Chapter 134:

Trouble Underwater (2)

Mad God


As the cloud of darkness crept closer to them, Ren’s hands lit up, covered in violet electricity. Using the salty water as the perfect conductor, she sent out two bolts of lightning towards the demon that was closing in on her. From the outside, it was as if a storm was brewing underwater. When the first attack left Ren’s fingers, the water around her began to boil and bubble. As Ren’s attack landed, it blew out giant chunks of the black ‘cloud’ that the demon was hiding himself in. On the Calm Blue’s surface, a column of water rose to the air, as if an active volcano was rampaging underwater. A deep and painful roar resonated from the now disturbed cloud and two, brownish tentacles came forward, blocking the next, incoming attack of Ren. After the ink-cloud that he was hiding in was partially destroyed by Ren, a giant squid finally revealed itself before her. Its length was almost 40 meters and multiple tentacles were sprouting out from besides its mouth. He was thrashing around angrily, aiming towards Ren, trying to squash her.


“You may have grown big but you ain’t that smart, eh?” Ren laughed, stretching her hand out as an enormous lightning saber formed before her. Grabbing onto its hilt she quickly sized up her enemy before making her move. “I’m not good with blades, but I don’t need precision to serve up dinner!” She grinned, flying forward. She was swinging it down as hard as she could, arriving before the demon in a flash. As the saber met with the tentacles, it broke apart instantly, blowing up in the squid’s ‘face’.


The sparks and chains of lightning that were blossoming like an exploding firework, strapped themselves around its tentacles. They were sticking into it like needles and shards of broken glass, constantly sending insufferable, sharp pain through its sensitive nervous system. Now another roar came from him, but it was painful, as its tentacles involuntarily curled up. The escaping electricity was quickly getting a response from the ink that the demon previously surrounded itself with. It was trying to splurge out more right at that moment too, wanting to escape yet it only resulted in a chain reaction. The next moment continuous explosions followed suit, shaking the whole body of water around them. As the ink rose up to the surface of the ocean it caught on fire, just like oil would, burning violently. It was lighting up the coral reef as if the sun just rose up in the middle of the night.


“Well… at least Master can have some fun!” Lulu sighed, watching the fight.


“I’ll be honest… My instincts were telling me that we are in danger… still do! But what I see… is completely contradictory to that.” Yanda nodded.


“Its feelings have also changed.” Ariana said, now sounding like she pitied the giant squid. “It came with an aggressive and violent mindset… like someone who has been woken up from sleep… but now what I feel is…” She explained, trying to feel out his thoughts. Just at that moment another animalistic scream traveled over to them as their Master grabbed onto one of the tentacles and just tore it off like a twig. “Ouch!” Ariana trembled. “What I feel from it is… Is only fear.”


“Catch!” Ren’s voice arrived, throwing the torn off tentacle towards them. “I’ll bring it back for Kyu!” She laughed, going after another tentacle while the demon wanted nothing more than to escape.


“NO! PLEASE STOP!” Came a helpless scream as the squid cried out and squirmed with pain, curling up into a ball. From its red eyes tears were dissolving into the water, raising the saltiness of the Calm Blue by a few percent.


“Huh? You are able to talk?” Ren stopped, tilting her head, honestly surprised.


“Yes, yes! Please! Just… stop this!” He cried loudly as the violent electricity still danced around its body. “It hurts! It really hurts! Please! I’ll go! I won’t come back! I just follow orders! Please let me go!” He pleaded again, further surprising everybody who was watching the battle.


“Take up your human-like form and let’s talk.” Ren placed her hands on her waist as she dissolved her energies that were binding the squid.


He quickly agreed, shrinking down greatly and only after a few seconds later, a young teenage boy was floating before her. He was looking ghostly white and trembling constantly, watching Ren with dread in his eyes. The only difference between him and a human were his 4 arms and 4 legs, ending in tentacles, instead of fingers. Albeit, by now, he was missing one of the arms from his right side.


