The Last Light
The door to the room opened, revealing two women. One of them was a woman similar to Bor only in terms of skin color. Jonathan finally understood why Bor called himself: average-looking. The woman who just entered the room tripled in terms of beauty. A chiseled face that is similar to a runaway model and dangled to her waist is her silky locks dyed in midnight black. She carried with her a commanding attitude that rivaled her proud posture.
“Mr. Bor! To take an oath for a newcomer without considering the repercussions afterward demonstrated a level of thick-witted beyond anything I had ever seen. Now stand up and follow me. You need a proper scolding.”
“No ‘but’. Come now, Mr. Bor.”
Bor had no choice but to drag his feet toward her. However, before they could leave the room, Jonathan speaks up. “It wasn’t his fault. I--”
“Mr. Jonathan, please do not intrude. This matter is beyond your control.” She turned to Bor. “Quickly, Mr. Bor, to my office. Right, this instant.”
Before the door could even close, a part of her scolding could be heard. “I trusted you with one job. One job only, Mr. Bor, and that is to guard Mr. Jonathan. Not to make friends with him--”
The only people left in this room are Jonathan and the other woman. This woman in particular was entirely different from the woman before.
First thing first, her physique and tone of skin are a contrast to the other woman. Before, the other woman had blue skin, but this woman had pale skin almost nearing what a corpse would have. Visible medical stitching around her wrist and neck was unnatural. As if her joints had been sewn together. Her bushy black hair has two streaks of white in them and flaunted every time she walked.
The other woman had a commanding air about her, but this woman was more relaxed in her posture, more educational. Even her cape and suit reminded Jonathan of the professor he once saw having lunch in front of a famous university in London.
She took a seat across from Jonathan. “I do apologize for the…” Her eyes rested on my chains, then made their way to the thermos. “Rough treatment. I see you are more comfortable than a deer in a supermarket.” Even her tone has a slight British accent in it.
“Oh, I had to ask Bor to take it off. I dislike having chains around my hands.”
“I see. I apologize again for the treatment. I requested Commander Zey to ease off, but you know how it is. Security threat and all. I believe once you get to know her, she will grow on you.”
“Did she grow on you?”
“Absolutely not. She is a no-nonsense woman, and to be honest, a pain in my tush, but I do adore her. Where is my manner? I should introduce myself. My name is Dr. Victoria Frankenstein, the headmistress for this humble establishment of mine.”
“Frankenstein?” Jonathan raised an eyebrow at her. “You mean like the book?”
“I thought the doctor was a man?”
“Ah yes, the writer took several liberties to make the book more relatable for the public. Nevertheless, it was based on my life. However, I’m not here to talk about my past. I’m here to talk about you.” She cleared her throat. “If you don’t mind, would you introduce yourself?”
“Uhm, my name is Jonathan Jameson. Uhm, I’m 19 years old, and I was born in a small town named Haven in Alaska. Is that good? It has been a while.” Jonathan took a sip of his tea and kept his cup close to himself.
“A young man from Alaska. Extraordinary. There’s quite a distance between you and your home. So tell me, Jonathan, what are you doing here in France?”
“I’m a backpacker.” Jonathan’s eyes darted to his bag behind him. “I like to travel.”
“Admirable hobby, Mr. Jonathan. I did my fair share of traveling back in the day, and let me say, I love every minute of it. Meeting new people. Learning new cultures. All of it was wondrous.”
“Did I do something wrong, Dr. Victoria?”
“Well. I don’t know. Before I went in, I was reading a couple of reports about a series of breaking into our secret vaults.” She tapped her nail on the metal table. “Did you know, we have a tight system for each of our vaults. It’s an incredibly clean system. For each vault, we installed a cover, be it a bookshop, a pawn shop, or a kindergarten. And underneath that cover is our vault. Nothing complicated like a maze. It’s just a simple vault with a simple guard: a golem, to be precise.”
