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Nightfall - Reopening for new peeps

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Vex silently watched Isaac as he took the ring from his palm. There was a moment of hesitation within the reaper as he seemed to jerk his hand back, but he put it back forward afterwards. The last thing he wanted to do now was make Isaac fight him to get the ring - putting such a burden on his body would make the process of getting used to the artifact even harder. No, it wasn't the time to think about things like that.

Quietly, he turned to look at Isaac's face as he stared into the crystal, encrusted within the ring. Now that he thought about it, the Thresher could remember a strange shape that reminded him of an insignia. Could it be something he had seen before?

Deciding not to trail off with the thought, Vex switched his gaze on the amulet that Isaac drew yet again from his pocket. He listened in on the conversation he shared with Aurora. After it was done, he slightly nodded toward the Shadowborne - the princess' words were quite like the ones he'd say himself, save for a couple of other lines.

My farewells are last, so they'd be short, but now they'll be even shorter... The Chain Reaper thought to himself, his expression becoming gloomy. Then again, what else could he say - he'd respect Isaac's choice no matter what, since this was a gift from Seghil as well as a huge danger, and he would hope that the Shadowborne wouldn't die. No, he'd focus on his own unique message, since repeating the words another had already spoken was useless.


Moments faded by as Vex emerged from his thoughts and turned to watch Isaac. He had turned quiet and his body was stiff, which made him think that he was probably talking to the demon within him. Now that he thought about it, the Schwarze Kaiser was truly the only one who had been by his side for the longest - there were no apparent survivors of the Rite, and both the Shadowborne and the Thresher had met eachother years after it had all ended.

Raising his head up as Isaac emerged from his subconcious, he watched him draw a knife and remove one of the gloves that adorned his hand, then place the sharp edge of the blade onto his dark skin. So, he had chosen to go with it?

Suprising, I'd say... though now that I think about it, it really isn't - when Isaac puts his mind on something, he'd accomplish it, no matter what... Vex thought quietly as he listened to the words of the Shadowborne before he watched him cut into his skin. Warm blood moved from the cut and through his closed hands before dropping onto the parchment's surface, causing it to glow mysteriously. This part of the pact had been sealed... and though he'd never have enough time, the Thresher took a moment before he'd placed the ring on his finger to speak one more time with his friend.

"From today onwards... let it be known that Isaac of the Ebner family, bearer of the Schwarze Kaiser, has faded into the abyss... let it also be known that Isaac, Judge of the Night, has finally decided to take his leave... and now, let us all watch the new Isaac, Defender of the Sun and servant of the Neuvhorn family, be born..." Vex started formally, his words seeming to help seal the contract as the text started to glow with a powerful crimson light. Then, he approached Isaac and placed his right hand on the man's shoulder.

"Isaac... no matter what happens to you, know that I will always respect your choice. Even if you pass on, be sure that I will watch over Aurora in your stead as your own Brother... and, if your will to survive proves strong, I will help you through this process with all I have. Now, you owe both me and Aurora, so think twice before you go dying on us..." The Chain Reaper continued, his tone joking this time, before he patted the man's shoulder. Now finished with his farewells, he sighed and stepped back, then placed his hands together. Quietly, he muttered a short Latin prayer.

"In nomine Patris... et Filii... et Spiritus Sancti." Vex began, struggling at first to recall the words, then continued onward confidently.

"Actiones nostras, quaesumus Domine, aspirando praeveni et adiuvando prosequere... ut cuncta nosta oratio et operatio a te semper incipiat et per ta coepta finiatur. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen." He finished, then turned his head up to watch Isaac with a look of hope.

Edited by KuroKishi

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An open expanse projected itself before him, endless, boundless, and untamed. He stood there, confused, as he gazed out into the distance. The only thing that gave life to the expanse was a single, solitary sun, gazing out from the horizon. He stared in wonder as it gazed back.

He looked down at himself. He wasn't wearing his usual attire. Rather, he was wearing the gear of an acolyte - something he had burned years ago before leaving his home. He grabbed at the hems and prepared to remove it before a voice halted him.

"Do you wish to be naked then, young one?"

Isaac turned, his head cocked slightly.

Behind him stood a being that looked similar to his older self. Beside him stood a child, Isaac's face clear upon it as the child held the older one's hand.

"More illusions? Is it Seghil?" Isaac asked, concerned.

"Seghil has no thrall here." the man responded. "This is the one place he will never control, or dominate. Your mind."

"Mein?" Isaac replied, looking up. Above him, the air moved into nothingness. There was no ceiling. Then again, there was no floor, either. The three stood upon an inky blackness that was only given life by the sun across from them.

"Indeed. Yours." the elderly man uttered as he moved to stand next to Isaac, his eyes focused on the sun. "You came here, willingly."

"And why is that?" Isaac asked, frowning.

"Because your brain - your soul - needed to save itself. You're experiencing excruciating, unimaginable pain right now, and your body cannot process it. As such, you came here, to escape the pain. But also because you must learn."

"Learn what?"

"That which you were never taught." the elderly man whispered.


"Because learning it will help you become what you wish to be."

"What... what do I truly wish to be?"

"That is the real question you must ask yourself."

"And are you me?"

"No. I am what you shall become." the man said, and then went quiet. For a long while, the two did not speak, and merely stared at the sun.

Isaac, however, kept giving furtive glances to the child which held the elderly one's hand. The young boy had continued to deteriorate during the course of their pause in conversation, his skin becoming pale and shriveled, his eyes becoming less bright, his flesh emaciated.

"What's happening to him?" Isaac asked of his older self, concerned.

"You are rejecting him, and you have rejected him for years - decades. Sometimes, you call out to him, wishing you could be as him again, but then you quickly erase him from your mind."

"Is he what I was?" Isaac asked.

"Yes. And no. He represents the childhood you had and the childhood you wanted. You were innocent, blissful, until you became an adolescent. And it was during that time that you called out to the sun loudly. Now, you whisper for it."

"...Did I ever find it?"

"Go, and try to touch it." the man said forlornly, pointing.

Isaac obeyed, stepping forward. But as he began to step towards the sun, his hand outstretched, his feet began to feel heavy and weighted. His movements became more and more struggled as he tried to push himself towards the large, glowing orb that taunted him.

Finally, after what seemed like an hour, he let his hand hang by his side. He turned back. He had only moved a few inches past the man and the child.

"I can't touch it..." Isaac said sadly, vexed. "What does that mean?"

"That you haven't truly found it yet." the man responded. "You still allow the darkness to flow within you. You still hide from the sun, no matter how much you wish to touch it."

"But... but I do want to touch it." Isaac whispered, depressed. "It's so beautiful... so bright.."

"And dangerous." the man responded.

"But it is so warm... and inviting.." Isaac protested.

"It will incinerate you with the same flames you wish to hold in your hands." the old man said. "You have never truly accepted it. Your parents succeeded in one facet. They made you fear the sun. No matter how much you desire it, your body will rebel. Your deepest fear and your deepest desire are that sun there. You both wish to hold it yet you also wish it would leave you. You are conflicted. That is why you have never had the power you are trying to have."

"Are you sure you're not Seghil?"

"Are you sure you're Isaac?" the man shrugged. "You are the one who placed the ring upon your finger. You should have known what would happen. The deaths were not caused by the ring. They were caused by the weakness of the bearer."

"I don't understand..."

"The symbol upon the ring changes based on the one who accepts it, as you noticed. It is known as the Ring of Awakening. It has no powers of its own. By itself, it's nothing more than a trinket. But when it's worn, it forces the person to lock themselves within their own minds, so that they may awaken."

"Awaken? Does this mean I am trapped here?"

"As long as you wish to be trapped, yes." the man walked towards him and placed his free hand upon Isaac's shoulder, the other still clasping the dying hand of the child. "You always wanted to hide from the outside world. No matter how much you tried to fool yourself by running free and trying desperately to unchain yourself, inside you felt as though you wished to hide from it all... forever.."

"That's.. that's a lie. I wanted to be free from my family, from the clan... from all of that.." Isaac looked at his clothing, his body shaking. "I just wanted to escape what I was becoming.."

"And so you did... by becoming someone completely different.. by lying to your heart - your soul - and wearing new clothes and acting in a new way - cocky, arrogant, and sly. By adopting your new persona, you hoped you would change everything. You'd become a tragic hero. You'd become someone to be respected, rather than the monster you had been. But you could not truly lie to me, or him-" the man gestured to the child, who looked at them both with melancholy, blank eyes. "-because we knew what you had been. You cannot truly lie to yourself, Isaac, because in your heart you know it's a lie. You believe you don't deserve Aurora - your sun - and so you can never truly touch her."

Isaac fell to the ground, clutching his legs tightly to his chest. He took the fetal position, his eyes wide, his body now shaking horribly. Why did he feel so anxious - so afraid? Why did he feel so utterly shattered? But now that he had heard all this... he knew it was true. From a young age, he'd always loved the sun.. but he had never felt worthy of it. With every murder, he watched his own, metaphorical sun shy away from him, unwilling to look upon the face of a killer. He would never truly attain it, though he loved it so much.

So perhaps, in the end, this was better. The ring may have done him a favor. If he sat here, wallowing in his grief and misery, he would be much better off. He wouldn't have to face the pain. He wouldn't have to fight Venheim. He could sit in this bleak expanse for the rest of eternity to atone for his sins against his own brothers and sisters. But behind him, the sun seemed to taunt him. He could feel its warmth upon his back, feel the love it wished to give him. But his back was to it now, and it could only try in vain to get his attention.

"Mister, are you crying?"

Isaac looked up, despondent. Before him, the child had released itself from the grasp of his older self and wandered over to him, curious. But the boy no longer resembled a child.

It looked as though a body had risen from a crypt. Broken, torn flesh adorned visible bone. One eye was missing, the skull cracked in the socket. The clothes were ripped and shredded, hanging from a half-starved body that seemed like it would wither away at a touch. Still, the young boy looked more concerned with Isaac than himself.

"You are dying, yet you speak to a fool like me, and worry about my state of mind?" Isaac chuckled slightly, quiet.

"You aren't a fool, mister. Just misguided. That's what the old man says." the boy responded, cocking his head. "And what do you mean dying? I feel fine."

"You cannot convince him of what is happening to him." the old man said as Isaac attempted to speak. "He will never listen to you and think he is ill. No matter how you tell him he is suffering, he won't believe you. He has no mirror to look in to, and he cannot see what is not in front of him. He can only believe what he feels."

"But what sort of existence is that, to live a lie?!" Isaac asked, blinking.

