Arc 2: Chapter 36: The Burning Fires of Hell

Li Wei: “You bastard!”

Eshin: “Say what you will! You are the one losing here.”

For small groups of supernaturals, especially Aurals, that make bases at some secluded places but stay there very rarely, often travelling across places, the biggest problem is often others like them.

If an Aural group is small, bigger groups often try to take over them, trying to turn all of its members into their members. 

And that is what happens pretty much every time when a big and a small Aural group come across. Thus, the smaller groups don’t venture out carelessly and travel with much planning and strategizing beforehand.

On the other hand, if two Aural groups of large numbers come against each other, then they are generally at each other’s throats.

They don’t necessarily try to kill each other but the aura of hostility and the schemes of trampling each other are never a surprise.

Thus, one could say that the division among Aurals is somewhat the same as the religious division between people in the middle of humanity’s history, the Middle Ages.

The big difference here is that, in those religious divisions, what clashed were different faiths in different gods. Here, all the groups have the same God and Devil to look at.

All Aural groups worship Ozyllus and loathe Abyss. Hence, that part does not cause any conflict but brings the groups together.

What causes conflict though is the difference in opinion on how to use their abilities. One could say it’s like the rivalries between the different styles of swordplay or different clans performing the same art.

But, over the years, or decades, it has grown worse than a rivalry and become sheer hatred-filled enmity.

And in the middle of this enmity are two of the strongest Aural groups in Orland Union, Heise and Baise.

It is a fact that this enmity between the two had been building up for many, many decades, maybe even centuries. And when, 12 years ago, the only other Aural group that was as powerful as them but focused on maintaining peace rather than conflict was annihilated by a certain Psychic in a certain calamity, these two groups jumped on each other’s throats with full force.

And ever since then, the peace that was known to most Aural groups 12 years ago has become a thing of the past, with no traces of it remaining still.

Whether this constant conflict or this current situation is what Ozyllus, the man responsible for that third group’s slaughter, intended or not, remains a mystery. 

Angela: “So, what are you planning to do with them?”

Eshin: “Oh, you know!”

One thing that is clear though is when outmatched like Heise is at present, Eshin Mir and his members of Baise would not be showing any mercy.

*******************************

“AAAAAGGGGHHHH!!!”

Hearing that scream, my head involuntarily turns in its direction for a moment.

Kais: “That was … Sona?”

The anxiety growing within me grows evermore with that scream, but on the other hand,

Ross: “Looks like your girlfriend is getting her ass handed to her!”

I would love to correct the notion of her being my girlfriend, but I can’t take my mind off the question of what may have happened to her to make her scream like that.

Ross: “Well, since she is fighting that pipsqueak, I am not surprised.”

And what … does that mean?

Ross: “She’s a Spirit-user, right? I bet she could have taken down Ms Laurie Brown. She may even give me a run for my life. But, against him, a Spirit-user ain’t gonna win.”

…?

Ross: “Well,”

Closing his eyes and forming a smile, as if taking his focus off that scream,

Ross: “We have our own problems, right? Right? RIGHT?”

He says so, looking at me. And I guess, he is not wrong.

So,

Kais: “We’ll see how much of a problem we can be to each other.”

I say, smirking voluntarily as I turn to him with my arms raised, preparing to use psychokinesis. 

And just at that moment, as if having predicted that, he jumps ahead and reaches me within a moment,

Ross: “You fool, you’re too late! You should have been preparing an attack while I was acting distracted by your girlfriend’s scream.”

Hearing him say so, I can’t help but twirl up the corners of my lips.

Kais: “And what makes you think I wasn’t doing that?”

I ask, sarcastically, with my outstretched arms igniting like kerosene.

Ross: “W-wh-!”

My hands burn brighter than his eyes can take at such a close distance without any warning. And so, he inadvertently averts his eyes, giving me ample time to move away from his incoming attack, and also ample time to activate psychokinesis to trap his now falling body underneath a pillar.

For destroying a pillar in Heise’s beloved shrine, I do feel bad … a little, but defeating this guy has higher priority in my mind than preserving architecture.

Ross: “That wasn’t half-”

Kais: “Who told you you could speak?!”

I say, and press my ignited arms to the ground, controlling the fire to rapidly spread on the ground and form a ring around him. And as soon as the ring is completed, I increase the fire’s intensity and temperature.

Ross: “Cool, but you know that a Psychic can easily telep-”

Kais: “You are yet to be given my permission to speak.”

