“Challengers! The last floor before your first checkpoint! Do your best not to disappoint me.”
Once he said that the voice disappeared.
But nothing happened. No door, no gateway to another world, nothing he just said that and he was gone.
We waited, and waited…
Out of the twenty that were left from the twentieth floor only five remained.
And I was the only girl.
The red haired man was also one of them along with two other men that wore the same armor as his being made with silver scale mail and battle skirts adorned with golden inscriptions on the edges.
The red haired man had a sheathed long broad sword to his side while the other men had short swords with a small buckler attached at their backs. Their armor however unlike his still shiny and unscratched piece was in tatters. One of them was bald and had a gruff looking visage with a small gash over his left brow and few burning marks over his right hand.
The other had long and tied hair in a pony style.
The three men sat alone in a side of the round platform, while another man who could barely stand remained alone. That man had a dark skin and wore the uniform of Astorian mages. A black and golden set of hardened leather armor over his robe for minimal protection.
He had black hair an almost triangular face, and at his side laid a broken staff. The man was in deep thought and soon after he began using a small healing spell.
I thankfully knew of such a spell but still remained cautious. But the other three soon stood up and readied their weapons.
“What are you trying to do old man” said the bald man.
“I-it is just a healing spell…” said the mage
The other three then soon sheathed back their weapons but still remained on guard.
“It is true…it is a healing spell.” I said
The man looked at me with unbelieving eyes and almost as if thankful began to heal some of his wounds
The other three soon looked between each other and advanced toward the man
The mage then froze and tried to reach to his staff but as if he had remembered that his weapon was now broken he panicked even more.
“Don’t worry old man.” said the red headed man
“We only want you to heal one of our own. He is gravely wounded…” said the red headed man.
The man in question took off the chest piece of his armor showing a badly treated wound. Across the chest and deep enough to make his entire undershirt turn from white to crimson red.
His wound is mortal, I wonder how he managed to stay standing. With healing spell of that caliber there is no way for that man to be saved
“I-I can help.” Said the mage…
Could he possibly have a stronger healing spell? For all I know healing is the hardest thing to learn as one would need to have deep knowledge over the body…
“Thank you” said the red haired man.
The mage then approached and began channeling a similar spell. But something was wrong
The magic text that he began writing was wrong. No, if what I think he is trying to do then he is…
“What are you doing!” I said
All the men then turned
“I-I am healing him young lady what is the problem?”
“Healing comes from both light and water. You began the magic text by the earth word, what are you trying to do?” I said and approached menacingly.
“I-it is a special type of healing.” He said
And instantly the red headed man grabbed the mage by the throat and easily pulled him up.
“Speak old man what did you do!”
“Emit Force” said the mage and a shockwave of air blew away all three men.
The mage was practically on the edge of the arena while the bald man was dangerously close to it, the second the shockwave had hit him he was blown away into the dark abyss of the tower.
The red haired man who managed to get blown at the safer side of the arena roared in anger for the death of his friend. While the other man who was wounded began to throw up and cough out blood.
I got closer to the wounded man and began channeling a real healing spell but it was too late.
The red haired man was on guard because I tried to approach his friend but once I said the word
He became even more furious
And charged at the mage.
The mage began shooting arrays of spells one after another not even caring for his rapidly decreasing mana or the surrounding he wanted to slow down the red haired man.
This one however managed to evade all spells until he began to slow down and dropped to his knees all by himself.
He then began to cough out blood.
“Huhahahaha without the antidote you are all dead.” Once he said that I understood one thing.
The spell he used is a type of contagious and highly potent poison. And it seems that that man had probably already drank the antidote and planned this for some time…
“You are all idiots, didn’t you get it? It was the last challenge to kill everyone until but one remain. No trust! And you will all die and I shall proceed forward. I will gain all I need once I am out I will have all of which I desire, power influence and prestige as one of the survivors of this tower! Worry not I will tell tales of your defeat to everyone so that they knew of how valiantly you all had fought. HAHAHAHAHAH”
The man began to laugh like if he was possessed.
I too began to cough but because I was far from the spell the thing didn’t bother me much. For now
The wounded man became immobile but was still conscious as you could see him move his chest up and down, the mage however, was clearly out of mana and suffering from magic poisoning as veins in his hands began to show the signs.
The mage then approached the almost dead man and took his short sword. He probably even thought of it as heavy by the way he grunted carrying it.
“Die” said the mage
And then he barbarically began to stab the man who by now was long since dead.
The red haired man began to shout profanities at him and threatening to tear him apart but his actions were rather meaningless as he too was immobile.
I began to lose feeling in my limbs but didn’t want the state to affect me further so I began chanting a spell.
“Oh don’t worry you won’t die, at least not for now. I will first have my way with that girl over there once she is completely immobile and would let you for last. Captain Commander of the royal guard of Astora.” Said the mage
“Y-you know of me…” said the red haired man.
