[Shut up! You are a rotten soul! You made me a scapegoat to get rid of this lesser spirit! I won’t forgive you!]
I don’t care about your forgiveness. In this life, I will get rid of you. But if my body disappears, then we’ll have to go all over again with this, while you might be sealed for who knows how many reincarnations until I’ll learn about your existence once again. You only have 7 seconds left. Chose fast, worthless spirit.
[Behold my godly power!]
As I was fighting with Rosabhi telepathically, Umbra made its move and a dark mouth suddenly split open. Dark energy focused inside it and then a white beam, as wide as a mountain, shot out toward us with the speed of sound.
The beam penetrated the ground and shot out through the cuboid barrier of the space, creating a hole through which only a dark-green hue was visible. The ground was hastily absorbed by the space to rebuild the space’s barrier, looking as if a black-hole was taking in space from around to close itself.
[You’re still alive?]
[Nobody said I can’t dodge that]
Rosabhi smiled mockingly as he materialized back from the darkness. Pieces already started to fall down my face and dark blood dripped on my cloak while golden flames enveloped my entire body. Especially my legs were quite damaged after focusing more power on them to dodge the deadly beam. With the exception of my cloak and pants that were both enchanted with self-repair and protection, all my clothes were now ashes while my body was completely filled in black cracks and golden flames.
Hurry. → Shen
Already annoyed by how much the flames could sting, I rushed Rosabhi to take care of the Umbra before I had to rebuild the body from scratches.
[Don’t command me, Fallen God.]
With a crazed expression, Rosabhi rebutted me and brutally inserted his hands into the ground as he threw great waves of dark energy through the spatial rift of the barrier. Suddenly my entire aura retracted and the flames started to diminish. The timer also stopped at second 3, having no more cracks appear on my body.
[You gave up? Wise choice.]
[Wrong. I’m just making space.][AP: 1900 → 1500 → 1000 → 600]
Power continued to evade my body as I started to feel a ridiculous emptiness inside me, waiting to be filled once again. After my AP finally reached 100, I raised my left arm and with a wide dark smile, my hoarse voice resounded.
[Time to eat.]
All the dark miasma around entered through my palm while the purple pillars of light bent and got absorbed as well. The dark clouds started to spin and turn above me as a dark tornado engulfed me, having me as the center, while in the sky the head was as if struggling.
[N-no! I won’t permit it! I am GOD! Graaah~!]
With a thunderous groan, Umbra turned into dark smoke and was completely absorbed by me as my AP suddenly skyrocketed to 2200. Space then started to crumble as the cuboid barrier turned to a sphere and the darkness cleansed, letting me see the greenish-dark void outside the barrier. The oxygen dispersed, together with anything that could be called matter, leaving behind only the ghastly barrier with seemed to be made from white wires going in rhombs. In the middle of this barrier, a little hole two meters wide represented the exit through with I was able to go back on Sario.
[Hahaha~! Did you think I would give you his powers?! You fool! I absorbed the biggest part! What you acquired is just a tiny portion from what it truly-]
Already tired of hearing his voice through my mouth, I strengthened the restrains on him and my entire body was set aflame once again.
[GROAAAH! Y-you insolent! Ungrateful-!…]
He instantly retreated back inside a dark corner of my soul, completely chained and set aflame for a period of time until I felt like stopping it. My burns disappeared like an illusion while the cracks started to heal. The black blood also turned red and my hair brown, or at least, a part of it. I opened my brownish-green eyes and stared around as I was levitating in the center of the spherical space with the back to the exit, my body fully healed. Amusement swelled inside as I remembered the last word Rosabhi shouted in pain and anger. Then a mocking grin appeared on my face as I said in a spiteful tone.
“Ungrateful? Do you expect me to thank the devil? Burn and struggle, you trash. Devils feast from the negativity of the living. Why would I be grateful to such evil?” → Shen
I then starred around and observed how in the darkest parts of the void outside the barrier, flickering eerie colored lights like torches moved around, flew with incredible speed, disappeared and reappeared or simply remained still in place. Some were bigger or smaller, rounder or sharper, shinier or dim. What those globs of light had in common were that they were actually burning gazes of monstrous and nightmarish creatures, lurking through the shadows and searching for something or someone inside the darkness like carnivorous beasts.