I say so again, exerting a large amount of Psychic energy and turning the flames pure blue, the likes of which would be unbearable for any human, even with supernatural abilities to protect them.

Ross: “Shit!”

Realizing that he would need to get out of the fire, he irritatedly looks down upon me and tries to teleport, only to find the ability not working properly.

Ross: “W-what the heck!”

Well, that’s to be expected.

I increase the temperature even more, which leads to the fire touching the roof. It doesn’t start spreading because I am controlling it but it does start burning the roof, charring it black.

Ross: “Why can’t I-”

Meanwhile, the Hellfire, standing in a ring of fire, scratches his head over why he can’t teleport out of the fire. And then, he seems to realize why.

Ross: “Shit!”

Even more than any other kind of supernatural abilities, Psychic is dependent on the mind of the person. Hence, if one harms their mind in some way, a Psychic can become weaker.

And well, harming one’s mind doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to physically harm them. Psychological damage like the panic one feels when a painful death like being roasted in a ring of fire draws near, can make someone lose touch.

Ross: “Tsk!”

Even in this panic though, it’s not that he can’t use any Psychic abilities but that he knows he can mess up and self-destruct.

In this situation, where the panic causes Psychic abilities to not work properly, which in turn induces more panic because the thing that gives all of us the confidence to do the impossible malfunctioning – it’s a downward spiral that experiences Psychics may be able to break through, but a teenager being dictated by his hormones like Ross Green is highly unlikely to.

So,

Ross: “No choice, I guess!”

Making a painful expression, having left with the conclusion that any Psychic ability used here can backfire on him, he does what a person without Psychic would do to get out of this – run through it.

Ross: “AAAGGHH!!!”

The ring of fire I have created is quite thin so it isn’t all that hard running through it but not catching fire while doing so is pretty much impossible with how hot and pure it is.

Kais: “Looks like you are the one who has joined the screaming, right? Right? RIGHT?”

I say, deridingly.

Still, even if I take care of this guy, I am still getting worried about Sona. As such, I can’t help but get distracted for just a second, which is all Ross Green needs to –

Kais: “What!?”

Heal himself completely.

Kais: “Y-you-”

Ross: “I bet you were thinking you were going to win this one easy, right? Right? RIGHT?”

With painfully stretched jabs to mock me back, the teenager in front of me looks at me like he never got burned, like he never had a pillar fall on him, like he never even entered a fight.

Ross: “In case you didn’t know,”

And for the sake of mocking me further, he tells me,

Ross: “I am known as the Hellfire of Healing.”

Healing? Is that why his ‘defence stat’ looked high to Ethan? Is that why he called this guy ‘almost invincible’? Because he can heal himself like this and look like nothing ever happened?

Kais: “Well, talk about a deceptive stats menu!”

But, if that really is the case, I fear I could be outmatched.

*******************************

Entering the treasury, Ethan uses his Eyes of Truth to their fullest extent so as to find the weapons without having to look for them.

Ethan: “You two, be my grunts for a while.”

He says with a firm voice, and points at two different weapons, both at the opposite ends of the almost 5 acres treasury.

Sneha and Gabriel, without question, decide to do as he says, knowing that time is of the essence.

Ethan: “Take the bronze spectre as well! And the gold-plated bow!”

He names further weapons that the two should take, but, as the number keeps increasing,

Sneha: “Are you sure we are going to be able to carry all of this?”

Ethan: “There are ways we could try.”

He says, with utmost seriousness.

Gabriel: “You sure we will have the time to try things?”

Sardonically, while not stopping to pick them up, Gabriel asks so.

Ethan: “One of those ways is you. With psychokinesis, you can carry most of these weapons.”

Gabriel makes a troubled face as he hears so, and asks,

Gabriel: “And … are there other ways?”

Ethan: “Well, yeah, but you are our best bet.”

Gabriel: “Yeah … about that …”

Ethan: “Well, whatever, we could use Sneha’s Aura Swap ability to carry a lot of them after bundling them up. You can help with your teleportation too.”

Seeing the troubled expression on his face, Ethan realizes that Gabriel has some problem with that idea and decides to shift plans as there isn’t much time to discuss things.

Ethan: “There isn’t any problem with that, is there?”

Gabriel: “No, there isn’t.”

For whatever reason this Hellfire doesn’t want to use Psychokinesis, Ethan makes a mental note to inquire about it later.

