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Chapter 5

Undead are coming. spoke a small figure standing in the fog.

How can that be possible?

If nothing is done, the world shall meet its eternal demise.

What can I do to stop them?

Only the Demon King can save you.

Who is the Demon King? I shouted but the figure began fading away into the fog.

I opened my eyes to find myself laying in a bed. That's right, I recalled, we're at the inn in the Kingdom of Sapientia. I scratched the back of my head and faced towards the window. The sky was still dark. Only the few torches lit the streets down below. What's with these dreams I keep having? And the demon is needed to save the world?! That's preposterous! I pulled the covers off my body and stood from my bed. Ugh, I need to take a walk to clear my head...

The night sky was filled with stars and a full moon which helped illuminate my path. I took deep breaths as I attempted to clear my mind. How can undead creatures start just popping out of nowhere? It's just too unreasonable for that to happen! I raised my head and stopped in my tracks, only to find myself surrounded by trees. Uh oh, I must have been too deep in my thoughts that I ended up walking into the forest... Which way is back to the inn?

"Stella," a voice called out from behind.

I turned my head. "Nocturne, what are you doing here?"

"I should be asking you that. Where do you think you're going by yourself in the middle of the night?"

"Sorry, I got lost in thought," I apologized.

"Don't go off on your own. What if something happened to you?"

What the hell... "H-hey, I said I was sorry, okay? I didn't mean to walk off on my own. I'm not just a little kid that needs protecting all the time! Stop thinking that you need to be at my side every moment!"

Nocturne frowned. "Anyways, let's head back," he said, grabbing my arm.

"Hey, I can walk on my own!" I yanked my arm out of his grasp and shoved him away. Nocturne stumbled back in surprise and fell butt-first on to the ground. Wow, I actually made him fall over! I thought excitedly. Was I actually this strong all along? I held out my hand to Nocturne, trying to hide my grin of triumph. "Would you like a hand?"

He looked at me, still in shock at what had just occurred. After a few moments, Nocturne reached for my hand and I helped haul him up from the ground. "Uh, thanks," he muttered. Haha, his face is priceless!

The next morning we began setting off on our journey once more. Ren was still able to feel a trace of the corrupt magic around. But now it was coming from the West. And so, we decided to follow the only trail we had.

As we traveled back into the forest, I noticed that the scenery was quite similar. Although it was night time before, the direction which we were heading towards now was the same direction where I had been walking aimlessly last night. I wonder why I was walking in this direction in the first place.

"We're going to take a break now," Ace announced. "Rest up while you can."

I dismounted from my horse and took a light stroll to stretch my legs. Riding on horseback for so long sure does make my legs stiff.

"Stella," Nocturne called out, "can I talk with you?"

I looked at him curiously. "Sure, what's the matter?" I asked as we moved away from the rest of the group.

Nocturne was hesitant. "Did...something happen?"

My head crooked to the side. "What do you mean by that?"

"Has anything happened from you encountering that magic?"

"Eh...Nothing really in particular. Why do you ask?" Well there are those weird dreams but those can't mean anything too significant, can it?

Nocturne rubbed the back of his neck. "No, it's nothing--"

"Get back!" Ace yelled. We both turned our heads in the direction of the voice. The sounds of swords clashing echoed throughout the forest. Without any more words, we immediately ran back towards the rest of our companions.

As Nocturne and I made it back to our resting spot, we were greeted with the most unimaginable situation. There were creatures surrounding Ace, Aeris and Ren. However, they weren't ordinary creatures--they were the undead. Zombies, ghouls and skeletons with partial and rotting flesh approached them. Aeris and Ren stood behind Ace, who tried to protect the two with his sword. However, it was clear to see that the situation was becoming less and less in their favor.

"Grr, damn things burn in hell!" Ace yelled as he summoned his fire magic and ignited the creatures in front of him. The two zombies and skeleton were now burning like a campfire, but they still continued to move, as if not feeling the pain at all. Their limbs slowly turned to ash, but not at a fast enough speed where Ace could stop them from getting too close.

