I'd want to hop like a Monkey and jump above the treetops.
Well, I'd also want to be like a Tiger and climb on the steepest cliffs.
Or like an Eagle and soar in the infinity of the heavens.
A Dragon, then. Like a Dragon I'd want to touch the windows of the skies and glimpse at the universe from there.
Are you done?
I believe so. And you, how high do you want to go?
Like no one else.
What do you mean?
Like no one else, I will dominate all heavenly bodies, I'll be free and unattainable. I will be like the unreachable sky for Monkeys, Tigers, Eagles and Dragons. The universe will be but a tiny spark of my conscience, life will be but the formation of one of my thoughts, death will be but one of my sighs.
I will reign unrivalled; nothing will exist above me."
Sacred Incision of the Clans of Destruction
In the present
Only a handful of Goblins was still alive now. The Commander stood there, paralyzed by the terrifying power exercised by the Master. Vidio looked like a deity, continuously appearing and disappearing and wreaking death and desperation wherever he went.
"Damn, that monster. He's too strong, not even I can stop him. Fuck, FUCK!" snarled the Commander desperately, ready to engage in battle at any second.
The Commander was gripped by a terrible anxiety that strangled his throat and twisted his bowels.
Run on the Cumulonimbus
Amplification from Lightning Dance: 500%
Vidio appeared behind the Commander who barely managed to raise his weapon to parry the blow.
the Casting is forced and the Skill activates immediately.
Amplification from Lightning Dance: 500%
A merciless blow.
Goblin Commander lost 1405 HP!
Even though the Commander had parried the blow, the hit had been devastating. The Goblin was thrown against some trees, which split in two one after the other, due to the impact. The Commander landed ten yard further away, completely stunned.
Helial and Snowflake were looking utterly bewildered at the Master's display of strength, who was fighting against someone one Phase above his own. Lumia, on the other hand, was witnessing the scene wide-eyed, stroking Snowflake's head in a panic.
"When are we going to the mountains?" she whispered.
"Very soon, it seems", replied Helial, sighing in relief and relaxing his shoulders.
Not too soon, I believe.
Vidio threw a palm against the last few Goblins, making sure they would not hurt Helial, the girl or Snowflake. The two soldiers disappeared; two pools of anonymous blood were the only remainders of their previous existence.
Vidio approached the Commander and used again his Movement Skill, Run on the Cumulonimbus. The two clouds under the Master's feet seemed to contain endless propulsive power.
"It's over", said Vidio, gritting his teeth. He glanced at the surrounding area, looking for an escape that would take him and the others as far as possible. Remaining there was way too dangerous.
The battle had lasted much less than he had foreseen, but there was a problem puzzling him: the Commander was for sure not the strongest enemy he could be facing at the moment. Vidio could still take care of a Goblin in the Third Phase, but if he were to come…
The Commander stared at Vidio with eyes full of terror and shouted: "Wait, I beg you! Stop! I'll let you go!"
The corners of Vidio's mouth trembled: "Why should I believe you? Stinking piece of shit, you almost killed my disciple. If it weren't for me, those three would now be ground meat. Hehe, I know I'm too strong, right guys?" he cried, turning to the others standing several yards behind him, and so unable to hear him. "Hahaha, let's not waste time, anyway. One of us has to die today. Guess who's that going to be?"
A great amount of bolts of lightning gathered around them.
The Commander stared at them, petrified. He cast a last desperate glance on Helial, Lumia and Snowflake, who had come closer to the fighting ground. The girl was getting down the cat to run in her brother's arms.
The Goblin saw in Helial's cold eyes that there was no mercy to be sought in them. He clenched his fists, until his fingernails sank into the living flesh of his palms.
Drops of blood fell to the ground. That was it, there was nothing more he could do.
Vidio brandished the Staff with two hands, ready to bring out his strongest Skill.
Divine Lightning Winged Dragon!
The Staff seemed to turn into a huge, magnificent dragon, with blinding blue scales. That being seemed to reign on all and intimidate every other living form.
The Lighning Dragon looked at the Commander with flaming eyes, ready to devour him.
