Vur sighed as he gazed at the patch of land underneath him. He stood on the branch of a tree that had lost its leaves. The vegetation around him was withered and grey, with a few areas of sand forming. Images of Yella’s smiling face appeared in his head as he sat down and hunched over, clasping his hands together. Stella’s face superimposed itself over Yella’s face and Vur shook his head. He sighed again and looked up at the clouds in the sky.
What are you going to do when you find them? A voice in his head asked.
Vur looked at metal chain hanging from his neck. Attached to the other end was the pink lightning elemental. “I don’t know,” Vur said. “Part of me wants to kill Stella for what she did to Lindyss. But the other part of me knows that Yella loved Stella and she wouldn’t want me to hurt her. She gave her life for me.” Vur looked down.
The lightning elemental buzzed. Couldn’t you say it was Stella’s fault that Yella died? If she didn’t curse Lindyss, then you wouldn’t have gone berserk.
Vur shook his head and pointed his finger to the sky. “You could blame anyone that way,” Vur said as his finger zigzagged downwards. “It’s Stella’s fault for cursing Lindyss. It’s my fault for not being able to control the dragon inside of me. It’s the demons’ fault for using the parasites. It’s Tafel’s fault for running in front of me. It’s Auntie’s fault for betraying the fairy queen so many years ago. I’m sure Stella is just as, if not more, devastated by Yella’s death.”
You didn’t think that way when you first woke up, the lightning elemental noted.
Vur nodded. “Aunt Leila helped me to work through my feelings,” he said and clenched his hand. “Nothing is black and white. There’s always more.”
“Message for Vur!” A skeleton head popped out of a knot in the tree Vur sat on. Vur stiffened before he exhaled and relaxed. The skeleton tilted its head. “Why am I in a tree?”
Vur shrugged and helped free the skeleton.
“Thank you,” the skeleton said as it dusted wood flecks off its body. It coughed and cleared its throat. “Our unholy mistress wishes for you to infiltrate the human kingdom. Rumor has it that the humans are holding a competition and the winner gets some sort of blessing. The majority of the positions in the competition are already filled by promising students, but a preliminary competition will be held for the general public to fill in the remaining slots.”
Vur frowned. “I haven’t found the fairies yet,” he said.
“Give me a second as I talk to our mistress,” the skeleton said and froze in place. A few moments passed. “Alright, she says that if you win the competition, the reward will help you locate the fairies. Oh, she also wants you to shave your head, change your name, wear a mask, and pretend to be a black mage with a monk subclass until you receive the prize for winning.”
“How long do I have to get there?”
“Four days. You better start running,” the skeleton said. “The mistress doesn’t want you to be associated with dragons or the undead or even falling from the sky because of Exzenter.”
Vur’s eye twitched. “I guess I should get going then,” he muttered. “The prize better be worth it.”
“Wait a moment,” the skeleton said and pointed at itself with its thumb. “I’ll help you shave your head. I’m the best skeleton around for undead haircare and manicures.”
Vur’s head tilted. “But…”
“No butts. Only heads,” the skeleton said as it pulled a knife out of its pelvic bone. “Ready?”
Tafel leaned against a dilapidated wall and exhaled. Her sword laid on the ground next to her, covered in green blood. Across from her was the mangled corpse of a praying mantis.
“That’s pretty amazing.”
Tafel grabbed her sword and looked towards the entranceway where the voice came from. She released the sword and closed her eyes when she identified the speaker.
“After three months of fighting reapers, you were able to kill one without retreating,” Stacy said as she handed Tafel a flagon of water. “How many does this make? Seventeen?”
“Eighteen,” Tafel said as she opened her eyes and grabbed the flagon. She gazed at the reaper’s unmoving body and sighed. “You know… I almost forgot why I wanted to get stronger. Well, not really, but after all these fights… Vur just became a side goal. I haven’t seen him in ten years after all. What I feel now is a desire to conquer this continent. Be the best, do what no one else has done. Do you know what I mean?” Tafel turned and faced Stacy.
Stacy shrugged. “I just do this to support my family,” she said. “Drinks from the fountain of youth are expensive. I’m not a battle maniac like you and Chad. Just give me a warm fireplace and a nice book to read and I’ll be satisfied.”
“Battle maniac, huh?” Tafel said as she grinned and looked at her blood soaked sword. She handed the flagon back to Stacy and stood up while stretching her arms out wide.
“Do you want me to get Lucy to transport this one back too?” Stacy asked Tafel as she motioned at the corpse with her head.
Tafel shook her head. “I’ll teleport it to town with us. I think it’s time I head back to Zuerst,” Tafel said and smiled.
“Oh? What are your plans?” Stacy asked as she helped bundle up the reaper corpse.
“Nothing much,” Tafel said. “I’ll probably just say hi to Vur, maybe fight him. Visit my mom and Dustin. Eat something that’s not related to insects, crabs, or worms. Sleep in a real bed. Take a hot shower. Seize the throne. Read a good book. You know, the usual.”
Stacy scratched her head. “Err, I’m pretty sure one of those is not like the others,” she said.
Tafel nodded. “Yeah, maybe it’s best if I save fighting Vur for later,” Tafel said as her horns glowed silver and a ring of white light surrounded the two women standing on the corpse.
“No, no,” Stacy said as she shook her head. “I was talking about seizing the throne.”
Tafel grinned. “Did I say that? You must’ve misheard,” she said and winked. A pillar of light rose from the circle into the sky and the demons vanished along with the corpse.