As I ran closer, I raised my hand up and began focusing my magic. A swirl of light-elemental magic began gathering around my palm. I then tossed my magic towards the undead closest to Ace. The light magic made impact with one of the zombies and then suddenly burst, releasing a bright light which turned the couple nearest undead into a pile of ashes. "Where did all these undead come from," I asked as Nocturne and I joined Ace's side. Nocturne had also unsheathed his blade, ready to strike at the creatures.

"I don't got a clue! They just suddenly appeared all around us."

"Well, wherever they came from, they're just going to disappear right now," Nocturne spoke.

I nodded in agreement and began gathering light magic once again. This time, I separated my magic into two small orbs which I infused into both Ace's and Nocturne's blades, adding light element onto their weapon. As soon as I finished with my spell, Ace and Nocturne dashed forward into battle, slashing down all the undead that got within a one-millimeter radius of their sword. Their weapons were now one-hundred percent more effective as the addition of light magic was easily able to cut through their corrupt magic flow, which allowed the undead to roam the living.

Aeris was able to slow the undead creatures' paths by using her earth magic to cause the tree roots to bind the undead, allowing Ace and Nocturne to kill them with more ease. On another side, Ren used his dark magic to create a circle to slow down and weaken the undead. At least this provided Aeris more time for her spells along with Ace and Nocturne to execute them. I continued to throw balls of my condensed light magic, which purified the undead that were further away.

"Damn it, there's no end to them!" Nocturne yelled as he sliced a zombie in half.

"Stella, are you able to sense the source? You should be able to sense the corrupt magic better than the rest of us," Ren spoke.

"I-I'm trying." I shut my eyes in attempt to drown out all distractions. Where..? It's so hard to find the source of these undead when I'm completely surrounded by corrupt magic. Usually, the source of where the undead spawn releases an extremely concentrated amount of corrupt magic. But this is the first time I'm actually putting this to practice. My head slowly turned to face different areas of the forest, scanning for any signs of increased magic in the area.

"Stella, behind you!" Aeris yelled.

My eyes jolted open only to find a skeleton looming over me. It had rotting flesh on its face, but no lips. Its single eye within its socket glared at me with killing intent. The armor on its body was shattered and cracked, and was even beginning to rust. The skeleton rose its arm, a jagged, rusty sword in its hand.

"Ahh!" I began to cry out. I shut my eyes and tried to shield myself with my arms.

"Stella!" Nocturne cried. The sounds of metal clashing rang in my ears. I opened my eyes to see Nocturne standing between me and the skeleton. His blade had blocked the oncoming attack. Nocturne forcefully swung his blade towards the skeleton, shattering its blade and executing the undead. His eyes turned back to me, "are you alright?" he asked.

"Y-yeah, thanks."

"Focus on finding the source of these undead. I won't let any of them come near you."

"Alright," I smiled with confidence. I shut my eyes once more, removing my vision in front of me and drowning out the sounds as I scanned the surrounding area. The entire area which immediately surrounded us had the same levels of corrupt magic. Come on...where are you? Suddenly my eyes went wide. "I found it," I announced and dashed forward.

"Stella!" Nocturne called out. "Why does she have to move without thinking all the time?" he asked rhetorically as he followed right behind me.

I ran forward, throwing spheres of light magic to the enemies in my path. It's definitely in this direction. I have to purify that area right away or else more undead will just keep spawning. Eventually, my feet led me to a small cavern. I stood at the entrance, looking down into the darkness. Soon after, Nocturne was at my side. But as soon as he arrived his body began to sway. "Nocturne, are you alright?" I asked with concern as I steadied him.

"M-my body feels heavy..."

