Chapter 23:

Proverbial Madness


Marching to the beat of her passion, Jaiga descended to the first floor.

Then, following a brief turn right, she went through the main entrance.

A brief scan of the surroundings revealed the students present—an ensemble of dozens of poor mages and vampires alike. Trapped within the darkness, depending on accessories like flashlights or magical apparatuses of similar function

Alas, you need not suffer Ceylica's idiocy no longer.

"Everyone!" The paladin announced. "I, Jaiga al Heilewis, have come with news."

Stomping the ground with a ram of her spear, the girl squared her shoulders.

"Heed my words well, oh elves, vampires and mages! The demon spawn Ceylica has rejected all and any invitations of goodwill, choosing to cling onto the space and territory she has for herself!" Jaiga dramatically glanced around.

"But we need not suffer her insolence any longer! Should we choose to unite under one banner, we may yet defeat her and take back what is to be rightfully ours!"

Jaiga inhaled a long-awaited breath.

The paladin paused. Her mind was steadfast. She had given the speech all she could—incorporating every last fibre and strength of her soul and speech classes.

Her eager eyes shot around the students.

Now we wait.

There was no need to speak, she thought. They were simply still processing the terms of her demand. Logically sorting the consequences and advantages as a pragmatic mage or vampire would.

Charlotte's approving, energetic, and bobbing head only reinforced Jaiga's will even further.

So much so that she spent a good thirty seconds heeding a response, unsure of what went wrong.

"What say you to such a proposal!?"

Her words rang out again. Colliding with the overpowering sound of heavy rain and lightning. When she saw no response, save for eyes drifting to a vampire dressed in red, Jaiga paused.

Part of her spirit had dwindled from the mediocre reaction. Energy still wormed its way into her body, sure. Her blood still pumped ardent blood, and her mind still conjured thoughts of justice.

Yet something was different. Now better able to visualise the students' expressions, Jaiga waited. Seeing on their faces, confused eyes and baffled scowls.

She wasn’t certain, but the paladin thought she even saw a few instances of stifled laughter.

On closer inspection, her thoughts became a reality. There existed a myriad of students who were clearly attempting to express their livened amusement. Held back only by playful nudges from compatriots, or through conversion into muted chuckles.

The telltale signs of their mockery eroded at her composure. An inkling of irritation pulled her lips down ever so slightly as a result, making her reconsider her position.

Just as Jaiga's thoughts pressed on the brink of an answer, she saw a vampire approaching. Since she stood on the edge of the upper stairs, the paladin took a few steps back.

Valefar Sanguise Cruor. He was walking with a smile on his face.

Covered by an umbrella of watery construction held by a compatriot by his side, the vampire eventually crossed over. Muffled footsteps gradually increased in volume. Before long, his left foot stepped on the first stair.

"Apologies, paladin."

The vampire spoke in a youthful register, betraying his mature appearance.

"But I believe your words were lost on my compatriots."

Every word of his dripped with half-heartedness. As if neglecting to commit to the air of formality and compassion.

"So be it, I shall ann-."

Valefar cleared his throat and put on a more authentic smile.

"Perhaps you should stop yourself from making another mistake."

The paladin's brows arched. "Inferring?"

"That you stop your unnecessarily dramatic speeches and relay with clarity what you want to me."

"Very well. I shall present the full extent of my meaning, theatrics excluded."

The vampire swiped right with his hand. "You may begin."

"Ceylica has refused the proposal to lend her territory. As a result, I've concluded that we form a joint alliance, usurp her, and distribute her area amongst you lot."

The vampire snorted a laugh, his gaze lingering on Jaiga.

"How compassionate."


"While not entirely lacking in thought, your idea does have more than a few errors. Have you stopped to consider if everyone would agree to this for one? Or did you simply choose to believe that everyone would be up in arms, fighting their way to that meathead?"

Annoyed at his choice of diction, Jaiga abruptly replied, "I thought it a good opportunity as any. I am sure you recognize that many a mage and vampire would not tolerate sleeping on the floor?"

She knew about their overinflated pride, how they only accepted what they deemed theirs rightfully.

"Sacrifices can be made. When spoken to with honeyed words and promise of compensation, many will find their standards..." Valefar said in staccato, a cruel expression on his face. "Lowered."

The paladin was disappointed and displeased—both with his reliance on avarice and apathetic tone.

Even so, she diverted her focus to the task at hand. Taking some time to consider the implications of what came to be and what was.

There's little saying how long Rainee's game will last. Jaiga thought. Fully confident that it was some dreadful scheme on his behalf.

Earlier, when first meeting with the students, they had explained to her some details. Like the attack on their party, for instance. One student, a wounded mage named 'Tommy', even claimed a more than a feasible hypothesis.

That all this was a challenge.

Some makeshift series of trails designed to push them to the fullest and challenge their wits. Detailing how none were severely wounded and how he was spared from the 'luxury of death' by The Fiend.

Should this be but a test of will, however, it also proved possible it be a test of endurance. One meant to evaluate their persistence in the face of ever-abundant adversity.

With that in mind, Jaiga asked, "And what of the long-term implications of this plan? Do you plan on appealing to their boundless greed time and time again?"

On hearing 'boundless greed', Valefar changed, taking it as an affront to his people's dignity.

"And what of the monsters who attacked this place today? What of the man who attacked our Tower?"

The vampire's smile no longer reached his eyes.

"We are left stranded without connection to the outside world, by means of magic or electricity. Do you think it smart to squabble amongst each other like barbarians, you pitiful insect?"

