PROLOGUE

Second Fanfic I've ever done. And probably the last one I'll do. Also, this one will probably be completed, as my first one was of D-Grayman,m during Hoshino's hiatus for plagiarism

Enjoy

TENKAI

Perhaps the best way to describe such a place would be "a world in which, even if there is perpetual light which blinds every being, making it seem as if no one had a corporeal form, there was no need for sight, or taste, touch, smell, or hearing". All that is needed is a "life-force", be it from someone already dead, or someone alive who has somehow arrived to such a realm, because with it, the so called "instinct" or "sixth sense" also came. And nothing more than that was necessary. It was in this place in which a young man's, or more accurately, a grown up boy's journey would commence. Those higher beings better known as gods of each race, who commanded him, would describe it as a first time travel to place in which a mission shall be fulfilled. Others might call it a journey back home. However this "Ultimate Knight", as he was once called, and now seldom named by the Gods, was unaware of this. To him, this would be the fulfilling of the purpose of his existence, and no one would interfere with it.

While each of the three Gods could only be recognized as silhouettes of one of the three major races between the creatures they had created, and which emitted their own light, the young man had spiky black hair, with a medium length ponytail, and wore a mask that resembled an opera one, with its mouth and chin removed. Even through the small gap, it was quite clear that his face was of soft features. His body had a decent build, without being bulky, and quite the stature. He was dressed with white, slightly baggy pants and a long, short sleeved, white shirt that reached below the knees, and which resembled a robe. He wore no shoes, and used a black, simple belt. He also wore a pendant with a small white stone, but which sometimes emitted a weak blue light. Despite his 15 years old appearance, the nameless "Ultimate Knight" had just been brought to this world three years ago.

– And so, that is your mission. It certainly is a disgrace that our past actions could not suffice to permanently end his ambitions, but with you, he shall be put to a stop once and for all – the biggest of the three entities transmitted directly to the knight's mind – It has always pained me that one of my children could become such a menace to the worlds and to all of the living beings we three respectively created… –.

– However, we three already agreed so many centuries ago that the balance must be held, even if that means the semi-holocaust of one of the races. I admit that my children were extremely fortunate not to be harmed by his actions, but they would have, had it not been for one of your predecessors, young warrior. – Interrupted the one who, despite the age difference, resembled the boy the most.

– However, that knight, and his successor, despite being successful against Velther and Vearn respectively, were to attached to all living things, be it humans, dragons, or my demons. Even if that might have been the reason for the success against Vearn, it has also already proved to be a much unstable power to be adequately wielded. Which is why, you were created with a greater potential than them, and you have been instructed not to purge a race when one of them threatens the balance, but to locate the source of that revolt, and to eliminate it. –

– That way, life is preserved and respected. That is what I have been taught my whole life… – Finally the masked boy spoke, as to answer the expectations of his three parents and masters. – … But even if that is one of the principles I must preserve, I am aware that sometimes it is necessary to sacrifice a life for the preservation of the majority, and of the balance… However, there is one question in my mind… –

The boy paused for a moment. He had been taught to always choose his words with care. What was really strange about him is that he almost never had questions. He only answered to the questions he was asked. The issue with this boy is that, ever since his birth as the "Ultimate Knight", he had always been "taught"; he had never learned anything on his own, nor outside of Tenkai.

– …How do I measure when the balance is so threatened that a sacrifice must be made to preserve the balance? The only life forms I know of are you three, and I, and so… –.

– Which is exactly why, you have been instructed to avoid contact with other life forms. Remember that your mission is simple, to locate and collect the sword of your predecessor, locate the entrance to Makai, and eliminate Velther. Also, don't forget to avoid using your powers while you reside in Ningenkai, unless it is absolutely necessary for you to do so. Finally, and the most important, DO NOT REMOVE YOUR MASK AS LONG AS YOU ARE THERE! – The Human God said without even letting the boy finish his sentence. As a matter of fact, all three Gods directed their eyes to the boy, emphasizing the Human God instruction. – Now, we shall send you to the surface, here you shall begin your mission. You'll feel where you are supposed to head to, to locate your sword –. And with that, the three of them began to chant some words in an ancient language, words which brought a white and golden circle around the warrior, with which he would be teleported to the surface.

– … Understood… – the young man answered dryly, just before he got completely blind, and his consciousness vanished, along with his body. But just before fading completely, something that felt like a pair of arms touched his as if hugging him.

The Gods also noticed that their warrior's departure was much more brilliant that what would have been normal, as if she sun had shined upon him.

NINGENKAI – PAPUNIKA

– HOW MANY TIMES DO I HAVE TO REPEAT MYSELF? I WON'T ACCEPT ANY MARRIAGE INTERVIEW FROM SOME WANNABE NOBLE, WHO CLEARLY ONLY WANTS THE THRONE! – yelled to the full extent of her lungs a beautiful, and elegantly dressed, 17 years old blonde girl, with a clearly harsh character, but a willpower and sense of justice above anything seen in most people of the world.

In the last three, her body had developed into that of and adult (despite being just 17 years old), and had finally settled for a long, white robe and some golden accessories, like wristbands and earrings.

– Your Majesty, I understand that you have no intention of marrying just any man, but as the princess of Papunika, you owe your people, which include the nobles that have protected the kingdom for decades, even centuries, some respect. This means that you can't reject every marriage candidate. Unfortunately, the tradition and laws of our kingdom dictate that you can't become Queen unless you reach the age of 18, or get married, in which case your husband would become the King. – explained a 61 years old man, who was wearing an armor adorned with a cape and other pieces of cloth.

– Usually, there should be no problem with the country waiting for you to come to age, which will happen in just one year, especially after your leadership and participation in the war against the Demon Army three years ago. However, the nobles have taken to their advantage the fact that, as Papunika got practically destroyed during the war, its post-reconstruction period has been quite unstable, and so, have spent the last three years discrediting your leadership because they find you unfit to rule in such dire circumstances, even though the facts have proven that wrong. – said a young man with spiky black hair, who wore a yellow diadem with a red jewel on the center, wristbands on both arms, a mostly white robe, and a pair of boots. – Because of this, you should listen to Baduck-san, and at the very least accept their interviews, Princess Leona. There shouldn't be much of them for what remains of the year. –.

– It's just as Apollo and Baduck say princess; once the year is over, you'll take over as Queen of Papunika, and you'll rule the country rightfully. But for appearances sake, and for you to avoid getting the image of a tyrant, you must act more diplomatically with the nobles, who in theory help maintain the stability of the kingdom. – said Aimi, who along with Apollo, and her older sister Marin, were the three Wise Sages of the kingdom.

Even though she had left her position until recently in order to follow Hyunkel, because of the instability the kingdom was facing, she returned and put her heart problems aside for the time being.

– I'm sorry, but I have to differ…– said Marin. Just like her siblings, she had black hair, and dressed similarly, in accordance with their titles. –

None of the sages, or old man Baduck had changed much during the three years that had passed. Baduck had finally retired from his duties as knight of Papunika, but given his years of service, and his resilient but important support to Dai's party, he had been appointed counselor of her Majesty Leona.

– Maybe it's true that most nobles are acting like vultures after the throne, but unfortunately, it's also true ruling the country is not an easy task for most people, especially at such a young age, and even if it's clear that you don't suffer from that weakness, it's undeniable that there is no other heir to the throne besides you. If you wish to maintain the lineage, you must marry to a man of noble birth, and unfortunately, Dai-kun isn't …–.

You better stop that sentence right there or you'll regret it Marin. – Said Leona with a tone that was completely different from her easy to lit usual anger. It was very close to pure hatred. It might be some time before she can address Marin like she always does.

– But you can't say for sure that he'll be back. Even if we know that he is alive because of his sword, we can't tell if he can return from wherever he got sent after the Black Core exploded. And even if he comes back, as much as it pains me to say it, even if he is a Hero, he isn't of noble birth, and because of that, you can't marry him… – continued Marin with a pained expression on her face. – …You simply can't forget your duties as the ruler of Papunika, especially with the chances of a civil war, instigated by the nobles. Accepting the interviews might not be enough to stop their ambitions –.

– I KNOW THAT! I'M FULLY AWARE OF THE REALITY, BUT I CAN'T JUST FORGET ABOUT DAI-KUN! I REALLY REGRET IT NOT GOING WITH POP, MARM AND MERLE TO LOOK FOR HIM… I, I…regret not stopping him right at the time he grabbed the Black Core and flew with it. Sometimes, I even wish I could get rid of my du…–.

