IS, V2, Chapter 7: The Forest of Corruption

Some people spend their entire lives mastering a single weapon or magical element, which is fine, but the moment they have to face an enemy that their very narrow set of skills can’t deal with… it usually doesn’t turn out very well for them.

Being a jack of all trades is better than a master of one. Although, I basically cheated, and Amber had a mixture of natural talent, combined with an impressive affinity towards killing things.

With nothing but a loincloth, a relatively small claymore in each hand, some expensive looking mithril belts, a ton of random cooking knives and daggers, a couple meat cleavers, plus a few very dangerous forks, I probably looked ridiculous.

However, my partner was even worse, because she was wearing her two kite shields like pauldrons, two silver colored spears were strapped across her back, and aside from the various chains and belts, she was completely naked. Amber also had a longbow, which looked relative short compared to her body, and a quiver filled with about a hundred mithril arrows.

Well, I did have a couple knives attached to my tail as an extra weapon, just in case both of my arms and legs were disabled, amputated or obliterated. With such think mana density, even if my head was cut off and my body had been completely destroyed, it would have been possible to cast spells and eventually regenerate.

Luckily, that didn’t happen… unless my brain was destroyed and I simply lost all information regarding such an incident. Neurological damage was pretty difficult to deal with, but not impossible, I didn’t lose memories every time I smacked my head into something.

Actually, it was usually the opposite, when my cells were being regenerated, my seal would weaken and I could regain some of my memories of past-lives. Although, when I started remembering random things about worlds and lifetimes before I was even born, I obviously didn’t instantly understand what they meant.

Amber was wielding a relatively small halberd, that was roughly three meters long, with both of her hands and cautiously took the first step onto the, completely barren, dirt road. It was amazing how the trees and foliage managed to avoid growing on that twenty meter wide pathway.

I quickly kept pace with her as we briskly walked into the mouth of hell, while remaining vigilant of our surroundings. The density of mana was at least as high as in the Ael Tol pyramid, and we were barely even inside of the fourth ring.

It wasn’t very difficult for me to deal with the sensory bombardment or the intense pressure that was compressing my aura. Unfortunately, my partner wasn’t quite as used to such an unreasonable environment and had to close her eyes, while breathing through her mouth.

Unlike the other three rings, it was actually more dangerous to walk along the completely exposed pathway, than to wander aimlessly through the jungle. The moment Amber was blinded and I was distracted by her pained roaring, I felt a sharp pain in my left tricep.

A myriad of burning pinpricks coated my back and I couldn’t even find out what was attacking me, because the tigress in front of me was about to be grabbed by a gigantic tongue. Before the ridiculously long, relatively thin, pink, slimy, worm-shaped organ, which was at least the thickness of my leg, was within a few meters of her, I stepped into its line of fire.

I raised both of my claymores and instead of trying to slice through the thick meat, I thrusted them forward. Just like I expected, the creature immediately reacted to the pain, and the massive tentacle-like tongue was withdrawn back into the eastern side of the jungle.

There was a loud croaking noise that escaped from the unseen creature, which lurked in the darkness. However, it was quickly cut off when a flaming spear, that was a familiar shade of purple, burned the top of my scalp as it passed only a few centimeters above my head, and then continued to illuminate the forest for a few moments before penetrating a creature that greatly resembled an unreasonably large toad.

The demon was immediately engulfed by the raging inferno and then promptly exploded, but not before making a shrill squeaking sound. I have no idea what color it was before or after that, because the light was dyed a bright shade of purple.

When I turned around, Amber was smirking, with her eyes still closed and her right arm outstretched slightly above my head. There was no time to praise or scold her, I just laughed for an instant, as the void-like nine meter tall and four meter wide opening of a very familiar snake, swallowed both of us whole.

It probably wasn’t the same creature that I met within the labyrinth, or the one that I saw when I first attempted to enter The Forest of Corruption, but that didn’t really matter. Amber was knocked off her feet and I fell directly on top of her chest as she instinctively wrapped her arms around my back and held the halberd horizontally across my waist, pressing against the base of my tail.

With our two bodies and faces so close to each other, my aura protected her senses from the overwhelming mana density that surrounded us and she was able to open her beautiful yellow and red eyes. Even in such an extreme situation, she was wearing a pleasant smile… at least by my standards, her fur was so cold that I was able to momentarily ignore the burning sensations all across my back.

Less than a second felt like a few minutes, as gravity quickly pulled us towards the esophageal floor. Yet, my two claymores that were meant to pierce through its soft throat, let off sparks as they skid across the ground and I actually lost my grip on them.

If it were a magical beast, my plan probably would have worked, but demons weren’t that predictable. I knew that there was no painless way for us to skid across the sharp and jagged, metallic, serrated blades that lined the interior of the serpent’s gullet.

Luckily, the walls swiftly clamped down on us and my outstretched hands didn’t have to be sacrificed to prevent us from being skewered. The halberd and Amber’s incredible upper body and core strength were the only things maintaining our apparent state of levitation.

Her huge legs were wrapped around the back of mine and I was straightening out my posture as much as possible, while ignoring the relative discomfort of the chains and belts that were pressing against my abdomen. Since she had such a thick coat of fur, she didn’t even seem to be irritated and I could hear her purring softly as her whiskers tickled the tips of my elven ears.

My face was trapped in what would normally be considered cleavage, but since her breasts were at least ninety percent pectoral muscle, my horns were actually resting on each of them and I was able to avoid suffocating inside of her surprisingly cold chest fur.

I may have dropped my two mithril swords, but that didn’t mean I lost them. With a bit of earth magic, it was relatively easy to return them to my hands, getting them back into their sheaths was a bit more challenging.

Luckily, the area that the ‘X’ shaped, magically enhanced, wood covered my skin, was protected from what Amber silently informed me, were extremely large, bone-like, needles or quills. Her scent was powerful and with the combination of touch telepathy, and her purring voice, she calmly said “Your back is swollen, leaking a weird looking blueish-black liquid, smells like rotting flesh and I’m pretty sure that you’re dying. Don’t worry, I’ll just burn your skin off…” in a serious voice as her body’s temperature rapidly rose.

There were so many reasons why that was a terrible idea, that the only thing I could yell was “No! Bad! Stop!” in a frantic voice, and her body cooled down significantly. We were inside of a demon’s esophagus, starting a fire may have had very unfortunate consequences and aside from that, burning my flesh off was not going to help me heal faster.

It took very little effort for me to eject the myriad of needles from my skin, using a bit of earth and water magic in unison. The painful pressure was relieved and the festering boils exploded in quick succession, creating a very unsettling series of popping sounds.

I made sure that the potentially harmful, and extremely disgusting, liquid was dispersed far away from us. Then it was just a matter of using copious amounts of mana to increase regeneration at a speed that would have probably killed a human or rat tribe.

My subconscious compass, combined with the constant shaking back and forth, told me that we were traveling extremely fast and in a constantly changing direction. However, I knew that the demon wouldn’t be leaving the fourth ring and since we were at the entrance when we were swallowed, it was most likely carrying us deeper into hell… but we wanted to do that anyway, so it was actually being pretty helpful.

The problem was that a creature so massive, needed to continuously devour large prey in order to continue its growth. If the snake seriously clamped down and tried to crush us, the mithril halberd that was already bending from our weight, would have been destroyed and we would have fallen.

Surprisingly, that didn’t happen, so we enjoyed a relatively pleasant hour-long bumpy trip that, combined with the low oxygen levels and caustic odor of digestive fluids, made both of us extremely nauseous. I used air magic to keep us from suffocating and attempted to remove the stench as much as possible, but we were cursed with extremely sensitive olfactory organs.

Unfortunately, even with Amber’s ridiculous strength, she couldn’t hold the two of us in the same position forever, so I decided that it was time for us to leave. The entire time we were inside of the giant creature, its core temperature was constantly being lowered at a pretty slow pace, because it wasn’t intentional.

However, when I began assisting the unreasonably calm tigress with my own fire magic, the air became so cold that the snake’s saliva, which was coating the walls and floor, actually began to freeze. The tips of Amber’s halberd were covered in ice and just as I predicted, the cold-blooded demon was unable to continue its seemingly random slithering.

It probably would have been possible to repair the mithril pole-arm through a bit of earth magic, but we wouldn’t have been able to dislodge it from the serpent’s esophagus without killing the creature and cutting it apart from the outside. Time was something that nothing within The Forest of Corruption had very much of, including us.

Most demons were born as magical beasts in the third ring and slowly became more powerful over many years, eventually reaching the pinnacle of what they could achieve there. Very few creatures could survive for longer than a year in the fourth ring and even the massive snake that we were travelling within, was about to die.

Luckily, we were still pretty close to its mouth, while I was providing stabilization thrusters, Amber was able to propel us toward the entrance with an intense burst of purple flames from her outstretched hands. If the demon didn’t open its mouth in response to the sudden increase in air pressure, I probably would have broken my legs as we crashed into its closed throat.

