Chapter 15 – The Wind that burns

"That was quite possibly the most pathetic thing I've ever seen in my entire life," Sol scolded. "Ever."

I failed, Archaia thought. He felt a sort of emptiness in him as a piece of his spirit crumbled off and fell down an endless void. But something else rose up in him in the midst of defeat. A weak gust of wind wafted by as though to mock him, and he was eager and determined to mock back. I…I'll show them. I'll show all of them!

What kind of Genesis are you?

Who...who are you? Why are you in my head?

It matters not. What kind of Genesis are you?

I'm…Wind. I am, damn it!

Put down your sword and manipulate the Wind.

I can. I'll prove it to you; I'm no pushover.

Try changing the direction of the Wind.

Fine, nobody makes fun of me. By my father's name…!

Then do it.

With renewed intensity, and the rebirth of his iron resolve, Archaia snapped his eyes closed and stomped harshly upon the tip of Myrthe's blade. As he inhaled once more, Sol cried out to him.

"No, wait!" Sol said with more emotion than Archaia thought possible. "You'll blast me off –!"

Archaia forced the air out of his mouth, this time generating a mighty, howling gust of wind. It was a short, but powerful burst, and unmistakably the product of his elemental persona. Archaia felt the air pulsated out of his convulsing lungs, the fearsome winds being expelled as quickly as he could generate them. Yet when Archaia reopened his eyes, he merely found Sol's hair to be ruffled, and tiny splotches of river water were dotted on the rocky wall behind the raft. He blankly stared at the splashed water all around Sol, who hadn't moved an inch despite his frantic cry just moments before.

"Wow," Sol mused. "Your incompetence is such a fortunate twist." As Sol self-concernedly fiddled with his golden bangs, Archaia turned away, muttering "Stupid Sol."

"Now then," Sol started after nearly a half-hour of complete silence. Archaia made no attempt to communicate, nor would he have if his raft mate had tried to birth conversation. "Archaia, there are a few things of which I must warn you before we enter the Capitul."

"Don't die?"

"Archaia, I do not advocate your slash-and-burn tactics, although it may literally come to that. We are entering the Capitul Mountain through a now unused entrance that I discovered through some…extortion. The Capitul is a massive system of caves and halls built into the mountain and it holds all of the demonic society's government buildings.

"In order to find the ones for which we search, we must move quickly and without error. The section of the Capitul that we are searching for is named the Crypt. How much time we must sacrifice to reach it is beyond my knowledge…"

"You mean you don't already know how to get there?"

"Tort – er, interrogation can only extract a finite amount of useful information, Archaia. Either way, the tunnels are, from my understanding, rather complex and difficult for even the demons themselves to dedicate to memory. At any rate, you must remember not to attract any attention. As I stated earlier, the Capitul is composed of several "buildings," I believe five in total, and though we will attempt to confide our travels to outdated hallways, we may encounter a stray demon or two.

"Demons have a sub-par olfactory precision, and poor hygiene militates against their already comparatively poor hearing as well. Regardless, a demon's ocular acuity is superior to that of a human, so we must do our best not to lose one another. Understand?" Archaia nodded, and he continued. "Our objective, if you recall, is the assassination of the High Crypt. This feat may seem impossible, but if we are able to eliminate at least two of them, or Beel – er, allow me to rephrase. My duty, and yours, is to slay as many of the High Crypt as possible, and escape with our lives still our own. The element of surprise is undoubtedly to our advantage, so do nothing to compromise – wake up you idiot!! – we have a benefit in that…oh forget it. Simply follow me and do not destroy our advantage."

Archaia sat at the front of the raft, his legs leisurely hanging in the astonishingly clear river water. At long last, it was almost time to face the demons head on. He smiled wryly at his anxiety, but shoved it to the back of mind, choosing to allow his arrogance to rule his actions, as usual. Archaia hoisted Myrthe in both hands and swung it a few times to warm himself up, then threw an exploratory glance to his right. The mountain wall had receded behind the bank enough to allow the raft to land. The foot of the newfound crevice was pregnant with weeds, vines, and other distasteful plants. The vegetation had grown so thickly, the looked by far over a hundred years old. It looked as though someone had taken a pair of pale, green nets and crudely taped them to the foot of the canyon.

At Sol's instruction, Archaia nudged the boat enough for it to catch the bank and it landed with an awkward SMUSH noise. The teen shrugged and inserted Myrthe into his belt. He noticed that the path of land looked soggy and uncomfortable; the ground seemed to be composed more of water than of dirt. He noticed that there would be very little room to walk around either, since the patch was no larger than the raft, and the front half of the raft covered the majority of the tiny bank.

"That is an interesting symbol on your shirt," Sol mentioned with regards to the upside-down, one-on-top-of-the-other triangle design. "Is that your family crest?"

Archaia hopped gaily onto the waterlogged surface and Sol apathetically followed suit. "Kind of. My father used to work as an instructor, training government soldiers in combat," he explained as Sol approached the netted wall. "Now, he's a professor, and he's…taking care of something out of town. But when he was a trainer, he presented the soldiers with bastardized versions of our family crest as a sort of ranking badge."

"So your garment," Sol said mostly to himself as he inspected the plants, "is a variation of the crest?"

"Yeah. When the two triangles are empty, you're just a graduate. If you get advanced training – and complete it – the triangles are filled in, like mine. That means you're an Adept with assorted weaponry. Once you've mastered all weapons and forms of combat, you become a Weapons Master and receive a copy of my true family crest."

"Which looks like…?"

