I sat in silence and processed everything he told me. And I believed it. This is shit that I knew I wasn’t supposed to know. Insanity! Somehow, I knew FREAKING DANTE THE POET, was telling the truth.
We were in a conference room. He showed me a vision while speaking the tale. Something else came to mind too…I was sure he didn’t know but I did. The book. There was a possibility that it gave me the ability to create deity-trappers. Or at least gave me the drive to conjure one up.
The immense aura around Dante told me, not with words, but with an implanted hint in my head. I simply put two and two together. I could be wrong but…suddenly knowing how to construct an advance deity-negating circle couldn’t be just a mere coincidence based on the nature of this book, right?
I stuffed the knowledge of it in the back of my mind. As long as it was stuck down here, the damn thing threatened no one.
Everyone assumed Dante lied at odds with the king, but in fact, the opposite. To keep the ancient book imprisoned was his duty. The king didn’t want to lock him here, but couldn’t risk having the book escape into the open. He gave Dante the knowledge to at least build a place to live until the king found a way to destroy the tome, if it can be destroyed.
On top of that, the king gave him five years to spend on earth before the book’s essence became too much to continue holding down. Apparently, back in those times, the book’s powers increased by the day.
Dante hadn’t realized it until many years later. It’s a crazy test of his patience, but he’d have to endure it until the answers entered his mind.
“Before you go back up, to presumably get yourself killed again, I will train you,” Dante said, his voice giving me no choice. “Be warned that afterwards, you will always be partially in what you refer to as state three.”
I flinched. Was this guy reading my thoughts? Talk about invasive. But the training…training from Ghost himself. I could turn it into my weapon.
“Should I ask why you’re helping? What’s in it for you?” I said.
“You remaining alive long enough to give a letter to my son, for starts,” he replied.
An envelope manifested from nothing and landed in my hand. “Second, this meeting between you and I cannot be mere coincidence. Whether it is or not, I need you to be different when you go back. You’ve got the eyes of someone who’s seen the hells of the place outside of this dimension. The depths. Now I will train you into a hardened soldier. I won’t keep you here long, but you must learn to stand up to those that tower above you. I’ll give you a start. When you get home, you’ll figure out the rest yourself. Your states as you call them are nothing but pieces of your true self. You’ll need them to face the corruption that kicked you down here. I do not know what they’re planning, but you can be sure that it could end life the way you know it.”
We wasted no time afterwards. He offered lunch, but I declined, fearing that one of his chefs poisoned the food. I wasn’t hungry but I pushed any emerging thoughts of food to the deepest corners of my mind. An ability of mine that was useful during my initial punishment—now was as a good time as any to put it to use.
Ghost’s…er, I mean Dante’s training made Amelia’s feel like something out of the boy scouts. He aimed to do whatever it took to get me into state three. Break me. The man would not listen to my “it’s impossible” excuses.
The routine went as followed: super combat training while fully exerting my tank, rapidly filling it then a simultaneous ordeal that consisted of mastering state two and breaking into three.
After several hours, Dante forced me to meditate, similar to how I did so with Mom. I wasn’t sure how much time passed of this training—the daylight never ended in this place.
Dante offered me water, which I had no choice but to accept. Even on the surface, I couldn’t ignore hydration. Fortunately, it was nice and ice cold. I could only assume he’d delete any minion who tried anything.
After the break, it was back to the training. Hours upon hours. Eventually, I gotten so used to state two that it no longer felt special.
Binding didn’t work on Dante. Not that I relied on it, but I’d fold that knowledge into the filing cabinets of my mental notes.
As I got up to fight what felt like round six hundred, something happened. My arms caught on fire. Yep. Didn’t feel anything, but they combusted. Before I could say anything, the flames vanished and hadn’t returned.
“Does this happen often in your dimension?” I asked while checking myself for burns. None.
“No, never seen such a thing nor were there any reports,” Dante replied. The pressure of his immense power was still strong, but I’ve gotten used to it. Maybe even absorbed some of the invisible essence, that is if it’s possible.
“Weird,” I said. “Let me try something.”
I focused and reached inside. There, I heard a voice. Her voice.
“Once I undo this lock, my son, there is no going back,” she said softly. “You will always remain partially in this state. I don’t know where this sudden control of your essence has come from, but it is time. Also…I’m glad you’re safe. I cannot sense of your location but it’s easier to communicate. I do not like that you’re drifting in a plane of the dead. Return to the human world.”
Mom’s presence vanished before I could say anything.
Then the pain came.
My nerves felt like they were being plucked one by one then flash fried. I clenched my teeth but as quickly as the pain arrived, it left. Knowledge entered my mind. A fuck load of essence flooded through my veins—so much that it felt intoxicating.
I focused, took a deep breath, and allowed the power to adjust itself. The meditation made this possible. Practice did make perfect.
“I see. You’re partially there,” Dante said. “Your eyes will probably glow when you get angry. Use it to exert intimidation over your foes or perhaps tease friends. You’ve finally stepped in the right direction. Unlock the state. Let’s wrap this training up.”
I nodded. It was finally time to go back to the human world. Back to Middleburg. Back home. I couldn’t wait to see Amelia again. Miliana appeared from nowhere in adult form, eyes locked on me. Dammit, just leave me alone already.
Dante folded his arms, clearly displeased to see the devil girl.
“You’re still here,” I said, not a question, just a statement.
“Fight me,” she said. “If I win, you take me with you. Make me human. I don’t want to eat anyone anymore. I don’t want to be here anymore.”
“It doesn’t matter how much you explain it to her,” Dante interrupted. “She’s got in her mind that you have the ability to undo all wrongs, turn her human. It’s not a fight you could easily win, if at all, but test that new state of yours. Prove me wrong and I’ll handle the rest. One good respawn should fix her up.”
“What happens to the people she’s eaten?” I asked, curious.
“Unfortunately, there’s no saving them. They’ll more than likely respawn someone in the depths. The chain on them will probably anchor them in their location.”
“That’s seriously messed up, but…it’s either let them remain as chewed food in your gut or free them up,” I said. Mack would appreciate it.
Miliana’s eyes were a bit frantic.
“You will uphold to your end of the deal.”
“You misunderstand the situation,” I said. “I don’t intend to lose.”
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Alvin Atwater is a man of humor, a starving author. With a unique writing style that can outshine even Jim Butcher, Patria Briggs, or Kevin Hearne, he is a character-driven lovable lump of mass. Born in Florida, he's on a mission to defeat his arch nemesis, Florida Man, once and for all.
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Author of the Blood for Soul series and a secret coming-of-the-age epic fantasy. Lover of anime and manga: so yeah, weeb shit? Fun. Sue me haha.
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