Pumpkin King

Chapter 27

Erk found himself in brightly lit room, separated from Tamashi and Dante. After the giant spider captured them all, it had dropped them off in different rooms. Erk had kicked and screamed, but it made no difference. So now he found himself in a brightly lit room with clear lacrimas embedded in the walls, illuminating everything. The room had wood paneling on the floor and walls, giving it a homey feeling. There was also a large table piled high with delicious looking fruit. Overall, it almost made him forget about the dungeon he'd just been pulled out of.

Almost.

After getting his bearings, Erk realized that he wasn't alone. The first person he noticed was a man stuffing his face at the table. There wasn't any polite way for Erk to describe him. He was a fat slob. His stomach jiggled whenever he reached for another fruit and his brown hair looked dirty and greasy. His clothes, a dull green shirt and a pair of brown trousers, were covered in food stains. He crammed one fruit after another into his large mouth and barely gave himself enough time to swallow before the next one got crunched on. He had a few chins that had juice dribbling down them. He grabbed a large purple fruit that looked like a balloon and bit down on it, causing it to burst and showering his face in a gloopy purple fluid. But he just licked his lips and kept on eating.

Erk immediately knew he wouldn't like the guy so he let his eyes wander to the only other two people in the room. The first was an old man leaned against the far wall, his eyes closed and arms crossed. His snow white hair was in the process of balding, having hair only on the sides of his head. He had tanned skin that looked dry and wind beaten, like he spent a lot of time exposed to the elements. He wore no shirt, revealing hard muscles despite how old he looked and a pair of tattered red pants that were held up by a length of rope.

The second was a girl who looked like around his age. She was sitting with her head on her knees and her arms wrapped around her legs. She had faded black hair that was pulled into a pony tail and turned white at the tip. She wore a pink mini skirt with white stripes running horizontally across it and a matching pink, sleeveless shirt. It looked like she'd been crying. She was shivering and kept her eyes looking firmly at her bare feet.

It was only then that Erk realized that none of them had shoes on. He narrowed his eyes in suspicion. But didn't make any comments.

After watching Fruit Bowl eat, as Erk named the fat guy, he didn't have much of an appetite. So he went to lean against the wall in between the old man and the scared girl. They sat there in silence, the only sound coming from Fruit Bowl as he ate.

Minutes passed until Fruit Bowl belched loudly, causing the girl to flinch and try to make herself smaller, and turning to look at the door, fruit juices still dribbling down his chins. "Bligoro smells." He called oddly. Which caused the girl to look up and the old man to open his eyes to see what was going on. "Picksy is coming in now, not standing outside door."

Erk blinked a few times trying to decipher what Bligoro A.K.A Fruit Bowl said. Then the wooden door Erk had been pushed through by the spider opened up and a man wearing a top hat and a suit, which contrasted with his pale skin came strutting in. He swung a cane in his hand as he walked.

"Bligoro." The man scowled deeply, which was odd since his voice sounded very light and cheerful. "What have I said about calling me 'Picksy'?"

Bligoro scratched his head, smearing the fruit juice on his hands into his hair, and reached for another fruit. He took a bite out of it. "Picksy is Picksy. Do Picksy not like name?" He asked, clearly confused.

The man let out a sound that Erk assumed was a growl, but it was way too cheerful. Then he turned to look at Erk and the others. He smiled, the same cheerful sweetness in his voice. "Why hello there." He stopped swinging his cane in front of him and leaned on it. "I hope this idiot Bligoro has treated you well." He scowled and looked the other man up and down. "Despite his…table manners."

Bligoro held up a strange fruit that was blue and had swirl patterns on it. "Picksy want fruit? Fruit good."

He shuddered and cringed away from the proffered food. "No thank you." He took a few steps closer to get farther away from his companion, then took of his hat and pulled a clip board out of it, which was disproportional with the hat.

"Now then." He said, looking at the papers on the board. "What have we here today?" He pointed at the girl off handedly, scanning a paper. "Divana Peek." The girl gasped at the mention of her name and started shaking even worse than before. "Native of Magnolia, you're far off from home young lady, suffers from a genetic disorder that weakens the bones." He glanced at Divana. "A fragile little bird." Then he went back to the paper. "Decent from a long line of wizards, though not a practicing magic herself." He scowled and turned a page. "Hopefully we'll be changing that my dear."

Then he faced the old man. "Ulrich Dreckenbolckt. Native of Mount Centrum. Referred as the 'Guardian of the Mountain'." He raised an eyebrow and whistled as he read something. "Turn around please."

The old man, Ulrich said nothing as he turned around and showed them his back. Erk almost gasped and the Divana screeched. The entirety of his back was covered in scars. Even the backs of his arms were riddled with them. "Well that explains how they were able to bring you in." He said trying to keep his voice low despite the cheer in it. "With those wounds there should have been almost no resistance going through the barrier." He smiled brightly. "You'll be very useful."

Ulrich turned back around, hiding the scars from view. Then Picksy's eyes landed on Erk. "And then there's you." He flipped a page. "Name: Unknown. Native town: Unknown. Found unconscious by the road between Fedder Town and Fell Forest. Suffers from a severe case of amnesia." He tutted woefully. "Such a shame, to lose one's memories. Tell me boy," he made eye contact with Erk, "do you remember your name?"

Erk gulped. He didn't like the look in his eyes. Like he was looking for a lie and was ready to wring the truth from him if he had to. So he made a calculated decision and decided not to lie to this man. "Erk." He said quietly, still staring into his eyes. "My name's Erk."

Picksy studied him intently, then his smile widened and he exclaimed, "Oh, good day! That makes things so much easier." He took his hat off and somehow managed to put the clipboard back inside it. "It's much better have one's own name instead of one assigned to him."

