"Aagh!" Alfred let out a croak of shock as one of the soldiers popping out of the ground grabbed at his leg. "NO WAY DUDE!" He stomped on the soldier's grip with all his might, and backed away quickly as the soldier yelled in pain, then stood up, eyes glowing red.
The soldier smiled grimly at him, revealing several rows of teeth like a shark. Oh, crap.
Yong Soo's eyes began glowing red and he smiled in a way very befitting to a snake strangling its prey. While Arthur's hands radiated white light, his began radiating a red, eerie glow. The both levitated into the air above the others' head... As suddenly as a flash of lightning, the two forces of their simple presence clashed, rattling the cave so hard that Arthur's companions worried it would crumble on top of them.
The look in Yong Soo's red eyes was one of rage and sadistic enjoyment as he savagely attacked Arthur. He spoke his first spell in a low voice, tapping into his reserves of power kept hidden until the times he entered Corona. The wave of red light came at Arthur, who barely threw up a white shield of magic in front of himself, wider and larger than any other shield he'd created before. Unlike the shield that had shattered like glass when they were ambushed, this one held against the continuous force of the tidal wave spell Yong Soo had inflicted. With an ear-splitting BOOOOMMM! the ground shook as their magic converged, two gargantuan walls meeting together.
"WOAH!" Alfred stepped back at the sight of the two mammoth forces struggling in the stalemate against each other, an explosion of green-tinged white and ruby red. Meanwhile, Feliks nearly lost his balance and fell on his face, but somehow kept his footing. But at that same moment, a skeletal warrior kept alive only by the demon inside him leapt up into Feliks' face, who screamed and brought his knife through the visage of the ghostly demon popping out at him from the warrior. The poor soldier fell to the floor unconscious now that his demon was dead, and Alfred ran his sword through the next demon barreling towards Feliks from behind.
"HAHAHA! BRING IT ON DEMON-LOSERS!" Alfred laughed loudly. He spun his sword handily before stabbing another demon without turning around. Its essence dissolved like a spray of glittering mist.
Every time a demon attacked Ivan his merely smiled serenely and brought his bare fists down on their heads, dropping them like sandbags.
"If only you could've done that when Katyusha needed you, da-ze. Or the whole of your country for that matter. Prince." A sweet voice chuckled behind him. Ivan's serene mask dropped and his face contorted with rage, whirling towards the taunting visage of Yong Soo waving at him from behind. Ivan knew it was an illusion in this god-forsaken maze of dark magic, that the real Yong Soo was fighting evenly matched with Arthur, but that did nothing to soothe him.
"How about your little sister? How is she?''
Alfred smacked another, scrawnier demon with the flat of his blade, then head-butted one that came at him from the horde. Blinking the stars from his eyes and stumbling, he swiveled back to the demon-channeling device in the pit below him. The glow of his armguards landed on his face for a moment, and an idea occurred to him.
I'm a pretty strong guy normally, but with these things, I've got super strength... If we smash the main interface of the device's magical focus it won't work anymore(thank God I actually listened to Artie for once)! But I can't crush it myself even with my arm guards... But I know who can!
"IVAN! I NEED YOUR HELP!"
The glass-like magic of Yong Soo's attack and Arthur's shield began to shatter against the weight of each other, scattering at the same time. Arthur saw his chance, and raised an aura of white magic around him in a cloak. How exhilarating this state was! He understood why some famous sorcerers of the Guild and Independent studies had become addicted to such power. However, he felt a trembling in his frame as well, physically overwhelmed by the might of his magic, even if he wasn't spiritually. If he wasn't careful, this power could burn him up.
Now was the time to go on the offensive. A lance of white magic formed from his cloak, and Arthur charged Yong Soo, and actually landed a hit in the young wizard's side. He gasped, and coughed blood, Arthur staring at him grimly. Their noses were almost touching, from how close Arthur's blow had brought them. Yong Soo looked up into Arthur's face, and for an instant Arthur saw a glimpse of the young, almost a boy really, naïve man that Yong Soo was before this nightmare had began. His eyes resumed their ordinary dark color, and his expression was bewildered and afraid of the deep wound in his side. Arthur recoiled for a split second, but a split-second too long.
Yong Soo's eyes regained the eerie crimson hue, his expression twisted into a malicious grin, and he actually grabbed hold of Arthur's grip on the lance, and pushed it deeper into the wound. Arthur inwardly shuddered in horror, he'd seen suffering on the battlefield; he'd never seen someone delight in their own agonies.
