A Display of the Spirit Lord’s Power
Editor(s): Sebas Tian, Speedphoenix
“Oh husband to the greatest of dragons and sovereign of the labyrinth, I must proffer to you a requital, for it was you and not I who extricated the daughter of one of my compatriots from the hands of her slavers.”
“Don’t worry about it dude,” I said. “I did it because I wanted to. There’s really no need for you to thank me.”
“I do not see you as undeserving of my esteem. You may adjudge your benignant deeds as unaltruistic, but I cognize them as bounteous. You have fulfilled in my place the reprisal to which I was averred. I would entreat for you to welcome an attestation of my goodwill.”
“Well… if you insist.” I figured it would be rude to keep saying no given that he was pressing for me to accept his thanks, so I ended up nodding along.
“Then might you bear before me your heart?”
“Uhh…” At first, I was confused but managed to catch on after a bit of deliberation. “You mean the dungeon core?”
“And no other,” he affirmed.
The reason I hadn’t understood him was because the core had gone largely unmentioned, which, of course, was a good thing. It taking center stage meant me having my life put at risk, and I wasn’t exactly what one could call fond of the idea of courting death. It had, this whole time, remained behind the throne, under both lock and key and strict surveillance.
“You’re friends with Lefi, and Illuna seems to trust you, so… alright, I guess…” I said after a moment of hesitation. “But be gentle with it, ‘kay? I’d prefer not to die.”
“Be at ease,” he said. “I know the extent of its tenuousness, for I have brought several to naught throughout the ages.”
Which means he’s killed at least a few demon lords. Yeah uhhhh, knowing that ain’t really helping with my anxiety, bro. I was now even less inclined to show him the heart of my existence than I was before, but I decided to go through with it anyway. There wasn’t really all that much of a chance that he’d murder me with Lefi watching—and that she wouldn’t be able to do something about it even if he tried. With that conclusion in mind, I opened up the thick, protective cage I’d set up around the dungeon core, retrieved it, and set it down in front of him.
“Well, here it is,” I said.
“I thank you and implore that you exonerate an evanescent contravention of decorum.”
The spiritual sovereign raised his staff and pointed it at the core.
There was a moment of silence, during which nothing seemed to happen.
Broken by my screams.
I shrieked in agony as I felt an incredible force begin raging about within me. It refused to simply be contained and rose to the surface as pure suffering. Unable to support myself, I fell to my knees with one hand against the floor and the other pressed against my chest. My heart palpitated, my eyes teared up, and my lungs heaved as the newfound energy flooded my whole body.
“Y-Yuki!?” screamed Illuna.
“What have you done to him!?” shouted Lefi, as she ran over and placed a hand on my shoulder to try to get a grasp on my situation and ease my pain.
“I’m… fine…” I croaked, between heavy pants. I grabbed her arm with one of my own, only to powerlessly collapse on top of it. “Don’t… worry…”
The sensation I was assaulted by was one I recognized. It was the same throbbing, deathly ache I’d felt when I first touched the dungeon’s core and had my mind altered to support a basic understanding of this world and its workings. But this time, it had affected much more than just the inside of my skull.
“You need not fret, silver dragon,” said the spirit lord. “I have bestowed upon him not torment, but power to which he will soon acclimate.”
Lefi shot him a glare, clearly not appreciative of the carefree manner in which he conducted himself after causing me so much pain, but he ignored her and continued acting innocent and aloof regardless.
“You know… it feels… pretty good… to have you… worry about me… like that…” I said, after making a few broken attempts at laughing.
“Cease your silly behaviour. Remain still and rest!” She chided, as she gave my hand a worried squeeze.
Despite all the pain, internally, I was elated. Seeing Lefi’s kinder side had put me in one hell of a good mood. It was one of the parts of her I appreciated most, especially at times like these. As I continued to lean on her, the energy whirling about within me finally began to calm. Errr… actually that’s not quite right. It’s more like my body’s gotten used to it.
