The Spirit-user is in control of the battle.
This much is plain as day to see.
Chang Lu: “You … you … you won’t win!”
As much as she controls the battle right now, her opponent still is beyond her control. Neither can she understand him nor can she predict him, much less control him.
Chang Lu: “T-that’s not enough … to defeat me!”
With his legs shaking and his steps wavering, the Hellfire who looks like a quivering child says like a quivering child,
Chang Lu: “I … would never lose to a Spirit-user. NEVER.”
He still manages to speak those words.
But just as he says them, the rabbit-like Spirit charges at him with full throttle ramming into him within a second and sending him flying. However, as soon as his feet touch the ground, he drags himself until his momentum stops, and uses the build-up drag to launch him straight above.
When no Spirit has been targeting him from the air, at least not from that high in the air, his jumping so high is confusing to Sona.
Sona: “Well, don’t think that’ll protect you.”
While he tries to keep himself in the air through levitation, his opponent orders her sparrow-like Spirit, Les, to do what she excels in doing – controlling flying objects to do her bidding.
And in an area like this shrine, where crows and vultures are not very far away, Les has plenty to work with, plenty to torture with.
Chang Lu: “What the-”
He gasps as the incoming birds all seem to be targeting him, making him squeal and try to get back to the ground, where unfortunately for him, Sagzear awaits with his fists ready to decimate buildings.
Chang Lu: “Tsk!”
And so, left between a rock and a hard place, Chang Lu decides to go full power himself, speeding to the ground like some kind of meteorite, overtaking Sagzear in speed once again, and avoiding his blow.
He safely is able to come to a stop away from Sagzear, away enough that the birds would have problems changing their direction and pursuing him further, but not away from trees and vines surrounding the shrine.
Chang Lu: “Now what-”
He isn’t even able to say a full sentence before the trees capture him and hang him upside down, a move mastered by Sona’s mole-like Spirit, Jin.
And finally, the fire-fox-like Spirit, Kite, prepares to ignite the vines along with their prisoner to finish this once and for all.
Sona: “How someone like you became a Hellfire is beyond me!”
Hearing that mockery, he clicks his tongue, or he would click his tongue if the vines weren’t holding him motionless.
Chang Lu: “…!”
How someone like him became a Hellfire is beyond her, she says?
Well, that’s something that’s beyond him as well.
The child kept running, not stopping for even a bit.
The child that looked like a 12-year-old, but actually was 22 scientifically, ran, and ran, and ran some more.
What was he running from?
Well, he’s was running from someone he considered dangerous, who was, at the same time, someone who took care of him through the most important part of his life.
That someone, that dangerous someone, that motherly figure of his, how can someone like her even exist?
Though, to be honest, if one’s to talk about terrifying existences, his own existence definitely is up there too.
Chang Lu: “I … I should have died.”
Crying like a child matching his appearance, he whines to himself.
Chang Lu: “I should have never been made into this. I am an abomination. I am a monster.”
He was no longer sure whether he was running away from that someone he considered dangerous, or he was running away from himself.
But, whichever the case may be, his running had to stop.
Chang Lu: “H-huh!?”
The child-like Psychic, who had run without caring about the directions and locations, had somehow ended up in an abandoned park in a residential area, the residential area he used to live in once.
Chang Lu: “W-why am I here!?”
Things were complicated enough for him as it is, no way could he deal with more confusion and anxiety at that point. And yet, something like this happened.
Chang Lu: “W-why the heck … am I … here!?”
His mind was getting blanker and blanker and his sanity was drifting apart.
He was no longer even sure if he was crying or laughing or screaming or roaring when he said anything.
He was no longer sure if he knew the meaning of the words he was saying.
He was no longer sure if he was saying anything comprehensible in the first place.
Everything was becoming a blank. Every reason in his life was slipping away. Darkness was enshrouding him, and confusion was becoming his entirety.
But, just then,
“What a pathetic sight!”
A voice that seemed so strong that it would never be hinged by anything, a voice the complete opposite of his, came into his ears, and the words he heard were somehow comprehensible, even though his own words no longer were.
Chang Lu: “W-wh-wha-!”
He turned his head back, only to witness a man with darkly stylistic features and an unnerving presence looking down upon him.
He knew who that man was, and so he ran, ran away from him too.
He ran, he ran, he ran some more, and then,
“Are you done?”
