Corruption

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Chapter 8

It was dark all around me. I could see a small tunnel of light. My body wobbled forward unsteadily. The sunlight brightened the entire area as I left the darkness. Not too far away, I noticed a figure under the shade of the tree. It looked weakened. I wanted to kill it. It would be such a simple prey. I couched low, hoping to not alert my prey. I lunged forward, slashing my large, black claws across its back. The prey muffled a cry of pain as it dropped to the ground. I stood behind it, giggling softly at my victory.

I woke to the sounds of birds chirping. The light of the sun stung at my eyes as I tried to adjust to the brightness. I was in the base of a tree, laying on a cushion of leaves and grass. What kind of dream was that? Slowly, I walked out from the tree, shaking the strange dream from my mind. I noticed the undead dire wolf laying nearby. It raised its head as it saw me stand up.

"You're finally awake," Zelgius spoke. He was sitting on a tree stump, carving something from a small block of wood that he held in his hand. "You should have something to eat. You've been asleep for a whole day." He pointed towards a small cauldron with boiling stew over a fire.

"Where did you get a cauldron?" I asked then paused momentarily. "You know how to cook?" I asked in surprise.

Zelgius shrugged. "I learned things while watching humans. As for the cauldron, I had to step into town for that."

I walked over to the cauldron and picked up a wooden bowl, most likely just carved by Zelgius, and scooped some stew. I sat down on a nearby rock and carefully begin to sip the stew. To my surprise, it was a rabbit stew. "Wow, Zelgius, this is delicious!" I exclaimed.

He smiled back at me kindly. "I'm happy they suit your tastes."

I then looked at the dire wolf, who was still observing me from its laying spot. "So, Zelgius, what do undead creatures eat?"

"Well, as I told you before, I feed on the life force of humans. I don't drink their blood like vampires but I drink their essence, or soul, if you will."

"No, I know that already. I'm asking what do undead wolf-bird hybrids eat."

Zelgius looked at the dire wolf and then turned back to me. "I don't know. You decided to make a hybrid-undead creature in the first place! There is no such thing as a 'crow-winged dire wolf'!"

"That's true." I pondered for a few moments. Then I called the wolf over. Happily, the dire wolf patted its way towards me. I picked a piece of rabbit meat from the stew and offered it to the wolf. The wolf sniffed the cooked meat then lapped it into its mouth with its tongue. It panted happily, waiting for another morsel. "Well, I guess since it's still a wolf, it's still a carnivore." Then, a thought suddenly came to mind. "I should probably give you a name, huh, wolf?" I thought for a moment and tapped my finger on my chin. "Noctis," I announced. "Your name will be Noctis," I nodded.

Noctis barked and licked the side of my face happily. Even though he was an undead creature, he was still pretty cute.

Zelgius stared at me. "Are you sure you want to give it a name?"

"Is there a problem?"

"I think giving it a name similar to your past companion would seem to be a bit of a complex. Perhaps you miss them."

I looked at the Wight. After a few moments of silence, I began chuckling. "Hah, miss them? I don't need weaklings at my side. I have power beyond my imagination. And I'm just fine with you and Noctis." Plus, it's not as if they can stay by my side any longer...

Zelgius eyed me doubtfully. "If you say so, Demon King."

"M-monster!"

I quickly turned my head and noticed a young boy standing nearby. His hands gripped a small, wooden branch.

"I-I saw you! You killed two people in the back of an alley," the boy accused.

I looked at Zelgius but he simply replied my stare with a simple shrug.

"You," he turned to me. "You're also a monster, too, if you're with that thing!"

I stood from the rock and approached the boy, towering over him. "Well then, you better run, boy, 'cause I'll be eating you next!' I grinned.

The boy stared at me with wide eyes. His entire body trembling at my presence. He immediately dropped his stick and began running away without glancing back.

I laughed as I sat back down, eating my rabbit stew. "Next time, you better be more careful about where and when you eat. It'll be troublesome to have to be chased around by humans."

"So you're the type of person who likes to scare little children?" Zelgius asked in a monotone voice, ignoring my words, as he returned to carving the woodblock in his hand.

"Hey, I have to entertain myself in any way possible. Why should I just let a little brat run his mouth about and have to deal with that?"

"You must be the younger of the nobles..."

I looked at him curiously. "Why do you say that?"

