The Last Light
Jonathan stared out of the window while the rest of the students chitchat in their little groups. Sometimes, he heard one of them bring up a few unsettling topics in their conversation. One of them was about the murder in front of the Nephilim embassy and another was the fire that started at the bakery. Worries seem to hover above the classroom like a dark cloud, yet they still have faith in the Academy Security.
“Who am I?” muttered Jonathan to himself.
“Is that question meant for me?” asked Eri as she lowered the book from her gaze.
“No, just a question from someone I knew.”
“Then keep it to yourself.”
The door to the classroom opened, a dwarf man with a clean-shaven face entered the room while carrying a stack of books that’s too tall for him. His brown hair complements his dark skin. He looked too young to be a professor. The dwarf placed his book beside the desk and turned to face the class. “My name is Mr. Roldan Twinhorns. I’m here to teach you my favorite subject, History & Fable. I hope with my teachings all of you would have a better understanding of each other's history and forge a harmonious relationship.”
He sauntered to the left of the desk. “I know what you’re thinking. Why should we learn each other's histories when your species history is already convoluted enough? As I said before, it is to better understand each other. This Academy, the whole island is unlike anything else out there. Our species even though here we live side by side, out there, we are distant. We do not engage with each other except for politicians and ambassadors. Why is it that we do not interact with each other? It’s because of our underlying fear of each other. The cause of it? Lack of knowledge.”
Jonathan’s gaze wandered and stopped at Ciara. She secretly waved at him. He returned it with a wave and smile.
“Now that I have your attention. Let’s start with the Nephilim. According to their ancient text and earliest records. The origin of this species predates humanity itself. It is said that the first Nephilim was a Seraph that left the High Kingdom to live on this earth. Their ancestors were depicted to be giants with black wings that span a mile away. Whether it was true or not, we still have no evidence except for the ancient texts.”
“However, what we do know is that the Nephilim are well acquainted with the human world, they are similar to them in terms of features except for their wings and also have coexisted with them in secret since the beginning of humanity. The Nephilim and the Human have a similar history except for their origins.”
A succubus raised her hand. Roldan gestured at him to speak up. “How do they coexist with humans?”
“With a special set of rules applied to them by their government and the ability to hide their wings. These rules are mainly enforced by their government officials and with a bit of magic along the way, their species remain hidden from the humans.”
“What kind of magic?” spoke up a changeling student.
“Mental Magic. If the true nature of the Nephilim is accidentally revealed to a human, their task force will swoop in and wipe a part of the human memories that contain the incident.”
“Isn’t messing with someone’s head unethical?” spoke up a succubus student.
“That rich coming from a succubus. You don’t know what they are capable of. We’ve been living with them since the very beginning unlike your species with your hidden world. I bet your species doesn’t really care about humans, they only want to feed on them. That's why your kind is pushing that Human Relations Bill,” spoke up a Nephilim student.
“How dare you say that after my kind helps your species with The Vampire & Lycan War? We want that bill to pass because we are sick and tired of living in secret. The Human is civilized enough to act according to our existences.”
“Stop bringing that war up, it happened 40 years ago. Your species doesn’t understand how cruel and unpredictable humans are. If that bill comes to pass, it will only bring us another war. Remember what happened to Saint Jeanne? She believed in the kindness of her kind, only for them to burn her at the stake for protecting all of us.”
The atmosphere in the classroom began to shift and rise in heat. The Nephilim and the Succubus were glaring at each other as if they were going to start a war in the class. Roldan snapped his finger and the entire room turned their attention to the Professor. “Yes, humans have a habit of doing despicable acts, but remember not all of them are bad. In fact, history has shown us that they are capable of doing good things that go beyond our expectations. Many of them have helped and even sacrificed their lives for us, and do not forget Saint Jeanne was a human. So, I ask you this; was she cruel to us?”
The students lowered their gazes and shook their heads.
