“Ah!” An Adlan boy screamed as he was launched gracelessly from the portal before slamming into the ground beside the table that Edward and Bastille were relaxing at.
“Are you okay, Joseph?” Bastille asked as he drank from his mug. The maid had long decided to stop refilling his mug and instead placed a keg on the table so that he could drink his fill without bothering her.
“Y-yes, sir!” Joseph yelled out as his face turned red with embarrassment. Joseph was a plain looking boy with fair-skin with brown hair and brown eyes.
“So how’s it like in there?” Bastille asked as he filled his mug with beer. Oh, Joseph…How did I know that you would be the first one to fail… Although the boy in front of him was the same age as the Trio. He did not share their innate skill or ability! While Maya, Michael, and Zen were all Gold rank Seekers, Joseph was still at the Bronze rank! While I do believe that he should stop being a Seeker, I do find it commendable that he keeps on seeking adventure! How could I ever discourage him from his ambitions? That would make me a bad Guildmaster, and an even worse person!
“It’s dangerous!” Joseph yelled while flailing his arms around. “I didn’t even make it past the elimination rounds!”
“Yep! Chowder said that there were too many Seekers and that he had to reduce the number to three hundred!”
Chowder? I think I recall a Spirit with that name… Bastille thought before speaking up. “So what did you have to do?”
“We were all teleported to individual islands! And we were told to survive until only one hundred of us remained!” Joseph exclaimed as he sat down and filled a mug with beer took a long swig in order to calm his nerves. “Damn that purple cat! He sent me to an island filled with lava! I didn’t even have time to fight anything! Before I could begin exploring I fell into a deep pit that was filled with lava!” Joseph shuddered as he recalled his death. “Bastille, falling into lava is not quick…” His hands trembled and his mug spilled some beer onto the table while the corners of his eyes moistened with tears.
Bastille sighed as he gazed at the traumatized Seeker. “Here have some of this.” He said as he pulled a flask from his bag.
“What is it?” Joseph whispered as he held the small metal flask.
“Just drink it!”
“O-okay…” Joseph complied and took a swig of the drink. “It’s tasteless!” He exclaimed, but in less than a second, his eyes drooped and his shoulders relaxed. “Woah…I feel…Good…”
“Bastille, did you drug the poor boy?” Edward sighed.
“No, of course not! That was Primal liquor…It’s incredibly strong. And just as hard to get…” Bastille muttered as he reluctantly put it in his bag. “I didn’t want to use it, but Joseph needed ii. After all, alcohol is the best tool to forget about your worries…”
“For the short term, perhaps…”
Bastille smiled and looked away. “Yeah…For the short term…” The three of them sat in silence for a couple of seconds before Joseph spoke up.
“By ThE wEy…dO yOu KnoW sHome KiD nAmEd DamIoN?” Joseph words were incredibly slurred due to the powerful alcohol that was swimming through his veins.
“Yes, he said he was late and entered the portal last. Why do you ask?” Bastille asked.
“WeLL, It sheEmed ThaT CloVer…KnOwhS thE guy!”
“YeP! But I Don’T tHink ThaT th’ey ARe FriEndSh!”
“Why do you say that?”
“WeLL! As ShoON as He EntereD, CloVer Tried to AttACK Him!”
“What?!” Bastille shouted. “Why would Clover do that?!”
“I DUNNo! BuT, he Did MenTion shomeThing aBout geTTing AttaCked bY Him!”
“Attacked?” Bastille thought for a second. His brow was furrowed as he searched his mind. Damion? Damion? Where have I heard that name before? He continued to think for a couple of seconds, but then, it hit him. Bastille’s eyes darkened as he sat in silence.
“BAshTiLLe?” Joseph mumbled. “Whatsh WroNg?”
“Joseph…I think that it would be for the best if you were to leave…Now…” Edward warned as Bastille sat in silence.
“HuH? OkaY…I don’T UndershtanD, but ALRIghT!” Joseph exclaimed before running away, stumbling all the while.
“Bastille, it seems that the two of us did not realize who that boy was…” Edward muttered as he stared at the man in front of him.
“Remember, you cannot enter the Spirit Realm.”
“I know,” Bastille whispered. As soon as he opened his mouth, the world became silent. Birds stopped chattering and bugs stopped chirping. The air became claustrophobic as if all the Arcana in a mile radius had seemingly disappeared. Bronze and Silver ranked Seekers that did not enter the portal all felt an immense pressure cover their bodies as if they were suddenly forced to carry a three-hundred pound weight. Gold and Blue ranked Seekers had long since fled, as they knew that an absence of Arcana meant danger! Even the hundreds of civilians who were attending the festivities felt a premonition of danger.
“Don’t do anything reckless…” Edward warned as he continued to sip his tea. However, Edward was trying his best to stay cool, as the teacup in his hand trembled in anger.
