Evelyn led Rakna to the basement where a large trap door was built on the floor. “This gives access to the chamber below; it’s the first restraining measure before the actual seal,” she said.
Rakna grunted to acknowledge what she said and inspected it. There were talismans with signs unknown to him attached to it. He quickly gave up on trying to decipher them and proceeded to take a look around him. This basement definitely did not belong to a normal family.
Chemical equipment, odd items scattered across the place, half-forged weapons on the tables, all sorts of blueprints, and peculiar sheets with magic circles drawn on them. Weil had told him that the people who lived here ran a few businesses but he didn’t expect something like this.
“What exactly does your family do?” He asked the Cambion who was crouching in front of the trap door; which he had a hard time staying close to because of the intensity of the smell.
“They’re not my family,” she growled out. “I’ll never forgive them for what they did to us. The Jills only care about power. They’re a bunch of parasites. They own many businesses and branches across all Plateaus for weapons, items, information, and even slaves,” she spat. “But what they specialize in is alchemy and magic theory. They make potions and sometimes design new spells to sell.”
“I see,” Rakna muttered, forcing down the anger that was surging inside him. The comparison to his own parents had been too easy to make. To top it off, recently, especially after fighting Verias, even the smallest degree of anger was enough to trigger the voices in his head.
‘It seems like Ireful Shell’s curse is growing more powerful,’ he thought. That warranted some vigilance but he would have to make do by just being careful for now. As he was thinking that, the last talisman was pulled out from the trapdoor by Evelyn and he suddenly narrowed his eyes.
His eyes turned golden and released colorless energy as he stared at what was beyond his current vision. He saw the soul that was currently chained below him. It was pulsating between a dormant state and a complete form.
Rakna clicked his tongue as he saw that. It wasn’t that strong. If anything, it would be a lot easier compared to fighting the Dreorins. That is; if he was at full strength.
He might be able to deal with it thanks to The Trickster’s Sleeve but he was aware that while the Spade Cards could deal incredible damage to even stronger foes, they possessed both a limited range and maneuverability. In other words, if he missed with it, there was nothing he could do.
That’s why he had gotten close to the Dreorins previously to decapitate it at point-blank. It was either that or use a higher graded Card to be able to kill it from farther away.
“Evelyn,” he spoke up as she was about to open the trapdoor. She shuddered when she heard him say her name. She was obviously used to hear her own name but he had somehow managed to make it sound foreboding.
“Is there something wrong?” She asked nervously, wondering if he had changed his mind after her brother’s soul power was revealed.
“Before you go in there, I need your help on something,” he stated, surprising her.
“What is it?”
“You may have noticed but I’m in a crippled state right now. I can’t generate internal force or mana at all,” he admitted to which she gasped.
‘How?!’ She screamed internally. ‘Someone in a crippled state should not even be able to move their arms much less walk and even defeat me in a few seconds!’ She was baffled. “Why… are you telling me this?”
“I’ll have to borrow some mana from you,” he replied in a heartbeat.
‘My mana… it’s true that I felt some of it being taken away when he stabbed me,’ she thought and mentally summoned her status to see it was indeed down by more than it should. “I’m fine with it… I have some to spare and I can’t use magic. But… will you need to stab me again to do it?” She asked unenthusiastically.
Rakna snorted and walked to her. “Just stay still. As long as you don’t resist, I should be able to do it fine,” he said and placed his hand on her shoulder. He closed his eyes and imagined his Soul Core beating inside his body as a heart would.
The skill described it as a spiritual organ and it couldn’t be more accurate. It felt like a pump channeling soul power on its own without him having to control it. He deviated the sort of suction force it was generating and brought it to his hand where he was holding onto Evelyn’s shoulder. Soon enough, he felt a connection with her soul, and mana flowed into his own.
❮ ◈ ❯
You have directly manipulated your Soul Core for the first time. It has leveled up!
The drain per injury you inflict has reached its maximum; 5 MP. Your mana and stamina reduction have been increased to 24%.
You have learned a new skill; Soul Drain.
Soul Drain (Lv.1): Its name can be misleading as it is used to drain mana and internal force from the target by using the soul as a catalyst and not as a direct source.
Soul Drain does not harm the soul in any way and also be used in reverse to give stamina and mana instead.
Current Drain: 1 MP/STA per tick. (In optimal conditions)
Note: This skill does not work on a target with able means of resisting it and constant physical contact is necessary. Consent between two parties erases the chance of failure.
You have drained 1 MP. You have drained 1 DP.
Demonic Points have been converted; 1 STA.
Soul Drain has leveled up!
+2 MP / +2 STA
+2 MP / +2 STA
+2 MP / +2 STA
Soul Drain has leveled!
+3 MP / +3 STA
+3 MP / +3 STA
❮ ◈ ❯
Rakna nearly grinned as he finally felt power come back to his body. He clenched his hand and his veins and muscles bulged as if they were happy to finally be free of their enfeebled state.
“Um… my demonic power is also decreasing… is it normal?” Evelyn asked with a blush on her face, the feeling of having her soul connected and transferring her internal forces were… weird. She had to hold herself back from raising her voice.
“Not really. But I won’t complain,” Rakna said and she could have sworn she saw the ghost of a smile on his face. He waited until the skill increased to level 4 to stop. He pulled his hand back and Evelyn sighed in relief.