"The same, but with wings and a halo-looking thing. Which reminds me…" Archaia reached inside his pocket and removed a silver necklace, upon which was the Adept Crest. He fastened it around his neck and playfully flicked it, as though to test its durability. "A good luck charm, from Dad."

"So, have you ever tested to ascend to Master rank?" Sol asked. Archaia wondered if Sol was truthfully curious about this.

"Twice. But Dad kicked my ass both times."

Interested, Sol remarked, "You were forced to fight your own father!"

It seemed like a confirmatory question, but came out more like an exclamation to Archaia. Either way, he decided to answer it. "Yeah, with fake weapons. The first time, he cut my head off. The second time I did a little better, but I took one in the mid-region. Dad said I still could've kept fighting, as it wasn't a 'fatal' shot, but I capitulated after that blow."

"Where did he hit you?"

"After that attack, I wouldn't have wanted to keep living." A nod from Sol displayed complete understanding. "My dad said…I simply didn't have enough real-world experience to graduate yet." Archaia released a prolonged sigh from his nostrils and gazed aimlessly down the river.

"Well once this is done," Sol muttered as he set fire to the weeds, "I am sure you will have more than enough."

Over the roar of the flames, the comment was inaudible to Archaia. The teen merely peered inside the hold the appeared behind the burned away vines and saw it to be a dark, uninhabited tunnel. The entrance was rather tiny, and they would have to crouch simply to enter. It was no question to Archaia why the entrance saw no use.

"Damn! No wonder they don't use this one anymore," the teen complained as his back began to cramp.

Sol shook his yellow head as he clambered inside after him. His mouth may be foul, and his intelligence…questionable, but it is all that I am capable of working with. "Archaia, let us try to stay as close to this exit as we can. Should we be noticed, our top priority shall transition to returning to this location."

Archaia nodded. The tunnel was gradually becoming less cramped and eventually, he was standing up. Upon catching a faint light before him, he looked up ahead and noticed several torches lining the wall. "What happens when we leave?"

"I will lead you back to Ner'az Uliôn, which will take us to my Trophy. We can use the Trophy, then, to hopefully return us to our world. Where I alone have failed, perhaps both of us together may succeed."

"I see," said Archaia, aware of the fact that Sol neglected to mention the imminent death sentence that had befallen him. "One question, though. If Interdimensional portals can transport multiple people, how come that one demon guy's portal spit you out?"

"That, I cannot answer. However, I am almost certain that the answer is related to his methods for creating the portal. You see, he did not use a Trophy like the one the angel apparently used. It would appear as though the demons have devised some new method of personal Interdimensional transportation, or PIT as I call it. This is also a play on the fact that the "Pit" is the section of the Capitul where the demons engineer technology. Ironic, because that is where you are now heading."

"Huh?" They had arrived at a five-way fork in the road, and Archaia had already ventured several feet down one of the paths. "Sorry, I wasn't listening. Wait, how'd you know that?"

"I can read the sign," Sol said, pointing. Archaia glanced at the wall and, sure enough, a fairly legible sign detailing the entire Capitul was there. Archaia, amazed that the map was in their language, asked about it.

"Why wouldn't demons know our language?" Sol answered as though it was the most obvious thing in the world. "Most of them were born as humans, remember?"

"Oh yeah…well, whatever."

"Ready your weapon," Sol instructed as he examined the map. "We are sure to encounter several demons after this point."

"Y'know, I would laugh so hard if we didn't get into a single fight this whole entire time, but instead, by some crazy and haphazard turn of events, end up leaving this mountain without getting a bit of action whatsoever."

Sol gave Archaia a long, yet stark glance. Archaia merely smiled back until the man hit him sharply in the arm.

"There you go," Sol proclaimed. "Now we have had an engagement, so stop talking and follow. There is not much – Archaia!"

The world flashed red before Archaia's eyes. Like someone threw a crimson screen over his face, the teen's sight was corrupted in a mere instant. Red turned to a screen of blue and the world started to spin. Archaia forced his eyes closed to try to stop the chaos, but the inside of his eyelids appeared blue as well. Dizzy, the swordsman dropped to his knees and put a shaking hand to his head. He was sweating so profusely that touching his head felt like sticking his hand into a pool of warm water.

"Archaia, what is the matter? Your eyes just changed from gray to red to blue and…reverted back to gray?!"

Sure enough, his vision began to flicker back to normal. Archaia took a moment to calm himself, breathing very heavily, then rose back to his feet. "I…I'm okay. I just had a little shock, that's all."

"No, I will tell you what happened," Sol grimly replied. "Your body cannot handle the four spirits residing inside of it. It is like filling a jar with more water than it may hold. You will die, soon, so there is not much time. We must hurry – you need to slay the High Crypt."

"…Right," Archaia grunted as they sped down the rightmost hallway. As much as he hated being used – as much as he loathed being this man's tool to fight this battle – Archaia knew that he had no choice.

Who are you? The voice in my head, where did you come from?

Why won't you answer me now? Why did you help me back then?

Damn. I'm so confused...

A/N: Cameo… there was a cameo appearance of one of my favorite fp stories in the last chapter. It was fun, though not well hidden from the author. I'll do better next time. So, I've written up to chapter 23 now, and it's one helluvan exciting thing. Now that SUMMER is here, I can type faster, so hopefully I'll get to the chapter-nineteen-and-higher saga of the story, since if you're at all interested in the story, it truly will/should/hopefully-is-gonna excite you. Well, I hope you enjoyed this short chapter. Reviews appreciated and returned!