"Just the way you treated that young boy." Soon after, he began blowing on the wooden object in his hand. "There, it's finished."

"What did you make?" I asked curiously. He held the small item for me to see. "Oh, you made a small flute! Can you play it?"

Zelgius replied with a simple shrug. "I'll figure out the sounds. It'll probably be a little off since it's my first time making one."

"Anyways, where's the next location? We'll start heading over there now."

"You don't wish for me to teleport us?"

"If I keep eating and not doing any exercise, I'll get fat. I can't be a fat Demon King!"

Zelgius chuckled, "as you wish, my King."


We walked deep within the forest. Zelgius experimented with the sounds of his new flute while we travelled. It felt great to stretch out my entire body after sleeping for an entire day. I wonder how long I can go with just purifying the shadow magic and passing out right after. It really doesn't seem like the most secure method...

"How did that sound, Stella?" Zelgius asked.

"What? Sorry, I was thinking about something."

Zelgius sighed. "My playing aside, we're here."

I looked around our location. We were standing at a mountain side which had a small waterfall rushing down into a small lake. The shadow magic here wasn't very heavy. Most of the air felt almost normal. I should be fine with absorbing this amount of shadow magic, right?

I shut my eyes and held out my left hand and began calling the shadow magic in the area. I took slow, deep breaths as I imagined the magic funneling into my palm like a whirlpool. My palm felt warm. The warmth then began travelling up my arm and towards the core of my body. The feeling was like a rush of adrenaline. It felt amazing.

My eyes opened as I scanned my surroundings. The area was now pure of shadow magic. I smiled at myself with the wonderful feelings swelling from within.

"Well, well, what do we have here?" spoke a rough-looking man. Behind him followed three other men, holding their weapons.

I felt my mood turn sour. Bandits...how irritating.

Noctis began growling at the unpleasant group. But I signaled him to calm himself with my hand. "Leave, bandits."

The front bandit, who I assumed was the leader, began laughing. "You're a funny little lady, aren't you?" He pulled a long scimitar from his belt and aimed it at me. "Hand over all your belongings or else things'll get ugly."

I looked at him, unimpressed. Are these bandits stupid? We didn't even look like we were wealthy travelers in any way possible. Probably the most expensive thing we had was a tiny cauldron which Zelgius carried in his bag. "We don't have any money," I spoke.

"Hey boss," one of the underlings spoke up, "that girl 's got a nice looking face. I'm sure we can fetch a nice price if we sell her."

The leader placed his blade against my chin and forced me to turn my face to the side. He grinned, pleased by what he saw. "Well, then, I guess we'll just have to take you instead." The bandit leader immediately grabbed my arm, but I quickly swatted him away.

"Why don't I give you something else to play with?" I spoke as I began summoning the shadow magic.

Suddenly, bony hands sprouted from the ground. The bandits stared at the ground in horror. Soon, four skeletons emerged in front of me, wielding swords made of bone.

"N-necromancer!" cried an underling.

"W-witch!" accused the leader as he pointed his sword to me, preparing his attack.

But before he could take a step towards me, the skeletons jumped forward, attacking the bandits. The bandits shrieked in terror. They fended off the skeletons, but once they saw the opportunity, they made their escape.

I laughed at the bandits who turned tail and ran. "Haha, how pathetic! Come back when you grow some backbone!" I then shot an orb of light magic at the skeletons, turning them to dust where they stood.

Zelgius sighed. "Not only do you bully children, but adults, too? You must have been a spoiled child."

I could feel my cheeks go red. "I-I'm not bullying them! It was self-defense, okay?"

"Yes, yes, as you say."

I rolled my eyes at the Wight. "Really, if you didn't have your uses, I'd turn you and your annoying mouth into ashes by now. Anyways, since there's a pond here, I'm going to bathe. Keep a lookout in case someone or something comes nearby, Noctis."

"You're not asking me to keep watch?" Zelgius blinked in surprise.

"Noctis seems to be a lot more reliable in alerting me of our surroundings than you are."

Zelgius smiled helplessly. "Well, please enjoy your bath then."


At the waterfall, I began stripping off my clothes. I let the water run into my cupped hands before I splashed it on to my face. The water felt refreshing. I slowly entered the lake. The water was cold but the chill was soothing to my skin. As I adjusted to the water's temperature, I made my way beneath the waterfall, allowing the water to run over the back of my head. I closed my eyes and held my hands together over my chest and began to gather my thoughts.