– STOP RIGHT THERE, PRINCESS! – Immediately said Aimi to stop both girls from saying too much – Pardon my rudeness, and for going beyond my place Your Majesty, but both of you have said too much. Marin, you can't forget your place as a Wise Sage, and most importantly, as a fellow woman. And you, Princess Leona, you can't get rid of your responsibilities, not even wish for it. Regarding Dai-kun's lineage, considering the status he has gained, it shouldn't be much of a problem. Besides, don't forget, that even if it has already been destroyed, he is the son of the princess of the kingdom of Alkeed… – explained Aimi, before being interrupted.

– THAT'S TRUE...! –.

– But it's already been destroyed…–.

Both Leona and Marin said simultaneously. The discussion continued for quite some time but thanks to the other two Sages, it didn't get any more hot than necessary. The only one who did not participate of it was Baduck, who after listening Aimi's words, stood in his place, silent, with his hand grabbing his chin, thinking very deeply. Without anyone noticing, he left for his room, where he grabbed some paper and ink. Before leaving the princess's room, he dared to borrow the royal seal. With the implements he acquired, he wrote a letter directed to the kingdom of Karl, which had been reconstructed shortly after the end of the war against the Demon Army. It was specifically addressed to King Avan, who years before Dai, fought and defeated Demon King Hadlar and saved the world, and who later would join forces with the new Hero, in order to defeat Demon Lord Vearn, while commanding the revived Hadlar, and many other generals.

After that war, which ended with the hero Dai defeating Demon lord Vearn, and foiling Dark Dragon Velther's attempt to incinerate and destroy Ningenkai, to allow Makai to become the new surface of the planet, everyone close the hero had been informed of his complete history. How he had been born as Dino, as the result of the union of the previous Dragon Knight Baran, and Alkeed's princess Soara, and how Alkeed's nobles, unable to withstand the idea of an stranger like Baran taking the throne, framed him of being a demon from Demon King Hadlar's army, unleashing a chain of events which ended with Baran siding with Vearn after Soara's death and Dai's disappearance. How father and son fought each other, and how they later joined forces. After Baran died protecting his son, how Dai surpassed his father's power, and finally saved the world, by sacrificing himself.

Fortunately, Dai was still alive, as the sword he received from the master blacksmith Lon Berk, had a jewel which would still shine because the owner was still alive. This is why everyone kept hope. Unfortunately, the Black Core was so powerful, it could destroy a continent, and even if Dai was alive, it was impossible to know if he was still in Ningenkai.

Despite that, his very first two companions, the Daimadoushi Pop, and the Fighter Marm, along the diviner Merle, who they met during their journey more than three years ago, where still looking for him.

NINGENKAI – LANKARKS

– Dear, Pop is back, and has brought his friends, Marm and Merle, with him, fufu… – said Steenue, Pop's mother, as she saw his son and her two companions arriving at their house.

This situation had become sort of a routine. Since the end of the war three years ago, information traveled much faster between each country, and Dai's companions had become accustomed to travel periodically from country to country, searching for the disappeared Hero's whereabouts, to later rest in the home town of one them, or at least that is how it had started. During the first of the last three years, Pop, Marm, and Merle traveled together, going from town to town, country to country, in order to "openly" search for Dai whereabouts.

As for Hyunkel and Larhalt, they searched for Dai through more shady circles around the world, while they were followed by the love-struck Aimi until just last year.

The former King Beast Crocodine, remained in Delmurin Island along Brass, Hym, Chiu, and the other creatures that resided it, the reason for that being that they all thought they should remain alongside the hurt broken Brass, who has not seen his adopted grandson in a long time. Of course, they did not waste their time. Somehow, Chiu managed to include some of the surviving soldiers of Vearn's Demon Army into his Yougekitai. As these demons had come directly from Makai, they managed to travel back and forth from it, as only demons had said liberty. The original purpose of this was to allow demons to slowly, and steadily populate the Ningenkai, so as to gain the benefits which Vearn always sought; the light of the Sun, as a method to prevent any conflict between both worlds, but of course, this plan only concerned non-threatening demons. The "hub" for this migration was Delmurin Island itself, which being guarded by Pawn Warrior Hym and Crocodine, made it a safe place for this incursion. But an unexpected benefit from this was the intelligence network that they had inadvertently created in Makai, with which they periodically received a report regarding Dai whereabouts, which combined with Chiu's Yougekitai in Ningenkai, and the hundreds of beasts tamed by Crocodine, pretty much covered both worlds. Unfortunately, this had not thrown any results. As a matter of fact, after realizing that they had already traveled back and forth the world, all the search parties, and intelligence parties had reached a conclusion:

DAI WAS ALIVE, BUT HE WASN'T IN EITHER NINGENKAI OR MAKAI. Therefore, only one credible and available option was left: TENKAI.

Most people might think that it didn't make sense, as Tenkai was the place where supposedly, every soul returned to once the body couldn't sustain it anymore. Also, some might think it wasn't so terrible to be there, as it might be a reward for a warrior hos is exhausted of the endless battles. But the Hero party got extremely concerned with this possibility, because of two reasons:

They had no idea how to reach Tenkai to retrieve Dai, who had himself said that he wanted to stay in Ningenkai, and, they had no idea if he would be influenced by the Gods in converting into some sort of cold blooded, distant, perfect "Dragon Knight", like his father had once sought for before regaining his humanity. It was in the last year in which all their efforts had been directed not in the search for Dai, but for information on how to reach Tenkai. But they had not gotten any good results.

This time, the "main" search party had arrived at Pop's hometown. In the last years, Pop had changed quite a bit. His facial structure had become that of a man, but not that of his father Junk, and his stature had not improved that much, but at least he did not get behind Marm (whih would have been mortifying). He was currently wearing some light green pants and a white shirt, along a cape which he used outdoors at night. In his bag, he kept some basic magician equipment, in case they got in troubles, and had to defend themselves seriously (which fortunately, happened quite seldom).

– Mom! You don't have to put it that way! I'll seem like some sort of pervert…– said to his mother, who had not changed that much after such a short time. While he was saying that, his father appeared with a grumpy expression on his face, in part to show his dislike of Pop's disregard for them, and also to hide the joy of seeing him well.

– More than you are? That is impossible. Actually, from what I have seen, you don't resemble either of your parents in that matter. I'm starting to wonder if Matoriv-ojiisan is a distant relative of yours…–. Neither did Marm change that much.

Her body had already matured during the war, and only her personality had changed a little during the past years. She learned to hold back her fists a little more, mostly because she had realized the strength she had gained, and also because she wanted to resemble a "proper" lady a little more. Considering Dai's pending issue, she and Pop had decided to leave their personal matter (which also involved Merle and Hyunkel) on hold for the time being. She had decided for a an oriental dress which had both sides of the skirt open for freedom of movement on her legs, and which had no sleeves.

– Marm-san, you are exaggerating. Pop-san has conducted himself quite properly...even though we have caught him a few time peeking through the doors keyhole…AH, WAIT WAIT, I WASN'T SUPPOSED TO BRING THAT UP. PLEASE WAIT OJI-SAN… – replied Merle, until Junk grabbed his son from the groin and his head, and threw him through the open window on the first floor of their house.

Merle had finally matured into a proper 18 years old woman, although she had developed a slight inferiority complex when compared with Marm, but they both remained good friends. She came into the house with a cerulean robe, which was only long enough to leave her sandals at sight. Unfortunately, her divining powers had not been of much help during their journeys…actually, she never managed to use them for Dai's search, only for the party journey, which is why during the last three years, her smile had become quite the seldom event, as she couldn't stand being useless to Pop, and the others. Of course, both Pop and Marm tried to put her at ease, but sometimes even they criticized her for her inability to locate even the slightest clue. Actually, this was another reason why they had concluded that Dai must had arrived at Tenkai, a place which no living being could reach, nor see.

After the ruckus had passed, everyone discussed their progress told their share of their journey, and also gave their opinions of it. After that, they tried to enjoy a meal, and when they had all finished, Junk brought it up:

– So…, what are you going to do now Pop – said Junk, with a slight melancholy on his face – I mean, if the conclusion you have all reached is that Dai-kun is at Tenkai, how do you expect to bring him back, even if he somehow managed to retain his life…–.

Pop didn't answer immediately, and instead, his face showed a troubled expression. The same he showed before gaining his composure, and showing his resolve on going to Papunika to stop the Kiganjou's attack on the world summit, more than three years ago. That was a pattern his parents and friends had learned to recognize. Actually, Pop had already thought of a plan, right after they stumbled on a small piece of information which could hardly be called a lead, at Teran's royal library, with some help of the King of Teran, and Merle's 75 years old grandma, Nabara. It was more likely, a method to go to a place different than Tenkai, but given what Vearn had said during his last conversation with Velther, it might be possible to find a way to reach Tenkai, with the information the obtain.