“Can… Can I go?” He asked, shedding any majestic aura around him. He was looking like a beaten animal, trying to look as small and inconspicuous before Ren as possible. He was seeing her like a dangerous predator.


“No.” Ren shook her head. “You are going to answer my questions. After that, I’ll decide what I’ll do with you. If your answers are lies I’ll know and I’ll make a soup out of you. If your answers are satisfying, I may let you go.” She explained calmly, beckoning for Ariana and the rest to come closer.


“I won’t lie, I won’t lie!” He nodded quickly. Seeing the rest arrive and especially feeling the presence of Ariana, he quickly took another glance at her, shivering involuntarily. He hurriedly tore his eyes away, but he was even more scared by now.


“What is your name?” Ren asked, crossing her arms before her chest.


“Karthakan the Terror from the Deep!” He answered but then quickly added to it. “But it's just Karth for my friends… ehehe… ehhhh… yeah…” He tried to lighten the mood, without success. “Ugh…mmm… Karth… yeah, just Karth…”


“Okay, Mr. Terror from the Deep.” Ren continued. “Why are you coming here? Why are you terrorizing a village and why were you trying to eat us?”


“Ah, no-no-no! That is a misunderstanding!” Karth protested, flailing around with his multiple tentacles. “I was sent here to bring back… to bring back… um…” He trailed off, looking at Yanda then back to the village, then his eyes landed back on Ren. “But It seems the one who I was sent to retrieve is not here anymore so… I think we can all go on our way, yes? Yes?”


“Stop bullshitting.” Ren raised her voice a notch, scaring Karth immediately. “You are already halfway into the pot, it's just… You still haven’t realized it.”


“I was sent here by the leader to fetch the next sacrifice and bring it back! Honest! He doesn’t tell us anything else when she sends one of us out! We just come and there is usually someone who has already been prepared for us! We grab him or her and bring them back to our home, the Abyss! That's it!”


“And I assume you have some snacks along the way?” Lulu asked as she was rolling her eyes.


“Sometimes…” Karth nodded honestly.


“What are you doing with the so-called sacrifices?” Ren asked, putting more pressure on Karth.


“I don’t know! Honest! Honest as I can be! What we call home as the Abyss is not the… real one. The real one is what we call the Maw, the deep trench there! But it's the home of our Leader! We can’t go down there! We just bring the sacrifices down to a certain depth and leave them there for the Leader! She does with them what she wants, we are not privy to it… She just said a new sacrifice has arrived and it was my turn to go and collect it!”


“Why do you obey her? You could go and be the leader of your own tribe. Like the one here and collect your own sacrifices.” Ren scoffed, tilting her head, watching his reactions to the question.


“Me? Ah, no! No-no-no! No chance! You are a surface dweller, yes? You don’t understand what it is like living here! There are very scary and strong demons living in the ocean! Especially if you travel far into the south! I am just a speck compared to them! If someone like me kicked up too much of a fuss one of them would come… and eat me whole!” He explained quickly, honestly protesting against her idea. “There are strict territories around here! Our leader has her own region, the Abyss! A deep and long trench at the bottom of the ocean. We are safe from the others there as her presence protects us! As long as we worship her!”


“Worship…” Ren murmured, looking back at the village that was also, clearly a zealous bunch. Turning her eyes towards Ariana she was already ready with her answer.


“He speaks the truth, Master.” She nodded, backing up Karth’s statements.


“Do you know this leader’s true form? Why is she asking for sacrifices?” Ren asked.


“The leader? I don’t really know… I am only privy to information that just floats around the surface. Gossips mostly.” Karth scratched his head, thinking hard. “She is ancient, they say she is more than 1500 years old. I never saw her in her real form but this is not the only village where she demands sacrifices from.”


“There are more?” Yanda blurted out, surprised by his words.


“Yes. Dozens. They were enlightened by the Leader and they must pay tribute. It was her who brought them up from the existence of mere animals and so she is their God. Those who do not worship her are… dealt with.” He added with clearly visible fear in his eyes.


“This is… I don’t like this…” Ren murmured and her serious expression alerted her disciples.


