When our group went down the next level, we were surprised to see that we were in the same area as the team we'd sent to go after Himiko, but that she wasn't around anywhere.
"Where's my darling Himiko?" Nene asked in concern as I saw Shifa still looked scared, but Jibral spoke soon after.
"We've deduced her location is at the top of this pyramid-like structure. The downside is that the road is lined with monsters and powerful barriers that none of our magic can get past," Jibral spoke.
"Only my magic can get past those barriers, as they only listen to the royal ancients. Protect me on the way to Himiko and I'll clear the path," Nene said.
"I-I dunno... you promise you're nice now?" Shifa asked as Nene looked at her in confusion as I then sighed.
"Your land shark attack on Talta Village during our battle, Nene? It killed Shifa's puppy," I explained, him frowning at that and nodding.
"Yeah..." Shifa said as Nene then simply hung his head in shame.
"I don't expect you to forgive me... but I shall prove that I am not the same as before," Nene said as we then went down the path and we proceeded to get through the monsters along the way. Szabo's new shadow was already hard at work showing off with its powerful and lightning-fast accuracy skills, which all culminated into his guns, which was pretty sweet to see a giant laser beam emit from his pistols!
"D-Did Szabo get an upgrade since we last saw him?" Jiro asked as Shu smirked.
"Yep! Nene separated him from the other four fake generals and then we placed that soul engine inside of him. Once we did so, he remembered who he was and got a sweet pumpkin shadow to boot!" Shu smiled, almost boasting.
"Pumpkin King, Shu. A shadow that is actually rarer than your Blue Dragon and my Mystic Mermaid," I smirked, which made him smile.
"One could argue that all shadows are rare nowadays... but then again, I've been keeping track of the residents of Neo Jibral and saw that around half of the populace had managed to call out their shadows," Jibral stated, that making me look at him in surprise.
"Whoa, what? Is that for real, or are you making a poor joke?" I asked, half expecting him to be kidding around.
"It's for real alright. Sorry we didn't mention it. We had a feeling you would've wanted even more people on the land shark to assist if you found out," Kesu admitted, me rolling my eyes at that before then firing a shot at the head of the Aqua Dragon that was guarding the way to the upper portions of the pyramid, it being an instant kill.
"You really think I'd be wanting people to come to a fight when they only recently discovered their shadows? That's failure 101 right there," I said, Nene speaking after that.
"Indeed. I may not know much about humans, but I know that even among the ancients, whenever they first discovered their powerful shadows within them, they always started off squishier than a bug," Nene said as he then used his magic at one of the barriers in our way and we smirked at how it demolished shortly after. We then continued up the structure, killing more monsters and robots along the way until we finally reached the top, where we saw that Himiko was sitting down behind the final barrier and that she looked concerned.
"Nene?... Is that you, my love?" she asked.
"Himiko, I'm here! Don't worry, I'll free you," Nene said as he used his magic on the barrier and, once it went down, Himiko got up and went to Nene and they hugged each other for possibly the first time in centuries.
"Nene... I'm so relieved that you're alright..." Himiko smiled with a tear in her eye.
"I feel the same way to you, my darling," Nene said as I smirked at how happy they looked. But then I had to break up the happy reunion to say something that I noticed on the radar.
"Um... hate to break it up, but a couple bomb robots are moving up towards our position on the map. We need to defeat them before they escape the cube," I said, Nene nodding at that.
"Yes. We'll do just that," Nene said as he and Himiko then joined the fray and I then asked one more question before the fight would begin.
"On a scale of one to ten, how tough will the fight be at the bottom of this cube, Nene?" I asked him.
"15. It'll take an insane effort just to reach the soul, and even more an effort to destroy it in its entirety. But when the soul is destroyed... I must stay behind," Nene said, which made Himiko sigh.
"Then let me stay behind alongside you, love," Himiko said.
"I can't ask that from you, Himiko. I need to atone for my sins, and you still have a life to live," Nene said with sadness in his eyes.
"You're the life that I want to live. Besides, even if you alone power this cube, it won't be enough to keep it together. The way I see it, it will require two royal souls to match the might of Gurgoth's soul. So it's either both of us, or we say goodbye to the world," Himiko said, that making me touched at how she spoke so eloquently.
"I can't say no to you, my darling Himiko... very well. But if we go through with this, it will most likely mean that we'll never meet anyone ever again. Solitude for eternity," Nene said.
"I'd rather spend a million years with only you instead of a lifetime without," Himiko said.
"That's... that's poetry right there," Sahlia smirked with a tear going down her cheek. But then, the happy moment had to end as the bomb robots finally showed up, these ones carrying bombs that were so big, they made the last one pale in comparison!
"CRUD! Those bombs have nearly 5 thousand pounds of TNT in them! If they reach the surface, it'd be enough to obliterate an entire cube!" I shouted, completely flabbergasted at the sight.
"Time to slice," Kesu smiled widely as she readied her knife arms.
"Ready, aim, and fire," Szabo said with enthusiasm. It was time to fight again.
After going down a few more floors, we had managed to hear a lot of strange messages that were played on strange machines. And every single message resulted in strange, polygonal, magical robots to appear from each machine that we visited, which Sura Sura called 'witch glitch', which was fairly accurate.
