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MATURE: Chaos Rising: Age of Heroes (Season 4) Chapter 12 up!

Geek of the Games
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Time for the opening chapter of Chaos Rising Season 4: Age of Heroes. (Warning: contains violence)

Catastrophe Returns


The four Heroes were staring down the Chaos Chimera as it awoke from its 300 year slumber. It gave another roar as it slowly started to emerge from the valley.

Lucas stated, “Now’s our chance! Let’s take it down before it can shake off its 300 year nap!”

The other Heroes nodded and started to channel energy into their Legendary Gear.

“Meteor Slash!” Ryan stated.

“Meteor Thrust!” Lucas roared.

“Meteor Slam!” Eric shouted.

“Meteor Shot!” Jerry yelled.

The four Meteor attacks barreled toward the Chaos Chimera before striking it in one of its faces, causing smoke to form. However, the smoke cleared away, showing that the Chaos Chimera was unharmed. This outcome surprised the four Heroes. On top of that, the Chaos Chimera barely seemed to notice the attacks even though they hit it in the face. It merely started to make its way out of the valley, completely ignoring the other Heroes and their parties.

“We won’t let you get away that easily!” Jerry shouted as his Bow transformed. “Wind Arrow!”

He fired a shot from his Bow, causing wind to generate around it. However, despite the attack landing a clean blow, it did no damage to the huge beast whatsoever. Ryan transformed his Sword into a different form.

“It’s a Beast-type monster, so maybe this’ll give it something to worry about,” he said. “Sword Storm!”

He fired several energy swords at the Chaos Chimera. The swords slammed into the beast’s rump, actually causing a bit of damage, making Ryan clench his fist triumphantly. However, to his horror, the Chaos Chimera’s wounds quickly healed, leaving it looking like it was completely untouched.

“So, that thing can heal rapidly?” Eric stated. “Then it’s similar to a Shade Wing, where we need to deal as much damage as possible in one shot before it tries to heal it off! Everyone, attack at the same time!”

Everyone nodded and started to barrage the Chaos Chimera with constant attacks. However, the attacks were either not doing much damage or anything at all, as the Chaos Chimera continued to stomp its way out of Starmist Valley. The other Heroes and their parties quickly pursued the beast so they could defeat it, throwing attack after attack at it, but the massive monster barely acknowledged them, if at all.

Meanwhile, in Shadoria, King Duskbane had been informed about the release of the Chaos Chimera. He quickly made his way to a particular tower in the castle and activated a large machine. This move caused a magical siren to start emitting all across the land, alerting every single person on the continent that something was wrong. He then spoke into a large radio-like device that projected his voice all across the continent.

“Attention everyone! Code: Red! Emergency! The Chaos Chimera has been released! I repeat: the Chaos Chimera has been released! All available warriors and soldiers prepare for battle! I repeat: all available warriors and soldiers prepare for battle!”

This message caused mass panic as the people realized they were in grave danger. All the able-bodied warriors, soldiers, mages, knights, and adventurers prepared for the horrific fight they were about to engage in, knowing that this could very well be their last stand. As this event occurred, Sylph and her fellow Demon Generals were watching from afar, all with gleeful expressions.

“Bronwen, I have to hand it to you, this was an absolutely brilliant plan,” Adelram said with a smirk.

Bronwen brushed some of her hair away, smiling, “Naturally, my dear Adelram. But we’ve only just begun. Next up on our agenda is something that’ll make this catastrophe even more destructive. One that requires a bit of extra ‘help’, so to speak.”

Akuji rubbed his hands eagerly, “Ooh, I’m looking forward to that. What’s the next part of the plan, Bronwen?”

“Here’s what you have to do…”

Meanwhile, the four Heroes and their parties were trying in vain to get the Chaos Chimera to even notice them, much less damage it. They tried attacking it with every skill and spell they knew, only for the damage to be minimal or nonexistent to the beast. They had also heard King Duskbane’s message but were desperate to defeat it themselves for the glory and boosted reputations. However, their efforts were in vain as the Chaos Chimera continued to just walk its destructive path, firing energy blasts indiscriminately and causing untold damage. This also caused their party members to start getting worried and fearful of the beast.

“It’s like nothing we’re doing is hurting it much less killing it!” Ryan stated.

“Keep pressing on the offense!” Lucas yelled. “It has to fall eventually, as it can’t keep healing forever! Let’s fan out and try to ambush it from various directions! That should expose a weak point!”

Not knowing what else to do, the Heroes and their parties quickly spread out over the surrounding area to try to find a weak point. Ryan and his party started to attack the Chaos Chimera from the rear, hoping that, like the Mega Manticore in their first wave, it had a weak point or something similar hidden somewhere there. They attacked every possible spot they could reach, trying to see if something would give way to their attacks. However, even after a constant barrage of skills and magic it effectively dawned on them that the Chaos Chimera may be invincible.

Ryan grit his teeth, “This thing is too strong! It heals all damage we do to it instantly like Alastor does! We… We can’t defeat this monstrosity! Retreat, now, before it decides to eat us!”

His party nodded in agreement and they started to flee, realizing it was a lost cause. However, this sudden retreat attracted the snake head on the Chaos Chimera’s tail. As Ryan and his party started to retreat, it opened its mouth and generated an energy sphere. It then fired it at the retreating party. To Ryan’s horror, his party was engulfed in the energy sphere, followed by an explosion that threw Ryan off his feet. When the smoke cleared all that was left of his party was a smoking crater. Ryan froze to the spot, unable to move or respond, his face showing pure horror and despair. This blast also caused his stat vision to erase the names and stats of his party members from view, finalizing the deed. Seemingly satisfied, the Chaos Chimera continued its path of destruction, leaving the devastated Sword Hero behind. Ryan gingerly got up and managed to stagger to the crater where his party once was, eyes wide before falling to his knees.

“No…” he said in complete disbelief. “No… No! No! NO!” He then screamed into the night sky, “NOOOOOOOOOOOO!”

He bent over and started to beat his fists against the ground. Tears were pouring out of his eyes as a whirlwind of emotions overtook him. Guilt, grief, despair, and sorrow threatened to drown him in their negativity.

“No…” he wept. “Why? Why did I listen to Lucas, Eric, and Jerry? This… This could’ve been avoided… My party… they’re all gone… Because I listened to those three idiots! Because they coaxed out my deep resentment and jealousy! Celtic was right… and now… it’s too late…”

As he felt this overwhelming amount of emotion, he could feel something awaken inside of him. A black flame. A black, cursed flame that was slowly starting to burn within him.

A dark voice then said, “Don’t worry, Sword Hero, you won’t have to wallow in sorrow over your comrades’ deaths for long. I will make sure of that.”

Before Ryan could process that voice something emerged from the shadows and snatched him, retreating into the darkness with the Sword Hero in tow.

Meanwhile, Lucas and his party were trying to attack the Chaos Chimera’s neck with ranged attacks, completely unaware of what happened to Ryan and his party. However, it was becoming increasingly clear that their futile attempts to harm the beast, much less kill it, were in vain. Lucas, however, kept on trying. Eventually, Wench gained a disappointed look.

“You disappoint me, Lucas,” she said. “You’re not the Hero you thought you were. You’ve outlived your usefulness to my plans. We’re out of here. Enjoy your death!”

She then started to laugh as she and the other women in the party fled for their lives. Lucas looked devastated as he saw this.

“Wait!” he cried out. “Wench! Diantha! Jodi! Jessie! Come back! You can’t leave me!”

Wench turned, pulled an eyelid down and stuck out her tongue before saying, “You continued to fail me left and right, allowing the Shroud Devil to keep getting stronger and more popular. You can’t do anything right, Lucas. And, for the record, none of us even liked you, you incompetent baboon. We only joined you for fame and glory, along with me wanting to take down the Shroud Devil. You were nothing more than my pawn in my game, and you failed to do even that right. Just a tool for me to use, abuse, and abandon. You’re worthless. Such a shame, as you’re a waste of good looks. Have a nice death!”

She then ran off, leaving Lucas behind. His stat vision also displayed that his party members disconnected themselves from him, causing their names and stats to vanish from view. Devastated, Lucas fell to his knees as he watched his party members run for their lives.

“N-No…” he choked. “No… t-that can’t be right… My party… was never loyal to me…? And… I was just a tool for Wench… all along? This can’t be… Was Celtic right? Was he right all along? That… I was just some spoiled brat’s personal attack dog? That I was just Wench’s patsy all this time? And that my party were nothing more… than gold diggers…?”

Deep down, underneath the crushing despair Lucas was feeling, he could feel something else. A black flame. A black flame had awakened inside of him and started to burn.

A voice then said, “Rest assured, Spear Hero, for you won’t have to suffer the crushing feeling of being a tool for long. You have another purpose to serve, after all.”

Before Lucas could register this voice something large and fast swooped down and snatched him before vanishing into the night sky.

At that time, Eric and his party were attacking the Chaos Chimera’s right flank, completely unaware of the current fate of Ryan and Lucas. Despite throwing everything he could at the Chaos Chimera nothing did any lasting damage. His party had come to the realization that this was a lost cause.

One of his party members stated, “We can’t win! Let’s get out of here while we still have our lives!”

The rest of the party agreed and started to run, shocking Eric.

“Wait!” he sputtered. “Don’t run! We can do this!”

Another party member shouted back, “Sorry, Axe Hero, but we’re done recklessly risking our lives for your greed and glory! You’re on your own now! Give our regards to the Chaos Chimera!”

As Eric watched his party run, he noticed that their names and stats on his stat vision vanished, indicating that they had severed their connection to him. Eric fell to his knees in shock.

“They… abandoned me…” Eric choked. “They’re leaving me to face this beast by myself. Why? Has… my greed and desire for glory… made them hate me? Does this mean… that I’m the problem? Does this mean… that Celtic was right? Can it be that… I’ve been risking my party’s lives… for my selfish desires?”

As he looked on in despair he could feel something awaken inside of him. A black flame started to burn within his heart, born from his crushing despair at the realization of the situation.

A voice then said, “Fret not, Axe Hero, for I know how to make your pain go away. Just leave everything to me.”

Before Eric could respond something fast snatched him up and took him away, vanishing in the darkness.

At that time, Jerry and his party were trying to strike down the Chaos Chimera from afar, completely unaware of the fate of his fellow Heroes. As each attack failed to do anything significant to the beast, Jerry’s frustration was getting worse.

“Keep attacking!” he stated. “We can’t let up!”

However, his party clearly had enough. Without warning Marvin punched Jerry to the ground, stunning the Bow Hero.

“What was that for?!”

Marvin huffed, “You’re an absolute failure. You think you’re hot stuff, but you’ve allowed that accursed Shroud Devil and his ragtag bunch of scum gain what should be our glory! You’re no Hero! You’re a fake, a loser, a wannabe! We’re not going to risk our lives dealing with your schemes anymore, Jerry! We’re outta here!”

The rest of the party nodded, each giving Jerry a kick, and then running away. Jerry quickly got up.

“I didn’t order a retreat!” he yelled. “Get back here, that’s an order!”

The archer party member huffed, “We’re finished listening to you and your abusive orders, Bow Hero. You can’t tell us what to do anymore! Goodbye and good riddance!”

Jerry could only watch as his party ran off. His stat vision also showed that the names and stats of his party members vanished, proving that they had cut ties with him. Jerry was devastated and fell to his knees.

“No…” he spat. “This can’t be true! This is just a nightmare. A dream. Not reality. My party would never disobey me. I’m the strongest of all the Heroes… this can’t be true… It’s gotta be just a horrible nightmare!”

Deep within him, Jerry could feel something being born. A black flame started to form within him and slowly began growing.

A smooth voice then said, “Oh, this isn’t a dream, Bow Hero. But at the same time it is a nightmare. And the nightmare has just begun!”

Before Jerry could react something swooped down and ambushed him before dragging him off into the darkness.

At that time, watching from afar, Bronwen was floating in the air. She could see the Chaos Chimera rampaging in the distance, making her smile. There was also an energy sphere capsule next to her, though it was empty at the moment.

“Excellent!” she said. “Everything is going according to plan. Now, we just need the last pawns in our game to be delivered and destruction and chaos will tear this planet apart, allowing Master Infinator to conquer it with ease.”

Just then Sylph, Adelram, Alastor, and Akuji appeared, each carrying one of the Heroes, who were all unconscious. Bronwen’s smile became even larger.

“Excellent, you got them. Now, put them into this energy capsule and we can begin the next part of the Chaos Chimera plan.”

The capsule opened, allowing each Demon General to deposit a Hero into it before sealing up around them. Sylph then pushed the capsule all the way back to the Chaos Chimera. It noticed her and stopped its rampage, recognizing her, making the Succulite smirk.

“That’s right, my pet, you remember me,” she purred. “I’ve got a lovely power up for you. Let me just put it into place and you’ll have even more ability to crush our enemies.”

The Chaos Chimera remained still as Sylph dragged the energy capsule containing the four other Heroes to its torso. She then pushed it against the beast’s chest, causing the capsule, along with the Heroes, to be absorbed into the Chaos Chimera. After the capsule was fully absorbed, the Chaos Chimera roared as its strength increased drastically. Sylph smiled as she noticed this power boost.

“That’s a good boy. Enjoy your living power sources to further make you invincible. I’d like to see the Shroud Hero try and stop you now.”

She then retreated back to where her fellow Demon Generals were, allowing the Chaos Chimera to continue rampaging. Meanwhile, on a ledge looking over the area, Celtic, his party, Gram, and every single soldier, adventurer, mage, knight, and other fighters had gathered. As the sun started to creep over the horizon, Celtic took a deep breath.

“Together we fight!” he stated.

“Together we stand!” everyone else yelled.

Celtic steeled his nerves, his pupils turning into slits before saying, “For the lives of those who live here, and of those who are still to come. We must win. Failure is not an option!”

Next Chapter: Souls of the Seven Sins

That's it for now. Tune in next time to see if the Shroud Hero and his allies can do what the other Heroes couldn't dream of.
 
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Geek of the Games
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Time for the next chapter of Chaos Rising. Sorry that I haven't posted it until now, as I've been plagued with migraines due to the shifting weather. (Warning: contains violence, gore, and blood)

Souls of the Seven Sins


As the sun rose over the horizon, the Chaos Chimera roared. It fired more energy blasts from its mouths, blasting and tearing the planet asunder. People were fleeing for their lives as the monstrous beast rampaged. Even the local animals and monsters fled in terror. The Chaos Chimera gave another roar that shook the planet itself. It was like nothing would stand in its way.

Celtic, King Duskbane, and every able-bodied warrior, mages and soldier steeled their nerves as they faced down the horrific beast. They knew this could very well be their last stand, but they were willing to fight.

Celtic turned to Duskbane, “Uncle Duskbane, do you have any information on that creature that might help?”

King Duskbane replied, “For starters, that creature was created by Infinator himself as a last-ditch weapon during the Great Demon War. Even our ancestor, the Shadow Prince, couldn’t defeat it, only seal it away. That creature has a massive HP pool and virtually unlimited MP. Plus, it has a regeneration ability that dwarfs even beings like Shade Wings. According to old documents that the Shadow Prince made, the only way to kill it is to enter its body and destroy its heart, but even he couldn’t achieve that. And even though that beast has been hibernating for 300 years since it was last released it’s pretty obvious that it shook off that long slumber quickly. We have to find a way to enter its body and destroy its heart, otherwise the beast will just keep healing and rampaging like there’s no tomorrow. That’s about all I know.”

Celtic took a moment to ponder before saying, “So, in essence, this creature is akin to a raid boss from a game, meaning simply attacking it won’t be enough to bring it down. We have to go for the weak spot: its heart. But, obviously, if it was easy to do such a feat it would’ve been done by now. For now, we need to limit its movements and prevent it from destroying any civilizations, though I doubt even multiple Dark Chains would be enough to remotely slow it down.”

Zuzu nodded, “Yeah, that’s correct, Celtic. I witnessed that beast’s previous rampage and let me tell you it was not slowed down by the previous Legendary Heroes. Simply sealing it away again won’t solve anything, as this process could just repeat itself all over again. Our only hope is to somehow get inside it and annihilate its heart once and for all but given the recovery prowess of the Chaos Chimera that’s easier said than done. Just like King Duskbane said: even the Shadow Prince struggled with that thing, and he was the strongest Shadokor AND Shroud Hero to date. And given that those four brainless lemmings not only released this thing but are now MIA makes this task more difficult.”

A voice then cackled, “You’re correct, Succuryn. And we know where the other Heroes are.”

Everyone looked up to see Sylph and the other Demon Generals, included Bronwen. They all gained hateful expressions as the five Demon Generals smirked at them.

Bronwen laughed, “So, you’re the infamous Chaos Breed Shroud Hero… Celtic Pulsar, aka Avalar Darkstar. I hate to inform you but we made extra sure that you can’t just simply kill the Chaos Chimera.”

Skye growled, “What do you mean?”

Sylph gained a toothy sneer, “Simple. We captured all four of them, sealed them into an energy capsule, and placed them into the Chaos Chimera itself. They’re not only acting as living batteries for the beast, further strengthening it, but because they’re in its heart, destroying the heart will kill them as well. In short, no matter what you try or do, the Chaos Chimera will crush all of your hopes. And, in the process, it’ll absorb many, many souls for Master Infinator to feast upon. His revival will soon be upon us and there is nothing you can do to stop the Chaos Chimera, much less Master Infinator. Face it, this fight was over before it began. You have no other options, as killing the Chaos Chimera will kill the Sword, Spear, Axe, and Bow Heroes. So you might as well accept your fate.”

This news made all the other warriors, mages, and soldiers become unnerved. Celtic, however, remained strong.

“Where there’s a will, there’s a way,” he said. “As much as I’d like those four to die for this insanity, we WILL find a way to topple the Chaos Chimera AND rescue those four idiots! This battle has only just begun. Even if there is only a 1% chance of success, that means there’s still a chance! I will see this through to the end. Together we fight!”

Having had their hope revitalized, everyone else replied, “Together we stand!”

Alastor smirked, “And together you’ll fall! But go ahead, try. You’ll find out the hard way that there is no hope for you. We’ve won, so just accept defeat.”

Bronwen cackled, “This should be amusing. My fellow Generals, let’s find a spot to watch the chaos unfold. Let’s see if these ants have any hope in succeeding… and watch that hope crumble away in despair.”

Nodding, the five Demon Generals flew off to find a spot to watch from afar, clearly thinking their victory was assured. King Duskbane clenched his fist angrily.

“We’ll show those five what we’re made of!” he snarled.

Leon nodded, “Agreed, Your Majesty. We haven’t lost yet, as the battle has just begun. We’ll find a way, no matter what.”

Celtic stepped up, his pupils becoming slits, “Then let’s not waste any more time and fight the good fight. Whatever it takes, we will prevail!”

Everyone cheered in unison, readying their weapons and preparing for battle. And with that the massive army of warriors, led by Celtic and King Duskbane, began their charge to stop the Chaos Chimera.

The Chaos Chimera rampaged over the continent, firing more energy blasts as it did. Celtic, Zuzu, Tyroe, and Rupert all exchanged nods as they approached the beast.

“Dark Chains!” Celtic and Zuzu shouted.

“Quicksand Trap!” Tyroe roared.

“Vine Trap!” Rupert yelled.

A combination of shadowy chains, thorny vines, and quicksand ensnared the massive monster, stopping it for the moment and sealing its mouths shut. This allowed the army of warriors to begin attacking it. The snake head reared up and started to channel energy in its mouth, taking aim at the warriors. It fired a massive energy burst at them. Celtic jumped in front of it.

“Mirror Shroud! Mirror Force Reflector!” he yelled.

The Shroud transformed, followed by a wall of light appearing in front of him. This wall of light took the blast from the snake head and fired it right back at it. The reflected attack annihilated the snake head, making the Chaos Chimera flail in pain as it continued to fight the shackles that held it down. The snake head started to regenerate, but it was regenerating slower than expected. Celtic took note of this surprising event.

“Could it be?” he said. “Is the Chaos Chimera weak to its own power? Wait! That’s it! The weakness of any power is the power itself! That may be our answer!”

Just as he said this the Chaos Chimera managed to break free of its shackles, tearing the thorny vines and earth apart while shattering the Dark Chains. It roared as it broke free before locking its eyes on Celtic. It started to channel energy again in its main mouths and fired it at him.

“Mirror Force Reflector!”

The wall of light formed and reflected the attack back at the Chaos Chimera. The energy blasts severely damaged the beast, tearing open parts of its body and causing blood to pour out, making it roar in pain. It started to heal but it wasn’t recovering fast enough. Seeing this display gave everyone hope and focused their efforts on the wounds, trying to keep them open in hopes of finding a way into it. The repeated attacks on its open wounds angered the Chaos Chimera. It fired more energy blasts, but this time it fired them erratically, causing the blasts to detonate all across the continent. This display of indiscriminate destruction alarmed the people, making them hesitate.

“Don’t let up!” Skye shouted. “It’s doing that to intimidate you! Don’t give it that luxury! We still have a chance!”

This statement revitalized everyone and they resumed attacking the wounds on the beast. This thoroughly enraged the Chaos Chimera, as it was clear to it that these fighters were not going to be intimidated by it. It fired another blast at them, but Celtic jumped in front of it.

“Mirror Force Reflector!” he shouted.

The energy blast got deflected by the wall of light again, this time blowing off one of the Chaos Chimera’s wings, making it roar in pain. The beast reared up on its hind legs and tried to crush everyone underneath its massive claws, forcing everyone to scatter, though the resulting earthquake knocked them off their feet for a moment. The Chaos Chimera fired more energy blasts indiscriminately all over the place, causing several locations to get bombed by the attack. Celtic grit his teeth as he saw this.

“Reflecting its own attacks back at it is proving to be a useful strategy,” he said silently. “But it’s not doing much to keep it from firing its attacks at other locations, most likely taking dozens of lives in the process. There’s gotta be some way to completely stop it.” An idea dawned on him, making him grimace, “I may know how to beat it… but it’s taking a huge risk. But… then again, letting this monstrosity rampage is an even bigger one. It might be time to bring out… my Assault Mode form: Infinity X.” He then said aloud, “Listen to me, everyone! I may know a way of stopping the Chaos Chimera once and for all!”

Everyone gained hopeful expressions as the redhead said this.

“Then tell us, please!” Gram stated.

Celtic took a deep breath before saying, “I have one last ace-in-the-hole strategy that I haven’t used since obtaining it. The reason being because it can turn me into a berserker. But, given the current situation, it may be our best chance. My orders are this: everyone, retreat to safer ground! That way you won’t get caught in the crossfire! Hurry, before the Chaos Chimera blasts you!”

Everyone hesitated as they heard this, as they clearly didn’t want to abandon Celtic and his party. King Duskbane stepped up.

“Do as he says!” he instructed. “We need all of you to stay alive for future battles! Leave this to my nephew and his party! Quickly, before the Chaos Chimera targets you!”

Gram bit his bottom lip before stating, “Everyone, fall back! Give Sir Celtic the space he needs! If whatever he’s about to use can win the battle, then we need to abide his command! Just… come back safely, my friend.”

Everyone present finally nodded and started to retreat. The Chaos Chimera almost looked pleased as it saw the various warriors running before resuming its march of destruction, completely ignoring the retreating fighters.

Skye turned to Celtic, “Cel… you’re going to pull out your Assault Mode, aren’t you?”

He nodded grimly, “Yes, as it may be our best bet. I haven’t touched it since I got it because of how easily it turns me into a berserker due to the power high, but desperate times call for desperate measures. I just hope this works.”

Rupert stated, “Do it, pal. And know that we’re right here by your side until the end.”

The rest of the party nodded, making Celtic smile. He then took a position, crossing his arms, and started to focus.

“The souls that possess the seven sins. Sins are power, power enriched by the heart. The seven sins unite to create the ultimate power. May the seven sins be the beacon of a new era! Assault Mode activate!”

As he said this, symbols formed underneath him and his party. Each one was different and each were named. King Duskbane took note of this.

“Wrath? Lust? Greed? Sloth? Gluttony? Envy? And Pride?” he observed. “Wait, does this mean Avalar’s Assault Mode form is powered by the Seven Deadly Sins?! And that each of his party members represents a different Sin?! And given his Chaos breed nature… could this be the ultimate Assault Mode form?”

Beams of energy fired from Skye and the rest of the party, striking Celtic, much to their surprise. He was engulfed in a sphere of black and white energy. The sphere started to glow, then crack, and suddenly exploded, revealing Celtic’s new form.

Celtic still had a human-like appearance, but his torso was bare, his pants torn, and his boots gone. His hands and feet were made from Chaos energy while his hair was now flaming energy. On his back were two sets of transparent dragonfly-like wings, one set being white while the other was black, and he had more facial markings on his face. The Shroud had also transformed, now looking more like a long scarf that flowed behind him. his eyes were shut as he hovered off the ground.

“C-Celtic?” Skye said gingerly.

Celtic’s eyes suddenly snapped open, revealing that his left eye was black and his right one was white, both with slit pupils. He gave a fierce roar that reverberated all over the area. This roar, along with the massive amount of energy he was emitting, redirected the Chaos Chimera’s attention to him. Celtic turned to it, gave another powerful roar, and immediately charged at the beast at blinding speed. He punched it once, sending the Chaos Chimera flying onto its back, much to the surprise of everyone. He then rose up into the air and started to fire machinegun-like fire from his hands at the Chaos Chimera, pelting it with powerful Chaos energy. The attack was so fast and continuous that the Chaos Chimera was not able to heal quickly enough as it tried to get back on its feet. When the beast finally did get back on its feet it fired energy blasts from all three of its heads at Celtic. To everyone’s shock, Celtic merely swatted the attack right back at the Chaos Chimera like it was nothing, causing it to be hit by its own attack, dealing heavy damage.

From afar, the five Demon Generals were watching this display, all slack-jawed at how easily Celtic was beating the Chaos Chimera.

“I-It’s not possible!” Bronwen sputtered. “He possesses THAT kind of power!? Why hasn’t he used it before now!?”

Sylph grimaced, “This is very, very bad. Master Infinator was afraid of this. He was afraid that that Chaos breed would have the ability to access his true power. We had hoped to nip it in the bud but it appears he may have had access to this incredible power for some time now. But… if he had it all this time… they why didn’t he use it against the Calamadon Demon I released a while back? He could’ve easily decimated it with that awesome power, so… why?”

Alastor gritted his teeth, “He might have been unsure that he can control it back then. But, given the circumstances, he knew it was their best bet to stop the Chaos Chimera.”

Akuji stated, “Still, he can’t kill the beast without killing the other Heroes, and even though he’d probably like to obliterate them, they’re too important to do that. The question is… what will he do about that?”

From afar the various warriors and mages could see Celtic viciously pummeling the Chaos Chimera. They were all cheering as the Shroud Hero effortlessly fought off the beast. Gram’s eyes were wide as he saw this.

“Is this the true power Sir Celtic possesses?” he said in awe. “If it is, then our salvation may be at hand!”

By the time Celtic had finished thoroughly attacking the Chaos Chimera it was severely damaged. He then transformed one of his claws into a blade made of Chaos energy. He effortlessly sliced off one of the Chaos Chimera’s heads, revealing its insides, and dashed inside before the beast’s head reattached itself.

