Shu looks towards the source of the voice. A gale sweeps across the field, and from the winds appears Shen― a Purger with sleek black hair that veils over half of his face. The Blossom’s doctor and miracle worker strolls towards them, neither looking hostile nor friendly towards the boys.


“What’re you talking about?” Shu asks.


Shen nods at Song’s corpse. “He has passed the test, and as such, Father has decided to give him a second chance at life.” When Shu looks even more confused, Shen gestures towards his Soldier. “Emperor of Demise, may I ask for a moment with your partner?”


Emperor of Demise? Shu isn’t sure where that new title came from, but he can’t help but trust in Shen’s words. He nods.


“Thank you.”


Shen reaches out and touches Song’s chest. The warmth in the air intensifies, and now Shen appears to be radiating in a glow of white light. Suddenly, a figure bursts from his back, a ghostly skeleton thrice as tall as him, with a tattered robe dangling from its frame while wielding a long staff.


The Yin of the Empress. Shu tenses and is about to move in, but Long stops him. The look on Long’s face suggests that there’s nothing to be worried about, and somehow Shu trusts him despite their past differences. What else could he do? He has nothing left to lose.


The gigantic spectral skeleton raises its arm, and ghastly wisps begin to gather around its palm. Meanwhile, Shen’s hand is still on Song’s body, the glow of light still too bright for Shu to look at them directly. A thumping sound booms from the skeleton, forming a steady rhythm, like the sound of a heartbeat. The wisps eventually gather into an orb in its hand, and the phantom reaches out to Song, planting it into his body. The light intensifies, and Shu is now forced to squeeze his eyes shut.


Shu suddenly senses a change from Song through his shared senses with the Golden Soldier. He opens his eyes. The light is gone. Once his vision is clear, the first thing he notices is the twisted piece of charred thing replacing Song’s severed arm.


But more importantly, Song is breathing.


“Song…” Tears well up in Shu’s eyes, and he chokes. “SONG!”


Shu buries his face on his resurrected partner and cries without restraint, his emotional bawling bordering on a half-shout. The ghostly creature behind Shen dissipates away, and the doctor’s stoical expression changes into one of warmth as he watches the scene before him.


“Now if you’ll excuse me, you have one more friend that needs tending to,” Shen says.


From the battered gates, Lin staggers towards the courtyard with Mei’s corpse in his arms. White petals carried by a mysterious gust of wind wrap around the legendary doctor, and almost instantly, he appears right before the Purger pair. Though looking composed on the surface, the desperation in Lin’s eyes betray the front he’s trying to put up. Lin literally saw Shen resurrect Song just moments ago with his very eyes; he knows Shen will do the same for Mei, and yet he still looks as if he’s about to break down any second.


“At ease, child,” Shen says with a gentle smile. “As long as it’s within an hour, I can bring him back to life.”


Lin bites his lip and nods, blinking his tears back. Shen summons the strange phantom skeleton again, and once more, he performs the enigmatic ritual for Mei. When Lin finally breaks down in tears and presses his face against Mei’s chest, Shu knows that the resurrection has worked on him as well.


“Touching, isn’t it?”


Long and Zhou jerk from shock to the voice, recognising it immediately.


“Shu, focus!” Long barks. “It’s Kiin!”


Startled and confused, Shu looks around to get a better sense of the situation. He doesn’t see Kiin anywhere.


“At ease, you feisty brats. You’ve proven your strength, your conviction, and as a reward, I permit you to live. For now.”


Kiin’s disembodied voice booms throughout the courtyard, as if the heavens itself is speaking to the world.


“I thought we killed you,” Zhou growls.


“Naive. It seems that you still do not fully understand what I am.”


The red skies darken, and the air glitters in particles of Chi energy that seem to be coming out of nowhere. They gather towards the centre of the courtyard, taking the form of a humanoid figure― Kiin appears once more in the flesh, looking none the worse for wear, as if their battle previously didn’t even happen.


Zhou clicks his tongue and seethes in rage. Long narrows his eyes. Both Purgers drop into combat stance, Long unleashing the golden Chi from his Yin and Zhou taking the form of the crystalline angel once more.


But Kiin simply raises hand, and suddenly Long and Zhou drop to their knees, planting their hands on the ground before them for support.


“What… is…” Long says labouredly, as if he’s trying to speak while being crushed by a boulder.


Meanwhile, Zhou’s crystalline form crumbles, and he reverts back to his human form.


“There are many arcana that I’ve not used in that battle. Surely you didn’t believe that was the true extent of my powers, did you?” Kiin glances at Lin and Mei, and gives a sympathetic look at the pair. He then shifts his attention back to Shu. “Your Yin, however, even in its current infantile state, would be more troublesome to deal with.”


Shu suddenly feels an invisible force weighing his body down, and he drops to his knees as well― gravity. Somehow, Kiin is commanding gravity to restrain them on the ground. It feels as if something is crushing every muscle, every organ, every bone in his body. In the blink of an eye, he substitutes places with another Soldier on the field some distance away. The invisible weight lifts from him, but he can still feel a dull aching sensation gnawing at his body.


“And to think your powers will grow even more,” Kiin says. “But this is not why I’m here. I’ve returned to congratulate you boys for surviving my trial.”


The pressure holding Long and Zhou down lifts. Long staggers back to his feet, rubbing his arm. “Shen mentioned a test. So what’s the reason behind all this?”


“The path you and Song have chosen are one and the same, but I need proof that you’re both worthy of such a destiny. If I were to let every Purger who wishes to leave the Palace go, what army would I have left to face against the Void Seekers?” Kiin points at Long. “Only one of you can be the Dimensional Outlier, and know that only one of you can survive this journey.”


“Zhou and I will both live,” Long says. “I don’t care if you’re a god, or what the Oracle said was true. We will both live.”


“Huh?” Shu says, confused. “Dimensional Outlier? What’re you talking about?”


Kiin smiles. “Song wishes to escape from the Palace, does he not? You cannot escape from the Blossom, not as long as I’m in this world.”


“And that’s why we’ll escape to another world,” Long says, this time sounding as if he’s directing his words at Shu. “If we cross dimensions, Kiin won’t be able to hunt us down anymore… or so he says. And we’ll be something known as Dimensional Outliers.” Long looks at his partner, his expression softening. “To be honest, even I don’t know what that means… but if we can break away from our lives as Purgers, then so be it.”


Shu shakes his head. “Escaping to another world… what the hell are you talking about?”


“If you plan to tread down this path with your partner, then you will know these answers soon enough. Seek out the Void Seeker which you spared, the one that started this all for the both of you.” The leader of the Black Blossom chuckles as he makes his way back to the Hall of Final Transcendence. “Your battle is over for now. Enjoy your peace while it lasts.” And with that, Kiin’s body gradually fades from existence with the Moon.


Shu looks towards the Golden Soldier carrying Song’s slumbering body, and accepts the situation as it is. Crossing dimensions, Dimensional Outliers, none of that matters to him right now― the only thing he cares is that this isn’t his last day with his beloved partner.


About the author


Bio: Pen name: Han Sung Chul

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