Messenger of Death
The think mist nearly blinded them to what was ahead, but they moved on anyhow. Very soon, they reached what looked like a settlement and knew they were inside the village.
“The fog is so think, I can barely see anything past three to five meters…” Manickyam said in a complaining voice.
“Stop that, Manickyam. Now, everyone, let’s stay together. We don’t know what will happen with all this fog,” Ranga said in a firm voice.
Once the wagon came to a stop, he was the first to get out. He told them to wait while he used a Sensor Magic Spell to check their surroundings. Lakshman was surprised that Sensor Magic Spells could be used and turned to Ondine to speak about it.
“Ondine, how did Felix realise I was dying?”
“I’m not sure how it works, but I believe he used the Elemental Sensor to do that,” she told him uncertainly.
“Elemental Sensor? Is it like something to do with Energy Force and Voiceless Incantation?”
“Maybe. I’m actually not an expert in that area, so I wouldn’t know,” she said with a shrug of her shoulders.
“Mmm…” he hummed quietly as he thought about it.
A few seconds later, Ranga returned and said everything was fine. Taking his words, everyone became relieved and got off the wagon. Once out, they stretched their limbs after sitting for so long and release some of the tension they built up.
“Right! Breakfast, here I come!” Nagada said happily.
He began to move towards what looked like a bar. Suddenly, he was grabbed by the collar by Samada and he was pulled back.
“Stop that, food magnet! Let’s stick together since this fog is making everything hard to see,” Samada said and he looked irritated while he stared at Nagada.
After tying the horses near the stables, they walked towards the bar. When they entered, they suddenly found themselves in a world of silence. The room was lightly lit with candles on brackets which threw the room full of dullness.
“Feels like a prison than a place for eating,” Samada muttered and Nagada nodded since he preferred to eat food in places with cheerfulness.
They made their way to the counter. Behind the counter, a man stood and he wore a white plain shirt with black pants. On his face, he wore spectacles and a sharp curvy beard. He was cleaning a glass when they reached the counter.
Samada moved forward and ordered food for all of them. Lakshman was looking around to see everyone else that was in the bar. The people sitting behind tables all had their faces covered or hidden.
When the barman returned with their food, Lakshman looked at him and became startled. The man had dead-like eyes and a complexion that looked cold. Lakshman immediately became very alert since everything felt off about the place.
After taking the order, they moved to a table at the end. Once they sat down, they began eating the food. For a while, there was only silence because people were afraid to make noise. While they ate, Lakshman was looking around restlessly.
Noting this, Samada clapped him on the back and Lakshman nearly jerked violently from the shock.
“Hey… Relax!” Samada said with a surprised look on his face.
“I-I know, but… it feels so eerie I just can’t sit still…” Lakshman said unhappily.
“Sheesh! Look at us! We’re eating with no problems. Look at Nagada! He’s eating like there’s no tomorrow”
Lakshman looked at Nagada and was amazed. Nagada was eating the food with great gusto. He eat spoonful’s of food before drinking water. Then he softly burped and continued eating like nothing happened.
“Wow…!” Lakshman said softly in amazement.
“Exactly. If that guy is eating with no worry, then you shouldn’t worry! So go on and eat before you become too weak to fight if you have to!” Samada said before winking at him.
“Y-Yes…” Lakshman said and nodded before starting to eat.
It was several minutes later before they finally finished eating except Lakshman. They leaned back on their chairs and relaxed while he continued to eat. Another fifteen minutes later, he also finished and put his spoon down.
“I’m full!” Nagada said happily as he calmly patted his stomach.
“You’re full regardless of what you eat, even if it doesn’t taste good!” Samada retorted with a raised eyebrow.
Everyone laughed before they stood up. After picking up their empty plates and spoon, they moved towards the counter once more. Once they reached the counter, they handed over their empty plates.
The barman took them and disappeared behind a pair of doors. After a while, he returned with the same expression that he had earlier. While they were at the counter, Ranga leaned forward and began to converse with the barman.
“Hey, did you notice anything strange around here?” Ranga asked in a low voice.
“There is nothing strange here,” the barman said flatly as he began to clean another glass with a towel.
“What about the fog? It’s thick outside, you know?”
