Last High Human 2: Pain, Despair
Maybe was it the slight drizzle of the rain that rolled down on my skin, or the wind that softly blew through the leaves. Maybe the growls of the panicking wild life, running away all in the same direction, hunters and hunted, side by side. Running away from the thick smoke invading my surrondings. I woke up in a forest, where a fire was rampaging through and through.
I had fallen asleep against a tree, at some distance from the woman's remains that the dry fog had covered while I was passed away. I remember trying to walk away, in order to find out where I had arrived... And then, nothing.
I stood up on my feet and took a look around: Not much could be seen from here. I recognised the trees by which I had killed the assassin and walked that way while covering my mouth. I approached the location with careful steps.
A mere few meters after, I stumbled upon my shield. It's state was worse from how it was yesterday. The inner side had completly burnt while the metalic parts, like the handle, had partially melted.
I threw away the piece of junk, erasing up to it's very existence from my mind. I had lost my sword in the Bastion and my shield in this forest in less than a couple of hours. Pathetic, isn't it?
I walked towards the assassin's body, in order retrieve my helmet but I only found her half-eaten corpse. I quickly took a look around, but my helmet was nowhere to be seen. Great. Sword, shield and now helmet.
I spat on the ground, then proceeded to retrieve her robe, and cut the sleeves and everything below the chest except for the back, turning it into some sort of hooded cape, then rolled the chest part around my neck and mouth. The smock had thickened a lot and the fire's crackling could now be heared. I was about to leave but witnessed a glimmering object a few meters away.
I made my way to the source of the distraction and sighed. The glimmering was the dim sunlight, reflected on the blade of a knife: the one the assassin used to stab me with. I took the it in my hands, wary of the blade. There was no time to meddle with it at the moment, but I promised myself to study it later on . Even though the fire was not close enough to put me under direct danger, I chose to go back to the corpse, and checked it thoroughly.
I turned the robe into some traveling cape, but the the boots and clothes beneath the robe were tattered. The woman also had a damaged scabard with a regular sword. I grabbed it hastily, and checked the weapon.
Rhod:" Plain longsword, made of ...iron?."
I slowly caressed the blade's surface, then applied my thumb on the edge. Blood pearled.
Rhod:" Regular Iron alloy, but great sharpness."
That shit could easily break if not handled correctly. I attached the sword to my belt, right side.
Beneath the body, I found some sort of rectangular leather beltbag. From it's weight, it definitely had to contain some things.
Rhod:" Will check later..."
I carefully put the King's ring inside then attached the bag to the belt, backside. It was now half resting on the left side of my bottom.
I also took the knife's sheath which I fastened to the right side of my belt, and returned it's blade inside. I searched again the corpse but gave up quickly. The fire was now a few meters away and dangerously setting forward
With the sword in my right hand, I ran at a good pace, following the direction the animals took minutes ago. Having freed my mind from the search for equipment, I realised that a strange sensation had slowly started to buil up inside me. It was like a heavy mass had formed on my stomach. That poison had to be a strong one: a Branded body is resistant to most regular harms after all. Let's hope there is an antidote in the belt bag.
Slowly, I felt cold sweat running down my skin. I felt restless. It was like... Like something or someone was watching me. I was feeling aversion to things close to me.
Rhod:" Is the poison paranoia inducing ? Plausible. the symptoms are matching."
After a few minutes weaving between trees and stumps, I reached a small river and jumped across it. The forest got thicker on this side. I slowed down a bit and took a better look around.
The river had a grayish color and it's "water" a consistency closer to mud than you'd think at first.
The slight drizzle stopped and the sun started to either rise or set.
I didn’t have any knowledge of time whatsoever: I couldn't see where the sun was to ascertain time. The sky was orange when i passed out and it was still the same by now. It could be either dawn and dusk. The fire then reached the river, putting a temporary halt to it's progression. Burnt leaves were being carried by the wind, dropping them down by the shores.
The trees were slowly turning black due to the ashes sticking to it. I was about to resume my running but stopped before even starting to move. The fire was coming from almost all directions around my position. I chose one of the few openings not yet burning and ran again.
I sprinted through thick bushes, jumped above another grey river, and ultimately stopped. In front of me was a wall. A huge wall.
This "wall" was... high. It was at least sixty meters tall. Three-fourths of its surface was black, seemingly due to a thick deposit of ashes and marks of flames licking the wall's surface.
Rhod:" Could it be that the current fire was not the first? Maybe this forest often fell victim to fire?"
