Daniel kicked Skylar in the side. He heard him grunt as he rolled over. Daniel watched the half-demon trying to pry himself from the ground. His dark hair draped over his own shoulders, the flaming red tips dull in the dimly illuminated cave.
“Get up. We gotta get going.” Daniel said. He did not want to touch the half-demon. He thought it beneath him. Dirty even. But kicking Skylar made him feel good. And for a moment he could understand Parker’s glee in beating his brother up from time to time.
Daniel frowned. I am not like Parker. Skylar’s a half-demon. This is completely different.
Hearing the sudden noise, Cooper propped up. He looked haggard and dreary. His movements were slow, and he had bags under his eyes; an obvious result of a sleepless night. “What time is it?” Cotter asked. He looked around and then focused on Daniel. “Ugh. Why’d you wake me? I’m so damn tired.”
Daniel clicked his tongue. “How should I know what time it is? All I know is we best get scouting before the other groups come out. Now get up! We gotta get moving.”
As if suddenly remembering where he was, and what had happened the other night, Cotter jumped up. “The Wraiths!” He ran towards the entrance, stopping two feet away. He searched and searched, but seeing no sign of them, he sighed with relief, though, he still didn’t step a foot closer to the entrance.
By now Skylar had gotten up. He stood slightly taller than Daniel. He stared at him with his red eyes. Daniel shivered. Did I got too far?.. No. He’s just a half-demon. What feelings could they possibly have? Daniel shrugged off the stare. He put some distance between them, but no longer paid Skylar any mind.
By then, Cotter had come back. “Hmm? Where’s Delias? Did you not wake him up too?”
Daniel looked over to a corner. The cave was shallower in comparison to the caverns, but it was deep still. The only noticeable difference between the caverns and a cave were the lack of smaller stalagmites inside. Last night, when they went deep into the cave, that was actually them going as far as possible where they would barely be able to see without the aid of a light crystal. But apparent to them now, Delias went in further.
How could he see down there? I can see him a bit now, but last night, with only the glow from the stalagmites alone, he could not possibly see anything! Did he use a crystal? How can he be so wasteful?
Cotter came close to Daniel. It was apparent he was thinking somewhere on the same lines. “You’re right, brother. This guy gets stranger and stranger the more I hang out with him. You think he’s half-demon too? He seems so casual with the halfer.”
Daniel shook his head. “All half-demons have their trademark. Without the black sclera, I would seriously doubt he was half-demon.”
“What if he’s not half. What if he’s quarter?”
Daniel’s eyes widened. “Shut up! Don’t say anymore. Talk like that again and I will beat the crap out of you!”
“Shut up!” Daniel roared. He was a bit red, furious even. Talking about a half-demon was one thing. It was rare indeed. But the prospect of a quarter-demon was frightening, and even being around one could put them all at risk. There was a notice sent out not by the capital, but by the council of all the averati nations, targeting anyone quarter-demon. Anyone found to be one or even associated with in some aspect was to be killed. No one knew why, but some had suspicions that it was because they looked too similar to averati. The averati did not want the demon race to be mixed in with the averati bloodlines. And for very good reasons.
“Delias! Get up! Weren’t you the one saying how we have to get up early? That we have to get on this? Why are you the one still sleeping soundly?”
Delias mumbled something, shifting in his sleep. He turned around, completely ignoring Daniel.
Daniel frowned. He did not want to go in deeper even though he could see better now that it was daytime and there was more light coming through. Daniel did not trust Skylar or Delias. He barely trusted his brother the way he’d been acting in favor of his love interest. And even though Delias loved his brother, with his brother’s weak backbone, it simply made him unreliable. Daniel was not going to put himself in a position where he needed his brother. And if he could not fully trust his brother, then why would he trust a half-demon, or a weirdo filled with mystery?
As far as Daniel knew, Delias was an unknown. And he was not about to go walking deeper in a cave, where the space was closing in, to go find out what that was. Looking at Delias sleeping soundly, but far away in an even darker and closer space, Daniel was fine with just calling out from here. But Delias did not move.
