Chapter 34: Trust

There’s silence in The Cage. The two entities, the so-called god and the so-called devil stare at each other. But, neither of them speaks a word. Until,

Sona: “Are you sure about this?”

The voices from outside penetrate their ears. But all they can do is listen to the question being asked.

Kais: “I am.”

And the answer that is given. Their muscles would be twitching from excitement and nervousness, if they were still alive.

Dragon: “You should really have more faith in him.”

Sona: “Yeah, I am not taking any advice from you.”

Dragon: “Thought so.”

The two keep listening to the conversation. The only difference the two have at this moment is that one of them can also sense the auras of those talking. Abyss could tell that all three of them were serious about what they were going to do. Ozyllus had no way of knowing that. Abyss feels a bit happy knowing this.

Ozyllus: “They are serious, aren’t they?”

And yet, the first word he speaks in a while completely dismisses that happiness.

Abyss: “Why do you think so?”

Ozyllus: “Well, it’s simple actually.”

Abyss: “Mind explaining?”

Ozyllus: “It’s because of you.”

Abyss narrows his eyes. The demonic glare in his eyes grows sharper.

Ozyllus: “I may not be able to sense their auras, but I can sense yours. And I can also read you like a book.”

Ozyllus says with a mild smile. Even if his words are that of trying to mock Abyss, even he can’t bring himself to laugh at that moment.

Abyss: “Well, I guess that’s fair.”

Ozyllus: “It is?”

Abyss: “Yes, it is. After all, the fact that you can read me means …”

He says with a smile,

Abyss: “You’ll have to endure seeing my happiness when all your dreams are crushed.”

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

Barry and Ro continue on towards the pond. The distance between them and their destination now is less than 100 meters. But,

Ro: “Who’s there?”

He says immediately upon hearing a slight ruffling noise coming from the trees ahead of them.

???: “Don’t worry, it’s just me.”

Having not heard that voice a lot of times before, Ro doesn’t immediately recognize it and tries to prepare to attack but Barry stops him.

Barry: “Don’t worry, it’s the dragon. And he doesn’t seem to have any ill intentions towards us.”

He says while signaling Ro to relax. Ro, while still keeping a sense of caution in him, says,

Ro: “Well, come out.”

Dragon: “I don’t think I can.”

Barry and Ro look at each other unaware of what he may mean. Barry looks at him with a questioning gaze. Ro then nods to Barry and so Barry uses aura reading to see what’s going on.

Barry: “Hmm …”

Barry senses the aura of the dragon next to the tree on the opposite side. From that, he incurs that he is standing next to a tree but is not moving even a little for some reason.

Barry: “There’s something wrong with him. It’s like he doesn’t have any intentions of moving from the place he is standing on.”

Ro: “That so?”

Ro says as he moves closer to the place dragon’s voice came from. Barry, on the other hand, inspects the surroundings with aura reading to see if there’s any trap lying in wait for them.

Barry: “Doesn’t look like any traps have been set here.”

Barry gives Ro a heads-up as Ro continues to go around to see what the dragon is doing. Barry slowly follows from the other side.

Dragon: “You two seem very alarmed. There’s really no need to be, you know.”

Ro: “I am afraid you haven’t done much to gain my trust.”

Dragon: “Fair, I guess.”

As Ro continues to move from the side, the dragon finally comes in his sight. He sees the dragon standing next to a tree just like Barry said.

Ro: “What are you doing?”

Dragon: “You’ll know if you look at my foot.”

Ro slowly and cautiously turns his gaze to the dragon’s foot. There seemed to be some sort of white marking underneath his foot. As if to relax himself, the dragon leans his head back at the tree only to end up hitting the tree because of the distance between him and it being larger than he thought it will be.

Ro: “What’s that?”

Barry: “Don’t tell me that …”

As the markings enter Barry’s line of sight, he looks at them in disbelief.

Dragon: “It is.”

Ro: “Don’t leave me out of the loop here.”

Dragon: “This is a form of conditions that spirit-users can put on people.”

Ro: “Okay, so what does it do?”

Having stopped in his tracks, Ro looks at the Dragon with suspicious eyes scanning all his surrounding to find any sign of a trap while also paying attention to the dragon’s words.

Dragon: “If the person who the condition is put on moves away from their place, it will explode on the spot.”

Ro gets taken aback by the dragon’s answer and looks at the markings in shock.

Barry: “And in this case, that person seems to be you.”

Barry has a rare look of worry on his face. That alone is enough to tell Ro how dangerous of a condition it truly is.

