103. Soul Realm
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Rakna was speechless as the Dusk Lion spoke to him; the very same beast he had seen dead and from which he had extracted the heart to eat. However, it was now standing on its own feet, talking to him.

 

His stupor was cut short by the completion of the two other figures behind it. The moment he saw them, his shock became even more intense. The one to the left was a majestic creature with the head and talons of an eagle, the body of a wolf, and three pairs of wings. It was gazing at him with palpable innocence and Rakna could both smell and infer its care for him.

 

The one to the right was a wolf with royal regal and nine tails. Unlike the other, this one was glaring at him with an expression of distaste but Rakna could also tell from the emotions he was sensing that under it, there was a certain amount of respect and care as well.

 

His concentration was briefly lost as he alternately looked at the two of them before he turned back to the lion, or to be exact, the lioness in front of him. “You three are my genomes.” It wasn’t a question; it was a statement.

 

“Correct,” the lioness nodded. “We are the souls of the ones you consumed.”

 

“How?” Rakna raised an eyebrow. “How do you still live…? And what is this place?”

 

“I do not live, I’m afraid. I am a vestige of what I once was. By devouring the heart of my dead body, you recreated my soul from its scattered remnants. That also applies to these cubs,” the legendary beast said while glancing behind her. The nine-tailed wolf audibly huffed while the Luquila let out a chirpy noise.

 

“As for the nature of this place; it is a conceptual manifestation of your soul,” she continued. “Some call it mindscape. Others call it soul realm. It all comes down to the same thing in the end.”

 

“I see… If I understand correctly, what you’re saying is that you’re a replica of your living self that lives within my mindscape as a soul,” Rakna summarized and the Dusk Lioness curved her mouth into something akin to a smile.

 

“Splendid thinking, as expected from one such as you.”

 

“Though, should I be worried about your presence here?” Rakna inquired and glanced at the two others creatures. “While I feel no blatant enmity from any of you, I don’t want to be taken by surprise if any of you decide to attack from the inside.”

 

“Do not fret. We are part of your soul. We are you as much as you are to yourself,” she uttered and glanced at the wolf. “That pup is one you defeated and while he looks a bit riled at the moment because he still remembers your fight, he’ll come around. He has no plan to hurt you.”

 

“As for the other pup, he’s as good as a newborn. I’m not sure which creature you assimilated for this one to appear but he seems to have quite literally been born a few days ago. From what I can tell, he thinks of you as something similar to a father.”

 

Rakna looked a bit stunned by that revelation and took another look at the Luquila. The weirdly affectionate scent he was getting from him now made sense. ‘So, he is not a replica of Aquila. I guess it is a byproduct of the mutation the genome went through,” he thought then faced the lioness again.

 

“What about you? From what I can tell, you’re the one with the most independence here. There is also no doubt that you were a creature of immense power in life. Are you willing to just silently accept this situation?”

 

The lioness squinted her eyes and walked off to the side, Rakna following her with his eyes. “You are a very cautious man. That is a very commendable trait to have but sometimes, it is better to listen not to rationality but expectation. I am aware of your transcending instincts. What do they tell you about us?”

 

Rakna calmly watched the lioness saunter in circles around him, the black petals disintegrating at the tiniest contact with her fur. The wolf and Luquila seemed content in observing the interaction. They didn’t have the wisdom to talk yet so they could not join in.

 

“They are telling me to trust you. Unconditionally so,” Rakna ultimately replied.

 

“I assume that is something you’ve never done before,” the lioness commented. “Trust is earned, after all. That much is obvious. But if you want to hear words of assurance from me, I swear on my blood to forever remain part of you, to never stray from your will, and always aid you with my power. The only thing I ask in return is to have the chance to look upon my children.”

 

“That damnable Téras sealed my fate before I could even lay eyes on them,” she growled and her hatred seeped out to the point Rakna was sure he didn’t need his smell to be able to feel it. “But, even if I cannot meet them, simply being able to be something else than a tool for that monster is more than enough for me.”

 

After that, she stopped walking and stopped in front of him again. “My soul is yours. My powers for your use. You’re more than worthy. You say I was once powerful, but it is also a fact that I was once weak as well. We all are at some point. Ever since I woke up here, I was convinced that there existed no being more worthy of my power than you,” she said as she looked at the twelve moons in the sky.

 

“No matter how you look at it, this soul scape is nothing banal. This just goes to show how great the potential you possess is. In fact, at the end of the day, I should feel grateful to be of use for one who will undoubtedly become a force of nature in the future.”

 

After she was done speaking, a peaceful silence settled, only filled by the noise of the petals being carried by the wind and dispersing on physical touch. The lioness smiled at the contemplative stance adopted by her soul’s savior. “Was that enough to convince you?”

 

Rakna hummed and closed his eyes for a few seconds. “Quite; I’m reassured for the most part.”

 

“That’s good to hear.”

 

“Still, I have another question for you.”

