Ryu stared shocked at Shen, observing his desolate gaze and understanding the feeling of loneliness inside his heart.
“Shen, you-…” → Ryu
He froze in place as he was unable to confidently say what he wished to say.
“Your way of thinking is not wrong” but I’m not sure if it’s right, either…. I mean, Shen’s way of thinking is truly frightening sometimes as he looks at everything as if in the third person, under the form of an omnipotent being. This clearly isn’t normal! To watch how so many people die with calm and composed eyes, while at the same time be able to show kindness while wasting his mana to calm down the victims… Shen… The more I learn about you, the less I’m able to understand you… just like… a madman…” → Ryu
Ryu’s chest tightened as his eyes were unable to identify his brother in Shen’s silhouette for a moment. Ryu had the ability to read a person’s character by how they talked, behaved, even by their own appearance. But meeting Shen who was such a complex being left Ryu with a huge question mark above his head as he felt like the more he found out about him, the more he understood that he actually knew nothing of him. And such, a feeling similar to fear would sometimes make Ryu understand that no matter what Shen had in his head, he would be able to accomplish it, even if that something was The End of the World.
He then turned around and went for a walk after telling him he’s taking a moment to take a breather.
“Oy Ryu.” → Shen
Shen then called for him without turning around, trying to stay focused and keep the connection stable with the clones while at the same time setting aflame the corpses lying down half melted.
“Yes?” → Ryu
“… Don’t force yourself. If it’s too much, just take it easy.” → Shen
He then took out other cards and summoned another 25 individuals that, just like the others, collapsed on the ground almost immediately.
What about you? Don’t you feel like taking it easy as well…? → Ryu
Ryu looked at Shen’s back with a complicated gaze then shook his head and left the area, returning inside the bandit’s hideout for a moment to rest until he’ll return again.
Shen remained alone with his shadows while staring at the dying people of various races, ages, and genders, his eyes lost as if in a trance.
-Clang clang clang~-
The chains on him started to rattle and move as his aura made for a wind to swirl around him, showing the instability of his own inner self.
This is the face of humanity. Oh~ how beautiful, isn’t it? And I fit so well with my cold judgment. I feel nothing while watching these dying people. What revolts my heart is only the disgust I have for myself as I don’t feel a thing. My~ not sure if laughable or detestable. Hehe~ that’s quite conflicting, isn’t it?
Inside his mind the voice of one of the shadows resounded as an amused smile formed on the shadow in front of him, looking at Shen with mocking eyes.
Death is a natural phenomenon that everything and everyone will have to experience eventually. Even myself. Feeling saddened or anguish for them is the same as feeling pain while eating meat or plants. They both have a life, but we do so to survive. It’s only the nature of this flesh body playing its natural role, nothing more. → Shen
Shen answered plainly while focusing on the shadows so they won’t turn aggressive. However, the burning feeling from the chains told him that something was wrong with his powers and he wasn’t sure what it was.
Natural… I’m so twisted, I find this ugly death caused by inhumane experiments as natural! Why can’t I stop dodging reality and just open my f****** eyes?! This is not normal! Their death wasn’t natural! It was the play of humans! Of a different organization of this world that does whatever they wish for their own interests! How can I simply accept this? How can I simply close my eyes to what those selfish bastards are doing in front of my very eyes?! Tsk! It was the same back on Terra. The different orders like the separated Templars, or the self-called “Illuminated” who worship the “All-Seeing Eye”, they all are just hypocrites who talk big but think only of themselves! And I… I am doing the same by simply searching for information without helping the ones around me!
Another shadow turned its head while gently patting the head of a young man, staring with hateful eyes at Shen whose eyes still showed that he was deep in a trance. With the same calm tone, Shen answered.
The organizations from Earth are from Earth, while the ones from Sario are from Sario. Although they do share a number of sins, not all of them are alike. We must not add them together at this moment. And if you think I can heal them then you’re mistaken. I can at most tie their souls to their decaying bodies and slow their process of disintegration. But this will only put them through more suffering. → Shen
See? That’s who I am. To not accept the truth, I am simply twisting words and ideas to benefit my own judgment. Talking big in front of those who are unable to accept reality and only view the world through lenses of “Good” and “Bad”, but I don’t see myself doing the same here. I’m viewing the world through the lenses of “Useful” and “Useless”, “Benefic” and “Wasteful”, “Good for me” and “Bad for me”. I speak highly of myself in being able to watch the world beyond what normal mortals are able to see, but without a fitting example I ended up adding other filters over my eyes like an idiot. I might have overcome death, but I’m still a mortal. I might have tasted Divinity, but I’m still Human. I’m thinking of reaching Godhood while inside this flesh, but I’m only “another type of human”. Nothing better, maybe worse. Why can’t I know my place and accept just who I am already? Just why… am I negating myself?