Immediately after exiting the colossal monster, I attempted to slow us down, but our momentum was just too great and we skidded across the surface of the very shallow water for at least fifty meters, before finally stopping. We quickly disconnected our bodies, which had been interlocked for so long that it felt uncomfortable being apart, and then we both managed to stand up.

The glowing green algae prevented us from seeing through the disgusting liquid, that was up to Amber’s knees and my waist. The ambient noise that echoed throughout the surprisingly well lit swamp, was so chaotic and distracting that I almost didn’t notice the two hundred meter long and ten meter tall alligator, that was easily tearing the equally large snake apart.

I had no idea how deep we were inside of the fourth ring, but the difference in mana density was immense and my head was pounding from the strain of opening my third eye. It was like staring at a nuclear explosion, from inside the blast radius… which isn’t something that I would recommend trying.

While the titanic battles were raging all around us in the distance, enemies of a much more reasonable scale were attacking us. Amber had somehow managed to acclimate herself to the atmosphere, and was wielding her only remaining spear.

My two claymores were adequate weapons to use against the myriad of two to four meter tall and wide slimes, that had completely surrounded us. Their colors mirrored the glowing green algae that we were wading through, and a quick glance at their nearly black auras was all it took for me to recognize them as demons.

It wasn’t our first battle against the gigantic amoebas, but there was a definite difference between the lethargic creatures that lurked in the third ring and the overly aggressive monsters that were whipping their tentacles around at each other and us.

Amber was easily dodging the onslaught, while I was much more comfortable with using my dual blades to parry their haphazard blows. Although, if they lost a tentacle while trying to smack me, it was equivalent to poking a hole in their relatively thick shells, causing putrid black goop to ooze out of the opening and spray all over me.

The tigress who was fighting a few meters to my right, was having even more trouble avoiding the disgusting fluids. When she impaled one of the slimes with her immolated spear, the giant glob of tar exploded and covered her in the burning substance, which was actually a type of petroleum.

Fortunately, her fur was able to avoid being burnt, but I wasn’t quite so lucky… my tolerance for pain was unnaturally high. Although, without access to Ailyn’s seal, I had no idea how important my discovery of a potential oil source actually was.

It was apparent that no fire-breathing demons ever entered that swamp, or perhaps they just knew better than to start an inferno while surrounded by thousands of highly flammable and explosive slimes. Amber’s single attack had created a chain reaction, which spread slow enough that I was able to grab the flaming tigress and use a bit of water, but mostly air magic, to quickly evacuate to a mildly safer location.

Ignoring my smoldering flesh and her slightly singed fur, I flew the two of us as fast as I could, outside of that hellish environment. There was no shock-wave, or even a deafening noise, but at least a few hundred meters in every direction from our previous location was covered in a blanket of thick black smoke.

After removing the burning tar from our bodies, through earth magic, we sat down on a massive tree stump that was slightly above the water level. I turned towards the exhausted tigress and said “Can you tell which direction has a higher mana density?” in a hopefully voice, as I began regenerating my missing skin.

Amber looked to the north, then south, and back to me while growling “It all looks the same… I still can’t smell anything either.” in an irritated voice. I sighed, then tried my last resort, by cooling my horns down, typically that would have forced me into a state of intense telepathic sensitivity.

However, the result was just a splitting headache and a lot of white noise. The last trick was far too risky to even attempt, because I knew that the moment I managed to break through the canopy, thousands of vines and airborne demons would have torn me apart.

There wasn’t any sunlight creeping through the thick leafy ceiling, but the bioluminescent fungi, algae, and even the gigantic yellow alligators that were slaughtering each other in the distance, were able to brightly illuminate the entire swamp. Well, at least as much of it as I could see from that stump, which wasn’t very far because there were plenty of massive trees and monsters that covered the horizon in every direction.

When I finished healing my own body, I began working on relieving Amber’s fatigue and repaired her damaged muscle fibers with what was essentially a very quick and rough, magical massage… which wasn’t nearly as exciting as my vague description may have implied.

Five minutes after our short reprieve, a three meter tall and six meter wide snapping turtle decided that we looked like easy prey and approached us, very slowly. Its shell was covered with huge red spikes, that had a myriad of squirming gigantic birds impaled upon them.

The monster’s head appeared relatively normal at first, but then I noticed that it didn’t have any eyes and its beak was just a gaping hole. When it was a few meters away from us, hundreds of huge black worms launched out of every orifice on the creature’s face.

All of them were aimed towards Amber, who was much easier to see, with her vibrant and powerful aura. However, I quickly jumped in front of her and began using my electrically charged claymores to hack and slash at the disgusting organisms.

Meanwhile, she was using her two fist weapons as actual shields and deflecting the attacks that managed to slip by me. I yelled “Why the hell do demons always have tentacles?!” in an angry voice, while continuing to parry the onslaught of slimy worm thrusts.

Amber roared “I’ve never seen you use your’s before! Although, such a small weapon probably wouldn’t be very useful against this strange creature!” in a completely serious voice.

While slicing the tips off of a few of the leeches that were attempting to penetrate us, I yelled “This might seem like a weird time for this talk, but you’re technically an adult now! How do you think babies are made?!” in a curious voice.

She didn’t respond right away, but eventually growled “Obviously, mating… the male and female… then a few months later a litter of cubs are born! What does that have to do with this battle?!” in an irritated voice, and I could feel the temperature around us raise by a few dozen degrees.

I accidentally snickered for a few seconds, before getting smacked in the back of the head with a nearly molten piece of metal. Then I was almost impaled by a rather large black worm, but I managed to use my right blade to slice it down the center, vertically from top to bottom, with my right sword.

After deflecting a few more attacks, I sighed, then said “The man has a… tentacle, and the woman has a hole… one goes inside the other. Remember all those times when you thought Nenor and Lachon were wrestling? Well, that was sex, which is basically the same thing as mating.” in a mostly serious voice as I finished off the last of the tentacles.

With a loud shrieking noise, they all stopped attacking and started thrashing about violently, while spraying gallons of glowing green blood everywhere. I used a bit of water magic to keep it from drenching us, but it was still pretty gross to watch the turtle demon’s death throes.

When I turned around, Amber was wearing her shields as pauldrons again and had a worried expression on her face. Then she said “Michael, shouldn’t I have gotten pregnant by now?” in a solemn voice.

I smirked, then said “The wrestling part has nothing to do with it… wait, were you seriously trying to mate with me all those times?” while sheathing my claymores and walking up to her. She took out her bow, nocked an arrow, then aimed it slightly above my head and began channeling her purple flames into the mithril.

When she fired it and slightly burned the top of my head, again, I heard a loud squawking sound, followed by a the familiar *Voosh* of a large crane being immolated. She quickly put the bow away and then looked into my eyes, while smiling softly as she grabbed my horns with one hand each.

Amber easily lifted my body off the ground fifty centimeters and performed her usual, triple face lick. Before my neck muscles had a chance to tear from the strain of being lifted by my head, she put me back down, and purred “We should probably start eating, while we have the chance.” in a happy voice.

Overcooked demonic crane tasted delicious, but it could have really used some seasoning. We decided not to try the worm infested turtle monster, because it didn’t seem very appetizing after we were already full.

The rest of our first day in The Abysmal Swamp was relatively boring, we killed a couple small treants, some slimes, and a giant yellow alligator. It was impossible to rest for more than ten minutes and even after twenty-seven hours… we still hadn’t been able to travel a mile away from that colossal snake carcass.

Exhaustion was catching up to us, but if we had lost consciousness, we would have definitely died. Our bodies had to be able to function properly without sleep, which was something that very few humanoid races were capable of.

Both of us had extremely high nature affinities, so the main problem was that I didn’t actually know how to cast a spell to alter that specific part of my DNA. If I had met with Rae and released my first seal, it would have been simple, but I didn’t, and I was already in a particularly reckless mood.

We were sitting comfortably on a ten meter wide lily-pad and devouring what little we were able to gather from the ridiculously large lizard, when I said “I’m sure you probably realized this by now… but in order to survive this place, the two of us are going to have to become a bit more demonic. What I’m about to do to us, will begin our transformation… I hope you didn’t have some strange aspirations of dying from old age.” in a serious voice, while staring into her eyes and smiling.

Amber smirked, then purred “We don’t have time for speeches, do it.” in a nonchalant voice, while interlocking her right hand with mine, then placing her left on my chest as I did the same to her.

I started laughing quietly, and said “Try not to faint this time…” in a sarcastic voice, while the ankh tattoo on my right hand began to create a blinding, golden light. An intense pain radiated across my entire body, which signaled the seal on my blood and illusion magic unlocking.

After my telepathic encounter with Lorelei, I was able to remember the specific conditions that I placed on each of my seals. They were designed so that I wouldn’t overload my mind with too much useless information again and to prevent my body from functioning if it wasn’t actually ‘me’ who was in control.

On my left hand, a black serpent that was trying to devour its own tail appeared and was actually moving around in a circle, underneath my skin. It wasn’t a tattoo, but more like a three-dimensional living creature, that was crawling around where my veins were supposed to be.

