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Chapter 21

Age 749, Thursday, August 8, Demon World

I read through the information sheet on Genus twice more as we ran through the corridors, away from the demonic entity who had begun the chase.

The hole in the ceiling had been barred off, leaving me with no choice but to follow the renegade demon and… my father.

My. Father.

It was weird even thinking those words.

I thought he’d been dead for years now, but here he was, alive and… not well.

Years of torture and forced servitude, and who knows what else?

With that thought, it was surprising it took so long for the seal to be broken.

“We need to get him off our tail!” I called out as we turned another corner, exiting into what seemed to be a large inner garden of some sort.

Well, whatever passed for a garden in the world of demons, anyway.

The grass was purple and rigid like shards of glass; the fountain at the center was spewing demon blood, the dark liquid flowing down several dead bodies of various demons held up by spikes, before falling into the basin beneath.

Possible usurpers of this Genus fellow?

Well, whatever they were, I would likely face the same fate if I was caught.

“What are we doing here?” I finally asked. The renegade, Dyran, had completely stopped. He wasn’t even trying to look for a way out.

Wait, he wouldn’t..

“We will make our stand here.” He began, but I cut him off right there and then.

“Make our stand.” I parroted, gesturing wildly at him. “With what, your broken sword? Dumbass!”

“You dare!?” The tall demon exploded with anger at the insult.

“You’re half dead, he’s—” I pointed at my father, not even able to say his name right now. “Barely functioning as it is, and I’m not at my best either. We can’t fight this guy, and whatever fighting force he manages to muster. We have to escape.”

Dyran looked like he was about to explode again, but was stopped by my father, who raised his hand to placate his friend.

“Ten is right.” He said— and I shivered, that voice dredging up old memories again. “As we are, we cannot hope to win this fight. We can open the gates to the front entrance, and escape to the human world so we can recover.”

Dyran considered the words for a long moment, before nodding in irritation. “There are two guards at the gate; they might intervene with the opening, but I think it is possible.”

“The Deadnauts?” I cut in. “I already took care of them.”

“Very well, then.” Dyran said, steeling his expression and lifting my father into his arms once more, before running to the side, towards one of the large doors.

We pushed them open, only to be met face to face with a new obstacle.

It was a fellow clad in a grey robe and holding a whip. I could not see his face, hidden as it was under his hood. At his sides were two distinct creatures.

One was a very large, green scorpion, chittering at us with obvious hostility. Venom dripped from its stinger, the green liquid sizzling against the black stone floor.

The other was a large, red, dead looking wolf. It glared at us with its one eye, the other simply being a hollowed out socket. It was missing its left ear, and the skin underneath that as well— its skull completely exposed to the elements.

Dyran wasted no time, thrusting his broken sword into the creature with the whip. The two animals reacted immediately, lunging at Dyran in the hopes of killing him.

-350 MP!

I rushed the red wolf, tackling it onto the floor, my [Tiger Claw] activating just in time to tear the wolf’s leg off— the foot it was attempting to swipe me with.

The foot spun wildly, lightly smacking against the back of my head as it descended. I paid it no mind, instead continually clawing at the creature’s neck until it was decapitated.

Then, I took the head and threw it wildly, just wanting to get it away from my immediate surroundings. Judging by the splash, I realized I had thrown it into the pool of blood.

The wolf-corpse was still moving; but, without its head and one of its legs, it was a step below useless in a fight.

I deactivated my skill and turned my attention to my new companions, seeing they had dispatched their respective opponents just as quickly.

No words were said, we simply kept moving, trying not to waste even a sliver of time. I closed the door behind us, hoping it would buy a few seconds.

We ran until we got to a set of large doors, with a lever on each side.

“They have to be pulled at the same time.” Dyran informed as he gripped one lever and gestured for me to stand at the one to the left.

I obeyed, and stood by the lever, giving him a nod.

“One. Two. Three!” He counted, and we both pulled the lever.

A second passed, and nothing happened. Was this guy lying?

I opened my mouth to say something, only to be interrupted by the sound of stone grinding on stone.

The inner mechanisms of the gate, I assumed they were as I watched the large doors open outward, revealing the pile of bones and ash I’d left behind only fifteen to twenty minutes earlier.

“To the portal.” Dyran declared, lifting my father once again and running to the dark woods; I followed them swiftly, easily matching their pace, though I had to watch my step, as the ground was fairly treacherous.

