Patron shout-out to N3kvex!
"Fire sounds interesting..." Angela stated with a narrowed expression, "But what about her? How will we decide who won?"
Knowing that Angela referred to Shanna, Nik thought for a moment before an evil smirk touched his lips, "Oh, well, let's just say, I won!"
Without waiting for a reply, Nik flew into the sky, "Lola... be a dear and introduce the mutation into my body. My mind will be focused on controlling the changes and reversing the process if the cosmic cloud in front of us is not enough."
The moment he said that, Nik felt his throat burn. It wasn't too painful. Although he hadn't been brutalized in his adventures, Nik's tolerance of pain had never fallen. After all, as a sturdy man, he has always welcomed brutalization during s.e.x.u.a.l activities and in this consciousness city, there weren't many things left for the girls to do on him. Resisting the urge to tear his throat, Nik slowly moved his spiritual energy to invade the cosmic cloud below him. Now that Nik had a higher point of view, he could see the 'mist' stretching forward for kilometers.
However, Nik didn't know if the volume of energy was high enough or not.
'I'll have to try and gain the affinity with the cosmic energy right here and now. Can't expect to find another lingering cloud in the other corners of the planet,' Nik thought painfully as the burn slowly spread throughout his body. Of course, Nik didn't have to see what was going on with his physical condition.
However, Angela's gaze was awestruck. From her view, Nik's skin was slowly 'peeling' off in wisps of blaze. However, the petals of fire did not burn out and extinguish themselves. Instead, the fiery petals slowly descended over the mystic mists and the moment the flames came into contact with the nearest slivers of mist, they combusted!
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A fire greater than anything a sorcerer in Angela's memories rose but instead of spreading, the fire turned into a pillar and covered Nik within.
"We will get too much attention this way..." Angela muttered and jumped down from her branch and landed close to Ignit, keeping her hand over the Lizard's head as Ignit was getting anxious by the second. Seeing Nik slowly 'wither' into flames was extremely difficult to watch and with their connection, there was no hiding that the ordeal was extremely painful.
From distance, one could see the blaze spreading over the entire foggy region. However, in some mystical manner, not a single flora or fauna was brought to a flaming demise. Instead, the spreading flames would congeal and feed the pillar of flame.
As Shanna was running deeper into the Mystic Mists, her body slowly corroding due to unbearable cosmic energy that even she was unaware of, the woman found herself getting surpassed by a sky of flame. With the mist forming a mystical dome over a portion of the forest, it was right to say that the 'sky' was burning. However, no smoke followed the trail of blazes. The fire didn't let out crisp crackling noises because no tree was fed to urge its growth. Flames passed through anything and everything.
Finally, under Shanna's stunned gaze, the fiery sky disappeared, all burnt out and spreading forward, leaving a bright and unconcealed world unbound from the mist.
As Angela stated, the pillar of fire stood out the most nearby and even attracted Shanna's attention. What it was and how this phenomenon was caused, she did not know. That, however, did not stop her from forming ideas and thinking of the recent outsiders.
"The government facilities did not reveal the composition of the mystic mists but they placed great importance to this position... they will definitely not lie down quietly. If Shanna's urges to pull the government facility into the mess wasn't enough then the sudden combustion of mystic mists should be.
Unknown to both Angela and Shanna, even after the entirety of Cosmic Cloud transformed into an inferno, Nik needed more. After looming over the particular part of the forest for such a long time, the energies attributed to the cosmic cloud had long seeped into the land and the surviving lifeforms. The trees and plants themselves had turned into the source of mystic mists, something Nik had only realized once his mutation had affected the entire region of the forest for the cosmic cloud was no longer enough to feed his mutation. Instead, he detected a similar power signature from the surrounding flora and began consuming them until the conditions were met.
"Huh?" Shanna's gaze changed the moment the pillar of flame disappeared from her view. The change was sudden and the moment she heard a slight spark followed by her body feeling quite warm despite the naturally refreshing cold breeze of the forest, she turned back to find an outline made of fire. A humanoid figure with his body burning.
The next moment, she realized the error of her interpretation. The man wasn't 'on' fire. He was fire. Bright red skin erupting in gold-red blazes. Wavy hair of fire and eyes that held no pupils but only scorching fire. A physique that looked quite familiar save for the addition of flaming nether regions that made Shanna gulp while she slowly backed away.
"Pretty cool, right? Oh, can't say cool in this form... pretty hot? Pretty blazing!" The form felt satisfied and looked towards Shanna. She wished to lead the outsiders into the mystic mists but she instead lost another geographical aspect of the savage land to the outsiders. However, this was the least of her worries.
