Chapter 142:

Buried

Mad God


Everything happened so fast that neither Ariana, Jishan nor Orsi could react to it. They found themselves falling towards the dark abyss that opened up below them and swallowed them whole in a blink of an eye.


“Here!” Jishan shouted, igniting flames on his back like a cape, so they could still see something. While he did so he was also grabbing onto Ariana and Orsi reflexively, trying to shield them with his own body as they were falling downwards.


It only took a second before everything went dark again and they could only see their immediate surroundings, even with Jishan’s fire. At that exact moment, none of them truly felt fear. The trio was almost hearing their Elders’ words in their heads; To never panic and to trust their brothers and sisters. Trust their own strength.


“I can levitate us for a short period!” Orsi groaned as an invisible bubble surrounded them. They could feel themselves slowing down as their speed almost came to a stop. She gently moved themselves to a randomly picked direction and under Jishan’s orange flames, they finally could see the rugged, dark brown walls of the earth. They continued to slowly descend when out of nowhere, a sharp, protruding platform came into their views. Orsi hurriedly diverted themselves towards it, landing on it with a thud.


“Ugh…” She moaned, withdrawing her mind, holding her head, shaking it a little. “How far have we fallen?” Orsi asked as she looked up but saw no light reaching down to them from above. As she was trying to see, straining her eyes, a human body flew by them, continuing its free falling, swallowed by the darkness. They couldn’t make out who it was but they were sure it was someone without any cultivation, wearing regular, civilian clothings.


“Damn that old bastard…” Ariana whispered, turning towards the wall. That was when she noticed a narrow crack on it that they could push themselves through. Just as she was thinking about it, the earth itself rumbled around them once more. “This way!” She shouted, going in first, followed by Jishan and Orsi. Not that long later the platform they were standing on was smashed to pieces by falling pieces of earth, the size of small buildings.


“Now what?” Jishan groaned, as they were sandwiched inside the crack. He carefully lit up his finger so they at least have some warm light source and can see where the hell they are.


“Try to burn the least amount of oxygen, so we won’t suffocate!” Ariana said, staying calm and collected, while Orsi was heaving heavily. Her eyes were moist as the fear was slowly setting in but she was trying to force herself to calm down and not start panicking and crying.


“This is really… narrow…” Orsi murmured after half an hour as they were carefully inching forward, feeling squashed by the walls from both sides.


“Sometimes being beautiful has its disadvantages.” Jishan chuckled, trying to paint a lighter mood for themselves.


“So you want to say I’m not pretty?” Ariana’s playful voice came from the front, drawing a smile onto Orsi’s face. Their little banter was somewhat easing her nerves that were stretched to their limits already.


“Oh, no, no~ Of course not! I just commented on the fact that Lady Orsi here has been blessed by the goddess of love!” Jishan continued with a giggle.


“Lucky meeeeh?!” Ariana screamed out as she suddenly looked like she fell forward. Before they could react, their bodies followed suit, as if an invisible hand pulled them out from the crack, landing face forward on the hard ground.


“What the…?” Jishan groaned as they fell on each other.


“I can’t breathe…” Ariana moaned who now laid below them, squashed by the two.


When they managed to stand up, the cave they were in was eerie and weird. The walls were glowing in a turquoise color, covered by some unknown substance, pulsating very slowly. Looking up, they saw the small crack that seemed like it was on the ceiling.


“We climbed… downwards? How?” Orsi asked, furrowing her brows.


“I did not feel like going downwards!” Jishan said, sharing her confusion.


“Look!” Ariana pointed forward and saw something that completely contradicted anything they knew about physics. A small stream of water was ‘falling’ upwards, flowing towards a different crack, rising up from the ground like a sneak, spiraling towards the ceiling before disappearing inside of it.


“Did we die and this is the plane between the afterlife and reality or something?” Jishan groaned as he twitched his mouth.


“Surely not! We did not… did we?!” Orsi gulped before Araina would hold her hand, calming her down.


“Relax, we are alive! It’s the gravity that is jumbled up here! Probably because of the powers of Zelig! When we fell over, we were falling way too fast! I have flown with a Master before and experienced free falling. It was not as quick as we descended down at that moment!” She explained as she looked around. “We must be deep underground, who knows where. We need to find a way back up!”