“Even my kind and your kind and everyone else has started wars for less. That’s why history is important, so we do not repeat it, understand?” Roldan’s smile put the class at ease. “Now back to our topic, the Nephilim have a special ability that lets them conjure and control darkness. Even though not all of them have this ability. Those who do have, are highly regarded in their society.”
He turned his gaze to Lucy. “Ms. Lucy, would you care to show us the ability I mentioned?”
Melody the succubus who sat right next to her poked the young woman. Lucy woke up from her stupor with a loud yell which frightened her neighbors. She noticed the surrounding stares from the other classmates, then let out a small cough while composing herself. “The answer is number 2.”
Roldan let out a chuckle. “I envy you, Ms. Lucy. You slept through quite the storm.”
Lucy tilted her head and raised an eyebrow. The other students hid a chuckle while Lucy glanced around to understand what happened. She turned to Melody, “What’s going on?”
“Ms. Lucy, we were on the topic of Nephilim, and we would like you to show us the special ability that only a Nephilim has.”
“Oh, that thing, sure.” She raised her hand in front of her.
Suddenly, the entire classroom was shrouded in darkness. It wasn’t the kind of darkness that ever existed, it was blinding in a way that no one could see anything, not even themselves. To make it worse even the sound was muted. It was uncomfortable and unnatural, Jonathan found his hand was trembling. He always hated the darkness and found a way to deal with it, but this kind of darkness was entirely different. It brought up a few unsightly emotions in him.
1… 2… 3… 4…
5… 6… 7… 8…
When the darkness disappeared, Eri found Jonathan clenching his teeth together and gripping his left wrist. A literal sweat ran down the side of his head. While the class clapped for Lucy, Jonathan calmed himself with a long breath.
“What’s wrong?” asked Eri in a whisper.
“Nothing...” He grinned. “I didn’t know you care.”
“I don’t.” Eri turned her gaze away.
The class proceeded without a problem. Roldan explained the Nephilim history in great detail, at least not all of it considering the time he was given. After the Professor left the lecture room, Jonathan and Eri headed toward the exit.
Ciara waited for Jonathan at the door. When he got close, she perked up with joy. She glanced between Eri and Jonathan. “Are both of you okay? I was worried when you took Jonathan away. I didn’t know what to do. I thought about calling Security, but I know you wouldn’t hurt Jonathan. So, I just waited at home.”
“Well, sort of. We had a disagreement.” Jonathan glanced a raised eyebrow at Eri.
Eri stood there in silence, not even trying to calm Ciara’s worry.
“See? She and I already work it out. So, no need to worry.”
“I see. I’m glad you both stop fighting. I like it better when the two of you were friends.”
“We’re not friends. If you said that again I will cut your tongue off.” Eri left the hall without saying anything else.
Ciara was left stunned at the threat. Jonathan waved his hand in front of her. “Don’t worry about that. We still have a few things to patch up. Anyway, how are you, Ciara?”
“Oh, I actually need to be somewhere right now. There’s a new fresh batch of fertilizer on sale today. I guess I will be seeing you later?” Ciara’s gaze fell at the thought of her leaving so soon.
“Hey, we’ll catch up later. I’m also busy myself right now,” suggested Jonathan.
She nodded but was a bit downhearted. Jonathan smiled at her before going through the door. Eri was waiting for him on the other side. She began her stride and Jonathan jogged to catch up to her. Ciara watched them walked away before turning to face the opposite direction.
On the way out, Jonathan stopped when he found himself beside a door. The sign above the door told Jonathan that this door led to Nicollette’s Office.
“Eri, can we take a detour first?”
“Fine, but don’t make it too long.”
Jonathan knocked on the door. What happened next was truly unexpected, a loud noise similar to a stack of material can be heard from inside. Alarmed by it, Jonathan flung the door open. He widened his eyes at the thousands of books stacked on top of each other, almost covering the entire floor. It seems several of those stacks had turned into a landslide.