“Yes, it was thanks to you that my brother had died. You don’t remember me do you? Three years ago you broke into our laboratory back at Sivilia. You killed my brother in the process and arrested the rest of my comrades. I only managed to escape because I was out on a special errand…but you, you mercilessly killed every one of them even the ones caught. Not even trial was given to them! You deserve to die and a slow death is what you will have!” said the mad man with clear wrath spewing from his mouth.
“You crazed bastard!” roared the red haired man. “You were attempting to overthrow the king! You were committing high treason the most merciful thing was killing you all! I should have looked harder for every single one of you! Never should I have satisfied myself with just the ones inside that building”
Angrily said the red haired man who now was suffering from a coughing fit.
“And that was your mistake! And for it you shall die today, now where is that bitch!” said the man and turned toward me
But he was surprised to find nothing but fog and frost.
I already used a spell to cover the entire half side of the arena with none see through fog.
“Heaven piercing javelins!”
Four javelins flew toward the man and a frightening speed making the frost bend from the air piercing effect throwing him way back into the rim of the arena.
I slowly began to walk out of the fog that I used to cover my spell.
The man who was now shocked from the unexpected turn of event began to gurgle and tried to stand back up only to receive another Javelin that pierced through his heart sending him down the bottomless chasm.
The red haired man seeming now content turned and laid back on his back.
“I am sorry” I said “I didn’t think it through I should not have caused him to fall there…he could have had the antidote with him.”
The man coughed and said
“I-it’s alright…” weakly said the man and began to wait his eminent death.
The poison was acting rather fast and the cough fits began to increase…he doesn’t have much time.
“Challengers!” said the same voice scaring the living soul out of me.
“You have passed the final test of the first twenty first floors. Trust none and you will forever be safe, but is a life worth living if one lives it alone?”
And with that the number of the platform changed and this time two doorways opened. One leading to the exit as it was showing the outside world and the Quietus grand square.
While the other was probably for the next floor.
“So will you leave and be satisfied with your current achievement or will you further challenge yourself and dare go for the next round!”
“I wish to exit” said the still laying red haired man “But I don’t think I will make it out alive…”
A golden box then appeared in the middle of the arena.
“Oh, we are not so cruel to let you die that you had cleared the first rounds. Inside that box is a potion that will cure you of your alignments, you only have to get it…but taking a look at you I think that that would be a very chorus ordeal. Hahaha!” laughed the voice.
The man then grunted. And began to slowly close his eyes
“I want to proceed!” I said
“Hoo. A true decadent of the guardians…very well then proceed forward.”
I walked toward the gate then looked at my right.
I walked back and placed my hands on the box
It was filled with jewels gold and many items that would probably be worth a lot…but to a dying man nothing of this is of value.
There were two red vials however. And for him at this point this might be the most expensive of treasures.
I drank one and looked at the other
I grabbed the vial and walked back toward the lying man.
He looked pale and so close to death but he still fought on.
I opened the vial and poured it inside his mouth.
The man hardly swallowed. Slowly his body began to regain his natural color.
The man opened his eyes and looked back.
“Why?” he said “You don’t even know me, nor do you owe me anything. Why help me when you could just leave. Aren’t you fearing that I might end up killing you? Did you not think that this might be another challenge?”
“I don’t know. But I no longer want to regret things I have done…” I said
“What is your name milady?” said the man.
“Yuna, Yuna Korima…” I replied
“I am Captain Commander Aaron Seethe. And I shall forever be in your dept.”
I then left the man to recover and entered the gate to the next floor.
One month of god damn travel time. And flying too! I thought it would take less than this no I even thought I could have been lost if not for the strong light pillar that appeared from afar and penetrated through the sky on the fifteenth day of travel. Ah I got to know one more thing too. It seems I can’t stay in the dragon aspect form for long. I never got to test my limit but now I know.
One day. Only one day in that mode in minimal energy consumption or to say just normal ‘flight, is enough to empty my energy reserve and rendering me unable to enter equilibrium for an entire day. Something I had to suffer through the hard way as I panicked for an entire day and night thinking that I can no longer reach equilibrium.
Thankfully on the wake of the next of that day I felt the energies of the world once again. And began to absorb them into me.
Now the main reason of why I took so long was because I flew for one day and walked for another.
I met a few more creatures but like always they didn’t feel like wanting to meet me…
Most creatures just run away once they get a feel for me. It seems that my body or just the dragon part has ‘absorbed’ the aura that Drakhsis was releasing and now is constantly mimicking it. I had to think through a way against this. If I kept this for long I might end up scaring my lunch away for a long time.
But conveniently…once I will the presence to subside. It disappears completely.
I had to test it however so I caught a passing by imoogi. Yes a lot of them were flying almost by the thousands. They loved to fly in flocks but they always avoided me like the plague.
But once I caught one of them I forced it down. I had to break one of his wings as they were big like serpents almost a hundred meter in lengths and about ten meters in diameter. With black scales and a serpent looking body with two to four wings on the sides.
Once I broke the little snake’s wing it dropped down like a rock.