"Did you know? I advocate the voice of equality and fairness. I am wearing nothing, shouldn't you return the courtesy?" Nik inquired as a wisp of flame erupted from the side of his arm with a single thought and latched onto Shanna's clothes. Once again, Shanna was scared and awed at the same time. Scared, that she was n.a.k.e.d. Awed, that such a high temperature didn't leave a single burn on her body. Hurrying to cover herself, Shanna rushed backward further and instantly stood behind a tree, her posture defensive as she continued to gaze at the man of flames with a terrified expression.
Feeling the slightest hint of his karma being completed through his actions once again, Nik gave a hollow chuckle and stepped forward, "You just had to lead us, Shanna. A job well done, I'd say. This is the mystic mists you spoke of, yes? Now, do you wish to know how this mist even covered so much region?" As Nik spoke, he continued to walk forward and with only the tree separating Shanna and him, Nik placed his hand on the tree and planted it inside his Dream Core.
"It was an impulsive action. Really!" Shanna crouched down in a hurry, unwilling to expose herself. Seeing Nik close and feeling the sheer temperature made Shanna's heart thump.
"I can burn that Ka-Zar into ashes, tear him, blow him up like an oversized balloon. You really should think things through you know," Nik clicked his tongue, "And I remember saying that my heart can handle the pain of harming beautiful women... gender equality and all that."
Nik smiled and crouched down. Meeting Shanna's terrified gaze, Nik's lips twitched up as he enjoyed the view in the strange flaming form. He could still eat many things. Heck, he could even digest metals in this form. He completely understood the limits of the temperature he could reach which was absolutely mind-boggling and he didn't need to waste the slightest hint of his energy reserves! After all, the temperature of his body did not require any energy to feed. He was fire itself!
"Now, what are you going to do?" Nik inquired, "You planned to sacrifice your life just to harm me and my partner when we didn't harm you in any way or that man. Surely, you wouldn't go to such length for a single sabertooth tiger, right? Even if you would... how should I put it... hmm, I don't like you any longer," Nik whispered with a soft smile. His words, however, made Shanna's heart shiver.
"But we weren't harmed in the end. So, I won't harm you in an orthodox manner, too."
As if understanding Nik's intention, Shanna shouted and tried to get away quickly.
"Please! Nothing will come of you forcing yourself on me!" She explained hurriedly as Nik snickered.
"Forcing myself on you? You dream big, darling," Nik snapped his fingers and a rune instantly blazed on Shanna's forehead, leaving a slight scar. Her expression winced but she turned calm and her expression turned slightly hollow.
"A rare form of mind control. You'll do what I want but you will have a sense of self-awareness, too. Now, stand and stop feeling so embarrassed. Aren't I n.a.k.e.d, too?"
Shanna instantly stood up, not bothering to hide any longer as Nik let his gaze fall over her with an appreciative expression. However, contrary to Shanna's stoic expression, her gaze was full of pleading.
"Hear this well. I'll let you harm Ka-Zar to your heart's content. Anyway, I found something amazing below and we'll continue our journey after collecting the entire forest.
"I honestly believed that the talks of you being rough handed on women is a false bravado... even after understanding your situation fully," Angela commented as she looked at Shanna's blank expression. The entirety of the foggy region had vanished, allowing Angela to finally see the state of the forest after remaining under the effects of cosmic energy for such a long time.
"Me? Giving hot women preferential treatment? Pssht," Nik waved his hand. He himself stood n.a.k.e.d but his gaze wandered around.
Even after being in contact with a considerable amount of cosmic energy, he wasn't able to gain any affinity with it. However, he wasn't feeling tensed about the situation. As long as he siphons this portion of the forest including the soil and other factors, he would be able to produce more of such energy and finally gain affinity. Not only such mutations might prove helpful to him in later adventures, but they might also improve the situation of the dream core.
Despite its nature, Dream Core was a world in itself. A flawed one, but a world nonetheless. Dream Clouds, unnamed mountains and valleys, rivers, and ponds. It had it all. Everything, except temporal flow. The addition of the cosmic energy to such a world would, no doubt, raise the quality of life present in the dream core.
Meanwhile, after hearing Nik's reply, Angela dropped the matter altogether. As Nik stated, Shanna wished to cause harm at the expense of her own life. If she was willing to let go of her life, why not let Nik control it? Unlike the custom of the planet Angela was currently in, she found Nik's methods absolutely agreeable. Even the girls in New York might have objected to Nik's methods but Angela was significantly different from them.
"I sense that you are impressed with my choice?" Nik inquired with a smile as Angela shrugged, "There's no two ways about it. I am Impressed. Now, let me see this mutation of yours. If I am to face against the man who shares the same blood as I wield, I shall require your assistance. Of course, you have already been rewarded... and there are going to be plenty more rewards."
Noticing the sly glint in Angela's eyes, Nik smiled. He just loved how twisted he could be and how easily Angela found it appealing. "Oh, goody!" Nik whispered as his skin erupted in blaze once again.
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