An arm can be seen poking out of the seas of books, Jonathan quickly rushed to grab her arm, then gently pulled her out of the mess. Ms. Nicollette let out a sigh of relief after she resurfaced again. The once alluring succubus was replaced with this messy hair and bathrobe-wearing succubus. She doesn't even look like the professor from yesterday.
“Ms. Nicol?” asked Jonathan.
“Yes, that’s me.” She answered happily. When her eyes met with Jonathan, her smile grew even wider. “My prodigy!” She wrapped her arms around Jonathan and pulled him into her large bosom. Those bare and soft pillows almost suffocated Jonathan, wait, actually it did. When she released Jonathan, he was completely unconscious with a dumb smile on his face.
“Miss! Damn it.” Eri groaned.
Ten minutes have passed, Jonathan finally awakens from his slumber. He groaned and rose from the sofa into a seating position. His barely open eyes wandered around, surprisingly the mountains of books had been slightly clear, to make the center of the room more accessible. Eri can be seen stacking those books away along with Nicollette.
“Did I go to heaven?” asked Jonathan.
Nicollette turned to face the young man. “You’re such a flatterer. No, you didn’t go to heaven, but you did pass out.”
“I can’t believe it happened again,” muttered Eri.
“Damn my only weakness.” Jonathan raised his fist with exaggerated anger.
“A dumb weakness if you ask me. What happens if you have to fight a succubus?” asked Eri.
“Well, I’m more of a lover than a fighter anyway.” Jonathan grinned.
“Such cute banters. Ah, I wish I was young again. Goofing around with friends. Those were the days.” Nicol rested a hand against her cheek while she stared longingly at the window.
“I rather go to hell than be his friend,” said Eri.
“Ouch, I would be lying if I said that didn’t hurt. Anyway, Ms. Nicol, I wanted to borrow a book from you.”
“A book?” Ms. Nicol tilted her head to the left slightly.
“Yes, a book about Sigils.”
“May I ask what for?”
“I want to learn more Sigils, so I can take down my enemy more efficiently. The last time I got into a fight, I almost lost my life.”
“I’m sorry but no. Never again.” Nicollette sauntered to her desk and took a seat. She let out a disappointed sigh before leaning back against her chair.
“Why?” Jonathan raised an eyebrow.
“If you want to use Sigils as a weapon, then you have to find someone else to help you. A Sigil is a tool. If you want to use it as a weapon, please go ahead without me. What I do here, what I studied isn’t to make weapons. It’s to create opportunities, develop hope, and improve lives.”
Jonathan sighed. “I understand. Sorry to bother you.” He left the couch and headed toward the door.
“Wait a moment.” Nicollette gestured for him to come closer. Jonathan obliged her. He stood in front of the desk while she scribbled something on a small piece of paper: it’s a circle within a circle with three lines connected both circles. “Here, it’s a Sigil for an orb of light. Some say it’s completely useless, but I do not blame them. It does absolutely nothing except create an orb of light.”
“What is this for?”
“Most people view magic as a weapon, and it broke my heart to know this. Yet, I do not hate them because they are correct. It is a weapon, but at the same time, it’s so much more than that. As a teacher, it is my duty to forge my student’s wisdom. So, I want you to find a use for this Sigil besides from a light. That’s your assignment.”
“I don’t think I have the time.”
“If you finish this assignment, I will teach you everything you want to know.”
“That does sound good.” He shrugged. “Why not? I can give it a try.”
“I’m sorry, Ms. Nicol, but Jonathan and I need to go. We have a lot of work to do,” said Eri, before she bowed and walked toward the door.
Jonathan waved at Nicol before jogging to catch up with Eri’s pace. They left the academy and took the carriage toward the outer reach of the island. On the way there, Jonathan took the moment to change his clothes into his official inquisitor uniform along with the mask.
“Wait, shouldn’t you change too?” asked Jonathan.
“Aren’t my identity as an inquisitor supposed to be a secret to the public? If they saw you walking side by side with me, won’t they find out? Since most of the time, you only hang out with me.”
