IS, V3, Chapter 11: Cataclysm

Even if wood elves had a maximum lifespan of four-thousand or more years, the average was only about two-hundred. The reason was pretty simple, the world was a dangerous place; even the strongest of monsters, could die from the smallest mistakes.

Before we met Michael, Ethir and I were too weak to survive on our own; even in the safest of environments. With his help we gained the ability to grow; becoming powerful in our own ways, but we relied on technology. We devoted our time and resources toward enhancing our fragile bodies; by wearing protective clothing, and wielding weapons.

It wasn’t a bad choice; much safer and probably faster than the alternative… getting stronger was pointless, if we had to die in the process. We expanded our mana-pools and trained our affinities; but in the first ring, there was a huge barrier that we simply couldn’t surpass.

The level four mana-density that was prevalent in Lunaland, was different; our auras were compacted into our bodies by the immense pressure. Without the fancy jewelry to boost the power of my spells; it took a lot more effort to perform the same tasks, but I never ran out.

I always felt like I was full of energy; I barely needed any sleep, and every breath was satisfying. However, I couldn’t help but crave more; I drank things that looked like raw fish-eggs, and didn’t even want to throw up afterwards.

The first time I saw the ominous darkness that seemed to surround Ethir’s body, I was definitely a little worried. However, once I was blinded by white light; emanating from a certain blue-skinned goat-woman, and noticed the various extra colors that seemed to be everywhere; I quickly realized what was happening to me.

My senses were expanding, every part of me was craving mana; I could even start to see auras. Ethir was experiencing the same thing, at first it was just his hearing; but within a month, we could even feel it on our skin.

We saw Luna at least once a week; but she was always too tired to do anything but take a bath with Soapy, the giant purple octopus, before sleeping in her favorite black slime; which was probably a bed at some point in time.

She did give us a few vague descriptions of the device that she was working on, but all that I could gather from what she told us was… a black orb: about fifteen centimeters in diameter. Although, she did hint that it was essentially a much more powerful version of what we had managed to create by ourselves, before she abducted us.

It wasn’t like we were in any hurry to leave though; the longer it took, the more time we had to relax, eat delicious; disgusting food, and attempt to satisfy our seemingly endless state of arousal. Thankfully, it didn’t seem like I could lay eggs again so soon; but even if I did, it really wouldn’t have been that big of a deal.

Unlike being pregnant, or having newborn babies; there wasn’t much that we needed to do for the two barely formed embryos. According to Ethir’s guess; judging by the rate that they were developing, we still had at least a year before they were going to hatch.

Luna seemed to have an endless supply of refrigerated, frozen or canned foods; so we didn’t even need to enter that hellish garden, where most of it came from. Overall, our stay there was incredibly peaceful and fun; a relaxing vacation where we could indulge in all of the pleasures, that we had been repressing for so long.

Our resolve was being tested; whether it was intentional or not, I have no idea; but that place was like a paradise where the two of us were, mostly, alone. After finally talking with Michael and also discovering that Conor was doing well; I didn’t feel the urge to inhale a bunch of inky goop, to have a five minute conversation with him again… I wasn’t particularly interested in watching him kill a bunch of people either.

Maybe it was because of the reduced gravity, extreme mana density, or the copious amounts of unidentifiable meats and juices that we ate; but after that first month, our bodies began to change. We were able to prevent anything too severe from happening by using nature magic, but most of the alterations that occurred were internal.

The most notable difference for me, was my appetite started to include solid foods. Although, it was more like my stomach could dissolve thicker liquids, most fruits; since they were mostly fluids anyway, and if there was raw fish, I was able to eat it.

For Ethir, his skin pigmentation became slightly darker; and he was almost as tall as me, but I had grown at least a few centimeters as well. At one point, all of our hair had fallen out; I was terrified of going bald, but red goblins were naturally that way; so my boyfriend didn’t seem to be that concerned.

Fortunately, it grew back in shortly afterward, but it was dramatically different. The color had changed from pure white, to a lustrous silver; that literally glowed with a blinding crimson light, when my mana-pool was full.

My hair was practically impossible to cut as well, but we didn’t find that out until much later. Ethir’s was still pitch-black; though it seemed to mask the aura around his head, and was similar to the material that he was attempting to use various animals to produce.

One day we carelessly entered Luna’s meditation room; which was basically just a small, white chamber with no furnishings: It was a level seven mana-zone. I had no idea what happened to us in there, I just remembered the blue-skinned woman pulling the two of us out; and it felt like I went sunbathing in the desert for a week, until my charred flesh returned to normal.

Even the dark-skinned red-goblin had severe burns that took a while to heal, with lots of magical assistance. My aura was compressed to the point, where it coated my bones with a thin layer of crimson crystal; it was actually visible in some places, after my skin and muscle literally peeled off.

The difference between each level was much more ridiculous than I had realized. It made me even more curious, about the kind of environment Luna had been spending all of her time in. I didn’t want to think about that though, because I knew that the moment she finished building that device; she was going to send us back to Earth.

Three months after we arrived; on a typical evening, she barged into our room while we were in the middle of… well, we were kind of used to it by then; so we kept going for a few more minutes. After Ethir and I finished, we had to wait a few seconds for her to stop… tailing herself.

In her fairly large, blue, hands was an obsidian mana crystal; that was at least the size of my fist, covered by a thick layer of some sort of transparent material, which she called plastic. Once Luna regained her composure, she grinned and proudly announced “This is the weapon that the two of you are going to use to kill Belial.” while staring into the abysmal sphere.

Even with my heightened senses, I still couldn’t feel anything special about the object she was holding so carefully. I grimaced at the slimy mess that was on ‘my’ floor, and then sighed dramatically; while glancing towards Ethir, who was already out of bed.

Then he nervously asked her “That… are you expecting us to… actually use that?” as he slowly approached the aura-less orb. Suddenly, the darkness that was surrounding him, looked like it was sucked into the sphere; and he fell to his knees, gasping for air.