Dragon: “Yeah, I am the one she put the condition on.”

They understand very well who ‘she’ is.

Barry: “But why would Sona do that? She should already know she can’t kill you like this.”

For a fraction of a second, the dragon’s lips start curling up into a smile. This movement neither Ro nor Barry spot.

Dragon: “That’s the point though.”

Barry: “Huh?”

Ro: “Huh?”

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

Ozyllus: “My dreams will be crushed, you say?”

Ozyllus continues staring at Abyss with a seemingly serious expression.

Ozyllus: “Yeah, I guess that is something that would bring you happiness.”

Abyss: “You …”

Abyss doesn’t really want to say anything. But he just couldn’t understand why Ozyllus is being calmer than him in this situation.

Ozyllus: “Oh boy!”

He turns to look at the few gaps that bring light in the darkness of The Cage.

Ozyllus: “It’s a risky game they are playing, isn’t it?”

Abyss: “That it is.”

The three in question are definitely using a risky strategy. It’s not risky because there’s a chance their targets will see through it.

Ozyllus: “Ha!”

A laugh escapes his laughs causing Abyss to be irritated.

Abyss: “Tch!”

It’s risky because it depends on none of them betraying the other two.

Ozyllus: “Should they really be pulling off a strategy that depends so much on trust?”

Abyss: “Is it really trust this strategy is based on?”

Abyss says while continuing to stare at Ozyllus. Ozyllus, who was also keeping a sharp eye on Abyss, notices that Abyss’ expression has grown softer.

Ozyllus: “Huh,”

He asks as he gets curious about this change in his expression and the things he just said.

Ozyllus: “And just what does that mean?”

Abyss: “… nothing.”

Abyss doesn’t answer the question. But the answer still dwells on his face.

Ozyllus: “There’s no use trying to act like that. I already told you I can read you like a book.”

He says as he wonders, “Abyss thinks their strategy is not based on trust. That much is clear from his expression. But then, what else is there to this strategy other than trust?”

Abyss: “Even if you can read me, you won’t be getting the answer.”

He says with a slight smile as he thinks, “And that’s because I don’t know the answer either. All I have is an instinctive feeling that’s it’s not trust that he has based this strategy on.” Abyss doesn’t word out these thoughts.

The two continue staring at each other as they hear the voices coming from outside and keep questioning every action being taken by Kais, Sona and the dragon.

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

Ro: “What do you mean ‘that’s the point’?”

Dragon: “Well, that’s what’s going on here. She has put this condition on me so if I move now, I will be blasted away but won’t die.”

Barry: “Yes, but in return for bringing you close to death, she’ll die.”

Dragon nods as he says,

Dragon: “Precisely.”

Ro: “Wait, wait! I don’t get it. Why would she put a condition like that on you?”

Dragon: “To prove that she won’t try to betray.”

His answer continues to confuse the two more than clarifying anything.

Barry: “Betray who exactly?”

The dragon doesn’t answer but only smiles.

Ro: “Hey bastard, I have been meaning to ask you about this for a while now but why do you look like Ozyllus?”

The dragon turns to Ro on hearing that question.

Ro: “I know there’s some reason behind it. What is it?”

Dragon: “Well, I don’t really have a human form, so the only way I can appear in a human form is if I imitate someone I have seen. And the one I have seen most in my life is him.”

Ro: “That’s it?”

Dragon: “That’s it.”

Ro: “Don’t lie to me.”

Ro’s face twists in anger.

Ro: “If that was all there was to it, then you could have taken so many other forms.”

Dragon: “I just told you I had seen him the most …”

Ro: “Like that matters. You know that people will freak out if they see you like that. And I doubt someone who cut off connection from the outside world would want that to happen.”

Dragon: “So?”

Ro: “So the best thing for you to do is to use the mask of a lesser known person.”

Dragon: “Hmm … that so?”

He says with a smile.

Barry: “Hey, the heck you smiling for?”

Barry says with a little bit of nervousness on his face.

Barry: “What’s going on here?”

Dragon: “Well, if you have gotten that far, might as well tell you-”

He says as he glances back-and-forth from Barry and Ro.

Dragon: “The fact that I am in the form of Ozyllus means that anyone who knows how he looked would, as you said, wonder what’s going on.”

The two ghosts stay silent as they listen to him speak.

Dragon: “Since most of the people who come here are psychics sent by Vermillion, this emotion will cause minor fluctuations in the psychic energy around them.”

