Chapter 23

Ethan stood by the door he'd just opened, still holding the door handle and watching as Memeta strode into the room like she owned the place. He was still completely bemused by the fact that he was being visited by some strange woman, and that this wasn’t some bizarre dream. It seemed Memeta was rather bemused as well, she looked around curiously at the simulated lab, seemingly interested in the strange screens and items around the room.

The awkward silence persisted for a moment before she turned to Ethan.

“Well, this is certainly an interesting place you have,” she commented absentmindedly. Ethan closed the door and crossed his arms, frowning a little.

“I don't mean to be rude, but who the hell are you, and what are you doing here?” He asked flatly, ignoring her comment. He set his AI to work documenting all their interactions and analysing the situation.

“Well you are certainly very direct. I guess I owe you a pretty big explanation.”

Memeta paced around the room as she started speaking.

“First off, are you aware of what a divine is?”

“Vaguely,” he replied after a moment of thought, “I know that there seems to be beings of power or a system that controls this world. I received a ‘divine blessing’ once. I figured there weren't actual beings behind it though, just a system. It seems that I'm wrong, however.”

Memeta smiled and didn't respond for a moment, instead she motioned towards a small microscope and cocked an eyebrow at Ethan, seemingly asking if she could fiddle with it. Ethan nodded towards her. Seeing his sign of approval she picked it up and started looking around the item.

“Good, at least you’re not completely blind to what we are.” As she was speaking she looked down the lens on the microscope and a look of confusion briefly passed over her face, she continued despite her apparent confusion, “You're right in the fact that we are beings, although I don’t think you see the scale. There are hundreds of us who live in what is called the ‘Celestial Plane’, each of us have a nemesis or rather, an opposite. We have a large level of power and influence over the mortal plane, although we aren't unlimited in our power. We have our abilities over mortals limited by something called “The Wheel”, a system for balance that keeps us in check. Our interactions with the world through this Wheel are controlled by limited “Faith points” that we accrue over time and can use to influence things on the mortal planes. Everything in this world should be operating under the influence of the Wheel, and it does.” She paused for a moment, “Apart from you, that is.” Memeta hesitated for a second as she thought carefully on what to say next.

“We cannot perceive the world through your eyes, or know your feelings like with any other mortal. You are completely locked out from our control.” She stopped trying to look down the lens on the microscope and looked Ethan directly in the eye “This makes you special. Most of the divines want to see you dead, however you have been greatly furthering my cause.” Ethan had a lot of questions, but one stuck out from the rest.

“And what ‘cause’ is that?”

“I’m the goddess of free information and memetics, my dear. My cause is to spread knowledge, ensure that information doesn't get lost to time and to stop information that wants to be free from becoming secret.”

Well, that explains why she is almost completely naked. I'm not complaining, though. Ethan mused.

“This is why you are important to me. You seem to have a vast amount of knowledge alien to this world, and have a knack for discovering things that others want to keep secret.” She beamed Ethan another smile, “I do believe that keeping you alive would be of great advantage for me, which is why I’m here.”

It dawned on Ethan what this was all about, it seemed that he had a few friends up in the so called “Celestial plane”. It made Ethan curious however.

“So you’ve basically come here to help me beat that?” Ethan motioned towards a screen displaying a still of the Nephilim chasing him, “There has to be strings attached, you can’t be entirely altruistic in your cause.”

While they talked, Memeta continued to look around the curious items in Ethan's lab, inspecting and fiddling with each one. It was not like the various scientific instruments could be broken. Regardless, on any normal day Ethan would have been bothered and told her stop. Today was very much not a normal day.

“You’re partly right.” She answered plainly “What do you think a goddess of my disposition wants from you in return for helping you in your current situation?”

Ethan pondered the question for a moment, she could want many things from him. Maybe she wanted the sceptre, or for him to become her harbinger? If she truly was being altruistic in nature she wouldn't want any of these things, would a god even have a need for a physical item such as the sceptre? No seemed to be the obvious answer, which meant there was one other thing she would want.

“You want information” Ethan stated “About what, though?” Memeta let out a sigh at Ethan's question.

“Isn’t it obvious? I want to know about you. Of all things I know about, you are the one mysterious piece of the puzzle. What are your origins? What motivates you? What is the end goal to all your current actions? Who really is Ethan West?”

