IS, V1, Chapter 10: Labyrinth

When I heard the word Labyrinth, I immediately thought of a maze: Winding tunnels in various obscure directions with no clear goal and traps everywhere.

The main purpose would have been to hide some sort of ancient riches that were so vast, thousands of idiots would die in search of them. It was a misnomer, not that many people would really understand the difference.

There were plenty of precious metals and sure it was dangerous, but it wasn’t originally. The labyrinth itself was the greatest treasure I could have hoped to find.

From the maps I studied in the library, Lorthon forest is roughly a thousand miles in every direction from its center. Then there’s about another thousand miles to the east and west, so 4,000 miles from coast to coast.

North and south had never been completely mapped out, but from what I could tell, the mountains were probably the real center of the continent.

Even though, no one had ever crossed them, or bypassed them using the ocean, it seemed a bit unnatural for the forest which was below sea level at some points, to be the place where a huge landmass was formed.

In the south, there was probably an Antarctica type continent, that was almost completely made of frozen fresh water on top of an enormous chunk of earth. Although, that was just a guess, it did eventually turn out being correct.

I was traveling northeast, at a very slow turn rate, so the tunnel was most likely built underneath the center of the outer ring. That meant, if it just kept going all the way to the surface right above the city, I would have had to walk for at least 6,300 miles.

Thankfully, that wasn’t what happened… but I was definitely expecting it after walking for so damn long. It was becoming more disgusting by the day.

Those pipes weren’t just on the ceiling, they were also on the walls and if they weren’t there, I probably would have suffocated by then. There was a gust of fresh air, blowing all the dusty remains around in the tunnel each time one of those holes opened.

It happened quite often and usually it was just a pleasant breeze, but other times it was fresh meat. Of course, if they fell straight down… there was just a loud splat and I had to struggle to find something edible among the wreckage.

The sides were a bit different, since they were basically just gigantic metal slides. If it came from the left, it was usually a deer, wild boar, wolf or other relatively normal forest animal.

They were usually stunned by their sudden arrival in complete darkness. Even without mana, it was easy to kill them with my fingernails, feet, fists or a simple grappling technique to snap their necks.

Whatever race I was, didn’t have trouble with digesting raw meat. My teeth were steadily growing in as well and they seemed… sharp.

I never truly knew my body’s strength, until I had no magic or technologies to rely on. My muscles were still underdeveloped and I definitely looked like a child, but it was obvious what kind of creature I was by that point.

It isn’t good to judge someone or something by just their physical appearance, so I didn’t want to jump to any conclusions. However, even if I hadn’t been around for so long… what else has such monstrous features and power?

I’ve been an angel, a demon, hell, I’ve been called the devil and God in the same day by the same people. That’s just the way it goes when you have power and use it.

Eventually, even your closest loved ones will betray you. It’s inevitable, but as long as you’re alive, life will go on.

You can’t have a soul, without eventually knowing paradise and damnation, but I honestly enjoy living. When I stop feeling that way, I die and move on to something better or worse.

I was growing horns, a third eye had opened up on my forehead, my teeth seemed relatively human except for the over-sized canines, my regular eyes were bright red and catlike, finger and toenails that were like claws or talons, and those were just the features that I knew about.

My mother looked like an angel, so I guessed I was some sort of demon. A monstrous aberration that craved mana and all of my senses were developing in that complete darkness to seek it out.

It had been at least a week before I finally discovered how that giant snake found its way into the tunnel. There was a huge gust of wind from my right and I could actually see the mana density around the wall increasing rapidly.

That’s when I heard a bears roar echoing out of the huge circular opening. My adrenal glands were forced into overdrive as the beast flew out of the wall and almost landed on top of me.

Standing at about 5 meters, was a brown bear that had gigantic tusks and huge deer-like antlers coming out of his head. A type of magical beast from the second ring of Lorthon Forest that I had hunted before.

The mana around his body was swirling around and looked like a fiery tornado. He couldn’t see me… but he could hear and smell that I was there.

