Deep Sea Embers
Chapter 606: Enchantment

Richard felt a jolt of shock, convinced that in that fleeting moment, a significant portion of the audience in the assembly hall shared his bewilderment. It seemed as though half of them were grappling, attempting to process the shocking revelations they had just been subjected to.

Meanwhile, the remaining half appeared to have had a hint or some preconceived notion about the unfolding revelation.

Suddenly, the eerie “crown” perched atop the grand platform let out another unnerving, clicking sizzle. The brain ensnared within the confines of the crown’s cage pulsated grotesquely, sending its thoughts into the minds of every cultist present:

“Yes, she indeed took the unconventional route of harnessing the formidable might of the dark hound as her weapon. While the mere mention of such an act might seem ludicrous, it’s crucial not to belittle or overlook its significance. Her capabilities go beyond what any of you can possibly fathom, and there’s more to her mysterious nature.

“In a recent covert mission, this heretic unveiled her true colors, dealing a devastating blow to those we deemed ‘allies’. Preliminary intelligence points towards her possessing a unique ability to withstand the psychic might of the Black Sun’s kin. This leads us to believe she’s either transformed beyond human recognition or pledged her very essence to a superior, extraterrestrial entity.”

“She conjures a virulent green flame, which she wielded to incinerate our allies. This menacing fire, known to have wreaked havoc in both Pland and Frost, is believed to stem from the infamous ghost ship.”

“She is a disciple of the phantom ship’s captain.”

The Saint hesitated, deliberately avoiding direct mention of the ghost ship or its captain. As his words faded, an undercurrent of anxiety rippled through the hall. Hushed conversations ensued among the cultists, their words cloaked in secretive codenames. A palpable tension hung heavily over the gathering.

Relief washed over Richard, realizing that the spotlight of scrutiny had momentarily drifted from him.

After allowing a brief pause, the Saint, elevated on the platform, resumed: “Each one present here is acutely aware of the calamity that befell Frost. We experienced a profound defeat there. The magnitude of our loss in that region is still beyond our comprehension. The overwhelming power of ‘him’ nearly wiped out every trace linked to our revered Nether Lord, encompassing our brethren and the sacred entity residing in the deep sea.”

“In Pland, a similarly catastrophic event transpired. The all-consuming fire left no stone unturned, obliterating the Sun’s Heirs and their followers. None associated with the event managed to evade ‘his’ wrath. The entire city-state underwent a lockdown followed by a purification. Communication lines were cut before the Vanished eventually disappeared back into the unknown, only for the church of the deceitful gods to subsequently rule over what was left…”

“In the aftermath of such a rigorous ‘cleanse’, scant bits of information found their way out. We dedicated a significant duration to unearth the truth surrounding the event. Our findings revealed that it was indeed the notorious ship and its mastermind behind the actions… the same enigma that emerged from subspace, only to confront us this time.”

“We have now deduced that ‘he’ has once again made a move, with his disciples playing a direct role in causing substantial setbacks in our recent endeavors.”

“And it’s not just a solitary follower we’re contending with.”

A deep silence blanketed the hall, a palpable tension weighing heavily upon its occupants. The Saint, with a gesture, manipulated the dark skeletal structure beneath him. Under his command, the luminous holographic illusions floating in the atmosphere started to transform. The depiction of the girl in the somber black gown transitioned into a new persona — the notorious “Sea Witch,” known as Lucretia Abnomar.

“The heretical figure you’ve just witnessed wields an intimidating power and resorts to unfathomable and often malevolent tactics. Yet, she represents merely one among the numerous disciples of the ghost ship’s captain, and it’s speculated she isn’t the most potent of the lot. Our current intelligence indicates that the ‘Sea Witch’ has apparently reconciled with her father…”

Muted whispers erupted in the hall as the cultists exchanged words, deliberating upon the fresh revelations making rounds within their sect. The Saint, perched on the elevated platform, lapsed into a contemplative silence, his extended ocular appendages swiveling, monitoring the reactions of his disciples.

After what seemed like an eternity, a slightly raspy voice pierced the quietude, emanating from the vicinity of the platform: “Venerable Saint, we’ve recently been apprised that the naval fleet has been resurrected. It appears…”

“The intel appears accurate,” the Saint’s voice resonated within the minds of every attendee, “It’s conceivable that more hostile ‘disciples’ will emerge within that dream dimension. Presently, our comprehensive knowledge encompasses only the two figures you’ve just observed—”

The holographic representations flickered, alternately showcasing the likenesses of the “Sea Witch” and the maiden in the dark attire.

“Lucretia, the infamous witch, is a repository of a myriad of enchantments and hexes, boasts an extensive understanding of mystical arts, and leads an imposing entourage. Not to mention, she wields an equally formidable ghost ship. While the ‘Dream of the Nameless One’ can marginally curtail her might, it’s unlikely she can transport her spectral ship and her legion of followers into the dream dimension. Nonetheless, encountering her alone demands utmost caution.”