Ethan was taken back a little by the question, she wanted to know about him? While back on Earth he would have struggled to answer the question she had just posed, ever since his accidental arrival in this world he felt a lot more purpose to his life.

“Well, this is a tricky question” Ethan replied. He leant against a nearby table as he thought “To be truthful, I’m not entirely sure what is motivating me, I’ve just been going with the flow so far.”

“I guess the side of me that is a scientist is motivating me, I need to know why and how this world works and then be able to use that knowledge to the best of my ability.” Ethan paused to think for a brief moment, “I guess my end goal is to improve the lives of people in this world and use the magic to my own benefit. You divines are immortal, maybe I could extend my life or something. That would be nice. More than anything though, I have the ability to be something here. Back where I come from I was just one of many, in fact many people considered my line of research crazy or a waste of time, So I’d also like to find a way back to Earth at some point and show people there this amazing place I’ve discovered.” Memeta had stopped fiddling and seemed to be paying a great deal of attention to Ethan. Ethan looked over at her, “Is that what you were hoping to hear?”

Memeta chuckled to herself, “Thank you for the information! It certainly explains a lot, no wonder you’re such a strange person… you’re not even from this world! It seems to me that you will keep spreading your knowledge and generally keep doing what you have been doing already, meaning I’m more than happy to help you.”

Ethan was glad to hear this, although there was one more thing he wanted to know.

“That's good to hear. I’m curious though, am I quite popular in the celestial plane? What does your ‘nemesis’ think of me, for example? Also, what exactly are you planning to do in order to help me?” Ethan added at the last second.

“Well… in answer to your first question, I wouldn't call you popular, more like… infamous. You don't have many admirers amongst the divines, so you should value the few of us who do support you. You should know, your actions have actually brought a new pair of divines into existence, as you can imagine they are pretty big fans.” Ethan was pleased to hear something positive but then frowned as he realised that divines who supported him were greatly outnumbered by those who didn’t,“In terms of my nemesis? Crypto hates you with a burning passion, I wouldn't be surprised to find that this Nephilim you are currently fighting is his doing. It is a lot of fun to tease him about the little he can do to stop you.”

Memeta had sat down in one of the swivelling office-type chairs while talking and seemed interested in the way it rotated “In terms of helping you? I'm sure the main thing you've figured I have by this point is knowledge, and that's exactly what I'm going to give you.” She paused and looked directly at Ethan with a piercing look, Ethan would have been worried if he knew this “look” is the one divines have when they are casting a spell.

“Ever heard of soul magic?”

“Uh no, why do y–” Ethan was interrupted mid sentence as a line of text flashed in his vision.

Divine Blessing Received: Knowledge Package

The message was quickly followed by another prompt from his AI.

<Information: data package titled “Soul Magic” received, do you wish to open the file?>

Yes Ethan thought without taking long to consider it, he waited anxiously to see what Memeta had just given him.

Information rapidly flooded into Ethan's mind and his AI quickly got to work organising it and cataloguing it. Screens around his lab flared with information as his AI processed the data.

Ethan got an idea of what he had just received fairly quickly as the information assembled itself. He had just been given terabytes of data on soul magic, everything from how to actually produce the Thuam to different spells that were possible.

“Wow, this is amazing!” Ethan had pulled up a few holographic displays and was rapidly reading through them “How are you able to even give me this information, I thought you said divines couldn’t directly influence me?”

Memeta giggled to herself, seemingly proud of something.

“That's the trick, I can't directly influence you, if I could I would have been able to directly grant you this knowledge and have you learn it instantly, so I did the next best thing. Through means I don’t really understand, you are able to process vast amounts of information in your head, so I’ve used our direct link to give you all the knowledge I have of soul magic to look over.” Ethan nodded eagerly at what she was saying, the truth was that he wasn’t really paying much attention anymore, he was deeply consumed in various displays in front of him. He would need to get to work straight away in order to have a working spell that could save him. Memeta stood around awkwardly for a few moments before scratching the back of her head and sighing.

“Well since you’re going to be busy I’ll leave you to it–“

“Wait! Don’t go yet!” Ethan turned away from the screens and suddenly seemed very interested in Memeta, she didn’t know whether this was a good sign or not.