Then I began experimenting.
The imoogi would wriggle and rebel trying to bite my head off if I had my presence in a ‘sealed’ state. Once I release it though, it would shrivel and try to shrink itself and would clearly look petrified…
I did this for quite a while and was amused by the sudden turns of the Imoogi’s mood. It was like turning on and off the light…but you soon get tired of it and I had to walk away.
I kept on walking and flying until, like I said before the thirtieth day of travel.
Once I reached my destination it was there.
Inside an open plateau of meadow and small hills the tower was rising and the top of this tower was going so high in the sky that it disappeared from view.
The earth around it was undug and crumbling while the building looked like a majestic spiral construction. It was adorned with gold and sky blue ornaments with knights, dragons, and maidens, made of stone and iron were graphed into its walls. It had pillars the size of buildings supporting it and was gigantic. But it had no windows. Everything was carved in stone.
I had to stroll around it as it seems that the door was on the other side but I couldn’t find it…
I got closer to the building and before I touched its walls I remembered something that Drakhsis had asked of me.
“I have something to ask of you Youngling. Before we start your next and final task.” Said Drakhsis
“What is it Drakhsis-san” I replied
“I want you to do something that most will think of as being foolish.” He said
“Well I am already attempting to get to the final floor of the crucible, what thing could be more foolish than this? I hope it got nothing to do with painting the sun black it was just a joke…” I said
“No, even more foolish than that.”
“I want you to claim the title of an Everlasting…”
“Say what now?” I responded
“You heard me. I want you to claim that title as it is yours and only you have the power to obtain it. The first trial of Everlastinghood is to clear the crucible. It is created by the Overseers to test the mettle of you humanoids. As you are not born with power your only way to claim true power is to reach that state. And only by then will one truly become strong and only then where one will have nothing to fear.”
“But why should I? Clearing the crucible is hard enough of a task and although I want power…too much power was never my aim. I want power really, but just enough so that no one will dare harm me or one of mine. So once I clear the crucible will there be anything strong enough to take away from me what I hold dear?” I said
“True, but there is something you need to know. You promised to leave the fallen world and seek out the true world have you not done so youngling?!”
“I did “I answered
“Then not only will you need the power to slay all your enemies to fulfill the decree of the overseers and in which you will be needing unsurmountable amounts of it and indomitable will to destroy an entire race. You will also need power to protect those you care for, once you are in the true world. There, there are beings that are strong enough to set kingdoms and empires ablaze in but one night. If you truly seek strength to protect those whom you care for, to make people fear and respect you, then you shall need the title.”
Drakhsis stopped for a moment then said
“Only they among sentient beasts are respected and feared. And once you are one of them you shall have your protégés respected as well. Now is the time to vow again. Are you truly willing to clear the crucible and reach the true world?”
Without hesitation I answered
For if Drakhsis had said that there are things that strong, then I will need more power…
Although I honestly doubt myself capable of such a feat…I will have to figure out how truly strong I am once I am inside that crucible…
(End of flashback)
Once I touched the walls.
“Are you here to challenge the Crucible?” said a voice that was both deep and ancient…
“Yes.” I answered
And instantly a doorway was opened
It was bright white and probably was some sort of portal.
“Proceed” said the same voice.
And so I did.
Once I entered I was in the middle of a great hall.
A circular platform was my standing with a great chasm below it while light orbs flew all over the place to light the hall. The ceilling was adorned with the same looking statues on the outside and the walls were too far beyond the open chasm.
I looked to the side and saw two more portals with the exception of the one that I just came from, that instantly disappeared.
One of the portals was see-through, and it showed a square where few people were gathered at…
It’s been long since I last saw a human so I slowly approached.
“Challenger!” said the voice “You come from a world beyond. And you have no right to reach for the fallen world.”
“I know. However won’t I be eligible once I reach the final floor?”
“HAHAHAHAHAHA! Human you think yourself capable of such feat! I know not of why you were in the void and frankly I care not. You look strong. But do you think you are strong enough?” said the same voice
The voice was resounding all over the place
But once I looked forward and even under the mask I was able to see a shape. This of course was because I was already in equilibrium and ready to change form at any given notice, however, I still reduced my presence to the bare minimum.
I also learned a nifty trick I can ‘Dragnify’ any part of my body without entering into the full dragon form, so I did so to my left eye and it changed to that of a dragon’s with its vision. That was the reason for me being able to see this being although he was ‘invisible’.
It was a gigantic humanoid almost three meters tall, but looked like a bunch of golden and dark blue armor stuck together with a shredded deep red cape, his helmet was only showing the blue sheen of his eyes, while everything else was darkened. He had no legs and was almost hovering while on his right arm was a great war-hammer that was adorned with gold and steel.
“Well why don’t you get down here and find out, I mean trying to sound all ominous and threatening does not match well with your appearance. Oh great Overseer!” although he does look threathening I think spending more than six months with a primordial dragon dulled my senses of fright from big things...