“Master… is something wrong?” Lulu asked, looking at her then back to Yanda and Ariana who just shook their heads, just as baffled as her.


“Karth.” Ren spoke up and her voice hammered Karth’s ears, shaking his body. “Is there a chance for me to speak with your leader?”


“Eh? I… I mean I can take you to her but… I don’t know…” He blinked his eyes with surprise but also was very happy deep inside. He was hoping that the Leader would not blame him after bringing back… something. Whatever else happens would not be his problem anyway.


“Master!” Ariana was the first to protest.


“Stop.” Ren turned towards them. “Go back to the surface and notify the Sect. I already sent a message to Sect Head. I am not going there to fight but to talk. If it comes to fighting, I still have the confidence to escape with my life.”


“Master…” Yanda opened his mouth as he felt it was all his fault to have his Master entangled with his own family matters.


“Just go back to the surface.” Ren smiled. “We will talk about it after.” She looked at them with a warm expression before turning to Karth. “Let’s go.”


“O-okay… if you wish!” He nodded, turning back into a giant squid, swimming off as fast as he could, followed by Ren.


“Let’s go.” Lulu said after they left. “We need to tell the others! Don’t you trust our Master?” She patted their shoulders before holding onto Ariana as she left for the surface.


….

…..


They were swimming for an hour by now and as they went deeper and deeper, the less sealife they encountered. Ren could only see the rocky surface of the bottom of the ocean by now. Finally they arrived at a flat portion of the seabed and she could see the giant trench, stretching for dozens of kilometers before them. It was easily overshadowing the Swordscar Pass in size, both in its length and in its width.


“What happened to you, Karthakan?” A huge octopus swam up to them with worried eyes and her voice was filled with deep concern, seeing one of his missing tentacles.


“Nothing, it was just a scuffle.” He answered embarrassedly. “More importantly, I need to go to the Maw!”


“Yes, yes, the sacrifice.” She nodded, looking at Ren, seeing her nothing more than the one Karthakan was sent out to retrieve.


While Karth was held up by a seemingly worrying girlfriend, more and more creatures appeared, all of them giants in their own right. Most of their bodies were shining with blue or green bioluminescent light as they came to welcome Karthakan back. They were acting like a big family, asking why he was injured.


“Don’t worry, I’ll fix it up for you.” A giant isopod said, checking out the stump that was left, where he was missing a tentacle.


“This is why you should wear armor!” A nautilus scolded him, sticking his head out of his shell.


“Did you kill it? If not, we can go and gang up on the one who did this to you!” A humongous viperfish groweld and his sentiment was echoed by a giant gulper eel floating beside him.


“Guys, guys! Later, okay? I need to bring our guest to the Maw to meet the leader!”


“Guest?” Multiple of them asked with surprise, finally taking a second look at Ren.


“So this place is the Abyss huh? Interesting.” She smiled as a response, looking around them. “Before you ask, it was I who tore off his tentacle. If any of you want to try, you can have a go at me.” She looked at them while a small spark flashed between her fingers. They could finally pick up on Ren’s aura, turning everybody more serious in an instant.


“Relax, she is… well… she is strong, but we worked it out! She is here to speak to the Leader! Okay? Let her decide everything, no? Yes? No? Of course yes!” Karth nodded hurriedly, trying to diffuse the situation.


The bunch of sea creatures immediately fell silent by the mention of their Leader. Looking at Ren then Karth, they knew it was best if she was the one to deal with this. The moment they opened up a path for them he quickly swam towards it, leading Ren away.


“Don’t worry, they won’t cause trouble. I think.” Karth added. “We are just a closely knit group. That’s all.”


“I am not afraid of trouble.” Ren replied, shaking her head. “I would have none with you, if you wouldn’t have tried to take my disciple as a sacrifice.”


“Errr… s-sorry?” He said with an awkward voice. “Anyway… here we are… good luck!” Karth said as he swam backwards as fast as he could, the moment they reached the edge of the trench.