“He’s in!” Viola stated.

“Could this be it?” Tyroe asked hopefully.

Zuzu replied, “It could very well be, my serpent friend.”

The Chaos Chimera roared before suddenly stopping. Its torso started to swell with bubbling spots forming. Suddenly, Chaos energy burst from the body in various places before the entire torso was engulfed in a massive energy explosion. The Chaos Chimera roared one last time as its entire torso was atomized, causing its heads, front limbs, and lower body to collapse onto the ground. As it did, everyone who participated in the fight suddenly gained a huge amount of EXP, with many going up several Levels, finalizing the fact that the Chaos Chimera had been slain.

The Demon Generals looked on in shock, jaws agape at the fall of the Chaos Chimera.

“I-Impossible…” Akuji sputtered.

“That Chaos breed Shroud Hero… annihilated the Chaos Chimera…” Adelram gasped.

Bronwen grimaced, “Looks like I made a mistake about his true power. I’ll be sure to keep that in mind for future plans. However, not all is lost. The Chaos Chimera did serve its purpose. Many, many souls have been captured and sent to Master Infinator, and thanks to its rampage, no matter how short, it still weakened the dimensional walls between this world and the Demon Realm. That means we can still execute Master Infinator’s plan of opening up a dimensional gateway to the Demon Realm for better resources and minions. And the fact of the matter is that Shroud Hero had to reveal his ace-in-the-hole in order to topple the Chaos Chimera, so we can use that to our advantage. And Alastor did find out his weakness to psychological warfare from the likes of Gengar Bats not too long ago, so we still have that card to play. I suggest we retreat and report back to Master Infinator. Despite this… setback, we still accomplished our mission in both harvesting souls and weakening the dimensional walls again, so the mission isn’t a bust. Granted, letting the Chaos Chimera rampage for longer would’ve been more ideal, but I’ll take what we can get. But I’ll have to keep his true power in mind for future plans, as he’s certainly a few notches above past Heroes, at least according to Sylph. Let’s pull back and return to Master Infinator.”

Sylph nodded, “Yeah, that’s a good idea. We did still achieve our goal, it just got cut a bit shorter than expected. Besides, Master Infinator will want to know that the Chaos breed Shroud Hero does have access to his true power, which is something he’s been concerned about. Let’s fall back and give our report.”

The five Demon Generals nodded and quickly retreated back to their home base to report. Meanwhile, everyone could see Celtic and four golden energy spheres emerge from the body of the Chaos Chimera. Celtic flew back to his party and King Duskbane before depositing the energy spheres in front of them. The energy spheres vanished, revealing the four other Heroes. Viola quickly scuttled over to check on them, testing their vitals and looking for pulses.

“Well, they’re alive, if only just,” she said. “But they’re in a very deep coma. It may be weeks before they come out of it.”

Celtic floated off the ground, looking at his party with intense eyes. Skye gingerly approached him.

“Cel?” she asked gently. “Are you still in there?”

Celtic looked at her before giving a small nod. Suddenly, he dropped like a rock, crashing to the ground before being engulfed in another Chaos energy sphere. The sphere vanished, revealing that he was back to normal, lying flat on the ground. This sudden action alarmed everyone.

“Celtic!” Skye said in a panic.

Everyone rushed over to him to check on him. Viola did a few quick checks of vitals.

“Wow… just wow,” she said. “Celtic’s body can’t handle its own power, as he’s basically on death’s doorstep. That Assault Mode form pushed his body right to its absolute limit. Is that the true power of a Chaos breed?”

Duskbane replied, “It would appear that Avalar’s true power is so intense that even he can’t use it for very long. It puts him on a time limit. But, within that time frame he can perform awesome feats. I’ve never seen power like that before. He could very well be the strongest demon to ever exist, even dwarfing our ancestor, the Shadow Prince, by a huge margin. But time for that later, we need to get him back on his feet.”

Leon and Viola nodded and started to channel energy alongside King Duskbane.

“Restore!” Leon and Viola stated.

“Dark Recovery!” Duskbane shouted.

Celtic was bathed in intense healing energies, his body glowing with power from the three spells. Everyone waited a minute for him to respond. After a few tense moments Celtic gave some grunts and started to shift. He then moved his arms and slowly started to push himself up, lifting up his head and weakly opening his eyes, revealing them to be back to their normal gold color.

“G-Gang…?” he said weakly. “It’s… It’s over… right?”

Duskbane smiled, “Yes, my dear nephew, it’s over. The Chaos Chimera has been defeated once and for all. But you’re in pretty bad shape, as your body can’t handle that intense power of yours. But, thanks to your Assault Mode form we won. And you even managed to save the other Heroes in the process. Zakota can breathe a collective sigh of relief knowing that the Chaos Chimera is gone for good. And you probably sent a pretty big message to Infinator about your true power. Knowing him, he’s probably terrified at the thought of you possessing such power.”

“True, but that power puts Celtic on a time limit,” Leon pointed out. “He can’t use it for long, otherwise he could kill himself in the process. It’s an awesome power but using it too much could destroy you as well. You’ll have to limit how you use it.”

“No complaints… on my end… about that…” Celtic grunted. “I feel like… I’m coming apart… at the seams… But… I’ll live… What about… those four idiots?”

Zuzu replied, “They’re alive, but in a deep coma, according to Viola. It’ll be a while before they’re back on their feet. However, because of their role in the Chaos Chimera’s rampage, I doubt the populous will be pleased with them. They already had pretty shoddy reputations, and if this doesn’t utterly destroy their credibility, I don’t know what will.”

King Duskbane added, “There is also the fact that their parties are just as culpable for releasing the beast. We’re going to have to hunt them down and bring them in for questioning. Especially Wench, as she was the pawn Bronwen used to create this disaster in the first place. Warrants for their arrest will be made so we can round them up and get all the details.”

Celtic started to stand up, but it was obvious he was very weak. Leon and Rupert quickly helped him to his feet, using themselves as support, making the redhead smile.

“Thank you…” he said. “But… I need to know… How was I able to control Infinity X?”

Tyroe quirked an eyebrow, “Infinity X?”

“That’s the name… I dubbed my Assault Mode form… I won’t go into details… but what was different this time…? When I first got it… I had virtually no control… over it… So… what’s different this time?”

King Duskbane replied, “That’s simple. Miss Zuzu was the missing element you needed to gain full control of your Assault Mode form.”

Zuzu looked stunned, “What? Me? How?”

“During the incantation Avalar used he mentioned the Seven Deadly Sins. On top of that, when the power was activated, symbols formed underneath all of you, showing that you each represent a different Sin. When Avalar first got his Assault Mode form, that was before Miss Zuzu had joined your ranks, thus you were short the last Sin. From what I could see, Avalar represents Wrath, Lady Skye represents Lust, Sir Rupert represents Greed, Miss Viola represents Sloth, Sir Tyroe represents Gluttony, Sir Leon represents Envy, and Miss Zuzu, the final element that was missing when you first got your Assault Mode form, represents Pride. Thus, in order to gain control of your powerful… Infinity X… you needed Miss Zuzu to fill in the last Sin. That’s why you couldn’t control it before-until now as Miss Zuzu joined your party after obtaining it.”

Skye smiled, “I knew that Zuzu joining our ranks was a smart decision on Celtic’s part. She was the last element needed for Celtic to gain full control of his Assault Mode form.”

Zuzu went wide-eyed before turning away, trying to hide her blush, clearly flustered at this revelation. This display of embarrassment only made everyone else chuckle.

“Sir Celtic!” a familiar voice called out.

Everyone looked up to see Gram and everyone else run up to them, clearly ecstatic at the defeat of the Chaos Chimera.

“You did it!” a mage said.

“You defeated the Chaos Chimera!” a knight cheered happily.

Celtic replied weakly, “No… we did. All of us. I dealt the killing blow, but this victory belongs to all of us. We all faced our possible deaths today, knowing that this could’ve been our last stand. But you stood your ground and bravely fought off a monstrosity to end all monstrosities. The courage you displayed was commendable. We all played a role in this battle, and it was everyone’s hopes and dreams that allowed us to prevail. I may have dealt the killing blow but the fact that each and every one of you were willing to face death at the hands of a legendary monster is nothing short of amazing. But… that doesn’t mean our job is done.”

Wendy asked, “What do you mean?”

King Duskbane replied, “He’s right. There is still the matter of victims and survivors. And we need to get these four idiots back to Delgunner for treatment. We’ve got a massive mess to clean up that they created, so this is no time to be celebrating. We need to round up all the survivors we can find, as that Chaos Chimera did a hell of a lot of damage. This was a massive catastrophe, so we need to find and salvage as much as we can in the wake of this mindless destruction and rescue those who are now at the mercy of the monsters. Shadow Sentinels, come forth!”

Four Shadow Sentinels appeared before King Duskbane.

“Take those ‘Heroes’ back to Delgunner for treatment,” he instructed. “They’re going to be out for quite some time. Then have our men analyze the Chaos Chimera’s remains to see just how many souls were lost to its destructive rampage. Even if this rampage was short thanks to all of our efforts, that doesn’t excuse the fact that there was still untold amounts of destruction. Also, send out a warrant of arrests for the other Heroes’ party members, especially Wench, as they’re just as guilty as the Heroes are for releasing this beast. We need to bring them in for questioning. Everyone else, it's time to get to work and help round up survivors and refugees, along with harvesting anything of use from the Chaos Chimera’s remains. We’ve got a huge mess to clean up, so we’d better get started.”

Everyone nodded and started to fan out in search for survivors. The Shadow Sentinels grabbed the four comatose Heroes and vanished in black portals. Celtic gave a heavy sigh.

“Come on, team, we’ve got work to do,” he said.

Nodding, the party began their next task, knowing what was to come.

Next Chapter: Aftermath

That's it for now. Tune in next time to see what happens.
 
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Time for the next installment of Chaos Rising.

Aftermath


The five Demon Generals were standing by the energy vent in their home base, awaiting Infinator. The energy vent flared up, revealing Infinator’s eyes, making them all bow.

“I’m aware that the Chaos Chimera has fallen,” he said.

“Yes, Master, it’s true,” Sylph stated. “And all because that wretched Chaos breed knows how to access his true power in the form of an insanely powerful Assault Mode.”

“I was afraid of that. That means he has more than enough power to possibly devastate us with just a wave of his hand, as the power of a Chaos breed far outstrips any other living entity. We need a new plan to prevent him from using that power.”

Bronwen then said, “Yes, that’s true, Master. But it’s not all bad news. The Chaos Chimera did serve its purpose, as many, many souls have been harvested and the dimensional walls have been weakened again. Granted, letting it run amok for much longer would’ve been more ideal, but it still achieved what we wanted it to do. And now that the Shroud Hero had to reveal his ace-in-the-hole Assault Mode form we can use that information in future plans. Plus, it appears that his own body can’t handle that intense power, so when he uses it he’s on a time limit. That’s useful knowledge, as it means he can’t just use his awesome power indefinitely. And knowing his weakness to psychological warfare, we still have that card to play. So, even though the Chaos Chimera’s rampage was cut short, we still achieved our plan in the end.”

Infinator replied, “Yes, that’s true, Bronwen. And I’ve been feasting on those souls that the Chaos Chimera delivered, boosting my power. My revival will come sooner than expected thanks to your plan. And I know that because the other Heroes were the reason for the Chaos Chimera’s release the populous won’t be happy with them. Heheh, I can see it now. The world turning on its precious Heroes. But it appears that the Shroud Hero is now the beacon of hope for this pitiful world: was clear his rallying everyone to fight the beast, along with him dealing the killing blow, has given everyone hope. We need to act. Bronwen, map out the locations where the dimensional walls have weakened due to the Chaos Chimera’s rampage. We need to find where the walls are at their weakest so we can begin the next phase of our plan. Also, instruct your Wrath Iron Maidens and their variants to attack any stragglers that were displaced by the Chaos Chimera for more souls.”

Bronwen bowed, “At once, Master.”

“The rest of you gather materials and scout out possible locations for where we can open a dimensional gateway to the Demon Realm. Leave no stone unturned and report any findings you have to Bronwen.”

The rest of the Demon Generals replied, “Your wish is our command, Master.”

Meanwhile, the various races and people were working hard to salvage the livelihoods of those who had been displaced by the Chaos Chimera. Warriors and soldiers were going around and locating survivors while the Druids traveled around to tend to the injured. Even the Light Elves were contributing to the cause, pooling in what resources they had to help with the relief efforts. Celtic, his party, and King Duskbane were overseeing everything.

Celtic looked around from the sky using his Moth Wing Shroud, surveying the damage from afar. He could see smoke and destruction all over the place, making his clench him fists angrily.

“Those idiots,” he growled. “They’ve gone too far this time. This… was an absolute disaster. All because they were jealous of me. I was just taking my job seriously but nooooo, they thought I was cheating when I became so much stronger and more beloved by the commonfolk and higher nobles than them. All because they saw this as one big game. Well, it’s game over for them, as the world pretty much wants their heads for this catastrophe. They’re lucky that as Legendary Heroes they can’t be executed, but that won’t stop certain people. I just can’t believe they’d go this far to one-up me. Now, the world has suffered heavy losses and massive devastation because of that desire. And all those souls destroyed by the Chaos Chimera are now probably in Infinator’s clutches, making him stronger. Dammit, Bronwen crafted her plan well, as she knew that using that backstabbing Wench as her pawn would create this disaster domino effect. And for all we know the Chaos Chimera could’ve had another purpose, not just harvesting souls and creating mass chaos. Hopefully the Shadokor scientists can find out what, along with finding out just how many souls were lost to that beast. When those four come out of their coma I’m going to throttle them for this. But time for that later, I’ve got work to do.”

He flew back down to ground level where his party awaited him. Skye noticed his anger.

“Cel…” she said softly. “I know you’re angry. It’s not hard to see why. But please don’t let your anger consume you again. What those idiots did is just… awful, I know, and there’s no telling just how many souls have been lost to that beast. Not to mention the lives displaced by the Chaos Chimera. But, please, don’t let the anger and hatred consume your soul again, as we finally made progress on relieving you of that. We’ll get through all this and make the true culprits pay.”

Leon nodded, “She’s right, Cel. The fact that we were able to defeat and kill the Chaos Chimera so quickly is nothing short of a miracle on its own. That means the damage is less than what it could’ve been. It’s still not great, but at least there is that silver lining.”

Zuzu added, “As someone who lived to see the previous Chaos Chimera rampage, I can say with certainty that we managed to minimize the damage by going after the beast as quickly as we did. The last time that thing ran amok it took a month to seal it away, creating thousands of casualties and untold destruction. Really, the fact that we were able to stop the Chaos Chimera permanently within the span of two days of its release is a massive achievement in its own right. It could’ve been better, I admit, but it was nowhere as bad as it was 300 years ago when it rampaged back then.”

Celtic nodded, “Yeah, I know, and I am grateful for that. This was nowhere as bad as the previous rampage 300 years ago, but the fact that those four idiots released it just to prove they’re better than me is what really gets my goat. Deep down I wanted them to cause such a disaster, allowing them to finally get the message that this world isn’t a game, but I had hoped and prayed that wouldn’t happen. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened. As they say, ‘be careful what you wish for’, because that’s what we got. And it’s safe to say that the reputations of those four ‘Heroes’ will now be in the sewer because of this event. But enough of me griping, we have an enormous mess to clean up.”

Rupert asked, “By the way, Cel, did you obtain a sample of the Chaos Chimera for your Shroud?”

“Yeah, I did, just before I went into the air to survey the damage. It’s a pretty powerful one, right up there with the Dragon Rage Shroud and Magic Chess Shroud, with a bevy of useful effects. But time for that later, let’s get to work.”

Everyone sighed defeatedly, knowing they weren’t looking forward to this task. Despite that they gathered up their stuff and began helping in the relief and recovery efforts.

A week had passed since the Chaos Chimera rampage. The Shadokor scientists were analyzing the beast to see just how many souls were lost, along with harvesting any useful components from its remains. Celtic and his party were traveling around from place to place, aiding in the relief efforts and bringing hope to the people who had been displaced by the Chaos Chimera. All the surviving nations and races were pooling resources together in order to combat the enormous disaster caused by the other Heroes. A warrant for arrest had been placed out across the continent for the escaped parties of the other Heroes, ordering that they be brought in for questioning to Delgunner. The other Heroes were still in a deep coma at Delgunner’s hospital. There was a demand by the surviving public for their execution even though they knew that execution was out of the question because they were Heroes. This didn’t stop the demand for the Heroes and their escaped parties to be heavily punished at the very least.

Celtic and his party were traveling by carriage across the continent, bringing food, medicine, and other forms of relief to the survivors. They had currently stopped at a campsite full of refugees, handing out bowls of food and tending to the hurt and sick, while various soldiers and other warriors, including ones like Ogre Scorpions, were acting as protection from the monsters.

Celtic handed out a bowl of food to one of the survivors, who said graciously, “Thank you, Sir Shroud Hero. You’ve become our beacon of hope during this time of need.”

Celtic sighed, “I know. I may not like this job but I’ll do it. Now, please keep the line moving, as there are others who need food.”

The man nodded and moved aside, allowing a woman to get a serving of food. Skye was busy feeding a little baby some warm milk while his mother ate her food, showing an almost motherly side to the Light Elf. Leon and Viola were going around and tending to injured and sick while Rupert, Tyroe, and Zuzu were handing out other supplies from the carriage. Some ShadoKnights suddenly appeared from black portals, bringing more supplies for Celtic and his party to distribute. The survivors were clearly grateful for this help. Celtic silently seethed as he continued to hand out food.

“Those four idiots,” he hissed silently. “I knew that they would cause a disaster of epic proportions one day but this is worse than I thought possible. I expected at least Ryan to have some form of sense about this ‘plan’ to release the Chaos Chimera, as he was making the most progress. But apparently that’s not the case, otherwise he wouldn’t be in a coma right now and I wouldn’t be cleaning up yet another mess those so-called Heroes created. When I get my hands on them they’ll be sorry. They’re lucky that, because they’re Heroes, they cannot be executed even though the people are demanding it, otherwise it wouldn’t be strange to see them on the execution block. And that blasted woman, Wench, is still on the loose. I can only imagine what problems she’s causing. At least there’s a warrant for her arrest, as she’s now a wanted criminal, not that she wasn’t one to begin with for her past crimes, so that means she can’t show her face in public right now without getting arrested. But she’s still on the loose and probably making things worse. Time for that later, I have more mouths to feed.”

He resumed feeding the refugees, who sincerely thanked him, while his party continued their tasks. After all the survivors in this camp had been fed and treated, Celtic and his party packed up the carriage and headed off again to find another camp that the ShadoKnights had mentioned. As they traveled the land, pausing every now and then to fight monsters that tried to attack them, they all seethed in fury at the devastation caused by the other Heroes.

Another week passed. The relief efforts were still in full-swing, with Celtic and his party at the front of it. Many of the survivors had been rounded up and given temporary shelters near Delgunner’s capital, under the strict guard of knights and soldiers to protect them from the monsters. Every nation and race were still pooling in resources together to help rescue any remaining survivors. Celtic and his party were at the temporary shelter, making a massive pot of soup to feed the hungry survivors. The refugees eagerly awaited their meal as Celtic continued to tend to the huge cauldron of soup while the rest of his party handed out rolls and water. Celtic took a sip from the pot to see if it was ready.

“Hmm… yeah, I’d say the soup is ready,” he said. “Everyone, line up single file for the Pulsar family’s signature turkey corn chowder.”

The survivors quickly did as they were told, lining up to have their meal. Celtic filled up bowl after bowl of turkey corn chowder for each person, making them beam with joy and graciously thanking him. It was clear by their glowing faces that the food was good, giving further praise and thanks to the Shroud Hero party. After the last survivor in the shelter had been fed Celtic and his party took a moment for some well-deserved rest. King Duskbane approached them as they sat down to rest.

“You seven have worked the hardest out of anyone,” he said warmly. “You have become the beacon of hope for these people and their surviving families. You should be proud of yourselves. But if you work any harder you’ll eventually crash. I’ve been talking to King Alvin and King O’Connell about giving you seven a short but well needed vacation. They all agreed that you deserve it.”

Tyroe looked concerned, “But what about the relief efforts?”

“We’ve rounded up most of the survivors by now. Any others will be brought here as well. We can take over for a bit, as most of the necessary steps to help the populous have been completed. You seven need a chance to rest and recover from all the time, energy, and effort you’ve put into cleaning up this gigantic mess. My fellow Shadokor and I will pick up the slack for a bit so you can get some much-deserved rest.”

Zuzu asked, “True, but why did you have to contact King O’Connell?”

“Because we decided that you seven will be going to Infinity Mountain Hot Spring Resort.”

Skye’s eyes went wide, “Infinity Mountain Hot Spring Resort?! That’s the most prestige resort on the planet! Only the highest of nobilities and very select few can go there! No wonder you had to talk to King O’Connell, as that place is under his jurisdiction. We’re really going to Infinity Mountain Hot Spring Resort?”

King Duskbane nodded, “Yes, as he’s agreed to let you stay there for a few days. It won’t be a long vacation, about four days, but the special hot spring waters there, along with the various spa treatments, will revitalize you seven quite nicely. Besides, King O’Connell says you deserve it after all you have done. We can pick up the slack for a bit until you get rested and restored.”

Celtic gave a weak smile, “You know… some spa treatment sounds pretty good right about now. By the way, have the Shadokor scientist tallied the final death toll yet?”

“Almost. We’ve breached the 1,000 death toll mark at this point, but it’s not as bad as the previous Chaos Chimera rampage, which was around 12,000, give or take. While it’s not much of a condolence that over 1,000 lives were lost, all of which are now in Infinator’s clutches, at least our efforts to tackle and defeat the Chaos Chimera as quickly as we did limited the destruction and devastation it could cause.”

Leon gave a depressed sigh, “Still… that’s over 1,000 lives lost thanks to those four braindead baboons and their parties. I gotta hand it to Bronwen, as she mapped out her plan near flawlessly. She picked the right target in Wench to plant the seed of untold chaos that created this disaster. I can see why she’s so infamous as a brilliant tactician, as even though we managed to stop the Chaos Chimera quickly, it’s clear that it served its purpose regardless.”

Viola asked, “Speaking of Wench, has she been tracked down yet? Along with the other party members?”

Duskbane replied, “We’ve tracked down Eric’s party and they’re currently in for questioning. We also confirmed that Ryan’s party were among the casualties of the Chaos Chimera. But Jerry’s party and Lucas’ party are still out there, which includes Wench and Marvin, both of whom we need to find before they cause any more problems. The only good news in all this is that the Demon Generals and Infinator have been very quiet since the Chaos Chimera’s defeat. But that could also mean they’re planning their next move. We’ll focus on them again, but helping the survivors comes first.”

“And what about the other Heroes?” Rupert asked.

“Still in a deep coma. It’ll be quite some time before they’re up and about again. It has given us the opportunity to copy their memories so we can see exactly what happened and how everything led up to this. That’s how we confirmed the deaths of Ryan’s party.”

Skye looked surprised, “Why didn’t the Guard Barrier Charm protect them?”

Celtic gave a depressed sigh, “Probably because the Chaos Chimera’s power was just on a whole other scale. The Guard Barrier Charm does have its limits. The Chaos Chimera’s energy blasts were probably just too much for the Guard Barrier Charm to block, thus it just simply brute forced its way through the shield and killed them.”

Duskbane nodded, “Yes, that’s correct. According to Ryan’s memories, the Guard Barrier Charm did activate, but the Chaos Chimera’s power was just simply too much for the barrier to block. The Chaos Chimera’s attack overwhelmed the barrier and pierced right through it, killing them without remotely slowing down. So, simply put, the Guard Barrier Charm wasn’t strong enough to protect them.”

Celtic gave another sigh, “Looks like I’ll either need to make them stronger or create entirely new ones that’ll factor in that kind of power. The Guard Barrier Charms can withstand a full-powered Light Cannon attack from a Calamadon Demon, but it appears the Chaos Chimera was just on a whole other scale. Well, that’ll give me something to do for a bit after our vacation while we wait for everything to be finalized. At least a hot spring resort is something to look forward to after all this destruction. Well, team, looks like we’re getting a nice vacation as reward for our hard work. Let’s make the most of it.”

Everyone nodded in agreement, eagerly thinking of the special hot spring treat they were about to get.

Next Chapter: A Hero’s Reward

And that's it for now. Tune in next time to see what type of reward the Shroud Hero party gets.
 
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Time for the next chapter of Chaos Rising. (Warning: contains nudity that isn't just related to Zuzu)

A Hero’s Reward


It was the following day after King Duskbane had informed the Shroud Hero party about their trip to the Infinity Mountain Hot Spring Resort. The seven party members were looking forward to a few days of rest after all their hard work. They were preparing for their short but hopefully restful vacation, hoping that the resort was as good as it was said to be.

There was a knock on their guest room door. Leon opened it to see King Duskbane there.

“Oh, Your Majesty!” he said. “I take it it’s time for us to go?”

King Duskbane nodded, “Yes it is, my friend. I hope you’re all ready to go. You can rest easy knowing that my men and I will cover for you while you get some well-deserved R&R. So, are you ready?”

Celtic nodded, “Yes, we are. We need this, as we’ve been working ourselves ragged. I just hope nothing else happens within the few days we’re gone.”

“We will keep an eye on things, my dear nephew, so you can take solace knowing that this vacation won’t be interrupted. You will be expected to be back on-deck after your four day vacation is over, but this’ll give you the much-needed chance for you and your party to get rested and restored for the upcoming events. Now, let’s not delay anymore. If you are ready I will take you to the resort.”

Skye smiled, “We’re all set, Your Majesty. The rest is up to you.”

Duskbane nodded before stating, “Shadow Warp!”

He and the Shroud Hero party vanished in black portals. They reappeared at the front doors of a massive building on a mountain. The building was luxurious and fancy, made mostly of stone and marble, with a large fence in the back that appeared to be where the hot springs were. Surrounding them from below were trees and what appeared to be lava flows coming from a volcano a fair distance away. Everyone looked at the building and the area in awe.

“I never thought I’d see the day I could go to this resort!” Skye said ecstatically. “Considering I come from one of the worst nobilities on the planet, at least before it lost even that, I knew that this place would always be out of reach for me. But now I can finally come here. Oh, I’m so excited!”

Celtic asked, “It’s that good, huh?”

Viola smiled, “Yes, it is. This resort is very famous, but also very exclusive. You either need high political power, money, or very high status to come here, and even then most people don’t get to come. But those who do gush about the food, spa treatments, and especially the hot spring. The hot spring is considered legendary, as it not only has incredible healing powers, but it was the first generation of Legendary Heroes that created this place. So, yeah, it’s got quite the borderline legendary reputation.”

Zuzu placed a hand on her hip, “I’ve heard about that reputation. Considering I’m a rogue wild demon I never thought that becoming your party member would result in me getting into this place.”

King Duskbane smiled, “Well, you seven deserve it. Come, let’s check you lot in so you can begin your well-earned break.”

He led the Shroud Hero party into the building. There was a receptionist standing at a desk. King Duskbane handed her a note that she quickly read, nodding afterward.

