Chapter 30:

God of Darkness


With that, the entourage of five began making their way. Onwards the merry band hiked, and onwards they continued, descending the empty school building, marching out the entrance, and towards the forest. Travelling in relative silence, they arrived in the span of an hour.

Before them was a giant wooden door, twice fold their height, and threefold their width. When they understood it was shut, Ceylica took the initiative and walked forward. She then kicked the door, making it shake and creak, but nothing more. Understanding that it wasn’t enough, Ceylica then kicked it several more times, this time adding a few punches into the mix.

"Yer a pretty strong door, ain't ya?"

As if in answer to Ceylica's question, a bird cawed from above as it took flight. The half-demon took that sign as further incentive, walking two paces back. And taking two paces forward, she struck the door again, a satisfying 'thud' in its wake.

Jaiga scratched her chin and looked at the half-finger-length space on the bottom of the door.

Predisposed to a question, she turned and asked, "Tommy, do you have any familiars that can access the door sill?"

He responded flatly. "I have no demon of that size."

The sound of limb against thick timber echoed again and again. Ceylica gave the door a final look, filled with respect. Slowly, she turned and rested her hands on her waist.

"We should try punching it together!"

It seemed inane, devoid of common sense and principle.

But so did a mage constructing a giant dungeon for students to crawl through. And a mercenary mauling said students for no reason than 'education'. At that point in time, nothing seemed unpredictable anymore. Operating under the logic that 'anything goes', the student's reaction to her words was that of a soundless acceptance.

Breaking the silence, Renra began to march forward. His locks of blonde tossed in the wind, and the large bag on his back rumbled with objects.

"Alright!" Renra yelled, pulling his right arm's sleeve up. "Time to show it what we're made of!"

He continued to a rhythmic jingle of mud and metal. Seeing only a few seconds later, an eager but despondent look on the Paladin's face.

"Even if it did work, there's no saying what will transpire," said Jaiga. "I have nothing against a display of our conjoined power, but perhaps some preparation is in due order."

"Alright!" Renra replied, pulling his right arm's sleeve back down. "We'll show it what we're made of later!"

Ardent, Jaiga then called the others to come. She huddled them in a circle of sorts with a gesture. Her expression was determined, as though she was about to give a speech.

"In preparation for what is to come, I propose we form a battle strategy."

Excitement shot through Ceylica. "Aww yeah, battle strategy time."

When she heard her motivation, Jaiga gave an approving nod.

"First and foremost, I believe we should disclose our abilities to each other."

Tommy began first, brushing his ash-blonde hair backwards. The mage made a show of his hand and smiled. Casting his arms wide like a mummer before a performance.

"You speak only to the most powerful demon summoner in all the lands."

"I speak to a guy who got knocked out by a gun." Ceylica corrected.

"Be glad I am merciful, half-breed. Or I'd have you humiliated for such an insult."

"And what, whack me on the head with a gun?"

"We are to be partners and comrades," intoned Jaiga. "Let us cease the arguments for a matter better suited."

"Agreed," Valefar said, addressing Tommy with his eyes. "If you... Insist on arguing like children, do it out of my sight and ears."

Tommy took the vampires' words as a personal affront. His angered eyes met Valefar's. Losing himself to insult, Tommy's smile was replaced by a distasteful curl of his lips.

"Hah, I had forgotten our oversized mosquito had a mouth to flap."

"I would say the same, except... you never stop talking, do you, Tommy? With all the clever things you constantly yell, we could fill a whole library, open a book, and still see a charming quote on every page."

"In due time, you may be capable of the same. Though, given your record with speeches, I believe that'll be in the distant future."

With their back and forth alluding to a never-ending cycle of insults and frustration, Jaiga opened her mouth to stop them.

"Ahem, gentlemen. Let us go back on topic, shall we?"

"Yes," concurred Valefar, with a smile on their lips alone.

Hurry crept into Jaiga's voice. "Well, given that Tommy's a mage who specializes in summoning. My proposition is that he remains in the back."

The mage nodded and wasted no breath on rebuke.

"Likewise, from what I've seen. Valefar and Ceylica seem to be quite proficient in melee combat and should be near the front with me."

Her words influenced a rebuttal from the vampire. "It..." Valefar strained from his throat. "Maybe better if I'm positioned in the middle. I have a few ways to attack from range, and my aura is... mediocre."

With regard to aura, it was easy to visualize why a centre position was preferable.

Aura within that context referred to the innate power of any Resolved. Which, when spoken in technicality, is their ability to 'negate change', such as disintegration, curses and poison. Though more often than not, inferring their physical durability and ability to take hits, so to speak.

Whether it be a stab wound, bullet, or magic, a Resolved never truly gets hurt unless their aura is depleted.

Understanding that fact, the Paladin agreed with a nod, looked at Valefar, and then came upon a previously untouched territory. Jaiga felt as if she had skimmed over a detail.

Wait a moment; the Paladin thought as she shifted her look to Renra, conveniently tucked away with a clumsy smile. In part because he was silent and in part due to his outward fluster, Jaiga felt compelled to ask an inevitable question. The young man noticed the newfound attention and stood up straighter.

"Renra, do you have Resolve?"

He spoke with firmness. "Yep!"

"Do you have an Idiosyncrasy or ability you would like to disclose?"

