Chapter 35:

Rock Solid


The students looked down at their bowl of food, to the assortment of orange, white, green and red, topped with a boiled white egg dead centre. They did not know what it was. The dish stood as a complex mash of various ingredients. Producing something familiar only to the chef.

Ceylica leaned in close and waved at it enthusiastically.

Perhaps she knows what dish this is. Jaiga mused.

"It smells good, Renra; I'd give it an eight outta ten."

"Ceylica, it is unreasonable to judge before tasting."

"Says you, heh."

Jaiga didn't quite get the implication.

Intent on leaving her words to mystery, Ceylica took a spoonful of the dish.

Her youthful face displayed a range of positive feeling. Balanced on her spoon was an assortment of all the dish offered. Rice, tomato, white peas, green pepper and eggplant, all in one delicious bite.

Ceylica brought the utensil closer, engulfing it in one fell swoop.

"Mhmm!" The half-demon shook in delight.

Within her mind flashed an image of the ingredients itself. A perfect field of vegetables was before her. Distanced away from civilization, she ran down a long path of crops, each step showing a new assortment and variety.

Her recollection then faded into reality.

Next, her spoon carved the poached egg in two down the middle before pushing and pulling at the cascade of runny yolk. The sacred act was committed. Rivers of winding yellow flowed through the dish, forging new pathways of aesthetic complexion, a blend of sun-gold and red-tomato colouring.

Another spoonful of the dish found its way into her mouth. In it was a new blend of flavour. An image painted itself once again: the same field of vegetables with some random chickens running about.

"Renra, marry me!"

The half-demon could resist no longer; having dropped her spoon, she turned to face her left. Reaching with a quickened ferocity, Ceylica clasped Renra's hands within her own.

"W-what?" Unable to understand, his face became a shade of tomato. "R-really?"

"Ahem," Jaiga interfered. "I find marriage to be a terrible commitment. One better posed in times unlike these." Query swept through the paladin's face. "Whatmore, aren't you betrothed to Ode'go?"

The half-demon remained undeterred. "I can always have multiple husbands!" She tightened her grip. "Plus, I can always divorce them if I'm not happy!"

Valefar let loose a very audible exhale.

"You may divorce yourself of this incessant noise." said the vampire in his monotone yet slightly edged voice. He then ate a spoonful of the dish himself. "It's good."

"That I can agree," Jaiga added, satisfied. "Renra, is your Idiosyncrasy related to food by any chance?"

He quickly nodded, his cheeks tinged with colour. "Yeah."

"No wonder your food tastes so good!" cried Ceylica, her grip tightening.

Renra wanted to add to that but found himself inadvertently pained, crying out "Ow!" before a crack of bone followed.

"Release him," Valefar said, his eyes burrowing into Ceylica.

Made aware of Renra's pain but more so of the vampire's clouded face, the half-demon let go. For a moment, it seemed like something was about to happen. Ceylica was staring at Valefar, and he was looking straight back. The situation seemed like a prelude to some battle or other similarly-natured scenario. And it might've been, were it not for an opportune interruption.

Over from the golems' side came a round of applause.

From the looks of it, things were going rather swimmingly. The previously suicidal golem chef was alive, amongst other things, and their clapping seemed to be one rooted in genuine appreciation more than anything else.

"Our king is pleased!" Said one.

"Yes, he is most pleased," shouted another.

"We must have our celebration," agreed the unanimous crowd, proceeding to head towards the students.

"On behalf of our king in waiting, we hereby invite you all to his royal coronation."

The students found themselves quite receptive to the idea. It was a fun diversion if anything else. The perils of the students that were 'trapped' posed little more than an afterthought.

They knew the promise that they would be killed was a farce. A mere motive and reason for them to climb The (new) Tower, that's all. After all, how could Rainee actually go and kill them? The answer, they subconsciously knew, was that he couldn't.

So, as a group, they agreed. They left the restaurant and continued on a path upwards, taking them through a few minutes of post-food exercise.

Under the then-blackened sky of stars was a revelation. Revealed by a sharp turn to the left was a large pyre of sorts. Positioned dead centre in a vast area. A flat space of pink and green stone. Large enough to house hundreds of golems and decorated with pyres of wood along its edges.

A sweet smell of burnt redwood went about.

Jaiga paused a few steps short of the entrance and asked Valefar a question.

"When do you think the king will reveal himself?" She moulded her words through a filter of humour. Implying a joke, unspoken, and only thought.

The jest rolled over Valefar, bringing him a smile.

Orange fire flickered in the vampires' black pupils. "When the golems give their thanks." His answer was cruel.

Slowly, they entered the area. Down on the floor, seated Ceylica already, with several golems huddled around her. The rest, meanwhile, simply stood and watched in silence.

Some short minutes later, those holding the palanquin began to chant.

"Merciful king, do onto us the honour!"

The king's response was silence. He said nothing of the matter, and for a short while, it came to the students that he may have been asleep. At the passing of ten seconds, however, came a prideful shout.

"Very well then, if it is my honour you wish to accept, then it is my duty to bestow it thusly!"

What came to them from the palanquin was an elated, youthful tenor of a voice, one too familiar and distinct to be from any other. Really, it all made too much sense.

"Tommy, ye daft idiot," Ceylica said first, breaking into laughter.

"I do wonder how long he has been doing this."


"W-wait, that Tommy?"

