The Ghost of OtherWorld Vol. 1: The Flame Knight of Ember Palace
The moment they were alone without shackles, Yuriko ran into Souta's arms and cried to her hearts content. And Souta didn't blame her a bit. What was happening, it was scary. He was scared beyond belief, but he'd never admit that. He needed to look cool and figure a way out.
"Where are they taking that girl?" Yuriko sniffled.
Souta and Yuriko had been thrown into a jail cell with each other while Harada was taken away with the man, Tidis.
"I..I don't know, but I know that I will get all of us out of here. I promise."
As they talked Yuriko began to wander around the cell. It was structured from black bricks, which you could tell from the smell that they were brimstone. The floor appeared to be polished obsidian or something of that matter. There was a wooden pale, most likely the method of using the bathroom, and there was a pile of hay with a pelt blanket. It certainly wasn't much.
"Since we don't know how long we'll be here, will you explain to me what's happening and why?"
Souta sighed to himself. He'd been wondering how'd he explain all this, and Souta decided he would tell it as it was. So, taking a deep breath and doing his best to recall all that had happened when he wasn't unconscious, he began his story.
As he spoke, he took a seat next to Yuriko. He started as the story had started, with him walking home on the last day of school. He explained that he found Harada and couldn't leave her alone because of the Moonlight Miracle. Then he explained how she'd almost burnt him alive with fire, and how the next morning he was using magic. How he'd formed a bond with Harada by giving her his soul and how he now had a partnership with the spirit Gadreel. He went into depth about his first battle, the parts when he wasn't possessed. Then he had to skip a few weeks from how he was healing in a comma.
He moved to being trained with Harada and he took a moment to tell Yuriko about Otherworld and how Harada was a princess and a fugitive. Once he was finished Souta took a deep breath. Yuriko nodded after each part he had told, she was a really good listener, and she didn't question anything he said. But it wasn't like she could considering what she'd just went through because of him. That only added on to him getting her home. She wasn't a ghost. She was as normal as could be. Yuriko was your average perverted high school girl, he wouldn't let things go down hill now.
"Don't worry," Souta said at last. "I'm going to get us all out if here." With a smile he approached the iron bars of their cell.
"Hey," Souta kicked at the bottom of the bars with his foot, he did so in the most annoying matter he could. "I demand to speak with the king!" he yelled.
When he received no reply and no one appeared he began to yell louder and kick more frequently. "Hey! I know someone can hear me! I want to see the king, take me to the leader!"
Souta went silent and he heard a slight sigh come from beyond his vision. With a clap of their hands, a dozen torches that lined the outside walls of the dungeon blazed to life. At the end of the hall Souta and Yuriko saw a man they weren't to fond of. The head knight and commander of the operation to abduct them. From what Souta knew, his name was Tidis. The man approached the cell with a grim expression.
"Eh, is that so?" he asked, referring to Souta wanting to see the king.
"That's right." Souta gripped the cell bars tightly. "I want to negotiate with this king. I want to bargain for mine and the girls freedom."
Tidis stared curiously into Souta's eyes, then chuckled to himself. That small chuckle then formed into a long obnoxious laugh. Souta wanted to beat Tdis's face in. That was until he stopped.
"You know, you're a brave one, I admire that. But before I let you continue with a royal audience, I must know...what is the princess to you?"
Souta's eyes widened and he took a step away from the cell's door. What was the princess to him?
His thoughts spiraled into a montage of all his events with Harada, from training, to eating, even her getting embarrassed when almost anything happened between them. As these thoughts played in his mind he realized something. He cared for her, he did so very deeply. The only thing he couldn't understand at the current moment was what exactly did it mean? Souta didn't have time to put much of his attention onto that thought. Right now he needed to free them. Right now they were all prisoners and that was the main problem.
"The princess.." Souta started a statement which he hoped to come out as admirable, but he stopped and chose each word with great care. "The princess is my partner."
"Huh?" Tidis raised an eyebrow. "Explain boy."
"I found the princess bleeding and soon to die, this was by the king's order and by the hands of you and your men. I rushed her to my home in hopes I could save her, and even while I was oblivious to the fact, I did so. Harada now holds a portion of my soul as her own. I don't know exactly what that means by the traditions of the ghost, but to me that means that we are partners. We're in this and whatever is to come together. Over the past few weeks that I've spent with Harada, I've learned so much and I know that she is a great person. That's why I'll never turn her away. We'll face you, the king and even the gods together. So please! Let me see the king!"