"You tell me." the old man replied, with a hint of derision. "What is it like, Isaac Ebner, to live a self-formed lie so that you don't have to face the truth of what you are? What is it like to be a man who says he can touch the light, only to shy away from it and act as though you never truly wanted it? What is it like to blatantly lie to yourself and believe it? What is it like to say that you are alive, when inside you are dying with every passing second?"

He stepped closer to Isaac, moving with grim determination. The boy stepped aside as the man towered over Isaac, his gaze stern.

"What is it like to be afraid?" the man asked, kneeling so that he was eye to eye with Isaac. "To fear? What is it like to be a coward?"

Isaac looked back at him, his eyes lost, as the man stared at him with a rigid, dark glare. All Isaac could think was how quiet and peaceful it would be if he sat here for all eternity, staring at what he could become, and what he had been.

But here, there was no sun he could touch. No Aurora. Here, there was only what he could create, as a false illusion, as he always had. Here, he could not lie to himself, and try to form things that weren't true. Here, this is what he truly was - a pathetic excuse for a human being who thought he could have been something better.

The raspy breathing of the child was all he could hear for a long while. He turned to look at the young boy, and immediately regretted it.

The boy was completely broken now. His eyes were gone, his mouth toothless, his bones weak and frail. His clothes were nothing but rags and tatters upon his body. He laid upon the ground, his chest movements all that he could make to show he was alive.

"Will he die again?" Isaac asked, concerned.

"You never cared about him before, when you did not face him." the old man replied.

"But now I have."

"And now you care. Yes. He will die. He has died many times. But this will be the last time. He can no longer return. Now that you know he exists, and you refuse his existence, he can no longer live here. You have won."

"But I don't want him to go. He's frail. He's small. But he's brave. And he wishes to help those in need... As I once did, even when he's the one suffering the most."

"You would have to accept him, and to accept him means you will no longer lie." the older man said. "But do you really have the courage to do that?"

Isaac stared at the boy with a distant gaze. The boy could not see him any longer. But Isaac now knew - felt - what he had to do in order to save him.

He stepped over to the boy's body, his robes moving softly on the non-existent ground of his mind.

"Is that you, Mister?" the boy asked, turning his head. "I can't see you. It's too dark."

"It was always this dark. I just fooled myself into thinking there was light at all." Isaac replied, kneeling beside him. "I lied to myself, and told myself that I saw something - anything - just so I didn't have to see myself instead."

"Telling lies is bad. My mommy taught me that." the boy whispered, barely able to speak. "She said.."

"That they are the tools of the weak?" Isaac ventured.

"No... That they hurt people. She said that good people don't lie, because lies can hurt others... I don't want to hurt anyone." the boy said weakly. "I want to help people. But I can't move.. Am I really... going to die here? I don't want to die. I'm scared."

"I won't let you die. I promise." Isaac said, placing both hands under the child's body and lifting him. Surprisingly, despite his appearance, the boy weighed much, and Isaac struggled to hold him aloft.

"It's warm now..." the boy commented, smiling softly. "Are you holding me?"

"I am."

"Mommy used to hold me too... but then she said I was strong enough to stand alone... but I didn't want to. I still wanted her to hold me like she used to."

"We both did." Isaac said, turning to the sun.

"Your mommy did that too?" the boy asked.

"She did. And I cried when she did it. I cried for a long time. But she never heard me."


"Because she would have punished me for crying. I did it when she wasn't listening. I didn't want to fail her." Isaac said sadly, stepping towards the sun. Each step became more difficult than the last, as before, but he continued forward, taking each one with all the energy he could muster.

"Mister... can I tell you a secret?" the boy said.


"My mommy would have done that too.. She didn't like when I cried." the boy whispered, clutching himself tighter as Isaac carried him.

"I know."

"Where are we going?"

"Towards the sun." Isaac answered.

"But mommy says I can't do that! She says it will hurt me! She says she'll punish me if I do it!"

"I won't let her hurt you." Isaac vowed, stepping closer to the sun. "I won't let anyone hurt you again. I'll accept you, as what I was, and for what you are. I will accept the sun. I will do it no matter what she says or does. Because I won't let my fear stop me."

"I'm afraid, Mister. I don't want to be punished." the boy whispered sullenly.

"I won't let her touch you, ever again. I won't let them hurt you, ever again. I will hold you close, forever. She will never touch either of us, ever again. I swear to you."

"But Mommy is strong. She'll beat you!"

"Not anymore. She had a chance to be strong and she was too afraid. But I'm not afraid, and I won't let her hurt you." Isaac repeated, stepping into the sun. "I won't let her hurt us ever again."

As the warmth of the sun surrounded him and the boy in his arms, Isaac felt nothing but bliss and happiness. The fear of his mother - of himself - left him. He smiled as the light embraced him, and then all went white.




He awoke, now, his body feeling slightly strange. He looked up from where he was laying, perplexed. From nearby, the soft sounds of children's music played.

It was obviously a memory. He knew very well what it was. It was the one of the only, happy memories he had of his mother. It was the time he and her had cooked together when he was five, a few months before she had suddenly turned twisted and cruel, and began to berate him.

He removed himself from the bed, moving to the door of his small bedroom. He remembered, with a bit of sadness, that his mother hadn't always been the leader of the Cult. They had lived in a small hovel, quiet, and comfortable, on the edge of the Ebner territory. Never once had they considered that they would become the leaders of the tribe.

He stepped down the hallway quietly, reliving the memory as he had many times before. But something felt off. As he entered the kitchen, he could hear the sounds of the years following - pots and pans clashing, angry voices, and the sounds of physical fighting. But within the kitchen, as he entered and the sounds dulled, he could only see his mother, working diligently. Her long, black hair fell from where she had it tied. She turned when she heard him enter. Her smiling face was both alien and yet completely normal to Isaac as she welcomed him.

"Would you like to help me, Isaac?" she asked, patting the stool next to herself with a smile. "You're young, but I think you can do it. After all, you're a smart, little boy."

Isaac pulled himself up onto the stool with a mixture of fear and desire, just as he had with the sun before. But no child besides himself was present, and no older version of himself was here to help him. All he could do was do as he remembered he did. He grabbed the eggs from nearby and began to assist his mother as she pointed out everything, helping him to help her bake and work. He began to forget what had happened before, and just wanted to lose himself in this.

"This is a lie, you know."

Isaac looked up at his mother, concerned. It had surely been her who had spoken, though for what purpose she had said those words, Isaac didn't know.

"What, Mom?" Isaac asked, bewildered.

"I soon became busy, after this. Over time, you saw less and less of me. You continuously tried to get my attention, only to realize I would punish you for acting out. Remember?"

Isaac stared, his eyes wide, as she turned to look him. But her loving face was gone, replaced with a black, featureless void that continued to speak to him.

"You soon began to forget that I had ever seemed to love you. You found out later that it was because my brother had died, and left me in charge of the cult. The sudden load of responsibilities had broken my mind. I became violent, and believed that I had to raise my children to a standard. You still have the scars I left upon you, don't you, my dearest son?"

As she spoke, Isaac felt burning pain as the wounds she had mentioned began to appear on his young flesh. Fresh blood poured from them painfully as he looked down and began to cry. She grabbed his chin, forcing him to look her in the face.

"But even then, though you would hide from me in the shadows under your bed, you wished I would stop hurting you and go back to the way I was. It was because of my beatings that you even learned how to become Shadowborne, just so you could hide from me. And that's not to mention the cousins I allowed to come over so they could try to kill you. Oh, I knew very well why they really wanted to visit. That's why I let them in. And yet you still lied to yourself and said things could ever be good again. You were always a coward, Isaac. Did you think that you could escape my wrath forever?"

The blade within her hand gleamed threateningly as Isaac struggled to break free of her grasp. He fought, causing the stool to fall out from under him. He toppled and landed hard upon the kitchen floor as she stood over him, baring the knife.

"And then it all came to a point. You were crying very hard one day, when you were only fourteen, because of what I had done during a particularly terrible punishment session. And you were so loud and irritating, I came back into the kitchen and I grabbed a knife from the table and began to swing it at you threateningly, continuously berating you for being such a useless child. Do you remember that, Isaac? Do you?"

She leaned closer to him, the blade inches from his throat. The void of her face looked terribly empty and frightening, as though his very soul would be devoured. He struggled to get out from underneath her, kicking her with all his force into her stomach as he jumped back to his feet. But she grabbed him, pinning him back down. The knife moved closer to him, and he considered screaming.

"What happened next, Isaac?! Do you remember? What HAPPENED, ISAAC EBNER?! WHAT DID YOU DO!? Why have you lied to yourself all these years!? What did you do that was so bad, so terrible, so evil, that you told yourself it never happened?!" the voice chided, louder and louder, like a storm coming to a point. "WHAT DID YOU DO!?"

Isaac punched her as hard as he could, forcing her to drop the knife. As he did so, she grabbed his throat, clutching tightly. His breath became harder and harder to maintain.

"WHAT. DID. YOU. DO?!" the beast roared, no longer a woman, but now a shadow of a being, strangling him where he lay. He grabbed the blade where it lay next to him, no longer thinking of anything but survival.

Within a moment, it was within the beast's chest. It released him, reeling, as it began to transform horribly from beast to woman once more. When it ended, his mother was clutching the knife in her chest and falling backward. Isaac rushed, crying, to her side as she bled out upon the floor.

"You were always a failure, a murderer, and a beast." his mother said, grinning. "And this is the ultimate sin you committed. This is why you fled the cult. Why you stole Kaiser. Why you lied to yourself. Because you killed your own mother. And you weren't brave or strong enough to admit it. That is why you did this."

She grabbed his shirt, holding him, forcing him to stare at her.

"You aren't strong enough to accept it, no matter what you do. You'd never say it happened. You aren't that brave, my son. You were always weak and pathetic."

Isaac frowned, slapping the woman's hand away. She stared at him in fury as he stood to his full height.

"No. I accept it. Because you weren't my mother. I lied to myself and said you were still the same woman who loved me when I was young. But you weren't. You stopped being her after the first time you hurt me." Isaac spat, growing taller as he spoke. "You became a beast, and I did what I had to do to survive."

"Is that so?!" his mother asked, grimacing. "Do you really think you can wash the blood from your hands so easily now?"

"I won't wash it." Isaac clenched his fists. "Because then I would forget you. And I will never forget you. I will remember why I hated you, and why I hated the cult. You were afraid. You were weak. And YOU couldn't accept it. You had to take it out on us because you actually couldn't handle all the responsibilities of the cult. You were a weak-willed woman who forgot what was really important. You weren't my mother - not anymore."

