Ink laughed, unable to stop, even when nine thin strands of consciousness flew out of the light and flew. After that, the same number of streams separated from each of the small particles of consciousness that spread throughout the world of the mind. Thin lines ran like crazy animals. They easily passed through the usual area, but fought hard against the monolithic parts of hidden memories. At the beginning of the clashes there were several thousand, then tens of thousands, hundreds ... and the braces could not stand it. Together with the crumbling layers, the memories of living as a mortal life returned.
Images of farewell parents and a tiger with a tail-snake turned out to be imaginary paintings that he himself created while reading a popular web novel. Memories surged through a torrential stream, but could not put out the light. Ink saw clearly and clearly every freed particle of the past. He was not an orphan, and his real parents lived in a zero world. The freed memory made it possible to understand something very important. Staples were imposed not only after falling into the world of reflection, but also much earlier. Somehow he met a monster on the road, but after a few minutes uncomfortable images were erased from his memory, replacing a large dog in a vague way. Part of the real memory became the first pebble scrap.
After that meeting, Ink saw something mysterious in every dog. Even if the memories were hidden, part of the mind knew the truth ...
Ink remembered that he had three younger ones - two brothers and a sister. One was only a couple of years younger, and the twins went to kindergarten. Usually Ink himself took the younger ones and brought them home, but somehow asked the second to take the little one, because at that time he himself was preparing to enter the university. The terrible words that the irreparable happened shocked him to the ground. He fled to the kindergarten, but on the spot he saw only a foundation pit - even the building was not preserved. One of the gathered onlookers said "This is a terrorist attack", others blamed some countries with missile launches and exercises, and Ink stood and wanted to yell at each of them, because the absurdity of the explanations caused him anger.
Where did the terrorists come from in their peaceful and quiet town? Which missiles are so far from the borders? Ink had already thrown his fists at the lover of black humor, who considered the death of his three younger ones a good occasion for jokes, but stopped halfway. Then it even seemed strange to him, why am I here? In home clothes and slippers? He forgot. He looked at the foundation pit and it seemed to him that once upon a time in this place they wanted to build something and simply abandoned it. He forgot about the younger ones and with some bewilderment thought about his incomprehensible desire to enter a prestigious university. Then a good half of aspirations was taken out of it, along with the memory. The reason he tried so hard ... He just forgot it.
At home, father lazily quarreled with his mother, asking why she needed to take so much clothes for small children in a used goods store. She said something about gifts to her cousin, who supposedly would soon have a boy or a girl, so she bought for both sexes, and if there are twins, everything will come in handy together. Ink carried "his old notebooks" into the garage, not noticing the sparkling novelty of some of them. Since that time, he has cooled off to study, but for some reason he began to sympathize with light novels, telling about the tragic fate of the hero. He was especially sympathetic to stories of characters losing their beloved relatives who hit the road and took revenge on unknown offenders in the most terrible way. Love for this kind of drama seemed to Ink strange and reprehensible, speaking the language of notorious schoolchildren - girls. He was very ashamed of this and was afraid to admit to others.
And there was a war. The first shots showing the battle of a city destroying a man in glowing orange armor and an unknown monster were broadcast on almost all channels, but only an hour passed and everything was forgotten. But vague knowledge appeared that one country again did not share something with its neighbors and as a result, a city with many civilians was destroyed. Both sides shoved responsibility on opponents, but no one had any iron proofs, only a firm conviction: "We did not do this, the attack of their hands is the work."
As a result, the war continued, the flywheel spun for several years. People fought and poured their blood for the preservation of other people's secrets. Revenge other victims, not knowing about the existence of a real enemy.
Ink no longer laughed. He sat on ash ground in front of the altar of the archdemon from the fragment of a column of an ancient temple. His hands wrapped around his head, and cold horror blew from the scratches left by the horns. Drops of tears, hot from the rage, fell from the shocked eyes looking at the devastated land of a small world.