One of us was going to feed the other and I was far too hungry to offer him a meal. He looked so delicious, but I had no idea how to kill something so powerful without using tools or tricks.

The only thing inside that tunnel for as far as I could see was dust, fur, small bone fragments and a giant bear. He roared obnoxiously, then charged at me, so I jumped up and grabbed a hold of his antlers.

His arms couldn’t reach me and it was impossible for him to bite me, so he began violently swing his head around. The bear tried rolling on the ground and bending his head downwards, but his antlers were just too big.

I saw Lorelei kill one that way, but she had a large meat cleaver and Beatrix was shooting it with arrows. All I had were feet… it was a long and messy ordeal.

While gripping the antlers tightly, I began stomping and after about 15 minutes, he finally lost consciousness. The bear’s skull was cracked open and my heels were really sore, but I won and he became a exquisite full course meal.

Unfortunately, as soon as I became full, so did my mana pool. The electricity completely ruined my leftovers and potential weapons… that kept happening every time I ate.

Sometimes it wasn’t lightning, but fire, ice and just about every other type of magic I knew. It was fortunate that the labyrinth was built so well, because any normal tunnel would have collapsed from my random surges of earth magic.

I couldn’t use my third eye constantly, because keeping it open put a lot of strain on my forehead muscles. Unlike regular eyelids, it was difficult to tell that there was even anything there when it was closed.

When it was open, it looked surprisingly natural but was typically obscured by my hair, which was parted down the right side of my scalp and naturally fell towards the left. Every day, my teeth and horns would grow a little bit… it wasn’t a particularly quick transformation.

Sometimes I would find large clusters of giant magical beasts slaughtering each other in the middle of the tunnel. It was usually best to just wait it out and kill off the survivors.

There would be huge flocks of birds or bats flying overhead in other places, often there would be piles of rotting carcasses. Seeing humanoids was very rare, but they always fell straight down and splattered before I had a chance to talk to them.

My dreams were filled with confusing and cryptic messages. Sometimes I would remember bits and pieces of my distant memories, but after waking up… they quickly faded.

At least there was food and blood was mostly water, but the road seemed endless. I did see that snake again, or at least part of it.

It had tried to escape through one of the pipes that opened up, there was a rather large tail laying next to the right side wall. Maybe it actually did make it to the top… but there was so much blood, at least I finally got to taste some raw snake steak.

That body had a very good sense of time, even in that dark labyrinth. It might have felt like forever, but somehow I just knew that only about three months had passed since I entered.

Distance was a lot more difficult to calculate, because I couldn’t simply keep walking all day, every day, without stopping. Injuries were common, especially after a dealing with magical beasts.

My magic was uncontrollable, but fortunately, if I broke my leg or was impaled… either nature or water magic would automatically trigger. As long as I had a little mana, I wouldn’t die unless I starved, dehydrated, was completely crushed or my brain was destroyed beyond repair.

I didn’t exactly want to test that theory though. My cautious behavior was also a great contributor towards the incredibly slow pace.

Each time I ate a magical beast, my mana would overload and spew various elements in all directions. However, the capacity was increasing each time, so was the potency… I wouldn’t have been surprised if my body just spontaneously exploded.

I had a new weapon in my arsenal, my teeth had finally grown in. I could finally chew things properly again, including magical beasts that were putting up too much of a fight.

My muscles were becoming more defined, but I was still a child so it was barely visible. The horns were sharp, black, pointy, smooth, slightly curved, and growing from right above my ears, straight back at a shallow angle.

I couldn’t even tell they were there, aside from the horrible pain and lightning that often shot out of the tips. They were only growing about an inch a month, but one thing I knew about horns… was that they never stop.

Regardless of what shape it was going to end up taking eventually, I was not looking forward to having to trim or clip them in the future. Mainly, I was just worried about how much longer my head would feel so terrible.

There had to be more to it than just the teeth, horns and extra eye… I needed more mana. Even my internal organs were changing in ways I couldn’t monitor, my body was becoming heavier.

I had practically zero body fat that I could see, but my bones and muscles were gradually getting denser. To be completely honest, with everything else that was going on, I didn’t even notice my ears becoming longer and pointed.

