Richard Clanden was a knight who braved through many battles. Many times, he shed blood instead of tears, but this was one of the few occasions when tears must be shed.
The gold magic circle in the center of the room waned and dissipated, returning the room to its former green varnish. It was a magic room: besides crystals and runes that were carved concentrically onto the floor, it was empty. The runes were essential for summoning of higher levels and kneeling in their center was a 16-year-old boy named Sunny.
In truth, Sunny was summoned into the magic room of Undelumi Castle, an underground castle. It was a large castle built in an even larger cavern and not many knew of its location. Legends depicted it as special since it was not built brick by brick; gnomes had tunneled, carved, and chiseled painstakingly at a mega boulder to create this masterpiece. This grew to be an arduous task and they sought the aid of gods, but the gods refused to help in the darkness of the cavern, which the gnomes loved. Thus, to show their sincerity, the gnomes compromised by allowing the gods to mix green luminous crystals into the rocks to illuminate the cavern. Henceforth, the gods participated in the building, forming an underground kingdom bathed in green light.
Richard lifted his eyes from the floor and a loud gasp escaped his mouth. He widened his eyes in disbelief and tears welled. “Sunny? It can’t be…”
“I am Sunny,” Sunny said matter-of-factly.
Richard blinked away the welled up tears. In front of him was a teenage boy dressed in a plain shirt and shorts, claiming to be Sunny, whom looked like him as well. Sunny fidgeted from the unwelcome stare as Richard scrutinized the slippers on his feet.
“Perhaps, you’ve lost your memories?” Richard asked.
“What the hell?” Sunny thought. He quickly rectified the confusion. “I’m sorry to disappoint, but you’ve mistaken me with someone else. I’m Sunny.”
“Hmm, you must’ve lost your memories. If not, you’d have recognized me.”
Sunny crumpled his face in puzzlement and a tinge of frustration surfaced, just as a boom reverberated around the room with loud echoes. And then as if in hasty pursuit there was the breaking of rocks and a collapse and the room quaked.
Richard and Sunny sensed a malevolent presence.
“We’ve got to go now,” Richard said in earnest, but he made sure to keep a light smile on for reassurance. However, Sunny knew that danger was imminent. He looked out the doorway and saw mushrooms of dust clouds and raining stalactites, and deduced that he was in a cavern. He also noticed a figure among the veils of dust. Suddenly, pulled by the wrist, he was hurried out of the room.
When Sunny stepped foot onto the hallway, he was mesmerized by the green glow in the cavern. There were glowing crystals not just in the room but also the cavern: they were myriad and jutted out of every nook and cranny. It was beautiful: a dark cavern illuminated a glacial green. Sunny took a quick glance and noticed that the hallway had many rooms. With no further time to look around, he used Rock Word.
For one fleeting moment, the consciousness of Sunny intertwined with the earth in the cavern. The joining was strong and he was one with the earth.
As the earth, Sunny spread his mind like a web over the cavern. The multitudes of cracks that branched over the breaking stalactites tingled this web and tickled his mind and when they broke off, the web stretched and he felt the collective weight of all the stalactites that fell and the holes they dug into the floor. As numerous stalagmites broke from the pouring stalactites overhead, the threads of the webs stretched close to snapping.
Sunny moved from the cavern to the castle. It was huge: above the ground were 15 stories and below the ground were 15 basements; each level had more than ten rooms on average, with some walled in by stone and hidden from the naked eye. At each corner of the castle was a tower and each had stairs that stretched from the lowest basement to the highest story. Sunny mapped the castle interior in his mind. He discovered that there were special rooms in each level, and they were interconnected with one another through numerous tunnels, and some traveled directly from the top stories to the lowest basements.
Zeroing in on the individuals in the cavern, Sunny tapped to the steady footsteps of Richard and heard the brushing of his soles against the floor. He shouldered his pressing weight and measured the length of his even strides. A heavy pounding rippled through the earth and into the ears of Sunny. Guided by the virile hammering, he departed from Richard and found the trespasser atop a stalagmite, not far from the hole in the ceiling. As he neared him, he was aware of a boundary: he knew that beyond the boundary laid earth that was servile to the trespasser. With a struggle, Sunny crossed over—suffocated. The trespasser had felt him.
And all these happened in one fleeting moment.
Shattered stalactites fell like an orchestrated downpour, and dust gathered and wheezed grittily at the castle and onto Richard and Sunny, who were at the hallway.
“Don’t use your abilities,” Richard said. “He might be able to sense us even with the dust clouds as cover.”