– Actually, after some info we somehow stumbled upon at Teran, we have decided to do one more journey, in which we might get some info on how to reach Tenkai –.

– And where do you plan to go for said journey and for how long? – Said Steenue, worried over her son's troubled face.

– As for how long, I wouldn't know…As for the place…that would be…Makai – Said Pop, with a huge grin on his face, only to cover his fear and doubts.

– … –.

– … –.

– … –.

– … –.

– … ARE YOU FUCKING OUT OF YOUR MIND…! – Junk snapped, after hearing Pop's plan, and watching his grin, while turning the table upside down.

Right after the end of the war, as Lon Berk had become incapable of using his arms because of his fight against Zaboera, and had taken Nova, the former knight of Ringaia, as his blacksmith disciple, both he and Junk had gotten themselves with a lot of free time, and thus, to pass the days, right after getting drunk, Lon Berk (who had finally developed a bond of trust not just with Junk, but with everyone) would start rambling about Makai. Junk had decided to pay attention to said stories, and only that was enough to scare him.

– There is no way I'll let you do that! No matter how strong was Demon Lord Vearn, he was still just one individual, and you are talking about going to a place which might house beings extremely strong. Not only that, but you might be facing the power of an entire world. Besides, how, and why do you want to go to Makai… –.

– Actually, that is what we found in Teran… – Answered Merle, who had just recovered from the shock of Junk tantrum. – During our last journey, my powers finally showed me something; Teran's Royal Library. Once we arrived there, my divining skills guided us to one specific book. It was in that book that we discovered that the reason why the Anti-Evil Cave was created, was not just to protect their secrets, but also as a way to prevent humans to reach Makai…– continued Merle, while Junk and his wife put a expression of surprise in face of the news that the extremely dangerous dungeon, where the spell Minakatoru, and the Kiseiseki anti-evil secret were discovered right before the final battle of the war three years ago. – …That's right; the Anti-Evil Cave is the entrance to Makai. Not only it is a place to keep the anti-evil spells safe, but also a way to train and acquire the spells necessary to reach Makai, and survive there –.

– But still…Why are you so sure that Makai is where you can find a means to reach Tenkai! – replied Steenue with an almost desperate expression on her face. – Not only that; you've already told me that said cave is extremely dangerous, that Avan-sama barely survived its first 150 floors. Who knows how deep Makai entrance lies. –.

Both she and her husband where still white from the shock of his son and companion's plan. It was simply idiotic to go to Makai, specially, without any evidence to support their theory. And in fact, there is no proof that Makai is the place with the answers they seek.

– It's because of Vearn's last words to Velther – Marm answered. As she was about to continue, she began to remember that incident, while she was inside the Hitomi. How Vearn had mocked Velther about the result of their wager on who would destroy the Surface, and Vearn's offer – Vearn said it himself, that if Velther wanted to, he could attack Tenkai, in order to free Velther from his seal… That can only mean that Vearn must have known of some method to reach Tenkai, and that method might be at Makai… –.

Might be, just might, and you have already decided to take that option –.

– It's the only method left! We have to find Dai soon, and have to start now or I'll…! – replied Pop to his father's complain, before flinching with a pained expression on his face, and falling to his knees while holding his whole torso.

– POP! – said everyone at the same time.

It had happened before, during the war, whenever Pop used too many strong spells, too fast. But now, three years later, Pop began to experience episodes like this one more commonly, despite the fact he had not fought seriously in a long time. He tried to make sure that no one noticed this behavior of his, but he had finally failed. The reason was clear to him, and everyone that knew Pop's mentor, Matoriv. The spells had taken their toll on both Daimadoushi, and because of that, their health had decayed considerably. In Pop's case, despite being young, he had acted much more recklessly than his mentor on his own time, and even if the disciple's condition wasn't as dire as his master's, he would never again be able to enjoy a completely fulfilling and adventurous life, and if he continued to act so rashly, not even a long life.

– …How long has this been going on, ojou-san. – asked Junk to Merle, who because of the commotion, took one extra second to react to Junk addressing her, before switching her gze towards him – I can hardly believe my son is such a good actor that he would be able to fool the two of you, especially for almost three years… –.

– …Actually… – Marm interjected – …this had already happened during the war against the Demon Army, because of all the fighting he had to participate in; Just like Matoriv-ojisan, he also had to resort to powerful, forbidden spells… – continued while staring at Junk, and next at Pop – …but it doesn't make sense that he continues to suffer from that today, unless… –.

– Unless what's really going on is that I've been enduring this ever since we began our journey… – finally had Pop decided to intervene with, as if saying what was passing through Marm's head – Despite my healing spells, this condition of mine is of the same kind as Matoriv-shishou's, only that I developed it faster because I began to use such spells at such an early age...Really, how pathetic can I be…–.

What took place then shocked everybody, including Pop. His own mother had slapped him, with her face full of tears dropping from her cheeks, while his own began to get a shade of red.

– …How can you make fun of your own life and health…THINK ABOUT THOSE AROUND YOU! – Finally shouted Steenue, before succumbing to her own weight, and kneeling while crying desperately.

Merle and Junk wanted to join her, while Marm decided to hold back her own tears, without ever turning her eyes away from Pop, who before his mother's words, could only drop his head, staring at the floor.

What followed was a forced explanation from Pop, about his condition. The reason he did not show any signs of it was the fact that in order to cover as much of the world as possible during their journey, they would have to refrain from using Toberura. That was in part true, but it was also a lie from Pop, as a way to refrain himself from using magic, thus, making sure that his condition wouldn't show up no get any worse. Pop had also stopped his training, which often bothered Marm and Merle, but he had simply retorted that he wanted to develop his physical ability, and stop relying on his magic, despite their claims that it would be a waste not to continue.

However, once they had found the clue which indicated the path to Makai, in order to let everyone know as fast as possible, Pop used Ruura to report to Hyunkel and Larhalt, people at Delmurin Island, as well as some of the Kings they had become more acquainted with during the war, such as the King of Romos, the King of Teran, and their former Master, and current King of Karl, Avan, and Queen Flora. Before with Leona, they decided to visit Lankarks. All that usage of magic, added to the fact he had gotten a little rusty during the last few years, took a big toll in him, and he simply couldn't hide his condition any longer.

– …And that's the deal. In the middle of the Ruura that took us to Karl, I began to feel some pain, and I realized I had to rest, so I asked Marm and Merle to come home… –.

– …So Pop-san lied when he said the he had figured that it would take some time for everyone to gather before going to Makai… – Said Merle with her eyes facing downwards, as if trying to avoid looking at Pop. He would alternate his gaze at Merle, then his parents, and then Marm, with an expression that showed.

– …anything? – was heard by everyone. They all looked at each other, before everyone faced Marm, who had turned her head to the side, not letting anyone see her face.

– Said anything Marm? – uttered Pop after a few seconds of waiting for Marm to say something

– I said: "Haven't you learned anything?"! – Finally exploded Marm with a face full of real anger, and that almost immediately switched into one of sorrow. Next to that, tears began to form in her eyes, followed with her looking down, and swinging her fist at Pop, who didn't have time to react. But she had stopped just before making contact. Pop had put a dumb and surprised expression, which changed into one with slight regret after watching a tear falling from Marm's hidden face. – …When I was gone for my training and you all faced Baran, you did die for a moment. And you kept it to yourself. And when you couldn't light your Mark of Avan, you also kept it to yourself, sinking onto your own despair…Have you not realized that it makes things worse for everyone?.. –.

Pop stood silent for a moment, but the atmosphere made it seem as hours. Actually, he had already understood that during the war three years ago, as almost Merle's innocent life was lost because of his stubbornness. He actually felt really bad about keeping to himself his condition, especially because it required him to stop using the great magic power he had acquired thanks to Merle's courage during the Minakatoru casting. But this contradiction was nothing compared with what he had lost: His best friend. In face of that fact, all he had learned, and even the scolding he got from his parents once he had decided to tell them everything about his journey, including the incident with Baran, became nothing.

He had finally decided to answer, but maybe he would have liked to take another minute to think, even if his intentions with it were good. – …I know that Marm, but I think we all agree that our top priority is to find Dai… –. It was an answer which couldn't be countered. – …besides, it might be a good thing to get so damaged at such a young face. With my potential, I might have had a life expectancy rivaling with Matoriv-shishou's or Brokena's, but with this, at least I'll die young and handsome, HA HA HA HA HA! – He had fully evaluated the consequences of such and answer, but he had to lighten the mood, so that they could get everything ready for the remaining of the preparations of the gathering at the Anti-Evil Cave. Besides, even if no one ever had said it, Pop was easier to understand AFTER he did something worthy of the following "act of kindness". His best quality will always be courage.