However, once I began to hear the strangely comforting white noise of mana, it became much more obvious. They were only just starting to grow, but the internal parts had already developed.

Rather than an extra sense, they were merely enhanced versions of the ones I was already used to. It was more like a person with terrible vision, putting on the proper prescription glasses.

Which gave me an idea to run by Ailyn, eyeglasses to let normal people see mana. She actually created the normal kind already, even telescopes and binoculars.

Well, I could never compete with Azriel… without cheating. He was always too damn smart for his own good, the other two were the same way.

Those three are always geniuses, in any reality, but no matter how much life they created, it always ended in death. For everything, unless I stopped them, one way or the other.

Luckily, none of the others can awaken without me, so even if they had been on that planet for a hundred years, as long as we never met, the worst case scenario could be avoided. Since that world had powerful magic, I would have been able to seal their memories if we did end up seeing each other.

There was one person who I couldn’t control… and he or she would either be my worst enemy or my greatest ally. The last two didn’t like to get involved with the rest of us, they wouldn’t be a threat even if they did awaken.

It’s always seven, no idea why, but it always is. There were five wildcards, but I didn’t really know them that well and still can’t seem to remember their names.

It was unlikely that we would all meet, but if we did… it could take thousands of years or longer. I had no idea what that universe looked like, but if there were more planets like the one I was living on, they could be anywhere.

While thinking about such trivial things, I came across a humanoid, an elven man who was still alive. His legs were broken, he smelled liked death and I could tell that he was severely dehydrated from a quick glance.

When he heard me approaching, there was a look of resignation in his eyes. I suppose my turbulent mana sounded much like a magical beast.

There was a sword laying on the ground next to his hand, but his fingers were mangled and unable to grip it. He actually had a rather large mana pool, though it was nearly empty, but I knew that he was an adventurer of some sort.

His skin was pale and his hair was blond from what I could tell, he even had a light beard. I immediately knew that he was half-human, because of his large, heavily built skeletal and muscular structure.

On his heavy plate armor there were large dents and slashes all over, and his bright green eyes seemed empty. When I looked around, I noticed that there were many half eaten and rotting corpses of humans, surrounded by the carcasses of several large magical boars.

After a few seconds of examining him from a distance, due to the stench, I said “Do you want to live or die?” in a curious voice.

He had a strange expression, between surprise and confusion as he said “You… sound like… a child… are you… one… of the… spirits?” in a raspy, dry voice.

That’s when I finally realized, I might have been becoming more monstrous by the day, but to elves… the demons were like their gods. Maybe not quite to the extent of worship, but they definitely revered the spirits as something akin to angels.

I started laughing at the irony, but stopped when I noticed the look on his face changing to despair. After sighing loudly, I said “My name is Michael, fuck it… you’re coming with me. If I accidentally kill you, it’s not like you would have lived very long anyway.” in an irritated voice as I grabbed the back of his breastplate and started dragging him with me.

With all the steel armor, he was pretty damn heavy, but my body was much stronger than it used to be. The shredded leg plates and gauntlets created a lot of noise and sparks as they scraped against the metallic floor.

Before leaving, I stole some belts from the other corpses and turned them into a harness. That way I could pull him, without actually having to be so close to his body.

He tried to speak, but lost consciousness, so I was pretty much alone again. For a while, I just dragged him, but eventually I got tired and had to take a break.

For some reason, he reminded me of Raelin… so frail and desperate for salvation. If I could control my mana, I could have healed him pretty easily, but I had to do things the hard way.

After removing his bulky armor, I was able to see everything that was wrong with him. Broken ribs, hands, feet, shins, possibly some internal bleeding, severe dehydration and mild starvation.

Judging by the state of the decomposing corpses, he was probably injured in the battle and then just waited to die there. Only a half wood elf but he obviously inherited their idiotic eating habits, there was so much meat back there and he let it all go bad.

