The next day, I went to the Chase' house around lunchtime. Mrs. Chase was more than happy to welcome me despite being an extra mouth to feed for the past two weeks. Otis ate with me while we were waiting for Phineas to arrive.

"How's Mrs. Ellison?" Otis asked he chomped on the burger his mom made for us. He didn't seem to care about the drop of sauce on the side of chin. "I do hope her health is improving. What happened really sucks."

"Not much really. But I think she's getting better." I lied. But the night before that was a terrible gamble. My mother almost died. And Eran shrank a few inches to save her. "The doctor still doesn't know how long will she be like that."

"I'll wish for health as soon as I see a shooting star tonight!" Otis grinned. It was kind of thoughtful but childish at the same time. All I managed was a slight chuckle out of that. "Cheer up, Nikki! It was just a joke!"

"Yeah, I get that." I mumbled as I took another bite out of the burger.

"Have you ever thought of what we're all gonna be when we grow up?" Otis asked out of nowhere. It caught me off guard. I painfully swallowed what I chewed down my throat. "I mean seriously, you do have dreams when you grow up, right?"

"That was such a sudden question." I commented and took a few gulps of my soda right after. Otis just gave me a funny look. His eyebrows went cross and seemed discontented.

"Well?" He pushed further.

"I want to be a doctor someday. Maybe a neurosurgeon." I replied. Otis' facial expression didn't really change. He was still discontented. "Then let's see if you really have a brain."

"Very funny. I'm good at using my brain. You guys just don't appreciate how great it works." Otis muttered dryly. Then he knocked on his head as if it could tell whether he has a brain or not. "What about Phineas? Do you have any idea?"

"I think he wants to be a lawyer." I pointed out. Then Otis frowned at me with another expression of discontentment. "He never really did tell us though. I think he might go for it because his parents are lawyers."

Then Otis just fell silent. His gaze was fixed on his food but he was no longer eating. I checked out Mrs. Chase and it looked like she went upstairs.

"What's wrong?" I asked in a soft voice.

"Nothing." He moaned.

"That doesn't look like nothing." I observed. Then I nudged him softly on the shoulder. "Come on, tell me. It doesn't take a psychologist to tell me something is bothering you."

"Both you and Phineas are smart." Otis replied. "I mean really smart. You're both like the smartest kids in school."

"So?" I asked. "That doesn't really matter. You're both my best friends."

"That's not it, Nikki." Otis objected. He looked down and sullen. I was amazed that he has the capacity to look sad. "I've always wanted to be a soldier. My uncle was part of the US Marines and I might follow his footsteps. Their boot camp is somewhere in the West Coast. You and Phineas on the other hand are really smart so I'm sure the both of you can study in the best schools!"

"Yeah." I agreed. "But what's your point?"

"The best schools are in the East Coast." He pointed out. "Mom said all the Ivy League schools are there. You're both gonna be there while I'll be in the West Coast!"

"You don't even know that!" I retorted. But Otis didn't look convinced. "You're thinking about it too much. That's not like you at all."

"After we graduate from High School, we're all gonna be separated from each other." My friend lamented. But he had a point. Maybe Otis' brain was really under-appreciated after all. "Even after we graduate, I might be deployed to some other country. Then the two of you will live in the big city."

"What's going on? Did the girl rejected Otis already?" Phineas suddenly entered the dining room. He had the usual inquisitive look on his face.

"You might want to knock on the door next time." Otis whined.

"Sorry." The ginger boy grinned. Then his eyes swung between me and Otis playfully. "What's with him?"

"He's just sad that we would be separated for good after we graduated High School." I explained. "I told him that he wasn't even sure of that."

"Nikki's right, Otis." Phineas said to my other best friend. "We're not even sure if you're going to graduate on time."

I couldn't help but laugh at the snarky side-comment.

"You shithead!" Otis exclaimed. Then he fell silent to check if his mom heard him cussing on the table. But no response came so he lowered his voice. "The first thing I'll do after boot camp is to throw a grenade at you!"

Phineas and I just laughed at his pathetic comeback. After the three of us cleaned up the table, we asked permission if we could pass by the game store since Otis wanted a new game. Mrs. Chase gave us the go signal and the three of us rode on our bikes. Except mine since I borrowed Otis' old bike.

It wasn't really much of a long ride. The fresh breeze of spring

The game store was a fusion with the comic book store so I dragged Phineas to the other end. It was indeed a den for geeks and weebs like us. Otis on the other hand was busy checking out what he can buy. Since it was still quite early in the afternoon, there wasn't much people inside.

Phineas was busy geeking out right in front of me. It wouldn't be so hard to push him into Asphodel where I could proceed with the ritual. My Nyxian blade was ready to appear in my grip at any moment. The boulder in my gets went heavier and heavier until I could barely breathe. Slowly, I reached for his shoulder.

As soon as I touched him, he spun around and was surprised. "Yes?"