Whatever the case, I stopped feeling nearly as unwell, so I slowly rose to the floor.
“So… what exactly did you do?” I said, slowly. I was still a bit unsteady on my feet, so I continued to use Lefi as a support to keep myself propped up as I addressed the source of my agony.
“I bestowed upon you the sole perquisite I am capable of awarding, the ability to sway the subjects over which I rule,” he said. “I have modulated your essence and thereby your corpus to permit control over spiritkind.” He returned his staff to its upright position. “How fare you now?”
“Not too bad,” I said. “Pretty good, in fact.”
Which is more or less how I think you’d expect to feel, after being given a power boost by someone on Lefi’s level. I suspected that his meddling had leveled up the dungeon. I couldn’t actually confirm anything without popping open the menu and poking around. But I’m pretty confident I’m right, since it feels like I’ve got a lot more mana than I used to.
“But I really could’ve done with some sort of warning,” I complained. “Getting totally blind-sided like that wasn’t exactly what I’d call fun.”
“How bizarre…” My reproachful gaze was met with one of curiosity. Not that he actually has eyes, but you know what I mean. “Your distress did not fall within the purview of my foresight, for the child did not suffer when I did the same to her. How truly peculiar…” The spirit lord paused, as if to silently entertain a hypothesis or two before continuing. “Still, it remains unerring to state that you have, as I had previsioned, incorporated my power as your own. For demonic overlords, potentates brought forth by labyrinths, are of an essence unfixed.”
I thought about giving him a bit more of a talking-to, but ultimately ended up dismissing the idea. He was acting the same way Leila did when she started getting a bit too into one of her interests, which meant he was unlikely to listen to me until he was done thinking unless I said something that happened to contribute to his current line of thought. Ughhhhh… This is the problem with scientists and scholars. Friggin’ nerds, being all researchy and shit.
“A-are you ok?” asked Illuna.
“Yeah, I’m fine. Sorry for making you worry.” I ruffled her hair, then turned to the spirit and waited a moment or two for him to snap out of his self-induced trance. “So what exactly does this new power you gave me amount to? Am I supposed to be able to see spirits or something now?”
“A truly accurate conjecture,” he said. “Oh child of vampires, evince before him that of which I have edified you.”
“O-Okay! I’ll give it a shot!” Being put on the spot had let her to stutter a bit, but she responded in her usual, over-energetic manner regardless. “Spirit of the Flame, come here please!”
A small, red orb somewhat resembling a ball of flame suddenly poofed into existence next to her.
“W-woah…” I blinked a few times in surprise. So that’s how spirits look…
The creature, which, like the spirit lord, was a literal ball of light, seemed to be rather happy with its summoning, as it began spinning circles around the child who requested its presence. Looks like it’s at least capable of some degree of thought. I wonder how it compares to its king?
“Is there now a spirit in our presence?” asked Lefi.
“Yup. Can you not see it or something? It’s more or less just a fireball, and it’s hanging right around Illuna.”
“A ball of flame?” She cocked a brow as she scanned the vampire’s surroundings. “I cannot. I am able to see a mass of magical energy in her presence, but I am not able to discern its form any further.” She then turned to the other highly magically attuned member of our family. “Can you see it, Leila?”
“I can vaguely sense that there is something there, but only because I’m focused on it. I would not have noticed if it wasn’t brought to my attention,” responded the maid.
“Really? I ain’t seein’ nothin’ at all,” said Lyuu. My dog-eared fiancee had returned to her duties after the Spirit Lord’s introduction, but she’d come back to the true throne room to check up on us when I started screaming.
“Do not worry. An impotence in the ability to regard that which is but spiritual falls within the quotidian. Your compatriots, those who are able to gaze upon my kin regardless of aptitude, subsist within an overwhelmingly derisory, countable minority.”
“Wait, does that mean I’ve got an affinity for spirit sorcery or something?”
“The guise under which you fall is not one to be surveyed in line with any other, for you, as one born of a labyrinth, are of a flexible essence. You did not once possess the aptitude. But you have, several passing moments prior, evolved it.”