There wasn’t much I could do, so I put his clothes and harness back on and began dragging him again. The armor was left behind, but he was still pretty heavy, he must have been at least two meters tall. Which seemed very strange, since wood elves are usually so short, I thought it might be similar to how a lion and tiger can produce a hybrid that’s much larger than either parents.

It took about two days before I finally found some food, which was basically a giant rabbit. I preferred predatory magical beasts, since they never ran away from me.

Luckily, it was already wounded and couldn’t escape. My elbows, knees, knuckles and heels were my main weapons when dealing with large animals.

At first I would use my nails, but they typically couldn’t pierce thick skin or hides. The kinetic force of a sharp elbow to the spine, even with my relatively small body, could paralyze most creatures.

That didn’t mean I wouldn’t gouge out an eye or two, but most giant monsters took a lot more effort and patience to deal with. There was an elephant sized rhinoceros beetle that nearly killed me about 2 months into the tunnel, it took three days to finally break its shell and devour it while it was still alive.

A dying rabbit wasn’t a very tough opponent, but tearing it open was still a lot of work. That first bite after starving for so long, no matter how many lives you live, tasting delectable food is always a wonderful experience.

The meat was a bit stringy, but with my new and improved, razor sharp teeth, I could have probably gnawed through hardened leather. Although, I wouldn’t do that, but getting food stuck between my teeth couldn’t be avoided.

My breath probably smelled terrible, but since I couldn’t use water magic to clean… any part of my body, it was all pretty disgusting. Somehow, I was still able to smell the crippled elf I was dragging around, over my own stench.

I learned that the trick to avoiding an overload, was to just eat the bare minimum to satiate my hunger. Then I could make one magical beast last for several days, but it was like finding a glass of water while dying in the desert and having to drink it one drop at a time.

Nameless half-elf was slipping in and out of consciousness the whole time I was dragging him, but he was awake when I found the rabbit. Well, he probably had no idea what was happening and he couldn’t speak, so he just listlessly had his eyes slightly opened.

What Lorelei said about magical beast meat having healing properties was actually true. We figured it out on the second hunting trip, but even seriously wounded people could be kept alive and eventually restored to health.

There were too many injuries for me to heal by myself and some people lost limbs or fingers in battle. After eating the meat for a few days, the missing parts began to regenerate.

That all depended on the quality of the mana though, the rabbit wasn’t particularly strong. It’s aura was like a cool blue whirlpool, but it was good enough and all we had.

I dragged him over to the carcass and forced him to drink some of the blood. He coughed and tried to not to swallow, but I didn’t give him a choice.

Maybe he wanted to die, but I didn’t pull his body for miles, just to let him decay in a different location. My instinct was telling me to keep him alive, that somehow he could survive and would be important in the future.

Eventually, he stopped struggling and started to drink the warm blood, like a fresh glass of lemonade… not that I saw any lemons in Lorthon Forest. I actually had to stop him, it’s usually not go to drink too fast when you’re extremely thirsty.

If he started drowning with broken ribs, the moment I pressed on his diaphragm, he would probably have died. However, I was able to sit him up against the stomach of the giant rabbit and hand feed him some small pieces of tender liver.

When you’re starving, you can eat anything that’s even slightly nutritious. When you’re dehydrated, you end up thinking it’s a good idea to drink your own urine.

Even a squirrel tribe will be willing to devour some raw meat if they’re hungry enough. Once I gave him a taste, the short eared half-elf actually asked for more.

It pissed me off, because I had to hold myself back so he wouldn’t be obliterated, but I still kept feeding him. His facial features were hard to discern, since his nose was broken and there were many contusions around his eyes and mouth.

I was never a doctor or nurse, but I had a lot of experience taking care of people… I never liked it. Hell, I was terrible at it, but in worlds with magic I was often a powerful healer.

Even though I could kill someone that was my enemy or broke one of my laws without mercy or remorse, I empathize with people far too easily. Random people would remind me of a child I once had, or an old lover, or sometimes a parent.

Rae and Ethir felt like they were my children, Ailyn was an old friend, and Lorelei reminded me of a girlfriend who stabbed me in the back… literally. Well, at least she didn’t cheat on me with a unicorn.