YOU FUCKING IDIOT! – answered Marm at the same time she retreated her fist, and threw it again towards Pop's face, but with the fundamental difference that the punch didn't stop before making contact with its target. It was actually strong enough to send Pop flying through one of the walls of the house. Marm definitely continued with her training diligently. Of course what followed was Junk punishment for his son, something too violent to be mentioned.

NINGENKAI – MIDDLE OF THE OCEAN

– …How much longer before we arrive to Delmurin Island, Hyunkel?– asked Land Warrior Larhalt, former Dragon Rider under Dragon Knight Baran's command, and now just a traveler looking for his missing master, Dino-sama, along with his friend and rival, Magic Sword Knight Hyunkel. – I know that Pop and the others asked us to go get Crocodine and Hym, so that we can all reunite in Papunika, but he never mentioned that the trip would be long.

Hyunkel had light colored skin, silver hair, and wore clothes that resembled a uniform, with a cape, while the half breed Larhalt, of light blonde hair, blue skin and pointy ears, indicating his demon heritage, wore a shirt that had only one shoulder, like a toga, and black pants.

– Stop complaining. You've grown too accustomed to riding a dragon. A boat trip has its own worth. Besides, this is the ocean Dai saw when he began his own journey. You've said it yourself, "I can't be Dai-sama's subject if I don't know him better. Before meeting him again, I shall learn as much as possible about him from you all". Well, this is the best way to get to know him: looking at the same world he traveled…–.

They had already been travelling for almost three years, looking for clues on their own, separately from Pop's party. They had been accompanied for Aimi for the first two years, but the impeding issues at Papunika forced her to leave them. In the previous war they had lost their respective Magic Armors, and were travelling with just a basic sword and a spear respectively, as there should be no enemies that required them to use their full power. After getting the intel about the Anti-Evil Cave, everyone had decided to recruit everyone from the party that fought against Vearn three years ago, and reunite in Papunika, and then head towards Lankarks to get Lon Berk & Nova to get some weapons, and then head to Karl. While Pop, Marm, and Merle would go get Leona, Hyunkel and Larhalt would get Crocodine and Hym.

– Maybe I'm complaining, but we have to hurry to Makai in order to reach Dai-sama. And I'm not sure if getting Hym is really necessary for this journey… –.

– We can't take any risks. We don't know if there are any remnants of Vearn's, or Velther's forces. Also, you forgot to mention Crocodine… –.

– That man might have the spirit, but he is too weak. He couldn't participate of the fight against Vearn. You were injured, while that girl called Marm was exhausted form Mystvearn possession. Also, besides Crocodine, I think't that that kid named Pop shouldn't come, and you know why… Unfortunately for him, his act isn't good enough to fool us –.

– …I know that…but he still is one of Avan's disciples, and also Dai's best friend. No matter what we say to him, he'll join us. That's just who he is… –.

– …I see…Look, it seems we are approaching our destination… – Finished Larhalt as they were approaching Delmurin Island's shore, where they would reunite with Crocodine.

NINGENKAI – NEAR PAPUNIKA

The young emissary form the Gods had arrived near the kingdom of Papunika, with the mission of retrieving an important item that would be required for his mission. All he carried with him was his attire. As he had been instructed, he never approached any other living beings, and never took of his mask. He had decided to rest for a while before continuing with his journey, and unwillingly fell asleep.

– …ii-chan… onii-chan, what are you doing, sleeping in such a place – said a small kid who was with his friends, taking a stroll. The kid was shaking the young man's body to wake him up, and was also touching his mask.

The young man began to react to the kid's wake-up call, and opened his eyes, only to see that his sight was slightly blocked by his own mask… His mask was getting loose.

DON'T TOUCH IT! – screamed the Ultimate Knight, fearful of neglecting his duties and orders.

It took a moment for the startled kids to react…and they all began to cry loudly. The young man was at a loss. He couldn't understand what was going on. The only thing he knew was that he had been taught that this kind of cry was a signal of suffering, and, it instinctively made him feel bad.

HUUUAAAAHHHHHHH! HUUUAAAAHHHHHHH! –.

– I… I… I'm sorry… for scaring you… – said the young warrior with a face full of regret behind his mask.

It took some time for the kids to calm down and accept the young man's apologies. After they stopped crying, the warrior explained to them that he had been ordered by his masters to not remove his mask, and that actually, being with them was also against the orders.

– … So, where are you going, onii-chan? – asked one of the kids

– I'm going to a place called Papunika, but I'm not quite sure what the best road is – answered the warrior. He could "feel" the place he had to reach, but in order to avoid contact with living creatures, and also save time, he had been ordered to use the roads –

– … Is that a joke onii-chan? Papunika is a whole kingdom, and its capital is in that direction, just as the sign over which you leaned to sleep says – said the kid with a slightly surprised expression on his face, which every other kid imitated.

– … Does it really say that? – Said the Knight, who had turned to the sign, and started to read, to later bow his head, and close his eyes – … I can't read it… –.

– HHHEEEEEEEEHHH! – screamed everyone besides the knight, who bowed his head even more.

NINGENKAI – NEAR LANKARKS

– Marm-san, don't you think it's already time you forgave Pop-san? – said Merle, almost with a begging face, to Marm, who after punching Pop though the wall of Junk' store, went to the nearby forest to rest and put her thoughts in order. Merle had decided to follow her, leaving Pop at his parents' mercy.

– You are too tolerant Merle. He always does that; whenever he is forced into a corner, he answers with a joke...and in this case, he joked about his own life. I hate that he disregards his life so easily –-

– … actually, I think it's the opposite. He holds his life very dear, which is why he is so reckless, because he tries to live as free as possible. He said it himself, that he sees life as a "Sudden Flash of Light". I think he meant at the time, that the importance of life is how to make the best of it, regardless of the length of it – Answered Merle with a solemn face, right after sitting next to Marm.

Marm could only listen and open her eyes wide, as if remembering, and also realizing the meaning behind those words. She finally understood that what Pop wanted the most was to recover his best friend, and experience life with him and everybody else, without a care if he grows old or not. Merle really understood Pop really well, which made Marm feel a little jealous. They had never talked about it, as it was a silent oath to put their personal feelings, the love triangle the three of them were immersed into, on hold, at least until they reunited with Dai. But still, their relationship was always present in their minds.

Still, she could not stand that attitude of his. Such an attitude caused Roka's death, during Avan's fight against Hadlar 18 years ago, leaving her mother, Leila, at Neiru village, without her husband. Marm had always been proud of both of them, but still thought that they should have taken better care of themselves.

– … He is still the most idiotic person ever… –.

NINGENKAI – PAPUNIKA – BARUJI ISLAND – MATORIV'S HIDEOUT

– So… in the end, you've ended up making some of my mistakes, and running your body because of your recklessness… I'm disappointed of you, but mostly, myself – Said Matoriv with a sad face. He had never expected that his disciple would, being so young, and in a much shorter time frame, develop the same condition, caused by the excessive usage of spells. – Now, I'm bedridden, almost unable to move. I have to depend on Masopho and the rest of his party… – Matoriv continued. He was referring to the fake heroes' party that had always gotten in trouble during the war three years ago, but somehow always survived.

– Shishou… I know I should have been more careful, but I'm not sure we would have survived, had I not fought the way I did. I…–.

– Say no more. I would have done the same. Besides, I have nothing to rebuke you. Instead of leaving your friend, you are willing to go to a real hell to find only a possible clue… Sometimes I wonder if you really are disciple of a villain like me.

– Shishou, don't say such…– tried Pop to say before being kicked in the face by his master, and being thrown a bag at his face.

– Shut the hell up, and take that medicine. I made it just in case you ended up like me. It's just a painkiller. Once its effects wear off, you'll feel the whole rebound of the pain, or worse… You see, I AM a villain, giving my student the ways to continue his suffering…Now, please get out, I'm sleepy.

– Shishou, I… – tried Pop to answer, but decided to respect his master's will, and simply left the hideout, and used Ruura to returns to Lankarks.

After Pop had left, Matoriv prayed that his "son" could make it back safe and sound.

NINGENKAI – DELMURIN ISLAND

– … So, the time has come, right? Personally, the idea doesn't thrill me, but we have no choice. – said a giant, anthropomorphic, reddish lizard, with one scarred eye, who wore an armor that fitted his not slim built up.

