“Geez…” Shu falls back on his bum, panting. “These things would’ve been so much easier…”
“If we didn’t have to hold back our powers,” Zhe finishes for Shu. He then looks towards Yan and Song. “At least you two don’t have to worry about it, since your attacks are mostly physical.”
Song notes the gash on Zhe’s shoulder which he got before they met. According to Yan, they took another tunnel to arrive at this place, hence their lateness. Song was sceptical at first until he saw Zhe’s wound. They must’ve had their fair share of Seekers to kill.
“I just want to go home and have a bath already,” Shu says.
“Not yet,” Song says.
“Yeah.” Yan nods.
“So you guys feel it too?” Zhe asks.
“I feel it too. Doesn’t make me want to go home any less though,” Shu grumbles.
Neither of the boys have yet to voice it out, but they can all feel the same overbearing presence since the start of their battle. Such a heavy, otherworldly presence… and it’s coming from within the chasm. This isn’t something that a normal Dan mine should be harbouring.
“So what’s the plan?” Yan asks.
“Lob a few Spirit Swords down there,” Shu suggests. “Maybe a few explosions ought to get their attention.”
Zhe raises his arms, and over thirty luminous blue swords, each adorned with beautiful runic symbols, hover around him. Justice－ Zhe’s Arcana ability, allows him to conjure these Spirit Blades made of pure Chi energy. With one swipe of his arm, he sends all of his blades down into the abyss. A second later, multiple explosions sound.
“Plan B,” Song says immediately.
“Can’t you have a little more faith in A first?” Shu rolls his eyes before checking the abyss. Still, nothing emerges.
“You could help with coming up with something, y’know?” Yan adds.
Zhe lets out a snort of amusement. “Well, that’s Song for you.”
Yan sighs as he stares into the chasm. “I’ll go in first, scout the area out then come back up to you.”
“You?” Shu raises a brow, not quite believing what he’s hearing. “Am I hearing this right? You are going down there first?”
“Don’t get me wrong, I’m the only one here who can do this,” Yan says. “The rest of you are kind of worthless at this.”
“Just go in and die already.” Song folds his arms in displeasure.
“As you wish.” Yan laughs. Then, black mist shrouds and envelops him. By the time they’ve dissipated, Yan is gone.
The Moon, Song thinks to himself. Yan’s Arcana ability allows him to be virtually invisible to the naked eye, even under the sun. Yan is already a phenomenal assassin without his powers, but with The Moon at his beck and call, he’s unrivalled at stealth. And something about this combination of abilities fill Song with disgust every time he thinks about it.
Several minutes tick by. Nothing happens. No sounds from the chasm, the same sensation where a hundred invisible phantoms are sitting on your shoulders and dragging you down, and the same stench of Seeker blood hanging in the silent air－ nothing is happening at all. The longer he waits, the more isolated Song feels. The silence in these mines is unexplainably maddening.
“So… Zhe,” Shu pushes himself back onto his feet. “I know it’s wrong to ask this, but I still wanna know.”
“What is it?”
“How do you work with someone like Yan anyway? Like, even within the Blossom, have you seen anyone this… how do I put it… provocative? Narcissistic too. And rude.”
Zhe gently closes his eyes. He doesn’t seem offended at all. “There are many things you don’t know about Yan. He’s not like this without reason.”
“And I’m guessing you aren’t going to tell us any of those reasons.”
“I can’t betray my partner.” Zhe’s eyes are sad now. “Some things are better left unsaid, but that means nobody will understand him but me. Well, even if the world goes against Yan, I’ll stand by his side to the end.”
“Talk about being melodramatic,” Shu says, chuckling. “I thought it’d be impossible to not hate someone like him, but I guess Purger partners are different. You really love him, don’t you?”
“Yes.” Zhe smiles, a small but tender one. “I love him very much.”
That boy doesn’t deserve someone like Zhe. Song shakes his dead, wondering what could he possibly see in Yan.
At least half an hour has passed by now. After bandaging their wounds and engaging in some light conversation, they’ve run out of things to do. And there is still no sign of activity from below. Shu is tapping his feet, his impatience showing. Zhe still has his solemn gaze bearing down on the abyss. Song yawns, his turn in wishing that he could be home having a warm bath.
