“I’ve been searching…And searching…” Hayato mused, as he stared down at the miasmic and warped land beneath.
“Searching? For what?” Umbra asked as he hovered in mid-air next to him.
“For a worthy opponent, and down there, I can sense one.” Hayato answered with a cold smile. “Do what you’ve been ordered to do, kill your target, this one is mine.”
Umbra shivered, sensing the massive leakage of Spirit coming out of the excited beast, “A-As you say.” (“What is this monster next to me…”) He pondered, then glancing down at the army of demonic creatures gathering beneath. “But…How do we enter?”
“The same way we arrived, of course.” Hayato said, as tendrils of ember ethereal energy lashed out from his feathers. Four of them, each slashing open a long rift through reality. “Go.” Hayato said, his voice resounding throughout the corrupted landscape.
The demons bellowed in excitement and rushed forth, streaming into the four rifts like a river.
“You as well,” Hayato then said, turning to Umbra. “Go redeem yourself.”
Umbra bowed respectfully, before suddenly bursting into a projectile of spinning shadows, flying off into one of the four rifts.
“Well then, shall we see who it is that I face?” The Spirit Beast mused, raising his hands forward and grasping onto reality as ember energy engulfed his hands. He spread it open, like pushing a curtain aside, Hayato opened a fifth rift.
He stepped through, his vision turning into a bright shimmer for a moment before he was faced with a massive cavern.
“Welcome, to my Lair.” Said a booming voice, his feathers shuddering as it reached him.
“Ah, so the stories are true.” Hayato said as he faced Erik, “A Dragon, within a humanoid vessel? It seems you managed to break through your body’s limitations though…How interesting.”
“Have you come to talk or what?” Nerick exclaimed, taking a step forward as Ivara hissed from his shoulders.
Hayato glanced at him…
A single glance, and Nerick felt his entire body freeze.
As their eyes met, Nerick and Ivara lost all will to even stand before him. And Nerick took an unconscious step back.
“No, I guess I haven’t.” Hayato said, smiling in amusement as the three Guardians appeared all around him, surrounding him. “Ah, so this is how it will be?”
“Fierve, Voltru, assist the rebels.” Erik ordered, and without question, the two Guardians dissipated. “Dejal, protect Thea and those with her. Nerick you go there too.” He then said to the wide eyed Nerick, as despair filled the man’s heart.
(“Why?...”) Nerick asked himself, as he managed to remain standing, even as he stared at the invader. Seeing the mass of ember energy that engulfed him, taking shape and spreading massive wings.
A humungous falcon of energy hovered over Hayato, energy that Nerick could clearly see.
(“Why is he so strong?...”) Nerick shook his head, “No…I’m not leaving, Erik you told me yourself that I ca-”
“Nerick, leave.” Erik told him once more, his tone sounding more commanding now than it had before. Yet Erik did not take his eyes off Hayato, sensing the same thing Nerick had. (“You will only get in the way.”) He thought, “They are targeting Kayle,” but said something else instead. “He’s the distraction, a strong one. And I’m his target, not you. Go.”
“K-Kayle? But…” Nerick glanced in between them, seeing the three energies that surrounded Erik grow larger, just as large as the Falcon above Hayato, but shapeless.
“Do you not wish to protect her?! Do you not feel guilty for not being by her side before!? This might be your last chance, Nerick, so go.” Erik bellowed, unsheathing his sword and raising his staff forth.
Nerick grimaced, “I’m sorry…I’ll leave this to you then.” He said, but he actually felt relieved of not having to fight the monster before them, guilt then filling him for that thought. Still Nerick turned about, and rushed through the large doorway that still lay destroyed from earlier, he ran.
Feeling the dark energy flowing through his body, Nerick ran faster than he ever had, faster even than the mass of flowing earth that followed behind him. So fast that he almost didn’t see Shizuka running towards the opposite direction, her panicked expression blurred but clear enough to make out as she ran past him.
Nerick thought about stopping and warning her, (“They’re after Kayle…”) but Erik’s words then finally hit him when they hadn’t before.
They were after Kayle.
After the person he swore to protect above all else.
After the only person who ever saw through him, who truly understood him.