The former Commander of Beast Division of the Demon Army. The Beast King Crocodine had decided to "settle" at Delmurin Island, to make company for Dai's adoptive grandfather, Brass. Of course, settle wasn't the right word; he never had neglected his training, as he had found embarrassing his performance during the final battle of the war three years ago. Also, he somehow felt that Dai would not come back by himself, but he would have to be brought back, and that would require everyone's strength.

– Just as you've said, there is no choice but to go to Makai in order to learn of a pathway to Tenkai, and get Dai back – Said Hyunkel, who along with Larhalt, had recently arrived to Dai's former home.

– The idea is to go down there, and search for all of Vearn's strongholds scattered around Makai, find our intel, and get back to Ningenkai as fast as possible. We won't waste any time down there…we can't tell what kind of dangers we may find – Added Larhalt to the conversation.

– Auuu! Come on, you should all be more excited. Going to Makai should be something good, with all the opponents me may find down there – Intervened Pawn Warrior Hym, former member of Hadlar's Shinei Kidan, the chess pieces warriors he created from Orichalcum. Like always, he was too hot headed for his own good, but at least was more honest than anyone – But regarding the thing about being quick, I agree; I want to fight you two as soon as possible, but I know we'll have to wait after we bring Dai back.

– At least we all agree on that… – Replied the Karate Mouse Chiu, who had been a student under Holy Fist Brookena, a martial arts master who also trained Marm during the war three years ago. Making use of Crocodines "Beast King Whistle", and his extremely high luck, he managed to create his own squad of monsters called Juuou Yougekitai, which in the last few years, had been expanding, and had become critical at maintaining order at the point of convergence Delmurin Island had become, with all the demons coming and leaving through it – …However, I'm curious, how we should get to Papunika. I mean, I trust in the flying creatures I and Crocodine-san have recruited on our own, but that would be too slow… Seriously, Pop should come for us and use his Ruura instead of… –.

– That won't be a problem. Remember that even as a monster, I fall in the category of a Magic User, meaning that, as I have already been at Papunika, I can use Ruura to get us there on my own. Pop-kun though about this when he instructed us… – Replied Brass, Dai's adoptive grandfather.

As the most intelligent residing monster of the island, Brass had always maintained order in it, but with the war, and the current state of affairs, he required the help form Chiu, Hym, and Crocodine to keep things calm. But now, he would leave the island, to get everyone form Dai's party to Papunika. Even if he wanted to go with them in the journey, he knew he would be a drag for them, but at least he would assist them as much as possible.

– Ah, I see… he might be smarter than he looks like – commented Chiu, to which everyone gave a light smile.

– Leaving that aside, we should get ready… – Finally said Hyunkel, who like always, acted as the leader of the party.

They had a lot to do for preparations, and their plan was already decided, but something would happen at Papunika that would change it completely.

NINGENKAI – LANKARKS

– … So, have you cooled your head, or you're gonna hit me again..? – Said Pop, with a slightly swollen face, right after Marm returned along Merle to Junk and Steenue's house.

– … Wanna find out..? – answered Merle, rising her fist with the intent of threatening Pop, who could only chuckle in fear, and look away. – …Ahhhh… Actually, I'm more calm, but not less angry. I hope you have at least begun to think about your attitude problems. Of course, I don0t expect you to change in just one day –.

– … Actually, I've been thinking about what you said since the fight against Mystvearn in Papunika… – answered Pop, while remembering that event. The side-effects of using forbidden spell began to show right during it. At that time, he thought that it didn't matter, as he was still pretty young, and still had enough vitality. Besides, the priority wasn0t his health, or at least that is what he had thought at the time. – But just like at that time, there are more important things to think about. No matter what, no one can disagree with me in that our top priority is finding Dai… Because of that, I'll tell you two things I won't back off with: One, I'll worry about ALL our issues once he is back safe and sound… – Said Pop, emphasizing the word "all", with the intention of having everyone at the house listen to that part.– … and two… The reason why my pains are acting up is not because I overdid it during the war, but because I've been overdoing it since then… –.

– Wha… What do you mean by that, Pop-san? – Intervened Merle before anyone could say anything.

When Pop said that last part, everyone became confused, but Marm was the one to recover the fastest, and figure out everything. For some reason, Pop had concluded that they would need strength in order to get Dai back to them. Actually, not only him, but everyone form the party had been training and recovering in the last three years, with the same premonition. What actually pained Marm was the fact that neither Pop nor she could open up to the other about the matter. Her hands had become fists, and were trembling in anger, but not the one she felt whenever Pop acted too lecherous, but the one she felt whenever she faced the walls that surrounded everyone she had met. Ever since Dai had left, everyone form their team had lost some contact with each other, and that hurt her. It was obvious that Dai's presence was vital for the group's stability. Merle felt exactly the same, while Pop's parents could guess it.

– … So, you've also been training, right Pop? – answered Marm, with a fake smile on her face, as if trying to relieve the tension. – ahhh, you could've told me, and whe might have progressed together. After all, I also got a copy of the Book of Avan –.

The Book of Avan, which contained their Master's extensive knowledge in weapons and magic. After the war, everyone got a simplified copy of said book. And everyone had been training using it.

What came after Marm's response was a somewhat awkward, but relaxed conversation. In the end, it was obvious that Pop would stop his selfish actios regarding his health and life only when Dai was back with them. And everyone at the house accepted it, without even saying it. In a few hours, they would get Leona back at Papunika, and they would reunite with Hyunkel's group at Lon Berk and Nova's forgery shop.

They had a lot to do for preparations, and their plan was already decided, but something would happen at Papunika that would change it completely.

NINGENKAI – KARL

Ever since the end of the war, the completely destroyed kingdom of Karl had been through a fast reconstruction phase. With Queen Flora, and her husband, King Avan Ginual's leadership, the country quickly recovered. Initially, there had been many objections with Avan's and Flora engagement because of his low status of a knight, but his history as Hero, and later, supporter of the Hero Dai, earned him the people's respect and love, making him quite suitable for the job. Around twenty years ago, Avan faced and defeated Demon King Hadlar. Then, three years ago, Hadlar came back, under Demon Lord Vearn's command, and began the Demon Army's assault on the Surface. Avan was quickly dispatched by Hadlar, but came back for the final battle.

– So, it seems that soon, your disciples will come here, to go through the Anti-Evil Cave, towards Makai. Are you sure that you approve of this Avan? – asked Queen Flora to her husband. She was a beautiful blonde, 32 years old woman, who kept her hair in a ponytail. Despite her position as a Queen, she had become very happy after getting married to "her" Hero. Of course, at the beginning, she was quite angry and frustrated at Avan's negative of revealing his status after Hadlar had supposedly killed him at the beginning of the war. But in the end, she had completely forgiven him. As for Avan, after a few months adjusting to this new lifestyle, had realized that he would have been much happier, much sooner, had he not become a hero's trainer right after his first fight against Hadlar, twenty years ago.

– Even if I did not approve of it, I could not stop them. Besides, they have all surpassed me since long ago… – answered Avan, with a sad and slightly nostalgic face, as if remembering his own adventures. He was a 32 years old man, who had white hair, braided like an old noble man.

– … You are not thinking of going with them, are you – said Flora, with some anger on her face, clearly saying with her expression "you better not be planning to do that, or you'll get it". Avan easily managed to sense this message, and quickly put a serious face.

– Of course not. I'm getting old for that, and they don't need me for that. Besides, I already more important things to think about… – said Avan, first looking at his wife, and then at his two years old son. They had decided to name him Roka, after Marm's father, who had joined Avan in his fight twenty years ago. Marm was born during a one year long ceasefire, thanks to the Frozen Time spell that Avan performed on Hadlar, and which had both of them trapped into for that whole year. Once the spell dispelled, the fight continued, and a time later, during the final battle, Roka died, leaving Marm alone with her mother, Leila.

Avan learnt his lesson with his friend's death, and with Marm and Leila's sad faces. Once his own child had been born, he swore to never get himself in another adventure. His disciples had already matured enough, and he would always be for them as a source of knowledge & support. It goes without saying, that Flora felt quite relieved from this. However, Avan had yet to tell Flora about one more journey he would go on, a decision he made after receiven a letter from Badduck, Princess Leona loyal subject.

– But Flora, there is something I have to tell you… – said Avan to his wife, ready for a little mayhem.

NINGENKAI – LANKARKS

– Master, when do you think that everyone will arrive? These weapons are all finished, and I'm also ready. I only wish you could come with us. A chaperon is always useful… – Said a 19 years old, spiky blue haired young man, who was next to a forge, talking to a blue skinned, black haired demon, who had a large cross-shaped scar on his face.

