Big thank you to Adurna, Dave, Seadrake, Turean, and PhantomGlitch for another month~ ❤
Chapter 44: We’re Okay With Suffering
“It should be here.”
While not pinpoint I am sure the pit should at least be visible. Yet, there was nothing past the treeline that looked familiar.
I stood a distance away from where I had slain the hyre staring in confusion.
Maybe I was wrong?
I trusted my sense of direction and my sense of smell, but everything before me told me otherwise.
A hyre could’ve made a mark here, that would answer the scent.
It may well be the smell of a noxious hare.
Hmmm, I scratched my chin.
It might have been further south from my campsite than I thought.
Oh right, yeah, it was definitely further south. I must have miscalculated the increase in my traveling speed. It’s probably less than I think.
With my conclusion, I turned around and…
“Hah, that was close!”
I waved my finger at the firs in front of me reprimanding them for trying to be sly.
“Nice try, it was strong, but this is nothing to magic which tries to control the soul directly!”
The Tole Forest Dungeon Keeper truly was ferocious in that sense.
What a powerful ward, it is not an innate skill like the keeper had yet it could trick me to such an extent. In a way, it is more freighting someone could develop this.
“It’s definitely here,” I said under my breath.
I fought the increasing push back from the warding magic as I pressed forward marching towards where it felt the strongest. There where no hyres in view they too were probably tricked into leaving the area so the walk was easy.
With a final step, I felt the false sense of the need to return disappear as I left the effective area.
What a massive expanse of wards…
I had pushed directly through for maybe a mile or two, but the area this ring must cover has to be monumental.
To test I had really left and make sure, I turned back around and stepped forward in the direction from where I came.
There was no sense, in fact, this direction felt more ‘correct’.
So that is why I felt nothing when I was hurrying to leave this place. I felt no pressure what-so-ever trying to mess with me when trying to leave the area.
“They really must not want to accidentally catch a random adventurer and raise an investigation from the guild…”
With warding magic this strong only someone with a peculiar soul like me, or someone who had grown powerful enough like Laurent, could probably make it through.
I turned my attention back around to what I had come here for. My eyes were drawn not to my poor brothers below, but the building complex tucked away between the tall firs.
While not big, it wasn’t a tiny campsite. The dark building was about the size of a small manor but purposely made with a low roofline causing it to be a bit wider.
I readied my spear.
While I felt no sense of danger, I had just broken through an area securing ward. It could, or couldn’t, have a feature to alert whoever was here. My thoughts were on the side of not — No one had chased after me when I first left.
The black matte paint and the lack of windows made it obvious it didn’t want to stand out.
I inched forward to the edge of the pit below. After a quick look around I saw no one coming so I scaled the drop and jumped down into the pit.
The familiar gruesome fight greeted me up close, while less scary than at night it was much more disturbing to see in the day.
I let out a sigh, shaking my head.
“They’re just going to let us rot like this?”
I was a bit peeved how little they thought of us lucids.
They could at least set me on fire if they don’t want to bother with burying me…
“But just leaving us to decompose in the open air…”
I had come to investigate why I’m able to transfer into these mass produced beings of all things, but couldn’t help but feel bad for them.
As I made my way to inspect the ‘fresher’ lucids I made sure to place the others into my storage ring. I had more than enough room I felt we deserved a proper burial.
It was them who gave me a second, or is it a third, life.
Now that I could do something about it I would. I outstretched my hands touching each pile. Seeing they all easily disappeared when I put my hands on them proved they had passed away. Anything with a semblance of consciousness was impossible to store.
A red light flashed in the corner of my eye, almost instantly I whipped my head to see what the light was.
I tightened my grip on my spear, my posture ready to run or fight.
My hands loosened “what is that?”
A red dot appeared floating in the air.
“Oh shit!” Instantly the movement spell helped to dash away.
A long red beam shot out from the red sphere quickly expanding faster than I could move.
“Damn it!” I closed one eye tensing the body waiting for some kind of pain.
The beam passed over me and…
I felt nothing.
“Is it scanning the area?” The beam passed over a couple more times.
Another breath’s time passed and the long red beam disappeared. Then, as if it had figured something out the red sphere moved in a rigid path. A couple seconds straight back and a couple more seconds to the left settling over an area that I had just cleaned of bodies.