Eventually, he was full and passed out, the rabbit corpse was like two king sized fluffy waterbeds. When I slept that night, I saw the elf’s dream for the first time.

It was incoherent and made no sense to me, just a jumble of random thoughts. Completely useless, I was going to have to just talk to him if I wanted to know anything.

The whole next day we stayed by the rabbit carcass, I couldn’t eat too much, but I was able to feed him a decent amount. Aside from that, I did some simple exercises to increase my physical strength.

Singing was something I would do unconsciously whenever I was alone, that was the first time I sang in front of him. Although, he was sleeping so it wasn’t too awkward.

We spent a whole week like that, him eating a lot, then sleeping and recovering. I was forced to practically starve myself and be extremely bored while working out.

His mana pool was finally full for the first time and he began channeling a relatively powerful regeneration spell. A nature mage who wears heavy plate armor and wields a large sword, I wasn’t sure if that was normal or not, at the time.

Well, I had heard that pretty much all adventurers needed to learn magic to some degree. After a few hours, his mana was completely depleted again, but his broken legs and feet were healed.

After three more days, his mana was high enough that he could heal his hands and ribs. I finally decided it was time to find out who the hell he was and why I didn’t just leave him to die.

While he was not so elegantly, dining on a large chunk of thigh meat, I asked “Do you have a name?” in an irritated voice.

He jumped back away from me and looked terrified, then he yelled “Who’s there?!” in an over dramatic voice.

I sighed and then yelled “I told you like two weeks ago! My name’s Michael! Shouldn’t you be able to hear me? You are at least half elf, right?” in an angry voice, he was on the ground and looking up at me with a confused expression.

He seemed to calm down a bit and then said “It’s OK… I’m just hallucinating, that’s right, I’m completely alone. There’s no one here but me.” in a nervous voice while closing his eyes and taking deep breaths.

I was incredibly annoyed, so I may have accidentally used my right index finger to make a huge scratch across his left cheek. He yelped and then jumped back into the mostly deflated rabbit pelt.

Then he finally said “My name is Conor Daeron… if you really are there and not just my imagination, then I just can’t hear your mana… what are you?” in a terrified voice while trembling.

I cleared my throat and said “Probably a demon, or maybe some kind of aberration… doesn’t really matter.” in an irritated voice.

He had a puzzled expression as he said “If you were a spirit, I would definitely be able to hear you. Not that I actually believe in ridiculous legends like elves being the descendants of demons. You sound like a child… how old are you?” in a curious voice while standing up and looking down at me.

I laughed for a moment, then said “Probably… about 7 years and 6 months. I sound like a child, because I am one.” in a sarcastic voice.

Conor had a look of pity on his face, while sighing. Then he said “I’m sorry kid, I really don’t want to say this but, I think we’re in the… endless labyrinth.” in a serious voice.

I said “Well, I never heard anything about it being endless. Although, I have been walking for at least a couple hundred miles. Honestly, it’s not much of a labyrinth… there hasn’t even been one turn so far.” in a disappointed voice.

He started laughing and said “You sound like you entered willingly.” in a sarcastic voice.

After sighing loudly, I said “Well, I did come in through the main entrance… but there were circumstances forcing me away from other people. Anyway, when I found you among a bunch of rotting corpses, I decided to take a gamble and nurse you back to health.” in a nonchalant voice while making the appropriate hand gestures, not that he could actually see them.

Conor suddenly made a serious expression and asked “Are you saying that there’s an exit? Wait, you did? I was alone, so everyone else must have… I see.” in a solemn voice.

After getting a drink of lukewarm rabbit blood, I said “Yup, only took me three and a half months to get this far while fighting magical beasts every other day. If you wanna go to Black Mithril, just follow the sound of diminishing mana and you’ll get there eventually.” in a serious voice.

He said “Wait, isn’t that the dark dwarven city that’s supposedly deep underground? I heard that it was destroyed by a dragon hundreds of years ago. Did you just say you killed magical beasts? How? You can’t be a mage with such quiet mana…” in a voice full of suspicion, while trying to look at me.

