• hcmills

Chapter 183: Jeremy Bearimy

I stare at Akir expectantly.

His tentacles move about restlessly, as if agitated. “The fastest way to grow your Core, is to Erase other beings, and absorb the Essence in their Cores.”

My brows rise to my hairline. “Essence? Wait, you mean the stuff Goddess said was leaking out of that bird’s...”

Akir nods.

“What exactly is it?” I ask curiously.

Akir looks up at the ceiling, seeming to ponder that question for a moment before he answers. “Essence is... Well, it’s a source of power, in the sense that it’s what generates your Espir, and enables you to control it Espir. But it’s also more than that.”

My eyes light up. “And you can actually absorb the Essence of other beings?”

“Yes,” Akir answers with some reluctance. “Though it only works on beings with Essence of at least similar density, preferably a bit denser. If their Core is noticeably weaker than yours, the effect would be negligible, no better than drinking Extant fruit juice. However, if it’s much stronger and you take in too much, your own Core could fail catastrophically at containing the stolen essence, and you might end up Erasing or losing yourself in the attempt.”

I swallow. “Noted. Don’t take in too much powerful Essence. I take it that’s why you don’t recommend it?”

He shoots me a dry look. “You mean apart from the moral implications and the fact that Goddess would never allow it? Sure.”

“Hold on,” I say, narrowing my eyes at him. “If it’s so immoral and forbidden, how do you know so much about it?”

Akir sighs. “As you may know, the Realm of Imagination is the largest and highest of all Realms in Spiritual Realmspace, but not the only one. There are many lower Realms, each with its own hierarchy and rules. Few allow the kind of freedom of Imagination as this one, where you can fly around and do as you please, let alone without any threat to your life. The Realm of Imagination truly is a paradise.”

I listen with rapt attention, afraid to make any sound lest I disrupt Akir’s solemn monologue.

“The Realm I originate from, was not,” he continues. “It was an oceanic Realm full of chaos, where the currents frothed as things tore each other apart to survive and grow stronger. I fought my way up the food chain, and eventually challenged the Apex and won. But my hunger for power was too great, so I crossed the Realmvoid to a higher Realm, and continued climbing.”

“Holy shit,” I can’t help but mutter, wide-eyed.

Akir nods minutely. “I started out in a very low Realm, so I had to cross the Realmvoid quite a few times before I finally ended up here.”

“What happened then?” I prompt after Akir falls silent for a bit.

He waves his tentacles vaguely. “I went looking for decent food. Attacked some citizens of Cloudspire. Thankfully, Goddess was there before I could do much damage, and no one was Erased.”

“Did you fight her?” I ask curiously, remembering Akir’s earlier demonstration of power. No wonder he’s so strong...

Akir chuckles mirthlessly. “Goddess has been the Apex of the highest Spiritual Realm for longer than I care to try and comprehend, and she’s dealt with every threat that’s made its way up here for all that time. She had me trussed up in unbreakable chains in the blink of an eye, utterly helpless. I was smart enough to stop resisting at that point, at least. That’s probably what saved me. Well, that and Mirta.”

”Mirta? Who’s that?”

Akir is quiet for a moment. “At the time, she was a servant of Goddess. I was little but a ball of rage and hunger back then, but for some reason, she volunteered to try and rehabilitate me. I’m still not sure what it was she saw in me that prompted her kindness... perhaps nothing. Perhaps she didn’t need a reason.”

“Is that... is that why you vouched for me?” I ask, staring at him intently. “Because she did the same for you?”

“It was part of it. If a monster like me deserved a second chance...” He trails off with a shrug-like motion.

“Sounds like she’s pretty special to you,” I say with a teasing smile. “How come you haven’t introduced her yet?”

“She was most special to me, indeed,” he replies, melancholy heavy in his voice. “But she Faded a long time ago.”

I blink, startled. “What? How?! Who—”

“Not like you’re thinking,” Akir interrupts brusquely. “Goddess keeps a tight rein, and anyway, I would’ve let myself be Erased before I let anything happen to her.”

“Then... what happened?”

Akir lets out a long, drawn-out sigh. “Life in this Realm can be... bliss. But if you experience it long enough, even bliss can grow tiresome. I envy that youthful enthusiasm of Raindrop sometimes. It’s hard to imagine I was like that once.”

I stare at him, trying to wrap my mind around this concept. How old is Akir, exactly?!

“We all have our ways of coping, until we don’t,” he continues, looking down and not meeting my eyes. “Mirta had already existed for a very long time when I met her. She was everything I never knew I needed, and we were very happy together. However, at some point, she had done everything she’d wanted to, seen everything, experienced everything. She was tired, and ready to Fade. Part of me wanted to beg her to stay, but I could tell she had already stayed much longer than she’d wanted to, purely for my sake. Asking her to remain any longer, keeping her from her rest, would’ve been very selfish. I loved her far too much, so I let her go.”