"Don't you see, little king? Stab this thin body all you want. I. won't. die." The demon spoke through Yong Soo's voice.
Arthur felt weightless, floating. After a moment of exploring the strange sensation of being a part of some sort of long connection, Arthur opened his emerald green eyes.
"Bloody hell." Everything around him was silvery-white, like a snow storm. Small, colorless flowers and grass blades tickled his bare feet, and he was shocked to see his robes were no long green, but silvery-white like everything surrounding him. Arthur jumped when he heard a soft voice speak to him.
"I'm sorry ,da-ze. We thought we could suppress the demons' influence, and gain eternal life from holding their spirits in our bodies. We gained eternal life, but we paid a terrible price. It's my fault though. I should've told Emperor Wang no." The grief-stricken eyes of one so young, of the young wizard of Wang's empire, met with Arthur's shocked eyes.
"That was your plan? No, wait! Your emperor wanted power for his own selfish gain! That's why he let the demons possess himself and his people! For another matter, where are we, and what game are you playing demon scum!?"
Yong Soo looked furious.
"Shut up, da-ze! Yao didn't want that! He asked me to channel the demon into him so he could gain eternal life, that way, he could always ensure the Empire was peaceful and prosperous!"
Suddenly, he weakened as he continued looking towards Arthur.
"I'm actually the real Yong Soo, not the demon possessing me." Arthur stared at him blankly, shocked. He'd believed that those possessed by the demons were gone forever. Yong Soo continued to explain. "My spirit is trapped here. Here in the Spirit World. The Nature Wraiths are keeping me alive, and I've finally managed to make contact with you, now that you're in your strongest state of magic. I have something to tell you."
"But...weren't we just fighting?"
"The demon possessing me, and you Arthur, are indeed fighting. Right now in fact. You're speaking with me and fighting the demon simultaneously."
"IVAN!" Ivan tore his attention away from the idea of tearing the illusion of Yong Soo apart. He turned to see Alfred running towards him, stabbing and slashing the seemingly endless crowd of demons as he went. He paused when he was in front of Ivan, and pushed his cowlick of dirty-blonde hair out of his eyes.
"Yo, dude, I need you to help me with something!"
"The Fredka is asking for my help?" Ivan inquired and looked back at the spot the illusion had been taunting him from. "Damn." He cursed, wanting to quell the sly words of the wizard, even if he was only a ghost.
"Yes! Don't make a big deal out of it, just help me!" Alfred led Ivan through the demons, both taking down their opponents as they went.
"I assume you like, have a plan for carrying out the mission we came here for, right!?" Feliks suddenly landed beside them, wiping black and green blood from his knives.
"Felin-Feliks," Alfred shook his head, planning a very long conversation about that little confusion for later, "do you remember what part of that device is the interface?"
"Duh!" He replied as they ran along, then began scaling the crevice down into the chasm. A claw of a demon nearly swiped Feliks' grip from the wall, and he took on an expression of deadly concentration. He used one hand to hold onto the wall, the other to land a knife in the throat of the demon the claw belonged to.
Alfred hated having to climb down into this pit, they'd be surrounded easily, but they had no other way to reach and complete their mission. Now was their only chance while Arthur took Yong Soo Im down. A lump of anxiety lodged in Alfred's throat as he glanced up to the air above them, watching the fireworks of the conflict.
God, Artie. Don't get yourself killed. Ivan smiled like the cat that ate the canary at Alfred's worried expression.
"Fredka cares a great deal for his king, da?"
Alfred blushed from embarrassment and fixed Ivan with a glare. They were scaling quickly down the side of a pit, dodging and kicking the grips of the demons pursuing them, Artie was in danger and he didn't need more grief from Ivan at the moment! Time to shut him up!
"Yeah, and you really want to wrap your hands around Yao Wang's throat! So the first humiliation we can deal to him is preventing him recruiting any more of these soldiers of his. You want revenge for what he did to your country, right Ivan? Or would you prefer 'Your Majesty'? Not that I'd actually call you that. You're the one with the personal score against these guys right? So shut up with the stupid games and help us!" Alfred snarled as their feet finally hit the ground.
Ivan's face hardened.
" You are right. Enough games. But, you will tell no one of who I am." He warned both Alfred and Feliks.
Arthur had been thrown off Yong Soo, and their spells were becoming less and less stable from their earlier power up of Corona. They had no idea how much longer they could keep this up, and this seemed to only excite the demon more. He was different from other demons, preferring to keep his human guise than use his true form in battle. Arthur suspected it was from his twisted, sadistic, sense of humor.
A roar broke through his thoughts.