“The self-titled ‘Sara’ heretic, which could very well be an alias, has a seemingly youthful appearance, but we mustn’t be deceived. She exhibits immense physical prowess, displays the characteristics of one in league with a dark hound, and has showcased a remarkable resilience against the psychic taint of the Black Sun’s kind. Beyond the details already disclosed, there lies another profoundly unique trait concerning this heretic, and that forms the crux of my impending revelation—The dark hound that accompanied her wasn’t merely a creature of strength and agility; it was blessed with the gift of human-like intelligence and the ability to articulate.”

A new wave of murmurs rippled through the hall, louder and more pervasive than the previous ones.

“An intelligent shadow beast?!”

Had such an astonishing statement not come from a revered saint, the initial inclination of the gathered disciples of Annihilation might have been sheer disbelief. They might have thought—surely this is the stuff of myths and legends?

Richard observed quietly, nestled amidst his fellow cultists, having anticipated this widespread shock. If he hadn’t been a firsthand witness to the extraordinary phenomenon, he, too, would have ridiculed the idea of a dark hound holding a conversation with the same eloquence as a human despite the deeply unsettling nature of their exchange.

“Esteemed Saint,” one brave disciple raised his voice, seeking clarification as he gazed up at the elevated platform, “Are you implying that a demon can possess intellect?”

“Though it challenges our known beliefs,” the skeletal entity on the platform articulated, its bony structure shifting subtly, “The evidence cannot be ignored.” The brain, ensnared within the cage of bones, emitted a soft luminescence, possibly hinting at a heightened emotional state. “Hence, this particularly gifted dark hound and its master warrant our undivided attention.”

Lifting his elongated eyestalks, the Saint’s voice was infused with an uncharacteristic hint of optimism.

“The association with the phantom captain undeniably poses a formidable challenge. I will not shield you from the gravity of this threat. However, our journey was never promised to be devoid of obstacles. Retreat is not an option. Our explorations in the Dream of the Nameless One shall persist, and it’s inevitable that we shall confront ‘his’ acolytes again.

“These ‘devotees’ may be powerful, yet they pale in comparison to their leader. Furthermore, they are limited in their numbers. With meticulous strategy and foresight, they can indeed be vanquished.”

“And now, it has been ascertained that one of these ‘devotees’ harbors a pivotal revelation — the sentient dark hound. This enigma is a uniqueness in our relentless quest for enlightenment. It might just be the key to unlocking the final mysteries on our path to ultimate ascension.”

“We must locate the heretic who identifies herself as ‘Sara’. It’s imperative that she and her exceptional beast be seized at any cost. My brethren, our journey is laden with challenges and unknown perils. Yet, trust in the promise of our destiny. Our path towards pure ascension is unfolding, and the hurdles we encounter affirm the sanctity of our chosen route.”

“My fellow followers, there’s no reason for alarm. We’re not tasked with directly challenging that captain. Our objective is much more attainable: identifying and tracking his disciples. By the time we accomplish our mission, and as this era draws to a close, even that spectral captain will diminish in significance. He’ll become a mere shadow, reminiscent of the waning moments of this Deep Sea Era.”

The Saint’s words echoed with a profound depth, infiltrating the very souls of those assembled. The platform’s centerpiece, a menacing throne crafted from intricately intertwined bones, groaned and contorted. Protruding spikes and elaborate shell designs clinked against one another, creating a rhythmic backdrop. At the heart of this throne, a pulsating brain gleamed, veiled by a radiant mist. Every alluring word that spilled from the Saint seemed to emanate from this brain, invigorating the attendees and instilling an intense fanaticism in their hearts.

These fervent sentiments rapidly solidified, effectively neutralizing the unease and dread that sprouted from tales of the ghost ship and its ominous captain. The palpable fear metamorphosed into an unwavering drive, reinforcing their dedication and zeal.

Caught in the mesmerizing spell, Richard unconsciously lifted his gaze, riveting it on the Saint’s oscillating eyestalks. An undeniable force swelled within him, a burning determination gradually supplanting the initial terror he felt after witnessing the sinister green flames.

However, in the midst of this transformation, a hushed voice, eerily intimate, grazed Richard’s ear. It felt as if the whisperer stood inches away, funneling the words directly into his psyche: “Oh, he’s leading you towards inevitable ruin… Rabbi genuinely mourns for your kind…”

A sudden jolt of awareness sent a cold shiver racing down Richard’s spine. This whispered voice carried an aura of malevolence, hinting at an impending danger.

But the sensation was fleeting. As quickly as the alarm surged, it dissipated, replaced by a blanket of puzzlement as his gaze settled back on the Saint.

Why was there such a fervor among his fellow cultists, void of any discernible apprehension?

Although the Saint’s assertions held merit and his words of encouragement seemed rational, didn’t the intrinsic perils of their mission merit caution? Were they deliberately overlooking the risks?

Richard’s brow creased, a nagging doubt suggesting something wasn’t quite right. He felt ensnared in a surreal reverie. Though conscious, his thought process felt muddled, reminiscent of a mind stuffed with fluff.

Yet, this transient confusion was abruptly eclipsed as a fresh occurrence within the hall seized his focus.

An unexpected surge of warmth had enveloped the entire chamber.

Chapter 606: Enchantment
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