“You are already leaving?” Ren smiled at him but he was gone by then. “Heh…” She shook her head before looking down into the deep darkness, closing her eyes and starting to feel it out. She just floated there for minutes while the rest of the residents of the Abyss watched her from afar.


“This is the first time I see a surface dweller up close.” The octopus murmured.


“Yeah… I was also surprised.” Karth answered. “But she was scary… and she had another disciple… she was reeeeally scary! It felt like looking down into the Maw! I looked into her eyes and I saw real demons!”


“Damn… the surface world sounds scary if you put it that way!” The nautilus groaned.


“What do you think the leader is going to do? Is she going to come up?” The viperfish asked, sounding excited. “We never saw her real form… maybe this surface dweller can draw her out?”


“I don’t know. I just hope I won’t be punished.” Karthakan moaned.


As they were discussing, Ren also trembled a little, finally opening her eyes. Her look was serious and disgust was quickly forming inside of her irises. Her fingers rolled up into a fist before managing to calm down, uttering one word.


“Skoorn…”


Her voice was quiet yet suddenly the whole Abyss shook a little. Deep down in the Maw, a dim light lit up that got stronger and stronger as it approached the surface.


“Hide… hide!” The nautilus trembled and cried out with a panicked voice, hiding inside his shell. He was picked up by the octopus while the rest of the group also rushed off, hiding wherever they could.


The pressure emanating from the deep darkness was overwhelming and as it struck at Ren she trembled, yet held her position. A giant, 70 or 80 meter tall anglerfish rose up from the deep, watching Ren with its black, ancient eyes.


“You spoke the name of our God… yet you are not washed in his light… What is your purpose then? Why have you come here?” She spoke up and surprisingly, it was a lovely and charming voice that echoed far and wide.


“I don’t follow any Gods. Especially not the God of War. I always thought that shaving your head shouldn’t be a requirement.” Ren chuckled but her words confused the anglerfish as she did not understand why she was saying it. “Now I get it, you are trying to reach the demigod realm huh?”


“Correct.” She answered honestly, as the light on her angler slowly pulsated. “And you made me miss out on one of my sacrifices that would propel me further to my goal.”


“Sorry, he is my disciple. He is out of the question, you can’t have him.”


“I see.” She nodded. She was opening and closing her giant mouth which was filled with sharp teeth. “I felt the disturbance. A mixed breed between my people and one of yours. Returning to my territory. I was curious about it. Maybe next time.”


“I am not here because of that. At first I wanted to confirm my suspicion. Now that it turns out to be true… I am here to warn you.”


“Oh?” She leaned closer as her angler started to shine brighter and in a deeper, colder color.


“The way you are cultivating may turn you into a demigod but it will also make you into a slave.”


“The weak are always slaves to the strong.” She answered after a brief silence. “That is one of the tenets of Skoorn.”


“He always said that.” Ren whispered under her breath, shaking her head. “I came here to seek some answers and I got some, speaking with you. Now I know, the world under the ocean is his domain, huh?” She shook her head with a soft sigh. “It seems that they split up the realm amongst themselves…”


The anglerfish just watched her, trying to understand her words. She didn’t know what she was talking about, it did not make any sense for her… yet somehow her instincts told her to listen to her.


“Now I also want answers.” She spoke up finally, focusing her eyes on Ren.


“Ask.”


“What makes you think you can leave from here? Especially after the insulting words that left your mouth, aimed towards my God.”


“Easy. Because I am not alone.” Ren smiled and suddenly a strong pressure arrived from high above. As the fish looked upwards, even though they were far away from each other, she could sense and even see Aerthus. He was floating, high up in the sky, right above them. What was even more surprising was that a second aura appeared and the pressure doubled as Lady Rumira was standing right beside him.


“God’s punishment will fall upon you one day, heretic.” The anglerfish diverted her eyes back to Ren, retracting her aura in the end.


