Chapter 38

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The Old Man was stuck at the proverbial crossroad. The longer this fight dragged on, it’d only get tougher for him. His health and stamina would continue to decline, all the while the disgusting, loathsome enemy’s would not, at least from what he gleaned during their exchanges so far.

With no weakness to speak of, the Old Man, who had fought and defeated stronger opponents in the past, could not see a way out with the current set of abilities he was forced to utilize.

The creature also had figured out that for some reason, its opponent could not deal a decisive blow that could end this battle. The corners of its mouth curled upwards in a very creepy grin.

The Old Man clicked his tongue in annoyance and rued the fact that he didn’t have a single reliable weapon on him. In his haste to come here and kill this monster, he chose not to go and reclaim that one sword he had…. recovered years ago. The current whereabout of that weapon was known to him and the distance was near enough to cross in half a day if he “flew” with haste.

What a blunder. I should’ve gotten that first….

The Old Man shook his head slowly. Regretting over it wouldn’t help his situation now. Better to forget about it, lest it became a mental hindrance as the fight dragged on.

Plus, he had no time for it anyways. His perception, or in this case, his sharp intuition, was busy telling him that he should not dilly dally anymore here. Because if he did, then an irreversible crisis might fall on him.

His intuition never let him down so far.

So, even at the cost of his own vitality, the Old Man forcibly accessed a portion of his stored strength, no longer giving a damn whether his body could take it or not.

Just as he was about to put that bit to a good use, the monster pounced viciously and swung the violet sword as if trying to cut down the whole world in one go.

The Old Man swiveled out of the arc and retaliated by aiming at the legs of the monster. However, a weird thing happened, something the monster hadn’t done until now.

Just before the Old Man’s low kick landed on the monster’s legs, the gooey flesh of the creature split open and separated. And that meant the Old Man’s kick swished past the now-empty air.

The unexpected miss slightly put him off balance. Not that such a thing would place him in mortal danger, no – but it was an opening the monster used in order to hurt him.

The arm that held the violet sword twisted to an unnatural angle again and tried to stab him from above. Rather that trying to dodge it like a regular person might, the Old Man simply carried on with the kick’s momentum and spun. The previously low kick then became a rising roundhouse to the side of the torso, all the while the slanting posture of the body caused by the kick ensured the deadly sword would miss its mark.

The heel caught the shoulder of the creature that held the violet sword with a sharp, loud crack. The recipient of the blow was forced off its feet by the sheer venom hidden in the kick and was flung sideways at a rate of knots, causing sonic booms in its wake.

However, the creature recovered its posture mid-air and landed on its two feet. Snarling, it opened its toothy mouth and suddenly spat out a violet colored ball of highly condensed Aeterna.

The Old Man’s face flickered with the realization that this seemingly innocuous ball of energy was actually a miniaturized, focused version of the energy blast the creature used previously to create the crater they were fighting in.

He could imagine that the power of this attack would be no laughing matter since all of that destructive force was focused into a single spot no bigger than the size of a baseball.

The violet-colored Aeterna ball trembled for a millisecond before shooting out at an incredible speed towards him.

Frowning deeply, the Old Man gritted his teeth and was resolved to dodge it, knowing full well that the current him couldn’t block this attack face on and remain unscathed. But then….

But then, he remembered that if allowed to continue in its trajectory, the energy ball would no doubt slam into an area full of non-combatants. The resulting casualty would be immeasurable.

“Argh, damn it all to hell.”

Instead of blocking it, he had to parry it. Easier said than done, really.

Modifying the Soul Defense a tad, the Old Man circulated a fair whack of ch’i over his arms and the upper torso. By the time his body had taken on an ideal angle to deflect the ball of Aeterna, the attack was upon him. All of this took less than a blink of an eye, of course.

Rather than a clumsy, brute-force punt off the back foot, the Old Man received the ball of Aeterna, then gently let it rise upwards on the angle of his arms which were lined up straight. The ball, still no bigger than a baseball, traveled on the path he laid out and flew into the sky at an oblique angle.

