Runic - Aeonian Overture

The realms float about in the neon cosmos of mystic forces long thought to be extinct, a universe known as Ambright where mana and technology can transform entire cities into prosperous empires. However, war has left many with a past haunted by those who lost their lives, as such the case with Glave Octus. He, a veterans's child of the same war that took his sister away, embarks on a journey to rediscover his bloodline. It will be a long trek that will take him deep into the underworld dungeons and lawless cities of Grove, the urban realm where he was born.

Novel Website - https://www.crimsos.org/project-yoctillion

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8. Chapter 8 - The Drop

 

 

"Every reprimand Mejis invokes on the realms holds mystery, for lack of the same witness."

-Cyrus; Typhon Realm Guardian-

....

The bridge was arid of life, which meant they beat Strixix. It would give them an upper hand in terms of preparation. This was a place that seemed out of touch with anything the dungeon had offered so far. A cobbled arch connected two flat slabs of earth on either end, creating a canyon with a size almost beyond comprehension. Particles of dust floated around the space like dull fireflies, and Glave was aghast that he had missed this area entirely the first time he passed it. His initial fear of Strixix back then had rendered him aloof to such formations, that was for sure. It was perfect for sending a beast falling to its demise.

Char recited the plan one last time before hurrying to the opposite side, concealing himself left of the entrance where their enemy was bound to crawl from. Then came the most chilling wait Glave had ever experienced. Each second was a drop of dry ice that burned cold. Char had his eyes closed to cork their light from shifting the darkness of his hiding spot, so he couldn't see him, only the dull blue haze of space that consumed him.

Several diabolic shrieks scrapped the air and tore his eardrums apart, then everything shivered, his chest, his head, his feet. Strixix slowly came out, wobbling, seaming to not notice the Peacock as it strode by, taking an odd position before him, wings folded, face lowered to the ground. It was the most bizarre fighting stance imaginable, almost humorous, with its body widened as if to stir up invisible lint.

Remember, Glave thought. Char will fall back while I get the monster to accept the scroll. If worst comes to worst, he'll step in.

"I was just thinking about dragging your lifeless carcass to his majesty." The Strixix twisted and turned its head in a way the boy found very nauseating. "I know not of what he wants with you, such things were not implanted in my brain, but I do know he could make some good wind chimes from your bones."

Now It was time for Glave to weave lies, to pick out words and patterns this monster had used and turn them into a fable. Breathe in. Sort the words carefully, cautiously. Breathe out.

Here goes nothing. Glave thought one more, and took a pause before speaking. "I have a message from your master."

Good, but he will probably ask me why I didn't give this to him in the first place. Luckily, I already have an answer for that.

"Oh, oh really?" Strixix appeared deep in thought, letting out a lengthened hoot. "A message from his highness? I assume swines like you have a reason for running away from me and not relaying this so called message sooner."

"I was not aware of this so I fell back with the green creature. I was further startled by your transformation from the hag, so I had no choice but to run from you." Glave tried his best to not pause for too long. Every time he did, it would give the monster more time to think.

What of this creature now?"

"I killed it," he replied instantly. "The contents of this message concerns your departure from this dungeon and immediate transfer to headquarters." Glave breathed into his stomach. Back and forth, don't veer my eyes away, let everything flow out.

"Humans are known to have a thief's mouth" The owl hissed a messy fit. "I don't remember you at all."

"If I was lying and you found out, it wouldn't be a problem for you to kill me right here. I'm starting to sound too suspicious, he thought. Time to get to the topic. "...But this is getting silly. His majesty wants you to read the message's contents as soon as possible."

Char, who had been watching in silence, was ready to intervene if anything went wrong. But to go as far to say "killing me right here" was really stretching it a bit, but saying so was probably necessary to make the deception more convincing. Using the scroll was the best way to make sure Strixix stayed dead, and he almost couldn't believe what he was hearing, this conversational turn around, looping in circles, and flipping over, without either of them moving at all, observing a beast being tamed by words alone. Astonishing. Forktown's swindler population had done its work on the boy.

Glave's lies melted off his tongue. One word misplaced or mispronounced, and that was it, death. He continued. "If you wanted to kill me right now, I'm sure it would've happened when you first saw me. But you see the chance of proving well to your master, don't you? That's why you're not attacking me. You're starting to trust me."

"I'm not!"

Glave had to use words like a swindler, and give this monstrosity no choice but to agree. Twist. Bend. Whatever it took, he would say. If there was anything he learned from watching rooks in the streets, it was this, the edge in manipulation.

He stepped sternly forth. "If I don't give you this paper, it means that you didn't accept a direct message from your master. What are the chances that I'm lying, making myself vulnerable by coming out here? Either way, Mejis will be coming for you very soon. Outbreakers are not welcomed in Grove. So, I suggest you take the leap of faith, and give me a chance, now."