Trying to learn as much as I could about this place I continued to monitor.
When the red sphere stopped moving an intricate black sigil appeared inside, with its sudden appearance the sphere began to rotate. The spinning causing it to flatten until it formed a red disk about three meters in diameter.
“That’s a spatial type sigil!”
Some of its parts looked familiar.
“Damn it! Something was coming after all!”
Fight or run? Fight or run? Fight or run?
There is no way I can make it back near the city in time…
Fight it is.
I dash forward with my spear its long blade pointed towards the center ready to lunge forward. If that wasn’t enough I would start chucking my slightly elongated arrows, the process to convert them into javelins was still very much in progress.
I stood just right outside the area under the red, almost crimson now, disk. As I waited the red faded away leaving only a black ring hanging in the air. Replacing the red was a dark room filled with machinery.
A loud rumble of metal parts moving like a production line. Something was coming as the sound became louder and louder nearing me.
After shrieking from a brake at the center of the portal was a massive steel drum hanging on a metal rail inside the industrial-looking room.
I squinted to try and make out more, but only the dark steel roof of the building holding up the U-shaped bend of the rail carrying the drum could be seen from the little light that bounced up from the ground outside. It seemed this was the end of the line as it the drum would return back following the rail.
With a sound like that of a puff of air, the bottom of the container threw itself open.
My arms and body twisted back reading for a powerful piercing blow.
Two flaps of the metal opened then stood to the side as it unloaded a pile of bodies out onto the ground before me. Each one landing with a soft thud.
My grip loosened as two or three dozen or so lucids fell out.
“Like garbage… Do you not see these as people!” One replied from within the room.
With another puff of air the flaps closed and the rail began clinking. Moving the container rocked about due to its lack of load as it carted off away from sight.
The view inside faded replaced again with the crimson disk. The outer black ring began to fall to the center reforming into a mirrored version of the previous sigil causing the disk to contract back into a sphere of red before disappearing.
With the red sphere gone and feeling no dangers approach, I ran towards my discarded brothers.
So that’s how they’ve been depositing the dead lucids…
I shook my head.
“Wait! They’re alive!” I saw one’s chest take a small breath.
Without wasting any more time I quickly ran to pull them apart from on top of one another. While breathing, many looked feverish with flushed foreheads and cheeks.
“F-father?” A voice suddenly entered my head when I made contact with one.
“Ohhhhh my head.” I set down the lucid I was carrying as best I could while a wave of dizziness attacked. Soon after a searing pain came as if a molten brand had been plunged against the skin of my head.
“Father?” “Father!” “Father!” “Father…” “F-father.” “Father!!”
One by one a flood of voices slammed into my head.
“Who…who are you?” Struggling to speak my words slurred as an attack of lightheadedness came.
I need to sit down…
I laid down on the wet ground armor and all waiting for clarity to return.
Like my brothers, I, too, looked feverish. My vision blurred and my face felt hot. I felt like I was suffocating, with thought the large visor over my face disappeared showing my bare face and where the dark tungsten laid flush against my head, neck, and lower chin.
My vision blanked.
My heart began to race as I could not stop myself from fainting.
A bright blue light encompassed my entire sight then began to slowly fade.
“So you’ve arrived father.”
“Father has come!?”
A set of voices spoke, each one familiar but slightly different.
The light quickly faded, before me laid a horizon of white like a canvas and marble floor twisted in it was not a dark grey, but shiny gold. The sound of water crossed me, the floor was flooded with about an inch of flowing water.
Illuminating the space where a random assortment of objects all different shapes and sizes glowing different colors.
“Where am I?” I asked the voices who had spoken as I could see no one else.
“It is our space, our collective existence the ‘clones’. Each one of these is the mana body of one of us. Connecting it all is the progenitor of the original essence we were derived from, you.”
“You are, in your terms, our father. The seed that spawned us. While not willingly the outcome is all the same.”
I looked down and saw no figure, I realized I too was in the form of my mana body. The blue crystal.
So each one of these things represents one of the lucids.
Unwilling… my mind was caught on that word. It would mean these clones were based off of me?“
“F-father? My spawn? Me as in Lucid?”
“No, you who came from another far, far, world Henry.”
A mana body the shape of a glowing fiery tree neared me.