“I agree. I don’t want to live my life underground!” Jishan sighed. “Where to?” He asked as he looked at Ariana who quickly blinked her eyes, realizing it fell on her to be the leader of their group. After taking a deep breath she focused her eyes, observing her surroundings.


“Let’s try to follow the stream. It must come from somewhere! If we follow it back to the source we may find a way up! But be careful, and let’s throw rocks before us! If the field of gravity changes, we may find ourselves falling upwards or something! Impaled on a sharp rock does not sound… nice.”


“Agreed.” The two nodded at the same time as Jishan stepped out. “Let me go forward, even if something happens I can activate my flame armor to protect me!”


They were walking for hours but there was no end to the cave. The most frustrating thing was that sometimes the gravity changed so weirdly and abruptly it was confusing their senses. One time they needed to jump forward yet mid-jump they just fell to the right and landed on the wall, now standing on it at a 90 degree angle, compared to their previous place. Continuing their trek onwards, this happened sometimes only after a few minutes, sometimes after half an hour of travel. Soon up, down, right and left completely lost their meanings as they constantly changed directions. Lucky for them, the cave system was ‘lit’ all the way, with this fluorescent slime, covering everything. It was sometimes sticky, sometimes slippery, being just as unpredictable, making them pick up new bruises frequently when they slipped. Finally, after hours of confusing traveling, they reached a much bigger, open cave. From there, multiple different entrances led to many different caves. Walking up to one, just stepping through, Jishan felt as the gravity changed and he was pushed backwards.


“This may lead upwards.”He turned to them. “When stepping halfway in, I felt like falling down.”


“Who knows…” Orsi gulped. “What if it does feel that way but we would just climb downwards?”


Nobody had an answer to her as it was a possibility, but neither of them had a better idea where to try to go from here.


“Do you have any weapons with you?” Ariana asked as the two shook their heads. “I have my spear.” She continued, patting the small pouch on her side. “I can fly and we can stand on it, but I won’t be fast with three people on…”


“You can take Orsi.” Jishan said. “I can propel myself forward. If it is a long journey, I can smash a hole into the wall and rest a little. Plus… I still have energy pills with me.”


Before they could come to an agreement a strange sound caught their attention. It was coming from one of the entrances and soon, from a different hole, two people emerged. Surprisingly one was Foydor from Heaven’s Gate but the other wore the clothes of an Ironclaw warrior. Now, without the mask on his face, it was revealed that he was also a Naulin. He had short, white hair and violet eyes, surprised to meet disciples of the Immortal Wonders Sect here. Standing opposite to each other, they said nothing, just watched one another in silence.


“They can’t leave, they saw us together.” The Ironclaw member spoke up, releasing his aura while ice quickly covered his hands, turning them into blades. It revealed his cultivation to be at the Harmony Realm.


“I agree.” Foydor nodded, drawing a sword from his back.


“The Ironclaw guy looks injured.” Ariana had a voice transmission quickly sent over when she first recognized their presence.


“Leave him to me.” Jishan answered, engulfing himself in his fiery armor after he threw a couple of pills into his mouth. “Deal with the kid quickly and assist me in killing that son of a bitch!” He said as he shot out first, not wanting to give the advantage to the Harmony expert. He had summoned a giant, flaming lance but it got countered by the person’s icy blades on his hands.


“Hmf!” His enemy groaned while holding both of his hands before him, blocking the tip of the lance. He had to stabilize his footing before being able to smash against it, breaking it into flaming pieces. After that he was able to step forward, dodging the rest of Jishan’s momentum, trying to stab him in the neck, from the left side.


“No, you won’t!” Jishan shouted, raising the heat as the mantis-like hands of his enemy clashed against his armor. It was releasing steam and sparks everywhere while Jishan also formed two flame-swords. By now they were fighting like two berserk warriors, swinging blade against blade.


While their fight broke out, under a fraction of a second, Foydor was already aiming at Jishan’s back. Before he could hack at him, black, ink-like tentacles coiled around his arm, pulling him backwards. Looking behind his shoulders he could see Ariana casting her spell, preventing him from attacking Jishan, while Orsi levitated rocks up from the surroundings, aiming them at Foydor.


