Chapter 79:

The Cave of Dreams

Elyon - Gods among us

Rodrigo and company had been advancing through the dark cave for over thirty minutes now, but with each step they took, the light became less visible and the cold increased to exceptional levels.

The cave walls were adorned with representative drawings of marine creatures and celestial beings. They were like cave paintings. However, because of the low light, they were very hard to observe.

Rodrigo, whose body was all covered in frost, began to feel his feet sticking to the ground, making it very difficult to walk. The freezing wind that blew in the dark crack froze everything it touched.

—This cold is not normal— protested Ana as she continued to move with great difficulty.

At that moment, Anpiel's legs broke and the angel fell face down on the ground, his face sticking to the floor.

—Anpiel!— Epona cried out.

The equine goddess tried to lift the angel, but his body had completely frozen. At that moment, the goddess turned to see Rodrigo, who had also become a statue of ice, unable to lift his feet off the ground.

—This can't be possible!— Epona screamed in desperation, watching as her arms began to freeze irremediably.

Just then, Tania created a giant fireball with her hands, shouting: —Esh Kela - Safar: Alf—. The goddess threw it into the distance, but the fire, after advancing a bit, completely went out.

—The cold in this room is even stronger than the power of that goddess I faced on Mars— Tania said, watching as her legs began to freeze along with her body.

—Forward, we must keep walking— Susanoo insisted, advancing with difficulty, as his feet too were freezing to the ground.

All the members of Orniskem began to turn into ice statues when a sun appeared in the area. Menrva created it using most of her strength, while the lower part of her body had already frozen.

—'Rath Lauchum Usil', a sun made of pure static energy— said the trembling goddess as she watched everyone begin to break their frost, and begin to get up again.

—We can't go any further, the cold is too strong— Tania commented as her legs thawed, and she labored to advance further.

—How much have we advanced?— Epona asked, trying to cheer up Anpiel with a little ambrosia, but to her surprise, the liquid was completely frozen.

—That man said it was several kilometers, and we've only advanced about thirty minutes— Ana said.

A gust of frozen air blew around the area again, causing frost on the sun created by Menrva. Quickly, everyone began to freeze again.

—Don't freeze! I don't know how, but we must go on— said Menrva trying to create another sun, but to her surprise, her hands were frozen and she could not generate electricity.

Tania also tried to create fire, but only cold steam came out of her hands.

—We're going to die! We're going to die!— this words went through Menrva's mind and the others'. Everyone at that moment stopped moving and began to accept eternal freezing.

—There's no point in fighting anymore, we're going to die— those words echoed in Tania's mind as she saw that she, along with Menrva, were the only ones not completely frozen.

—So, you'll need my help in the end, won't you?— commented Loki, who everyone had lost sight of because of the cold, but to Tania and Menrva's surprise, the Norse god was neither frozen nor suffering from the cold.

Loki was walking calmly between both goddesses with his frozen chains, then, to the astonishment of both, he broke them.

—You know? If I wanted to run away, I would have done it a long time ago— continued the dark god.

—Do whatever you want, just let us die here— Tania said, while only her face was not yet frozen.

—Forgive me, Athena. I'm a failure of a leader. I deserve death!— cried Menrva, sobbing as she felt her face finally succumbing to the cold.

—Tell me, Tannit, do you want me to save you?— Loki asked the fire-haired goddess, whose face was still not frozen.

—It's useless, I'm already dead— said the dispirited goddess.

Loki began to laugh.

—Ah, I see, it's not just the frozen air, it's those creatures that the Skræling mentioned— Loki said, smiling as he moved his face closer to Tania's.

—The shadow men?— Tania asked, sobbing.

—That's right. As your minds are weak and your bodies are dying from the cold; they're preventing you from thinking clearly, and you're mentally defeating yourselves— Loki amusingly commented.

At that moment, he leaned against the frozen body of the Punic goddess and looked at her with a malevolent gaze.

—Would you give me your soul to save your life and your friends?— he said softly.

Tania closed her eyes and kept silent.

—You're free now, Loki. Go ahead, save your father that you talk so much about— commented the fire-haired goddess.

—You're right, something is telling me not to fight, to give up... but I...— the Punic goddess continued.

Tania began to recall the people of Ibiza with whom she had lived, the children she had healed, the women she had helped give birth, the people she had cured. All of this went through the goddess's mind, and she felt something lighting up her heart.

At that moment, Tania broke the ice structure covering her, her body engulfed in flames under her Manticore transformation.