 

“What is it?”

 

“Were you the ones who intimidated Evelyn earlier?”

 

“Ah, yes. That was a blunder,” the lioness said shamefully. “In your meditative state, you had been closer to us than ever and when the young Cambion sensed your soul, we were partially coerced by your preservation instincts to act in your moment of vulnerability. You could say that it was an automatic reaction from us to defend our dwelling.”

 

Rakna nodded. “I understand. What truly interests me is if I can summon you outside of my body or not. Perhaps purely as souls or beings close to Phantoms with a physical influence.”

 

The lioness shook her head. “I cannot say. This is obviously a new experience for me. I apologize but only you can find the answer to this question.”

 

“I see. Well, it will just take some experimentation. Nothing too bad,” he muttered and looked at the moons, noting that their cycle seemed to match the one in the outside world. He hummed in thought then suddenly felt a pull, as if something was trying to get him out of his soul realm.

 

“Before I go,” he hastily said and looked at the three creatures. “Do you have names?”

 

The lioness smiled. “We don’t. Even I, after hundreds of years of life, never bothered to come up with one. If you wish, you can give me one. And I don’t think the cubs will complain either.”

 

The Luquila immediately chirped when he heard that, appearing more than excited at the prospect of being named while the wolf grunted but couldn’t hide his zeal.

 

“Then I’ll give it some thought and I’ll be sure to come up with one that all of you will like,” Rakna announced and they acknowledged his words in their own way. “I’ll see you again,” he added and his body faded away from his mindscape.

 

* * *

 

When he opened his eyes, he found himself back inside the Pavilion, the lights still off. He looked at the time on a clock hanging on the wall and it displayed exactly 07:00. It appeared that his overly accurate internal clock had been enough to pull him out of his soul.

 

When his eyes got used to the darkness a bit more, he spotted Evelyn snoozing on a couch nearby, and based on the position she had fallen asleep, she had probably been meditating before being unable to resist the temptation to rest.

 

He snorted and quietly stood up as to not wake her up. At the same time, he opened a few System windows pending in his vision.

 

 ❮ ◈ ❯

Soul Breath has leveled up! x6

---

You have reached the most innermost depths of your soul and entered your Soul Realm. You have achieved one of the conditions to unlock your Soul Marble.

❮ ◈ ❯

 

“Soul Marble… Interesting sounding name,” he muttered and unhesitatingly used Appraisal on it.

 

❮ ◈ ❯

Soul Marble

It is neither a skill nor a trait. Deploying one’s Soul Marble implies folding reality over and replacing it with a manifestation of the soul. While in a Soul Marble, the one responsible for its apparition gains absolute cognizance of everything inside of it as well as absolute control over its intricacies.

Note: This is an ability considered to be the peak of soul control.

❮ ◈ ❯

 

“Not very descriptive but this seems promising,” Rakna muttered and carefully walked toward the stairs while making sure to keep the noise of his steps imperceptible. He would ask later if Evelyn had learned something.

 

He went down the stairs and for some reason, he noticed that the Pavilion’s hall was essentially deserted. He would understand if it was more during the night but this should be a busy hour in the morning.

 

‘Are the people here lazy or something?’ He thought to himself and nodded at the receptionist who returned it with a smile. When he was out of the building, he let out a small breath in the fresh atmosphere and pulled up his map. “Let’s go to Trafford then,” he muttered to himself.

 

“{Are you going there to buy more hearts, devourer of mine?}”

 

Rakna almost tripped when he heard a voice he never expected to while awake. To top it off, it was followed by a high-pitched cry of joy and a more or less amiable growl. His eyebrow twitched as he internally responded, ‘…you guys… can communicate with me? Even without me going inside my mindscape?’

 

“{But of course. When you reached us for the first time, the connection between us was established and stabilized. I can now communicate with you whenever and wherever.}”

 

‘…you could have told me before I left the soul realm.’

 

“{I’m sorry, it slipped out of my mind.}”

 

Rakna sighed. He had now gained more voices on top of Alexa. At least, now, even without Pronos around, there was no way he would feel alone with four beings inside his head.

 

“{Indeed. In the past, I spent most of my time in seclusion. It gets lonely and I genuinely wish I had gotten company, even one like this.}”

 

Rakna blinked. Wait a second. ‘Did you just read my mind?’

 

“{Hm? Well, yes. I am you and you are me. We have the same soul and I possess direct access to your mind. It is a normal occurrence.}”

 

‘…can you turn that off?’

 

“{It should not be impossible.}”

 

‘Then do it.’

 

“{But-}”

 

‘Do it.’

 

“{All right then…}” The lioness complied and he sighed in relief. Maybe having people inside his head wasn’t just all fun, after all.

 

At this point, I'm sure I don't need to tell you that a part of Rakna's powers is inspired by Fate. And I have no shame admitting it. Though, it's mixed with the original world building I had in my previous novel.

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