Paying Is A Pain
Anodyne floated in space, letting his body fall limp as he stared blankly at a nearby sun. His mind was empty as he enjoyed the warmth.
“You’re giving up?”
Anodyne became alert as he spun around to see where the soft voice came from.
“Damn, I am going insane out here.”
Assuming he heard voices, he returned to his limp position, emptying his mind once again. He returned to relaxing.
“You used to be mad.”
Anodyne spun around again, this time looking around intently.
“But now you are weak.”
Anodyne remained still, unspoken, and waiting.
“What happened to the rage? Where is your madness? We watched you lose them both.”
“You may be right about the madness, but I still have plenty of rage.”
Anodyne yelled into the black of space.
“You don’t need to yell; I am right here.”
Anodyne started grasping around him, first at a slow pace, but quickly increased in speed as he failed to touch anything.
“You may still become angry, but you do not have rage. You have lost all you were.”
Anodyne went to respond but was cut off by the voice.
“That is why you have lost Hollow. The risen god knows what he is; he plays to his strengths.”
Anodyne clenched his fists, and his eyes erupted into blue flames.
“Want to test my temper? I assure you, you will not like the outcome.”
“You call that rage? That is frustration at best; you have forgotten what it is like to be truly enraged.”
Anodyne let loose, causing explosions to form all around him. He cast beams of burning light from his hands in all directions. Short of breath, he lowered his arms, and his eyes returned to normal.
“Already out of breath? You are a shell of your former self. Being disconnected from Hollow has made you weak. Your daughters want to help; they have been calling out to you. Can’t you hear them?”
“I don’t have daughters.”
Anodyne heard no reply; he sat quietly.
“What daughter could I have?” He whispered under his breath.
Anodyne waited until an echoed voice reached his ears.
The very sound of the call ran chills down his spine.
He flew through space, trying to hear the source of the call.
He followed blindly, traveling great distances; he followed the voice that called out to him. Colliding with an unseen force, he looked up; before him was Hollow, protected by a barrier.
“A,a,a,a,a, anodyne.” Once again, it is called, originating from Hollow.
“You hear them now? I guess their voice travels slower than I thought.” The disembodied voice called out as Anodyne pressed his hand against the barrier.
“They are, in essence, what makes you, you.”
“I only hear one echoed voice; where are the others?”
Anodyne listened intently to the sound of the girl’s voice crying out to him.
“Oh, that isn’t one echoed voice. That is seven all talking slightly out of sync.”
“They miss you, they have been trapped, and they need you. Your seven little orphan, scared girls need your help.”
“My girls!” Anodyne cried out as the memory of the seven orphan girls he saved flooded back into his mind. All the time he spent on Earth keeping them company before the governing god claimed their lives.
“How could I forget them?
“Because Xarius, the god that took your throne as the god of Hollow, knew what they were to you. He knew he needed them out of the picture if he was to defeat you. He hid their presence from you, and your memories faded as their maddening voices stopped calling out to you; now, this barrier holds their power from you.”
Anodyne lashed out at the barrier, and with each collision, a vibrant color spread across the barrier as it absorbed all the power Anodyne threw against it. Down below on Hollow, the inhabitants gazed up at the night sky, watching on with awe. None of them were aware of what was truly going on. His strikes slowed, and Anodyne began to give up till his final blow left his hand resting against the barrier.
“I forgot them; they never forget me, though. I will come back for you girls; I will help you out of that hell hold.”
“But how if you can’t even get to them? What will you do when strength fails you?”
The voice seemed to trail off, signifying its leave.
“I am going to get more strength.”
Anodyne focused on the planet as he searched for his girls, searching he found them. So far away from him, locked in a cage made from the same barrier that held Anodyne back.
“Xarius, you are going to suffer the worst death both I and my girls can think of.”
Anodyne blinked away from the planet, leaving it in Xarius’s hands. He returned to Appretend and Plo as they were harvesting living stones from the universe he left them in.