—I'm sick and tired of always hearing similar voices in my mind; and for Rodrigo and the others, I won't give up on that!— she shouted.

Tania, wrapped in flames like a sun, began to roar and the room lit up, showing the shadow creatures on the walls staring in fright at the goddess; while a searing heat warmed the gigantic crack.

The beings, being illuminated by the potent energy of the goddess, vanished like dust.

—I will never sell you my soul. It belongs to my friends and the people who were unjustly sacrificed for me, Loki— Tania said, seeing her friends begin to free themselves from their icy prisons.

Loki looked on, amazed.

—The power of this girl is impressive! Almost on Thor's level, where did she get that power?— he wondered, trembling with fear at the sight of Tania's divinity.

—What happened?— Ana asked, breaking the frosty shell she was enclosed in.

At the same time, everyone else began to thaw and stand up, seeing Tania light up.

—Did you save us, Tania?— Anpiel asked as he stood up, his legs able to attach to him.

—Tania-san's power is impressive— Susanoo commented, surprised.

Menrva, who also broke her ice shell, saw Tania's gigantic power.

—Was she this strong before? No!— she thought to herself, surprised.

—Are you okay?— Epona asked Rodrigo, as he thawed and fell into the equine goddess's arms.

Rodrigo nodded, still not sure what had happened.

—Listen— said Tania. —Our minds were invaded by those shadow creatures that Nanook mentioned, so we lost our fighting spirit— she explained.

—The Taqriaqsuit?— Anpiel asked.

—That's right— Tania replied. —Unfortunately, I'm using all my power to withstand this cold. If we move on, I might not be able to save you all— she stated.

—Also, your power is running out quickly— Ana retorted.

—So, I'll take you as far as my body can hold— Tania continued.

—We don't know yet how long this cave is, Tania. We can't accept a sacrifice from you in a useless way— Menrva yelled furiously.

—If we go back, we'll face that god from Tula. Or we'll win or we'll be made prisoners in this land—Tania said.

—We will have to fight, Tania-san— Susanoo confidently replied.

—We've come to become stronger, and the battles will give us the experience we need— he said.

—Wait a minute!— Anpiel shouted, —You forget that Lel has several allies in these lands, like the man who attacked Adlivun. Do you think we can beat a squad of these people?— he asked.

Then, Tania emitted a sound of pain and closed her eyes tightly, doubling over in agony.

—Let's go! I'll take you as far as I can— Tania said, still with a pained expression.

—Why do you like to make things so difficult?— Loki asked, who was leaning petulantly against a wall.

—When did he get his handcuffs off?— Ana asked.

—The metals here have no value in this hellish cold. I believe they were made of something similar to adamantium, so, they froze and I'm free— Loki replied teasingly.

Everyone got on guard seeing Loki without chains, but the Norse god continued leaning against the wall.

—As I said before, I'm an ice giant. No matter how cold the environment is, as long as it's not colder than Niflheim, it won't affect me in the slightest— Loki commented.

—But your legs were frozen in prison— Ana said, intrigued.

—That? I froze them myself for a bigger impression— Loki replied.

At that moment, Tania complained of pain again and fell to her knees on the ground, but she still maintained her transformation at full power.

—How much longer can that girl endure to heat this room? Do you want her to die in vain just to have a few more seconds of warmth?— Loki continued to ask.

—Okay, Loki, use your 'magic' as an ice giant and protect us— Menrva said impatiently.

—We can't let someone like him act like that!— Epona shouted furiously, but Rodrigo quickly tried to calm her down.

—If you can save Tania, I will personally thank you— Rodrigo shouted to the Norse god.

Ana looked at him in surprise and bewilderment.

—No, no, please, I... can— Tania continued to say, panting as her fire began to fade.

—Just do it and get it over with! If anything happens, I'll be responsible— Menrva replied with a look of concern.

—Alright, fine— said Loki.

At that moment, the dark god donned his totema, a dark viking armor, and as he lifted his mistletoe staff to the sky. Then, the evil god shouted: —Íshindrun

Immediately, a kind of translucent blue cube completely covered all members of Orniskem, just as Tania lost her Manticore transformation.

Everyone began to feel that the cold had completely disappeared. Ana quickly ran to lift Tania, who had fallen to her knees on the floor and was breathing laboriously.

—Here, Tania, drink— the Irish goddess said to the Punic goddess, offering her some ambrosia. Fortunately, it had melted.

Tania drank and quickly recovered from her condition; then, she looked at Loki. Just as she was about to say something, she heard Rodrigo thank the Norse god, while he bowed to him.