Ink wanted to believe what was written in multicolored lines. Simple and clear enemy. There is humanity, but there are shadow rulers of the world - clans, descendants of the gods. The truth about the world was scary. I really wanted to believe that there is someone who condoles with all the inhabitants of the zero world. Perhaps their common ancestors. How pleasant it is to think that you are not to blame for your insignificance ... But Ink could not deceive himself anymore, not after he had been deceived so many times by others. It is easy to say: "I will think with my head, I will become more intelligent, I will take an example from a more successful comrade", but how hard it is to do it! How many promises has he made to himself, and how many have not kept? Not only in the buffer, but also in that already past life. How to resist enemies? How to withstand the burden of hopes of ancestors? Yes, and whether ancestors? Is this not part of a cunning plan of the spirit of reflection in attempts to free oneself, or another scheme with unknown variables? He saw and heard so much, but how much of this he realized? How many questions should have been raised about the causes of what has been happening since the time of the ascension? Everything was like a pleasant fairy tale, and without even doubting anything he trusted in others, he went with the flow. He was afraid, but the fear was not real - sugar, fake-cinema. The braces in the mind did not allow him to go crazy, but they also torn him from reality. What was all this for? Why did he risk his head? Power? Now all this seemed like a silly, hopeless dream. How can he even survive in this world? Without the support of laws, without understanding what is happening. What to do next?
Only one thing Ink could be sure was that no one should take a word. In the zero world there is not a drop of power. If a lie is an instrument of the weak, it is not surprising that it is completely saturated with deception. Ink again became himself in the full sense of these words and understood that he could not be called a stone capable of breaking the mechanism of a ruthless system. Ink did not shout into the sky and threaten the gods unknown to the terrible punishment of inevitable retribution ... although he really wanted to. He clenched his fists and winced in pain. Nails clawed in palms. Fingers tangled in hair and tore some hair. Ink recalled everything that had happened to him, pondered and studied. Hypocrisy, a lie, the steps of the plan in which he was involved. Ink did not understand everything, but tried to grasp the most important details. Emotions subsided, leaving a dull pain and desire to act. Not as stupid as before - carefully, checking and double-checking your steps. He didn't even make sure that in this small world the clans did not leave their observer. After all, someone could have witnessed his conversation with the archdemon.
Ink went to the ruined temple, carefully searched the premises, but did not find anything useful. It seemed to him that in essence he was not so stupid - an ordinary person. Not perfect, so what? Give up? Ink sat on the throne and plunged into the world of the mind. The droplets of the light around were no longer just spheres of nine vortices - each was likened to stars. They had a fortress of steel, the small success of the method of quenching a lamp from the heritage of the demonic god of three vortices and the heat of flame according to the method from the grimoire of the archdemon. They also managed to maintain flexibility from mucus. The surface of each sphere was like a fur covered with flaming processes of hard, hot and flexible. How did this happen and why? Ink tried to find out, checked the texts of the teachings copied to his mind and made sure that his attack on the verge of insanity could indeed provoke a similar reaction. Nobody wants to put a light on the edge of a cliff in a self-destructive attack, but Ink himself was very pleased with the result . This made him closer to revenge, gave more chances to survive in a cruel world.
Ink closed his eyes and prepared to change them. The spirit said that it would not be possible to assimilate the blood of God before passing through the furnace of chaos, but could he believe the word of at least someone in this world of lies? Ink practiced for several hours without much success, directing by force of will the microparticles of divine blood into the capillaries of the eyes. This did not bring any result until a new cry of the lyrs came. A golden wave ran through my body. Horn plates on the fingers finally turned into claws. The radiance and particles of divine blood also touched, soldering it into Ink a. He felt how they were changing, although he did not understand the essence of the changes.
When Ink left the small world, it was already morning at zero. The passage was in a fenced area and some civilian asked him to "leave the scene of the emergency", so as not to prevent the experts from identifying his reasons. Ink walked to the Trade Union building. He enjoyed every moment of freedom and a sense of his integrity. At some point, even a thought flashed through to spit on everything and run away. Trying to live like an ordinary mortal in a zero world. As much as possible. The temptation passed pretty quickly. Ink understood that this was a road to nowhere, and he could not forgive himself for inaction.
The escort delivered Ink and to Goodar Castle quickly and even casually. Here the messenger De Montier touches the arm of his shoulder, while defiantly luxurious furnishings are replaced by the rough stone walls of a long corridor without windows with lighted torches under the ceiling. There wasn't much to look at, but the Escort milled all nonsense about the most powerful clan and led Ink to the torture chamber.
