Ikiru was right. In this form, I was sheltered from the cold. The icy blasts of wind didn’t touch me. However, I could see him trying to hide his shivering as we trekked along the frozen plane. If crossing the fires of the first level felt like an eternity then passing the wastes certainly felt like double that time. We moved in silence, as anything I thought I needed to say seemed out of place. This was a solemn place. It was not my place to speak.
Finally, afar off I could make out a mountain which slowly became more and more visible. As we moved closer to it, the winds became more and more intense. I wondered how Ikiru could stand the icy cold, but clearly, his physical form was more than met the eye.
Upon reaching the foot of the mountain I had expected it would provide some shelter from the wind, but instead, the winds were amplified as if they blasted down from the peak directly towards us. We circled the mountain until we came upon a small cleft of rocks and Ikiru squeezed his way inside, and I followed. Inside was the dry bones of someone else who had wandered this place. The bones themselves were starting to be stripped down to the core, from the wind and cold that permeated even here.
In the back of the cave, Ikiru began wiping down the snow from the walls. “This is it,” he said softly as he revealed an inscription inside a rough-hewn circle carved into the wall. “These are how we can travel directly to our destination. Are you ready?”
I was about to make a joke and this time decided not to and instead gave him a nod. He placed his hand on the inscription and began chanting in the same language that the oni had, and suddenly there was nothing but darkness around us.