“An artificial existence constructed from graphite. Incredibly insusceptible to magic.”
“Okay, but… you still haven’t told me what I’m doing here.”
“May I?” Dr. Victoria's eyes darted to the thermos.
“Sure, let me just get another cup.” Before Jonathan could turn around, Dr. Victoria stops him. She grabbed Bor’s cup and took a sip from it.
“Strawberry tea. The floral taste is delicate, even though it was buried under all the sweetness. A personal favorite of mine. Did you know the shop was one of our covers?”
“What are you implying? I buy tea, so what? Everyone buys tea. I do admit that the tea is delicious, and I highly recommend it.”
“Thank you for the compliment.”
“Wait, you made the tea?”
“I’m joshing with you.” A small giggle escaped her. “Will you shed a light on a conundrum of mine? Why is it that for every vault that was broken into, a description of you keeps reappearing? It’s all the same: short brunette hair, green eyes, and a young man who appears to be in his early 20s.”
“Coincidence? I’ve seen a fair share of coincidences during my travels. This one time I was on a boat, and I was learning how to fish. I kid you not, I managed to catch two fish with a single hook.”
“Two times is a coincidence. Three? Pure luck, but four?” She laughed. “Hmm, can you keep a secret?’
“I guess so if I’m not going to get in trouble for knowing it.”
“No, no, no, nothing taboo. In truth, I don’t care about the vault.” Dr. Victoria smiled.
“I don’t. It’s wealth. I can find wealth with a snap of a finger. I’ve been doing so for centuries. Material possession comes and goes. Nothing really stuck around. However, one thing that caught my attention was you pulling out that banner.”
“Banner? Do you mean the pole thing in the stone? Is there something wrong with it? I don’t know anything about that. I was running away from those things you called…” Jonathan snapped his finger, trying to remember what Bor’s called them. “Redcap. I thought I needed something to keep them off me, so I took it. If you want it back, you can have it.”
“Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that, Jonathan Jameson. You are a part of a much grandiose scheme, Mr. Jonathan. It seems fate itself has delivered you to us, and I can’t wait to see what you got in store for us.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“You are going to attend my academy. You are going to learn about our world. You are going to meet new people. Craft a lasting and unbreakable bond with them. You could even find someone special here.” She stood up and extended her arms in the air. “Truly, this humble academy is a melting pot for all kinds of mythical races, creatures, and anything in between. You will learn from us, Mr. Jonathan! And by doing so, we will learn much from you.”
“I love a good joke, but no. I don’t settle in one place. I like to travel.”
“No?” Dr. Victoria’s shoulders drooped while her gaze went from warm to ice. She effortlessly tore the metal table and sent it flying across the room. She slowly cracked her knuckle as she made her way to him.
Jonathan gripped his chair tightly and tried to lean away in absolute fear. “Wait…wait. What are you going to do?”
“I do apologize, Mr. Jonathan. To put it simply, if I can’t have you, then no one can.”
For the first time in Jonathan’s life, never could a smile send so much fear into him. “Wait… Okay. Okay. Fine! I’ll do it.”
Dr. Victoria retreated to her warm self again. She took out an envelope and politely handed it to the frightened young man. “Welcome to Saint Jeanne Academy for Sorcery. It’s an honor to have you, Mr. Jonathan. I do hope you have fun here.”
Jonathan tried to calm himself by wiping the sweat off his brow and stopping his trembling hands.
Dr. Victoria snapped her finger. The door opened and revealed Commander Zey and Bor. Jonathan’s new friend became shocked at the state of the room. His gaze darted to a frightened Jonathan and back to Dr. Victoria. He wanted to ask whether his friend was fine, but a glare from his commander told him otherwise.
“Ah, Mr. Bor. I was hoping to see you. I hope Commander Zey doesn't give you too much trouble.”
“A light scolding is all. Nothing severe. I am assigning Mr. Bor here to be Mr. Jonathan's escort.“
“I do believe we share the same thoughts.”