I was quickly running out of patience, so I surrendered to my instincts and began devouring large chunks of rabbit meat. It was starting to go bad in spots, but there was still enough of the massive rabbit haunch to fulfill my desires.

Suddenly he started freaking out and sprinting away from me, within a few seconds of my stomach becoming full, the light show began. The mana crackling along with the lightning around my ears was deafening but I was getting used to it.

I was able keep my eye open for much longer as I became used to blinking with my forehead muscles, but it was incredibly sensitive to light. Luckily, I could use my regular eyes more easily with the third one closed.

The electrical discharges were mainly out of my horns and tail, creating a much more controlled arc of destruction than before. For some reason, I had only been using lightning lately… but that was convenient since I knew what to expect.

After about an hour, the constant bombardment on the wall, a hundred meters behind me, finally stopped. There were just small sparks jumping chaotically across my skin, but nothing too dangerous.

While I was enjoying the elation of my missing headache, I finally noticed that Conor came back. His face was full of disbelief at my strange appearance, since the sparks were illuminating the room around me, I could actually see him for once with my normal eyesight.

I said “So you’re still here? Did you see what just happened? Well, that’s why I couldn’t be around other people… it was a lot less pleasant before.” in a calm voice, while looking up at him.

He made a serious expression and then asked “Are you really a child?” in a suspicious voice, while looking into my eyes.

After glaring at him for a few seconds, I said “Probably for another couple years, then hopefully I’ll be an adolescent, then an adult after that…” in a sarcastic voice.

Conor was still staring at me as he said “I’ve only seen a spell like that cast once before… and that was done by the greatest mage in all the human kingdoms. Before he died of old age, Archmage Alastair Loudain could cast a master class spell that did something similar to what I just saw you do. Except, he could only channel it for a few seconds and afterward he looked like he would die at any moment.” in a serious voice.

I started laughing, then said “He was only human, right? It’s not that surprising, because he was probably doing it wrong. Anyway, you told me your name earlier… but who are you?” in a curious voice.

He made a complex expression, then said “That is true, but for a human, his mana capacity was extremely high. Ah, I’m an adventurer… my companions and I were on a quest to investigate some reports of blood elf sightings near a small human village on the north western edge of Lorthon.

Eventually, we ventured into the forest… but before we even made it a mile, the ground opened up and we slid down some sort of metal tube for several minutes. When we finally landed in a huge tunnel, we immediately suspected that it was the infamous endless labyrinth.

Each of us was skilled in various magics, but we had never actually faced a magical beast before. We had just graduated from the academy in Minas Kingdom and joined the adventurers guild.

They ambushed us as soon as we created some light, three gigantic monsters. I tried to keep their attention while the others cast fireballs, but they were so damn strong.

I don’t really remember what happened after that, it was just really dark and cold. The next thing I knew, I was here and there was that food. I never tasted anything like that before…” in a serious voice.

Without thinking, I said “What is it with adventurers hunting blood elves?” in a curious voice, it seemed like too much of a coincidence.

He made a grim expression, even worse than when he realized his friends were dead. Conor said “Until I was 12, I lived in a wood elf village…” but before he could start telling his story, I cut him off.

I sighed and said “Let me guess, a former adventurer who was turned into a blood elf named Eredhon Nirorneth wiped it out? I heard this same story from my mother.” in an irritated voice.

He yelled “Wait, your mother survived?! That’s impossible! I’m sure I buried everyone else, I was the only one left…”

I smirked as I said “Well… she did mention waking up in a grave. When Raelin found me, she was practically a walking corpse.” in a sarcastic voice.

Conor’s mood seemed to brighten dramatically when he heard her name. Then he yelled “Aunt Rae survived?! How?! I was sure that she wasn’t breathing and I definitely couldn’t hear her heart beating!” in a happy voice, which was quickly crushed.

I laughed and said “Well, those first few days as a blood elf are usually pretty rough. Ah, don’t worry… I managed to prevent the infection from reaching her brain.” in a very mildly reassuring voice, while smiling.