He swung his cane around and stuck it under his arm. "Now, my name is Sir Pixelton." He held up a hand and nodded modestly. "I know, I know it's a wonderful name."

Behind him, Bligoro snickered. "Picksy lie. Picksy real name Picksy. No Sir."

Picksy whirled on the fatter man his face flushed angrily. "What do you know you idiot buffoon?" He said with his cheery voice. He raised his cane as if to hit him.

But Bligoro didn't seem intimidated. He just burst out laughing, his entire body jiggling with the motion. "Bligoro no idiot. Bligoro know. Picksy dumb one."

That only seemed to set of Picksy even more. His face deepened to a darker shade of red till it was almost purple. He opened his mouth, but he stopped as still as a statue and arced his back, like he was just electrocuted. He screamed silently, his eyes closed in pain. But then he stopped. He drooped suddenly and looked like he was on the verge of falling until he stood back up and adjusted his hat like nothing happened.

"Well then, now that we've got introductions out of the way," he turned to the fat man "would you be so kind?" He gestured at the three of them with his cane. "I'd like to get the results as soon as possible."

That set off a few alarms in Erk's head. He wasn't sure why, but he suddenly felt like he was in danger. The others must have felt it too. Ulrich tensed like he was ready to fight the moment he needed to. Divana didn't take it so well. Her body shook more than Erk thought humanly possible and silent tears started streaming down her cheeks. "What are you going to do to us?" She asked shakily.

Picksy moved faster than Erk could blink. His cane was lifted so that the lower end was touched Divana's forehead. He was scowling darkly, his eyes filled with dark intentions. "You don't have the right to speak." He said. His voice had the same happiness in it, but at the same time it was filled with enough dread that all thoughts of back talking left Erk's mind.

Picky removed his cane and Erk didn't blame her as she curled into a ball on the floor.

He fixed his suit. "Now then," he said in a tone that broke no argument, "on with the examination."

He stepped aside and Bligoro now stood in front of them. His beady eyes looked as hollow as his head looked which made it impossible for Erk to gauge his intentions.

Sweat beaded his brow and he swallowed uncomfortably. And when Bligoro stepped closer, it took a lot of effort not to flinch. They stared at each other a moment, then Bligoro sniffed him. Erk blinked. But Bligoro just kept on sniffing him. He looked confused as Erk felt for a moment before started jumping up and down happily.

"Bligoro smell!" He shouted cheerfully. "Deep inside, him smell good!"

Erk was creeped out. He didn't like the fat man sniffing him. "Good, what does he mean good?" He asked before he could stop himself.

But instead of getting angry like he did with Divana, he chuckled merrily and spun his can around. "It's only natural that you're confused." He said. "But Bligoro has deemed you worthy so I shall explain it." He adjusted his hat with his free hand. "You see, Bligoro has a powerful nose. He can smell everything about a person. Magic, abilities, innate talents…even memories." He smiled evilly and patted Bligoro on the head. "All these things he can tell with just one whiff of a person's scent. Which is why we had no information on you, Erk. He can't smell your memories if there aren't any there."

Bligoro nodded in agreement and grinned with his wide mouth, pointing at his nose. "Bligoro smell! Bligoro strong!"

"Yes, yes." Picksy said in weary agreement. "Bligoro strong." Then he gestured at Ulrich. "Now if you would be so kind."

The fat man only chuckled to himself as he sniffed at Ulrich the same way he had Erk. But it only took one whiff before he was jumping up and down again. "Strong! Him smell strong! Keep keep!" He yelled excitedly.

Picksy smiled, as if he always knew that would be the outcome. "But of course. I knew that the moment I saw him. Then his eyes landed on Divana, who was cradling herself with tears streaming from her eyes in fear.

"That leaves just you." He said contemptuously.

But Bligoro just waved a dismissive hand at her. "Bligoro smell. She weak. No good no good. Get rid."

Picksy smiled darkly, pulling the brim of his hat to cover his eyes and tucking his cane under his arm. He raised his free hand. "I figured as much. So sorry, my dear." Then he snapped his fingers.

The lights in the room dimmed and the girl stood to her knees, looking around wildly. Then the door burst open. Divana's ponytail whipped wildly as she turned to look at the door. It was too dark for Erk to see outside, but apparently she could see just fine.

She screamed. Web shot out from the door and wrapped around her like a net. Erk didn't know why, but he found his body moving to help her, to rip the web off. But before he could move so much as an inch, Ulrich was holding him back with an arm.

"Don't." The old man's gravelly voice said softly. He was leaned close to Erk's ear so only he could hear him. "If you try to help, it'll only cause her more suffering." As if something strong was tugging on it, Divana was quickly dragged to the door by whatever was at the other end of the web. The image of the giant spider flashed into Erk's head and he instantly knew what was out there. "Wait patiently." Ulrich continued. "There may come a time to save her. But not now."

Divana went kicking and screaming, begging for someone to help her. But no one did. If Erk tried running to her, he had no doubt that he would be stopped…or killed.

She screamed one last time before the door creaked shut behind her.

Erk felt rotten inside. He wanted to do something, but he didn't know what. His body strained to act, but his mind held him back. You don't even know who you are. He told himself. How are you supposed to help anyone like that?

The lights went back on and Ulrich back away from Erk. Picksy and Bligoro turned back to them as if nothing had happened.

"Still, two out of three is more than I was expecting." Picksy said happily to them. He smiled. "Congratulations."

Ulrich was silent, but Erk managed to find his voice. "F-For what?"

Picksy chuckled and pulled what looked like a stamp out of his hat by its handle. "Why, for passing the initiation." Shadows covered his face as he smiled wickedly. He showed them the bottom of the stamp, which was shaped like some kind of horn.

"Welcome to the dark guild Demon Horn."


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