Nova had been Ringaia's knight, and was also known as the Hero of the North during the war three years ago. His self-absorbed attitude had almost leaded him to his own demise, but with Dai's presence, and Lon Berk spirit, he had found his vocation.

– No thanks. I've already decided that I won't join you guys. This is your adventure. And about you being ready, I commend you for progressing so much in such a shorty time. You really are meant to surpass me… – answered Lon Berk, the legendary swordsman and weapon smith who supported Dai during the war three years ago, particularly with the creation of the Sword of Dai, the orichalum sword that Dai used, and which was put in Papunika as a beacon for Dai, in case he returned. It was the shine in that sword's jewel that proved that Dai was still alive. Lon Berk words put a smile on Nova's face, as he wasn't used to his master's praising. – … But I warn you, don't make the same mistakes I have made. You still have a future… –.

Lon Berk had not limited himself to teach Nova the profession of blacksmith. Nova had also been trained in the art of the sword, and had progressed very fast. Together, they analyzed Lon Berk flaws, and deviced countermeasures for Nova's use. In a few more years, Nova would reach the stage Lon Berk had seeked his whole life.

– … I know that, master – answered Nova, as if trying to put his master at ease. They continued to talk for a while and then prepared the weapons they had created in the last weeks, and the ones they began with almost three years ago. Of course, they included the instructions their users would need.

They had a lot to do for preparations, and their plan was already decided, but something would happen at Papunika that would change it completely.

NINGENKAI – PAPUNIKA

– … So, all we have to do now is get some supplies, and reunite with Hyunkel and his group at Lankarks, and then we'll head off to Makai, right? – asked Leona to Pop, Marm, and Merle, who had arrived a few hours ago with a big welcome.

– Yes, that's the plan princess… However, are you sure you can just away and come with us…? – replied Pop, who clearly had his doubts about Leona's decision.

Leona had received Pop and company a few hours ago, and they had spent some time along Baduck-san and the three sages, talking and remembering some of their adventures. After a while, only Leona, Pop, Marm, and Merle remained.

– I have to agree with Pop. Merle, Chiu, and Brass aside, everyone who is reuniting at Lon Berk's are enough to handle the trip. But you can't put yourself at risk, especially when you are the only one left to rule the country, Leona… – Marm intervened.

! – Leona Finally snapped, who had already had it with everyone saying that she had to consider her position and duties as Princess of Punika. – I've said I'll do it, so I'll do it, and that's it… –.

– …That is how you've always been, right? – Merle interjected, who had been thinking how similar Leona's and her own situations were. – Pop-san, Marm-san, I kinda understand Princess Leona's predicament, as I've always been there. The difference lies in the fact that I've never been able to join you because I'm weak… Don't you think that we should all have the freedom to search and care for those we love, as long as we have the strength to do so…I couldn't do that three years ago, and I won't be able to in YOUR next adventure… Which is why I think you should support Leona –.

Merle's words stroke the three of them, mostly Pop and Marm. Their love triangle had yet to be resolved, and Merle's words made them all remember how Merle risked her life to safe Pop, who had almost ran away from the final battle because he couldn't muster the courage to strengthen the spell Minakatoru three years ago, as that spell required all Avan disciples to show their own "trait" and channerl it thorugh their respective Kiseiseki. After Merle actions, Pop, pushed by Merle, suddenly confessed to Marm, and Merle feelings for Pop were revealed by Leona. Thanks to Merle's courage, Pop managed to muster his own, successfully casting Minakatoru, therefore, allowing them to enter Demon Lord Vearn's flying palace.

– … Don't blame if you get scolded, or lose your throne, or whatever, okay… – finally Pop talked.

In the end, they all agreed that they would take Leona with them, hoping that they would not get caught by the castle staff. They continued talking, making some plans, and thinking out how they should proceed in case they found an enemy at Makai. By the time they had decided to go to sleep, Hyunkel and his group had already arrived to Lon Berk's.

– I think it's time to go to bed. Tomorrow we'll wake up really early, and we'll fly to Lon Berk's to reunite with the others. Then… – Marm instructed, until a huge column of light flashed in the distance, were everyone from three years ago party's beacon of hope lies.

– Something… something is going on at the Sword of Dai spot… – Pop said. Almost immediately, they all surrounded Pop, who quickly casted Ruura while picturing his intended destination, the resting place of his best friend sword.

– WHY WON'T YOU LET ME DRAW YOU! – Said the masked young man, struggling to get a light blue, slightly short sword, out of the pedestal in which it was put on almost three years ago by the friends of its disappeared owner.

The young man was losing his patience, and even began to emit some waves of Touki out of his body. Despite that, the waves weren't harming the surrounding grass or the plants that grew near the pedestal. All the life surrounding the pedestal seemed to receive new, strengthened vitality. Actually, ever since the sword was placed in the pedestal, the scenery became more colorful with life. But now that the young man was there, it seemed that the weak energy the sword irradiated resonated with the one from the young man, as if they had the same origin. However, the young man had a mission to fulfill, one he had been given by the Gods themselves. And his instructions included that the mission was his prime priority, even if it meant to slay one or any life form he found on his way.

– Your previous owner is gone. He was my predecessor, so now you belong to me. THEREFORE, LET ME DRAW YOU! – The young man finally snapped. A pillar of light rose from the pedestal, and the beautiful scenery got incinerated by the young man's energy. Even the sea water, that surrounded the cliff in which the pedestal was erected, evaporated… But still, the sword and the pedestal stayed the same: stuck to each other.

His previous frustration was nothing, compared with what he was feeling at the moment. He had been told that his power could make the sky, the land, and the sea his allies, and that he could split heavens and make mountains crumble. However, for some reason, after looking at the beautiful red jewel that adorned the hilt of the sword, the young man saw a flash of light, followed by and image of the same sword, with a crack on it, inside a cramped, white space. His frustrations began to become a slight depression and sadness.

– Why won't you let me draw you? – Finally said the masked youngster, with a tear rolling off his eyes.

– … That is because that if the Sword of Dai, asshole – said the magic user with probably, the greatest potential in the ALL THE WORLDS. He was holding his Shining Rod he received form Matoriv.

Pop, Marm, Leona, and Merle had just arrived to the site of the pedestal using Ruura, right after watching the column of light fading. Unfortunately, they had no time to get equipped at Lankarks, nor get Hyunkel and company, but it was an emergency.

– As the ruler of the Kingdom of Papunika, I hereby put you under arrest for the crime of thievery… is what I would like to say, but seeing you try to steal Dai-kun's sword, I just want to pound you… – said Leona, who suddenly revealed her weapon of choice… a whip. Just like her idol, Queen Flora.

During the war three years ago, Leona's participation was merely that of a healer, despite her proficiency in offensive spells. Truth be told, her attack strength wasn't enough to face their enemies, and Leona always felt disgraced because of this.

– Despite being a fighter, I'm not fond at all of violence, but what you are doing is just… despicable… – intervened Marm, while adjusting the gauntlets she had equipped herself with.

– It is terrible to steal. But you may have your reasons to do so. However… what you are trying to steal is the sword of the hero who saved the world. I'm sure you can appreciate that – Merle continued. She had decided long ago that despite her being unable to fight, she wanted to go not only to where Pop was, but where everyone was.

The three of them gave their respective declarations, and immediately looked around, realizing that the beautiful scenery had been lost. They felt some sadness because of the sight before them.

– … Who are you, and why do you seem like you want to interfere? Not that it is my problem really, because I will proceed, no matter our objections… or actions – the masked youngster declared, as he simultaneously got in a very basic battle pose, with his right leg and arm in front, and both arms slightly elevated.

– Don't get so cocky… BEGIRAMA!–. Pop had decided to begin the fight with a particularly strong blow, firing his spell, which resembled a laser, or heat beam, from his right hand, channeling it through his rod, which had been extended the instant he concentrated some of his magical energy. However, what followed surprised everyone.

The young man did not get hit. He simply leaned slightly to his right, with the beam casually passing by next to his head, and faster than anyone could react, he made his move. He jumped forward, towards Pop, and in the same pose he had been since the beginning, he quickly twisted his waist and torso, and threw his left fist forward, punching the magic user stomach, slightly sinking his fist on his target. Pop couldn't react, not even to the pain, until he reacted an instant later, on the floor, looking to the sky, lying on the burnt ground, puking some blood… Actually, no one could react at all, after taking care of Pop, the man of the mask concentrated his own magic power on his right, index finger, and fired what seemed to be the spell Gira, towards Pop's rod, destroying it.

