Chapter 8 (continued)
"He did what?" Tyrzo's mask that so far had shown a neutral face shifted without him really wanting it to into a shocked configuration.
Sree looked at him through her still impassive mask. She sighed and took her mask off revealing her face, she understood that it was important to keep their identity secret from the world but here in their safest of hideouts it was ridiculous. She shook her long black hair our dismissing her robe with a short hand gesture. The cloth of her robe contracted started to glow and exploded into a field of thousands of tiny glittering blue stars which vanished as they faded. As the robe vanished so did the illusion of her body giving way to the reality of her massive heavy armour.
"I said," she repeated slowly looking Tyrzo directly into his eyes "that the venerable Feng Shima decided to leave behind all pretences of mortality. He used his power, which I must say we underestimated, to transmute his body into pure energy." She massaged her temples with the thumb and index finger of her lest hand for a moment before continuing. "Look Tyrzo, I was even more surprised than you are. I had sought him out to tell him that we would meet here as you had a critical break through. He look right through me for a long time before telling me that he had considered all things and come to the conclusion that it was for the best if he went along his path into ultimate immortality. Suffice to say that I had no idea what he was talking about. Then he just took a deep breath and started pushing out hand-seals in a way I have never seen, he combined that with some kind of ritual movement casting some most peculiar and extremely puissant net of power around him. He drew upon the very power of the deep earth for his final performance. Then he slowly exhaled turning his body into energy. He maintained his form walk towards me touching my shoulder telling me to not be afraid. As if I was afraid of that. I wish he ha told me before hand so I could have set-up a measuring circle and some proper equipment. Well. Water under the bridge I am afraid. He then told me to tell you that regardless of what you thought, he mentioned you by name Tyrzo, he had not abandoned our cause. He said that you did well to bring our plan forward so rapidly. He would now hurry ahead to aid us in our struggle. We were not to lose hope but keep our eyes open for in time with his new found power he would reveal himself to us." she shrugged. "After that he slowly dissolved into the earth, it did not take long until I could not feel his being any more."
Tyrzo shifted his mask back into neutral but could not bring himself to remove the signs of his resignation from his body language. He slumped onto a wide sofa letting his head fall back. Looking at the ceiling he asked "When exactly was that?"
Sree took a seat opposite Tyrzo. "Two or three weeks after you returned from the Inner World and told us that you were close a to a breakthrough that would change the general situation strongly to our advantage. That would be six weeks ago I'd estimate."
Prince Nirza who had been looking out of the window turned around also dismissing his disguise. His mask melted back from his face flowing to the back of his head coalescing into a choker of burnt silver while his robe parted turning into a cape with a midnight blue exterior and blood red lining. "There is, I think, no need to panic. Obviously the venerable Feng Shima knows very well what he is doing. We ought to trust him, for he has yet to let us down." He walked to a broad armchair but remained standing next to it.
"We have also yet to understand they way his strange old head works." Tyrzo said. He moved his head back up to watch his companions. "Why now of all times. We are so close to the final step of our plan." For a moment he was at a loss for words."What was he thinking?"
"We shall know in proper time." the prince said remaining calm. "Has he not always stood in the background watching for the most time? Even without him we shall not want for power."
"Oh really?" Tyrzo was now annoyed. "This it the one time we really need his personal power for the breakthrough and he decides just now to go and dissolve?"
"Get a grip Tyrzo." Sree said. "Prince Nirza is right. The venerable Feng Shima has taught is a lot. His ways of magic are unique and we were fortunate enough to learn from him. He had no apprentices, no followers, no chroniclers, nothing. Yet he did help us and I am sure that he did not just turn himself into" Sree's voice was getting progressively louder, "into pure energy merging with the very crust of the planet just so that he may get on your nerves."
"Tyrzo has a point though." it was the first time Niani spoke up since they had greeted each other. "Despite his involvement to our cause was tangential in a way. Always very interested in how we came along. Almost eager to show us his ways. But the old man never was an active part of the planning was he? Still we relied on him for the final push. Without the ridiculous power of his mind-force we will have trouble of breaking the last barrier. I've done some more calculations using the measurements I did up here and it looks like our approximations were not good enough." her mask drew up one corner of her mouth in displeasure.
"In the end," the prince said "it is only a question of power. We might not be his equal in the field of Mind-Force but we more than make up for it in inventiveness as well as use of high magic artefacts. His power was always very much centred on himself. With my blood technology we might very well still be able to draw a sufficient amount of power. Think about it." the prince started pacing up and down as he was starting to think. One hand behind his back his other gesticulating to underline his arguments. "The venerable Feng Shima was to be the fist with which to smash the obstacles before us. Now that we have lost his raw power we mus rely on our own ingenuity. This will force us to focus our efforts even more. Thus we reduce the risk of making a fatal error in the final stage of our grand endeavour. He shall not use blunt force any more. Instead we will build us a hammer." he stopped turning back to his companions again. "We know more than enough to master this task. It will be even a greater triumph. For us and for mankind."
