Soul Of Searing Steel Chapter 1
The sky was gloomy and the air was humid.
Deep in Thomas Grand Canyon, corpses were scattered all over the now quiet battlefield. The war had been alleviated and a small group of orcs was retreating towards the canyon.
The vulgar curses along with the chaotic footsteps of their invasive march had alerted and startled most of the vultures that were feasting on the dead corpses.
Crows, vultures, and undead gulls hovered around the corpses. Afraid of the presence of the orcs around, they made loud cries as an attempt to scare away other potential feeders. One of the crows that was braver than the others took its sweet time devouring a long rotten gut. Suddenly, something from within the pile of corpses twitched and scared off the crow.
A small patrol team consisting of only three orcs stopped in their tracks immediately.
"Halt! I heard something."
The green-skinned orc, whose muscular body was clad in broken metal armor and rugged leather squinted to focus on the source of the noise.
"I see something" said the same orc as he moved closer.
"I see it now. It's a human. I'll take care of him."
The orc gripped his heavy axe tighter and paced slowly towards the pile of corpses.
"Make it quick. We don't want to fall too far behind."
Amidst the darkness of the canyon, not even the crows were capable of seeing further ahead. However, the orc could walk towards the corpse with ease as it relied on his extreme sense of smell. After a quick rummage, the orc had managed to find a living human buried underneath a pile of rotten corpses.
The human was a young male warrior. His armor was broken and in tatters. His sword was bent and chipped in all sort of places. There was something admirable about the warrior. Judging from the orc corpses around, he was the only human that was still alive. Despite that, his condition was not looking great. His weakened state had him knocking on death's door.
Lightning struck down somewhere not too far from where the orc stood. The light from the lightning illuminated the entire canyon for a brief second and he could see that the light in the human's eyes had faded.
"Die," muttered the orc as he lifted his axe with both of his hands. With one heavy stroke, the orc swung the axe downward.
In a split second, the flash of light beamed off the dull sword and the orc could see a cold stare from the human's eyes.
"Huh?!" The orc gasped.
In an instant, the warrior sprung up from his seemingly unconscious state and slit the orc's left shoulder. The intensity of the stroke was strong enough that it left a long trail of blood spurting out from the open wound. The orc grunted in pain and released the heavy axe in his hand. With quick footwork, the warrior made his way to the side of the massive orc and knocked him off his feet.
It all happened too fast. Before the strong orc could even react, he was forced to expel a mouthful of air as a steel-like left arm was pressed against his neck.
Just when he could move his left arm, a powerful force was pressed against his chest and his neck, struggling to prevent the orc from taking in any air. The orc struggled with all his might. Panic and fear started to invade the orc's mind as his desire to breathe was overwhelming and clouding his judgment. The next thing he knew, everything went dark. Like steel, his eyes were cold.
The orc stopped struggling. There was no more noise, only the cries of the nearby crows.
The human warrior pulled out the sword and knelt beside his kill.
"Calm yourself, Joshua," thought the man. He gathered his strength and scanned the area.
All he could see was dismembered parts of what seemed to be unworldly beings. The scent of blood mixed with the rusty armor made the entire field smell like rust. Although it was not raining, the human's armor and leather hide were drenched with water. His entire arm was covered in blood, which trailed all the way down to his sword. No matter how much he wanted to calm himself, the grip of his hand on the sword refused to relax.
"Gloomy sky Orcs A battle?"
Joshua muttered a few words to himself. Each word was spoken with a deeper tone and when he finally came to, he shouted, "Thomas Grand Canyon?!"
The man stood up and turned around frantically.
"Impossible. I should be in the Ancient Dungeon of the Ashen! I should be in Naya Fortress! I should be fighting demons! Why are there orcs?!"
Joshua recalled the vivid image of his battle. He was fighting demons in a scorched land that rained flames and hot lava. Yet, that vivid image was replaced with a gloomy dark sky, wet and cold atmosphere. The difference was like heaven and earth. Something is not right. Something is most certainly not right at all!
Joshua gave up trying to reason with the unknown. Suddenly, he felt a sharp pain in his abdomen and found it hard to breathe. He dropped to his hands and panted heavily.
Drip Drip Droplets of rain started to fall on his metallic armor and no sooner, a thunderstorm came.
