Crest barreled passed Iver, who gave a shout of surprise before he was pushed against the wall. Erk didn't have any time to react as his guild mate raised his fist at the black clad man.
But before he could strike, Alec let out a small screech and raised his hands yelling, "Slime Formation!" A green magic seal appeared in front of him and a wall of green, gloopy slime spread out of it, stopping and sticking to Crest's fist.
"Now, now." Alec said shakily, backing away slowly. "I know we've had our differences. But w-what are you going to do? Kill me?"
"You're damn right I will!" Crest snarled back. The air in the room suddenly became heavy as magic began pouring off of Crest. "Traitor!"
Erk stood in stunned silence as Crest viciously attacked the smaller wizard. Part of him was glad that Crest didn't have any offensive magic, otherwise he was sure that he would have killed Alec already. But as it was, all Crest was able to do was throw punches, which Alec would block or dodge just before they hit. The room was getting destroyed as they continued to fight.
Then he heard a thud from behind him and turned to see Charlotte on the ground and pressing herself against the wall. Her hands were over her mouth as if she was suppressing a scream and tears were streaming from her eyes. She wasn't making so much as a sound as she stared at Alec in horror.
"Charlotte!" Erk said, kneeling next to her. "What's wrong?" She didn't respond to him, even when he shook her shoulder. "Charlotte!"
Hearing Erk shout Charlotte's name seemed to snap Crest out of his Rage for a second. He whirled around to see the collapsed Charlotte…that was a mistake.
Taking the opening, Alec grinned evilly. "Slime Molding!" A giant glob of green slime shot at Crest and pinned the larger man to the wall so that only his head was uncovered. Before anyone could react, two more globs did the same to Erk and Charlotte.
"Sick!" Erk yelled in disgust. "What is this stuff? It's all cold and wet." Next to him, Charlotte hadn't even reacted to getting pinned to the wall.
"Alec!" Crest shouted in renewed anger. "How dare you lay a hand on her? How dare you lay a hand on Charlotte after what you've done!" He strained and pushed with all his might, but the slime kept him firmly stuck to the wall.
Alec breathed shakily as he watched Erk and Crest struggle to break free. Then he straightened himself up and laughed maniacally.
"Master Alec, what are you doing!?" Iver suddenly yelled. He was pale and sweating. "You're supposed to help these people with my problem, not attack them in my own home!"
Alec turned to him with a sneer. "Shut up." With a wave of his hand, Iver too found himself covered in slime and pinned to the wall, but with his mouth also covered. Then he put a hand to his jaw in thought. "But I guess I should thank you for reminding me why I came here." He looked around the room which had been demolished during his and Crest's fight. The furniture, a couch and two chairs, a table, and several shelves and cabinets now littered the entire room. Alec scoffed. "Now where did that key go."
As Alec started searching the room, Erk turned his head to Crest. "Hey?" He asked, keeping his voice low. "Who is this guy?"
Crest kept his hate filled eyes fixed on Alec, who was currently sifting through the cushions of the overturned couch. "His name is Alec Broodwith. He used to be one of us."
"One of us?" He said in confusion. Then it dawned on him. "Wait, are you telling me that this sleazebag was a member of Pumpkin King!?"
Crest gritted his teeth together. "Yeah." He struggled against the slime again to no avail. "He was one of us. A comrade." His face darkened and his neck muscles visibly strained as he attempted to break free again. But the slime was holding fast. "We used to go on jobs together…he was my friend. But then he betrayed us and did the worst thing a friend could do."
Erk glanced at Alec, who was now rifling through the remains of a cabinet. "What happened?"
Crest took a deep breath and closed his eyes. When he opened them again, they had a faraway look in them. "Charlotte and Alec joined the guild at the same time. Back then, Charlotte only had one spirit and neither of them knew much about magic. So as their mentor, I took them under my wing and helped them complete jobs."
He smiled sadly and glanced at Charlotte. It looked like she had completely shut down. Her face was blank except for the tears that were still running down her cheeks. "It wasn't hard to tell there was something between them. But you know how teenagers are when it comes to matters of the heart. They were awkward and always blushing around each other."
His sad smile faded. "After a few years, they both became stronger. Strong enough that they didn't need me to watch after them anymore. But I'd grown attached to them. We were a team." His face darkened. "But then one day, it all changed. We were on a job like normal. Raid a bandit hide out, an easy job but the pay was good. It was over quickly. Since none of the bandits were wizards, they couldn't do much to stop us. But when we reported back to the client, Alec was acting…different. He demanded that the client pay us more than the agreed amount…he threatened him that he'd attack if he wasn't paid more."
Crest looked up at Alec, who's attention was now a shelf he was searching. "Me and Charlotte tried to stop him. We tried asking him why he suddenly wanted more money." Anger began seeping back into his features. "We didn't see it coming. He attacked us."
Erk couldn't help but gasp. Attacking your guild mates was…unheard of. But he didn't want to interrupt Crest, so he kept his silence.
