Spiral of Madness

Darkness surrounded the man; bitter coldness embraced him completely. A gasp of breath came to him, and as his eyes snapped open, he pushed himself back against the nearest wall. Unfounded fear filled him the moment he awoke. Deep breaths were taken in anxiety as his eyes snapped all around him, seeking the subject of his concern. Nothing was there, though.

He reached behind himself, feeling the rough texture of stone. As he pulled himself up, he began to see the cave around him more clearly. His eyes were adjusting slowly.

Where am I? He thought to himself, unable to bring himself to speak out loud.

Suddenly, a thick, growling voice echoed in the darkness, “Do not be afraid, Shunal.”

Shunal’s eyes widened, looking around for the source of the voice he heard all around him, “Who are you?!”

“That is currently unimportant, young man. For now, your concern should be leaving this place, do you not agree?” The voice questioned.

Shunal narrowed his eyes, watching everything around him as he took a step forward, suddenly stumbling forward onto the ground, “Ugh… my le—wait. My hands… what is this?”

The voice let out a wicked chuckle, “You must accustom yourself to your new body, Shunal. Come now, stand and proceed through the caves. Carefully.”

“New body…?” Shunal questioned in a whisper as he stood back up. His leathery flesh was thick and gray in color. His hands were akin to claws. He sighed out as he began to take one step after another towards an opening in the cave he had found himself in, “I… I remember my name, but nothing since… leaving my homeland. Why am I here?”

“The answers will come in due time, Shunal. Assuming you make it out of here whole.” The voice responded.

Approaching the opening, the sound of cries broke through the darkness. Shunal stuck along the wall, peering around the corner to see down into a more spacious cavern, “What… are those?” He asked.

In the cavern, three children were huddled together, crying and begging for help. They were surrounded by a swarm of three giant, silver-colored serpentine creatures with wings on their bodies. The eyes of the snakes were clearly glowing with a green hue.

“Akshurt, maleidic serpents,” the voice replied to Shunal, “they devour the weaker souls that wander to this place. Will you not be helping the children?”

Shunal’s slightly scaled brow lifted, “Why…?” He asked, “Do I know them? They don’t look familiar.”

The voice remained silent for only a moment before a dark chuckle echoed out, “I suppose you are correct. You owe those children nothing. Allow the serpents their meal, then.”

As if on cue, the snakes all flapped their wings and lunged at the children. Their cries of fear and pain filled the caves. Shunal watched the events unfold for only a moment, before noticing a soft, green glow in the distance, across the cavern.

“You see that, correct, Shunal? It seems a rift is opening. I suggest you make your way there before the serpents finish their meal, or they will shift and turn on you.” The voice explained.

Shunal slowly began making his way into the cavern, carefully watching the serpents as he moved around them, “Shift?” He whispered.

“Aye. Maleida shift when they devour souls. Maleidic Serpents are known for transforming into objects reflecting the fears of the souls they devoured, as well… children have quite active imaginations, maybe it is best you hurry, Shunal.” The voice warned.

Shunal grumbled lightly and hurried to the glow at the other side of the cavern. As he approached it, the light began to glow brighter, “Voice… they’re going to notice that.”

“Run.” The voice responded shortly.

Shunal’s legs began to carry him much more quickly, moving in a straight line towards the glow. The moment he started running, he heard the hissing of the serpents behind him, spurring on a repetitive, “Shit, shit, shit, shit!” Before he suddenly lept for the opening rift.

Suddenly, Shunal was on the ground, outside rather than in caves now. Behind him, the glow of the rift began to die down and fade away completely. He pushed himself up to his feet again and looked around, taking in what looked like a dead forest around him, “Alright, voice. Where am I, really? Everything is dead here…” His words drifted away as he looked up at the night sky, quickly noticing a definite lack of stars.

“The ancients once referred to this place as the Parten Asipri—”

“Bless you,” Shunal added.

“In modern tongue, it is known as the spirit realm.” The voice explained.

Shunal’s eyes widened at that before he yelled out, “Did you make me fucking die with that rift?!”

“Well… no—”

“Shit! I can’t die, Voice!”

“Shuna—”

“No! Open a new rift, Voice! I have to live! There’s so much koien left in the world for me to steal and, or, earn!”

“You were already dead, fool!” The voice snapped back.

“Well, that makes more sense…” Shunal responded, rather nonchalantly.

The voice remained silent now, unable to muster a response.

“So… how did I die? I don’t remember much… everything is kind of a haze.” Shunal asked as he began to wander the dead forest.