Shen’s expression changed for a frown as a new shadow suddenly appeared and walked right in front of him, this one was the only one with red eyes and two horns from the sides, looking from above with superiority at Shen.
Now with your heart gone, I can say that most of what you’ve been has gone. You’re only a shadow of what you were, a ghost of Johan Hanover this world once knew: A master of his own self, able to look at all and everything with a judging eye, not being lost to his own emotions but not forgetting his heart either. But now? You’re just a fake.
The shadow then stopped right in front of Shen and pointed his finger right at Shen’s forehead.
That was who you were before. But even with that seemingly perfect being, you still lost yourself to a little devil. Slowly becoming more emotional as your judgment faded. When has all of this happened? What was the trigger? Remember? It was when you saved the slaves for the first time.
Oh, yes. That was the first mistake. You lost yourself to rage. Second? It was the feeling of disappointment you had in the elves after you trusted them with Yggdrasill’s seal. Afterward, you became a cripple, the clouds in your mind and heart slowly started to thicken as your mental power was slowly fading, until you made incredible mistakes on the Raising Seas. Oh, the feeling of helplessness when Bururiba’s friends died a dog’s death, the wrath he had in his eyes and he still holds it deep in his heart for you. All of these are caused because of you and you alone, with nobody to blame.
Shen closed his eyes and for a moment, the wind around him stopped swirling, until it boomed violently and sent the shadow through a thick gigantic tree, making it slowly fade as the top part of the tree fell with a heavy tremor to the side of the free space Shen made. The shadow barely stood as parts of its body were now slowly fading, its sharp glare fixated on Shen as rage was now bubbling inside.
Using violence to silence the truth! How deep will you continue to fall?! You disgrace of a human! And you call yourself a golden soul?!
Shen’s eyes then opened and darkness engulfed his entire eyeball, leaving only a shining dot in the middle, staring intently at the shadow and making it freeze in place.
[Twisting the truth? Losing myself to the devil? Being a ghost of who I was? I beg to differ.] → Shen
The shadow’s red eyes opened wide, trying to move but being pinned in place by Shen’s burning gaze.
[I do not twist the truth. I just say it. If I wish to not speak of what happened, then that’s different, but all I said is true. Now I’m not lost to the devil as everything is under my control accordingly, you all being just parts of my other parts I saw inside the vision when I visited my Child-self. And… a ghost to who I was? You’re kidding?] → Shen
A terrifying smile formed on Shen’s face as he looked at the shadow-like as an idiot. He slowly lifted one of his fingers and pointed at the shadow, making it understand that its end was now near.
[From the moment I woke up to now I consider myself another person entirely. That “Johan Hanover” is for me just another ghost of the past which died when the devil ate my heart. Who stays here in front of you is Shen Omisus. Nothing more, nothing less, “Johan” is just a cover I’m using now for my own benefit.] → Shen
Y-you can’t just negate your own name like that! W-what about us?! What will happen to us?! You can’t throw us away! We are a part of you!
[Yes. A useless part of me. Just as you lot said, I only see the benefits. And seeing how you guys are useless, I do not need you. Goodbye.] → Shen
With a movement of his own finger, a great ray of darkness shot out and destroyed the shadow completely, together with everything behind for another 50 meters.
The other two shadows that talked before stared with neutral gazes at Shen and saw another two fingers pointed at them.
[You two must only comfort the dying. Useless chatting is banned.] → Shen
He then shot out another two dark beams that exploded the heads of the shadows, making them disappear and two new ones appeared in their places, these ones only looking calmly at the ones laying on the ground.
Everything turned back to normal as Shen used Time Magic to restore the forest with the ground from around, looking as if nothing ever happened.
I disconnected the shadows from the devil’s essence, but it seems they were now in contact with other essences separated from my consciousness…. All in all, I think I suddenly got a personality disorder without even being aware. God damn it, I’m almost 20 by now and yet to get past my adolescence. Being young is hard. → Shen
Shen shook his head at the ridiculous experience he just lived, blaming his adolescence for this and simply continuing while burning the corpses and taking out other cards.
This continued until Ryu got back 10 minutes later, and suddenly the next cards Shen took out, 6 of them were only filled with a pool of blood.
“Blood? Don’t tell me, they’re…” → Ryu
“Yes. The Chaos inside has disintegrated them completely. Even the bones were eaten by the wild space inside.” → Shen
“…What a grotesque way of dying…” → Ryu
Ryu couldn’t help frowning while even Shen showed some irritation this time, feeling like the one who created these cards must truly hate all those lives.