In a flash, the violet-colored Aeterna ball flew to a height of a very tall mountain and exploded with an almighty boom. The resulting shock waves shook the cityscape below, even proceeding to flatten down the odd, poorly-built buildings here and there.

Not only that, the sky became dyed in an undulating violet color that looked like it was welcoming the advent of The Biblical Armageddon.

The Old Man didn’t stand around admiring the pretty colors. No, he was busy moving forward, planning to perform another round of a balletic beatdown on the violet creature.

With the trembling sky looking like the surface of a violet sea serving as a dramatic backdrop, the Old Man arrived before his target and struck out with one of the techniques he refrained from using until now, fearing that it might worsen his condition.

His master, bless his soul, used to call it The Unyielding Fist – so called because it was to be used against beings deemed several times stronger than the user. A defiant statement of an unyielding desire to never back down from a challenge, this fist looked very simple at a first glance but the explosion of destructive power and speed behind the move was quite literally, unparalleled in any worlds.

The ch’i distorted the air around the Old Man as he punched forward, his body leaving behind dozens of afterimages as he covered an incredible distance.

As his knuckles were about to connect, the Old Man then sent even more ch’i forward to disrupt the creature’s flow of Aeterna. His experience had taught him that the huge internal backlash caused by that was as damaging as his fist itself. So, how could he overlook a chance to inflict double the pain on his enemy?

The fist connected with a powerful thud. The ground below, and behind the creature caved in, cracking up into hundreds of small and medium sized chunks of debris.

The creature’s facial expression distorted painfully, before letting out a howl of anguish. Its body briefly disintegrated in an explosive fashion before coalescing back into a single form again. As it solidified, the creature tried to grab hold onto the Old Man’s arm and slash at the same time with its sword.

“Quite persistent, aren’t you?!”

Snorting coldly, the Old Man then sent forth the second punch. This time, he only pulled back his fist a few inches, before slamming forward like a thunderbolt. This fist also carried a hint of vibration, invisible to all but the man himself.

This oscillating fist technique was something he came up with after years of battling Aeterna-laden monsters of this world. The harsh vibration was originally meant to disrupt the flow of blood, to damage the nerve endings, and in the cases of martial artists, to destroy their meridians. However, the Old Man also found out that in the right frequency, it could also heavily disrupt the flow of Aeterna and cause big injuries to the Aeterna-dependant creatures of this world.

Of course, the price for activating this technique was not small for him either in his current condition.

When this second fist struck the same area as where the first fist had landed, even the air behind the creature shattered, creating a vacuum void of all matter. The previously cracked ground also shattered, the rising dust and debris annihilated by the void and the devastating suction from it.

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The creature’s body shattered once more but this time, the way it did was different compared to before. Previously, it was like as if a gel-like liquid was scattering. But now, it was like a semi-hard plaster breaking apart. This slight difference did not escape the Old Man’s observation, even as a line of black blood streaked down from the corner of his lips.

“So, now you’re taking a proper damage, eh?”

The Old Man grinned coldly as he wiped the blood off his chin.

The violet creature quickly stepped back a several dozen paces even as its body reformed. As soon as its head was reconstructed, the Old Man noted that there was a trace of panic in that creepy, single-eyed face. That brought about a good deal of satisfaction in him.

Might as well, because he was not feeling too good at the moment. His three dan tians were churning unsteadily after he used the oscillating ch’i technique. As expected, using that fist attack inflamed his illness which he had been suppressing until now.

He estimated that maybe he could use this move five times and no more after that. That was his limit, otherwise his meridians would be too damaged to heal in a time frame he was looking at only with the closed-door meditation and resting. Worse, he could die if unlucky.

Breathing in deeply, the Old Man slowly took the stance to launch yet another fist attack when he felt a whole bunch of seriously ominous auras oozing from the side. Immediately his face darkened as the realization dawned on him.


