“Well, did you come here to investigate the wraiths?” The old man asked. The face full of happiness was gone, leaving the calm look of an elder. And with the sudden outburst of anger from that time when Delias was not quick enough to reply, it made Delias even more fearful. Was this guy bipolar? It was hard to talk to bipolar people as you never could get a proper read on them. But Delias could not stall on the question any further. He had to answer. And lying was always on the table.
“As I’ve said before, elder, I-”
“Screw your granny! Who’s your elder? Do I look old to you? I’m still a mere three hundred years old.”
Beads of sweat began to form on Delias’s forehead. Three hundred years?! This guy is clearly nuts. And when did I call him old? “I did not mean it as in older, but as someone who has a high position, yes, a high position. Your magnanimous self must surely have a high position.” Delias tried to smooth things over. Damn it. This guy is not bipolar, he’s just crazy!
“Hmph! Are those that sent you strong?” The elder asked with a slight smile on his face, as if he had not just gotten angry.
Its seems like flattery works. But at this rate, I will get nowhere.
Delias was not sure what he could say to get the old man to not kill him. Once the told him everything, he doubted the old man would let him live to tell a tale. The best course of action is to play along for now.
“You’ve never told me your name. I need something to call you by.” Delais responded, not answering the question.
No one sent Delias to this precise location, but he would not say that explicitly. Though he said he had said that he did not aim to come to this precise location, that did not mean that he was sent to investigate a nearby one to find what he needed. If he had the appearance of having backers, it was less likely the old man would not kill him. And technically, this was not a lie as the crawfields elders forced him into a trial that ended with him here. A lie without saying a lie. That was the best way to do it.
That was why Delias did not answer the question. He could have said, ‘yes, they are very strong’, but it would speed things too quickly and he was unsure of the outcome of that. Especially since it would be hard to gauge strength. The crawfields elders were strong, surely stronger than Delias or any of the new recruits, but against the old man? Delias did not know his strength. And the old man knew that. So answering that question would provide the old man with essentially nothing. Delias could not have that. He wanted to slow things down and get the old man full of ideas. Ideas that could essentially keep him alive longer.
“You dare not answer my question?” The old man’s voice sounded angry, but his face did not show any hostility.
“Tic for tac. You ask a question; I ask one in return.” Delias knew it was a bold move. To be so brash. Completely opposite to calling him a magnanimous person as before, but he had thought to try being a bit mysterious himself. No one liked killing mysterious people. Not the more experienced people anyway. They knew better that in the long run, for most of the time it would just come back to bite at them.
The old man was quiet for a moment. And just when Delias thought he screwed up, the man spoke. “Call me Elder Lipont.”
Hearing that, Delias couldn’t help his face for distorting all over in anger. Didn’t you just blow up for me calling you elder? Don’t tell me just calling you magnanimous made you change your mind? But… He acquiesced. That means I can do this!
Delias was a bit happy. The fact that Elder Lipont gave a name meant he was willing to answer his questions in return.Thinking on this, he began to become more calm. I can handle this situation. I think I can talk myself out.
“Elder Lipont. It is a pleasure to meet –
And just as Delias was going to say something more, the old man just shook his head. “It doesn’t matter if you know my name though. Since you won’t answer my question, I will just send my wraith to go scouting in a few hours when it turns dark.”
Before Delias had time to register what the old man had just said, the old man disappeared.
Quickly a breeze past from behind. From instinct, Delias tried to move to defend his back, but a strong force grabbed him from the scruff of his neck. His whole body froze. Who tells someone their name and then says that??!! Damn it. Why couldn’t this guy be normal!
“I know. You’re young. Haven’t even accomplished anything meaningful in the world yet. But don’t worry. When you go to afterlife, know that you have provided some use in your death by being a nice addition to my concoction!” And with a flick of the old man’s wrist, Delias went flying through the air. He looked at where he was landing. And that was… precisely the green lava pool!
Delias flung his arms around, but no matter what he did, he could not stop the inevitable conclusion, and fell into the small crater pool.
He went in with a plop. His body burned, his eyes shut. And he sunk down quickly.
The green lava pool was not like most lava pools. It was a lot cooler than those near the core. This lava pool only had a slither of the world’s core essence, and was mostly created from the mixture of that essence and an strange essence from a realm from the afterlife. But that small slither of core essence was enough to slowly burn Delias alive, even if it didn’t kill him on the spot.
Delias felt himself sinking slowly. He could not breathe and the feeling of his skin burning was so painful that he wanted to wail and scream. But he couldn’t. Is this how I die? How many times do I need to suffer? How many?! How could I die just like this? And just as the darkness was going to consume him again for the many-ieth time since he received his new body, his body began to break up. Not directly because of the heat from the pool itself, but Delias could feel that the Koplas, the same ones that went dormant when he woke up again, began to move. It was like a ripple effect. One. Two. More and more woke up and moved. They responded to Delias’s pain. They all woke up, turning from the color of Delia’s skin to that of a pinkish crystal. The color gradually turned brown. First light, then a tint of green.
