The two creatures continued to stare each other down, one constantly moving as if afraid to be caught off guard a second time, while the other contemptuously waited for the others response. Although Mark had seemed rather friendly to his fellow scourge, the things inability to adapt to the situation had begun to grate on his nerves….
The previously clear air had a low wall of spores beginning to form as they continued to pour in through the small space beneath the door and from the underside of Ophio’s torso…. Mark’s own self-inflicted wounds continued to grow, albeit at a phenomenally reduced pace. The spines slowly peeking higher and higher out from his back as sounds of popping echoed throughout the room from their forced growth….
Those same wounds had released copious amounts of blood, all gently flowing down his grotesque form to puddle at his mangled feet. As the blood branched off, a good portion seemed to be attracted towards the pacing panther while another branched off towards the door…..
Meanwhile, Third continued to have his panic attack as he quickly wavered between a horrifying visage of anxiety and another of pure animosity… He seemed completely torn between helping his master and creator while also fearing what will happen once the situation is resolved. He was the one to bring the perpetrator to his master, many sentinels had lost their short lives for simpler things….
Solomon continued fighting his inner petrification as his body locked his mind down in a pure feeling of terror…. Every one of his cells seem to be trying to get away as they reacted to the various horrors in the room, only throwing him further into despair… He could barely think as his own human instincts seemed to scream for him to run…
‘My entire body feels as if it's drowning…. This isn’t even the first time this has happened, everything Mark does simply pushes the limits of what my mind can handle…. The sheer brutality of every situation he finds himself in is everything I have ever dreamed of, yet now that I am able to participate my stupid fucking body is holding me back….’
Blood could be seen leaking from his mouth as bit down on his own tongue, using pain to overcome his fear… His teeth quickly became stained red as he bared them and hissed at the combination of pain and terror swirling inside himself….
‘I asked to be taken away, not to be babysat the entire time! I wanted to do something… ANYTHING! Now that I think about it, the only reason I could probably even kill those pathetic people who desperately clawed at each other for survival was because of the sheer hatred I had for them…. I can’t generate that same feeling for everyone I meet, even knowing that most humans are exactly the same…. If I want to be able to live freely the way Mark does…’
Solomon desperately looked at Mark’s distorted form…. With red flowing freely from the corners of his mouth, he looked the very image of a tortured survivor…. The pain in his eyes easily ignored when compared to the primal want conveyed in every miniscule positioning of his body….
‘I can’t stay human. I NEED TO BE MORE!’
While this inner resolution was quite important, it went completely unnoticed as the two scourges seemed to finally break their stalemate….
The panther had ceased its threatening gestures, instead remaining still to stare meaningfully at Mark…. He had been thoroughly surprised by the human, at first thinking it was another simple minded fool seeking fame or glory at the hands of nefarious means…. The name Ophio had spread far across South America for his amazing abilities with modifications, despite only a week or so having passed since he arrived…. Few had actually dared to approach his towering mushroom fortress and his veritable army of abominations, yet those that had all shared the same tenacity and desire for strength. He helped shape them, literally and figuratively in the little time they had together before sending them off to repay their debts…. Of course his services weren’t free nor cheap. He was a scourge after all, not some benevolent champion offering facelifts to every common beggar.
Some he gave a sick and twisted version of the immortality they desired while others he gave unprecedented beauty to cover the horrifying things that crawled beneath their disguises…. All the while using them to spread his awareness across the world…. The discrete parasites he had implemented inside them being carried to every corner of the world, leaving some surviving communities completely intact while decimating others...
In fact, those same people were the reason he had constructed a relatively humanistic style homestead in his fortress… It gave a sense of prestige and professionalism that humbled even the most arrogant before he sweet talked them into signing their lives away….
The fact that there were only twenty scourges meant that he only had the chance to meet three of his brothers and a sister as well…. These encounters had been disastrous as each of their desires clashed in the moment, only stopping before bloodshed at the remembrance of the need for cooperation…. Being a natural disaster only meant so much in the face of billions of humans who, although had been greatly whittled down in the beginnings of the Gift, were still very present and very desperate…….. And maybe a secret fear of whatever penalty may occur for any who went against this advice…. …...That same desperation is what ultimately convinced each Scourge to depart in peace, knowing that one day there may come a time that they would fight….
