Chapter 3:

Chapter Three — Seeing is Believing?

Serving the Dark Lord? I Didn’t Sign up for This!

“Why are you still hesitating? You literally live in a world filled with proof of magic now,” Azazel scolded me.Bookmark here

“I’m trying my best, okay!? I’m sorry I’m not some delusional fool who believed they could use magic even before they came here,” I retorted. Azazel had already mastered using the magic promised to us by the dark lord. He was a natural, but I really couldn’t get a hang of it. I closed my eyes and tried to concentrate, but nothing happened. I kept concentrating, but without realizing it I had been holding in my breath, and a few moments later I was gasping for air. We were practicing out in the courtyard, so the air was fresh at least. It was night time, so the air was nice and cool. Although this part of the world was called the ‘realm of darkness,’ it’s not like it was permanently dark. There was a proper night and day, just like in the realm of light. However all the residents here were nocturnal.Bookmark here

“Try it like this,” Azazel began to make rapidly put his hands together in strange ways, with some fingers interlocked, and some pointing outwards. It was almost like a mix between shadow puppets and sign language. As embarrassing as it looked, I tried repeating after him, but still, nothing happened. Azazel scratched his head. We had been at it for hours already today trying different strategies, but to no avail, and this wasn’t the first day of practice. It had already been a week since we were first summoned here.Bookmark here

“Maybe you need a verbal incantation. Try something like this: ‘By the moon’s light, grant me a form fit to fight—Transform!’” he suggested. I sighed, but anything was worth a try at this point.Bookmark here

“By the moon’s light, blah blah blah—Transform!” I said unenthusiastically.Bookmark here

“Come on, you weren’t even trying that time,” he put his hands on his hipsBookmark here

Azazel and I were both starting to lose patience. Apparently, you could not use magic in this world unless you believed you were able to, but fantasy world or not, it was all too ridiculous for me. Magic circles were different, since they drew magical power from the environment, but if I wanted to use spells myself, then I’d need to learn to believe in myself and the magic within. Man, even just thinking about it sounds silly. But that’s why Azazel had such an easy time. Even back in the real world, he thought he could use magic. No wonder he was so excited to find himself here. On the other hand, somehow I had the upper hand when it came to close combat.Bookmark here

“How about we take a break and have another spar?” I suggested and unsheathed my new shadow blade—a sword darker than the night itself. It was standard equipment for those working directly under the dark lord, modelled after his own original magically created weapon and mass produced.Bookmark here

“Not again. You won’t fight fair. Duels should be held with honour,” Azazel gave his excuse as he crossed his arms, looked away and pouted.Bookmark here

He’s ashamed, isn’t he? The last time, I scooped up some dirt and threw it at his eyes, leaving him defenseless. The time before that, I made use of my feet and kicked him off his own. I wasn’t particularly strong, so I had to fight smart, but Azazel just kept trying to fight in the most straight-forward way. He’d charge straight at me, and announce his moves in advance with ridiculous names. Needless to say he was sick of losing, not that I could blame him. I was sick of failing at this magic nonsense myself.Bookmark here

“Go on and take a small break though. I’m going to speak to the dark lord about your troubles and see if he has any ideas,” Azazel looked back towards me and spoke before walking away. Even though I hadn’t really done anything, I felt exhausted, so I sat down on a nearby bench and gazed at the unfamiliar stars.Bookmark here

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Think, Azazel, think. There has to be a solution. There’s always a solution, as long as you don’t give up thinking. I walked throughout the dark lord’s castle, looking for inspiration. Magic scrolls didn’t do anything for Claire, nor did any of the incantations or somatic motions. I said I’d consult the dark lord about this, but that was just an excuse to leave and buy myself some time to figure something out. Honestly speaking, I didn’t know much about Claire. All I really knew was that she was one of those super serious types who don’t know how to have fun. I never saw her miss a day of class, she was always paying full attention, and whenever we were given an assignment by our professor, she would ask questions about the most inconsequential details. A perfectionist, who needed every detail to be just right. Back in our old world, someone like her would never believe me if I told her that magic truly exists, but in this reality, it’s undeniable, not that it helps. I can demonstrate magic right in front of her, but it won’t make a difference. She still has the heart of a skeptic.Bookmark here