After having run with all his might, he found the man standing in wait right at the spot where he ran out of energy and collapsed on the ground.
Chang Lu: “Y-you … leave me alone! Please, leave me alone!”
He cried, with what remained of his dying sanity, he cried.
“I am afraid I can’t do that.”
Chang Lu: “W-why!?”
“You are a Psychic magnet of sorts. Psychic energy just comes rushing to you. No matter how much you exhaust your reserves, your energy always gets refilled instantly because the Psychic energy from the grass, the trees, the air – all of it you absorb without even meaning to.”
Chang Lu: “…”
“Someone like you … someone like you who can waste energy as much as he wants because it will get refilled, someone who can constantly fight at full power, you will be far too much of a nuisance if Ozyllus finds and starts using you.”
Chang Lu, horrified, anxious, confused, scared, trembling, sick, and panicking, looks up at the man he is facing and asks him,
Chang Lu: “W-w-w-what do y-you want from me!?”
“Well, since I can’t let you join the ranks of Ozyllus’ puppets, join me.”
He said it.
The one man in the whole world who could have said it, said it.
“You could keep trying to escape from everyone and everything like you have been, test out how far you are able to run in this round world, or you can gain a standing they will be unable to reach.”
Even as his brain was getting borderline retarded, those words rung clearly in his head.
“You can be a scared, pathetic runaway, or you can be a Hellfire. The choice is yours.”
The child, who should have been dead, and the Phoenix, who presented him the choice to not be dead.
That was the shaky, scary and uncannily sad moment that led to Chang Lu becoming a Hellfire.
Surprising the Spirit-user yet again with his excessive use of Psychic energy, the little Hellfire tears the vines around him apart, stopping Kite in the midst of trying to ignite him, and getting a jump on it.
Fortunately for the fire-fox-like Spirit, Sagzear enters the fray just in time to stop the incoming attack, preventing Kite from being obliterated.
Chang Lu: “I don’t care how good you are, I don’t care how good your coordination and teamwork is, I don’t care how much experience you have, I would never lose to a Spirit-user.”
That one line, the Hellfire believes more than anything else in his life.
Sona: “We’ll see about that.”
She orders Jin to make his vines disturb the Hellfire’s balance while rabbit-like Spirit is to deal rapid damaged to his head, all so Sagzear can use the distractions Chang Lu would face to take the advantage in their face-off.
Chang Lu: “Oh my, oh my, oh my,”
With his annoyingly sardonic catchphrase, the Hellfire asks simply,
Chang Lu: “Did you not hear me earlier?”
And saying so, he uses all the force in his hands to crush Sagzear’s hands, then his ribs and then his back without anyone being able to stop him. That speed of destruction he achieved is all a result of the energy he had been building up the whole time while the Spirits were punching him around.
Chang Lu: “I said, I will NEVER lose to a Spirit-user!”
He shouts with all his might, extrapolating his point for all to see by sending Sagzear flying with a kick.
Sona: “You piece of-!”
Her anger too has risen by seeing her Spirits get trampled upon, but,
Sona: “You fool!”
She derides him further with a still rage as Jin makes countless vines attack him as if they are spears being thrown straight at him.
Before any of them can touch him though, he cuts them off from their root. But, that’s not the end of it.
Sona: “Did you forget about my Spirit’s abilities already?”
She mocks him as Les, the sparrow-like Spirit, uses the vines cut off from their root and now in the air, technically ‘flying’ for a moment, as objects to control, and she makes the vines wrap around his neck, his abdomen, his legs, his hands, and his mouth and scurry him upwards in the air.
Being that these vines are being controlled to do everything they are doing, even using Psychic energy to destroy them as he did before is of no use, as all the pieces formed would be used for the same purpose by the same Spirit.
To instil life in a doll, she must have been someone special – that motherly woman who took care of him for 10 years, must have been someone special.
When found by her, the child really was – a child. He was a living corpse of a 12-year-old, a doll.
He had no will of his own. He had forgotten all emotions of his own. And, the special ability that drew all the Psychic energy to him, he had no idea it existed in the first place.
One can’t even be sure if he had any consciousness back then, or was he literally just a Psychic magnet.
That was the state he was in when that woman found him.
He never asked, and so she never told him how she found him, but she had found him, the lifeless corpse-like Psychic magnet that was him and had, over the span of 10 years, turned him into a complete human being.