I yelled “Ethir!” and frantically rushed over to him; having my mana drained away in the exact same manner. Well, I was in love and still thinking with my vacation brain; so I was actually surprised at the time.

Luna giggled for a few seconds; then casually told us “Don’t worry, I’ve only filled it up to ninety-nine percent of its maximum capacity; so with your minuscule auras, it won’t overload. All you have to do; is give this device to Belial. It’s currently shielded by a special plastic composite; that will prevent large quantities of mana from entering or leaving the orb.

“You have exactly… one hour before the seal breaks; if you’re within one square mile of this sphere when that happens, you will be annihilated. I would suggest that you avoid a direct confrontation, but it is likely that you may fall prey to illusory attacks. From this moment until the device has been given to Belial, only trust each other.

“Love is powerful, especially when combined with blood magic and telepathy. That worthless fool was always terrible at illusion spells anyway. He will probably still try though; but as long as you’re expecting it, there shouldn’t be any problems.

“I’ve already gathered your equipment and belongings in the teleportation chamber, so you should probably leave within the next few minutes.” while smiling at us, as we struggled to regain our composure.

When she turned around to lead us out of the room; I yelled “Damn it! You’re joking right?! Four months! We’ve heard almost nothing from you this entire time! You could have given us some kind of warning, but no; you just barge in on us making love and then tell us to go kill ourselves!?

“Things have changed! We’re going to be parents! I refuse to abandon my children and I sure as hell won’t be bringing them with me on some pointless suicide mission!” furiously at the extremely tall, and absurdly powerful woman; who started whimpering while still facing away from us.

Ethir pressed his cheek against my left shoulder; then whispered in to my ear “Raelin… we asked her to help us. I understand how you feel… but this is the reason we came here. Besides, we aren’t going to die… and our eggs won’t be hatching for… at least eight months. We can always come back… after Belial is dead; you should apologize to Luna… I think she’s crying.” while placing his right hand on my back, and intertwining his left’s fingers with mine.

I sighed dramatically, while walking toward the quivering and surprisingly small back of the azure-skinned spirit. However, the moment before I was about to speak; I noticed that her tail wasn’t wagging behind her anymore.

There was a quiet moan, and then I felt a warm slimy liquid splashing onto my feet. After a brief moment of silence; she turned around with a smile on her face, and told us “I have been watching the two of you for a very long time, since the moment that you were born. We’re connected more deeply than you can possibly imagine; but eventually… you’ll both understand, what it means to have a soul.” as she placed the orb in my hands.

Luna took a step forward and bent down; wrapping her arms around my back and squeezing me tightly, in a surprisingly intimate hug. It would have been a lot less awkward if we were wearing clothes, and I didn’t know what she had been doing only seconds before then.

Her chin was resting on my head, and I was suffocating in her obnoxiously large cleavage: with a mithril chain, pressing against the bridge of my nose. She giggled; then whispered “Everything happens for a reason; Raelin Nerorneth. There is always more to the story than what is being told. Belial is insignificant; a nuisance, and an excuse for you to begin your search. Death is a lie, a trick, an illusion, a fantasy… but suffering is real, and Laebeth needs her mother to save her.” directly into my mind through touch-telepathy.

At that moment I remembered White Mithril: All of the children that were enslaved and abused, the brothels, especially that spectacle when we first arrived. Similar atrocities had been commonplace, all over the world; I quietly asked her “Do you really know where my daughters are?” It was something I should have inquired about, the moment I met a being so ancient and powerful.

She silently told me “The same way I have a great multitude of avatars, one soul can be connected to numerous bodies. Even if the characters are the same, sometimes the players are different. I remember them, their personalities; who they were, are, and will be… but I can’t give you their exact locations or identities, because you aren’t meant to know that information yet.” in a serious mental voice.

I sighed; then angrily muttered “You’re even more cryptic than Michael and Iris… do we have to keep hugging? It’s hard to breath, and your breasts are really sweaty; they kind of smell like that pink juice that I’ve been drinking a lot of lately.” while trying to wiggle my way out of her tight embrace.

When she finally released me, and I saw her purple-tear stained cheeks; I grimaced at the memory of an eerily similar beverage that I really liked. Luna gazed into my eyes and said “After you deliver the device to Belial; travel southeast, through the Jigoku Badlands. Just make sure that you follow your instincts; they will always guide you along the proper path.”

I nodded my head in confirmation; then said “Uh-huh… well, that’s great and all, but I think we should probably take showers and use the toilet; before we go off to the middle of nowhere and fight an army of demons. So hold on to this scary black orb of doom for a moment, while we go do that… okay?” while plopping the ‘device’ into her right hand and walking toward the back of the bedroom.

Between the speeches, relieving ourselves, and the incredibly quick trip to the scalding, soapy, waterfall; which was my favorite attraction in the demonic octopus bathhouse, our hour had been whittled down to thirty minutes.

It did take a little while to get dressed in our best, stealthy, ebony-leather armor; which seemed to have been washed, thankfully. Piercing my ears again was unpleasant, and took a decent amount of time; so I decided not to bother with my eyebrows, nose, and lips.

I borrowed Ethir’s sneakiest black-mithril mask, while he used the fancy one: with the horns and mana-gems. Every part of our bodies was covered with materials that helped contain our auras, as much as possible.

The clothes were a little tight, since we both grew a bit taller; but they were adjustable to a certain degree, so it wasn’t too bad. Unfortunately, carrying a bunch of luggage and extra equipment around, wouldn’t have been particularly stealthy.

Luna told us “Three days after you complete your mission, I will deliver supplies and the rest of your gear directly to your position. I have implanted communication devices inside of your brains, and several other vital organs; so I will be able to see, hear, feel, taste, and smell everything that you can. As long as your bodies aren’t obliterated, I should be able to find both of you fairly easily. However, to prevent Terra from discovering my involvement; I will only initiate contact when she is… distracted.” while we were getting dressed.