“The fog comes and goes as it pleases.”
“So there’s really nothing unusual happening around here?”
The barman stopped cleaning the glass and put it away. Then his eyes narrowed slightly and he looked a bit serious as he looked directly at Ranga.
“Why are you suspicious? Have you seen something that is unusual around here?” he asked him.
“Well… I’ve been here a few weeks ago and I certainly didn’t see this fog in this village. So naturally I would be curious about it,” Ranga said in a reasonable voice.
The barman looked shrewdly at him, but Ranga looked straight back unflinchingly. It seemed the barman was checking to see deceit, but Ranga was looking back to say that he had nothing to hide. Realising this, the barman straightened up and shook his head.
“There is nothing so unusual around here that might interest you,” the barman said flatly.
Then he picked up another glass and began cleaning it with the same cloth. Ranga stared at the barman for a few seconds. Then he sighed and straightened up before turning to face the group.
“Looks like this something unusual happening around here, but for the locals it’s normal I guess,” he told them.
“For the locals hah…?” Manickyam muttered and he looked around the room.
Everyone was quietly sitting around drinking from their cups while looking in their direction. It seemed they were weary of them and wanted to keep them in sight. Just in case of a sudden fight, many had arms sticking into hidden areas behind their cloaks.
“So friendly…” Nagada muttered as he also looked around at them.
“Feels like hide and seek, doesn’t it?” Samada said with a half-smile.
Nagada shook his head and said “More like ‘if you make a move, we’ll kill you’ scenario.”
Ranga nodded and turned back to the counter to pay for the food. At that moment, there was a sound neighing sounds from outside. They recognised the sounds belonged to their horses. Fearing something bad, they turned around and began to leave the bar.
Before they reached the door, Ranga turned around and tossed the money bag to Lakshman and said “Pay with that money.”
“H-Hey?” Lakshman said in surprise, but they already opened the door and disappeared outside with the door quietly shutting behind them.
Sighing, he turned back to the counter he asked the barman how much it cost. The barman said it was fifty silvers and Lakshman paid the amount after rummaging through the bag.
“Have a good day,” Lakshman said with a smile.
The barman did not reply. He simply took the money and put it away. Then he returned to cleaning the glass with the cold expression and dead expression on his face. Sighing, Lakshman exited the bar and thought this was a strange village.
Once he stepped out, he was suddenly surrounded by think fog. He could not see properly in this fog. Struggling, he tried to find his way back to them. After some time, he suddenly realised he was getting nowhere.
At the realisation, the fog began to thicken and everything began to dissolve away. Anticipating trouble, he quickly put his hand casually on the hilt of his sword.
“Master, be careful. I feel an ominous presence.”
He heard Tetra’s voice in his mind and began to worry.
“An ominous presence? Who is it? Where is it?” he said and he began to look around.
As he looked around, all he could see was fog as it moves and swirls with the wind. He felt like he was surrounded by many enemies, but he was unable to see anything. Another few more minutes he continued to look around and that was when he saw it.
Lakshman spotted a shadowy figure coming closer. For some reason, he felt something dangerous about the situation and gripped the hilt of his swords tightly. Just when the figure was closer, he heard Tetra’s voice and what she said caused chills to run down his spine.
“Master, you are no match to him.”
“No match…? What do you mean, Tetra? Are you saying he’s more powerful than me?” he said in a low voice.
“Yes, master. He is immensely strong. So strong that I fear your life might be at risk!”
His eyes widened at those words. That was the first time he heard her speak fearfully to him. When they were trapped in the dungeon or being attacked by giant monsters, she had remained calm and strong. Now, however, she was genuinely afraid for some reason.
“B-But… why? Why are suddenly so afraid? Do you know him or something?”
“No, I don’t know who he is, but I recognise this… power; the presence that carries itself that which marks darkness and light with death.”
“Huh?” he said as he did not understand her words.
Suddenly, the shadow figure behind the fog disappeared. Lakshman blinked in surprise and started to look around. At that moment, he felt something from behind that caused his skin to prickle.
“Who are you?” said a voice from behind.
The voice was sent chills throughout his entire body and caused him to flinch. A moment later, he reacted quickly by jumping away. Once he landed, he faced the direction the voice was coming from. Then his widened as he the person in question was gone.
