"C'mon!" Everett called, beginning to move in the opposite direction with the unconscious Dragonheart in his arms, waving for Yuna and Melisande to follow.
There was clear hesitance in Melisande as she looked towards Asher, but deep down inside, she knew her stay would only prove to be a demerit to the one willing to risk his life, opting to swallow her pride and turn the other way.
"You better not die–!" Melisande called out.
As the three ran in the opposite way, ducking behind the treeline, for once, a smile crept on Asher's lips as he looked down at the hand that gripped around the handle of his weapon. They were trembling; his fingertips were uneasy, though it was something obvious to him–an inevitability in the face of what he stood tall against.
It felt like there would never have been enough time to prepare himself as he watched 'it' begin to walk out from the broken seal, stepping out slowly.
The closer it got, the more dense and abhorrent the air of malevolence became, weighing down on the atmosphere before it finally revealed itself to the light of day, stepping from the shadows:
It had the appearance of an old, decrepit man with pale skin and a long, unkempt beard. Nothing but skin and bones with thin arms and its rib cage prominently shown, it hardly looked like something housing such terrifying power.
Still, Asher knew well what he was looking at–it was a 'vessel', housing the malignant entity as the old man's eyes were absent, housing only pitch-black eye sockets that housed the evil within:
Flies buzzed around the decaying vessel, surrounding the being that was merely of callused skin and brittle bones.
"...So, that's the body you've been trapped in all these years? It's been rotting away–too bad for you, there won't be another for you to move to," Asher told the entity.
Though it didn't respond, seeming to not even validate his presence as the Dread moved its arms, causing its old, worn joints to crack and creak as it took in the light outside its old seal, lifting its right hand.
Just as the ominous, wizened figure raised its bony hand, Asher felt a distinct malice rise from the being in an instant, prompting him to raise his guard before–the Dread moved its hand.
That single movement of its limb incurred destruction, spurring unseen slices that ignored the concept of range and embedded themselves throughout the valley.
"Down–!" Yuna sensed, grabbing the two beside her and pushing them to the ground with her.
All at once, these colossal cuts soared across the region, sweeping through the forests and jungles, annihilating all in their path as these invisible blades felled countless creatures and unsuspecting recruits.
In an instant, most of the Valley of Parmesus had been wiped out; the trees that cluttered the ground and sky were felled, mountains were cleaved into pieces as rocks rained onto the ground, and the uneven hills were evened out with the ground the Dread stood on.
Asher breathed out, sweating as he looked around at the immeasurable destruction caused by nothing more than whim of the entity before him.
He had conjured a shield forged of demonic material in front of his arms, though it only served to mitigate the damage as a shallow cut was left across his chest, managing to penetrate his Devilheart armor.
It destroyed…everything? It's still this powerful? Even in that vessel? Asher thought.
Fortunately, the three that guarded the unconscious Dragonheart were left unscratched, having hugged the ground and avoided the unseen bisection of the region.
After witnessing what level of destructive power the malignant entity possessed, Asher dashed forward, yelling out as he engulfed his claymore in ominous energy–
"Gyah!" Asher spit out.
It was completely unseen by him: the speed of the Dread, which had surmounted his own reflexes and held its hand forward. The being did not directly touch him, but instead held its palm facing his abdominal region, emitting a pressure forward that pressed against the Devilheart's stomach.
The force was felt against his organs, causing him to spit up a mixture of blood, spit, and oxygen before being slammed back.
Since when did I become so soft…? Asher thought, my entire life…throughout this second life, I've looked out for only myself–that was the way of life I decided to stick with after what I went through before.
When Asher laid there, feeling his internal organs screaming at him in agony from the insufferable blow taken, for some reason, memories of the very end of the life he abandoned resurfaced.
BEEP. BEEP. BEEP.
Day-in, day-out, the monotonous beeping played in his ears.
Sitting in the bed of a clean, white hospital, was a boy, no older than a sophomore in high school, attached to tubes and heavy machinery within the establishment of medicine.