"Nothing. I'm just gonna find the restroom." I lied. Normally, Phineas would have noticed that. But he was too enthralled in the dozens of comic books and mangakas around him. "I'll wait for you guys in front, okay?"

"Sure." Then he went back to geek out.

I went back to the front door and waited for them there. Then I was also undecided and bought a comic book for myself. Phineas and I met each other at the counter and he beamed with the limited edition release for his collection. After half an hour more, Otis was finally able to decide which game to buy. The three of us were quite contented when we made our exit.

"Otis, can I borrow your bike?" I suddenly asked.

"Sure." He chirped joyfully. "Where are you going?"

"I'll just bring this home first and then I'll pass by the hospital to check on my mother." I explained.

"No problem." He replied as he slowly removed the lock on our bikes. "I'll just tell mom where you went. She wouldn't mind."

"Thanks." I said to Otis. As he slowly pulled from the bike rack, my red haired friend approached me with his bike at the ready. "What?"

"Can I come with you?" Phineas asked me.

"Uhm, meet me in the hospital after a couple of hours." I muttered. "I need some time alone.

"Got it." Phineas replied sadly. But I knew he was observing me from behind when I turned around. "See ya."

With that, I separated away from my other two friends. It took a few minutes for me to get back to my house. When I entered my room, I was surprised to see the blonde haired boy sitting in the middle of the floor. The Necronomicon was open and he was studying the scribbles of the spell.

"What are you doing here?" I inquired.

"Trying to look for an alternative for you." He quipped. Eran looked really bored of reading the same lines repeatedly. The lines under his eyes were more pronounced than ever. "Did you do it?"

"I couldn't do it." I groaned. I couldn't help but grit my teeth with the way he asked so coldly. "There has got to be some other way."

"I've checked it over and over again. This ancient thing doesn't really have an instruction manual." Eran replied. His high-pitched voice went even higher due to his reversed aging process . "It's demanding blood."

I looked over the ritual more than a hundredth time. But Eran was right, it was loud and clear what it was demanding. It didn't really take a genius to decipher than it wants the closest blood bond of the Necromancer that will release its powers. My eyes gazed at the writing on the first page of the Necronomicon.

The powers of the dark and beyond, welcometh thee,
while the untold can inviteth backeth what thee hath lost,
for coequal vile madness shalt runneth hence from thee,
but the reins of such terrors hast a price and did cost.

Ope thy soul and behold who is't is a parteth of thee,
to beest a master of souls, one shalt payeth the same price,
so much power I shalt giveth, for only one of thee,
a vile exchange to gain controleth over death's vise.

Life is hath found in the crimson red of thy veins,
for power yond endues forth life shall hest such,
the bright life of the sacrifice shall beest our binding chains,
ink me with half of thy soul so our destinies touch.

Whoever thee payeth me with, shalt never ever returneth,
and whatever thee surrender shall beest a parteth of me.
We shall never separateth nay matter how far thee runneth,
for the powers of Asphodel cometh with wondrous misery.

On its next few pages were the contract seal inscription to bind my sacrifice and myself to the book. I gazed upon it over and over until it was engraved in my own memory. As I examined it even closer, I noticed that the ink used was in deep red. I switched my attention to Eran and he gave me a funny look.

"What are you thinking?" He asked.

"How were you able to make it show the first page?" I asked.

Then Eran just pulled back his right jacket sleeve and showed me a mark at the mid-way part between his wrist and the back of his elbow. It was a wound that had just healed. "I offered it with my own blood. That thing is hungry for more."

"I won't do it." I stated firmly. But it was all really a brave front. Nothing but a hollow conviction. "I won't sacrifice Phineas. My mom is clinging to life and she's buying us time. I won't waste any of that."

"You don't even know how much time she has left!" He replied harshly. The boy simply reiterated what we already knew. "She almost died thanks to you."

"I don't care!" I snapped. But I knew for myself that Eran was right. We didn't have much options. And I almost killed my own mother out of desperation. "I will find a way!"

With that, I left for the hospital. Eran went back to the orphanage before Father Declan would notice. Thanks to his ability to grow wings, traveling wasn't much of an issue for him. Yet I still wonder how he could evade the detection of people who coincidentally stared at the sky the moment he passed.

Then I sent a voicemail to Phineas if he could come over while on the way there. I rode on Otis' bike and pedaled passionately as if my life depended on it. At the back of my head, something felt wrong. A bad omen. As if an invisible black cat crossed the path I was about to take. I didn't know how. But it wasn't good.

When I got near my mom's room, I noticed a small commotion. There were nurses and doctors inside. It was simply chaotic. Orders flew around the small enclosed space. Gadgets were dragged inside. And I stupidly gawked in the hallway, unable to process what was going on.

I immediately ran into the room and saw them trying to revive my mother. A loud set of consecutive beeps echoed inside. One of the nurses started injecting stuff through her IV. But then everyone practically stopped for a micro-second when her body responded and started coughing up blood.