The pain in his chest was not the only sensation he felt then. When the water droplets seeped into his armor, he could feel the prickly pain throbbing all over his body. It was only then he realized that he was bleeding all over. Some cuts were so deep that he could not move freely without triggering the wound's throbbing pain. Joshua turned around and checked on himself. There were wounds so deep that if he did not begin emergency treatment, they would start to fester. Joshua merely scoffed at the pain. As a legendary warrior that had survived countless battles, Joshua had been in worse conditions that one might even consider absolutely hopeless. However, out from the ashes of defeat, Joshua had turned the tides of war more times than he had tasted salt. Such a wound was nothing. A mere flesh wound or so he would say.
"Tsk!" Joshua clicked his tongue disgruntledly. "This is odd. I was sure that I was part of the war. The war that took place in the Starfall Year 853, during the third expansion of Continental War... Thomas Grand Canyon should have been flattened after the Legendary War!"
Joshua ignored the pain he felt on his body and stood up to have one last look at the surroundings. With his still shaky hands, he wiped away the blood-stained rainwater from his eyes and muttered in disbelief.
"Why How am I here"
The dark clouds rolled in from the top of the canyon and brought in more thunder and rain. The sound of war could be heard from all places. Crimson colored water that started to turn into rivers flowed from the cliffs.
"This isn't right."
Joshua let the cold rainwater wash the blood on his face and finally realized the truth. "I'm dead."
Memories started flooding in. It was the despicable gloomy sky that had triggered his memories.
Naya Fortress. The Wall of Maria. He stood there, amongst countless warriors battling demons that came like a swarm of locusts in a land where hot lava was flowing like a river. The sky rained flaming meteors and the only silhouettes that could be seen were the wings of rampaging demons. The number of demons that flew in the sky was more than enough to cast their shadows to fully darken the entire battleground. That, and the floating ship that belonged to the demon forces. Rocks that were covered in flames were hurled to the ground. Like a scene of hell on earth, they rained down on the fortress like a meteor shower. Rising from the ash and smoke, the legendary warriors formed an impregnable defensive formation as they charged towards the enemy.
Joshua was one of them. Just when he was about to unsheathe his sword to perform a sword drawing technique, a long blade protruded from his abdomen. Along with some curses, Joshua's memories became scrambled like eggs.
Joshua took a deep breath. He realized the truth and bellowed wildly.
"Who the f*ck stabbed me?!"
Joshua's rage exploded like a whistling kettle. He forced himself to remember everything but could not recall what happened after he saw the sword's blade extending out of his abdomen.
"I've never died Not once. Not since I became a legendary warrior! F*ck! Just when I thought I was killed by a demon, it was by my fellow comrade!"
Right then, Joshua frowned again. Although he could not let go of the grudge he bore for the backstabber, he had something else to worry about. Whether or not he was still alive, the obvious question should have been where he was. Even if he had died, he should be within the walls of Naya Fortress! How did he manage to magically appear among a bunch of dead orcs?
Right when he was about to take a step, he sensed an ill omen. As a legendary warrior, his body's constitution allowed him to recover faster than normal humans. Wounds that would take months to heal would be reduced to several days. He should be able to walk and run normally after a quick rest yet the wounds on his legs and arms were not even showing signs of healing. Even the pain it was throbbing like there was a splinter inside.
Did the game developers adjust the sensory settings to a whole new level?
If he was not dead, where was the wound that was supposed to be in his belly? As for the wound that was caused by the curse, he could never heal them without the help of a GM.
What is happening?! The game is not Ubisoft, where the servers are potato and riddled with bugs.
"Move, damn it!" cried Joshua as he tried to force his muscles to move forward. He clenched his teeth to suppress the pain when he moved his right leg. All the wounds that had opened up were immediately exposed to the rainwater. It stung so bad that Joshua could feel the sound of his heart pounding in his ears. Joshua stopped walking and fell to his knees. The metal armor on his body grazed against each other and made a sharp noise. From the edge of his armor, Joshua noticed a small horizontal wound that could have only been formed from a stab.
The pain he felt was so strong that if any normal human were to be placed in his shoes, they would have fainted from the intense pain. Luckily, Joshua was not an average Joe in real life.
Joshua got back up to his feet and took a deep breath only to find that he was unable to restore his breathing rhythm. He ignored that fact and paced slowly towards the same pile of dead corpses where he was pulled out from. The sword in his hands was broken in many places and would easily crumble into dust with a gentle stroke. After so many years of fighting, he knew that it was vital for him to replace the weapon before a fight.