Pitch black energy, like a gooey smoke, engulfed Nerick’s entire form and he suddenly short forth like a bolt.
“Dammit…” Thea said as she stood by the door.
Shizuka had suddenly rushed out and left, leaving her alone with the still unconscious Kayle and the drake Ivyieth. She had tried to stop her but Thea hadn’t had any sleep for the past day, she was too exhausted to even react before Shizuka was already gone.
The Lair shuddered again, “Damn what’s going on!?” Thea exclaimed as she gripped her gunblade more tightly.
“Demons are invading your little camp apparently.” Ivyieth mused, “Elder Brother is facing something similar to that beastie too, but…I think this one is a lot stronger.”
“Erik is? Like Shizuka? So that’s why she rushed out…” Thea mumbled out, glancing inbetween the drake and her sister. (“I want to help but…I have to defend these two.”) She thought.
“Also something else is…coming closer.” Ivyieth then said, as she chewed on a piece of jerky. Saying something incomprehensible through her full mouth.
“W-What?” Thea asked, turning to look at her in confusion.
Then her eyes widened, as she saw a dark hand materialize out of nowhere. Pitch black claws, opening wide as they approached Kayle’s sleeping face.
Thea pushed herself to move, gripping her weapon like a sword and charging at the assassin. She couldn’t shoot, she could hit Kayle. So instead she dashed as fast as her body allowed her, but she was weary, she was too tired.
The sudden movement, alongside her exhaustion, blurred her sight as she abruptly lost the feeling in her legs. Thea stumbled forward, and held her breath as she watched the dark hand reaching Kayle.
When suddenly a mass of crystal bladed vines rushed through, shredding the dark hand and surrounding Kayle entirely. Ivyieth flowed with the vines to come standing before the now revealed Dark Fae, as Umbra grunted in pain.
His left arm had been torn entirely off and was bleeding profusely for several moments, before the darkness that surrounded him converged on his wound and slowly the arm reformed. “Hah…Well well, I wasn’t expecting…this.” Umbra said with a cold chuckle as he faced Ivyieth.
“Hmm, you reek.” Ivyieth mused, “Go away.” She then said coldly, and her vines suddenly burst out at him. Like a jungle rising out of her palms, nature enraged, the green spread forth to devour the Fae.
“Hah, drakes…” Umbra sighed, raising his right hand forward and chanting quickly. “Fae Arts; Dark; Shrivel.”
Suddenly the vines stopped, blades of crystal mere inches away from tearing Umbra’s head off. The green quickly began to dry up, shrivelling and turning brown. The drought ran down the vines, as even the ones holding Ivyieth up and those protectively surrounding Kayle dried up and died.
“Apologies, it seems that I am quite the bad match for you, Green Drake.” Umbra chuckled coldly, “Now get out of my way little one before you get hurt, you’re not my target.”
Ivyieth glanced around in annoyance as her vines died all around her, but smiled in amusement as she looked back at Umbra, “Oh, It is not me who you will be fighting betrayer of nature.” She said with her usual snide tone and frustrating smirk.
As the entire wall in the next room over, in the kitchen, exploded.
Umbra turned to face the new threat, suddenly sensing a mass of dark energy oozing out from the dissipating dust. Barely noticing as Ivyieth rushed past his lowered guard, “You’re dealing with him.” She said with Thea and Kayle in tow, held by her vines as she made her escape.
“Tsk, you’re not getting away!” Umbra hissed, rushing after the escaping drake as she disappeared into the cloud of dust.
Stepping to it, Umbra then froze.
As the dust cleared, and the Fae found himself faced with a giant of a man, two entire feet taller than himself and clad in the darkest set of full armour he had ever seen. A draconic-like helmet covered their face, but as Nerick glanced down at the Fae, his bright silver eyes were clearly glowing through his dark visor.
“Who…isn’t getting away?” Nerick asked in a growl, and Umbra suddenly burst into shadows, flowing around Nerick and heading for the collapsed wall.
A wall which suddenly and quickly reconstructed itself, barring his exit.