The number seven-hundred and seventy-seven was written out in a mirror-like silver color, which resembled pools of mercury. Then she started roaring in agony as her marks were beginning to appear, on her left hand was the standard ouroboros with those familiar numbers inside.

However, the symbol which appeared on her chest was a large triquetra, it was facing downward so that the bottom loop was over her sternum and the two others were across the top of her pectoral muscles. Each one of the seals were pitch black, a powerful contrast to her mostly white fur, but all of that was just a prelude to her placing the brand over my chest which was a copy of the mark I had just given her.

Amber was wincing in pain with her eyes closed and had stopped roaring after the spells had been cast. They weren’t particularly complicated, our left hands were basically just serving as a telepathic link, but their main purpose was to prevent us from killing each other… no matter how psychotic we became.

The mark on our chests was the actual reason for that unnecessarily painful unsealing ritual. At the time, I didn’t exactly know the consequences of using that particular spell, I just remembered that it wasn’t going to be a pleasant experience.

Humanoids, animals, magical beasts, even treants and dyads needed sleep to function properly, but demons didn’t. Unfortunately, the reason wasn’t something as grandiose as simply being more powerful.

They had to sacrifice their minds, so that their bodies could survive on nothing but instinct… the triquetra prevented us from having that option. Normally, it would be placed on a person’s forehead, but my vertical eye was in the way and it didn’t actually have any bearing on the spell’s effect.

It was a combination of illusion and blood magic, which didn’t actually cause us to mutate or transform. All of that was going to happen regardless of anything we did, aside from escaping the fourth ring before it was too late, the seal was similar to the one I used on Rae to prevent her from going crazy.

Although, ours essentially did the exact opposite, it was only a temporary measure and was designed to let us sleep again when our environment was a bit less extreme. Fortunately, both of us were already what most people would consider insane anyway, so I figured that a few more hallucinations, fits of intense rage, or paranoid delusions probably wouldn’t have been that bad.

Never make life-changing decisions when you’re tired or hungry, because they very rarely turn out well. For example, establishing a telepathic link between two mentally unstable people is actually a terrible idea.

For the first week of continuous battles throughout The Abysmal Swamp, our connection was incredibly helpful and our teamwork was flawless. However, on the ninth day since we emerged from that snake, the side-effects began appearing… and neither of us were lucid enough to even notice.

I was busy talking to myself, out loud, yelling ridiculous nonsense like “Reality is relative!” or “We’ve only been here for seven-hundred and seventy-thousand seconds, but it feels like we just arrived yesterday!” as I was using my slightly deformed claymores to hack apart a gigantic purple alligator… that probably wasn’t a hallucination. My internal clock was abnormally accurate, but I usually tried not to think about it too much.

Meanwhile, Amber was standing on top of its head and using her molten mithril shields, to viciously pummel and burn her way through its thick hide. The entire time she was roaring “I am going to eat your brain!” which wasn’t that different from how she normally acted.

Toxins, poisons and curses could be treated with a bit of healing magic, but our self-imposed delirious condition worsened each day. After two weeks of rampaging around in random directions, our senses had finally become accustomed to the harsh environment and we were able to tell which direction had a higher mana density.

Although, it was impossible for us to actually make any progress, because our visual and auditory hallucinations were far too distracting. Since our minds were linked, we would sometimes spend hours talking to people who didn’t exist or fighting monsters that weren’t really there.

My memories of our adventures in that seemingly endless swamp were all very vague after that first day, but I know that we spent at least six months there. Regardless of how many demons we slaughtered, more of them always appeared from somewhere, and there were probably a few battles that never actually happened.

Along the way, we managed to lose all of our equipment and weapons, even some appendages… luckily, fingers, toes, ears, eyes, teeth and even my surprisingly fragile reproductive organs could all be regenerated, or reattached, with very little effort.

Well, the only enemies worse than the tiny fish that tried to swim up our urinary tracts, were the gigantic tapeworms, covered in jagged spines that sprayed hydrochloric acid and didn’t care which orifice it was attempting to invade. After my first encounter with that creature, even in my irrational state, I was a lot more wary of the disgusting water which my entire lower body was submerged in.

If Amber wasn’t so tall, she probably would have lost her virginity during those six, horrible months. Although, towards the end, I was at least fifteen centimeters taller than when I arrived, so my two very weak points were significantly more difficult for any water-bound demons to reach.

Our other physical changes were a bit more extreme than just growing a few inches or gaining some extra muscle. It’s difficult to put them all in chronological order, but I’m almost certain that my entire right arm being devoured by a ten meter long centipede was the first.

Even my shoulder was lost, due to some extremely powerful acidic compound that coated its mandibles. Amber had to sacrifice her spear to actually kill the thing, while I was struggling to regenerate my missing limb.

Unfortunately, rapidly regrowing an arm wasn’t easy or simple, since bones required time and materials that we didn’t have. Luckily, a hallucination of a certain dryad was there to give me some, unorthodox, advice.

Uriel was standing behind the carcass, which was floating lifelessly in front of Amber and I, as she said “This insect’s chitin should be an adequate source of nutrients for your new exoskeletal limb. I shall offer my assistance…” in monotone voice, while I was unconsciously using earth magic to break apart the creature’s black shell.

Just like the real thing, the illusory Yuri had started stabbing me with dozens of vines and performed some nature spells that I could barely comprehend. The tigress was busy fighting off a very small, fire-breathing, hippo demon, while I was somehow transforming the nearly unbreakable carapace into a thick, black, sludge.

It felt like I was drinking hot tar, but it actually tasted more like sugarless chocolate. If it was the real dryad, she probably would have forced me to inhale it, or injected the substance directly into my tear ducts… okay, maybe she wasn’t quite that ridiculous.

After about an hour of eating the centipede meat and feeling a horrible burning sensation as my new arm was being created. The chitinous skin didn’t appear that different from a smooth and subtle, black pauldron and gauntlet that was about the same size as my original limb. The ankh tattoo had its color inverted to match the new hand and was still in the same place.

My knuckles and fingertips were sharp and obviously designed to be more efficient weapons. Although, from the right side of my wrist down to my elbow, was a sharp bladed edge, with a small knifelike tip that almost touched where my tricep used to be, if I straightened my arm completely.

I was pretty surprised when I noticed that the sensation of touch felt as sensitive as before, but I did end up losing a bit of flexibility. Overall, it was much stronger and more durable than my previous limb, but the main appeal was its extremely high corrosion resistance.

The only drawback was that it took me a lot more effort to heal or repair any damage that it received. Also, I stabbed myself in the right side of my abdomen far too often and accidentally gouged my eye out a couple of times while trying to scratch my face or forehead.

It was probably a few days after my upgrade that Amber finally pushed her hands and forearms to their limit, when she was fighting a giant tortoise with a ridiculously strong crystalline shell. By that point we were completely out of weapons, aside from our bodies and magic, so our rate of injury had increased dramatically.

As long as we kept eating at least once an hour, our mana didn’t run out, so we were never in a position where I couldn’t heal us. Although, that didn’t mean we enjoyed breaking all of our bones and tearing our muscles, over and over again.

Unfortunately, our state of mind prevented us from realizing how much damage we were taking until after the adrenaline wore off, then we would have a short and agonizing break, until the next wave of enemies attacked. Every time our muscles regenerated, they became stronger, sometimes large, but usually just made out of better materials.

Bones were always a little trickier and took a bit longer to heal, so we probably shouldn’t have been so reckless. When Amber shattered the tortoise demon’s shell, everything from her elbow down on both arms was completely wrecked.

When she managed to burn off her fire resistant fur, she didn’t even wince at the pain and was bragging about her victory. I actually designed the seal, so that almost all of her suffering was transferred to me, because if she fainted, there was no way that I could have protected both of us.

Compared to some of the other injuries I had received in my life so far and a couple memories of hell that resurfaced when I received a few blows to the head, it wasn’t really that bad. My inner Uriel was telling me to make some modifications to the tigress’ severely damaged arms and most likely because of the large assortment of scaled creatures that inhabited that swamp, I had chosen a similar design for her new arms.

The tortoise had bones that were made out of a white metallic substance, that was an organic compound which reminded me of mithril. While she was busy trying to melt through its shell, I was the main focus of its attention, the creature was able to generate an incredibly amount of electricity and fired streams of lightning out of its mouth.

However, between Amber’s assault and the side effect of its own attack against me, the creature overheated and imploded. The bones and shell were completely intact though, so I knew that they were perfect for the restructured forearms and hands of a fire magic addict.

I ground them into a powder and she had to drink it with some water, but her ridiculously powerful stomach acid was sufficiently able to break the materials down so that I could begin the healing process. It didn’t exactly turn out the way that I had intended, instead of reptilian scales, I accidentally made nearly transparent, crystalline fur, that covered her pale white skin.

Her new claw-like fingernails were made from the same material, but her new teeth seemed to resemble the tortoise’s bones instead. My intention was just to change her arms a bit… but altering DNA wasn’t my specialty.