A chill flew up my spine as the beeping of the machine went even louder. The next thing I knew was the beep turned from a pattern into a long line of horrific and screeching pitch of tone. My throat went completely dry. I knew what the long beep sound meant.

Mom already flatlined.

"Inject 1 milligram of Epinephrine. Stat!" One of the female doctors barked. It was then I noticed that it was Dr. Dany. I didn't even notice her checking on my mom the night before. She was supposed to check her vitals past midnight but I was probably fast asleep on the couch. "Then page Dr. Harrison and prepare him an operating room."

"Injecting 1 milligram of Epinephrine." One of the nurses announced as she smoothly administered the necessary drug. It was quickly and cleanly done.

Then one of the female nurses jumped on the bed and knelt over her torso to give her a better angle for chest compressions. As she furiously pumped on behalf of my mom, another female doctor was inserting some object through her throat. Most likely to help her breathe.

"Prep her on Heparin." Dr. Dany commanded as she assisted the other nurses. She injected some sort of drug into her IV and also barked some orders around. Her quick wits and determination was fierce. Clearly seen through her eyes. All I could do was lean on the wall and prayed silently that my mom would make it.

"Her body is still unresponsive damn it!" Dr. Dany muttered loudly. I just stared at the others who seemed dumbstruck at what to do next. "Tell Dr. Harrison and the operating room to prepare for an percutaneous thrombolysis and embolectomy! And get me the patient's latest angiogram results! Stat!"

Two of the nurses inside scrambled through the door as they got my mom ready to move. Another nurse rushed inside to assist as the other nurse kept doing CPR. In one quick motion, the bed started to roll. As my mom's bed passed by me, I ran along with them and held my mom's hand.

I tried to sense as much as I could what was happening in her body and I noticed some sort of strange avroi was in her system. It was probably the poison. I already felt the same sensation before. Yet this time, it was a lot clearer.

Dr. Dany stayed back and pulled me away when we got to the entrance of the Operating Room. She held my shoulders firmly yet with care. I couldn't help but tear up as I watched my mom vanish inside the swinging doors.

"What's going on with my mom?" I asked her.

"She's going to be fine. It was a good thing we were around when she started crashing." Dr. Dany explained as she rubbed my shoulder. "Your mom was having a pulmonary embolism. I think the operation should be quick if there are no further complications. You can go take a break in the waiting room."

"Okay." I numbly chirped. "I'll go wait inside her room instead."

"Don't worry about your mom. She's a very strong woman. I've never seen someone fight so hard for her life." The doctor assured me. Then she gave me a soft pat on my head. "I have to go, Nikki. I'll have to talk to her surgeon."

I simply watched her walked away as I went back to her room. Then I sat at the couch as I stared at the empty spot where her bed used to be. I leaned back and closed my eyes to focus my connection with Eran.

My mom almost died again. I sent my thoughts to him. She flatlined right in front of me. It was scary.

What happened? Eran replied in my head.

Pulmonary embolism. I stated in my head. She's currently in an operation room. The doctor said she should be fine. But the poison is still in her blood. I have no idea how her body would respond.

Yet Eran was silent.

You're right. I might have to do it. I gulped. I couldn't believe what I was even saying. Phineas is already on the way here. It looks like I really don't have another choice, Eran.

I'm so sorry, Nikki. I really am. Eran's voice in my head was so soft. No one deserves to make a choice between who lives and who dies.

I didn't make a reply. Eran disconnected from my thoughts after a minute. I didn't even notice that I fell asleep until I felt a light tap on my legs. When I opened my eyes, Phineas looked at me with a worried face.

"Where's your mom, Nikki?" He asked fearfully.

"She's currently in the operating room." I explained. Then I loomed over at the empty space in the middle of the room. "Mom almost died a while ago. But Dr. Dany and the other nurses saved her. Her doctor said that she'll be fine. She was rushed inside a couple of hours ago."

"Oh no. I'm so sorry!" Phineas gasped. Then he sat down beside me and looked at the ceiling thoughtfully. "I'd give anything to save your mom."

"You wouldn't." I chuckled

"I'm serious!" He pouted childishly.

Phineas and I talked to each other over silly things over the next couple of hours. He would try to make me remember the most random things during our elementary years. Yet each second was getting heavier and heavier for me.

We didn't even notice the time until there was a knock on the door. Dr. Dany entered and a couple of nurses were pushing my mom inside. She seemed calm and the grayish-ness of her skin the day before were slightly less pronounced.

"The operation was a success. She's stable for now." Dr. Dany said. Yet there was an eerie sad tone in her voice. "But I am afraid we still couldn't figure out why she's in a comatose state."

She then delivered a quick report on what happened during the surgery and simplified it so Phineas and I could understand. He was quick on his hands and recorded Dr. Dany's report in his phone. It was meant for Mrs. Chase so she'll be updated, too. After that debriefing, Dr. Dany left the room.

