The Binding Cycle of Life and Death — Part 2
Editor(s): Speedphoenix, Joker
Draggodt groaned as he pushed the rubble on top of him aside and got to his feet. After wiping the blood off his brow, he looked over the situation with an observant eye.
Little of his underground laboratory remained. Even the ceiling had been completely destroyed. More than half of the undead abominations he had created could no longer be of use. They were buried under the debris and impossible to retrieve. Likewise, half of the brilliant minds, the scientists and researchers he had gathered from across the country, had perished in the collapse. A tragic loss, to say the least.
“At least it somehow succeeded in awakening…”
The monster’s roars were loud enough to be heard even in the emperor’s underground facility, and directing one’s gaze through the hole provided a glimpse of it in action. Gojim had put the plan in serious jeopardy. But they had succeeded nonetheless.
The Hadean Helldrake had awoken.
A core, a central basis was required for any member of the undead to rise, whether it be a necromancer’s orders or the simple, instinctive urge to seek out the living. Whatever the case, something was needed. A soul, or a replacement therefor. The Helldrake was no different.
There was no knowledge of exactly how it had happened, but the Lord of Death was also in possession of a central pillar. And in its case, it was its own soul. Its spirit had somehow remained within its body as it rotted and transformed into a rampaging corpse. It followed the principal exactly.
Now, the dragon’s soul was gone. But so long as its body, or even just it’s skeleton remained, it could be brought back, reanimated as an undead creature based on the world’s most powerful race. The only problem lay with the creature’s size. Gathering enough negative mana to fuel it was no simple task, quite literally requiring a full-scale war.
That was why Draggodt had incited the fiends to open hostilities. He needed the other races to gather so that they could form a large enough force to power the Helldrake. That was why he lured them in and drew them to the capital. That was why he forced them to fight upon the battlefield he had chosen. At first, it all went according to plan. Waiting was all he had to do. But Gojim’s rampage had set him back and ruined the first of his many plans. No longer could he fully charge the dragon. But that wasn’t an issue. The possibility was something he had long considered and accounted for.
All he needed to overcome the hurdle was Gojim’s blade, Tortund Ruin.
As an intelligent weapon, Ruin’s will was one of chaos and cruelty. When it was first discovered, Ruin’s power had been all but exhausted. It had been capable of nothing but leading the occasional spineless, weak-willed fool down the path of immorality. But the repeated battles that Gojim had seen it through had turned it into a powerful entity capable of moving around on its own. An entity capable of serving as a core.
The blade was stabbed into the dragon’s head and used as an intermediary for the magic used in the legendary creature’s resurrection.
Typically speaking, attempting to raise a creature without the energy required would lead to its imminent collapse and re-expiration, but the blade’s ability to absorb magic from its surroundings made it possible to circumvent the problem. So long as Tortund Ruin was present, the Hadean Helldrake would be able to sustain itself by absorbing all of the ambient magic around it.
The only concern was the introduction of a tug of war, a conflict between the undead dragon and the sword, to see which would drain more energy from the other and which of the pair would be dominant.
But that was no longer something that Draggodt found even the slightest bit worrying. The now masterless blade had already proven itself incapable of resisting the will imposed upon it by the Helldrake.
And given that the dragon was now pumped full of negative mana, the emperor’s men would be able to bind it and order it to obey their will.
It was a brute force approach that had not even a trace of the initial plan’s elegance. It walked an incredibly risky line; everything would be turned on its heel if it failed. But failure was not something that Draggodt believed in. They would make it work. Because they had to. No matter the cost.
“Your imperial highness, sir! Are you okay? You were blown pretty far back by the explosion!” shouted one of his soldiers. “We’ll tend to your head wound immediately!”
Several members of his guard rushed over to tend to him. They too had been hit by the blast, blown away from it, scattered throughout the room. Not a single man or boy was without injury.
“Leave it be. It’s just a scratch and we have more important matters to attend to,” said the ruler. He pushed the guards aside and raised his voice. “Vice chief! Are you alive?”
“Y-yessir! I’m right here!”
“Get the survivors together and form ranks. Get to repairing our equipment immediately. We will be continuing with plan B.”
“Are you sure, sir? We may have succeeded in raising the Helldrake, but I doubt that we will be able to take control of it in its current state.”
“Have all the remaining soldiers gather within the dungeon’s territory. The Helldrake is, at its core, an undead. It will be drawn to the living, and if our troops suddenly vanish from its detection range, it will naturally be drawn to our enemies. We’ll use that as an opportunity to recalibrate and seize control of him. Understood?”
“Yes… sir! We’ll see it through, sir!” The man immediately began issuing orders to his subordinates.
Just as Draggodt was about to nod and acknowledge his efforts, however, he found himself distracted by a shrill, pained cry.
It wasn’t a roar, but a scream, a scream that could only have come from something under attack.
Glancing upwards almost instinctively, Draggodt caught sight of a single winged soldier.
A demon, on the enemy’s side.
Much to his horror, the demon was somehow on even terms with the dragon, which should have for all intents and purposes, been untouchable following its activation.
A second evaluation led him to realize that he was wrong. They weren’t even. The demon was winning.
“I don’t care who or what you are. I will not let you get in my way,” muttered the emperor.
As far as he was concerned, the only thing that lay ahead was conquest.
“Holy shit, that was close!”