He cursed and hastily fled from the position he was in. Shortly after, the places he was standing on as well as where the violet creature stood recovering, were heavily bombarded with the variety of Invocation spells.

The rainbow-colored explosions of several Elements were eye-catching, to say the least. Even though the Old Man couldn’t wield Aeterna, he was able to discern the different types of Elements cleverly mixed together to boost the destructive forces of the spells.

Winds violently whipped, pebbles and stones flew all over the place, and crimson flames burned the world mercilessly, surrounded by the cracking bolts of yellow lightning.

The Old Man jumped back until about a hundred meters away, coming to an abrupt stop there. He clicked his tongue in annoyance after seeing a few mixture of spells still stubbornly heading his way.

He had half a mind to beat up those idiotic Invokers for getting involved in this fight. However, conserving his energy was far more important, so begrudgingly he postponed the punishment plan of his.

As for the incoming spells, he dodged, blocked and blew them away.

The violet creature too didn’t stand still and allowed itself to be bombarded by the foolhardy mortals. That would be too much of a slap in the face. It had already suffered serious injuries to its functions from the unknown human.

For some reason, after it had received that second fist attack the creature found it very difficult to gather and wield the surrounding Aeterna to its liking. If it weren’t for the tremendous amount already present within, the creature would have worried a bit that it might not accomplish the sacred mission given to it by its supreme master.

But the things were looking up. Because the foolish mortals were actually delivering the sources of Aeterna straight to it. If it could not absorb the energy from the atmosphere by itself, then well….

It looked at the incoming barrage of spells and selected the ones that looked suitable. Among those, there were types he could not absorb due to the difference in the Elemental Affinity, as well as those that could damage it slightly if struck. So, the creature raised its Aeterna shielding up and deflected those that were threats, and for the others, it simply let through the barrier.

As the welcome influx of Aeterna flowed into its body, the creature grinned in a very sinister fashion. It felt its unstable body solidify greatly, allowing it to gather Aeterna on its own again.

However, it had made a critical mistake, something it failed to notice.

The Old Man, while dodging the spells, was carefully observing the creature. And he clearly discerned the Elements it absorbed and those it blocked out by actually spending its own reserves of energy. This told him a few great hints to go with.

So, you don’t like Lightning, eh? The Old Man didn’t show it outwardly, but he was carefully contemplating his new discovery. Specifically, red colored Lightning – the kind in seen in dry deserts. Combined with Wind Element and of Lightning Element to cause not only electrical damage but to weaken the fleshly body of the spell’s target. Heh, not that I can cast this magic mumbo-jumbo anyways. Still, knowledge is strength, no denying that.

The Old Man now had an avenue to explore here. Since the straightforward physical attacks were ineffective, he was bound to utilize techniques that were taxing on his body. Like the oscillating fist earlier.

Since it had avoided Lightning-type spells, the Old Man could potentially use this.

The truth was, by controlling ch’i cleverly, one could achieve results pretty similar to wielding certain Elemental types of Aeterna. Fire, for instance – all one had to do was to raise the temperature of the surroundings by circulating ch’i. As for Wind, all a martial artist had to do was punch out hard and fast. Job done.

As for the red-colored Lightning, that was akin to static electricity. Meaning, it needed a bit of friction. And one could get lots of friction by rubbing something non-stop. The oscillating fist could rub non-stop, if the Old Man wanted to. That way, he could “summon” Lightning as much as he needed.

The only trouble with this method was the burden placed on his body. He’d survive in the end, but now that the local Invokers had gotten involved, and they were clearly hostile, trying to get away in the aftermath should be tough if he was grievously injured.

But the Old Man never suffered a bout of indecisiveness. If anything, one could accuse him of being too decisive. He had already made up his mind on his next course of action.

So, under the hail of spells causing a bit of dust cover, he dashed forward. His destination? Right in the front of the creature’s face. He just loved seeing the look of bemusement on that thing’s face turn to pain and panic. It was very satisfying, seeing that.

