“You’ve lost your memories,” Richard said as he led Sunny to the destroyed stairway. “But it’s alright, Myrine and Shannen can help with their abilities.”
The pair walked toward the wall opening of the stairway where it was blocked by a large shark of earth. With its head gouged into pieces by the moles inside the stairway, a small opening just nice for the pudgy moles was made. However, Sunny was not keen to squeeze into such a small hole and with a wave of his hand, he reduced the shark into grains of sand. Looking into the stairway, he saw the throngs of moles that slept lazily on the ground and he brought his hand up again, giving one last wave to erase them into amorphous sand.
Making their way down the stairs, Sunny asked, “Does everybody here have abilities?”
“Only neosouls do,” Richard said. “They’re—”
“People with an awakened soul, I know. Only neosouls are able to release viger to use abilities, which come from manifested affinities.”
Sunny nodded his head. “Viger is energy from an awakened soul and affinities are things like talents, likes, and preferences. Also, there’re two types of neosouls: insiders and outsiders. Insiders are inside of humanity while outsiders are outside of humanity. Isn’t that right?”
“I told you my memories are intact. So, does the general population have neosouls?”
“No. It’s not easy to meet neosouls. And if you were to try to find insiders, that’ll be much harder.”
“What do you mean?”
Richard hesitated to answer. “Well, there’re a lot of outsiders. The proportion isn’t that equal…okay that’s an understatement. There’re only a tens of insiders and hundreds of outsiders.”
The face of Sunny petrified. Insiders were those who protected humanity, thus being on the inside; outsiders were those who destroyed humanity, thus being on the outside. If the proportion were not equal, then would the fight not be dangerously skewed toward one side—in specifics the side of the enemies?
“Sunny,” Richard said, “I know what you’re thinking. But it’s precisely because we’re so heavily outnumbered that we’ve to seek your help. We’ve been waiting for you to be summoned. We’ve warred with outsiders for a long time and we can’t win.”
This prompted Sunny to ask the unthinkable. “Are insiders fighting a losing battle? Don’t tell me we’ve already lost!”
“No! Don’t misunderstand. It’s a stalemate. But with you here, we’re starting a war to topple the balance of powers and win.”
“How? We’ve only a handful; they’ve an army.”
“With you! You’re more powerful than you think.”
“But we nearly lost against one Borrit.”
“That’s different. Like you said, I’d prioritized your safety. If I’d known that you were able to protect yourself, I would’ve halved him in a split second. Also, I’ve limiters on myself and am only left with a fraction of my powers.” Noticing that Sunny was still nervous, Richard added, “Relax, even the outsiders know that we’re strong and refrain from one-on-one confrontations with us. And we’re not going to war immediately. First, we’ll attack their headquarters and leaders to collapse their unity.”
Sunny mulled over the situation. It was true that something was suppressing the viger of Richard. It was also true that Borrit was weak. If Sunny and Richard had not wasted time escaping, Borrit would have never succeeded in using Earth Shattering Mole and Karmic Rock. As evident when they first encountered him, without these two spells, he was nothing. Suddenly, Sunny had his wrist grabbed roughly by Richard and he awoke from his thoughts—understanding everything.
“Sunny, where is he?” Richard asked with a grave gravitas.
Sunny used Rock Word to course his mind through the castle. A movement was felt but he heard no footsteps and only a lone drone. “No way,” he said, “his affinity with earth shouldn’t have been this high… He’s above us and he’s turned into earth.”
A terrible shade of dread washed over the face of Richard as rocks fell from the ceiling. “Let’s go,” he said, and he pulled Sunny by the hand into the hallway of basement 5.
The stairs crumbled, the walls cracked, and the stairway caved; a sneeze of dust shot out from the stairway and into the hallway. Borrit had collapsed the stairway in basement 5. Sunny squinted his eyes from the dust and saw a dark form bulged out from the ground a few steps away from them.
“I should’ve checked for his corpse,” Richard said. “I didn’t expect him to use a sacrifice just before he was crushed.”