After a few minutes of running, Dyran stopped, setting my father down and dropping to one knee, greatly exhausted.

“It seems I am too wounded. We should stop here, recover our power.” He said between breaths, pressing a hand against his side, his yellow skin quickly staining itself in the demon’s dark blood. “This will not be easy to heal, and we have no time. Ren, could you close this wound?”

A moment passed.

“You can’t mean..!” Ren said in shock.

“Yes, my friend.” Dyran said. “Summon up your fire, just like I taught you, and sear it shut.”

My father gulped, and gave a reluctant nod. He opened his hand and snapped his fingers. A red flame appeared, growing in size before moving down and suffusing against the skin on his palm, making it glow a hot red.

He knelt by Dyran, looking up at the demon’s face. The two shared a nod, and the yellow skinned demon lifted his hand off of his wound. The hiss of sizzling flesh filled the air, as well as Dyran’s agonized grunts and spasms.

I inched away for a moment, the smell of burning flesh hitting my nose, even worse than the general burning smell of this dark forest.

A second later, Ren canceled the spell and backed away, giving the demon space and time to gather his thoughts.

“Thank you…” Dyran wheezed for a moment, before he closed his eyes and attempted to rest.

My father only nodded to the demon in reply, before turning to me.

Neither of us said a thing. I didn’t blame him. What could you say in such a situation? This must’ve been extremely shocking for the older man, seeing his 14 year old son in the Demon Realm.

“I thought you were dead.” I finally broke the silence. “We-we all did.”

“I was as good as dead.” He replied, eyes flashing with an emotion I couldn’t quite place. “Sealing the object powering the portal in the fortress had been difficult enough..”

He shook his head and sat down, his back against one of the trees. He breathed out a long, exhausted sigh, gesturing for me to come to him. “Let me look at you. Ten.”

I swallowed the lump in my throat and moved to my dad, kneeling so that were both on the same level. He reached out and held his palm to my cheek, a glint slowly forming in his eyes.

“You look just like I did when I was your age, you know that…?” His frowning face finally cracked as he let out a smile.

“That’s what mom says all the time.” I replied automatically, the feeling on his hand on my face throwing me off.

I saw his eyes widen at the mention of his wife.

“Jean..” He whispered, smile dropping instantly as he let his hand sink to his side. “How is she.. How did she take my..” He trailed off.

I breathed a little shorter at that, the memories of those dark days filling my mind. Long nights of watching her cry and drown her sorrows into a bottle came to mind. Watching her break down completely, helping her up and taking her to bed, and cleaning up the mess that was left behind…

I shook the thoughts off. “…Not well. All we were told is that you died in an accident. No one would say what kind of accident, or even where it happened.”

A moment passed as Ren- no, Dad- absorbed the information.

“That Baba…” He said slowly. “Did she keep it a secret?”

“I doubt the old hag knew what exactly happened.” I waved it off, getting a little more comfortable with the slight shift in topic. “All she seemed to know was that there was an anomaly with demonic energy involved that she sent you to check out; but you never came back.”

At that, he looked at me once more, trying to understand.

“How would you..” He started, closing his mouth as realization hit him. “You’re a student of Baba. Is that how you got so powerful?”

“Ah…” I fumbled my words, trying to figure out the quickest way of explaining it, before shrugging. “That’s part of it, yeah.”

“My son, learning magic at fourteen.” He said, looking at me with wonder. “Unbelievable. Wait- what about school?”

Not even reunited for ten minutes and he was already asking about school.

Feh. Parents.

“I graduated already.” I said simply, the annoyance I felt quickly erasing itself after seeing my father’s look of astonishment.

“At fourteen?” He gaped and muttered something about having to redo his year when he was a kid. I smiled slightly, scratching the back of my head in slight nervousness.

“That bracelet..” His eyes lit up, snatching my hand and pulling it to him. “I remember it. My Beads of Haste.”

My eyes widened slightly. That was the same name assigned to the accessory by the game system. Just how powerful was my gamer ability, to accurately represent the name of something I wasn’t supposed to know?

Was it really a part of me? It seemed to function off of my subconscious at times, but there were also times where it just simply made no sense- like now!

How could it possibly know the name my father assigned to the bracelet?

I shook the unease off. I’d deal with that later.

“Mom gave it to me.” I informed him.

“Of course.” He smiled again, a bit wider this time, and his eyes glinting with hope. “She always knew what the right thing to do was. Oh Jean… I can’t wait to see her. I’m so glad you’re here, my son.”

