Chapter 16:

Starlit Altar


"Our resident demon summoner appears to be having some trouble."

Margherita leaned forward, bringing her face closer to Tommy's. Up against her action, Tommy, hard pressed to look elsewhere, stared straight back.


He gripped onto his cup tightly, not quite inferring her meaning.

"That would be you, Sessogun."

Understanding her to be referring to him as having trouble, Tommy quickly let out, in correction of his evident ignorance "Of course, I was merely confirming, that's all."

Before the sudden approach of Margherita, Tommy found little time to compose and produce completely coherent sentences. Clearer of mind, following their brief exchange. Tommy took a moment to reflect on what occurred.

Margherita had approached him in Elvish first, choosing to greet the boy in his preferred language. It was only when she saw visible discomfort at her words that she relented, swapping to Modern Aoelian mid-way.

Tommy, wise to her action, offered a slight nod in thanks.

Unlike him, Margherita knew only the conversational basics of the other languages. This was an irregularity amongst the Mages, who per custom were at least somewhat fluent in Elvish and Lavayan.

Besides matters of socialisation and forming connections, of which are both crucial to a Mages' communal lifeline, also came the question of an ineffective use of magic. According to Modern Theory, magic, in its essence, was usually performed with three components.

That being, an vocal incantation, a somatic gesture, and a material to conduct such magic.

Mages, who devote themselves to countless hours of linguistics and semantics alike, will tell you just how crucial it is to comprehend what one says and does. To understand is to have power, both figuratively and literally.

Languages like Elvish or Lavayan in particular, which were closer to the speech of gods, were the most commonly applied ones.

Words were a way to establish a link between the magic vessels of an individual and the Fabric of the interconnected unconscious of the world. The pedal to which regulates and flares the mana within.

The problem was that Margherita was no slouch when it came to Magic. Far from it.

Meaning that she was either incredibly idiosyncratic (choosing Modern Aoelian of all things), or must've had some proficiency in some foreign tongue.

When asked about her circumstances, Margherita would only reply that she was a 'wayward traveller', unaccustomed to the ways of the land.

An exaggerated and cryptic answer that didn't give much to go off, but given her insistence on it, no one gave further question. Somewhere between an intense reverie, and somewhere between thinking about juice, Tommy heard a voice again.

"Two hundred." Sprouted Margherita out of nowhere.

Quite stupidly, Tommy with a matter-of-fact tone, answered "That is a number."

Aroused by his ignorance, Margherita playfully explained, "They say there's two hundred different traps, monsters and demons inside this tower."

A short moment of pause passed before Tommy understood she was attempting to reassure him.

"I'm not worried about that Azama and his lowly summons."

Irritated by his existence, perhaps. Frightened though?

Not quite.

That was the truth. Tommy had personally assisted in the defence mechanisms of the building and saw for himself just how tough it was to penetrate.

No one, much less a magicless cretin like Azama, could break through the cumulative techniques of over a dozen families.

Margherita, who saw this from Tommy's reaction, observed him carefully.

"So, what is the problem?"

"There is none."

Tommy feigned ignorance and fought the urge to look away from her eyes.

If anything, it was her casual tone which now somewhat disturbed him.

The two were acquainted through many events, but to see such compassion was odd for the boy.

Instinctively, he assumed that her friendliness was merely a prelude for matters of business, but he wasn't sure.

"Come on Mr. Sessogun, you know I can tell when you are lying, yes?"

A chill ran down Tommy's adolescent spine, his body now beginning to fidget against the wall.

"Is that so?" He replied coldly. "I assume it's those magic eyes of yours that expose me so thoroughly?"

"Why yes, of course." She said, hiking an eyebrow. "I can see everything with them."

Whether that be the truth or not, he had no idea. There was no documented research on her eyes and no eyewitness confirmation of its ability.

At that moment, Tommy chose to believe it was the case.

Against her words' overbearing pressure, an insurmountable sense of dread had seized Tommy. Behind the facade of a cool apathetic mage pumped the unadulterated heart of a teenage boy unaccustomed to such affairs.

Dammit. Why am I so nervous?