With a deafening roar, he launched himself at the tiny Goblin.
"Save me, my King!"
A flash of blinding light violently hit Vidio's eyes.
Helial shielded his eyes with the back of his hand.
There was a deafening boom, but no shockwave, as if the Skill had vanished into nothing.
What's happening?, wondered Helial.
A deadly silence fell all around them.
When the light died out, a translucent barrier became visible, protecting the Goblin Commander from the Divine Lightning Winged Dragon.
The atmosphere got immediately tenser.
Vidio, Helial and Snowflake looked beyond the barrier.
On the other side of the barrier stood an impressive Goblin, tall with a hook nose. He looked much more like a human than a Goblin, but his greenish skin was unmistakenly that of the mountain people.
"I cannot let another one of my brothers die this way; I've lost too many today. Stupid humans", boomed Caesar. With a solemn look and slightly furrowed brow, he gazed at the man in the Second Phase standing in front of him.
He dissolved the barrier and took a step forward.
Both Vidio's arms turned into pink mist. The Master fell helplessly on his knees.
Caesar sighed, pursed his lips, then turned and beckoned the Goblin Commander.
The Commander understood immediately and drew his sword, launching himself at Vidio.
The blade sliced Vidio all the way through.
"Die, filthy human!" cried the Goblin Commander, almost delirious with Schadenfreude.
Such a long description for a scene that had lasted for a breath, for a split second. Dreams, hopes, all shattered. Vidio spat a mouthful of blood, looking at his HP bar dropping relentlessly.
With trembling lips, he glanced at the wound in his chest, staring at the blood with a mixture of awe and disbelief.
"And so, today I di-" the words died in his mouth, together with his half smile. After all, he had been dead for the last twenty-five years.
This time, irony was not going to work, his foolish smile was not going to save him. Tears began to stream down his cheeks and all his body was shaken with painful sobs. Vidio lifted his clouding eyes on Caesar.
Caesar was looking at him, an emotionless look.
"Not for me", Vidio moved his frantic gaze on Helial, Lumia and Snowflake.
Caesar saw the wrenching pain in the eyes of the man and got lost in it for a moment. His eyebrows moved ever so slightly, while he got ready to pulverize that man, so he would not suffer pointlessly.
"My son…" said Vidio, in a voice broken by sobs.
Caesar nodded and then granted Vidio eternal rest.
Vidio exploded, while the blood spattered Helial.
Helial, Lumia and Snowflake were showered with a dense scarlet rain.
Completely unnoticed, some drops of blood fell on Curse of the Demon and got absorbed.
Helial reached at his jaws with trembling hands to touch the sticky liquid that had spattered his pale face. He felt the drops roll down between his lips and his mouth was filled with the metallic taste of blood.
"An Immortal", whispered Helial.
Vidio had died just like that, without putting up a fight, without leaving behind a body to bury. Nothing was left of him, but for the blood spattered on Helial's face.
Caesar took a couple of steps forward, the Commander was rooted to the spot: it looked as if the King were interested in the kids and in that weird cat. The Goblin in the Third Phase had felt surprised, but now that the danger had passed, he could finally relax. Caesar was a just king, but it was better not to oppose him. After all, he had already gotten his revenge.
"Kneel down, you three. You'll be taken as war slaves to the Capital. We need people to work in the kitchens and we'll put the cat in the Colosseum to amuse the crowds."
They all felt a tremendous pressure descend on their heads, almost forcing them to kneel in front of that great Immortal. It seemed that even their lungs felt the strain: their breathing became shorter and shorter.
Lumia and Snowflake fell on their hands and knees , unable to withstand the pressure.
A big pulsing vein appeared on Helial's body. He felt as if something was exploding inside his chest.
His heart was beating frantically.
You're dead, Shithead. Game over. Here ends your path as a free man.
Helial' breathing became labored, as Caesar increased the pressure on him, without the slightest effort.
The grass surrounding Helial started to bend and the ground sank by an inch, while the space appeared distorted.
But it was not enough.
Helial found it harder and harder to breathe now.
His lungs were wheezing and his bloodshot eyes shone with incredible madness.