Joshua took some time but he managed to get used to the pain and arrived at the pile of corpses. There, Joshua started stabbing the corpses and managed to retrieve a long spear that was still in good condition. Although the spearhead had suffered a little damage on the edge, it does not affect its penetrating power. He discarded the sword in his hand and brandished the spear around to repel every single raindrop around him. After two seconds, he was certain that the spear was still in a good state and was most suited for his fighting style.
Just when he relaxed and wanted to search for a place to rest, the silence of the grave was broken by the cries of orcs coming from the darkness.
"He killed Togu!"
Two large orcs came out from the shadows and into his field of vision.
Naturally, Joshua was unable to understand what they said due to the difference in language used. However, that was not his worry at the moment. The muscles on them were so huge that the armor covering their forearms was about to burst open. The extreme bloodlust and the crave for revenge were reflected in their eyes.
Once the orcs had confirmed the enemy's position and number, the orcs did not give a second thought before jumping straight towards Joshua.
"Ourgh!" The one that attacked first was wielding a long scimitar. The usual green appearance of the orc darkened into a deeper, darker shade as if he had gone berserk. The blade was held up high in the air. The orc was ready to use his massive size and weight to cleave the weak human in half with a single stroke.
However, before the sword could even be swung, the spearhead whistled through the air like a speeding arrow. The slightly rusty spearhead pierced through the thick metal armor and leather hide, and went straight to the orc's heart. Joshua spun the spearhead clockwise. He then twisted his body and pulled the spear from behind with such force that the faintly beating heart was still attached to the spearhead. The orc fell to the ground, lifeless, while green blood spurted out like a broken fountain.
"Hm Are you really an orc?" Joshua asked with a condescending look. He turned back to see that the other orc had stopped moving. He could see the fear in his eyes when his comrade was killed in less than a second. "Is it even possible?"
The orc grunted with rage. The wrath in its eyes was fading as he wanted to turn tail and run. However, he was too slow to make his decision.
Joshua stomped his left leg firmly into the ground and took aim. As the orc ran further, Joshua hurled the spear in his hand with such force that it flew across the air at supersonic speed.
Droplets of water in the air evaporated instantly as it came into contact with the spearhead. The orc heard the sound of the spear whistling through the air and tried to parry it. However, just as he turned around, the spear pierced through his waist and pinned him to the ground.
He grunted in pain and spoke something which Joshua could not understand. Joshua walked towards the dying orc and gave it a weird look. The orc tried to summon its strength but his actions only caused more blood to spurt out from his open wound. Within a few seconds, the orc lost its life and remained motionless.
"I am sure that all the orcs have already been extinct! The system even announced that globally!"
When Joshua went to retrieve his spear from the dead orc, he felt a sharp throbbing pain from his scar. It was bleeding.
"Ow Perhaps I overdid it."
The injuries that he sustained were indeed serious. It was not just his muscles that were aching badly, he could even feel his internal organs bleeding from the inside. After killing three orcs, the pain he felt was so intense that not even the strongest dose of morphine could ease the pain. At that moment, all his wounds, both fresh and old, were crying in pain as though pleading for their owner to stop moving any more.
Joshua paced away from the dead orcs and towards where the light shone the brightest. However, before he could even take five steps, his hands started to tremble violently. He dropped his spear and sat down on the ground.
"Ha Ha Ha Why am I panting for breath? I am a legendary warrior. Such a wound would not make me this exhausted! I should not be this breathless after merely killing three orcs!"
He tried to lift the spear from the ground. As he did, he could feel the icy cold stones on the ground which made his hands shiver.
"Such a sensation The smell, the pain, the sight Not even the most powerful gaming company could model such a scene. There's no way the game could virtualize this"
As more and more doubts began to grow in his mind, the same bad omen from before started to resurface into his sea of thoughts. "Thomas Grand Canyon should have been made into a flatland. Yet, why am I seeing cliffs and trenches? I was supposed to be fighting demons in Naya Fortress yet I am awake in this place"
The rain continued to pour like cats and dogs and did not show any signs of stopping.
"What is going on?!"
A lightning bolt struck down and illuminated the entire canyon for a brief second. Joshua picked up a sword fragment and took the chance to see his reflection.
The face of a stranger was reflected on the sword fragment yet Joshua felt a sense of familiarity from it.
"Who is thais that me?! What happened to me?!"
Within a second, a sharp pain struck his brain as if he was cleaved by an axe. Immediately, he fell to the ground and writhed in intense agony.
What came next were all the memories that flooded into his mind that were supposedly his...