“Okay, looks like everything is in place,” she said. “We heard from King O’Connell that the Shroud Hero party would be coming here, and this letter confirms the information we were given. The room for them has been prepared, so everything should be set.”

Kind Duskbane nodded, “Good, very good.” He turned to the Shroud Hero party, “Okay, everything is set. Enjoy your vacation. Consider this a reward for all your hard work. I’ll be back in four days to pick you up so we can resume our task, so you’d better make the most of this.”

Celtic nodded, “Yes, Uncle Duskbane, we most certainly will. Come on, team, let’s go and unwind in the hot spring.”

Nodding in agreement, the Shroud Hero party were escorted to their luxurious room. After putting their stuff down they eagerly went to the back to get changed for their soak in the hot spring. Clad in only towels, except Zuzu, the seven of them entered the massive hot spring. It was deep enough for large bodied individuals like Viola and Tyroe to almost submerge themselves completely in it. The warm water felt delightful and they could feel the healing effects it was having on them.

Celtic gave a content sigh, “This feels great. We deserve it after everything we’ve done.”

Skye giggled, “Yeah. And I’m surprised how comfortable you are right now since this hot spring is a mixed bathing hot spring. Normally you’d be pretty shy about something like this. So, what gives this time around?”

The redhead replied, “I just feel comfortable enough around you all right now to not really care about that anymore. Besides, it’s not like they have multiple hot springs for men and women, so there’s no sense in getting worked up about it.”

The Light Elf giggled again before saying, “Hey, Cel, would you like me to scrub your back?”

“I see no harm in it. Just watch where your hands go.”

Skye smiled before grabbing a sponge from a nearby bucket, walked over to Celtic, and started to gently wash his back. As she did she was able to get a good look at how his metal arm was attached to the rest of him. Not only was his right arm metallic, but most of his shoulder and the surrounding area. This prothesis made her frown a bit.

“Cel, how do you live with that metal arm?” she asked. “Not to mention you’ve got more metal on and around your shoulder. It looks kinda clunky, too. So, how do you tolerate it?”

Celtic replied, “I’ve gotten used to it. Besides, it’s equipped better than it appears. I admit the extra metal around my shoulder and such looks a bit clunky, but around the time when I built this prosthetic there wasn’t a real ‘perfect’ way to graft it on, so they had to do some modifications to me in order to better equip it. But I’ve gotten used to it. It took a good year to fully adjust to it but I managed. Believe me, I’d rather it look a bit clunky than have to wait for my arm to regenerate, since, because I’m half-demon, I would’ve eventually regrown my arm. However, my blood was dormant until coming here, dramatically slowing down the healing process. And I’m primarily right-handed, though I’ve become ambidextrous out of necessity. It’s not ideal but I manage well enough, so don’t worry about it.”

Skye gave a small sigh as she resumed scrubbing Celtic’s back. Leon then turned to Viola.

“Hey, Viola, would you like me to scrub your thorax?” he asked.

Viola blushed before replying, “S-Sure. J-Just be gentle, as my thorax is a bit more sensitive than it appears.”

Smiling at the Arachne’s shyness, Leon grabbed a brush, walked over, and started to gently wash Viola’s thorax. Viola gained a deeper blush as the Templar Knight steadily scrubbed her spider half. Everyone else smiled approvingly as the two couples gently interacted with each other. After a while they decided it was time to get out of the hot spring and enjoy the other spa treatments the resort had to offer.

After getting dressed they were escorted to the dining room where a large display of food was waiting for them. They eagerly tucked into the gourmet food, quite pleased with the quality, while discussing what they wanted to do next. After finishing their meal they all split up to do different things at the resort. Celtic, Skye, and Zuzu went to get special magical massages, Rupert and Tyroe went to the sauna, while Leon and Viola got pampering facials. As the masseuse gently kneaded Celtic’s back with magic-enhanced hands, loosening up his muscles and helping relieve his stress, he couldn’t help but still feel angry at the Chaos Chimera’s release and brief rampage thanks to the other Heroes.

“Those four braindead baboons,” he seethed silently. “They’re desire to prove their useless game knowledge cost over 1,000 lives, and that’s not the final number, either. Now, everyone on the continent despise them at the very least. They’re lucky they’re Heroes, otherwise it wouldn’t be surprising to see them on the execution block. I had secretly hoped they’d pull something like this so they could see just how real this world is and how their actions have equally real consequences, but I also hoped and prayed that it wouldn’t come to that. As they say, ‘be careful what you wish for’, as that’s exactly what happened. If this disaster doesn’t finally spell it out for them I don’t know what will.”

After completing their activities the party had a filling dinner and went to sleep in the luxurious beds.

It was the following day. The Shroud Hero party had just finished breakfast and were now lounging again in the hot spring. Skye was busy nuzzling Celtic from behind, pressing her body up to his back as tightly as she could, while the rest of the party merely smiled at her antics.

“Man, we really needed this,” the Light Elf said contently. “After all our hard work, both past and present, this was a well-deserved reward for our efforts.”

Rupert nodded, “I’ll say, Skye. And the fact that we got to go to the most prestige resort in all of Zakota makes it even better.”

Celtic turned to them, “I’m wondering something. How does this hot spring possess healing powers? I can pretty much guess how it’s heated, as evident by the lava flows below us, but how does it have healing properties?”

Viola explained, “That’s simple. The spring of water that this hot spring feeds from has crushed Sol Crystals in it. As you may recall, Sol Crystals possess powerful abilities, enough to craft something as special as the Elemental Gems for the Elemental Lighthouses. They also possess other properties. Crushed Sol Crystals in the magma-heated geothermal water it grants the hot springs healing powers as a result. The first generation of Legendary Heroes were the first ones to figure this out, hence why they built the resort here. It’s a somewhat lesser known fact about Sol Crystals that, when crushed, they can produce such effects as healing hot springs and the like.”

“I see,” the redhead replied, eyes widening. “Sol Crystals certainly have their uses, especially since they are necessary to make the Elemental Lighthouses’ Elemental Gems. Interesting.”

They resumed their soak in the healing hot springs, taking the time to unwind and relax as much as they could, as they knew that they’d be back to the grindstone soon. After finishing their hot spring bath they split up to engage in more relaxing activities in the resort before their next meal.

The next day was spent pretty much the same. After a filling meal and a long dip in the hot spring the party split up to perform more relaxing activities. Celtic, Skye, and Leon received hot stone massages, Viola and Zuzu got a sugar scrub body treatment, while Rupert and Tyroe got herbal body wraps.

Leon couldn’t help but sigh contently, “This is the life. After everything we’ve been through it’s nice we’re getting rewarded for all our hard work. I never knew that becoming a party member of the Shroud would grant me access to such treatment. It makes abandoning the Four Stars Church well worth it. I can only imagine Robert’s face if he knew that I got to go to this resort because I’m your party member and not him. He’s been trying to get into this resort for years but King O’Connell wouldn’t let him because of his ties to the Four Stars Church. He’d be fuming with jealousy if he was aware that we got in and he didn’t.”

Skye purred, “No one deserves it more than us, Leon. After everything we’ve had to do, after all the messes we’ve cleaned up, after all the battles we’ve won, it was about time we got properly rewarded.”

Celtic said in a serious tone, “Still, we can’t get to complacent about this, as others, including our allies, might get jealous of our treatment. I know we deserve it after months of hard work but we’d best not rub it in, especially since this place is so prestige and exclusive. And, besides, tomorrow it’s back to work, so we have to be ready for that. While we most definitely needed this to recharge our batteries, we can’t brag about it or anything, as people are suffering right now thanks to the Legendary Stooges and the Chaos Chimera.”

Skye gained a sad expression, “True. We are getting a real treat despite the destruction and suffering those four duncebuckets caused, so we can’t rub it in or anything. Especially since others have been picking up the slack for us while we get a chance to rest and recover. And I can only imagine what horrors we’ll be facing when the Demon Generals make their next move… if they haven’t already.”

Leon nodded, “Yeah, that’s a good point. Too bad we can’t take a sample of this resort with us so we can help those who have suffered find some form of peace and relaxation. Like having the Shroud absorb one of these heated stones or something so it’ll create a new power that’ll grant special relaxation effects to those around us.”

Celtic started to ponder for a moment before replying, “Maybe we can. Given the Shroud’s multifunctional nature, maybe there is a way to bring part of the spa with us through the Shroud’s magic. Might be worth a shot. I’ll see if that’s possible after we’re done with this hot stone massage.”

After the group had finished their treatments Celtic ventured into the hot spring section of the resort. He used a cup to scoop up some of the water and gently poured it onto the Shroud’s core to see what would happen. The core absorbed the water and created a new Shroud form called the “Soothing Shroud”. Celtic took a moment to read over its effects before smiling.

“Yes, it worked,” he said silently. “I created a new Shroud power from the resort’s hot spring water. And judging by its effects it will allow us to bring part of the resort with us to help soothe our allies and the victims of the Chaos Chimera. Gotta thank Leon for this idea, as it turned out to be possible. Hopefully this’ll give everyone a small taste of the hot spring resort’s effects, as we’re not the only ones who deserve it after that beast’s rampage. Now, time to take advantage of what little time we have left here and rest up, as tomorrow it’s back to work.”

Satisfied, he returned to the main building and rejoined his party for lunch. After another dip in the hot springs and another spa treatment, along with Celtic’s Shroud absorbing a heated stone and a bottle of massage ointment by accident, creating two more spa-related Shroud forms, the party retired for the day, knowing that tomorrow was the day their vacation ended.

It was the following day. The day the Shroud Hero party’s vacation was about to end. Everyone took one last dip in the hot spring before getting ready to leave. After gathering their stuff they awaited King Duskbane to arrive. Sure enough, no more than a few minutes later did the demon king appear at the front desk. He smiled as he saw the Shroud Hero party.

“I hope you all had a relaxing vacation,” he said warmly.

Tyroe smiled, “On, no need to worry about that, Your Majesty. We had a great time. But it’s time to get back to work, so we’re ready to go.”

Celtic asked, “Did anything happen while we were gone?”

King Duskbane shook his head, “No, fortunately, nothing really happened. We rounded up all the remaining survivors and took care of them. There were a few ambitious monster attacks, but none did any real damage, and no more lives were lost. We also got the final death toll from the Chaos Chimera’s rampage: 1,274. That’s not great, but at least it’s not as bad as the many thousands of lives lost in its previous rampage. But, as Sir Tyroe said, it’s time to get back to work. The people are really counting on you seven to be their beacon of hope, especially since everyone has lost faith in the other Heroes. So, it’s time to resume your duty as the Shroud Hero party. Let’s go.”

Nodding, the party and King Duskbane vanished in black portals, knowing that their job wasn’t finished yet.

Next Chapter: The Half Dragon Killer

And that's it for now, folks. Tune in next time to see what our Heroes face.
 
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Here's the next chapter of Chaos Rising. Credit for the idea goes to another user on another hangout of mine. (Warning: contains mild violence, mild blood)

The Half Dragon Killer


In a darkened room several soldiers and nuns were present. Robert was sitting on a chair in front of a desk, his eyes almost gleaming in the darkness. Standing before him was a mysterious individual, cloaked by shadows, only the person’s eyes could be seen.

Robert stated, “So… here’s the deal. We need you to bring the heads of the Shroud Devil and his party. You must also bring me his special metal backpack. In exchange for your services, I know where there are treasures beyond belief for you to bask in. Rare ores, Elemental Gems, various crystals, loads of money, and even various Magic Pearls. Bring me the heads of the Shroud Devil party along with that metal backpack and those treasures are yours.”

The shadowy figure grinned darkly, “Sounds like a plan. And, besides, I have a bone to pick with the Heroes anyway, especially the Sword Hero, so consider it done. I expect you to pay me, however, so don’t try to weasel your way out of it.”

The fallen Templar Knight replied, “Oh, don’t worry, I intend to give you just what you deserve. But only if you bring me what I seek. Be warned, however, as the Shroud Devil is trickier than expected, so don’t take any chances. Finish him off hard and fast before he can use one of his demonic tricks against you.”

“Fine. Leave it to me.”

The shadowy figure vanished, leaving Robert and the various men and women surrounding him alone.

One knight asked, “Lord Robert, do you think our assassin will be strong enough to take down the Shroud Devil? After all, he defeated the Chaos Chimera, something that not even the Shadow Prince could do. Will our assassin be enough?”

Robert chuckled, “You can rest easy, my follower, as this one is rather infamous for its talent in killing even the hardest of enemies. Not even the Shroud Devil’s defenses will be enough to block this one.”

One nun asked, “Why do you want the Shroud Devil’s Tek-Pak?”

“Because it contains three of the Karma Diamonds inside of it. That fool King Alvin has entrusted the Shroud Devil to hold onto them until they can locate the remaining ones. From what I’ve learned, we have the fourth and Infinator has the fifth. But we’ll be the ones to get all five Karma Diamonds. Now, all we have to do is wait for our ‘friend’s’ good results.”

It was the following day. Celtic and his party were continuing to help the survivors of the Chaos Chimera rampage. Celtic had been using his new spa-related Shroud forms to help both the survivors and their protectors rest and relax a bit, putting them more at ease and allowing them to recover from their woes. The Shadokor had built a large wooden wall around the makeshift shelter to further protect the survivors from any ambitious monsters, complete with a watchtower, bell, and telescope. This was until a new, more permanent solution for the refugees could be found.

Celtic turned to King Duskbane, “Uncle Duskbane, have those duncebucket Heroes finally come to yet?”

King Duskbane shook his head, “No, sadly they’re still in a deep coma. It’ll be quite a while more before they’re up and about. But let’s just say King Alvin is ready to strangle them for this incident when they do.”

Skye huffed, “He’s not the only one. He’d better save some for us, as we all have a bone to pick with them. At least everything seems to be in order for now. You rounded up all the remaining survivors and have guards protecting them around the clock, right?”

The demon king nodded, “That’s correct, my young friend. We scoured the continent for survivors and managed to recover each and every one of them. Good thing, too, as some had very close calls with various monsters when we tracked them down. I must say, Avalar, you certainly came up with a creative idea. You had your Shroud absorb some stuff from your mandatory vacation to produce spa-related Shroud powers to help the people here relax more. That was very clever.”

Celtic chuckled, “You should really thank Leon, as he’s the one who had the brain spark to try something like that. I just hope the resort isn’t too upset with me for accidentally absorbing one of their stones for hot stone massages and one bottle of massage ointment. I didn’t mean to have my Shroud absorb them, as I was just looking them over when I sneezed and ended up pushing them into the Shroud’s core by mistake.”

King Duskbane chuckled, “No, I doubt they’d be upset, as it’s just one stone and one bottle of ointment. It’s not like you took the whole hot spring away from them, so they will forgive you for it. Besides, from what Miss Viola said, the ointment bottle was nearly empty anyway, and the stones used for the hot stone massage can be found all over Infinity Mountain, so no harm done. And considering that you’re using the powers formed from those items to help the survivors and their protectors feel more relaxed and at peace despite the devastation would make them feel pretty happy. After all, you and your party are working hard to correct this sin, so anything that can help ease the survivors is welcome.”

Leon asked, “Speaking of correcting sins, has anyone located that long eared fiendess, Wench, yet?”

“We had an eyewitness spot her, but we learned of it too late. She was also in the company of Marvin and the rest of Jerry’s party. Seems like they’re up to something, at least according to the traveling merchant who spotted them before they beat a quick retreat. That doesn’t bode well.”

Gram walked up, saying, “No, it doesn’t. That vile witch needs to be put down as soon as possible before she causes yet another catastrophe. While I know it was ultimately Bronwen who planted the idea in Wench’s head, the fact that she could cause it to spread like wildfire to the other Heroes means she’s just as culpable. Plus, that goon, Marvin, is something else to worry about, though, fortunately, like Wench, he’s not as tough as he thinks he is. But given his fanatical hatred for the Shroud and all non-human and elven races, I wouldn’t be surprised if he found a way to join up with that Robert fellow to restore the Four Stars Church in some shape or form.”

Leon’s eyes narrowed, “I hear you, Gram. Besides, Robert has been pretty quiet since the last time we saw him. As a gambler I’d be willing to bet that he’s got another devious scheme cooked up by now. Especially since the Shroud Hero’s reputation has gone through the roof after the defeat of the Chaos Chimera while the other Heroes’ collective reputations are now in the sewers. That would really rub him the wrong way, given he’s such a fanatic for the Four Stars Church. It’s times like this that I’m glad he kicked me out and I joined Celtic, as it means I no longer have to feel any responsibility or guilt for any crimes the Four Stars Church and its followers have and may cause. While I did learn some useful skills and abilities during my time with them, I’m much happier now that I’m with Celtic and everyone else, as not only do I have real friends, but I can also use those skills to protect the people from fiends like Infinator, Sylph, and Robert himself.”

A voice then said, “That’s good to hear, Sir Leon. However, you may have to be on-deck for something involving those Four Stars Church loons soon.”

Everyone turned to see Queen Wuya appear.

“Queen Wuya!” Viola said.

“What are you doing here, honey?” King Duskbane asked.

Queen Wuya explained, “I’ve got two pieces of news that you might want to hear. First off, it has been discovered that the Chaos Chimera did have another motive for being released. Apparently it can weaken the dimensional walls between Zakota and the Demon Realm with its energy blast attacks. And it did exactly that during its short but devastating rampage.”

Skye looked shocked, “Wait! You’re saying that the Chaos Chimera is capable of weakening the dimensional walls between Zakota and the Demon Realm just from its energy blasts?! Then… that means what the Karma Diamonds did has been reset, right?”

“To a degree, yes,” the demon queen replied. “Not all the walls have been weakened, only certain places. We’re mapping out those locations as we speak. We learned of this not just from the Chaos Chimera’s corpse, but we Shadokor suddenly regained access to the Demon Realm after its rampage. Which means that the Chaos Chimera wasn’t designed to just harvest souls and cause mass destruction. Considering that Infinator created the Chaos Chimera after the Shadow Prince sealed off his dimensional gateways during the Great Demon War, it actually makes sense.”

King Duskbane scratched his chin, “Hmm… then that means a sizable amount of progress we gained thanks to the Karma Diamonds just got blasted to pieces. That also means Infinator can restart his plan to tear open a gateway to the Demon Realm to collect more minions and resources. And I’d be willing to bet Bronwen not only planned that but she’s also probably mapping out the locations where the walls are at their weakest right now.”

“That’s a safe bet, honey,” Queen Wuya said. “That might explain why the Demon Generals have been so quiet lately, as they’re either gathering resources or information on where the dimensional walls have been weakened the most. But that’s not all I have to report. Our sources indicate that Robert has gathered up some straggling followers of the Four Stars Church and is planning something. We also got wind that he’s sent an assassin out recently, most likely to kill the Shroud Hero party. Considering that the Shroud Hero and his party have had their popularity practically explode into the stratosphere for the defeat of the Chaos Chimera, while the collective reputations of the other Heroes are so low you have to dig for it, it makes sense why Robert would want to send an assassin out to eliminate the Shroud.”

Tyroe huffed, “I’m getting really sick of Robert and his schemes. But now we have to worry about an assassin and the possibility of him bringing back the accursed Four Stars Church. Guess we’d best be on our toes for a bit. Or tail in my case.”

King Duskbane nodded, “Yes, we will.” He turned to Wuya, “Thank you for telling me about this, dear. You go back to Shadoria and keep an eye on things there so we don’t have any unexpected incidents or ambushes.”

Queen Wuya bowed, “I will, honey. Take care, my dear nephew, and watch your back.”

She then vanished in a black portal, leaving everyone else behind.

Gram said, “Too bad we don’t know who the assassin is, then maybe we could prepare for it. Though I am surprised that anyone outside of the Four Stars Church would be willing to even attempt to assassinate Sir Celtic. Given the Shroud’s incredible defenses, Sir Celtic’s near impeccable reputation, and the fact that him defeating the Chaos Chimera should be enough of a deterrent to not pick a fight with him. Not to mention his demon heritage makes him pretty resourceful and resilient.”

Zuzu said, “People will say and do anything for the right price, Gram. If offered what they want they’ll do it, even if the ‘target’ is someone like Celtic. That’s the ‘magic’ of money, as everyone has a price. It is the root of all evil, or so they say. So even if Celtic’s reputation is nearly iron-clad, if offered the right price someone will go after him without question.”

“Ah, yeah that’s true, Miss Zuzu…” Gram replied. “I often forget the power of money on the minds of those who crave it. Chalk it up to my heritage and history as a knight, but, then again, even knights have a price. Hopefully we can stop this assassin before they cause any major issues, as everyone is suffering enough right now.”

Skye pointed out, “And that’s probably why Robert sent out an assassin to go after us, or at least Celtic, as the Shroud has become the beacon of hope for the people after the Chaos Chimera rampage. Considering that the Four Stars Church hates the Shroud with a passion, seeing it as a beacon of hope to the people while the other four Heroes are now pariahs will really ruffle their feathers. It’s pretty much a perfect opportunity for them to crush Celtic while he's high in the eyes of the people. The higher the pedestal the harder the fall, after all.”

King Duskbane nodded, “Indeed. I’ll have some ShadoKnights and Shadow Sentinels keep an eye out for any unwanted guests in order to minimize any problems. But enough talk, time to get back to work.”

Nodding, everyone resumed their jobs in tending and feeding the survivors of the Chaos Chimera rampage. They knew that an enemy would appear soon, it was just a matter of when.

It was the following day. Celtic and his party were in Delgunner’s capital, buying supplies for both them and the survivors. However, as they emerged from a shop, a familiar voice could be heard.

“You’ve garnered quite the reputation as of late, Shroud Hero.”

They all turned to see Kainu walk up to them.

“Kainu!” Rupert said, surprised.

“What are you doing here?” Viola asked.

Kainu explained, “I’ve been researching the various behaviors of the monsters lately. Ever since the Chaos Chimera rampaged, the monsters have gotten more aggressive and more powerful. It’s almost a similar phenomenon to the event that happens at the Myria Archipelago, which I now know is because it’s on a power spot that leads to the Demon Realm. The monsters are now hunting other monsters, Leveling Up more rapidly, along with breeding in larger numbers. This is very unusual behavior, so I’m investigating if the Chaos Chimera’s release provoked the other monsters into this sudden change. I came here to Delgunner’s capital to talk to King Alvin about this strange shift in the monsters’ natures. I also want to talk to King Duskbane as well, since he’s been helping with the relief efforts, and as a demon he might have more insight on the sudden change.”

Zuzu replied, “Come to think of it, the monsters have gotten bolder since the Chaos Chimera was released. As someone who witness the Chaos Chimera’s previous rampage, I can say that the monsters did get more aggressive after that. So, yeah, there might be a connection to the sudden change in the monsters’ demeanor, as it happened once before 300 years ago.”

Kainu nodded, “I’m glad to know that bit of information, Miss Zuzu, as I wasn’t aware that the monsters had the same shift when the Chaos Chimera was released last time. That is useful knowledge. It helps to know someone who has witness events that have happened in generations prior, as it helps me piece together the puzzle that we’re facing. Do you remember anything else of use, Miss Zuzu?”

Zuzu replied, “Not really, as I largely ignored the aftermath of the Chaos Chimera’s past rampage. Remember, I’m a wild demon, thus I only care about surviving, which means I only pay attention to certain details if it concerns me or affects my goals. While I have picked up tidbits of info here and there, I’ve largely pushed stuff like that aside until more recently, especially after I became a party member to the Shroud Hero. So, no, I can’t give you any more information on that, as it wasn’t my concern back then.”

“I see. Too bad, as it would help my research greatly. But it can’t be helped, I guess, since you were clearly living by the survival of the fittest mantra back then. After all, from what I’ve been told, you’re nearly 400-years old, so it’s obvious you’d concern yourself with what you need in order to survive and nothing more. At least knowing that the monsters got more aggressive in the past after the Chaos Chimera’s previous rampage is useful information.”

Suddenly, out of nowhere, an attack barreled toward Celtic. Before he had a chance to react Kainu took the attack, getting badly injured, much to everyone’s shock. Then, a mysterious figure appeared before them. It was a female entity, dressed in ripped clothes with a completely uncovered belly, no shoes, bands covering her mouth, with a hooded cloak, had ivory white skin, pointed nails in the feet and the hands, yellow eyes and two large horns. Everyone got defensive as this female entity appeared.

“I take it this is the assassin Robert hired?” Tyroe hissed.

Skye replied, “Yeah, and he picked one of the most infamous of them all: the Half-Blood Kei. She’s a wanted assassin all over the globe for her skill, power, and efficiency, having assassinated several major people over the years.”

Suddenly, the Shroud core glowed and out emerged Tiamat’s head, much to everyone’s surprise.

“Tiamat!” Leon said.

“So… Kei has surfaced once again, huh?” Tiamat observed. “Unfortunately, her unique mixed heritage will present a problem. Not because it makes her powerful, but because she’s half-dragon, thus she’s under the protection of the Dragon Emperors. Specifically, under the protection of Gigalyth, the Dragon Emperor of Earth. That means killing her is out of the question.”

Kei growled, “So, Shroud Hero, you have Tiamat within your precious Legendary Gear? Even after the Sword Hero killed him? This means war, you fiend!”

She inhaled deeply before spewing a tongue of fire at them. Leon immediately started channeling energy.

“Hydro Blast!” he stated.

He fired the sphere of water at the flames. The two attacks collided and canceled each other out, creating a brief cloud of steam. Kei used the steam to launch a sneak attack, quickly emerging from the mist to strike Celtic, who received a sharp cut on his left arm as he attempted to dodge the attack. This display of power surprised the group.

“She was able to damage Celtic despite his insane defenses!” Rupert sputtered.

Kai smirked, “That’s right, furball. I’m more powerful than you realize. Even the Shroud Hero’s great defenses won’t stop me! Eat this! Fire Claw!”

She lashed her claw in the air, creating flaming slashes that rocketed toward Celtic. Celtic quickly transformed his Shroud into the Soulavore Shroud.

“Soul Energy Syphoning!” he stated.

The Soulavore head started to inhale energy like a vacuum. It swallowed up the attack, negating it, and restored Celtic’s energy, making Kai growl angrily.

“Looks like you’ll be as tricky as Robert said,” she hissed.

As she said this, Skye lashed out with her naginata, forcing Kai to dodge the attack, but she still received a deep cut on her ankle, making her screech. She then fired more flames from her mouth at Skye, trying to immolate her. Celtic’s eyes narrowed dangerously.

“Not happening, lizard lips!” he stated. “Shield Wall!”

The Lizartaur Shrouds shields appeared, with one positioning itself in front of Skye. It took the dragon breath attack and managed to weather it, only getting slightly hot in the process, forcing Kai to change tactics. Suddenly, several Delgunner soldiers appeared and tried to attack her. However, when one threw his spear at her, it broke the second it struck her belly, making her unimpressed.

“Some ‘elite’ soldier you are,” she snarked.

Zuzu zipped up to her, ready to strike.

“Close Combat Combo!” she stated.

“Dragon Punch!” Kai countered.