“They won’t. An undine on a mission, while she’s a student, isn’t uncommon. If you are that worried, I shall wear a mask.” Eri took out a white veil with a trident insignia from her pocket and strapped it on her face.
The carriage finally stopped at their destination. A simple questioning should suffice to gather information. However, it wasn't as easy as they thought. They soon found out most of the shop owners were reluctant in sharing their customer information. So, Eri had to use threats most of the time, and it worked, yet, what she was after wasn’t there.
Apothecary after apothecary. Threat after threat. Some were more willing while others were not. It took them half a day and still no viable information. They checked almost all the apothecaries on the outer rim of the island, except for one.
They arrived at the final one, hoping this one could be their answer. If not, then shall head further inside the island to search for the right one. It’s going to be taxing, but what can they do with a limited lead to go on with?
Eri entered the store first, but Jonathan halted his advance when he saw a familiar woman. A Nephilim with fiery red hair, Lucy. She seemed to be wearing a subtle pink uniform with a flowery blue apron. More questions rose within Jonathan, and it grew when she happily escorted the small children inside what seems to be a preschool of some kind, but it was too large to be a preschool. His eyes wandered to the sign, the word Orphanage was clearly shown beside Victoria’s name.
Jonathan rubbed his chin, then shrugged his shoulders before entering the apothecary.
Inside was almost the same interior as the other, clean and filled with hanging plants. Behind the display stood a greenish young man with thick glasses, and behind him were the tall cabinets in which the owner stored their dried herbs and remedies. The only things different about this store are a few subtle personal details such as a photo frame of himself with what Jonathan assumed to be his family and the size of this store itself. It was a lot smaller than the other stores.
“Can’t you just give me the information I asked, please?” Eri had already started questioning the shop owner.
The owner looked nervous, sweating actually, but he seemed stubborn to give out the information. “I’m sorry, but I can’t. My customer trusts me with their information. I won’t reveal it so easily.”
“This is for official business. They are lives at stake.”
“If it is official business, I will need to see an official statement that requires me to give you the information.”
“We don’t have it because this mission is a need-to-know basis. We can’t tell you why, but we need that information.”
Jonathan wandered around the store, looking at each plant, then he found a small plant in cute pots with a colorful marker. Actually, he found several of them. Those markers have names written on them, and with how rough the handwriting was, these could have been written by small children.
Jonathan spoke up, disturbing their argument. “Those kids from the orphanage come here often, don’t they?”
The shop owner glanced between Eri and Jonathan, then stuttered. “Y-Yes they did. Good children. One of the teachers was asking me if she could borrow several pots to teach them about plants. I gave them several and volunteered to help.”
Jonathan put up a genuine smile. Though it was covered by the mask, the shop owner could still sense it from Jonathan’s body language. “Aah, I see you, Mister. Doing good for children is one thing, but you have a thing for one of those teachers, am I right?”
The shop owner blushes instantly. “W-What? I didn’t say that.”
“But you didn’t deny it. Come on, you especially said you volunteer when they didn’t even ask you.”
The shop owner let out an exasperated breath. “Yes… I do, okay. She’s a Banshee with a beauty mark near her right eye.”
“So have you made any progress with her?”
“No. It’s hard for a changeling to find a date. We are considered deceitful creatures by most. Most don’t trust us. Let alone date us.”
“Is that true?” Jonathan turned to Eri.
“Romantic relationships aren't my expertise, but in a way, yes. I heard a few mentions of it. It’s hard to trust someone when that person can’t change their face easily.” Eri looked back at Jonathan. “But, I don’t see how this could help in our---”
“Shush.” Jonathan turned his attention back to the shop owner. “It must have been tough. You know, trust or not, I do believe in the power of love. Love can overcome all, don’t you agree?”
“But, it’s not that easy.”
“Have you ever tried telling her how you feel?”
“Then how do you know if it was easy or not? Look, truthfully, you got two options, confess, and she might take your offer, or she doesn’t. You will get heartbroken, but you can move on. Find better than her.”