– It's not over yet! – screamed Marm right after witnessing Pop's failed attack just an instant ago. She was confident in her martial arts, and thought that this was the perfect opportunity, to attack from behind.

She attacked in a similar manner as their opponent, but aimed her right fist at his head, which was turning to see his attacker. Marm pierced through the masked man temple… or at least, through the temple of his mirage, because he was already behind her, his body almost touching the floor, twisting it to kick her legs, making her trip backwards. Marm realized this, and remembered Larhalt's fight with Mystvearn three years ago. She had thought Larhalt was the only man capable of moving so fast. And while she fell, pondering about this, the masked man held her for an instant in the air, supporting her back, with just his right hand. During that instant, he twisted his whole arm while pressing upwards. Once again, he concentrated his magic energy.

Bagi – the masked man said dryly. The combination of the magical tornado, and his arm, sent Marm flying upwards several feet. Only when she fell, she realized what had happened. Immediately after that, her whole body began to sore of pain, specially her lower back.

MAHYADOOOOO! – Leona shouted right after the young man finished his attack on Marm. However, against the strongest Ice spell available for any magic user he only used the most basic Fire spell, Mera. Right after the spells collided, the blaze of fire that erupted from the tiny spark he initially generated from his right index finger went for Leona, who got surprised, but quickly recovered.

Leona didn't waste her time during the last three years. Along her responsibilities as the ruler of Papunika, she got trained by Flora and Avan in the basics of the wielding of a whip as a weapon. And also, she learned the three techniques that composed the core of the Avan-ryuu, which were not limited to swords, but included spears, bows, whips, axes, and fangs/claws. Cut the Earth, Cut the Seas, Cut the Sky… Cut Everything. Because of the nature of both weapons, the sword and whips techniques shared their names. And out of respect towards Dai, the true successor to Avan's will, she decided not to use the technique to Cut Everything: Avan Strash. Despite all of this, she knew that she must be the weakest of the fighting group. That is why she prepared herself for the possibility of being overwhelmed by her opponents, and decided that she would at least support her companions.

KAIHAZAAAAAAAN! – Leona shouted the name of the technique to Cut the Seas, designed to cut through non solid targets, which could change form, but were still made of matter, just like water, perfect to cut through a spell. Leona had originally intended to freeze the masked man, and use Daichizan, the technique to Cut the Earth, in order to smash the frozen target, but her opponent was to strong and fast

Once the flare was split in two, she intended to use her strongest healing spell, Behomazun, to completely heal Pop and Marm in an instant, and then regroup. All they had to do was that, and wait for their reinforcements, as she believed that the pillar of light had to be seen form Lankars, despite the distance. However, she didn't have the time, as the masked man switched his body weight, and leaned forward, putting his right foot in front, and emitted a Touki blast from his right hand, which impacted Leona before she could use her technique to Cut the Sky, Kuuretsuzan, which was intended to cut through immaterial targets, such as beings made of Light Touki or Dark Touki.

As incredible as it may sound, in less than five seconds, the masked man had defeated his three adversaries, with the minimal movement and effort, while making sure to hold back, nor wasted anything. A perfect victory… However, it wasn't over…

BEHOMAZUN – Pop recited in a loud voice while the masked man was distracted with Leona. Thanks to Matoriv's orders of contracting every type of spell available, and with his transformation into a Wise-man, Pop had become capable of executing offensive, defensive, and healing spells. In the last three years, in the utmost secret from his three traveling companions, he had improved al his non-offensive spells. – Sorry to disappoint you, but we're not done yet, you bastard. Now, it is my turn to hit you – Pop continued, before executing his next move.

– I'm not disappointed, just little surprised of your resilience, especially since you are a magic user. Moreover, you can use healing spells, which makes you a Wise-man… –.

Daimadoushi, if you would allow me, thank you – Pop intervened rapidly. After hearing his master calling himself Daimadoushi, and after surpassing all his fears, and achieving Matoriv's level of skill, Pop decided to be called the same as him. – IOGURANDE! – Pop casted with his right hand. It was a recently developed Io-type, or Explosion-type spell, which surpassed Ionazun, but Pop had already mastered it, and even more, managed to cast it with just his right hand, when usually, it required both. Pop launched, and his target was about to repeat his previous counter-attack, but what followed surprised everyone, expect Pop – MAHOKANTA! – Pop casted with his left hand, the spell used to reflect spells. But what really surpassed what was thought possible, was the fact that Pop casted not a big wall, but several small, translucent surfaces, which he dispersed in a way that surrounded his opponent. The masked man was too surprised to react, and got surrounded by al the small surfaces of light. Then, Pop launched his spell towards one of the surfaces, which reflected it to another one, and so on. The masked man tried to follow the movement, but in the end, got impacted from behind, but thankfully, managed to focus a massive amount of Touki to reduce the damage. Nonetheless, he got damaged by the attack.

– How… could he… –.

BEGIRAGON!– Pop casted with both his hands. His skill with spells was very close to Vearn ability to cast three simultaneous skills at the time. The concentrated hat wave was getting close to the masked youngster, but this one wouldn't just receive. He decided to make a full-body Touki-blast to disperse the attack, and was supposed to succeed. However, Pop had given Marm and Leona a quick signal with just his eyes, and they decided to capitalize the opportunity Pop had created.

KUURETSUZAN!– Leona used against the Touki-blast her enemy had used. Unfortunately, it was too strong to be dispersed with Leona's comparably weak Touki, but still, Pop's spell impacted, although with the intensity of a Gira spell, the weakest of the chain. A small success… followed by a greater one, as Marm jumped forward, covered by Pop's attack, and landed her own blow on their opponent stomach.

SENKA REKKOUKEN!– screamed Marm, as she swinged her right fist toward her target.

Senka Rekkouken was an attack which used the magic of the Hoimi-type spells, in an offensive way. Mahoimi, a lost spell, was said to be an overload of the healing spell Hoimi, as it forced the cells on the body to divide at an accelerated rate such that the cells ended up dying, which is why it could be used as an offensive spell. Despite being a lost spell, Brookena, the master of the Busshin-ryuu, had managed to develop physical attack which consisted in striking the opponent while using Behoma, achieving the same result as Mahoimi. However, Marm had decided to change the technique; by modulating the intensity of the Hoimi-type spell, she would reduce the damage of the strike, as a full power Senka Rekkoken could instantly destroy the body part that was stroke.

Right after Marm's strike, the enemy spilled some blood, and stopped, but didn't collapse. Pop decided that it was better to finish the fight, and was about to execute one of his strongest spells, which was used to crush enemies on the ground.

BEEEEEEEEETAAAN! – Pop screamed as he simultaneously swung his arm downwards, making the gravity around the target increase several times. Most enemies would be crushed by this attack, but the opponent would still not collapse. After the spell was finished, Pop saw that the masked man had not collapsed. The young magic user couldn't believe it. – No… No way… –.

– To think that you people would manage to injure me… But all I had to do was raise the Touki used to protect my body, and that did the trick, see? – The masked man declared, as he unveiled his torso, specifically, the place h received the Senka Rekkouken. It showed an extensive bruise, which surprised Marm.

– Impossible. Your stomach should be cracked, as it had been carbonized. I made sure that at least the surface showed such traits, but all I left as a bruise… –.

– My Touki protected me from most the effects, and has also begun to heal me… Injuring was a serious transgression, but if you all apologize, and allow me to continue with my agenda, I'll forget everything –.

– If you insist on taking Dai's sword, then not only we won't apologize, but we'll stop you from taking it… But don't worry, we'll be gentle – Leona said with an ample, but clearly sarcastic smile. On the inside, she was trembling, but her sense of justice, and even more, her feeling for Dai, supported her, and allowed her to hold herself together in face of such an opponent. Besides, there was no way that he could be even close to Dai or Vearn's level.

– … Why do you insist in defying me, when it's clear that you have no chance? The original owner of this sword is no longer… –

SHUT UP! HE IS STILL OUT THERE, WAITING FOR US TO GET HIM BACK TO US! THAT SHINNING JEWEL IS PROOF OF THAT! – Pop screamed before his opponent could finish. For everyone, that sword was a beacon of hope, and even if they know that Dai is alive, the sword comforts them when they miss him. Pop, Marm, and Leona looked at the masked man, not with anger, but with an immovable resolve.