The man beside him followed with smiles and nods, whispering into his masters' ears. Whatever transpired seemed to be more than a common occurrence. Unfitting for a supposed master of vampires.

Temperamental, isn't he?

Jaiga, meanwhile, pulled down her eyebrows with a sigh.

"I think you should develop some manners, vampire. Learn to communicate your thoughts without depending on childish insults in the future." The paladin said, her voice now lowered. "Tell the people there is space within my territory and that some generous students may even be willing to offer their rooms."

Understanding there was little more to be said, the paladin turned, preparing to enter the school once more.

At that time, however, a static noise rang out. Sounding not unlike the preparatory static when fingers ran atop a microphone.


Echoing through the area then came a familiarly baritone voice.

"Wow, wow, wow, isn't this just the peak of high-school character drama!"

Everyone surveyed their surroundings—some wearing faces of anger, others contempt, and a few joy. After a moment, they understood the voices came from the speakers nearby.

"Gotta say, you lot sure are a contentious bunch, sheesh!"

Jaiga thrust her partisan spear at the source of the noise.

"Why don't you let Rainee take over and speak for himself?"

Amidst the pouring rain and thunder, the fact that they still overheard their conversations was strange. Were there microphones inlaid on the floor or walls, Jaiga would understand. But from the way it seemed, there were none.

Meaning they likely spied on them using magic all along.

"No, can do, I'm afraid! He's not up to date on conversational speaking, much less the public variety, just yet. So for the time being, you'll have to stick with the more charismatic of the duo instead!"

"Very well then, Azama, in place of Rainee, would you kindly explain what is happening?"

"Paging Rainee, I repeat, paging Rainee!" Azama said, exaggerated in tone.

The duo behind the speakers seemed to be interlocked in some discourse, as muffles of whispered words still bled through. Sensing that they played the situation for a joke, Jaiga sighed.

Crackling from the speakers, maybe a minute after, came Azama's voice again.

"Yeah, sorry, but Rainee's got a proverbial shotgun to my head." There was a pause, then Azama's energetic voice again. "Evidently, his taste in elvish cartoons is like his taste in challenges, just the very best with the right amount of dirty."

Hah. So they have the ability to jest yet.

Jaiga was thankful the helmet covered her face. Because if it weren't for it, something most peculiar would be evident. The night was beginning to liven, and her spirit along with it.

After entertaining all that dialogue, the paladin felt much more at ease.

Of course. She considered. Death was never a likely probability in the first place.

Jaiga recalled the fight at the cafeteria. How despite the monsters' seemingly overwhelming power, that none had died. How, on more than one occasion, a sword fell to the side, a monster froze in place, or a wayward arrow missed by a hairsbreadth.

Ceylica, you must've seen through this from the very start.

So long as none were permanently injured or wronged, Jaiga saw no harm. The circumstances were no longer that of drawn-out torture imposed by maniacs. But more akin to hurdles a student body would have to pass.

Likewise, she assumed the duo behind the speakers felt the same.

Having heard Azama chuckle and some words like 'You didn't have to say that!' from a presumed Rainee.

Jaiga, who noted their nonchalance with a grin, then looked about the area. The rain was lessening in its intensity now. Almost conveniently, dampening in quantity and sound along with it.

It was this shift of weather that caused Jaiga to inspect the faces of others. Stimulated by some instinctual drive to know the opinions of those once hesitant.

From a glance, within the grey lines of the evening, she saw a change in attitude.

More and more were beginning to acclimate to their situation.

Jaiga lacked night vision or perfect hearing but felt nonetheless she could gather a general ambience.


Sustaining her belief was a peal of ominous laughter, not from her but rather from a member of The Tower. Upon verifying their identity, Jaiga understood it had emerged from the Tommy she had met prior.

Positioned at the left end of the crowd, standing clear of anyone.

The mage continued for a brief moment or so before he stopped. As if in answer to the questions of those around, he smiled. Proving that it was not despair that guided him so, but utmost confidence.

Answering their unspoken wiles, he gestured with a flourish of both arms.

"If it is a challenge these knaves wish to impose, then so be it! What would we be if not fools to reject? Is it not a mage and vampires joy to rule and trample over their enemies?"

Said mages and vampires began to eye the boy with a mix of surprise and confusion. Some even began to whisper “who is he?” or “is this guy retarded?”

"The question, therefore, should not be of why such a trial has been imposed, but when and where it may emerge next!" His hand pointed to the forest, spotting a chasm of darkness. "Mighty Rainee, heir of the Althaiez name! Summon forth your monsters, and let us begin this game already!"

Lightning coruscated from the ends of a looming cloud. A second later, a boom rebounded. Distant as it may be, the students recognized that it was no mere coincidence. Monstrous groans and wails reflected through the natural acoustics of forests, likewise, were thought to be the same.

Nostalgia returned to Jaiga the days of yore, good times when she fought and trained amongst her peers. She looked to the crowd at that moment, feeling a strange sense of satisfaction.

In the subtleties of her native language, Jaiga whispered something not unlike a promise. Then with a wave of her weapon, she faced the hidden enemies.

She had the earnest urge to yell something of particular meaning or resonance, but stopped halfway.

A newfound gaze had shifted to her. Setting aside her emotions, Jaiga turned to face the source of it. The person who she regarded then was Tommy. A mage, who had a face that was clear with amusement, yet flushed with exhaustion all the same.

She could faintly estimate what he prepared to say, but otherwise withheld her reservations.

“Now that the masses are dealt with, I leave matters of accommodation in your hand. So if you would kindly, find me the most quiet or comfortable spot of a rat-infested hallway, I would be thankful.”

Steward McOy
Kya Hon
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