“Say uh, you’ve been going on about this whole flexible essence thing for a good while now, but what exactly are you talking about? Do you just mean it’s easy for me to change?”
“With trifling details abstracted, your judgement is unerring. The flexibility of your essence, the pliability of your nature, the ease with which the core of your being may change, is a foible kindred to the animates referred to as labyrinths. Others, those of which whose origins do not parallel yours, are of unvarying, nigh eternal dispositions. But you, you are dissimilar. Your essence freely tailors and refashions itself to whatever form is most apropos to survival. For those not of your essence, such changes occur only upon evolution.”
I get it now. He’s talking about how I can spend DP to unlock new seemingly rule-breaking abilities and whatnot. My map, for example, was once only capable of detecting enemies within the dungeon’s boundaries. The restriction had, at the time, been a strict rule with no exceptions. But now, it was gone altogether. Spending a bit of DP was all I needed to do to completely rewrite the function’s rules, despite that not being how any other skill functioned. My ability to purchase items from the catalog even whilst outside the dungeon was very similar, in that regard, as it had also turned a previously unbending rule into something that no longer existed.
These changes were only possible because of changes in me. My body had adapted to draw out the dungeon’s power even outside the realm of its influence. Sometimes, I would joke about how I was like an android and how I was remodeled in order to better perform my role. And that was precisely what the spirit lord expressed when he talked about my essence. It was a property that I, as one that was born from the dungeon—or perhaps even created by it—possessed.
“I know that Yuki has already rebuked you for your lack of a warning, but I feel the need to repeat his words. You would do well to notify us the next time you are to perform such an act,” said Lefi. “You have always conducted yourself in this manner. You speak as if you are all knowing and act on your own accord without so much as informing any other of your intentions. This time, in doing so, you created a misunderstanding for which I was on the verge of lighting you aflame.”
“How harrowing. Not even I am capable of standing against the dragon that reigns over all of creation,” chuckled the ball of light. “I will dutifully refrain from pretermitting your warning.” Once he was done laughing, he turned back to me. “The child will serve as your pedagogue in the spiritual arts, for she is capable of bestowing upon you all the counsel you will require to correctly make use of their powers.”
“Uhhh… Sure. Sounds good.”
“Don’t worry, Yuki! I’ll teach you everything I know.”
“Thanks Illuna,” I said with a smile.
The ancient being got to his metaphorical feet as we went through the exchange.
“I trust that, as all incumbent discourse is now complete, it has come time for my egress. Our encounter may have lasted only a fleeting moment, but I found it riveting. It would please me if the sentiment was reciprocated.”
“Wait, you’re leaving already? You sure you don’t want to stick around a bit longer?” I asked.
“I also would have liked to speak with you for a little bit longer,” said Leila in a voice laced with heartfelt disappointment. Yeah, I can certainly see why she’d feel that way. Those two were having some pretty hardcore discussions. Leila’s basically just a massive ball of curiosity, so to her, this must’ve been a rare opportunity for her to bounce ideas off someone as smart as her.
“Excellent. Return at once from whence you came,” said Lefi. “You are detrimental to my presence of mind.”
“I suppose that if you insist, I shall hasten my departure,” he laughed. “But even if you were to meet my departure with grief, I would have no alternative. For there lies a duty to which I am obliged to consummate.” He shifted slightly to face Illuna. “I must seek those who once inhabited her hamlet and inform them of her safety.”
“…Right. Yeah, you probably should,” I said.
“Thanks Guru!” Rather than waving with all her usual energy, Illuna instead offered the spirit lord a meek bow.
“Do not mind it. It is but an obligation.” He seemed to cast his eyes over us as a group before continuing. “Farewell, labyrinth walkers. I pray that your days will continue to be filled with amity.”
“…Stay well, ancient one,” said Lefi.
With one last nod, the king of spirits exited through the open front door.
Hadesian -> Hadean because I got the adjective wrong the first time around.