“I know…” Bastille muttered again as he clenched his fists, an almost malevolent aura surrounded him. How could I be so foolish! The one that nearly killed my son was right next to me! How could I make such a simple mistake! Bastille thought as he contorted his face in anger. No…Damion was the one who made a mistake…As soon as he leaves the Spirit Realm, I will capture him…
A murderous gleam entered Bastille’s eye as walked over to the portal. He injected Arcana into his Devyse and released his black halberd.
“This place is huge!” Clover couldn’t help but exclaim as he walked into the enormous black palace. The first room he entered was a large hallway. Black pillars hundreds of feet tall towered over him with each pillar requiring dozens of people linking their arms together in order to wrap around a single one! The floor was covered by a long and wide rug that was extravagantly designed with gold and silver. On the ceiling were many chandeliers that would light up on their own as Clover walked through the empty corridor.
What kind of people would live in this place?! Did it belong to those ghouls? No way! They are way too small to construct something of this size! Maybe there is some race of giants that live here? Clover shuddered as he imagined the danger of encountering the denizens of the palace.
Another set of massive doors slowly opened as he continued forward. Although it took him several minutes, Clover eventually entered the next room. It was shocking, to say the least. Similar pillars and chandeliers filled the room. But unlike the hallway, this was clearly an important room. Hundreds of extravagant banners lined the ceiling, the symbol’s that were inscribed on them had been washed away by time. Large stained glass windows allowed the perpetual sunset’s orange rays to enter the immense room, filling it with a hazy glow. In the middle of the room was a white floor, similar to ones that nobles would dance on. Surrounding the floor were hundreds of chairs and tables filled with plates and silverware. At the very end of the room, Clover could just make out a set of stairs that led to a throne.
Wait a second…These are all my size! Clover gasped as he realized what this meant. Did that weird race of ghouls really make this?! No matter how much he tried, Clover could not believe this. Even the Elven Aleesian Dynasty which has been around for longer than twenty thousand years would be incapable of constructing such as massive building!
No…This is Denari’s Realm after all! Only a divine being like himself can create such an impressive place!
Shrugging off his initial surprise, Clover continued to explore the vast chamber. He inspected the tables, but to his disappointment, they were all empty besides the silverware. He passed dozens of tables filled with silverware and other mundane objects. Eventually, his persistence was rewarded.
“A book!” He exclaimed as he picked up the object. As he flipped through the thin pages his face became increasingly morose. All the characters were illegible. Because too much time had passed the ink that had covered the pages had long since faded away. Even the few characters that remained were heavily faded. Clover could only sigh and continue exploring his fruitless surroundings.
“Aren’t Spirit Realms supposed to be filled with treasure?!” Clover bellowed and fumed. As soon as he finished ranting, his eye caught the sight of a small box on top of the throne at the top of the stairs. “Treasure!” He yelped in glee while running towards his prize.
Awoo! Awoo! Awoo!
Three howls shattered the silence, causing Clover to stop in his tracks. Those howls were much louder than any sort of dog I know of! The loud howls vibrated throughout the room, causing the tables, chairs, and silverware to shake and trembled. Even the floor beneath his feet shook as the intense vibrations stirred up the ancient room.
Clover changed targets. Instead of running towards the throne. He instead hid behind one of the large pillars. The moment he hid, a pair of massive doors on the other side of the hall slowly opened. As soon as they did, Clover saw the owner of the howls.
It was a dog. But not just any dog. This one was larger than a house! And it had three heads, each uglier than the last.
“Cerberus?” He whispered. How is this possible? Isn’t Cerberus the guard dog of the underworld? Why is it here? And why does it look so…Old?
Clover was right, from his vantage point he could tell that the supposed dog of hell was aging. Although Cerberus was thought to be as black as death, one could easily see that it was covered with vast swathes of white hair. All six of the dog’s eyes were red and droopy as if they were infected. The three gaping maws were filled with black broken teeth. And it trembled and shivered as its four legs struggled to keep itself upright.
Time is a terrible thing. Even a creature like Cerberus is unable to defeat it.
Maybe I can defeat it! Time must’ve weakened it! Clover grinned to himself as he gained the courage to step out from the safety of the pillar. The moment he revealed himself Cerberus locked all six of its eyes on him. The moment they noticed Clover’s small frame they lit up with excitement.
Awoo! Awoo! Awoo!
Each head let out a cry of joy as they signaled the hunt! Its previously weak legs filled with strength as it launched itself towards the young Seeker with each of its strides covering tens of meters!
Clover shouted the ancient command and launched a cannonball sized boulder at the legs of the beast! Clover’s previous grin melted away once the stone boulder met its mark and exploded into thousands of pieces, not affecting the three-headed dog whatsoever.
“What?!” Clover exclaimed before shooting five more boulders at the beast. But the beast either didn’t notice or did not care as each strike was merely shrugged off. “Damn it!” He shouted before running away from the beast.
“I should have just hidden! I was safe!” Clover exclaimed as he sprinted away at top speed. Although he was filling his legs with Arcana, it was no use, his capacity and purity were too low! No matter how much he filled his legs with Arcana it would only allow him to run a tiny bit faster!