Sunny apologized, then confessed, “He already knows where we are. I’d wanted to gather information about this place so I sensed with the earth. But he’s an earth user and he detected me too.” He pried off the fingers of Richard that were clenched over his wrist. “It’s okay. I can take him. You’d better run.”
Richard shot him a quizzical look. “We need to go to the stairs at the end. Quickly, before he finds us.”
“But he’s already found us.”
Rocks flew at Richard and Sunny, but Sunny smacked them away single-handedly to the dismay of Richard.
“Go, Richard Clanden,” Sunny said. “I can take him on.”
Richard looked at the teenage boy in front of him. He did not expect Sunny to be proficient in fighting.
“Crimson Knight?” Borrit said. He was a young boy covered from head to toe in dirt.
“Aren’t you Earth Shattering Mole?” Richard asked.
“Correct. I’m Earth Shattering Mole, Borrit.”
On a stalagmite, Borrit stood and stretched out an open palm. Around it, he conjured mud and spun it into a viscous sphere from which hard marbles of rock bulleted. Immediately, Sunny gave a mighty kick at the low wall in the hallway. Lines of weakness sliced through the sides of the wall and a chuck flew out, revolving in midair and splattering the rock marbles. It continued to move through the air and approached Borrit, whom had formed a big fist with the mud sphere. He caught the wall and pitched it back at Sunny.
It was the turn of Richard. He positioned his hands: with his left looking like it held on to a scabbard and his right looking like it gripped a sword hilt. “Sylnal,” he said.
A ghostly shape surfaced and solidified into a short sword. It had a silver hilt that gleamed green in the light of the cavern and adorned on each side of its cross-guard was a pair of greenish glass wings. Hiding the blade from sight was a forest green scabbard. It looked like a piece of thin leaf, with veins over its polished surface. Richard clasped his fingers over the hilt and felt the chill from it, and with speed, he pulled the sword out. But what emerged was a bladeless sword.
A long and narrow column of wind pirouetted perpetually as the blade of Sylnal. Pointing the sword at Borrit, Richard said, “Arc Wind Style: Hurricane Road!”
The column of spiraling wind instantaneously launched out from the sword and enlarged into a wind tunnel, howling in the cavern and bravely ramming aside the incoming chunk of rock. Not caring a whit for the deflected rock, it continued to home in on Borrit, whom was in a dome of earth already braced for impact. The unruly wind blew hard and swept the dome to the far end of the cavern.
Richard sheathed Sylnal as swiftly as it was drawn and it faded. He held the hand of Sunny and pulled him toward the end of the hallway to the stairs leading down.
“We’re at story 15,” Richard said. “We need to go to basement 15 and exit there.”
Running down the stairs, Sunny felt the incessant tug of Richard and nearly tripped a few times. He had trouble keeping up with the fit man.
“I thought you said you were normal?” Sunny asked, huffing and puffing from the adrenaline. They were only at story 9.
“I think you’ve misunderstood. No wonder you wanted me to escape,” Richard said with a steady breath. “Just because I didn’t summon you doesn’t mean that I’m not a neosoul.”
Lying in a pile of rocks, Borrit nursed himself from the dizziness of the impact. His dome had crashed against the end of the cavern and cracked. Though it had protected him from grievous injuries, it failed to protect him from the unceasing wind that spun and threw him to the ground. Still lying down, he looked at the ceiling filled with countless stalactites and spotted the hole he had burrowed through from Avalsnow Land. With squinted eyes, he inspected it.
“Where’re they? They’re supposed to be here by now,” Borrit said.
Meanwhile, in Avalsnow Land, where the land was far and wide with thick snow and the sky was packed with clusters of dense clouds, two teenagers flew. The boy was Westin. He was wearing a t-shirt with a button down shirt over it, and his sleeves were folded with the band of rolled cloth just below his elbow. These were matched with a pair of shorts and sneakers. Held by his hands was his younger twin sister, Myrine. She had on a shirt that was tucked into her jeans, and attached to the jeans were suspenders.
“Quick! If we don’t reach in time, we’re going to get it from him!” Myrine said.
“How can we be on time when the summoning already took place?” Westin said.
“And whose fault is it?”
“Well, for whom was I waiting for to finish her food? If we’d left immediately, we could’ve saved 10 minutes of travelling time.” Visible annoyance weighed upon the tone of Westin.
But that only served to incur the wrath of Myrine. “Oh! You mean to finish your food! Yes, I was the one who’d to finish the shaved chocolate ice that you ordered—for breakfast. And did I mention that it was large size! Who eats shaved ice for breakfast and a large size at that?”
“Hey, you wolfed down the whole bowl and you’re complaining?”
“You made me pay for it! And you didn’t finish! I’d to get back my money’s worth.”