Unable to do anything about it, for now, Shen simply took out another 6 cards and continued to release them one after the other. Day and night Ryu and Shen observed helplessly the weak die before their eyes, while at some points only releasing just corpses, pools of blood, bloody skeletons, or just a little string of mist which seemed to be the Ka (spirit) that was absorbed by the [Energy Stones] and Ba (soul) which remained after the body has been completely destroyed.
Because of having more cards filled with corpses than expected, Shen and Ryu finished releasing all the cards graded with I in just 5 days, having 2 more days until Sylvia returned.
“Sigh~… Now that we’re done with this, let’s free the ones who are 100% sure to be alive.” → Shen
“Why 100%? How can you be that sure?” → Ryu
“If you’re at least Energy Fighter power-rank, your aura will be able to defend you from the disintegrating energies of the space inside the cards. These guys were at most disciples while the rest were even weaker than normal humans, completely crippled. The rest should be able to resist that energy and only feel like being kept in a trance.” → Shen
“Oh, so for them it would all seem like a dream?” → Ryu
“…Kinda.” → Shen
“Kinda?” → Ryu
Shen then takes out the first F ranked card and from inside it, he summons a young human boy.
While still asleep, the boy opened his mouth and started screaming while holding onto his head, his face distorted from fear and terror.
“W-what is with him?! You said he should be defended by his own aura!” → Ryu
“He is. Look, his body is whole and healthy… more or less.” → Shen
“Yeah but what about his mind?!” → Ryu
“Just wake him up. His aura was still too weak do defend his mind. You’ll just need to wake him up from his nightmare.” → Shen
Shen then simply walked in front of the young boy who was rolling around on the grass while screaming hysterically.
“Like this… Oy, wake up.” → Shen
The next moment, Shen grabbed the young boy by the collar and slapped the daylights out of him, making the boy roll two meters on the side, waking up with a dizzy head and a numb face.
“D-dude! Wasn’t that too much?! He’s just a boy!” → Ryu
“There was also the option of electrocuting him. Which one you chose?” → Shen
“Alright. Can I slap with the back of my hand as well?” → Ryu
“Sure. Just don’t be too violent to break their teeth. They did nothing wrong to actually end up with missing parts.” → Shen
“Of course. I’ll try to be gentle, but slap hard enough to wake ‘em up.” → Ryu
As Shen and Ryu talked about the best slapping method to wake everybody up, the young boy looked around then at the two men, complete confusion written all over his face.
“Oh. You there, just sit wherever you like as long as you’re on sight. We will explain everything about what’s happening and what you’ll have to do from now on-… Ryu, you’ll also have a job to do.” → Shen
“Hm?” → Ryu
Shen then offered to Ryu the diamond card he got from the great professor he found inside the main room of the underground facilities.
After he made sure to make the mad professor experience different forms of torture in an illusory world terrifying enough to remember them in his next lives, Shen then stole all the cards from the other mad-men and searched around for where the other experiments were locked down. In the end, at the very end of the last floor, Shen found a huge arena that was filled with monsters and other cards. Many other mad-men were on their way to insert all the monsters inside the cards, but just as they wished to lock inside the card the greatest and most powerful of them all: the Green Dragon, Shen burst in as pieces of golems and gargoyles were left behind, and immediately hypnotized the scientists and stole their cards. He quickly made a promise with the chained dragon that he and every monster there will get away from civilization to live the rest of their lives in peace, while Shen will grand him and everyone there the freedom they seek. But, of course, only after they completely obliterated the underground facilities from the face of Sario.
After he explained how to use the cards, Ryu got down to it and took off the collar around the boy’s neck, making him feel as if able to circulate his energies freely. He stared in amazement at both of them, but Shen stopped him and told him to sit down somewhere and wait until they finished releasing everyone.
“I have many more like you, brat. It will take a while, so if you wish for answers, better be patient and wait until I’m done so I won’t need to repeat myself.” → Shen
“Uh, umm. O-okay.”
The boy simply sat down beside Ryu and observed how a mature wolf-man was on the ground, sobbing uncontrollably, having a nightmare just like him.
Both Ryu and Shen froze in place after watching a burly and strong-looking wolf-man, sobbing with his tail in between his legs from fear.
“This will be a long day…” → Shen
Shen sighed already tired as he walked toward the burly man, only to send him flying with a slap, making the young boy’s face pale as he felt his cheek still numb.
S-so that’s why I’m feeling dizzy… How scary.
The wolf-man then woke up while his eyes were spinning in his head and, just like the boy, he looked around confused and waited for answers. Ryu then took off the collar and made him sit beside the boy.