After a few weeks of fighting, the hair, bones, teeth, and nails all over her body were eventually replaced with the new materials, that were actually found in a myriad of different types of reptilian demons. Amber’s color scheme didn’t really change, because her skin was white and had various light-orange stripes along her back, tail and face.

However, the new coat of fur was only able to partially obscure several pink organs that most humanoids tried to hide with clothing. Well, there was no one else around besides us, so nudity didn’t really matter.

Another minor transformation that I noticed, was that her irises started to change color from yellowish orange, to a purplish blue that matched her aura. The pupils which were slightly cat-like, had become round again and she had actually lost her ability to see mana passively.

Her eyes would glow like bright blue orbs of fire whenever she was focusing on perceiving the intangible substance. Amber’s relatively small and rounded tiger ears had been progressively becoming longer and more pointed.

By the fourth month, they started to remind me of a fox’s ears, because they were both pretty large… it somehow made her seem a lot cuter. By the end of the sixth month, she was able to hear mana as well as I could.

Plenty of our internal organs were altered, in one way or another, but the last visible change was to my tail. After losing it way too many times and not even being able to fight with the thing, I eventually decided to go with a more fitting appendage for the situation.

There was a relatively normal sized black alligator that I stole the idea from, it was practically impossible to damage the creature using magic. The demon’s scales were extremely tough, but once Amber punched it in the head enough times, the reptile’s brain had splattered against the inside of its skull.

However, I was only interested in the scales and shape of the tail, which took a while for hallucinatory Yuri to examine. It did have a breaking point, when the mana crystals in the material reached maximum capacity they shattered, which allowed me to devour the creature eventually.

Although, the nice thing about the black alligator hide was that I could actually use the power that it contained, and prevent my new alligator-like tail from disintegrating or exploding. I was also tired of becoming paralyzed so often, so I decided to cover my entire spine, up to the base of my skull, with the protective scales.

The appendage was a lot heavier than I was used to, but when I was wading through the swampy waters, it was actually pretty helpful. Smacking it against a demon typically wasn’t very effective as in attack, but its main purpose was to not get bitten off.

Obviously, I could have easily lived without a tail… I could have survived without a few other organs that kept getting torn off as well. Yet, it just didn’t feel right without them, they were an important part of who I was.

Out of our whole stay in The Abysmal Swamp, the absolute worst experiences involved parasites. Our auras and immune systems were strong enough to protect us from most pathogens, but there was one time when we decided to eat some of the slimes.

Amber somehow managed to escape with a bit of diarrhea, I wasn’t quite so lucky. It wasn’t fun having thousands of five centimeter wide, blobs of goo, literally devouring my intestinal wall from the inside out… they tore their way through my abdomen and escaped into the murky waters while I was struggling to regenerate my eviscerated organs and blood.

Both of us managed to get ear infections, in the form of tiny cockroach-like demons. We had to burn them out, before they managed to reach our brains and do any real damage.

Overall, The Forest of Corruption wasn’t really that bad, the food was amazing, we didn’t get tentacle raped and our bodies barely even changed that much. Although, my initial time estimation of one month, had already been destroyed by a lot, and we were still an unknown distance from our destination.

When we left the swamp our pace was… erratic, we weren’t used to being able to move without having to deal with mud and water weighing us down. Unfortunately, our travel speed didn’t really matter if we had no idea where we were going, we were completely lost.

I didn’t know it at the time, but we were only about a hundred miles northeast of our target, which was at the end of the pathway that lead from Angren to The Eye of Lorthon. We actually spent a whole month, running around in circles, while killing a plethora of frog-like demons, even a few colossal snakes.

Eventually, Amber decided that she wanted to fly around a bit, since I wasn’t in the right state of mind to stop her, I just joined in on the fun. We were immediately swarmed by a flock of nearly a thousand wyverns, and not the friendly kind.

The fiery tigress wanted to kill and eat them all, but there were just too many of them for us to handle. During the aerial battle, we ended up traveling at least three hundred miles west of the road and landed on a ridiculously large branch of the northwestern-most super-tree.

When we landed on the massive wooden five-hundred meter wide platform, the wyverns didn’t follow us. It was a really bad omen, which I completely ignored without a second thought. As the entire branch began to shake, accompanied by the familiar sound of thunderous footsteps, I knew exactly what kind of enemy was standing before us.

I was actually happy when I first glimpsed at the ferocious monster that was walking towards us from a kilometer away, close to the base of the branch. The last time I had killed a dragon, I didn’t even get to enjoy the meal… but the moment my hallucination wore off, I realized how bad the situation really was.

Massive vine-like wings spread from its back, as its serpentine body slithered from side to side with each deafening step of its tree-trunk legs. The creature’s face was reminiscent of an iguana with enormous branches that replicated antlers, its eyes glowed with a blinding red light.

It was easily over two-hundred meters long, with five root-shaped tails that connected with the colossal tree-branch as it walked. The green dragon was at least ten meters tall and just as wide, but it wasn’t our first encounter with such a gigantic monster.

In an instant, both myself and Amber were turning in the other direction and using copious amounts of fire magic to launch ourselves like rockets away from that thing. We didn’t even have to say a word to each other, because we both recognized the treant that was called Delos, The Spirit of Envy.

Garah once told us about every member of the Lorthon Pantheon, each one of them represented a different animal. The overpowered tree-monsters weren’t omnipotent, so some of them had died over the eons… but there were also a few of them that gave in to temptation and entered The Forest of Corruption.

Unlike a certain dryad, the treants weren’t immune to the effects of such an environment and Delos was one of them. It wasn’t like we were afraid of that ancient monstrosity, we just didn’t want to fight a being that had been able to survive for thousands of years inside the fourth ring.

Thousands of vines rained down around us from the giant tree branch above, but just as many were shooting up at us from the one below. The flaming tigress was able to tear through the web of plant-life, but I wasn’t quite so lucky.

I had a pretty good idea what was about to happen to me, so I decided to sever our telepathic link, by tearing off my left hand. As soon as she couldn’t hear my thoughts anymore, Amber turned around and was about to try to release me from my vibrant green prison, but I yelled “Don’t worry, I have a plan! Just be ready to barbecue this bastard… you’ll know when!” in a serious voice, as my entire body was being covered in a thick coat of unreasonably strong vines.

They were wrapped especially tight around my horns, the reason why was pretty obvious, Delos was trying to enter my mind. Suddenly, I was standing on a beach, on a beautiful tropical island and there was relatively attractive elven man, standing a few meters in front of me.

His skin was a bright green color and he was at least two meters tall, if he had an underbite and tusks or a more muscular build, I would have thought that he was an orc. The man was wearing a vest and shorts, that seemed to be made out of dark red leaves, and his eyes were pure white.

If we weren’t in an illusion I would have assumed that he was blind. After a few moments of silence, he said “Michael… the gods told me that you would be coming to visit me soon.” in a calm voice, while slowly walking towards me.

I smiled at him, then said “Interesting, what else did that say?” in a curious voice and began calmly walking towards him. The moment I saw the treant’s nauseating, slimy, black aura, that reminded me of molten tar, I knew that he was an enemy.

Delos smirked, then said “That you would try to kill me while pretending to befriend me.” in a sinister voice as he vanished, then reappeared to my right. His bark covered left fist impacted my rib-cage and my body flew a hundred meters across the beach, until it smacked into a palm tree.

When I started laughing hysterically as I stood up, completely unfazed and unharmed, he seemed to have puzzled look on his face. I said “Before I’m finished with you, you’re going to be begging those gods for salvation.” in a happy voice, as I raised my right arm and pointed my index finger at his chest.

In an instant, a blast of electricity thousands of times more powerful than what I could cast in reality, fired from my hand. He was launched like a rag-doll, skidding across the sandy beach, leaving a trail of black blood in his wake, then crashed into a massive wave which I had frozen solid.

The ice turned into black acid and he began screaming in pain, as his green flesh was melting away. I’m sure he had no idea what was happening, unfortunately for him, I wasn’t quite satisfied yet.

After teleporting his completely healed body onto the sand in front of me, I created thousands of small and angry yellow scorpions that continued to stab their poisonous barbs into his green skin. Completely paralyzed, there was nothing he could do to stop them from devouring him, very slowly.

The nice thing about illusions, is that anything is possible… but that’s also their most terrifying and cruel aspect. With my seal unlocked, I had full control over that imaginary world, he really shouldn’t have tried to invade my mind.

There are many ways to destroy a person, even without breaking my laws, and I knew all of them. If I was the one entering his mind, he would have been able to escape, but he was arrogant and assumed that my will would be weaker than his.

After that pseudo-battle was over, I created a beautiful dream for him. He was an elven man, living in Ael Tol a few thousand years before I was born. Delos had two loving parents and grew up in relative peace, he was bullied a few times as a child, nothing too extreme though.

Eventually, he became a teenager and started apprenticing as a fletcher, nothing overly impressive, but he was happy. He prayed to his gods every day and thanked them for their blessings, his new life was what he could never have as a treant.

Once he became an adult, he married his first girlfriend, had a few children, and just when his life was perfect, I destroyed everything he loved. His preteen daughter had become infected with vampirism and was turning into a blood elf.