By the time he was finished, Souta was on the verge of crying. He didn't exactly know why though. He wasn't exactly sad, but even with emotions aside, he couldn't stop the tears from streaming down his cheeks.
"That was an, acceptable explanation," Tidis managed a short series of claps. Souta didn't know if they were sincere or sarcastic. "Very well, on behalf of my title as a knight, I respect you. If you follow me, I will escort you to the royal hall."
Tidis opened the cell's door, and allowed Souta and Yuriko to step outside.
"For reasons I'm sure you understand, I must bind you."
With a snap of his fingers, thick ropes appeared from nowhere, a manifestation of magic, and they wrapped themselves around Souta's and Yuriko's wrists.
"Please follow me, and Souta.."
"What is it?"
"Before you set yourself on any rash decisions you've come up with, let me tell you this. The king is old but powerful. He is far stronger than myself, or the princess, he's stronger than anyone you've likely seen in combat. So be wise about what you say and what you do."
As they stepped up the obsidian stairs Souta made his choice. He decided he wouldn't fight. Not at this moment anyway. He would only speak.
"Oh? Could it be you've brought me visitors? This is quite the surprise Tidis."
Souta and Yuriko were lead into a large room by Tidis. It was an extremely large, circular room that was arguably about the size of a football field. Evenly placed throughout the chambers were large pillars that were elegantly chiseled from black marble. From the entrance to the rooms center was a long red carpet, with gold lining, which ended at a beautiful throne. The room was so empty it might have seemed ugly, but even with the chambers emptiness it didn't take away from it's beauty.
Yuriko and Souta followed behind Tidis until they reached the end of the carpet. Standing at the foot of the throne, Tidis keeled to the man that occupied it.
The man was old, so old he could have passed for the first person alive. His skin was wrinkled and might possibly have been constructed from leather. Souta didn't feel like finding out it's texture. He had a scraggly white bread, it was probably to make up for his hairless head which contained his crown. A jeweled accessory that marked his place as the king of this place.
"What's this Tidis? Our guest in binds, this is hardly formal, you're giving me a bad name! Please release them."
"Yes, my Lord." Tidis snapped his fingers the same way he had when the binds were put on, and just like that they vanished.
"That's better, now you are excused. I wish to have a private audience with our guest. They are of great importance after all."
"Bu--" Tidis went to interject by realized it unwise and stopped himself. "As you wish." And with those words he was gone. Walking down the red carpet and disappearing through the chamber's large doors. Once he was gone, things seemed to instantly become more tense.
There was a deadly silence. Yuriko glancing at the ground, as if her feet had suddenly become overly interesting. Souta didn't take his eyes off the old king. He gave the geezer the most intense look he could muster. And it remained that way until the king spoke.
"You are here to bargain with me, no?"
Souta didn't speak, he only nodded.
"Very well, let us barter. First you'll explain what you want. Then I'll make some sort of counter proposal if we are not in agreement."
"I'm here to gain passage home for myself, Yuriko and Harada." Souta's statement was short, sweet and directly to the point. However, the king didn't like this point that Souta had reached.
"Counter proposal; leave my daughter and you and your friend leave now."
"I'm afraid that won't work. I'm not leaving without Harada. That is final."
"Stubborn. Reminds me of myself a few hundred years ago.."
Just exactly how old is this man?!
"Very well. You absolutely will not leave without my daughter?"
"Then this is my final proposal that doesn't involve you all being slaughtered like cattle. You fight for her and your ticket home."
"Fight?" Souta asked. "What exactly do you mean?"
"Oh, Harada never mentioned the tournament we hold here? Yes, yes, it's a big event that's held every time a Aalok enters the palace. Of course, you'd be the first one to actually take place in it, but what do you say? If you can rise to the top and secure top place, then not only will I let you go, I'll go along with any demands you have. How's that for an opportunity?" The king laughed to himself, which sounded like a small animal dying.
"Very well." Souta said. "Not only will I join, I'll win. Then you'll understand that you never mess with the people I care for."