Something snapped.

"Stop it!" Strixix lurched it's body like it was about to drive right through his soft outer shell, trying to run in a straight line but failing miserably. It hurdled to a stop with its beak millimeters from his forehead, the space between a razor beak and flesh was just a sliver. Glave froze, trying to force blood into his mouth and move it. The more he didn't speak up, the more of a chance that razor beak would bore into his skull. The eyes peering into his own were ten trillion tigers intent to kill, an ocean of black offset with two white islands.

"It would be bad if I dropped this paper off the bridge, with you trying to attack me and all." Glave's words shook in his mouth but thankfully they came out steadily. He felt the monster look him around, turning him end to end, shaking him violently, without once moving itself.

In the background, Char took the opportunity and moved to a hiding spot closer in. Strixix looked up as if to settle an internal battle, one eye up, one eye down. Disgusting.

"Fine, but toss the message on the ground. I'll pick it up."

What! Glave almost blurted out loud. It's so simple and I still missed it. Of course Strixix would tell me to drop the scroll on the ground. I have to think of something now..... "Don't be ridiculous." He stepped backward, thankful that the monster didn't see that as suspicious. "You are acting out of turn. It would be a shame to think that one of his majesty's subordinates has such a lack of trust in his word. Again, I suggest you take the leap of faith and I'll give you this message by hand. Or, are you that inclined to believe that this is all a lie?"

Perfect.

Strixix leaned its head lower to him. Glave's hand loosened around the bomb's plain white paper, appearing to take it. Breath in. Let the beak touch the scroll first. His arms moved, his hand reeling back just a tad before the bomb was heaved with incredible velocity into the bird's gullet. Strixix could no longer talk, or breathe, or screech. The six seconds that followed became six grueling moments trapped freezing slow motion.

Six. Strixix flared up in agonizing , bloodcurdling squeaks and squeals, choking on the tube up paper jammed in its throat.

Five. It smacked its face in the floor in sheer disorientation, eyes going numb and malformed with pain.

Four. A montage of gags because the monster could no longer scream.

Three. Glave watched Strixix heave about, flailing its body in mangled jolts as its body was losing oxygen.

Two. Silence. Strixix looked up.

One. In a desperate last measure, the beast became a blind suicide range as it charged at the boy who had just delivered its fatal blow. It wasn't going to die alone.

Glave snapped his brain to focus. Now was the time to focus mana into the scroll.

Char heard the blast moments before he saw the bloomed explosion turn the earth into molten shrapnel, with all the sparks flinging off the bridge's edge. He lost the two of them in the haze and panic rooted in. Glave had just tricked a demon bent on killing him into taking a scroll, and blowing up its little ugly head. The heated wind from the explosion's epicenter distracted him enough that he didn't entirely realize that he had finally moved out into view again, and snapped a thumbs up while keeping his eyes on the target.

But where was Strixix?

Glave looked confused as well. There was nothing behind the cleared smoke, just a smogging pit black with burning. Nothing was in sight.

I knew that Wilva's bombs had kick to them. But this? This is de- Char's scattered thoughts were cut off when he averted his sharpened gaze upward.

No. It couldn't do that. Impossible. Not a chance.

It was. There was a pyro in the space above, with searing wings flapping.

"It can fly! Glave, move out the way!"

His call came too late. The blackbird of conflagration, with eyes ablaze and feathers aflame, landed down with its talons cracking the rock beneath. This freak of nature bore a face disfigured by ignition, but that did not slow it in the slightest. Strixix looked down at the small human backing away, at the tiny rat holding a knife behind its back, guilty of attempted murder.

Glave's frame rattled under the impact's full force when the wing drove directly into his shoulder, sending him skidding a full twenty feet across the ground. Clothes ripped, skin reddened under a floor made of sandpaper rocks and slabs. He winced as his body cried with brittle bones and bombarded muscles, but before any attempts were made to stand again, the dark owl pinned him to the floor with five long mangled talons. They pressed hard into his chest choking out every last ounce of air. The Strixix lowered its head inches from his face. The boy thought he was staring back at deadlocked moonstones It's body swelled huge along with rage bleeding out its eyes. The two narrow slits that twitched with the urge of a thousand jaws towered over him, a blanket of a living night sky, without stairs to look at, or the moon. It was just a pit where a soul did not thrive.

"So you're a liar! Your fleshy sack of organs will fit nicely in his majesty's collection, the beast hooted into Glave's ear. "I'll make sure you'll be grind into mush so that that will be most pleasing to my master. Oh, it will be so lovely when I get my rank promoted, I just can't tell you."