“W-What?” Umbra asked in confusion while he rematerialized before the new wall, as the stone ahead unexpectedly grew towards him…
Dejal stepped out of the wall, taking humanoid shape that suddenly grew hundreds of jagged spikes. “Invader, surrender yourself and die quickly, or struggle and die slowly.” The Earth Elemental said, as a cold smile formed over its blank face.
Umbra sighed, “Guardians? You’re a waste of my time…” he said as his wings burst out of his back, “Like a wall of stone can stop me.” He stated calmly, raising his right palm forward and aiming it flat towards Dejal.
“Fae Arts; Dark; Cat-” Umbra tried to chant…
“Ignoring me? Really?” Nerick asked, spinning in place as his leg rose, performing a round-house kick upon the Fae.
But Umbra was unfazed, as he formed a mass of shadows to block the attack. “Hah, why not? What could a Human do to me? This Elemental would be more annoying.” The Dark Fae said in amusement, turning his palm towards Nerick and then finishing his chant. “Cataclysm.”
The shadows that already engulfed Umbra’s palm suddenly expanded a hundred-fold, swallowing Nerick whole whilst rushing through him. Like a massive ray of dark energy, the spell blew through the next room, and the next…and the next…and the next.
“Now for the pebble,” Umbra mused, turning back to Dejal as the darkness that lingered from his spell slowly dissipated next to him. “Fae Arts; Da-”
Umbra didn’t even finish the second part of his chant this time, as out of the lingering darkness a clawed black gauntlet rushed out and grasped the Fae by the neck. Clenched tightly, Umbra choked as Nerick raised him off the ground while stepping out of the spell’s trail.
“Mother fucker…That hurt you know?” Nerick said in annoyance, as Umbra burst into tendrils of shadow and slipped out of his grasp.
“Y-You survived that!? How!? Steel wouldn’t survive that!” Umbra exclaimed in both surprise and confusion, rematerializing across the room. “What are you wearing!?” Umbra asked, now sensing the oddity that was Ivara, who albeit having a miniscule signature of mana to his senses also had the unmistakable sensation of life for those that looked carefully.
Something the Fae hadn’t done till now.
“Ally of master, I shall assist in this fight.” Dejal offered as the elemental appeared next to Nerick.
“No,” Nerick said.
("I ran before...But now...") He thought, raising his right hand to his helmet and tearing it off, the seemingly solid piece of equipment suddenly dissipating into shadows. “Just give me some more room, and keep him inside.” Nerick told it, as his black and silver strands of long hair flowed out free of the helm.
Dejal’s carved mouth changed from its usual cruel smile, seemingly into one of surprise as it looked at Nerick. “As you wish.” It answered, the elemental having sensed the change within him. As it lowered its stance and opened its arms wide, the room all around them suddenly crumbling, but expanding into a massive cavern.
“Will this do?” Dejal asked.
“Yeah, that'll do.” Nerick said, as he suddenly raised his right index finger up at the Fae. He pointed at them, then asking, “You’re after Kayle, aren’t you?”.
“And what if I am?” Umbra scoffed back, “What will you do about it, Human?”
“And it is just you? No other freaky demon thing? Or whatever the hell that guy back there was?” Nerick asked, gesturing to the side.
“Hah, and lose my head because I wasn’t the one who achieved my own goal? And for your information, you lesser mongrel, I’m no ‘Freaky demon thing’ I’m a Fae!” Umbra proclaimed.
Nerick suddenly grinned, “Ah…Good, so if Erik deals with that creepy bird guy, and if I deal with you. Then Kayle is safe.”
“Safe?...Hah…Haha…HAHAHAHAA!” Umbra laughed, openly and hysterically the Fae laughed. “You deal with me!?” The Fae asked, as his tone suddenly turned dead cold, “Who do you think you are?” Umbra asked, fury within his tone, as he clenched his hands. The shadows which surrounded him, suddenly converged onto his fists, revealing his features.
Short-cut black hair, large and gleaming obsidian black eyes, long and elven-like pointed ears. The Fae revealed himself to Nerick. “You think…Hah…You actually think that a mere Human can fight…any Fae? Fool.” Umbra hissed, grinning widely, showing his pitch-black fangs. “For your insolence…I will be the last thing you ever see. For a Human to think that…To defeat one of us? We who were made to replace the Gods? I will kill you for those words.”