Why did I summon undead creatures to fight for me? I could have told Noctis to scare them away, yet I chose to perform necromancy. What's wrong with me? If I continue to absorb shadow magic, will I, too, lose all sense like all the past Demon Kings?

Suddenly, screams began to echo in the air. I quickly opened my eyes and looked in the direction of the sound. I could see black smoke rising into the sky. "Someone's in trouble." I rushed out of the water and hastily dressed myself. After I was modestly covered up, I ran towards the location of the black smoke, passing my Zelgius who was sitting on the ground nearby.

"Hey!" I heard Zelgius cry out. But I ignored him and continued onward. Noctis was swiftly at my side, following my pace.

As I continued to run, the cries became louder and louder. Then my feet stopped. I stood at the edge of a small village. But what I saw was a terrifying sight to behold. It was as if Hell was loose on Earth. I could see demons, of differing variety, attacking the humans. They devoured the people without a second thought. Blood painted the ground. Flames consumed homes and crops. I could feel the shadow magic thick in the air.

Angrily, I lashed out my arm. I flung out a large, black shadow blade that I had formed with shadow magic. It chopped through the demons, slicing their bodies in half. Their upper bodies dropped heavily on the ground. As they noticed me, they began dragging their bodies towards where I stood.

"You think you can challenge me? Pathetic demons. Get out of my sight." I unleashed dozens of orbs of light, shooting them from my palm like a small cannon. Each attack instantly turned the demons into a pile of ashes. Soon enough, no demons remained. Either they ran or turned to dust. All that was remnant was the shadow magic wafting about in the air.

My body froze. I used shadow magic again...without thinking... But I immediately shook the thoughts from my head as I started to walk around the small village, in hopes of finding any survivors.

"M-miss..."

I immediately turned my head towards a pile of rubble. There was a small child buried underneath. A puddle of blood seeped beneath her. She clutched on to her little stuffed bear. I kneeled down towards the child. Her legs are crushed. And she's suffering from too much blood loss. There’s no way to save her.

"T-thank...you," she whispered weakly. "You drove...the demons...away from our village..."

"Are you sure that I'm not a demon like them?" I looked at myself, through her small eyes. My purple eyes were glowing lightly. My black hair blew casually in the wind.

The girl smiled as much as she could through her pain. "If...you were a demon...you wouldn't...have helped...us..." Her words, much softer as she spoke her last sentence. Slowly, the child's eyes drooped lower. They soon closed, never to open again.

I stood back on my feet. The innocent shouldn't have to get involved by this. All this damned magic... It's too cruel. I have to purify the shadow magic quickly so no one else has to fall victim to the undead.

I summoned my light magic and allowed it to slowly leave my body, like ripples spreading on a water's surface. The light magic spread throughout the entire village, removing all the shadow magic other than mine and Noctis'.

Noctis began to whine softly as he nudged his nose against my side. I placed my hand on his head, stroking him gently.

"Miss, are you alright?" I heard a voice ask from behind me. "What happened here?"

I peeked at the stranger from behind my hair. It's Ren?! What's he doing here? His footsteps stopped a few feet away from where I stood. Did he notice the shadow magic seeping from me? Did he see me purify the shadow magic? Or maybe he's suspicious of Noctis? He shouldn't be able to recognize me, right? He's the only noble that hasn't seen how I've changed.

"Hello, miss?"

"Demons," I spoke softly, keeping my back to him, "they attacked this village. There aren't any survivors." I started to walk away, but stopped momentarily. "Please, make a proper burial for this village." I continued my walk, leaving the village.

Suddenly, man stood in my path. "Where do you think you're going, Stella?"

I looked up at the man. "...Nocturne."

"Stella?" Ren spoke from behind me.

I hesitated. All I could do was stare at Nocturne. It's probably been a few days since I last saw him, a week and a half at most. But, it felt like eons ago. I observed him thoroughly. His wounds seemed to have all healed now. I felt relieved that he was no longer injured.

"Stella," Nocturne took a step towards me.

I immediately took a step back, but recalled that Ren stood a few feet behind me. "Noctis!" I called out in my panic. The undead wolf immediately spread its wings as I climbed on to his back. With a single flap, we left the ground.


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