The two started to exchange blows, their fists connecting each and every time one of them launched a punch, being considered equal in strength. This, however, still counted as a hit in Close Combat Combo, which was building up its power, thus slowly allowing Zuzu to start overpowering Kei. By the time the combo had built up enough power Zuzu managed to land a powerful punch on Kei, sending her flying into a bench, destroying it in the process. Kei, however, quickly got up, still ready to fight despite now having injuries.

“Let’s see if you can find the real me!” she said. “Doppelganger!”

She suddenly split into five copies of herself. Before Celtic could figure out which one was real he was hit repeatedly with claw strikes. This strike caused him to start bleeding in various places. Skye and Leon started to channel energy.

“Light Burst!” both said.

The fired their attacks into the sky, causing them to explode and release a lot of light. This revealed that only one Kei had a shadow, thus exposing the others as fakes. Tyroe swung his hammer at the real Kei and knocked her back, causing the Doppelgangers to vanish. Despite this blow, she managed to get right back up as if she wasn’t injured. However, it was clear she was injured, as she was bleeding in various places and had wounds on her body. This didn’t stop her as she started to breath fire again. Tyroe slithered up, his eyes narrowing.

“Stone Body!” he shouted.

His body turned to stone. This caused the flames to disperse around him, not causing any harm to the Naga while also protecting everyone behind him. This forced Kei to stop her attack and change tactics. Suddenly, a bottle of liquid was thrown at her, shattering as it made contact and drenching her in a strange substance. As it did she suddenly felt very weak and collapsed to the ground. Everyone turned to see Kainu standing, being supported by Viola, who had healed his injuries.

“There,” he said. “That’ll do the trick. That potion is one that dragons hate, as it’ll negate their abilities and leave them in a weakened state. Now’s your chance to apprehend her while she’s very weak.”

The soldiers quickly shackled her in magical bindings before dragging her off to the dungeons. Celtic walked over to Kainu, still bleeding from his injuries.

“Kainu, are you okay?” he asked.

“Your Arachne friend fixed me up,” he said.

Viola replied, “Still, you need to rest for a while, Kainu. I may have healed your injuries but that blast you took still did a lot. You’ll need time to rest and recover before you can resume your job. I suggest you get checked in at the hospital here and get some tests done, just to be sure.”

Leon started to channel energy, “Speaking of healing, let me patch you up, Cel. Restore.”

Celtic was bathed in healing energies, causing his wounds to close, making him smile.

“Thanks, Leon, that’s a big help,” he said sincerely. “Viola, you escort Kainu to the hospital so he can get checked out for good measures. The rest of us will clean up the damages Kei caused.”

Just then King Duskbane ran up to them, clearly in a panic.

“Avalar!” he called out. “Are you okay, my nephew? I heard from the Shadow Sentinels you were attacked! I got here as fast as I could! What happened?”

Rupert explained, “We were attacked by Half-Blood Kei, a famous half-dragon assassin. We’ve managed to defeat her, with Kainu incapacitating her with a special potion. She’s being carted off to the dungeons, hopefully to one of those special negation cells that he Druids made so she can’t cause any trouble. But she was the assassin hired by Robert to kill Celtic. She put up a very good fight, to say the least.”

King Duskbane looked alarmed, “Half-Blood Kei!? Considering she’s under the protection of the Dragon Emperors means we can’t execute her or anything. But you lot are lucky you survived an encounter with her, as she’s a tough nut to crack.”

Tiamat suddenly appeared from the Shroud’s core, stating, “Yes, and it’s unfortunate that Kei knows she’s under our protection, thus she can abuse it without fear of repercussions. If I could I would like to speak with Gigalyth about this, as Kei has been abusing her status as a dragon for quite some time in order to satisfy her bloodlust. Considering we Dragon Emperors will punish any dragon that violates the unspoken agreement between us and the people of this world for selfish reasons it’s surprising that Gigalyth hasn’t done something about her yet. You may have to go in my place, Duskbane, and talk to Gigalyth about Kei.”

“I will do that, Tiamat,” King Duskbane stated.

Viola then said, “We also need to get Kainu here to the hospital. He took a direct hit from Kei’s attack. While I did heal him, he should still be checked out for good measures.”

“Yes, that’s a good idea, Miss Viola. I’ll have a Shadow Sentinel escort him to the hospital so you don’t have to.”

He snapped his fingers and a male Shadow Sentinel appeared. He supported Kainu and escorted him to the hospital, leaving King Duskbane and the Shroud Hero party alone. Those who had witnessed the fight slowly emerged from their cover and started to praise the Shroud Hero party for stopping Kei.

Meanwhile, in the hidden location, Robert received word about Kei’s failure, making him curse under his breath.

“Dammit!” he spat. “It would appear that even Kei wasn’t strong and smart enough to kill the Shroud Devil. Maybe her reputation is nothing but hot air like that of a dragon’s breath. Now I have to think of a new plan. I’ll get you yet, Shroud Devil, just you wait and see!”

Next Chapter: Bronwen Strikes Back

That's all for today. Tune in next time to see what our Heroes face.
 
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Time for the next installment of Chaos Rising. (Warning: contains mild violence, mild language)

Bronwen Strikes Back


In Infinator’s prison Bronwen was working on a new project. She was mapping out information on a large world map, seemingly calculating something. Alastor and Sylph then walked into her workspace.

“Have you completed Master Infinator’s request?” Sylph asked.

Bronwen replied, “Almost. I’ve managed to map out most of the location where the dimensional walls have been weakened thanks to the Chaos Chimera, but I’m not quite finished yet. I just have a few locations left. However, I’ve also been working on a plan against the Shroud Hero on the side and that’s ready.”

Alastor quirked an eyebrow, “You’ve been working on something to attack the Shroud Hero with? Do tell.”

“Well, considering his weakness to psychological attacks, I’ve decided to bait him into a situation where we further gauge his power and weakness. Considering he stole a Mind Ring from Sylph a little while ago I want to see how effective it is on him. Alastor, this will be your job, as you can command Gengar Bats. Go and lure him and his party to any location you want for a battle and sic more Gengar Bats on him to test just how much the Mind Ring boosts his resistance to psychological attacks. If he again has a reaction to them then that means we can still use that weakness to our advantage. Also, I collected some Kill Weed seeds for you to use as well, as just using Phantom Bats and Gengar Bats won’t be enough to gauge his current strength and level of resistance. Also, make sure to ‘give’ him this.”

She held out the Karma Diamond, much to the other Demon Generals’ surprise.

“You’re going to give him the Karma Diamond?!” Sylph sputtered.

Alastor narrowed his eyes, “Wait a minute…” He took the Karma Diamond a looked it over, gaining a devious smirk, “Ohohoh, I see what this is. Very clever, Bronwen. This should pull the wool over his eyes. I’ll get to work right away.”

He bowed before picking up the sack of Kill Weed seeds and left Bronwen’s workspace area. Sylph placed a hand on her hip, smiling.

“Bronwen, my old friend, you never fail to impress me,” she said. “Hopefully this little exercise will see if
after I lost that Mind Ring we can still use the Shroud Hero’s weakness to our advantage.”

Bronwen nodded, “That’s the plan in a nutshell. This is purely to see if we can still play that card against the Shroud Hero. And if it has a lasting effect on him, then that’s even better. Besides, one needs to remember that Mind Rings aren’t an end-all, be-all counter to mental attacks. This is to see just how much the Mind Ring helps him and if we can still use that weakness to our advantage. Winning or losing the battle isn’t important, as this is merely a test. Plus, that ‘Karma Diamond’ I gave Alastor will be of further use in giving us an edge over him. Now, all we need to do is wait. Go and remain on standby, Sylph. And when Adelram and Akuji return from their errands, bring them to me so I can get more information on the strength of the dimensional walls to further conclude where we can tear open a gateway to the Demon Realm.”

Sylph nodded, “Right, I’ll get on it. They should be back soon, so I’ll let them know of your request, along with your most recent plan.”

She turned around and left Bronwen’s workspace, leaving the veteran Demon General alone. She smiled and resumed calculating where the dimensional walls between Zakota and the Demon Realm were weakened.

At the time, Celtic and his party were feeding the survivors of the Chaos Chimera rampage. Now that all the survivors had been rounded up people were a bit more relaxed. The ShadoKnights were stationed around the wooden barricade, keeping an eye out for the monsters, while another was in the watchtower. As Celtic served
what looked like chili to the hungry survivors, he couldn’t help but feel uneasy.

“The Demon Generals have been too quiet lately,” he said silently as he handed out another bowl of food. “They’re up to something, I know it. It’s only a matter of time before they pull something. Considering that they’ve been this quiet after the Chaos Chimera’s defeat is very unusual. Makes me wonder if they’ve gotten what they needed and are mapping out the next phase of their plan.”

Suddenly, a voice shouted, “Phantom Bat approaching!”

A single Phantom Bat was making its way toward the shelter. The ShadoKnights prepared to attack it, however, Celtic held out his arm.

“Wait a minute!” he stated. “Something tells me that this Phantom Bat is not here to fight.”

Zuzu nodded, “I agree. I can sense it’s here for another reason. Don’t attack it until we know what its purpose is.”

The ShadoKnights reluctantly lowered their weapons, allowing the Phantom Bat to hover before Celtic. Its eyes then gleamed and it projected a recorded image of Alastor.

“Shroud Hero!” the projection stated. “I challenge you to a battle for the Karma Diamonds. You and your party are to meet me at the abandoned Seraph Abbey in the courtyard. Don’t bring anyone else with you. Bring the Karma Diamonds you possess. I’ll bring mine as well. We’ll settle this once and for all. Be there by 1 o’clock this afternoon. Until then.”

After the Phantom Bat had delivered its “message” it screeched and flew away, leaving everyone alone, making the survivors relax more. A ShadoKnight walked up to Celtic.

“Prince Avalar, are you and your party really going to go?” he asked. “It might be a trap.”

Celtic replied, “Of course it’s a trap. It couldn’t be more obvious. But it may also give us a chance to eliminate Alastor, at least for a bit until Infinator clones him again. Even though it reeks of a trap, it may grant us an opportunity to get an advantage that we can’t pass up. Besides, I know what to expect from this, as Alastor knows my weakness. I can’t run from it so I might as well confront the darkness and face what Alastor has planned for us. It’s either we go to him or he comes to us, and I’d rather it be the former, as there has been enough destruction and devastation already. And at least this way no one will get caught in the crossfire if just my party and I go. Team, let’s get ready to move out. Even though it’s a trap, we might as well confront it and get it over with. Otherwise Alastor may just come to our front door and knock it down.”

Zuzu nodded, “Yeah, you’re right. And it may give us the chance to get rid of him, if only for a bit. We might as well jump on that opportunity to potentially eliminate a powerful enemy.”

Skye added, “Yeah, and there’s still the chance that he does have the Karma Diamond. It’s unlikely, I know, but there’s still a chance. And we know what to expect. Most likely a swarm of Phantom Bat monsters and Gengar Bats to attempt to prey upon Celtic’s weakness. Business as usual. Problem is… none of us have been to Seraph Abby, even Leon, so we can’t just use Warp to get there.”

Celtic replied, “I can use Shadow Warp to get us there. Granted, I haven’t fully perfected it yet, but the Shadow Sentinels have been tutoring me, so I’ve gotten a decent grip on it. Might as well give it a test run and see how well I do with it.”

Viola said, “It’s worth a shot. Besides Shadow Warp is the safest of all the teleportation spells, so the risks are minimal compared to something like Teleport or Flash Warp. Since it’s past noon, we might as well get ready to go.”

The redhead turned to the ShadoKnight, “You take over in feeding the survivors while we prepare for our ‘date’ with Alastor.”

“As you wish, Your Majesty,” the ShadoKnight said. “Just be careful. Both Shadoria and Wichwoode lost you once, and right now you’re everyone’s beacon of hope, be safe.”

“I will. I know what to expect. It’s not like we’re going in blind or doing something massively reckless. We’ll come back in one piece; don’t you worry.” He turned to his party, “Let’s get ready, team, as we have a playdate with Alastor.”

“Right!” the party said in unison.

After gathering up their stuff they all stood just outside of the wooden barricade. Celtic took a deep breath before he started to channel energy.

“Here goes nothing. Shadow Warp!”

He and his party vanished in black portals. They reappeared in an unfamiliar location. After taking a moment to look around Leon noticed something.

“Hey!” he said. “I see Seraph Abbey just up ahead.”

He pointed ahead of them. They could all see a massive abbey about 100 meters away. It was adorned with the crest of the Four Stars Church on the front.

“Yep, that’s the place,” Viola said.

Celtic gained a crooked smile, “Looks like my aim was off by a bit, but at least it proves that I’m slowly getting the hang of teleportation magic. And none of us are worse for the wear, so that’s a good sign. Now, let’s get going and rendezvous with Alastor.”

Nodding, the party made their way toward the abbey. As they approached they could see that it was starting to fall into disarray from the lack of use. The windows were dirty and full of cobwebs, the lawns surrounding it were overridden with weeds, and the belfry was full of what looked like bird nests. They came to the front doors, which were locked by a padlock and chain. Rupert stepped up.

“Let me handle this,” he said.

He started to pick the lock with his nail. After about a minute the padlock clicked and opened up, allowing them to remove the chains and enter the abbey. Inside was full of dust due to the lack of anyone present. It almost had a creepy vibe to it. The party proceeded until they reached the courtyard. Like the lawns around the abbey, the courtyard was overgrown and full of weeds, with field mice scampering around. Alastor was nowhere to be found.

“Looks like we’re fashionably early,” Celtic said dryly.

Tyroe looked up at the sun, stating, “Yeah, but judging by the position of the sun, he should be here soon.”

Skye nodded, “Yeah, it won’t be long now before he shows up. So, what’s the game plan, Cel?”

The redhead replied, “While I sincerely doubt that Alastor will have the Karma Diamond with him, if he does we should try to separate it from him. Rupert’s Snatch Steal might come in handy there, but we need to be certain that it’s on his person first. And since like all Shade Wings we need to take out Alastor in one hit or he’ll just regenerate. And we have to be ready for a swarm of monsters, as the Demon Generals never battle alone. Most likely Phantom Bats and Gengar Bats, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Alastor threw in a few other breeds to spice things up. We have to eliminate the monsters as quickly as possible so Alastor doesn’t get the drop on us while we’re distracted with his minions. A very straightforward plan but speed is key. Just be ready for any unexpected surprises, as Alastor might pull a fast one if given the chance.”

They all nodded and patiently awaited for Alastor to arrive. Sure enough, the sky darkened and out of the clouds emerged Alastor. As he slowly descended down to the ground, he smirked as he saw the Shroud Hero party prepare for battle.

“Well, well, well, you did come after all,” he said. “Good, very good. Time to settle this once and for all. Minions, come forth!”

Portals opened up, allowing a flock of Phantom Bats and Nightmare Bats to emerge. He then took the sack he was carrying on his back and dumped the contents, revealing them to be seeds. The seeds immediately transformed into a new monster breed upon hitting the ground. They looked just like Kill Plants, only they were about a third bigger than Kill Plants, had pale purple heads, and brown leaves.

“So, we not only have Phantom and Nightmare Bats, but also Kill Weeds!” Skye stated. “Stay frosty, people, as those Kill Weeds can be tricky!”

Leon loaded up an energy arrow, stating, “This’ll clip our enemies’ wings! Arrow Storm!”

He fired the shot into the air, causing it to vanish. Suddenly, several sparkles appeared and a storm of energy arrows rained down upon the battlefield. This AOE attack caused severe damage to the Phantom Bats, grounding several, while the Nightmare Bats managed to weather the attack a bit better. The Kill Weeds also got hit rather hard but managed to recover rather quickly. They then spat out seeds that sunk into the ground. Tyroe sensed something.

“Everyone, dodge!” he stated. “I can sense the Wood Towers those Kill Weeds are going to summon emerge in a moment!”

The party quickly jumped away from their spot, with several Wood Towers suddenly emerging where they were originally standing. Viola then started to channel energy into her scythe.

“Have a taste of my Scythe Wind Cutter!” she stated.

She launched the whirlwind of razor sharp air at the enemies. The Phantom Bats and Nightmare Bats were torn to shreds by the attack while the Kill Weeds managed to retract themselves into their bases, using their leaves as shields to endure the attack. Alastor smirked as he watched the battle.

“Time for me to get a lick in!” he stated. “Nightmare Blast!”

He launched his attack, causing Dark energy to strike the Shroud Hero party. However, the Guard Barrier Charm activated, protecting the party from any damage.

“I forgot about that little trinket of yours, Shroud Hero,” the Demon General admitted. “It certainly is useful.”

Zuzu rocketed toward Alastor and threw a Dark-enhanced punch at him. It hit him squarely in the face, sending him sprawling to the ground, dazing him. However, he managed to recover quickly and returned to an upright position.

“Not bad, Succuryn, not bad at all. But not good enough. Sonic Crush!”

He released his sonic attack. This caused several of the Seraph Abbey’s stained glass window to break while also hitting the Shroud Hero party.

“Sword Missiles!” Celtic stated.

The floating scimitar swords appeared and rocketed toward Alastor. They struck him, impaled him, and exploded, sending him onto his back again, canceling the rest of his attack, giving the party a chance to recover. Rupert and Tyroe were channeling energy.

“Stone Spears!” Tyroe stated.

“Bamboo Spears!” Rupert shouted.

Sharp rocks appeared and barreled toward Alastor and the Kill Weeds. The Kill Weeds tried to retreat into their leaves again, but several were torn apart by the Stone Spears. This defense also didn’t stop the Bamboo Spears from striking them from underneath, uprooting and killing the rest. The two attacks struck Alastor while he was trying to regain his senses, making him screech in agony. He got airborne again in order to avoid any more attacks.

“I will admit that surprised me,” he said. “But now it’s time for you to face my secret weapon. Gengar Bats, come forth!”

More portals opened up, allowing Gengar Bats to emerge. As soon as they hit the field they immediately used their ability, causing the red mist to form around the battlefield. Celtic’s piercing gold eyes looked around the mist, knowing what was coming. Sure enough, images of not only his party, but also King Duskbane and his adoptive parents appeared. They began to immediately bombard him with insults and other harsh words. He closed his eyes and grit his teeth.

“I won’t let this beat me again!” he snarled. “I know those illusions aren’t real. And I will fight back! Air Spread!”

He transformed his arm into Air Spread, positioned it, and fired the energy sphere. The sphere then burst into multiple energy shots that rained down in an area before him. This caused the red mist to vanish, revealing that the Air Spread had killed all the Gengar Bats in one shot, along with Alastor having shielded himself with his transformed left arm. Alastor’s eyes narrowed as he unshielded himself, revealing that he was holding the Karma Diamond in his right claw.

“So… it appears you’re not going to fall for that anymore, huh, Shroud Hero?” he asked. “Or maybe it just hasn’t taken hold of you just yet?”

As he was talking, Skye raced over and slashed her naginata at the Shade Wing, severing his right arm, making him screech in pain. This also caused the Karma Diamond to roll out of his severed hand and land in the middle of the battlefield. Alastor narrowed his eyes angrily.

“That naginata is made of Chaos Magnite, isn’t it? That would explain why my arm isn’t reattaching itself right away. But I won’t let you beat me! Minions, come forth!”

More portals opened up, revealing Blood Moon Bats and Calamity Bats. The bat monsters immediately charged and started to attack the Shroud Hero party, distracting them. Alastor took the opportunity to grab his right arm and manually attach it to his shoulder, causing it to heal and regenerate.

“Time for one last goodbye present! Minions, come forth!”

He summoned more portals that caused more Phantom Bats to emerge and swarm the Shroud Hero party. He then took flight and fled the battlefield, but he secretly smirked as he did. By the time the Shroud hero party had finished killing all the bat monsters Alastor was gone, but the Karma Diamond remained on the ground. Little did they know that a surviving Phantom Bat had hidden itself
nearby behind a statue, its eyes gleaming as it watched the aftermath of the battle.

“Alastor left the Karma Diamond behind,” Tyroe said. “Did it just slip his mind?”

Celtic narrowed his eyes, “I don’t think so. This seemed a bit too easy. It felt like he was testing us, just like when Sylph and Adelram attacked Delgunner not too long ago. He wouldn’t just abandon the Karma Diamond like this, especially since he had ample opportunity to grab it while we were distracted by the Phantom Bat monsters. No… this feels like the real trap.”

Zuzu nodded, “I agree. After all the trouble the Demon Generals went through to get one of the Karma Diamonds, it seems very strange that Alastor would abandon it without a second thought. That Karma Diamond might be a fake.”

Celtic slowly approached it until his stat vision identified the Karma Diamond, making him back up.

“Everyone, get behind me!” he stated.

The party hastily complied, as they knew something wasn’t right.

“Meteor Barrier!”

A barrier of light formed around the party. Celtic then transformed his arm into Cannon, gently pushed the nozzle through the barrier, took aim, and fired his attack. When it struck the Karma Diamond it exploded like a small bomb, creating a decent-sized explosion, but the barrier of light endured the attack. When the smoke cleared there was a crater where the Karma Diamond was, along with chunks of it, and several monster corpses had been burned to ash. Celtic lowered the Meteor Barrier ability and he and his party approached the now destroyed fake Karma Diamond. Skye picked up a chunk of it to examine it.

“Yeah, it’s obvious that this is no Karma Diamond,” she said. “It’s actually a Leech Crystal carved into the shape of the Karma Diamond. Leech Crystals not only drain energy, but they explode when either they’ve reached their limit or are struck with an attack. Judging by this leftover chunk, it appears that Bronwen, who is the most likely one to have concocted this plan, fed it energy so that it was already at maxed out. When it explodes it will really explode. They were probably hoping to take us out with it, or at least severely injure us, as when Leech Crystals explode they can hit with enough force similar to Kamikaze. Smart thinking to blast it from behind that Meteor Barrier, Cel.”

“My stat vision identified it,” Celtic replied. “It told me it wasn’t the Karma Diamond but a Leech Crystal, along with telling me that it was basically ready to blow. That built-in HUD screen I have as part of being a Hero really comes in handy at times. Now, let me take a sample from the Kill Weeds and that chunk of Leech Crystal for new—”

Suddenly, he fell to his hands and knees, now drenched in a cold sweat. This sudden reaction alarmed the party.

“Celtic!” Skye cried out.

They all gathered around him to check on him. As this event occurred, the hidden Phantom Bat was seemingly recording everything.

“Cel! You okay, pal?” Rupert asked.

Celtic panted, eyes wide, “The effects… of the Gengar Bats… caught up to me… I was able… to fight it off… but now that the… battle is over… it suddenly overtook me…”

Viola gave a small sigh, “Well, it appears that you’re still weak to psychological attacks, although it may now result in a delayed reaction. The good news is that this time you actually fought back. Unlike the first two times where you completely succumbed to the effects, this was a stark improvement as you not only resisted it long enough to fight back, but the effects of the Gengar Bats’ ability didn’t hit you until after the battle ended. Looks like that Mind Ring really did give you a bit more resistance to mental attacks, as you actually resisted it enough to take out the Gengar Bats yourself. That’s quite the improvement.”

Zuzu nodded, “Yes, that’s very true. Plus, he’s now more aware of the tactic and that our enemies know about it, so he was able to mentally prepare better for it. Still, regardless, that is a big step in the right direction.”

Skye knelt down to Celtic, “Cel, you will be okay, right?”

Celtic replied weakly, “Yeah… I will… just give me… a few minutes… to regain my bearings…”

After a few minutes Celtic managed to stand upright, though he looked a bit pale. After taking a few calming breaths he took a sample from the Kill Weeds and the Leech Crystal, creating two new Shroud forms. He then turned to his party.

“Well, we knew this would happen, but at least we kept possible innocents from getting in the crossfire. So, while our plan to get rid of Alastor was a bust, we still managed to minimize the damage by not getting other people involved. The damage to the abbey, however… not so much.”

Leon chuckled, “Don’t worry about it. No one really cares about this abbey anymore. Except maybe Robert. So no harm, no foul. It’s not worth fussing about. Regardless, I suggest we head back and report to King Alvin and King Duskbane to let them know we’re okay and such.”

Skye nodded, “Yeah, I agree. And let me handle the teleporting this time, Cel, as even though Shadow Warp is the safest of all teleport magic, teleport magic requires a clear mind to use without fear of botching it. And since you still look pretty rattled from the Gengar Bats’ ability it might be wise to leave this part to me.”

Celtic nodded, gaining a small smile, “Yes, that fine, Skye. Let’s go home and report back to our superiors about the battle. While we were all hoping to get rid of Alastor today, we at least kept that Leech Crystal from blowing us apart. But it was safe to say that this battle was yet another test, which means the Demon Generals may be gauging our strength and trying to find a weakness to exploit other than my weakness. Let’s go.”

Skye smiled before saying, “Warp!”

The Shroud Hero party vanished, leaving the abbey behind. The hidden Phantom Bat emerged from hiding and took off, clearly returning to its master. A little while later the Phantom Bat returned to Infinator’s prison, where Alastor was waiting for it. He held out his arm so it could perch on it.

“So, did we get the information we wanted?” he asked it.

The Phantom Bat projected the events that happened after the battle from its eyes, making the Shade Wing smirk.

“Good, very good. It appears that, even with the Mind Ring the Shroud Hero stole from Sylph a while back, he’s still rather vulnerable to psychological attacks. It’s just this time he’ll have a delayed reaction to them instead of instantly crumbling to them. That’s very useful knowledge. Though that stat vision thing the Heroes have did, unfortunately, rat out the plan to use the Leech Crystal to injure him and his party, this exercise still got us the information we needed. I’d better report to Bronwen so she can use this info for future plans.”

He traveled deeper into the cavern until he reached Bronwen’s workspace. She was still mapping out locations for possible dimensional gateways to be opened before noticing Alastor.

“Oh, Alastor,” she said. “So, what news do you bring? Was the mission successful?”

“Partly,” the Shade Wing replied. “While the Shroud Hero party did see through the fake Karma Diamond trick, we still got useful information about his weakness. See for yourself.”

Upon command the Phantom Bat projected the recording to Bronwen, making her grin.

“Excellent. While I’m a bit disappointed that they saw through the fake Karma Diamond thanks to that build-in stat vision thing the Heroes have, this proves that the Shroud Hero is still weak to psychological attacks. However, instead of succumbing to it right away, it now has a delayed reaction. While the Mind Ring he has did boost his resistance, the fact that he doesn’t seem to be aware of the fact that it only boosts the wearer’s resistance to mental attacks by 50% of their own natural resistance. Thus, given how vulnerable he is to such attacks, it means his natural resistance is low, his defenses to mental attacks has only been marginally increased even with the Mind Ring. So, the loss of the Mind Ring has had a slight impact on exploiting that weakness, it’s still a card that we can play regardless. Good work. This is valuable information that I can use to craft better plans to counter him. Go take a break for now, Alastor, as you could certainly use it. I have more work to do, so remain on standby until needed.”

Alastor bowed, “As you wish, Bronwen.”

He left the area where Bronwen had set up her workspace, allowing her to resume her work in figuring out the next step in their plans.

Next Chapter: The Heroes’ Awakening

That's it for today, folks. Tune in next time to see what happens to our Heroes.
 
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Time for the next installment of Chaos Rising.