—Thank you for saving Tania from doing something crazy— he said.

—Well, of course, I would do anything for such a beautiful girl as that goddess Tannit— Loki replied presumptuously.

—Hey, you moron, you will call me Tania, okay?— The goddess protested, then blushed and looked away.

—... And thanks for helping us— she said nervously.

Loki raised his arms in complacency and put on a smug smile.

—Well, I think we can now get out of this cave using this shield— Menrva said as she got back on her feet.

—Tell me, Loki, how long will this technique of yours take?— she asked.

—Long enough until we get out of this cave— Loki replied, still in his cocky position.

—Alright, let's move— ordered the Etruscan goddess, and everyone nodded. Then, they continued forward.

A few meters ahead, countless Taqriaqsuit began to approach the group. Since they were only shadows, they were sticking to the walls and ceiling, darkening the scenery even more. Menrva and Tania began to launch their attacks of both light and fire, which eliminated them, however, they kept appearing and appearing.

—Run away...—

—Go back...—

—Don't go forward...—

Everyone kept hearing these words constantly, and it could be seen that both Ana and Epona were the most affected by these mental attacks.

—Forgive me, Rui, for being a trash— Ana said to Rodrigo as she bit her lips in frustration.

—Leave me here, I'm just a nuisance!— Epona cried, sobbing.

Everyone else tried to cheer up the two goddesses, while Menrva and Tania continued their attacks.

Then, Loki took two steps forward and said: —Hugur sprengja

At that moment, all the Taqriaqsuit started to explode and disappear in masses.

—Really? Am I the only one in this group with mental powers?— Loki asked mockingly, as all the Taqriaqsuit had already disappeared.

—What did you do to them?— Tania asked.

—Oh, I just destroyed their minds with my ability— the Norse god replied.

Ana then pounded the ground in frustration.

—Damn it!— she yelled. —Why the hell do I fall so easily for those attacks?—

—It wasn't your fault, Ana— Rodrigo tried to comfort her, but she pushed him away.

—I fell for their tricks too, Ana, don't feel so bad— Epona commented frustratedly.

—I guess we still have skeletons we need to get out of our closets— the equine goddess added depressingly.

—As long as that man is alive, I can't grow— Ana continued to yell frustratedly.

Rodrigo understood she was referring to that deity who abused her in her native realm.

—Let's move on, Ana and Epona— Tania said, reaching out to both goddesses.

—Tell me, Tania— Ana said. —If I had fallen into that nightmare you were trapped in on Mars, would I have been able to escape?— she asked.

—Of course you would, Ana. You're mentally stronger than me— Tania replied as she pulled her hand to help her stand up along with Epona.

—I'm ashamed to say it, but it seems we wouldn't have been able to cross this dungeon without Loki's help— Menrva commented.

—It was nothing— Loki responded. —When I'm around women as beautiful as you, all my potential rises— the god continued in a cocky attitude.

Tania gave a look of disgust at the Norse god's comments. Then, they all proceeded to move forward.

—I just want you to know, Ep, I respect you a lot and I don't think you're what you said— Rodrigo said to the equine goddess as they continued walking through the gigantic frozen dungeon.

—I know, and I appreciate it— the Celtic goddess replied.

—But it's very humiliating to fall for those cheap mental tricks— she added.

—I was affected too— Rodrigo replied.

—They called me a coward for not avenging my mother's death. I felt it would destroy me shortly— he explained.

—We only have one thing to do: grow— Epona replied and patted the young tannin on the shoulder.

—Mate!— Susanoo said immediately, rasing his hand as a signal to stop.

—What's happening, Susanoo?— Menrva asked.

—Can you smell it? It smells like death ahead— the Oriental god continued.

—Do you think it's... the beast Nanook told us about earlier?— Ana asked.

—Mahaha— Anpiel commented.

—That one, precisely— Ana replied, embarrassed.

—I guess only Anpiel can learn these strange names— Epona replied, amused.

At that moment, at the end of the hallway, white eyes and a huge mocking smile shone like pearls. From that darkness, slowly, gigantic claws appeared and eerily caressed the dungeon wall.

—This creature is very strong, be careful— Anpiel warned, as Mahaha pounced on the group with a deafening shriek and a look full of anger and bloodlust.

Everyone avoided the creature's attack. The shock was so strong that it lifted much of the ground and shook the enclosure.

—It's true, it's quite strong— Tania commented.

—However, something has changed in this time— Ana continued.

—Of course I know it, we're stronger— Epona continued.