“I don’t know.” The shop owner lowered his gaze in defeat.
“You do know you don’t have to decide now, right?”
“I know… but what you said is right.” He stared at Jonathan with gratitude. “Thank you. I needed to hear it.”
“Now that I help you, would you mind helping me?”
“The information… I’m sorry, but I can’t. Most of it is private matters.”
Jonathan took out his badge and placed it on the display case. “I don’t need to see them all, but I do need to find one person. He may have come here using another name, but we know what he bought. We just need that person. We need to know what he was doing with that stuff, where did he go afterward, and anything that might be useful to us.”
“You’re an Inquisitor… but we never had one since a long time ago. Even before I was born. Perhaps, I can help you. Please tell me what he bought.”
“Hypno poppies,” said Eri.
The shop owner’s eyes widened. “There’s only one person that ever bought those flowers from me. His name was Ricky Forin.”
Eri took out a picture of Anthony Gonzalez and showed it to the shop owner. He immediately perked up when he saw the picture. “That’s him. What happened to him?”
“That’s not of your concern,” said Eri.
“He passed away,” said Jonathan despite Eri’s reluctance.
“Jonathan! We can’t.”
He waved his arm and nodded his head to calm her. “I know we can’t tell him, but we need his help.”
“He passed away?” said the shop owner, a certain look on him told them both that he was close to the victim.
“He did, I can’t tell you how, but it wasn't the plants. That’s for sure. Were you close to him?” asked Jonathan.
“In a way, but not that much. His past was a complete mystery to me. When he came, we only talked about love and about his conditions. He always seems lonely to me, but a week ago, he was happy. He told me he had found love. I can tell he had certain things weighing him down, but he was a good man.”
“He has trouble sleeping at night. It was severe. The poppies weren’t going to help him, so I taught him how to make a stronger dose. I warn him he can’t use it regularly, or its effect will weaken over time.”
“Was he telling the truth about his conditions?”
“Yes. He was telling the truth. I can see his condition taking a toll on him. I may be far from a physician, but I know how my plants affect my customers.”
“Did you know where he usually goes to or came from?”
“No, I never ask. But a week ago, he asked me for a recommendation. He wanted to know which restaurant near the dock was the best for a date.”
“Did you give him?”
“I didn’t know much about that area, so I wasn’t very helpful.”
“He always visits the orphanage after he bought the plants. Other than that, no, nothing else. I can’t believe he’s gone.” There’s clear grief in his expression, he truly cares for the victim.
“Thank you for helping us. We’ll contact you if we need further information. I’m sorry for your loss.” Jonathan took his badge and left the apothecary with Eri.
Once outside, Eri blocked Jonathan’s path to the orphanage. “Why did you tell him that the victim was dead? You know our mission is a secret. What if he blabbers to a local press? We are already in high heat with the incident.”
“Trust only works both ways. I needed him to trust me, so he would be truthful about the information, and he won’t talk to the press.”
“How do you know he won’t?”
“He’s not that kind of guy. Look at his stores, he hung a few decorations, but nothing eye-catching, only subtle things, and he cares about his customer privacy that he was willing to go up against an undine. So, he appreciated the privacy, he doesn't like attention.”
“The love talk? How do you know what to say?”
“I don’t. I’m not good at romance stuff either. I read a couple of romance books during my spare time, so I used it as a reference.” Jonathan stepped away from Eri and proceeded toward the orphanage.
“I’m not really sure about the victim’s conditions.”
“The shop owner has no reason to lie to us. The victim was in some way his friend. By our presence alone asking questions about his friend, he knows the victim is in trouble, so he would want us to help his friend.”
They finally arrived at the front of the orphanage. There’s something in Eri’s expression that Jonathan was not sure what to make of it. It was similar to disgust, but it isn’t. Displease perhaps, but that’s not it. No, she was uncomfortable and slightly reluctant to go in.