"Oh, is that so? Well be prepared, your first fight will be tomorrow, until then, you are my guest." The king clapped his hands together, and out of nowhere a man appeared. He was young looking, but had no hair on his head, and a bushy white mustache.
"Arata," the king said. "Please escort our guest to some appropriate quarters. Our young ghost has a big day tomorrow."
"As you wish."
The man bowed to the king, and walked past Souta and Yuriko saying, "Please, follow me."
Taking Yuriko's hand, which seemed to surprise her, in so she blushed deeply.
"Come on," Souta said. "Lets see if we can find Harada."
There was a loud sound that seemed to echo throughout the room they were in. Yuriko had made herself halfway comfortable on the large, plush bed that the room had come pre-equipped with. Souta however, was standing when the loud noise became existent, in fact he was the target and source of the noise.
Harada had smacked him, hard.
"You idiot!" Harada had tears steaming down her cheeks like small streams. Her teeth were gritted together, it was clear that she was both concerned and angry. "Don't you have half a brain?! You don't understand what you've done!"
Souta couldn't move, and Yuriko wouldn't. The tension of the room was so thick that a knife couldn't cut it. Souta just remained frozen, staring down at Harada, his eyes were wide. She was right about one thing, he didn't understand. He'd made a fair deal and he knew he'd win. Losing wasn't optional.
"Harada, it's okay, I'll get us all home." He looked between the two girls. Seeing their negative emotions displayed on their faces only gave him more motivation. He needed to make sure they both got to safety. "I promise you I will."
Souta couldn't stand to see Harada the way she was. With certain ideas in mind, he headed for the room's door.
"Don't you understand?!" Harada demanded. "He'll do everything possible to see that you don't win. You can't, not when he plays the game like he does."
Souta had stopped with the door halfway open, "I don't care," he whispered. "Let him play anyway he likes. I'll find a way to win every time."
"Harada, no matter what, I'll win, I just hope you can stop being angry with me, to forgive me." His words had caused Harada to stop crying, and almost emotionless, she stared at him as his back was turned.
"Where are you going?!" she demanded.
"To save you."
Those were the last words said before the door was closed and Souta was separated from the two. Once gone, all Harada managed was to collapse. She dropped her knees and continued crying, however, Yuriko rushed to her side in an attempt to ease her.
"Y..you," Harada sniffled. "You're Souta's friend."
She nodded, "That's right, I'm Yuriko Sola. And you're a princess right?"
As they asked and answered each others questions, the night flew away. As the two did their best to bond.
"This should do.."
Souta was faced with an open courtyard he'd found after sometime of wandering through the palace.
[You're sure about this?] Gadreel's deep voice asked Souta through his mind.
"It's risky," Souta admitted, "But my swordsmanship need to be improved as much as possible from now until the match. Also, this ability, if we can make it work, then we can definitely win this fight."
[Yes, although making it work is the issue. In only a day, it's close to impossible.]
"Then we make it a possibility. No exceptions."
Gadreel laughed, [You know, I like you kid. You're not like my past partners, things will surely remain interesting with you around.]
Souta smiled. He couldn't have agreed more.
He readied himself as a small breeze blew through the courtyard. Souta began a chant to summon his weapon. "Come to me, Thanatos!"
As Souta completed the chant, millions of golden particles appeared and compressed together to form the shape of a sword. They then dispersed in an instant, and Souta held a long, large ebony blade. Gadreel's chosen weapon for him, the thief of and yet bringer of life. The grim reaper, Thanatos.
[Prepare yourself,] Gadreel said. [To summon forth such an ability you will need to have a clear mind and be able to understand everything about your opponent and how they battle. Only then will you achieve perfect vision.]
Souta nodded and readied his blade, closing his eyes.
[But first, swing! Top right, parry!]
Souta did as Gadreel instructed and followed his words with sword movements.
[Center jab! Leg swipe! High counter!]
Souta began to dance across the courtyard in an elegant series of movements as he followed his spirits instructions. As a new move was presented in his head he immediately copied it into his waltz across the stone-brick. He got to the point where he was capable of doing so without thought, until he wasn't slashing at the air.
Throughout the middle of his instruction, he made an attempt at a downward slash and found that his blade was intercepted by another blade, which was followed by the ringing of sword on sword. Souta's eyes shot open to see one of the only people that could possibly bring a smile to his face. Harada had blocked his sword.