“I just want to ask one thing, do you mind if I use my [Analyse] Skill on you? It's a simple Skill I’ve had pretty much since I arrived on this world. One that tells me information about any objects or person I use it on, considering you’re the first divine being I’ve met it would be a great help to my knowledge of this world if I could use it on you… willingly. It doesn’t end so well when I use the Skill on unwilling participants….” Memeta cocked one of her eyebrows and smirked at what Ethan had just said. Unbeknownst to Ethan, the skill he possessed was one of Memeta's creations, The Wheel had just never assigned it to anyone before. She decided to play oblivious and tease him a bit.

“Oh? So, seeing most of my bare skin isn’t enough information for you?” She put her hands on her hips in an attempt to look intimidating and Ethan blushed a little.

“I– I didn’t mean it like that! The skill doesn’t reveal things li–”

“Oh hush” Memeta silenced him, “I’m only messing with you, go ahead and use it. I swear if this is a trick of some kind you are not going to have a good day.” Ethan shook his head, he should have figured that even divines have an apparent sense of humor.

It took a moment for Ethan to figure out how to cast the skill, you needed to cast it at a target afterall, which in this case was in his own mind. Luckily he quickly found a workaround which involved using his AI to define Memeta as a separate entity in his mind, so that she could be targeted. Ethan was half prepared for Memeta to go berserk and start attacking him, however, that didn’t happen. Memeta simply frowned.

“Well, that was bizarre. My own voice told me I was being analysed just then…” Ethan didn’t really hear her as he looked over the stats, he had expected something very powerful, but this? This was completely insane!

For Ethan it could be anything but anticlimactic. He stared wide eyed at the stats displayed on his vision.

Name Memeta - Goddess of Memetics and Free Information Species Divine
Class (1st) Divine Spirit - Knowledge (Level 532) Strength (STR) ??
Class (2nd) Know-It-All (Level 411) Vitality (VIT) ??
XP (Deferred) ∞ (∞) Dexterity (DEX) ??
AP/SP Available ?? AP / ?? SP Agility (AGI) ??
Health ∞/∞ (+∞/min) Intelligence (INT) ??
Mana ∞ (+∞/min) Wisdom (WIS) ??
Age ?? Willpower ??
Soul Type Divine Faith Points 3672 (+0.1/week)
Affliction Level Description
Divine Sapience 191 (65%) You have followers in the mortal plane, granting you the power to become a sapient form.
Curse of The Wheel 78 (78%) Your powers are artificially limited by the effects of The Wheel.

Ethan couldn’t comprehend how something could have stats that simply said “infinity”, it broke the entire understanding that Ethan currently had of the system that the world used… or maybe he was interpreting it wrong?

It seemed that Divines were unable to manifest in the real world, they were only allowed to exist in the “Celestial Plane” that Memeta had mentioned, so perhaps the system couldn’t interpret her statistics properly because Divines were more like outside forces than people?

That description made the most sense in Ethan's mind, if a divine were to manifest themselves in the “real world” then they would have statistics that made a lot more sense as it wouldn’t actually be the Divine. It would just be a representation of them assembled using the power available to them. Ethan's line of thought was abruptly interrupted by Memeta.

“Well, did you learn what you hoped?” She asked.

“I have a lot of questions” Ethan paused, “First off, How is it possible to have ‘infinite’ health and mana? That makes no sense, the way I understand it there should always be values to everyone's stats.” Ethan queried after a moment of thinking. Memeta only gave him a sad smile.

“Are you foolish enough to think that if you hit me enough times I’ll die? Or that if I exert my magics enough then my mana will run dry? You have a lot left to learn, Ethan, and as much as I’d like to teach you, I’m afraid we are running out of time. The amount of faith points it's costing me to maintain this link is getting somewhat crazy.” She rubbed her arm with her other hand in a nervous manner, almost as if she wanted to say more, “Good luck, Ethan, you’re going to need it.”

“Wait!–” This time Ethan didn’t delay her departure, she vanished without a sound or trace that anyone was ever there. Ethan stood for a moment in a now considerably more empty lab before he slumped over in a nearby chair and started to contemplate.

