A note from MelasD

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Salvos | Top Web Fiction

256. Don't Die

The Devil had issued me a challenge. Sure, he said a bunch of things too like how I’d forgotten something or yada yada yada. I didn’t care about most of what he said except for the bit at the end— he thought I’d run away just because he said a few scary things. Well, I was better than that. And I wanted to learn a Grand Skill. So, I accepted this grueling training he offered me.

He snapped his fingers, and his little reality-lattice vanished around me. I once again found myself immersed in a floating feeling before the ground reappeared beneath my feet. I landed with a wet splat. Not exactly the sound I was expecting to hear when my feet touched the dirt.

Also, not the kind of coarse earth I’d expected to stand on. It’d have been less jarring if the Devil had just dropped me in the middle of the ocean. As it was now, only the soles of my shoes were uncomfortably soggy, and the rest of my body remained on dry land. I stared at this odd soil— some sort of crimson dirt that sank like mud.

I placed a clawed hand on the ground, curious, and found that this red soil was warm to touch. Then I glanced around me. I stood at the very bottom of a deep, gaping ravine. Normal ravines were probably about a hundred-or-so feet deep with a ten foot distance between the cliff walls, but not only was I probably thousands feet below the surface, the gap of the ravine was also hundreds of feet wide.

“Where exactly am I?”

I could barely see an inkling of the sky above me. It was a dark blue with a tinge of orange. Night had ended, and dawn had come to take its place with the smearings of a soft amber-tipped brush. The golden sphere that would probably be peeking its way out of the horizon was nowhere to be seen from the depths I currently stood at.

However, there was something… odd about the sky because I could almost see the translucent image of a glowing orb up above. Which shouldn’t be possible. And there was a bit of a glare too— one that was cast against the azure above in a wrinkling ripple.

Sal smiled as he studied my puzzled expression.

“Confused, are you? We’re about three miles below the surface— in a large air bubble underneath the sea.”

“Huh. Is that why the sky looks weird?”

“Hmm, I wouldn’t say that’s why it’s discolored. If we were three miles underwater, I would say that light wouldn’t even pierce this deep. But, you see, there’s no water above us for most of the three miles. The sea ends after only three hundred feet where it breaks into this ravine.”

“Wait, what’s stopping the water from just… falling?”

I cocked my head. He chuckled.

“There wasn’t always a ravine here, Salvos. It was carved out over time by a powerful creature, and its residual magic keeps the water from collapsing into its Lair.”

“What powerful creature?”

The Devil smiled at me.

“Do you want to see?”

I hesitated.

“Um, sure?”

He gestured for me to follow after him, and I did. I walked behind him as he clopped his way forward with his hooves.

“I’m surprised you’ve never heard of this place before.”

“I don’t even know where we are.”

“They call it the Bloodied Gulf. Partly because of the red soil that mixes like blood when wet, but also because… well… you see, this creature didn’t ‘exist’ until a couple hundred years ago. And prior to its appearance, this place had simply been referred to as the Crimson Beach. An exotic location to visit for nobles. Now, the beach and the gulf is painted in the blood of said nobles.”

I tapped a finger on my chin as the Devil led me around a corner. He ran a hand over the crimson walls as motes of dirt and rocks tumbled down from his clawing black nails.

“They say these creatures were made from a mad [Alchemist]’s potion. Or that it was a dead Species brought back to life by a powerful [Necromancer]. But I know the truth. It had always existed. Just not in this continent.”

He paused before a cavernous entrance. One that was over a hundred feet in diameter. It opened up like a giant mouth with stalactites and stalagmites protruding around it like sharp teeth, and the darkness within staring at me with a hungry look, threatening to swallow me in a single bite.

[A Hunter’s Sense] blared for me not to step a single foot into the cavern, and I was smart enough to listen to it. I just watched the Devil enter from the outside.

“Tell me, Salvos. Did you ever study history in Mavos Academy?”

“History? Um, nope. But I know a few things, I guess.”

Most of my knowledge came from Humans and Kobolds. Although even they had a conflicting view of many things that supposedly ‘occurred’.