“You are infuriating.” The voice complained.

“I’ve heard that before.” Shunal replied, then stopped suddenly in thought, “I think… no, yeah. Yeah, I’ve heard that before.”

“Well, I cannot see your memories, Shunal. When I found you, you were being fed on by Lartakas.” The voice explained, “The fangs of a Lartaka can steal memories.”

“Huh. Nifty.” Shunal replied, “Is there a way to get my memories back?”

“I suppose. Possibly, if you devour the Lartakas, you might regain your memories. But, you would need to find them. Specifically, the ones who took the memories.”

Shunal nodded slowly, crossing his arms, “Right. Well, then. Can you lead me back to where you found me?”

“Of course, Shunal. I, the voice in your head will simply take your hand and lead you through this vast and endless wasteland that is the spirit realm.” The voice replied in a frustrated tone.

“No need… maybe that’s them.” Shunal explained, pointing out ahead in the forest at two giant, black arachnids.

The voice laughed mockingly, “Those odds are quite unlikely, Shunal.”

“We’ll see…” Shunal replied before snapping a thick branch off of one of the dead trees nearby, “Give me my memories!”

Shunal ran at the Lartakas as their glowing, green eyes opened in response to his yelling. One began to let out a shrieking hiss as the other lept at Shunal. The male swung the branch in his hand, slamming it right into the giant spider’s body. The Lartaka was launched into a nearby tree, breaking its exoskeleton. Unfortunately, the branch also broke, but Shunal didn’t notice until he turned to block the other leaping arachnid, “Ah, fuck.”

When the Lartaka landed on Shunal, he fell back from the impact, using the remainder of the branch to block its fangs.

“You’re going to be devoured by spiders, Shunal.” The voice teased.

“The fuck I am!” Shunal retorted as his free hand reached for one of the spider’s limbs, “Get off of me, you shitty memory thief!” He suddenly tore the leg off of the creature and began to mercilessly stab it in the face over and over again. Once it stopped moving, he pushed it off himself and let out a victory cry, “HAH! FUCK YOU, SPIDER!”

Shunal stood up, and dusted himself off, he looked at the corpse of the spider. A green orb began to leave the body of his victim. He reached out to it, able to grasp it from the air.

“Devo—”

Before the voice could give Shunal any instructions, he shoved the orb into his mouth. After a few moments of chewing and then swallowing, his eyes widened in shock, “I remember!”

“No…” The voice let out in disbelief.

“I remember being… a woman…” Shunal explained.

The voice sighed out, “Those aren’t your memories.”

“But I was so sexy…” Shunal claimed, then began walking over to the other Lartaka. Using the limb of the first, he impaled the injured arachnid, soon proceeding to devour its soul, as well, “I remember more!”

“Shut up.” The voice replied.

“I was also a young man in the army!” Shunal exclaimed.

“I hate you.”

Shunal laughed a bit then sighed, “Alright, so maybe I won’t get my memories back… does that mean I’m just stuck here with you?” He asked as he began to look over the rest of his body. The entirety of his body was covered in the same thick, dark gray flesh. His left side was marked by three large scars that he ran his clawed fingers over.

“It is likely, but there is a possibility of us returning to the realm of the living.” The voice replied, “I do not remember much from my life, as I have spent much time here, but I do know that we are a unique breed of Maleida.”

“Maleida… yeah, I remember that word. Creatures from the spirit realm, right? Aren’t they supposed to be crazy, bloodthirsty monsters?” Shunal asked as he lightly kicked the corpse of the arachnid near him.

“Yes. Maleida are souls that have wandered the spirit realm long enough to develop a hunger for other souls. That hunger leads to madness, and they eventually become the very same creatures known to the people of the living realm. When a Maleida devours another soul, be it Maleidic or not, it can take on portions or all of the physical features, memories, and emotions remembered by that soul. We, however, are unique, Shunal. We are known as Sentient Maleida. It means that we have somehow retained our sanity.” The voice explained.

“Speak for yourself.” Shunal muttered as he looked over the limb he had taken from the spider, “So, you don’t remember how you died, and have no idea how I died, right?”

“That is correct.” The voice replied, “Our body is made up of a combination of my soul’s memories and your soul’s memories. Mostly mine, however.”

Shunal nodded slowly, “How long were you here before you found me?”

“A long time.”

“So… you weren’t trying to save me, were you?” Shunal asked suspiciously.

The voice gave no response.