Tears roll down my cheek, though I can’t quite tell how much of it is due to my own emotional turmoil, and how much due to Akir’s. Sadness rolls off him in waves, the pressure of which makes me appreciate the kind of iron grip he must normally hold over his power.

I’m not the only one affected, either. The swarm of jellyshrooms above us grows lethargic, and my vessel begins to drop as a result.

Akir clears his throat, and the pressure vanishes. “Sorry about that. Anyway, I went through a rough patch afterwards, to put it lightly. I considered Fading as well, but I’d promised her I wouldn’t, not yet. Not over her departure. Instead, I started drowning away my sorrows. At some point, as I grew bored with that, I began entertaining myself by making increasingly complex drinks. Eventually, I crawled out of my self-pity enough to start itching for something to do again, and decided to market my newly acquired drink-mixing skills. Thus, the Timid Trident was born.”

“I... I had no idea. I’m so sorry.”

“Don’t be,” he grunts. “She had a wonderful life, and I’m feeling much better now.” His eyes crinkle up in a smile. “I actually used to fight with that trident, you know? It’s Extant. I don’t even remember how I got it, but it’s been with me for a very long time. There was a point in my rehabilitation that I wanted to destroy it, but Mirta convinced me not to, said it would be good to keep a reminder of how far I’ve come. Of the capacity for change we all have.”

We sit in companionable silence for a moment, gently drifting with the air-currents, until I can no longer contain the question bubbling up inside me. “Why the Timid Trident, though?”

Akir shrugs. “It started out as the Tamed Trident, but I grew bored of that name, changed it to Timid. It’s funnier.”

Huh. I guess that’s as good a reason as any.

I bite my lip for a moment. “Well, thank you, for sharing this with me.”

Akir snorts. “Whatever. You’re not the first I’ve told or anything, so don’t make too big a deal out of it.”

A smile creeps up on my face. Love you too, buddy. “Well, then I’ll thank you for explaining; you’ve given me a lot to consider.”

He glances at me, concerned. “Emma, I hope I was clear enough that this method of growing your Core is not something you can—or should—practice.”

“Not here, no,” I agree. “Tell me, Akir. Is there a way to get to the lower Realms?”

He stares at me for a long time. “Emma, I don’t think you understand what you’re asking.”

“Oh, I’m sure I don’t, but that’s never stopped me before.”

“It should,” he tells me bluntly. “Going down there is one thing, getting back up here is a whole other thing.”

“You managed,” I counter. “And I’m sure you’d have done it again if it were to save... a loved one.”

Though Mirta’s name was on the tip of my tongue, I manage to refrain from saying it. I’m not about to stoop so low as to use her name to win an argument; that would be below the belt.

A muscle next to Akir’s eye twitches and he harrumphs, but he doesn’t offer a retort.

“Please, Akir,” I press. “It’s the only way I can get strong enough to save my friends—to save my girlfriend—in any reasonable kind of timeframe. And they need me.”

Akir grumbles to himself for a bit, his eyes flicking all over the place, until he finally sighs. “The lower you travel in Spiritual Realmspace, the weaker the Realms get. The distance from here to the Realms weak enough that you’d stand a chance to survive and grow there is too great, and those Realms are too fragile to withstand much interference. There’s really only one being who might have the power and finesse necessary to connect a pathway from here to there.”

My stomach sinks. “Rhymes with oddess?”

“Duh,” Akir replies.

I sigh. “Well, then I guess I better go petition her.”

When I step off my vessel onto the floating island supporting Her palace, I find something unexpected. “Raindrop? What are you doing here?”

The birdwoman in question turns around with a happy squawk. “Eh-ma! We’re playing, silly!”

The momentary distraction results in her being hit in the back of the head by the frisbee-like toy Dio just flung at her, and the bird-boy bursts into laughter.

“No, I mean, weren’t you going to introduce Dio to Goddess?” I clarify. “Why are you playing out here?”

“Ah! Goddess has important company, so we were asked to wait,” Raindrop says with a happy shrug, before turning back to her game.

I’m just about to ask who this ‘important company’ is, when a voice like honey flows down the hallway leading out of the palace and into my ear.

“You know there’s no need to accompany me, right?” the mesmerising female-sounding voice intones with a hint of amusement. “I know my way around, I promise.”

My head turns before I can even tell it to. A bright mass of pink energy shaped vaguely like a woman comes floating around the bend, flanked by none other than Goddess. The figure has long flowing hair that moves about as if there’s no gravity, and two dark spots which seem to serve as eyes, trained on Goddess.

Who the hell is that? She looks powerful...

“I’m sure you do,” Goddess replies dryly, floating along unbothered by the occasionally flaring hair of her companion. “Perhaps if you’d inform me of the reason for your early Visit, I’d consider letting you go unsupervised.”

A tinkling, almost chiming laughter rolls out of the figure. “Somehow I doubt you’d give it any actual consideration, but very well, I’m here to look for...” the figure trails off for a moment, as two dark pools land squarely on me. “A naughty little stray.”

Author's note:

Thanks for reading! ^^

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