He sighed, then said “What does that mean? Wait, wouldn’t you have been an infant back then?” in a confused voice.

My headache was starting to return as the sparks began to taper off and it became much more difficult to see. I unconsciously opened my third eye and became dizzy, it was strange seeing out of three eyes at the same time. Especially when one of them is perceiving something completely different.

I said “I’m glad I didn’t let you die, my mother will probably be ecstatic to see you again and know that at least someone survived. Anyway, we need to get moving… I know that I told you to go to Black Mithril, but you’re way too weak to survive on your own. As long as you can avoid my lightning, the two of us together should make this trip a whole lot easier.” in a serious voice.

Conor didn’t quite understand, but he agreed anyway and then I realized that I could finally start using weapons again. Giant rabbit bones weren’t particularly durable, but they would at least make decent spears for a little while.

Since his clothes were pretty much ruined and mine were nonexistent, I decided that we would use the rabbit pelt combined with belts, to make some sort of crude light armor. Even though I couldn’t use magic, that didn’t mean I couldn’t tell him what to do with his.

Conor’s fire magic was very weak, but he could at least produce a small flame for long periods of time. I was doing fine with only my third eye in the darkness, but he was pretty useless without a light source.

We pretty much looked like idiots, wearing magically tanned and partially burned rabbit fur. It was originally white, but became dyed red in its own blood over time and smelled pretty bad.

Those who can’t do, teach… and so I did. He pretty much sucked at everything but nature magic, but that was fine because he was part wood elf.

Luckily, he still had the mind of a student and he was actually a pretty smart kid. The first spell was one that was potentially more effective than a tiny candle.

Rather than the wide scale blue or green luminescence that I had been occasionally casting unconsciously a month or so before, the focused version was much more useful. You can essentially turn the palms of your hands into bright white spotlights, eventually.

What I didn’t tell him, was that it would be a permanent alteration of his genetic code by that point. That’s what nature magic really was, at first you might be temporarily increasing your muscle mass, but after using the spell multiple times, it becomes permanent.

Which doesn’t sound that bad at first, but there are always unexpected consequences… nothing is free. Your muscles might become so strong that your bones would break under the pressure they exerted to do simple tasks.

Plus, it’s never a good idea to just go around partially changing your own genes for convenience. Eventually, your DNA would corrode and become unstable, either mutating uncontrollably or simply deteriorating rapidly as all of the cells in your body died spontaneously.

A little regeneration here or there is relatively safe, if you have a long lifespan. Changing your palms into headlights, was also relatively tame.

Shape-shifting regularly would be impossible, maybe once or twice… but then you would die. The natural and controlled evolution that mana causes, usually takes a lot of time.

Which was why my head was still pounding, even after 6 months of being inside that damn metallic tunnel that seemed to be endless. Every time I devoured a magical beast, the light show would begin and with even more intensity.

At first it was fine, because my horns were mostly straight and pointing behind me. However, they were starting to curve downward and growing away from by head.

They were still only about six inches, but they were already behind my ears and aiming towards my shoulders. When the lightning would strike them, it traveled down through my arms and out my fingertips.

Any damage that occurred would usually be healed before I ran out of mana, but sometimes my arms were numb for days afterwards. Conor was actually pretty strong, he nearly died a few times, but I taught him much more effective methods of using regeneration magic.

His training progressed pretty slowly at first, because he wasn’t used to the constant life or death battles. For the first month, it was basically just him struggling to survive, while I was trying not to accidentally kill him.

However, he learned the fluorescent palms technique pretty quickly, elven DNA is very malleable. I thought he was a half-elf, but he was actually closer to 75%, so his nature affinity was extremely high.

What Conor lacked in agility, he made up for in brute strength and endurance. His use of regeneration spells also made his muscles heal and become stronger faster.

At first he was afraid of a simple giant chicken. By the third month, he literally grabbed a huge bull by the horns and held it still while I rode on its back, then used a chicken bone to slit its throat.