Ethan realised that he had learnt a few good things, but also plenty of worrying or downright scary things from the sudden encounter. He decided not to dwell on the terrifying concept of beings that could not be killed and could never run out of energy, and instead decided to focus on solving his more current issues by developing spells from the information he had just been given.

His AI had already created a few concepts and started working on a few spells related to souls but hadn’t made much progress. Ethan's AI was more of a tool than a sapient being inside of his head, it could only be as good as the user operating it. The AI was very good at gathering data and organising it, however, having an actual sapient mind that could recognise patterns, make connections and rule out irrelevant data drastically sped up the processing ability of the AI. Without Ethan personally focusing on the creation of a spell the AI had to try to brute force it. It would simply go through all the possible combinations it could, trying to achieve the desired effect of the spell. More complex spells would take the AI a dramatically longer time to develop.

Even having Ethan's mind rule out obvious things that won’t work sped up the process of making a spell, having him personally focus on one meant that a spell could be made and tested in the matter of a few simulated hours, rather than the weeks it would take the AI on its own. Ethan thought of this process to be much like compiling a computer program, just that it relied on his mind to process the program and make it work.

The actual “hardware” the AI relied on for its processing was literally the gray matter in Ethan's head, there was very little silicone involved in the neural hardware, which was why the AI was limited in such a fashion.

The AI also had other things that limited it: the amount of ‘logical’ operations it could perform, and hence how fast it could process data greatly depended on how conscious Ethan was. If he was fully alert and the AI was just running in the background, it was limited to simple operations. It was only when Ethan allowed the AI to use more of his gray matter normally reserved for his own use that it could process more information. In a sense it worked almost like RAM in a traditional computer system. The only real difference between a physical computer and his AI was that his AI conserved information by encoding it as binary transmissions in the spike trains going through his brain’s neurons. That was all he knew, anyway.

Ethan's consciousness could be considered to be a massive hog in terms of how much of the graymatter it required, only leaving small parts for the AI to use. For this reason Ethan always tried to be as still and inactive as possible when he needed to perform a large amount of work with his AI, when he was sleeping was the best time for work to be done by the AI. Using the time dilation feature also wasn’t consequence free, it was extremely taxing on the mind, there were examples of people who quite literally dropped dead from exhaustion on Earth after using time dilation way too much.

Considering his current circumstances, where he was relying on the ability of the AI to control his body to keep him alive, AI would have less processing ability than usual. He had also been using time dilation a dangerous amount.

There was another way he could speed up the development of spells. Using a spell to test its effect in the real world rather than a simulated space would greatly improve the speed at which a spell was developed. It was what had happened with the flying spell after it had to be used in a… somewhat unexpected emergency. Analysing the real use of spells always seemed to enable more data to be gathered on the spell, especially if it worked. For this reason Ethan looked through the vast amount of soul-related data for some simple spells.

After a moment a particular one stood out.

The spell was called “Soul Vision” and according to the description was a simple spell that highlighted beings with souls in your vicinity along with the strength of the soul. It unfortunately didn’t provide much more information than that. More annoyingly was the way it would normally be cast, mind runes. Meaning Ethan wasn’t lucky enough to have been provided with fully functional primordial spells. Briefly scanning over a few more spells he saw that they were all described in non-technical ways and were always being cast via mind runes, spoken incantations, or hand gestures.

It seemed that to get any results from soul magic he would need to confront his worst enemy: hard work.

By no means was Ethan a slacker back when he was on Earth, but he certainly believed in the mindset of “put in the bare minimum effort, so that it is what people think is your best effort. They will be impressed if you ever put in more than your bare minimum”.

Like he had said to Memeta a moment ago, being in this world changed all of that attitude. Ethan finally felt a meaning to his life, and actively wanted to achieve things. No longer was he an aimless post-graduate, he could be an all-powerful wizard, great leader or amazing innovator. Or maybe all three.

With his newfound motivation, or maybe fear of failure, Ethan went at developing the spell with greater fervour than he ever had on any other spell. Ethan pieced the spell together at a rate that even surprised him, putting together the 4 dimensional programming language that primordial magic seemed to be in a way that would have even shocked his AI, if it could feel emotions, that is.

Just 30 minutes of simulated time later he had a prototype that should work, at least in theory. Using the fact that testing spells in the real world worked better for developing them than testing them in simulated space did, Ethan cast the spell without much hesitation. He didn’t worry if it would somehow kill him, he would be dead anyway if he couldn’t get something to work.