"You're out of luck," a walking teleport babbled between the buffer and Zero World. - This idiot rude to the master of the clan in a small world and immediately got his. Now you have to torture him. I heard that a couple of dozen years ago one of the higher ones came. God frolic here, did some sort of business and went home, and one of the girls who warmed his bed became pregnant. God's bastard! - The guide laughed nervously. - They say that he has almost formed a thin body. Under him, from adolescence, women regularly attach, trying to fix the divine genes. There is no guarantee that he will get into the buffer, but the blood is strong. It sounds ridiculous, but Zende is one of the great five clan buffers, and Olgvur is their greatest treasure. Even if he survives after your torture, they will not forgive you for this. Of course, while you, under the protection of the master, no one dares to touch you with your finger, but when he leaves for the first world ... Most likely this moment will be your end. And you cannot violate the order of the head of the clan - otherwise the fate will be even worse right now.
The guide was afraid to appear in the torture chamber. Already leaving, he explained that his face could remember the treasure of the Zende clan, and that he could not get under the vendetta from his hand. Ink went into torture alone. A metal familiar to him hung on the metal blocks fastened with the letter "X". It was he who was beaten pulled out of the small world by De Montier. The prisoner's mouth was covered with a rag, he mumbled something ...
Ink picked up a scalpel from one of the tables and brought it to the prisoner's neck. He remembered that one of the promises he had made to himself was to ensure that the experimental victim of Michaelon's fictional ritual would die quickly. The pain from the loss of the family stirred up in my memory.
"He also has a family ..." Ink's fingers trembled, and he removed his hand. "It seems that even this promise I can't fulfill."
"You will live," the captive seemed to be very pleased with these words. He began to moo with enthusiasm, with even more enthusiasm than before. "Your life will be long and possibly happy, but you have to pay for everything."
The captive tried to push the rag out of his mouth, but the gag was made in good faith. The knots tightening him under the head of the prisoner could not be untied simply by a strong desire and a tongue roll, even if it was a desire and the language of a demigod.
"They told you why you are here?" They said that I was forced to do with you? - the captive warily glanced at the tools and a pack of scribbled sheets in the hands of Ink a. "I don't want to do this with you."
There was clear relief on Olgvur Zende's face, and patronizing encouragement in his gaze. Ink didn't even know that with a facial expression one could so clearly promise protection from De Montier's wrath. A scalpel passing through the skin on the collarbone was a big surprise for the illegitimate offspring of God.
"Life of mortals is short, even if half of their blood belongs to the deity," Ink made a new incision and there was not a drop of trembling in his fingers. Peace fell upon the whole being. - only reborn or ascended ones can get a relatively long life in the buffer. Do you understand?
Ink watched with satisfaction as the expression of delight on Olgvur Zende's face gave way to confusion, then understanding, and finally fear.
"Christian hell ... Have you heard of him?" Atonement through suffering, passage to purgatory and finally open to the divine kingdom. I think hell could really exist. After all, to get into the world of reflection - a kind of purgatory - you need to fulfill a dream. I see only one way to do this with a guarantee until death. You just need to make a person dream of the end of life ... When we finish, " Ink leaned to the demigod's ear and continued to whisper," no, even when we are in the middle ... you will pray for death. " This will be your greatest desire. Not an end to torture, not an escape ... you will dream of the end of everything.
Ink remembered the family and thought that this demigod also has a family. He thought that perhaps it was members of the family of Olgvur Zende or one of their friends that caused the death of his brothers and sisters. He understood that this was not fair, but the truth is that no one has offered justice to humanity that is raised like cattle. So why should he think about justice for the sake of clans? Ink discarded his former mortal name and discarded his former morality.
He continued torture not for pleasure, not for revenge, but in order to survive. The truth was in those lines or not. Whether De Montier is the same as he, chosen by the ancestors, or not. All this did not matter, because the result in both cases was the same. Either he will be killed for not fulfilling the order, or for the sake of keeping the covenant "to fight with the brothers with all his might", not allowing the overseers to suspect that their lambs are not completely obedient. Ink developed the skill and studied, because in the future he may need to talk to someone. Not in zero, so in the first or one of the following worlds. Ink slashed the demigod, listened to his sick moo and studied.
A lot of time has passed. Ink did not know exactly how much, but the rag of the gag was soaked with the teeth of the prisoner for a long time, and in some places it was cut off with a torture instrument. At first, Olgvur Zende threatened, then tried to bribe, then he threatened again and finally began to pray.
"Let me go ..." a hoarse voice, coupled with a tormented bloodied body, made the demigod look like a butcher's victim, who rose from the dead immediately after a cruel maniac worked on her.
