Chapter 07 - Essence

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The night continued into the late morning and The Order had welcomed their new member. There was no rush to start Seth's induction immediately and Kuro was looking to call it a day. Rex had already walked out of the living room and went to his room. Craig and Lara left as did Owen. Kuro prepared to leave as well and gathered Maxine's jacket. 
Seth watched from the couch as the two of them were close together, Maxine with the biggest smile on her face as they looked into each others' eyes. Whatever they were mumbling to each other in lust, they would peck a kiss after each word. 
Maxine's eyes suddenly landed on Seth's and he felt immense pressure. She kept her gaze and it felt as if knives were stabbing into him. He couldn't move.

Kuro looked back, hearing someone groaning. Seth had fallen to the ground, stiffening up.
"Babe, stop," he said, looking back at Maxine. He placed his palm on her cheek.
She broke gaze and looked back at Kuro, smiling again, "He shouldn't stare."
"He's not ready to withstand your essential pressure," Kuro said, kissing her afterwards. The two of them were like horny teenagers. 
Seth pulled himself up off of the floor and still felt as if a hand was gripping his entire body and squeezing tightly. 
"Seth," Kuro said, "Is this your first time feeling essence this intense?"
He shook his head, "I've felt something like this before. From Alesio and in other parts of the city."
"Near a reaper?" 
Again he shook his head, "There are just times I feel it and can't map out that it's a reaper. I mean, I would feel the source moving."
"Interesting," Kuro said, getting an idea, "You're able to trace the source of essence flow?"
Seth shrugged, "I guess. Yeah."
An ability that every reaper should know but only those whose essence almost matches or completely overpowers the other. 
"Ghouls," Maxine said, "That's probably what he could sense."
Maxine was right and Kuro's idea became a definite plan. From the look of things, with Seth having been dead for four years, running into a ghoul must have happened. But Kuro asked Seth if he had ever encountered such and he had no clue what a ghoul was.
"Let's take him, baby," Maxine said, "to Hallowed Hill."
"What's Hallowed Hill?" Seth asked and without saying a word, the lovers got into the elevator and gestured for Seth to follow.

They drove to the highest point in the city, which was far from the bustle of it all. To drive up the mountain one would have to take the long winding roads which did not have any street lights, only using the moon to see the way at night if one did not go by car or carry a torch as they walked. Maxine watched Kuro throughout the entire drive there, her hand on his thigh as he drove. Seth just looked out the window, questioning why he had never in his life taken this route or seen this side of the city. There were rumours about this mountain though - the place where people came to commit suicide. Much like the Suicide Forest in Japan, this road was within a forest that was on a mountain. They reached the top and all that was there was an abandoned church. 
Seth was given a little tour of the place which was made into a point of interest for city tours that drove this route. Seth walked into the church, one of the doors torn down with claw marks. The wood of the pews was rotten and vines had almost engulfed the building. It had certainly been abandoned for ages.
"It's said that the mortals come here to pray before they take their lives," Maxine said from behind Seth who now stood at the altar. He didn't turn around as he was fixated on the headless statue of Jesus hanging from the cross.
He had no idea that any of this existed. All of the video games and film editing shut Seth out of the outside world.
"What did you do to me back at the suite?" Seth asked, having thought about it during the drive, "I've felt the essence pressure from many reapers before. But something was different about yours."

Maxine grinned, "I can see why Kuro was so interested in you."
Seth explained what he felt.
Every reaper, regardless of strength, possesses the ability to smother another in the pressure of the essence. Much like how two cats would arch their backs upwards, hissing with their claws out to raise their threat towards one another, the most threatening will cause the other cat to back off. Reapers raise their essence pressure, concentrating each atom to the edge of their skin, and sending outbursts of energy from the build-up. If a freshly trained reaper of only fourteen years of age were to stand in a swimming pool, one burst of their pressure would empty out all of the water. Constant releases of this pressure would make it difficult for someone to approach the reaper.
It is known that only demons were able to direct their energy to one target, crushing them with their essential pressure. Reapers are only able to send it out in a wide affected area. Demons are fortunate here as they're able to do both, but with the quirk of taking the wide area of pressure and combining the force of it all onto one person.
But of course, Seth did not know a thing about demons, let alone their existence. Such was Maxine's secret.
"Back there I wasn't trying to kill ya," Maxine said and winked at Seth. She joined up with Kuro and Seth stood on the other side of him.