"I'll go get us something to eat." Phineas said and left.

I stood up and observed my mother. Then I touched her cold hands but I still felt no radical change. The sensation of the invasive avroi was still inside her and it was still a problem. It was only the antidote that could save her.

Then I leaned forward and whispered into her ear, "I will save you, mom. I won't let you die. Whatever it takes."

I decided that it was time. I took a deep breath and left the room to look for Phineas. Every step made the boulder in my gut heavier and heavier. And it was the weight I was willing to carry. For the sake of my mother.

As I strolled through the hallways, I silently mumbled to myself that Eran was right, I no longer had a choice. It was either my mom or Phineas. The ritual spoke true. There will be serious consequences if we used fraudulent blood on that ancient ritual. And things couldn't get worse from there.

When I turned to the right after the nurses' station, there I found him. He was in front of a vending machine, trying to choose what he could buy for himself. I had to bit my lip because he looked so peaceful. His boyish innocence struck me even harder. And he simply shouldn't be sacrificed for such an unfair deal.

I looked around to make sure that there were no people. Not even cameras should see what I was about to do. The while halls were silent and every footstep created an echo. It made my stomach churn at how ironic everything was.

The next thing I did was to make my quiet approach and hugged him from behind. Streams of tears started to fall down my cheeks.

"Nikki?" Phineas gasped.

"I'm sorry." I cried out. "I'm so sorry, Phineas. I have to do this."

Then I hugged him tighter that caught him by surprise. My head was buried at the side of his neck. I couldn't help but sob. He was probably weirded out. Even words couldn't form in my mouth. To my surprise, he slowly turned around in my grip and faced me. He hugged me tighter as I just cried like a baby in his arms.

"What's going on, Nikki?" He asked light-heartedly. Almost a whisper. Phineas even started to rub my back gently. "Is your mom gonna be okay? Did she…?"

But I just kept bawling my heart out. It felt like it lasted for a couple more hours when it was just a few seconds. Phineas cradled me and comforted me as much as he could. Yet he was still completely clueless at what was about to happen.

There was no going back after the next moment.

With tremendous effort, I pushed him forward and held him in place by my firm grip on his shoulder. His face was a mix of surprise and wonder. My puffy eyes could barely look at him. But I promised myself, I would look him straight in the eye as I did it. And I did. Much to my distaste.

It took all of my mental and emotional strength to summon the Nyxian Blade in my hand. The surprised look on his face was replaced with awe. Just like a kid watching a magician pull a rabbit out of a hat. But as soon as he recognized that it was a deathly black sword, his face went pale. It was full of dread and shock. With one quick stroke, I drove the blade into the middle of his gut.

His eyes shattered into tears. Phineas' face contorted as he reached for my blade. But he started to cough blood. I knew that it had hit his diaphragm and his breathing pattern started to collapse. Before the blood would start making a mess, I pushed Phineas into Asphodel. Both us went into the small rip in space.

A whimper was all he could reply. "Nikki? What are you doing?"

Then Phineas looked back at me as my tears kept flooding my vision. I could barely see the look of betrayal in his face. I pushed Phineas on the wall and used my blade to pin him on it like a huge nail. With a bit more effort, I drove my blade into him a bit deeper. I reached for his chest next and with my thumb. Then I slowly ripped the opening I made on his shirt. He made a soft grunt and fell silent again.

His bony chest was exposed. Blood started to pour out from the open wound and he was still perplexed in what was happening. I dipped my left pointer finger on his blood and hastily drew the inscription on his chest. It was a small ritual circle that I saw on the third page of the Necronomicon.

As I got busy on that part of the ritual, I didn't dare look at Phineas' eyes. It might slow me down since we were both in Asphodel. I knew that the pain in his eyes would immediately stop me in what I was doing. Since he was not able to use any form of necromancy, his life force would have faded quickly. Doing it on the other dimension would have been a harder thing to do since someone might see us.

"Veriz aign zo eln zsyk Ydj delnis duplicis," I started to chant. The markings on his chest started to dance and had spread all over his body. They looked like chains that had bound his limbs. The markings even reached to his face. "Estele elzythimia falk reyolos koz frenis ekpliris."

That was when I looked at him one last time as his life force slowly poured into the ritual circle on his chest. The markings pierced his skin and sucked his blood. It was like a reverse blood transfusion and all his fluids were drained. A red crystal started to form. And its glimmer was full of life.

"I'm sorry, Phineas." I whispered and bumped my forehead into his. Yet my friend didn't make the slightest reaction. "I wish I had a choice. But I didn't."

Although Phineas was already completely catatonic. There was just no emotional response anymore. I just found him staring at me with blank eyes. His face started to dry and his skin slowly went gray. Phineas' body slowly decayed before me. Even if I was busy proceeding with the ritual, I didn't stop crying. My eyes were already puffy.