“How do I break through barriers?”
Appretend turned to Anodyne, wiping sweat from her brow; she stepped away from the sun.
“What kind of barrier?”
Anodyne took them both back to Hollow to allow them to witness the barrier in person. Appretend laid her hands on the barrier; she closed her eyes and felt the pulses that ran through it. Her fingers twitched as the powerful pulses collided with her fingertips.
“This barrier is powered by devotion.” She said, letting go of it. “Getting through this would require something very serious or having everyone on this planet lose faith in the god who created the barrier.”
“Can you two make me something to break this?”
“Oh no, this is not weak to weapons. You’re going to need something more organic to drain this of power.”
“Organic? What the hell do you mean?”
“Hey, Appretend, you have this, right? I am going to go back to harvesting that sun. You help Anodyne out.”
Plo disappeared, leaving Appretend and Anodyne alone.
“You will need a plant; plants are the masters of absorbing energy and using it to benefit itself. If you want to kill the host, I would suggest a fungus.”
“cool, so I throw some spores on this, and in a million years, the barrier falls?”
Appretend laughed at what she thought was to be a joke. Her smile quickly faded as she noticed Anodyne staring at her.
“Um. No. We will need to buy some special ones. I know a guy who can help us, but he is hard to deal with.”
“What makes him hard to deal with?”
“Well, for one, he is extremely well-guarded. So death threats are off the table, and he is the definition of insane. We think it has something to do with all the fungus.”
Anodyne was still confused as to what Appretend truly meant.
“Take us, now!”
“Ok, but just as a heads up. Don’t touch anything, his fungus can be very hard to get off, and it can be an extremely painful experience until you do.”
Appretend rolled her arm over, revealing blackened veins in her forearm.
“And it takes an extremely long time to fully heal afterward, if you heal at all.”
“Noted; now let’s go.”
“Final note, he is a little different. He does not take a human form like most of us. It can be a little intimidating at first; while it is humanoid, it isn’t really.”
Anodyne started to glare at Appretend.
“Well, at least he makes me feel uncomfortable, but he might not make you uncomfortable. Let’s go.”
Appretend spat out her sentence as fast as she could before grabbing Anodyne and teleporting them away. They reappeared in a different universe, in front of a new planet.
“Wow, this guy really does love fungus.”
Anodyne exclaimed as he stared at the planet below him, its surface completely covered with a dense forest of fungi.
“We have to be careful; this planet was nick-named god eater by gods far stronger than us.”
“Then why are we venturing onto it?”
“Oh, don’t worry, I have a pass. I can bring people to the surface fine. Just make sure not to touch anything. Nothing will move out of your way either, so please make sure to move out of their way, or you will suffer.”
“What do you mean?”
“There are a lot of things down there that move quite rapidly; some of them walk. They don’t care if they bump into you, and if they do, you will suffer, not them. So just stay out of thing way.”
“Come on, follow me.”
They both descended upon the planet, and the fungal canopy parted as they drew close. Appretend went in without hesitation while Anodyne slowed his descent. He monitored the plant life sway unnaturally. He raised his hand to the sky.
“Weird, no wind. Then why are these plants shifting so much?”
Anodyne lowered himself to the surface of the planet; touching down, he remained floating for a moment. He placed his foot back down slowly, watching as it pushed the surface inwards. As he allowed all his weight to push against the ground, Appretend jumped in front of Anodyne, once again causing him to lift off the ground.
“You can stand on this; it is not the ground, though. The ground is down there.”
Appretend pointed down off the bulge in the ground they were standing on.
“This is some kind of fungus; these pop up all over the place. They are usually covered in ants, though; this one must be new.”
She bounced on it like a trampoline as she made her way to the ground. Anodyne floated and landed on the ground next to her.
“Really? That is a fungus? I would never have guessed. Now where are we going? Where is this damn god killer?”