His complexion became livened with colour. "I make a mean chef!"

"Understood. Then you should remain in the back."

Intending to finish the layout, Jaiga chose at her behest to make an elaborate description of the confirmed detail.

"I believe it is fair to say that Ceylica and I should be in the front, with Valefar following behind, with Tommy and Renra in the back."

Blinking once, the vampire nodded. "So be it."

"Wait," Tommy interjected in an interrogative fashion. "While your plan does have merit, I believe you've missed a key detail, Jaiga."

"Do elaborate."

"You seem to operate under the basis that we won't be attacked from behind. Hence why you allocate all the durable people to the front. But, our enemies aren't honourable Paladins like yourself."

Hearing the implication in his words, Jaiga understood. There was no saying what tactics the enemy would rely on. The Paladin, therefore as an alternative, put forward that "Perhaps Ceylica should go to the back then."

However, deference soon met Jaiga head-on. The half-demon did as her heart commanded. Her lips curved upward, and an irresistible urge to dispute Jaiga came.

"Really? Yer a greedy little Paladin, you know."

Jaiga couldn't help but raise a brow.


Oh, don't play coy with me, Yagai. Ceylica thought, waving her index finger dismissively.

"Takin' all the action for yerself. Haven't ye heard 'sharing is carin?' Tsk tsk."

Her words caused an instinctive grunt from Valefar. The vampire scowled. Having understood the full breadth of Ceylica's character. He was none too pleased with the prospect of being in her company.

Raising his voice to above a whisper, keen on ending the debate, Valefar suggested, "If it makes things easier... I may go to the back."

"Hehe, thank ye, Valefar. Yer mighty kind for that!"

I am doing it to be spared from your voice. The vampire mused as he gave a false smile.

When they finished their exchange, the proceeding silence made evident that an action was in order. Sensing an opportune moment, Jaiga brought out a genuine smile.

"Good news, Ceylica, the occasion for door wrecking has come."

Some moment passed, where Ceylica oversaw Jaiga, nodded, and came to gleefully stride with a surprising delight of sorts. She felt supported by her decision and was quite proud that the Paladin had indulged her.

Taking leave, the others swiftly followed. Their steps upon the moist earth took them to the dungeon's entrance. They observed the structure with a unified resolve of sorts and instinctively lined themselves in a perfect horizontal shape.

Since no one moved to direct them, Ceylica took the burden upon herself. Having felt a spring to leadership, she began to count down upon affirming her superiority with a cross of her arms.

"Three... Two... One!"

Her voice signalled the coming of blows. Synchronized in their action, the students attacked the door at once. For a few moments, nothing changed, and they thought themselves very idiotic indeed for agreeing with the idea.

Clearly, that wasn't the case, however. When ten seconds passed, a great sound roared from the door, and it began to open inwards.

Scarcely had the half-demon ever been so elated. To Ceylica, what just transpired was a stroke of personal genius. So much so that a hearty laugh and release of her whims proved necessary as a celebration.

"Tommy, Valefar, Renra, come grant the mighty Ceylica a peck on the cheek!"

She turned and tapped a spot on her right lip. It went without saying that the half-demon never did get her wanted kiss, and that focus was diverted to the inside of the door soon enough.

Fully opened, the ensemble studied the darkness within. An abyss of pure black was all that stood before them. Strange as it were, no light was cast inside whatsoever. Remaining as dark as midnight despite the afternoon sunlight pouring into it.

From a glance alone, they could tell that the dungeon's interior was coated in some form of magic.

"I can't see anything."

Valefar's reply served to confirm the students' suspicions. Vampires possessed darksight and could usually see through such things. If they didn't, it confirmed that something else was at play.

Tommy made expressed his disapproval. "A spell with the properties of conceptualizing darkness. That is all there is to it."

With no expectation of possibility, Jaiga asked the mage. "I take it you have no way of dispelling it?"

"It never came to me that it would be necessary to learn such a trifle."

The Paladin found herself quiet at the outcome. Of choices to make, the most probable to Jaiga, it appeared, was to trek back before entry.

"Well, seems there's only one thing to do then!"

The students could only watch as Ceylica launched forward.

Footsteps tapped against wet earth for a split second before vanishing. Departing from the student's ears, the sound became no more than a distant memory. Some time was spent as they waited for the sound to surface again. Once they came to conclude that their category was too narrow, the students' became more open-minded.

Any indicator of life beyond the gaping abyss would be fine.

A sound, a smell, a gesture of Ceylica's hand, anything. But, there was no sign of the half-demon’s existence. Not anymore. It may very well have been that she never existed in the first place.

How strange. Behind them came a queer feeling. The sensation that someone was there, the ever-seeing eyes of Rainee and his men, it must be. Or so they thought. If anything, it was normal. Maybe. Perhaps it wasn't. Their minds weren't as clear as before. A lot of things previously improbable seemed highly likely then. They began to drift into delusions. Pondering over incessant questions like the possibility that the other students were already dead, that all seemed lost, and thatthey shouldjsutgive up andlie onthefloortodie.

"Ceylica, are you safe in there?!"

Renra's words fell on deaf ears.

No response,

save for the empty bristle of wind against trees,

and panting of breath was heard.

The darkness,

it seemed, served more purposes than one.

The weight of what they saw dawned on the students.

And so they waited.



Steward McOy
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