first need to understand what’s happening, or else we might as well end up like them. → Shen
How can I stay calm in such moments?! How can you stay calm right now?! → Ryu
Most of my remaining memories are either information or suffering-inducing ones, forgot? Don’t expect for me to still get affected only by this much. → Shen
…Then what are your options now? → Ryu
Calmly examine the situation, duh~. → Shen
I can’t do that! → Ryu
Ryu shouted back while storming through in his dragonified state, right toward the wraiths that once were our own subordinates and family of the kingdom.
Well~, sucks to be you, then. → Shen
I thought to myself as I looked amused at Ryu who was making to rain with demonic-beasts parts behind him.
Everywhere, as far as the eye could see, beasts fought beasts while in the middle of it all, residents from our own kingdom fought back against beasts, and the ones from the very middle, even between themselves. A sick smile appeared on my face while at the same time I tried to understand what was happening, ignoring the feelings of amusement induced by the devil. My red eyes shone then I observed a seemingly faint and transparent string-like cordon of energy being released through everyone’s heads that was coming from above through the gray cloudy sky. Then I observed another weird phenomenon of how every spirit, and now even Ryu himself, emanated some kind of dark energy, perhaps the negative emotions, that was quickly absorbed by the ground then circulated through underground red veins, which were immediately then released by the pillars of red light inside the sky.
Ryu. I think I reached a conclusion while starring around. → Shen
I contacted him while he was cleaning up the area around the wraiths which fought against the bestial ones. After blowing the head of another one, he asked back in a hurry.
Did you also find a way to save our people?! → Ryu
I’ll tell you so you’ll be able to think about it. For now, I have nothing in mind. → Shen
…Fine, let me hear it. → Ryu
So. If I have to compare this separate-space with a sink, then all the powerful feelings and energies released through the war would be the filth that got down the sink into this place. The souls of the deceased, also being part of the “filth” inside the sink. → Shen
So it’s like a bucket filled with negative energies, am I right? → Ryu
Yes. → Shen
So how did everything turned out like this? → Ryu
This negativity corrupted the souls and turned them into wraiths. Now, these souls are like an unlimited fountain of negativity, cultivating these foul feelings while ripping apart everything around, be it, enemy or friend. Normally, our souls have something like an automatic system of purification that sends the filthy energies through special meridians through our feet, knees, and palms, down toward the earth to be purified by it, just like the underground water which is purified by all the sediments it circulates through. → Shen
You say that but why this isn’t working right now?! → Ryu
First of all, they possess nobody, so their souls are under direct contact with the corrupted energies. Second of all, even as Wraiths, they are still sending the filth downwards, but everything is sent backward again. See those red pillars of light? → Shen
Yes? → Ryu
That’s the purest form of negative energy which is sent right back into this separate-space. More exactly, the purest form of Wrath. → Shen
So you mean all the sufferings they’re trying to let go, is actually coming right back into this place?! → Ryu
Yep. → Shen
Why?! → Ryu
I presume there must be something or someone behind this. Such an elaborate system for a dungeon could be built only by another spirit. As for why this happened, I’m not sure. → Shen
Eh? → Ryu
Ryu was momentarily dazed and this almost cost him an ugly scar on his body from one of the former Antara Warriors now turned into a Wraith. After he dodged and retreated for a moment, he asked again in a hurry:
W-what do you mean you don’t know?! Then how are we going to resolve this?! → Ryu
However much I’ve changed through this life, I’m still human, more or less. I can’t know everything like a God or a Devil, I still have my own limited knowledge. → Shen
No… Sorry. You already gave out more information than I could ever find out on my own… But the question still remains the same: How do we save them and get rid of this place? → Ryu
Well~, I did find a way, but you won’t like it. → Shen
… First, tell me. I might be able to find a way after hearing it. → Ryu
So positive. Very well: The only option I found is to exterminate all the spirits here by using lightning based spells, then kill the remaining monsters born inside the dungeon. Like this, we’ll be able to purify the entire area and this separate-space will belong to us, but the spirits will also be severely damaged, together with the warriors. → Shen
Understood, and completely rejected. → Ryu
Thought so. Then? Did you find out something? → Shen
…How about this? I don’t give a damn about the other spirits, so let’s just destroy the bestial ones while we try to think of a way to bring our people’s souls back to normal. → Ryu
Turn the soul back…? Are you an exorcist or something? → Shen
Well, no. But I’m sure you can do it, no? I remember before you had some cool holy aura around you. → Ryu
This was before. Now even my own lightning will harm me. → Shen
…Huh? What do you mean? → Ryu
… I’m already a half-devil by now. If I dare to use holy spells I’ll be courting death. → Shen
Ryu couldn’t say a thing but sigh in distress, feeling hopeless at the thought of having his own people’s souls sent to Hell for no reason. Even so, he still didn’t give up. An idea struck him which he instinctively trusted as efficient in such a situation.
His body became bigger while his dragon features appeared more distinct. His aura also rose as his transformation continued. I stared in the distance only to see one figure grow and grow, bigger and stronger, leaving me to stare at him dumbfounded.
