332 Agony of the Blood Commitmen
"Alright. I'll perform the blood commitment."
"Thank you, Jack." Moisture started to build in one of Kims's eyes but he quickly whisked the tear away before it took form. "What should I do?"
"This won't take long, but I'll need your blood for this, at least a small bowlful."
A large mug appeared in Kims's hand. "Is this big enough?"
Not flinching, Kims placed the mug on the ground before him and he then looked to Jack with his arm extended. "Can you give me a hand?"
Without a word, Jack retrieved a knife and slashed Kims's wrist emotionlessly.
Blood trickled and flowed down Kims's lone hand, pooling in the wide mug below. Neither Kims nor Jack paid attention to each other or showed any emotion. Jack knew that Kims was more serious than ever and Kims felt no need to grovel or show pain for something he had begged to receive.
Once the mug was filled, a cloth appeared in Jack's hands, which he used to stop the blood flow in Kims's arm and then bandage the wound. But as Jack covered the cut, holy white energy gathered around Kims's wrist and sealed the wound like it never happened.
Jack nodded to Tralon in the distance.
Tralon, along with the others, was witnessing something that he had only seen once before. He understood better than anyone else present how it felt to be on the receiving end of a blood commitment. It was the first memory of Jack that Tralon could vividly remember; when Jack had done it to him.
No longer bothering with the bandage, Jack picked up the mug and dipped his finger in the fresh, warm blood.
"Stay still, no matter what. Otherwise, this will hurt even more."
When Kims nodded, Jack began to draw a small circle around the one-armed swordsman. Then, he drew a second circle inside of the first, filling the area between the two with some glyphs and ancient characters. There were only four characters drawn, one for each direction. But the blood began to glow in place of drying up.
Jack didn't stop. Next, Jack drew a fifth and final character on Kims's forehead. But that was drawn in Jack's blood, making him the master and owner of the commitment.
As Jack finished, he flicked the remaining blood from his finger and took a few deep breaths as the blood grew brighter and brighter.
From the distance, Argyle and Vixus were shaking. They feared that ancient ritual but never thought they would personally witness one. And the ominous aura emitted by the glowing blood sent shivers down their spines. Even Phoro, who had no understanding of the ritual, felt only hesitation and uneasiness while witnessing it.
Jack then opened his mouth, reciting the activation chant. "From blood, you began and by blood, you may end. On my will, you shall act or die by my hand."
Grimacing and wincing in pain, Kims tensed up and took the brunt of the ceremony without wavering.
Everyone paid close attention to the circles of blood. Those circles began to rotate and shrink around Kims. Slowly… Slowly they crawled up Kims. Eventually, Kims felt a searing pain as the blood was forcing its way back into the pores all over Kims's body.
But the pain didn't stop there.
As the circle continued to shrink, it left Kims's clothes stained and his body shaking. The circles finally became one and surrounded the ancient character written in Jack's blood.
Rather than mold with Jack's blood, Kims's blood seemed to surround Jack's, protecting it and worshipping it.
Then, the most painful part began. Kims felt his eyes trying to squeeze their way out of their sockets from the pain. The remaining blood, both Kims's and Jack's, gradually seeped into Kims's forehead. It was going slower and was now far too painful for Kims to hold back his tears of pain.
Kims endured the final stage of the ceremony as the party and all beasts in the surrounding kilometer shriveled up from the ominous aura alone.
Jack was the only one who remained unmoved. But a tear was falling down each of his cheeks.
Witnessing that ritual first hand without a screen was far worse than with one. Thinking about how he caused Kims such torture was agonizing to him, but Jack had no choice. The young hero stood tall and respected Kims's will and determination.
After nearly five minutes of crying and shouting, Kims fell onto his hand and knees.
The one-armed swordsman was covered in sweat and blood. Tears still ran from his eyes and Kims's jaw quivered. The blood commitment was far beyond his imagination. He was certain that he would never wish such pain on his worst enemies. If he fully understood how painful it was going to be, Kims would've hesitated and thought twice about submitting himself to a pain he dubbed as worse than death.
"From now on, you're life is in my hands. I hope we can get along in the future and work to better Trodar." Jack gave Kims a full bow, not daring to look down on Kims's pride.
"T-thank you... M-Master Jack."
"Jack is fine." Stopping the exhausted Kims from forcing himself to stand, Jack continued, "Now, I'll write the pact on your forehead in my blood. I'll only need a single drop of yours to seal the pact. And it will only sting a little, but you may not even feel it after what you just endured."
Kims nodded and stayed down. Even if he wanted to stand, he lacked the strength to do so properly.
Jack got to writing the pact, drawing with the slit of his finger. In moments, Jack knelt down to support Kims. Then, Jack pricked Kims's finger and helped the weakened man press it against his forehead.
The inheritor's pact glistened momentarily before seeping into Kims's head, which the man didn't even notice as he continued to breathe heavily.
'Kims, you're something else.'
'Thank you... Jack. You don't understand... how much... this means to me,' Kim's replied telepathically, struggling to remain conscious.
'After seeing you go through that, I may be starting to understand. But for now, just rest. We'll talk later.'
Without another word, Kims closed his eyes with a grin of victory. After enduring hellish pain, he rested soundly knowing that he managed to get what he wanted and proving that nothing could stop him from achieving his goals.
"Ssildro, can you please carry him while he rests? He'll be out cold for a while."
Like it was a reflex, Ssildro appeared beneath Kims's chest and lifted him into the air in an instant. The speedy serpent looked at Kims with even more respect, glad that the human he called partner was so resourceful and reliable.
"Well, he'll be out for a few days," Jack stated. "We should get moving. Keep your eye out for the next few floors. Also, be careful on the magma floor. That's probably the most chaotic one."
No one replied with words. The party nodded and followed Jack to the circle. As everyone touched it, Tralon activated the teleportation sequence and bid the sky floor farewell.
After an instant passed, the party found themselves in a blizzard with nothing but snow as far as the eye could see.
"Jack, is this the ice floor?" Vixus shouted against the wind for all to hear as the party's visibility was low.
"Yup!" replied Jack. "Stay close and pay attention. The circle should be to the west. Do your best to listen to your surroundings."
Following Jack's warnings, the party moved out.
Originally, Jack was going to have the party ride the cranes but that was nigh impossible in the weather of the ice floor. All they could do was trudge through the snow and hope they don't get caught off guard by a surprise attack within the storm.