Then, something prickles Song’s senses, causing his spine to tingle.
“There’s something down there that you all need to see,” calls Yan’s voice suddenly, and close, but Song can’t see him at all.
Shu’s shoulder jerks up, evidently startled. “Can you at least show yourself first?”
As he says that, black mist appears out of nowhere, shrouding around a silhouette, and from the coffin of mist emerges Yan. “Sorry, did I scare you?” he says, laughing.
“You and your cheap tricks!”
At least I can still sense him, Song thinks to himself. The Moon isn’t invincible, even with him.
“So what did you find down there?” Zhe asks.
“Nothing hostile but uh… it’d be better if you all saw it for yourselves,” Yan answers. “It’s a bit of a climb though.”
“No problem.” Song wags his finger at Shu, ushering for him to come closer. Then, he strolls towards the edge of the chasm.
“What is it?” Shu asks.
Shu nods, understanding his gesture. He hops onto Song’s back, and the silver-haired boy unhesitatingly takes a step over to the chasm and falls. Song can feel his stomach lurch as they plunge faster and faster into the abyss. Meanwhile, Shu channels his neutral Chi onto his partner’s arms, shielding them. Song throws his fist against the wall, punching through it with ease and using it to slow their descend.
Eventually, they arrive at the belly of the pit. Unlike the top, it’s pitch-black in here. Song hasn’t been keeping track of how long they took to get down, but considering that not even a speck of light can be seen from above, he can tell that it’s going to be a pain to climb back up again.
Shu summons a burst of neutral Chi energy to make a sunseed of his own. He takes the orb of white light in his hand and scans his surroundings. “Time to start looking. Should we wait for them?”
“Nah. Why should we wait for Yan?” Song says as he produces his own sunseed, bright purple in colour, and balances it with a finger. “Not sure what we’re supposed to find down here though.”
“Yan said nothing hostile but I’d keep my guard up if I were you,” Shu says.
“Duh.” Song winces. “Damn, that thing I’m feeling right now…”
“Yeah. We’d better make this quick.”
The overwhelming presence was already bad enough up there. Now that they’re much closer to the source, the both of them feel like they’re being crushed by an invisible force. Song knows that if it hadn’t been for their training, their bones would’ve been shattered by now.
They trudge towards the source of the power, each step heavier than the last. Five steps. Ten steps. Twenty. Fifty. Song is beginning to grow nervous. While they won’t die from the pressure alone, whatever that’s producing it must possess unimaginable power.
Their sunseeds eventually reveal a figure, humanoid in shape, lying on the ground. This must be what Yan was referring to. Song and Shu cautiously make their way towards it, their Chi simmering beneath their muscles, both of them ready to unleash their powers should the creature make the jump on them.
But it doesn’t move, even when they’re within touching distance of it.
“It’s... asleep?” Shu murmurs.
It’s a boy, stark naked, with flowing grey hair and what appears to be a set of wolf ears drooped over his head. His skin is smooth and fair. Slightly above his buttocks is a long, thick and lush tail, the shade of the fur noticeably darker than his hair. The bottom half of his legs and arms are covered in fur as well, while the rest of his body is very much human.
“Think it’s a good idea to wake him up?” Song asks.
“I think that’s a terrible idea. He’s definitely the source of this power. What if he－ you idiot! Stop!”
Even while Shu is talking, Song is already busy poking the wolf boy’s cheek. While Song has a curious, neutral expression on his face, Shu’s one is of absolute panic.
“Stop it! Moron! I swear, do you have pork buns for brains or something? Is eating the only thing you’re good at?”
“Calm down… sheesh! Why do you have to be so uptight about everything?” Song says, lightly slapping the wolf boy’s face now. He looks back at Shu, who looks like he’s having a stroke. “If he was actually hostile, he would’ve been attacking us with those Seekers, wouldn’t he?”
Shu relaxes a little at that. “Now that you mentioned it… I guess.”