“What did he sacrifice? It’s not possible to raise affinity by this much with just any sacrifice.”
“There’s always the sacrifice of life.”
The dust in the hallway settled and Borrit was visible in his rocklike form. An immense bloodlust poured out from him as he said, “That’s right! I sacrificed my life for the chance to kill you two!”
The floor ahead of Borrit elevated and Sunny promptly readied himself, but Richard pushed him to the back and said, “Sunny, this is a good opportunity. I’ll show you how strong I really am.”
The elevated floor was cut into brunoises and they scattered in the air, bulleting straight at Richard. In that small window of time, Richard materialized the sword, Animalia. It had a furry sheath that was white with black spots and a golden hilt with a lion head as its pommel. Also, a powerful spirit seemed to burst out from the sheath, where the blade slept.
“Animal Spirit Style: Strong Wall,” Richard said.
Without drawing the sword from its thick fur sheath, a lavender turtle was projected from the sword and a barrier plate appeared. It was thick and had scutes like a turtle shell, and the innumerable rock cubes scattered into sharp pieces upon conflict with it.
“Animal Spirit Style: Blast Needle.”
A lavender porcupine was projected and several spikes emerged from the barrier. Upon reaching an arm’s length, they were fired. Borrit quickly liquefied the hallway into a sticky net and caught the fast moving spikes, but before he could retaliate, there was the sound of rock breaking and his head flew off, landing on the floor with a light crash.
What had happened was this: when Borrit lapsed in his concentration, Richard had unsheathed Animalia and projected a lavender sparrow. As the blade slid out of its sheath, its pulsing ferocity cut into the light, so much that the light appeared to slip off undisturbed like morning dew. Then, using Animal Spirit Style: Swallow Flight, Richard brandished the blade six times, manifesting each slash into a lavender sparrow that flew and evaded the net-like hallway to zero in on Borrit. Two hit Borrit in the chest, one at his right thigh, one at his stomach, one at his left hand and the last, at his neck. Thus, like a fine metal string pulled across his neck, the head of Borrit was sliced cleanly off. It spun in the air momentarily before crashing into the floor.
Richard rested his sword back into its sheath. “Get up,” he said, “I’m not quite done.”
“Argh!” Borrit fumed, not at all befitting his state of decapitation. It seemed that he no longer felt pain.
“He’s regenerating again,” Sunny said. “You have to pulverize him to end him.”
Richard raised his left hand that was carrying his sheath and positioned it vertically in front of him. To defeat Borrit, he resolved to shred him since even beheading him was useless now. He had to cause tremendous damage all at once, the same as when he faced his Karmic Rock. But before Richard could place his hand on the grip to draw his sword, the hallway shook violently. Sunny grabbed him by his right hand and ran to the back of the hallway, just as it collapsed.
“Seems like he wasn’t happy you’d cut his head off,” Sunny quipped.
“Now’s not the time!” Richard laughed and dematerialized his sword.
Looking back, Sunny saw that they were soon to be buried. The hallway was long and it was not possible for them to make it all the way to the stairway at the other end. Using Rock Word, Sunny prayed for a miracle.
“Here!” Sunny said and he doubled his speed, pulling Richard into a room on the right.
“What’s going on?” Richard asked.
“I’d forgotten about these tunnel rooms!”
Sunny let go of the hand of Richard and ran ahead into the tunnel room. He had seen it when he first scanned the castle, but had forgotten about it from all the battling. The room was simple with no decorations and had only four walls. Turning to face the right wall, Sunny waved his hand rightward and a part of it slid open to the right like a sliding door, revealing a tunnel that connected basement 5 to basement 10. Crystals were embedded uniformly into the tunnel wall and they brushed the tunnel with a cool green coating. In the heat of the moment, Sunny picked up speed and dove headfirst into the hole. But as he picked up speed, he recognized that landing might be a problem. Trying his hardest to brake, Sunny gripped the tunnel wall; however, it was smooth and slippery. His speed continued to climb and as the tunnel swerved into sharp curves, he gave up and huddled his head in. A few seconds later, there was a sharp drop.