“First off, the planet is the god killer. Secondly, are you nervous?”
Anodyne’s eyes were locked upwards as the canopy closed overhead.
“You take me to a planet named as a god killer by stronger deities, warning me of how brutal the planet is. Not to mention the governing god is a shapely monster that is insane, and you want me to be calm?”
“Well, yea, I know him. We will be fine. But don’t forget, there are things that move around, don’t get in their way.”
“You keep saying that, but I have not seen anything move that wasn’t tethered to the damn ground.”
Just as Anodyne finished his sentence, his eyes were dragged to the side by a humanoid slowly making its way through the fungal forest.
“That is a big damn mushroom; what is it even doing?”
The humanoid stopped in its tracks and turned to Anodyne; it paused for a moment before moving towards him.
“I thought you said I was supposed to move out of the way.”
“That is different; he is smelling you. He needs to add you to the safe scent, or you will be hunted.”
The mushroom humanoid made its way to Anodyne at a quickened rate.
“I swear, if it starts hurting me, I am killing you before I die.”
The mushroom man stopped centimeters in front of Anodyne’s face. An odd grouping of clicks and sniffs sounded as Anodyne laid his hand on Appretend. An energy already burning her arm as Anodyne stared down this creature. His hand shook as he watched a series of spores leave the fungal humanoid and land on his forehead. They seemed to sit for a moment before returning to the humanoid. The clicks increased in frequency before the creature made its way off into the forest.
“You were actually scared; you seemed stronger when I first met you.”
“I have been told that a lot recently; I am kind of sick of it, to be honest.”
“Then maybe you should start fighting like you used to. But not really; I watched one of those tall fungus people crush the god that originally owned Slag. The god here has spent all his time developing his fungus. They are far more developed than anything I have ever seen.”
“I would appreciate it if we could visit your insane mushroom man now. I don’t like having to step on eggshells like this. I would also appreciate if we could leave as soon as possible.”
“Chill out.” Appretend said as she ducked out of the way of the reaching arm of another fungal humanoid. “Once we reach his domain, there is little that will harm you.”
Anodyne being over cautious, returned to his levitating state and reduced his size.
“You really were scarier when I first met you. What happened to the god-slaying madman that I introduced myself to?”
“I have developed a loss in might since losing my planet; it has recently been shown to me and has made me a little cautious.”
“Well, ease up; we are nearly there.”
Anodyne looked up to see a massive clearing in the jungle. In the center of the jungle grew a colossal Devil finger fungus. Its appendages stretch kilometers off into the distance. The base of the fungus was surrounded by a plethora of glowing mushrooms that illuminated the open plane.
Anodyne watched as a mass seemed to move by the base.
“That is the guy.”
“Why didn’t we land in this giant open field? We could have avoided all that jungle crap.”
“Because this massive red monster fungus kills anyone who dares to fly close to it. That is why we land far away. It releases spore into the air that…”
An individual fell from the sky and collided with the ground, grasping for breath. They clawed at their throat as mushrooms started to sprout from her neck.
“Got it. I think I am done with questions.”
Anodyne returned to his normal size and stood next to Appretend; while she remained still, Anodyne motioned to move forward but stopped as he noticed her standing still.
The body that fell from the sky was still squirming, even after their throat had been turned into a floral decoration. Quickly the rest of their body started to break out with more mushrooms till they were completely consumed. Their mound blended into the field of small mushrooms that sprouted everywhere. Eventually, the dead god turned into the same collection of ore as all dead gods do.
“This is a graveyard! Do we need to be respectful and not touch them?”
“Actually, the opposite; he does not see death as a negative but a positive. Death is a sign of new life; it would be more offensive to avoid the graves as you would be showing a fear of death.”
“Well, I currently have a great fear of death, making this situation a little uncomfortable.”
Anodyne felt the hairs on his neck rise as he realized that their target was no longer in sight. He heard footsteps from behind, and a deep, deathly voice spoke out from behind.