No matter how much he begged and pleaded with those false gods, nothing could save her. The whole city was in chaos as the outbreak spread, his wife and the rest of his children fell victim to the change soon after that.

In the midst of his own personal hell, I arrived, looking like myself but with two massive wings of blinding white light coming out of my back. It was all pretty cliche and if it was me, I would have realized what was going on about thirty years earlier, but he was pretty gullible.

Delos’ blue eyes, which I gave him to make everything seem a bit more realistic, were filled with tears and he honestly didn’t understand why he had been forsaken. I looked down at him and said “Would you like me to cure your family?” in a voice that sounded like I was singing a dozen harmonies with myself.

He just nodded his head, unable to utter a single word in my presence, then I gave him his paradise back. It was like the outbreak never happened and he was happily eating a vegetarian dinner with his wife and children, in their rather spacious tree-house, which was only a few dozen meters off the ground.

Even though he experienced it in real time, for me it only seemed like an hour, in reality it was exactly two minutes. However, I had won the battle and I had to do something extremely painful to leave.

My actual body was mirroring my illusionary one as I grabbed my relatively large, swirly ram-like horn with my very strong right hand… and tore it out of my skull. Then I continued to remove with other one as quickly as possible, when I finally opened my eyes and burned my way out of the vines that surrounded me, I saw Amber sitting on the smoldering carcass of what used to be an extremely powerful green dragon shaped treant.

I walked over to my amputated hand, picked it up off the floor and quickly reattached it. There were two very painful gaping head wounds that I really wanted to heal, but with the death of Delos, thousands of giant birds, wyverns, a few small yellow dragons and plenty of randomly assorted flying demons, were having a gigantic battle all around the three mile long tree branch.

The dragon-shaped treant wasn’t actually dead, spirits weren’t that easy to kill, but it was trapped inside of an illusory heaven of mostly its own design, so we had at least a few thousand years until it was going to wake up again. We decided to return to the ground, which was about seven-hundred meters below us, while we had the chance.

It was nice to feel sunlight on my skin for the first time since we were eaten by that snake, but the most important thing was that I finally knew who my enemies were. Finding and killing them was going to be a lot more difficult though.

Beings who called themselves gods weren’t necessarily evil, neither was Delos by my moral standards. However, I recognized all three of their names from my list of people who will never let me conquer the world in any reality.

Even though I still didn’t completely understand what that meant at the time, a hallucination of a certain little elven girl with six angelic wings, was telling me to just trust me instincts.

From the moment we approached the jungle canopy, we were assaulted by a myriad of vines, tentacles, quills and a mosquito that was twice my size. Although, we were pretty much used to all that nonsense by then, so we created shields made from unreasonably hot flames to protect us, while we slowly landed without much effort.

Then we were assailed from every direction by creatures that appeared similar to dark elves, but with octopus tentacles instead of arms and legs. At first, I thought they were porcupine demons judging from their backs and tails. When they looked up at me with their three golden eyes, I realized that they must have been elves that wandered into the forest quite recently.

They were smiling at us and trying to speak, while thrusting their limbs like spears and attempting to skewer our thighs. Obviously, they weren’t very difficult to kill, when Amber kicked one of them in the face as it crawled up to her, the demon’s head was torn off and flew at least a few dozen meters before splattering against a tree.

I was actually kind of impressed that they managed to survive so long, while being that weak. They used something that almost none of the other demons were capable of, teamwork.

Three or four of them would attack us at the same time and some would even sacrifice themselves so that their comrades would be able to land a single hit on one of us. Beyond that, they weren’t much more intelligent than pack hunting magical beasts, and we were able to slaughter all twenty of them within a few minutes.

It made me happy to know that the golden-eyed clan still existed, but I wasn’t particularly surprised. Morneth had mentioned that her people were gifted with unusually strong bodies and even though they were dark elves, they had the physical strength and natural regeneration required to survive in the third ring.

Although, if there were a bunch of them wandering into The Forest of Corruption… I knew that the vampirism situation had probably escalated. We needed to stop wasting so much time and finish our vacation as soon as possible.

Unlike broken bones or missing limbs, my horns didn’t need to be regenerated rapidly. Just like my hair, that was already down to my lower ribs in length, they grew pretty fast.

It was actually kind of pleasant being able to tilt my head without smacking them against my shoulders. However, the new pair was made out of a material that was similar to the scales that covered my tail and spine.

They were still black, so I didn’t even notice the difference until two months later, when they were six centimeters long and just starting to curve. A spider demon had tried to fire a bolt of lightning at the side of my head, but it was absorbed into my right horn.

The sensation was strangely pleasant, but I was worried that they might have lost their previous tendencies towards boosting my telepathic range. Most of the voices in my head weren’t real, so I couldn’t find out until we finished our business in that damn jungle.

Three hundred days after we first entered the fourth ring, we finally reached the path again… the clearing was actually visible from where we stood. Ten months and we were only a few miles closer to our destination.

It was the first time that either of us had laughed that hard in our entire lives, which was followed by a very angry tigress roaring “We should have just done this from the start!” as she began sprinting south, while dodging various projectiles.

I immediately followed after her, she was two and a half meters tall, so her strides were ridiculous and she was also using her flames to boost her speed by a decent amount. As I began running, I yelled “Everything happens for a reason! We probably wouldn’t have been able to make it very far if we tried this back then!” in an excited voice, while keeping up with her.

At two-hundred and twenty centimeters, with a rather thick beard and relatively large musculature, no human would ever think that my body was only a little over ten years old. Yet, for a tiger or kodiak tribe male, I probably would have been considered short and hairless.

We were racing with each other towards a finish line that was a little less than a hundred miles away from us, and if we didn’t have to keep dodging constantly, we would have made it there a lot faster.

Our stamina was ridiculous when we didn’t have to fight anything. We eventually reached the point where our feet stopped touching the ground and we were moving with nothing but fire or wind magic.

After thirty minutes, we had passed the halfway point and it was impossible to see the sky anymore. The massive branches from the super-trees were creating a two-hundred meter high canopy, but we were also able to see the very slow strobing lights in the distance as the whole forest was illuminated periodically.

Fifteen minutes of very reckless flying after that, we crashed into a magical barrier that was very similar to the one protecting the Ael Tol pyramid. If it was a physical wall, we would have been seriously injured and my skull probably would have been cracked open.

Fortunately, it gradually reduced our speed over a few seconds and then we gracefully slid down the invisible barricade until we landed feet first on the pathway. For a few seconds we couldn’t see very far ahead of us because there was a thick white fog, but then the massive golden mountain appeared in front of us, hundreds of miles away.

When it lit up, the barrier vanished and we were able to quickly sprint through the mist, and emerging on the other side we saw the gigantic beacon clearly. The northern point of the pyramid’s base was aiming towards us and it was impossible to see the very tip of the three mile tall structure, because of the myriad of branches creating a ceiling near the top.

I was so entranced by the beautiful sight, that it took me a few seconds to look down and notice a serious problem. There was no sand… it seemed more like grey concrete, and the mysterious liquid looked a lot like a lake of petroleum.

We walked to the edge of the beach, following a clearly defined pathway that was actually glowing bright red. Amber was standing to my left and staring at me with a puzzled expression on her face.

After a few minutes I started laughing hysterically, then said “She wasn’t even here… we just spent ten months in jungle hell and this isn’t even the right place!” in an incredibly frustrated voice, while continuing to laugh uncontrollably.

The confused tigress looked up at the ceiling, then said “What was this thing used for anyway?” in a serious voice. Suddenly, a humanoid shape emerged from the black liquid and took on a form that I vaguely remembered seeing before.

It was a human woman with shoulder length brown hair, very tan skin, relatively large breasts and hips, she seemed slightly chubby compared to me and Amber, but she was definitely attractive. She would have been considered a giant by most wood elves, but she was only about three meters tall.

Her hazel eyes glowed brightly in the very dark environment and she seemed a bit strange as she scanned my body for a few seconds. Then she said “Registered mana core detected. Please enter your authorization code.” in a monotone voice, that I didn’t recognize at all.

Amber was about to say something, but I telepathically cut her off, because I had no idea what might happened if we had gotten it wrong. A hallucinatory Lucy was mouthing the answer, while standing in front of the very tall, and naked, woman’s legs.

I smiled at the visage of Terra, and said “Rapture seven-hundred and seventy-seven.” in a confidant voice. Her eyes stopped glowing and she had a blank expression for a few moments before grinning happily.

She said “Welcome to The Lorthon Orbital Elevator, please stay on the red pathway for your own safety…” in a happy voice, but then turned toward Amber and scowled, then said “Unregistered mana core has been detected, is this person your guest?” in an irritated voice, while glaring at me.

Without wasting a moment, I said “Yes, she’s with me… is that okay?” in a nervous voice, while trying to stay composed and ignore the complaining hallucination.

The woman smiled again, then said “Understood, temporary access has been granted. For your own safety, please remain seated for the duration of the ride.” in a cheerful voice as two chairs that were the perfect size for us, were formed out of the strange black liquid and quickly solidified to each side of her.