“And since he hasn’t reacted to us yet, he’s probably different from the Seekers. I don’t think they’re related at all.”
“You know… you say the most logical things sometimes. Why can’t you be like this more often?”
“Using my brain is a pain. Most problems in the world can be solved with these anyway,” Song says, flexing his biceps. “Speaking of which, should we punch him to wake him up?”
“Are you actually an idiot?”
The wolf boy suddenly stirs, hiding his face in his shoulders. Shu takes a startled step back, but Song remains firm in his stance… and by that, it means he’s just poking the wolf boy’s cheek over and over again.
“Mmph… cut it out already!” the wolf boy grumbles, screwing his eyes shut even more tightly. “It’s bad enough you kidnapped me, now you won’t let me sleep? Really?”
“Wow, it can talk,” Song says.
“Well, he does look human… mostly.”
To Song and Shu’s surprise, the crushing force surrounding them seems to be growing weaker by the moment. By the time the wolf boy is sitting upright and rubbing his eyes, the strange power has completely vanished.
“It’s gone? Just like that?” Shu focuses his attention on the wolf boy.
“What’s gone?” the wolf boy asks, yawning. “Huh? You aren’t the Mevolians at all.”
“Mevolians? You mean those metallic Void Seekers?” Shu asks.
“Void Seekers? Don’t know what that is, but they are metallic so I guess that’s what you must be talking about.”
Song and Shu begin introducing themselves, and explain about the strange power that’s been suffocating them up till the moment of his awakening.
“Ah, that,” the wolf boy says, nodding. “I’m not exactly sure what that is either, but I remember my dad said that if I were to be greatly distressed, I’ll exert this pressure the next time I sleep.” He then beams at the both of them, clearly delighted to be in their presence. “My name is Anza Sedendi Fenrea.”
“What kind of name is that?” Song blurts out, earning himself a smack on the head from Shu.
“W-well… what kind of name is ‘Song’ anyway!” Anza counters, flustered by Song’s sudden bluntness.
“Who knows. I didn’t name myself.” Song shrugs.
“W-what? What kind of response is that?” Anza fumes. “I’ll have you know that the Fenrea family is royalty, one of the most renowned names from where I came from!”
“Where you came from?” Shu asks. “Where did you come from anyway?”
Anza shrinks back and droops his ears. “Uh, uhm, I think I’ve said too much already.”
“Let me guess,” Song says. “The Crimson Void, like the Seekers?”
“Crimson Void? Huh? Seekers… oh, if you mean where the Mevolians came from…” Anza hesitates. “I’m sorry, I really can’t say much about myself.”
“Whatever.” Song sighs, getting up. “So what do we do with him?”
“I hate to say it, but we might have to wait for Yan and Zhe before we can decide,” Shu says.
“Yan and Zhe?” Anza asks.
“Another Purger pair,” Song answers. “Zhe is the serious one. Yan is the annoying one. Just remember that.”
Yan and Zhe shortly arrive at the scene, and Shu promptly introduces Anza to them while Song continues to play with the wolf boy.
“And what do you plan to do with him?” Yan asks.
Song can detect an unnatural tang of animosity from his tone. Usually he always sounds smug and provocative, but this time it’s as if he’s really bothered about something.
Shu must’ve known this as well. He hesitates before saying, “We’ll need your input on this too, naturally, but if you ask me I think it’s better to leave him be for now.”
Yan clenches his fists, his eyes widened and blank, like he’s at the brink of rage. Song can’t understand Yan’s reaction at all; he almost never loses his cool. Zhe obviously notices this as well, and he seems to be torn between trying to hold his partner back and leaving him be. What the hell are they both so distressed about?
“You both realise that he’s from the Crimson Void, don’t you?” Yan growls, stepping forward. “Not a single being from our realm looks like that, and that power is completely out of this world too. You felt it. You know.”
Shu looks back at Anza, who’s already stopped playing finger games with Song and is now looking a little nervous. The boy is extremely easy to read. Even without his ears drooping, his expression itself is already a dead giveaway. That means their suspicions of him were true.