In his simulated space Ethan anxiously watched a display showing his vision. Panic briefly fluttered in Ethan’s heart as his vision darkened and he worried that something had gone wrong with the spell.

Shit, did I just make myself blind? Ethan thought with panic. He wouldn’t be surprised if it had hit some massive snag, after all he had pieced it together like a frenzied tech trying to quickly assemble a communications array.

The panic washed away as he saw that he was not, in fact, blind. The world resolved itself in muted gray tones, objects were surrounded by fuzzy gray outlines and the sky was a pitch black.

Ethan then saw the points of light, hundreds of them alone in the forest beside where he flew.

His jaw hung open for not the first time in the day; it was oddly beautiful. Beyond looking pretty it served a very functional purpose. Each point of light pinpointed a being with a soul and the brightness/intensity of the light showed how much strength the soul had. Most of the points of light–souls, rather, were hard to spot from the muted grays. They were small and very dim, probably the souls of insects and other tiny creatures. The point where it started to become interesting was apparently when you reached creatures the size of a small mouse, the light given off by these souls was noticeable. Although still not very powerful.

Looking around briefly Ethan saw a much more powerful soul being highlighted, or rather two souls. Using the AI to enhance his view of the far away peak of the volcano where he currently was looking he saw what was happening, a roc was mere seconds away from decapitating a smaller avian creature.

Ethan sat and watched eagerly, curious to see what would happen to a soul when the body it is normally contained in is killed.... although he didn’t know if being excited about another being getting killed was a good thing or not.

I’m getting excited about things dying? I’m already halfway to being an evil necromancer! Ethan thought to himself in a somewhat humorous manner.

The seconds in the real world slowly ticked by as the minutes slid by in simulated reality, Ethan watched as the vague white blob of the roc collided with the smaller bird, thing? The effect was nearly instant. The impact had obviously been to much for the poor thing to handle and it had died instantly. Ethan watched in fascination as its soul seemed to “seep” out of its body and floated in a cloud where it was just killed. The “cloud” of soul seemed to start to slowly weaken as it dispersed, Ethan didn’t stay watching as it would have taken a long time to watch the entire thing. He didn’t have much of a choice apart from to stop watching, in slow motion he was thrown off course as the AI suddenly started to adjust his course to dodge another lightning bolt from the Nephilim.

Wait a minute…

Ethan commanded the AI to get a view of the Nephilim, he was suddenly much more curious as to how the Nephilim looked currently than what a Roc looked like. His head slowly turned under the AI’s control, he was just able to catch the Nephilim in the corner of his vision. His eyebrows raised in interest, it was blindly bright, so much so that he couldn’t even see a vague figure like he could with the other creatures about. This guy was just a solid glowing orb.

<Notice: Light levels at unacceptable tolerances, averting gaze>

The message flashed on a nearby screen, Ethan found it no surprise that the light could be damaging to his eyesight, considering just how bright it was. As his vision was slowly averted from the Nephilim he could see a clear after-image of the glow in his vision, much like the ones you would get after briefly looking at the sun.

How was he expected to kill that?

Regardless, Ethan smiled to himself as he saw a cunning solution, involving the creation of a new type of soul spell that never existed throughout history, according to all the information he had just been given.

After a few more hours and massive effort on his behalf, Ethan had the spell. He’d tested it innumerable times in his simulated space but the real effects that such a spell would have were alien to him. He simply didn’t have the data and variables available to test it in the simulated space.

He would just cross his fingers and hope that it would work the first time.

Ethan leant back in his chair staring at a visual representation of the spell he had just created, the Soul Vision spell paled in comparison to the size and complexity of this one. He found it beautiful to look at, in a way that only a mathematician who found complex equations beautiful.

The spell would do more than look pretty, though. It should be Ethan's ticket to not get killed. A few more minutes had passed in the real world during his time taken to develop the spell, he was now skimming along the peak of the volcano, using natural outcroppings to provide a small amount of cover. He wouldn’t need to hide with the potentially life threatening stunt he was about to pull off.