They stood at the edge of a cliff which had a forest blanketed in fog. 
"In the laws of life, the body serves as a vessel for a soul," Kuro started, "as such, when the vessel is of no use, the soul vacates. Mortal life was a creation of the three gods. Each of them would give a percentage of their essence and breathe a soul into creation. However, to ensure that the soul would not fall corrupt to either one of the three essences, the vessel kept it at balance. The human body did not allow for essence to leave or enter. Thus no demon, reaper, or angel could possess a body with a soul already in it."
Maxine giggled.
"When the vessel has lived its course, the soul inside is free and the three essences will then fight for supremacy over the soul's core. As this fight goes on, it is the job of a reaper to take the soul out of the vessel, revealing the essence that took full control of the soul's core and sending that soul to Hell, Heaven or the Underworld."
Kuro then turned to look at Seth, "But if the core succumbs to turmoil over the three essences and ends up shattering, the three will become rampant and start to devour the vessel from inside, trying to create another core. The body will then break down, creating a creature known as a ghoul. A being of unstable power, utilising the powers of reapers, angels and demons - all in one. Of course, as the three essences are forever fighting over core dominance, each of the essences will need to keep consuming more in order to keep their core from shattering."
"Why can't the three just disperse and go find their own cores?" Seth asked.
"As I said, none of the three essences can harm a human body alone. It's different if all three have formed into a ghoul." Kuro explained.
"So why are we here?" Maxine said, trying to get to the juicy part.
"Hallowed Hill used to be a place where humans would come to commit suicide. The drop from this cliff was sure death. There was a time that reapers were posted here to take the souls from their vessels, but when the birth of slayers occurred, one night a soul was not reaped on time. Usually, if a vessel dies and the reaper releases the soul with it having not yet had either one of the essences dominating the core, it is immediately crushed by the reaper."
"So it's possible for people not to go to either one of the places?" Seth asked.
Kuro nodded. Seth shook his head laughing, "Poor atheists."
"That night when that soul was not reaped, it turned into a ghoul - something the reaper had never seen before. The ghoul hungered for the essence of the reaper and the slayer who were engaged in battle. The ghoul began devouring the trees and animals around it - anything that it could eat - and gained strength. By the time the ghoul had enough essential pressure, it came across the slayer and with a gentle tap on the slayer, the power shattered the slayer's core immediately and the ghoul absorbed its essence. Being too strong to fight off, the reaper called for reinforcements but it died on the arrival of calvary. This, of course, became a serious issue when the ghoul went rampant in the city, killing everything and everyone. It became a day that nobody remembers as it was the first time that a member of the Council in the Underworld stepped foot into the mortal realm. This became the day of Dead Moon."

"Dead Moon?" Seth asked but Kuro would explain that later. 
"The council member killed the ghoul that the ordinary reapers and even acolytes could not. But by then, there were more ghouls appearing from the devastation that the first one created. The council member performed a powerful binding spell which pulled every ghoul in and around the city to this very forest. They sealed it off, not allowing the ghouls inside to ever escape. Humans are still able to walk into the forest but none of them returns. Much has been raised about this forest to a point that local authorities do not talk about it."
Maxine interrupted and explained that since acolytes possess vessels, they exist as the tour guides that prohibit humans from going near the forest. But some manage to make it to the cliff to end their lives. Anything that crossed the seal was considered dead to the acolytes and not worth saving. 
"So why was I brought here?" Seth asked, knowing that it was not for a history lesson.
"You were never trained to use your pressure against another. It is said that it's the only instinctive ability that a soul has."
Instinctive? Seth was regretting even joining The Order at this point.
"Maxine and I will walk with you through this forest. However, our presence will be completely hidden. You, on the other hand, must use your pressure to ward off ghouls from us."
Fear overtook Seth and he slowly turned and walked to the church to go pray.

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