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530 A Struggle of the Mind

    Despite lacking a consciousness, this dark-red orb gave Daniel the same terrifying feeling of pressure that any of the aspects of existence that he had met in the past gave him, but in its own unique way. Oppressive, nauseating, and disgusting to look at.. Daniel felt similarly to how he had felt when he was standing over the mountain of rotten corpses after infiltrating the lair, but for some reason, the feeling now was a thousand times worse.

    In the eyes of the inhabitants of this world, be it monsters or humans, this orb floated in mid-air, emanating an uncomfortable feeling that would make anyone feel as if they were trapped in their worst nightmare. Those who had known the world of cultivation, on the other hand, could feel the immense power that it contained. A power that this world's indigenous life would easily mistake as that of a god.

    Like a puddle of mud in the rain, the power contained in this orb slowly expanded, fueled by each of the atrocities committed around it, and pulsating the sound of madness into the ears of these monstrous creatures in response.

    Daniel stood the entrance of this underground chamber, entranced by the orb, which tried to drill into his head the idea of letting go of any form of rationale, and eat, kill, torture anything and anyone. If still in possession of his powers, Daniel would have easily resisted this sort of spell, but that was not the case. Like any other mortal, he could only feel his anger, despair, and desires take over his consciousness, causing him to slowly slip into a frenzy.

    Nevertheless, before Daniel could act on these feelings, "ZUWENAAAAA!!" the foghorn-like voice of the painted warrior, who had followed him all the way from the entrance of the cave to the lair, shook him awake.

    With hazy eyes Daniel turned to look to his right, where his large and tall figure was standing, not as shocked by what was in front of him, but a hundred times more worried than he was feeling. "ZUWENA!!" he kept shouting in angst as he walked past Daniel, and into a small path that led in between the many crazed groups of monstrous warriors. His eyes kept moving past them, and towards the humans they were torturing, abusing, and devouring.

    "Damn it!" Daniel barked with worry before turning towards the closest one of the stone bridges that led to the inner island. Had Daniel been conscious when the painted warrior arrived, he would have tried to stop him from running straight into the horde of crazed monsters, but it was too late now. The only thing he could do was to find his companions and get them out of here. He would then think about what to do about the orb, which emanated enough power to destroy the entire planet.. A power that maybe, he could have found a way to use.

    With the attention of most of the nearby monsters directed at the distressed painted warriors, Daniel walked through the small huts, and groups of frenzied monsters.

    As he advanced, Daniel noticed multiple lines of naked monsters walk straight into large huts, which were highlighted by the massive columns of smoke that came from the top, and from which they would come out of a few minutes later with their new armor wielded around their bodies. The smell of burned flesh emitted by these large huts did nothing but add to the metallic smell of blood that engulfed the large cave, which was caused by the rivers of blood that flowed in between huts as conscious, and yet unresponsive dark-skinned humans were ripped apart and eaten alive.

    What contributed the most to the uncomfortableness that Daniel was feeling, however, was not the horrific scene, but the fact that none of the humans that were being tortured was making any sound. Leaving only the repetitive screaming of the white painted warrior to resound in the cavern.. Paired with the noises of crunching, cutting, and hammering.

    By the time he reached the bridge, Daniel had already caught the attention of the few monstrous warriors who had not joined the others in stalking the screaming warrior. Instead, they followed him in a daze, as if they had seen the next thing they needed to brutalize after finishing their first victim, until, the very moment Daniel set foot onto the stone bridge that led to the inner island, they completely lost interest in him and went back to what they were doing before.

    Confused, Daniel walked through the bridge while trying not to slip and fall into the lava, above which numerous dark-skinned men and women were sizzling in silence, inside the iron bars that caged them. Once through, Daniel found himself at the edge of the inner island, above which thousands of people were prostrating in ordered rows around the dark red orbs.

    It was only when Daniel entered the inner island, that next to him, appeared a dozen of oddly calm monstrous warriors.. Each exhibiting conscious behavior, and armored with the same kind of weapon possessed by the leader of the party whom he had killed.

    These monsters stood menacingly, and looked at Daniel as if ready to charge.. but at the same time, their behavior showed how carefully they wanted to avoid disrupting the prostrating humans from keeping on praying to the orb. It was clear that this place was sacred to them, and that it was their job to protect it, a detail which gave Daniel courage. He knew that these monsters would never allow him through, but also that they would avoid starting a battle on this sacred island, so he unsheathed his two swords, and stepped closer to the edge of the small island in order to avoid being flanked.

    He then observed in silence as these warriors grunted at each other for several seconds in what looked like irritation, until finally, the largest of them, who was carrying a roughly made steel greatsword, stepped towards him by himself.

    With the intention of using his larger build and bigger weapon to throw Daniel off the island, the large warrior tightened his fists around the handle of the large greatsword, and with a powerful swing, he planted it a few centimeters away front of Daniel's feet, causing the rocky ground to crack under his weight.

    Unwilling to wait for the ground he was standing on to crumble, Daniel stepped over the unsharpened edge of the sword, and after a weak jump, he joined his swords together into a vertical slash. To his surprise, the warrior let go of the greatsword, and after moving the shield mounted in his left arm above his head, he reinforced it with the right one in order to block the blow.