“I hope not, Dr. Victoria. I prefer to keep your naughty mind away from mine.”
“Well, an introduction is in order. I believe you met Mr. Bor, but let me introduce you to Commander Zey. Tough, sterling, honest, dependable, brave, and true.”
“You flatter me, Dr. Victoria.”
“Oh, shut up, Commander Zey. You know I don’t mean it.” They both shared a laugh.
“Mr. Bor, could you please escort Mr. Jonathan to his new accommodation. Mr. Jonathan, if you found anything uncomfortable with your new room, please don’t hesitate to send a word. We’ll get on to it.” Dr. Victoria patted Bor on his back as he made his way to Jonathan.
Bor gently brought his new friend’s stuff and waited for Jonathan to finally find his bearing to stand up. Jonathan took a long breath before making his way to the door. Before they left Dr. Victoria’s sight, she called out to him.
“Mr. Jonathan. One more thing, if I found you scheming to escape or intentionally hurt my students. I will not hesitate. Do you understand me?”
“Completely. Geez.” Jonathan scratched the back of his head before following Bor.
“Good. And do come by anytime. I would love to have some tea together.”
“Sure, why not,” Jonathan yelled back.
After Jonathan and Bor left their sight, Commander Zey leaned in close to Dr. Victoria. “Are you certain to have him attend here?”
“Undeniable. He’s a good kid, Commander. Just bad circumstances.”***
The hallway itself was constructed in the style of an old medieval structure, carved column, and pointed arch. It seemed more like a lavish castle than a facility. A long carpet stretched out till the end of the hallway and never seemed to have an end. A pair of beautiful bouquets in a vase that was too big to carry by one person accompanied each door in the hallway.
“I almost lost my head in there.” Jonathan rested his hand behind his head as he walked alongside Bor. “You should have seen it. I thought I wet my pants.”
“I don’t believe Dr. Victoria could hurt anyone.”
“Are you sure?”
“Absolutely. I have known her my entire life. She is one of the kindest people in this academy.”
Jonathan glanced at Bor. There’s something there in his expression, perhaps it was admiration. “Maybe you’re right. I barely know her.”
“You seemed calm for a human. I thought you would panic with all the stuff you just learned.”
“Meh, I’m not the type to dwell on a technicality. So, what? A century ago, we thought a human couldn’t set foot on the moon, and here we are today.” Jonathan glanced at Bor. “What kind of race are you?”
“Me? I’m an undine.” Bor paused for a second. “We are a race that comes from the sea. My hometown is in the Pacific Ocean. There’s a city called New Marina. We have the best seashell collection there. I’m sorry. I know I’m bad at this. It’s just I never had to explain what kind of race I am before.”
“So, an undine? Cool. What’s up with the trident? Can I get a trident too?”
“Oh no. Each trident is unique to the undine. We were born with it, and we have a special connection with it. As we grow, so does the trident. I would highly warn you to not touch another undine’s trident. It would be considered rude to do so, and you may lose your head if you’re not careful.”
“Got it, but I can touch yours?”
“W-What?!” Jonathan's question sent Bor into a fluster of blushed cheeks and stuttering. He shoved the bag against his friend’s face to hide his bright blue face. “W-Why would you ask me that… Maybe, if we get to know each other… What am I saying? No! You can’t.”
“Calm down, Bor. I was just joking. Here.” Jonathan took out a mint candy and placed it in Bor’s palm. “Here, a candy for you. I didn’t know it meant that much to you.”
“You don’t understand. An undine believes that his or her soul resides in the trident. To let someone hold one’s trident is equivalent to giving their heart to that person. Only a special individual can hold an undine’s trident, not even a family member has that kind of privilege.”
“I see.” Jonathan was walking when he came across an opened window. Immediately, his eyes widened in awe. He didn’t realize it at first, but now he got to take a look at it. He couldn’t believe it himself. “Are we in the sky?!”