– You are all just saying nonsense… But the look in your eyes tells me that you won't listen to reason no matter what… Why do you all fight so hard, and waste your already short lives… –

– Just to be clear, they are not being wasted… A life might be short, but we all try to make the best out of it… – Merle said before the warrior could finish. So far, she had not done or said anything since they had arrived. – Almost all the world knows how the battle against Vearn took place three years ago, which is why I'm surprised that you forgot… You know, I'm a diviner, which means I can see the future, and not wanting to boast, but I'm pretty good. However, I try not to depend so much on it, because it diminishes the value of life. Not because I know what is going to happen, but because I end up altering the course of events, and once I think I'm out of troubles, I bump into new ones. And I already wasted time and energy with my divining… –

– What are you trying to say? Forget? You are just supporting my argument –

– … I disagree with you. What she's trying to say is that you should take life as it comes, with everything you've got, because that way, you won't have regrets – Leona intervened. – You probably think that the Gods, and other immortal beings are more beautiful than mortals, but I say that their lives have nowhere the value ours have… – Leona said before something happened which would leave her frozen of fear.

HOW DARE YOU, YOU INSOLENT LITTLE BITCH! – screamed the masked man before jumping for Leona's life. His eyes showed a blood thirst that made Leona buckle on her knees. A feeling far worse than the one Vearn inspired on her three years ago. The warrior had lived his short three years of life learning form the Gods, and he would not tolerate such insults.

MERAGAIA! – said Pop as he unleashed the newest, and now strongest Mera or fire spell available against his opponent, who because of the rage, received the whole impact. However, he began to endure it, and Pop decided to let him do that, and continued to release fire from his hands. – Be careful with how you refer to the princess. Can't you see that you have scared? Marm, Merle, please help the princess… – Pop said to both hr companions – … And you better engrave the following in that head of yours, because it's clear that you have forgotten what I said to the whole world three years ago… The way we humans live… You seem to worship the Gods, and it's your right to do so, but understand that they feared Vearn, which means that they are not immortal. They might live forever, but it's not like they can't be killed, so in the end, they are almost the same as us… –.

STOP YOUR BLASPHEMY, YOU INSIGNIFICANT HUMAN! – The warrior shouted while enduring the blaze of fire he was being attacked with. His patience was running out, and he was getting ready to jump for the magic user's throat, despite the fact he had been taught that al life was valuable. He was ready to kill anyone he deemed an enemy of his masters

– … Whether we live for a long time or for just one more instant, we will shine and persevere for that insignificant instant, and because of that… we can shine more beautifully that the Gods, or even sun itself! JUST LIKE… – Pop continued before the masked warrior unleashed a Touki explosion (along a scream more intense than the roar of a dragon) that dispersed the blazing fire he had endured so far. Pop lost his balance, but managed to stay standing.

The girls also endured the blast, and actually had begun to recover their spirits because of Pop words. Before the blast, they were all shocked by their opponent's burst of anger. But now, they had an even stronger resolve reflected on their eyes.

Before the masked man jumped forward to kill Pop, the latter managed to finish his words.

– … A SUDDEN FLASH OF LIGHT! –.

The masked man jumped forward, but right before that, he managed to hear Pop's words, and simply lost all the strength he had put behind his jump. As he was getting close to Pop, a series of flashing images passed in front of his eyes, or more accurately, inside his head. The instant that all this lasted on the outside, extended into hours inside the masked youngster's mind.

Meanwhile, Marm had gotten in battle position, and was about to jump to get Pop out of their enemy's path, while Leona got up, and got her whip ready to attack. Merle could only shut her eyes, cover them with her hands, and turn around as she would be incapable of watching his beloved Pop die; Unfortunately, Marm would not get in time.

Prior to their travel to the pedestal site, Merle saw an image of Pop being incinerated along Marm and Leona. She thought that her vision was coming true, but the instant she turned around, which coincided with the end of Pop's speech, her vision appeared in her mind again, and shattered, as if Pop's actions had altered fate itself.

The masked warrior was approaching Pop slower than anticipated, and was too distracted with the images passing in front of his eyes. He saw an image of the magic user, half-naked and kneeling on the ground, in front of a silver haired Demon with white skin, two horns, and a missing arm, and the jumped to a scene in the atmosphere, with a Giant Monster on it. Just before the masked man collided with Pop, a giant whirlpool impacted the former.

JUUOU GEKI RETSUSHOUUUUUU! – screamed the Best King Crocodine, signaling his strongest attack, JUUOU GEKI RETSUSHOU, an attack he developed by combining the two opposing whirlpools generated from two JUUOU KAISHIN GEKI, each executed with one hand. The technique was developed during the war three years ago, when Crocodine sensed that he had to grow stronger if he wanted to contribute. The masked warrior had been trapped in the whirlpool, and was sent flying.

Crocodine, Hyunkel, Larhalt, Hym, Nova, Brass, Chiu, and Lon Berk had arrived with Ruura. They had all reunited at Lankarks, and the first five on the list carried weapons wrapped in cloths.

– Hyunkel, Ossan, everyone… It's great to… – Pop said, but stopped after seeing everyone's faces. They were all fearful of the opponent they had just seen for only an instant.

– Let's leave the greetings for later Pop, as this fight is not over… – Said Hyunkel to Pop, while unveiling his new weapon, based on the one he received from Vearn three years ago, before switching sides.

The new Magic Armor Sword. This new sword, like the previous one, seemed awfully broad, but was actually an armor wrapped around the sword itself. This time, the sword did not look evil, but still kept its powerful presence. The new sword shinned like silver, and gave an almost regal sensation. – AMUDOOOOOO! – shouted Hyunkel, before the sword splat and grew extremities, which covered Hyunkel's body, revealing a Fighter that shone a light armor, which seemed like a mixture of the armors he wore during the previous war; instead of a helmet, he wore something that resembled a crown, and even though his whole torso was protected, the armor was flexible. His extremities had light protection to allow more flexibility and. Also, the new was sword was particularly long, had a sheath instead of being stored in the helmet, like an antenna, and had a strange hilt. Instead of a two pronged one, this one had four prongs, almost like a cross. Everyone but the masked warrior was shocked by Hyunkel's new appearance. The masked man rose up, and turned to the heroes. His mask was cracked.

– I'll finish this with my new attack… – Hyunkel said before putting himself in a pose known to everyone; he was getting ready to execute his Bloody Scryed, a corkscrew like attack using his sword, which released a small tornado that left a wound like a rotating harpoon. However, said attack had become almost useless three years ago.

After Dai disappeared, Hyunkel was supposed to never fight again, but against all predictions, he recovered from his crippling wounds, and decided to train himself. For a time, Hyunkel had hated his master Avan, and after a failed attempt against him, Vearn took Hyunkel under his wing, granting him his original armor. Even after Hyunkel decided to join Dai, he felt too ashamed to use his master's technique, the Avan Strash, but when he realized his naivety after Dai's disappearance, Hyunkel decided to imitate his fellow student, and friend, in combining special attacks to develop a new one. Hyunkel decided to add to his Bloody Scryed two other techniques, the Avan Strash, and an explosion of which used a Cross as a medium of casting, the Grand Cross, his strongest attack.

Hyunkel got in position, and then pointed his sword backwards. Then, he began to focus his Touki on the hilt of the sword, not on the tip. The masked warrior was too distracted by the flashes of images that he saw inside his head, as the attack had barely done any damage; the masked man had instinctively used another power to protect himself, and no one had noticed. And against this new threat, this power was awakening again. A mark began to appear on the warrior's forehead, but it was covered by the mask. Hyunkel began to twist his body, while simultaneously changing the direction his sword was pointing at, AND concentrating more Touki. A technique like none other was about to be executed.

AVAAAAAAAN…CROOOOOOOSS…SCRYEEEEEEEEEED! – shouted Hyunkel as a rotating cross made of light was fired from his sword at a speed the eye could not follow, directed at the masked man. The shockwave of the technique almost blew Hyunkel away, and had success in doing that with everyone else. The cross impacted the masked man, and the mask got completely crushed, but the light blocked the enemy's face, which was adorned by a glowing blue crest that resembled a dragon. An aura of the same blue color instantly covered the young man.

Once the smoke cleared, everyone got up, and they all had something to say to Hyunkel. Even he had a smile on his face, confident of his victory. They all began to approach Hyunkel, when a column of a blue light everyone was familiar with rose from the ground.

The young man stood up, and revealed a face with white skin, soft eyes, messy and pointy hair, with a shirt ponytail, a cross shaped scar on the right cheek, and a blue crest know by everyone present at the place… IT WAS THE DRAGON CREST. No one could believe their eyes, but they all shouted the same thing, while the young man seemed out of himself, as if all that had happened after he heard Pop's words had not affected him.

DAI! –.

… To be continued

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