I touched his delicate face as a rapid form of muscle atrophy had already kicked in. Within the next minute, he was turned into a frail boy with nothing but bones and skin. His fleshy membrane was brownish gray and the surface had already started to wither. His green eyes were glassy and blank while his red hair slowly fell away.

Then out of nowhere, he slowly moved his head up to look at me. Phineas suddenly smiled. I immediately blinked my eyes because I couldn't believe it.

But all I saw was the dead body of my best friend. His head was down and the only thing that kept him up was the blade that pinned him on the wall. He was but a body that was merely decayed and rotten. The ritual had done its job.

Phineas was marred beyond recognition.

At the center of his chest was a crimson red diamond about the size of a newborn's fist. I took it out and my friend's body immediately turned into ashes. Even his bones didn't make it. What's left of Phineas completely fell apart. It was similar to the remains of a person that was cremated. Except nothing was left.

Then I stepped back to pull out my sword and hurled it away into the dark halls of the alternate world. It was nothing but a cursed blade. Everything in my life fell apart the moment it arrived in my room. And I would have done anything to give it back. I would have done anything to have my mom and Phineas back.

I fell on my knees. Then I roared and screamed and bawled with all my might inside Asphodel. I kept punching the floor until my knuckles went numb. The pain on my fist was nothing compared to heaviness of the boulder inside my gut. It pulled me down with so much weight.

The bodies drowned in blood in M'Vokagola. The ashes of Phineas by the floor nearby that very moment. It was all because of me. Once more, I screamed into the darkness of Asphodel. I thundered and bellowed until my vocal chords couldn't take it anymore. I had let it out until my lungs gave in. The peaceful solace of the dead dimension was broken to pieces.

All because of me.

My silence was interrupted by a throb from the crystal I plucked from Phineas' chest. The thing was alive. It wasn't filled with avroi, but life. It was as if it's a person on its own. My friend's whole life force was compressed into the existence of the crimson crystal. The small precious thing had a pulse that was nudging to move.

After what felt like hours of silently mumbling and sobbing in the darkness that is Asphodel, I picked myself up. It felt like I swallowed a huge bulldozer down my throat and pulled myself together. The sacrifice of my friend must not be in vain. Yet my arms were suddenly heavy, I took hold of all my strength to fight forward.

I walked through the dark version of our streets in Asphodel and sent a mental message to Eran to meet me at our house as soon as possible. The evening had started to set in and people would start looking for Phineas. They would look for me, too. Everything must be done quickly. Or else it wouldn't matter anymore. Phineas was dead and my mother would soon follow if the exchange failed.

When I pushed myself into my own realm from Asphodel, it took half an hour before Eran started opening the window. The boy caught me laid on my bed, staring the ceiling. I didn't even notice him until he was standing beside my bed. My eyes just lingered at him momentarily before I fixed my sights above me again. Eran noticed the crimson red crystal in my grip and took out the Necronomicon.

The red crystal hummed for a split second before falling silent.

"You did it." Eran uttered. "You actually did it."

Yet I gave no answer. I just looked at him straight in the eye but only for one or two seconds. My hand just gripped the crystal harder. And my teeth clenched on its own. Even my breathing was disrupted.

"We have to be quick." The boy urged. He grabbed my hand and pulled me into my feet. Eran led me into the room and chanted something under his breath. A huge ritual circle suddenly appeared. The inscriptions even extended up to the walls of my room. "I prepared this last night and used a spell to hide it from sight."

Then he dropped the ancient tome into the middle of the circle.

Out of nowhere, I felt an invisible hand on my shoulder and started to guide me towards it. It kept whispering my name over and over again. But a different name was uttered by the voice in my head. It was a familiar voice of a boy with red hair.


The crystal in my hand suddenly felt more alive and was being drawn towards the Necronomicon. The ancient tome's old front cover suddenly moved much to our surprise. A small vertical mouth appeared. It even had small sharp teeth and a small black tongue stretched towards the direction of the red crystal. The horrifying little mouth managed to pull me out of my catatonic-like trance and I stepped back.

"What on earth is that?" I marveled. The ancient tome suddenly made a small jump that caused Eran and I to jump, too. "What the hell? It moved on its own!"

"No idea." Eran replied. His eyes were still fixated on the ancient tome that was slowly turning into a monster. "Give the crystal to that thing. Quick!"

"I'm not gonna feed Phineas to that!" I objected. Then I reluctantly looked at the ancient tome that was excited for its small meal. "He'll be scared!"

"That thing in your hand is not Phineas!" Eran barked. Then he tried to move towards me and get the crystal from my hand. I immediately stepped back and summoned my Nyxian Blade from my hand. "The Necronomicon needs to be fully awakened before the full moon rises!"

"No!" I stepped back further and raised my blade against him. Eran didn't look like he was going to retaliate. But it would easily get ugly if we started a fight in my room. "Stay back!"