"You don't expect to win with such sloppy sword work, do you?"
Souta smiled. "If you can do better, I'd love to see it."
"I'll put you on your ass faster than you can say cinders."
Harada and Souta took equal steps away from each other and readied their swords.
"Don't be afraid to hurt me! I'm a healer after all." Souta said this as his plan quickly formed.
"Very well!" Harada readied herself to charge.
[Will you use it now?]
Souta nodded. "I can test it's effectiveness here and now."
Harada charged, her double edged blade Gram in her hands. She didn't hold back with her power, and immediately brought Gram straight down with full force.
Souta held Thanatos up and was able to block with its blunt edge. The collision of the two blades sent a wave of force blasting throughout the courtyard.
I need to see more! Souta thought to him.
He swung at Harada and studied the form she made as she block, the way she held her blade, and how she countered when she returned with an offensive swing with Gram.
After seeing that all, Souta understood. It was as if his mind had put all the pieces together and had painted the clearest picture for him. In a single instant he understood every single detail of Harada's sword methods. He knew exactly how it worked. Every small bit of it. He could predict what she'd do before she did it. And he proved that.
Harada moved Gram into position and jabbed at Souta. However, he saw this. It was more or less in a vision, a premonition of sorts. And he saw that Harada would jab at him. So he moved to deflect.
He flung his sword around the edges of Gram and flicked it upward. This causing Harada to lose her hold on the blade and it was released from her hands. It landed a few feet away and clattered against the ground.Following through, he moved Thanatos upward and stopped when it was against the surface of her throat.
Harada smiled. "So, this is what you call perfect vision. I must say, I'm impressed."
Souta dropped his blade, and stepped away.
"Maybe there is hope." Harada said, "But you're still in way over your head.."
Souta frowned. "That doesn't matter. All that matters is what happens here and now."
His eyes met with Harada's and silence dominated between them. His thoughts shifted to what he'd talked with Tidis about Harada. He'd asked what she meant to him, and now, Souta thought he might have had an idea.
"All that matters is the here and now," he repeated in a quieter tone.
He didn't realize it until she was already extremely close, but Harada was closing the distance between them, her face consumed with blush, and her eyes slowly closing.
As much as Souta wanted what he thought was about to happen, or thought he did, he couldn't. Not now. Instead of meeting her lips with his, he moved his head to the side and planted a small kiss upon her cheek. This action was sweet, and caught Harada by surprise. The action made her eyes open, and slightly widen from surprise. But she soon gave off a kind smile.
"Harada," Souta had placed his hands on his shoulders, "Do you know what a date is?"
She did. Harada might not have been a human, but the traditions of ghost weren't too far off. Even they dated.
"Of course I do!" Harada blushed. "What does it matter anyway?"
"When we get back to my home, well I won't have a lot of time left before school. So, do you think you could consider going out with me?"
Souta was flustered and scratched at the back of his neck as he spoke. Almost unable to make eye contact due to embarrassment. What he was saying, well it was sudden, it came out of nowhere but that did not effect Harada.
"Get us out of here tomorrow and you've got yourself a deal."
She extended her hand, which Souta took a moment to shake. "It's a promise then. We'll definitely go home and have a date."
"We'll definitely go home and have a date."
Yuriko couldn't help but smile. What had she missed?! How close were those two that he'd ask her to go on a date? It should have been Yuriko. She loved Souta with all the emotions she could muster, they had been through everything together and for each other. She loved him, and as she stood behind that pillar, listening to what they had to say with each other, she cried.
What started as one simple tear then turned into two, and before she knew it she couldn't hold back and dozens of small pellets spewed from her eyes like a broken sink.
"Okada.." She said to herself. "You idiot."
"LADIES AND GENTLEMEN!"
As Souta took his place in a circular arena, there was someone, a female, announcing the entire thing. He didn't like that she'd be commenting on his entire fight. He stood in an oval shaped arena surrounded by possibly hundreds of thousands of people. Well...ghost. He wouldn't lie, this made him nervous, and even raised the stakes.
WITH THE PRIVILEGES GRANTED TO US BY THE KING, I WELCOME YOU ALL TO THE 80TH ANNUAL TOURNAMENT OF EMBER PALACE!"
She's over excited... Souta thought as she screamed her announcements. The entirety of the crowd roared with anticipation for the tournament to being, he wouldn't lie, Souta wanted it to begin as well. Just so it would end faster.