Ethir was wearing his gun-belt, with both of his black-mithril revolvers holstered on his sides; two relatively inconspicuous and similarly-colored daggers, sheathed across his lower back. The red gems which adorned my ebony-leather gauntlets and boots, were fairly dark when I wasn’t actually channeling mana through them; so they kept with the theme pretty well.

There was one slight problem though… we never got around to refining my staff, so it was still a highly reflective silver. The solution was to quickly ‘paint’ it, using a special ink that Luna provided and applied.

Since I wasn’t quite as stealthy, or dexterous, as Ethir, we decided that he was going to be the one to actually give the black ball to Belial. I had my hands full with the five-foot long pole, which had a six inch wide orb on each end; I left the extras with the rest of our luggage.

After we were ready, Luna pulled both of us into an extremely uncomfortable hug; then let go, took a few steps out of the teleportation chamber; and said “Set destination: two-seven-three, activate in five seconds. Good luck and have fun… die-ski days.” in a solemn voice. Although, I wasn’t paying much attention at the time; because there was an incredibly loud buzzing noise coming from all around us.

A blinding flash of light and mana-pressure, that was so high; I could feel it through the black-mithril infused leather, completely disoriented me. When I opened my eyes again, everything had changed.

My body was many times heavier, the air smelled like roasting flesh and blood; darkness surrounded me, but there was no sky, stars, or moon from what I could see. Ethir whispered “We need to run… they might not know we’re here… but they definitely saw that giant pillar of light.” while grabbing my left arm; pulling me with him, as he started sprinting.

I couldn’t even stand, so he was basically carrying me; because I had to refrain from casting any spells. When my eyes had finally adjusted to the change in mana-density and the incredibly dim lighting, I almost screamed.

It had been a while since the last time I saw something quite as disturbing, as the environment all around us. As far as I could see in every direction; were mounds of flesh, bone, muscle and teeth: not even slightly resembling humanoid forms.

Each of them was connected by veins and arteries; which extended outside of their pustulent, slimy, skinless bodies. I had no idea what they were, or why they looked like that; but even the ground beneath our feet, was some sort of yellow gelatin.

The creatures had no eyes, noses, ears or any way to sense us; other than the thick, tentacle-like mass: which resembled a tongue with needle-like spines all over it. They whipped around periodically, spraying some sort of glowing crimson liquid; then returning to what was probably sleep.

In the distance, I could see much larger versions of the disgusting monsters; but there were also some gigantic four-legged beasts, which stood at least twenty meters tall and were three times as long. Their bright-red scales shined with a beautiful luster; which was betrayed by their deformed, lumpy, dark-elven faces.

Massive, pulsating, tongue-like trunks replaced their mouths and noses, there were no eyes, but long and beautiful, straight, white hair, hung from their scalps. With long, slender, serpentine necks, connected to their relatively bulky lizard-like bodies; it was easy to guess what type of creatures they had devoured to become that way.

Possibly the most disturbing aspect of their hideous appearances, were the wings that seemed to be made from thousands of pale-skinned dwarves. They were fused together; while still alive and conscious, screaming, begging to die; but what they pleaded for more than anything, was blood.

Many of the beasts had multiple heads sprouting from the same neck, like the hydras I had heard legends of as a child. Their legs looked more like grey-skinned, dark elven arms; which had five throbbing purple tentacles, instead of fingers.

Instead of tails; there was just a thick, gigantic, clump of arteries, veins, and pink muscle fibers; which were connected to a humanoid creature that was at least a hundred meters tall, and towering in the distance. A thick smog filled the air, but we were definitely above ground; even if I couldn’t actually see the moon, my mana-vision could still sense it.

Then I heard Luna whispering inside of my mind “There are only fourteen minutes remaining; you need to deliver the orb and escape from there, before the device activates. Approximately sixteen miles in every direction from the target, is the edge of the crater that you’re currently located within. If you fly at a constant speed of two-hundred miles per hour; you should be able to exit Belial’s territory, in roughly five minutes.” and Ethir seemed to hear it as well.

A beautiful melody was echoing throughout the disgusting cesspool that we were frantically sprinting through: Attempting to avoid detection, while dodging spiky tentacles. Ahead of us was a fleshy labyrinth, swarming with hundreds of thousands of flying spider-elves.

The blood-hydras were actually inhaling and devouring the relatively small, demonic creatures, using their gigantic trunks. In the chaos, we were able to expand our wing-like capes; and stealthily glide through the dysfunctional airborne horde, without them even noticing our presences.

In front of us was a pale-skinned colossus; it had a feminine form, and was sitting on a throne made from a mountain of slimy bones: of all shapes and sizes. For the most part, it looked like a massive wood-elf; with the characteristic hairless body, long pointed ears, sharp facial features, and very lean muscles.

Dozens of what looked like gigantic umbilical cords were connecting her; to each of the blood hydras, and even the ground itself. The mana-density had increased from three to four; as we approached the demon that we had gone there to kill.

The two enormous, luminescent, crimson eyes were immediately focused on us; the moment we had emerged from the swarm. A wicked grin spread across her immense, but surprisingly beautiful, face; exposing her hundreds of long and narrow, fang-like teeth.

Her sinister cackling was so loud; that even from a kilometer away, my body was being bombarded by the deep vibrations. Ethir was gone, disappearing like always; leaving me to confront the giantess by myself… but that was part of the plan.

I was gripping the staff in my right hand, while hovering a hundred meters in the air; and began casting a particularly useful catastrophic spell. Belial finally stopped smiling when she noticed what I was doing; then she yelled “So that’s what you were doing all this time! What a noob! Even if a level one like you gets their hands on some epic gear, it still won’t make a difference against a bad-ass end-boss like myself! Anyway, where’s the rest of your raid?! Are you seriously trying to solo me?!” in an overwhelmingly condescending tone.

Even if the terms that she used were nonsense to me at the time; she still aggravated me a great deal. The swarms of excruciatingly gross spider-elves were all converging toward me, but even if I wasn’t looking at them; they were so loud, that it would have been impossible not to notice.