"Nikki." Eran scoffed. "Don't make this harder than it already is."

"You don't even know what you're saying!" I snarled at him. But the blonde boy was relentless. He made another step forward. "You gave me no choice!"

Eran just looked at me silently. The Necronomicon seemed to have calmed down and waited patiently by the floor. Even the mouth on its cover momentarily closed for a few seconds.

"I didn't have to kill him! Phineas had nothing to do with this!" I sobbed. Tears started to stroll down my face once again. "He should be home with his family right now. With his parents and his little sister!"

"Then avenge him!" Eran admonished harshly. It suddenly zapped me out of my sobs. Then I stared at him as if he gave me the answer. "Samael Aspheraltz must die. And the Black Sorceress must never see the light of day ever again."

"The diasmo." I muttered. Eran and I stared at each other eye to eye. The bulldozer in my throat suddenly felt slightly smaller. A bit more smoother. While the boulder inside my guts slowly moved into a more comfortable spot. "You want to release it. Then it's gonna destroy the Black Sorceress."

"Make a choice, Nikki." He stated. His sheer confidence was frightening. "If the diasmo can destroy something that is practically immortal then it should have the powers to destroy the avroi-based curse in your mother. It's a worthy risk."

"But it's easier to simply give this to Samael so I can get the antidote for my mother." I objected. Yet the other boy didn't seem to care at all. The mouth of the Necronomicon stirred to life again. "I don't know what to do!"

"It's still a worthy risk. You can either blindly trust the ancient being or give the Necronomicon to Samael. The choice is yours. You were the one who made the sacrifice." Eran pointed out. "We don't even know if Samael can be trusted."

"Then we would be killing two birds with one stone." I concluded. Eran just nodded to affirm what I said. That was when I started walking towards the ancient tome and picked it up. "You're right. I will avenge Phineas. I need to avenge my friend. I will not let his death go to waste!"

The Necronomicon sensed my hand and its mouth opened again. Slowly, I fed it the crystal and the tongue wrapped around the small stone. It pulled the only thing that was left of Phineas into its small jaw and bit it in place. The crystal flared a bright light in the room and both of us were thrown back. Eran hit the wall and I fell on my bed.

Pulses of energy erupted from the book. There were huge amounts of deep red avroi that was condensed into tendrils that scattered everywhere in my room. I saw the inscriptions dancing in and slithering towards the book as chaos consumed my small room. Even my lights flickered on and off. I managed to take a quick peek outside the window and the energy pulsed outwards. Even the neighbors noticed that their electricity were blinking in and out.

"What's going on?" I screamed at Eran who was just as perplexed. The gush of energy created so much static in our ears. "Eran!"

"I have no idea!" The boy roared back.

The Necronomicon floated in the middle of the room as it simultaneously burst out energy and absorb the magical formulas that Eran prepared beforehand. It was simply furious and after it ate all the formulas, the avroi that it released got more sinister. That was when I remembered one of the lines: ink me with half of thy soul so our destinies touch.

I gripped my blade and sliced my other palm open. It was barely painful and the cut was barely four inches long. Blood was drawn and it was pulled through the air and into the book. The red fluid twitched from my and jiggled into a dark samba.

My wound suddenly closed on its own and a loud bang exploded from the ancient tome. All the lights were suddenly shut off. The only source of our sight was the faint glow of the red crystal. I looked to my window and noticed that even the neighbors' lights were fried.

The book was laid into the middle of room. My whole room was thrown into chaos as if a tornado passed by. Books were torn all the certificates on my wall were also misplaced. Broken pieces of glass flew everywhere.

"Are you okay?" Eran asked in the darkness. People were screaming in fury outside as power went out with no explanation. "We need to go!"

I made my approach and took the book. It throbbed in my hand but I ignored it further. Then I went for the door and pulled Eran's hand with me. With one push, I ripped the fabric of space and slipped into Asphodel. My companion activated his mark and the writings immediately spread all over his body. It was the only way for him to survive in the other dimension.

The book felt heavy in my hand. I could feel the thing beating as if it had its own heartbeat. It was suddenly full of life. And the aura it gave off was all too similar with someone I held dear. Cheery and silently caring. The Necronomicon's pages finally showed their contents and dozens of rituals were inscribed on its pages. Most of its inking had a deviously crimson color. It was they very life and blood of Phineas intertwined with mine.

"What's next?" I asked Eran coldly.

"Take us to the deeper level. We won't find the diasmo here." He urged. Then he focused more to let the markings spread even further. It gave him an eerie blue aura that gave vibrancy to our surroundings. "It's already evening in your realm. I think today is the best moment to seek the diasmo."

I simply nodded at Eran as we slowly sunk into the ground. The darkness swallowed us whole. And as we opened our eyes, we found ourselves again floating above between the infinite sky and the infinite sea. As we stood up, we scanned the area but found nothing. Not even a hint of anything that is alive.