“Then I’ll deal with you first!” He said as he turned around, tearing himself away, literally. He was ignoring the wounds it left on his arm, switching his sword wielding hand easily, and cutting through Ariana’s tentacles. “Kneel.” He whispered under his breath as his eyes lit up in the dim cave. He was focusing his mind, assaulting Ariana’s consciousness. She stumbled as she fell to a half-kneeling position yet to the surprise of Foydor she could still cast another spell. A new, black spike sprang up before him, almost skewering him as he was already in the motion to strike a killing blow.


It was enough to make him falter and stop in his tracks and for Orsi to immediately launch the rocks she was levitating. Yet Foydor was faster. He was cutting through them easily, running forward once again, now looking at Orsi. She immediately felt something creeping up along her spine, an old, fragmented memory from the past. She could hear the noise of the city, the laughter of people and the stench of the sewers. She felt herself becoming hungry and desperate while she was begging for food… Then a pair of eyes was looking at her, just like now. It was only a quick moment but for her it seemed like years as she heard Foydor’s commanding voice. “Stand still.” It echoed inside her mind forcefully, wanting to command her to not dodge the incoming sword of his.


“No!” A loud yell came, but it was not from Ariana who watched it all unfolding, but from Orsi herself.


Her scream echoed loudly and Foydor felt his own mind being assaulted by a strange feeling. It was unknown for him yet familiar at the same time. He heard his own words inside his mind, echoing out with the same commanding force that he intended to use on her. “Stand still”. He could not refute his own thoughts as Orsi’s silvery eyes were shining brightly, blood flowing from her nose at the same time. Foydor by then completely stopped. He just stood there, unmoving, sword in hands, frozen in time like a statue.


“Nice!” Ariana shouted, not letting the chance slip by. She brought forth her spear and with one stab she made it count. Its tip went through the head of Foydor, killing him instantly by blowing the top of his head right off. Though his brain was already sliding down from the sharp end of Ariana’s spear, his body was still standing still, even after she flicked off the bloody chunks of his skull from her weapon. “Are you okay?” She looked at Orsi who just gasped heavily and wiped her bleeding nose.


“Yeah! Yeah… I am!” She nodded, ignoring Foydor’s body. “Let’s help Jishan!”


Clearly, she was shaken up, but her body was flooded with adrenaline and ignored everything else, rushing to help her friend out with Ariana.


“No way…” The Ironclaw warrior grumbled. Not just because of Foydor’s sudden death but because a body refinement cultivator was stopping him in his tracks. He fought multiple battles and even as he was injured and drained from a lot of energy, he should be able to deal with someone who was this… weak. “Weak?” He thought to himself and as soon as it came to his mind, he flinched and paused in his attacks a little. This was a fatal mistake. It gave Jishan a chance to drive one blade into his left shoulder, lodging it into him. “Ugh!” He coughed up blood but it was already the end for him.


Black snakes formed around him from his own shadow, coiling around his legs, biting into his calves. Next came the sudden feeling of losing control of his arms as a foreign force grabbed onto them, blocking his movement so Jishan could finish him off.


“I was the weak one…” He whispered under his breath as a flaming sword stabbed through his chest, burning his heart into ashes before he collapsed to the ground.


“Finally…” Jishan sighed, extinguishing his flames. His body was faltering backwards but in the end he managed to stand on his legs. “Damn, it felt like hitting a steel wall!” He groaned, shaking his hands with a grin, looking towards the girls.


Ariana was about to say something when the whole cave trembled and from one of the other entrances a figure walked out. His presence was sending chills over the trio as it was none other than Rudrick.


“Nice. Really nice!” He clapped nonchalantly, while Jishan quickly ate an energy refreshing pill, giving his remaining ones to the girls. “Don’t bother with it.” Rudrick shook his head. “Even if there were twenty of you here, you would be dead. I only need to think about it. What do you say? Do any of you want to join my Heaven’s Gate?” He smiled.


“No.” Came the immediate answer, without hesitation from all of them.


“I thought so. At least I asked.” He sighed, shrugging his shoulders. “Well then, I’ll just dispose of you three! I can’t let you spread what you just saw here.” Rudrick chuckled, looking at the dead bodies. With only using his voice, he seemingly was able to ignite the remaining blood inside the corpses of the two Naulins. They catched on fire and burned into ashes in only a few seconds, making Jishan gulp loudly as he had no idea how he did that.