Using long ranged magical attacks was easier depending on the density of mana, so creating a tornado; while extremely tempting, would have been ineffective. Simplicity was usually the best, and since my opponents were vampires; I decided to use one of the most basic spells I knew.

I pointed the charged end of my staff towards the incoming enemies, without looking at them; to avoid blinding myself, then released the blast. It was crucial that I used my own mana to create a barrier of freezing wind to protect my body; as the colossal flame erupted from only a few dozen meters behind my back.

The bright white firestorm illuminated the entire crater in every direction, and released a roar that was so loud; it felt like my crystal coated bones were going to shatter. Normally, I would have been sent flying forward at a lethal speed from releasing such a spell; but since it was such an unfocused attack, I was able to negate the force with very little effort.

It only lasted for a moment, then I could hear hundreds of thousands of screams; coming from the immolated creatures that were mostly still alive, but severely burned: not only from the heat, but also the light emitted from the blaze.

That was the goal all along; not just the swarm, but all of the disgusting creatures which covered the ground; the conflagration was immense. They didn’t die; just suffered from the pain of having their skin, if they had any in the first place, and muscle completely charred.

Even Belial seemed to have gotten a fairly dark tan from the mild exposure; it was obviously the reason why they clogged the skies with a thick, dark, cloud. However, she was not amused by my attack; and seemed pretty irritated, judging by the grimace she was making.

I screamed “Eredhon! You really are him, aren’t you?! Tell me why you did it! Talia and Laebeth, what was the reason!? Why did you need to kill them?! Don’t give me some ridiculous excuse; just tell me what your true purpose was!” furiously, while slowly hovering toward her.

She started laughing hysterically; then told me “Isn’t it obvious? It was just a quest, gave a shit ton of experience too. Well, its not like you would understand. You’re just an NPC; you were created to be killed by me, along with your tasty brats.” as she began forming a colossal ball of crimson liquid in her left hand, while still leisurely sitting on her throne.

Belial was excreting it from her own body like sweat; once it was at least twenty meters in diameter, she crystallized it; then yelled “Blood Ball!” and fired it at me. It was almost as fast as a bullet; and since it was made from her own body, I couldn’t even manipulate it.

Then it shattered, exploding into thousands of giant shards that completely missed me; a second after that, I heard the gunshot. I beamed a happy smile to the sneaky red-goblin, who was soaring over my head: signaling the completion of his mission.

The giantess roared “Damn it! What is this bullshit!? Who the hell gave you bastards guns?! This is supposed to be a fucking fantasy world, right?! I bet it was Michael… well, it doesn’t matter! Kill them my ugly minions!” as she raised both of her hands towards the thick, black, clouds; that were churning and undulating with enormous quantities of mana.

The demonic dragons that were crawling on the ground; began flapping their wings and using wind magic, to lift their extremely heavy bodies into the air. There were so many of them; and they all seemed to have absurdly powerful auras, so I decided that it was time to leave.

Using a large burst of powerful flames, projected from the heels of my boots; I was able to quickly catch up to Ethir. He latched onto my body; so that he could stabilize us, and I could focus my full attention on speed.

He was also firing bullets at the disgusting hydras, that were somehow catching up to us. It only took one round to create a massive explosion; that could easily kill one of them… but there were dozens, and he only had six shots.

I started laughing hysterically as he fired the last round at the source of their power: The convergence of all the umbilical cords. Belial screamed in pain as her entire, incredibly massive, pelvic region was engulfed in blindingly bright flames.

Her throne collapsed and she fell onto the ground; creating a thunderous noise that echoed throughout the crater, along with her constant swearing. However, she quickly stood up and the area that should have been obliterated; was merely charred… which definitely should have hurt, but she was still casting that ominous spell.

When I could finally see the two mile-high sheer-cliff; I heard her scream “Blood Hail!” in a shrill voice, that made me lose control of my mana for a moment. Then it began; from the clouds above us, innumerable fist-sized, crimson crystal balls; were raining down around and onto our bodies.

Within seconds, all of the hydras that were still chasing after us; while dragging their extremely long tails along the ground, started falling and dying. The orbs shattered on contact with their hard scales, but their dwarven wings were torn apart; and their skulls were pummeled until there was nothing left, but squirming tentacles attached to their torsos.

Hail fell upon her obnoxiously large, blond, head as well; but she seemed unfazed by the minor damage. We were quickly knocked out of the sky, and slowly spiraled hundreds of meters to the ground; it was impossible to block them and fly at the same time.

Our leather armor, which was reinforced by black-mithril threads; did manage to cushion the blows. Also, my bones and his muscles were both pretty durable; after our little trip to Lunaland, but it was still incredibly painful.

Luckily, Belial was extraordinarily arrogant; and didn’t actually attack us as we laid there, defenseless; trying to protect ourselves from the hundreds of unreasonably heavy orbs, that were bombarding us.

Then I woke up; Ethir and I were cuddling on a beautiful beach, with the warm sun shining down upon us. I yawned and muttered “What a weird dream…” while rubbing my eyes and standing up.

There was no ocean, just scalding hot white sand as far as I could see in every direction; it was a desert. Since I was wearing my leather armor and a mask, I was perfectly fine; but the light was burning my eyes.

I nuzzled my head against the dark-red skinned, completely naked, man’s chest; and he whispered “Raelin… you need to wake up… we have to leave this place… there’s only a few minutes left.” in a terrified voice. It felt like my body was shaking, but he wasn’t doing anything to me.

When I blinked, he was gone and I was alone; so I stood up and looked around again. All of the sand was red, dyed with a familiar smelling blood; then I heard a giggle behind me.

As I turned around, a massive wave crashed against me; and I could hear terrible screams, mixed with a deep… sinister roar. There was a little girl standing in front of me; she had unreasonably large breasts, that made me wonder if she was really as young as she appeared.

Her face was similar to mine: green eyes, long, wavy, fiery red hair, elven ears that extended a little higher than the top of her head, and six crimson-feathered wings; that spread from behind her back. She was smiling wryly; as she told me “Belial thinks he’s trapping the two of you in an illusion. A graduation present from your fan-fucking-tastic magic teacher. I just wanted to thank you, Rae; for being my mother.” in a solemn tone.