It was then I noticed that the small chain link emerged from the end of the book's spine. I decided to hook it through my belt so I could easily carry it. The thing fit perfectly and was easily accessible.

"This place is vast. We don't even know where to begin." I commented. That was when I noticed at huge shadows slowly emerged from the waters. There were at least a dozen of them from each direction. "What the hell are those?"

"No idea." Eran admitted. "I've never thought I'd made it this far."

"But how did you know that the diasmo would be here?" I asked.

"That's where the myth ended." He replied. Then Eran tried to study the shadows that started to take shape into people. "It said that the ancient hero fighting for freedom fell before the highest Being and was chained into the deepest corners of death."

"But that's too ambiguous!" I objected. The other shadows started to make their approach towards us. And we still couldn't figure out what they were after. All of them started to even developing some sort of clothing. It was then I realized that they look similar to Dementors from Harry Potter. "It could have meant a lot of things."

I summoned my Nyxian blade and flames erupted from Eran's fists. Yet those things didn't think of us as a threat. They pushed forward despite us trying to show them our ability to engage in combat.

"The second layer of Asphodel doesn't work like a normal realm." Eran added.

"How on earth do you know all this?" I exclaimed.

"Long story!" Eran scoffed. The shadows were just a couple of feet away. He fueled his white flames further and blasted one of the open spaces. Water simply splashed upwards as Eran summoned his wings. It ripped a hole from the back of his shirt and flapped upwards. I grabbed him immediately by his foot and we literally flew away. "Hang on tight!"

One by one they also started to take flight. It didn't even take a whole minute before we were surrounded in mid-air. It was infuriating because I couldn't even defend myself. Eran tried to blast them with white hot flames but they effectively dodged all of it. All I could do was hang tight on his leg. Utterly pathetic.

"Shit!" The blonde boy snapped. "I can't fly fast. You'll fall!"

"Take us down." I admonished. Then my focused on the seal. I commanded it to release itself. As the marking crawled all over my skin, I summoned one of my special serpents that was sealed inside the mark. "It would be better if we could defend ourselves at the same time. I just need to turn one of them into my own so I could summon more back up."

Eran obliged and put us down. I jumped on the watery ground before my only companion even touched the ground. As they encircled us, one of them began to kneel down. The others followed through and we were surrounded by a small army of cloaked shadows figures. All in a kneeling position.

"What's going on?" I exclaimed.

"Master has been waiting for you." One of the shadows spoke.

Eran and I just looked at each other. Totally perplexed at what the thing said to us. One by one they marched around Eran and I. They chanted with a weird and an indistinguishable groaning. It didn't sound any of the Altimereaean languages at all. It was far more guttural and primitive. Like some ancient dialect of some sort.

A huge iceberg slowly emerged from the water. Eran and I just stared in silence as its majestic size unfolded before us. There was light coming from the inside of it. A powerful glow emitted from the huge orb enclosed by the ice. Hundreds of magical inscription was written all over chilly surface. Each of it was continuously moving and crawling like a busy colony of ants.

In the middle of the glowing orb inside was a silhouette of a giant figure. A hulking humanoid with two pairs of wings that was spread out. Yet we couldn't see through the thickness of the ice. The thing was simply mysterious.

"It found us." I said. "How?"

Suddenly, a bright blue light sparked from the center of my right palm. A mark appeared in the center before a unique set of blue inscriptions shot out of it. Then the Necronomicon that was hanging on my belt came to life. The pages opened and red markings of the same nature like the one from my hand emerged. Both the blue ones from my hand and the red ones from the ancient tome danced in the air and slowly formed some sort of code.

I stared back at the iceberg and there was a missing puzzle piece on the inscriptions. A missing link. Combined with the mysterious mark that emerged from my hand plus the red formulas from the Necronomicon, they turned into a short code that fits the giant puzzle.

"What did you do?" Eran asked.

"I don't know! I don't even remember why I have an invisible mark on my hand! It doesn't make any sense!" I exclaimed. As the short code twisted and turned in mid-air, it did morphed into a key and fell into my palm. The shadows moved and rearranged themselves like an aisle. It was pathway to the iceberg. "I have no idea what's going on anymore!"

The front of the iceberg turned into some sort of altar. All of the writings started to converge into the center. It was like a huge circular gate. Almost looking like a portal into another dimension. The code in my palm hardened into some sort of physical key. While the ice responded like wise. A key hole appeared at the center.

"Looks like we did find the diasmo." I said. Then I looked at Eran who was still in awe of the sight before him. "Funny. It was as if it's waiting for us to arrive."

Both of us walked towards the keyhole. It was a victorious feeling. In my head, I was rejoicing. I couldn't help but stroke the red crystal that was embedded on the face of the Necronomicon. The thing throbbed in response as if it congratulated me, too.