“Human huh?” Nerick mused, “What is a Human to you? A frightened creature who gathers in groups, in kingdoms, to gain any kind of power? That’s it right?” he sighed, “Back there…I ran, I ran when I was told to. Because he knew, and so did I, that I stood no chance against that…thing. I even fucking felt relieved about it…”
Umbra huffed and rolled his eyes, “Of course you did, or maybe are you still drunk on the fear that monster put into you? Is that why you stand against me who might as well be a monster compared to you?” Umbra continued to laugh, but his laughter was cut short.
“Monster…Huh.” As Nerick chuckled in amusement.
“I guess you have, your feeble Human mind must have gone mad if you dare laugh before me.” Umbra said with annoyance.
“No, I mean yeah I might be mad but…” Nerick continued to chuckle, as his armour began to distort, “I gave up on my Humanity long ago, haven’t I? Like he said, to fight a monster…” Nerick smiled, in contrast with his wide eyes, he absolutely seemed insane.
Making Umbra falter, as darkness suddenly rushed out and engulfed Nerick’s entire body.
The mass of gooey black smoke grew and grew, distorting as shapes formed out of it, before sinking back into the expanding sphere.
Umbra saw claws, he saw wings, scales and a tail. He saw a wide fanged grin, before it too disappeared into the darkness.
As it continued to grow.
“If I’m going to fight a monster…then let me show you mine” A wicked voice hissed out from the darkness, as it finally took shape.
A massive clawed foot crashed down before Umbra, as the beast emerged from the flowing shadows.
“Third Form; Nera.”
Like a wyvern, but dozens of times larger, the creature’s two heads snarled down at the Fae.
Its body was a smooth reptilian black, glistening off the cavern’s light as it rose to stand at its full height.
With nine horns per head, formed like a dark crown. Its eyes were a deep black with bright silver slits within. Its fangs were long and many. Its scales, grew out like spikes, and even longer ones like blades running down the back of its two necks and all the way to the tail’s tip which ended in a long and wide cleaver.
Its front legs were longer than the hind ones, but out of them grew a silver netting that made them wings. Wings which ended in long blade-like talons.
Talons which clicked against the cold stone ground as the creature stretched them out in preparation.
As it set its eyes upon the petrified Fae.
The ground cracked and shattered.
The air between them rushed aside.
Nerick and Ivara, joined as one…
As Nera, they lunged at Umbra.
The Fae’s form burst into shadows, as one wide open maw descended upon him.
He evaded and rushed to get away.
Umbra’s shadowy form zoomed off, like a projectile of energy, he ran.
But no matter how fast he did run, the maddened monster was close behind. Using its long front legs to reach out, dig its claws into the earth as it shattered, then pull itself forward.
The beast barrelled after him.
Wet salivating fangs neared him, and he took a sudden right, barely making it out from one of the head’s enclosing jaws.
Umbra turned and raised both his hands forth, gulping down his spit as the beast stopped in its tracks, and both heads suddenly turned to him. Its eyes, not once losing sight of him.
“Fae Arts; Dark; Shadow Prison!” He chanted, and the shadows which lingered around his hands rushed ahead. Forming two black chains which once reaching Nera, burst into hundreds.
The chains engulfed Nera, wrapping around its every limb as more and more formed out of the first two. But this only slowed the beast down, as it tore the chains with ease, shattering the dark energy which made them as easily as it broke the ground it stood on.
But it was enough, enough time for Umbra to finish his chant.
“Formation of all that is, fire, water, air and earth. Counter of Light. Darkness, which I call upon. Darkness, which I serve. Darkness that simply is. Heed my plea, and against all odds…Destroy. Remove. Disintegrate and crush all else. Forbidden Class; Fae Arts; Greater Dark;” Umbra chanted.
And out of his palms, tendrils of the darkest black formed, spiralling about the air in between his hands and converging on a single point. Dozens…
Thousands of dark tendrils formed all around the Fae, each rushing out from his surroundings and converging into a single spot.
Condensing, until all that remained was a tiny sphere of black the size of a pebble.
A perfect sphere.
As Umbra’s hands shuddered, as it took all of the Fae’s concentration to keep the magic before him stable.