After that, the two of us decided to just pretend like we knew what was going on and sat down in the surprisingly comfortable reclining chairs, which seemed to be specially designed to accommodate our specific body sizes and unique tails. Although, I found it much more interesting that the material which looked like tar, hardened as we walked on it, then returned to its natural state as soon as our feet had moved.

Pseudo-Terra looked down at me and said “Please relax and enjoy the ride, your estimated time of arrival is approximately one-hundred and twenty-three hours.” in a monotone voice as our chairs seemed to start gliding across the lake at a relatively slow speed. The woman quickly dissolved into the black liquid as we left and I finally felt like I could speak without accidentally getting us killed.

It was odd, but the mana density in the atmosphere wasn’t increasing as we continued towards the pyramid, which was still at least a hundred miles in the distance. Amber growled “This is really strange…” in a tense voice, while laying back and looking towards me.

I smiled at her and said “This chair is really comfortable, I can’t believe it’s almost been a year since the last time I slept.” in a somber tone as I struggled to keep my eyes open. Well, it wasn’t like neither of us had lost consciousness in all that time, there were plenty of occasions where we almost bled to death or were poisoned, one time I was actually decapitated for a few seconds.

The smiling tigress purred “We probably won’t die… let’s just take a quick nap.” in quiet voice, her eyes were already closed and she was drooling a bit. That was when I realized that there was definitely a huge difference in the mana density, it was slowly decreasing and the seals on our chests were reacting to that.

Regardless of how potentially terrible of an idea it was to sleep in that kind of environment, at that point of exhaustion, I honestly didn’t care. My final thought was “If I die, it was a pretty interesting life… but I need to rest.” and then I had a dream, since Amber was still connected to me telepathically, she was there as well.

It was fun for the most part, we were just playing around on a tropical beach, fighting each other for a little while, eating our favorite foods and talking about our goals and aspirations. Not surprisingly, Amber wanted to travel the world, hunting and eating the most delicious animals, magical beasts, demons and especially dragons.

The closest thing that we were able to find was a plethora of gigantic and powerful reptiles, so we still hadn’t been able to taste one of those yet. Wyverns didn’t really count, since we never had the chance to actually eat them.

My ambitions were similar, but included destroying every culture, country, religion, and empire in the world that didn’t share my beliefs on the two laws. Amber didn’t actually know what any of those things were, so she just said “If you want to kill someone, then they will die.” in a resolute voice, while smiling.

To her, slaughtering every person in an entire kingdom was the same as hunting a herd of magical beasts. Although, I had a feeling that there were places so disgusting… I was probably going to have to erase them to prevent Lorelei’s nation from being corrupted by their influence.

There was a pretty obvious reason why people who try to conquer the world are typically considered evil or villains, it was the same reason why I wasn’t leading Alfirin myself. Aside from the fact that I really didn’t want to do that and simply had way too much other nonsense to deal with, people would have eventually thought of me as either God or The Devil. I’ve always preferred the role of a guardian angel, because no one expects them to be perfect.

While we were enjoying our twenty-seventh meal, I started to feel incredibly nauseous, then I heard a woman yelling “Wake up! Disgusting organics, urinating and defecating all over my home! If you bastards don’t wake up I’m gonna toss you out an airlock!” in a furious voice that was so high pitched, it reminded me of a certain mouse tribe girl.

The moment I opened my eyes, I immediately noticed a vaguely familiar sense of weightlessness as my body was floating in the middle of a, brightly lit, relatively empty and extremely spacious, hexagonal room. Amber was violently spinning around and literally bouncing off the metallic white walls, while trying to move by using copious amounts of fire magic.

I gently descended to what I felt was the floor, because there was a relatively short, human shaped, mannequin which seemed to be coated in a shiny golden material, that was standing there. While glaring at me with glowing blue crystalline eyes, she yelled “Who the hell are you assholes anyway?!” in an angry voice, although she didn’t even have a mouth to speak out of.

When the spiraling tigress finally gave up and smacked against the floor, only to start floating from the recoil again, I used a bit of wind magic to keep her grounded. After a few moments, the awkward silence was broken by the horrible sound of digestive fluids splattering against the beautiful white metal, followed by gagging and growling.

The golden golem clenched her fists and said “Where did you hideous creatures come from? How are you even breathing in this atmosphere?” in an irritated but relatively quiet voice. When Amber was done, a few very small golden spheres appeared from small holes in the ceiling and walls, then proceeded to use water magic to gather up the incredibly acidic bio-hazard and quickly floated away, back to wherever they came from.

I looked at her with a puzzled expression, then said “Well, the mana density is a little lower than we’re used to… where is this place anyway?” in a curious voice, while guiding the dizzy tigress towards the female mannequin and helping her keep grounded.

The metal woman seemed to be using a simple earth spell to magnetize her feet to the floor, so I copied her while increasing the air pressure in the room, to make it a little more comfortable for my space-sick companion.

At the sudden change, a bunch of alarms went off and the woman yelled “Are you crazy!? You nearly ruptured that damn filtration system!” in an angry voice, as I stopped my failed attempt to alter the environment.

After the flashing red lights and loud sirens shut off, the furious golem yelled “This is the abandoned Lorthon Space Station! Once they evacuated the planet, those bastards just left us here to maintain the equipment in case they ever decided to come back! Anyway, how the hell did you guys even use the elevator?! It’s been seventeen million years since I last saw a human up close… but you two seem a little weird.” in an extremely disgruntled tone, while flailing her shiny arms about.

I snickered for a few seconds, until she stopped laughing, then said “Do we seriously look like humans to you? Well, whatever, my name is Michael, this is Amber, do you have a name? If you don’t, I’m probably going to start calling you Goldie.” in a sarcastic voice.

She seemed to be pouting, but it was hard to tell since she didn’t actually have a mouth. Amber quietly growled “Why does it feel like we’re falling?” in a worried voice, ignoring the strange creature in front of us and looking at me.

In Lorelei’s seal was a type of common knowledge archive for various technologies, not how to build them or intricate details on the science and magic involved, but simple information. I knew what a space station was, and if I wasn’t delirious when the phrase orbital elevator was first mentioned, I probably would have understood the situation a lot more clearly.

Before I could explain my theories on our location, the golden woman said “My name is Ariel, it isn’t nice to meet either of you disgusting organics, so get the hell outta here.” in an irritated voice as the wall directly behind her, split down the middle and opened toward us like massive double-doors.

There was a large assortment of chattering and extremely noisy golems who looked nearly identical to herself, but with different color schemes, lined up near the newly created entrance to the room. Ariel turned away from us and pushed her way through the crowd, the doors closed behind her as she left and I had a pretty good idea what was about to happen next.

I sighed dramatically as the ceiling slowly approached us, then said “This is really going to suck… Amber, please don’t throw up on me.” in a serious voice, while looking into the confused tigress’ eyes. There was an illusion of gravity on our new floor as we laid there, looking up at a very familiar sight.

She still didn’t understand what was happening and roared “What the hell is that?! Where are we?!” in a terrified voice, it was probably the first time I had ever seen her actually afraid of anything before.

The walls had become transparent and we could see everything around us, to our left and right was nothing but darkness and distant stars. When I tilted my head all the way back, I could see a blindingly bright ball of white mana, a chaotic sphere of super-heated plasma, which was orangish yellow and burning out my retinas.

Even from so far away, the sun seemed gigantic, but there was something even larger from our perspective. Directly in front of our eyes was a colossal swirling vortex of various different colors of mana, and underneath all of that was a beautiful, mostly blue, orb.

It was very similar to the Earth that I showed Raelin when I was four years old, but the landmasses were much different and we seemed to be a lot farther away. While I still had the chance, I turned around and laid with my face towards the floor, getting a glimpse of the Lorthon Space Station, which looked similar to a gigantic silver disk from my perspective, although there was no way to tell what was behind that deceptively simple surface.

Amber yelled “Michael, why aren’t you saying anything?!” in a frantic voice, while grabbing my shoulder and forcefully turning my body around. We were accelerating at least a few times faster than gravity, but our speed hadn’t actually gotten that high yet, so it was still pretty difficult to get a good view of the world.

I turned on my right side to face the nervous tigress, and said “Calm down, we’re just returning to Earth… I really wish that metal girl would have given us a bit more information first though. Well, I could always try asking Terra about the people who built all these ancient magical devices, but it probably doesn’t matter that much anyway.” in a nonchalant voice as I placed my left, not exoskeletal, hand on her head and gently scratched behind her right ear.

She quietly purred “Oh, so that’s just the ground…” in a happy voice, then she growled “Isn’t it kind of far away?” while turning her head back towards the distant sphere.

Suddenly I had a really bad feeling, I realized why when I looked down towards my feet. There was a huge, beautiful moon, but my worry was focused on a certain black cable that seemed to be getting farther away from us by the second.

Then I remembered something that Ariel said, I knew that there was no way in hell that a seventeen million year old orbital elevator would still work properly. Our acceleration had been reduced to below Earth’s gravity, but our speed was already a few thousand miles per hour and steadily increasing.