<User Action: Ending time compression and simulation protocol, releasing control to user.>

His AI relinquished the control of his body instantly, and the world suddenly slipped back to its normal speed and he found himself back in the high speed pursuit. He didn’t wait a second before he took action.

From what he had seen so far, the Nephilim chasing him was easily able to match his speed, which made outrunning him impossible. Ethan figured he could outmaneuver him instead. So he applied the brakes, in a metaphorical sense.

The G’s of deceleration slammed into Ethan like a brick wall, the corners of his vision went black and he struggled to stay conscious as the seconds passed. He came to a full stop in less than 50 meters. As he had expected the Nephilim wasn’t able to brake as hard, shooting straight past at quite a pace. It let out another one of its screams, probably in frustration.

Ethan simply hovered in the air where he was and closed his eyes, focusing. The spell he needed to cast was complex to the degree that the AI wouldn’t be able to cast it on its own. Ethan started the arduous process of piecing it together in his mind as the Nephilim turned around and started making headway towards Ethan.

He remained perfectly still as the Nephilim approached, it was charging a powerful spell at its apparently suddenly suicidal victim. It would never get a chance to cast the spell.

It suddenly found itself hit by a strange feeling, not a physical one, but a mental one. It felt like there was a strange something that was pulling at it. Ethan simply smirked and they both went limp as the spell went into its next stage, their bodies floated a good couple dozen of meters away from each other as the battle departed the physical realm and entered the realm of the mind. Their souls were fully connected to each other and one of them was about to have a very bad time.

Samayael suddenly found himself in a strange white plane, like a blank canvas. The ‘floor’ was a slightly different colour white to the rest of the surroundings enabled him to at least stand without falling over. He took a cautious step, and it seemed that the ‘floor’ shifted with him, the all encompassing white seemingly in a sphere around him. He had no idea how he had got here at all, as all he remembered was a strange tugging at what felt like his mind and then a “fall”.

Am I dead? Did that damn human find a way to slay me?! He angrily thought to himself. Unbeknownst to him he was not dead. His and Ethan's souls were in a “Limbo” like state, in a reality between the physical world and that of death. If you were to look at the two of them floating in the sky using Soul Vision you would see their souls stretched out and “connected” together. It was exactly what Ethan intended, the only way to escape the connection would be to destroy the tenuous link that their souls shared with their own bodies.

“Well, damn. You're one ugly motherfucker.” The insult originated behind him and Samayael spun around to face the voice. Standing a good 10 meters away was the Human, wearing white robes and smiling in a self-confident manner. Samayael realised in sudden horror that he was no longer wearing his usual clothing. He was wearing the same plain white robe. His disfigured and hideous face was in plain view.

“You wretched creature!” He screeched, “What in seven hells have you done?” The human’s smile only seemed to broaden at this.

“I just levelled the playing field a little.” The human said with a smirk.

Samayael simply couldn’t contain his anger anymore, he leapt towards the Human and found out in short notice that he apparently weighed a lot less here. His jump, which should have landed him straight on top of the human took him sailing over the top of him, and he ended up landing on the opposite side the same distance away as he had just started. Reaching entirely new levels of rage he turned back around to face the human again. Instead of going for a physical attack, he started conjuring a powerful [Lightning Bolt].

Except it didn’t work, his hand gestures did nothing. The human was breaking down laughing.

“Oh man! That was too good!” he wheezed, apparently struggling for breath amid his entertainment, “I should have mentioned it, really, physics here don’t work the same way as they do in the physical world. The gravity is lower and magic doesn’t work. Our stats are also set to neutrally equal values. We’re gonna have to settle this the old fashioned way.” Ethan said before raising a fist.

Samayael didn’t understand some of the words in the mortal’s mocking words. Nevertheless, he still found himself feeling greatly insulted.

He went to leap at the Human again, this time putting less power into the jump. Unfortunately for him, Ethan moved first. Ethan only had a vague idea of how physics behaved in this separate reality. It was the one thing he truly had no idea what would happen with when he used the spell. He was learning the new rules of the place quickly, but so was Samayael.

Ethan had propelled himself straight towards him, intending to collide with him to knock him down. He had positioned his elbow to make sure that it hit first. Samayael’s eyes widened and he prepared himself to collide with the rapidly moving human, but in a surprise move with a speed that even amazed himself, he sidestepped and the human went flying by. It seemed that he would react reflexively to some things. Ethan's landing was rather graceful, He hit the floor and rolled, coming to a stop and picked himself up.