As we walked closer to the iceberg, the crystal pulsed even harder. It left me confused if it was out of excitement or anxiety. Yet there was no turning back. I had made my decision to ask help from the mysterious being. Samael and the Black Sorceress would be going down.

The ice shifted themselves into a flight of stairs. We walked over them as we got nearer and nearer through the gate. And as we got nearer, it even looked more impressive. As the huge circular gate towered before us, I raised the key and slowly inserted it into the door.

Blue and purple fire started to blaze and it caused us to step back. The blue and purple flames ate away the inscriptions and the next thing we knew that was the whole iceberg was on fire. Even the ice beneath is started to go soft so Eran and started to run back to solid ground. Within the next minute, the iceberg melted away and the mysterious shadow inside the white orb of ice started to stir.

"I must thank the one that released me from this slumber." The enormous voice boomed. It was heavy and majestic. Even the very surface of the water vibrated from the force of its voice. Some kind of force appeared and almost pushed down on my knees. "What are your names, young ones?"

"Nicholas. My name is Nicholas." I was barely able to speak. It was like being plunged into kilometers deep into the sea. All of the pressure of the ocean almost crushed my back. Yet it was simply the foretaste of the diasmo's power. "And this is Eran."

"Is that your real name, Nicholas?" The voice asked. I tried to peek but the huge ball of solid white ice didn't melt. It simply glowed powerfully in the night skies of the deeper Asphodel. I could not fathom its divine presence. And every second that passed by heightened the gravity around us. "My true name is Haborym. And I am one of the warriors of Elysium."

"Yes." I gasped. By that moment, all the ice melted away. All that was left was the huge white orb that glowed and hovered before us. All the markings on the ice were gone along with it. All burned away. "I have always been Nicholas Ellison."

"Perhaps you are not aware of your true name, young one." The voice replied back. I slowly peeked at Eran who just shrugged at my direction. "You might not even be aware of your true nature, Nikolai."

"We need your help, Mr. Haborym." I started to plead. My knees wobbled as the mysterious being inside the orb started to move. From the looks of it, the thing was studying me. "That's all I need from you. Please!"

"My child, speak truthfully and we'll see if it is within my capacity to help and repay you for this." The voice admonished. Cracks suddenly appeared on the orb as my weight multiplied further. It caused us to drop on our knees. The only thing that supported me was my arms. "It seems to me you are seeking revenge. And I am a warrior who delights in the vindication of those who lost something."

"Yes! I lost my best friend! Please help me avenge him!" I pleaded further. It almost brought me to tears again. But I managed to push it all the way down at the very last second. "They made me choose between him and my mother!"

"Then we shall avenge the sacrifice you made! A young and innocent child like you does not deserve to make a choice between two loved ones!" The voice roared and lamented. A burning sensation flared throughout the deeper Asphodel. Then a wave of energy was released. The stillness of the waters immediately turned into mid-sized waves. "Tell me who is responsible and my blade shall fall on them! Tell me who to eliminate and they shall pay the price!"

"Eliminate Teios Kyr!" I stated with all my might. I just didn't care anymore how awful I looked. It was my only chance for retribution. Phineas' soul won't rest until my enemies are pounded into the ground. "Eliminate Samael Aspheraltz and the Black Sorceress once and for all!"

Silence erupted after an echo of thunder blasted the skies. The pressure was suddenly withdrawn. Everything simply went peaceful. But only for a short moment. I found myself relaxing that very moment. A sigh of relief escaped my mouth.

"Tell me, young Nikolai. Why should I eliminate her?" The voice asked. Then the pressure crashed on us again. It was even heavier than the last and made my knees tremble. "The woman suffered more than you ever dared to dream. She is like you who seeks to avenge the people she lost against the greatest traitor of all. I'm afraid that this request is beyond my capabilities"

I fell silent. It was all I could do.

"My child, your plan to release me from my slumber worked." The voice said suddenly. Yet I was not able to move. Not at all. It caused me to wonder who the being was talking to. "Well done, my faithful servant. The bindings of Aleus and the legendary rune mage was weak against the powers of the Necronomicon. Our spy was able to tell Veronica the key to the inscription at the very last second."

"Thank you, my dear father." Eran spoke. My stomach twisted and crunched in a funny way. I simply gawked to my side to see the blonde boy making a reverent bow towards the giant orb. "Though I must admit, I didn't expect you to make the first approach. All I knew was that Nikolai is the key to release you. Veronica was quite right. He is indeed useful."

Then I felt the presence of the mysterious being shifting its focus back to me.

"You see young Nikolai, I was the one who gave the Black Sorceress her power in the first place." It stated calmly. Everything fell into place. The image of the Black Sorceress shaking my hand surged into my head. Then Eran's words and subliminal persistency in pushing to revive the diasmo followed afterwards. "The Black Sorceress is also one of my faithful servants. After all, I was the one who made her immortal."