Depthless Hunger-Chapter 260: Consuming Another Sort of Wings

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Over the course of his life Kai had lost count of the number of times he'd fallen unconscious and woken up injured, so he wasn't surprised to feel pain in darkness. This time felt a little different, though. As he put together that he hadn't been killed by the Thunderbird, he also felt something soft under his head.

When he finally wrenched his eyes open, he was staring up at Omilaena. His head must be in her lap and she was in the middle of applying some sort of liquid to his neck. It burned in the way healing ointment often burned, so he didn't struggle.

"Let me guess," he said with a groan. "I killed the Thunderbird and I was so happy I fainted?"

"Well, let me put it this way. You did a pretty good job considering it was your first day in the air." She gave him a weary smile and then handed him a potion. "This should help a little. Fighting a monster like this in its own environment is rough."

"I don't see how we can force it into a different environment, though, not without such overwhelming power that we wouldn't need the advantage. I could definitely kill it if we knocked it into the water, but how would that work?"

There was no real answer, so he fell silent and drank the potion as ordered. He felt a bit battered, but he'd clearly gotten through alive, and between Behemoth's Heart and Omilaena's treatment he didn't feel too bad. As he recovered, he found himself increasingly distracted by just how soft her thighs were. Usually he associated Omilaena's fingers with poison and violent movements, but they could be surprisingly gentle.

"Thanks for saving me," he said belatedly. "Where, uh... we're in some kind of crevice?"

"The Thunderbird got more aggressive after the close call, so I dragged you here. Thanks to your spatial ring, we didn't lose much in the way of supplies, and we're better defended now."

"But no easy way to beat this thing."

"Actually, I have an idea. But you should finish recovering first."

She finally eased him off her lap and the pillow that replaced her was much less pleasant. Less distracting, though. Kai closed his eyes and focused on Behemoth's Heart pushing toward his recovery. He'd survived a direct confrontation with the Thunderbird, so it wasn't overwhelmingly strong, just fast. If they could get the right edge, he could gain that speed for himself.

"Why are you still doing this?"

Omilaena's question threw him off and he opened his eyes curiously. After being relatively open lately, she was back to making her face a mask. Where Zae Zin Nim usually presented her natural face, Omilaena wore blue lipstick and eyeshadow except when she was training. There was always a layer of separation between her and the rest of the world.

"You don't mean fighting the Thunderbird," he said flatly.

"Yes and no. There's not any doom rushing down toward us right now, so why push so hard?" Her eyes regarded him without expression. "And don't give me that nonsense about just wanting to fight monster incursions."

"Why is that nonsense? It's what I trained my entire life for. And I almost have answers, at the Inverted Oasis."

"You're really going to spend your entire life defending the people who rejected you?"

Kai sat up with a slight grunt of pain, wanting to meet her gaze directly. "Do you really mean that? That's children's logic. A few petty people got me exiled, but that doesn't mean all the rest deserve to die. The monsters would kill everyone, guilty and innocent, and probably eat the entire continent. Think about all the workers we freed in Krysal... if I can't find a solution to the incursions, they'll all die too."

"Actually, Krysal is a good example of what I'm asking." Those blue eyes were still regarding him icily. "It sounds like you had no idea that people were enslaved, you just wandered into Krysal with the vague idea that you could become stronger."

"I can't fix the entire world and I don't know everything. I'm still going to try to help whatever's in front of me."

"And is that your final goal? Wander the world, righting wrongs and slaying monsters?"

"I... guess not." Kai rubbed his eyes with his knuckles. "Like I said, I can't fix everything. Maybe I'm just a dumb monkey in the end, like the demons or elves say. There are a lot of people I care about across Deadwaste. I want to help them because I care about them. Maybe there are other people who have it even worse, but I've never met them."

"Hm." Omilaena tilted her head to one side, her hair falling with the motion as she regarded him. "With most I'd ask if they'd stop working if they could have a comfortable enough life, but I guess that's not true for you."

"Hey, I'm not saying never. If the incursions were the worst things I had to face... I'd probably be happy becoming a Frontier elite, getting married, and protecting a family along with the continent. But given what we saw... there are things more powerful out there, beings that could snuff us all out like bugs, and it's all tied in with the abyss and the incursions somehow. Even if I'm not really a hunter anymore, I have to figure this out. If I don't, none of this has any meaning."

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"That's a grandiose goal, but its only effect on your actions will be that you always seek power. Are you just a demon with delusions of charity?"

"I mean, you can break everything down to nothing eventually. Maybe I do like the training and the power. Maybe I'd enjoy becoming strong enough to come back and save everyone. Ultimately it doesn't really matter how I morally justify my own actions - everyone justifies themselves. I'll keep doing what I think is best. Let the people I impact judge me."

She nodded quietly, a bit of her iciness fading. Kai didn't particularly like being interrogated like this, so he decided to throw it back at her.

"And what about you? Is it all nothing but the big threat to you?"