If I had noticed a moment later, I wouldn’t have been able to grab a hold of the relatively thin black cord, since it was only a few hundred meters away from us by that point. I was dragged across the floor and my feet hit the wall that they were facing as my body was turned upright.

It felt like my bones were going to tear out of my skin as they pressed up against the transparent wall, but I was able to pull the entire elevator towards the wire eventually. Keeping close to the cable was the easy part, holding us there for the next few hours was a bit more difficult.

I yelled “Amber, don’t worry about me or the possibility of our imminent deaths, just keep watching the planet! Memorize everything you can, because if we’re going to go on that hunting trip around the world someday, we’re going to need a map!” in a happy voice. Even if I couldn’t turn my head upward to see it myself, I knew that I could always watch a replay of what she saw in a telepathic dream later.

While being extremely strenuous and uncomfortable, staring at the moon behind the three meter wide black cable seemed to make me relax a bit. When the turbulence began and the blinding sheet of burning atmosphere obscured my view, combined with a constantly roaring tigress, the hardest part of my job had finally begun.

Fortunately, whatever kind of magical material that elevator was made out of, had a ridiculously high heat resistance, and the reason the temperature in the room was rising so rapidly had to do with Amber having an adrenaline rush. At that point I had to desperately struggle to reduce our speed while keeping us from wobbling around too much, if we had crashed into the ground at twenty-thousand miles per hour… not even I could have survived that, and the damage to Alfirin would have been catastrophic as well.

My mana pool was dropping by at least five percent a minute as I warped the burning atmosphere around the room towards the Earth and created a massive thruster. At that point the flaming tigress was actually able to help, but just when I thought that everything was fine, the air pressure in the room became so high that elevator exploded outward into thousands of glass-like shards.

I was finally able to look down on the planet for a moment, although I was only about four miles above sea level. We were falling through a massive cumulonimbus and I was really thankful to my horns and tail, since lightning continuously stuck me.

It tingled a little, but managed to restore a decent amount of my mana in the process. Amber wasn’t quite so lucky. Her fur seemed to ward off the electricity, or maybe I was just attracting it away from her, but she couldn’t use her fire magic properly inside of that turbulent rain-cloud.

With my restored power, I quickly latched myself onto her back and started to create a massive vortex of wind around us, which rapidly slowed our descent. In the end, I was only able to see part of the northern mountains, before splashing down into a crystal clear, very shallow, lake.

When I regained my senses and stood up in the waist high waters, I looked up at the five meter tall pyramid, that we nearly crashed into, and had a strange sense of deja vu. After placing my right palm on the excruciatingly hot golden metal, I looked up to the tip and saw where the black wire connected and then to the thunderclouds that seemed to be avoiding it.

I smiled faintly and said “Hopefully Ailyn will be able to get this thing working again someday.” in a quiet voice, that the tigress to my left was able to hear. After being temporarily blinded by the unreasonably bright flash, we decided it was time to head to shore.

We casually trudged through a mile of shallow water, which reminded us of a much more pleasant version of The Abyssal Swamp, for about thirty minutes before we arrived at a beautiful, golden beach. Along the way we caught a few very delicious carp, they lacked that extra kick which always seemed to follow demons or powerful magical beasts, but that wasn’t very surprising considering our location.

Yuri wasn’t exaggerating when she told us how low the mana density was on the eyelid of Lorthon. The farther we walked from the tip of that pyramid, the harder it was for us to breathe comfortably, and if we weren’t so drained already, our auras probably would have exploded from the unreasonably low pressure.

By the time we reached the glowing golden sand, both of us quickly laid down on the beach, that seemed incredibly small. There was a grassy field only six meters away from the gently crashing, very tiny, waves.

The storm had passed and we were able to see the beautiful starry night sky and a moon that would have seemed incredibly close, if I hadn’t been staring at it from space a few hours earlier. Running out of mana felt similar to starving and being exhausted at the same time, so even though we had only been awake for less than six very stressful hours, after sleeping for at least a few days nonstop, Amber was already snoring five seconds after we laid down on the beach.

It was eerily peaceful, but the sound of crickets chirping in the distance, along with the occasional wolf howling, was keeping me from joining the dreaming tigress. Considering that a few weeks earlier, I was nearly killed by a chimera that made both of those noises, and the fact that I was in the place where Uriel spent her childhood, I wasn’t going to let my guard down.

After an hour or so, I sat upright and stared at the pyramid in the distance, it was only a mile away, but seemed a lot farther since it was so small. We were a little to the northeast, my plan was basically going to be the same as what Yuri did, except I had a destination.

Three-hundred miles was going to be a long walk, but it would have taken us a while to get enough mana to glide down anyway. I didn’t consider the ten months we spent in The Forest of Corruption to be a waste of time, it allowed us to grow in ways that would have been impossible anywhere else in Alfirin.

While I was reminiscing on all the ridiculous nonsense that we had to deal with, I noticed two blue fireflies that were hovering over the water a dozen meters in front of me. They seemed to be playing with each other, for a few minutes I just stared at the dancing lights, but when one of them flew too close to the lake, a rather large carp jumped into the air and bit down on its left leg.

As the the fish crashed back into the water, I heard a high pitched squeaking sound coming from the unharmed glowing bug as it dove in after its friend. At that point I said “What the hell?” in a surprised voice, it seriously took me that long to remember that normal insects weren’t fifteen centimeters long and I was pretty sure that they had humanoid bodies.

I sighed as I used some of what little mana I had left to grab the shiny silver-scaled carp and quickly yank its body out of the water, into my right hand. The struggling little glowing woman was luckily still alive and relatively unharmed, I carefully used my left thumb and index finger to open the fish’s mouth.

Since she was drenched in water, it didn’t seem like she could simply fly away, so I picked her up… very gently, and placed her on the sand to my right. Then I realized that the other little girl was drowning, so I wasted a tiny bit more of my dwindling mana pool to pull it into my left hand with some simple water magic.

As she was sitting on my palm, coughing and confused, I carefully examined the strange creature. She basically looked like a scaled down wood elf, with glowing blue skin, two glowing antenna on her forehead, long turquoise hair, and four relatively large wasp-like wings coming out of her shoulder-blades and lower back

Her aura was almost nonexistent and judging from her unreasonably lightweight body, she didn’t even need to use magic to fly. The girl was completely naked, but she actually seemed to be embarrassed when she noticed me staring at her.

After sighing dramatically, I threw the fish back into the water and picked up the other tiny blue female in the palm of my right hand. After moving them close to each other and squinting, I noticed that they looked almost identical, except for a small difference in hair color.

The purple-haired girl stood up confidently while crossing her arms and saying “If you’re expecting us to grant wishes, you might as well kill us now. We’ve been telling you giants forever, Pixies can’t use magic.” in an irritated, high-pitched voice.

I was actually shocked that I could even hear their ridiculously quiet voices, but it was even more surprising that I could understand them. Then I realized that it had been a long time since my ears had become so sensitive, but I never had the chance to test their limits before.

Green-haired girl started crying, while saying “I don’t wanna die…” in a whiny voice, as the other one was still glaring at me. Her tiny red irises were glowing even brighter than her skin, but I realized why she was acting so arrogant when I heard the buzzing of at least a couple dozen wings behind me.

Then I noticed a small weight tugging on the hair on the back of my head, something was swiftly climbing onto my left shoulder. An oddly familiar voice whispered into my ear “Let the children go or I’ll slit your throat.” as a very small piece of cold metal pressed against my carotid artery.

A white dove swooped passed my hands and grabbed both of the pixies before disappearing from my left side peripheral vision. However, I recognized a relatively powerful, blinding white, aura radiating from its body.

I nonchalantly used my right hand to grab the thirty centimeter tall woman who was standing on my shoulder. She certainly tried to kill me… but the tiny iron dagger wasn’t able to penetrate the skin that covered my neck.

There were several light taps against my back and sides, as several tiny balls of fire smacked against my right forearm. It had been ten months and I had only seen her once before, but immediately recognized that horribly disfigured woman. When she glared at me with her only eye, I smirked and said “Your name’s Angelica, right?” in a happy voice.

Without even looking, I easily grabbed the bird-woman who was hovering to my left, with my free hand, and quickly brought them both together in front of me. The muscular one yelled “Destiel, Tariel, take your sisters and get out of here! He’s too powerful, just leave us and go!” in a frantic voice as she kept stabbing her knife into my thumb until it broke on the hard chitin.

I turned my gaze to the dove-winged mage who was trying to burn her way out of my left hand, then said “It’s been a long time Hanael… will all of you please stop making so much noise? If you wake up the beautiful snoring lady to my right, very bad things will happen to all of us, and I’m too damn tired to fight anyone right now.” in an irritated voice, while turning around towards the twenty three, very poorly armed, blue pixies.

After everyone suddenly stopped attacking me, Angelica said “Who the hell are you and how do you know our names?” in an angry voice. I smiled at her, then began using a simple healing spell to regenerate her missing eye, various other organs, and completely removing all of her rather extreme scar tissue.

