Chapter 02 : Life and Death Dilemma
The young master said nothing and simply walked toward the stone slab carrying the Pandora Box. He moved his hand, and gripped the adamantite handle at the top of the box.
The moment his fingers touched the metal, he felt a discharge of pain going through his arm and he instinctively removed his hand from the handle.
"Do not worry, son. The adamantite used to make this box is of the highest quality, even for the central continent standards. It won't harm you." his father said behind him.
Adamantite was known to be one of the most exotic metals found naturally on Lunaris. Because of its ability to absorb ambient mana, it was a highly desired material for making top-quality weapons capable of channeling aura or armor pieces with great magical resistance.
It is said that touching an unrefined chunk of pure adamantite will freeze your hand with extreme heat, and burn it with fierce coldness.
Even the best scholars on Lunaris still have no clue as to how adamantite interacts with its environment. They only know it can absorb mana particles and the metal is close to unbreakable when refined properly.
Bearing the pain in silence, the young lord firmly grabbed the handle once again, and this time, he lifted the top of the box to open it.
In less time than it took to blink, he suddenly experienced a thousand deaths just by opening this mysterious box. It felt as if he had lived and died a thousand times in a single second, yet he couldn't feel any malicious intent from whatever was inside the box.
It felt more like a security measure put in place by the master who crafted this artifact.
He didn't know who placed such a powerful spell on this relic, but he was certain he would have died by now if the box hadn't recognized him as a Vermillion family heir.
The young master checked what was inside the box, but he could only see an infinite number of tiny dots bathing inside an endless pond of pure darkness. It felt as if he was gazing at the night sky beyond Heavens.
(author nt. : what the natives of Lunaris refer to as 'Heavens' is the high atmosphere boundary with outer space - cf. Void Rifters ch52 for more details.)
"What should I do now..." the young lord asked his father what to do now that he opened the box, when his body abruptly curled up.
He felt an unknown force tearing his insides apart. The sensation of pain was much more vivid and intense than when the box previously tested him.
"You need to bear the pain until a soul chooses you, son." his father said, not able to hide his anxiety after seeing his son suffer this pain he knew far too well.
The young lord wanted to let go of the box many times to end the suffering, but he couldn't.
He is the proud son of Almerius Sanguinus, the fourteenth master of the Vermillion household. How could he put shame on his bloodline in front of his own father ?
Thus, he firmly held the box handle.
Seconds passed, then minutes... Yet, he didn't let go.
Even when streams of hot blood flowed out of his earlobes, when snot sealed his nostrils and tears filled his eyes...
He still didn't let go.
After an hour passed, his father, who was still watching him from behind, worried about losing his son to the Million Pandora Box and decided to intervene to save him.
"Something must have gone wrong..."
It was the first time in history an heir of Vermillion resisted the might of a million souls for so long. The Duke suspected that the box might not be working as it should. Unfortunately, he couldn't see his son's face from behind, he could only see his curled back and his shaking legs.
When the Duke approached his son to grab his back and pull him out, a burst of energy exploded from the box and he got propelled with extreme force against the wall behind him.
Despite instinctively activating his aura to protect himself, the force of the impact was still strong enough to overpower him and break one of his legs.
Duke Vermillion was stunned to see that even a powerful four-stars blade master such as himself got injured so easily. That was how strong the energy coming out from his family's artifact was.
Aware that he wouldn't be able to bring back his son from the Pandora Box's grip, the Duke took his troubles in patience and patiently waited for the ordeal to end.
"The Million Pandora Box truly defies logic..."
After waiting for another hour, the Duke finally saw the sign marking the end of the ordeal : a bright beam of crimson red light emerged from the box and wrapped itself around his son.
When the light covered his body, the young lord released his grip on the handle and closed the box. He straightened up himself, and silently turned back to face his father.
"By Arthemil's grace..." The Duke couldn't believe what he was seeing.
His son had no skin left on his face, and his visage was void of his left eye.
"Father..." The bloody flesh on his skull was twitching in an unsightly way, and from the little cartilage left of his nose... the experienced duke could see it has been bitten in a violent manner.
The young lord mustered just enough strength to call for his father, before his lifeless body riddled with claw and bite marks collapsed on the cold granite floor.
"ANGELUS!!" The father rushed to his son and immediately crouched down to hug him and check his pulse.
When he felt his heart weakly beating, he carefully lifted him up and carried him on his back, before rushing out of the room at lightning speed.
"Please, hold on son..." The father's clothes were stained with his son's blood.
"You'll soon get better, please..." The Duke softly comforted his lifeless son, as he was running with all his might with a broken leg.