The undead freak opened its mouth and loosed a shoddy Dragon’s Roar that I barely managed to dodge by using my wings to hit the brakes in midair. Retaliating with a swing of the Divine Spear, I cut straight through its horns.
Of course, I wasn’t using the weapon in its dormant state. I’d fed it some of my mana so that it would take on its true form. With its shaft lengthened and a translucent blade projecting from its otherwise ivory tip, it looked much more like a naginata or polearm than it did a regular spear.
It’s blade didn’t so much cut as it did obliterate. Each time I swung it, it would fire a sword, or rather, spear beam that destroyed everything it touched, bone, building, soil, or otherwise.
Its roars were almost somewhat like screeches to begin with, but the way it screamed when I hit it was different, clearly indicative of a sense of pain. That said, defeating it wasn’t as easy as swinging a few times and calling it a day.
The damned thing could regenerate, and incredibly quickly at that.
A dark wriggly mist, gross enough to make me want to look away, gathered at the sight of its wound and repaired it, returning it to its prime condition in just a few dozen seconds.
It did it every time I wounded it, and it was evidently capable of regenerating entire bones, entire sections of its skeleton, even. I mean, it’s not like I’m not hurting it. I can tell I’m draining its resources, but I’ve got no fucking clue how long it’s going to take me to actually take it down.
The obvious solution was to keep attacking it until it could no longer regenerate, but that wasn’t exactly possible. My weapon was causing me a few issues. It was stealing my mana, draining it from my entire body without my permission.
It wasn’t the first time that it had happened, nor would it be anything even remotely close to the last. The divine weapon was insistent on wringing me dry. Worse yet, I was literally incapable of letting go. My fingers wouldn’t move, no matter how hard I tried, and there was no way for me to resist the weapon’s effects. Its control over my magical energy was far greater than mine was. Goddammit. The fuck is this thing, an industrial vacuum? God damn piece of junk!
I had to cut off my connection to it, one way or another, if I didn’t want it to dry out my pool.
“God! Fucking! Damn it! My fucking arm! Argghhh!”
Drawing the large knife I had sheathed on my waist, I cut off my own hand, then poured a potion on top of it to make it regenerate. The process was painful, painful enough to make me scream throughout, but it was what it was. Fuck fuck fuck. This hurts so bad I’m about to cry. I don’t even care that I’m in public anymore, shit. What the fuck man, why am I literally slitting my own fucking wrists? Do I look like an emo to you? Well I’m fucking not!
What I gathered, from my extended exposure to the Divine Spear, was that it likely had another phase that lay beyond its current one, and pouring enough mana into it would lead it to begin absorbing what it needed to take on its final form.
And given that it was supposedly divine, I doubted that I would be able to supply all the mana it needed, especially given that its initial transformation alone required half my total. You’d probably need to be on Lefi’s level to get it charged all the way.
And as per my prior experience, feeding it also seemed to awaken something inside it. I could tell that it was doing more than just trying to transform. There was a presence, one that I had no intention of confronting.
It really did feel like I was staring into the abyss. And that something within it was gazing right back. Yup, got some good old fucking Nietzsche up in this shit. Iunno about you guys, but I’m not about to try my hand at opening Pandora’s box.
Dropping onto the ground, I located the divine spear, kicked my own hand off of it, and picked it back up. I was more than just tempted to find the nearest ocean and drop the damned defective spear in the middle of it, but I knew that the supposedly holy weapon was the only thing I had that could really harm the Helldrake. I had my pets try their hands at attacking it, but none of them were able to do much of anything. In fact, the mist had even started to swallow them, so I had them retreat before we ran into any unintended consequences. So yeah, you see what I mean? If not even Rir’s fangs and claws are able to hurt it, then I’m basically shit outta luck. Damned spear is the only thing I’ve got.
I was fairly certain that Enne, who I was keeping in my inventory, would be able to inflict a light wound or two, but as much as I hated to admit it, she couldn’t even come close to matching the divine spear.
So yeah, long story short, I’ve gotta axe this thing even though I have no idea how good it is at regenerating, all while dealing with a retarded weapon that’s trying to steal all my mana. Great day, isn’t it? Really makes me curious how that one human Dragonlord managed to get this thing to listen to him. Maybe I have to pull a Charlene and give it a nickname and treat it real nice before it actually starts listening to me…
“Yeah, no. Fuck that,” I grumbled. “Rir, you guys all good?”
A loud bark informed me that my pets, who I’d sent after all the undead running around, were doing just fine.
Much to my annoyance, the dragon was apparently passively resurrecting everything around it, which led all the soldiers that died in the war thus far to stand back up and start fighting. Which was to say we had a little bit of a problem on our hands, given that the war had already claimed over 10,000. If we didn’t take care of them as quickly as possible, then they were only going to make more of their kind.
“Wait, what’s up with that sword…?”
Looking upon the weapon stuck in the creature’s head with my magic eye, I came to realize that the two were engaging in a sort of violent exchange of mana. It was like they were competing. The dragon was using the sword to absorb all the dark, hazy mist in its surroundings, but the sword seemed to be resisting in much the same manner that I had to resist when I tried to push back against the divine spear.
Partway through the battle, I realized that the black mist was actually a very specific substance that I’d already heard of. Negative mana.
And Analyze informed me that the sword was one I knew as well.
“Tortund Ruin? Wasn’t that supposed to be Carrot Top’s weapon?”
I have no idea how or why things are the way they are… but I’m starting to think I can shut down the dragon by breaking the sword.