He turned from the dying woman and headed to the kitchen door, pausing to place his hand on the refridgerator where a single picture, drawn in crayon, caught his attention. He pointed to the artwork - a crudely drawn picture of a woman - and looked back at her.

"This.. this was the mother I remembered and loved. Not you." he seethed, as he stepped out of the door.

At the bottom of the picture, written in a child's scrawl, a single name was visible, filled with happiness and love for the picture's recipient.





"I'VE PLAYED YOUR GAMES, SEGHIL!" Isaac roared from the confines of his mind, staring at the boundless sky. "I will accept the pain, and I won't turn back any longer! I will no longer lie to myself! I will accept what I was! I will accept what I am. And I will make damn sure to accept what I will become. No matter what I have done, or what I will do, I will face it head on! YOU WILL NOT BEAT ME, SEGHIL NEUVHORN! YOU HAVE NOT BROKEN ME! YOU HAVE NOT WON!"

He heard the echoes of his own voice through his mind as he began to awaken. Consciousness and unconsciousness merged as one last vision flashed before him.

His mother's smiling face. As he looked at her, a child ran past his legs, happy, giggling.

Young Isaac darted from him and ran to his mother's side, grabbing her leg. She hugged him, laughing, as she looked at older Isaac with a mixture of hope and pride. Isaac stared back, his eyes struggling to hold back the tears that threatened him.

"I was always proud of you, my beloved son. I was always proud." she whispered. "I love you. I always did."

Isaac began to fade away as the white of his mind replaced the void that had once been there. Grass and trees sprouted as a memory of his family enjoying an outing replaced the emptiness of his soul. This would be the new thing he remembered. Not the murder. Not the death. But the joy he had once had. He would accept it.

As his mother began to walk away from him, Isaac shouted after her, hand outstretched.

"I love you too, Mom... I always did.." Isaac whispered, as he began to drift away. "I... always will love you."

Above him, the sun within his mind felt warm.

And comforting.




Isaac awoke, his hand outstretched back where he had been standing in front of Vex. He looked around with confusion and uncertainty, and then looked at his hand. The ring had vanished, the trial completed.

He placed his glove back on his hand slowly, slightly shaken. It hadn't been a dream. It'd been a vision. Whether Seghil had seen it or not, it had happened. It had been a test, and to him, he had passed.

He looked up at the sky, where the real sun gazed down at him from the blue expanse of the heavens. He reached his hand up at it, softly, sighing.

"I will never truly touch it... will I?" he asked, turning to Vex.

"I suppose that is how it works, ja?"

As he smiled, he thought pensively to himself, smirking inwardly.

You never mentioned that it would be emotional pain, Seghil Neuvhorn...

Edited by Thaelasan

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February 07, 1807


Old Compton Street, London


There wasn't much to reminisce about, being a street rat, orphaned during the war and no one willing to take me in. I remember being hungry and alone, so very alone. I stole from people, taking what I need so I could get some food or something warm to wear. It took three months to get enough money to buy a jacket that would take me through the winter. How old was I then? Seven? Eight? It didn't matter at the time, Frenchmen in Napoleon's legion were returning from the war front against Russia. Some were gravely injured, others seemed to be driven mad, then some... some had been lost to the war completely. Deranged and so far from reality, that nothing mattered to them anymore. Nothing.


No matter how much I screamed or cried, no one ever came to help, to drive off these men driven mad. After several days, I too gave up hope of anyone coming to my aid. Instead, I began to think that maybe I could use this to get some food, ask for it in exchange. Well, as a child, I came to startling conclusion that my words held no power. When I threatened to tell the authorities, they merely laughed and shoved my face into the dirt. Of course, there was no fighting I could do, my body being weak after being deprived from food for so long. Again, all I could do was lay there and let the events pass.


It was this day, this evening that my world had been changed. Everything had started the same, those men, those sick and deranged men returned. More of them being present as word had spread. One of them in particular caught my attention. In the back of the group, a younger one with black hair and... red eyes, smiled at me. Unlike these other men, his smile was not filled with malice or a wicked intent. No, this was a comforting and welcoming smile. That was the moment I knew that someone had finally arrived to save me.


From that day forward, I wasn't hungry anymore, I wasn't alone, I wasn't weak, I wasn't defenseless. Of course, I learned that I wasn't the first that he had helped, this stranger I had come to call my father, but no one was as close to Papa as I was. He kept me by his side almost all the time, especially when we went to go meet some of Papa's friends. Papa told me it was very important that I was there, that without me he wouldn't be able to talk with anyone.


From what Papa said, others feared him, they feared what he was and what he could do. Just being in his presence instilled fear into their bodies, their mind. Papa told me I was special, because I fed off what those others feared.


As I grew, I met a variety of interesting creatures. King Venheim, during his days as a Warlord. I discovered that it had been him aiding the Russians and keeping Napoleon at bay. Even I could feel the power that came off of him, this dragonoid that fought for my father and protected the land where he was wanting to build a city. Of course, I met people who I had been told of only in stories. King Arthur was one of them, a very noble and very powerful man, granted a gift by someone my father does not wish to speak of. There were many other leaders I met, as time passed on, from Vampire Lords, to Werewolf Pack Leaders, Fairy Queens, and Elven Kings. So many creatures, hiding in our world and the very reason my father worked so hard to build his city. Nightfall, where creatures of myth and legend could reside, outside of the world order and live how they please.


Of course, there are individuals he'll pick out, tamper with, and watch the events unfold. Much of this world he uses for entertainment, telling me that only when the world ceases to live will he move on and find something else. Even for me, my father is a mystery and he never shared what he was or where he came from, why he did things and why he didn't. Some pointed the blame at him for wars that erupted across the world, others knew that if he interfered, some things wouldn't progress. Whether my father did it for righteous purposes or merely because he found it entertaining, not even I could say. I just know, if it hadn't been for him, I too wouldn't be able to see the world unfold, whether to its destruction or to a new and more exciting stage, only time will tell.

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Vex quietly watched Isaac as his body tensed, indicating he was busy with a mental task. He quietly observed the man with a look of concern and worry. What was about to happen? Any physical changes? Anything mental? Could he snap, or would he be wounded?

Questions flew through the Thresher's mind as he raised barriers around the Shadowborne's body before dropping them after a minute of consideration. No, he had to trust Isaac. Plus, if anything were to happen, he was a capable fighter and he wasn't too far away from the Sekher Manor - so, if, say, Kaiser was somehow freed and attacked or Isaac snapped and went berserk, he'd stop them, even if he had to call Venheim himself.

Ah, who am I kidding... a King wouldn't just follow me because some fool's causing commotion outside... Vex softly grumbled to himself as he shook his head and cleared it of unnessecary thoughts, then turned to look at Isaac again. It was now evident there was something going inside his conciousness - his expressions started to change, the once blank look he had turning to one of worry. What could be making him worried in there?

"Isaac? Can you hear me?" The Chain Reaper spoke out and stepped forward, but felt himself momentarily pushed backward. Attempting yet again to step within, he was repulsed with much more force that sent him backwards and crashing on the ground.

"The heck... a defensive shroud?" He slowly spoke as he rose up from where he'd dropped and determined he'd moved about a couple meters away from his companion. Drawing closer yet again, he moved his hand forward... only to feel something repel him backward soon after. Soon, his hand came to balance with the force around half a meter away from Isaac's body.

"So, a protective shroud... that even I can't percieve with my own eyes?" Vex contemplated as he circled around and found that the distance was practically equal all around. Deciding to try something, he drew a burst of energy from his gauntlet and shaped it into a blade. Then, slowly, he placed the tip on the supposed edge and drew downward. What he saw was definitely interesting - the place he'd attempted to cut through seemed normal at first, but soon started to warp and distort. In the unusual movements of the air, he could see dark energy twisting and turning. So, it was a dark shroud of some sort.


Vex stopped the things he was doing, however, as he lifted his head up to look at Isaac and dispelled the weapon he'd been holding. The Shadowborne's body didn't seem to be bleeding anywhere which was definitely a surpise of some sort. One would consider such a powerful artifact would change his physical aspects, even if slightly, in order to accomodate for the new strength and energy he'd gain after this ring.

Now that he thought about it, what really was this strange ring? The Thresher strangely wondered what kind of a ring could just imbue someone with power. There were some examples of this - say, a Reflex Accolade ring or a Strength Beast band - but those only changed one aspect, and it often temporarily. The ones that could change things permanently, whether they had to be worn or not, were very rare and often not found by... usual means. No... there was something different about it.

There are many ways to empower oneself... but Seghil wouldn't simply give him something that would boost him temporarily in one or two things. No... something stronger than that, which would have some negative side effects, probably. Vex thought silently, his mind moving through different possibilities he knew himself. It would rid him of the seals, that much he knew... but what could truly make someone stronger?

Mm... mental. Something mental... an Arcane Awakener? He stopped suddenly, a confused expression upon his face. These things were works of myth, really, and none had been seen in hundreds, if not thousands of years. What they supposedly did is give the user a moment of contemplation and drive him within a realm of his own, where he could think about anything - from simple troubles and problems to complicated questions and mysteries of the world - until he found what was exactly holding him back and drew the truth out. Only then would he be set free, with this truth being something he wouldn't have found usually but now really had an effect on him.

Eh... but would Seghil use such a rare commodity on someone like Isaac? Vex wondered, knowing that even the mysterious figure wouldn't just waste away something like that. Arcane Awakeners were made really rarely by a mysterious clan which nobody had heard of since hundreds of centuries, so they were truly unique relics of the past which would be preserved by many.


Vex immediately snapped out of his thoughts with a rush as he noticed something move in front of him. He lifted his head up to find Isaac had outstretched the hand with the ring forward, toward the Thresher.

"Eh? Isaac?" He spoke out slightly and stepped back, then watched the man's face closely for any changes. A flurry of emotions seemed to shift through his expression - sadness, pity, anger, worry, fright... and what appeared to be tears, rolling down his cheeks and dropping onto the ground.

"Dammit, Isaac..." The Chain Reaper silently spoke out as a look of worry spread along his features. He attempted to grasp at the man and try to calm him, but the shroud around the Shadowborne's body always kept him away.

Suddenly, the man's face turned confident, as if he was speaking to someone or something. What was happening in there? Moments later, it changed to one of calmness... and happiness. This truly made Vex wonder - just what could bring him so much joy? He'd seen him smile, yes, but nowhere this pleasantly...

The questions filling the reaper's mind fluttered away as Isaac woke up with a jolt from his dream and noticed his outstretched arm. Moments before he had done that, the ring on his finger seemed to warp and shift rapidly before it suddenly fell apart. The pieces fell on the ground and burned away in a flash, leaving no trace behind.

