It was hot. Humid more like. And even with the sun being blocked by the clustered canopy of trees, sweat pooled down Delais’s back, plastering the shirt to his skin like a tongue on a frozen piece of metal. He felt uncomfortable; and irritable. “At least the plan worked.” He muttered to himself, but still, Delias was not happy.
In fact, the plan worked so well, he had even gleamed some insight into what his body was and what his direction should be. Initially, the plan was to use the wraiths to escape the beast on his tail. He was not strong enough to kill even one of the adult creatures, but the wraiths were. And considering that, he could just use the crystals to fend off the wraiths in turn as the crystals didn’t affect the living.
The plan itself was of the moment. He was not sure if it would work. He didn’t even know if the wraiths would come in time, whether he would lead the creatures in the right direction, or even if the wraiths themselves would scare off the creatures that followed him. For all he knew, the creatures had ways to deal with the wraiths or he was too far away from the stalagmite for the wraiths to even bother going his way. But he had to try. It was his only option that he could think of, and that option worked. But for this spur of the moment idea, for the implementation to work so well, even though he was injured and beaten badly, it elated Delias. And for time to time he couldn’t help but feel giddy inside. It reminded him of the days when he was leading a small unit in the army. The plans he made. The successes it would bring him.
But that elation quickly faded as he thought about the wraiths. Those wraiths could talk. And what they said, was none too pleasing. As he had listened in on them, Delias puzzled out some of the intricacies of what was going on. Apparently there was civil unrest between the wraiths. Highborn against low. And the lowborn are friends with the white creature. But… those ‘lowborn’ seem instinctual. It’s more like they are ‘lowborn’ because they are not as intelligent as the others… But the wraiths said they have been getting help. And now battle is imminent. But that had nothing to do with Delias. Lowborn or Highborn, the wraiths were just an obstacle to getting out of this realm. They were an obstacle to his mission – to his goal. I need to get home.
And even though that was the main thing on his mind, Delias couldn’t help but think, I need to see ‘her’ again. But how could he go home like this? How could he see her? He was practically not human anymore. The ‘lifeforce’ the wraiths mentioned was the only thing that gave him solace, but so what? Was his body even a part his? What was it exactly? The book he had read of the Koplas didn’t detail much. And that left him with more questions than answers.
Delias slapped both of his cheeks. “I need to focus.” Which was true. The first objective towards his goal was to get out of there, to get out of the realm. And to do so was to get Cotter, Daniel, and Skylar. He was away from the scene for a while, and so, his fellow ‘teammates’ would know the current status of affairs. Only by then could he understand what was going on. “And maybe they have a key.. Or know where to get one.”
Delias had thought that maybe he could pass through the gateway without a key. The gateways, or portals, that brought them from realm to realm utilized the power of an array to direct them across. That was only a secondary power, and didn’t affect the primary, the portal, that existed by nature. All it did was direct in which realm it would take them per the parameters set by those who run it. But there was a second array that gave access to the portals themselves. It served as a lock and filter. Without the key, they wouldn’t be able to deactivate the array and step across. Delias had thought that if worse came to worse, he would simply try to go across without a key considering how the arrays didn’t affect him in Olato City, but now that he knew why the arrays didn’t affect him, that for such a realm as this with wraiths and other creatures like them, it was a good bet to say the arrays were set to work against warding off those creatures too. That meant, it would work on Delias. Now, he had to get a key.
So, for a while Delias kept at it. His body felt sore after that creature pummeled him into the hard earth. And though, it seems, his new body healed quickly, it was just a few times faster than normal. Not enough to truly dull the pain.
As time passed, when he finally came up to a dense crop of bushes, he heard a sound. It was soft, and barely something, but Delias caught it. Dashing forward, as quiet as he could, Delias inched into the bushes. The twigs and leaves prodded at him, but his body was tough, and he barely could feel it.
Delias separated a part of the bush and peered through.
Looking at his hand, Delias grimaced. His hand, the same one he pressed hard on to push back the wraiths was numb. And it was heeling a lot slower than the rest of his body. So, the crystals definitely affect me too. I was not wrong. And the words the wraiths spoke, of how he was of the dead rang in his ears. “Those arrays in Olato never worked on me because my life force was not strong enough for them to sense. They viewed me as some inanimate object with barely any power signature. I wasn’t a threat… So it seems Olato doesn’t deal with creatures of the afterlife often. Else, the arrays would have definitely been set in a way that could sense me… But things won’t be as simple now.”
It was then that a few moving figures came into view in an open area in front of him, drawing him from his mumbling reverie. They wore white tunics and black pants. Students! I’ve finally caught up!!
Heaving a sigh, Daniel crouched low in a bush. This was the third time he circled the camp of students before him. Most still wore their uniform, some had makeshift clothes of fur from the animals they caught and ate, aiding them to blend into their surroundings.
He had skirted a few guard posts, keeping close, but not close enough to be detected for the past few hours he was here scouting.
“They’ve grown large. Too large to do anything by myself.”
