The whispers around never stopped, they grew quiet but they never stopped. Naxio slowly stood from the ground, using the cave walls as support.
It was extremely dark. The shadows around almost seemed alive, and he could feel constant pressure on his head.
Like someone or thing was trying to claw its way into his mind. The longer he listened, the more audible the voices became.
It was hard to detect what exactly they were saying as one would overlap the other. But it tugged at his very soul, these voices weren’t just voices. They were Daemon Spirits!
Naxio acts quickly, closing his eyes and focusing, just as Li-Ren taught him.
Filter out all distractions, only focus on your own being.
On what is real and physically bound to this realm.
Slowly but surely, his pound heart slowed and the pressure on his head lifted ever so slightly. He could at least move without feeling pain throughout his body. He then summons Falan-shi, the shashisen gives off a small stubble glow as it appears and strums a few notes in greeting.
“Hello Falan-shi, I will need you for light and also protection. The Ying corruption is heavy and will only get worse as I move around.”
The shashisen gives a small twirl in excitement and then begins to glow brightly with a pale purple glow. Now that he was given light in this cavern, he almost wished he hadn’t as his eyes adjusted. There were bodies, long skeletonize corpses scattered around the area. The walls area he was in had heavy gash and cracks in the stone, most likely a bitter battle took part in this section of the cave.
“We should try to find Moushira and Kaldov, though more than likely they are doing fine.”
He then proceeds to navigate through the seemingly never-ending cavern.
For the first half-hour, he was able to endure the constant pressure of Ying energy and the whisper of the spirit had died down significantly. However, the energy and arcane that went into keeping a protective barrier was taxing on him. His training with Moushira and Kaldov was merely a taste of the unresting pressure that was weighing on him now. And to make matters worse, he couldn’t help but notice no matter where he turned it felt like he was just getting nowhere.
That and aside from the spirits, it was eerily quiet around him.
It didn’t make sense that he couldn’t hear anyone inside the cavern, shuffling around like himself. Unless of course, the cavern was actually as big as they rumor it to be.
But by the 2-hour mark, Naxio was basically completely out. He slumped to the ground, rubbing his hands together. Fortunately, it wasn’t too cold yet and he did at least find himself somewhere new. Whether that is a good thing or not was yet to be seen. All of the sudden a low rumble was heard, embarrassingly he was rather hungry.
“But what can I even do for food here?”
He’s never read about any animals living in the caverns? Or at least no normal animals that is. However, his musing about possible dinner was cut short at hearing shuffling slowly coming in his direction. He immediately returns Falan-shi back and dims the light. He quickly moves to a small corner which provides a good hiding spot, so long as no one looks too closely.
Whoever it was wasn’t moving quickly at all and the noises sounded human so it wasn’t a beast Daemon. It isn’t until the unknown person moves out into the opening of the area that Naxio gets a decent look. It’s a boy maybe a few years older than him. Unfortunately, he couldn’t make out the colors of his robe and he didn’t appear too familiar. Naxio just watches him for a few seconds to see if anything is amiss.
Ying corruption can be quite dangerous given the exposure or the weakness of your will. The boy paces for a few seconds before walking down on the many tunnels that lead to who knows where. It was until he couldn’t hear his footsteps that Naxio slowly crawled out of his hiding spot. He needed to find food and a good place to settle down for the coming night. The pressure was still strong and left an acidy taste in his mouth but he muscled through the discomfort.
It took a few hours however he did find food in the form of a small animal that called this cavern home. However, cooking his caught food was a bit precarious given the situation. He kept his eyes peeled around him while he ate in silence. Fortunately, all was quiet, a bit too quiet if you asked him.
Besides the constant Yang pressure, the area where he was in was completely silent. It wasn’t until near the end of his meal that he heard a sound.
Footsteps and they were going in his direction.
Naxio instantly stood, and turned his head around to try and find somewhere to hide. However unfortunately this area wasn’t like the other spot before, with no mismatched rock formation to hide behind. Whoever it was would hear him anyway so instead he stood his ground and waited.
It didn’t take long for the person to reveal themselves.
Out from the shadows came an unfamiliar boy with red and orange clothing together with their hunter gear. This boy was from the Cender clan if Naxio remembered correctly. He hadn’t interacted with many of their people even though Cender territory borders his clan's own. The Cender clan wasn’t known for being hospital towards others, even their own allies. Naxio was going to call out to the boy to ask who he was or even if he needs anything but his words to stop dead as the boy came forward enough that he could make out more of his appearance.