Sometimes destiny plays awful tricks, uh? You've lost this time; maybe becoming a slave again will give you a second chance. Cling to a miserable life, no? You'll climb back up later.
"WHO ARE YOU?" roared Helial with all his might, surprising even Caesar with that reaction.
"Caesar, King of Orma and the Goblin Empire."
Despite standing at a distance, Caesar took notice of an odd phenomenon. Helial's Aura kept spreading incessantly. It had already surpassed the level of someone in the Second Phase Intermediate stage, even though his true level could not be above the First Phase. He looked well beyond level 140.
"Kid, don't waste my time. In name of the mercy I granted your father, I decided to enslave you", snorted Caesar, increasing the pressure even more.
Helial's pupils narrowed to two slits, while he tried not to kneel under that terrifying force.
His Soul started cracking under all that pressure, but a weird dark energy kept welding the cracks as soon as they formed.
Caesar's gaze rested on Lumia for a moment, and Helial noticed.
Time slowed down and the world lost all his colors.
"Surrender. Nothing can save you. Resist me and you will be killed", sighed a familiar voice. This time though, it was not in his head.
In front of him, there was a black-haired boy, who kept fixing his bangs with a hand while talking: "Servitude is a kind of survival. Sometimes it is better to be weak, to surrender, to bend, don't you think?" he smiled at Helial, but there was nothing human in that smile: it was icy, and that iciness spread to the bones of whoever looked at it.
Helial was trembling, even though he did not feel Caesar's pressure on him anymore.
He looked around. The world looked like a frozen black and white picture.
"You don't have much time to talk to me. In about ten minutes, the effect of the Mana I can move will end and time will go back to flow as usual. Tell me what you want to do: if you surrender I can guarantee your survival."
Helial felt something rush up his throat, his chest rose and fell rapidly. When he managed to gather enough breath to speak, he shouted.
"WHO ARE YOU?!"
An even bigger smile spread on the little boy's face. He was several inches shorter than Helial, wrapped in a pitch black cloak.
"You don't fulfil the requirements to know my name, I'm sorry. Anyway, there are not many people worth pronouncing it. Since I began my holidays inside this sword, the sound of my name is hanging on many undeserving lips. Let's just say, I'm what you human would call a Devil, even though I'm not as evil as people make me", the little boy feigned an annoyed grimace and put his hands on his hips, as if to express his resentment. Then he burst out laughing, "Alright, alright, enough with the jokes."
His expression relaxed and, looking Helial in the eye, he said: "If you want to be sure to live, servitude is not a lousy option."
Helial stared in the dark irises of the little boy, who seemed to come from the deepest reaches of hell. Everything in him emanated a terrifying Aura of death and Destruction.
"Servitude. Just like the last 15 years of my life?" Helial's voice was full of resentment.
"Do not let anger steer you to the wrong choice. That man thought of you as his son and he died hoping you would live. Do you really want to spit on his sacrifice, are you that heartless?" sneered the Devil.
Helial's eyes filled with fury: "I know who you are.
"You are… You are Curse of the Demon. You crippled my Mana Seed first, then made me a cripple. If it weren't for Kirin…"
"Hahahaha! Call me whatever you want! Do you really think that stupid Lame Dragon could stand between me and my goals? I have crushed entire races with my bare hands; a brain-dead Lame Dragon could not save you from me. Do you really believe that this is a curse? Look at yourself now, look at the strongest Skill you have, look at your Mana Control. Look at yourself and tell me that I crippled you. Was it really a curse?"
The little boy shook his head helplessly.
"You have two choices ahead of you: step into the abyss and attack an Immortal, or run. I have already helped you too much in this life, I won't waste more time on you. Your destiny, that of your sister and of the Star Tiger are all in your hands."
Helial clenched his fists and stared at the ground.
Then he looked at the grey sky above, as if he could catch a glimpse of someone beyond the heavens.
"You have given me power before, I've felt it. Can you give me more? Can you make me able to protect who I love?"