“You bring a friend Appretend? I thought you had no friends other than Plo.”
“Well, Anodyne is not a friend.” Appretend turned to face her friend. “He is a business partner, and I am a little offended you don’t consider me a friend, friend.”
Anodyne felt his stomach muscles tighten as a grotesque hand tightened around his shoulder; peering over, he noted the plethora of fingers that bent in odd directions.
“Pleasure to meet you; I am Anodyne. Who may I be talking to?”
“I don’t know who you speak to, surely not me. For if you were to talk to me, you would turn face.”
Anodyne pivoted on the spot and took in the figure before him. A large hulking mass of a man that seemed to be oblivious to his appearance. Tall and wide, half his body seemed near normal with only a few specs of rot. The other side of him seemed decayed; mushrooms and other plant life grew from his decomposing body.
“Anodyne, you are?”
Fear filled his body as he felt the power from this god sends waves of energy past him. Each one covered his entire body in chills.
“I am a friend of Appretend, apparently.” He said as he stared over at her; she smiled back at him. “But I am better known as, My’Ellium. And best known as the god that can help, for a price.”
Anodyne’s fear seemed to be smothered by his want for a cheap purchase. His eyes closed slightly, and his voice deepened.
“I need something that can consume a barrier powered by devotion.”
My’Ellium flexed his jaw, chunks of flesh and a small pile of insects fell from his half-rotted face.
“How big a barrier, and how much devotion?”
Anodyne and Appretend looked at each other, Appretend’s face giving Anodyne a feeling of dread to his answer.
“Human planet size, couple hundred million.”
My’Ellium fell backward till he found himself sitting. He let off a harrowing chuckle.
“That is not a cheap request; that is not an easy request. But it is one I can fill; in trade, I want teeth.”
Anodyne lowered his vision and peered into My’Ellium’s mouth.
“You seem to have a full set already, besides can’t you just make your own?”
Anodyne raised his hand and created an unending fountain of teeth, all of which fell to the ground.
“I need real teeth, not forged teeth. I need God’s teeth.”
Clamping his teeth together, Anodyne looked at Appretend.
“No way, I got you here. If anything, you owe me; maybe I want some teeth as payment.”
Anodyne snarled at Appretend.
“Why, what could you possibly need teeth for?”
“I have bred a new variety of fungus, one that takes on the properties of what it grows off. This one likes teeth. I want to test it on god teeth.”
“Ok, well, even if I wanted to hand over my teeth. How would I do it?”
Several fungal humanoids appeared behind My’Ellium.
“We can take them, be but a moment.”
“What does my teeth get me?”
My’Ellium created a barrier of visible blue energy around Appretend; with an audible breath, he let loose millions of little spores. The spores landed on the barrier and started to spread a thick mycelium across the whole barrier. He grabbed at the mycelium and ripped it down, revealing a hole in the blue field. My’Ellium turned back to Anodyne.
“You can forge a new set, but not strong like birth teeth. Deal?”
Anodyne closed his eyes and thought of what he was after; he thought of his daughters.
“Deal. Let’s get this over with.”
My” ellium grinned, and two of the fungal humanoids marched forward, grabbing one arm each. They pinned Anodyne to the ground. Using all his strength, he pushed against them, but no matter how hard he pushed, he did falter in their grip.
“Come on, bring it.”
A third fungal humanoid lent over Anodyne and stretched out a hand towards his mouth, prying his jaw open with one hand and reaching into his jaw with its other.
“Why fight back? I thought we had a deal?”
“We do consider it instinct. Come on, take them, you overgrown mushroom.”
The fungal humanoid gripped onto his tooth with two fingers; slowly, it pulled upwards, wrenching the tooth from its gum embrace. Anodyne’s screams disturbed the fauna of the entire planet as he had each tooth plucked slowly from his jaw. Appretend looked on with sadness, feeling guilty for her part to play.