My throat constricted at him referring to me like that. I felt him grab hold of me and pull me closer to him, holding me in a tight embrace.

I tried to struggle for a few moments, but stopped as I realized what was happening.

“D-dad..” I said, feeling something in me itching to release itself.

“..I am sorry, Ten.” I heard him say, his hand rubbing circles on my back. “I was supposed to be there for you, son. I failed you as a father. I’m so sorry…”

“Don’t-” I swallowed down the lump, trying my best not to cry. “Don’t say that. It’s not your fault, dad!”

He bit back a sob when I’d called him that.

“It’s not.” I repeated strongly, overcome with emotion. “How could it ever be?”

“…You don’t blame me?” He asked hesitantly.

“Maybe when I was little.” I admitted with a flush of shame. “I didn’t understand, back then. All I knew was that you were gone.”

“But, knowing what I do now.” I continued quickly, feeling him tense up. “I don’t blame you anymore, dad. You did everything you could. You saved the world! Who can say that about their dad?”

He tightened his hold on me, and I felt wetness stain my left shoulder- he was crying.

“I never dreamt this day would come…” He whispered. “But, you’re here. You’re here. You’re truly here. You’re real.”

I frowned at his choice of words, wondering just what kind of “fun” that Dreadfiend Genus had with the obviously damaged man. I linked my power to his once again and invoked [Insight].

Loving Father

Ren – Lv 43
Race – Human
Age – 42

HP: 3,550/5,000
MP: 20,520/70,000
Ki: 450/1,000

Rep: 100,000/100,000 Loved

The first chance in many, many years, Ren has successfully escaped the Dreadfiend’s fortress alongside his friend and ally, Dyran, reuniting with his son in very strange circumstances.

He cannot wait to see his beloved wife once again, but he is scared she will reject him once she sees the broken man he has become.

He is happy in the knowledge that his son, at least, has accepted him without reservation or question.

Battle Power: 30

“That is a truly interesting spell.” My father said quietly. “You are.. gauging my power, somehow?”

I nodded silently as he relaxed, letting go of me. I backed away, taking a deep breath. “You should focus on restoring your power.”

I pulled the [Mana Vial] out of my inventory, handing it over to him. “This should help you, just a bit.”

He stared at it for a long moment, before taking the vial and downing it in one go, smacking his lips at the taste. “This taste, it’s been so long, but I’ll never forget that familiar taste… Baba’s?”

I nodded in confirmation, watching his MP go up by 2,000. He smiled slightly, before closing his eyes and slowing his breath, entering a meditative state, leaving me alone for the time being.

“I should meditate as well..” I trailed off as a new window popped up.

Quest Complete!

Family History

Unlock the hidden power of your father’s old bracelet and learn of your father’s history.

-Find the fortune-teller’s palace to the far west.

-You have reunited with your father, who finally revealed the events of the day in which he was taken from you.

Reward: +20 AGI, +10 All Remaining Stats, Closure

Name: Ten
Occupation: The Gamer
Level: 22 (7,900/23,000 XP)
Race: Human
Age: 14

HP: 9,257 ; [24,325]
MP: 7,810 ; [8,067/17,386]
Ki: 12,202 ;[16,622/32,065]

STR: 113 ; [202.26]
VIT: 110 ; [196.90]
AGI: 120 ; [214.80]
INT: 88 ; [121.44]
WIS: 92 ; [126.96]

Points: 0

Battle Power: 114.3, [204.7]

The addition to my stats was most welcome, I thought as I quickly pulled a NutriBar and bottle of water out of my inventory, consuming both as quickly as I could. I pulled two more bars and bottles, placing them near my father and Dyran.

Then, I sat down, initiating [Meditation], keeping note of my surroundings using my power.

Ten tense minutes passed, and I faintly heard the sound of wrappers being torn off, as well as a hurried rush of words from my father to the demon.

I opened my eyes to see the sight of Dyran, fumbling with the wrapper of his own NutriBar, taking a bite out of the food. Eyes lighting up, he devoured it quickly.

“So, this is Earth food!” Dyran gave a sharp toothed grin. “Delightful. Do you have more, spawn of Ren?”

I blinked at the odd form of address, before shrugging and pulling five out of my inventory, throwing four at the demon, and another to my father.