As he neared, the Old Man hid his left fist behind his back. It was to hide the fact that his fist had begun to emit reddish sparks. He cracked his knuckles a few times as he swiftly made his way closer to the creature, weaving and dodging past the Invocations spells, fully knowing that this attack better land, or else. After all, he was already feeling the pain from trying to oscillate his ch’i.

The creature belatedly noticed the Old Man approaching, and smirked coldly. It was glad that the foolish human was saving the trouble of closing the distance by himself. Now, all the creature had to do was release all that absorbed Aeterna and form another mighty concentrated energy blast like the last time. And it would be a close-range blast as well, ensuring that the Old Man wouldn’t be able to deflect it.

At the half way mark between the two of them, a seriously high-level Invocation spell landed with a boom. A flame-based spell that took on the shape of a magnificent mounted knight wielding a huge lance, it roared like a beast and gallantly pounced at the Old Man’s direction.

He sighed grimly and canceled the Lightning-clad oscillation fist. He could not afford to have it accidentally exposed because of the interference from this spell.

The flame knight rushed in, thrusting the lance with an incredible outburst of strength. The air around the illusory weapon boiled and hissed as the tip of the lance split into dozens of smaller lances, all of them trying to pierce the Old Man.

However, The Old Man utilized his forward momentum and slid underneath the thrusts gracefully, and tilted his body at correct times to dodge every single one of the flame lances. He did all this while keeping one eye on the violet creature. And once past the obstruction of flames, he rose up with nary a loss of speed and continued to run toward the creature.

The flame knight turned around and gave chase, although the Old Man was much faster and thus it was left far behind.

All of this happened less than a person blinking for a couple of times. Normal people couldn’t even follow the action as it was happening too fast for their untrained eyes.

In another breath or two, the Old Man was within the striking distance. So, he fired up the oscillation fist again, but then, he saw the violet-colored ball of energy rapidly forming right in front of the creature’s mouth. Naturally, he frowned.

Because of the time constraints, the ball itself was small. But as a trade off, it shot out faster than a .45 Magnum round. Compared to the previous energy attack, this one was much, much faster.

The Old Man hastily dodged it and the energy ball narrowly flew past his right ear, slicing it and letting a stream of blood to gracefully dance in the air.

Barely dodging the attack crumbled his posture. He had to balance himself on the ground with the fist behind his back and that greatly weakened the reddish lightning as he made contact with the ground.

It was too late to cancel his movement now – because he had already linked his dodging and counterattacking instinctively. The oscillating fist, clad in the weakened, reddish electricity, slammed into the side of the creature just as the energy ball collided with the flame knight that was chasing down the Old Man. The humongous and thunderously loud explosion that came from that impact masked the howl of pure agony coming out of the creature’s mouth.

The fist worked wonders but as expected, at a great cost.

When the attack connected, the Old Man felt his blood flow reverse from the backlash of the oscillating fist. He felt his arm wither as the violent ch’i ran amok inside his meridians. The result was that he spat out a mouthful of foul-smelling black blood, some of it landing on the creature’s violet skin.

The moment the blood splashed on the creature’s goo-like surface, it began to melt with a loud hiss. This compounded the amount of pain the creature felt by a hundred fold. This foul-smelling black blood was actually burning away its life essence, which was granted by the supreme being, its master.

Seeing the horrific scene of its flesh melting off its body, it felt genuine fear for its very existence for the first time in is brief existence.

To make the matters worse, the melting of its flesh didn’t stop at the areas splashed by the blood. Oh no.

The violet colored flesh continuously melted away, some turning into a fine mist, dissipating away while the others pooled below into an ever-increasing puddle of gooey mess.

The Old Man found this new development rather bemusing. He didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at this turn of events. Who knew his illness was this effective in killing the creature? If he had known, then he’d have spat out lots more of his tainted blood well before getting tangled up with this thing.