    After the loud clang, Daniel fell back on the unstable ground, with the large monstrous warrior ready to grapple him with his large and muscular arms.. However, before his arms could wrap around him, Daniel lowered his upper body, leaned onto his left leg, and right after the monster's arm went past him, he sprung back on his feet, and used the momentum to send a low back kick against the back his opponent knee, robbing him of his balance.

    This kick was not powerful enough to hurt the warrior in any way, but enough for the latter to step forward in order to avoid falling on his knees.. But before he could get back up on his feet, and get away from the cliff edge, Daniel pressed his right foot against his back and pushed him off, causing him to roar with anger before disappearing into the river of lava.

    After seeing one of their companions die, the remaining guards looked at one another for a few moments, then, they advanced together fearlessly. It became immediately clear to Daniel, who couldn't see the slightest hint of fear in their beady eyes, that they would eliminate the disturbance that stood in front of them even if that meant falling into the lava with him.. But while threatening, their obsessive behavior gave Daniel an idea.

    Instead of retreating, or trying to slip away from their grasp, Daniel threw one of his swords past them, and towards the large group of praying humans. This action seemed to trigger a primordial sense of fear in the hearts of the warriors, who immediately forgot about Daniel's existence, and turned around in a hurry to check whether the sword had struck someone, or disturbed either the shamans or the orb.

    As the sword bounced against the rock in between two women with a few loud noises, right before the enraged warriors could turn back to deal with the intruder, the figure of Daniel dashed past two of them, and ran straight into the area which the guards were so careful not to disturb.

    Panicked by Daniel's actions, the warriors ran behind him, but as their massive bodies entered the area, they found themselves stumbling over the bowing humans, which seemed to cause an even deeper anger in their companions than Daniel's very intrusion.

    For the following few seconds Daniel stepped through the large crowd, observing as the warriors reached a deeper level of restlessness and anger, to a point where they seemed to have forgotten the reason why they were there, and instead, they were turning against one another.

    It did not take long for one of these monstrous warriors to be too offended by his peers' carelessness to care about Daniel, and to start attacking one of his companions in a blind rage, giving Daniel the opportunity to walk around undisturbed. But, Alas, that did not put an end to the uncomfortable feeling that was spreading in his mind.

    As he walked through the thousands of kneeling people, Daniel noticed that some of them had begun to change. Their eyes had lost clarity, their skin had started to turn lucid and greasy, and some even chewed on their own lips, as their teeth were becoming too numerous and pointy to fit into their mouths. The most nauseating detail, however, was how the skin and flesh of even the most human of these people had scraped off their knees after what he believed to have been years of constant kneeling.

    What was even worse, was the fact that the oppressive feeling emanated by the orb was clouding his mind, causing him to feel as if he was the odd one amongst these thousands of people, and that everything would be better if he just got on his knees, and joined the others.

    Barely able to maintain his rationale by slapping himself multiple times, Daniel kept unconsciously walking towards the core of the cave, where he saw the figure of the several shamans who stood around the orb, and swayed their arms in reverence. It was only after reaching these shamans, that Daniel noticed Dawn and the others, who were kneeling and praying like everybody else.

    Ignored by the entranced shamans, Daniel reached his companions with a quick step, while also trying to ignore the voices that had suddenly appeared in his head. "Hey.. wake up.." He said gently after placing his hands onto Cassie's and Dawn's shoulders.. but there was no response. "We need to.. We have to get out of.. We have to pray and.. Pray, and pray, and pray.. No! We have to leave, and slaughter and eat and PRAY!"

    At such a close proximity to the orb, Daniel's sanity was constantly chipped away by the voices and horrifying sounds that kept drilling into his consciousness, until close to nothing was left of it..

    Ready to fall into madness, Daniel used the last bit of sanity he had left to turn towards the orb, the sight of which robbed him of it, and caused him to body fall limp on his knees and onto a few sharp rocks, which ripped his pants and scraped his skin. It was only thanks to this pain that Daniel was able to momentarily regain focus, and produce the very last thought before his mind went completely blank. That thought was aimed at activating one of the few effects left working in his system, and that, was 'Time is Precious.'

    After a few moments spent in a completely crazed state of mind, a wave of calming consciousness pushed back against the orb's brainwashing, allowing him to regain his composure for a few seconds before the seemingly reactive orb increased the pressure onto his mind.

    The pressure kept increasing until it reached a point where even the system's effect could not maintain his consciousness.. So in a moment of desperation, Daniel rose back up to his feet, and while wielding the only sword he had left, he walked past the shamans, and towards the orb. He then raised his arm, and with all the power that his mental state allowed him to muster, slashed downwards.

    Moments before the blade reached its surface, the orb began to pulsate the sound of desperation into Daniel's mind at a faster rate, almost as if terrified of his attack.. But then, it all ended. The noise disappeared completely, and the sword bounced against a protection that had formed around the orb.

    With a clear mind, and yet confused about what had happened, Daniel turned around, and behind him, standing behind his just as confused companions, and half-transformed humans, a tall man stood in silence while looking at him with eyes filled with curiosity, and lips curved into an insane smile.
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