"Oh fff-!" Arthur yelled, as a blazing tower of black ash rose up. The heat was breathtakingly intense as it engulfed the two combatants. Literally. Arthur felt like someone had actually set his lungs ablaze, and could barely form a coherent thought. Everything was a terrible blast of red and black, red and black, red and black... Coughs wracked his body, and he temporarily lowered his guard, doubling over.
He heard the demon laughing somewhere in the shadowy ash, and caught glimpses of his silhouette out of the corner of his eye. But every time he caught a glimpse the demon disappeared just as quickly.
His strength was beginning to fail him...it was the ash...the ash wasn't normal...it was also conjured specifically to kill.
"A-Alfred...M-Matthew..." Arthur hacked. He tried to summon his light magic, but he couldn't.
"N-no! My c-corona c-can't be failing me! Not now! No!" Arthur cried horrified. A terrible laugh rang in his ears.
"You always were very perceptible to magic drunkenness. Maybe that also leaked into your so-called mastery of your pinnacle point of magic? You're a shoddy, two-bit excuse for a magician. But you know what's worse? You're a pathetic, pitiful excuse for a king, and an even worse brother."
The words crushed what little air that was left in Arthur's lungs.
A red bolt of magic sharpened as a blade suddenly bolted from the foggy black of ashes, slamming into Arthur's back. A cry of pain left his lips, and he plummeted from the air.
Feliks stared at the grotesque instrument in front of them. He'd never seen anything like it before. It looked similar to a spider's web in arrangement, only with black crystalline pillars connected by thin, threadlike blades rather than sticky webbing. In the middle of the instrument was a circle of black blood mixed with red blood written in ancient characters none of them could read. Above the circle, floating in midair, was the interface, a foul lizard-like skull dripping with black blood and preserved by a green gem placed in its teeth.
The horde of demons was catching up to them! They couldn't escape, but they could finish what they came here for! Alfred shoved his arm guards onto Ivan's arms, and alongside Feliks, used all of his natural strength, combined with sheer will, to catapult Ivan up into the air. He landed on the interface, and as he did so, brought his arms (his ordinary abnormal strength combined with arm guards' magic) down in an earth-shattering blow against it, breaking it into a million pieces.
Alfred felt the chillingly cold scaled hands and claws grab at his legs, but his eyes fixed on one image above him.
Arthur was falling, his face pale and still. No.
"ARTHUR!YOU CAN'T GIVE UP NOW! WE NEED YOU!"
"King Arthur, there's something you need to know. You're going to play an important part in the coming battle. The Nature Wraiths told me so." Yong Soo murmured softly.
Arthur's eyes widened in shock.
"You will gain something and also help to deliver something that will be crucial in winning the final battle." Yong Soo nodded. Suddenly his head jerked up.
"This is why you can't give in now! Wake up! ARTHUR!"
"ARTHUR! YOU CAN"T GIVE UP! NOW WE NEED YOU!" Two little blonde boys. A young man with wavy brown hair and green eyes. A man with silver hair and red eyes. A fellow wizard with a cross pin in his hair and serious eyes. A pink-wearing girl with blonde hair. Two platinum blondes with confident looks and unstable natures. His entire kingdom of smiling subjects and the soldiers out there dying bloodily.
Who was he to give up when they were still fighting? When they needed him? When he still had a role to play? Bloody hell! WHAT WAS HE THINKING!?
Arthur's eyes snapped open. His eyes flashed with white light, as did his hands.
"NO!" The demon wearing Yong Soo's face paled and tried to get away. "NOOOOOO!"The demon possessing Yong Soo, the ash, the other demons, what was left of the demon-channeler, Arthur, Alfred, Ivan, Feliks, all were swallowed in the beautiful white magic of Arthur's corona. But one final flash of dark magic shot from the demon inside Yong Soo, settling cozily around Arthur in his aura of power.
The light finally faded, and Alfred, Ivan and Feliks saw that they were alone.
"HAHAH! WE DID IT! TAKE THAT! YOU SEE!? I"M THE HERO! ARTIE! ARTIE YOU WERE AMAZING! ARTI-Arthur...?" Alfred laughed manically before abruptly stopping. He turned white as a sheet. "Arthur!" The wizard was laying face down on the cold stone floor, unmoving. The three rushed to his side and knelt, Alfred carefully gathering Arthur in his arms. He was incredibly gentle in turning the king over to face him.