Behind the boy was an axe, scraping against the rocks as he dragged his clan weapon across the cavern floor. Naxio was notably on edge at that; however as he looked more closely at the axe, the hairs on the back of his neck stood on end.
There was blood at the end of that axe’s blade. Not enough to warrant someone’s death but enough to know that something wasn’t right.
At that point, Naxio noticed the boy’s eyes.
They were glassy, glossed over in a trance. Something that was very prevalent with Yang corruption.
The boy had been bewitched by the corruption.
Naxio holds his breath as he tries to slowly move back. The boy, even though was stumbling slowly towards him, didn’t seem to be aware of Naxio at the same time Naxio noticed him. Naxio was hoping that with any luck, he would be able to slip away or at least get a better spot for movement.
All of the sudden however the boy stops and turns his head directly in Naxio’s direction.
Naxio knew right then and there, avoid this fight wasn’t possible.
Then without fail, the unknown boy lunges at Naxio and brings down the axe at the neck-breaking speed. Naxio quickly summons Falan-shi and evokes a barrier that strands under the pressure of the blow. Unfortunately for Naxio, he wasn’t expecting the monstrous strength behind the blow as it still sends him flying across the area and slamming into the rocky walls.
He didn’t even have time to breathe as the boy struck again. The wild swings were quick and lethal. Naxio could only be on the defensive as he blocked again and again.
However, this couldn’t last forever.
Eventually one of the blows hit too quickly for a shield to form. A deep wound burns across his left arm. He quickly rolls out of the way to try and create more distance. And as if the gods were answering, the Cender boy’s axe got heavily lodged into one of the stones it cracked open.
Naxio only had a few moments to really do anything. He sent out a blast to sound which momentarily stunned the boy but given the enclosed area the sounds echoed loudly around them. And ultimately bounce back lightly against Naxio as well. Gritting his teeth in pain he realized all at once he was at an extreme disadvantage here given his still really poor control.
He needed to move to where the area was more open; there was at least somewhere the sound could escape slightly. Otherwise, he was just going to knock himself.
So without another thought, he took off running, and judging from the sounds behind him, the Cender boy was not far behind.
After running for what felt like hours he found himself in a more open chamber-like area. And in the ceiling was a large hole that allowed the moon to shine brightly inside. Also fortunately he didn’t encounter any more people however he could no longer hear the sounds of the axe scraping behind him.
Taking a deep breath and slumping down he takes a better notice of the area around him. A high ceiling with sharp-looking stalactites hanging, a large lake that encompass a good portion of this area, and something else just at the corner of his eye.
Is that a person he wonders as he stared towards the edge of the lake’s water? However, before he could look further a familiar scraping sound buzzed in his ear.
Naxio barely dodges out of the way of the swinging axe, a few pieces of hair get swiftly cut off and flop to the ground. He quickly sends another blast of sound towards his opponent. He could see the boy's eyes clenched shut as he reached out a hand to his head. A small drip of blood formed from his ears. The boy then lets out a yell, and the axe in his grip bursts into bright hot flames at its end.
Naxio gulps hard as now things have become increasingly difficult.
The Cender clan is well known for their fire abilities however the more prominent tales are of their rather bloodthirsty battle-crazy personalities. This leaves no questions about why they have been nicknamed the “Clan of Berserkers” by literally everyone. The boy then charges Naxio at speeds that didn’t add up given his large size and also the large axe he was welding. Dodge after dodge, Naxio could feel the lick of the flame dance across his body but there was little that he could do else wise.
It was either continue to dodge or get cleaved into two.
Unfortunately for Naxio, he was getting slower due to exhaustion and the Cender boy was only getting more quicker the longer their fight went on.
Eventually, something was going and tragically, it was Naxio.
He trips back over a jutting rock and falls flat on his back with a thud. And just as he was trying to get up, there was the flaming axe bearing down on him.
He couldn’t dodge in time.
He was going to die-
Suddenly out of nowhere, the sound of a sharp whisper pierced through the air. A familiar one at that.
“We really need to stop meeting like this, Naxio.”
Naxio turned to the blessed familiar voice and a wide smile broke out on his face.
Thin wires were wrapped on both flaming axes and the boy wielding it and behind him stood Moushira. Her arm was taut with trying to hold back the blade that was only inches from cleaving Naxio’s head.
“How about we talk after we deal with this?”
In wordless agreement, the pair turn their attention back to the bound boy, who was only growing anger in his captivity. This battle had only just begun.