Technically, he shouldn’t even be capable of being considered a human being, but he had become one over those years.
He could feel all the emotions that a human could, he had complete control over his body, and the special ability that he had was completely his to command.
He had gained so many things and regained so many things, all because of that woman.
She was a beautiful figure, but one whose beauty felt distant, like she’s a relic of the past, beautiful yet not something to have much purpose left in the present.
She was something like that, but it didn’t matter because she had been his foster mother and her words meant more than anyone else’s did.
So, when he learned that, when he learned the secret she had been hiding,
Chang Lu: “Y-you … you were … a Spirit-user?”
The reason why she had been able to find Chang Lu, it was because she was a Spirit-user?
At the point that she had found him, she no longer was a Spirit-user, but once, long ago, she was one.
What could that mean?
Obviously, it meant that back when she found him, and 10 years later when Chang Lu found out everything, she was a Ghost – a Ghost of a Spirit-user.
She was – exactly the same as him.
Chang Lu: “Y-you .. deceived me!”
As he realized all that, he let go of his anger, yelling at her for justification.
Chang Lu: “You didn’t save me and took care of me all these years, you were just trying to find someone to use.”
As a Ghost of a Spirit-user, she had knowledge about various Spirits that could be vital to the world. And, as unfortunate as it is, Spirit-users don’t have the capability to pass their knowledge through writing, because the type of knowledge that they need to pass can’t be put into words.
As such, the only way for her to pass her knowledge was to transfer it over to someone else, a painful process that would leave her successor unable to do anything in his life but be her puppet, further passing that knowledge over to someone else, turning them into a puppet.
Chang Lu: “You … are a liar!”
As she stood there in silence listening to all his yelling, all his accusations, she didn’t deny them.
If she wanted to use him like that, why did she not just groom him enough that he can follow orders without having gained emotions?
Why did she shower him with so much affection that she became his mother, and made him a human again, and made him capable of feeling that pain?
He didn’t get it.
He didn’t get it at all.
And, before things got any worse, he ran away.
He ran, he ran, and he ran some more until he came across the Phoenix, and then he ran again until he was confronted and given a choice.
But, neither did he ever again saw his foster mother, nor did he even try to find out what happened to her, afraid of knowing the answers to any of his questions, even if those questions ate him alive.
Chang Lu: “AAAGGHH!!!”
The excruciating pain caused by the vines wrapping around him like an anaconda immobilizing his prey causes the Hellfire to click his teeth and swallow his breath, and prepare to use one of the most overused patterns of Psychic abilities.
She smirks, knowing what he’ll try to do.
And so, as Chang Lu teleports out of the grasp of the vines, and appears right before Sona to punch her in her back, ready to break her femur, he finds that he no longer has something he needs to go through with his plan.
That something – that very important something he needs so he could punch Sona with all his might – that something is gone.
Chang Lu: “M-my … my … hand!”
Blood spurts forth and paints Sona’s back red as the Hellfire falls on the ground, unable to understand anything.
Sona: “When put in a difficult position, no matter who it is, they revert back to their basics and their strong suits. That makes it predictable, far too predictable.”
She smirks, mocking him as he rolls on the ground without his right arm.
The rabbit-like Spirit, with his right arm in its mouth, walks to Sagzear and presents the arm.
It is as if a soldier taking revenge for a fellow soldier and then offering tribute to show that the revenge has been taken.
Chang Lu: “You … this is not the end, not for ME!”
Writhing in pain, he shouts at the Spirits and their master.
Sona: “Well, then this might be.”
Concerning his current position of lying on the ground, he expects Jin, the mole-like Spirit, to come out of the ground right beneath him and attack him. So, he prepares himself to use pyrokinesis to scorch the Spirit back to nothingness without letting all his opponents realize it.
Chang Lu: “W-why … why is my … body … so hot!?”
He asks as his own body keeps rising in temperature and constantly sweating.
Chang Lu: “Wait!”
But, upon a second check, he realizes that it isn’t exactly his body that’s heating, the clothes on his body are what are heating.
And as he realizes this, he sees the fire-fox-like Spirit, Kite, standing right next to him, looking at him like he’s prey.
In any other situation, he would have easily stopped Kite, but in this situation, at this moment, he can’t, because not only does he have to deal with the pain of a missing arm and the bleeding caused by that, but he also has to deal with the pain of nails tearing through his abdomen because he got distracted by Kite and failed to stop Jin from attacking from beneath him.