“Xidra told me that the world is ending, or something. Is that related to this?”

“Ah, in a sense, it does. But it’s not really as relevant as you think. This Apocalypse the Kobolds speak of— this pertains to matters before it. You see, Secely used to be inhabited only by the Cyclopes.”

“Um, I think I’ve heard about that before? Maybe…?”

I wasn’t too sure. It didn’t seem like anything that mattered to me. The Devil nodded.

“Yes. It was back when I was quite young— maybe a century or two years old. Ah, when Worldwalkers were still welcome in the Nexeus. When every continent was dominated only by a single intelligent Species.”

He sighed wistfully, turning to face me. He stood right at the edge of the darkness, his face shrouded by the shadows around him.

“But everything changed— the world began to end, and all the Species of the world fled to the heart of Nexeus, Secely, as their gods left to allay the Apocalypse. Of course, not every Species followed. Most definitely not the monsters that struggled to even think for themselves. They stayed in their own doomed continents, unknowingly waiting for the corruption to take them until it was too late.”

“Ok, and this thing you’re talking about— it was consumed by corruption? The same thing that made the Cursed Boulder all distorted and weird?”

I raised a brow, and the Devil chuckled.

“You’re almost on the right track. But— no. Many of this Species of creature died when the corruption came. But a few adapted. They learned to escape, leaving their continent behind for Secely… maybe a few ten thousand years after everyone else, but they survived. And while only a dozen arrived at Secely, each one gave birth to dozens of their young each day. They did everything they could so their Species wouldn’t go extinct.”

He gestured for me to come forward, and I hesitantly stepped towards him. A grin spread over his face as he spoke softly.

“Tell me, Salvos: do you know the kind of tenacity that’s needed to survive through all that? A completely mindless monster battling against the world itself, yet still alive— it is impressive, don’t you think?”

“I guess?”

I was still apprehensive. I didn’t want to enter the cave. I halted just a single step beyond the darkness. But the Devil pulled me in. He snapped a finger, whispering directly into my ear. My eyes grew wide as a notification echoed in my head.

“No. It’s not good enough, Salvos.”

Now entering [Lair: Castle of the Centinels].

He leapt into the air as the ground shook and I lost my balance. The Devil hovered there, looking down at me.

“Prove to me that you’re better than that! Prove to me that you’re better than it!”

He yelled as the rumbling grew louder and more pronounced. I straightened, creating a set of Nebular Armor and Weapons. The Devil’s face grew callous as I glanced up and met his gaze.

“Two rules. First of all, you can’t leave the Bloodied Gulf. And second but more importantly: don’t die.”

“Wait, what am I supposed to do here—”

I started, but the Devil was gone. My gaze snapped back down towards the darkness as the stalactites hanging from the ceiling rattled and fell from the shaking. I backed up as my wings came to existence, sweeping into the air.

I wasn’t even sure if I was allowed to use my Subspecies Skills. The Devil hadn’t given me any restrictions other than having to stay in the Bloodied Gulf, so I assumed I was allowed to do just that. Also, I was pretty sure I was going to die here from whatever was coming. And that I needed to get out of here as soon as—

And from the cave came a deep, consuming darkness. One that swallowed even the shadows from the walls and ate away at the sun’s light through its sheer size alone. It was armored with segments of carapace-like shells that were colored a dirty, staining red. Each section of its body dwarfed any house I’d ever seen, and the creature was made up of very many different sections connected together in an undulating, curling shape. A hundred crooked barb-like limbs carried it forward with a chittering of clicks, clawing away at the ground as it bared thousands of serrated teeth at me.


[Ancient Centinel - Lvl. 162]

I stared at the monster for a moment. I could almost feel the prickling feeling of its mandibles poking into my back, sending the most visceral shiver through my body I’d ever felt. I waved at it, smiling nervously.

“Um, hi, I’m Salvos…?”

And it shrieked. The monster came for me as I turned and began to flee.

A note from MelasD

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  • Self-proclaimed most Successful Young Author on RoyalRoad based off the overly specific criteria he set. Became the 21st novel to hit 10,000 followers on the 21st of September, 2021, at the age of 21.

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