“Oh. Yes. Was it that surprising?”
“Yes, it is!” Jonathan’s eyes darted around. “Are we like in an airplane or something? A flying saucer? What are we on? How does it even work?”
“The academy had been built on a floating island. It even has its ecosystem and a small city. All of this was made possible with the large crystal in the centroid of the island and coupled with the complex Sigil system, it powered everything. It was done so by changing the earth’s spiritual energy into everyday electricity. It is also responsible for keeping the island afloat and casting an illusion veil to hide us from the rest of the world.”
“Do we stay in one place, or can this island move?”
“It can move thanks to the four massive propellers this island has. However, this island hasn’t moved for centuries and I doubt it will.”
“Amazing… I feel like I’m in a fantasy book. Floating city. Mythical race. What more, dragons?”
“Oh, you might be disappointed. Dragon doesn't exist anymore. They went extinct a long time ago, there weren't many of them back when they roamed the skies, but wyvern still exists. They do look like a dragon, except smaller.”
“Wait, dragon exists?” Suddenly, Jonathan grabbed Bor by the shoulders and shook him hard. “Answer me, me beautiful man.”
“They exist!” Bor gasped for air after Jonathan released him.
“Awesome, I would love to see one.” Jonathan leaned against the window’s stool and sighed longingly.
“We do have an exhibit about them. Maybe we could go together if you’re free.”
“I know having you as my best friend is a good idea.” Jonathan bumped his shoulder against him.
“I’m your best friend?” He looked at Jonathan with full-on lost puppy mode.
“Of course. It’s not like I have any other friends here.”
“I never had a best friend before. It’s an honor.”
Jonathan turned to Bor and found that irresistible genuine smile under his helmet. Scratching his head in frustration, Jonathan placed his arm around his shoulder and continued their journey down the hallway. “I’m lucky to have you. You know that, right?”
Bor brought Jonathan to the surface using an elevator. When they arrived, Jonathan became astounded with the sight. A Victorian city with brick roads and signposts that dated back to 19-century London. All kinds of mythical races, from small to large, filled the streets. They're even still using horse-drawn carriages.
“It’s like I'm in the history books. Everything is so old.” Jonathan ducked down when a humanoid with black wings flew above his head. “Of course they can fly. Duh. Oh, Bor, can I fly?”
“I don’t know much about human physiology. Perhaps you can if you attend a class.”
“I can’t wait,” Jonathan remembered the envelope Dr. Victoria gave him. He rummaged through his jacket pocket and took it out. Tearing the edge off, he took out what looked like several bills and a few papers. Jonathan took a closer look at the paper. “Schedule?”
“It’s your course schedule. Let me take a look at it.” Jonathan passed the note to Bor. “It says here, you have the basic courses: Magic Theory, Basic Elemental, Sigil Studies, History and Fable, and lastly, Combat.”
“This money?” I waved the bills in front of Bor.
“Yes. I think it’s for the textbooks and supplies. See, Dr. Victoria is kind. She even gave you money, and it’s more than you required.”
“Sure, but one generous deed doesn’t change how scary she is. Anyway, do you know where I can buy this stuff?”
“I know a store!” said Bor in glee.
“What about that one?” Jonathan pointed at a store filled with people, it was so full they even had a waiting line and a bouncer.
“We could go there if you want. They got all the trendy stuff.” Bor looked disappointed.
“I changed my mind. Let’s check the store you told me about. Besides, you're the expert here.”
Bor took Jonathan into a lonely alley. It was giving the young man the creeps because he had read one of those stories about a serial killer in 18th-century London. They arrived at a small bookshop with no sign. Looking inside, Jonathan could see the messy interior and doubts begin to rise.
“Are you sure about this shop?”
“Absolutely. I brought all my academy stuff here when I first enrolled. The owner is lovely and sweet.” Jonathan was about to enter when Bor stopped him. “Wait, there’s one more thing. We should hide the fact that you are a human.”