“Yeah, we know.” Shu turns back to Yan, boldly meeting his piercing glare. “But he isn’t hostile. Also, he’s completely unrelated to those Seekers. Anza mentioned something about being kidnapped, so he’s probably innocent.”
“You? Sparing a Void Seeker? Taking into account that he might be so-called ‘innocent’?” Yan bursts out in laughter, a non-humorous one. “Cut the bullshit and just kill him already. Isn’t that more natural for the both of you?”
Song is starting to grow annoyed. “What’s wrong with you?”
“What’s wrong with me?” Yan snorts contemptuously. “It’s a bit too late to play goody-two-shoes with me now, isn’t it? Why do you care about sparing an innocent Seeker’s life now, of all times?”
“Yan!” Zhe shouts, shocking Shu, Song and Anza.
Yan whips around to face his partner, then darts his gaze back at the Purger pair and the wolf boy. Something in Zhe’s tone must’ve reminded Yan of something, because he stops talking immediately, grits his teeth in anger and storms off.
“Sorry,” Zhe says, bowing slightly. “I know it all looks really weird now, but please do me a favour and don’t pursue this matter.”
Song has never seen Yan this upset, nor has he seen Zhe this worried about him before either. There’s definitely a lot about the pair that he doesn’t know about.
As Zhe turns around to chase after his partner, Shu calls out to him. “Hey! What about Anza?”
“I’ll leave him to the both of you. We’ll talk when we get back!”
And just like that, the both of them are gone. Shu sighs and says, “Of course, leave the clean up to us, those jerks.”
“So… what now?” Anza asks. Even though Yan and Zhe are gone, the previous exchange probably shook him a little. He doesn’t look nearly as comfortable with them now. “Are you going to kill me?”
“That depends,” Shu answers, placing a hand by his hip. “Yan is right. If you came from the Crimson Void, then that means you’re a Void Seeker. Our job is to eradicate your kind, but…”
“Eeeh? But I like him,” Song says, taking Anza by the arm and pulling him close.
“That’s not good enough of a reason to spare him, y’know…”
“Then we should find out more about him. Hey Anza, have you killed any humans in this realm before? To devour their souls and all that stuff that Seekers always do.”
“No,” Anza answers firmly.
“Good enough for me.”
“Idiot!” Shu knuckles Song on his skull. “You’re going to believe him just like that?”
“Ow. Well, maybe. Either way, I’m not killing him.”
“You’ve felt his power too. Even if he is innocent, Father is going to kill us if we let a Seeker with so much power slip by. Are you going to take responsibility for that too?”
“Yes.” Song jumps to his feet, offering his hand to Anza, who meekly accepts it. “If Yan reports it, we’ll get punished badly, all four of us. But if we kill an innocent like that now, I won’t be able to live with it for rest of my life. You’re the same too, aren’t you?”
Shu clicks his tongue in annoyance, and Song knows he hit the bullseye. Shu then turns his gaze to Anza, who’s giving him the puppy eyes, his lush tail wagging nervously behind.
“Fine, fine, whatever! Just know that if Yan really reports us to Father, you’re not the only one paying for this decision.”
Anza face immediately lights up, and his tail is wagging energetically now. “Thank you!” He takes both of Song’s hands, his beam growing even more radiant. ‘Thank you so much, both of you!”
Song’s lips break into a smile. “Thanks. You’re really the best partner I can ever ask for.”
Shu puffs his steadily reddening cheeks, his flustered reaction causing Song’s heart to skip a beat. “Of course. Geez… the bullshit I have to put up for you. But like we said before, aside from the punishment we might be taking, you’re the one taking responsibility for everything else regarding him.”
“Naturally. Responsibility and I go hand-in-hand. You can count on me to take care of him.”
Shu’s eye twitches. “Responsibility and you… you know, I’m regretting everything right about now.”
Song laughs, taking Anza’s hand and leading him forward with Shu following closely behind.
Suddenly, Song looks over his shoulder to his beloved partner. He still has a smile on his face, but this time there’s something cold and deadly about his expression. Song’s eyes flash golden for the briefest moment, like the shimmer of a morning dew drop.
“Besides, if he tries anything funny, I’ll just kill him.”