“Hey, My, don’t you think you could speed this up? That looks really painful.”
“Pain is part of payment; it shows legitimacy to the want.”
Appretend and My’Ellium watched on as the fungal humanoid made its way to Anodyne’s molars. Grasping on and steadily pulling upward, it slowly removed the long-rooted teeth. His screams turned to gurgles as his mouth filled with blood. Appretend turned away and blocked her ears, My’Ellium lent in closer as his lower jaw had its last tooth removed.
“Halfway there, stay strong, receive what you need. Succumb to pain, leave empty-handed.”
Anodyne’s eyes turned over to the rotting face of My’Ellium; a burning determination filled them. His eyes reddened and started watering.
“Good, let us continue.”
The fungal humanoid twisted its wrist and grasped onto the first tooth of the upper jaw. Once again, with a steady pull, the cracking sounds started again, and a strong popping suction sounded as each tooth was removed from Anodyne’s jaw. Small tendrils of gum tried their best to hold on as the teeth were removed. As the final tooth was removed, the fungal humanoids released Anodyne; he rolled to his side and waved his hand across his mouth, filling it once again with teeth. The pain was still present; he gritted his new teeth together and waited for the pain to subside.
“What makes my birth teeth stronger than these replacements?”
My’Ellium received his payment from his followers, shooing them away once he had full grip on the teeth.
“A lot, having a physical piece of a god is a great achievement. This job I would have done for free for appretend, but I wanted to see your strength. I’m impressed.”
My” ellium walked back over to his central colossal devil’s finger fungus. Jingling the blood-covered teeth in his hand.
“Appretend has your payment, leave or stay. Do as you wish.”
Appretend helped Anodyne to his feet, and Anodyne reluctantly accepted her offer. Flexing his jaw, he grabbed at his face.
“Is pain the common currency for this one?”
Appretend gave a compassionate smile.
“Yes, you actually got off quite lightly. Be thankful it was a simple request. Birth parts are a prized item, the closest thing gods have to a currency. Besides souls.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Well, when you kill a god, they turn to an ore. However, you can remove parts of a god and have them remain as a body part. These body parts are incredibly strong and have a variety of effects that make them high-value objects for alchemy and crafting.”
Appretend handed over a jar filled with spores.
“I once saw an axe that had its blade made from a selection of sharpened teeth. It was a devastatingly powerful weapon.”
Looking down at what his agony had purchased, Anodyne rubbed his jaw.
“We should go; I don’t have the stomach to stay here. I feel defeated.”
Appretend gave another sympathetic smile before heading back into the forest, wandering just far enough away from My’Ellium to fly off safely. Leaving the planet, Anodyne grabbed Appretend and returned them both back to Plo’s workshop.
“What are we doing here? I thought you needed to get back to Hollow.”
“I do, but I am still too weak to fight Xarius. I need help because if I am to do this, I am to do it once. I am not going through that pain again.”
“Who do you have to help you?”
“Sylum, maybe. He seems intent on not attacking Xarius, though. Says going after a deity with that much devotion is suicide, even with a deity soul weapon.”
“I wouldn’t know anything about that; I do think I heard some customers talking about a fighting pit once. Maybe you could head there and acquire some fighters for you.”
“How will I head there if I do not know where it is? Do you expect me to search the entire Eternaverse?”
Plo walked in as Anodyne was talking down to Appretend.
“I know where they are; we can head there now.”
“Not now; I am tired right now. I need some time to recover from this, mentally that is.”
Plo stared over to Appretend with a face of confusion. Appretend mouthed out, ‘My’Ellium.’ Plo knew exactly what had happened and moved out of the room quickly, staying quiet as she went.
“Give me a minute, then we will head out.”
Anodyne leaned back into the chair he sat in and got comfortable. His aching jaw was soothed by the sweet embrace of sleep. His mind wandered far away as he forgot the agony he had just lived through. His last conscious thought was.
‘Damn, paying for things is a pain.’