Listening closer, I was able to hear incredibly disturbing growls and shrieks which made my skin have goosebumps and my hair stay on ends. I was shocked to the core as burning gazes stared at me from the shadows. I looked stupefied at the grotesque image in front of me that hid through the shadows, feeling a mixture of curiosity, disgust, and fear.
What… are those? → Shen
Even though I was able to see some parts of their, what tried to be bodies, I was unable to discern their whole forms, as if they had none.
As I tried to look closer, one of those creatures suddenly appeared and struck its head on the barrier, shaking the entire spatial sphere.
It was as if my brain wouldn’t want to process the horrifying image in front of me. An all-over view, it was like a mollusk without a shell, with overgrown pale white skin through which gray veins were visible, skinny, bony arms, long fingers with sharp nails, hairs growing here and there, two bloodshot and yellow eyes which seemed to almost escape from their holes, a melted-like face with little hairy human ears, without a nose, having only the two holes, and a humongous mouth with thin lips and deformed long, sharp teeth that grew through the lips and maxillary, if it even had one. From its ears a green liquid was flowing while from between its eyes, gray fluid was leaking, perhaps from the impact with the barrier.
It was the first time in my life when I felt like I could truthfully call something disgusting wholeheartedly. The image was so hideous that it made me feel like throwing up, even though my stomach was empty from being cut and ripped for so many times now, the digestive juice still not there yet. After a few moments of silence, the beast turned its eyes at me and we locked gazes. A current circulated through my whole being, as If I stared in the abyss itself. A glint of agitation and irritation shone in its disgustingly yellow and bloodshot eyes. Its mouth with seemed to be impossible to move without tearing the skin, shot out open as the gray liquid flowed down from the thorn skin and lips, then a deafening and soul-shaking shriek reverberated through the barrier as if trying to explode my head with the sonic-wave.
The shriek was devastating and only its sonic-wave sent me right through the portal behind me, to the outside world in the middle of the night.
“Huff! Huff, huff, huff!…”
My breath was rough while my heart was beating almost to burst in my chest. My whole body was sweating and trembling as I felt paralyzing fear for a moment. At the moment I stood at the base of the mountain in front of a dark cave, atop the dusty and rocky ground which barely had any buds of grass growing. If not for the few bushes and trees here and there, I would’ve thought this place was just a rocky dessert filled with mountains.
Was it just me…? Or it just said, “Don’t look at me”? → Shen
With shaky hands, I tried to get up while I was barely able to regain my balance and sense of direction. My heart was still beating from panic while my mind dizzy. I was unable to think straight as I wobbled on my two feet. I touched my own forehead to regain some stability then tried to organize my thoughts.
A spiritual strike? Wasn’t my mental barrier up? What was that? → Shen
I tried to remember what happened but the image of that creature alone made me feel cold and start trembling again. I felt like something was wrong with my own body. My senses were sharpened from fear while, although I tried to calm down, my heart would simply not stop rushing.
This is weird. Rather than fearing it, is more like my body fears it. Rather, my own essence.is against that monstrosity… and in truth, I don’t fear it…? Just what is this twisted feeling? I feel calm but my heart is rushing. My mind cleared up but my senses are still sharp and I can feel my body still too stiff. This wasn’t a soul strike, that’s why my barrier didn’t work. → Shen
As my mind started to clear from what seemed to be artificial terror, my thoughts spun as I tried to look deeper into this weird and unfamiliar feeling of repulsiveness. Until a sound resounded by my side and my body moved instinctively without my wish:
“Shen! You’re out-“
Someone shouted out from behind and without even thinking, I instantly punched out a [Heaven’s Might], using all 2200 AP I had.
“What the f***?!” → Ryu
Unable to understand what was happening, Ryu instinctively activated his transformation on his arms and tried to block with all he had. He was still sent sliding on his two legs, smashing on the mountain’s wall from the other side of the valley, leaving two trails behind.
“Eh? Ryu? Ah! Are you alright!?” → Shen
I turned into a dark smoke and rushed right at the base of the mountain where Ryu crashed, a guilty feeling swirling through me as I scratched my head in confusion.
A deep hole filled with dust still had boulders falling down like a landslide, almost burying it completely.