The reactions were mixed. Suspicion of Tommy's former whereabouts soon led to wild theories. It was easy to imagine him as having the easy route. Subjected to nought but respect and luxury. Carried and served at his every whim while the rest trudged through dungeons.

Harmless thoughts, yes, but ultimately, lending them to be a tad less empathetic than usual. After that point, no student moved or said anything. Their expressions alone served as a mouthpiece to their emotion.

Thud. Golems lowered the palanquin onto the ground. They saw a hand sweep the golden cover of a door to the side. Watching it, they then saw Tommy walk out. He was dressed in a long scarlet robe embroidered with gold and accented with black buttons. Resembling a few more 'extravagant' kings of yore, Tommy also had a metal codpiece. Affixed to the front of his crotch, held by ties of white and taking the form of an exaggeratedly long piece of sausage-shaped cloth.

A bewildered pause came and went. It took a moment to understand what Tommy's accessory was meant to resemble.

"Nah, but he must be takin' this piss." Ceylica pointed out, thus laughing her ass off. "Tommy can't seriously be wearing that thing!"

Even Valefar was on the brink of a smile. Desperately holding it back with a clench of hand and face. "Ceylica, this is Tommy we're talking about." His implication was clear. No one really knew him. Not to the extent of understanding if he enjoyed having makeshift genitalia for an impression, anyway.

With a haughty grin and a flourish of red cape, Tommy approached.

"Hah". The boy let out. "Amazed at my extravagance, are you not?"

Jaiga was the first to speak.

"Very much so. Your male fortitude is something to commend. I hadn't taken you for one of such..." Her eyes traced down to the 'thing'. "Proportions."

"Speak of my greatness if you must. It is a natural reaction to one as splendid as I."

Was Tommy actually appreciating his accessory, or was he just oblivious to their meaning? There was no way to really tell. So, they just watched instead, holding back any questions for later.

Finding his exhibit quite enjoyable, the students monitored as Tommy returned to the golems.

Listening in on the pockets of dialogue between waves of physicality, they then saw him return.

Tommy's face was slightly distorted. Somehow, even livelier and smugger than before. Made even more explicit by an arc-shaped wave of his right hand.

"I will relay my adventures to you later, but for now, I must attend my coronation ceremony."

Tommy brandished his cape upwards again. Curious as to what would become of him, the students said nothing and stayed next to each other. Sharing in their camaraderie, some derelict sense of sadistic pleasure.

They could hear the unhurried gait of stone against stone. A circle of golems formed around Tommy. His voice was hushed this time, though, rendering the others unable to hear. It took a moment for him to finish. When he did, the 'king' entered his palanquin once more. Carried into the distance, the sight of the palanquin vanished behind a large grey rock.

Whether coincidence or not, the giant pyre was ablaze with a greater fury than ever. Even its colour had transformed. An open blaze of crackling azure. Its flame reached as high as ten Ceylicas. The sight was fantastic, and it showed no sign of dying. Tommy, on the other hand, did.

What came next could only be described as a brilliant mix of cathartic irony and divine comeuppance. Twelve golems walked out from the giant rock. They were aligned in two neat rows, a series of six in each one.

Upheaved in their hands was a giant stick, running down the open middle space of each row. Tommy, meanwhile, was tied to it. About to be escorted to his very royal and fiery end of a coronation. It was a grisly fate, really. Though the students had a hard time thinking of it as such. Especially when accompanied by the borderline comedic look of anger on Tommy's face.

"Um, they won't actually burn him, right?" Valefar heard Renra whisper.


"Ok, but we are going to save him, right?"

The vampire smiled for the occasion. "Yes."

Hence, Renra made the connection that things were changing. When an enemy, an objective is made clear, and a certain spirit begins to course, without warning and all at once, a message is relayed.

Something, like a wave on a beach, was sweeping through the smoke-suffused air. The sound of a rhythmic tapping. One, two, one, two. A steady one at that. As if beckoning the coming of a march or parade. It registered then that a battle was brewing. The paladin had already begun to amble. Jaiga's plate armour shuffled up and down, and she poised her right spear arm with a stretch. Like always, Ceylica soon followed, looking forward with a grin on her face.

And then, something came. A bizarre amalgamation of plate armour and blackened dye appeared from a rock. By then, Renra understood his mistake.

He studied the distant figure, even if certain of what it was. "I, uh, forgot to mention that."

The vampire looked at Renra, noting his particular brand of woe. "It's fine."

"If you say so!"

It was time. Just as Renra finished, so did the needless prelude to words. Valefar began to walk towards the Black Knight. His was of a slow trudge, if anything else. The careful prelude to unfinished business. Enhanced further by the cumulative buildup of tension and time.

In his hand, then, was a broadsword. He chose the weapon out of honour. While a mace was the traditional vampire weapon. Designed to wound armour and keep the blood inside the enemy, Valefar despised it. The vampire would finish the battle on his terms. And that just so happened to involve his weapon of choice.


Valefar, of course, had forgotten about Ceylica. Although keenly aware of her existence, he had forgotten to factor it into his plans. He watched with impassive eyes. She was rushing in the vague direction of golem and knight, then. The thought that the half-demon would interfere never crossed his mind. Most unfortunate for him, he had little choice but to embrace it.

As soon enough, Ceylica was rushing to punch the Knight, leaving Valefar little choice but to try and follow up.

He exhaled angrily. I hate demons.

Steward McOy
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