What in the world are you planning, man? → Shen
Shen, Master Ignatius taught me something about myself a while back. → Ryu
Huh? → Shen
The fact that he called the legendary dragon as master, means Ryu accepted him as his teacher while Ignatius accepted Ryu as his disciple when I wasn’t even aware of it. With a serious voice then Ryu boomed from atop a huge rock that struck out from the ground after all the battles and fights from around.
He continued to grow and transform until he turned into a fully grown dragon, just like when he fought against the Kraken or against Thanatos. At his mighty appearance, even I myself felt the pressure and stared at his huge body with wide-open eyes. The blood started to rush inside my veins as I felt some excitement at this mighty view.
“…God how I wish to beat that thing down…” → Shen
I quietly whispered as I thought to myself that the greater the enemy is, the more exciting of a battle it must be. But knowing the dragon was Ryu, who was also an ally, I subdued my fighting spirit and simply tried to understand his transformation. I was able to tell that fully transforming was still way too much of a burden for his body, but something would simply won’t let me call him a fool.[For using my flames, I first need to throw away my human form and fully accept the primordial essences from which dragons are born. Now, warriors of Antara! I’m here to save you from this Hell! But for this to happen, I first need you all to WAKE UP!]
A sudden wave of black and wild burning fire shot out from between his dragon-fangs, ravaging the already burnt ground, destroying the terrain and turning even boulders into molten magma. The black flames covered the entire Hell like a bombing carpet over a field, leaving no room for the spirits to escape or run to.
All kinds of shouts, growls, and shrieks resounded and quaked the earth from all over the hellish battlefield as the fire was burning all and everything around.
Even though I was at a high point atop a mountain, the flames almost reached me so I had to use all I had to freeze the terrain around me and stop it from advancing.
This fire can burn the soul as well. Having a devil inside me, I might get really dangerous injuries from it. → Shen
Sweat was falling down my back as I stared at the dark flames burning away at the Hellish zone, consuming the infested energies and turning them into even stronger flames which were spreading everywhere around the separate-space.
“Goddamnit, Ryu! Control your flames!” → Shen
I shouted out in distress with a vein pulsating on my neck as I used the frost and darkness elements to envelop myself and keep the fire away from me, then widen the area of the darkness and frost field to distance the fire for as much as possible. Although I used the chilly aura to null the heat, my forehead was still sweating from the strong flames.
After a while, the fire calmed down as Ryu looked in his dragonic form toward the place where the wraiths were shrieking with everything they had. After a moment, he was able to see more than 200 shining globs levitating on their own in the middle of the scorching plains. If one looked closer, they would be able to see the ghastly silhouettes levitating as if unconscious. Dark energy was revolving desperately around them as if trying to get at them again but the dark fire around the souls would only burn it the moment it approached.[They’re safe!]
Ryu the dragon, with just a wave of its wings appeared in front of the souls and landed like a mammoth, shaking the entire space in excitement and breaking the ground a hundred meters around.
He’s like a huge kid. God Damn, he’s going to break this entire space only with his weight alone. → Shen
I thought in annoyance as I tried to keep my balance and not fall into the fire which was still burning all around me.[Shen! Look! Their souls are now purified! If we can take them out from this space and let them go to the afterlife!] → Ryu
Ryu exclaimed excited while slowly taking the souls in his huge arms. Even though souls can go through the material, Ryu made sure to envelop his arms… or claws, with enough energy to feel and carry the souls.
Suddenly the entire dungeon started to quake and the volcanoes all around the terrain blew up with magma spitting out everywhere. The sky swirled and twisted while dark thunder struck the ground aimlessly. Great storms of dust threatened to envelop us while thunder was flashing dangerously inside them, making for an post-apocalyptic image everywhere around us.[What is happening?]
Ryu stared around confused then he felt a sudden hurricane of dark energy appear right atop a mountain. More exactly, right where I resided.[Shen!]
Just like any other great tornado, from a distance it seemed as if it moved slowly, while in truth the wind was twisting with more than just a few hundreds of kilometers per hour, sending flying great boulders and separating huge parts from the mountain. Inside the middle of the hurricane, I was resisting the corrupting energies that wished to take control over me and turn me into the next core of the dungeon. Ryu rushed toward me with the souls in his claws, making me shout annoyed with a ground-breaking shockwave:
“You idiot! Don’t you dare come any closer!” → Shen[What?]
“If you enter inside this whirlwind, be sure that not only those souls will fall under corruption!” → Shen[T-then how about you?]
“Hah! The only reason why that doll of a devil took control over me was simply that I was too exhausted! Now I’m in full control over myself and I won’t let anything else get past my mental-barrier!” → Shen[… See you to the outside then.]
Ryu then shot through the cave and because his body was simply too enormous, he forced the spatial entrance to enlarge and get through it while keeping the souls safe. After Ryu finally left, the entire space cracked then completely collapsed and darkness engulfed everything around once again, letting place for a deadly silence and a morbid stillness. It felt as if the wild storm and apocalyptic phenomena were just some life-like illusions.
“So you’re the master of this dungeon.” → Shen
I stared in front with my devil-like eyes and observed through the dark, a shadow taking form and slowly approaching me.