Sree nodded. "He is right. I have though this through a couple of times. I am sure you have too Tyrzo. How would you do it alone. We can build a 'hammer'. It will take us a bit longer. But aren't we ahead of our schedule anyway? We might as well do it in style while at the same time coming up with artefacts that no mortal man has ever dreamt of before. That way we may also get to know what in the name of Cold Reason it was that the venerable Feng Shima is trying to achieve with his mind over matter demonstration."
Tyrzo just nodded in silence. It was Niani who started talking again. "So it is decided then. We will work on building a hammer to replace the old man Shima. The Prince can look into how to overcome the problems with the energy supply. You and Sree can work on building us a hammer while I can do much better estimates about what is ahead of us and what we need to move forward up here. Especially now that you obviously have found a source of abundant power." She moved her hand in a wide arc encompassing the entire room with all its glowing lights.
"That's right Tyrzo. What's up with all the lights?" Sree asked.
The question had the effect of enveloping Tyrzo in a warm blanket of smugness which gave him back his self assured smile that unconsciously found its way to his mask. Sitting much more upright he said: "This is why I have called you here actually. As you can see I have overcome the greatest shortcoming of the dark side of the moon. We now have an almost unlimited power supply, which turns this hideout into the perfect base of operations. I admit that getting here remains an incredible pain in the arse. But now we can do most of the preliminary work from here."
"But how have you achieved this remarkable feat?" asked Prince Nirza looking around as if seeing the room for the first time.
"I will tell you Nashrin, but first you need to give me your word of honour to not act rashly until you have heard me out?"
"I beg your pardon?" the prince asked.
"Please just indulge me. The matter is complicated.
"You have my word then." the prince agreed with some unease.
Tyrzo steeled himself, preparing for the worst, preforming hand-seals behind his back before saying: "The base is powered by the energy of a captive soul."
He didn't see the prince moving. His silver and gold sword was in front of his face, the moment Tyrzo had cast his hand-seals to protect himself. Had he not anticipated the move of the prince he would be either dead or heavily wounded already. But he had. His own sword was half way out of its sheath while he was rushing back. The blades throwing sparks and eldritch lightning as they scraped past each other. He shoved the Nirza away with his weapon the effect many being that he pushed him self back approaching the wall fast. Casting two further hand-seals in quick succession Tyrzo boosted his strength while at the same time channelling the kinetic energy of his retreat into one powerful shout. The force of the blast hurled the prince away while pushing him hard into the wall. He jumped to absorb the power of the impact into his legs casting another seal to divert the power into his aura. Now glowing softly he stood with his sword at the ready. Now he was prepared for further attacks.
The prince had spread his cape wide to slow him down. When he passed Sree who had stepped out of the way with a weary expression he had almost come to a complete halt. floating gently to the grounds, veins bulging red lighting crawling down his skin.
"Nashrin!" Tyrzo called out, "You gave me your word."
"A monster such as you does not stand under the protection of honour." the lips of the prince curled back exposing his immaculate teeth. He roared in anger as his body was shaken in anger. "How dare you try to trick me when you have cast aside all human decency. Galevion, for commiting the ultimate crime you will die!"
While the prince and Tyrzo was fighting Niani had crossed her arms stepping well out of the way of the fight waiting for it to come to an end one way or the other. While Sree had summoned the helmet of her armour casting dubious looks at Tyrzo who returned her a gaze that asked her what she was waiting for.
"So," Tyrzo asked calmly using his steady breathing to imbue his blade with power, "you say that there are certain crimes that are so unforgivable that the perpetrator relinquishes his right to be treated like a human?"
The prince simply screamed out his rage blasting forward to strike down his ally.
"The man whose soul I am using," Tyrzo spoke through gritted teeth as he side stepped the prince's attack blocking his wide power full swing with his sword absorbing its energy with his sword "is a criminal."
The Prince had to fight for a moment to maintain his balance now that his momentum was suddenly gone. "No crime is such that it would warrant such an abominable form of punishment!" He closed his fist igniting the spiked energy Tyrzo had absorbed into his body.
Tyrzo screamed as the power he had channelled from the princes attack turned into spikes of energy in his body. With the scream he discharged all of his pent up power through his aura causing. The blaze seared the floor, ceiling and walls of his living room instantly turning all the furniture it touched into ashes apart from those shielded from the blast by Nirza's body. "This is not a common criminal, Nashrin!" he shouted through the pain.
