I let out a deep breath as I ascended to the Admin Room again, clenching my fists repeatedly. A long sigh escaped my lips as I fell down onto the bed, startling the catgirl that I hadn’t noticed sitting on it. “All done?” She asked with a light laugh.
It had taken me a bit more than the four days to complete the rest of the ‘assignments’, but I had managed to take care of it. I gave a brief nod to Terra’s question. “Just got done with the King of Stakes.” I couldn’t help but groan as I remembered him.
Honestly, most of the hunts weren’t too difficult. I had the advantage of surprise, always knowing where my target was, and the ability to prepare beforehand. Aside from the lycan, none of them made me worry all that much. The real difficulty of the training was keeping my activities as stealthy as possible.
For the kitsune king of Deckan, who had a wall of cards containing the heads of the people he killed, their bodies impaled on stakes outside the castle… that was possibly the most difficult to keep secret of them all. The level of Deckan was far, far lower than Earth, to the point where the royal guards only had an average level of fifty.
However, the fact that those guards were present almost all the time meant that I couldn’t just go in and kill him at my leisure. I didn’t particularly want to kill the guards, as a large number of them were being forced into the role themselves. So… I had to wait in his room, hidden in one corner for him to walk in.
Of course, naturally he hadn’t come in alone, so I had to wait for him and his ‘guest’ to finally fall asleep before I dealt the killing blow and left. The hunt itself was not hard, just… annoying, I guess?
“So, how would you rate them?” Terra asked curiously, rolling onto her stomach next to me. Her tail rubbed gently along my leg as she stared at me. “We all gave you the worst of our people… so we were kind of curious which one you thought was the worst of them all.”
“The Red Queen.” I answered immediately, shivering at the thought.
Terra let out another laugh, nodding in understanding. “I can see why you’d pick her. Even among tyrants… I’d probably have to rate her in the top five of Earth’s history.”
I gave a brief nod at that, remembering the human queen. She ruled a small island kingdom just off the mainland, to the west of the human continent. What made her earn her nickname was… oddly enough, her bathing habits. She believed that she could make her ki more powerful by bathing in fresh human blood… the younger the better.
“So… what brings you here, anyways?” I couldn’t help but ask as I glanced towards Terra. “Thought you’d be off playing with Udona or Aurivy like normal.”
Terra rolled her eyes, holding up the list that I had contained my eleven hunt targets. “You’ve got one last job, big shot. A special request from Udona, Irena, and that little ninja girl in your Citadel.”
“Tsubaki?” I asked curiously, sitting up and taking the paper from her. Sure enough, there was a twelfth name on the list, though the entry definitely surprised me.
Devourer of Lost Souls - World Spirit
“A world spirit went rogue?” I blinked in surprise, glancing over towards Terra, who nodded her head.
“That’s right. Looks like one of them finally went off the rails. Irena never really noticed that a small few of the billions of souls she regularly takes in had been ‘misplaced’. And there are too many living creatures for Udona to ever be expected to monitor each and every one. It was actually Tsubaki that stumbled upon this herself.”
I shook my head as I tried to imagine how she managed that, locked up in the citadel and unable to interact with those spirits. “Okay… and how exactly am I supposed to take it out? From what I remember, a world spirit draws in other nearby world spirits to amplify their power like a hive-mind.”
Terra nodded her head, as if the question was expected. “That’s why you’re going to have to descend as a world spirit yourself. World spirits gravitate towards the strongest of their kind. If you descend, then this devourer will be helpless to even resist you.”
My brows furrowed a bit as I thought about that. “What is the likelihood of being able to fix his habits of eating people’s souls?”
“About as low as you’re probably thinking.” Terra answered bluntly, her face softening slightly. “World spirits are old creatures. Even more so than the martial spirits, they don’t age naturally. Trying to convince someone against what they’ve been doing for hundreds of years without repercussions is like trying to convince fire to become ice. And no, it doesn’t count if you use magic on the fire.”