“Did you just swear at me?”
“We didn’t get Richard his breakfast…”
Myrine dangled by the arms of Westin. Her face was aghast and her voice no longer held the boisterousness of a hoyden. “I’m doomed,” she said.
“What’s the big deal? We’ll just apologize.”
“What’s the big deal? I’m an elite. I’m not supposed to fail! And we lied to Richard. We told him we’d go somewhere nearby like Combattre, so that if the summoning takes place, we can go back immediately. But we—secretly—went farther, all the way to Aquice, which is why we’re late. To top it off, we didn’t get him breakfast. He must be starving.”
Westin sighed and placated, “At least we’re not like Feliciel. She left Richard to shop around the world with Shannen.”
“She said that while she shopped, she’d hunt for enemies… Not that I doubt her… Anyway, fly faster.”
Westin grabbed onto Myrine tighter. Then, he mustered more viger and flames appeared on his feet and spread to his legs. Consequently, the heat traveled to Myrine.
“It’s blazing hot!” Myrine complained.
“Bear with it! You’re the one who wanted me to go faster. Hey, there’re people near that hole!”
“A hole? Hmm, if they’re not afraid of the frequent avalanches here, then they’re—”
Borrit strained his eyes to look at the huge castle. Though the four towers that stood at each corner of the castle were walled in, he knew they were stairways and that Richard and Sunny were in one of them. He could feel their footsteps through the earth. However, he was unsure of their goal. There were no other exits in the cavern except for the hole he burrowed. Where could they run?
Undelumi Castle was strange: the cavern it was in had neither an entrance nor exit. Borrit found the place only with the help of Servant of Crystal Sight, whom had predicted the location. With the knowledge, he conjectured that it was underneath the snowfield, Avalsnow Land. So, he industriously burrowed through the thick snow and when his feet touched the ground, he instantly felt the castle and Richard. Ecstatic that he was right, he impulsively dug through the earth without waiting for his comrades. Thus, the hole in the ceiling was the one and only entrance. Borrit confirmed his speculation by sensing through the earth and found no other openings. Then, he got up and dusted himself. Concentrating hard, mud flowed out from his soles and soaked the ground, and a rising pillar of mud thrust his feet and launched him toward the castle stairway, straight at story 9.
“Incoming!” Richard said.
“I know,” Sunny replied.
The hostility of Borrit was felt strongly even though the two were walled in. Sunny stopped running and prompted Richard to let go of his hand. With an open palm, he smacked the wall and its smooth surface diced into bricks, and these bricks sprayed out at Borrit at breaking speed. Instinctively, Borrit formed a shield of earth but the bricks smashed through and battered his body.
“Argh!” Borrit screamed and fell—but not before plucking his right arm off.
A soft thud was heard.
The right arm of Borrit had flown toward Sunny and landed on the ground beside him. However, Sunny could not process the rationality of it and focused only on Borrit, whom had a magic circle under him as he fell like a bird that was shot midflight. Meanwhile, Richard rushed to kick the arm out of the stairway. But when his foot connected with it, it turned brown and lifeless and broke like clay.
“No!” Sunny turned abruptly to face the broken arm.
The broken pieces of the arm started to emanate a baleful energy, and then they melted and soaked into the ground, violently bubbling. Soon, the bubbles shaped short and pudgy moles with sharp claws and broad feet, and they solidified.
There were 13 moles that stood between Richard and Sunny. They brought their claws together to whet and seemed to itch to maul and slash.
“Sunny, come here quick!” Richard shouted in concern of the safety of Sunny.
“Go on first!” Sunny said.
Snapping his thumb with his middle finger, Sunny used Earth Shark and a shark made of earth torpedoed out from the ground. Richard, who had gotten away in time, saw the plight of those that did not. With its wide forehead the shark head-butted two moles into the ceiling and flattened another two over its massive body, and in its brown jaws of dirt, it relished the crunch of three.
Sunny jumped and flipped in the air, over the shark and moles. Landing beside Richard, he said, “It’s bad—”
“I know. Your shark is turning into a mole.”
Sunny looked back and saw the shark bubbling. Even the seven moles that were smashed into pieces were bubbling. Now, there were 19 moles.
As Sunny sprinted down the stairs, he tried to catch his evasive breath. “That’s quite a powerful spell,” he said amid huffs and puffs.
“It’s the signature spell of Borrit, Earth Shattering Mole. His sobriquet is based on it. Do you know how to beat it?” Richard asked.
“No, but we can always injure him to the point that he unravels it.” Sunny looked back and saw the moles in staggering pursuit. “They’re slow and weak though.”