Helial cared a lot about his sister, much more than about his own life. He would have never let anyone touch her. Unfortunately, sometimes certain events are out of the control even of the greatest genius. Helial was about to understand that.
"Look, Boss, we found a little doll inside this cave. She was sleeping peacefully, unaware of our presence. We even stayed looking at her for some minutes before taking her outside, she was too cute! Kwyahahah!"
A large dark vein appeared on Helial's forehead.
"Kwyahahah! Good job, boys! She'll make for a nice toy! Kwyahahah!" cried the one of the three that looked like the Boss. His body emanated a terrifying Aura; the mere pressure coming out of the Goblin's body made it difficult for Helial to breathe normally.
"Kwyahahah! Boss! This girl's lucky! We had to change route and she got to meet the Commander of the expedition. Not many people can say to have met a Goblin in the Third Phase! Kwyahahah!" one of the Goblins next to him was clearly a brownnoser, but the Commander did not seem to mind at all.
What? Third Phase?
Helial was getting all choked up. Three Phases. Three Phases was the gap between him and that Goblin. No wonder he was feeling upset just by hearing them talk.
Even though in the Nation someone in the Third Phase was still far from having any real consequence, in a small-scale war it could be considered a sort of powerhouse. The Kingdom of the Goblins was at war with the Mountain Trolls and the Non-Dead of the East, much more threatening than the humans on the fringes of the Nation.
"Boys, we've got company! Kwyahahah!" cried absent-mindedly the Commander. He had sensed a very weak Aura that could have been of someone in the First Phase at most.
"Another doll that wants to play?" snickered one of the three.
Helial clenched his fists and came out of the cave, without slowing down his pace.
The Goblin saw a boy appear in front of them. He was tall but emaciated, with tattered clothes. After seeing him, they did not consider him worth even to be killed. After all, why rub it in?
"Hey kid, get out of here. We've had our own share today and I feel kind, I'm not going to kill a shrimp like you! Kwyahahah!"
On Helial's face there was no trace of fear. Despite the incredible pressure he felt on his body, he still managed to walk standing tall and, slowly, he was approaching the three Goblins.
What is he doing?
"This is an Illusion", began Helial, "you are not real, and so isn't that Lumia. Despite this, I can't let you kill her, I would suffer too much, even if it weren't real. This is the last task. That idiot of a Qilin really believed he could trick me this easily? I'm not so naïve."
"Kwyahahah! What are you blabbering about, kid?" asked the Commander, amused. It looked like he had found a kid who had lost some marbles.
Helial kept approaching slowly.
"Helial, what are you doing? Idiot! Run!" was screaming his sister.
Helial felt a pang to the heart. He had immediately realized that that was just an Illusion, but he could not let his sister die under his eyes, not even there. He had to protect her. Kirin would not have refused to let him retake the test, if it had not been an Illusion. In fact, the questions Helial had asked were all aimed at confirming his hypothesis. He had won and he had passed the second task, even if by playing dirty.
Kid, even if it is an Illusion, to die here means to die in real life. Illusions are based on people's senses. Once you are dead here, your senses will be deleted and you will die in real life too. Do you really think the Illusions of the king of Qilins could be really compared to human hallucinations? This is a task, you are right, but do not gamble with your life. Your task is to survive. You cannot destroy the Illusion, because it is based on my Divine Sense and on your perception of the world. It is not something that can be altered easily. Very few people could destroy one of my Illusions, and we are talking about creatures that reign supreme over this universe, not a man cub that still has not reached the First Phase.
Helial did not know what to do. The situation was getting really spiky.
Should I forsake Lumia? Helial wondered. No, that's not going to happen. Let's see if I can find some way to destroy this Illusion using Perception. There must be another way out.
Helial was dumbstruck. That world was no different from the real world. How could he have told the difference, if he had not noticed the trick from the start? It was really terrifying.
"C'mon kid, go away. Why do you want to throw away your life? I have to hurry; I can't even play much with this girl, because I have to go destroy that damned outpost! Kyahahah!"
Helial could not perceive any difference with the real world. That was a problem. What should he do now? Run and abandon his sister? No, he could not, even if that was just a test. Did he have to prove that he was able to forsake his loved ones in order to walk on the way of the great ones?
He was confused; he did not know which way was the right way. What the Qilin had said made sense: he was risking dying there.
All of a sudden, thanks to Perception he noticed a bug. Though, it was not something odd in his surroundings, but in his own body. His Mana Seed was vibrating, as if it were seething. What?