The Heroes’ Awakening


It had been a couple of days since the Shroud Hero party fought Alastor. The Demon Generals had been quiet since then, making everyone slightly tense at the lack of activity. Celtic and his party were still working hard in taking care of survivors of the Chaos Chimera rampage.

Celtic was serving the survivors more food, this time what looked like beef stew, while the rest of his party tended to any other needs. As he handed out bowls of food to the grateful settlers, he couldn’t help but worry about what would happen next.

“The Demon Generals have been quiet since that battle with Alastor,” he said silently while handing out food. “It was clear they were testing something again, which worries me. Plus, the other Heroes still haven’t regained consciousness. I have a few choice words for them when they come to for what they did. While Bronwen is the ultimate culprit, they still played their part, and now the world hates them. It was a matter of time before something like this would happen, and now it has. Plus, Wench has still been under the radar, which makes me worried about what she’s up to. She was the perfect pawn in Bronwen’s plan, creating the disaster dominos that resulted in this catastrophe. At least she’s now a wanted criminal, so she can’t just enter a town or city brazenly, especially with Shadow Sentinels lurking around. But, despite that, she’s still something to be concerned about. If it’s not the Demon Generals causing problems it’s her. Let’s just hope this isn’t the calm before the storm again.”

Suddenly, Ike ran up to Celtic. His sudden appearance alerted the rest of the Shroud Hero party, knowing that something was up.

“Sir Shroud Hero!” the young soldier said. “The other four Heroes are starting to awaken! King Alvin requests your presence immediately.”

Celtic nodded, “I was wondering when those four despicable duncebuckets would finally come out of their nap. Thanks for informing me, Ike.” He then gestured over a ShadoKnight, “I need you to take over while I attend to business with those ‘Heroes’.”

The ShadoKnight saluted, “Yessir!”

Celtic turned to his party, “Let’s go, team, as I’ve got a few choice words for those four, and I know you all want some of that action, too.”

Skye cracked her knuckles, “It’s about time we give those four some food for thought, and I bet they’ll choke on it. Let’s go.”

Nodding, the party stopped what they were doing and followed Ike back to the capital, the survivors cheering them on, saying words of hatred toward the other Heroes and encouraging the Shroud Hero to give them what for. They soon arrived at the hospital, where King Alvin was waiting for them.

“Good, you’re here,” he said. “Good work, Lieutenant Ike. You’ve proven to be a fine addition to Delgunner’s ranks. Now, please return to your post, as I have business with Prince Avalar and his party.”

Ike saluted, “Thank you, sir, I’ll get back to work right away.”

As Ike scampered off to resume his duty, King Alvin couldn’t help but chuckle.

“He’s young but he’s got heart and moxie,” he said with a smile. “I can see why you took a shine to him, Prince Avalar. But time for that later. As Lieutenant Ike told you, the other Heroes are starting to come to their senses. I’d say it’s time to finally drive home the point that their reckless action has cost countless lives and untold destruction. I want you all to be here, as you were the ones who not only led the charge against the Chaos Chimera, but ultimately defeated it, so you have the biggest say in this event. Now, come, let’s ‘talk’ to the ‘Heroes’ about their ‘great deed’.”

Nodding, the party followed King Alvin into the hospital. After a short walk they arrived at the room where the other Heroes were being kept. They opened the door and entered, revealing that the other Heroes were now awake as the nurses tended to them. It was pretty clear to the Heroes, however, that the nurses were very cold toward them. When they saw King Alvin, Celtic, and his party, they knew what was about to happen.

“Oh… um… hey Celtic…” Eric said rather sheepishly.

Celtic replied in a calm, arctic tone, “Well, well, well. I hope you’re proud of yourselves. You did the unthinkable and released an ancient monster that was hand-crafted by Infinator and failed to even dent it, much less kill it. You’ve really done it now. Do you have any idea what the end result of that beast’s rampage was?”

“Something tells me you’re going to tell us…” Jerry replied.

“You’d be right, ‘Bow Hero’. Mass destruction. Entire settlements annihilated. Over 1,000 lives lost. Just as many lives displaced. Entire livelihoods lost. And all because you couldn’t stand the thought that your ‘expert gamer knowledge’ was failing to compete against the ‘useless Shroud’. Well guess what? Thanks to this attempt to ‘prove’ yourselves you’re now the most despised people on the continent, if not the planet. You were played for fools by Infinator’s faction and ended up helping his side instead of opposing it. And thanks to you listening to that long eared fiendess, Wench, you created a disaster of epic proportions.”

Lucas stuttered, “B-But it was all Bronwen’s fault!”

Celtic replied calmly but coldly, “While, yes, Bronwen is the root cause, as this was her plan, you still took her bait hook, line, and sinker. And what has it earned you? Completely destroyed reputations and credibility. Three parties abandoning you and another annihilated. Despised by the world as utter failures. And all because you couldn’t see that this world isn’t a game and that your so-called ‘expert gamer knowledge’ made you ignorant and oblivious at the problems you were causing. The people are demanding your heads for your role in the Chaos Chimera’s rampage. It is fortunate that your status as Heroes is what’s keeping you alive right now, otherwise it wouldn’t be strange to see you four on the execution block. Here’s another way to look at it: you are in the same position that I was back with the Light Elves; hated and seen as monstrous traitors. Only unlike me, you actually did something to deserve it.”

“W-What happened to the Chaos Chimera?” Ryan asked nervously.

“I killed it, along with saving your hides in the process.”

The other four Heroes went wide-eyed as they heard this.

“Y-You killed it!?” Eric sputtered. “How!?”

Celtic replied, “I had no choice but to pull out my ace-in-the-hole. A power so immense that I hadn’t used it since I got it. My Assault Mode form, which I have dubbed ‘Infinity X’. It allows me to draw out my true power as a Chaos breed. But I can’t use it willy-nilly. For starters, I have a time limit to how long I can use it. According to what King Duskbane has said, I have a limit of five minutes before I run the risk of self-destructing. And the reason why I haven’t tried it until now is because when I obtained it I would become a berserker. However, I had possessed it prior to getting a very vital key that would allow me to control it. Zuzu was that key, as in order to use Infinity X at full power and have control over it, I needed all seven of the Seven Deadly Sins, which I didn’t have prior to Zuzu joining the party. Thus, she was the missing element, the missing sin, I needed to gain control of my true power. I wasn’t aware of this at the time, hence why I never used it until the Chaos Chimera’s rampage. But when the fight was over King Duskbane explained it to me, allowing me to realize I had gained the missing element I needed when Zuzu joined the party. But that’s beside the point, as the Chaos Chimera is now dead and you four caused untold destruction and countless lives were lost because of your reckless stunt. You wanted to prove something? Well, you did exactly that, but not what you intended to prove.”

“So… you mean you have that kind of power?” Ryan asked. “Power enough to solo the Chaos Chimera? But… how?”

“Like I said, I’m a Chaos breed, and the power of Chaos is far greater than any other power alone. The Shroud redirects my, I guess you could say ‘true stats’, in order to better accommodate its nature. But when I use my Assault Mode form, it overrides the Shroud and releases my full strength. That’s why I can’t use my true power too often, as other than the time limit, the Shroud’s nature redirects everything, stats and all, to better fit the ‘role’ it gives me. When my Assault Mode is released, that’s no longer the case. But now we’re getting side-tracked. Back to the point at hand, you four are in some serious hot water. The people are blaming you for what you did to them, the other nations are furious with this stunt, and you have no one to turn to anymore. And I’m done cleaning up your messes. This world is real, not a game, and right now the world has turned against you. All because you couldn’t stand the fact that I was more popular and beloved than you despite the Shroud’s more defensively inclined nature. If this disaster doesn’t spell it out to you that this world is real and not one of your stupid MMOs or whatever then I don’t know what will. I had warned you since Day 1 about this but you never heeded my warning, and now it’s too late. But why am I wasting my breath on you four? You never listen, so why do I bother lecturing you anymore. You’re about to face the fallout of your actions. When that happens, don’t come crying to me.”

With that he gave them a piercing glare, turned around, and walked out of the hospital room, his party following suit, but not before they gave the four Heroes cold expressions. This departure left them in the room with King Alvin, who was glaring at them.

“Avalar is correct, you know,” he said coldly. “You four are about to face the consequences of your actions. While you are Heroes, thus you’re exempt from the death penalty, you are NOT above the law. You four are under arrest for your role in the Chaos Chimera’s release and rampage.”

He clapped his hands, which caused some Delgunner knights to enter the room. The four Heroes quickly scrambled to their feet in fear. The knights started to approach the now panicking Heroes, ready to arrest them. The Heroes, in their panic, slammed their palms on the ground, releasing, to everyone’s shock, Wrath Fire. This forced the knights back and made King Alvin fall to the ground in shock. He then started to channel energy.

“Reflect!” he stated.

He and his knights were encased in barriers. This defense allowed the knights to enter the cursed flames and continue their attempt to arrest the Heroes. In their alarm the Heroes ran toward the large bay window, jumped through it, shattering it, and suddenly vanished in bursts of light. The commotion caused Celtic and his party to quickly return, clearly surprised that something had happened.

“What happened?!” Leon sputtered.

King Alvin struggled to get up as he said, “The Heroes escaped. They also now have Wrath Fire under their belts, which helped them get away. They also somehow teleported as soon as they jumped from the window. Now who knows where they’ve gone.”

Viola helped King Alvin to his feet, saying, “So those four brainless lemmings not only escaped but have Wrath Fire at their disposal? This just keeps getting better and better.”

Rupert added, “Yeah. Not to mention that Wrath Fire is Demon magic. Unlike demons, who are immune to the side-effects of it, sans the obvious Chaos Blood Curse, humans like them will be extremely vulnerable to it. Wrath Fire alone has several detrimental side effects if overused, which could make them even more unstable and dangerous.”

Zuzu placed a hand on her hip, “It gets worse than just that. Now that they have Wrath Fire, the door to learn other Demon magic is open to them. Wrath Fire is the backbone of all Demon magic. You need to learn it before you can pick up any other techniques of that category, such as Frigid Hellfire or even Chaos Blood Curse. On top of that, Wrath Fire alone is equal in strength to a Level 4 spell in regular magic, so they now have a pretty nasty surprise weapon at their disposal. And given the fact that they may be in a panic at being wanted criminals, they will probably use Wrath Fire rather liberally, which will cause those side effects you mentioned to take hold on them and make it even worse. Once again those four braindead baboons have created another mess for us to clean up. Some things never change.”

King Alvin managed to become upright with Viola’s help before saying, “Yes, that’s very true, Miss Zuzu. You of all people would understand that. But now we have to find them before they cause any additional problems.”

Tyroe asked, “Can’t we just track them with the tracking devices King Duskbane’s Shadokor put on them?”

A voice then said, “Unfortunately, no, as those are no longer an option.”

Everyone turned to see King Duskbane enter the room.

“Your Majesty!” Skye said.

“What do you mean?” Leon asked.

King Duskbane gave a heavy sigh, “When those four were captured and turned into living batteries, the tracking devices were destroyed in the process, thus we can no longer track them that way. While the Legendary Gear do possess a beacon signal that can be tracked, we just learned that the Chaos Chimera’s rampage had one more effect that prevents us from using even that. The natural energy flow of Zakota has been disrupted, causing it to become erratic. This, in turn, unintentionally jams the built-in tracking signal that the Legendary Gear possess. Well, not quite jams it but rather disrupts it, thus making it extremely hard to detect. You’d have to be practically on top of them in order to track it now, at least until the energy waves stabilize. So, unfortunately, we can’t simply track them with either method. No, we have to do this the old fashioned way. King Alvin, I suggest we put out warrants for their arrest so that way the general public will be aware of their escape and will keep an eye out for them. But, more importantly, are you okay, my friend? You didn’t get hurt, did you?”

King Alvin replied, “I’ll be fine. While falling in shock did throw out my back, Miss Viola tended to it, so I’m not in pain or anything. And I agree with your plan. I’ll send out warrants for the Heroes’ arrest so that the general public will be ready to help. I suggest you do the same, my old friend.”

“Oh, believe me, I will. I’ll also tell the other nations and nobilities to do the same so we can pool our options and abilities together. This’ll be bit of a hunt but we’ll eventually find them, as there’s only so many places in the world they can go now that they’re wanted pariahs. I’ll get to work on that. Avalar…” he turned to Celtic, “We’re counting on you to find a way to reel those four in when we locate them. You tend to have really good ideas, so maybe you can figure out a strategy to get them back here when we manage to track them down.”

Celtic replied, “I’ll see what I can do. I do already have an idea that might help, but it’ll take some time before I can properly execute it, so until then I’ll just remain on standby and continue my job. I’ll leave tracking the Heroes down to you and the Shadow Sentinels for now. When the other Heroes have been spotted let me know and I’ll see what I can do.”

“Thank you, Avalar. The fact that you may already have an idea on how to lasso in those four is promising. We’re counting on you, my dear nephew. Your parents would be so proud of you to see what a fine, brilliant young man you’ve become. They’d be overflowing with joy to know that their son has become a beacon of hope for everyone.”

Celtic hesitated before asking, “…Which ones?”

King Duskbane’s eyes widened before he said warmly, “Both sets. Now, enough of this, time for work. I’ll see you in a bit, my dear nephew.”

King Duskbane turned around and left the room to perform his duty. Celtic felt a sense of content at the demon king’s words before gesturing to his party to follow him and resume their work. They all knew that the next mission could determine the fate of the Heroes.

Next Chapter: The Lost Heroes

That's all for now. What will happen to the Heroes next? Tune in to find out.
 
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Time for the next installment of Chaos Rising.

The Lost Heroes


It had been a day since the other four Heroes had awakened and fled. Celtic was standing on one of the castle balconies, looking over Delgunner’s capital. His eyes were intense, his arms crossed, and his Shroud was gently bellowing in the wind.

“It’s only been a day since those four loose cannons escaped,” he said silently. “Warrants for their arrest have been issued by the kingdoms, both large and small, in hopes of finding the Heroes before they cause any more problems. But the people are now very tense as it means that as a result of their escape they could cause even more trouble in their current mental state. We have to locate them before they either cause a ruckus or someone like Wench gets her claws on them.”

A voice then said, “Sir Shroud Hero!”

Celtic turned to see Ike run up to him. The redhead felt a sense of dread as the young soldier became level with him.

“Don’t tell me, let me guess,” he sighed. “The Heroes are causing trouble already?”

Ike replied, “No, well, not yet anyway. But King Alvin just learned something that may complicate matters in the search. Some of the smaller kingdoms littered about have placed bounties on the Heroes’ heads. This could mean trouble.”

Celtic nodded, “Yes, I agree. More unsavory and/or opportunistic individuals may try to hunt the Heroes down for a tidy profit, not realizing the Heroes now have a nasty surprise under their belts. That could cause quite the problem. And I take it those bounties are quite high, right?”

Ike nodded, “Yes, you’re correct. King Alvin is trying to convince the smaller kingdoms that put out those bounties to withdraw them for the very reasons you stated but, unfortunately, those kingdoms are not in Delgunner’s territory, thus he doesn’t have enough authority to order their withdrawal. Only people like Queen Rease or King Saix can, as some of those bounties are in their territories. And while Queen Rease is reasonable, she’s pretty livid about the Chaos Chimera incident, thus she might not be too keen on ordering the smaller kingdoms to withdraw those bounties, as she’s got a bone to pick with the Heroes herself. This is despite knowing that the Heroes now have Wrath Fire as a surprise weapon, which would normally be a deterrent for most, even the stubborn Druids. It’s only a matter of time before more opportunistic people try to hunt down the Heroes in a vain attempt to get a sizable bounty.”

The redhead sighed, “I was afraid of that. This just gets better and better. Is that all the news reported recently or is there more?”

“No, that’s all for now.”

“I see. Looks like we’ll have to increase our efforts in hunting those four down before those looking for some fast cash try to take on the other Heroes. Even though those four are only marginally stronger than the basic adventurer, they still have the Legendary Gear and their powers, thus all that raw power tips things into their favor, if only a bit. Attempts to apprehend the Heroes could easily backfire if people like bandits or whatnot try to, effectively biting off more than they can chew. Thank you for telling me this, Ike. I’ll see what I can do in order to reel in those four before anything else happens.”

Ike saluted, “Yessir. And good luck. I’ll get back to work.”

As Ike scurried off, Skye walked up to Celtic, flashing him a warm smile.

“Hey, Cel, so you now know the situation, huh?” she said.

“Yeah, that those four now have bounties on their heads,” Celtic replied. “That will only cause more problems in the long-run and will hamper our attempts to get those four back here safely.”

Skye nodded, “Yeah, and that’s unfortunate. It already complicates matters and it’ll only get worse. We have to find those four before less savory people get a face full of Wrath Fire in a vain attempt to get fast gold. Any ideas?”

“I have a plan but it’ll take some time to properly execute it, as I need a certain element on-hand before I can put it into play. And I need those four to be either located by the Shadow Sentinels or make a move that’ll put them out into the open for us to track. So, there are a fair few elements I need to fall into place before I can put my plan into motion.”

“I see. At least you have a plan already worked out, so that’s encouraging. So, I guess all we can do is wait until we got some form of confirmation on the Heroes’ whereabouts. I just hope the Demon Generals don’t pull anything while we’re dealing with this problem.”

Celtic nodded, “Yeah. The fact that they’ve been so quiet ever since that battle at Seraph Abbey concerns me. It would be just like them to do something to further complicate matters right now. It’s only a matter of time before they dogpile onto the situation with the missing Heroes and cause us more issues. We can only hope that we resolve things before then.”

The two of them resumed looking out over Delgunner’s capital city, contemplating about the current situation and awaiting any other news.

Meanwhile, in an unknown location far away, someone was quietly slinking through the underbrush. It was revealed to be Ryan, who was panting heavily as if he had been running away from something. He took a moment to stop and catch his breath. Suddenly, he heard noise and hid himself behind some thick bushes. A small group of adventurers emerged from the direction he had been coming from. Ryan made sure to lay low as the group looked around.

“Any sign of the Sword Hero?” one asked.

“No,” another said. “Blast, he may have gotten away. There goes our big paycheck.”

“Keep looking, he couldn’t have gone far,” a third said. “Let’s try over by the lake nearby.”

“Good idea.”

The group of adventurers started to head in another direction. Ryan waited until they were out of sight before slowly scurrying away in the opposite direction. After he felt he had put enough distance between himself and the adventurers, he took a moment to sit and rest.

“Whew…” he panted. “I lost them… at least for now… Why is there a bounty on my head? Did King Alvin do that? …No, as I’m not in Delgunner anymore, so it couldn’t be his doing. To be honest, I don’t know where I am right now after escaping the hospital. I… I almost wish Celtic would find me and help me… But I can’t make myself known right now… not until I find a safer location… And… Celtic is probably furious with us right now… Dammit… why did I listen to Lucas and the others? Now look at my current situation. On the run while being hunted down like a criminal with a bounty on my head. This… reminds me of what happened before I got summoned here. When I got tangled up in that murder case and was stabbed by the serial killer in an attempt to save my friend. I don’t remember what happened after but I’m willing to bet that I died before I got summoned here. Which means Zakota saved me from the abyss of death if that’s the case. Makes me feel pretty ungrateful, especially after all the problems I caused. Celtic was right… he’s always been right… and now I’m in a desperate situation after my role in the Chaos Chimera rampage. I can’t linger around, though, I have to keep moving, so those adventurers don’t find me.”

Taking a deep breath Ryan steeled his nerves and quickly ran from his location in hopes of finding a safer spot.

It was the following day. Celtic and his party were talking to a Shadow Sentinel, who appeared to be reporting something to them.

“I see,” Celtic said. “So Ryan was briefly spotted by adventurers in the Palo Woods near the Palo Kingdom inside Wichwoode’s territory? Is it one of the smaller kingdoms that has a bounty on his head?”

The Shadow Sentinel nodded, “Yes, unfortunately. That’s why the adventurers were after him. From what our sources indicate, he didn’t use Wrath Fire or anything like that to defend himself, as he merely ran instead. That means he may not have used Wrath Fire since obtaining it, thus he might not be afflicted with one of its side effects yet, or at least the side effect isn’t bad enough for him to notice.”

Leon asked, “What about the other Heroes? Have Lucas, Eric, or Jerry been spotted yet?”

“No, unfortunately, they haven’t.”

“And what about Wench?” Viola asked.

“She’s still with Marvin, that much we know,” the Shadow Sentinel replied. “While there was at least one sighting of her by a traveling merchant recently, we haven’t been able to track her down since then.”

Celtic nodded, “I see. Thank you for keeping us updated. We’ll see what we can do. At least we had a sighting of one of the Heroes, which does give us one lead. Let’s just hope we can track them down before someone else gets their mitts on them. Please, resume your search.”

The Shadow Sentinel bowed, “At once, Your Majesty.”

After the Shadow Sentinel vanished Zuzu turned to Celtic.

“So… what’s the game plan, Celtic?” she asked.

“Now that we have a sighting it’s time for me to put my plan into motion,” the redhead said. “However, I need to find one thing first before we pursue after Ryan.”

“And that would be?” Rupert asked.

“A Spiria.”

Skye quirked an eyebrow, “A Spiria? Why?” It then dawned on her, “Oh, wait, I see what your plan is! You’re going to track down a Spiria to use as a secret test of character in order to see if the other Heroes are willing to make amends for their failures. Since Spiria can sense things on a level that even the Druids can’t they’d be a good method to test if the Heroes will be willing to turn their lives around and become actual Heroes that Zakota can respect.”

Celtic chuckled, “On the head, Skye. It’s bit of a long-shot, but better a long-shot than no shot at all. I’ll have a wild Spiria bond with me temporarily so I can use it to test Ryan’s resolve and willingness to change for the better. So, that means I need to find a wild Spiria first before we can track him down and use it to test him.”

Leon smiled, “That’s actually a rather brilliant idea. And if the Spiria bonds with them willingly it’ll prove that the other Heroes are deserving of one last chance. Smart thinking. So, I guess our next mission is to track down a Spiria to use as a test for Ryan.”

Tyroe nodded, “Yeah, sounds simple enough. Any ideas on where to look for one, Cel?”

Celtic replied, “I was thinking we should start with Crescent Moon Forest, as we’ve found at least a few Spiria there. We should get going and track one down before we lose Ryan’s trail. Skye, would you mind using Warp to take us there?”

The Light Elf smiled, “No problem, loverboy. Warp!”

The Shroud Hero party vanished from Delgunner’s capital. They then reappeared at Crescent Moon Forest.

“Okay, we’re here,” Skye said. “Now, let’s get going and see if we can track down a Spiria.”

Nodding, the party started their search in Crescent Moon Forest for a Spiria. They encountered a fair few monsters while searching, mostly Bite Porcupines, Jack Rabbicorns, Shrooms, and Egg Soldiers. After an hour of searching they came to a clearing within the forest. They then heard what sounded like a light whistling. Rupert was the first to spot something.

“Hey, check it out!” he said. “There’s a Spiria napping on that tree stump over to our left.”

Everyone turned to see where Rupert was pointing. Sure enough, there was a Spiria sleeping on top of a tree stump. This Spiria was light green in color with a fairly lanky body, a brown underbelly, short legs ending in leaf-shaped feet, a tail that looked like a small Christmas tree, a leaf-like “cape” on its back, a crescent-shaped head with a branch-like crest. Celtic gingerly approached it, hoping not to spook it. The Spiria sensed him and opened its eyes, revealing them to be purple. It looked up at him with curious eyes.

“Sorry to disturb you, little Spiria,” Celtic said gently. “But I was hoping to ask you for a favor.”

The Spiria tilted its head in confusion before speaking in its language.

“Yes, I can understand you, as I have a few Spiria myself. However, I was wondering if you’d help me and my party with something. You see, there is a person I need you to act as a test for. He’s currently in trouble and I need to track him down before someone else does. He’s initially been unworthy of Spiria but I feel that he’s ready now, but I need you to be the one to test him. He has his faults, but he’s a decent person deep down. Would you please bond with me temporarily so I can borrow your excellent judgment to see if he’s worthy of redemption?”

The Spiria took a moment to think about it before nodding in agreement, clearly curious about the whole situation. It then turned into a sphere of energy and fused with Celtic, allowing him to see its name and abilities.

He turned to his party, “Okay, we found a Spiria to test Ryan with. Now, we have to track him down. Let’s get going and see if we can find him before any other opportunistic people try to confront him. I’ll use Shadow Warp to get us to Palo Kingdom where Ryan was spotted last. Are you all ready?”

Skye nodded, “We’re ready to go, loverboy.”

“Okay, here goes nothing. Shadow Warp!”

The party vanished from Crescent Moon Forest in black portals, taking the Spiria they found with them. They then reappeared in the outskirts of a forest.

Viola nodded, “Yep, this is Palo Woods. Looks like your aim is getting better, Cel.”

Tyroe turned to him, “Hey, maybe you can detect the Legendary Sword’s tracking signal from here.”

Celtic replied, “I’ll try. Let’s see…”

He started to concentrate, causing his Shroud’s core to glow. After a few moments he opened his eyes again, though the Shroud’s core was still glowing faintly.

“I think I picked up his scent, so to speak,” he said. “The Shroud’s core will guide us to him, as it’ll flash and become brighter as we get closer to him. Let’s go and see if we can find Ryan before someone else does.”

Nodding in agreement, the Shroud Hero party ventured into the woods, being guided by the Shroud’s core in hopes of finding Ryan before it was too late.

Next Chapter: Rescuing Ryan

That's it for now. Tune in next time to see what happens to Ryan. Will Celtic get to him in time?
 
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Time for the next chapter of Chaos Rising. (Warning: contains mild violence)

Rescuing Ryan


Celtic and his party were wandering the Palo Woods in search of Ryan. The Shroud’s core was glowing and flickering dimly, indicating that while they were heading in the right direction they had a ways to go. As they continued their trek into the unfamiliar woods, they kept their eyes and ears open for any threats.

“Stay frosty, team,” Celtic said. “We’re in unknown territory, thus we don’t know what types of monsters we’ll face. Plus, we have to be on the lookout for any adventurers trying to cash in on Ryan’s bounty. So, keep your eyes and ears open.”

Skye said, “I can at least tell you what types of monsters can be found in these woods, Cel. Ones such as Bronze Boars, Green Ballooners, Peter Rabbicorns, Sword Wasps, Green Orcs, Green Volcores, and Brutal Porcupines. Though I wouldn’t be surprised if we found a few Wrath Iron Maidens, too, given the fact that they have no set environment right now, thus they tend to appear pretty much anywhere. But that’s the general gist of what types of monsters live in the Palo Woods.”

Celtic nodded, “Thanks, Skye, I appreciate that. At least we know what we’re up against in this area. And if we happen to find a Bronze Boar before nightfall it would make a good dinner, as I doubt this’ll be a one day deal.”

Rupert gained a confused look, “Don’t we have a lot of Bronze Boar, or at least Metal Boar, meat already? Not that I’m complaining, as I like Metal Boar meat, but I’m just asking if we still have a lot from our previous adventures.”