Besides the blood melting it, his oscillating fist also showed its effectiveness. The area he had struck had been shattered, but the scattered bits of the body didn’t coalesce back into one piece like before. Instead, each part of the violet flesh was sealed by the cracking red electricity and began to literally burn away.

Clearly panicking now. The creature willed its flesh to regrow, to reform, to reattach. None of those happened.

If anything, its desperate actions caused faster depletion of its reserve life force, ironically enough. Frantically, it swung the sword haphazardly, trying to slash at the Old Man and the barrage of spells coming towards it.

The Old Man nimbly stepped back, wiping the blood off his lips in bitter satisfaction. His left arm was ruined, but he would resuscitate it with meditation and medicines later on. He was just glad the injury was not as serious as he feared.

As for the creature, it howled in madness, trying desperately to hold on. The melting intensified, so was the burning away of the shattered bits of flesh. The air was filled with the smell of unchecked fire, with the rancid odor of rotted flesh burning away. It was not very pleasant at all, the Old Man mused quietly to himself.

The Invocation spells ceased raining down as the creature melted and burned into a puddle of violet goo. The rancid odor intensified greatly, making the Old Man to hastily cover his nose.

Hmph, so it is over….

The Old Man sighed, feeling slightly relieved. If Kain was here, he’d retort that a flag was raised with that line of thinking, although the Old Man wouldn’t have the foggiest idea what the boy was on about.

And sure enough, at the tail end of the long, tired sigh, the Old Man sensed a movement within the violet goo.

A small bit, no bigger than a thumbnail, flew out of the puddle faster than a beam of light. Outwardly, it was not affected by the black blood’s melting nor was it burned by the red electricity.

The Old Man felt a sliver of the creature’s life force still resonating in that small lump of flesh.

Cursing inwardly at his carelessness, the Old Man chased after it, disregarding his internal injuries.

The Invokers on the ground watched dumbfoundedly as they witnessed a human flying in the air. A squadron of Griffon Riders, mobilized to attack the enemies destroying the city, watched with their jaws slack at the sight of a tiny violet flesh shooting past them all, and an old man flying after it.

And give chase he did, even as more of the black blood oozed out of his lips. He had to finish the damn thing now, or else the creature for a certainty would return later. Even though there was a slim chance that things could be fine if he let it go, in his guts he just knew that a loose end like this was a ticking time bomb waiting to go off. He had to snip the fuse now.

He wasn’t sure how long they had flown, but he certainly recognized the direction they were flying in – toward the Tetamus mountain range. His face darkened considerably at this.

However, his face darkened even more, when he saw a cloud of shadows rapidly approaching them from up ahead. The clouds appeared so fast and so suddenly, the Old Man was nearly caught off guard. He felt an alarm of deadly crisis go off inside his head like a mad siren. He involuntarily stopped his pursuit and hovered in mid-air, watching.

Only allowed on

And as he watched, he felt a sense of horror creep in. He felt all of his being, both his instincts and his mind, telling him to hide. So, he backed away and flew down to the ground in haste, then he hid in the undergrowth, lulling his presence almost to nothingness.

Because, right at that moment in the air above, a whole group of shrieking wraiths had pounced on the violet flesh, competing against one another and voraciously consuming it. And as they did so, their semi-transparent bodies became less illusory. Not only that, as soon as the violet flesh was gone, the wraiths began devouring each other.

As their numbers decreased, the black aura of death increased around the area, suffocating and suppressing all there was. Even the normally-pleasant sunlight was twisted and darkened under the oppressiveness of this aura.

After a few minutes of frenzied devouring, only a single creature remained. It was black, round, and as big as a VW Golf. It trembled weakly, before setting off on a direction, flying away.