Shunal chuckled lightly, shaking his head, “Trying to make yourself look noble in saving me. You tried to eat my soul when you were attacked by arachnids, didn’t you?”

Still no response.

“Yeah, I thought so… so, the reason I can’t remember the details is either because you’re keeping them from me, or you lost them to the arachnids. Something tells me spiders aren’t to blame, though.”

“If I returned your memories to you, what would you do?”

“Go insane with a desire to kill the people responsible for my death and ruin all of your chances to get out of this place, because it’s become clearly apparent that the only reason you’re still sane is because my sanity is still intact,” Shunal responded coldly.

“Yes,” the voice confessed reluctantly, “when I found you, you were wandering aimlessly. You didn’t even seem aware that you were dead. I assumed that devouring you would be like any other meal, but… you fought me. You were a skilled warrior before your death, it seems. By the end of it, both of us had suffered great injuries, and our souls were quite weak. When I devoured your soul, you continued to fight me. I lost that fight. In the end, in order to keep a physical form here, I had to combine your body with mine. Those scars on your side belonged to you, originally.”

“But you kept my memories from me in hopes of turning me into an obedient vessel?” Shunal questioned.

“More or less,” The voice admitted.

Shunal nodded and sighed, “So. We can meld our body with other Maleida, right?”

“Yes. Why do you ask?” The voice asked.

Shunal grinned lightly, then tore the bottom of the arachnid’s limb off before placing the top of it over his forearm. A green glow began to emit from the space between his arm and the shelled flesh of the limb. Shunal let out a grunt as a searing heat was felt along his arm. Once it was over, his arm now had a pointed, hard exoskeleton over it, “Because we have a weapon, now.” He let out between breaths, “So… how do we get out of this realm of spirits?”

The voice hesitated, but finally spoke up, “You don’t want your memories back?”

“Hmmm…” Shunal let out in thought, “Was I betrayed by someone, or let down by someone?”

“I would say let down.” The voice revealed.

“Then I don’t really care. If there was someone to kill when I get out of here, that would be one thing. If there isn’t, though… why bother? Just means I gotta do better at looking out for myself.” Shunal explained.

The voice chuckled lightly, “So be it, then. To exit this realm, we need to find a rift that connects to the realm of the living. That will not be easy, however. We will either need to grow exponentially in strength and risk going mad, or find a powerful Maleida here that can force a rift open.”

Suddenly, a deep voice came from behind Shunal, “There is yet a third option.”

Shunal turned suddenly to see a new being in the dead forest. It looked like a man clad in a black robe and a black straw hat worn low, shading his face from view. His eyes were glowing subtly in a green color. The figure was shifting and moving slowly, almost as if he were made of smoke.

The voice spoke out in audible fear, “Shunal. That thing is powerful. Run.”

“I can’t…” Shunal whispered, his breathing had become staggered. Try as he might, he could not move an inch of his body. Fear was utterly overcoming him.

The figure quickly faded away in smoke before manifesting again directly in front of the gray Maleida, “Shunal and Malduk. Ye hath caused concern for the Mistress.”

Shunal laughed, nervously, “This place has a Mistress?” He asked.

Once more, the figure shifted to manifest behind Shunal, “Oh… there is much ye know not of this realm. Be this situation shifted, ye would be mine own meal.” A black, bone hand reached out to Shunal, leaving a frigid chill on his back, “Consider ye self fortunate, for I have need of a new Keeper.”

“You can hear me, correct?” The voice asked, “And you know my name, it seems. You mentioned a third solution to leave the Spirit Realm. What is it?”

The smoky creature chuckled darkly before responding, “Step forth, through yonder rift. If ye find ye selves worthy.” Suddenly, a rift opened before Shunal just as the creature faded away completely.

Shunal stood there, staring at the rift in silent thought.

The voice spoke up after a moment, “What will you do, Shunal? This is our chance to leave this realm.”

Shunal took a deep breath before finally speaking, “Your name is Malduk? I’ve been calling you Voice all this time. Why didn’t you say anything?” He asked.

“To be honest, I had forgotten my name until the creature spoke it,” Malduk admitted.

Shunal laughed and began walking towards the rift with no hesitation, “You’re dumb. Who forgets their own name?” He teased.

“I hate you,” Malduk replied.

As Shunal stepped through the rift, he found himself on hard, wooden ground. It was dark here, and his eyes slowly adjusted to realize he was inside of a ship. As he was looking around him, the smoky figure appeared again ahead of them.

“That’s so creepy. How do I do it?” Shunal asked.