“I sold a fair bit to the various butchers in Delgunner’s capital for some cash, as we needed the money for supplies in order to help with the Chaos Chimera relief efforts. So, we don’t have a huge amount of Metal Boar meat anymore. We still have a fair bit, but not as much as before since we weren’t going on many adventures until the Chaos Chimera rampage. So, getting some fresh Bronze Boar meat wouldn’t hurt. But time for that later, as we have to find Ryan before he ends up on the business end of a bounty hunter or something.”

Nodding in agreement, the party resumed their trek to locate Ryan. However, not long after their conversation they were attacked by monsters. A pack of porcupine monsters appeared from the underbrush and lunged at them. However, the Guard Barrier Charm activated and blocked their attack, allowing Tyroe to swat them with his tail.

“I take it these are Brutal Porcupines?” Celtic asked, transforming his arm into Fighter Sword.

“Yep,” Viola replied, drawing her scythe. “And they’re the nastiest of the Prickle Porcupine family, so be alert.”

The Brutal Porcupines were larger than their fellow Prickle Porcupine monsters, with jet black bodies, dark purple quills, piercing red eyes, and a mouth full of sharp teeth. They hissed threateningly at the Shroud Hero party before charging again. Leon was already channeling energy.

“Aura!” he shouted.

Protective auras formed around the party. The Brutal Porcupines tried to bite through the auras but were deflected by it. This gave everyone an opening. Zuzu enlarged one of her hands into a giant Dark energy claw and used it to crush the skull of one of the Brutal Porcupines, killing it instantly. Skye slashed at another one with her naginata, easily bisecting it. Rupert slammed both his claw weapons down on the third one, slashing it to ribbons. Tyroe then slammed his hammer down on the fourth one, instantly flattening it. Viola slashed her scythe at the last one, severing its head, ultimately ending the fight. The end of the battle caused the Aura spell to end. Celtic took a moment to absorb a chunk of the Brutal Porcupine, gaining a new Shroud form.

“Okay, now that that distraction is over with, let’s keep going,” he said.

The party continued their trek to find Ryan, following the Shroud’s core in hopes of finding the Sword Hero soon. Along the way they were attacked by some Bronze Boars and Green Ballooners, which were easily dispatched, with the Bronze Boars cleaned before being scanned and digitized by the Tek-Pak for later. After a while it was starting to get dark, so the party set up camp for the night near a small river. Celtic started to cook one of the newly obtained Bronze Boars for their dinner while the rest of the party eagerly awaited the meal. After a bit he took a sample from the skillet, ate it, and then turned to the party.

“Okay, the Roasted Boar with Drizzle Onion and Mountaintop Potatoes is ready,” he said. “Gather up.”

Tyroe smiled, “No need to tell us twice, pal!”

The party gathered around as Celtic handed out plates of food to each of them. They eagerly dug into the food, clearly happy about its quality. After a second helping for each the food was gone. Rupert and Tyroe then washed the dishes before everyone turned in for the night, with Celtic taking the first night watch. As he looked up at the two moons he couldn’t help but worry about Ryan.

“Hang tight, Ryan,” he said silently. “We may not be friends but I care enough that I want you to be safe. Avoid any unnecessary encounters and watch your back. We’re coming for you, so stay safe.”

The next day the Shroud Hero party continued to look for Ryan. The Shroud’s core was still blinking faintly, indicating they were still fairly far away from Ryan. Suddenly, as the party entered a clearing, they saw four adventurers in bad shape, nursing fresh burns and wounds. The party quickly ran up to them, already having an idea of what transpired.

“What happened?” Skye asked.

One adventurer replied, “We were trying to capture the Sword Hero but he used some strange magic that released black flames at us before getting away. Now, our bodies feel heavy and scorched.”

Celtic said, “What you lot experienced was a spell called Wrath Fire, a form of Demon magic. What you’re feeling is the Curse status ailment it can inflict on the target. Unfortunately, lifting a curse that came from Demon magic is much harder than regular Curses. You’ll need high-grade Holy Water for that, which can only be found at Five Star Churches. Leon, who is a Templar Knight, can lift some of it, but you’ll need Holy Water in order to lift it completely.”

Another adventurer replied, “So that was Wrath Fire? Man, it hurts as hard as they say it does. Demon magic packs a punch, to say the least. So, I guess we’ll have to hold off on hunting down the Sword Hero and get these Curse burns removed first.”

Leon nodded, “Yes, you’ll have to tend to those as quickly as possible, as Demon magic-type curse wounds are much harder to treat. Like Celtic said, I can treat your wounds to a degree, but you’ll need high-grade Holy Water to really make any progress in removing them. Now… let me get to work.”

He went from one adventurer to the other, casting Curse Breaker on them. This lifted the Curse to a degree, which also soothed some of the burns, but it was clear to the adventurers that they needed to be properly treated in order to be fully rid of the damage.

One said, “Guess we’ll have to go after the Sword Hero after we get treated. Julia, use Warp to get us back to our kingdom so we can head for a Five Stars Church to buy Holy Water.”

Julia, who was the only girl in the group, nodded, “On it. Warp!”

The adventurers vanished, leaving the Shroud Hero party behind.

“Well, at least we know we’re heading in the right direction,” Viola said.

“Yeah, and at least we lost some ‘competition’ in the hunt for Ryan, too,” Rupert added. “That way we can track him down easier with at least one faction out of commission for now.”

Zuzu nodded, “Agreed, so we should stop talking and keep walking before someone else shows up. Plus, Ryan used Wrath Fire out of desperation, which means the roulette-like nature of the side effects it can cause will start building up in him. At best, he can hope for a self-inflicted Curse, but because Wrath Fire is the backbone of all Demon magic it has a bevy of negative effects it can inflicts the wielders if they’re not a demon. While some are subtle, others are a bit more pronounced. He’ll eventually start feeling the side effect, so we’d better find him before he uses Wrath Fire anymore.”

Celtic nodded, “Zuzu’s right. Let’s hurry and see if we can catch up to Ryan. The Shroud’s core is indicating that he’s toward the north of us, so let’s go.”

Leon pondered for a moment before saying, “North from here? That’s not far from where the battle with the Chaos Chimera took place. I’ve got a hunch that he could be unintentionally heading back to where his party was annihilated. Let’s keep that in mind as we continue chasing after him, since he might be subconsciously being directed back to their graves, so to speak.”

Skye nodded, “Yeah, good point, Leon. The subconscious is an amazing thing. But enough chat, let’s go.”

Nodding, the party continued their trek after Ryan. However, not long after were they attacked by some monsters. The bodies of these monsters were mostly composed of what looked like large metal jaws, with flaming green energy short limbs, and a small head on top with glowing yellow eyes. The party got into a defensive position.

“Those are Green Volcores,” Viola stated. “Be careful, as they can be surprisingly tricky.”

The Green Volcores opened up their mouths, revealing more green energy, and released a burst of light. Tyroe then sensed something.

“Everyone, dodge!” he stated. “Those Green Volcores are about to summon Wood Towers!”

The party quickly scattered just moments before several Wood Towers emerged right where they were standing originally. Celtic and Rupert exchanged nods.

“Time to fight wood with wood!” the redhead stated.

“Wood Tower!” both he and Rupert said, slamming their palms down.

The Green Volcores were struck by the party’s Wood Towers, making them give off a metallic screech in agony, though it didn’t kill them.

Skye slammed her palm on the ground, “Flame Tower!”

A pillar of fire erupted and barreled toward the Green Volcores who were still stuck on the Wood Towers. About half of them managed to dodge the attack at the last second but several were killed by the powerful Fire energy, leaving behind charred metal bodies. Tyroe started to channel energy.

“Stone Spears!” he shouted.

Jagged stones appeared and barreled toward the remaining Green Volcores. Before they could react the attack shred their bodies to bits, ending the battle. Celtic walked over and absorbed one of the charred bodies of the Green Volcores into his Shroud, gaining a new Shroud power.

“Okay, now that that’s settled, let’s keep moving,” he said.

Nodding, the party continued onward, hoping to find Ryan soon. Meanwhile, a fair distance ahead, Ryan was cornered by a group of nasty-looking bandits.

One chuckled, “We’ve got you now, Sword Hero. We may be wanted like you, but your bounty is bigger than ours combined. And considering that you’re a wanted pariah right now, I’m certain that King Douglas won’t mind if we walk away free while you get hauled into his dungeons. Nothing personal.”

Ryan transformed his Sword, clearly anxious, “We’ll see about that! Chain Catcher!”

He swung his Sword, causing chains to erupt from it and ensnare the bandits, completely immobilizing them. This action surprised the bandits, as now they were helpless. Ryan placed his Sword on his back and started to run.

“Let’s see you get out of that!” he shouted as he ran. “I won’t be your golden goose! Hopefully you’ll enjoy the monsters around here, as I bet they won’t mind an easy meal!”

That statement alarmed the bandits, as they now realized they were completely helpless to any monsters. They tried to break free but it only resulted in them falling on their faces, trapped and defenseless.

One bandit said nervously, “Well… that didn’t quite go as planned, huh, boss…”

“Shut up!” the leader spat.

Ryan continued to run, clearly trying to put as much distance between him and any possible threats. However, he felt rather odd.

“Why does my body feel heavy?” he panted. “It’s like gravity is stronger wherever I stand. Why?”

He then gained an idea. He opened up his status menu and looked at his stats. Sure enough, he saw the problem listed on his stats.

“How did I get a Curse status ailment on myself? I haven’t been hit by a Curse-based attack or anything, so how did I get Cursed? But at least it explains why my body feel so heavy, because the Curse is hampering my abilities. But… how do I lift it? Wait! Do I have an Energy Root on-hand? That cures all status ailments.”

He started to fumble around his body, trying to see if he had any items on-hand. He then realized something.

“Wait! I can just check my Sword’s inventory and see if I got an Energy Root from a monster drop. I haven’t check it in a while so maybe I have one in there. Let’s see…”

He activated his Sword’s main menu and tapped the inventory icon, causing the large item list to appear. He quickly scanned it before smiling.

“Yes! I knew it! I have an Energy Root from a monster drop. That’ll do the trick. Now… how do I eject it again…? Oh right, I remember.”

He tapped the icon, selected the number of Energy Roots he wanted, and the Sword ejected the thick plant root from its core. He held it in his hand for a moment, clearly hesitating before stuffing it into his mouth. As he chewed it, he cringed at how bitter it was but managed to swallow it down. He trembled a bit in disgust before his body gave of some sparkles. Checking his status screen again he saw that the Curse status ailment had been lifted, making him sigh in relief.

“Whew…” he sighed. “That’s better. The Curse has been lifted. But… how did I get a Curse in the first place? I don’t remember getting hit by any sort of attack that would inflict a Curse. So… why?” He shook his head, “Time for that later. I need to keep moving so I don’t get caught. I just hope I can find some shelter so I can rest for a bit.”

He continued running, heading in his chosen direction, not knowing that Celtic and his party were following after him in the distance. It wasn’t long before Celtic and his party stumbled upon the bandits. The bandits looked relieved to see another person.

“Oh, thank the Gods!” the leader said. “Can you help a guy out? Please? Before any monsters make a meal out of us.”

Celtic’s eyes narrowed, “Those are Chain Catcher chains, which means you had a run-in with Ryan, the Sword Hero. That means he’s not far off.”

One bandit sputtered, “H-Hey, can you release us before you do anything else?”

Skye growled, “We have no obligation to do such a thing. You’re the bandit group Skull Arcobaleno Gang. You’ve got bounties on your heads for a number of incidents. Something tells me you were after Ryan to turn him in so you can go free in exchange, along with gaining the sizable bounty he has on his head. You have two options right now. You either tell us where Ryan went and we’ll let you live or we’ll leave you here to be eaten by monsters. What will it be, boys?”

The Shroud Hero party drew their weapons, gaining threatening expressions, ready to kill, making the bandits cower.

“O-Okay, okay!” the leader sputtered. “He went north from here! Just spare us!”

Celtic gained a devious grin as he pulled out a flute, “Fine, we’ll let you live, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to let you roam free.”

He started to play the flute but no sound could be heard from it, causing everyone to become confused.

“Uh… your flute doesn’t work…” one bandit said.

“You’re not supposed to hear anything. That’s because it emits a sound on a frequency that only one race can hear, no matter how far,” Celtic grinned. “It’s a Shadow Caller Flute that King Duskbane gave me. It can summon Shadokor to wherever the flute is being played, even if it’s across dimensions. King Duskbane gave it to me in order to ensure that he and my fellow Shadokor can come to my aid. Now, just wait.”

A minute later several Shadow Sentinels appeared, surprising everyone.

“You summoned us, Your Majesty?” one asked.

Celtic gained a dark grin, “Yes, I did. Apprehend this group of bandits and take them back to Delgunner. Tell King Alvin that my party and I caught them while looking for Ryan and we would like their bounty when we get back. I’m certain that King Alvin will… treat them well.”

The Shadow Sentinel all bowed, stating, “At once, Your Highness!”

They grabbed the bandits, who were struggling and begging for mercy before vanishing in black portals. Zuzu couldn’t help but chuckle darkly.

“That was pretty smooth, Celtic,” she said with a grin. “Not only did we get the info we wanted, but we’ll be obtaining a nice bonus paycheck when we return to Delgunner. That was true to demon form.”

Celtic placed the Shadow Caller Flute back in his Tek-Pak, chuckling, “Yes, it was. A bit devious but I wasn’t about to let some infamous gang of bandits roam free. Especially since they could get in our way. So, I simply cut the Gordian Knot and made sure that we’d have a clear path to Ryan. Now, let’s move, as Ryan can’t be much further ahead.”

Nodding, the party continued north in pursuit of Ryan. They knew that they were getting closer to their goal, as it was only a matter of time.

Next Chapter: Reforging Ryan’s Soul

That's all for now. Tune in next time to see what happens to Ryan.
 
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Time for the next chapter of Chaos Rising. (Warning: contains mild violence)

Reforging Ryan’s Soul


The Shroud Hero party were continuing their quest to find Ryan before he got into any more trouble. The Shroud’s core was blinking a bit brighter, indicating that they were starting to get close to his location. As they traveled, they started to notice that the area was becoming a bit more familiar to them.

Skye looked around, “Yeah, there’s no mistaking it, we’re heading in the direction where the Chaos Chimera rampage took place. You can see some of the damage the Chaos Chimera caused in the surrounding area. Which means Ryan may be unintentionally heading back to where his party met their unfortunate ends.”

Viola added, “If so, then I wouldn’t be surprised if Ryan becomes more unstable, as the memory of his party could trigger a lot of emotions. And given the fact that he tends to bottle up his emotions in order to maintain his cool persona, he’ll have a lot of excess emotions just ready to burst. So we best be careful and tread lightly, as he could get pretty upset.”

Celtic nodded, “Agreed. And I’ve got Shadow Negation ready in order to cut him off from Wrath Fire if he uses it out of desperation. So, stay alert and be ready to avoid any incoming attacks from him if he’s suffering from a whirlwind of emotions. But let’s keep moving and hope we can catch up to him before anything else happens.”

Nodding, the party continued their trek, knowing that Ryan wasn’t far ahead.

Meanwhile, Ryan had stopped to take a short break. He had plucked a Mind Apple from a nearby tree and started to eat it, trying to soothe his frazzled nerves.

As he ate he said silently, “This area feels familiar. Is it possible that… this is the same area where the Chaos Chimera rampaged?” His eyes widened in surprise, “Wait! Does that mean my party’s graves are nearby? Have I been subconsciously heading in that direction this whole time? Then… maybe it’s time I pay them a visit… and apologize to them for my failure.”

He finished his Mind Apple before heading in the direction his instincts were telling him to go. As he did, his soul felt heavy and his heart started to hurt but he pressed onward, hoping that he could find some reprieve at his party’s graves. Little did he know that Celtic and his party were getting closer to him.

A short time later Celtic and his party arrived at where Ryan had taken his short rest. Tyroe then noticed the core of the Mind Apple. He picked it up and flicked his forked tongue out to taste the air around it.

“Yeah, we’re getting close,” he said. “This Mind Apple core is only a few minutes old. And it smells like Ryan. He’s not far from here.”

Celtic looked at his Shroud’s core, stating, “Yeah, and the Shroud’s core confirms that Ryan is just ahead of us by a little bit, as it’s blinking a bit more rapidly. Looks like Ryan is heading in the very direction where his party met their grizzly ends at the hands of the Chaos Chimera. Whether he realizes it or not I don’t know, but I’ll bet that’s where we’ll find him.”

Leon nodded, “As a gambler I’d be willing to bet that, too. So, let’s keep moving and find him before someone else does, as we’ve already encountered some people hoping to cash in on his bounty, including bandits.”

The party continued onward, knowing that Ryan was close. Meanwhile, Ryan was not far ahead of the Shroud Hero party. He could tell that he was getting close to where his party died, as evident by the destruction he was starting to see. As he did, a strong feeling of guilt started to well up inside his heart.

“Why did I listen to Lucas and the others?” he said in a depressed tone. “Because they coaxed out my insecurities and resentment this happened. Look what it cost me. My reputation has been atomized, I’m on the run, there’s a bounty on my head… and worst of all… my party perished at the hands of Infinator’s creation. I know Bronwen is the main source of this… but that doesn’t excuse the fact that we ‘Heroes’ took her bait and swallowed it whole. Celtic was right… we did this… and we have no excuse for our actions. I just hope that the souls of my party can forgive me for my fatal mistake.”

He soon arrived at the location where his party perished. To his anger a pack of green colored Orcs were digging around, trying to find anything of worth. Enraged, he drew his Sword, transformed it, and pointed it at the Orcs.

“Don’t you DARE desecrate this place, you swine!” he roared. “Sword Storm!”

He fired the barrage of energy swords at the Orcs. Before the monsters could react they were shredded to pieces by the attack. Panting, Ryan put his Sword back, clearly furious.

“You don’t deserve to become fodder for my Sword! Eat this! Wrath Fire!”

He slammed his palm down on the ground, causing the cursed black flames to erupt and burn the remains of the Orcs to ash. After the deed was done, Ryan slowly came down from his anger high, though his body felt weird. Shaking it off he walked over to the crater where his party had been killed and fell to his hands and knees. Overwhelmed with guilt and drowning in a torrent of emotions, Ryan could only tremble in grief and anger. Suddenly, he heard a twig snap. He quickly got back onto his feet and drew his Sword, ready to fight. His eyes widened when he saw Celtic and his party appear.

“C-Celtic…?” he said in amazement. “You… came looking for me?”

Celtic placed a hand on his hip, “Believe it or not, yes. And no, we’re not after any bounty, as we’re trying to prevent you from getting dragged back to Palo Kingdom so someone can cash in on you. After all, we’ve run into a few people like that already, including those bandits you shackled with Chain Catcher. As strange as it sounds, we’re here to help you.”

Ryan gave a heavy sigh of relief as he placed his Sword on his back, “Thank God… I was worried that you might be monsters or other people looking to capture me. I never thought I’d be this happy to see you.”

Zuzu then noticed the charred area near the Sword Hero, stating, “Something tells me you just used Wrath Fire on some monsters. Do you realize the risk of using that spell?”

Ryan looked at her, confused, “Wrath Fire is a bad spell?”

Leon nodded, “Yes. It’s Demon magic. While Demon magic is the most powerful branch of magic, it often has negative side effects that only demons are immune to, sans Chaos Blood Curse. You probably don’t realize it but Wrath Fire has a bevy of negative effects that can either be subtle or pronounced, and the more you use it the harder it is to remove those negative energies. At best, you’ll be inflicted with a Curse, at worst it could kill you and destroy your soul. So, you can’t use it anymore unless you want to experience the consequences of Demon magic.”

Celtic added, “Basically, when a non-demon uses Demon magic, or at least Wrath Fire, you’re effectively playing Russian Roulette, as some of those effects can potentially kill you, especially if they’re allowed to build up inside of you. I can understand how you gained access to it, as the sheer emotional turmoil you went through triggered its awakening, but you can’t use it anymore unless you want to run the risk of a brutal self-destruction.”

Ryan pondered for a moment before saying, “Wait… Wrath Fire can inflict a Curse on the user if they’re not a demon? Then that’s how I got Cursed earlier.”

Skye looked surprised, “You were inflicted with a Curse before? How did you cure it?”

“I pulled out an Energy Root from my Sword’s inventory to cure it. Worked like a charm, though it tasted terrible. But I was wondering how that happened. I didn’t realize that Demon magic had such negative consequences. But… in my panic I’ve already used it a couple of times. I guess that’s why my body feels strange right now. I thought it was because of the guilt I was feeling when I looked upon my party’s graves. Now I know.”

Celtic gained a solemn expression, “You’re not the only one who bears responsibility for your party’s demise. I, too, hold blame for their deaths, as my Guard Barrier Charm wasn’t strong enough to protect them from the Chaos Chimera. Its power was on a scale I didn’t factor in when creating the Guard Barrier Charms. So, I, too, hold responsibility for your party members’ deaths. Which is one reason why I’m here. But, before we get into that, Ryan… we need to talk.”

Ryan shifted his eyes downward, saying, “Please tell me this isn’t a lecture.”

“Not this time. Ryan… you’ve been disgraced and shamed as a terrible Hero. The world is furious with you. However… there is still a chance to redeem yourself.”

Ryan looked up hopefully, “R-Really?! Y-You mean there’s still a chance?”

Celtic nodded, “Yes, but it won’t be easy. You’re going to have to rebuild your status and reputation from the foundation up. But… that does mean you still can become a real Hero for Zakota. Hopefully your eyes are now open to the truth. There is still a chance for you to rebuild your life and become a worthy Hero to this world. Are you willing to change for the better and do your job correctly this time?”

Ryan nodded, “Yes! Yes, I will! Please, Celtic, help me! I’ll do anything! Especially if it means I can atone for my party’s demise. That way… their deaths won’t be in vain. Whatever I have to do, I’ll do it!”

Celtic then said, “While I can sense your sincerity, you need to be tested before I can convince certain individuals to give you one last chance. And I know just how to do it.” He held out his palm and said, “Juniper, come forth.”

A sphere of light formed in his palm and floated around before landing between the two Heroes, revealing it to be the Spiria from earlier. Ryan’s eyes went wide.

“A Spiria!” he sputtered. “Are you giving it to me?”

“No. This Nature Spiria is going to be the final test for you. If it bonds with you on its own accord then it’ll be enough proof that you’re ready to atone for your mistakes and become a real Hero. But… if it rejects you then you are not worthy of another chance. Juniper…” he turned to the Spiria, “This is the man I was telling you about. I need your excellent judgment to see if Ryan is worthy of redemption and forgiveness. Since you Spiria can sense things on a scale that even Druids like myself can’t, you’ll be the perfect final test. I’ll leave the rest to you.”

Juniper nodded before looking at Ryan. Ryan fell to his knees so he could be level with the Spiria, clearly nervous of the Spiria’s judgment. Juniper looked Ryan over a few times before closing its eyes, seemingly scanning Ryan with magical energy. The Sword Hero became tense, his heart racing as he awaited the Spiria’s final verdict. After a long minute Juniper opened its eyes, looked up at Ryan, and then hopped onto his lap, wagging its Christmas tree-shaped tail. Ryan’s eyes went wide as he saw this.

“D-Does this mean what I think it means?” he choked.

Celtic gave a small smile, “Yes it does. It means Juniper has accepted you, which also means you’re worthy of being given one final chance to redeem yourself to the world.”

Overwhelmed with emotion, Ryan hugged Juniper and started to sob heavily, clearly happy at being given one last chance. As he wept, gently holding his new Spiria, the floodgates of emotions he was keeping back finally burst, thereby allowing his long bottled up feelings to finally be free.

“Thank you!” he wept. “Thank you so much! I promise I’ll do things right this time! Please, Celtic, Juniper, be the beacons that guide me out of this nightmare.”

Juniper became a sphere of energy and fused with Ryan, making him tremble as the power of the Spiria flow through him. On his stat vision he saw his stats increase by 50%, along with a description of what Juniper’s power was. Celtic, meanwhile, noticed that Juniper fusing with Ryan meant that his own stats returned to their original value, indicating the transfer was complete. Ryan held himself as he kept sobbing, letting all his bottled up emotions out. The Shroud Hero party merely waited for him until he finally stopped.

“I’m… I’m sorry…” he said. “I don’t normally get that emotional.”

Skye gave a small smile, “We know you like to maintain this cool, stoic image, but that can cause a lot of excess emotions to build up. Sometimes you just have to let it all out. Don’t worry, we won’t judge you for it. I heard a saying once, ‘Tears aren’t a sign of weakness. They are a sign that one has been strong for too long’. So, it’s probably for the best that you just let all that emotion out so you can relieve yourself of it and have a clearer head and heart.”

Ryan gave a warm smile as he heard that, “Thank you. I’m so sorry for everything. I have no right to call myself a Hero, but if the world is willing to give me one last chance then I’ll do anything to atone for my failures and do my part as the Sword Hero.”

Celtic replied, “Yeah, you and the other Heroes have a lot of work to do in order to really make amends for this disaster. Your reputations and popularity are right now in the sewers. But hopefully now you see the light and are truly willing to make amends. But if you weren’t then Juniper would’ve rejected you. Seeing how it accepted and bonded with you is a very good sign. Now, before we move onto the next subject, we need to do one thing. Tyroe, would you take care of what we discussed earlier?”

Tyroe nodded, “Leave it to me.”

He placed both hands on the ground and started to release pulses, much to Ryan’s confusion. Suddenly, four stones appeared in the pit where the Sword Hero party had been killed, each one having a different weapon symbol. Ryan realized that these were tombstones. Skye and Viola then walked over to the graves and placed four bouquets of flowers at the base of the tombstones, one each, before backing away. Everyone did a small prayer, making Ryan smile.

“Thank you…” he said. “I will make amends for my party members. I will make sure their deaths weren’t in vain. This I promise.”

Celtic turned to Ryan, “Now, with that taken care of, there are a few things I need to discuss with you, Ryan. First of all, I’m going to have to do this… Dark Chains!”

Ryan was shackled by Dark energy chains, much to his surprise.

“What the—!?” he sputtered.

“Relax, Ryan, these are just for show. This is so no one questions us when we take you back to Delgunner. I’m technically arresting you, so I have to make it look like I’ve done just that. You’ll be released from them once we get into King Alvin’s throne room, so these Dark Chains are merely for show.”

Ryan relaxed, “Oh, okay. I thought you were going to do something to me as punishment. If these are just for show, then that’s fine.”

“Yes. Now moving on, I have to go over the details of what you’ll be facing when we get back. You’re going to be under house arrest for a while. You and the other Heroes are going to get special rooms in the castle. There is only one way in and out and that’s the door that leads to them. You’ll also be under constant surveillance by a knight or guard and you cannot go anywhere without them. You also can’t leave the castle unless Infinator’s faction does something like starts an attack or whatnot. This is not so much as to keep you from looking for trouble, but to keep trouble from looking for you. There are a large number of people who want your head, so King Alvin and such are taking precautions to ensure your safety until you start rebuilding your reputation and regain the trust of the people. It’s going to be a long haul but you’ll just have to grin and bear it.”

Ryan nodded, “Yes, I understand. At least I won’t be spending time in the dungeons for what I did, although I bet King Alvin would probably prefer that.”