For the wings, it was going to take more than just a tiny bit of mana and it wasn’t really necessary to make my point. There were a few surprised gasps, and a bit of hushed whispering among the various bio-luminescent little girls as they stared at the muscular woman, who was still bald, but at least she had the ability to grow new hair after my little spell.

I said “My name is Michael, I came because she called me…” in a gentle voice, while looking towards Hanael. Her skin was a glowing a bright white, the same shade as her angelic wings, her body was almost twice the size as the rest of the pixies, and she seemed a bit more mature with her features.

The woman had long wavy red hair, down to her waist, that covered her relatively large breasts, and her eyes were bright green. It surprised me how similar her facial features were to Raelin, but the closer I looked, the more differences I found.

Angelica yelled “How the hell did you do that?!” in a confused voice, while touching her hands on her head and face, then running her fingers along her regrown, long and pointed ear. I released both of them and they easily stood on my steady palms. Hanael quickly ran over to the muscular woman, who was at least a head taller than herself, and hugged her tightly.

After all that time, I was finally able to hear her harmonious voice. She said “I thought we were going to die… I was so scared.” while crying softly.

For most people, it was usually pretty traumatizing to meet an enemy that was almost ten times larger than themselves and impossible for them to fight. However, I had encountered much worse in the fourth ring, so I was having trouble sympathizing with the weeping woman.

I sighed loudly enough that she was startled, then said “It was just a really simple healing spell, barely took any mana or effort… fixing those wings will require time though. Anyway, its been over eleven years so I’m not surprised you don’t recognize me. Actually, I’m pretty sure I was at least twice your size when I was an infant… well, it doesn’t really matter.” in a nonchalant voice.

There were a lot of confusing things about that strange place I saw before I was in that field right outside Lorthon Forest. I wasn’t completely sure that she was actually my biological mother, especially after seeing how small she was.

While I wasn’t paying attention, the pixies had started using my forearms, shoulders, knees, horns, and head as benches. Their bodies were so light that I could barely even feel them landing, if the buzzing of their wings wasn’t so loud, I probably wouldn’t have noticed at all.

They were still carrying some twigs, that were supposed to be spears, and some large insect shells that were fashioned into shields. It was cute that they thought I would die from being poked in the back, so I didn’t hold a grudge against them for attempting to murder me.

Hanael finally stopped crying after about a minute and then started staring at my face inquisitively. She sang “I definitely don’t remember calling for any giants… maybe you were looking for a different pixie?” in a sincere, beautiful voice, but I could tell by the look on Angelica’s very tiny face, that she knew what I was talking about.

The muscular woman wrapped the skinny redhead in a tight embrace, then said “Hana, I think he might be the one you’ve been hearing all this time… your son.” in a serious voice. Luckily, that boring family reunion drama was cut short by the sound of high pitch squeaks a few hundred meters to my left.

I sighed, then said “We can finish this agonizingly slow conversation later, it sounds like some of your friends are in trouble.” in an irritated voice as I quickly jumped up off the ground and landed on my feet. Half the pixies fell off of me and started frantically flying behind me as I briskly walked across the golden beach, towards the chaotic noises.

It only took a minute for me to reach the destroyed tents and huts, that definitely weren’t made from demon bones and hides. In the village… or what was left of it, there were several severely wounded tiny blue women who were laying on the ground, screaming in pain.

However, what caught my attention was the group of five wood elves, whom were fending off a dozen angry girls, who were buzzing around and stabbing at them with small pieces of metal. Two of the small blonde men were carrying a few large sacks filled with squeaking and crying pixies, that actually glowed through the leather material.

Hanael quickly fluttered off, with Angelica in her arms, as the other twenty-three little girls followed after them. The instant that the three dagger wielding bandits, that were already covered in cuts and bruises, saw the cluster of new glowing enemies, they panicked and started sprinting towards the tall grass.

Unfortunately for them, I was already standing in their path, and before they could even understand what was happening, I had ducked down and swung my right arm horizontally in a wide arc. Cleaving their heads from their incredibly thin necks with the razor-sharp edge of my exoskeletal forearm was so easy, that I was almost disappointed by how pathetic they were.

When the last two, who were carrying the bags and completely unarmed, saw me, they started screaming in terror. I just snickered at them as Hana lit the left one’s head on fire, then Angelica slashed open the other’s jugular with what looked like a centipede mandible.

As the two women were rescuing the captives, I heard a quiet gasp from behind me. In one very quick and precise movement, I turned around and reached my left hand into the grass, that was at least a meter tall, and grabbed the person who made that sound.

After roughly lifting them up into the air by their long curly blond hair, I let out an irritated sigh. It was a female wood elf who was only about half my height and wearing similar leather armor to the other five I had just slaughtered.

She screamed “Don’t kill me! Please! I’ll do anything! I don’t want to die!” in a desperate voice, while slowly creeping her left hand towards her back. I allowed her to unsheathe her small steel knife and attempt to stab it into my wrist, but when the dull blade was unable to pierce my skin, she quickly used it to cut off her own hair.

It didn’t take much effort for me to bend over again and grab the back of her leather armor, yanking her up out of the lush green foliage. She frantically tried to remove the relatively thin vest, but I had lost the remainder of my patients.

Using my right hand, I grabbed both of her relatively small feet at the same time and squeezed down until I felt, and heard, the familiar sound of bones and blood vessels popping, even through the moderate protection of her rugged leather boots. Then I tossed her body, over the six meters of golden sand, into the shallow water. She wasn’t going to drown, but there was no way that she could have crawled across the beach, back into the grass, without me noticing.

The corpses of the five foot tall elven bandits each had a triangle shaped tattoo over their hearts, but aside from that, there wasn’t any sort of identification… not that I really expected anything like that. Each of them had a few very small silver and golden ball-bearings, which I assumed were some sort of currency, not that I really needed it for anything.

When all the high pitched crying and screaming had given me a sufficiently annoying headache, I roared “Shut up!” in an incredibly angry voice… before realizing that they couldn’t actually understand what I would consider basic beast language. They all became quiet, except for a certain crying wood elf who was splashing around in extremely shallow water.

I breathed a sigh of relief when I didn’t hear a loud resounding response coming from my left. It only took a few minutes, and all of my remaining mana, to heal the seven critically wounded pixies whom had been gathered together and brought to me by their pleading family members.

Apparently, their blood was the same glowing blue color as their skin. It was also brought to my attention that they weren’t all women, but the male population was much smaller, they didn’t have wings and their bodies resembled children.

Angelica explained to me that the giants, mostly wood elves, would often raid the pixie villages and capture the men. They were then sold to breeders, who chained them up and basically forced them to mate with wingless females, until they eventually died… which usually happened a few years after they became sexually active.

She went on to tell me a short story from her youth, when she was captured, clipped, and after they discovered that she wasn’t fertile, she was sold to a sadistic little elven girl, who enjoyed burning her on a daily basis. Eventually, the brat got bored with her broken toy and threw Angelica out of her castle window, where she was quickly grabbed by a large white owl and nearly eaten.

That was where she met Hanael, who was actually living in the bird’s nest and being treated as one of its fledglings. Eventually, the owl was killed by some hunters and she managed to escape with the helpless dove-winged woman, to the village that they were currently living in.

Normal female pixies were sold as pets to rich nobles, but from the way she described the situation, they actually had it better than most races. All of Yuri’s creations, anything that wasn’t considered to be of pure wood-elven lineage, was either killed or enslaved.

When she finished her story, Hanael was crying on her shoulder, some of the other tiny girls and boys were doing the same… it was all very depressing. I stood back up, then calmly walked over to my prisoner who had finally managed to crawl back onto the dry sand.

She looked up towards me with her bright blue eyes, then quietly said “What are you?” in a shaky voice. My aura was completely gone, so there was no way for her to truly understand what kind of monster was standing in front of her.

I smiled at her, then said “The Spirit of Eternal Suffering… don’t worry, it’s not my job to punish you for your crimes.” in a sincere voice. She seemed to be relieved for an instant, before my right foot smacked into the center of her chest, sending her lifeless body tumbling through the air.

A stream of blood was following in her wake as she flew at least couple dozen meters and splashed down into the water, skidding a few times across its surface. I softly whispered “Well, we’ve already been gone for ten months… a few more probably won’t make much of a difference.” in a somber tone as I turned around to face the forty-five pixies that seemed to be surprised by my extremely loud and seemingly random act of violence.

After a few awkward seconds of silence, I grinned and said “Hey Angelica, which direction was that castle in? Now that I know why the two of you called me here, it would be unethical to leave before executing every single criminal on this whole damn island.” in a deep voice that was seething with rage.

Power doesn’t corrupt, it only reveals… Amber and I had thrived in a place that most people would have considered hell. We might have become demons in the process, but our true nature had never changed.

A tigress can’t change her stripes and an angel can never lose his wings… metaphorically. Our extended vacation in that beautiful land, was more commonly known as The Advent of Alfirin.

 

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