The two circled around each other, waiting for the other to make a move. Samayael made the move in the end. He took a few bounding steps, and then slid down on the floor with the intention of knocking Ethan down. Not expecting the sudden move downwards, Ethan didn’t move in time and was swept off his feet. He hit the ground hard, the breath was knocked out his lungs. He lay there trying to lever himself up. Samayael meanwhile had gotten up again from his maneuver and jumped back towards his prone victim. Pain suddenly echoed in Ethan's ribs and he went flying a good couple meters. The Nephilim had performed a plain and simple kick to the ribs while he was down. In that moment, an outside observer using Soul Vision would have seen the tether between Ethan’s body and soul, and the common connection he and the Nephilim shared warbling and being strung taut to near the point of snapping.

Ethan knew the implications of losing, his soul would quite literally end up detached from his body. He would be dead. Finding new inspiration in the fact that he didn’t want to die, he leapt to his feet just in time to see a fist from Samayael approaching his face. The Nephilim, although terrified from this unexpected situation, was having a great time. It was quite clear that the mortal hadn’t been in many fist fights. He relished in the fear that briefly shone in the mortal's eyes before his fist connected with the human’s face and sent him flying again. The human landed on his back and wasn’t moving.

Sensing that the end to… whatever this is was, was drawing near; Samayael took his time to approach the mortal. It seemed that today he would be getting the strange sceptre that he had been compelled to seek.

He shouldn’t have been counting his chickens before the eggs had hatched though; when he was but a scant few metres away from the mortal and probably mere seconds from beating him out of existence… the mortal performed some kind of fancy backflip and was once again on his feet facing the Nephilim. Worry flicked through Samayael’s expression briefly as he saw the look in the human's eyes. Gone was the scared expression, it had been replaced with a look that could be explained as nothing but cold and calculating.

Unbeknownst to the Nephilim, Ethan had just tried to activate his AI’s survival protocol. When that didn’t work, he shifted it to reconnaissance mode, and it started to bolster his perception and reaction times. It was better than nothing.

Samayael swung his fist at the mortal and instead of the swing hitting his head, Samayael found his hand clasped in the palm of the human. Before he could react further a powerful punch landed to his gut. Samayael crumpled over in pain but didn’t have much time to recover, an elbow landed itself on the back of his head, knocking him face-first onto the floor.

His nose made a sickening crunching sound as the bone inside it shattered. He screamed in pain and desperately rolled over, and almost in slow motion, he saw the foot of the human approaching his head and reacted just in time, rolling to the side and dodging the foot. He grabbed the offending leg that had just moments before threatened to cave his face in and pulled, the human lost his balance and fell.

Taking advantage of the opportunity, Samayael got up onto his feet, although no longer as steadily as before. Blood ran down his face from his broken nose and dripped onto the off-white floor, leaving a stain that starkly contrasted to the surroundings. The human had also got up in that time, pushing himself up using his arms and carrying that momentum forward to land on his feet. The human leapt at Samayael, and this time, he didn’t react in time.

Ethan landed a fierce kick to the Nephilim’s left shoulder. He fell over again and grunted in protest as he landed on his side, before the human landed on top of him and began to strangle him.

Ethan knew he had to finish this quickly, the longer their souls remained connected, the greater the chance that his soul would be damaged by the forced contact. In the end, he was risking a lot by being here, but what were his other options? The Nephilim was too powerful to fight in a fair battle.

So he had had to cheat.

And now it was paying off. The Nephilim struggled and managed to flip himself over completely.

Samayael fought mightily to stop the human’s chokehold on his neck, all to no avail, he settled for trying to choke the man in turn.

It was now a true battle of wills, and to the victor would go the spoils. In this case, survival was all that mattered.

Back in the real world, two figures levitated off the ground, connected by an invisible thin strand of spiritual energy. The unfortunate one of the pair found that the tether that linked their soul to their body snapped like an overstretched piece of string.

One was a Nephilim that had lived for years untold, and one was a young human, merely 23 years old; one would die a death horrible and cold, and the other would open their eyes to welcome back the warm embrace of the world.