“You know! Where I came from!? Do you know who did this? What about the other souls do you know anything about that?”
“We only know what we’ve picked up here and that is limited to things about you. Before we speak on that we also need your help.”
“Oh right! Sorry, we need to help the lucids that were just dropped off right?”
The flaming tree pulsated a somber orange flame.
“Unfortunately, there is nothing we can do for them… the success rate isn’t perfect and defects happen. Their soul was incomplete and their will cannot heal faster than it can repair itself.”
“Nothing? We can’t just let them die? There has to be something… What about me? Didn’t I live? I made it out of here?”
“You must know already, your will and thus your soul is different Henry.”
“Like a stillbirth or a miscarriage their death isn’t an uncommon one. Though I do wish for you to give them a proper send off.”
A soft blue sad glow propagated out, this time coming from me.
Then all those bodies when I leave this place will pass on…
“Your children understand it, do not worry for they were once here. They were never alone. They wanted something that we also want, a decision from you.”
“Yes, as our creator, in a sense, we have all agreed to give you the decision on what will be done about us. This facility is a completely automated factory that is producing special vials of powerful essence, your essence. Henry, your body is here. Somewhere deep in the facility and was used as the basis for us.”
“My body?” My light shuddered at those words.
“As for the decision we pose to you is, will you save us or will you fuse us?”
“Stored in thousands of tanks we lay being drained of our essence for the use of people unrelated to us. We believe that as wrong and have accepted as our creator you have the absolute right to this strength to use as your own. However, we will not make the choice for you.”
“We have also accepted your abandonment to leave us here. Any decision will be accepted unanimously we have only longed for you to make it. Your will is our truth.”
I took a moment to process all that I had heard. Leave them, we don’t care what happens to us as long as I make it, absorb us?
What is this, how can they see their life as a joke?
“You guys are trapped inside but you act like you don’t care if I leave you to rot? What the hell!?”
Hearing these words be said so flippantly was bizarre. How can a living being not want freedom?
It made me angry. It was why I was so proud when Eurval began to do things on its own. But Eurval is gone and will never get to experience such a gift fully, yet, ‘my children’ are happy with having that option taken away!?
“We are close to as a homunculus as can get we are for the purpose of othe—”
“I don’t like to tell others how to live their lives, but I find those words truly disturbing. As your creator I am offended you are not forcing me to run in there and save as many of you as I can.” My voice came out more grave than I meant it too.
“W-we…do not want to burden our God for something he did not want to create.”
“Burden me? I’m already carrying what feels like the weight of a damn world at times what’s another thing to throw on there?”
“Tell me, who made this building, why did they make it, what are the dangers, what do I need to do to help you all get out of here?”
The tree mana body all the others in this space all seemed to be taken aback.
The collective mana bodies seemed to be in thought their own pulsations syncing with each other.
I couldn’t help but watch silently in awe.
“We have pieced together what all of us have seen and heard through our tanks.”
“This facility was funded by the Blood Axis’ Department of Alchemy, the automated facility was situated above a key mana current for the purpose of developing a way to absorb the essence of an extrauniversal human they had summoned, you Henry. Using you they created us as all other methods to extract the essence from the original body proved impossible. Once the production method was secured this autonomous facility was made to continually extract what little essence they could. Once a month a guarded envoy and an alchemist will come to collect a vial of essence to be taken to the capital.”
“Once a month… autonomous? So other than you no one else is inside? Alarms?”
“The wards you have traversed through to get here were created and set up by Lisuliam the Blood Axis’ ward and trap expert. We believe they will not suspect anyone other than those carrying a designated badge to be able to cross it. While no dangers there the badge is needed to enter the facility through the only entrance. This the extent of what we know.”
My blue crystal mana body shined for a bit as I took a breath. I’ve just accepted to care for…
“How many of you are there?”
“There are 7,236 of us inside.”
…For seven thousand of my children. Not only that but I’m directly interfering with a massive governmental entity.
I guess it explains why there are no windows they have this place locked down…
“When is their next visit?”
“A week has already passed since their last, we are confident it will be in 4 weeks from now. They’ve been coming exactly on the first of each month for the last four years.”
Knowing that, how the hell am I going to get inside?