- Ink waved his hand. The white energy, ground by its light, quickly healed the tortured body of the prisoner. There was no problem with access to the world of spirit from the buffer. Ink could concentrate slightly and invisible teeth began to crackle with a nutritious mass. A spinning light grind it into subtle dust, which already nourished his mind and body. There was no need for food, nor for food, nor for sleep, - but not perfect. Start over.
Ink snapped his fingers, measuring for himself the moment of a new cycle of torture.
Ink continued the dirty work. Again and again, he turned the treasure of the Zende clan into a piece of meat and then healed. At some point, the demigod became apathetic, but this was contrary to the plans of the newcomer of Castle Gudar. Ink began to water the prisoner with clean water found in the corner of the room, promising an early end to the horror, and in many other ways instill hope in him. Without hope, there is no despair. Without faith, there is no disappointment. Without emotion, there is no soul pain, and the demigod turned out to be quite resistant to torture of the flesh.
Days went by days. And at some point Ink noticed doom in the eyes of Olgvur Zende. Then he removed the chains from the captive. The demigod was trying to escape, and he almost got what he wanted. Ink with great difficulty put him back on the cross. Fury splashed in the prisoner's eyes, and the torture regained its horror.
"When you get into the world of reflection," Ink continued to settle hope in captivity , "what do you decide to leave: a person or a memory?" What will be a truly priceless treasure for you: your ego or thoughts about me?
Ink lost count of torture and healing cycles. Finger clicks ate into his subcortex, as a sign that he needed to pack up and do a dirty, unpleasant, but necessary job. In front of him hung a corpse of a demigod, devoured by fire from nine strands of consciousness from his lamp. From the moment of hardening and gaining the characteristics of a flame, they have become a kind of weapon. Their strength was enough to leave traces not only on the mind of the enemy, but also on his flesh.
Inside Ink and rooted loathing and aversion to what he was forced to do. To his great regret, he did not see another way to get out of this situation. Ink thoroughly washed blood and stench from his clothes, spent a lot of water from the torture tank, but was never able to purify completely.
Stepping out into the corridor, he almost collided with a short guy in a black mantle.
- Hi, - dark-skinned young man looks Mexican nodded with a smile Ink y. "I will take you to the room."
"Does it have a bathroom and change clothes?" "He is so joyful. Probably, the torture chamber has excellent sound insulation. Or is he just another maniac. "
- You saved the body? Lucky. We did not take this into account. Many rooms of this beautiful castle are ordinary cells. Spirits do not need many amenities. There is a common bathhouse and large barrels for fans to wash at home. After visiting the room, I will show where to get water. Can you heat it yourself? Or do you have problems working with the elements of fire?
"Let's go to the bathhouse first," Ink answered frowningly . - I want to quickly wash off this dirt.
- I heard stories in the zero world that people can be obsessed with demons, on the contrary, the demon himself is obsessed. Cleanliness! Ha ha ... - the guy laughed nervously. "But a funny pun ... Really?"
A member of the clan finally faded and accelerated his steps.
"Sharmis are not demons," Ink lifted the corners of his lips in a slight smile, looking after the nearly running away member of the clan. "Sharmis are descendants of dragons."
The guide turned and looked at Ink with compassion.
"Listen, I don't know how to tell you, but this is bad news." We have a connection with the first and fourth world. Dragons when climbing the necklace of worlds do not survive.
"As you say," Ink dismissed . "It must be nice."
- I do not understand what are you talking about? - surprised the guide.
- Be the first to break the tradition.
"Doesn't that sound like a dream? A real dream, not that fake about a chance. Not to abandon the dragon essence, but to become the first of them to overcome all obstacles and not just survive, but conquer all worlds. Yes, it's easy to say big words, but to follow them is not easy. Perhaps I should thank Arsi for her experiment, because if everything else I could not have changed - for many years I remained as naive as when I first appeared in the buffer, " Ink felt gratitude to the very bottom of his heart. He understood that this feeling would not be an obstacle for him in the event of a conflict of interest.
Walking past the mirror, Ink noticed a pair of sharp horns. Here he did not hide them. There was no need to hide the inhuman features from other monsters. Quite the contrary - you need to flaunt them as a warning to all potential threats.
"Mortals speak of a man's horns as a sign of his woman's infidelity. Yes, it's only nonsense, because betrayal doesn't really exist... "
After washing and changing clothes, Ink felt a little lighter. He even allowed himself to doze off in hot water. However, he did not reach the room. The same guy of Mexican appearance announced the need to urgently go to the report to the head of the clan.