Even through the roaring of the crowd, he heard a familiar voice call his name, followed by another yelling "Okada!" When he turned he saw that Harada and Yuriko were placed in the closest row to the arena, their box was separated, and was labeled "Royal Family".
He waved to them, but almost instantly reverted his attention as his opponent entered the arena.
EVERYONE! I WELCOME TO THE ARENA OUR FIRST CHALLENGER, HE IS A FORCE TO BE FEARED. AN EX KNIGHT, AND SOLIDER, GORO!
Souta faced the opposite end of the arena as a man entered. Towering over him by several feet, he definitely was leading in the muscle category. It seemed that the towering man had spent his life exercising every muscle in his body. The guy was a walking mass of muscle. Aside from his giant biceps, he was wearing some sort of traditional robes with what Souta might have guessed was a native american design. His hair was cut short and black. All of his face was scared.
The woman had said he was a solider and knight...Souta didn't know what the difference was, but he didn't bother thinking about it further.
The man squinted and sized up Souta. Finally, after a few seconds of visualization, the man, Goro, removed his blade from his back. It was a huge, double edge steel blade that had the capability of cleaving Souta in half if he wasn't careful. Although, to his surprise, he wouldn't need to worry about that blade. Goro twirled the blade in his hands, and his elegant dance with the sword ended when he placed in into the arena's flooring. The blade cutting through the stone brick like it was warm butter.
"Say, kid, whats your name?" Goro's voice was deep, and to someone else probably a decent intimidation.
Souta unbuttoned the wrist collars of his white button-down shirt, and rolled up his sleeves. "My name is Souta Okada and I am your first, and last opponent in this tournament!"
Goro erupted into a laughter that silenced the crowd. As he bellowed from Souta's words the specters went silent, probably waiting for the match to begin.
"I am a knight of Ember Palace, we are trained in the most extreme conditions, and taught never to lose, I'd like to see you win."
"Then pull that sword from the stone and fight me!" Souta threw back. He held his serious expression as their dialogue continued.
"So serious," Goro chuckled. "This is all for fun, calm yourself. As a show of good sportsmanship I won't use my sword. I'll take you on with my bare hands." He pounded his fist together. "What do you say?"
"If you decide to go bare handed then so will I." Souta didn't bother summoning Thanatos, instead holding up his fist in a fighting motion.
"Is our pact still ongoing?" Souta whispered to himself.
[Indeed,] Gadreel rang in Souta's mind. [Show these people the power of myself, yourself, and the ancient traditions!]
Souta made a fighting stance and prepared to sprint. "Zōka suru!"
Activating an ability achieved through his blood sacrifice to the god of victory, he was ready. A wave of dark red energy engulfed Souta. In that mere instant he felt the power that the ability granted.
WHOA! The announcer shouted into her speakers. THE NEW FIGHTER, SOUTA OKADA OPENS WITH SOME BLACK MAGIC! I CAN'T SAY FOR SURE HOW HE'S MAINTAINING CONTROL OF HIMSELF, BUT HE MUST BE STRONG! ONLY THE MOST POWERFUL WARRIORS CAN CONTAIN THEMSELVES DURING BLACK RITUALS!
The crowd erupted with cheer.
"So you've got a trick or two, eh?" Goro made his own fighting stance, balling his huge fists. "But i'm afraid it won't be enough." Goro looked down, and seemed suddenly depressed. It seemed as if all his excitement for the fight had instantly drained from him. "I have win, NO MATTER WHAT!"
Goro slammed his fist down onto the stone brick flooring. At the force the bricks cracked, then shattered completely. Sending a wave of forced, which was formed from pure strength at Souta. He was only able to avoid the attack because of how visible it was. The force destroyed all of the flooring in whatever direction it was sent, in this case, at Souta.
Souta rolled to the side and saw as the area he was standing exploded into a crater and bits of stone filled the air in a shower on concrete.
"Not bad twerp! But you'll need to do better!" Goro sprinted forward, which caught Souta off guard. His speed was dramatically insane! For such a massive figure, Goro shouldn't have had the ability to move as fast as he did. Souta raised his red glowing fist, but that was almost all he could do as Goro appeared through the cloud of dust. Souta blocked with both his arms held in an X as Goro sent his tightly clenched fist into Souta's mid-chest area. Souta was sent back several feet from the force, but remained in his form, his feet sliding against the ground to stop himself.