“Ye are not the same as I, Shunal.” The figure replied, “Ye are Maleida. I am Mysterva.”

“I see, hello, Mysterva,” Shunal replied.

“I think that is what he is, not who he is,” Malduk stated.

“Oh,” Shunal muttered.

“It is not of importance what I am. The importance is this blade.” The Mysterva stated as it turned to motion at a barrel of blades behind him. One, in particular, was glowing in a green color.

“Which one?” Shunal asked.

“The glowing one, obviously.” Malduk retorted.

The figure sighed lightly before continuing, “This blade is known as the Rift Key. Once mine own, I pass down to ye. Existing in both realms at once, it grants the ability to travel betwixt them.”

Shunal nodded slowly, stepping forward to look at the sword. He turned his head to stare at the Mysterva and narrowed his eyes a bit, “What’s it do?”

“Doth the name not clarify? ‘Tis a key for rifts.” The Mysterva explained.

“Obviously.” Malduk and Shunal both stated in unison.

“What is the cost of this blade?” Malduk questioned.

“Ye shall swear to secure mine own remains in the land known as Sharbain.” The figure requested.

“Sure, we can do that,” Shunal said.

Malduk spoke up quickly afterward, “Well, before we agree to do this. What are these remains and what does it accomplish if we acquire them?”

“Too late. My body, my rules.” Shunal stated before grasping the glowing blade and drawing it from the barrel. The sword was bronze in color and had a single, serrated edge.

Malduk spoke up angrily, “We should learn what we are committing to before moving so recklessly, Shunal!”

The smoky figure chuckled lightly before nodding, “Secure the remains, and ye shall inherit mine own title. Ensuring the rest of a long fatigued soul. Now, swing thy blade and open the rift to the realm of the living.”

Shunal grinned slightly, “See that, Malduk? If we get his remains, it just means that we get his title and he gets to die for good.” He said as he swung the sword through the air. The blade seemed to cut right through the empty space in front of Shunal, tearing space itself apart in a distorted screeching sound. The tear spread apart to create an opened, bronze-gold colored rift. Shunal then looked at the smoky figure and tilted his head, “Wait… what’s the title we’re going to have?”

“Rift Keeper. Use the power as ye see fit, Shunal.” The figure stated before suddenly pushing the Maleida through the rift.

Shunal’s eyes widened when he felt the chilling touch of the Mysterva pushing him forward. Shunal found himself surrounded by the bronze-gold light for a moment before he was on the ground. He looked around, seeing the inside of the same ship again. Everything seemed slightly different, but it was the same ship. The coloring of the wood was more vibrant, and sunlight was pouring in from a staircase ahead of him leading to the upper deck.

A shiver came across Shunal as the rift faded away and a different kind of cold air brushed over him, “Shit, it’s cold here…” He let out as he stood back up.

“It seems we are on someone’s ship, Shunal. The Keeper did say that the key existed in both realms at once, didn’t he? Doesn’t that mean we just stole their sword?” Malduk questioned.

Shunal shook his head, “Nu-uh. It’s mine. Mysterva gave it to me.”

Malduk sighed, “Again, that was not his nam—”

“Intruder! We have an intruder!” A male voice called out from ahead of the lower deck Shunal was in. The man yelling out drew a scimitar and glared at Shunal, “Intruder in the lower deck! He’s stealing from us!”

Shunal blinked a bit, “Well, shit…”

Just then, two females walked down the stairs. One was a pale-skinned woman with long, red, vibrant hair. A horn of matching color split her hair around one of her eyes, revealing an almost fluorescent red eye. Outside of the horn and the unique hair and eye color, she looked like a beautiful Eitorian female. She was clad in a black bikini top and thin leather pants that rode low on her hips.

The other woman was more of a convincing Eitorian. She had long black hair and brown, slanted eyes. Her body was covered in thicker leather clothing with fur, that aligned more with the garb of the guard who found Shunal initially, “Who are you?” The black-haired female questioned.

“Why the fuck’s he naked?” The redhead asked before he eyes widened in surprise, “Oh, wait… is he naked? He doesn’t have a dick!”

Shunal’s own eyes widened, and he looked down. Shock took over his entire being, “I… where… why…” He stuttered over his breaths, “Why don’t I have a dick?!”

“You’ve only just now noticed? We’re a Maleida, why would we need reproductive organs? I let go of the unnecessary parts.” Malduk replied.

“How is it unnecessary?!” Shunal questioned before suddenly reaching for his backside, “Malduk! How am I supposed to piss and shit?! More importantly, how will I fuck?!”