"I had used up most of my magic during the job." He continued in a pained voice. "If I had held back a little then, maybe it wouldn't have turned out the way it did." He closed his eyes in pain from the memory. "He pinned me so I couldn't move. I couldn't do anything as he went for Charlotte. She brought out her spirits, but he knew how she fought. He was vicious. Even when it looked like the spirit was going to disappear, he kept on attacking it until it couldn't even move. And every time she brought out a new spirit, he did the same thing until she was all alone. It broke her, seeing her spirits treated like that. She didn't even put up a fight when he threw the finishing blow."
Much to Erk's surprise, tears started running down his cheeks. "He ran away after that. And by the time I was able to move again, it was too late to chase after him…my only concern was trying to help Charlotte." He looked at her. "We were able to save her, but there's no medicine or magic that can heal a broken heart. And ever since then, she hasn't trusted anyone. She won't talk to any new members. She won't even summon any of her spirits. I think she's secretly afraid of how they'll react after they got beat so badly."
Erk glared at Alec. Now he knew why Crest had acted the way he did when he first saw him. "So he's just been on the run all this time? You never tried to track him down?"
This time, Crest smiled maliciously. "We didn't have to. A few weeks afterwards, he showed up at the guild."
Crest nodded. "The moment he walked through the doors…I'd never seen the Master so angry. Attacking your friends is the worst crime in any guild. So when Master saw him…he burned our mark off of Alec's body himself." He let out a laugh and nodded his head towards Alec. "Take a look at his hand."
Erk scanned Alec's hand and almost winced. There was a nasty burn scar on his right hand. Even now he could imagine that it gave him pain.
At that point, the ex-guild member stood up from where he had crouched next to the broken table with a dark look on his face. "That was a nice story. It makes my heart want to break into pieces." He suddenly ran forward and punched Crest right in the face. "But that last part was a bit unnecessary."
Crest hadn't even flinched at the hit. "Still can't throw a punch. You're haven't trained a bit since you were banished have you?"
Alec scoffed and stepped back. "I beat both of you weaklings by myself. I don't need to train. I'm already strong. Besides," he smiled, "I'm about to get even stronger." He held up his other hand and showed them what he'd been looking for.
It was a pitch black key. The blade was shaped like a wolf's head with its fangs bared. Its handle was simply a triangle with the left line sticking out farther than the others. It looked like the symbol that used to go on it had been ripped off. Even though none of them were holding it, all of them, including Iver, could feel evil radiating from the key.
Alec started pacing back and forth in front of them, examining the key. "You know, I've always been interested in Celestial magic." He stopped in front of Charlotte, who just stared at him with empty eyes. "That was one of the reasons I hung around you, Charlotte." He leaned next to her, careful not to touch the slime. He ran a hand against her cheeks. "I had hoped to steal the keys you owned, but once you told me about the contracts with the spirits, well, I didn't have much use for you. But you were pretty to look at so I guess that was worth keeping you around."
Rage filled Crests eyes again as he strained against the slime. "Get your hand off her!"
Alec turned his eyes to him. "And then there's the big lummox. The only thing you were good for was being a shield. I admit that I had a tiny amount of respect for you. But in the end it was easy to take you out."
He pushed himself off the wall and twirled the key around in his fingers. "Now where was I…oh yes. New power!" He leered at Charlotte, who still wasn't stirring. "What were those words you used to say?"
He grinned. "I am linked to the path to the world of the Celestial Spirits." A dark light began radiating from the key, chilling everyone in it to the bone.
"Something's wrong." Crest instantly knew. He had seen Charlotte make enough contracts to know something was definitely off. Next to him, Iver started making wild attempts to get away. He was shouting something, but the slime muffled him. Alec didn't bother paying attention to them.
"Now! O Spirit, answer my call and pass through the Gate!" The black light started condensing on one point. But then, suddenly, it vanished.
Everyone looked around the room in confusion. Especially Alec.
"Wasn't something supposed to happen?" Erk whispered.
Crest nodded. "I'm not sure what went wrong. Perhaps he wasn't strong enough to summon it."
Alec was circling the room, his face tight with confusion. "W-What happened? Where is it?" Then something happened. Alec's eyes widened and he made a gagging noise. Everyone watched as he grabbed his throat and fell to his knees, dropping the key in the process.
The moment the key hit the ground, black smoke shot out of it, encircling Alec. The all watched in horror as Alec screamed as he was engulfed in the smoke.
"What is this?" Crest asked.
He didn't receive an answer. Instead, the smoke started moving, forcing its way into Alec's eyes, mouth, ears, and nose. As the smoke rushed into him, the former guild wizard was lifted into the air.
Once all the smoke was gone, Alec lowered to the ground, shaking slightly. Then he looked up, his eyes black and filled with evil. He smiled and his teeth had been sharpened into fangs.
"That's more like it."