“True, but he also knows that could cause some more friction and possibly hamper your rehabilitation, so he’s providing you and the other Heroes nice rooms to ensure that there won’t be any complications. And you’ll be safer in those rooms over the dungeons, as it’ll be harder for an enemy or malcontent to get to you. Now, with that out of the way, it’s time to head back to Delgunner. Just remember, Ryan, this is your last chance, so you’d better make it count. Skye, if you’d be so kind and get us back to Delgunner?”

Skye smiled, “On it, loverboy. Warp!”

The Shroud Hero party and Ryan vanished from the area before reappearing at Delgunner’s gates. The guards there saluted as Celtic escorted Ryan through them, with the same guard flirting with Zuzu again, which she ignored. As they walked through the city, Ryan could feel the angry glares that he was being given by the people. But to his relief none of them attempted anything, seemingly satisfied enough to see him in chains and being escorted by Celtic. After a long walk through the city they reached the castle and entered it. Before long they were in the throne room, where the Delgunner royal family awaited.

King Alvin said, “You have succeeded in your task, Avalar, and managed to recover the Sword Hero. Good, very good. You can release him from those Dark Chains now.”

Celtic nodded and snapped his left fingers, causing the Dark Chains to vanish, freeing Ryan. King Alvin gave him an icy glare.

“Now, Sword Hero, I assume that Prince Avalar filled you in on what your punishment is, correct?”

Ryan replied, “I’ll be under house arrest here in the castle with a constant escort to ensure that I won’t get into trouble. I’ll only be allowed outside if Infinator’s faction does something. Right?”

King Alvin nodded, “Yes, that is indeed correct. Now, before I have you escorted to your new room, I need to ask. Avalar, did he pass the final test?”

Celtic replied, “See for yourself. Ryan, summon your new friend.”

Ryan nodded and held out his hand, stating, “Juniper, come forth!”

A sphere of energy formed in his palm before floating around and landing at his feet, revealing Juniper. Ryan then scooped up the Spiria and held it gently.

“This is my Spiria, a Nature one called Juniper. I assume this is what you mean, Your Majesty?”

King Alvin gained a small smile, “Yes, that is indeed what I wanted to see. If a Spiria has finally accepted you then you are deserving of one last chance. But this is your last chance, Ryan, so don’t screw it up. However, I will say that I have the most faith in you, as you’ve shown the most progress and have the best qualities out of the Heroes aside from Avalar. After the Karma Beast hunt you’ve been improving leaps and bounds, which was very pleasing to see, but nevertheless you still performed a terrible deed by releasing the Chaos Chimera. As long as you understand that it was your fault you are now in this situation then I’m willing to give you this last chance. Make it count.”

Ryan nodded, “Yes, Your Majesty, I will. I know where I went wrong, and I know that it was my fault for my party members’ deaths, so I’m willing to do whatever I have to in order to make amends and become a real Hero to Zakota. Celtic and Juniper will help keep me on the path I need to take, and I won’t let someone like the other Heroes or Wench try to sweet-talk me into doing something so stupid again. That I promise.”

King Alvin’s smile got larger, “Good, I’m glad to hear it. Then there is hope for you yet. Now, with that taken care of… Men, escort Ryan to his new room.”

Two knights walked up and led Ryan out of the room, leaving the Shroud Hero party alone with the royal family.

“Avalar, you have done well. The idea to use a Spiria as a test to ensure that the Heroes will reform was brilliant. Spiria are such wondrous creatures. To be able to test and convince the Heroes to repent and take their jobs seriously is something I am quite pleased about. Now, you and your party deserve a rest. Also, in regards to those bandits, I’ll be giving you the bounty tomorrow, as I have to double-check the total amount that was being asked for them. It’s been a while since those bounties had been posted so I need to make sure that I’m giving you the correct amount. And this means that the bounty on Ryan’s head can now be withdrawn, as he’s not going anywhere for a while. You and your party have done well, as always. I’ll have a knight or Shadow Sentinel inform you if we have any other Hero sightings.”

Nodding, Celtic and his part returned to their room to rest, knowing that they still had work to do in getting the other Heroes back safely.

Next Chapter: A Hero’s Redemption

That's it for today, folks. Tune in next time to see Ryan's redemption.
 
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Time for the next chapter of Chaos Rising. (Warning: contains mild violence)

A Hero’s Redemption


It was the following day after Celtic recovered Ryan and brought him back to Delgunner. The warrants for his arrest, along with any bounties, had been withdrawn due to Ryan now being in custody. The other three Heroes, however, remained among the missing.

Celtic was busy working on one of his accessories in his party’s room. Ryan and his knight escort were also there, with Ryan chatting with Skye. After a little bit Celtic put his tools down and turned to Ryan.

“Okay, Ryan, it’s complete,” he said. “While it’s obviously a bit too late I’ve upgraded your Guard Barrier Charm. Now it’s the Deluxe Guard Barrier Charm. This one should be strong enough to withstand a blast from even Infinator himself. And in case you’re wondering how I know that I had two sources help me. First was the Chaos Chimera’s data I got from absorbing a chunk of it. Turns out the Chaos Chimera was created to actually be an extension of Infinator himself, thus it possesses roughly the same power he had during his prime in the Great Demon War. The second is information that Uncle Duskbane gave me regarding Infinator. The Shadokor keep extensive notes and information on any enemy they’ve faced for future references. That way they can gauge the strength of an enemy from the past to the present. While you getting another party probably won’t happen, at least you’ll now have the proper protection to face a threat like him.”

He held out the charm which Ryan took and looked over. It was the same basic design, but the shield was more stylized with a blue jewel in the center. The Sword Hero gave a small smile.

“Thank you, Celtic,” he said sincerely. “And even if I were to have a new party I wouldn’t out of respect for my previous party’s memory. I just wish I had realized the truth before all this happened. I’ve got my work cut out for me in repairing my reputation and earning the trust of the people, but with you and Juniper guiding me I should be okay. I wonder… do you have a Deluxe Guard Barrier Charm, too?”

Celtic pointed to his left hip, showing that he had a Deluxe Guard Barrier Charm strapped to his belt.

“After seeing the Guard Barrier Charm fail at the claws of the Chaos Chimera I used mine as an experiment to see if I could upgrade the charms to higher levels,” the redhead replied. “So, yeah, mine was the first one created as I used my original Guard Barrier Charm as a test to see if they could be further strengthened. That way I’d know how to make more of them and ensure they’d work. This should do the job. If only I knew what kind of power the Chaos Chimera had before, then I could’ve prevented your party’s death by upgrading the charms or even making them that strong to begin with.”

Ryan gave a small smile, “No, you did everything you could, Celtic. It was my fault for leading them into that suicide mission. I shouldn’t have listened to Lucas and the others, especially since Wench was the one who planted the idea in their heads. Although Bronwen is ultimately the culprit, as it was her idea, she chose the right person to use as a pawn, knowing that Wench would cause the idea to grow and spread like wildfire among the Heroes. Looks like she lives up to her reputation as a master strategist. No wonder everyone is afraid of her, as she certainly knows her stuff. We can’t take her lightly, otherwise what happened with my party and the Chaos Chimera could happen all over again.”

Skye placed a hand on her hip, “At least you finally realize the threat Infinator’s faction brings. Too bad it came at such a heavy cost. But, as they say, better late than never. At least now you have a chance to redeem yourself and ultimately turn everything around. It won’t be easy, but we’ll help however we can.”

A single tear leaked out of Ryan’s eye, saying, “I’m grateful for your support. It really means a lot to me after all the problems I’ve caused. Yes, we can do this together. And… maybe that Gram fellow can help get my swordsmanship up to speed. Since, from what I’ve been told, he was very similar to us Heroes, using his weapon’s raw power and abilities and not investing in himself. From what I heard you set him straight, Celtic, and now he’s a valuable ally to us. I really owe him an apology for my arrogance and confidence, as he was just trying to help me. Now that my eyes are open I won’t let my past habits return and do things properly this time.”

A voice then said, “Apology accepted, Sword Hero.”

Everyone turned to see Gram and his party at the door, all smiling.

“Gram!” Leon said.

“Hey, how’s it going?” the Flugel knight said. He then turned to Ryan, “Ryan, I heard the conversation. While learning the truth came at a heavy personal cost, I’m happy to see that you’re willing to make amends. And the fact that you now have a Spiria is proof of your desire to atone and become an actual Hero this time. I would be honored to train you in the art of swordsmanship now that you’re turning over a new leaf, but it’ll have to wait until King Alvin sees fit to let you leave the castle, since I’m aware you’re under house arrest for your role in the Chaos Chimera rampage. It won’t be easy, but if I could improve after doing the exact same thing you and the other Heroes, sans Sir Celtic, had been doing, then you should be fine as well.”

He held out his hand. Ryan smiled and shook it, making everyone present smile.

“Thank you, Sir Gram,” Ryan said. “I appreciate that you’re willing to train me once I’m allowed to leave the castle. Too bad King Alvin doesn’t have like a small training room for his knights in the castle or something so we can get a jump-start on it, but it is what it is. At least I know I still stand a chance at turning everything around, thanks to the support of people like you and Celtic. But thank you once again. I won’t complain like I did in the past so I don’t repeat my mistakes. That I promise.”

Gram smiled, “I’m looking forward to it, Ryan. Anyway, Sir Celtic,” he turned to Celtic, “Would it be okay if you upgraded my Guard Barrier Charm as well? Unless you have other things to do, that is.”

Celtic replied, “No, I don’t have much to do right now until we either get wind of the other Heroes locations or Infinator’s faction makes a move. King Alvin wants me to be on-deck and ready for action as soon as we get some new information on the Heroes or if one of the Demon Generals does something. As such, I have a fair bit of free time until then. So, sure, I’ll upgrade your Guard Barrier Charm. It shouldn’t take more than an hour.”

Gram smiled and gave Celtic his Guard Barrier Charm, allowing the Shroud Hero to start working on it.

The knight turned to Ryan, “You should return to your room now, Sword Hero, before anyone gets uppity about you roaming around the castle.”

Ryan nodded, “Sure. I’ll see you all later. Hopefully I can start making amends for my mistakes and failures soon, but I’ll lie low until then.”

The knight escorted Ryan out of the room and back to his designated room, leaving the Shroud Hero party and the Flugel knight party alone.

Gram turned to the others, “It appears that Ryan is now on the right path. Hopefully he stays on it this time and doesn’t do a hard turn off it like last time.”

Rupert replied, “The death of his party members was probably the massive wake-up call he needed to realize where he went wrong. It’s unfortunate that it had to happen, especially since he was making the most progress out of the other Heroes, but he now understands that his actions have real consequences in this world. At least now he’ll take any criticism to heart so he can improve instead of playing the superior card and relying on dumb RPG tropes. It was a harsh blow to him but ultimately it was needed to get him to realize that this world isn’t an escapist fantasy for him to reap the rewards of.”

Zuzu, who was lazily floating above them, stated, “It’s about time he got the message. Now if only the other ‘Heroes’ would get it, too. Hopefully having lost everything will make Lucas, Eric, and Jerry more willing to listen. Ryan’s good qualities do shine through even before all this happened. At least he accepts Celtic’s leader position, unlike the others, who are pretty bitter about not getting that status. It’s the other three that are more problematic, especially since they can coax out Ryan’s bad qualities. They could learn a thing or two from Ryan instead of encouraging his bad habits. But hopefully that’s all behind him now, as it was getting pretty tiresome to have to deal with his stubborn adherence to RPG junk.”

Celtic nodded as he worked on Gram’s Guard Barrier Charm, “Indeed. I hope that’s the end of this RPG nonsense. Now we just need to get Lucas, Eric, and Jerry on the same page for a change and hopefully stop the stupidity, as I don’t think the people can take any more of it.”

Everyone nodded in agreement and decided to just relax while Celtic worked on the Guard Barrier Charm. After roughly an hour he was finished. He presented it to Gram.

“Here you go, Gram. One Deluxe Barrier Charm, fully operational and ready to go.”

Gram graciously took it, “Thank you, Sir Celtic, I’ll be sure to make good use of it. Come on, girls, let’s go into the city and get some supplies, as we don’t know what might happen next.”

The girls in his party nodded, saying, “You got it, Sir Gram.”

Gram and his party left the guest room, leaving Celtic and his party behind. Not long after there was a knock at their door. Leon walked over and opened it, revealing a maid.

“Can we help you?” he asked.

“Begging your pardon,” the maid said. “But King Alvin requests your presence in the throne room.”

Celtic nodded, “Right, tell him we’ll be there in a few minutes. Let me just clean up my mess first.”

The maid bowed, “Understood. Don’t keep him waiting.”

She then left the room. Celtic quickly gathered up all his tools and materials, put them in his Tek-Pak, and strapped it on. The rest of the party gathered up their stuff and made their way to the throne room where King Alvin and his family were waiting.

“Ah, Prince Avalar!” King Alvin said. “Good, you’re here.”

“Is there trouble, Your Majesty?” Viola asked.

“At the moment, no, Miss Viola, which is a good thing. However, I have to discuss a few things with you. First off, in case you’ve been wondering, the original Light Gem that Sylph stole has been destroyed.”

Tyroe’s eyes widened, “So the original Light Gem is now gone? I guess the Shadokor’s Spy-Bugs took care of that, huh.”

“Indeed,” King Alvin nodded. “However, it came at a cost. Now Infinator’s faction is aware of the Spy-Bugs, thus the Shadokor can’t use them to spy on him anymore. So, we no longer have any means of learning of his plans. King Duskbane is willing to write it off as an acceptable trade-off, as the Spy-Bugs hadn’t been used much since before Bronwen returned to Infinator’s ranks. The destruction of the Light Gem means that Infinator can no longer use it to gain more power, so you can bet he’s not happy about it. And since the Druids created a perfect copy with anti-evil properties in it that are enough to repel even the Demon Generals Sylph can’t just pluck the new one and start the whole process all over again. So, at least now we don’t have to worry about the Light Gem getting abused anymore. The final batch of Spy-Bugs also retrieved the shards of the Light Gem to ensure that Bronwen wouldn’t be able to find an alternative use for them, as she’s smart enough to find a way. But that brings us to the next topic of discussion.”

“And that would be…?” Celtic asked.

“Ryan’s rehabilitation. While I can see that the Sword Hero is willing to take the necessary steps to reform and redeem himself, I worry that it might not be enough to simply leave him in the castle until things smooth out. Therefore, I’ve decided that he will go on missions with you so you can not only show him how to be a real Hero, but it’ll also make sure he doesn’t backslide into old habits again. Plus, as the five Heroes are all… less-than-eager to work together, this’ll be a good opportunity for him to learn teamwork and regain the trust of the people in the process. I don’t have to worry about you, Avalar, as you’re willing to swallow your pride when needed for the better good, as you proved during the Karma Diamond hunt. I’m hoping that with you as his guide Ryan will truly do what is necessary in order to improve himself and become an actual Hero Zakota can respect.”

Skye placed a hand on her hip, “So, in short, you want us to act as mentors for Ryan and show him how to properly do his job?”

King Alvin nodded, “In a nutshell, yes. You need to teach him by example. If he sees how Avalar does things it may encourage him to do the same, especially now that both sides have more respect for each other. It’s a bit of a long-shot, but it’s better than having him sit in the castle all day where he could unintentionally slip into old habits again. It might ruffle some feathers but it’ll help repair his reputation in the long-run. And at least with you watching over him it’ll prevent any missteps or mistakes from being made that would only make things worse.”

Celtic gave a defeated sigh, “I guess you’re right. And it would be better if Ryan didn’t say cooped up in the castle, alone with his thoughts, which could only encourage his bad traits to surface again. I’m not really looking forward to that, but it is necessary if we’re to reform Ryan and get the Heroes to finally work together for the greater good.”

“Yes, that’s it exactly, Avalar. And don’t forget, you still have authority over him as the leader of the Heroes, so you’re free to use it when needed. Seeing how Ryan was already more accepting to it than Lucas, Eric, or Jerry, I figure it won’t be an issue now that he’s been humbled quite a bit. I’m counting on you, Avalar. Show the Sword Hero what it truly means to be a Hero.”

Celtic gave another sigh before saying, “As you wish, Your Majesty. Just don’t expect any miracles, at least off the bat. I assume you’ll tell Ryan this as well?”

King Alvin nodded, “Yes, I will. I’ll tell him after dinner. I’ll inform you when your first mission together will take place, whatever it might be, so, for now, return to your guest room and relax.”

Celtic nodded and led his party back to their room for the time being, awaiting dinner to be made. After a filling meal, Ryan was informed about the plan King Alvin had made, agreeing to it, before everyone retired for the night.

The following day King Alvin had both Celtic’s party and Ryan in the throne room. He took a moment to make sure everything was set before clearing his throat.

“Shroud Hero, Sword Hero, you will be assigned to your first mission as part of Ryan’s reformation,” he said. “I got wind just this morning that there is trouble brewing in a small town called Birchwood near the Flugel/Krystal Sands Kingdom. Apparently, goods that were being transported by soldiers from a noble in Birchwood to another noble in the Krystal Sands Kingdom have been stolen
repeatedly by bandits. The bandits always seem to strike at the same location, too. This has caused tension between Birchwood’s noble and King Felix, as the funds for those goods are vital for Birchwood, and as such his town isn’t getting said funds due to the theft. This has happened a few times now and they want someone to investigate, as it’s starting to put massive strain on both Birchwood’s resources and relationships with King Felix. Your mission is this: go to Birchwood and protect the next shipment and find out where the stolen goods are being kept.”

“Yessir!” everyone said.

A female Shadow Sentinel appeared, “Then allow me to be your guide. Let us begin the mission immediately.”

Celtic nodded, “Work your magic.”

“Shadow Warp!”

The group vanished from King Alvin’s throne room in black portals. They reappeared in a small but cozy-looking town. There were dozens of birch trees in the area and it looked like it was a farming village. Just ahead they saw two horse-drawn carriages being loaded up by soldiers, with a rather rotund man overseeing it. The group approached the man, who turned to see them.

“Oh!” he said. “My request to King Alvin got through that quickly? Not that I’m complaining. You must be the Shroud Hero party and…” his eyes narrowed as he noticed Ryan, “…the Sword Hero as well?”

Celtic explained, “The Sword Hero, Ryan, is working alongside my party and me in order to redeem himself for the Chaos Chimera incident. It’s part of his reformation into a proper Hero. You can rest easy, and if it helps, I’ll take full responsibility for any problems.”

The man sighed, “Well, if the Sword Hero is under your watchful eye, then I can’t complain. But he’d better not mess this up. But, anyway, let me get back on track. This is a shipment of goods that my village has prepared for the noble known as Zeeker. He lives past the border not far from this village. But here’s the deal, every time the goods get past the border they are attacked by bandits who make off with pretty much everything, including the carriages, though the horses get spared for some reason. This has happened five times already and it’s causing my village to get angry with both Zeeker and King Felix. We’re a small village that works very hard to earn our paychecks so these constant attacks on King Felix’s territory is causing suspicion to brew. I need you to protect the shipment so we can finally get the much-needed funds to support our people, as well as find out what happened to the other goods. Will you please solve this problem for us?”

Skye nodded, “Yes, we’ll get to the bottom of it. You can count on us, sir.”

The man sighed in relief, “Music to my ears. The shipment is nearly ready to go. Please escort the knights to ensure the shipment makes it to its destination in one piece.”

The group nodded in agreement. About 10 minutes later the carriages were loaded, allowing the knights and the group to start their trek. About 30 minutes later they reached the border to the Krystal Sands Kingdom. The guards let them pass, knowing why the group was there. They soon entered a narrow passageway between two small mountains. The knights stopped at this point.

“We’re not far from where the bandits keep attacking us,” one knight said. “Be ready for anything. Also, the bandits tend to ride a monster breed call Bombeetles, which are a type of Machine monster that fire energy bombs as their primary attack. That’s how they always get the jump on us.”

Celtic turned to Tyroe, “Tyroe, can you use your earth powers to sense where those bandits may be hiding?”

Tyroe nodded, “Sure, give me a second.”

He flattened himself on the ground and placed his fingertips and tail tip into the dirt. He closed his eyes and concentrated. After a moment of this he opened his eyes and became upright.

“Yeah, I can sense them,” he said. “They’re waiting to ambush us in shallow alcoves just after the pathway widens and becomes sandy. I can also sense the Bombeetles with them. From what I could tell, there are about six Bombeetles and eight bandits total waiting for us. What’s the plan, Cel?”

Celtic took a moment to ponder before gaining a smirk.

“I’ve got an idea that should be fun,” he said with a grin. “Skye, we’re going to need your Illusion magic in order to make this work.”

Skye nodded, “You can count on me, loverboy.”

“Okay, gather around so I can go over the plan with you all.”

Everyone gathered around as Celtic laid out the strategy they were going to use. After going over it they all nodded in agreement and began making the necessary preparations to execute it.

About 10 minutes later the plan was set. Zuzu was carrying Ryan to a certain point. They perched on a ledge near the edge of the pathway and looked down. Sure enough, they could see the bandits and Bombeetles waiting for the shipments. Ryan took out a chunk of reflective ore and started to flash it against the sun back to the others, creating a light signal. Celtic nodded and gave Skye a gesture. She started to channel energy.

“Illusion Confusion!” she stated.

Suddenly, an illusionary copy of the knights and carriage appeared. Celtic gave the rest of the party the signal to start moving into position while Skye manipulated the illusion to advance down the pathway slowly. Celtic took out his own chunk of reflective ore and repeated the same light signal back to Ryan and Zuzu. Nodding, the duo took flight and hid in a location near the bandits but out of detection range of the Bombeetles, awaiting their next move. It wasn’t long before the bandits would make their move.

One said, “I see the carriages!”

One other, who looked like the leader, nodded, “Right, when they get into range, give the Bombeetles the signal to attack.”

The horse drawn carriages continued down the path. After they reached a certain point, the bandits attacked.

“Bombeetles, attack!” the head bandit shouted.

The bandits jumped out with the Bombeetles in front of them. Bombeetles looked like tanks, about the size of a horse. They had round white bodies with blue and yellow stubby legs, red eyes hidden within a visor-like mask, bluish-purple domes on their heads with a spike on top and were armed with a single long cannon. The Bombeetles started to fire energy bombs from their cannons, striking the carriages. However, once the smoke cleared, the horses and carriages were gone, much to the bandits confusion. This moment of confusion is when Ryan and Zuzu struck. Both sprung from their hiding spot and prepared to engage.

“Dark Chains!” Zuzu stated.

“Chain Catcher!” Ryan yelled while swinging his sword.

Before the bandits could react they were ensnared by powerful magical chains, leaving them helpless. The Bombeetles turned around and fired energy bombs at them. A strong voice could be heard.

“Wood Tower!”

Pillars of wood emerged just in front of Ryan and Zuzu, shielding them from the attack, much to the bandits’ surprise. Celtic and the rest of the party made their appearance, ready to fight. Skye lashed out with her naginata at one of the Bombeetles, slicing it in half. Ryan then emerged from behind the Wood Towers and lunged at another one, his Sword having transformed.

“Crimson Slash!” he stated.

He slashed the second Bombeetle with a flame-coated sword, easily cutting it in two.

“Earth Tower!” Tyroe shouted, slamming his palm on the ground.

Pillars of earth emerged underneath the remaining Bombeetles, sending them flying into the air. Zuzu flew over the Wood Towers, enlarged one of her hands into a Dark energy claw, grabbed one of the airborne Bombeetles and crushed it with her raw power. As the remaining Bombeetles started their descent back to the ground, Viola gained a smirk.

“Eat this! Ice Tower!” she said, slamming her palm down on the ground.

Pillars of ice erupted just as the Bombeetles nearly hit the ground, impaling them, though they were not dead yet. Ryan transformed his Sword again and took aim at one of them.

“Thunderbolt Slash!” he shouted.

He fired the Lightning-based attack at one of the skewered Bombeetles. The attack caused it to explode into pieces. Leon loaded up an energy arrow and fired it at the fifth, causing the arrow to pierce right through its body and killing it. Rupert started to channel energy.

“Crescent Leaf!” he stated.

Sharp leaves formed and slashed at the remaining Bombeetle, cutting it to ribbons, ending the fight, much to the bandits’ shock. Celtic then snapped his fingers, causing the Wood Towers he created to retract. He then used the same reflective ore and flashed a signal back at the knights with the carriages, who immediately started to move forward, knowing that it was safe. Once the knights had rejoined the group they all glared at the bandits.

“You damn Shroud Devil!” one bandit spat. “You’ll pay for this!”

Leon’s eyes narrowed, causing him to grab the bandit roughly.

“What did you just say?” he growled.

He then noticed something sticking out of the bandit’s pocket. He took it out, revealing it to be a Four Stars Church rosary. This only made Leon more angry.

“You’re a Four Stars Church goon. Does this mean you’re working for Robert?”

The bandit replied, “I don’t know anyone by that name.”

Leon looked like he was about to punch the bandit before Zuzu stopped him.

“Don’t bother, Leon, he’s telling the truth,” she said. “I can easily see through lies and he’s actually being honest. He doesn’t know Robert at all. But that doesn’t mean Robert doesn’t have a hand in this, either.”

Celtic walked up to the leader, his eyes narrowing, “I suggest you start talking and tell us who you’re working for or things could get… ugly.”

The leader spat, “Like I’ll tell the Shroud Devil anything! Do your worst!”

“I just might. Cobra Hydra Shroud!”

The Shroud transformed into the Cobra Hydra Shroud. Celtic then snapped his left fingers, causing a cobra to swiftly emerge from it and bite the leader, making him scream in pain as it injected its fatal venom. Knowing its task was complete, the cobra returned to the Shroud, while Celtic had an almost diabolical look on his face.

“That’s a highly potent venom you’ve just been bitten with,” he said. “You’ll die in 15 minutes without an antidote, and only Viola and I know how to make that antidote.”

This bit of information made the bandit leader go wide-eyed in horror. He could feel the poison going through him and he started to panic. He then saw Celtic take out the antidote and dangle it over him.

“However… I could be persuaded to give you the antidote… if you tell me what I want to know. Now… who are you working for and where are the stolen goods?”

The bandit leader sputtered, “Okay! Okay! We’re working for Zeeker! He wanted to steal the goods so he didn’t have to pay for them and put the blame on King Felix while also giving about half of them to a benefactor! We don’t know who the benefactor is, I swear! That’s all I know!”

Zuzu stated, “He’s telling the truth, Celtic. He doesn’t know any more information.”

Celtic nodded, popping the antidote bottle open, “Fine then, your life will be spared. Open wide.”

The bandit leader opened his mouth wide as Celtic poured the antidote down his throat. It took effect immediately, ridding him of the poison, making him sigh in relief.

“However… that doesn’t mean we’re going to let you go free…” Celtic said as he pulled out the Shadow Caller Flute. “King Felix will want to know what’s been going on, as thanks to you and Zeeker, tensions are getting bad between Flugel and him.”

He started to play the flute, though no sound could be heard. However, before Ryan or the bandits could ask, five ShadoKnights appeared from black portals.

“You summoned us, Your Majesty?” they said.