“Stop being obscene, Shunal. We are dead. We do not eat, thus have no excrement. We live off of souls.” Malduk explained.

Meanwhile, the man and the pair of women were all staring at him. The man spoke out first, “Is he talking to himself…?” He asked as none of them were able to hear Malduk.

“Gross. I think he’s crazy…” The redhead stated.

The other female sighed, frustrated, “Oi! Intruder! Either you explain yourself, or we beat you and leave you to freeze in the water.”

Shunal looked up at the others, “I’m kind of having a breakdown here.” He informed them with a mutter.

Malduk sighed, “Shunal, the man seems weak enough, but the two women are giving off quite a bit of power. I think it best that we submit to their demands for now.”

“Alright, alright…” Shunal said to everyone, “Listen. Hear me out. I guess I died some time ago, got possessed by a voice named Malduk, killed some spiders, met a guy named Mysterva,” Malduk muttered a short, “No,” as Shunal continued on, “then, I got this thing and opened a rift, and now I’m here.”

The redhead spoke first, “Fuck, he is crazy.”

The black-haired woman narrowed her eyes in suspicion, “You don’t seem to be lying. If that is truly the case it would make you a Maleida, wouldn’t it? I’ve never met a Maleida who was sane—” the woman abruptly stopped her words, realizing her choice of words wasn’t quite fitting, “able to hold a conversation.”

Shunal nodded, “Yeah. I guess I kept my sanity. Rare thing for a Maleida, I hear. Guess I’m special… can I go now?”

The horned woman chuckled at Shunal’s words.

“Ellie,” the black-haired woman started as she shifted her gaze to the other woman, “go and get Aries. I’m going to need his call on this.”

Ellie sighed a bit, “Fine.” She let out before walking back up the stairs.

The remaining woman looked back to Shunal, “I am Jia. Welcome to the Aeon. You’ll be meeting our captain shortly, so please comply and follow me.” She requested before holding her hand out, “And give me that weapon until we figure things out.”

“But…” Shunal looked at the Rift Key and narrowed his eyes, “Mysterva gave it to me, though…”

“Just hand it over!” Malduk exclaimed, “We can get it back later if you don’t screw this up!”

Shunal sighed a bit and handed over, lowering his head in defeat, “Fine… but please give it back later. It was a gift.”

Jia smirked a bit, taking the Rift Key from Shunal and nodded, “We’ll see.” She said, then lead him up the stairs to the upper deck.

Once outside, Shunal took in a deep breath of cold air. He looked around to notice that they were in a cold place and the docks near the ship were mostly covered in snow. Oddly, this seemed quite familiar to him. This was also the first time Shunal was able to notice just how tall his new body was. He towered over not only Jia but even the male who was walking behind him with his scimitar drawn.

“Are we in Zet?” Shunal asked.

“Yes,” Jia responded, “where were you when you died?”

“Ummm…” Shunal tried to remember but just stared at Jia, confused.

“Want me to tell you?” Malduk asked.

Shunal sighed a bit before responding to Jia, “I forgot. But I do remember leaving Zet before I died. I grew up here. Weird that I’m back.”

Jia laughed a bit and nodded, “So be it. Fate is strange like that.”

Suddenly, a nearly overwhelming pressure was felt on Shunal’s shoulders. Nothing was physically touching him, but his attention was immediately placed on the source of this heavy presence. His eyes focused on a man boarding the ship. The presence reminded him of the fear he felt when first encountering the Rift Keeper.

“Do. Not. Piss. Him. Off.” Malduk warned slowly.

The approaching man was tall and well built. He towered over Ellie, who walked beside him, along with another woman with long blue hair and incredible green eyes. The man was clad in a thick leather vest with a furred lining and leather pants with thick, winter boots. The vest exposed his chest, revealing a black symbol that seemed to be recurring throughout the ship’s decor. Long black hair was tied up behind the man’s head, and his black beard was split into two braids. All of these details faded away, however, as Shunal stared into his eyes. The man’s eyes were a magnificent golden color, but what really made them captivating was the intense stare he possessed. It was as if Shunal’s very being was being torn apart by this man’s gaze.

The man approached Shunal and Jia, nodding to Jia.

Jia nodded in return before handing the Rift Key to Aries, “This creature claims to be a Maleida who has preserved its sanity. It says that it was able to cross the realms with this sword.” She explained before looking to Shunal, “This is Aries Villanite, Captain of the Goldeye Pirates. You are to show respect.”