I looked around. I was surrounded by intense flames, consuming everything on their path. Smoke accumulated at the base of the wall, slowly climbing up. All retreat was now rendered impossible. I had to find a solution here and now.
If I had magic or a grappling hook. Even a regular... Wait. The King freed me now that I think of it... If I really got released from my Brand's grip, I should be able to use magic by now. Either it worked or not.
The wall was high, I couldn't hope to climb it even with Physical Enhancement, which I mastered quiet well. What else was there?
I only mastered one element, and it was the least useful in that situation. As for the others.... Only Earth Magic could do the trick, but Earth Magic and Water Magic were the two magic I had the worst control over. I could barely maintain the magic formation of those elements.
Instead, I could try to ward off both the fire and the smoke with Sword Art. But I couldn't possibly hold the fire until it died before I got exhausted. Especially with a sword of so low quality. I really had to resort to Neutral Magic. The only non-elemental magic I had great control over, like Physical enhancement.
The smoke was now knee high around me, and the heat was quickly increasing.
Rhod:" It's now or never."
I gathered all the energy inside of me and slowly released it without adding any elemental property, shaping it in a half-spherical shape with me at it's center. I made sure that my physical contact with the Energy I released was firm, then sat down with my legs crossed. Once done, I activated the only shield class spell I knew: Energy Dome.
The external surface of the Energy Dome visibly blurred and began to harden. It showed a repeated hexagonal pattern, like glass panels. The Dome covered a ten meter diameter around me.
As the fire hit the Energy Dome, I made sure that it did not create any disturbances. Sitting on the ground, my hands on my thighs, I closed my eyes and focused on maintaining stability in my Energy Field.
It was now a race of whoever would last the longer. The fire's combustible energy or my own energy reserves.
Around 70 Hours later.
The muddy ground was now cracked dry inside the Energy Dome, which was now just one meter of diameter. The heat was high and sweat was pouring from all over my body. Under my cuirass, my shirt leaked sweat that emitted a faint smoke. My Energy was about to run out. With no other solution, I released the Energy Dome.
The little of energy that didn't get consumed by the Energy Dome got back to me. It really felt good.
My whole body was suddenly blown by fresh wind. I took one long and difficult breath. My lungs felt like they were about to explode, My dried throat made it difficult to breath. Opening my heavy eyelids I looked up at my surroundings. It was with trembling hands that I came to the conclusion: I escaped the fire. I had narrowly escaped from death.
The ground was still smoking a bit here and there and burnt leaves were still lying around. the wind had yet to carry those away. I Looked up at the trees and... And... What the...
All around me, the trees and bushes were all intact, carrying small green leaves and buds on their branches. Butterflies and birds were flying around. A fox jumped out of a hole he dug, then shaked it's furr, cover with ashes.
Rhod:" what's wrong with this forest...?"
I somehow got up on my numb feet, and started walking away. Each step was a challenge, but I can keep going. I had to find a place to rest. While thinking about what caused the fire and trying to figure out how the forest was already recovering from it, I reached the grey river. It's water had changed: it was now regular water, no longer that mud-like mixture. Somehow, the water appeared appetizing to my thirsty and tired person.
I simply fell on my knees and drank it with all my might.
Rhod:" Thank you, Ô great Vultar, for that gift."
Refreshed, I leaned backward and lied down on my back.
It had been long since I had last been in such a miserable state. Maybe five years at most. I felt better already. Way better...
I had time to think. The walls covered in ashes... The forest recovering from a largescale fire. Could they be connected? I should take a look at my surroundings from a higher point. I had depleted my Energy and were currently recovering it by absorbing the nature's Energy, flowing all around me.
Your highness, are you hurt? Is the Bastion safe now? I wondered about this for a moment.
My thoughts kept drifting from a subject to another to finally stop on one. Magic.
I was able to use it without a problem just before. Which meant my Brand really had lost all grip on me. It used to be a powerful seal, stoping it's wielder's Energy production and repressing it's emotions. But now It was nothing more than a tattoo on my sternum.
Knowing this gave me a strange feeling. A familiar feeling.
I felt like alone. Loneliness never bothered me before. But now it did, and it was bothersome already. Were all emotions so useless? It was weighing on your mind and altering your perception. It was...
Rhod:" Dead weight."
Suddenly, a weird noise came from the other side of the wall. It sounded like... voices. But not like someone was speaking. More like-...!
Yes, I heared it again. I heared screams.
I started walking along the wall, searching for a way to get on top of it.
Ignoring the lingering sensation of cold I felt, I kept walking, too focused to notice the scent of blood emitting from my body.
Written by Lionsennel Senpai
Edited by Panda