At this point, getting them and getting to Kesley and meeting back up with Abgere is the priority. If they are able to do all that, then getting to the Phoenix and putting the Hellfires out to kill Abgere in a difficult position would be easy.

But,

Gabriel: “Are you two really sure we can let those two handle things on their own?”

He asks, as his sole mission was to protect the four of them, and two of them he has been separated from.

Gabriel: “I mean, those two combined lost to me, didn’t they? You sure they can beat a Hellfire on their own?”

As a matter of fact, Ethan Kales is not sure about it. He is not sure if his comrades can really come out as victors. 

Combined, they had once defeated Walter Schmidt, the strongest man in the world.

And also combined, they had once been defeated by Gabriel Washington, a strong but not the strongest man in the world.

So, at the end of the day, wins and losses clearly aren’t going to make anyone sure of what the results would be for these battles.

It will depend on their at-the-moment decisions, their smarts, their luck, their mental states, their surroundings and whatnot.

Still,

Ethan: “They won’t lose.”

Gabriel is a Psychic, and lying to Psychics isn’t very easy, not unless you can completely control the rhythm of your heart. So, since Ethan cannot do so,

Ethan: “I’m 90% sure of that.”

He just speaks the truth.

Gabriel: “You have that low appraisal of a Hellfire’s abilities?”

Ethan: “If they were fighting Vaika Smith, Akio Miyamoto, Halogen Dietrich or some other experienced Hellfires like that, their chances of losing surely would be much, much more. But, against that unliving human and that teenage idiot, their chances of winning are pretty good.”

Gabriel: “Huh? I guess you are right.”

Gabriel smirks to himself as he picks up another weapon Ethan points at, wondering to himself how lucky they are that it wasn’t the other group of those three Hellfires Ethan just mentioned that found them first.

Gabriel: “By the way, you said ‘unliving human’? So, you know about Chang Lu?”

Ethan: “Naturally, I have done my research.”

He has done his research, has been doing it for the past 12 years. And in that research, he has obviously given much priority to people as important as Hellfires.

So, Chang Lu, who became a Hellfire during these past 12 years, is one person he has done all the research he can on. And because of that, Ethan Kales knows what kind of existence, what kind of terrifying monstrosity lies beneath his existence.

*******************************

Sona: “You … you bastard!”

She curses while holding her bleeding hand by a cloth she is tying with her mouth, as her other hand is broken as well.

Chang Lu: “Hah! Hah! Hah!”

Meanwhile, her opponent breathes again and again, trying to convince himself that the danger he had felt a little while ago is gone, that he has successfully avoided the destruction he felt was impeding upon him a moment ago.

Chang Lu: “N-now … you can’t summon any Spirits.”

As he says so, and finally realizes that it really is true, a smile comes on his face without him even trying to form one. If he could see himself in a mirror now, he would hate himself for making such a smile, not because it’s sadistic, but because that’s the smile his creator used to have.

Chang Lu: “I … win, I win.”

He says, more so to convince himself than for any other reason.

Chang Lu: “I win, you lose.”

He had faced a terrifying opponent, one that could instill fear in him with her raging emotions, but he has defeated her now.

It’s over.

He has won.

His opponent has lost.

Sona: “Not … yet!”

His opponent says, with a calmness that’s almost as terrifying as her rage was, and as she stares at his small figure with bloodshot eyes, Chang Lu moves back an inch in confusion and anxiety.

Chang Lu: “What the heck? You obviously already lost. How can you say it’s not over when it obviously is. Are you an idiot? A moron? Did your brain fall off alongside your hand?”

Sona: “Oh my, oh my, oh my, look at the little Hellfire bursting out at a handicapped woman as if he’s terrified of her.”

Hearing her mock him so, the ‘little Hellfire’ clicks his tongue and tries to retort, but only then remembers something important.

Chang Lu: “Oh, right. I have yet to defeat it, huh?”

He says, and turns around to look at Sagzear looking at him with bloodshot eyes as well.”

Chang Lu: “You can’t send any more Spirits, but I still got to take care of the one you already sent.”

He tries to calm himself as he faces Sagzear, readying him to finally show the lone Spirit who is boss, or so he thinks.

Sona: “I thought I told you that I’d make it clear, not to underestimate me.”

She says, and a fox runs past his cheeks at a ridiculous speed, leaving a scratch and stopping right near Sagzear.

And just as he is about to inspect what it is, the ground beneath him trembles, making him jump away from it, and as he does so, a little hand of a mice-like thing reaches out to grab it.