Tommy was by no means particularly bad with women. He had, on many occasions, even befriended and enjoyed their company.

What Tommy was not, though, was being accustomed to such domineering and draconian tactics.

He recognised those who were beautiful and straightforward in particular as an immediate threat.

If a pretty girl so much as approached within hands’ distance and breathed on him, then Tommy was already both stressed and halfway between forming a dozen different plans to escape the situation.

Or so he thought. Truth be told, he doubted the accuracy of his mindset at that point in time, having been more distressed then usual. Regardless, between choosing himself to blame or others, he opted for the latter.

Damn you, Adrastae.

Cursed Tommy, shifting his ineptitude unto his doting(?) older sister.

Why is this school filled with such difficult women?

This was merely one of two occasions he had been tormented so, with him having to suffer public humiliation under Ceylica prior. If what he suspected were true, many more of such encounters would happen in the future.

Such weakness would have to be corrected and rectified.

It was simply shameful for one such as him to experience such things.

He was a mage. An entity elevated beyond the standards of normalcy and such sub-standard weaknesses.

And yet, there he stood, teetering on the brink of death and about to faint.

Supposedly because she understood this weakness, Margherita leaned in even closer, pressing her head next to Tommy's ear.

The expression on his face hardened as he mustered what remained of his resolve. But in the end, it proved to be of little resistance.

Out of nowhere, Margherita had a hand to his side, and the other jabbed at his chest.

Filled with anguish, Tommy gradually succumbed to the idea that any potential escape routes were barred.


Tommy winced as he felt her finger press against his neck.

"I can see everything, from your neck."

Then his hand.

"To your blood pressure."

To his chest.

"To even your dainty little heart."

He exhaled normally to feign indifference.

"Interesting ability you have there. As a matter of fact, I have something similar."

"Oh, is that so? Do tell."

This was his time to counterattack.

Tommy smiled. "I can see the mole under your right eye, the dandruff in your hair, and the stink of garlic in your breath."

A silence ensued.

Easing forward, Margherita breathed a moist waft of air into his earlobe.

"You are so very funny, Tommy. We should get to know each other better."

Frustration seized his soul, bringing forth a wave of goosebumps over his skin.

Apparently, he had shown too much mercy.

To survive this, he would have to up his game.

Weak rebuttals and weaker actions had served their job.

Now was the time for something better.

"I would warn you, Margherita" Tommy said, vaguely implicating some sort of danger.

"Warn me about what. Do you doubt my ability?"

"Yes, Margherita, I do.”

"Why is that?"

"Because it would be unwise to proceed from here due to a very good reason."

"That being?"

"I actually have many sexually transmitted diseases."

Margherita jerked backwards, coyly resting her palm on her lip.

"It cannot be!"

Tommy gave a confident smile in lieu of his perceived victory.

"Indeed, you may not know, but I, Tommy, have slept with many women."


“Demons and monsters even.”

“How many?”

"A hundred twenty-two."

Confidence surged through the boy once more, leaving him assured of his impending triumph. As he tried to establish his conviction, Tommy pulled through his hair and stared at Margherita head-on.

"So, what diseases do you have, Tommy?"

Understanding this to be a completely normal question, the boy grinned.

Though no practitioner of medicine, years of inevitable exposure to these terms lent him more than capable of answering with a couple.

"Syphilis, cooties, and genital herpes, to name a few."

"Oh my, I hope this genital herpes is not too bad."

Tommy looked to the seemingly worried Margherita with a profound gaze.

"Rest assured, besides frequent and painful urination, amongst some questionable discharge, all is well."

The instant he finished, Tommy executed the final phase of his grand plan. Before Margherita could even so much as move her lip, Tommy nodded and promptly walked away. Full of the exaggerated swagger and awkwardness of a boy too high-strung to be self-aware, the boy quickly made his way to the exit.

He had secured his win.

That much, he was certain.

Now that he had overcome his obstacle, Tommy could now leave the perimeters and enjoy himself with some alone time.

Thus, with a hurry of his legs, he descended a series of stone stairs, leaving the party completely.

Steward McOy
Kya Hon
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