As I walked around thinking, I ended up finding myself in the meal hall of the castle. I was surrounded by monsters such as centaurs, minotaurs, and kobolds that looked like dinosaurs. It was a bit frightening at first, but I quickly got used to it. Claire was still nervous around them though. Everyone in the castle served the dark lord somehow or another, but it was more like a government than anything else. In a similar fashion, though the monsters outside the castle didn’t work directly for the dark lord, they were still ruled by him. It was as I was eating that an idea came to me. I stared at the ‘Essence of Darkness’ soft drink I ordered with my meal. Even though there were beverages of many colours back in our own world, most of them didn’t compare to how the drink I had right now looked. It was an extremely vibrant, clear indigo colour that faded to a deep violet at the top. Even though it was a normal drink, it looked magical. If I had to compare it to anything from back home, it would most closely resemble a fancy cocktail—something you don’t see too often unless you’re a bar regular. I’m going to have to learn how to make some of these special drinks before we leave.Bookmark here

If she doesn’t believe she can use magic, then I’ll just have to use my own magic to make her believe. A realist like her needs a realistic solution. Bookmark here

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We’re really in a different world, huh. I wasn’t able to identify any of the constellations I knew as I rested in the courtyard. I tried practicing magic a few more times, but to no avail. I became lost in my own thoughts while stargazing, so it felt like hardly time had passed at all before Azazel came back.Bookmark here

“I received this from the dark lord himself,” he handed me a strange potion. I had no idea what it did, but it had an otherworldly indigo and violet colour to it that made it look magical.Bookmark here

“This better not be some kind of energy drink to help me keep practicing” I joked.Bookmark here

“No, no, it’s not a stamina potion. This is a bit more special. It’s a potion of transformation. Drink it, and picture what animal you wish to transform into. You only need one mouthful too, so it’s good for multiple uses,” he explained.Bookmark here

Huh. Well, if it was that easy, then what was the point in learning to use magic yourself? It was almost like the spiritual healing back home. Why bother attempting something that in all honesty doesn’t even work when modern medicine has proven itself to be effective and reliable? I took the bottle and had a drink. I was expecting something nasty, but it was more akin to a soda without carbonation. The moment I finished that thought, poof, I was now a monkey.Bookmark here

“Ooh ooh, ahh ahh!” I excitedly said to Azazel.Bookmark here

Oh no. I sound like a monkey too. I had suddenly become much smaller, so my clothes suddenly felt extremely baggy, but they were still on me at least. That was the important thing.Bookmark here

“It worked! You’re a monkey! Hahahaha” Azazel began laughing. It wasn’t the joyful type of laughter, but rather he was laughing at the fact that I had become a monkey. The transformation wasn’t permanent—it only lasted a day, or you could end it earlier if you wanted, and I did want to.Bookmark here

I transformed back into my regular self, and looked at Azazel scornfully, but then burst into laughter myself. I had finally done it. I was so happy that I couldn’t be upset at him. I guess it was kind of funny.Bookmark here

“There are potions for the other spells too. I’ll prepare them for you before we leave,” Azazel reassured me. Thank god. Or perhaps I should say thank the dark lord. Bookmark here

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We stood before the dark lord in his throne room. Well, I stood. Azazel was kneeling down again. There were flames, alternating in colour between blue and orange, lining the sides. The floor was made up of a dark stone. It resembled black marble, but instead of having white streaks running through it, it was filled with red streaks that seemed to glow in pulses, almost like a living heartbeat. Along the center of the room ran a red carpet leading to the throne. The throne itself was gray. Moreover, it was made of skeletons—an amalgamation of ash coloured bones. At the end of the armrests were skulls, upon which Andromalius’s hands rested. Behind his head, what looked like femurs were fanned out in an arc.Bookmark here

“Have you finished your preparations?” he raised an eyebrow at us.Bookmark here

“Yes, milord. Please let us know. What should we do, and where should we go?” Azazel eagerly asked.Bookmark here

“My ultimate goal is for you to regain my powers. I care not how you do it. For now, head west, to the town in the realm of light closest to us. I have a contact there who shall assist you. Seek the moth man,” Andromalius gave us our orders.Bookmark here

“The moth man? What, does his appearance foreshadow some kind of disaster?” I accidentally spoke out loud. I had gotten a little used to giving Azazel sass that I forgot who I was in front of. However, Andromalius did not appear to mind.Bookmark here

“He shall tell you his tale if he wishes. It is not my place to share it,” he said calmly. Oh boy.Bookmark here

And so we set off with our shadow blades, our newly learned magic, a few potions, and a few other basic survival supplies such as food, torches, and rope. Our instructions were quite vague, but I figure the contact must know something. We were only five steps out the front door of the castle when Azazel said to me “Hold on, I forgot to pee,” and turned back.Bookmark here

I couldn’t help but sigh. This was going to be a long trip.Bookmark here

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