Tania, transformed into a manticore, rushed at the creature and cut off its right arm; meanwhile, Ana, with her Gram sword, cut off the left hand. When the creature tried to attack with its huge, sharp teeth, Epona, transformed into a white mare, struck the beast's jaw, causing it to fall backwards to the ground.

—These girls are incredible, I will adore them as my goddesses!— Loki exclaimed, excitedly with fake tears in his eyes.

—Hey Susanoo, are we going to let these girls overshadow us?— Menrva shouted cheerfully at the Oriental god.

—Bakane! Ikkimasho, Menrva-san!— Susanoo also shouted as he drew his katana.

Mahaha's arms were reattaching to his body, and the jaw broken by Epona's attack was healing. But just as it got up, both Menrva and Susanoo split it from shoulders to hip. Gushes of blood emanated from both wounds, as the creature shrieked in agony.

—They are stronger than him, they can beat it!— Anpiel shouted excitedly, cheering the group on.

Meanwhile, Rodrigo stood watching the spectacle without knowing exactly what to do.

The ichor of the beast immediately regenerated, and it swiftly spun its claws, catching Menrva and Susanoo and throwing them to the ground, creating two enormous cracks upon impact.

—Its divine power is absurdly high— Menrva said laboriously, having been torn into two parts by the attack, with her ichor unable to recover.

Susanoo, on the other hand, managed to avoid the attack better, but he lost a leg in the impact.

—Totemo, totemo tsuyoi— he gasped.

—Did it defeat Menrva and Susanoo with just one attack?— Rodrigo was astonished.

Meanwhile, Tania, Ana, and Epona tried their attacks again, but the beast began spinning like a top with its claws extended. Its energy cut through everything around it. The three goddesses were brutally cut by the monster's attack.

Tania's body was mutilated into three pieces. She tried to stand up again but to no avail. Ana and Epona didn't seem to suffer as much apparent damage, but they were unconscious from the impact.

Furious, Rodrigo shouted: —Open, fourth chakra!—

The tannin began to glow white and immediately flew toward Mahaha, striking it with a giant whirlwind, which made the creature explode into pieces.

Anpiel rushed to give ambrosia to all the fallen, while Rodrigo looked at the pieces of the creature to see if it had perished. When Rodrigo noticed the pieces starting to reassemble, he raised his hand and yelled: —Esfera de Venus

An enormous sphere of sacred energy was emitted from his hand and collided with the creature's pieces, resulting in a powerful explosion of white light that incinerated and eliminated all traces of the creature.

Rodrigo fell to his knees, panting, but Mahaha had completely disappeared. The others looked on in awe at Rodrigo's tremendous power.

—I can't believe that boy could completely surpassed me— Menrva thought worriedly.

—Rui, that was amazing!— Ana exclaimed, going to hug him tightly, causing Rodrigo to feel like his bones were breaking and begging her to stop.

—Sorry, Rui, I didn't realize— the apologetic goddess said, letting him go.

—You're a brute, crow-face— Epona commented, helping Rodrigo to his feet.

—Congratulations— she said.

Tania also approached the young tannin and gave him a thumbs-up.

Susanoo smiled then.

—I knew Rodrigo-san would be an excellent rival. Now I feel so excited!— he shouted joyfully.

However, the ashes of the creature started swirling like a whirlwind, attempting to reform into Mahaha.

—No, it's not defeated yet— Ana shouted in fear.

Susanoo then remembered Nanook's words about the creature's weakness to water.

—Good job, Rodrigo-san, but I think I can give this beast a proper burial— the god said as he approached the monster again.

—What are you planning, Susanoo? Remember that it nearly killed you with a single blow— Menrva yelled.

—Hai, I know. But now that it's weakened, I think I can destroy it with its weakness— the god commented, thrusting his katana into the ground.

Mizu no tsume!— The Eastern god shouted as a huge water claw emerged from the ground and crushed the still-deforming beast. Its regeneration was not yet complete. Then, a muffled blue explosion ensued, ending everything in a gentle rain.

—Subete kanryo!— Susanoo said as he sheathed his katana. The spirit of the beast Mahaha disappeared.

—All these kids have become much stronger since the last time we faced each other. I'll have to be careful— Loki thought, looking at Rodrigo with a cautious gaze.

—Well, we have to keep moving forward— Menrva said, still in shock.

Everyone nodded.

The group walked for several more hours in the gigantic passageway until they finally saw an enormous door. It was made of oak and had a drawing of a red circle with a cross through the middle.

—We have finally arrived in the Dene territories— Anpiel said excitedly.