I was extremely confused, but quickly regained my senses and realized the horrible danger that Ethir and I were in. However, I couldn’t help but ask her “Are you Laebeth or Talia?” anxiously.

She snickered for a moment; then yelled “Hell no! I’m Anael, or Iris… you better not try to give me some shitty ass elven name!” while glaring at me.

My response to that was “Huh?” followed by “I don’t get it.” and then a resounding “Oh! Wait what?!” as I returned to reality. The hail had stopped, and the look in Ethir’s eyes was completely filled with despair; our time was up.

Belial was so far away, that I couldn’t even see the top of her head; but I could still see the mana radiating from her body, all the way up to the extremely low clouds. I sighed, then murmured “We failed… our children are going to grow up with a perverted, blue-skinned, goat-woman as a mother… and father.” while sitting upright: on the foul smelling, mucus covered, ground.

There were no clouds in the sky anymore; just stars, and the beautiful grey moon. Before losing consciousness, I had used the second charge of my staff to blast away the dense smog; that was bombarding us with crystal balls, with a massive gust of wind.

Ethir and I took off our masks at the same time, locked our mouths together, then furiously tongue wrestled; while trying to ignore the pulsating blob of living flesh, that we were sitting on.

After a few seconds, I saw a blinding flash out of the corner of my left eye; before it went blind. He whispered “I’m sorry… you were right… we shouldn’t have come here. I-I love you Raelin… even if we die here… I will definitely find you again… somehow, I promise.”

Tears were running down my cheeks, as I smiled at him and said “Everything happens for a reason, right? Death isn’t the end… it can’t be; I know there’s more to it than that.” in a shaky voice. Then I started to feel the ground rumbling, and with my failing vision I could see the right side of Ethir’s face burning off.

It felt like all of the mana in my entire body was instantly drained, and there was an eerie high pitched screech; then I screamed “Damn it Luna! Help us!” frantically, while staring up at the blurry crimson circle in the sky.

Suddenly, there was completely silence; the ground stopped shaking, and the horrible pain that my body was in from being pelted with those crystals was gone; I could hear a familiar melody resounding through my mind.

It was the second verse of a song that Michael had taught me as a meditation technique. We usually sang it in a language that he called ‘English’ because the Lorthon equivalent didn’t flow very well.

“I see the wreckage~ of all my~ distant dreams~
Crushed underneath~ the world’s~ darkest seams~
And all this time we’ve been wasting~ just to realize~
I can feel the end~ but I wont shed a tear~”

I could hear harmonized voices; which reminded me a lot of my son, but slightly different. However, the song ended abruptly, and the blue-skinned singer; who I could barely see, turned toward Ethir and I.

Luna was smiling faintly as she muttered “It’s a shame… I really enjoyed this avatar… I’m sorry… I guess I won’t be able to give you those supplies.” Then she turned toward the bright, white, light, and disappeared. An amputated, wriggling, azure-scaled tail; which looked like a four-foot long, snake without a head; was squirting thick black fluid out of one end, and crimson, delicious smelling, liquid out the other.

Neither of us could heal our wounds without mana, but we weren’t weak enough to die from them. We just stayed there, in that barren wasteland; nothing but the disgusting, slimy ground we were sitting upon, and that squirming worm-like creature; as evidence of what we had just witnessed.

The two-mile high wall of rock; which was only a few hundred meters away from us, had disappeared. A moment after the explosion that was about to wash over us, Luna created a small bubble of safety: that she stayed outside of.

Her body vanished within the bright flash and an instant later, it all just stopped; as if something was negating the cataclysmic event. Then a tidal wave of molten lava flowed over us; but the barrier of what seemed like pure mana-pressure, released from the dismembered tail; allowed us to safely rise above the melted rock and float to the top.

Even if that place was once an incredibly deep crater; after a few hours, it was nothing but obsidian. There was a slight decline toward the center, but for the most part; the whole place was pretty much the same elevation.

The two of us were both staring at that squirming tentacle-like appendage. His right and my left eye, were still completely useless; and my remaining one was barely working.

If I could have, I probably would have cried over the death of Luna’s creepy avatar… but the moment the tail sprouted a snake-like head, I started laughing hysterically. Ethir was grinning on the half of his face that was still intact, but I had no idea why it was so funny.

The golden-eyed, azure serpent flicked its tongue out toward me; then started slurping up the disgusting gunk, that we were sitting on. Even in our wounded state; we still managed to stand up, and walk a few dozen meters away from that repulsive spectacle.

My staff was out of power, but still intact; so I made sure to remove it from the slime that it was embedded in, and carried the black pole with a ball on each end; with me as I walked over to where Ethir was sitting. After a few hours of resting in the darkness, the sun began to rise; and I finally asked him “I guess we just need to head southeast; I wonder if we’re already in the Jigoku Badlands?”

We had been focusing on healing our rather severe injuries, as we refilled our mana pools: by breathing in the relatively low density atmosphere. He smiled at me, half of his face wasn’t melted off anymore; then cheerfully said “Raelin… we won… Belial is actually dead.”

However, I just scowled and told him “Death isn’t as permanent as I used to think…” while heaving out a dramatic sigh; gazing into the cloudy red and orange sky.

Ethir started snickering, so I returned my gaze to his; then he murmured “Yea… but she will always remember… that moment… when her genitals exploded.” as a satisfied smile spread across my face.

I picked up my grime encrusted mask, and used a little fire magic to clean it off; before covering my face with it, my partner was already wearing his. Although the sunlight at dawn wasn’t strong enough to burn me, it was still uncomfortable.

Our clothes smelled like rotting meat, but I was still starving; so my first thoughts were on hunting or foraging for some food. After sterilizing my shiny silver-colored staff; I stood up and stretched my arms, legs and back, while still holding it in both hands.