"Eh?" Vex replied with suprise as he noticed Isaac's words, then looked up at the sun. Though he took a moment to stare at it, he quickly turned back down - the words that he'd heard still felt very unusual. What did he mean with that second sentence?

It didn't matter now - he could be asked later. For now, the Thresher stepped forward and checked if the shroud was there. Happy it had been lifted, he turned to speak with his brother.

"Isaac, are you okay? Any pains or lacerations? What happened in there?" The spectre asked softly, both worry and interest evident within his tone. The man across him didn't really feel different, but... there was a strange sense of realization that had come from his words. What had truly happened in there?

Edited by KuroKishi

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"Oh, look, he's already waking up. Guess we took too long."


Before anyone else could respond, Mira dashed forward and kneed Isaac in the face, sending him flying backwards and crashing into the building at the far end of the street. Mira, on the other hand, simply began twisting a strand of hair around her finger, turning to look at Vex as if nothing was wrong with her actions. Nel merely sighed and began walking down the street towards the building, preparing her apology on behalf of the Neuvhorns. To them, this was certainly a typical event.


"Before you ask, was it not you he used to break through the wall of the Sekher residence? As for this and that, the reasoning behind my actions was purely out of kindness and consideration for his health. That, or he could have faced immense pain head on and possibly have been scared by it."


Looking back down the street, at the building Isaac had crashed through, Mira watched as Nel was trying to explain the reasoning behind such actions. Of course, the owner wasn't too thrilled but it was evident the Neuvhorn name had been mentioned as he held up his hands in surrender and began to back off. Tilting her head to the side, Mira looked over to Vex and sighed ever so slightly.


"We got something for you too, something Papa forgot to give you after your birth. Like he actually forgot it, more like he wanted to see how you would do."

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Even before Vex could begin waiting for an answer, let alone for Isaac to form one, a strange aura had appeared. Moments later, it was already by their side, which caused the Thresher to turn and see who it was. The familiar sense of death did truly indicate correctly that this was Mira, who... rather suddenly sent a knee kick in Isaac's face and sent him flying across the open space.

"Hello to you, I guess..." He spoke slightly, wondering briefly if he was next on the list of knee inspection candidates before she didn't show signs she'd approach. Breathing out in relief, the Chain Reaper turned to speak with her, but the words she said next kind of answered what he'd already ask.

"So... there is some physical stress afterwards? He'd feel it now?" He asked slightly with a puzzled look as he turned to stare at the building that had been ruined by the Shadowborne's rather sudden entry. That did remind him of back then, when he threw him and Dusk into the Sekher Manor... but the damage was fixed and he'd already gotten his punch, so there wasn't much reason for revenge. Also, he found it kind of interesting that they'd choose to knock him out instead of letting him feel pain. That was just like putting someone in a medical coma so he doesn't feel pain when there's an intense amount of it.


"Ah, whatever... let's just retrieve him and take care of that guy before he... wait, what's up with Kaiser?" Vex asked confusedly, the slight step he had taken indicating he was just about to go help the strange wolf girl. However, he stood still instead and listened, then turned toward Mira. What did she mean?

"Eh? What's that?"

Edited by KuroKishi

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As soon as Isaac had been kicked, he'd immediately - instinctively - placed barriers on his backside. But how had he known to do that? He hadn't been able to do that sort of manipulation since..

He had no time to think. He crashed into a nearby building, sending wood and bits of stone scattering into piles of rubble. A few people stared in concern at the pile he'd created. They seemed even more concerned as he rose from the wreckage, seemingly unharmed.

"Don't worry, mein Freunde.. I'm fine." he said to the crowd as he stood to his feet, popping his arm back into place with a slight noise. He cracked his knuckles in anticipation as he looked out of the hole he had made.

"That's not really a kind greeting, is it, Miss.. Mira?" he said, concerned. But for some reason, now he felt a bit better. Why would that have been?...


He looked up at the sky, aghast, as he began to realize what Mira had done. The sun felt slightly painful on whatever skin was bare, including his face, as he stared up at it. No longer did it feel warm or inviting.

"Seghil... Seghil.... You..." he grinned slightly, but was obviously irritated. "You... You took the sun from me... again..."

He grabbed a large hunk of stone from the ground nearby. It felt weightless to him, though its size was quite pronounced. He hefted it experimentally, frowning.

"Power... without the Sonne... without meine Sonne.... Is not power at all... It's a curse.." he whispered, smashing the stone with his other hand easily. "It's just... broken... Broken like stone.."

He stomped over to Mira, ignoring the burning pain of the sun. He held up shields of black shade with his right hand to prevent the sun from affecting him as much as it had been.

When he reached her, his face was obviously displeased. He snapped his fingers, creating a void of shadow around them both, including Vex, so that he could speak without worrying about the sun.

"Isn't this nice, ja?" he said, looking at Mira expectantly. "Isn't it GREAT? Oh yes! Full shadow manipulation, and Kaiser..."

From behind him, the demon emerged, freed from the shackles of Isaac's body. His arms were crossed now, staring at Mira with a bit of pleasure, which contrasted with Isaac's face.

"Why are you so angry, Isaac?" Kaiser asked, cocking his head. "I am finally able to be free of your mind and link myself with you. But it's not as though you need it. You have full control of the shadows - more than even I have. You can create abyssal voids, and doubtless far more than that. So what is the problem?"

"The sun, Kaiser!" Isaac replied, pointing at Mira. "They tricked me! Their contract failed to mention one VERY important facet, ja!? I can't even stand in Light! The Light is forsaken to me!"

"And? You don't need it any longer." Kaiser shrugged. "The Light is for blinded fools, not men of strength. This town is perfect for you."

"BUT I DID IT FOR HER!" Isaac grabbed the amulet, turning to Kaiser and focusing all of his anger on him. "And this people have taken my name from me. Taken YOU from me! And taken HER FROM ME! NOW I'M BACK TO WHERE I ORIGINALLY WAS! Even if I win - even if I defeat Venheim - where will I be?! I will never be able to be in her presence again! What have I really earned, Kaiser?!"

"Power, Isaac. And that's all you really need. Let her leave you. And quit focusing on trivial matters. Be like Seghil. As your power grows, you'll find women will find you irresistible because of your might alone. When you prove yourself to them, you'll find all the love you ever wanted. Why... perhaps even, if I could venture..."

He pointed at Mira, grinning slyly.

"One day, if you tried hard enough, this beautiful, young woman may accept you as well... Even if it means a bit of power devouring every now and then.. Doesn't that seem like a delightful prospect?"

He laid his hands on Isaac's shoulders, pleased.

"You have become as mighty as I foresaw, and you will only improve. So do not focus on what you've lost. Focus on what you can achieve."

Isaac leaned close to Kaiser to whisper in his ear. When he moved backward, Kaiser laughed hard.

"I didn't know you worried about THAT, Isaac! She can still grow, I'm sure... And even if she doesn't, who cares! Look, my lad.." Kaiser said, patting him. "You have earned great strength. So do not waste it on regrets - like the kind of regrets that made you unable to use this power from the beginning!"

He leaned backward, his smile lingering.

"Now, I'm sure Mira Neuvhorn has come to inform you of what you've gained... and probably has something for you to do as your first task. And keep in mind, Isaac.." he whispered. "As you become more powerful, perhaps even the Light will stop harming you."

Isaac brightened up at the prospect, nodding with approval.

"You're right.. That is a possibility..." he grinned widely, content. "Very well, Miss Neuvhorn, then what am I to do now?"

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"Oh? You're disappointed, I see. It's true, Papa unlocked your full potential to becoming a true Shadowborne, but it is your fault for not realizing what it was you would have to give up. You didn't even ask what the consequences are. Besides, that's not the only thing."


Mira held a finger up, as if indicating she was about to lay out some examples just as Nel walked into the void and placed her hand on Kaiser's wrist. Without warning, the demon vanished and in the hand Nel had placed on his shoulder was now a stone with the same dark energy flowing from it. Waving the servant off, she waited until Nel was gone before continuing.


"For starters, you already know that the sun is now your enemy. Without direct protection, such as a roof or something, you'll grow weaker and weaker and potentially disappear. Next, your power has the potential to consume you entirely or lock itself away based on how you use it, especially at this current moment. Use it too much, it'll take you into its grasp, but if you hardly use it at all, you might just lose the ability all together."


Beginning to pace back and forth, as if she were a teacher in grade school, Mira held one hand in the air and the other rested on her hip. Then, she just stopped and looked at Isaac, a grin spreading across her face before she walked up to him and grabbed the back of his head.


"Unlike Kaiser, this power is vast and very difficult to control. One moment, it's just a ripple in the water and then the next its a hurricane tearing at the land. So, what I need you to do, is stand very still for a moment and try not to cry."


Without even a moments hesitation, Mira sank her teeth into Isaac's neck, the dark energy visibly flowing from his body and absorbing into her own. As she continued to drain him, a shadow creature slowly began to form behind her. Seemingly non threatening at first, but as its size grew larger something about its very presence made moving very difficult. Even collapsing seemed impossible.


What would have seemed like minutes, possibly even hours for Isaac, after a few more seconds Mira finally stopped and withdrew, a black smog billowing from her mouth and nostrils while her 'tail' stared menacingly at the boy she had just fed from. Wiping her arm across her mouth and patting her belly, Mira smiled brightly and patted Isaac on the shoulder.


"There, drained you enough to feel like your sealed form. For the next month, you will train against hordes of my father's shadows until you reach the state you would have been in without the seal. This is ensuring that your powers don't go all rampant while I'm away and you're starting at a familiar level. Don't worry, Nel will accompany the two of you and will even fight against you, but... don't underestimate our loyal servants, they're... suitable for someone of your level.


Ah! Before I forget, Vex, this is for you. Open it when you feel like it, but know that when you do... a very dangerous trial awaits you. One that could potentially coat you not only your body, but your life as well. Anyway, thanks for the meal and welcome back to the dark side, young Shadowborne. I'll be sure to call you when you've gained more than just my appetite."

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Vex quietly observed as a familiar shape emerged from the ruined building a few meters away. It was interesting to find that Isaac hadn't been knocked out directly by such a powerful hit. The only logical solution was a shield of some sort, but could he protect himself with barriers before? Maybe it was only now? His concerned expression as he approached, however, only made the Thresher feel like there was some issue about this new form.