Skylar brushed past Daniel. He took a few steps towards the sleeping boy on the cave floor, but before he could get within ten paces, Delias threw a rock at him. “Stop bothering me! Go scouting on your own. I need my rest.”
Skylar frowned. Cotter smiled wryly, but Daniel’s face was twisted in a scowl. Damn it! What kind of team is this? I am running about with a coward, a half-demon, and a lazy fool!
“Fine then! Let’s get going.” Daniel turned to walk out. But just as he was going to exit, he turned back.
Sitting on the cave floor, with his back leaned against the wall, was Skylar. He sat with his legs crossed, breathing in and out with soothe breaths. Useless. Although Daniel thought that, he knew better. He knew the half-demon did not join the group because of him or his brother. He knew the half-demon would have probably preferred to have worked alone. Daniel was not counting on the half-demon to follow him. I don’t need him. But what he did not count on was his own brother not following as well.
“Brother, let’s wait. It’s better as a group. Besides, I’m tired too. If we all go out now and have to face a group who is refreshed and fit, we will be put at a disadvantage. Let’s just rest a bit more and then make a move.”
Daniel gritted his teeth. He did not want to go out scouting alone. It was more dangerous than waiting a day to scout tomorrow. But we might lose valuable intel by then.
Minutes passed. Then an hour. A few. Delias slept well. Finally, after five and a half hours had past, and the scene of a few groups coming and going, Delias got up. He stretched wide, and yawned. “What time is it?”
“Don’t know.” Cotter replied. Delias had sauntered towards the front of the cave where the other three were. He felt stiff. The hard floor was by no means a comparison to a soft bed, but for now, he had made due.
Delias nodded. “Let’s go. Based on how I feel, I’ve been out for at least seven hours since I fell asleep. The glow from the stalagmites were getting dull at the time so morning was probably near, making this about noon to one o’clock. We need to get a few things done before tonight.”
Daniel scowled. He had fallen back asleep when he realized no one would go with him. Now that Delias was awake, and seemingly taking charge, he had a bad taste in his mouth. I know we decided to join you, but we did not decide to be at your beck and call, following decisions that do not benefit us!
“Do you think scouting now is appropriate? We won’t cover much in the time remaining. In fact, we would be like rabbits caught in a trap if we go now. For all we know, the teams that got out there first have already set up measures to guard what they have found or to decimate competition. Besides, what happens when we stay out too late. Its hard telling time. We definitely can’t get trapped outside with those wraiths!”
Daniel grit his teeth. This was a life and death matter. An urgent one. Three of them, at least, were from the east. It was unheard of a student born in the east could pass the trial with good markings. He wanted to be someone who surpassed all expectations. Though it was his brother that was invited to Crawfields, and was thus given one of the three spots that Cotter could use to bring him along with him, Daniel still wanted to succeed. He wanted to do more than pass this test, but to excel. To show the world that the bullied east is not such a weak place to be born in.
But contrary to Daniel’s belief, Delias just looked at him and sighed. “We do not need all day and we won’t get ambushed. I have my ways. Besides, we needed all the rest we could take for what we’re going to be doing.”
“What we’re going to be doing?” Cotter piped up. He was nervous. His body language seemed to ask, what could we possibly be doing other than scouting at this point in time.
But Delias did not pay Cotter any mind. He turned to Skylar. “Skylar, what do you call these?”
Delias brought his brown leather bag, and opened it. He had been calling them light crystals the entire time, but he did not know their actual name. He asked Skylar because he needed to confirm something.
Skylar took one glance at the contents inside. “Living crystals.” He said.
Delias smiled. “Living crystals. I thought as much.”
Daniel and Cotter’s eyes widened when they saw how many living crystals Delias had. “Damn it! Do you know what we had to go through to even get one?! Yet you have at least fourteen! Fourteen! Damn you! Its because of people like you so many has died. That we have suffered.”
Delias’s smile deepened.
Daniel mouth twitched. So many people of died and this punk has the gall to smile? He felt like blowing up. And he was, but Delias interrupted him.
“It is because I have so many crystals that we are all going to beat the one month record. Gentlem- Ehem. I mean. My fellow teammates. I have a plan.”