Even without a charge, if I channeled mana into it; then I could still increase the output of my spells by a decent magnitude. Ethir only had a handful of his runic bullets left, but he had at least a few hundred of the regular black-mithril kind.

We were stranded in an unfamiliar environment; thousands of miles away from everyone we knew, and we didn’t even know if we were on the continent of Alfirin. However, I was feeling pretty refreshed… like a huge weight had been lifted off my chest.

Although, my breasts were technically a little heavier than they used to be; not that my boyfriend ever noticed. I started giggling and asked him “If the sun rises in the east… how the hell do we tell north from south?” in a curious voice; while looking back and forth between the two choices.

Ethir pulled out a small black compass, from one of the many hidden compartments within his chest armor. Then he whispered “This way…” while starting to walk in one of the directions; since there was nothing but volcanic glass all the way to the horizon, it was similar to being in the desert.

There was barely any mana in the atmosphere around us; so we decided not to just start flying, since we didn’t know what we were going to encounter. When the ground started rumbling violently, we changed our minds though.

Huge fissures began spreading throughout the obsidian wasteland; so we didn’t want to stick around, and get caught in whatever calamity was about to occur. Even Luna-snake was slithering through the air; soaring in between the two of us, as we all used copious amounts of wind magic to escape the ominous scenery.

It was fairly difficult to dodge the lava spouts, that were erupting even higher than we were flying. Luckily, the mana-density in the air was increasing; giving us more power to not just avoid, but even deflect the streams of molten rock and metal.

Although, the pillars of thick, toxic, smoke and ash that were filling the skies; weren’t very helpful. However, with a little bit of wind magic, we didn’t even have to slow down as we kept proceeding southward; with Ethir guiding me, and a rather large, blue snake, somewhere in the middle.

A deep, thunderous roar, was constantly resounding; and when I looked back, all I could see was one massive grey column, swirling outward, devouring the clouds: seemingly traveling beyond them. It was majestic, yet terrifying; because I could see the unreasonably thick mana-density, which reminded me of our momentary trip inside of the meditation room.

Even though we had flown at least a hundred miles by that point, I could still feel the waves of pressure overtaking us. Below us were giant monstrous animals; with thick skin, huge ears, long trunks, tusks, and relatively wide bodies.

Dozens of the enormous beasts; that seemed large, even from our elevation; were stampeding away from the firestorm, that was chasing after them. White and black striped horses, with humanoid upper-bodies attached to where their necks should have been; were struggling to keep ahead of the super-elephants, as Ethir casually named them.

Among the centaurs were many children, and I couldn’t help but feel the urge to try to save them. Unfortunately, the moment I began thinking that way; they were already engulfed in the wave of smoldering ash.

However, we were traveling very fast; so we were able to escape the rapidly slowing, cloud of hellfire. We were at least two hundred miles away from the crater; when we were finally able to relax, and leisurely glide along; using very little mana, as we began our descent.

In the distance to my left, I could see an ocean… it was the first time I actually saw one that wasn’t in an illusion. Although, the glare from the rising sun was extremely detrimental to the whole experience.

On my left, was a seemingly endless line of foggy hills; some of which seemed to have fortress-like structures, built above the white mists. Directly in front of and below me; was a mostly barren desert with cracked light-brown earth, as far as I could see.

There were quite a few, fairly large, mountains in the distance; though they almost seemed like they were moving. The mana-density was probably around level two; so the creatures that roamed the dry wasteland, were all magical beasts.

Luckily, there were small shrubs, yellow grass, and twig-like trees spread around in patches. Even in a place like that, with barely any visible water; plants and animals were still able to survive.

I did notice something a little peculiar though; the size of the beasts that were wandering around seemed a little excessive. Their auras weren’t particularly powerful compared to their massive bodies, but it was still alarming to see so many creatures that were over ten meters tall.

Horses with incredibly long necks and red spots all over their fur, earth dragons with hundreds of spikes covering their brown scales; even colossal tortoises, that looked like they were carrying hills upon their backs. Then I noticed something incredibly strange; it looked like a giant wave of blue water, was coming from the west.

There were quite a few of them, emerging from the white mists; but they didn’t make it very far before soaking into the cracked earth, and filling several large footprints that the heavier animals were making. Grass and other foliage seemed to grow in the areas closest to the strange phenomenon, but not directly in their paths.

Since Ethir and I hadn’t slept or eaten anything in at least a day; we decided to land a few meters outside of a field of grass, that was much taller than we were. Luna-snake had vanished at some point, but I wasn’t too concerned about it; mainly because, I had no idea if that was actually her or one of those celestial beasts: that she kept as pets.

The two of us were standing there; gazing into the distance, at the blackened skies on the northwestern horizon. Even from a hundred miles away, with the sun rising above a jagged mountain top; out of the corner of my right eye, I could still see the purple flashes of lightning and hear their thunderous roar.

It was just a massive pillar of smoke and ash, but the mana that was being released was on a horrifying scale. I sighed dramatically. then turned to Ethir who was standing to my left; and anxiously asked “Doesn’t that seem kind of… excessive? Is it just going to keep going like that? Won’t it be bad if it continues?”

Ethir crossed his arms; then murmured “It wasn’t a crater… it was a volcano… on top of a mana-well. Luna knew that this would happen… but how could this… benefit her?” while gazing into my eyes. Although, the reflective mithril part of his mask was blinding me, literally; so I had to turn my face away from his.

I muttered “Everything happens for a reason, she probably just did it to piss off Terra.” while staring at the rustling tall grass. Then I yelled “Actually, now that her avatar is dead, how the hell do we even get back to our eggs?! What if they hatch, and wander into… anywhere! All of Lunaland is a series of horrible death chambers! Half of the random fluids I drank there, were made from her own body!” furiously, as I started gathering a decent amount of mana in both of my bracers.

When a giant, three meter tall, dark-green skinned creature emerged from the thicket; I immediately latched onto all of the water inside of its body with my left hand. Then I lifted it into the air, far above my head; slamming its back against the mud with a loud smacking noise.