The Old Man watched, noting that the new monster was no longer headed towards the Tetamus. Plus, he could no longer sense the violet creature’s life force anymore. It was now dead for sure, replaced by a who-knows-what. He had no idea what this situation meant, but as far as he could tell, this monster seemed to lack…. any tangible intelligence. It looked like it operated purely on instincts alone.

Oh well, if it’s not going to threaten the kid, then whatever. I’m sure the Invokers of this world will take care of that. It’s not as strong as that violet creature anyways.

Sighing with a relief, the Old Man leaned against a sturdy-looking tree, suddenly feeling too tired to stand straight. His body ached everywhere, the badly withered left arm being the worst culprit.

His perceptions also told him this area was no good. Not that he’d be in any particular mortal danger, no, but of being constantly annoyed by the passing small fries. Now that would get tiresome real fast.

I better find a place to meditate and recover, thought the Old Man. He couldn’t move too far in his current condition. He had to find a cover somewhere nearby.

As he steadied his rough breathing, he felt a small prickle in his consciousness. Someone was trying to contact him telepathically over a great distance.

Only a handful of beings possessed this ability. And most of them were his allies. Of course, most of those allies were dead now due to old age but never mind that. If someone was trying to contact him this way, then the number of possibilities were quite limited. Counted on one hand, as a matter of fact.

And when the Old Man allowed the communication to come through, he couldn’t help but break out in welcoming smile as the gruff and nostalgic voice of his friend flooded in.


In the meantime, Kain was having a nervous breakdown. Well, almost.

Partly because the bronze giants were staring daggers at him while he was plopped down on the ground from the exhaustion taking its toll on the small body of his.

It was the case of “One Thing After Another.” At first, it was the sinister golden knight trying to suck him dry. And now, it was the bronze statues eyeballing him for god knows why.

Only if he could read the facial expressions of the statues. The remaining ones all carried the same type of scary, angry scowl. The kind of grimacing face he saw once in a TV documentary about a famous Japanese Buddhist monastery. More specifically, on the faces of the aged wooden carvings of spiritual guardians allegedly protecting the said monastery.

At the time, Kain thought they looked scary enough to chase away small children, thus depriving the institution of much-needed donations from the parishioners.

No wait, can I even call the believers of Buddhism parishioners? Sounds not quite right, somehow. No, wait another damn second here. That’s not really important now, is it?!

Kain shook the irrelevant thoughts out of his head and took a deep breath. That calmed him down slightly.

Right. Let’s see. These statues are not moving to kill me…. yet. Does that mean I’m not considered a threat to them? I did kill that… uh, knight after all. Could it be…. are they considering me as an ally?

Kain slowly stood up, his legs still shaking. His gaze never left the group of the giant statues, watching closely for any hint of movement. If it seemed threatening, then he’d hightail it outta here, pronto. The door was now open, so all he had to was perform the body enhancement spell on his legs and run.

Oh, that’s right, Emma’s there, blocking the dang doorway….

Kain belatedly remembered that the green haired Elf was standing on the frame of the mangled doorway, tensely surveying the totally messed up mural chamber with suspicious eyes. She had nocked another arrow and was ready to let it loose at any given moment, but the thing was, she was blocking the only exit, with not a single inclination to move out of the way.

Oh, for chrissake, move your bum, will you?

Kain shouted inwardly at the idiotic girl. Of course, she had no way of understanding his sentiments. After all, she was standing there, fearing that any sudden movements from her part might set off these bronze giants in a bad way. She was here to protect the little master, not to get him very much killed by the statues with scary faces.

After standing up straight, Kain sensed that all of the accumulated ch’i in his body was exhausted. As for his Aeterna Pool, less than 10% remained. A lot of it got sucked out by that golden knight, while more got drained out of him the moment that golden disc activated. Speaking of which….

Kain’s eyes drifted to the floor between him and where the knight used to be. There the small golden disc laid innocently, as if to taunt all the witnesses present that its deadly, earth-shattering power was actually a product of their imaginations.