Meeting another had been far from his expectations as he was now forced to entertain not only a fellow scourge but an abomination that brought other abominations to their knees…. The few things he had been explicitly informed at the time of his awakening had specifically said a scourge couldn’t be the native intelligent species… And while that was typically Human, variations had changed the description, still the rule thoroughly applied itself across the cosmos….
Having a 21st scourge in the competition for this world was throwing all of Ophio’s carefully laid plans awry…. Now, not only was this anomaly making its presence known, it had even approached him in his most vulnerable place with him completely unaware…. He began to wonder if killing him at the moment would be for the best…. A Scourge’s abilities far outweighed what Pioneers were given… if the human had the same advantage he could become an enormous threat should he decide to side with other humans instead of following their mission…
Before Ophio could truly decide on ending Mark, the same man had a few things to say….
“Ah- ah- ahh….. Don’t even think about it…. Just warning you that I am willing to die if you try and kill me... “
Mark briefly flashed his white fire high above the spores, before quickly extinguishing it should he accidently set everything ablaze….
That brief moment was all he needed however as the panther jumped in fright, all the spores that had been pouring into the room began to be siphoned out as the cat’s mossy hair stood on end…. Although the fire couldn’t really do anything…. He still had bad past experiences with the volatile substances…..
“What is it you want abomination…”
Mark had the gall to actually pretend to be offended, fanning his clawed hand in front of his gaping maw…The gesture was only barely able to hide his smirk from showing as he looked at the cautious cat….
“Nothing much…. I simply have three wishes…. If you actually help me, I will do anything you ask of me afterwards….”
“What is it you want….”
Slowly encroaching on territory he was more familiar with, Ophio began to relax, although he was unwilling to completely let up his guard given the person he was currently with….
“Like I said… Only three things. First, I want to know what makes scourges so powerful compared to others and why there can only be twenty… When I became one I was just given the title…. The last scourge I met seemed to hint at being given a suitable amount of information, and at the time, it slipped my mind to ask just what he was given…. Second, I want the locations of all the scourges that you know of, or at least their most recent locations…”
Mark glanced towards Solomon as if reassuring his presence before returning to the wary cat...
“And finally, I want you to modify our bodies a tad bit…”
Lying on the wooden operating table, Mark reflected on the past few hours… Even now he could feel countless foreign objects swimming throughout his body… Compared to before, every inch of his body felt raw and exposed from the forced regeneration….
The process had been brutal as the enormous fungus man loomed over them, constantly shoving foreign plant matter and bugs through a hole in their abdomens to disperse throughout their systems….
The man even described what he was doing as Solomon writhed in agony and Mark silently endured the procedure…..
Ophio described in perverse detail how he built a scaffolding around their brains, spawning artificial neurons that would slowly merge with the rest of their brain matter…. And how it would continue to grow throughout their bodies, slowly replacing all the existing neurons with a synthetic plant and flesh compound… At the same time, most of their cells were forcibly expanded while simultaneously compressing them. Increasing their ability to carry energies while retaining size, the remaining cells would naturally be replaced with the higher capacity ones with time…. While he was at it, Ophio would rewrite the DNA contained within each cell to support all the changes he would make to their bodies, while planting lens spores in their eyes that would eventually fully envelope them as well as enhance their eyesight...
Next, he began to work on the muscular tissue around their bodies, slowly stripping each layer away before replacing it with a thin mesh of plant wire that would also slowly integrate with their natural processes. After one mesh was placed, he would return the original layer of muscle tissue so they could naturally combine easier…He then seeded all the open cavities in their bodies with various fungi that would help cleanse internal impurities, increase blood circulation, and even worked some into the inner marrow of some of the larger bones to aid in blood cell formation. To top it all off, most to all the plants used were flame retardant through their hybrid natures, meaning they shouldn’t give any glaring weakness due to their very nature.
The process was far from over, most of the procedure would occur overtime as their bodies adjusted to the new form. The DNA Ophio had replicated inducing more changes overtime with no real end as their bodies would continuously adjust and modify themselves according to their hosts. The simple way it was made, perfectly combined with system stats to incorporate each change into the plant parts as if they had originally been a part of their host. In the end, some of the fungi in their organs had formed plant born bugs, although their only purposes were to act as higher DNA banks, used to make changes incase they made any more changes to their bodies. The little bugs would quickly begin to rewrite their existing DNA much like how Ophio had done to incorporate the new bodily changes into their new little micro-ecosystem…. The most amazing aspect of it, was the fact that their ability to photosynthesize sunlight like other plants carried over, easing much of the burden that such a large increase in functionality would normally incur.
