Chapter 1030 My Demon
The corpse transformed into a colossal creature that seemed to herald doomsday. Arthur stood facing it with a blank expression, as if he did not fear the terrifying monster that had emerged. Then, to their shock, the wolf spoke in the most wrathful voice.
"This vessel is also a failure," said the giant wolf as he stared down at Arthur. "Yet it seems... that there is still a chance. It seems that I also exist in your body," the wolf addressed Arthur. "I cannot exist for long without a vessel. Do you want me to strengthen your wrath, kid?"
"That, in turn, would make you harder to control," said Arthur to the giant wolf, his eyes full of determination, shining as brightly as the sun. "Your vessel said that you brought ruin to Runera."
"I exist to destroy the world, but whether that happens or not depends on the vessel I occupy," said the giant wolf as he crouched down toward the small human. "Are you scared, pitiful human?"
"I am," said Arthur, surprising the group. "I do not fear you, but what you might make me do. If I ever kill all those that I love because of you, I would rather kill myself next."
"That makes you weak as well," said the wolf with a grin that caused lightning to flare. "A demon king does not stop until he brings down the gods. You might need to sacrifice the world, child."
"I understand the truth now," said Arthur with a smile as he lowered his head. "Gaia wanted me to recreate the world we lost, while you sought to destroy it. Your very existence is the complete opposite of Gaia. I should not have used your powers as I wished."
"But you did," said the wolf with ridicule. "You know that my powers are the most potent against others. Gaia can create anything, but that is not what you need. You need to tear down the gods from their thrones, and you need me for that reason."
"Creation is not about making someone stronger, but enabling the world to thrive. On the other hand, you are set to destroy the world. That is the mistake... my demon made," said Arthur as he raised his hand toward the wolf. Mana of creation appeared, making the creature growl at him. "I reject you, Eragon."
Then, the mana bloomed like a golden flower. Rays of light shot from his hand, illuminating the dark city. The giant wolf seemed to convey one last thing to Arthur before disappearing from existence, leaving him as the last man standing on the battlefield.
Then, he fell to the ground.
Dal was the first to rush forward, turning Arthur over. The moment the group reached him to see his wounds, they were all shocked. A long gash ran across his chest from his left shoulder to his right flank. Blood flowed from it like a river, unable to be stopped.
"I will help him," said Koby as he fell to the ground, muttering a different spell than before. This time, green lights appeared as they began to stop the bleeding and stabilize Arthur. The group surrounded the man, their attention then turning toward the corpse not far away.
The black and golden robes were drenched in blood. A mask covered his face, so the rest could not identify who it was. However, judging by their own experiences earlier, a demon lay underneath the mask.
"It should disappear like ours did, right?" asked Fae with a frown as she grabbed her arm. "For some reason, it does not look like a demonized version of ourselves."
Joey nodded before he walked toward the corpse, crouching down to remove its mask. As soon as the mask came off, the entire group was flabbergasted. A face identical to Alexie's was before their eyes.
"That man fights stronger demons than any of you have met," said a voice from above them, and the group raised their heads to find Uncle John sitting atop a nearby boulder. His chin rested atop his cane while staring at Arthur, who was still in recovery. "He is fighting demons of the heart."
"What do you mean, old man?" asked Joey, confused. That giant wolf was no heart demon, but the greatest representation of a demon king. His entire body was covered in black lightning, too.
"If you had to choose between saving the world and saving the person you love, what would you choose?" asked Uncle John. "A hero would choose the world, while a villain would choose their loved ones. There is no in between."
"Is that what happened to Alexie?" asked Koby with a frown while still using his spell to save him. "Did he make that choice?"
"He will have to, soon enough," said Uncle John with a grin beneath his hood. "This is the reason the Red Tower was built. All for the sake of changing that one choice that led countless worlds to their ruin."
"The Red Tower was built for his sake?" asked Dal with shock before looking down toward Arthur. "Just what kind of man have we stumbled upon? How can someone so young carry such a burden?"
"The world is unmerciful, good lads," said Uncle John before raising his cane and tapping the ground. The floor began to shake as a gate appeared from underneath the rubble. "You five passed the ninth trial. The final trial this dungeon has to offer… is right behind this door."
No one moved, because all of them were still shaken by the earlier events. The Red Tower was built to choose the next demon king, said the rumors. However, these rumors turned out to be the truth. That revelation made the five fall silent.
"We have been traveling alongside such a man," muttered Joey as he looked at Arthur. "He will be the man who will turn the entire tower upside down, and he is just lying there unconscious. His life… is under our mercy."
Dal raised his spear toward Joey, standing between him and Arthur. His eyes were fierce, as if he had forgotten all about their friendship. On the other hand, Joey was unconcerned by his actions, still muttering to himself.
"No one will harm a hair of his," said Dal while glaring at Joey. "This man saved us countless times. If he is the one destined to conquer this tower, that gives us even more reason to protect him."
Joey was silent as he stared at the ground before sighing and shaking his head. "I never said I wanted to harm him. But we find ourselves faced with a choice, too. Do we help the man who would later be known as the demon king?"
"What is the demon king?" asked Fae with confusion. The rest were silent, because the title was something only associated with Devaheim.
"After the strongest creatures in the universe fought for supremacy, a fallen god named Obsidianos prophesied that a man will appear and bring down the kingdom of gods. He would be known as the Demon King," explained Koby. "It was just a fairy tale that the races doomed by the gods created, or so we believed."
"This isn't about the Red Tower anymore," said Joey while gritting his teeth. "If he is indeed the man destined to bring down the gods, then he will be responsible for countless deaths. We might be cursed by the gods for simply sparing him."
"No god can see inside this realm," said Uncle John with a chuckle. "The man who created the Red Tower fooled the gods into letting him plot their downfall."
"If the Red Tower is designed for this man, what was the point of entrapping us?" asked Fae with a frown. "What was the reason behind the countless lives lost inside this tower, including my own sister?"
"I cannot know what the Tower Master has in mind, but there are many reasons for that to happen. It can be to disguise the tower or nurture, but it does not matter. Those who enter the tower either think of it as heaven or hell."
There was a moment of silence as the five began to digest the information given to them. All of them were shaken by the ninth trial, some even questioning their very sanity. However, none of it was as mind-shaking as this revelation.
"We still have ten hours left," said Dal as he lowered his spear after realizing that Joey did not intend to attack Arthur. "Let us rest here before entering the final trial. How long do we need to finish the last room in this dungeon?"
"Just a few seconds, as I heard," said Uncle John with a grin. "You only need to make a single decision, and then you can leave this dungeon with all the rewards you desire."
"Then we have all the time we need to recover," said Dal to the rest. "We should build a camp here until then. Alexie needs time to recover from his wounds, same for the rest."
All five were wounded, and it was a good idea to heal their injuries before facing the last room. The old man overseeing this ninth trial simply vanished, and they began to recover and build their camp.