“…Err… You there?” → Shen
I asked a little bit worried after seeing the last stone falling and yet still no sign of Ryu trying to get out. Silence befell and I felt how an explosive force resurfaced with incredible speed. I turned again in smoke and disappeared from the scene just as the entire cave filled with boulders exploded, sending rocks flying everywhere around like bullets. Through the smoke an angry Ryu emerged, his dark clothes filled with dust while some blood still dripping from the corner of his mouth. Even so, an irritated expression was present on his face as he ignored his own injuries and mumbled annoyed.
“What the Hell was that for?! You trying to kill me?! Has the devil possessed you again or some s***?! Oy Shen! Answer me, damn it!” → Ryu
While he was fuming and shouting around, almost spitting fire, I emerged through the shadows fully covered by my cloak, looking a little bit apologetic.
“Even though I did get possessed by the devil at one point, that wasn’t the case.” → Shen
“Then what?! And why are you walking in the shadows like that?! You’re creeping me out!” → Ryu
I stared at him a little bit dumbfounded by his wild reactions, making me wonder if he was always so expressive.
“… Weird, right? That’s how you behaved before all the time. It was quite funny from my point of view.” → Ryu
He then smiled widely while scratching his head feeling quite melancholic. Seeing him bring up my former self before I lost the memories made me a little curious as to what kind of person I was. However, Ryu gave me the report of what happened after he left the separate space.
“I talked with the souls while you were still inside. Everyone with the exception of Tama decided to return on the road of rebirth. She said she’ll wait for Gerome to go together… Ah, love’s so sweet~.” → Ryu
“So where is she right now?” → Shen
“Visiting someone dear. At this moment Gerome should be sleeping, right? Ehehe~ he might have a good dream right about now~.” → Ryu
[[[POV CHANGES TO GEROME]]]
At the moment inside a little hut with two beds but only one was occupied, Gerome was laying down with a frown on his face, mumbling on his own.
“N-no… enough… t-that’s not true…” → Gerome
He turned and shook in bed, as if having a bad dream while sweat filled his frowning forehead, agony being written all over his face. Then, a yellow little glob of light entered through the covered window and then inside his forehead. After a few seconds, Gerome started to calm down while his stiff muscles finally relax.
Inside his dream, Gerome was repeating the moment he fought against the double-headed orc.
He fell on one knee, his ax broken in two while his muscular body was covered in bloody wounds, completely exhausted.[You fought well, old dragoon. Now it’s time to rest!]
The orc raised his club and prepared to strike from above his head when-
“W-wait a moment. Where are you aiming?!”
Gerome’s eyes turned bloodshot as he saw the orc suddenly change his target from him to a little fairy that held her staff to her chest, a stupefied expression on her face while staring at the great orb.[You’re unable to protect what’s dear to you. What are you whining for? This is the fate of the weak!]
The orc asked mockingly then struck toward the fairy in full force.
“NO! I STOP! THERE’S NO HONOR IN YOUR ACTIONS!” → Gerome
And a deep hole filled with blood and gore formed the next moment as Gerome turned his head away, already weakened to the core from this sight that repeated oh so many times already.
Gerome had the same dream over and over again since the time of the war, now being completely overwhelmed by exhaustion and despair. Unable to look at how she got smashed into a meat-paste again and again, Gerome fell weakened as he closed his eyes. Awaiting more desire for the day when he’ll die. Be it of illness, from battle, or from age.
“My Gerome. I’m so sorry…” → Tama
He then heard her voice right beside him and he opened his eyes in shock, unable to understand how she dodged the club. Then he saw the orc raising his club filled with blood, but another one was now right in front of him with crystalline tears falling down her cheeks, holding onto her yellow and royal dress, in pain. Gerome looked confused at her, then back at the pool of blood from under the orc’s club, confused about what happened.[Now it’s your turn, old dragoon-]
“Enough!” → Tama
Before the orc could finish his words, Tama cried out and space itself seemed as if it froze in place. Right after, the blood, the orc, the trees and everything around them turned into dust and disappeared, as a world half dark and half sunny appeared around them. Gerome was kneeling down in front of the beautifully dressed Tama as he stood on the dark side, while she stood on the sunny side, her eyes still filled with pain and sadness. He gazed upwards at her with big and hopeful eyes while he reached towards her with trembling hands.