‘My muscles still feel sore but my stamina is about 80% full. And after focusing the drain on mana instead of stamina, I’m close to full capacity,’ he commented silently. He waved his arm to the side as fast as possible and his aura manifested around his body at the same time.
Evelyn felt a cold breeze hit her face and the raw power of the aura. She had also been unable to track his casual action. ‘Forget about him being strong, he’s in a completely different league! What is he doing on the First Plateau?’
While she was thinking that, Rakna was pleased to see he could exert his full ability. The problem however was that he still could feel the pain in his body and the soreness in his limbs. ‘Looks like this is not a definite solution.’
[Indeed. I recommend you do not abuse this, Rakna,] Alexa said. [Please refrain from using skills too harsh on your body. If you go too far and get injured, you might aggravate your condition.]
‘I’ll see that for myself,’ Rakna responded and turned toward Evelyn. “Go in. I’ll listen in from here. Do what you must.”
The Cambion was ejected from her daze and she nodded. She took a deep breath and opened the trap door, letting a cloud of miasma flow into the basement. She winced as she felt the malice contained in it and from the corner of her eye, she could see that even the frigid beast-man was bothered by it.
After bracing herself, she took the first step down the stairs and a sudden energy almost made her fall back. ‘His energy is already starting to break through the seal…’ She thought whilst gritting her teeth and forced herself to continue downward.
When she reached the chamber below the basement, she watched grimly as the figure of her brother knelt on the ground with a bunch of chains binding his body. Around him, a translucid barrier had been raised; the last fading remnants of her Barrier Magic.
“Lyne…” She whispered but got no reaction. He couldn’t hear her through the seal. She knew what she needed to do. She approached the barrier and placed her hand on it. She injected a bit of mana and demonic energy in it and with a simple mental command, it dissolved into motes of energy.
Immediately after, her brother’s shadowed face welcomed two dots of red light in the place of his eyes. His green hair was unkempt and long and his body thrummed with dark energy. He raised his head to look at her and Evelyn faltered.
Other than his entirely crimson eyes, the rest of his body had begun to change. Black scales were growing on his skin and glowing green veins spread. This was the risk that every Cambion had to experience were they to lose control over their demonic energy; Blackening.
“Sis…ter…?” He spoke with a voice she barely recognized. But his mouth wasn’t the only thing that had started moving; the chains wrapped around his body were starting to rattle as he pulled on them.
“Yes, Lyne, it’s me,” Evelyn replied with her tears threatening to emerge again. Her little brother younger by one year; the ever so cheerful memories she had of him were nowhere to be seen on him now. “Can you hear me?”
“…” He didn’t reply. Instead, a primal growl resounded and one of the chains snapped. Followed by the metallic sound of the strain put on the others.
The sorrow that had sprouted in her ever since she woke from her slumber, was magnified tenfold when she couldn’t even spot a shred of awareness on her brother’s face.
“Lyne!” She shouted desperately. “Come back to your senses!”
A second chain snapped and she gritted her teeth.
“It’s been 200 hundred years! Mom and Dad would have never wanted you to succumb to hatred for them! They would have wanted you to live!”
A third one.
“The Lyne I remember was a cheerful child. Our parents loved you; I love you! Even as a Phantom, that love will never change!”
A fourth one.
“Please…” Evelyn collapsed on her knees with her tears flowing. She faced the ground and held her arms close to her chest. “Please come back…”
The rest of the chains snapped at once and he slowly stood up. He stayed inert for a tormenting amount of time, his face shadowed, before he opened his mouth again, “Sister…”
The succubus gasped as she looked up at him. “Lyne?”
“Lyn-!” Her call was cut off by an ear-deafening roar that she could have never imagined coming from her brother, even in her worst nightmares.
He breathed out a cloud of steam and his eyes shone with madness. He kicked the ground in her direction and reached for her with his clawed hand.
Evelyn held her breath as she watched her impending doom. She didn’t have the strength to dodge or call for her brother anymore. She was ready to accept her end and leave everything to the man who had made a promise with a voice of steel. She would die together with her brother. That was all that she could hope for.
She closed her eyes and waited for her death. When her eyelids were fully shut, the last thing she had seen was her brother’s claws about to tear her apart. But it never happened. She heard him roar again like a beast; however, this one sounded more like a painful cry.
“Don’t go accepting death like that,” a cold voice echoed.
She opened her eyes again with dilated pupils and saw the demonic figure of her brother retreat as he held his arm in pain because of the azure dagger embedded in his palm. She looked over her shoulder and spotted the Host who had forced her to face this situation.
His right arm was still in a throwing stance when her gaze fell on him and there was a strange ring of blue spheres revolving around his left arm. With just a glance, she could feel the power radiating from it.
He casually walked to her as the fallen Cambion glared at him warily. His mind had been lost but it still seemed to know how to recognize threats.
“Accepting death is an insult to all who wish to live,” he uttered and stood in front of her. His back shadowing her. “To the very end, it is your duty to stay alive at any cost. That sickening System has a loathly way of doing it but the message stays the same; fight to survive.”
“Never welcome death to your doorstep,” he expressed as the spheres of cold energy arranged themselves to form a constellation brimming with tyrannical power. “For it is your worst enemy.”