“How strong are the alchemist and the envoy?” I might have to steal a badge from them…
“That we do not know, but considering Lisuliam is a part of this they must be powerful.”
“Why now? Why didn’t you try and contact me like this when I first arrived. I could have prepared more…”
“Your soul wasn’t able to properly fuse with one of our brothers, we think it was due to how weak the earlier versions of us were, years ago. You were only able to repair the body enough to wander off alone.”
“And when you arrived again by the time your will had repaired our dying brother all those around you had passed away so you had no one to sync to. This time, however, we are finally able to connect.”
I didn’t expect a serious answer, even if I had known I doubt much would have changed.
“If I’m able to free you from your ‘tanks’ will you be able to walk or move?”
It’s one thing getting in and it’s another thing getting over seven thousand people out.
“After a day’s rest after leaving the tanks, we should be able too.”
“Mmm, good. How big is the facility how many do you think we could get out within a day after if we get a badge somehow?”
“There is a direct staircase that leads to each underground room, each room stores about one thousand of us, we should be able to all exit after a day.”
That solves that…
Now the important part, fighting an envoy protecting national secrets.
“We do not wish for you to hurt yourself risking your life for us if it makes you feel at ease we are very willing to accept an eternity here.”
My blue glow beamed forward as I glared at the burning tree.
“Shut up with that.”
Its messed up already how awful they’re being treated.
“Wait… who says I have to fight anyone?”
A smile crossed my face, or rather my mana body glowed a mischievous blue.
“I just need to follow the disposal system… is the portal that opens up outside connected to the facility?”
“Only to the lowest room where the artificial wombs are located.”
“Okay, I think we can make this work can the disposal system be manually controlled?”
“No, it runs every hour.”
“That’s not too bad every hour is more than enough. What is it? Two or three dozen people out every hour for a little under a week should be everyone no?”
I shined a confirming blue as I began to prepare myself to begin in an hour.
“Until then sit tight.”
With those words, I summoned myself out from whatever plane I had been brought to.
Back outside my fever was gone. It was the effect of the sync that probably had caused it.
“Shit.” I looked to my side.
The lucids where dead. Based on what the flaming tree had said they would have passed regardless. Knowing they were alive a moment ago, right in front of me, and I couldn’t do anything about it stung. Seeing unfair deaths will always sting, but the effects are minimal. This world had shown me much death already.
I stood back up and placed each of my brothers into my spatial ring. The wind blew gently whisked away the stench of death that had been seeping into the land. After taking in the rest of the lucids I would wait until the portal appeared again.
Coming here was the right decision after all.
So we were summoned here based off some experiment…
I smiled, disgusted and a bit amused by the fact.
I knew the pursuit for strength was a core part of these people’s identity, but the extent they go to for results is staggering. At least I was right to keep the reality of where I came from a deep secret.
But why us?
Magic doesn’t exist in our world what do we have to offer that this magic-filled world can’t do?
Is it our physical bodies? I thought. The Blood Axis didn’t care for our souls so they threw our souls away. Maybe my body from Earth is different from the bodies here which is why they must use these lucids to absorb its essence.
While there are many more questions at least some worries have been answered…
“I’M MEEEEEEE” I yelled out.
I really am Henry, me!
Of course, it would be impossible to not see myself as Lucid either. But my memories, my parents, my Earth!
“ITS ALLLL REALLLLLLLLLL!”
The trees swayed and the wind continued to be as gentle as it had been, while no changes happened to my surrounding my outlook on them had.
Is it even ‘we’ or is it just ‘I’?
That was in need to be answered. Was it only me who was summoned or everyone on that bus? Maybe the entire world too… who knows with magic.
I couldn’t help but wonder, obviously it wasn’t the entire planet. A planet doubling its population would have caused a stir.
Hmmm, if my body is here why didn’t my soul return to it?
Magic will always follow the path of least resistance, without interference I should have returned with my body.
“I’ll save these questions for another day.”
It’s going to be a bit weird seeing myself through other eyes. I want to be suspicious of the words I was told, it is many of the answers I’ve been searching for.
I want to consider the possibility of this being a clever trap, but the plane I was sent to, the mana bodies I saw trembling…
Something within me told me it was impossible for them to lie to me. It probably has something to do with being my descendants.
Happy with what I’ve learned today, I waited for the portal to appear again.