Barry: “No … way!”

Dragon looks at Barry with the same smile as before.

Dragon: “The mechanisms on the island use that fluctuation as an opening to suck out the psychic energy.”

Ro: “You …”

Dragon: “There are little traps like this spread throughout the island. How else do you think this island maintains the heavy supply of psychic energy required to keep the tomb in stable condition?”

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

Ozyllus: “He did say that’s how the tomb keeps going, didn’t he?”

Abyss: “Yeah, he did. What about it?”

Abyss wonders why Ozyllus suddenly brought up that topic.

Ozyllus: “I wonder why he did that.”

Abyss: “Why wouldn’t he?”

Ozyllus: “There was no reason to actually tell Kais and Sona how the island keeps its supply of psychic energy ongoing.”

Ozyllus seriously wonders about that question because he really doesn’t know why the dragon did that.

Ozyllus: “Now that Sona knows that, she can use her spirits to turn it around and suck the energy out of the tomb. If that happens …”

He suddenly stops talking.

Abyss: “If that happens?”

Abyss asks with curiosity as Ozyllus wonders about it for a while and then looks him in the eye as he answers.

Ozyllus: “There’s just no way around it. If that happens, he’ll die.”

Abyss: “The dragon would die if that happens?”

Abyss asks in shock.

Ozyllus: “Yeah, that’s what I just said.”

Abyss comes to understand why Ozyllus had become curious about that question all of a sudden.

Ozyllus: “Kais immediately started explaining the strategy to them so I didn’t get the chance to question it because I didn’t want to get distracted. But now that I truly think about it, there’s just no way this wasn’t a foolish decision on his part.”

Abyss: “Foolish, maybe. Not pointless though.”

Ozyllus narrows his eyes not understanding what Abyss means. On the other hand, Abyss comes to understand what was truly going on.

So the fact that both of them can do something that will end up killing the other is supposed to be the way they trust the other. Abyss smiles while coming to understand that.

Abyss: “Sona has probably sent out spirits to reverse things.”

Ozyllus: “That’s the point …”

Abyss: “But also told them to not do anything.”

Ozyllus: “Huh? What does that mean?”

Abyss: “If the spirits are to feel that their connection to their owner, Sona, has broken, they are to pull it off.”

Ozyllus: “What?”

Abyss: “If the dragon uses his chance to kill her, she has prepared a plan to kill him in return.”

Ozyllus is left speechless.

Abyss: “You are thinking how foolish they are, aren’t you?”

Ozyllus: “Of course I am. What kind of idiotic way of trusting each other is that?”

Abyss: “The dragon is going to die in a few days and so doesn’t necessarily fear death because of how inevitable it is. But he also doesn’t want to die right now because he wants to bring you down before he dies.”

Ozyllus doesn’t interrupt.

Abyss: “On the other hand, Sona has been ready to die in taking her revenge so if this surefire way of killing him presents itself to her, she will gladly agree to die herself.”

Ozyllus: “What mockery of survival instinct is that?”

Abyss: “It is precisely the survival instinct that matters here, Ozyllus. The fact that the two of them would go so far as to completely mock survival instinct is the proof of how strong their resolve is. Even if what they have done is foolish, it is admirable in a sense.”

Abyss’ voice becomes louder as he goes on. Ozyllus, on the other hand, asks in a softer voice,

Ozyllus: “Admirable, you say?”

Abyss: “Yes, it’s admirable; because neither you nor I will ever have that strong a resolve.”

Ozyllus: “Tch!”

Ozyllus turns to the light. He is frustrated because everything Abyss has said is true. He is frustrated that they are indeed more resolute than him. And he’s frustrated because …

Abyss: “How does it feel to know the tragedy you caused that should have broken the two of them ended up bringing about this result?”

Abyss asks with a smile already knowing the answer.

Abyss: “I wonder how things will go from here.”

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

Barry: “What’s going on here? Why are you telling us all this like it’s no big deal? I am sure you have never told this to anyone before.”

Dragon: “Well, I have told this to two people before.”

Irritated by the dragon’s mocking smile, Barry glances at Ro and,

Barry: “I am asking this using telepathy so he can’t hear, but why did you bring this topic up? Is there a connection between this and what he previously mentioned? Just think up your answer and I will know.”

Barry asks him with telepathy.

Ro: “I thought from the way he said those words that he is working with someone. And the thought crossed my mind that his appearance could give us a hint as to whom.”

Barry: “So you thought the reason for this appearance could give us a hint on who he is working with. And what you meant by that is to think of who will think up a strategy like that?”