Meanwhile, while Solomon struggled to overcome the pain of such a long operation, Mark had smoothly allowed the transformations. Something like this was rather minor compared to his past operations, giving him the chance to observe everything occurring inside himself through his GeoKinesis as Ophio performed their operations simultaneously.
Thankfully, he had been able to sense the weak psychic construct the other Scourge had attempted to form with the insects and other plant life inside their bodies…. Once the operation had been completed, it was a simple willing of that connection to snap and forming a similar one of his own…
The ability to transmit mental constructs to other beings, whether that be words, pictures, videos you name it.
Gives basic knowledge on forming constructs and formation of bridges to other beings.
Boosts Will by 10%
Which had resulted in him finally gaining Telepathy, although he hadn’t actually had the chance to gain such a notable psychic ability until this moment….
As for the operation….
An operation so painful, many worlds have banned it from the sheer levels it could produce. Countless have died from the pain alone, not considering the practitioner's skill, which in most cases, is inadequate also resulting in the patient's death.
This complicated process strips nearly every cell from a being's body before reconstructing it in a superior fashion, in a way acting as an evolution.... When done successfully, the Tipua Seedling will grow alongside a user... Unfortunately, if you are unlucky enough to survive a botched operation, you can only hope for a swift death…
Those that are able to develop their seedling, will find a whole new world of opportunities...
Boosts all base attributes except Fate by 10%
You are now able to force evolutions.
Although Ophio had known immediately that he had lost contact with the parasite inside Mark, he simply let it go knowing the terms of agreement they had previously set in place would still stand. Someone like Mark needed his abilities, so burning that bridge would only harm the both of the them….
Ophio still couldn’t believe Mark had accepted the conditions so easily, even knowing he could remove any controlling methods put into their bodies, the price of his wishes was steep….
“So you want the full package?” Ophio couldn’t help but look at Mark as if he were insane….
No one had ever wanted that, it literally entailed recreating every inch of someone’s body…. There was no possible way to suppress the kind of pain that procedure would entail…
Mark simply nodded his head, signing away for both himself and Solomon knowing the other man would accept in a heartbeat, despite barely knowing him. Ophio could only take Mark’s agreement for the both of them before granting his other requests….
“Fine then… First, if you hadn’t already figured it out… Our mutations are what set us apart. I myself started as a tiny spore, but quickly through a few mutations have already grown this strong… In a few more years, there's no telling how powerful i’ll be…. Luckily we were given a few free ones to start, only now we have to get them through the black market and evolutions. Unfortunately since no one knows where the black market is, we can’t use it either. Although anyone can tamper with their bodies, mutations can overcome biological limits, so where one would normally reject some foreign tissue, a mutation can forcibly install it without repercussions. I can’t tell you why there can only be twenty…. Something deep inside me seems to reject the mere thought…. If there is any reason, whoever made us Scourges decided not to tell us…. Does that satisfy wish number one…”
Mark nodded once again, a solemn expression on his face… ‘Damn, that's exactly what I thought was happening…. Oh well, can’t claim to have already known that after he said it, at least my suspicion was confirmed…’
“Your second wish is nearly impossible to fulfill… The few that I have met all roam the world freely…. Even the agents I have dispatched only catch sight of them occasionally before I receive reports they’re already halfway across the world…. The only one I can give you a decent location of would be Anahita… She based herself somewhere south of India, I believe she installed herself as a supposed goddess and was working on enslaving the neighboring people…..”
Ophio shrugged at what little he gave…. The operation he would soon give the two would outweigh the lack of information either way….
“Fine, that's enough. Just tell us what you wanted before we begin this operation… I’d rather think on it as you do your thing….” Mark could only accept the situation for what it was… There was still eighteen more scourge that might have an idea….
The Fungal Scourge seemed surprised he actually was willing to bring the cost back up once again…. Most people waited until the end and tried to skip out on their payments leading them to become possessed by the parasites he implanted inside them….
Ophio looked at Mark for a few moments before a wide grin spread across his face….
“Nothing much… I just need you to kill a Scourge…..”