Scales, they were definitely scales.
But these were not ordinary scales, they were massive, several meters long by Max's judgement. It took him a moment to realize what that meant. What he was looking at was not landmass… it was a creature!
With wide eyes, Max looked back up at the colossal shadow just in time to witness two huge eyes slowly opening, the glowing violet irises locking on to him standing far below.
They stared at each other silently as Max tried to rationalize what he was looking at and failed miserably. This creature was living in his inner world? How long had it been here? Where had it come from?!
"One question at a time."
The voice Max had been hearing suddenly spoke again, originating from the colossal creature before him. It felt like Max was hearing the earth itself speak, the deep subterranean bass of the voice causing the water to shiver and Max's bones to ache from the rumbling sound.
"What are you?" Max asked breathlessly after a moment. He was shaken up by the creature's appearance, but he was also resolute. He wasn't leaving without answers.
"I am the 'gift' your parents left for you. If you tried to explain my existence, you could not, as there has never been a precedent. I exist as your symbiote, or familiar, a coexistence of sorts created by your parents the same as they created you. We are one of a kind, an existence never seen nor known before."
"So those men… they were after mother because of us?" Max asked quietly. He was slowly adjusting to the creature's voice, but it wasn't easy.
"Correct. While you exist in the physical realm, I exist in the Aether realm. When we were born, anyone paying attention to the Aether would have noticed the disturbance caused by our birth. They would have not known what we are, or our importance, but most people desire power and will do anything to get it, regardless of the consequences.
They spent many years hunting us, and only the actions of our mother kept us safe. What she did that night when they found us ensured that we were kept a secret long enough for us to realize our potential and protect ourselves."
Max pondered for a second then asked, "So you have been here since I was born? Why have we not spoken before now?"
"Mother altered your memories, causing you to forget. Also you clung to the fake memory she left behind, shutting out the rest, including my voice.
For me on the other hand, she left a message. She asked me to wait until the time was right and you had need of me. That was when I was to call out to you, and so I did."
Max sat down with a heavy sigh. This was all a little much to take in at the moment.
"So, I know mother… but our father? I have no memories of him."
The colossal shadow before him rumbled before replying, "All we know is that he was a being of immense power, far beyond that of mortal comprehension. His name is unknown to any except mother. Any more than that is beyond us."
So there was a chance that he was still out there somewhere… That said, Max was not sure if he wanted to see him. Someone that had left mother to fend for herself like that? What kind of father would do such a thing?
He sighed heavily again, turning his attention back to the shadow.
"What are you really? I get that you are a part of me, but how do I even have an inner world when i'm not even Rank 1?"
"We are different than ordinary existences. Others would create an inner world when they first contact the Aether realm, thus learning how to use their magic in the process.
Our inner world has existed since we have, and as such has always been here along with ourselves. As for artificial constructs such as 'Ranks', we do not fall under such arbitrary structures."
"So why can't I use magic then?" Max asked. "I've tried, but I can only absorb it, and not actually use it. Not to mention I don't seem to have an innate talent either, not that I'm aware of at least… All I seem to have is extraordinary physical abilities."
"Our innate talent and our magic, all of it was embodied into this form you see before you. To use any of it, we need to work together, to connect ourselves and achieve true symbiosis. That is the only way. As for your physical strength and resilience, that is the result of our coexistence, a passive effect," replied the shadow.
Max shook his head in bewilderment. "What even are you? All I see is this huge shadow, eyes and some scales. At least show your true form."
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"Very well," came the reply, followed by another rumble from the shadow.
As Max watched, the huge violet eyes lit up, glowing with ethereal energy that slowly started to flow to the rest of the colossal shape. Hundreds of lines along the creature's shadow started to light up as the energy traveled through them, slowly illuminating the enormous shape as they came to light.
Max watched in fascination as the shadow was revealed, the full glory of it all rendering him speechless. Nothing he had ever seen matched or explained what he was looking at, but he had read and heard stories of myths that told fantastic tales of creatures that lived in the depths of the deepest oceans.
Creatures with jaws big enough to swallow islands whole, so massive that if they breached the surface, the tidal waves created by the event would wipe out entire civilizations.
These creatures had no known origin save for the myths that they spawned, and many people didn't believe that they even existed, but Max was staring one in the face.
Those that knew the tales and recounted the myths called these legendary creatures Leviathans, terrors of the deep.
"Hmm," rumbled the creature, seemingly finding Max's thoughts and reaction humorous. "Leviathan… Yes, that will do. Though it does not fully describe this form, we will take that as a title if it makes things easier for us to understand."
Max found himself smiling at the dry humor in the creature's, no… Leviathan's voice. It actually helped him snap out of his stupor and helped him refocus his jumbled mind. He had wasted too much time already.
"So," he said as he got off the ground and floated up till he was eye-level with Leviathan, who was apparently his new, and old, companion inhabiting his inner world. "Now that 'we' are aware of one another, together we should be able to break that damn wall?"
The violet eyes before him briefly glowed with power in response. "That wall, won't even be a problem."
Max nodded, determination showing in his eyes once again.
It was time to break out of this place!