Daniel looked around and sighed. Delias was gone, nowhere to be found, and probably dead; Skylar left, which was in his expectations for a half-demon, abandoning people when they are needed most; and his dear brother was caught by a large group, many of whom were skilled fighters.
Daniel calculated his odds, but he realized sneaking in the camp would be difficult. Not to mention, sneaking out with his brother. Cotter was never went to military school. He was never trained the way he was. It would be moments before they were both caught, and he was in rope or twine by his brother’s side, waiting at the behest of whoever was in charge. “No, I cannot sneak in. I need to think of another way.”
Just as Daniel was about to leave, and probably find another group he could steer both into a conflict, he saw them drag someone out. The person had light brown mop of a hair, and even with his tied up hands, he could see the silver studs on his knuckles.
“Cotter!” Daniel squealed, the word coming out involuntary. Quickly, and silently, Daniel dashed from the bush and ran around through the forest. He didn’t know if someone heard him, but it was best to be safe.
Daniel glared at the open area far away where his brother was while he ran. He kept his eye on him, not wishing to let the sight go. He only heard that his brother was captured by the group from his snooping. He had seen a couple other groups just as big, and now, he has finally found him! And could confirm it with his very own eyes. He saw them kick and bully him, and a pure hatred burned within himself.
Finally, when Daniel was far away from where he was, he settled back down. It was at that moment that a figure came from a large tent. The tent was bigger than most, and Daniel was sure that whoever owned it was the leader or one of the leaders of the group.
The male stood in front of his brother and seemed he was speaking to him and the guy who was bully him.
Then, another figure popped out of the tent.
She was beautiful.
But that was not why Daniel’s jaw dropped. She wasn’t only beautiful, but she was Cotter’s childhood friend. The same female he disliked from when they were young. The same woman whom his brother and his best friend practically kissed and sniffed at her feet like begging pups.
A rage burned inside of Daniel. The green streaks in his blonde hair bristled and his the golden flecks in his eye glimmered. It took everything out of him to hold himself back and slaughtering his way through. And that was because he knew what his brother was probably feeling at the moment. He saw the tent the girl came from. His brother obviously saw it too. The guy was practically in love with her, regardless that the girl’s family would never approve. After all, they were of different clans. But still, the girl lead him on. They stayed close, and Cotter even gave a slot to her in order for her to come to Crawfields. I knew she was cold and calculative, but how could she do this? How could she do it to him?
And he cursed under his breath.
Suddenly he heard a rustle by off to his side. It was faint, but it was enough to put him on alert.
Could be a small animal; could be the wind. Daniel told himself. But within the realm of stalagmites, small animals did not equate to being harmless; and there was also no wind. So Daniel kept his guard up. He took a step back out of the bushes.
He tried, as silently as he could, to circle around to where the noise came from, and give some distance. That way, if he was spotted, the creature wouldn’t be able to rush him, leaving him unable to react.
But as he began to circle, he saw a butt poking out from the bush.
The person was obviously spying. But he was terrible at it. And just when he was about to move, Daniel’s face paled. It was then that he noticed that in the surroundings, he didn’t see any tracks that anyone passed this area. And in an area with soft dirt, and strands of weeds, it would be quite difficult to hide tracks. It was as if the guy never came this way. Only a master could do such a thing. Then how was it that he was so careless to have his butt poking out? Could he have come the other way… No. He would have definitely been spotted. Unless he’s not a spy? Is he a part of the group? But why would he be here?
As Daniel started to believe that whoever was in the bush was a part of the group who kept his brother captor, his rage resurfaced. He slipped behind the guy and grabbed him by the belt and pulled while keeping his guard up.
Roughly, the guy tumbled back, and was falling down into the dirt with Daniel still holding on, but as the guy fell, a silver gleam streaked by Daniel’s peripherals.
Daniel had been prepared, but he was a bit shocked. A trap? From the speed, the guy must have had his knife out and ready. It was as if his butt was bait. And the missing tracks was to make sure no one else followed? Leaving him the only one? But how would he know I would run into him here? All these things roiled in Daniel’s mind as he brought the back of his hand up, blocking the flash of steel blade with his silver metal knuckles.
The blade turned, slipping in between his knuckled and digging into flesh. Daniel was prepared for a fist or even a knee. Not a knife, so with a flick of the wrist, the blade turned, leaving him bleeding. Daniel winced, and in that moment, the guy who he had pulled bent his back bringing his feet up, a hand on ground, and launched himself, slamming his feet into Daniel’s stomach.
The hit was not very strong, but it was fast. The guy took advantage of Daniel’s wince and every movement in only a split second.
Daniel stumbled back. He steadied himself, readying for the next attack… But it never came.
As he now looked properly at the student who stood before him in a pair of black pants that was obviously pilfered from someone else as it didn’t fit him properly and had dried blood, and some furs, cloaking the top portion, he looked at the guy’s face, past the unfamiliar, long and dark hair; and his eyes widened.