He stood there debating the merits of him trying to grab it. In order to do that, he would have to move a bit forward. That might make the bronze giants turn hostile. So, he had to decide and do it quickly. Was the golden disc that could suck out his Aeterna reserve to produce a massively cool energy sword worth taking the risk?

Of course, it was. Besides the cool factor, it saved his life. He was getting a bit attached to it. Also, it could become his lucky charm, the proverbial last line of defense against the overwhelming odds.

The distance between it and him was pretty close. If he took two steps forward and then reached down…. he’d be able to touch it.

Oh well, that’s that, but what about the exit? Emma’s still there, not moving. Is there a way to alert her to my plans?

His back was turned towards her. He thought about doing some type of baseball hand signs but the odds were, she might misunderstand and cause more problems instead. Still, he couldn’t think of anything else to do.

So, he nonchalantly placed his right arm behind his back and began to frantically signal at Emma. Unfortunately, her eyes were fixated on the giant bronze statues and she managed to completely miss all the signs Kain made.

If this was a comedy, he’d turn his head and make a funny but urgent facial expression trying to get her attention. Too bad the situation didn’t allow for that.

As the atmosphere became even worse, it was Emma who surprisingly broke the uneasy silence first.

“Little Master, are you unhurt? What are these things? I sense no life in them, but they are not like any other Golems I’ve ever seen.”

Her voice rang clearly around the chamber, echoing harshly against the background of distant humming noises and small hisses of gas expelling out of somewhere. Thankfully, the giant bronze statues did not react. If they did, Kain would’ve crapped in his pants.

But since they did not move, Kain felt that maybe it was okay to speak here. He still felt a bit hesitant but decided to take the chance.

“I’m more or less fine, although a little tired. As for these statues, I think they are meant to guard this chamber. And to kill that knight, or whatever it was.”

Emma nodded slowly after hearing that. “Then, perhaps these giants wouldn’t see us as enemies?”

Kain’s face became a bit apologetic as he explained what happened earlier on. “See, the thing is, when I was trying to open that door, I pressed some buttons that I shouldn’t have and started this whole thing by accident. I think it was me who ended up, uh, reviving that knight dude.”

“So, does that mean they see you as a bad guy, then?” Emma’s face hardened a bit as she gripped the bow tighter, ready to take aim at the closest bronze giant.

“I honestly don’t know. I don’t know what these fellas are waiting for. If they are going to do something, I’d rather they do it sooner rather than later.” Kain sighed weakly, his shoulders slumping for a second, before recovering. “Oh yeah. Hey Emma, could you just move out of the way? When the stuff hits the fan, I’d like to make a run for it, but you’re blocking the exit, you know.”

Emma’s response exceeded his expectation, however. She simply replied, “Wait, Little Master. I think…. you should reconsider. Firstly, you should pick up that golden medallion off the ground.”

“Uhm… why?”

“Just a hunch. Try it.”

Kain wanted to scratch the back of his head in utter confusion, not to mention retort out what the hell, a hunch? You want me to die?!

But like an adult – inwardly – that he was, Kain held back his tongue and glanced at the bronze statues.

Come to think of it, when I used Aeterna vision on these guys, I picked up on some weird flow from them. I felt the same from the disc when it activated in my palm. Are they all related? Logically speaking, they are found in the same place so the chances of them created for the same purpose is pretty good. But how does that help me?

Kain hesitated for a bit. He tried to look at the disc on the floor, but it showed no reaction from his Aeterna vision. Right now it looked just like an ordinary piece of metal.

And when he looked at the bronze giants, the flow of Aeterna around them had stabilized to a point where they might as well be real statues, not a group of fully articulated death machines. Not a sign of movements from them whatsoever. The whole thing was quickly turning rather bizarre, to a Monty Python level of absurdity.

As a test, Kain coughed lightly as he took a step forward. At the same time, he cast the body enhancement spell on his legs, ready to run at a moment’s notice.

Again, no movements from the other side.