It was a vertical drop. Sunny hurriedly brought his arms over the top of his head as he plunged. His arms slammed into the ground and he fell onto the floor on his back—with his face intact. A few seconds later, Richard arrived, and his feet dangerously neared the face of Sunny, prompting Sunny to shut his eyes closed. But there was only a light thud.
“Are you okay? Richard asked.
Sunny opened his eyes and saw the concern on the face of Richard. And from his peripheral vision, he saw the feet of Richard: one on the left of his face and the other on his right.
“I think I’m okay. At least my face is intact,” Sunny said and breathed a sigh of relief.
“Alright then. Let’s get out of here.”
Together, they ran out of the room and entered the hallway of basement 10. However, before another step, Sunny sighed and said, “Richard…”
With his face colored by resignation, Richard replied, “I know…”
Richard materialized Animalia and drew its blade. “I’ll end him before he’s another chance to destroy the place,” he said.
With the sword positioned around his waist and its tips pointed at Borrit, the bloodlust of Richard leaked and the air in the hallway quavered. Borrit hurriedly drew the surrounding earth into a wall of earth. The next instant flashed. A lavender rhinoceros glowed. Viger wrapped around the sword. Richard thrust hard. A glinting wave shot from the sword. The wall of earth tore.
“Animal Spirit Style: Blind Horn Blade!” Richard shouted.
A wave charged out from the sword and rammed through the wall of earth, biting off the upper torso of Borrit. In that moment of impact, all traces of his upper torso were obliterated; all that was left was his standing lower torso. However, Borrit was not yet dead. Drawing earth into his lower torso, he regenerated, albeit this time round, the regeneration was slower.
“He doesn’t have much viger left,” Sunny said.
Hearing the words of Sunny, Borrit stubbornly expanded his viger and pulled in excessive earth from the surrounding. The hallway and ceiling opened up and his lower torso sank into the earth, forming a gigantic mole of about 3 meters tall. Looming before Richard and Sunny, the mole started to fall apart because Borrit had formed it incompletely with his low amount of viger. Cracks wriggled like worms across its surface and it started flaking, then chipping, and chunks fell off. Richard sighed at the futile resistance and projected a lavender praying mantis; a baleful force coated the blade and his bloodlust flared. He placed his right foot forward and shifted his weight onto it and in a flash he closed the distance. A fragile claw came from his left but he instantly slackened his knees and leaned back, ducking it by a hairsbreadth; at the next second, he strengthened his knees and contracted his abdominal muscles, yanking his heavy frame back up.
“Animal Spirit Style: Metal Prayer!”
Richard slashed vertically upward as Borrit hardened his left arm, sending a force that sliced through his arm and into his chest—and even upward into the ceiling of basement 9 and beyond.
The mole shattered instantly and its pieces ricocheted against the wall, ground, and ceiling; at the same time, Borrit flew into the air with his hands hung up like a marionette, and he dropped onto the ground, the left side of his body split from the right side. The color of dirt started to recede from these two parts and his body regained its anatomical functions, causing blood to soak the ground. But he refused to give up. His viger poured and his body regained its earthy form, and the flowing blood stopped.
“My comrades are coming. They’ll find and kill you,” Borrit said.
“I don’t think so,” Richard replied. “I also have comrades. If your comrades are not here by now, they’re probably dead. Sunny, can you read minds?”
“You want me to read his mind?” Sunny asked.
“Yes, he shouldn’t have been able to find this place. The legends of Undelumi Castle are kept in Garden of Knowledge and only the top scholars can access them; not even insiders are allowed. We only knew because of Aria.”
Sunny stared at Borrit, whom was bisected. He had been weakened severely, so it would be easy to slip into his mind.
“Take care of my body,” Sunny said. “Mind Invader.”