In the throne room, in addition to Carl De Montier, there were several tense people. No black robes and servility in front of the strongest buffer man. They looked at the leader of Castle Goodar with impatience, but with restraint, and after turning to Ink, they became openly hostile. A faint smile wandered across De Montier's face. It was the expression of the viewer in a funny production in the theater.
- You! - one of the guests began furiously.
Ink raised his hand with an open palm, urging him to shut up.
"Are you from the Zenda clan?"
"Yes, and if something happened to our young lord! .."
"Of course," Ink cut short . "You guys owe me, and this debt is very great."
- Insolent, beast! Growled a talkative guest. - We will tear the skin from you for what you did!
"That is, I should not have performed the ascension ritual for your clan's treasure?" Probably, it was just necessary to torture or kill him, and not to help get into the world of reflection. Who would have known that the Zande clan, one of the great five buffer ungrateful pigs.
- Watch your tongue! - the same screamer exploded, but was stopped by the imperious gesture of another person.
- You're telling the truth? - corrosive he looked at Ink as well. "If yes, then we really owe a lot, but if this is a joke ... You don't want to meet our sense of humor."
"Why don't you look at one of the rebirth circles," Ink advised . - I did everything I could and the ritual was successful. Of course, if your dear Olgvur decides to sacrifice his memory, then you should not blame me for this.
The head of the delegation from the Zande clan immediately signaled to one of the attendants. He did something and a flock of small transparent birds fluttered from his hands. They scattered on different sides. In less than a minute, the man bowed to his leader and reported:
- He was reborn. Our people were near the circle and immediately recognized the young lord. He is already being taken right here to Goodar Castle.
The members of the Zande clan were delighted and began to glance at each other joyfully. Ink looked directly at De Montier. The strongest eyebrows in the buffer menacingly met on the bridge of the nose. Fingers squeezed the armrests of the throne to white in knuckles.
It is not known why they brought the treasure of one of the five strongest buffer groups, but their young lord was in the throne room quickly enough. The young man looked the same as in life. There was not even an otherworldly glow, like other young spirits. The looks of the tormentor and the victim met.
"Your elders really wanted to see the promising young gentleman reborn and with unlimited prospects," Ink tried to smooth the situation somewhat .
"That's how it is," wariness and ill-concealed malice appeared in the eyes of the reborn demigod.
Olgvur Zende looked at Ink with a long look. Shadows of different emotions slipped through him. Ink suddenly felt himself in the shoes of a trade unionist who had been courting him not so long ago.
"As it turns out to be difficult to balance on a fine line between the desire to fool for the preservation of one's life and the desire to keep at least a drop of dignity, ordinary human pride."
"You should have tortured him, not helped reborn!" - loudly expressed discontent De Montier.
- And he tortured! - sharply answered Olgvur Zende, turning to the head of the castle Goodar. "By your order ... right?"
"Young lord," one of the Zende clan members cautiously asked. "So he tortured you or performed a ritual for rebirth?"
"These turned out to be two sides of the same coin," the demigod did not go into details. - My body should be in torture. Evidence of better is hard to find.
De Montier looked at someone at the entrance to the hall. The man in the black robe returned a confirmation nod to his head. The head of the castle, Goodar, relaxed and looked in surprise at Ink A. For the first time, something similar to approval flashed in his gaze.
The members of the Zande clan looked at each other indecisively, not knowing what to do in this situation. Revenge? Or give thanks?
"We're leaving," the demigod resolved their doubts. - For help with rebirth, I will pay myself.
The delegation surrounded its treasure and, with a look of anticipation written on their faces, set off for the exit from the throne room. When they were already at the door, Ink snapped his fingers. Olgvur Zende froze in place. After a second of thought, he slowly turned his head and nodded respectfully to Ink , like an old friend and comrade. Like an enemy who wants to destroy an opponent, but cannot but respect him.
Ink allowed himself a slight smile.
De Montier gestured for him to leave. The dark-skinned kid promised with a laugh that this time he would definitely bring him to the allocated room.
"Here we are." Water supply will be held soon. Maybe you need something else?
- No. Although wait ... - Ink remembered the creature in his sea of consciousness. "Tell me, do we have any guidelines for taming monsters?" Or training?
"I don't know ..." the guy thought. "I'll ask in the clan library." Have a rest. If there is material, I will bring.
Ink nodded gratefully, opened the door of the room, and stepped into his new home.
The end of the first book.