Ah, now I see... the shadows.... he's weak to the sun, isn't he... He thought silently to himself as he felt the sun damage him through the reaction of his soul. Though this resonance caused by the pain was usually almost nonexistent in the average being, the impulses sent by him were much more powerful and caused audible vibrations within his core. Quite intriguing.

"Kaiser, let me first say it's a pleasure to see you in real life." The Chain Reaper spoke out as the shroud enveloped them, then slightly bowed in front of the demon. Though it wasn't logical for the average person to bow down before creatures of the abyss, according to Mira, he was a hellspawn - which, in a sense, likened him to the Dark King far more than the average creature. Rising up, Vex then turned to comment on the demon's claims that Isaac could do without Aurora. Silently crossing his arms across his chest, the Thresher watched the others around him. He was still quite menacing, his height towering over everyone save the king and his look often enough to scare people, but the three inside the shroud couldn't be bothered more by his ghastly appearance.

"You see, Kaiser... Isaac is rebellious. He'd charge at a wall with his head, if he had a good enough reason to - for instance, if he could use nothing else to break it down and Aurora was on the other side. This man is a prime example of willpower gone beyond logical, I'd say... and, well, he hasn't gotten himself killed so far, so why not go all the way?" He commented softly about his companion, knowing well that even he would agree - at least, to some extent - with what he had to say. Finally, as Isaac turned to speak with Mira, he slightly chuckled.

"Well, that, as well as the fact that he sounds convincing even when his chances to somehow grow in power to be able to ignore the sun or just blot it out entirely are extremely low."The spectre finished, dropping his hands on his sides with a small, positive smile. If someone was crazy enough to do something like that, it would be the Shadowborne.


Just as Vex turned to wait an answer from Kaiser, however, he spotted the wolf female from before step through the shroud and momentarily absorb him. A soft sigh escaped his lips as she walked off - he didn't really enjoy the fact that his first talk with this demon who was so close yet so far from him was now just a thing of the past. He watched the woman's figure step through the shadows and disappear, then turned to the other two still inside.

"It would have been good to try asking for consequences, Isaac... but without this power, you'd be even worse. At least now, you have - or, should I say will have the CHANCE to have - the power that you will need onwards. Venheim is not a weak foe, definitely, and with such power, even if it sounds impossible, we may find a way for you to overcome the weaknesses of a Shadowborne. All in due time, though." The Thresher told the man, knowing full well that those were facts he couldn't deny. Moments ago, Isaac was someone that Vex could beat in a fight - and, well, with how it had gone for him, he'd most likely reach Azheim or Ellecia before losing the match between the royal family. Now, however... now, he posed much more of a risk.

Or, at least, he did a second ago. As the Chain Reaper snapped out of his momentary flashback of the events that had unfolded last night between him and Azheim, he noticed Mira on Isaac's neck. It would seem strange, had he not noticed his soul weakening slowly but gradually, as well as the strange shadow creature that had appeared next to him. The Thresher silently observed as it went past his height and continued to grow until it towered over him like a giant. He was sure he looked like a small dog next to a standing human, right now, because this figure was extremely tall. However, it also held a strange sense of familiarness - the aura that it gave off reminded him quite a lot of his friend, Isaac. Maybe this was the actual strength he was granted? Mira had said that his current power was like the waves of an ocean, so that would explain why it'd be safer for both him and anyone else within the city if he didn't have his maximal strength right now. If the young woman's claims were true, his current power was equal to the one he had with Kaiser and the two seals on his body. Truly, this would help - as long as he could balance the power usage and withdrawal, he would manage to take all of this for himself without a risk of it overwhelming him momentarily.

"I'm sorry?" Vex turned his head as he heard his name, having caught himself yet again deep in thought. He looked at Mira curiously as she mentioned something was for him. It was a dangerous trial that could cost him his life and/or body? He looked down and at her hand, noticing a small but definitely interesting package. As he delicately took it from her, he felt a chilling sense cloud his body. The power that came out of this sealed box flowed through his hands, causing strange sparks that made the Thresher's hands tingle with power. Truly a curious item. As he lifted it up and slowly drew the lid off, he noticed the inside. While the outside was made of a simple yet beautiful marble material, the inside... was definitely different. Lined with shining black velvet that somehow managed to glow white, its only contents was a lone figure in the center - a single, hexagonal trapezohedron-shaped dark crystal that was burning with the same confusing black-and-white colour. There was also a chain that was attached to it and folded neatly inside, made of an ebony metal quite like a Shadowborne's blade.

"Intriguing.." Vex spoke out as he quietly placed a finger on the surface of the mineral in an attempt to inspect it. He could faintly feel a soul resonating from within... and moments later, a lone essence emerged from the surface, attempting to drift away from the box's contents. However, the Thresher immediately caught it and absorbed it, only to momentarily go silent. The flames along his body died out as he silently stood in one place, as if frozen. A few seconds of silence passed until he suddenly lit back up.

"An essence of Grim?! This... this is Grim's Soul?!" The spectre exclaimed, suprise evident on his features. Grim was a fabled Thresher, known by few as the only one to actually manage wielding magic on his own. His enormous amount of powerful essences had allowed him to actually recreate a human being's own magic core, thus giving him the ability to use flames, ice, earth, water, air and so much more elements. Of course, this work had taken him decades, but the wait was well worth it.

"...Thank you, Mira. Thank your father for me, too, if you would. This is... unexpected, to say the least." Vex spoke out after he had finally calmed down. He silently took the neckpiece and placed it around his neck. He could already feel tiny flows of power course out and into his body, but... there was so much more inside. The only way to keep a soul... was to create a realm-based trinket, such as this one. He quietly lifted his head up to look at Isaac.

"Isaac," The Chain Reaper began to speak as he approached his comrade and placed a hand on his shoulder.

"This artifact's power is immense, and I know why - one of the most powerful Threshers resides within, along with his powers, essences and life. Whilst your change went rather uneventfully, though... mine may prove a challenge. Grim may absorb me and consume me, which would lead to him capturing my body moments later. I could also beat him but be corrupted by the souls of all the demons and monsters he's consumed, causing me to go mad with power. So, I... I need to find somewhere safe. A place where even if something were to happen to me, it wouldn't be in front of the eyes of people I deem too important..." He spoke out, wondering if the Neuvhorns had such a sealed chamber. Royal families often held powerful seals on one room, where they could keep things far stronger than them, if the need arised.

"I shouldn't risk so quickly, though... I mean, I don't exactly have a time constraint, so I am not as troubled, but... I'm unsure, really." Vex talked to himself, having released Isaac's shoulder and chosen to wander constantly from one side of the shroud to the other instead.


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Isaac rubbed his neck where Mira had bitten him. Surprisingly, it hadn't hurt as badly as he'd thought - not until the last few moments of draining. He suspected his new shadow powers had numbing and regeneration abilities similar to Vex's. As Mira spoke, Isaac had only been able to continuously stare at his hand, fascinated by these new capabilities. Now, sadly, he only felt a bit of those powers. Mira was a dangerous woman - to be sure.

"Seghil's shadows? And where would those be? And when?" he cocked his head, frowning. He supposed very soon. He then placed a hand on Vex's shoulder, smirking.

"I know JUST the place... but we'll have to sneak in, of course.... Again." Isaac grinned. "Remember the Sekher arena?"

Of course, Isaac knew of other locations... but none were as fun to get into.

Edited by Thaelasan

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"Once you put down your little barrier, not that you need it any longer, your training will begin immediately. Of course, you'll be alone, only breaks will be for meals -namely mine- and it'll last for the duration of young Se'Lene's Wright. Where? Here in the Neuvhorn training grounds, outside the main city in a separate dimension."


Mira motioned as if she were showcasing their surroundings, but with the barrier present there wasn't much to show. Yet, outside was a desolate, barren wasteland with a heavy fog hanging in the air. If you could see, there were mountains the distance and a vast forest surrounding them. Mira proceeded, pointing at Isaac with her index finger and smirking.


"Don't get cocky, young Shadowborne, this place is filled not just with Papa's shadows, but there are creatures that can and will kill you if you're not careful. This is where those born of darkness come to train and this is where many of them have been slain. I'll make a deal with you. If you can manage a week without receiving a blow from either a shadow or one of the many creatures, I'll give you a love bite, but if you fail... I'll just stick with my usual feeding methods."


As if to hint at something, Mira tapped her lips and smirked once more before vanishing, leaving Isaac and Vex in the strange realm. By this point, noises began to echo in the murky air as the creatures began to stir. Mira's presence had kept them at bay, but now that she was gone they were beginning to wake.

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Isaac cracked his knuckles with a sigh as he stared out at the wasteland he'd now found himself in. His barrier began to fade with each passing moment, so now he could fully understand where he was... well, enough of it to change his attitude at least.

"Shadows of Seghil and demon monsters that I have yet to even see before?.... This will be..." Isaac said, grinning. "Fun.. ja?"

He jumped forward, propelling himself using his own shadow to accelerate. As he dashed, he noticed the amulet out of the corner of his eye. He suddenly grabbed it, holding it aloft to speak to Aurora fully.

"Well, it seems plans have changed, meine Sonne." Isaac said, dashing across the landscape freely. "I've accepted the ring, and now it seems that... light may be bad for me."

"What?.." Aurora asked, concerned.

"Let's just say Seghil didn't have a proper warning label. It's fine though. I'll become stronger so that that won't matter any more. Just make sure you enjoy your little Wright."

"I'll TRY." Aurora said, giggling softly. "But I'm still worried. Seghil's artifacts always carry a curse. Becoming strong enough to overcome that sort of thing will be... very difficult."

"Well, that doesn't mean impossible!" Isaac jumped into the air, landing on top of a beast's head with a loud noise. The beast awoke, revealing a serpentine, dark visage that roared at him as he held the amulet up.

"Say hello to my beloved, mein Freund!" Isaac yelled at the beast as he grinned widely. "It'll be the last thing you ever get to do!"

With that, he jumped forward, beginning his month of training.




Current Day: Day 1.

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Vex silenty stood in place and watched Isaac. The shadows he and Mira spoke about were possibly creatures on their own, able to fight on par with both of them. When the Shadowborne turned to speak with the Thresher, he hopefully listened to his reply. However, the option he'd offered seemed to be a bad one because it had caused the spectre to shake his head slowly.

"No, no, no... some of the people who I don't want to be seen by, if the worst were to happen, are actually Sekhers. Plus, the integrated observation area would make it even worse. Might as well open the door and stand in front of them as I use the crystal, cause that'd be the equivalent of it. No, I need something different..." The Chain Reaper softly replied to his friend, giving him a thankful pat on the shoulder nevertheless. Removing his hand and dropping it to his side, he turned around so he was facing Mira.