It was then that Delias’s eyes flew open. They burned and his vision was black. And it felt like the heat was reaching at his very soul.
But after a few minutes that pain, that heat, began to quell. It grew less and less until Delias couldn’t feel it anymore. The crystal koplas came back together, reforming back into a body, and went back into dormancy. Slowly, Delias’s vision came to, and what met him was a new world.
All around him was a translucent liquid.. It was a bit more viscous than water, but Delias could slowly move. Though the crater was small, within the pool, beneath the mouth of the crater, there the surroundings seemed like a large, circular well. It was like a giant cauldron, but with various channel entrances all over. And the green glow was actually coming from the cauldron-like well itself! Whatever stone or ore it was made of, glowed with a slight pulse. And the liquid around Delias slowly moved with an even flow through the cauldron-like well and into the channels. It was almost like a giant heart! This.. This was the heart of the lava pools in the area!
Delias’s body shuddered. It was Inconceivable to where he was. Inconceivable that he was still alive. He marveled at his body. What happened just now? I’m alive? And it’s not like that time back at the library.
He looked at his hands. There was a strength in them that was not there before. He felt stronger. He felt more alive than ever. It flooded through him like a roaring tide. But Delias realized quickly that he still could not breathe. He was still within the lava pool.
Just as he was about to go up, a cold shudder ran through him. The glow of the well’s walls rippled. And Delias looked down. What he saw shocked him more than anything!
Below him, a white humanoid thing stood rooted into the ground of the caldron shaped well. Only half its body was visible. It looked female as it had breasts and hundreds of tendrils for hair. It only had two visible closed eyes; no mouth; no ears; no mouth.
Suddenly, the eyelids of the creature twitched, and they slowly raised.
Two large, deep green eyes were now staring at Delias. They looked tranquil, as if Delias were a common occurrence, and at that moment Delais felt more small and insignificant than he did back in that small room in Northcroke City. It was a feeling he never thought he would ever have again. He wanted to curl into a ball and cry, but suddenly the face of the creature contorted, and its smooth skin around where a mouth would be began to rip apart, showing a gaping hole.
As the mouth opened, a wail erupted forth. It surpassed all logic, sounding as clear as if they were in air. It was so power, so sudden, it rammed into Delias’s chest, and he spat blood. Globs of red slowly floated to the top.
Delias was shaken and his mind reeled. And a thought flittered. I must get out of here. Else, I will die!!
It had occurred to Delias that the Koplas of his body did not react to the sudden wail. That meant that it was not a good idea to bet that it would help him if he was struck with something that could cause him a quick death opposed to something that slowly eroded him away. Afterall, he did not know much about his new body. He could only rely on one thing. To get out of there fast!
Delias pried his gaze from the white creature and swam up. He tried to moving faster and faster as much as he could.
But then the liquid pool began to draw back, pulling him deeper.
Delias glanced back. There was a suction force coming from that mouth of the white creature.
Delias used all his strength to swim faster, to reach higher. His body felt much stronger than it was before, and even with the suction from the white creature that would have surely of dragged him down before, he still began to pull away, reaching closer to the top.
Fifteen meters away. Another wail blasted forth. Delias spat out another mouthful of blood. But that did not stop him. He was determined. He did not die and he was not going to let some creature eat him.
Ten meters. Five meters. Wail after wail hit him, like energy waves came at him, crashing into his body. Each one was stronger than the last and it was almost unbearable. His chest hurt and felt like it would explode. He needed to breathe!
Two meters. I can do this. I will survive! Delias roared in his mind.
It was then that the entire well, liquid and all, began to tremble.
Delias looked back, and his eyes went wider with fear.
The white creature was pulling itself out of the bottom of the well! Its face was contorted in anger. And as Delias saw that, he took one more lunge up and broke the surface of the lava pool.
Delias climbed out, gasping for air as he plopped himself on the ground, His was naked, his clothes burned up by the pool. Vestiges of fluid hissed and smoked as they dripped off him and landed on the cool stone floor. His hair dangled down his shoulders, a silky black, back to its original color.
It was just as if he was when he was human. The only thing was… The tatoos remained. And as he looked down… Huh. It’s a bit larger than before.
Delias shook his head. He was surprised about his body. About his tattoos, but he did not keep much focus on that. He looked around, but he saw that the cave was empty. The old man was nowhere to be seen.
Delais released a sigh.
He stood up. And as he did, the ground trembled.
Delias looked back at the lava pool. Damn it! It’s still after me!
Delias ran to the cave entrance. His body was still dripping with the translucent liquid. The green color was not the liquid in itself, but the color from the walls that contained the lava pool.
Delias was going to use the chance of not seeing the old man to escape. If I can get to the top. I can put a whole bunch of people between me and that thing. And I doubt those bastard elders of the academy want all their students to get killed by that thing. They will surely move.
But when Delias looked out the cave exit, he was met with a flurry of shadows.