“My thanks, Ren-spawn.” Dyran gave a slight nod, unwrapping the bars and eating them quickly. I watched as my father gave him instructions on how to drink from the bottle.

“This is impossibly pure!” The yellow demon said as my father greedily chugged from his own bottle. I pulled another one out for him. “You humans are truly blessed!”

“…What do you drink around here?” I asked in confusion. How could my dad have survived in this environment for years without water?

“Bloody wine.” Dyran answered automatically.

At my curious look, he continued. “It is not true blood. It is a liquid formed inside of a plant in the Heartlands of Chaos. Quite the thick mixture, in fact; your father’s acclimation to our food and drink was a hard one, indeed.”

I looked at my dad, who tried to shrug it off. Just what have you been through? I thought.

I opened my mouth to speak, but stopped as I felt something at the edge of my perception. Something foul, and quite strong- wait, no. It was more than one creature. It was three!

“We’ve got company.” I said quietly, pointing ahead of me. “In that direction. Three of them. Genus is not among them.”

I invoked [Insight] as the three of us got back up, our short reprieve having refreshed us slightly.

Obsidian Squad Leader

Jackaloon – Lv 59
Race – Demon/Beast
Age – 302

HP: 40,000
MP: 8,000
Ki: 27,000

Rep: 0/50,000 Despised

Jackaloon is the leader of the Obsidian Squad, a team formed by the Dreadfiend Genus who carry out his orders to attack his enemies’ defenses and supply lines. They are known to enjoy causing havoc and great suffering, even in the eyes of fellow demons.

Jackaloon has always hated Dyran for surpassing him at every turn. Now, he has the chance to destroy him while he’s weak.

Battle Power: 195

Obsidian Squad

Talon – Lv 45
Race – Demon/Bird
Age – 239

HP: 20,000
MP: 5,000
Ki: 10,000

Rep: 0/50,000 Despised

Talon is part of the Obsidian Squad, answering to Jackaloon and the Dreadfiend Genus. He does as he is commanded to, but is often chided for taking his time with his foes, as he loves to tear them apart with his claws slowly.

He plans on reducing Ren to a smear on the forest floor.

Battle Power: 145

Obsidian Squad

Thaumato Bat – Lv 41
Race – Demon/Bat
Age – 115

HP: 10,000
MP: 15,000
Ki: 300

Rep: 0/50,000 Despised

Newcomer to the Obsidian Squad, Thaumato Bat answers to the Archfiend Genus and his leader, Jackaloon. He does not care for mercy, and so is not above doing whatever it takes to win a battle.

Battle Power: 55

I relayed the relevant information to my companions, who swore.

“We’re not nearly recovered enough.” My father said, clenching his fists with impotent anger, before forcibly calming himself down. He turned to me. “How far are they?”

“Hm.” I tried to gauge the distance, and the speed at which they were moving, before noticing something. “They’re headed in our general direction, but not exactly to where we are. Maybe five minutes.”

“Then, we shall lay an ambush.” Dyran said gravely.

“An ambush?” I repeated, looking at the yellow demon. “You’re not exactly hard to miss, big guy.”

At that, the big demon grinned, clenching his clawed fist and concentrating. A miasma of purple spilled out of his fist, slowly, but surely covering his entire skin.

When the light show ended, I saw that the demon’s skin was now black as the stones of the fortress.

“With this skill, I was able to attack Genus without notice.” Dyran said proudly, confidently.

I smiled slightly. “Maybe we can make this work, then. My skill’s not as impressive as yours, but…”

I activated [Sneak] and leapt up one of the trees, barely making a sound.

“Remarkable.” He said, though his eyes kept track of me. “It will suffice for these foes.” Dyran turned to my father, and nodded to him.

“I’ll just hide behind this tree. When the fighting starts, I’ll throw spells your way.” Dad said, giving the both of us encouraging nods.

And so, we waited.

The real threat was the leader of the squad. With Dyran injured, still in recovery, I would have to kill him, myself. He would be the main focus of the fight.

However, I planned on getting rid of Talon, first. He was a powerful fighter, and clearly planned on gunning for my father as soon as he saw him.

The magical bat demon was certainly going to be a threat, but obviously less so, due to his low level and low magic pool.

We would be able to withstand his reaction to the ambush with ease, assuming he survived for that long.

“I’m going for Talon. You go for the bat.” I whispered just loud enough for Dyran to hear. “Around a minute left.”

He gave a grunt of confirmation, and we waited tensely.