[You discovered me…]
Its voice was ethereal and sounded as if many more people talked at the same time together, making the words barely distinguishable.
“…Just what are you?” → Shen
With my arms crossed at my chest, I stared with an apathetic gaze at the weird spirit, unable to decipher it as a wraith or as a demon, or maybe as something else entirely.[I’m Umbra…]
An eyebrow instinctively rose as I tilted my head in confusion and thought to myself.
Isn’t that a spiritual demon? This thing… how did it get here? → Shen
[I was born from the power of the deceased…]
Umbra answered as if able to read my mind. Being also a spirit-type demon, it had indeed the power to read minds, hearing them like normal words.
“I see… So? What is your reason to meet me in person?” → Shen
[I want you to fuel my home as a replacement for the souls that left.]
“… You could’ve kept them here very easily. Why did you let them go?” → Shen
[Used them as traps. The dragon-human was too strong to keep here. Miscalculated. But your soul is times stronger than all of theirs put together, while your power, unstable. You’re more valuable and an easy target.]
“There were tens of thousands of souls.” → Shen
[Mostly with barely any conscience. Such puppets bring no essences. Souls with egos are much more valuable.]
At his comeback I nodded my head as I caressed my non-existent beard, trying not to feed my pride too much with his words.
A valid point. I can’t argue with that. → Shen
Although I accepted his praises, I still asked while gazing sharply at him.
“And what makes you think I’ll remain here?” → Shen
[I will turn you into a wraith.]
“I dare you to try.” → Shen
A smile appeared on my face as I took a combat-ready stance and tried to focus on my own flow of power. I started to feel how the power was fluctuating inside myself and I became more able to foretell by now how the power will turn out to be and how much will flow.
[AP: 980] → [AP: 1000] → [AP 1052]
By how many points it grew per second, was completely random, but one thing I was still able to discern: If I lost focus over the growth of my AP it would start flow downwards and make me weaker once again.
Umbra then blended into the darkness and silence befell once again.
“Oy, come on. Do you think the darkness will hide you?” → Shen
My red eyes shone again and I was able to discover another silhouette through the darkness. However, the silhouette was different this time, and quite familiar at that.
“Ryu?… No.” → Shen
Umbra with Ryu’s appearance stepped before me with a mocking smile, his eyes just as red as mine.
[I acquired combat data from you and your friend. All those puppets were sent, at first to secure your soul, then to help me absorb information about your combat powers. And from the two, your friend was the strongest.]
I nodded sincerely surprised as I thought that things might actually turn more interesting now.
“Quite smart for a spirit demon.” → Shen
Absorbing all that energy throughout the war is only logical for it to reach such power of reason… Ehehe~ maybe I’ll be able to also have some fun, aye? → Shen
A burning fire of battle-spirit swirled inside me as a small giggle escaped from inside my stomach.
“Hehe- ops~?… Don’t mind me. I’m just curious for how long I’ll be able to play with you.” → Shen
With a neutral expression, Umbra shot at me in full power and instantly greeted me with a draconic fist right in the face. I hastily dodged to the side and thrust my fingers like a spear toward his abdomen.
[You… Penetrated my scales?]
[AP: 1400] → [AP: 1450]
“He might be stronger, but his techniques are still lacking when he’s excited. Meanwhile, I’m completely opposed.” → Shen
Then I got a hold of his arm and smiled ferociously, happy for finally meeting a worthy opponent against I could go all out while my powers are growing.
“Oy, come on! Try not to break too soon!” → Shen
Afterward, I used the Tian Set of strikes in quick succession:
I grabbed Umbra’s arm then pulled hard, with my left elbow I broke his grabbed arm then with the same elbow I struck his face. Both hits made for the air to ripple, the last stronger than the first one. Afterward, I sidestepped to his right and struck the back of his head with my other elbow, again creating a shockwave which dizzied the Umbra for a moment.
Why did you choose a carnal body to fight within the first place? Don’t you know that the flesh has weak spots? Is not like the spirit, with no blind spots. For throwing away your advantages I’ll be sure to give a fitting punishment. → Shen
I mocked umbra with telepathy while I struck him continuously. Continuing the rotation, I kicked diagonally downwards from his shoulder to his waist, creating a wave of energy which cut his back and penetrated the black scales. Then I continued with a fury of punches at his split back, on to finish with an ax-kick while rotating, creating a vertical crescent and striking him right on his head.
The last kick was strong enough to break the ground and bury him inside it. He then tried to raise, his body all filled with injuries while turning around with a confused expression.
[You fight… Different.]
“Hoho~ saw nothing yet.” → Shen
My aura suddenly changed; from imposing and domineering, to calm and pressuring.[K’un Set: Seismic Step]
Woah now, where do you think you’re going?”
I slowly stepped atop Umbra’s head who tried to get up, and a sudden pressure made him crash back on the ground, wave after wave of quakes breaking the ground again and again.[Seismic Pulse]
With every shockwave, his body would break, again and again, each pulse containing more and more power and weight as cracking sounds from his bones resounded everywhere around.
Uh… this sound still makes me feel sick. → Shen
I thought as I tried to step more on the already squashed parts of his body.