I couldn’t help but chuckle as she immediately pointed that out, before letting out a long sigh. “Alright… I take it that Aurivy can help me find him again? Like with the others?”
“That’s right. She’s waiting for you to descend and get used to functioning as a world spirit. This time, there’s no real need for secrecy, so she’s just going to bring him straight to you.” Terra confirmed, laying down on the bed with her head against her arms. “Go get ‘em, Dale.”
“Okay, but when I come back, I am taking the mother of all naps.” I said in a joking tone, earning a small chuckle from Terra as I made my way over towards the computer. Since I had never descended as a World Spirit before, I had to be careful about where I descended. It’d need to be somewhere uninhabited, to make sure that my powers didn’t accidentally kill anyone while I was testing them.
Once that was taken care of, I allowed the familiar blue light to wrap around me, taking me down to the uninhabited island I had chosen in the middle of the ocean. My body looked… basically identical to my normal human body. Since the physical appearance of a world spirit didn’t really matter, there was no harm in going with what I was familiar using.
Unfortunately… even if the form was familiar, it did not feel that way. The first thing I noticed when I descended was that breathing felt… wrong. Not as in I was suffocating or anything, more… that it didn’t do anything for me. My chest didn’t expand or contract with my breaths, it was simply just the act of pulling in and expelling air.
Most likely, world spirits didn’t even really need to breathe. At least, not air. Shaking my head at that realization, I raised one hand. Well, let’s give this a quick test.
My hand aimed towards the water, at which point I sent out a mental command, much like I would as a druid. Only this time, I used the strange mix of natural and spiritual energies that I felt my body fill with. The command was simple, to create a rising ball of water.
The result… was considerably less simple. I mean, yes, it did create a ball of water that rose into the air. What I hadn’t expected was the hundred smaller balls rotating it, or the faint blue glow that came from within each one.
As I was practicing, I felt something twitch inside of me. A presence I hadn’t felt before, or at least had never felt like this. It did not take long for me to realize what it was, as a small fairy-like creature appeared from the air in front of me. The other world spirit blinked its wide eyes at me, staring for several long moments.
I began to wonder whether this was the ‘devourer’ that I had been sent to kill, before another one appeared… and another… and another fifty. The more that gathered, the faster they seemed to appear. And once they noticed what I was doing, they all flew in a circle around me before launching themselves at the ocean.
Soon, more and more spheres of water began to float up, each surrounded by two or three world spirits. I could feel their thoughts in the back of my head, wanting to help with whatever I was doing. And when each ball had been created, the fairies maintaining it brought it to merge with the larger ball I had been holding myself.
It wasn’t long before the more than fifty world spirits were now surrounding a single massive ball of glowing blue water, easily the size of the small island that I chose to descend at. Okay… so that’s what it’s like. I thought briefly, before sending the command to return the water to the ocean. Before my power even reached out, the world spirits had acted, sending the water pouring down again.
Alright… Aurivy, I think we are ready. I said mentally towards the goddess, still a bit dumbfounded after experiencing the world spirits’ concept of a hive mind for myself.
Roger that, Dale! One evil pixie, coming right up! Barely a second passed after she responded before I felt one more thought added to the back of my head. This one was surprised, angry, hungry, and then scared.
My mind focused on that thought, just as my eyes turned towards a somewhat larger world spirit with blackened skin. I couldn’t tell if he took that appearance willingly, or if it was a byproduct of eating living souls, but he was easily distinguishable from the others.
What wrong what I do why I here what you need? I felt his thoughts directing the questions at me, though he made no visible attempt to flee.
Why are you eating people?
To my question, the spirit tilted its head. What’s a people? Only eat food. Hungry so hungry food bigger and stronger more filling. There was a shudder from the other world spirits as they began to realize one by one what had happened. From the very first day they had been created, they had only been taught to eat the ‘small food’, the ‘unwanted food’. Never the ‘food’ that was bigger than them, the ‘food’ that was able to resist. That had always been a taboo.