Helial focused his mind on that odd phenomenon.
The Goblins saw the boy standing still, his eyes closed. "Hey brat, are you going to beat it or shall I kill you?" snorted the Commander. "Unbelievable, I can't believe that after giving him a chance to save himself he still wants to court death this way!"
Kid, you're done for. Those three are not an enemy you can possibly face: give up. If you flee now, I will spare your life.
Helial was deaf to all suggestions, he was too concentrated on understanding what was happening to his body.
!!! Kirin was dumbstruck.
He felt that Helial in the Illusion world was emanating a huge amount of Destructive Energy from his Mana Seed.
"Kid, are you going or not? We're busy here; I need to take this juicy thing in my tent right now and you know… HEHEHE, we're all men here, aren't we? Kyahahah!"
Helial opened himself to that Energy emanating from his Mana Seed. He let it permeate his entire being, insinuating itself in every muscular fiber and inside his mind. He felt like he could do anything now. A black glimmer covered every single one of his cells; he felt like a God. He was omnipotent. It was an incredibly odd feeling. He felt as though he were the king of all living things, as though everything could be turned to dust with just his breath. Helial had not lost his rationality, though. His eyes were still focused; for some reason, he had not been corrupted by all that power. Everyone else would have already gone mad.
"HAHAHAHA!" Suddenly, Helial let out a wild laughter. From his body emerged a shockwave that almost knocked the three Goblins to the ground, including the Commander.
"What's wrong with this brat?" the Commander became suddenly very serious. Something was wrong.
"Run and I will spare your life", murmured Helial, who perceived that devastating force coming from his Mana Seed.
"What are you talking about? Brat, are you courting death?" snarled the Commander. "Wait, but…"
The Goblin noticed that, while they had been knocked down by the shockwave, Lumia had not felt it in the least. The Commander grabbed the girl by the arm and shouted: "Shall I kill h-"
"LET HER GO!" Helial let out a frightening scream. He did not look human anymore, but a Devil.
Suddenly the sun lost its glow, all the world around them went dark and behind Helial's shoulders there now were two demonic semi-translucent wings. His eyes were not those of a boy anymore, with savage flashes that constantly fleeted through them. Those eyes were two smoking craters, the color of blood.
What's happening? This Aura… That boy… How can he emanate such an Aura?
Helial snarled and disappeared just to reappear a second later behind the Commander. Then, the arm of the Goblin that was holding Lumia exploded in a bloody mist. Helial scooped up his little sister and looked at the three Goblins.
Helial threw a palm.
A giant ethereal hand appeared in front of them, though it was not a human hand, but something far more terrifying. The hand's nails were pointed, the veins black and translucent, the knuckles scaly and grey.
A supernatural pressure descended on the three poor Goblins, who got reduced to a pulp of meat and bones. It was a truly bloodcurdling scene. Helial had destroyed a Goblin in the Third Phase in just one move. Not even someone in the Fourth Phase Late stage could have been sure to achieve that.
Helial looked like an ancestral being. Behind his back, there were two fearsome ethereal wings. His facial features had become pointier and his eyes were a window on hell. But he was still Helial. Behind his appearance, the boy was not lost.
Seeing Lumia's frightened look, Helial immediately loosened his grip on that terrifying power. Even if he was going to lose it forever, it would have been better than having his sister look at him with those frightened eyes. Suddenly, the wings on his back crumbled to pieces and everything around them went back to normal.
A ray of light shone on Lumia's face; the girl was now looking at him with teary eyes.
Helial rested Lumia's little head in the crook of his neck, hugging her in silence and waiting for the end of the test.
After some time like that, Kirin still had not spoken. Helial felt confused.
Why's nothing happening? Could it not be over yet?
All of a sudden, Helial felt the cold bite of steel insinuating in his muscles. He had been stabbed in the back. The hand that was gripping the blade was Lumia's.
"You're not my brother, you're just a monster. Die!"
A trickle of blood came running down Helial's lips. The boy kept holding Lumia, in spite of everything. She was his sister, why should he have abandoned her?
What should I do? Kill her? Prove that I would do anything to survive? Even though it is just an Illusion, she is always Lumia. I could never hurt her.
Helial held her tighter, while the blade was sinking even deeper in his back.
Helial glanced at the entrance of the cave. He started walking slowly towards it, cautiously. He had heard his sister scream, but he had not lost his head, like he would have done in other circumstances. He looked at Curse of the Demon. It was lying on the floor by his side.