“Believe me, I am expecting it!” Ren chuckled. “But ask yourself this! If we kill you, here and now, will your god appear to save you? Or would he even know about it? You worship him because it gives you power in return? Just as the mermaids worship you?” Ren smiled sarcastically as she started to float upwards leaving her with one more sentence. “Watch out… because maybe one day you’ll find out you are also nothing more than just a sacrifice.” After she left, the anglerfish just floated there before going back into the deep darkness, disappearing from above the trench, letting the place fall back to a complete silence. The terrified demons were still hiding when Ren left, Karth barely managing to peek out from his girlfriend’s concealing embrace, seeing Ren’s figure disappear in the distance.


“I think we should lay low for a little…” He murmured, gulping loudly.


Up in the sky, above the ocean, Aerthus and Rumira were floating there, watching the waters without blinking as the sun slowly rose up in the east. A few minutes passed when Ren finally shot out from the water, arriving before them.


“Master, Lady Rumira!” She cupped her hands, greeting them.


“This is the first time we meet, yes?” Rumira smiled, looking at her and when their eyes met she just chuckled. “She didn’t even flinch! She has a strong will to not be affected by me!”


“I am a married woman~” Ren giggled, winking at her Master who just rolled his eyes.


“Your message scared the hell out of me!” Aerthus said as he stretched out his hand, giving a flick to Ren’s forehead. “You said you are in grave danger, and I should hurry!”


“Yeah!” Rumira laughed, “He stood up so quickly, even I got worried! Haahhh… it was long, long centuries ago when I last ventured out from my cave… I really missed the sun!” She sighed as she looked around, smiling, grabbing onto Aerthus’s hand, leaning against him. Ren just giggled, pointing a thumbs up at Aerthus.


“What was this all about? That fish down there was strong.” Aerthus asked, furrowing his brows.


“I found the domain of a God.” Ren answered with a cold voice, turning Aerthus’s face immediately more serious. He was standing straight and Rumira just tilted her head, listening to her.


“Are you sure?”


“Yes. It seems the creatures under the sea worship the God named Skoorn.”


“That is… troubling.” Aerthus murmured.


“Why?” Rumira asked, “I know the next level after Demigod is… God. Or Immortal as you told me… but why is it troubling if one worships a God?”


“In the west, there are sects who also worship gods.” Aerthus explained. “They gain great power from them but also limit their own futures by their practice. They can never rise to their beloved dietes’ level. It is a trap. They become nothing more than devout pawns and are cursed to be stuck in the Demigod realm for all their remaining life. They are slaving away in the false hope that one day they are going to advance and maybe become gods themselves. By the words of my mentors, they are only chasing a mirage.”


“I can see why someone chooses that way.” Rumira said. “If you don’t tell me your stories and show me I am not doomed to live with this accursed body for all eternity… Maybe one day I would also find out about a God and start worshiping him or her. Just so I can be relieved from my own power’s prison.”


“Luckily the Gods themselves are not in the mood to interact with us down here. Maybe they are looking down on us!” Aerthus smiled. “As long as they reap the benefits of people worshiping them and empowering them, they ignore the world and its problems. That is why there is constant friction and battles in the west. Between the sects following a God and the sects following the way of an Immortal.”


“This means that one day we need to be ready to clash with the demons living in the ocean?” Rumira asked, watching the waters below them.


“Maybe. Maybe not.” Ren added. “Nobody can know the future, not even the Gods. The question is, how many sea creatures worship them.”


“The followers of Skoorn always place strength above all else. Their views are simple; Those who have the strength are the ones who are right. So they usually fight between themselves a lot. I wouldn’t really worry about their numbers! Let’s go back!” Aerthus said, a bit relieved now. “It is good to know about this, yet we can’t do anything about it right now.”


“We can do nothing. Yet.” Ren smiled, flying besides them. “When you two step into the Demigod Realm… we can visit this place once more.”


“Heh!” Both of them chuckled at the same time at her words. “Two demigods are nothing in the big picture.” Aerthus patted her head. “When our Sect is going to have a dozen… we can talk about it!”


“Don’t worry Master.” Ren laughed. “I’ll make sure we are going to have more than that!”