CHAPTER 48 - The Promise (1)
“I think there is a lot that you’re not telling me. Now would be a good time to start.”
Zach’s tone was more confident and firmer than it ever had been with her. Jayna looked up from the edge of the bed where she was sitting as he stood facing her and nodded. She patted the mattress next to her, indicating for him to sit, but he shook his head in reply.
“This is not likely to be a short tale, Hero. It would do you well to rest as I talk.”
With a grunt of disapproval, Zach did eventually cave and moved to sit a few feet away from the Queen. The bed shifted and creaked beneath him, but otherwise the room remained silent for a time. Just as he felt he couldn’t bear it any longer, Zach turned towards her right as she started to speak.
“You are aware that we summoned you here from your own world. It is our doing that brought you here.”
He nodded, biting his tongue to let her continue.
“Such a thing is not easy. It takes vast amounts of mana, even for magically gifted beings such as us demons. We needed a champion, no matter the cost to receive one.”
She looked over and gave him a warm and gentle smile. Zach tried his best to stay angry, but the expression easily melted through his barriers.
“Why, though? And why me? What is going on, and what do you expect from me, Jayna?”
“That… You have heard of the Drain, by now, yes?”
“The war that left all the mana depleted and almost destroyed all life?”
“That would be correct. It was we demons who caused such an event.”
Zach couldn’t hide the anger that had returned to his eyes. He started to open his mouth to speak, but Jayna cut him off and continued with her story before he could.
“Not us, specifically, but our ancestors. It was thousands of years ago, and most have forgotten the history. But the tale is passed down among those of royal blood, that such an event cannot take place again. The war was between the magically gifted demons and the humans.
“Tired of being oppressed and mocked, our ancestors took a stand. The humans were not pleased and fought back with great explosions that could destroy this entire mountain. We fended them off with our magic, and for a time, a stalemate was achieved. That was until humans found they could easily acquire magic ability by…”
She frowned, falling silent. Zach leaned forward, waiting for her to continue.
“Our flesh runs rich with mana. Parts of our bodies could be swapped for a human’s, and they would have a fraction of the original owner’s strength. With this knowledge, they caught and killed our kin, ripping them apart to strengthen their own armies.
With both their explosions and our magic, the war rapidly drew to a close. Demons were hunted nearly to extinction, the last survivors of the mana-depleted world finding refuge here in Hell. Outside, the humans continued to prosper, ever adaptable to their environment.”
At this point, Zach was sitting there with his mouth hanging open as he listened to the story like a child at their grandpa’s feet around a fireplace.
“We survived, they thrived. We remained hidden, so as not to repeat the tragedies of the past, but that could only last so long. Now the humans seek our kin once more, to pilfer their bodies and grow strong. The village Victa was at was one such area. Many of our soldiers vanished near it, as with many others I sent my Draco Albus to.
“And so, unbeknownst to many in this city, a war has begun. A war we needed a hero to stop, lest another cataclysmic outcome occur once more.”
Zach was silent. He couldn’t even think of what to say, so he just sat there, stunned. He had had an idea, but never would have guessed the depth of tragedy behind the state of this world. When he could finally collect himself enough to speak, he leaned forward and set his hand on Jayna’s.
“Then we just need to make sure that history doesn’t repeat itself, right?”
She looked up at him, a glimmer of hope hiding behind the fearful frown on her face.
“So, we figure out how to resolve things differently, this time. You know, before the Apocalypse happens again.”
“This trail is faint, Fenrir. You really think we’re gonna find her?”
“Of course. Wind tracing is the best tracking magic there is. Not the first time we’ve stalked someone that could cover their tracks.”
“Okay, let me rephrase: Do you think we SHOULD find her?”
“Once again: Of course. If nothing else, I need to apologize properly. We can’t ever achieve our goal if I don’t.”
Alex continued to follow the thin line of green light, stretching in front of him like a floating string in the air. At the end of that string, the pair would find their departed companion. Alex busied himself with trying to think of how to approach Treya, while ALICE was pondering what she’d need to say to heal Alex’s mind if things went poorly.
Neither of them noticed the cat-like stealth of the burly man following them, dozens of meters behind, through the trees.