"You've seen what kind of world we live in," Omilaena said with an odd smile. "The strong eat the weak, and the only way to gain any real choice is to become strong yourself. I've seen the scale of the world, so everyone I've ever known is weak. I don't have a choice."

"But what would you do otherwise? What would you want if you weren't trapped in that dilemma?"

"That dilemma is our entire world. Nothing else exists."

He wasn't sure how to reply to that and fell silent, focusing on recovery. The conversation hadn't made him any happier, but Omilaena seemed to have shifted slightly, as if she'd gotten what she wanted. Sometimes, despite everything they'd shared together, it was very difficult to read her. There was a small part of him that still wondered if everything was an extremely long ruse that would somehow end with her gaining an advantage and running off.

After sleeping briefly, he woke to Omilaena in an entirely different mood. She had a stack of things for him to put into the spatial ring and seemed eager to go.

"Unless you have something up your sleeve, we need more assets," she said. "I have an idea, but we need to check back in with the elves."

"Uh, sure." Kai stood up and joined her as they crept out of the Thunderbird's domain. It took one more shot at them, but another cloud of poison gas warded it off enough for them to break free.

Once they returned to the Bludshard caverns, Kai was briefly concerned that they'd bring the Thunderbird after them and disrupt Zae Zin Nim. It didn't seem like Omilaena planned to stay for long, though. For once the usual guard wasn't on duty, instead further back in the caverns. Given how he was half-dressed it seemed like he'd been in the middle of something, but he came out yawning and unconcerned.

"I need that favor, Yonto," Omilaena said.

"Yonto?" Kai asked, but not softly enough.

"That's me. Yonto Bludshard." The elf started to wave his hand and seemed to give up half-way through. "A favor is a favor. What changed your mind?"

While they discussed details Kai took another look at the elf. If he used the same family name as the entire community, that must mean he was one of their lords...

Name: Yonto Bludshard

Total Power: 865

Soul Cultivation: Earth Glamour (387)

Cagnazzo's Tide: Level 5 (125)

Physique Level: E-8 (104)

Soul Level: 7 (249)


It looked like he had the strength to match the title, with 865 Power. Kai honestly wasn't sure if he had been hiding it before that point or if he had just slipped through... was it possible for an elven glamour to push aside attention? He didn't like the idea that he'd entirely missed something important, especially because Omilaena had clearly noticed.

"Can't do unicorns," Yonto said, "but we can find some pegasi out of season. Will that do?"

"I think it might." Omilaena glanced back at Kai. "That was one of your targets in the hunts, right?"

"Right." Kai forced himself to focus again and squared his shoulders. "We can hunt one?"

"Oh, sure. Come along now..." Yonto grabbed a shirt and yawned before abruptly teleporting them.

As the wind faded, Kai realized they were standing in a valley, much more verdant than the rest of the Elven Wilds he'd seen. Most of the green of the plants gave way to stranger purple colors, though. There was quite a bit of chakra in the environment, but Kai's attention barely remained on it, because at that moment a creature burst from the foliage on one side and soared through the air.

It looked like an elegant white horse with massive wings, sending out ripples of chakra every time it flapped. As he watched, it arced over the valley and then disappeared into the trees on the other side. He didn't see another one, but he could feel life all through the region.

"I'll be back in a couple weeks, I guess." Yonto yawned again, mumbled something like "Good luck" and then disappeared.

"Did you use a favor for my sake?" Kai asked. Omilaena just shrugged and gestured.

"This is a less lethal challenge than taking a new ability up against the Thunderbird. Go give it a try, or these two weeks will be rough."

He nodded and focused on Garuda's Wing, which was still active. It didn't take him long to jump into the valley, at first just testing himself in a safer environment, then hunting for the pegasi. Eventually he stumbled onto one that was calmly chewing on some grass until he got close.

His first leapt nearly caught its wings, but their force buffeted him backward. Kai hit the ground and rebounded, using his new ability to throw himself back into the air after it. Once again he nearly caught the flying horse until it kicked back at him. Even though he blocked the kick with his forearm, the impact reversed his momentum and tossed him back to the hillside.

No matter how hard he drew on Garuda's Wing, he couldn't stop his wild flight until he plowed through a tree and into the hillside. He grimaced, more in irritation than pain, and slowly pulled himself out. By the time he did, Omilaena was standing beside him.

"Does this seem like the right level of challenge?" she asked.

"Yeah. Give me some time and I can catch it." Kai rolled his shoulders and bounced on his feet again, willing the lightness all through his body.

"Our conversation from the other day..." Omilaena wasn't looking directly at him and spoke in a quieter voice. "I want to find people going all the way to the top. Perhaps I haven't fully understood what that means... but that doesn't matter. Go out there and do what you do best."

He wasn't sure how to take her ponderous statements and she didn't seem to want to dwell on them either, so he forced a grin. "Throw myself at barriers and pound them down with my face?"

Omilaena glanced back with a savage grin. "Climb over obstacles."