The little boy smiled creepily and said: "It wasn't me. That power resulted from the contact with the essence of a Demon, after the transformation caused by my presence in your Soul – or in your Mana Seed, as you people call it now. I simply made the Destruction Energy that was in you emerge. I have just awoken your potential during the second test of the Lame Dragon, you did the rest on your own."
"If I evoke that kind of power again, could I win?" asked Helial almost desperately, trying to hang on the the hope of salvation for Lumia and himself.
The little boy shook his head: "Immortals are no joke. The difference between you and an Immortal cannot be filled even by sacrificing your own life."
Helial closed his eyes, while rage flooded his body.
There was nothing he could do. He was weak, he had always been. His brother was right: the weak cannot afford to choose.
Helial clenched his fists in an iron grip around the sword, whose evil spirit had just revealed itself to him.
Choosing was not a privilege given to those that, like him, were unable to fight. In the last 15 years, he had been able to make only one choice.
"I know your story, brat. You know that, right?"
Helial slowly opened his eyes, seemingly calmer, as if the recent crisis was already behind him. Only a huge pulsing vein on his neck betrayed the fury he harbored inside. He looked at Caesar, whose eyes where fixed on Helial's sister.
"Which do you think is the best choice?" asked Helial to the Devil.
"There's no best choice. There is only who has the strength to choose and who doesn't."
"Are we humans or beasts?" Helial smiled and sighed.
The Devil looked at him with a weird light in his eyes.
"Little monster," began Helial, while his gaze fell on a white pendant similar to a sun, that hung from the Devil's neck, in stark contrast to everything else, "for an animal, the only option to survive is to run and surrender. Wouldn't a person that has only reason left choose the easiest way out? Well, it is obvious."
Helial paused briefly.
"You know my story. The only stupid choice I have ever made has brought in my life a light brighter than the sun. So was that choice really stupid? Was it really foolish to go against my survival instincts? Is it really life if we just live to endure other people's choices?"
Helial looked at the sky.
"I am here to find meaning in my life, or so they told me. This is what we are here for. To find meaning in this mindless machination", he laid his dark blue eyes on the Devil and smiled, "but it's wrong. There is no meaning in what we do. It is just an endless sequence of stupid thoughts inside which we locked our freedom."
Helial took a breath and clenched his fists tight.
"This is true for everyone else. I am here to make sense of my pointless life; and I will make sense of it through every word that I utter and every slash of my sword."
His gaze fired up and his heart started to pound crazily. He snarled: "And one day I will be my own master. I will trample on the rotting bones of whoever will step between me and who I love, between me and my freedom. But I cannot have this freedom if today I lower my head one more time.
"There is always a choice to make in anything we find in front of us, always, as trifling as it can be. If I truly want to be free, I am ready to seize every trifling chance of choice that is granted to me. I will step on the unbeaten path of the choice that goes against common sense and I will build my own unique path."
Small rivulets of Mana began to condense all around Helial, who unconsciously had again increased exponentially his Mana Control.
"Today I will create a chance. Today I will change everything!"
The Devil suddenly furrowed his brow and shouted: "What an arrogant!"
A shockwave threw Helial backwards and moved his internal organs, making him spit a mouthful of blood.
He felt his heart boil with hope. This time he would have given all. He did not care about winning or losing, but he wanted to live a life that was uniquely and wonderfully his. He was ready for anything but for death, not because he feared it, but because he had chosen to fight it. And he had chosen to win.
He was going to fight for his freedom and for Lumia's, and for Snowflake's. It did not matter that facing him was an Immortal. A new flame burned in his eyes, a flame that could set on fire the whole world.
Helial looked again at the black and white sky of that space time block.
He put a hand on the grass and tried to stand up.
When he looked again at the Devil, he noticed something weird. There was a hand in front of his face, reaching towards him.
Helial observed the hand, the arm, then the shoulders until the face of the little boy with pitch black hair and bluish lips.
He grasped the hand and squeezed it tight, getting up with the help of the Devil.
"Make my day, Shithead!"
The Devil vanished. His words were still ringing inside Helial's head, who was now once again standing in front of Caesar.
Don't worry, little monster, I won't let you down!