“Good reflexes,” the voice said from behind again.
“What?!” Lakshman exclaimed and he swirled around, but saw nothing.
“Tat, tat, tat. You’re trying to look. That’s no good,” was what the voice said before chuckling.
“Who are you and where are you?!” Lakshman demanded as he pulled out his sword and held it at the ready.
There was a pause of silence. Then, the voice said “Death.”
As the voice spoke, a figure suddenly materialised directly in front of him. Lakshman quickly backed away and looked alarmed.
The figure was quite tall, almost as tall as his father. The man, from the sound of his voice, had his body covered entirely with a black cloak. His face, however, was covered by a white mask and, on the mask, was red eyes and a big smile with red lips.
Lakshman was shocked by the man’s appearance. Then he shook his head to shake away the strange feeling he was feeling.
“Death?” Lakshman asked in a confused voice.
“Yes. All life shall die. All life shall pass away. I am the living that carries the message of death. Thus, I am death,” the man said.
Lakshman looked at him incredulously as if he could not understand what he just heard.
“I… don’t… understand…” he said slowly.
There was a short pause in which the man’s mask moved slightly as he looked down at Lakshman. Then he spoke again in a flat voice.
“Young… Immature… Overconfident… Reckless… How foolish…!”
“Hey! Are you trying to pick a fight with me?!” Lakshman exclaimed angrily as those words somehow stung him harder than he expected.
“It is foolish to fight the strong when one is as weak as you,” the man said in an emotionless voice.
“Y-Y-You’re… calling me… weak?!” Lakshman exclaimed angrily. Then, in frustration, said “I defeated my father who is a Water Sword Saint!”
“A weak fight the weak and the weak wins. What a weak victory.”
Lakshman angrily applied Weapon Force into his sword and added Energy Force as well. Then he lunged forward at the man and swung. He expected to make contact, but instead found himself passing through the man.
“Young and fearless. Reckless is destruction. Realise and fear. Fear and change. Change is good. Change is life. Change is future.”
“What are you talking about?!”
“You do not fear. You are reckless. You act without thinking. You are impatient to plan. Without fear, you will remain the same. Change and become sane.”
Suddenly, an ominous wind began to blow. Lakshman saw the man move his right hand towards him. He tried to move, but suddenly found that his body could not react. It was as if the man’s hand was not moving and they were stationary.
The hand moved slowly towards him ominously. Then the sleeve was drawn back as the arm stretched and out came a hand made up of bones. Lakshman reeled back in horror, but he was unable to move his body as well.
The hand, made of bones, moved and gently touched his head. The hand of bones was a little rough, but gentle to the touch. Then the man began to speak the same word over and over again.
“Fear. Fear. Fear. Fear. Fear. Fear. Fear. Fear. Fear. Fear. Fear…”
He continued to repeat those words and, as he did, the words began to resound within Lakshman. He began to feel fuzzy and the light began to vanish. It was soon replaced by flashing images of death and destruction.
The flashing images coursed through his mind in a quick succession; a scene of a destroyed place to people being burned alive, a scene of dead bodies littered the ground to people getting their limbs ripped apart.
These horrible scenes flashed through his mind at a rapid pace. Very soon, the flashing images vanished and the light returned. The man moved his hand away and hid his hand of bones under his cloaked sleeve.
While he adjusted his sleeve, Lakshman remained rooted to the spot. He had his eyes wide open with a terrified expression on his face. His body was trembling all over as his hand shook violently as he held his sword weakly in his hand.
“Fear death. Fear destruction. Fear chaos. Fear loneliness. Fear darkness, but do not pity the dead. Pity the living. Living beings often fight to decide who lives and dies. It is like they are gods and can decide the fate of each other. Lame…!”
Lakshman heard his words like he was far-away. His eyes bulged, his lips trembled, his hands shook and his feet were shaken. He was a total mess as he stood there and shook like a leaf in a storm.
“I will leave. You must learn. Fear death. Pity the living. You must change. You will change. I know it.”
With that, the man vanished as if he did not exist in the first place. A few seconds after he vanished, the fog began to lighten and he heard familiar voices coming towards him.
“Those bastards tried stealing out horses! How dare they?!”