Don’t you know that you’re not supposed to do that? I asked, feeling my brows furrow in frustration. Not only with this one, but with how all world spirits seemed to see normal spirits as simply food. That would have to be… corrected over time.
Why not so hungry big food better. The blackened spirit questioned, and I could feel it growing more and more agitated. Its power tried to lash out, maybe to help it escape. But for some reason, the power failed a moment before activating. Why keep me here what wrong? Hungry so hungry, need big food.
I let out a sigh as I heard that, shaking my head. I’m sorry… I thought towards the blackened spirit as I raised my hand. This creature was not inherently evil. However, like Terra said, it was an old soul. One that had grown accustomed to doing things a certain way. If I tried to correct its behavior, it would no doubt only be a temporary fix. And then every world spirit that this one created would share its views, like a cancer spreading throughout the race.
Sensing my intentions, the dozens of other world spirits lifted their hands up as well. Green, red, white, and blue lights began to fill the air as the blackened spirit looked around in fear. No stop don’t hurt. Not wrong not bad.
However, I didn’t send the order to stop, so my power shot out all at once with the gathered spirits. The blackened one tried to dodge, to flee away, but his body couldn’t move. As if it had accepted this fate even without his mind agreeing. The concentrated blasts of energy shook the spirit to its core, until it erupted in a burst of black mist.
Irena… is there any way to recover the souls that it had devoured? I asked as I saw that mist, which far more resembled spiritual energy than natural.
He did not refine them before eating, so… it’s possible. However, their minds would be fractured. I would much rather immediately allow them to be reborn, so that they are not cursed to exist in such a manner. Every moment would be an undying hell within their own soul.
I gave a brief nod at that, agreeing that an immediate rebirth would indeed be preferable in that scenario. Okay… and can you thank Tsubaki for me? Since it was her that discovered this…
I have already prepared a reward for her, sir. Irena responded in a soft tone.
Tsubaki. An unfamiliar voice called out into the kitsune’s mind as she was sweeping one of the many halls of the citadel. Tsubaki jumped, spinning around as she scanned the hall. Her hands were raised defensively, a thin needle extending out from between each of her fingers.
“Who’s there?!” She practically hissed out, not being a fan of others sneaking up on her.
I am Irena, the Goddess of Death, Justice, and the Underworld. The voice answered in a patient tone, after which Tsubaki’s attitude flipped immediately.
“I’m so sorry, goddess! Please forgive me.” She pleaded, crouching down on the floor, one hand against the ground. The needles that had been in her hand seemed to have vanished in the brief moment that she moved. “I did not recognize your voice, and thought you an intruder.”
All is well, child. The voice answered, still in the same patient tone as before. Dale has asked me to thank you for bringing our attention to the one devouring souls. The matter has been handled, and he wishes you to be rewarded.
“That is unnecessary!” Tsubaki shook her head strongly, keeping her eyes on the ground. “It is my duty to assist him in any way that I can. It is simply to be expected of me.”
Then shouldn’t you accept the reward of a goddess, so that you may better assist him in the future? Irena asked, though Tsubaki thought she detected just a bit of a smile in the woman’s voice this time.
“I… very well, then.” She relented, unable to find a suitable argument. “What did my lord have in mind?”
He has left the reward to me to decide, so I shall grant you a gift worthy of the service rendered. Tsubaki, I wish to take you as my priestess. To have you be a herald of justice, both in my name and in his. Will you accept?
“Of course, goddess.” Tsubaki nodded her head quickly, having already made the determination to use whatever reward had been given to serve her lord. As soon as she agreed, a message appeared in front of her.
Priest has been unlocked!
You are now a Priestess of Irena!
Discern Truth ability unlocked!
You have received the Blessing of Irena! +2 Wisdom