Suprise became evident on the Thresher's face as she spoke about a training. What training? And what seperate dimension, outside of the city? All slowly started to explain itself as the fading shroud revealed a very different location from before. Though the thick fog obscured a large amount of the landscape, what was evident looked like an unknown wasteland. Somewhere along the edges of the fog, one could spot a few clumped-up trees, indicating that there was a forest around them. Yet another noticeable feature was the hillside that sharply jutted out of the ground. Possibly a high cliff, or a mountain. As the female's figure disappeared, leaving the two males alone, sounds filled their surroundings. Twigs and branches that had fallen to the ground cracked audibly, indicating something was nearby.

"Isaac, do you want a love bite?" Vex asked softly as he quietly concentrated and raised his gauntlet. From the center floated out a gray figure that reminded one a lot of a captured essence. Before it could float away, however, the Thresher closed his hand around it and then tightly gripped it, causing it to be destroyed. Energy floated outward from the destroyed spirit which slowly started to circle around the spectre's body. Slowly, it covered the entirety of his body. Moments later, the souls flew into the reaper's clothing. The shroud of energy masked what was happening under it until it burst away spectacularly, revealing what had been changed.

The Chain Reaper's clothes had been altered rather heavily. His vest, shirt and tie had instead turned into an ebony chestplate. The crystal was tucked away under the hem of the armorpiece, causing the usual red glow to turn white instead. The sleeves had been changed into a shoulderguard and a mail vest instead, the former of which was shaped like a crimson-eyed, black skull. Finally, the gauntlets had turned slightly bigger and were now sharper. They were dark red in color and were no longer shining. His lower body was covered in armor, too. The boots were rugged in shape but were definitely more protective and made with a dark red material which didn't emit light, whilst his legs were covered in different black pieces. His entire armor had a crimson outline that softly shone with power quite unlike him.

"Ah, Grim's strength truly outclasses mine..." Vex commented on his new appearance which had made him slightly higher, yet definitely more menacing than before. Parts of his armor reminded of a skull, whilst others were more like a refined knight's set. However, his skull had remained relatively unchanged, with the only thing different being that the bone had turned into a dark gray color instead of its usual black. Mentally shrugging after checkking out how he seemed to look, the Thresher conjured his weapons once again. They were the same, it seemed, as their appearance was practically identical.

"Okay, let's... be..." The Chain Reaper attempted to comment, only to see how Isaac dashed off. Well, that was... quick. He dashed forward, using his own essences to boost his ethereal form's abilities so it was able to move and react quicker. It wouldn't be half bad to try improving himself, even if Grim's Soul was too risky to consume right now. Silently, he stopped and spun the chain around, throwing it at the beast which Isaac had spoken too. The hook latched itself on the monster's upper left arm and dug into it. Pulling on it, he stopped the attack that was aimed at the Shadowborne and chucked softly.

"Hey, now! You almost lost your love bite, man!" Vex said as he used his ability to move through the air and to his target. As he stopped, the beast attempted to swing its right arm and attack him, but he deftly leaped over it. Having drawn his weapon in the meantime, he quickly delivered a punch with his left hand at the creature's face, causing it to momentarily lose focus. In those precious seconds, the spectre had grabbed its body and slung himself over until he was on his back. He pressed the scythe-like hood against the beast's neck, causing it to groan in pain and attempt to react. However, before it did, he had risen up and jumped off, then landed yet again on the beast's back. This caused it to hunch forward, pressing its neck even harder into the blade which was already being pulled into its skin. The pressure proved to be too much as the weapon cleaved through the monster's neck and cut its head off directly, causing its rather sudden demise. The dead body crashed into the ground, leaving only the Thresher standing triumphantly on its back. With a soft grin, Vex turned to face Isaac and ignored the sounds that grew more intense around them.

Edited by KuroKishi

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As Vex handled the previous beast, Isaac prepared to let out some sort of cheer when a sudden, loud, horn noise pierced the sky. Isaac turned to look, and was welcomed with a punch to his face that sent him flying across the terrain, landing in the dust at the edge of a cliff near where he'd been. As he cleaned off his lip, the culprit landed a short distance away from him, cracking the ground where he perched.

"Ah. One of Seghil's shadows, I take it?" Isaac asked, standing to his feet. From what he could tell, Vex hadn't been thrown out here.

The visage nodded standing silently before him. Isaac could tell negotiation wasn't an option. Mira had warned him about this.

Frowning, Isaac ran forward, grabbing the fist the shadow threw at him before returning with a blow of his own. The shadow, however, took the hit and backhanded Isaac away. Isaac leaped into the shadows of the ground, appearing behind the shadow, grabbing it from behind. The force sent them both toppling forward off the cliff, fighting all the way down.

As they reached the bottom, Isaac separated from the shadow, grinning. He dashed forward, gun raised, and fired a few shots off before slamming his foot into the shadow's face. They crashed into the mountain itself, creating a cave. Rubble flew from the hole as they continued to fight within.

Finally, after thirty minutes of conflict, Isaac emerged from the cave, battered, but victorious. Behind him, the shadow disappeared, grinning.

"I'll have to get better at dealing with those damn things." Isaac smirked, holding himself steady. For some reason, though Mira had said she had only taken a bit of his power, he felt exhausted. He then remembered - he hadn't slept since the night before, before he'd met Aurora or Vex again. Not taking chances, he erected a shadowy barrier and returned to the back of the cave.

He'd find Vex in the morning, he was sure. But if he wanted to win this, he needed sleep - and desperately. He closed his eyes, comfortable in this makeshift shelter.

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The sudden loud sound immediately attracted Vex's attention who had now gotten off from the dead beast's back. He quickly turned to look at Isaac as he was attacked by a strangely familiar shadowy figure. The punch sent him backward with a ton of force - so much, in fact, that he was launched over the plains which they were on and to what appeared to be a nearby cliffside. Attempting to help his friend as the shadow followed him in hot pursuit, the Thresher gave chase, using his powers to boost his speed. Though he wouldn't be first, he would definitely reach sooner or later, and together, they could deal with this nuis-

Quite abruptly, the spectre was yanked out of his thoughts as a sudden attack collided with his abdomen. The force of the hit, coupled with his inertia, caused an audible crack to resonate as he flew backwards through the air. Moments later, he stopped entirely as his body crashed into one of the trees that had been surrounding them seconds ago. With a pained groan, the Thresher rose from the ground, attempting to shake off the dazed feeling in his head and the throbbing pain from his cracked rib. In front of him landed another shadow that appeared identical to the one which had attacked Isaac.

"So, one for each of us, I guess?" Vex asked randomly, earning a response from the figure across him in the form of a silent nod. Cracking his neck and focusing magic to numb the pain he felt, the Thresher slowly started to circle his opponent, who had instead chosen to stand still - at least, for a moment, as the spectre immediately sensed the air's disturbance and turned, just in time to block a blow aimed for the back of his head. Grabbing the figure's fist and immediately locking it with his own arm, the ex-soldier within him immediately switched to a closer combat style. The lock around his opponent's arm allowed the reaper to create a lever which he instinctively used to flip the man over his back and slam him on the ground. Still holding his hand, Vex stomped the figure's face with his foot and then attempted to land a neck-breaking kick on his head's side. However, the shadow shook free with unexpected strength and used the moment of suprise to spin itself low on the ground, legs outstretched and attempting to hit his opponent's feet. His limbs collided with the reaper's and caused them to be swept forward, thus dropping him on the ground. With a quick flip, the shadow was back on its feet and had jumped in the air with magic before using a conjured platform to launch itself down again at Vex's body. However, crimson barriers immediately halted his advance. These same barriers immediately faded away after absorbing the impact, revealing the spectre's counterattack - a kick he'd launched by pushing his core and upper body off the ground, thus launching his lower body and legs directly at the attacker. The hit collided with the shadow's chest, causing it to fly backward and creating some distance between the opponents. Immediately, the two regained their stances, then flew at eachother again. This time, Vex summoned his chained hook and threw it out into the forest. As he felt it collide with a tree, he slyly avoided his opponent's twin palm attack and grabbed him by the neck before using his ability to fly off into the forest's depths. Flashes came from inbetween the trees as the two figures fought for what seemed like eternity.




A tired yawn came from a hole in the ground as Vex woke up from his slumber. His eyes opened slowly as he regained conciousness and shook his head. Quietly, he turned to observe his surroundings, his eyes slowly filling up with curiousity. From what he could gather, he was somewhere underground. A couple roots hung from the ceiling amidst the cracks of stone, indicating that there were trees over him. Through a few of the holes, he could see the sky, as well as the sun itself. Though there was not much he could use to tell if he was right, save for the angle at which light fell inside, the Thresher guessed that it was somewhere around noon. What caught his interest more was a single black orb of spiritual energy. Curiously, he approached it and placed a finger on the surface of the magical item. The essence immediately looped through his fingers and absorbed itself into his skin. Spectacularly, the armor along his body shifted and changed back into a copy of the Thresher's usual suit. Trying to change it seemed futile, as the material that once belonged to Vex was now rejecting his own ethereal signals... however, though it didn't look like it, the suit was definitely solid. It could probably act like armor on its own... and, well, the reaper didn't exactly like having such a bulky armor, so he decided to ignore it for now and got off the ground.

"Right... that shadow thing... I beat it, didn't I?" The Thresher grumbled as his head shifted around tiredly. From what he could recall, he had beaten the strange shadow after an hour of conflict or so. Because the being seemed to lack eyes, he was unable to use the Curse of the Damned... but now that he was able to recall it clearly, he knew he had tried unsuccesfully. The two had finally crashed through the ground after minutes of continious aerial combat which had resulted in the shadow's demise. However, after his battle with the shadowy figure, the mist outside thickened. As if it had sensed the two which had been slain, the outside had turned numbingly dark. Air that came inside of the cavern told the Thresher it was risky outside. Still sore from the battle against both Azheim and the unknown stranger, the Chain Reaper had chosen to seclude himself instead and take the day to rest. It was unsuprising that it had been over a whole day since he'd last been awake, considering everything he'd been through - two fights versus battle-worn opponents, a new pace of soul absorption, Grim's Spirit and the stress that his body had to endure had really taken its toll on him. Rising slowly, Vex started to stretch out, doing a couple of exercises to shake off the tired feeling and soreness in his muscles. He noticed that the pain within his cracked rib was slowly fading away as the reverting magic pulled it back together until it created another solid bone. A few minutes later, he had decided it was time to leave this tomb. The mist was gone, the air was fresh and there was still the matter of finding Isaac... so, quietly, he used his hooks and escaped the underground cave.