Seeing this, Kain felt a bit more confident. He took one more step to make sure, and the statues remained dead still. This emboldened the boy even further, just enough to take another step closer to the fallen disc.

This was working out pretty well. After all, he did want to take the golden disc with him anyways. The only worry he had was of Emma blocking the exit inadvertently when he was making the getaway. But now, with the statues not looking to attack him, there was no need to run anymore.

To conserve the remaining Aeterna reserve, Kain canceled the body enhancement spell and bent down to pick up the disc off the floor. Even then, no movements. Not even a squeak.

It was completely anti-climatic as it could possibly get. To think he was totally psyched for this, it was one big let down. But he wasn’t going to complain about this turn of the events, which was in effect better and safer for him anyway.

Kain carefully pocketed the disc and glanced at the statues. Their scary faces remained, but for some reason, they didn’t seem so threatening now. If anything, they seemed to make those pained faces of people suffering from constipation instead.

He slowly stepped back until he reached where Emma was standing. She too began to back away cautiously. The two of them were resolved to run away as soon as their feet touched the ground outside the mural chamber.

Suddenly, the bronze giants began to move noisily. Rather than give pursuit, they returned to their original positions, surrounding the spot where the sarcophagus used to lay, and like robots switching off, became inactive again, lights going out from their eyes. Kain even heard the whirring noises winding down to a stop.

Seeing this, he bitterly chuckled. If he knew, then he’d have left already….

Emma shook her head wryly too, thinking that they were worried for nothing. She then turned to face the boy and began to shoot him with questions after questions. Of course, Kain suggested that they should get out of here first before he satisfies her curiosity.

“Hey, look. I can see that you’re dying to know but shall we get out of here first? For one, I’m really tired right now. And I’m not 100% sure but I think it’s getting pretty late already.”

Emma begrudgingly agreed, although she was complaining a lot.

As they approached the exit of the large chamber, the hologram of the Asian woman came back on with a pop. She still had that robotic yet polite smile as she began yapping without any prompts from either of Emma or Kain.

The item batch no. DPX-154.73 Version 8.01 in your possession is not permitted to leave the research areas due to the concerns regarding the safety of its operations. Please refrain from exiting the premises until the security personnels arrive.”

Kain raised an eyebrow. Even though the place was clearly wrecked, with barely anything functioning properly, somehow something here scanned him and figured that he was about to abscond with one of its prized tools.

Of course, he was on high alert thanks to the words “security personnels,” although he was quite sure that was, spelling-wise, incorrect. He was scared of confronting another bunch of death-dealing machines like the bronze giants. This time, he got a weird feeling that robots with outer shells resembling the Daleks from a certain British TV show might pop out of the corner next.

Basically, he was readying himself for just about anything, really.

“Eh? I can’t leave with this? Really?”

Emma tilted her head in dejection as she held the bow in her hands. There were tears in her eyes now as she hugged the weapon tightly. It was rather plainly obvious that she rather liked the bow’s performance very much.

Kain glanced at her and at the bow, and couldn’t help but retort in his mind. Nope, I don’t think the hologram AI is unhappy with you because of some plasticky bow.

After lightly shaking his head, he fished out the small golden disc out of his pocket and held it up under the glare of the overhead light. It sure looked totally innocuous.

A flicker of determination flashed past in his eyes. There was no way he’d give this thing up. It was a phenomenal treasure, one that could save his life in times of emergency, so no way in hell he’d give it up.

The hologram’s image wavered and broke up. After a second or two, it blinked into life again, still carrying that robotic smile.

Thank you for your cooperation. Please have a nice day.”

Both Emma and Kain stood there, at first feeling surprised, and then immediately feeling relieved afterwards. Soon, even that was replaced with bemusement.

“But of course. It’s been too long. No way anyone in this building is still alive after all these years to stop us from plundering her secrets,” chuckled Kain softly. He then turned around to Emma and spoke. “Let’s just get outta here. We can come back later to explore more, right?”

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