“T-Tama… Is it you?” → Gerome
“Yes, Gerome. I’m finally able to visit you once again.” → Tama
Her tears fell down in rivers as she held onto one of his hands dearly. Gerome reached out with his other hand to her cheeks and cleaned her tears, feeling her warmth and smooth skin. His eyes then reddened as his heart stung. Tears fell down the same while his voice trembled.
“Aaah~… My Tama… Please, forgive this foolish old man! If only I used that deadly spell in time! If only I wasn’t that afraid of death and simply took action! If only I thought more about you, and less about myself! Tama! I ask you to forgive me! Because I will never be able to forgive myself a third time!” → Gerome
His loud cries made his body shook as he lowered his head to the ground, feeling shameless, disgraceful, useless. Seeing him like this, Tama raised his face in her tiny arms and touched foreheads with him as she told him in a firm and shaking voice, almost chanting to his heart.
“My Gerome, please stop despairing. My Gerome, please forgive yourself for I forgave you and still love you, even more than before. My Gerome, please continue living, if not for yourself, then for those who still need you. My Gerome, Please never forget that the departed will always watch over you from above, while I will always wait for you on a fateful day. My Gerome, for mine, for yours, and for everyone’s sake, please stop fighting yourself and let the light warm your heart. Continue fighting for this blessed kingdom and help the new generation to raise into honorable and proud warriors, for this is your meaning.” → Tama
Gerome listened to her pleas and felt how her every request made him feel lighter as the darkness around diminished, letting sunny rays of light to penetrate through the darkness that surrounded him, slowly but surely illuminating his half as well.
After Tama finished, she looked in his eyes and lightly kissed his forehead then buried her face in his chest, hugging him tightly.
“For the love of all, please stop blaming yourself, Gerome. You make me feel regretful for saving you that time, and I don’t want to feel sorry for giving my life to the one I love!” → Tama
Her cries made Gerome feel as if he just woke up from a trance as his clouded eyes, suddenly shone with a clear light. The darkness everywhere around him washed away, leaving for light and warmth to invade his half as well. He calmly hugged her back as a warm feeling enveloped both of them.
“Tama… Thank you.” → Gerome
“Mhm… I thank you as well.” → Tama
They stood like this until Gerome woke up in the middle of the night, tears of joy falling down his face as he got up from his bed with a warm feeling in his chest, for once actually finally feeling rested. He touched his chest as a calm and warm expression finally appeared on his face after so long. He stared at the moon and for some reason, he felt like the moon had also a yellow shade around it, making him feel as if he was blessed and always had someone right beside him.
Little Tama… You saved me once again. → Gerome
He bowed his head to the moon and then with a warm smile he entered meditation and restarted his once stopped training.
[[[POV CHANGES TO SHEN]]]
Back to where Ryu and I conversed, I tried to explain to him the reason why I panicked and sent him flying without warning. After doing so, his face got serious then asked:
“Will that barrier hold them away from us?” → Ryu
“From what I observed, they have no way to get here. But I’m still not 100% sure.” → Shen
“How strong are they?” → Ryu
“I don’t know. What I’m sure of is that they strike the soul directly. Be it with their gruesome images or by the deafening noises they produce, they can make you faint or even die from fright alone. You also saw in what state I was after sustaining only one strike from them.” → Shen
“Yeah, and here I thought that only your wife can scare you.” → Ryu
“Ryu. Please.” → Shen
“Okay.” → Ryu
Ryu thought for a moment then his shoulders dropped helpless, unable to process all the new information he got as he fell on his four, completely depressed and exasperated.