“Commander Zey told me that it would alarm the masses. We never had a human in the academy before. It might cause panic.”
“So what should I call myself when they ask me who I am?”
“Tell them that you are a Nephilim. Humans and Nephilim shared the same physical trait. They also lived alongside humans.”
“Got it.” Jonathan opened the door and set foot in it.
The doorbell rings twice, a clutter of books thrown aside as a short woman with silver twin-braided hair pops out from the counter. Despite her short height, Jonathan would not mistake her for a kindergartener. She pulled up her goggles and went wide-eyed when she saw Bor. She vaulted over the counter and embraced the man tightly.
“It has been a while, kid. You’ve grown. Why do you never visit anymore?”
Bor averted his gaze before returning it to the short woman. “I was busy. Never mind that, I brought a friend today. He’s here to get supplies for the academy.”
“My shy Bor brought a friend?! I don’t believe it.” She squinted her eyes and leaned closer. The woman tried to poke Jonathan and accidentally tickled him. “He is real. Oh my, is this the end for me? My heart. I can die now in peace.”
“Don’t be melodramatic, Dezz. I don’t want you to embarrass me in front of my friend.” He glared at the short woman.
“No fun. Anyway, my name is Dezzesli Dragonbraids, a genius inventor, scholar, and occasionally champion of the national pie-eating contest.” She gestured to her awards on the wall. “But, you can call me Dezz.”
Jonathan shook her hand. “My name is Jonathan Jameson. I’m new to the whole magic thing, so be easy on me. Also, I am a self-proclaimed best friend to Bor, and I’m proud of it. But you can call me John.”
“Jonathan!” Bor sighed. “You both…”
“Well, a best friend to Bor is certainly a friend of mine. Say, what do you need from me? I got knick-knacks that went boom. Things that go clunk. Jaboozle that goes jabooozz.”
“I have no idea what all that means, but I will take them all.”
“No Jonathan.” Bor turned to Dezz. “We’ll take the usual stuff. We need books, uniforms, tomes, writing supplies, chain mail, and goat blood. Jonathan is going to attend classes tomorrow.”
“You are lucky, my friend. The semester is about to start tomorrow. If you come any later, you might have missed it.” Dezz dove into the mess; she called the backroom and started rummaging through it.
“Why do I need goat blood?”
“It’s for Sigil Studies Class.” Bor froze in front of a picture. He took off his spartan helmet for the first time he met Jonathan, revealing short deep blue hair. A warm smile appeared as he stared into the frame. It was a picture of him, pure and filled with joy. Posed beside him was a familiar old woman: Dezz, and a normal-looking woman who once broke his heart.
“Is that you?” Jonathan stood beside it, looking at the same picture. “Aww, you look so happy.”
“Here you go.” Dezz prepared everything Jonathan needed into a single bag and placed it on the counter.
Bor handed Dezz the bills before he gave the rest to Jonathan for him to keep. Jonathan took the bag and almost dropped it due to its weight. Before they could leave, Dezz stopped them. “Bor, just a reminder. Eri came in earlier and bought her stuff. It would be good for you to see her again. It has been a while, right?”
“I’m sorry, Dezz, but I don’t think it’s a good idea.”
“Why? She’s your little sister, right?”
Bor left without giving Dezz a proper answer. Both were confused about his sudden foul attitude. Jonathan wanted to ask what was wrong, but he rather kept his mouth after seeing the painful gaze underneath his helmet. Something is going on between him and his little sister that is better left unspoken.
However, this is not how Jonathan wants Bor to feel as he spends time with him. “Hey, where can I get a good drink around here?”
Bor turned his gaze at his best friend. After seeing Jonathan’s smile, his glare softened. “There’s a place near here called Bizz Buzz Diner. They have the best Hydra Pancake in the city.”
“We should go there.”
“Yes, we shall. Let’s go.” His brightened self appeared again.