This continued for half a day as Shen was already annoyed at one point, summoning 10 shadows and giving them each some cards to summon and slap awake the ones who still had their minds trapped inside the dream world.
After a few hours of continuous slapping, both Shen and Ryu had around a thousand people of all genders, races, with ages varying between 12 and 50, staring at the two of them with expectation and curiosity, while most of them still stared around in curiosity and with emotion, feeling their hearts flutter from the colorful nature around them.
“We still have more to release from the other ranks. We will explain everything after everything has been made clear. But just in case of some who lost themselves, let me do this…” → Shen
A shockwave was released from Shen, covering an area of 1km around, surprising everyone in the vicinity and Ryu as well. Even so, after the shockwave passed, there was nothing different from before, the wind, the light, the image around being the exact same one as before.
“Did you fail?” → Ryu
Ryu asked unsure as he was unable to feel the eerie energy and aura from when Shen was possessed by the devil and used the exact same skill against Yuri. At that time, the sky turned red and the ground cracked and dried up, seemingly like an image from Apocalypse. But this time, except the initial shockwave, there was no difference to anything around them.
Shen then shook his head and answered.
“The nest can be built as the creator wishes. I wanted mine to be completely transparent and let me know and control everything inside this space. I don’t need to scare anyone with that eerie energy, you know?” → Shen
“I see.” → Ryu
Ryu nodded in approval then Shen took out the next set of cards ranked E. Shen summoned the first person: a wildcat woman, which after slowly waking up, she didn’t seem to need any forms of stimulus to wake up from her nightmares.
“Hoh~? Well, this is helpful.” → Shen
Shen then activated 25 cards together and everyone inside woke up shortly after being released. Because the area around was already quite crowded, Shen gave them freeway to wander around and explore the place for as long as they wished. Because of the nest he already created, Shen had no reason to worry as the nest surrounded the area with a mist that returned them back inside the moment they wished to trespass. Although free, they were all in truth, caged inside until Shen decided it was the time to send them back.
While Shen continued to release more people from inside the cards, around 10 young boys and girls of different races crept closer to his back, killing intent and madness shining through their eyes. Just as they wished to jump on him, Ryu’s pressuring power made them all trip and fall, their eyes turning back to normal while bullets of sweat-drenched their backs and foreheads.
“Shen. This must be the madness you talked about, right? How can I wake them up?” → Ryu
“Just scare them a bit. Their consciousness should awaken again if you just shake it a bit.” → Shen
“Understood.” → Ryu
His dragonic eyes shone threateningly as he stared from above at the 10 youngsters, some of them looking in confusion, some with fear, while some with burning hate.
Huh? Wait, someone of them seemed sane enough…? → Ryu
Ryu felt like something was wrong, but then a young human girl tried to resist the pressure and with some difficulty, she was able to raise her head and stare at Ryu and Shen with rage and hate.
“Bastards! After torturing and using us like objects, you expect us to just sit still and wait for the next round of experiments?! If I can’t bring you with me, then I’d rather die than go through all that again!”
While still being pressured on the ground, she focused all her energy at her palm, and forming it like a spear, she immediately rushed to stab her own heart.
She stared in shock at the blood dripping down the hole inside the hand that rushed in front of her own, stopping it from stabbing through her heart. She looked up at Ryu who was now kneeling on one knee right in front of her and firmly holding her hand, anguish written all over his face.
“Enough! You think we released you to simply commit suicide?! You are free! There won’t be any more experiments, no longer will someone stare at you like at some objects! You are a living being! A soul with a path in front of you!” → Ryu
With a powerful voice, he got up and roared furiously for everyone that saw what happened there, to hear him loud and clear as his firm yet desperate tone shook their hearts.
“The times of nightmare has ended from this moment onwards! There won’t be any more excruciating experiments on any of you! No longer will you need to live a life of torture! No longer will you be kept in a closed room for the rest of your life! This sky! This earth! The grass and the clean air! Everything will from now on belong to you all, just like how it belongs to us all! However, for all of this to happen, I’ll beg of you all to give me the remaining trust you can muster and hold on for a while longer!” → Ryu
The pressure vanished completely as every child stared at Ryu in shock, their eyes wide open, together with every other person that was around. The young girl stared with wide-open eyes at Ryu and didn’t know what to do now. Seeing Ryu’s blood on her hand, she felt now some kind of guilt, lowering her head for jumping to conclusions.
Then, a young boy from beside her got closer and asked warily.
“W-what do you mean we’re free…? W-what about… t-the laboratories…?”
His voice shaking, the boy tried his best to form words while he was stuttering, perhaps from some mental damages.