“Calm down, calm down. At-least we gave them a piece of their own treatment.”
“I hope that treatment holds up. Otherwise, I’ll be whopping them into shape the next time I come here!”
“Geez! You’re always so negative!”
Then they appeared from out of the fog; Nagada, Samada, Manickyam,, Ranga and Ondine. They were talking and smiling at each other. Ondine turned and saw Lakshman before quickly rushing over to him.
“Sorry we had to leave you behind, master,” she said once she reached him.
She took one look at him and realised something had changed. From how much his body shook and the terrified expression he wore on his face, she knew something terrible must have happened.
At that moment, all energy suddenly left Lakshman and he suddenly fell forward. Ondine quickly moved and caught him before he fell. The four men rushed over to quickly see what was going on.
“Man, what’s wrong? You’re sweating all over!”
Their voices could be heard, but he heard nothing. His breathing came out in rasps as he took great lungful of air. While he began to calm down, he still wore the terrified expression on his face.
A few minutes later, he was finally able to breathe normally. He sighed and looked up at them apologetically.
“No need for that sorry! We’re to blame for leaving you to stay on your own.” Samada said apologetically.
“Yes! We know you’re strong and all, but you’re still only thirteen. Sorry for leaving you alone out here,” Nagada said and he bowed his head.
“No, that’s not it…” Lakshman began, but suddenly found himself weak to speak anymore.
After struggling for a few more times to speak, he gave up. He sighed and dropped his head down. The other looked at him and then at each other before nodding in an equal understanding.
“We should go. This place is too spooky to stay around,” Ranga said and he began to walk towards their horses.
A while later they were on their way. Lakshman had collapsed the moment they reached the wagon, so he slept while they left village. Ondine watched over him in a worried voice. She had never seen him wear such a terrified expression and wondered what happened when he was all alone.
As the wagon left village, a figure silently watched them go. Then he smirked when he saw the sleeping figure of Lakshman within the wagon.
“He was afraid. The memories of death were frightening. He became weak, but did not falter. He is strange. He is very strange.”
With a small chuckle, he vanished. As he vanished, the fog was lifted and everything in the village returned to being normal. After this, no one remembered what happened during the time the fog covered the entire village.
Lakshman, however, did not completely collapse. As his conscious faded, he began conversing with Tetra in his mind.
“Tetra, who was that guy… He was so dangerous…!”
“He is the embodiment that continues to live on as life slowly fades. He dwells in the darkness and strikes from the shadows. He is the one ranked fifth within the Nine Pillars of Powers, the Death Titan.”
“The Death Titan hah… No wonder he was so strong, but… what did he mean by me having to change?”
“That is for you to understand, master.”
“However… I believe he wants you to be more humble in your ways of dealing with things. So far, you have been very reckless with your actions, master; challenging your father, fighting monsters and defeating evil to retain peace.”
“Aren’t they good?”
“Yes, but you are reckless and fearless. Did you forget my words from before? Do not fight as if your life doesn’t need to live. If you don’t live, you won’t be able to protect what you must protect!”
“Yes… Yes you did.”
“Indeed, master. So please… Change your way of thinking, but do not fear like he said. I don’t believe he wants you to take the literal meaning to his words, but become someone respectable. The Death Titan can always be extremely blunt with his words.”
“I see… So you know quite a bit about him.”
“They change, but the pattern of their life never changes. Remember that I served the Phoenix Titan eight-thousand years ago and I fought alongside him when he fought and defeated the Death Titan of that time.”
“Ah… Tell me, Tetra… What sort of master was the Phoenix Titan?”
“He was… well… a caring, compassionate and daring person. He risked many things to achieve his goals. He would often risk his life for others, but never once did he say he will die. He was always confident in his return and he had the power to back it up.”
“Haha… You had a wonderful master, Tetra… You have a really wonderful master…”
“Yes, master, but you are also wonderful…”
“I see. I… see…”
Lakshman felt drowsy and strangely felt light headed. He had no idea that Tetra absorbed all the negative energy he was riddled with when the Death Titan hit him with so much fear.
“Sleep well, master,” Tetra said softly in his mind.
With those words in mind, he finally fell asleep as the wagon left the village and continued onwards to the capital of Rodfox region.