"I think I know what's going on here... these machines we've been uncovering are warnings from previous Ancients that resided on this cube in the past. They must've objected to this cube's initial purpose and were then trapped within these machines. And these strange creatures that appear shortly after must be their vengeful spirits, hoping to finally go to the afterlife," Korin said with sadness.
"That... sounds a bit convoluted," Yasato said, me smirking at how he was at a loss of words for a second, highly unlike the sanitary robot.
"Maro confused..." my little yellow friend said in annoyance. It didn't help that we had to go through some very tedious teleporters in order to get past these few floors, which did nothing but waste time. And the first one he entered made him scared for his life, as he ended up getting surrounded for a moment before rushing back through and clinging to my leg. He hadn't let go since.
"If I may say it in easier words, the ancients are warning us of the dangers of this cube. And after they warn us, they leave their prisons and want us to send them to the afterlife," Joy said, Maro then nodding at that.
"Oooh, Maro got it now," Marumaro smirked. But I was getting a bit worried. We hadn't gotten a call from Anya's team for roughly 30 minutes and we'd gotten past 2 floors in total since we'd last spoken with them. I then finally got fed up after we'd defeated a large Corrosive Poo Snake and I called her up.
"Anya, this is Zola, can you come in?" I asked. And what was my response? The sounds of magic attacks and bullets shooting.
"Ah, sorry, Zola! C-Can't talk right now, defeating bomb robots! One left guys, get it!" Anya shouted on the other end, me being surprised at that. I honestly was beginning to forget about the bomb robots, but upon looking at the map, there was another set of bomb robots that would be cropping up on our side very soon.
"What's wrong, miss Zola?" Marumira asked.
"I think that we're going to have to deal with some bomb robots very shortly. But I want to get the jump on them before they do the same to us. We'll need to go down to the next level and give 'em a surprise attack. They won't know what hit them!" I smirked.
"We'll help out when we can. Especially since we can't risk any of those monstrous machines going to the surface," Okuni said as we then proceeded out again... before we heard a voice from behind us.
"Wait..." said a voice. One that sounded like a little boy. But when we turned around, all we saw was the machine we'd just freed and defeated some vengeful spirits from.
"Um... who just spoke?" Marutora asked.
"I... I did... I'm inside of this machine," the voice said, me nodding as I then spoke again.
"What's your name?... And why are you trapped in there?" I asked it, though I did have my blade on the ready just in case.
"I'm... My name is Blanko... and I'm not trapped... I just don't want to leave," the voice said, me feeling that it was an ancient from the voice. An ancient kid.
"Do you... want to come with us? We can protect you," our little Poo Snake friend asked, me smiling at that.
"I'd uh... I'd love to... but I know you'd hate me just from sight alone..." the voice said, me frowning at that and looking at the others, them simply shaking their heads no.
"We'd never be so callous as to hurt a child. We promise not to hurt you," I said as I released my hand from my side. I felt I could trust whoever was speaking.
"O-Okay..." the voice said before it then appeared in front of us... via some green goo slipping through the cracks of the machine before then reforming themselves... and when the goo reformed the whole way, we were left awestruck. Why? Because Blanko wasn't just an ancient kid. He was an ancient kid... who had been experimented on with a Destroy! He had the bio-genetic properties of the green gremlin himself, complete with the skin color and the ability to control machines, but he also had the physical appearance of an Ancient with the bald head and the pointy ears.
"I know... I look like a monster..." he said, me shaking my head as I then simply picked him up, which confused him.
"You're not a monster. It's clear you were just a victim of one," I said, him then nodding.
"It was Master Gurgoth... I used to be his kid... but then, when experimenting with the Destroy models, he wanted to test it on living things... he tested it on me first, the pain being... oh god, the pain..." he said before shivering and tearing up, which I simply hugged him, him loosening up afterwards. "A-And... the next one he did it with... it was my sister... but I don't know where she was hidden at. She was also a failure... but our cousin... he was the one that turned into the perfect warrior that Master Gurgoth wanted..." he said, me frowning at that.
"It seems that this Gurgoth person was a monster. To experiment on his own children for his ultimate goal of genocide... that's the lowest I've seen anyone go. And we've had to deal with some pretty low things from other people," Guru Guru said with anger as I nodded. The radar was beeping a lot faster now and we had to get to defending our point from any of the bomb robots.
"Blanko, I know it may seem a bit much to ask, but can you help us defeat Gurgoth and this cube before he destroys the world?" I asked, him nodding.
"I will. I know I'm safe with you protecting me," he said as the machines then proceeded to pour forth into our location. And when the first bomb robot showed up with a gigantic bomb on its backside? Blanko then proved his worth by doing something shocking. He produced a shadow from his back that was in the shape of a giant Nemean lion! And after doing so, the lion breathed a breath attack at the robot that was chock full of acid, which ate away at it until there was nothing left!
"Whoa... the Roaring Nemean Shadow. It's one of the absolute rarest shadows in Ancient society, and one of the best long-ranged attackers!" Okuni gawked with a smile. We still had to deal with four more bomb robots that were emerging from the depths, but I had a feeling that, so long as we had Blanko with us and we defended the little guy from any trouble, then we might just beat the Balaur Shadow yet!