“Dad was right! Seekers who become greedy meet unpleasant ends!” Clover gasped for air as he ran. “Why the hell can you keep up! Shouldn’t you have arthritis or something!”
To his surprise, the dog barked back! Its tongue lolled about with drool while its eyes beamed with excitement!
“You stupid thing! You’re just playing with me! Right?!”
“Woof! Woof! Woof!” The dog yelled out in joy as it inched ever closer! No matter how fast Clover ran, he would never be able to outrun the aging beast!
“Damn it!” Clover yelled out one last time and braced himself as the dog caught up with him! With a single clean motion, the dog lashed out with an enormous paw, and launched Clover dozens of feet into the air!
“Shit!” Clover screamed as he flew through the air! He hovered in the air for a second, before continuing his ungraceful and terrifying descent!
“Woof! Woof! Woof!” The white and black dog howled with joy as its six eyes followed Clover’s frame as he fell down. The dog raised another white paw and swatted Clover again before he hit the ground.
“Gah!” Clover threw up a mouthful of blood as the powerful blow shocked his entire body before landing with a loud, ‘smack’!
“Geh…” Clover moaned as he attempted to protect the rest of his body which was covered with bruises and lacerations.
His moans of pain attracted the beast even more, as it howled in delight. “I can’t move…One of my legs is broken…” Clover gasped in pain. If it was not for the constant sparring and beatings he had received in the past year and the Arcana running throughout his body, Clover would have passed out long ago.
“Damn it…” He groaned. Although Clover knew that he couldn’t die in Denari’s realm. He couldn’t help but become a bit emotional as his mind screamed to escape from the beast no matter the cost.
Bloody handprints covered the black stone floor as he crawled away. The scent of blood excited the three-headed beast as its aroma was the most enticing thing it had smelled for millennia. Clover’s slow crawl eventually led him to the foot of the stairs that led to the throne. The small box that had filled his heart with greed was only a few meters away.
Before he could begin his ascent, large jaws grabbed at his legs, pulling him away.
“Yea…You got me you big dumb beast…” Clover groaned. “Come on then! Finish me!” But to his displeasure, the three-headed dog did not finish him. Instead, it stood over him. Its large jaws dripped large droplets of dank drool while its foul breath suffocated him.
“Tch…Don’t tell me you still want to play around with me…” Clover clucked. Being tortured was a much worse alternative to death.
“Huh?” Clover exclaimed as three pairs of nostrils began to smell him. “What do you want?” The dog ignored his question and continued to sniff around his body.
“Wait! I know!” He said while opening his pack. Inside were the meat skewers that Karim gave him! “Here! You can have them! Only if you don’t eat me! Okay?”
“Woof! Woof! Woof!” Each head barked as they eagerly agreed to the proposal.
“Good! Although I wouldn’t be able to stop you if you were to change your mind. I would still be very disappointed if you break your promise!” He shouted while throwing the meat skewers into the air.
“Woof! Woof! Woof!” The dog chomped at the small snack, each head receiving their own. Each skewer was like the size of a toothpick compared to the large beast. But it seemed to be satisfied either way!
“Woof! Woof! Woof!” It barked in joy as it swallowed the meat. Clover noticed tears of joy stream from its droopy eyes. Obviously, this was the first taste of food it has had for thousands of years!
The dog assaulted Clover again. However, this time it was with his tongue! “Ah! Stop it! Your breath stinks!” Clover bellowed as the beast licked his body and covered him with its thick and foul drool. His clothes, which had become torn from its attacks, were now soaked in a disgusting liquid! But no matter how much he protested, the dog would not stop its attack!
“Woof! Woof! Woof!” After some time, Cerberus eventually stopped its assault and gave Clover some respite.
“Poor doggy…You must have been stuck here for years! Your masters must have disappeared, right?”
The dog whined as if to tell him that they had. “Well, I’m sorry that you have been alone all this time! But as long as you don’t eat me I will make sure to play with you as much as you want!”
“Woof! Woof! Woof!” The dog barked as if it agreed!
“Good! But can you do me a quick favor?” Clover asked.
“Woof? Woof? Woof?”
“Can you take me to that box up there?” He said while pointing at the throne.
“Woof! Woof! Woof!” It agreed. With a single motion, the dog lifted Clover with its jaws and place him onto its back.
“You sure are fluffier than I first thought! But you do need a bath…” Clover pinched his nose as the offending odor hit his nostrils. “Since we are going to be friends, I should give you a name! How does Big Gray sound?”
“Woof! Woof! Woof!”
“Good! From now on! You will be known as Big Gray!”
“Woof! Woof! Woof!” The dog barked as it reached the top of the throne. Using its claws with surgical precision, it was able to lift the small box on the throne and hand it to Clover.
“Thanks!” Clover exclaimed as he received the box. Now for the grand opening! He thought in excitement. However, a frown covered his face as soon as he opened it.
“This is it…?”