Chapter 36:

Desire Drive


Focusing his eyes on the emerging conflict, Valefar made a dash.

Annoying but tolerable.

He was not a man of great honour. Woe had not struck him as it would onto a knight. Merely the passive annoyance, he diverted to anything. There were always enemies to kill and foes to slaughter.

In other words, a team-up with Ceylica wasn't out of the question.

Rapid breaths went in and out of the vampires' lungs.

He was close then. Eyes on the battle only three arm-lengths away. Biding time for an opportune moment to strike. He spent some time watching. Despite the clear number advantage, actually finding a way to slip through was difficult. For an enemy in plate, the Black Knight was fast. Impeccably so.

The Knight's body was a blur. Dodging every blow from the slower Ceylica with ease. Yet it did not strike back. On occasion, a clear opportunity was clear. A slip up from the half-demon. Parried by the Knight's belsmerzi, or stumbling in the wake of her own uncontrollable bursts of energy.

With these moments, the Knight could've easily attacked, sending a strike or two from the axe-end of its belsmerzi.

Was the Knight afraid, or was there something else at play? Valefar was uncertain yet. What he did know was that the Knight was getting further and further away from Ceylica. And closer and closer to where the golems, Jaiga and Tommy, were.

By then, the vampire had a battle grasp of the situation.

Glancing over the battleground, Valefar saw Jaiga atop the sacrificial stick. With a quick punch, she broke off the bottom end of it and, once on the ground, the top. Then, she carried Tommy off. Taking him into a space a small sprint away, she began to sever his ties with her spear.

It was then that Renra chose to come running. Sprinting across the terrain in a maddened frenzy. Promptly picked up by the Black Knight heading in his direction.

How humorous.

Frustration rippled through Valefar; stillness returned to his body.

Interrupting the battle was the Black Knight. He held Renra with one arm and pressed the axe against his neck with the other.

"Ah, whatever will you do now?"

To their surprise, the Black Knight had spoken. Its voice was odd, certainly. Changed by some magic or technology to a robotic rasp. But it was a voice all the same.

"I need only pull my blade and have my hand be dyed in a brilliant red."

"Stand down," Jaiga said sharply. "Face me with honour, and we may settle this one to one."

"Face you, certainly, but what of your allies?" His axe gleamed with a brilliant shine. "What honour they have is dead and buried. No doubt they'll set upon me like savage dogs. Tearing at me, flesh and all."

The Knight's voice had a humorous inflexion.

"I will guarantee otherwise. Let me settle the matter with my comrades, and I'll see to it that we fight honourably." echoed Jaiga's voice out of her helmet. "I ask only that you release Renra in turn. Is that a deal?"

"You'll swear on your name?"

"Mine is a sacred warrant. Marked by steel and principle. On behalf of the Jangsgrude and the name Jaiga al Heilewis, I hereby swear that no dishonour be done onto you."

Wishful thinking, Valefar thought.

"So be it, have a minute of discussion to yourself."

The paladin turned to the others. Motive for discourse was given. And the rest joined in swiftly, gathered in a semi-circle of proportionate ratio.

The half-demon stroke her chin. She was the first to speak.

"Alright, what's the plan?"

"I shall fight against the Black Knight as foretold."

"And what if ye lose?"

"Then I will suffer the consequence knowing Renra is safe."

Tommy made an open hand, his eyes cast onto Ceylica. There was a smile on his face.

"Let the paladin have her duel. It is her honour on the line, not ours. What reason have we to interfere?"

Ceylica was suddenly defensive. It appeared that she had quite a few excuses up her sleeve. "Well, the whole point of this dungeon is teamwork, right? Doesn't it make more sense if we all work together?"

"Teamwork includes one's compassion towards another comrade, does it not?" Tommy touched his chin. "What is a party but a band of comrades in arms? And what comrades would we be if we discard the wishes of our own?"

"And what about me?"

Tommy shrugged his shoulders.

"If you want to maul something, there happens to be a wall and a talking parasite nearby."

"Yer just discarding my wishes in favour of Jaiga!"

"You would be correct. That's because your wishes are inherently more flawed, idiotic, and lacking in merit when compared to hers."

Ignoring Tommy's referral to him as a 'parasite', the whole situation was quite delightful for Valefar. Under the shadows cast by night, the vampire saw something the others did not.

A smile. Covered by a superficial turn of cheek and darkness. A display of savagery and ill-intent made for no one to see.

Ceylica burst out in anger, and Valefar noted the tension in her facial muscles. "Hey, that's not very nice to say!"

"Truths are often harsh," Tommy replied. Smug and self-satisfied. "They're unforgiving, cold, and all things horrible, but ultimately, the reality we live in nonetheless."

"Doesn't mean ye can't put it nicely."

He smiled. As if delighting in her torment, Tommy brushed back his hair. "Can is merely the indication of possibility. I, though fully capable, simply choose not to."