He gave him a gentle shake. "Arthur...? You okay?" Alfred's cerulean eyes were full of fear. Arthur gave a sudden gasp for breath. His eyes fluttered open, and his face set grimly with the realization of what had just transpired. That was a curse. He was dying. But...he didn't want to tell Alfred that. Everything felt so strange, like his magic was fading... He should just...act like he normally did...
"That wanker...He got to me at that last point...and...I can't contain my spells anymore..." Arthur's eyes slid shut in exhaustion. Alfred gasped, panicking. He shook Arthur's shoulders desperately.
"Hey! HEY! Hang in there! You're okay! You're fine! C'mon man, look what you did! We won!" His face was slick with sweat from worry at how pale Arthur was.
Elsewhere, tattoos on three wrists vanished, leaving searing pain behind as Arthur's magic slipped away.
Despite the two men doubled over in pain behind them, including one who had a very frantic shorter man grabbing his shoulders in concern, no one noticed the marks vanishing on them. Most were too busy staring in shock at their leader.
"Arthur!" Lukas cried.
Arthur seating in front of him looked back at Lukas, eyes glazed, face pale. Then, his eyes slid shut in exhaustion. He slumped over on his horse, then the king of Regnoc vanished.
Natalya let out a gasp of irritation and shock, staring down at her wrist. "Miss Natalya...?" Toris asked in concern. She smiled grimly. "Perhaps the king has decided we are trustworthy, if his spell is gone..." The black robin tattoo on her wrist was gone without a trace.
"Arthur? Arthur! ARTHUURRR!" Alfred screamed, his king vanished from his arms. Everything just seemed to shut down. Or maybe he just did. Arthur can't be! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! Arthur isn't dead. He isn't dead. He isn't dead. He isn't dead. He isn't dead. He isn't dead. He isn't dead. He isn't dead. He isn't dead. He cradled the air where Arthur had been, his expression blank. Two tears streamed down either side of his expressionless face. He turned and looked at Ivan's arms, and suddenly a million pound weight lifted off of his chest. Two shiny armguards glittered there. His arms guards. The ones Arthur gave him and that wouldn't vanish unless he truly was dead.
"He isn't dead." Alfred said aloud, relief suddenly taking over. He fell onto his back, unable to move. He didn't know where Arthur was or what had happened to him, just that he was alive. He had to be severely weakened if his spells were giving out, but he was still alive.
Ivan's expression was unreadable , despite scrutinizing the limp knight on the ground beside him. Then, something suddenly fell into his hands. He blinked, surprised, and looked up.
"Oh, the little birdie." He commented offhandedly. Feliks gasped.
"Gilbird!?" He yelped. How had that little bird found them down here!? The adorable yellow puffball tweeted impatiently at Ivan, urging him to open the letter he had just dropped into the tall man's hands.
Ivan pulled the rough pages from the envelope and stared hard at them for a moment.
"...It's from Gilbert." He announced.
Arthur gasped as he jerked awake. He turned and saw Yong Soo, the real one with dark eyes.
"You know I'm really sick of waking up in the oddest of circumstances." Arthur scowled.
Yong Soo actually smiled. "What a way to thank the one who saved you da-ze! That last curse would've destroyed your body and spirit! Instead, I redirected it to transport you here!"
"So, my physical body is here in this realm?" Arthur raised his bushy eyebrows in surprise.
"Yep. You have to get it back to leave the Spirit World. We'll have to find it somewhere in here for you to return to the Human World."
"What about you? Why haven't you returned to the Human World?"
"The same reasons as my brothers and sister. Our physical bodies are still in the Human World, possessed by demons, and our Spirits can't return to them until the demons are completed erased from the Human Worlds. Even if the demons possessing our bodies are killed, we can't come back until every single one of them is gone, because their dark magic anchors us here."
"So all of Emperor Wang's commanders are here in spirit?"
"We're separated, but yes. We can't find each other..."
"What about Emperor Wang himself?"
"...N-no...The reigning demon Kyron...he wanted to keep Yao's spirit under lock and key...Kyron had Yao's spirit trapped inside his own demonic consciousness, unable to move, unable to speak, trapped in a spiritual hell."
Arthur kept his expression under control, but almost shivered at what such an existence must be like. He was a king, damn it! He had to keep a stiff upper lip, and get back to the business at hand.
"Right, I'm alive. That's all well and good. But you're saying I have to find my body now? So be it."
A/N: Hey guys! I'm so, so, so, so, sorry that took way longer than it should've! I didn't intend for this chapter to take forever to be posted, and I apologize for that! Thanks for your patience, and I have something to tell you that should make you happy. Next chapter, we're back to Elizaveta and Gilbert!