Now that he was on the surface, Vex took a deep breath and savored the clear air as it filled his lungs. He chose to avoid the forest and instead find a higher position so he could scout out the nearby territories. Dashing through the treeside until he finally came out into a clearing, the reaper turned to have a short look around. Different formations surrounded him, but the one which had caught his attention was the mountain in the distance. These plains were unfamiliar to him, so it was unlikely he'd find Isaac here, too, so he instead made the mountaintop his next goal. Quietly, he set out toward it with a quick but relaxed pace.

This land seems so familiar... I am sure I've never seen anything like this, but... Vex pondered to himself as he dashed onward and slowly but surely reached the foot of the mountain. Thankfully, this was where he shone. Conjuring two hooks, the Thresher rapidly swung upward by using anchors to increase his speed. To the average human, it'd seem as if he was flying upward along the stone wall. With a final pull, the Chain Reaper leaped upward and over the edge, then landed on the ground.

Edited by KuroKishi

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Before the light broke through the musky air, a dark energy ripped through the skies, like an arrow from a bow, until it collided with Isaac's barrier. Before the rippling sound could reach the Shadowborne's ears, it tore through the shield and slammed into the slumbering dark being. Even with the minor delay, it held enough force to puncture through what protective barriers Isaac would instinctively throw up and drive him into the back wall. Albeit, the dark arrow wasn't meant to puncture through skin and muscle, the amount of force would be enough to knock the air out of him for a moment.




Using a dimensional window, Mira smirked as she watched the events unfold in the world below her. For a moment, the light bore through the haze, revealing the ancient rainforestesque land and some of the behemoths that lived there. Adjusting her position, in the space she resided, Mira watched as a massive tusked creature effortlessly toppled one of the giant trees that grew in the depths of the forest.


"Papa, do you want me to take Agneel's place? I'm not doubting he'd be able to handle them, I just want to have some fun of my own."


From the darkness, a hand rested on top of the girl's head, ruffling her hair as she smiled pleasantly. Mira took up a different sitting position, appearing as if she were sitting in someone's lap, even nestling herself in as the hand continued to stroke through her hair.


"Since when have I been able to stop you from playing with your food? I'm sure you'll be hungry by then anyway, considered you used up some of the Shadowborne's energy in that arrow."


"I only used his cause it guaranteed his barriers wouldn't be effective. Kind of like hitting yourself."


"Should I expect anything else from you?"


"Mäthroûm is stirring, figured he could stretch out since you put him to sleep over a century ago."


"Oh? Hmm, it seems I'll stick around a little longer, see if these two can even handle my little terror."


"Sometimes, it's the smaller packages that bolster more power."


"Yes, you are correct and you are also a perfect example for such a statement."


Mira suddenly looked up, an annoyed expression and puffed out cheeks implying she wasn't too thrilled with the supposed compliment. Raising her hands up, she proceeded to grab her chest and bounced them up and down a couple of times.


"I'm not small! Big meanie!"


As a husky laugh began to echo in the darkness, Mira grabbed the hand that had been patting her and bit into it. A dark essence that seemed to glow dropped out for a moment before dissipating into the air moments later. After a couple of minutes, Mira slouched in the 'lap' she had been sitting in, wiping her mouth and patting her belly. Simultaneously, her 'tail' had grown tremendously and created a semicircle in front of her.

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Isaac grimaced.

Well, there wasn't really much else he could do. After such a rude awakening, he didn't feel quite like himself. He cracked his neck a couple of times, yawning silently. There was no doubt about the power that hit him though.

"That censorkip.gif*..." he swore, rubbing his neck now with his hand to ease a slight cramp in it. "Can't even let a man wake up peacefully.."

He stood to his full height, stretching his arms outward to finish off his routine before moving to the cave mouth to look outward. He heard a loud, crashing noise far in the distance, and then all went silent in this strange morning.

Well, logically, he knew Vex would probably make a lot of noise while fighting. And if he had the same welcoming committee... To tell the truth, he hadn't known what had happened to Vex anyway.

But he didn't doubt the Thresher was fine. He could handle himself. Still, it would be nice to meet back up at some point, since they worked well together.

He looked down at the amulet. Sure enough, it still wasn't working. Like he'd thought, as long as he stayed in this dimension, he couldn't contact Aurora. He wondered if she worried about him. Mira hadn't even given him a chance to say goodbye.

Ah well. He wasn't planning to die here, so he'd see her again. Jumping down from the cave mouth, he turned to appraise his new surroundings.

There were no shadows here now. The way the sun - if it could be called one - was facing, it was directly on the cliff, rising from the horizon. So, logically, that direction was probably East - if, of course, this crazy dimension followed those sort of rules. Not that it mattered. Isaac had no physical or mental map of the area, so trying to find his way around would be tricky. He wondered if he had anything on himself to craft some sort of map..

He'd find out later. For now, he was slightly too irritated to worry about sketching paths.

He dashed forward quickly. He was a bit surprised he'd had yet to see any Shadows or demons lurking about since he'd awoken. After the welcome he'd received, he was sure he'd have been attacked again by now. But the lands were silent, and no one was following him - he was sure of that.

So then, he was now just worried about reaching the source of that noise from earlier. He continued forward until he - at last - stood in front of a copse of trees, their canopies rising into the murky air. How such a large, intimidating forest grew here, he didn't know. All he knew was that that noise had come from this direction. But now, it was silent as a graveyard.

Curious, he slid between the trunks of two trees, beginning to move through the forest. Here, he felt a bit safer. The trees provided a myriad of shadows to use to his advantage. He considered making this a temporary base of operations while he searched for Vex.

However, as he walked through the trees, he noticed that there were signs of destruction all around him. It only got worse as he began to get closer to - what he supposed - was the center of the whole thing. He took on a stealthier approach, cloaking himself in shadow as he came upon a large glade, where trees seemed to have been knocked aside.

But the greatest figure in this glade was a lone, familiar woman, seated on a large, destroyed rock that seemed to have been cleaved in twain by an unknown, powerful force. As he approached, she looked up, smiling.

"Aurora?" Isaac whispered, confused. He reached his hand out to her. As his hand came close to touching her, she faded away, gone, into the air.

"What sort of prank is this?..." he asked, perplexed, and slightly annoyed, as he turned to look around the glade for any sign of her. All he could see was that this destruction was very recent - as it was still settling...

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From where he was, Vex could see quite a lot. In fact, though he wasn't good at guessing heights, this seemed like the highest place around. However, much of it was treetops - in fact, everywhere around the mound he was on, he could see trees. A few plains created gaps and holes in the thick rainforest, but the thing that was most noticeable was a single river that pierced the land. Coming from what appeared to be a series of mountains in the distance, it created a tunnel through the web of green and expanded at one point into a large valley, which, in turn, had turned into a large lake over thousands and thousands of years. Turning around, the Thresher noticed the forest from which he had emerged from at first. A few miles away from it, he could notice a strangely familiar clearing. However, without a closer look, he couldn't say if it was the same place from last night. Instead, he kept looking around. Through the distance, he could notice the top of a building - or, at least, his spectral form could, since there was nothing visible for the normal set of eyes.

"Nothing too interesting..." Vex spoke out to himself as he turned to his right and focused his gaze on the forest. His eyes flared up brightly and he activated a weak form of the Curse that allowed him to barely damage souls. Though it was very weak, these wounds were caused by himself and thus were far easier to sense than the usual type. Quietly, he crouched down low and focused, waiting for a tick of pain... until a single signal resonated within his core. The pain of another being.

"Ah, lucky me..." The Chain Reaper spoke out, having made eye contact with the figure in the distance by sheer luck. There was definitely something there. By the shape and size, it was a human, but... the echo was too weak and didn't move up to his height, so he couldn't tell anything more helpful. Oh well - it was high time he met another human being, and whoever it was, he was sure that it would be an interesting occasion. Silently, the Thresher rose up and let his weapons disappear. Then, he momentarily leaped off the edge and bound the bottom of his feet with magic. Slowly, he fell downward until he came in contact with the first part of the slope. Instead of the usual flip or slam a human being would do, his strengthened feet instead repelled him off the ground and sent him off and into the air again. Thus, with a few more leaps, he triumphantly landed on the ground with a loud crash. Emerging from the small crater made by his landing, the spectre went quiet and crouched down. Using his dark suit instinctively, he moved through the shadows. It would be safer to start off carefully at first instead of immediately going forward and approaching the stranger.

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Mira smirked, now watching through her window once again, the head of her 'tail' hovering just beside her head as if awaiting instructions. Pointing through her window, Mira directed its attention to the chain reaper.


"I think our friend there could use some entertainment. Don't want Papa's energy lingering too long, otherwise we might get sick, neh? Send something to go play with him for a bit, something... familiar."


A moment later, three shadows shot out into the world below, landing in various places, one of them striking down just meters from where Vex was crouching. Briefly, it held nothing but its shadowy form, but then transitioned into a tall, fair skinned female, with ebony hair and bright blue eyes. A pair of horns stretched out from just above a set of pointed ears. A thin black tail jutted out from near her buttocks and ended in a pointed spade-like shape.


For a moment, the figure remained silent and unmoving, but life flashed into its eyes and it smiled brightly at the thresher. A pair of sharp teeth, gleaned in the dull light and the females slinked closer and closer to the thresher.


"Look at you, Mr. Vex. Looking devilishly handsome in your new gear. What's it been, 30? 40 years since we last met? Do you even recognize me? Natalia? Of course, you were a little out of it back then, a little different, a little more... wild. No? Still doesn't ring a bell? Pity."

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As Vex attempted to approach the figure, a loud crash resonated through the forest. The blast from the landing had caused a couple of trees to fly off in different directions. One of them was headed toward the reaper himself.

"Ah, censorkip.gif." The Thresher whispered to himself as he watched the wooden object fly through the air. He only had a few moments to react, but thankfully, his instincts hadn't betrayed him. Reinforcing the armor coating on his leg, he silently leaped off the ground and spectacularly flipped around. Then, he extended his leg and slammed it into the tree that was approaching him. The force caused by the sudden impact tore through the tough wood easily, as if a hot blade passing through butter. The trunk split into two seperate parts before landing somewhere behind him. All that was left was the fiery hot aura caused by the sudden usage of power.