Chang Lu: “AA-AAAA-AAAAAAAAAAAHHHH!!!”
The pain he’s going through may knock a normal person unconscious. And even for a Hellfire like him, it might be too much.
As such, he is unable to focus in time to stop Kite, and so,
Chang Lu: “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!”
His clothes ignite and blow up like a bomb while Kite and Jin get away from him.
She scoffs, as she sees the Hellfire literally being burned from the blast of his clothes, and his wounds hurting far more than they did before.
A young, brown-haired Psychic of average-height sat in the middle as he looked over the ‘ritual’.
His rituals were something most people would call ‘experiments’, or rather, ‘inhumane experiments’.
What else could you call it when someone uses dead and alive humans as test subjects to ‘research’ Psychic energy?
Regardless, completely unfazed by the lack of humanity within him, the Psychic continued to watch over his experiment with a grin.
Unlike actual scientific experiments though, this experiment had no formula or theory. It was like a kid trying to mix two chemicals to see what happens without knowing anything about what WILL happen.
And while this experiment, where he extracted Psychic Potential from dead Psychics in liquid form and injected it into the brains of dead non-Psychics, wasn’t the first of this kind, it was certainly one of his most morbid ones.
But, to his surprise,
One of the dead bodies the Psychic Potential was being injected to suddenly moved as if it had gained its life back.
The Psychic got up from the comfort of his chair and stopped the experiment to study that change but, even after stopping the experiment, for some reason, the Psychic Potential and the Psychic energy in the air kept being sucked in by that one dead body.
It was the dead body of a 12-year-old boy, and the more Psychic Potential and Energy it sucked in, the more powerful its attractive force became.
Then, as it happened, the Psychic smirked, realizing that the dead body had become a magnet for Psychic Energy, something he simply labelled a Psychic Magnet.
This Psychic Magnet was continuing to suck in Psychic Energy around him, and it had grown powerful enough that using any complicated Psychic ability might backfire because the Energy required could get sucked in half-way through.
So, even though the experiment’s result filled him with a grin, the Psychic had to find a way to stop that magnet, temporarily at least.
The best way to do that was to Mind Control his brain into retiring, something that would send an alive person to coma.
And, obviously, using the Psychic ability of Mind Control was dangerous near that magnet, but the Psychic had the confidence to do so regardless.
But, just then,
“Is someone here?”
He heard a voice asking so from outside the chamber he was in. He clicked his tongue and hurriedly tried to do the Mind Control, causing it to not be done properly and the brain that was to be put to sleep ended up being put to slow motion.
While it wasn’t perfect, that had caused the Psychic Magnet to decrease in power, so for the time being, it was fine to leave it like that.
Hence, the Psychic went out of the chamber, up to the ground floor, and received the visitor, acting like the curt priest he wasn’t.
Minutes later, however, he came back down to the chamber with the visitor, having thrown away his facade.
“Why did Julius sent one of his whores instead of coming himself?”
That’s what the visitor had introduced herself as. It was a lie, but that woman may have been the one person in the world who could lie to a Psychic and not get caught.
Woman: “Well, I guess Mr Rome was busy.”
The Psychic clicked his tongue, knowing what ‘busy’ would mean when talking about Julius Rome.
Woman: “Mr Dietrich, is this … your workshop?”
She asked as she saw the nauseating place filled with the stench of dead bodies and poisonous chemicals.
Halogen: “Well, what else do you think it would be?”
Ten years before the Hellfire would have learned how to keep his priestly persona ‘on’ at all times, he was just a youngster with quite a bit of edge in him. And the annoyance he was feeling was clear on this edgy youngster’s face.
Halogen: “Well, anyway, wait here while I find the book.”
He said, as he went to a different corner of the chamber, to a place filled with bookshelves, where a book that Julius Rome had wanted from Halogen was kept.
As he started trying to find that book though, the woman turned her eyes to the corpses, the experiments, and made an expression of pure disgust at Halogen.
The reason she had been there was to confirm everything she had heard about this sick ‘priest’, and the mission she had given herself was to do nothing more than that, for the time being.
A body, which was supposed to be a dead body, moved.
The body of the 12-year-old boy moved.
Woman: “T-the … this body … just moved!”