Before Souta could recover or move from his last attack, Goro was already at his throat. He raised his leg highly and forcefully sent it down onto Souta, who couldn't do more than accept the kick.
YES! The announcer was back to consuming her microphone as she spoke. GORO HAS OPENED WITH SOME OF HIS RENOUNCED SPEED AND MARTIAL ARTS! IT APPEARS THAT EVEN WITH HIS BLACK MAGIC SOUTA OKADA IS HAVING TROUBLE HOLDING HIS OWN!
"Okada! You can win!" Yuriko shouted from her seat. Her words encouraging Harada to shout from the bottom of her heart. "Souta, win for us! Take me home!"
The entire arena immediately silenced at her words, and everyone focused on the center of the arena, where everyone heard Goro grunt.
As the veil of dust parted and they were able to see the arena, they saw that Goro's leg hadn't made a full connection, and instead was intercepted. It was showed that Souta had a tight hold on Goro's leg from bellow and was straining himself to push against it.
"Impossible!" Goro yelled. "Y..you can't have caught that. I put everything into that kick!"
"Ha! That wasn't a kick!" Souta cocked as he shoved against Goro, the result was him staggering backwards. Souta jumped forwards, in the mist of doing so he extended his leg and spun his body. "Now this a kick!" His foot collided with the side if Goro's arm which was held up to block.
"N...not bad kid." He grunted. "But like I said, I can't lose!"
With his free hand, Goro revealed a dagger. Almost instantly unsheathing it, he went for a puncture wound in Souta's chest. But with amazing speed he avoided it. Jumping a few feet away Souta frowned at Goro. "What happened to no weapons?"
Goro didn't reply, instead walking over to his blade that until now remained impaled into the ground.
"Oh well. I was planning on using my sword this round anyway." Souta extended his hand, and began to silently chant. After a brief few seconds went by, Souta shouted; "Come to me, Thanatos!" As a million tiny particles of gold compressed themselves together, Souta held his spirit's weapon in his hands.
Goro readied his blade, as did Souta.
IT WOULD APPEAR THAT GORO AND SOUTA HAVE CHOSEN TO ENTER A BALLET OF BLADES. I WONDER WHO WILL COME OUT VICTORIOUS!
As Souta held his blade in an appropriate manner to rush Goro, the dark red aura that surrounded him began to blaze highly with an intense furry, and the color of Souta's irises began to flicker. They were changing from their original blue to a dark purple.
[Partner, I'm losing control of the rituals effects. We need to stop!]
"That isn't optional," Souta began to transfer his energy into Thanatos, causing the black blade to outline in red.
[We don't know how this will end!] Gadreel yelled.
"One hit," Souta whispered. "It'll end in one hit!"
Souta rushed forward at his insane speed, this signaling for Goro to do the same. Their swords ready, the two met halfway in the arena as their blades met one another. The crowd erupted with favor as the two met. As their forces collided with each other there was a massive explosion of energy. Causing the crowd to lose sight of the battle. It was when the filed was in their vision that Harada stared down at the field in fear. Goro's blade was shattered and the pieces lay scattered around his body. Which had made the arena it's resting place. Souta stood above, smiling down with a crazed smile, Thanatos at Goro's throat, she knew what had happened, and what he'd do.
"Harada.." Yuriko said. "Why doesn't Souta stop, that man can't fight, but it looks like he's going to kill him. What's going on?"
As Souta stood in the arena's center with his blood red aura and his newly found purple eyes, Harada had only one explanation. "That power surrounding him is the perk of a blood ritual, it's a segment of black magic, and his eyes..."
"What about his eyes, I can't see them from this far."
"They've changed color, they're now a dark purple, meaning only one thing."
"What is it?" Yuriko almost demanded, which wasn't like her.
"It's the danger that comes at using black magic. Souta's been possessed by his inner demon. An entity that lurks within everyone and gains power and sometimes control from this magic. I'm afraid he is lost."
"We can help him right?" Yuriko asked. "Right?..."
Harada nodded. Tears began streaming down her face, and she stood. Chanting to herself she summoned her large blade Gram. "To save him...We must kill him."