Quickly stepping through the woods, Vex spotted another shadowy figure. He mentally cursed to himself as he prepared to fight yet another of those censorkip.gif***s from before by stepping into a defensive stance, but was quite suprised when he saw how it changed into a female form. Curiously, he watched as the transformation took place. Shadows seemed to bend and turn into forms of flesh that usually complimented a woman's body, even though he couldn't explain how this was truly happening. When the change was finally done, the Thresher's expression turned to utter confusion. This woman... he'd seen her before. A demon, definitely. The way her body attracted a person's gaze, no matter if it was someone frustrated or laid back, as well as the horns and tail told him this was a succubus. What was her name? Natasha? Natya? No... Natalia.

"Ah, no, milady... but thank you for the compliment." Vex spoke out and bowed down low in front of the demoness. Though both had finally stopped moving, he was still on the guard and was slowly backing away.

"It's been a while for sure, Natalia. Around... 33 years ago, was it? Yes... we first met around 34 years ago. You beat me, didn't you? Guess I have something to return to you, then..." The Chain Reaper finished as he softly smiled at her. Then, after a moment of silence, his head dropped down and he focused. The second time he made contact with her, his eyes were now slightly glowing. The power of the Damned was still not unleashed, but he was actively using souls to empower himself, which was evident by the warm, shimmering wave around his body. Without warning, Vex instantly dashed forward. He didn't stop for a moment but instead dug one foot into the ground. Sliding forward and coming to a stop just in front of the succubus, this allowed him to launch a direct kick toward her abdomen. Then, he immediately flipped backward once and prepared a defensive stance.

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Natalia side stepped and spun about, evading the thresher's attack, grabbing and latching onto him as he attempted to dash backwards. Now, in a piggyback position, the succubus purred in Vex's ear, rubbing against him in a more than familiar fashion.


"Lost? As I recall, you were love struck and couldn't even make a move, though, I guess that's just an exaggerated belief on my part."


Without even touching the ground, the girl rotated around the reaper's body, arms wrapped over his shoulders and legs wrapped around his waist. Cooing, Natalia smiled warmly and planted her feet on the reaper's abdomen, simultaneously latching onto his shoulders with her hands. Kicking herself out, she propelling herself into a handstand. Allowing gravity to swing her body back down, once her feet were planted, she used the momentum to sling Vex backwards, the amount of force surprising for her size. Vex was flung back into the cliff side, creating a small indention in the wall of rock.


"Vex, sweetheart, why don't we just have a little fun? Maybe get a little intimate? After all, I love how hot you make me feel, those eyes and that stare. It just makes me feel like I've been a bad little girl."

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Vex cursed mentally as his attack was wasted, leaving him in the open. His flip was thwarted by the succubus who had immediately used the moment after the attack to get on his back. Though usually, one would be able to react, these type of demons weakened their victims, especially if they were in physical contact. Thus, the Thresher's attempt to slam her into the ground by bending his back wasn't working out, and he was left attempting to shake her off instead. However, the moment she let her upper body down and her legs dug into his sides, he knew it was over. Gathering his breath, the reaper felt the world turn around. Then, without warning, he was sent back toward the mountain's side. Crossing his arms, he flew into the cliffside and crashed through the surface before landing in yet another underground cave.

"Swear to god, these things are all over the place..." The Chain Reaper grumbled as he slowly rose up from where he'd landed, then dusted his clothes off. He turned toward the hole he'd just came through and heard what the succubus outside was speaking. Slightly shaking his head with eyes closed and a smirk, the reaper contemplated for a moment just what had happened before. It was true that he was younger and wilder before, but the wounds were too fresh. Only now, around 75 years after his death, was he ready. The news of his old wife's dead were both painful and relieving. Now, she wouldn't be waiting for him, and he could finally heal the wounds of the past. However, not with Natalia. He didn't want a one-time thing, especially not with a succubus. No... it would be special. Finished with thinking, Vex lifted his head back up, his eyes shining brighter than before. He started off with a rapid sprint, then stepped on a stone and leaped off. Then, suprisingly quickly, he slammed the wall in front of him with his right fist and broke through. Chunks of stone and dirt flew out as another wide gap was forcibly opened in the mountain side, revealing the Thresher's form. His suit was the only thing which had suffered damage, in the form of a gash across his lower abdomen.

"That wasn't nice, vixen." The Chain Reaper spoke out as he walked toward her, his voice echoing out and toward the forest. At first, he was walking slowly, but gradually, he sped up until he was in a full-on sprint. Soon, he was meters away from Natalia. Immediately, he dove behind a tree and disappeared. Silence filled the air for a few moments until the Thresher suddenly reappeared behind her. He slinged himself off a branch and dashed forward. For now, it would be logical to keep distance. He conjured a set of blades on the side of his gauntlet and used them to cut through her right side, damaging both her upper torso, upper arm and chest. Breaking contact as soon as he had maximized damage, Vex turned around and jumped backward, then prepared for a counterattack.

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Natalia let out a scream that even made some of the small nearby birds fly off, clutching at the wound she had just been given. Unfortunately for the thresher, the seemingly moment of success transitioned into laughing. With her hands now on her hips, the succubus revealed how a black residue floated into the air and dissipated like ash from a fire. Smiling in the reaper's general direction, Natalia raised her arms into the air, exaggerating a shrug.


"It's truly a pity. I would've adored some private time, but it seems you're here to fight instead. What if I had been the real Natalia Van Einsborn? Would you have struck me so easily? I know you had a thing for her at one point and she definitely had a thing for you. Anyway, I guess you really don't want to chit-chat with a replica, so let's get to the real business at hand. Let's see if you'll be able to handle the trials that await you in Grim's Box."


As soon as the last word passed through her lips, the succubus was gone, only to appear, laying on Vex's back with a small knife jammed between his lower ribs. It wasn't difficult to track, but reacting would've felt impossible. Almost like watching an inevitable wreck occur in slow motion, knowing it's about to happen, but unable to do anything about it.


"Obviously, this isn't a trait Natalia has. No, but it is definitely similar to what Grim might do. What I'll do and what he'll do will be different because I am only using the techniques I know from the blood I was born from and implementing it into the memories I am now reflecting."

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Ah, a successful hit. The weaponized gauntlet had shredded through the soft tissue along the arm and upper body, leaving both deep wounds and cuts along the way. However, Vex immediately recognized something was wrong, as her reaction was too faked. He stepped backward as she let out a laugh and revealed how the wounds turned into black residue, which soon flew off like the embers of a fireplace. Dammit, why wasn't he able to harm this shadow? The Thresher focused silently as he watched the succubus speak to him. When she was finished, he decided to answer.

"You... you think I wouldn't be able to tell the real Natalia apart from you? You have no soul - you're just energy, turned into a physical form! If this were the real woman I met years ago, I wouldn't strike so quickly!" Vex angrily retorted, his hand clenched in anger. His expression was beyond pissed and he was barely holding himself from tackling the fake and ripping it into shreds. This... this stupid abomination thought it could get close to that real demon? No. Never.


Thoughts faded away, however, as the reaper heard his opponent's last words. He immediately went into a defensive stance and focused in an attempt to thwart the blow - however, this being was way too fast. In a flash, before he even had a moment to register the hit, he had been stabbed. The intent was easy to feel, but the lightning-fast attack... not as easy to stop. A cough, then another, came from the Thresher as he felt the blade within his lungs. Thankfully, the blow had been lower than his heart, but it still hurt like hell. Breathing became more difficult as a viscous fluid filled his lungs. Moments after the attack, the Chain Reaper pushed himself off his opponent and dropped forward on his knees. He spat out a strangely familiar, dark red substance that seemed quite like blood. Time seemed to come to a crawl as he attempted to regain his concentration, but the stinging pain and his blood-filled mouth kept troubling his breathing. However, seconds later, the air around the spectre became as hot as an inferno. The shimmering wave of heat expanded itself, causing branches to sway and the grass to lie flat on the ground. Then, his core flashed a bright red before energy gathered itself on the wounded lung's surface. Within a second, the flesh resealed itself, whilst the blood was pushed out and through his mouth.

Having cleared his airways and healed the threat, Vex pushed himself off the ground. He took a few steps forward, then stopped in front of a tree. Quietly, he turned around to reveal himself. His eyes were now two bright bodies of red light, filled with power. His own breath was visible in the air, having turned a dark red because of the blood still lining his cavities. Power flowed out of him visibly in the form of spirals that circled him around and sometimes passed through him instead. Then, as if it wasn't enough, he made eye contact with Natalia. In that moment, the usual bright red color was changed by a deep crimson that seemed to stare daggers into his opponent. The Curse of the Damned was here.

"You will pay... you fake clone... for what you've done... to one of the only people... I respect and like..." Vex spoke out, then released a powerful roar that would definitely cause damage to one's ears. Using his soul counterpart as a guideline that he wasn't about to attack an illusion, he launched forward. New blades covered his gauntlets as he madly dashed forward with a speed quite unlike his own. Before he knew it, he had collided with the succubus. Knocking her to the ground and stabbing the blades through her flesh and into the ground, he focused his power into her being. Torrents of magic flowed directly through the shadow, tearing its fake core apart and thus causing damage to it. Though it was faint, he could also detect a soul counterpart deep inside of the woman. So, though it was only by pure chance, he would try to harm it. Suprisingly, the Thresher moved his face low and onto the fake demon's. Avoiding contact with her lips, the spectre attempted to hurt the deeply-buried soul that was somehow controlling this beast.

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Isaac jumped around, stretching himself out as he waited patiently for the beast that owned this glade. He heard some commotion nearby but brushed it off, sighing.

"YOU.... Dare... TO...ENTER.... MY GLADE..."

Isaac turned, confused, as a massive, shaking voice brought him out of his thoughts.

Behind him stood a large, bull-like beast with a massive axe in either hand. However, it also had the image of a centaur, horse legs behind it.

"And you would be?"


"Waiting for you to return, of course." Isaac grinned, leaping off the stone and rubbing his arm.

"YOU? FIGHT ME? IS THIS WHAT YOU INSINUATE?!" the beast growled, slashing the ground nearby him. He cleaved it, leaving a large fissure in the earth and taking a few trees down with it.

"Fight you? I didn't know I needed to do that." Isaac shrugged. "Instead, now I think I'll take you for a ride."

"WHAT?!" the beast roared so loudly that it echoed throughout the landscape. Isaac was pushed back a moment by the strength of the shout.

He jumped upward, landing on the beast's mighty back before he could react.

"Giddyap." Isaac said, kicking softly.

"YOU SHAMELESS, IDIOT MORTAL. I WILL CRUSH YOU!" the beast roared, twisting and thrashing as he attempted to buck Isaac from his back. Isaac held on, using the beast's own hair to keep a firm grip.

"YOU ARE AS TENACIOUS AS A FLEA! BUT I WILL RID MYSELF OF YOU!" the beast screamed, charging forward.

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