In my right hand I had a large bolt of lightning charged, in case they had a strong enough aura to resist me. My staff was strapped to my back; since I thought it would have been a little excessive for anything that wasn’t a giant monster, or an army.

Even if I had no qualms about massacring disgusting, practically mindless, vampires; my experience with slaughtering animals was actually still nonexistent. Well, it took me a year to finally get over what I did in White Mithril; so I didn’t really want to kill anything or anyone, unless I absolutely had to… or they deserved it.

I was powerful enough that I could ‘eat’ a relatively weak creature, while it was still alive; and let it go afterward. Although, it was all pretty pointless; since Ethir was usually the one who caught and butchered all of our food, when we were in the desert.

However, I was a little surprised when I noticed that the animal I had captured, was actually an elf. He had relatively short, but still fairly long, ears that curved outward; instead of the way mine were almost completely straight, and slightly toward the back of my head.

His nose was flat and wide, with high cheek bones, two relatively small tusk-like lower canines: accompanied by a mild under-bite. The man’s irises were hazel, but they were so big that it was nearly impossible to see the yellowish sclera, and the pupils were black.

He had a shaved head, but his ebony hair could be seen on his incredibly muscular, chest, arms, and abs. His beard was long and braided; like some of the dwarven men I had seen in White Mithril.

There were dark-red runic tattoos, all over his body; but the language was one that I had never seen before then. On his rather large brow, there were very small horns protruding from his skin; and the only clothes he was wearing was a ragged leather loincloth.

In his right hand was a slender and finely carved, curved blade; made out of what appeared to be, magical beast bone. It was a type of sword that Ailyn invented called a “Katana” but hers were made from various types of metal, and a lot more impressive looking.

The man was yelling something, but I had no idea what it meant; then Ethir whispered “He’s saying… we’re dishonorable… assassins. Now he’s challenging me… to a duel without… magic.” There was blood all over his single-edged blade; I noticed a few cuts and bruises on his sides, arms, and legs.

I sighed and released him; we were certainly dressed in all black-leather, with masks covering our faces; and if there wasn’t a rather large, shiny silver pole strapped to my back, we would have been extremely stealthy. Instead of electricity, I used earth magic with my right hand; and stopped the barrage of metallic projectiles, that suddenly began flying toward my back.

If those needles and throwing knives hadn’t been accelerated with the help of mana, I probably wouldn’t have heard them in time. Although, they wouldn’t have actually pierced my armor; but it would have been annoying if they actually did, since I only had that one set of clothing.

When I turned around, six shadowy figures; who were at least a head shorter than me, slowly stepped out of the tall grass. They were all clad in black garments, and wore hoods with cloth masks: covering their noses and mouths.

Each of them had bright green skin, blond eyebrows, and large yellow irises; that seemed to glow faintly. Each of them were wielding two small, curved daggers; similar to what Ethir used, but made from obsidian bone, instead of black-mithril.

The middle one seemed like their leader, because he had the strongest aura; which was still weak enough for me to tear through with ease. He shouted something incomprehensible at me; then Ethir whispered “Apparently that big guy; Seijirou… has been charged with treason… they’re supposed to execute him. They’re ordering us not to… interfere with their mission.” nonchalantly in my right ear, he was very close to me like always.

After the big guy stood up and started roaring nonsense; I turned toward him, using my right hand to shield my eye from the sun; while dropping the various projectiles into the mud. I was never very good with languages other than basic Lorthon, and I honestly didn’t care enough to learn any others.

Ethir told me “They murdered his wife… and daughter. Raelin, if we hurry… it might not be too late… to heal them.” in a serious voice, while unsheathing his daggers and vanishing. The instant he did, three of the assassins sprinted toward me; and the others, including their leader, tried to make it past me.

Even after settling matters with Belial, I didn’t suddenly stop hating people who killed children. I unconsciously growled as I grit my teeth; then quickly discharged a small burst of electricity, stopping all of them instantly.

They didn’t die, only lost control of their bodies for a moment; then I yelled “It’s been a while since I taught magic, so my lessons might be a little extreme!” furiously, as I lifted them all up by their bones with earth manipulation from my right hand. I turned around toward the ranting dark-skinned orc; and then clumped the six, still conscious, murderers together.

They were dangling upside-down, five meters above the ground; when I began ‘teaching’ them the proper way to use wind spells to fly. After I had gathered a large enough ball of pressurized air below their intertwined form, I released the fairly powerful explosion.

I grimaced at the sight of the surprisingly fragile bodies; being torn apart and scattered across a huge stretch of dry, cracked earth: beyond the muddy ground. Their blood smelled foul, not appetizing at all; so I just sighed and muttered “I wasn’t actually trying to kill them…”

Seijirou, was staring at me with awe, and saying something that sounded like gratitude. After he gave me a deep bow; he stood upright with a determined expression, and sprinted past me into the dense grass.

There were all kinds of strange animals crawling around me as I followed after him; but for the most part, nothing too threatening. It only took a few seconds for us to reach his ‘home’ but it was really just an incredibly small clearing, with a hut in the center.

The majority of the relatively large house, was just rounded walls constructed from dried mud; and the roof was made out of the tall yellow grass, that was all around us. We entered inside and I saw a large amount of blood everywhere, most of it was from the ten butchered assassin corpses though.

I could smell a sweet, delicious aroma; hidden underneath the unnerving stench, but there wasn’t very much of it. In front of my eyes was a scene that would have shocked me; if I wasn’t so tired, and didn’t spend the night before that; in a crater filled with the most disgusting creatures I had ever seen.

Dismembered, small, green-skinned, corpses littered the entrance; but the back was a lot cleaner. Although, considering it was a mud-hut, I doubt it was ever very impressive.

Seijirou furiously shouted something and ran towards Ethir; who was sitting cross-legged with his exposed dark-red hands, pressed against the foreheads of the two women; who were laying in front of him. The giant man seemed to be threatening my boyfriend with his large bone sword, so I used a bit of earth manipulation to shatter it into lots of tiny pieces.