“Please refer to me as ‘he’ and ‘his,’ thank you.” Shunal requested before nodding to Aries, “Hello, Mister Aries. Can I have my sword back and leave, please?”

“You damned fool.” Malduk let out.

Aries raised a brow, seemingly unamused, before smirking, “Ellie mentioned you were kind of odd.” He said.

“That was rude of her,” Shunal responded.

Aries laughed and nodded, “Yeah, she’s like that.”

“Fuck you, both,” Ellie replied before walking away from the gathering.

“Alright, jokes aside, though, this was in our storage. Yet, you say that it is how you crossed between the realms. How is that possible?” Aries questioned.

“Okay, well, this guy named Mysterva in the Spirit Realm said that the sword exists in both realms and he gave it to me in the other realm, so… it’s mine.” Shunal explained.

The blue-haired woman’s brow perked up at the mention of the Mysterva. She stepped forward, placing her hand on Aries’ arm, “Did you say that a Mysterva gave that to you?”

Aries looked to the woman curiously, “Wait, is his name Mysterva, or is he a Mysterva?”

“Both, I think,” Shunal responded.

“No,” Malduk said.

The woman’s gaze drifted in thought as her thumbnail moved up to her lips, “Hm…”

“What is it, Karu?” Aries asked, staring at the woman.

Karu shook her head and patted Aries’ arm, “Nothing, go on…”

Aries nodded slowly, then looked to Shunal, holding the blade out to him, “Fine, if you’re telling the truth, show me. Open a rift.”

Everyone stared at Aries with wide eyes. Jia was the first to speak, “Aries, if it’s true, that’s kind of dangerous, don’t you think?”

Aries grinned a bit, “Not if he can close it, afterward.”

Shunal stared at the sword as he took it from Aries, “Um… well…”

“We’ve only opened them, do you know how to close them?” Malduk asked.

Shunal looked at Aries for a moment then admitted, “I, uh… haven’t closed one yet, they just kind of close after I use them. The guy just told me to swing the Rift Key to open rifts… he never told me how to close them.”

Aries tilted his head a bit, looking at Shunal for a while, then at the sword, “It’s called ‘Rift Key,’ huh? Why not just… use it like a key? Worth a try, right? Worst case scenario, we should have a Talisman of Rift Closing around here somewhere.”

“I’ll go get one, just in case…” Karu stated as she walked off.

Aries nodded firmly and smiled to Shunal, “Alright, we’re all good, then. Go.”

Shunal nodded and sighed, “Okay…” He let out as he turned away from Aries. He gripped the hilt of the blade firmly with two hands and swung out into the air. Nothing happened.

“What are you doing?” Malduk asked.

“Uh… hold on. Maybe it’s acting up…” Shunal said nervously, then took another swing; nothing again.

“Stop joking around, you fool!” Malduk yelled.

Shunal looked to Aries and chuckled lightly, “Still, uh… getting used to it… one more time.”

Aries simply nodded, glancing at Karu as she returned.

Shunal took a deep breath, closing his eyes. Work, you stupid thing… He thought. He took one more swing, and the same distorted screeching sound was heard again, as the space in front of him was torn apart. He opened his eyes to see his success, and he grinned as he stepped back. The rift suddenly ripped itself open, “There you go! A fresh rift!” Shunal let out as he looked to Aries, who was staring at the rift in genuine interest.

“That’s impressive… now try to close it.” Aries said.

Shunal blinked a bit, then looked at the rift. He nodded again and walked towards it. He stabbed the blade through the rift, then turned his wrist, treating the sword as a key. The rift began to swirl around the blade, getting smaller until it suddenly vanished. Shunal stared with wide eyes, surprised at his own success.

Shunal sighed slightly, suddenly feeling a bit drained, “Hm. Guess it uses up my energy to do that…” He muttered.

Aries’ hand suddenly gripped Shunal’s shoulder, “Well, looks like you were telling the truth. I don’t mind if you leave, but… why not join our crew, instead?”

Shunal raised his brow and looked to Aries with a simple question, “Do I get koien?”

“Sure, you keep what you earn or steal,” Aries replied.

“We have to go to Sharbain.” Malduk reminded Shunal.

“Oh… well. I actually have to go to Sharbain for something.” Shunal explained.

Aries laughed a bit and nodded, “Then fate is in your favor, it seems. That is exactly where we have to go after we’re done here in Zet.”

Shunal grinned and nodded in response, “Well, then… I am at your service, Captain.”

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