Halogen: “Yeah, it’s become a Psychic magnet. It’s kinda dead and kinda alive.”
Taking her by shock, the Hellfire revealed so without a care as he kept searching for the book.
Woman: “W-who was this boy?”
She had many questions in her mind, but for some reason, that was what was formed into words first.
Halogen: “Not that it’s any of your business but that body belongs to a 12-year-old Spirit-user who died by being drowned in a lake. From what I know, he was murdered that way by the people around him because they found out that he was a Spirit-user and, not knowing anything about our world, they thought he was a demon fiend or something.”
That was why, as the murder was done with religious fear in mind, it wasn’t hard for this ‘priest’ to get a hold of the body.
Woman: “B-but, what about his Spirits?”
Halogen: “He only had one. The Spirit tried to stop them but they overpowered it with numbers. The boy’s death then caused the Spirit to return to the uncontracted state.”
It was a tragic story, with no silver lining whatsoever.
Hearing it, the woman looked at the boy, bending over to look at his face, the face that looked like it was sleeping peacefully, the face of a doll that was gaining power that would lead to his self-destruction.
Woman: “Damn my stupidity!”
The woman cursed herself, because of the decision she was going to make.
Woman: “If only I could ignore this, nothing would have gone wrong.”
She muttered under her breath.
A chilling voice came from right behind her,
Halogen: “Who are you really?”
With the book he was searching for in his hand, he asked as he noticed something strange about her existence, something she had so masterfully hidden for so much time.
Woman: “I guess, I am just like him, a Ghost of a Spirit-user, who was murdered because of fear.”
The woman said, no longer caring about her original purpose in coming there.
She knew that the Hellfire was going to attack her, and she knew that she didn’t stand a chance against him, so she used all the power she had, to blind him, to stall him, to trap him, to slow him down, as she took the doll-like boy and ran away.
This was ten years before the boy would run away from her and be found by the Phoenix.
And it was fifteen years before,
Chang Lu: “Aaaahhh!!!”
He is defeated.
No more tricks, no more cards hidden up his sleeve could turn the tables now.
The result of the match is now fixed as Chang Lu’s body has burned enough to make death a certain future.
So, even though the blast is over now, it doesn’t matter.
And, lying on his death bed, as the Hellfire sees the Spirits and their master who defeated him with a blurry vision, he sees them clearer than ever before.
Chang Lu: “Ha!”
He scoffs at himself as he sees them, as he sees that team of Spirits that know perfectly well what it means to work together, that know perfectly well what Spirits and contracts are all about.
Having lived as a Psychic for more years than he did as a Spirit-user, Chang Lu may have forgotten all that and thought that he could defeat any Spirit-user because he knows what it’s like to be one, but in truth, the facade of ‘never losing to a Spirit-user’ was just that – a facade.
Chang Lu: “HA! Ha! Haha!”
And so, he laughs at himself as his death draws near.
Knowing the fact that he’s a doll whom death had once graced and then allowed to go back, there’s no way his broken-down life that was formed out of Psychic Potential rather than an actual soul could ever become an actual Ghost.
Hence, this will be the end.
He won’t die and become an actual Ghost, which means his existence will be over, lost forever in the maze of nothingness, in the abyss of the devilish darkness.
But, before dying, there’s one thing he needs to see, and even death would stall itself, just to make him see that, to make him realize that.
Chang Lu: “Y-you!”
His words are uttered with such low pitch that no one can hear.
However, that’s enough.
Looking at that rabbit-like Spirit, looking at it and realizing that his untimely death didn’t cause his Spirit to wander around and be lost forever, but that the Spirit found a new partner, someone who cherishes it just as much as he himself did, that’s enough.
Maybe the fact that the Spirit can’t remember him is the punishment for every single sin he has committed as a Hellfire, and if so, that’s fine too, because one of the only two existences he cared about is living a happy life, and as for the other one,
Chang Lu: “P-please!”
With all his might, he begs for that other one,
Chang Lu: “P-please … if you see … her,”
He asks the Spirit-user who defeated him, the Spirit-user whose elegance and beauty is just like his foster mother’s, but does not feel as distant or unreachable.
Chang Lu: “Please … tell her … I’m sorry … for … running away!”
And the Hellfire extinguishes, and it extinguishes not as a 27-year-old Hellfire, but as a 12-year-old Spirit-user and a 22-year-old Psychic Magnet.