Landing away, he hears the chirping of a sparrow, a chirping that he isn’t able to ignore, as if the sparrow that is chirping is telling him something, and it’s not pleasant.

And finally, something so fast that his Psychic eyes can barely follow comes out from behind him, runs past him, and stops and turns around to look at him with bloodshot eyes as well, and all the others gather their rhythm around its movements, the movements of that rabbit.

Sona: “Strategically speaking, disabling my hands wasn’t a bad idea.”

She says as she steps herself up, and stands right before the rabbit, with all others encircling around her.

Sona: “Too bad for you, being around Ethan Kales has given me a habit of trying to predict my opponent’s moves, even the most horrifyingly abhorrent ones.”

Chang Lu steps back, from horror at many things.

Sona: “So, then, as I was saying earlier, the trailer’s over.”

And, the Hellfire has yet to realize the fact that would end up terrifying him more than anything else.

Sona: “Let’s get the real fight started.”

*******************************

Sneha: “Again?”

She says with irritation and comical exasperation as she sees Laurie Brown standing in their way as they break out of the treasury with their loot.

Ethan: “Well, what can I say? Guess someone else would have to stay behind as well.”

He says sardonically, knowing the reason for Sneha’s exasperation.

Laurie: “Ha!”

Scoffing, the Hellfire asks,

Laurie: “Are you suggesting that one of you will stay behind and stall me while the other two run away?”

Gabriel: “I suppose, and I guess this time I should do it.”

Surprising not just Laurie but Ethan and Sneha as well, Gabriel Washington volunteers.

Gabriel: “I’m plenty worried about my mission failing with those two fighting back there. If I leave another of you four here, my anxiety might reach the tipping point.”

Ethan smirks and Sneha sighs, but before they could say any of their goodbyes and best wishes,

Laurie: “Are you talking about the mission the Phoenix gave you? Well, I guess you haven’t been notified of it then.”

She says as she looks at her fellow Hellfire with a condescending smirk.

Gabriel: “Notified of what?”

Laurie: “Well, why don’t you see it for yourself?”

As she says so, she puts her hand up with its arch pointing upwards and makes a projection appear in the air, and this projection shows him the images of a rundown, broken, searing mass of rubble that may once have been a city.

Ethan: “Well, that’s … sci-fi-ish, I guess.”

He comments on the projection ability itself since its contents don’t really make much sense to him. However,

Gabriel: “Is that … no way!”

The Hellfire recognizes it.

Laurie: “Yes, indeed. That’s Kesley.”

With Ethan and Sneha taken aback, Laurie Brown continues,

Laurie: “It seems someone attacked Rosevelt, and that someone was powerful enough to do this.”

All the listeners have their mouths agape as they hear so.

Laurie: “Such massive destruction, who knows that the Phoenix, the man who was attacked, survived or not?”

Gabriel: “He would not survived, if not,”

Laurie: “The point is, Gabriel, it SEEMS like he is dead, and as soon as this possibility starts spreading amongst the various factions, the entire power balance will collapse, this whole farce of killing Abgere to become the Phoenix will have no meaning and all us Hellfires will start aiming to become the Phoenix ourselves while all the other factions start rampaging Vermilion for our resources.”

It’ll be utter chaos, is what she is saying. And since that will be the case,

Laurie: “It doesn’t matter anymore if you sent Abgere to Kesley or some other place. He is not a priority, not anymore. The priority now is to become the one who defeated the third faction, to gain the achievement that would give me a leg up on every other Hellfire in the race, and to do that before any of them even know about the race.”

She says so, plainly stating that defeating them is more important to her than killing Abgere. In which case, the situation remains the same, or maybe it’s worse.

Gabriel: “I have to get to Kesley, as soon as possible.”

To the man who has everything staken on Vermilion, everything staken on the Phoenix, what’s happening is a nightmare come true. 

Ethan: “At a time like this, that bastard is guaranteed to make a move. We need to get to the Phoenix too.”

And, on the other hand, Ethan has his own demon to deal with.

So,

Sneha: “Hah!”

The only left who could deal with the Hellfires opposing them, giving them the chance to do what they have to do, is the Aural of the third faction.

Sneha: “Well then, know that this brings you in my debt.”

She says, and steps forward, facing the Hellfire who is smirking at her as if she stands no chance.

Sneha: “Now go!:

And with that, the four-member third faction gets as thinned out as it can possibly get.

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