“Geez~! All kind of shitty stuff has happened lately. A legendary lizard started a war with us, a party of brats and elites from the Vestria Empire tried to f*** us over while I was tortured alive by this master’s life-blood. You got full heavy-metal on me and tried to take my head while I was still in an unstable state, had to ask one of the heroes brats to resolve my brother’s mental issues and got both of you bedridden, one of you half-dead while the other going full depressed emo on me, also, forgetting everything about his best bro right here! And now? Now what. I get punched the lights out of me by my emo half-naked possessed-by-the-devil bro and find out there is a gate to the Abyss right beside my Kingdom which might burst open anytime now? Don’t you think I experienced enough worth a lifetime just this one month? Was it even a full month?! Why do I feel like my dream of living a happy family life with Bonny just disappeared and reappeared a few light-years away in the future? C’mon man… give me a break… I. Just. Wanna. Chill~!” → Ryu
“I’m, uhm, uh… Sorry…?” → Shen
I wasn’t even sure what to say. I felt the same as him, but what could we do when s*** happens every few minutes? After getting scared enough to feel like sleeping with the lights open I couldn’t say I’m all that rested either.
“F*** it. No. Hell Naw. It stood closed all this time with no weird monsters leaving it, right? Why the hell would it suddenly open now? It’s not like that barrier suddenly got a crack on it or s*** like that, right?” → Ryu
Ryu asked with an I give up on life face, shrugging his shoulders then turning around to leave.
“Uh, well…” → Shen
I didn’t know how to explain that because of the fight I had with Umbra, the barrier cracked a few times and at one point it even had a hole big enough to have a dozen or so people pass through it without a problem.
“…What…” → Ryu
Ryu turned and asked, his eyes tired and waiting for the worst.
“… You must be right. Nothing bad should happen, no? Just in case. Let me get back in there and research some stuff about that space.” → Shen
Unable to say the truth, I tried to avoid his eyes while leaving toward the cave once again. Ryu looked with surprise at me then he asked somewhat concerned.
“Will you be alright? Didn’t that s***-like creature send you out from there only with a scream? What will you do if there are more?” → Ryu
“That happened because it saw me. This time it shouldn’t be able to do so.” → Shen
I activated a spell with turned me invisible and walked toward the cave while strengthening a second time the barrier around my mind and soul. Just in case they still detect me in a way or another.
“…Well, until you do your stuff, let me bathe some more in that hot-spring. My arms are still trembling from that one punch, damn…” → Ryu
“Sorry again, and sure. Go and relax. I still have something to take care of.” → Shen
Or rather… It’s time for one Hell of a training. → Shen
I felt exasperated at the thought of going back inside that spatial sphere surrounded by deadly monsters, but I still felt like I still had something to do. Besides, that space was still under no one’s control, so I had to take over it before another spirit does. And right then, a thought struck me.
Now that I think about it… if worst gets to worse… what will be the chances of me keeping my mind stable? → Shen
Sweat fell down my back as a frosty sensation slowly crept through my chest.
Even though I was unable to see Shen, I still felt his aura, going further and further away toward the cave. Just as I was about to turn and leave, Shen’s serious voice resounded, making me stop on my track.
“Oy Ryu…” → Shen
“Huh?” → Ryu
I turned around but still saw nothing, however, I knew exactly from where Shen’s voice resounded.
“While I’ll take control over this space, I will also try to understand how strong those monsters truly are and see how their skills work. It might take around one week.” → Shen
“Uh, yeah, I already got that.” → Ryu
“No. If things go wrong. I’ll depend on you to stop me.” → Shen
“Huh…?” → Ryu
Then I finally understood why his voice was so serious. After remembering how Shen ended up from only one sonic strike, one could only imagine how they’ll get out from that torture space after a whole week. The chances of Shen losing his mind and turning crazy are actually higher than him remaining sane. This is a gamble which too much risk for me to take, as a king and as a brother.
“W-wait! Shen! For what are you risking so much?! I thought I told you to stop playing the hero and sacrifice yourself for the others!” → Ryu
I felt Shen’s aura stopping in place then grow stronger. A feeling of annoyance emanated from it as a deep voice resounded.
“First of all, this space might be a very important piece of the puzzle which could show the reason why this world is still crumbling even though I sealed Yggdrasill. Second of all, I really need to see if the barrier is still stable or the world might have another reason to end, again. As for why I would sacrifice myself for this? Do you see anyone else doing it?! Even the gods are f****** sitting back like some shitty audience!” → Shen
His voice became hoarse as the wind started to blow and a small whirlwind appeared where Shen was supposed to be. Even though he was invisible, I was able to identify two red eyes starring toward me through the darkness; a revolting and pained glint was visibly shining in the two red irises.