Ro: “Yeah, that was my thought process. Does anyone come to mind?”

Dragon: “What’s wrong? Why go silent all of sudden?”

He asks with a mockingly innocent smile.

Ro: “Will you shut up for a second?”

Dragon: “Oh? Don’t want me disturbing your telepathy?”

The two shrink back as they hear those words.

Ro: “You …”

Barry: “One man does come to mind.”

Barry says, not telepathically, but from his mouth cutting off their conversation. The dragon and Ro look at him in surprise.

Barry: “Damn you!”

He says with a low voice before gripping his hand in sheer anger.

Barry: “Damn you, Ozyllus!”

Hearing Barry utter the name of the man who came to his mind when thinking of a strategy like ‘stealing psychic energy from other psychics’, Ro is left speechless as the dragon smiles – this time, a genuinely happy smile.

Silence befalls the three. What breaks that silence is the voice of the woman whose aura full of spiritual energy would give her away.

Sona: “You may or may not have realized this already,”

She says as she steps out of the trees and comes into their sight.

Sona: “But you have been surrounded.”

Ro and Barry look at her with different expressions. Ro is the first to react.

Ro: “What are you …?”

But he doesn’t get the time to do anything. And that’s because vines of the numerous trees around him bind him and constrict his movements while a vine is also put at his neck as if it’s a knife to threaten him.

Ro: “Do you …”

Sona: “Don’t bother thinking you’ll be fine since you are ghost and any of that nonsense.”

Ro falls silent after having his thoughts read.

Sona: “Those vines are imbued with spiritual energy and they have what it takes to disperse energy. If they cut you, the link from your head and body will be cut. Permanently”

Ro: “Don’t joke around …”

Sona: “It’s not a joke. You do remember Ethan Kales mentioning of a way to turn ghosts into spirits, right? This is it.”

Ro tries to retort but falls silent when he sees the resigned expression on Barry’s face telling him that she is telling the truth.

Barry: “How did you avoid my aura reading?”

Sona turns to Barry to answer his question with a mild smile on her face. Barry, on the other hand, only has cautiousness written all over his face.

Sona: “I didn’t avoid it.”

Barry: “What?”

Barry looks at her in surprise and suspicion while the dragon chuckles.

Dragon: “When you both saw me, I told you to look at my foot. For that one moment, both of your eyes were off me. I hit the tree with my head at that point. Even if, by chance, you had seen me though, I could have made that look natural.”

Ro: “Don’t … screw with us.”

Dragon: “I am not. That was the signal for a bird of this forest to go to her.”

Sona: “And when that bird came to me, I was teleported here. After which I had to guide the spirit constricting you right now to you and use the right opportunity to bind you.”

Ro: “Tch!”

Barry: “So you are telling me the spirit was already in the ground?”

Sona: “Yes. It is in the form of a mole so it can go underground. Since your aura reading doesn’t cover that area, it was the perfect place for it to be.”

Ro: “You are telling me a mole is doing this.”

He says as he looks at the vines constricting him.

Sona: “Different spirits can have different abilities, you know.”

Sona answers while looking at him with a little bit of sympathy.

Barry: “Don’t you think your plan was a little too flawed?”

Sona and the dragon both turn to Barry with a questioning gaze.

Barry: “If I had used aura reading once again, I could have easily detected you.”

Sona: “Well, we needed to trust each other for this. I trusted that the dragon would be capable of distracting you and he trusted that I will be able to guide the spirit perfectly.”

Dragon: “And it worked.”

The dragon added to emphasize.

Barry: “It was still a foolish plan, you know.”

???: “That it was.”

A voice comes right from the middle of the four.

???: “But someone once told me that you can never be too smart, so turn your opponent into a fool to win the battle.”

The voice of the mastermind rings clearly as a knife appears on Barry’s throat out of nowhere. And just in progression, a hand begins to appear and then the rest of the body.

Kais: “Remember those words, and the day you said them to me.”

He says while having a knife at Barry’s throat.

Kais: “It was that day 12 years ago.”

It was no surprise to Barry that he is also working together with Sona and the dragon. The moment Sona mentioned ‘teleport’, it had become clear. So he didn’t look at Kais with surprise or shock. He only looked at Kais with pity.

Kais: “What’s that expression for?”

Barry: “What’s this knife for?”

Kais: “It’s to make sure you answer …”

Barry narrows his eyes.

Kais: “When I ask you to tell me – everything about this war.”

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