The prince stood suddenly before him the edge of his sword touching Tyrzo's throat. "Who? Who on this entire earth is such a beast to deserve to have his immortal soul burned to nothingness?" he asked his hot breath scalding the skin of Tyrzo's face.
"First of all," Tyrzo hissed "I am not burning anyone, just using parts of the soul." he was calming down now. He had his free hand with an open palm directed against the abdomen of the prince, redirecting the heat waves caused by the eruption of his blood fuelled into it in case that it became necessary to blast him away on short notice. This time he did not channel the power through his aura but through the gem-stone wires worked into his clothes instead. Not nearly as effective but also not as dangerous.
"That," the prince said his eyes now solid red, his teeth turning into vicious points, "makes it even worse!"
"Really?" Tyrzo used a part of the Nirza's power to erect a barrier between them giving him the chance to relax a bit and take a careful step back away from the teeth. "It just happens to be the soul of Shar Nizlaal."
For the first time since his outburst the prince paused. "This cannot be."
"Believe me it is. I would not make jokes about this Nashrin. As you know I went into the Kingdom X to break into the Fortress of Terminal Justice to retrieve the soul of Khrus Cydral and guess who was sitting next to him waiting to be burned away into oblivion."
"It cannot be. Nizlaal is long dead. He was judged for his abhorrent crimes!"
"That is what I thought too. What everyone believed. But we were lied to. Everyone was deceived by the few in control of the Fortress of Terminal Justice. It makes sense. Instead of erasing him for ever from the world he was kept for his knowledge, safe in his little bottle outlasting the millennia while everyone else was still caught in the mortal coil. Oh bitter irony! I touched his soul and saw his true natures. He is even worse than you imagine. I wanted to leave him there as he was finally destined to be evaporated. But then I thought why should he get away with it that easily? Also who knows if not someone thought that his knowledge would be convenient enough to keep him around a bit longer. After all there is no way that he could have lasted that long in the Fortress if he had not been taken out of the vaults for consultation on various occasions?"
"I..." the bestial aspects drained from the prince slowly returning his regal aspect to him. "I am sorry my friend. I have misjudged you."
"I noticed. And you Sree? Why the fuck didn't you help me?"
"If you really had turned to soul burning I would have helped Prince Nirza in disposing of you Tyrzo." she replied.
"You too Sree? Really?" for the first time Tyrzo seemed truly shocked. Sree looked away. "I can't believe that you people would really think so lowly of me. Of me! I brought us together. I was the one who came to you when everyone else had turned the backs to you. Who was the one who gave you the benefit of the doubt? Who was there for you during your darkest hours? huh?" Now even the prince lowered his eyes.
"Sree when the Order cast you ought I left my work the instant I heard about it to look for you. When the world turned against your blood magic in their ignorance Nashrin, who was it who stepped in using up what ever favours I was still owed to make people listen to you? Huh? Niani do I have to mention the state you were when I found you?" Niani still had not moved her mask thoroughly neutral.
"It is the blood. I can't still quite control its bestial effects." Prince Nirza said in a low voice that had lost most of its grandeur. "I am deeply sorry old friend. You are of course right, I should never have let doubts cloud my judgement before not hearing you out."
"It's OK. Sree?"
"I am very sorry Tyrzo but you have been so obsessed with your work lately that for a moment I was not sure how far you would go."
Tyrzo shook his head. "This is ridiculous. We all follow one goal and that is the general enlightenment of all. We want to illuminate the world and push past the boundaries placed upon us by the short sighted nature of the uneducated. We have a noble goal set before us. Out vision, our integrity is the most important thing that we have. Never, in my entire life would I ever betray these ideals upon which we have forged our bond. Never. So please do me the favour of never doubting me again."
There was an embarrassed silence. "Until of course you see me actually going insane and setting fire to orphans and kittens." he added.
Sree snickered and the prince shook his head smiling. The tension leaving the room.
"Now that we have cleared that up we might want to proceed? We still have a lot of work to do. As mentioned we now have more than enough work ahead of us and there is one other thing that I wanted to tell you. I was successful in retrieving the soul of Khrus Cydral and thanks in part to the work of Nashrin and the information I gleaned from the madman Nizlaal I could integrate his soul-container into an automaton body. That way we can take advantage of his knowledge and skills without risking his memory by implanting him into a body nor do we have to plunge into his soul proper to try to coax the information from his half conscious mind."
Tyrzo moved to the large double door at the far end of the room opening it with a dramatic gesture.
"My friends I present to you Khrus Cydral the great genius that almost solved one of the greatest riddles of all time."