By his bedside, he could see his parents sobbing, though his father spoke with an unknown business man.
Mom?...Dad? What's wrong? He thought.
He was groggy, unable to hear what those in the same room as him were saying as his vision laid blurred.
"As the doctor said, your son only has days–a week, at most. It's a terrible thing…brain tumors at such a young age. You truly have my condolences," the man in the black suit said, nodding his head, "However, we at SAMSARA can offer your son a new life. A world where he will be healthy and free."
? As he laid there in the bed, he could see his mom continuing to sob, holding his hand while his father nodded to whatever was said by the stranger, signing a document. After the papers were signed, the unknown man opened a box, revealing a headset within it before hooking it up by the ill boy's bed.
…What's this? What's going on? The boy thought.
He was hardly conscious by this point, only able to look at his parents as the headgear was placed over his head before being powered on by a single press of a button.
As the headset booted up, the boy felt his consciousness sway and flicker, hearing only a few last words from his parents–
"We love you, Asher."
Before he could say anything in response, parting his lips, it all went black for him.
[Welcome to Reincarnation Online.]
Though what awaited him was a new life, he swore to carry on the name given to him by his parents, opting to live the life he was robbed of in his first.
Remembering the last moments he spent on Earth, Asher picked himself up, tightening his hold on his claymore.
I won't die. I've survived this far–I've fought adversity my entire life…Today is just another day for me! Asher thought.
Just then, the Devil Force within him skyrocketed as a stygian aura surfaced, causing the soil he stood on to rumble before his demonic hide reformed itself, causing the horns protruding from his forehead to curve back and his tail to lengthen.
That desperation birthed itself in a resolve that ignored the pain coursing through his body, forcing his bruised organs to work in overtime as he pushed his body past its own limits, confronting the wickedness that stood silent before him.
Life is…a precious thing. That's what I've always felt. That's what I've learned, time and time again—in spite of everything I've faced, I've never once regretted living! I've cherished what was given to me! And I'll cherish the lives of others, and annihilate those who take that away! Asher resolved.
The Devilheart seemed to grow in height whilst encased in the pitch-black, refined armor of demonic origin, embedded and shaped with skulls throughout his exoskeleton. A cape formed of tattered shadows was attached to his shoulders, flowing down his back like the souls of the damned.
[Current Stage: 6/10 | Nefarious Demon Lord]
Enveloped in the evolved armor, the Devilheart dashed forward as a comet of darkness, prompting a simple, effortless counter from the Dread, who simply swiped his hand forward to unleash a wave of unseen slices that mutilated the soil and wind in its path.
This time, Asher was quick enough to evade it, kicking off of the air and leaping upwards before flinging downward with his claymore bursting with the nefarious force he had imbued it with.
The Dread simply looked up towards him with its emotionless face before being crashed down upon, swung into by the empowered claymore that unleashed a cut sweeping through the soil and fortress behind the Dread.
"Hyah!" Asher unleashed.
Through the decrepit vessel, the slice carved through, cutting through the Dread's shoulder and deep into its torso as rotten flesh spilled out.
What would be a fatal blow to any normal being only left the Dread unfazed as it held the same, unmoved look in its nonexistent eyes, allowing its shoulder to hang off of its torso as a dark force crept out from inside its body.
Asher leapt back just as a wave of unseen malice emitted from the Dread, cutting through the land around it and decaying it, rotting the soil to lifeless, dry crumbs.
Even in the face of the terrifying might of the wordless entity of violence, Asher found himself with embers of hope burning within him as he looked upon its mutilated form, finding it not mending itself.
…It can't heal its injured vessel. From what I know, the vessel of the Dread is usually empowered by it, increasing its sturdiness to hold the Dread, but…I believe since it's been sealed for so long, forced to stay in that body without access to its entire strength, it couldn't maintain that body. It's weak now–brittle…brittle and beatable, Asher thought.
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