“I am open to ideas.” Jishan sent over his voice.


“Me too.” Ariana answered with a tired voice. Before despair could settle in, she flinched and a violet spark rose up above her head, flickering vividly.


“Oh?” Rudrick raised his eyebrows as the distant, rumbling noise of thunder was getting closer and closer.


Looking at the same opening that Jishan first checked out, a strong, purple light was heading towards them, bringing the sound of a storm along with it. It was drawing closer and closer making the disciples of the Immortal Wonders Sect relax with joy.


A second later Ren’s serious face, with lightning dancing around her, came into their view as she landed in the cave. She was easily correcting her movements as the way of the gravity changed for her, effortlessly standing on her feet. Her eyes quickly asserted the wellbeing of the trio before turning towards Rudrick. The little spark above Ariana’s head flew into her arm, reabsorbed by her automatically.


“Good. I can take care of you too.” Rudrick said without any change in his tone.


“Exactly.” Ren spat back, attacking immediately. Rudrick just pushed her back with his aura, stopping Ren’s lightning spear in the air as it tried to penetrate his invisible sphere of influence.


“You are way over your head, girl. You may have fought against my father but he was a failure as a cultivator and as a ruler.” Rudrick grinned.


“You speak like I should care.” Ren answered calmly, putting more force into her spear, slowly sending it forward, right into his energy shield. Her progress was making Rudrick’s eyes turn a little bit more serious.


“You won’t beat me.” His somewhat angry voice came from between his lips.


“I may not.” Ren smiled. “But I'm not alone.”


Rudrick immediately flinched as he felt his sphere of influence suddenly disappear, giving way to Ren’s spear. He instinctively raised one hand, grabbing onto the shaft of the incoming weapon, made out of her energy. He dodged it by a hair, while with his other hand he reached towards his opposite side, blocking Leinor’s fist who just arrived from the same opening in the wall. Holding the two of them, his eyes were scanning the duo as they were in a stalemate.


“You are getting on my nerves.” He whispered before strengthening his grip on Ren’s spear, flinging her into the wall while grabbing onto Leinor, throwing him over his shoulder. Yet as soon as he finished he was already facing off the two of them once again. “Hmf… I’ll show you what fear is!” Rudrick shouted and his aura quickly distorted with a bloody, crimson light as blood seeped out of his pores, surrounding him like a mist.


Ariana, Jishan and Orsi could only feel the smell of blood in the air, making them nauseous, unable to stand still. They fell to their knees, affected by the sick aura that Rudrick was releasing.


“Don’t you feel nostalgic?” Leinor asked with a half smile while Ren just nodded.


“It does feel similar to Uncle Boursat’s affinity. It gives off the scent of a mix between yours and Yanda’s powers.”


“I suppose it does not hurt to let you know.” Rudrick chuckled proudly, holding up his hand. He was watching it with a grin as the bloody mist swirled around it. “I was always fascinated by the notion of our family heritage to control others' minds. It was always a great enhancement on our individual affinities… but it is not enough.” Rudrick said as he formed a blade from it, then a bow then a saber, changing the mist’s form at a whim. “I always wanted to dominate the body too. That way, there would be no chance for them to betray me. Which is especially true for my offsprings.”


“Like the thing you are doing right now? Betraying your own forefather, huh?” Leinor smirked at his words sarcastically. “Someone who easily betrays others… No wonder you are afraid to be stabbed in the back.”


“Something like that, yes.” Rudrick acknowledged nonchalantly, looking at them. “Being betrayed is annoying, don’t you agree? Yet we humans do it all the time~ Like your Uncle.” He said to Leinor. “When he arrived at my Kingdom, I knew I struck gold. The years I spent with him were the best! I scoured his mind, thousands of times! I learned everything I could from the bloodline of yours, boy! And look… finally, I could modify my own affinity!” He giggled like a child who finally could show off his proudest achievements. “Now I can kill off a constantly growing problem and bag myself a new toy! I can’t wait to dissect you, son of Aerthus!” He said as he licked his lips, watching Leinor’s body. Everyone knew, there could be only one outcome now. Either Rudrick dies or they do.