“Yes, I did. Take these bandits to King Felix to inform him that they’ve been stealing the goods being delivered from Birchwood to Zeeker in order for the latter to not have to pay for them while also providing half of them to a mysterious benefactor. They’re also associated with the Four Stars Church. We still have work to do so please go on ahead and take these slime to King Felix.”

The ShadoKnights saluted, “Yessir!”

They grabbed the bandits and vanished in black portals, leaving the group behind.

Ryan asked, “So, what now?”

Celtic replied, “We head to Zeeker’s place, using the transportation of the goods as cover so we can check his home for the stolen good and carriages. First, I suggest we both absorb something from the Bombeetles into our respective Legendary Gear, as this is the first time we’ve seen them. Then we’ll proceed as planned.”

Nodding, both Celtic and Ryan absorbed a chunk of the Bombeetles for their respective Legendary Gear, creating new forms. The group then continued to travel to Zeeker’s place with the carriages of goods. About 30 minutes later they arrived at a small oasis with a mansion in it. Celtic knocked on the front door and waited. Not long after a man emerged from the other side.

“Yes, how may I—” he started to say before he saw Celtic. “W-What are you doing here?!”

“Hmph, some hello,” the redhead huffed. “We were hired to ensure that your goods from Birchwood would be delivered safely.”

He pointed behind him, showing the carriages of goods. Zeeker started to silently seethe before covering it up.

“So, the bandits didn’t get this shipment?” he said in a pleasant, but strained tone. “That’s wonderful! I was getting pretty tired of those bandits stealing all my goods.”

“I’m certain you were,” Skye said with narrow eyes.

Celtic then said, “We’ve also gotten reports of other ‘problems’ around these parts, so with the authority invested in me by the Shadoria and Wichwoode crowns, I demand you allow us to examine the premises. Interference will not be tolerated. Is that clear?”

Zeeker then exploded, “I WON’T LET THE SHROUD DEVIL DO ANYTHING ON MY PROPERTY!!!”

Celtic remained calm, “Then, because you said the less savory term for the Shroud, I have no choice but to do… this. Dark Chains!”

Zeeker was trapped by shadowy chains, completely immobilizing him. He tried to move but fell flat on the ground. Celtic turned to Zuzu.

“Zuzu, take flight and check the back area. There was a stable large enough to hold several carriages. Would you please check it out?”

Zuzu nodded, “Sure, give me a minute.”

She took flight and headed for the stables. Some soldiers tried to stop her but she effortlessly knocked them out. She then broke the padlock on the stable doors and opened it up, revealing several somewhat battered carriages inside it, all with the same symbol as the ones the Birchwood knights were escorting. She then took flight again and noticed a pen full of various monsters before returning to the group.

“Yep, you were on the money, Celtic,” she said. “The stables had nearly a dozen stolen carriages, each with the Birchwood symbol on them. I also saw a pen with a number of monsters in it. From the looks of it, it contained Fiend Scorpions, Sand Lamps, Desert Stealth Cobras, and Desert Blood Flies. I didn’t see any more Bombeetles, so that means we killed all of them back with the bandits.”

Zeeker yelled, “Men! Get the Shroud Devil now!”

More soldiers appeared, drawing their swords. The group looked unimpressed.

“Dark Chains,” Zuzu said in an almost bored tone.

The soldiers were trapped by the shadowy chains, preventing them from moving. Celtic turned to the group.

“Skye, Rupert, Ryan, you three go check out where the stolen goods might be in the mansion. I suggest the storage room and basement.”

Skye nodded, “You got it, loverboy. Let’s move.”

She, Rupert, and Ryan entered the mansion to see where the stolen goods might be. They came to the basement door, though it was locked.

“Leave this to me,” Rupert said.

He started to pick the lock with his nail before a click was heard, indicating that it was open. The trio ventured down into the basement and found several crates there. Skye took a nearby crowbar and pried one of them open, revealing the stolen goods.

“Yep, these are the stolen goods,” she said. “They’re the same type of goods that the mayor of Birchwood was packing into the carriages earlier. This confirms that he’s been stealing them in order to avoid paying for them.”

Ryan huffed, “Well, he’s going to be paying for them all right, but in a different sense. Let’s report back to Celtic.”

The trio left the basement and returned to Celtic.

“Did you find the stolen goods?” Viola asked.

Skye nodded, “Yep, they’re in the basement.”

Tyroe smiled, “Good work. And we got some good information out of Zeeker while you were gone.”

Rupert quirked an eyebrow, “Oh? Like what? And did Cel use the Cobra Hydra Shroud again?”

Celtic gave a sly grin, “You could say that. But back to the matter at hand, Zeeker has been stealing the goods from Birchwood so he can provide half of them to Robert in exchange for money. That means Robert now has a set base of operation and is planning to revive the Four Stars Church. While Zeeker doesn’t know exactly what Robert is using the goods for, he does know that it’s for bringing back the Four Stars Church in some form. We also found another Four Stars Church rosary on him along with a Monster Tamer Flute, which is how he’s been controlling the monsters like the Bombeetles. Now, to deal with him and his goons.”

He pulled out the Shadow Caller Flute again and played it. This caused more ShadoKnights to appear.

“ShadoKnights, take Zeeker and his goon squad back to King Felix and inform His Majesty that Zeeker has been giving half of the stolen goods to that Four Stars Church goon, Robert, in exchange for more money, in order to revive the Four Stars Church. Have King Felix’s Desert Knights come here and confiscate the stolen goods and anything else that might help expose where Robert is or whatnot.”

The ShadoKnights saluted, “Yessir!”

Zeeker spat, “You won’t get away with this, Shroud Devil!”

“I pretty much already have,” Celtic replied in a cold tone. “Take him away.”

The ShadoKnights grabbed Zeeker and his men and vanished in black portals, leaving the group behind.

One of the Birchwood knights asked, “So… what do we do with the goods?”

“Return them to Birchwood for now. We’ll have a talk with King Felix about compensating your village for the theft. We’ll also deal with the monsters in the backyard, as they might be too dangerous to leave alone. I assume you can handle the local monsters by yourself, right?”

The knight nodded, “Yes, these monsters aren’t difficult. It was the Bombeetles that took us by surprise, but everything else around here is easy enough to deal with. We’ll be fine.”

“Good,” Celtic said. “Also, make sure to tell the mayor about what happened so that way he’ll know that he’s been deceived by his so-called ally. Hopefully King Felix will be willing to work something out with him. We’ll report to King Felix after we’re done here, so you go on ahead.”

The knights nodded and began their return trip to Birchwood. The Hero group went into the backyard and found the pen of various monsters. The monsters attempted to attack them but were easily dispatched by the group, allowing Celtic and Ryan to absorb them into their respective Legendary Gear, gaining new powers. Ryan then held out the chunk of ore he had used earlier.

“Hey, Celtic, would it be okay if I had my Sword absorb this chunk of Mirrorstone Ore you gave me?” he asked.

Celtic nodded, “Sure, go right ahead. Consider it a bonus for your hard work today.”

Ryan smiled and had his Sword absorb the Mirrorstone Ore, gaining a new Sword power.

“Okay, that settles that. Let’s head to King Felix to report what happened. Skye, if you’d be so kind?”

Skye smiled, “On it, loverboy. Warp!”

The group vanished before reappearing at the Krystal Sands Kingdom capital. The people were eager to great the Shroud Hero, though they were a bit leery of Ryan, but accepted him regardless. The group walked to the castle and entered it, where King Felix and his family were waiting for them.

“Ah, Sir Shroud Hero and company!” he said. “I learned of everything from the ShadoKnights. I’ve already sent my Desert Knights to Zeeker’s place to recover the stolen goods, so you don’t have to worry about that. I’ll also contact the mayor of Birchwood and work out a deal with him because of this ordeal. I admit I am surprised to see the Sword Hero working with you.”

Celtic explained, “This is part of Ryan’s reformation after the Chaos Chimera incident. He’s accompanying me on missions to gain valuable experience on how to do his Hero job properly. Think of it as work training. Don’t worry, I’m keeping an eye on him, but so far he’s shown great progress. So, you can rest assured that we won’t have a repeat of the Chaos Chimera incident.”

King Felix smiled, “That’s good to hear. As thanks for your efforts, I’ve prepared a little reward for you.” He clapped his hands, causing two servants to walk up with pouches, “Here’s 2,000 silver for both of you Heroes as thanks. I’ll have a talk with the mayor of Birchwood so you’re free to report back to King Alvin now. Thank you once again.”

The two Heroes graciously took the money from the servants.

Celtic turned to the group, “Okay, we’re done here. Let’s head back to King Alvin and tell him what has happened. Skye, if you’d please?”

The Light Elf smiled, “Sure thing, loverboy. Warp!”

The group vanished before reappearing at Delgunner’s gates. As they entered the capital Ryan took a moment to contemplate his current situation.

“Celtic is pretty good at teaching by example,” he said silently. “Although his methods can be questionable. But, either way, if this is what I need to do in order to regain favor with the public, then so be it. At least it means I can slowly rebuild my reputation. Now… if only we can find Lucas and the others before they cause any more problems.”

Next Chapter: Bursting Bubbler

That's all for now. Tune in next time to find out what our Heroes face.
 
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Time for the next chapter in Chaos Rising.

Bursting Bubbler


It had been a few days since Celtic and his group had solved the issue at Birchwood. The party and Ryan were helping take care of the survivors of the Chaos Chimera rampage. While the people were leery of Ryan, they could see that he was genuinely trying to make amends for his role in the disaster, thus were willing to be respectful to him. As the group tended to the victims of the disaster, they couldn’t help but wonder where the other Heroes were.

Night had fallen. Celtic and his party were in their room, discussing the subject of the other Heroes.

“I’m surprised that there hasn’t been any sightings of the other Heroes yet,” Rupert said.

“They’re either in hard-to-reach areas or have been maintaining a low profile due to the continent, if not the world, hating them for their role in the Chaos Chimera rampage,” Celtic replied. “Besides, they’re not what I’m truly concerned about.”

Skye turned to him, “It’s my sister, Wench, who you’re more concerned about, right?”

“Yes. I’m surprised she’s managed to keep herself incognito so well, as usually she can’t help but make a scene. The fact that she’s in the company of Marvin also doesn’t bode well, as they both share some of the same views, like their hatred of the Shroud and non-humans/elves. It makes me worried that they might be cooking up something bad, or even working with Robert. I guess only time will tell.”

“I hear ya,” Leon said. “Though I’m surprised King Alvin hasn’t just used the spellbinding circle crest on her to track her.”

Zuzu, who was floating lazily above them, replied, “Apparently he did, but it appears that Wench has been freed from the spellbinding circle crest. Someone removed it for her, thus she’s no longer bound by it. Which also means she can use her sweet-sounding lies again without them being exposed. After all, the punishment was to remain permanent after Celtic’s duel with Pointy Stick Boy, but it only really applied while she was still bound by the spellbinding circle crest. Someone has removed it from the equation, so we can’t use that as a means of either exposing her lies or even just tracking her. In short, we’re back to square one with her.”

Tyroe looked up, “That’s not good. And I’d be willing to bet that she’ll use her newfound freedom to cook up other nasty schemes. She may even find a way to get to the other Heroes before us and warp them into horrid messes.”

Viola nodded, “That’s a very distinct possibility, Tyroe. And given the possible fragile mental state the Heroes could be in would make it even worse. So, we need to find them before they fall victim to her.”

Nodding, everyone decided to turn in for the night. As they did, they wondered where the remaining Heroes might be.

Meanwhile, in the dead of night, a figure was roaming around a desert area. The figure lashed out wildly at any sound it heard, screaming in the night. After emerging into the moonlight, it was revealed to be Lucas. He had an almost crazed look on his face, his eyes showing hatred and possible insanity, his body quivering with rage.

“When I find you, Wench, you will pay!” he yelled into the night, flailing his Spear about. “No one turns ME into a tool! I’ll get you, just you wait! Your days are numbered, you long-eared fiendess! That I promise!”

He continued to run through the desert, flailing his Spear like a maniac, in a vain attempt to find Wench in order to enact his revenge.

The following morning Celtic, his party, and Ryan were summoned to the throne room. After making sure everyone was present, King Alvin cleared his throat.

“We have received word that Lucas has been spotted,” he said. “He was last seen running and screaming like a maniac in the Krystal Sands Kingdom territory during the dead of night. He seems to be in a very deranged state, which means his mind is probably pretty fragile right now. You have to track him down and recover him before he does something rash or something tries to make a meal out of him.”

Skye grumbled, “Considering we were just in the Krystal Sands Kingdom a few days ago I’m surprised we didn’t run into him then.”

Queen Amelia chuckled, “True, but he was spotted near the Heavenly Sands area, which is at the opposite side of the desert where you were when you apprehended that noble and his bandits. So, even though you were just there, you wouldn’t have been anywhere near him at the time.”

King Alvin nodded, “Yes, that is indeed the case. Avalar, I take it now that you know where to look for Lucas, you will begin a search for a Spiria in order to test him, correct?”

Celtic nodded, “Yes, that’s correct. We’ll check Crescent Moon Forest first, as that seems to be a decent location for finding Spiria. We have found a fair few there, so it’s a good place to look. After we acquire a Spiria to use as a test we’ll head for the Krystal Sands Kingdom again and start our hunt for Lucas. Though we better move fast, as the desert heat combined with his fragile state of mind could be a dangerous combination.”

“Yes, that’s exactly our concern. Take the Sword Hero with you, as it’ll not only be useful on-the-job experience for him, but it’ll possibly help reassure the Spear Hero that you’re there to rescue him. So, go, quickly, while we have the chance.”

Celtic nodded, “Fine. Skye, take us back to Crescent Moon Forest so we can track down a Spiria.”

Skye nodded, “On it, loverboy. Warp!”

The group vanished from the throne room, leaving the royal family behind. They then reappeared in the outskirts of Crescent Moon Forest.

“Okay, we’d better hurry and find a Spiria before Lucas goes full-tilt insane,” the redhead said. “Hopefully we can find one here in the forest.”

Nodding, the group began their search for a Spiria. Along the way they ran into several monsters, mostly Bite Porcupines, Goremates, Jawchids, and the occasional Nue Chimera. After about an hour of searching they came to a stream. Skye’s ears started to twitch.

“Hey, I think I hear a Spiria nearby!” she said.

Everyone looked around for a moment before Zuzu spotted something.

“Over there,” she said. “I see a Spiria splashing around in the stream.”

They all looked in the direction she was pointing. Sure enough, there was a Spiria playing in the stream. It had an aqua blue stocky body with a sea green underbelly, a red tail shaped like a crab claw, small fins near its neck, a crescent-shaped head with a smaller crescent on top, and bright yellow eyes. It was happily playing and splashing around in the stream.

“Well, I’d hate to ruin its fun, but we need its help,” Celtic said. “Here goes nothing.”

He slowly approached the Spiria, who didn’t notice him at first. However, it soon detected him and looked in his direction. However, it didn’t run. Instead it cocked its head to the side curiously.

“Sorry to interrupt your playtime, little Spiria,” Celtic said gently. “But we need your help. A comrade of mine is in trouble and I need your excellent judgment to help me save him. He’s a flawed person, no doubt about that, but we kinda need him in order to help save this world. Will you temporarily lend me your powers so I can track him down and save him from a bad self-destruction?”

The Spiria looked at Celtic, took a moment to think it over, before nodding in agreement. It then turned into a sphere or energy and fused with the Shroud Hero, allowing Celtic to see what its powers are.

Ryan looked surprised, “Just like that, huh? I guess that’s how you got Juniper to come and save me. Boy, you lot really are Spiria magnets.”

Celtic chuckled as he shook his head, “We just have the qualities that Spiria like. But time for that later. We’ve achieved the first objective, now it’s time to hunt down Lucas. Skye, please take us to the Heavenly Sands area of the Krystal Sands Kingdom so we can begin our search. Hopefully everyone has their canteens of water ready.”

Skye nodded, “We’re good to go. Now, let’s get moving. Warp!”

The group vanished from Crescent Moon Forest. They reappeared in a familiar area. They could see mostly eaten remains of the Scorponox that Gram killed a long time ago, but no sign of Lucas.

Tyroe asked, “Why’d you Warp us to this location, Skye?”

Skye replied, “I figured this would be a good place to start. It’s a dead end so it means we would only have to go one direction to track Lucas.”

Celtic said, “No biggie. It’s still a good starting point, as it is a dead end, thus it will make sure that we only need to follow the general path back to the main section of the desert. But let’s get moving before Lucas goes off the deep end and does something rash.”

Nodding, the party started to head toward the main section of the desert. Along the way they fought various monsters. Some were walking cacti with a single red eye and fang-filled mouth, others were heavily armored armadillo-like beasts, and some were ones they’ve seen before like Dune Crawlers, Desert Blood Flies, and Sand Lamps. As they traversed the harsh and hostile desert landscape they kept their eyes and ears open for any signs of Lucas. After about an hour they heard what sounded like yelling. They quickly ran in that direction and found Lucas flailing his Spear about, yelling into the sky, looking quite crazed.

Viola said, “We have to calm him down. Not only is he suffering from heat-induced problems and dehydration, but he’s delirious. I can tell even from where we’re standing. But approaching him might be difficult in his current state.”

Celtic nodded, “Yeah, but I have an idea. Watch. Water Cannon.”

He transformed his arm into Water Cannon. The group approached the deranged Spear Hero, who was lashing out blindly. The moment he turned to them without realizing they were there Celtic fired the stream of water at him. The water blasted him in the face, causing him to flail about for a moment before seemingly calming down. Celtic ended the water attack and transformed his arm back to normal. Lucas was now sopping wet but noticeably calmer, almost like the blast of water had refreshed his mind. It took him a moment before he said something.

“…Celtic?” he said weakly. “Is that you?”

Celtic gave a small smile, “Yes, Lucas, it’s me. And I’m not alone. We came to help you before you either died of heat stroke or did something reckless. Before we get into any discussions, here…” he held out a canteen. “Drink this, as you really need it.”

Lucas scrambled over to Celtic, grabbed the canteen and quickly started to guzzle the contents down. Within a minute he drained the canteen completely. As he panted after drinking all the water Skye reached into a pouch on her belt and presented something to him. They looked like orange berries about the size and shape of a small pinecone. She held out three in her hand.

“Here, Lucas, eat these,” she said. “They’re Desert Duneberries. They’re loaded with vital vitamins and water that are great for heat-induced problems. Plus, they taste like caramel, so they’re pretty delicious. Eat them, as they’ll give you some much-needed nutrition.”

Lucas quickly grabbed the Desert Duneberries and shoved them into his mouth.

“Don’t choke!”

Lucas quickly chewed the Desert Duneberries, gaining a blissful expression as he tasted them. After a bit he swallowed them and gained a more relaxed expression. Celtic started to channel energy.

“Now, I’m about to do something that’ll help you, Lucas, so bear with me. Snooze!”

He fired the spell. Lucas was hit with strange energy. In his weakened and tired state he succumbed to the energies and fell asleep. As he toppled over Celtic caught him, preventing him from hitting the ground. Tyroe then slithered over, grabbed his hammer with his tail, and hoisted Lucas onto his back.

“Let’s backtrack to the area where the rocky tunnels were,” Celtic said. “That way we can get Lucas out of the sun and into a shadier spot. It’ll also give us a chance to catch our breath and cool down for a bit.”

Nodding in agreement, the group retraced their steps and returned to an area where rocky tunnels concealed that section of the desert from the sun. Tyroe gently leaned Lucas against a rock wall, allowing the Spear Hero to rest, still under the influence of the Snooze spell.

“So… what now?” Ryan asked.

“We have to wait until Lucas reawakens from his nap,” the redhead replied. “Then I’ll give him the same test I gave you with the Spiria we hunted down for him. For now, let’s just sit in this cooler section and wait. I’m going to backtrack a bit and refill my canteen, as I saw a freshwater stream a little ways back. I also saw a patch of those Desert Duneberries which might come in handy later. The rest of you wait here for me until I get back. I won’t be long.”

Leon turned to him, “Just stay safe, Cel, as the monsters might get opportunistic and attack you while you’re alone.”

“I will, but thanks for the tip. Shadow Warp.”

Celtic vanished in a black portal, leaving the rest of the group behind. The party decided this was a good opportunity to take a break and stay in the shade. As Lucas slept peacefully, the group couldn’t help but wonder just how badly his mind had been warped by Wench. A short time later Celtic reappeared from a black portal.

“How’d it go, Cel?” Rupert asked.

“It went fine,” he replied. “I accidentally overshot my targeted location but it worked out in the end, as I found a second patch of Desert Duneberries in the process. I refilled the canteen and picked at least two dozen Desert Duneberries, so we have plenty for later if need be. How’s Lucas?”

Viola, who had a claw on Lucas’ forehead, replied, “As you can see, he’s still resting. He’s also in a bit better shape, but he’ll need some more water when he wakes up, as he’s still pretty dehydrated. We’re just worried that he might’ve gone insane due to Wench’s betrayal. He was never really all there to begin with, given his blind faith in any women that weren’t part of our party, but Wench probably did a royal number to his sanity.”

Skye rolled her eyes, “It was bound to happen sometime, given how Wench corrupts everything she touches. I worry she might try to manipulate the remaining Heroes and turn them into more of her pawns in her sick games. We have to track her down before she gets her claws on Eric and/or Jerry. But, for now, we have to tend to Lucas.”

The group continued to wait until Lucas recovered. After about another 10 minutes Lucas slowly started to stir. He opened his eyes slowly, taking a minute to focus on the group.

“…Celtic?” he said weakly. “…Skye? …Ryan? Is this a dream?”

Celtic placed a hand on his hip, “No, Lucas, it’s not. At least you recognize us. That’s a good sign. Before we talk, here, take another drink.”

He held out the canteen again. Lucas quickly grabbed it and chugged the water down, still clearly thirsty. After about a minute he drained the canteen again. He took a minute to pant after he finished drinking before looking up at the group.

“You all… came to rescue me?” he asked.

“Well, we couldn’t leave you to die,” Skye said simply. “Even though the world is furious with you.”

“Wait… where’s Wench?” He stared to look around, saying, “Where is she?! I’ll tear her limb from limb for what she did!”

Celtic could only sigh, “We don’t know. She’s still on the loose, but we do know she’s in the company of Jerry’s party, or at least Marvin. She’s a wanted criminal right now, but she’s somehow gotten her spellbinding circle crest removed, or at least disabled, so we can’t track her with that anymore. We’ll get her, it’s just a matter of time. But, enough of that, we need to talk.”

Lucas gained a disgruntled expression, “Please don’t tell me this is another one of your lectures.”

“Not today. Lucas, you’ve been shamed and disgraced as a terrible Hero. You’re hated far and wide for your short-sighted actions. However… there is still a chance to turn your life around and actually gain the respect that a Hero can have.”

Lucas looked hopeful, “Wait! I get another chance?”

“Perhaps, but only if you are willing to actually put the work into being a Hero,” Celtic replied. “And you’ll only get that chance if you pass a certain test.”

“Test?” the Spear Hero asked. “What kind of test? Hopefully not a social studies one.”

Celtic gained a crooked smile, “Not quite. More of a test of character. Lucas, are you willing to change for the better and actually put effort into being a Hero? Are you willing to stop skirt-chasing and work hard to earn your title? And are you willing to do whatever you have to in order to redeem yourself to the people of Zakota?”

Lucas nodded, “Yes, yes, I am! Please! Give me one last chance!”

“I’ll only give it to you if you can pass my next test. Now…” he held out his hand, “Bubbler, come forth!”

A sphere of energy formed in his palm and floated around before taking the form of the Spiria from earlier. Lucas’ eyes went wide as he saw the Spiria.

“A Spiria!” he said. “Are you giving this to me?”

“Not quite, Lucas,” Celtic said. “This Spiria is going to test you. If you pass its test then you are worthy of one last chance. But if it rejects you then you are not worthy of anything but shame and disgrace. Bubbler…” he looked at the Spiria, “This is the man I need you to test. I’ll leave everything to you.”

Bubbler nodded and looked at Lucas. The Spear Hero sat on his knees as the Spiria looked him over. Bubbler then closed its eyes and started to concentrate, as if scanning Lucas’ very soul. Lucas gave an audible gulp of nervousness as he awaited Bubbler’s judgment. After a tense minute Bubbler opened its eyes, looked up at Lucas, and hopped onto his lap, wagging its crab claw-shaped tail. Lucas’ eyes became as wide a saucers.

“D-Does this mean what I think it means?” he sputtered.

Celtic gained a small smile, “Yes, it does. Bubbler has accepted you, which means you are worthy of one last chance. Make this one count.”

Tears formed in Lucas’ eyes before he started to cry, gently hugging Bubbler. He sobbed in joy as he held his new Spiria in his arms. Bubbler nuzzled against him before turning into a sphere of energy and fusing with him, making him quiver in pleasure. On his stat vision he saw his stats jump up by 50% along with a prompt telling him about Bubbler’s ability. He continued to cry as he felt Bubbler’s power flow through him, clearly happy at getting one last chance. After a few minutes he stopped crying and managed to regather himself.

“T-Thank you…” he said. “Thank you so much! I promise I’ll do things right this time. No more skirt chasing. No more antics. No more stupidity. I’ll be a real Hero for this world! …And I’m sorry for all the problems I caused you, Celtic. You… You were right about Wench. I should’ve never trusted her. Now, all I want from her is her head. Now that we’re working together… does this mean Skye won’t kick me in the crotch anymore?”

Skye placed a hand on her hip, “If you keep to your promise and not cause Celtic any more problems, then I’ll stop punting your unimpressive loins several meters into the air. Just toe the line and I won’t be forced to reintroduce my foot with your crotch.”

“Deal!”

Celtic gave a heavy sigh, “Well, it’s safe to say that you’ve finally learned your lesson. Took you long enough, but like the old saying goes, better late than never. Hopefully this is the end of all the antics you cause. Just remember one thing: this is your last chance. Screw this up and you’re dead meat.”

Lucas nodded, “Yes, I will, I promise! And… thank you for one last chance, Celtic.”

“Now, before we go any further, I have to do something, Lucas. Dark Chains!”

Lucas was shackled in Dark energy chains, much to his surprise.

“Wait!” he sputtered. “I thought—”

“Easy, Lucas, these Dark Chains are just for show,” the redhead explained. “You have a warrant for your arrest, so I’m ‘arresting’ you as per my orders. Don’t worry, you’ll be released from these chains when we get back to King Alvin’s throne room. This is just so no one gets uppity about you being ‘free’ after all the damage you and the others did. King Alvin will explain everything to you when we get back, so just grin and bear it for a bit.”

Ryan nodded, “Yeah, Celtic did the same thing with me. It’s just so the general public doesn’t get upset or try to attack you, as they’re not happy with us Heroes, to say the least. It’s only for a short time, so it’s not like you’re going into the dungeons or anything.”

Lucas nodded, “Oh, okay. I thought it was something worse.”

“Not today,” Celtic said. “But you have a lot of work ahead of you. Now, with that out of the way, take us home, Skye.”

Sky smiled, “My pleasure. Warp!”

They vanished from the area, returning home, knowing that there was more work ahead of them.

Next Chapter: Fighting Fire with Ire

That's all for now. Tune in next time to see what happens to our Heroes.
 
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