I gathered my wits and resolve as our targets finally came into view, talking amongst themselves as they sifted through the forest in search for us.

“-eviscerate the little shit.” The bird-like humanoid said as it waved its taloned feet, its continually flapping wings keeping it airborne at all times. “Its screams will be exquisite, will they not?”

It continued to flap its wings, shedding purple feathers which gently fell to the forest floor. It looked around with keen, yellow eyes, attempting to spot either of us, with absolutely no luck.

[Sneak] held up just fine under its scrutiny, to my surprise. I focused back on the situation.

“I don’t care about the stupid mortal.” The leader, a jackal-like humanoid with brown fur, clad in leather armor and wielding curved daggers, replied uncaringly. “I just want to carve Dyran up. I’ve been waiting for this moment for a hundred years, now.”

The dark green bat-demon said nothing, obediently following his master and awaiting further orders.

I waited patiently, watching as the group slowly made their way towards us, until the bird demon was almost directly beneath me.

I leapt downwards, rocketing towards the flying demon and slamming into its body, knees first. I felt its bones shatter under my strike even before we both smashed into the ground.

I jumped back, dodging a clumsy swipe of its claws.

It screeched in agony, its attempt at retaliation worsening its own injuries.

I gave it no mercy, stretching a hand towards it.

-2,000 Ki!

“Ha!” The ball of Ki flew into the beast, smashing into it and embedding it further into ground. Its cries died out.

+7,600 XP!

My ambush had been a complete success. Not even three seconds into the fight, and I had taken out the second strongest threat. I quickly regained focus, watching as Dyran got sent flying into one of the trees by Jackaloon.

The bat demon looked injured, but not out of the fight just yet- at least until my father leapt out of his hiding place, bathing the unfortunate creature in flames.

I ignored its pain filled wail as I intercepted the Jackal demon, who was lunging toward the now downed Dyran, who seemed to be having trouble getting back up.

I should’ve realized.

My powers of regeneration were broken, this I knew. But, to see them compared side by side with another person truly showed how broken they were.

Most creatures, I assumed demons were included if this was any indication, required weeks upon weeks of recovery to actually get past such injuries, whereas I needed about half an hour of meditation.

Dyran talked big, but he was in no condition to do anything but run.

Still, he managed to mitigate the second threat, I thought as I landed a flying kick onto Jackaloon, sending him flying into one of the sturdy trees.

Having bought myself a few seconds, I turned to the bat demon and held a hand out, sending a [Ki Ball] at him with no fanfare.

-1,500 Ki!

The demon, realizing it was in danger, cast a spell at the ball, making it explode a short distance away from it.

The concussive force of my attack still sent it tumbling away, right into the path of another one of my father’s flame spells, turning it to cinders.

+1,000 XP!

Only that much? I guessed it was because Dyran and my dad did most of the work…

“Ah, the meddling child from the mortal world.” Jackaloon spit a tooth out as he stood before me, daggers in hand. “You are stronger than I expected.”

What? How did he know about me?

I’d killed anything that I faced up against.

“Confused?” The demon gave a grin, twirling and juggling his daggers around with an ease born of decades of practice. “One of your foes survived an encounter with you, and reported it to our leader. A powerful human, he said.”

Someone survived? Who?

I racked my brain to figure it out, but was drawing blanks.

Wait. The Horse Knight! I hadn’t received experience from him.

I hadn’t really thought about it until now. So, what?

They can fake their own deaths, too? I tore that thing apart! What sort of magic was this, to fool me so completely? I hadn’t even felt any probe, so, it couldn’t have been a mental intrusion.

Perhaps a body double with a transition so swift and seamless it seemed as if nothing had changed?

Either way, it was a great cause of concern.

“I see you understand.” Jackaloon continued to gloat- I guessed it was a species-wide trait. “We know all about you, now.”

I shivered slightly, his ominous words throwing me off for a moment, before I shook the feeling off.

They didn’t know all about me. They knew what the Horse Knight knew, and that was the extent of my physical strength, speed, my use of [Ki Ball] and [Tiger Claw].

It was a lot of information, all things considered, but I still had a few tricks up my sleeve.

-45 MP!

“Just because you know it’s coming.” I snarled, blue light emanating from my body as the [Mana Shield] took hold. “Doesn’t mean that you can stop it.”

“I wonder about that…” Jackaloon retorted, catching both daggers and rushing me.

The fight was on.

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