"Then don't," he wheezed. The mangled foot on top of him was pressed hard, but the scroll's catastrophe was taking effect. The foot melted enough so the child underneath could get free, like hands slipping away black soap. He struggled away step by step, falling, getting back up; His shirt was ripped in the center, but nothing else was damaged, nothing important. There was no time to think. He absolutely had to keep up the attack while his opponent was weakened.

Glave reached into his jacket, and threw another scroll.

The air ripped with fire and flying rubble. Strixix was covered in a blaze that ignited its skin, setting the gewing ink aflame.

What happened next happened within the time one could blink. Char moved out from his corner, with something clenched in his hand. The blade he wielded out of nowhere slivered blindingly, but not all of it was clearly seen. Glave witnessed the green flash of a javelin splitting every bit of empty space. Then in that same moment, he looked at the distasteful sight of an owl with a decapitated wing. It looked dumbly at the stub where there use to be a vital appendage.

"You!" Strixix staggered back.

"Throwing my spear to slash off your wing is easy when you're softened by fire." Char replied calmly. Glave did not let the opportunity go to waste. A new force field and several agonizing steps later, he rammed the Strixix who failed to fight back in blinding light and complete shock. It couldn't grab a reliable footing, it's wobbly legs flailing against the air as it made a very frightened eye contact with him, stumbled, bent backward, and tripped over the bridge. The abyss opened its maw to consume the ink stained horror, spraying and scratching its whispers with that which was bottomless. The drop happened within seconds, then, all was calm.

"Down you go", was Char's last remark. Everything went into a hissing static as anguished echoes crawled from below, trying to be set free only to have sheer depth pull them down. Eventually they went away, leaving the two with their company, alone.

The air chilled, and it made Glave's stomach slushy. He didn't know what to call this feeling, because he'd never killed anything larger than Badger Squirrel. With a newfound unease, he looked over. The Peacock was looking back, and would not look away, with cyan eyes focused into soft loops of light.

"Am I in trouble? I know the plane didn't exactly go as expected."

"You tricked someone who was bent on killing us and them you blew him up. You did that." Char's gaze found the boy's shoulder blade soaking red though his shirt and jacket.

"It's not broken." Glave said.

Char blinked. "You know how to fix it?"

"Not really."

"Well, It's just a few hundred meters south, the second floor's entrance I mean. Hang in there."

"............."

They didn't do anything except stand there, peering down where the enemy had fallen, both mildly absorbed in the experience that started now three hours before. Glave took time to wrap his foot with the guise from his bag, and tugged it tight to stop the bleeding. It was a temporary veil to postpone any stitches, Healing magic was something he never understood, and apparently, it was likewise for his new friend, who was performing some kind of dog shake to get the gunk off.

Yeah, definitely like a peacock.

"You tricked him." Char repeated, then huddled over the nearest black puddle, a small pool of blood from Strixix. The explosion of the scroll blasted the thick fluid all over the place. After taking a close look at it, he turned to Glave, now with eyes that embodied a more sharpened glare. "It's high time we drop down a floor. I have a little helper there waiting for my return. If we don't get over there soon I'll never hear the end of it."

Glave's allowed the words to slip deep in his mind before speaking. "Will this helper know more about this thing that attacked us?"

"No. We came together to this dungeon. Don't worry, we are not illegal immigrants from Farrow, or criminals, or anything of the sort."

Farrow was the larger establishment that neighbored Forktown. The two were alike in that both were centers for trade caravans and held a large population of different races.

Char continued. "Glave, the second floor is a very different place than you probably know. Have you ever walked on water before?"

"I don't think we're on the same page. Of course I haven't."

"Well, that's about to change. The second floor is where all the rainwater collects, and it all mixes with the mana that's already down there, keeping the water from evaporating." He paused. "So, I ask you, what do you think would happen if that much water collected in one area, year after year, and didn't evaporate?"

The conclusion came as quite a shock, but he said it regardless. "An ocean."

"Something like that, yes. Such a place is hard to imagine, I'm sure." Char pointed yonder. "Come, the tunnel leading to the second floor is back the way we came, just a little farther than that chamber we conversed in."

Glave simply nodded, and the odd duo left through the entrance from which they came,with a ground soaked with molten ink behind them, staring at their backs. Leaving the bridge brought the temporary notion of relief. He had still neglected to tell of the Phoenix from when the two pilgrims first met. Attempts to replay those events subconsciously ended up with more questions than anything else; and still, Wilva's path remained untraceable. Soon Strixix, to him, would be realized as a setback blocking the real goal.

"What will we find there, besides water that I can walk on?"

"Answers," Char replied. "Lot's of answers."

Indeed, Glave wanted answers. He also wanted to know what Char did to gash of the wing of Strixix. It was so bright, so sudden, so powerful, and such that he could not see the display until it was too late. However, if answers lied ahead, there was no need for such questions.

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