"The corrupt magic must be affecting you since you don't have any resistance to magic at all. Don't worry, I'll purify this area. You stay here." I helped him lean against a tree and made my way into the cave. I heard him call my name once again but I ignored it. I'm the only one who can purify the corrupt magic.

Once inside the cave I began feeling the effects of the corrupt magic. I could feel my body swaying. "I have to hurry." I gathered light magic around my body, bringing the light element into a condensed ball. With all my might, I allowed the magic to explode outward, bathing the entire cavern with light. After the release of my magic, a wave of dizziness began to wash over me. I dropped to my knees and felt the darkness rush over my mind.

Warmth enveloped my body. I felt a sense of comfort and ease, but it was different from the times in the temple and in the library. I could feel my body being rocked with my legs dangling. My eyes opened slowly. I blinked the darkness from my sight as my eyes adjusted to the brightness of the sun.

"You're awake," I heard Nocturne's voice. I felt his hand grip tighten slightly at my arms, "that's a relief."

"What happened?"

"You passed out after purifying the area. It was probably too taxing for you after releasing all your magic."

"So what about all the undead?"

"It seems like Ace has taken care of the rest. You did great," Nocturne praised. I felt his lips touch against the top of my head. "Is everyone alright?" Nocturne called out.

I turned my head and saw everyone else running to greet us.

"Stella, are you alright?" Aeris asked.

I nodded."I'm just a bit weak after purifying that cavern."

"Nocturne, your back!" Aeris exclaimed.

"It's nothing."

"But you're bleeding so much!"

I gasped in surprise as I struggled out of Nocturne's arms. "Let me treat your wounds!"

"No, I said that it's nothing," he replied stubbornly.

I frowned and immediately elbowed him in the stomach, forcing him to keel over and drop on all fours. "Quit being so difficult! It'll be bad if your injuries get worse."

Nocturne coughed. "Hitting me isn't going to make them any better," he joked.

I finally caught a glimpse of his injury. On his back were several large gashes, as if a large claw had slashed him. "Nocturne, how were you even able to carry me with this kind of wound? I'll heal it--"

"No, you're already weak enough," he interrupted.

I scowled at him once more and forcefully shoved him, causing him to fall on to his side and gasping in pain. "I'm strong enough to knock you over so let me at least heal your wounds. I'll rest after."

Nocturne groaned in pain. "Ugh...fine," he agreed reluctantly.

I raised my hand to his back and gathered light element. The warm air currents surrounded his wound. And little by little, Nocturne's wounds began to close. I didn't stop casting my spell until his wounds were visibly healed. "There, all done," I said, satisfied as I stood back up but my vision suddenly went blurry and I began to see the world tilt over. But instead of dropping to the ground, I was caught in someone else's arms.

"Don't work yourself too hard," Ace spoke. "You've already used enough magic for the day. It's thanks to you that this situation isn't worse than it already is."

"Hah...what's with you? Stop being so nice. It's creepy," I spoke weakly.

"Don't get used to it either."

Nocturne stood and placed his hand on my head. "Thank you," he smiled. I returned his smile as I slowly regained my footing and left Ace's hold. "Let's rest up for a few hours," Nocturne suggested. "It wouldn't do us any good to keep going when we're exhausted."

We all decided to set up a small rest area using Aeris' magic to create a bed of grass for me to recover my strength. Aeris sat beside me, most likely to assess the status of my exhaustion and monitoring my magical recovery. I shut my eyes. I felt exhausted after releasing all my light magic.

"How are you feeling, Nocturne?" I heard Ren ask a few feet away.

"I'm perfectly fine now since Stella healed me."

There was a brief period of silence.

"How did you get that wound?"

"I got injured when fighting the undead."

Another brief pause.

"I didn't sense any undead when you left with Stella and you didn't have any wounds before that either."

Nocturne was silent now.

How did he get hurt when we got to the cave? There weren't any undead around the cave. And if there were any, then they would have been whipped out by my magic.

"It's nothing..." was all I heard him say.

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