As a wide maddened grin formed over Umbra’s face, “You…Whatever you are…Begone.” He said, laughing maniacally as his hands suddenly twisted back, the bones breaking from the pressure the small sphere released.
Umbra’s hands fell limp, as the small sphere shot forth.
“All Devouring Darkness!”
The Fae finished his chant, and the tiny sphere suddenly exploded out into an ever-expanding cloud of pure darkness. That even as it met the ground, the earth was disintegrated, and the darkness continued to grow.
Breaking the last few chains, Nera turned to snarl at the encroaching darkness, planting its feet steadily into the ground as it raised its long necks and opened its mouths wide. “Djiin; Copy; All Devouring Darkness!” The beast chanted, and Umbra’s mouth fell open.
“No you can’t…” Umbra mumbled out, as thousands of tendrils of black energy all converged into the beast’s maws.
Forming not one.
But two, small pebble sized spheres of darkness.
Which Nera shot forth to meet the expanding cloud of energy, the two spheres piercing deep into the cloud before exploding themselves.
Darkness collided with darkness, the energies spiralling among one another before merging, and each exploding outwards with what little power remained after the clash.
But enough power, for the shockwave to send a flabbergasted Umbra flying.
The Fae tumbled over and over as he flew back, breaking more than a few bones when he smashed into the cavern’s wall.
Umbra slid out from the crater his body formed in the stone, groaning as he rose up, then groaning more loudly as he felt the damage. Both his arms were rendered useless from the reckless spell he had cast, a spell the beast had copied perfectly, and taken no damage from casting unlike him.
As it lay unscathed, and quickly approaching his position.
Umbra grimaced as shadows wrapped around his arms, both of them suddenly falling off before the dark energy took their place and formed new ones. He stretched them out briefly, but still felt several bones still broken within his body as he did. “How…How did you do that?” Umbra asked in a hiss, suddenly bursting into shadows and flowing aside as Nera’s lumbering body crashed into his previous position.
The beast’s claws tearing up the stone wall and ground as if it was merely butter as it spun, then shattering what remained once it came back around from its flip, coming to face the Dark Fae as he recovered.
Its body was recovering, but the Fae’s mind was broken.
Fear, it filled Umbra’s mind, as it shuddered from the sight before it.
“I-Impossible…” Umbra mumbled out, as he stepped away.
Nera stepped towards him, and in response Umbra tried to back off further.
“It took me hundreds of years to master casting that spell! How?!” Umbra exclaimed, as he stumbled and fell back.
Finding himself laying beneath the beast, with one of its blade-like sets of claws on either side, its two heads before him, and the cavern’s wall to his back.
Umbra had nowhere to run.
“How?” The beast asked in question, as its silver slits focused on him. “Because I can see, I see the magic, I see the very mana and how it acts. How it moves, how it changes, and how it takes shape. You said you were a monster? Well how does it feel, to meet a real one? But I guess you don’t need to tell me…Hah…I know how to is to feel weak.” Nera said with amusement.
“No…No I’m not weak!” Umbra exclaimed, shaking his head in denial as he rose against the stone wall.
As he shuddered, and trembled.
And as a thought came to him, Umbra realised.
He was afraid of Azkel.
He was afraid of Hayato.
And now, he was afraid of this beast before him.
“I am…I am weak?” The Fae asked in realisation.
Nera chuckled, both heads did, “I know…Well, I use to know, how that felt.” As one spoke now, and the other licked its fangs in anticipation. “But this…Hah…To be strong, I think I can get used to this.”
Suddenly that one head lunged down onto Umbra, giving the Fae no time to react or even speak.
Only scream, as it munched down on him. Chewing only twice before swallowing what remained.
The other head stared at the now content one with narrowed eyes, “Seriously? Please tell me we don’t share a stomach too…” Nerick asked in disgust.
“You never said don’t eat him…” Ivara argued.
“At the very damn least give me time to question a cornered enemy! And why is that something I have to mention in the first place!?” Nerick exclaimed.
Ivara opened her mouth to speak, but then closed it.
“You just swallowed a wing that got stuck in between your teeth, didn’t you?...”