Chapter 285 Deimos, the Dark Eye
Aldrich exhaled flaming blood and steam as he turned [Burning Agony] off. The [Wailing Winds] ended at this point, taking up its maximum duration of twenty seconds.
When the blizzard settled down, ice shards clattering on the iced dirt, Aldrich saw that the remaining two Grinners had been [Frozen] in a wrestling struggle against each other.
Chrysa plopped down on Aldrich's skeletal hand again. "That was so cool, father! When can I learn to fight like that!? Punching and kicking like that!?"
"Your levels give you mana and stats, but you need to learn how to use it all, that's true. Soon, Chrysa. With our link, I'm sure you'll pick up on things fast." Aldrich dislodged his scythe from the Grinner's eye and then materialized a lightforged sword, needing to execute the Grinners with holy weaponry because they could regenerate much faster than the lesser demons.
Aldrich stabbed the solid light blade into the hearts of all four Grinners, purifying and warping them into his inventory.
Now with a total of 5 Purified Demonhearts, Aldrich could reasonably craft quite a good curse spell or enchantment. That, Aldrich would refine into a potent instant death spell, something he was currently lacking after having to give up his old lantern to fully activate Volantis.
Instant death spells were generally all curse type spells, and there was nothing like demonhearts to construct effective curses.
In lore, demons were the origin of all curse type magic. Raw material harvested from their kind would yield the strongest curses possible.
"Once I start punching and kicking like father, nobody will ever beat me, and I'll protect father forever," said Chrysa.
"Not forever. One day, I'd like you to do your own thing. Seeing kids realize their dreams, their own dreams, not ones forced on them through necessity, makes me happy," said Aldrich. He briefly looked around to see all the demons in the vicinity had been cleared out, giving him some breathing room. "I'd like the same for you."
Chrysa cocked her head quizzically. "What I want…? But I just want to help you."
"That's fine too. In time, though, if you ever do want to do something else, I won't stand in your way. Just know I'm giving you that freedom." Aldrich knew that Chrysa protected him because she was essentially programmed to as a Chrysalis.
But the longer she grew, the more she experienced, the more she would develop into her own person. Into an individual. When that happened, Aldrich did not want her to feel shackled by him.
Aldrich felt a rumble echo under his feet. This was different from the vibrations from the stampede of demonic hordes. No, this was a deeper rumble, a solid quake that heralded not a mass of fodder, but the arrival of one powerful entity.
Aldrich spied the orange light in the distance that his system marked out to track Deimos.
Deimos had landed, having scaled down the full length of the Arsillow tree.
A certain heavy pressure landed on Aldrich's shoulders. The air grew hotter. The rain of ash from the smoke clouds above grew thicker, the slow snowfall of burnt matter turning more into a blizzard much like the one Aldrich had conjured.
"Father…I don't like this. Can we actually fight that thing?" Chrysa pointed way into the distance. She could not see Aldrich's system interface, but she could sense what he was looking at. "It feels so strong. Stronger than you, father."
"He is," said Aldrich. "Deimos the Dark Eye. Level 50+ warlock. Arguably one of the strongest bosses out of all the trial quests when considering relative difficulty adjusted to level. Supported by twin archdemons Anhil and Nilah.
Anhil's dark eye lets him severely cut down the stats of those he looks at, provided they are not bound by holy protection. Nilah's maw lets him absorb any attack, no matter how strong it is, and even replicate it.
As we are now, we have no way of beating him."
Aldrich reached up and clasped Chrysa's nervous hand. He pointed up to the top of the Arsillow tree. "But we aren't here to fight him. Take us up there, Chrysa. Deimos has wasted his time getting down here. If we warp up there, we can close the Flame Arc and weaken him."
"Got it!" Chrysa closed her eyes, took in a deep breath, and balled up her fists. She trembled in exertion, brows furrowing as her silvery hair sparkled with white. A silver aura wrapped around both Aldrich and Chrysa as the space around them began to distort.
Pieces of rubble, frozen demon chunks and clumps of ash, all swirled around Aldrich, rotating in a rapid orbit as Chrysa's spatial power fluxed in rapid, circular currents, building up intensity and power.
"Let's…" Chrysa exhaled, shouting. "Go!"
All in an instant, Chrysa unleashed her built of power. Aldrich's vision drowned out in white as bright light burst forth from Chrysa, engulfing both of them.
In the next instant, Aldrich found himself up high, the burning town beneath him little more than just a smattering of flashing orange and red dots. He stopped himself from falling using his cloak, levitating in the air. Behind him, he beheld the monumental Arsillow tree trunk, taller and wider than any skyscraper in the real world.