The girls were still alive, but just barely; Ethir was focusing entirely on keeping their brains from dying, since all their other organs could have been fixed with a lot less effort. Unfortunately, our patients were a short-lived race; the wife was only a little taller than me, a tan-skinned cat-tribe who was probably in her late twenties.

Their offspring was only a child, but already a head taller than her mother; though both of their bodies were surprisingly muscular, and not very feminine. The orc was gawking at us in confusion, as I began preparing to perform the recovery spell.

I removed my hood, mask and even my black-leather gloves: Since I was indoors and protected from the irritating sun. My aura enveloped the entire room; engulfing Seijirou, and causing him to fall to his knees from the sudden pressure.

Then I sat down in-between the two women; their facial features were delicate, and what I considered to be in the attractive range. With slightly upturned and small noses, extremely long eyelashes, short and wavy brown hair; they were cute from their necks up.

Well, it didn’t change my instinctual desire to heal them; they were only wearing loincloths and a leather band, that was barely covering their annoyingly large breasts. However, there was a short knife embedded into each of their chests, straight through the material; so it all had to be quickly removed.

Fortunately, their hearts had only been stopped for a short time; so I could tell just by hearing and seeing their auras, that the damage was minimal. Using a bit of water magic, I extracted an ounce of blood from each of my hands; as if I were sweating it out, then embed that into their wounds.

The most effective way to use recovery spells, was to have some blood or other living tissue from a long-lived race. Since it was part of my body, it was also permeated with my aura; giving me even more control over the crimson liquid.

Then it was just a matter of using my blood, to create an ageless copy of their irreparably damaged hearts. Although, I could have just forced their old ones to regenerate, but that would have shortened their lifespans by at least twenty years; which was a lot for most non-elven races.

If I replaced every organ in a person’s body with a copy made from my own… well, I wasn’t really that great at using recovery magic back then. Otherwise, I would have just done something like that for everyone I cared about; plus it was a lot harder the stronger the person’s aura was.

The two cat-eared and tailed girls began breathing again after a few seconds. Once I had revitalized their other organs, I swiftly sealed their wounds. They were lucky that the assassins didn’t bash their skulls in with various blunt instruments, because it definitely would have been too late if that had happened.

Conor was an anomaly; people were typically beyond saving a few minutes after their blood stopped pumping, regardless of race. Actually, if Ethir wasn’t there to heal the most complicated part of their bodies, they both would have died.

It was then that I realized something much more fundamental; if we didn’t arrive there at that exact moment, they wouldn’t have had a chance and even their father probably would’ve been killed. The adorable red-goblin who was sitting a meter in front of me, took off his mask and hood; then he beamed a satisfied smile at me.

I returned one of my own; then he asked me “Maybe one of them is Laebeth?” That would have been amazing, but life isn’t so easy; and even if I couldn’t predict the future… I knew that our journey through the Jigoku Badlands, was only just beginning.

We both stood up as the two girls opened their eyes; and the dumbfounded orc pressed his head against the dirt floor, with his palms to the ground. It made me feel uncomfortable; so I just ignored his over-dramatic display of gratitude, and took a few steps forward.

More important than anything else in the world at that moment, was my desire to satiate my thirst. Ethir grinned as our chests pressed against each other, though I couldn’t feel much through the leather; then we interlocked our lips, with tongues colliding.

While we were doing that; I was clumping all of the corpses and their various pieces together into a ball: using earth and water magic. All of the fluids and other bodily excretions, that were spread around the room; were compressed into that sphere, frozen solid, and launched out the fairly large doorway.

Then Ethir lifted me up into a similar position that we were in, the first time we had made love. Although, our clothing was a major problem that needed to be remedied immediately. Unfortunately, it was actually a lot of work to remove armor that couldn’t be magically manipulated; but that just gave me more stress that needed to be relieved.

By the time we made it to the cleanest part of the hut; that was at least a dozen meters away from the happy family, that seemed to be shocked and confused at our very existence; our bodies were already intertwined.

He gently laid me down on the firm, but dirty, ground; and I began feasting from the left side of his neck as he slowly thrusted inside of me. In a level two mana-zone, it was actually pretty easy to run out; but since he was draining my blood at the same time as I was drinking his, very little was actually lost: We were essentially converting our mana into sustenance.

It didn’t take much time or effort to regenerate whatever we took from each other; and we had done it so many, times that it didn’t even require me to think about anything but the pleasure I was feeling. There was such a colossal difference in sensitivity without Luna’s interference; that I was constantly quivering from the slightest touch, so once we began moving faster… well, it was very enjoyable.

As we laid there afterward, in a muddy puddle of our own creation; the earth was quaking, lightning was cracking in the skies, thunderous explosions could be heard in the distance, and gigantic roaring beasts were all around us in every direction. Our giant host was still kneeling, along with his wife and daughter; while staring at us with eyes filled with what I interpreted as awe.

They were talking with each other quietly, and Ethir quietly asked me “They’re calling us Blood Gods… should I tell them to stop?” while smiling wryly. We were cuddling together on the dirt that I had just finished drying, and once my stomach was filled; I honestly didn’t care about anything but sleeping at that point.

I sighed; then said “Blowing up a mana well, casually killing assassins, having sex in front of three strangers, and lounging naked in a mud-hut… I blame Luna. We can figure out if one of them is Laebeth tomorrow; right now, I’m going to close my eyes and pretend like that cataclysmic event a few hundred miles from here, has absolutely nothing to do with me.” while snuggling with him.

He chuckled softly, and his right arm became my surprisingly comfortable pillow, as I drifted off into a blissful dream. I was living peacefully in a beautiful city; with houses and buildings made out of trees, while my children could grow up without having to worry about being killed by colossal demonic monsters; Ethir and I were happy and content.

Well, life is never that simple or easy, and as long as I knew that my daughters’ souls were out there somewhere; there was no way that I could have ever settled down, until I knew that they weren’t suffering from some terrible fate.

 

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