When I called him a tank, he didn’t quite understand the reference, but that was seriously his role in our two man kill squad. I could survive a lot and my strength was definitely way above normal, but my height was still only about 160 cm and my ability to efficiently destroy our opponents was much higher than his.

Perhaps it was the result of his excessive use of nature magic, but his body was still growing. He didn’t seem worried about it, but I knew that there was probably some sort of damage to his pituitary gland and endocrine system.

Although, my knowledge of that worlds elven physiology was severely limited, it would have been unfortunate if he died from overusing magic that I taught him. I did think it was entertaining to watch him use huge thighbones like war-hammers.

He reminded me of an ogre at times but I had a feeling he might really become one, if that was possible. We actually didn’t talk that much about anything but magical theory and technique, I really didn’t care that much about his relatively boring life until we met.

Seven months after I entered the labyrinth, the two of us finally arrived at a gigantic square room. It was so huge that his flashlight hands couldn’t possibly illuminate it, at least a square mile in total.

Roughly a third the size of Black Mithril, it was definitely the place that Lorelei mentioned. However, there was something in the center of the huge space that immediately caught my attention.

When we approached the large metallic worm shaped structure, Conor asked “What the hell is this thing?” in a completely clueless voice.

However, what other reason would such a magically advanced ancient race create such a seemingly endless system of spacious and completely metallic underground tunnels across the entire continent?

I smiled as we walked up a ramp and entered through the automatically opening double doors, then the inside of the building became completely illuminated. The whole thing was at least 10 meters wide and 100 meters long. There were windows on the walls and by each of them was a very uncomfortable looking metal seat.

The chairs stopped about halfway towards the eastern end, then there was a huge space for cargo. At the western tip, was a small room with a chair in the center and a simple control panel in front of it.

There was some type of strange glowing crystal ball and some levers, basically breaks and a metaphorical gas pedal. I finally answered his question as I placed my palm on the orb, while grinning.

I said “It’s a magical maglev… think of a giant floating caravan that can travel hundreds of miles per hour.” in a happy voice, as it started to float into the air gently and vibrate slightly.

He said “That can’t be possible, right?” in an cautiously hopeful voice, he really wanted to escape that pseudo-labyrinth.

Then the image of a map appeared in my mind, it showed the entire tunnel system which looked similar to an upside down pitchfork. Black Mithril was to the west about 1500 miles, towards the east for the exact same distance was another triangular stop, and to the south for 500 miles was somewhere in third ring of Lorthon.

The North had a stop that was only 500 or so miles away, but it kept going for at least several thousand more before stopping at an enormous cavity. It didn’t give any names, just a simple line map and since I had no idea what the other places would be like, I quickly chose my home city.

However, things never seem to progress so smoothly, while the train was preparing for departure, something strange was happening outside. The mana crystal released a very enticing hum that both of us could hear clearly.

It was probably some type of announcement for all passengers to board the train, the problem was that we didn’t want any. The entire square way-station was brightly illuminated and I could see something huge, coming from the southern tunnel.

Although it was barely visible, there was something else that caught my attention, a young girl was standing in the middle of the tunnel entrance. She looked so familiar and appeared to be the same race as my biological mother.

I couldn’t see her very well from so far away, but it looked like she was pointing towards the southern tunnel. Without saying anything, I unconsciously got off the the train and the doors closed behind me, it was a decent drop to the ramp, but I wasn’t injured.

When I looked back, the train was already heading towards Black Mithril, with Conor inside. He was wearing an extremely confused expression while meeting eyes with me for a moment before he was out of view.

As I approached the silver haired, pale skinned, six winged, and blue eyed little girl who was wearing a frilly white dress, she vanished into particles of white light. Then I realized what happened, my instincts were telling me that I still wasn’t ready yet.

My hunger hadn’t been satisfied and my body craved that mana rich environment waiting for me at the end of the tunnel. The beast lurking deep within the shadows never came to meet me, but I was on my way to see him.

There was still a long journey ahead of me, but there always was. I was just hoping that Black Mithril would still be there when I finally returned.

 

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