The bark was blackened, scarred with deep cracks of angry, burning red.
Aldrich did not have more time to admire the sheer grand scale of the tree compared to seeing it on a screen. Chrysa was not on his shoulder. He immediately tapped into his soul link with her and saw that she was higher up, falling, a speck of glowing white amid a bleak canvas of reds and oranges and blacks.
Aldrich flew upwards and took Chrysa in his arms.
"I'm tired…," said Chrysa, tears of sleepiness welling up in her green eyes.
"You did well, Chrysa," said Aldrich.
"But-but we're not at the top-," Chrysa pointed up. The top of the tree was still fifty or so meters away.
"You did your best. That's what matters the most to me." Aldrich hugged Chrysa to his chest as he flew up, the cloak of stitched souls uttering faint wails of agony instead of windy billows. He noted that the cloak let him fly approximately around his own running speed.
In a few seconds, Aldrich reached the top of the tree. The branches of the Arsillow tree had all burned off, leaving just a wide, flat, charred platform with the giant Flame Arc glowing angrily above. This would have served as the boss arena to fight Deimos, but, well, Deimos was all the way down.
Aldrich landed on burnt wood, some bits of charcoal crumbling away under his dress shoes. He looked up at the Flame Arc. It cast down bright red and orange light, and seeing into it, he felt voices indecipherable whispering in his head – countless voices of demons just waiting to break through.
"Just one more thing, Chrysa," said Aldrich. He jumped up, flying up to the Flame Arc. Despite its flaming appearance, it did not emit any heat. It did, however, emit a powerful insanity aura that would have rendered the average mortal completely braindead and quickly possessed afterwards.
Fortunately, both Aldrich and Chrysa were immune as undead, though the champions' blessing shielded them as well. "We have to close this. Can you do it?"
"I can." Chrysa shook her head and slapped her cheeks with her little hands, rousing herself. "I can!"
Chrysa floated away from Aldrich and reached out to touch the Flame Arc. In front of the enormous infernal tear in space, both Chrysa and Aldrich looked like ants.
Aldrich was not exactly sure Chrysa had it in her to close a portal of this scale. He knew that, in spite of how threateningly impressive they looked, Flame Arcs were very fragile. Until they were fully formed, they were very unstable. Even if they were large, they were like a shaky house of cards.
Just close or seal a little piece of them, and the whole thing just broke apart.
Chrysa reached her hands out. Her hands glowed a bright white, and then, from her palms, shining threads of energy spooled out, reaching one edge of the Flame Arc. The threads acted like sutures, reaching from one edge of the Flame Arc to the other, wrapping them shut tight like a sown-up wound.
Aldrich blinked. He did not have as sensitive an eye to energy signatures as Volantis did but wearing the living armor for some time had given him some more familiarity to it. And he could tell one thing; the threads that Chrysa created were almost exactly the same as the threads the Voice had used to control Okeanos back when he was under its control.
The implications were groundbreaking.
Was Chrysa herself connected to the Voice? Or, maybe more likely, was her species, the Chrysalis, connected to it?
Could Aldrich, if he dived deep enough into Chrysa's soul, reach the Voice? Or, at the very least figure out more about the Voice?
And if Aldrich's connection with Chrysa went both ways, then did he risk the Voice reaching him as well?
Before Aldrich could process it all, Chrysa shouted in glee. "Done!"
Chrysa had sutured shut just a small part of the half-formed Flame Arc, but even that was enough to start its collapse. The Flame Arc began to close from where Chrysa had sewn it, the V slowly but surely sealing into disappearance on its own.
"Look at that! It was so big but I managed to beat it!" Chrysa turned to Aldrich, proud of herself.
"You did great." Aldrich smiled. He reached out to hold Chrysa.
He sensed danger.
With sheer instinct, he activated his cloak's [Hallowed Ground]. Instantly, a cloud of light green full of emerged around them. Countless skeletal spirits swum around this cloud, half swimming in it and half forming the mass to begin with.
A fiery red spear shot into the [Hallowed Ground] but simply disappeared, swallowed up by one of the swimming spirits.
Inside the cloud of souls, Chrysa rushed to Aldrich's embrace, shaking in fear.
"What was that!?" said Chrysa.
Aldrich narrowed his eyes as he looked down. Though it was impossible to see inside the soul cloud from outside, Aldrich could see outside as if watching through a transparent screen.