Their conversation had continued – aggressive as it were, with no one to impede and say anything against it. Even Jaiga, perhaps the only one with interjection, kept silent. The paladin held onto her spear and watched as did Valefar.

Meanwhile, the half-demon's eyes were bloodshot. Misty, even. Tainted by an ever-growing space of black sclera. "Why do you hate me so much?"

Ceylica's words were shaky. A bit unclear and a bit louder. Elevated at uneven points as if uncontrolled.

"I don't hate you. I simply dislike you on the basis of keen judgement. Because I know that you're an uncontrollable, instinctually-driven, pitiful excuse fo—".

Tommy's words didn't reach their conclusion. Instead of speech, only gasps of air came through his throat. Hate obscured the mages' fahce, and his hands clenched at Ceylica's own.

"Ye got alotta nerve saying that to someone uncontrollable." The half-demon strangled Tommy with her right hand. Lifting him like a sack of potatoes in the air. "Ye know, Tommy." She continued. "Yer a lot cuter when ye shut up and let me be. So why don't ye be a good little boy and let the grown-ups do the talking?"

A blow from Ceylica's left aimed at her neck. It was Jaiga's spear. The long polearm of steel, steadfast and unmoving.

"Renra's safety is in question," Jaiga al Heilewis said, her voice blessed by brightness. "Would you really forsake him for this petty squabble?"

Dismissive of the idea, Ceylica said the first thing that came to mind. "Rainee won't hurt a student anyway."

"I take it your answer is yes?"

Ceylica was annoyed. Nothing Jaiga said made much sense to her or anything that was happening for that matter. Her Resolve was increasing by the second. Whether she liked it or not, the demonic side of her character was beginning to take hold. Crawling, grabbing, and seizing what remained of logic and thought. "Damn right." The demon said softly.

End her already. Jaiga thought. You want to ▅▅▅▅ the demon don’t you?

The paladin bit her lip, confronting those thoughts head on. You have been DENIED tiMe and TImE again. Once by Azama, and once more by the VAMPIRES. Her consciousness, her world, her mind was spinning. She couldn’t deny her excitement. JUST DO IT. Carve THROUGH her like cake. Her breathing was heavy. Ravage her. Ravage her. Ravage her. Ravage her. Ravage her. Ravage her. Ravage her. Ravage her. Ravage her. Ravage her. Ravage her. Ravage her. Ravage her. Ravage her. Ravage her. Ravage her. Ravage her. Ravage her. Ravage her. Ravage her. Ravage her. Ravage her. Ravage her. Ravage her. Ravage her. Ravage her. Ravage her. Ravage her. Ravage her. Ravage her. Ravage her. Ravage her. Ravage her. Ravage her. Ravage her. Ravage her. Ravage her. Ravage her.



                                                                          I refuse, that’s all.

The decision was not a sudden reversion to normality. There was no denying Jaiga's excitement. No matter how averse she was. No matter what efforts she made to reject it. It was there.

"Cease this, Ceylica."

But even so, Jaiga could choose. She was not an animal. Instinct did not drive everything.

The paladin pulled back her weapon.

"Your anger is not unfound, but there is little purpose to act on it. Think. The Black Knight wishes for conflict, correct? By fighting amongst ourselves, we're merely giving him the satisfaction of watching us squabble."



The two cut each other off halfway. However, it was Ceylica who eventually had something to say. "Ye listen to me!"

Half-bloods like her lose control in instances like these. It's best to approach slowly.

"Very well then, make your claim."

"Do ye think yer more important than me?!"

That's a matter of debate.

"No, far from it. We are allies, after all. I dare say that we are equal, or very close to it."

"Very close?"

"Extremely. As close as me and you, good Ceylica."

"We're close?"

"Yes," Jaiga said, nodding and pointing to herself. "We are comrades. And well, comrades are close."



Confident in her approach, Jaiga slowly set her weapon on the ground. She then began to slowly approach, closing the distance. "See?" The paladin pointed out. "Look how close we are. The distance between us is a hands-length at best."

"Oy, what's that supposed to mean?"

"It means we are good comrades who trust in each other."

"It does?"

Jaiga spoke half-smiling and half-pained. "Definitely, yes. And as good comrades do, we work together and cease to strangle one of our own."

Her eyes watched the still-strangled boy.

"Fine." Ceylica let go and released Tommy onto the ground, allowing the unconscious mage to lie silently.

"See, not so difficult, is it?" Jaiga glanced at Tommy and then back to Ceylica. "I dare say we are getting along quite well." She noticed the half-demon's eyes returning to normal. Her sclera becoming a gradual white in place of black.

Ceylica drew out a groan. "But I want to strangle something."

"Well, there happens to be a Black Knight nearby." The paladin darted a look to the Knight. Embroiled in battle with Valefar. "I believe no one will stop you then."

Steward McOy
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