Friday, May 7, 2021

Page 3177

As he hung there in the air, smoky wings flapping, Banda wasn't sure what to do, anymore.

Fear was not something that he had felt in many, many years, but the uncertainty in this situation was honestly terrifying. Banda had just celebrated his 141st birthday, and Grigozo was well over a thousand, but here and now? They felt like nothing more than ignorant children. Even with their blended minds working the problem together, it made no difference.

Ah, but no. The fear was mostly coming from Grigozo's end, wasn't it? Of course. That only made sense. Reapers tended to act far more courageous than they actually were. Deep down, most of them were cowards, Banda knew. The only reason they managed to keep their facades up as well as they did was because of their immense levels knowledge and experience.

When they encountered something truly unknown, however--that was when their true characters revealed themselves.

Agh. What a damn hassle. Grigozo's mind was already a big enough pain in the ass without an infection of crippling terror.

He looked over the glimmering towers another time. He needed to think clearly.

At this point, it was beyond obvious that the mission was a failure. They had yet to gather any intel about Warrenhold's layout. And Darksteel himself was down there, just waiting for him to make a move. To overextend. To make a mistake.

No.

The intelligent thing to do now was to pull back and report the failure. It would sting, of course, and he'd no doubt have to deal with all sorts of shit from his more insufferable peers, but that was the correct move.

Because then they could prepare for a real fight. Not whatever this mess had turned into.

Page 3176

To Banda's mind, there were only two people who could have an aura like that. Either Darksteel or the Sunsmith. One of them was already here, he realized.

And from all reports, the Sunsmith was a very aggressive combatant, flying around in a suit of mechanized armor and attacking head on. This aura did not seem fitting to him. Darksteel, on the other hand, still had a general air of mystery surrounding him among Abolish's reports. Plus, there were the deadly traps that his men had succumbed to, as well.

This ominous aura had to be Darksteel, Banda thought. It just made more sense.

The most unsettling thing, however, was how the damned souls within him were reacting. Their thrashing and screaming stopped almost entirely. Their sudden unease was palpable. It was if they had been nothing more than rowdy children at a dinner table, now becalmed and obediently eating upon the arrival of their stern father.

Madness.

These were tormented souls trapped within Chaos itself--the vicious embodiment of endless suffering. Malice incarnate, literally.

Or so he'd come to believe.

Why would they suddenly begin behaving this way? Was his understanding of these damned souls mistaken? Was there more to them than Lozaro had said?

In midair, Banda found himself hesitating.

What in the world was going on here? Darksteel was down there. Somewhere. Why wasn't he attacking? Even the lazy assaults from his puppets had ceased, Banda realized.

Yes, it had to be Darksteel, didn't it? He was more sure than ever, now. The Sunsmith wouldn't be pulling this shit, surely. Booby traps and mind games. Using Sparrows and auras to mess with their heads.

Was it all an illusion? Even the way the souls within him were reacting? Impossible.

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Page 3175

The entire area morphed within his mind. The auras filling the area, bumping into one another, clashing, blending, interacting with one another in countless indescribable ways.

And sure enough, there the Sparrow was. A blurry blob soaring through the air. Not even that far away, really. At this distance, if he just lunged for it at full speed, he might be able to catch the bird before it realized what was going on. That would be important. Sparrows were damned fast fliers, after all. This might turn into an obnoxious chase if he didn't end it straight away.

As he was about to make his move, however, his mementori shuddered. He sensed something down below, concealed among the metal towers.

A terrible aura.

What in the fuck was that?

Its form was certainly different from all the other auras in the area. It wasn't another wrobel. In fact, it kept following the bird, tracing the path with its own.

And it was reaching up toward him, too. Spiking up toward him, even. Poking holes into Banda's own aura like a rapier through wool.

One spike reached all the way to his body and pierced his chest. It didn't hurt, of course. It was just an aura.

But he definitely still felt something. The intent behind it. The underlying mind.

It was the presence of a courteous demon. Threatening him gently yet darkly. Wrapping its amorphous hands around his beating heart and squeezing ever so slightly. Just enough to let him know. What he would be facing. If he chose to proceed.

Never had he felt the like before.

Since acquiring mementori, Banda had experienced several overwhelming auras before. Among allies, there was Bloodeye, Lozaro, Jercash, Morgunov, and Dozer. Among enemies, the Surgeon Saint, Vernon, Kane, and Grant.

This was different from all of those. And yet frighteningly similar, also.