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29

Bodies upon body parts rained down upon the oncoming army. Shell after shell, missile after missile was pumped into the annoying menace, but there seemed no end to their number. For every three they killed, there were thirty warbling and dancing into place. The duo, with Mel’s two shadows, managed to make it into the courtyard, rising on an ever-growing pile of corpses, gunning down the putty men that tried to claw their way up to them, ripping and tearing their way up the mound of death with no care.

They no longer hummed their song but Daisy made a floating speaker, blasting through the courtyard, booming and bounding back, only muffled by the blasts of Mel’s shotgun and the whine of her charging blast. She sent another missile right into the horde, white viscera splattering all. Mel already took note of the thick, white layer on her chest, but he no longer hunched over, allowing his monolith to stand proud among the dead, too excited by the number of dead putty men anyways.

“Damn,” Daisy said. “That was my last missile.”

“Don’t feel too bad,” Mel said, loading six more shells out of his suitcase. “I’m down to one line.”

“Then stop wasting ammo and find the cause, dumbass,” Saliim exclaimed. “There has to be a source; that’s what you should have been focused on!”

“You know, she has a point.”

“Yup, but this is way too much fun,” Daisy said. A putty man managed to climb over the top, warbling its annoying cheer, but a quick shotgun blast to the chest fixed that. Daisy grabbed it before it was repelled off the mountain, spun it around, and planted its face into the mountain. She stepped on its back, planting her foot firmly between its cheeks, and held up her gun. The cobalt metal shined again, fading away from her arm and focusing into her palm, stretching, widening out into a blue lance. “See you at the bottom.”

Daisy winked at him, then kicked off, holding the lance firmly before her as she slid down the bodies and into the mass. One, two, three four five; putty after putty man was impaled in the slide. The lance flashed white, and the putty men attached to its metal had enough time to gasp before they were turned to ash, allowing the next round onto the pointy stick. Those on the sides were blasted away by wind, swirling and howling after... taking the speaker with her.

“Hey... that looks fun,” Mel whined, and looked down at the putty men. Most had stopped their climb, looking after the carnage and havoc Daisy was wreaking. In other words, COMPLETELY IGNORING HIM. “Will one of you dumbasses hurry up and get up here? I need a snowboard, too.”

None of them seemed to pay his words any mind, though, still staring after Daisy still sliding through the courtyard, turning all before her into ash- no! They did worse than ignore him. They completely forgot about him! They started to climb down, to give chase after her; this will not do! Not at all.

“Fine! You jobbing bastards want to forget all about me? I’ll just make use of those already dead. Recycling, all that junk.” He shouldered his gun, slid his suitcase back into his robes, and raised his left hand. Purple energy oozed from it, dribbling onto the mountain of putty men underneath, staining, corrupting and spreading wherever it touched. The dribble soon became a full squall, raining down upon the mound, and it wasn’t long before the entirety looked like a purple head.

It rumbled, shuddered, and, with an eerie groan, transformed. Four legs spread from the mountain, flattening out, lowering as they grew. The front legs didn’t change much, but the back ones became immense, thick and meaty. The body sloped to accommodate, becoming almost spade-like in shape, and the final change was at the front, on either side of where he stood. Two, great, white orbs protruded from the entirety, shining bright, burning light down upon all that were before it.

“You can have your snowboard,” Mel said, and the purple energy snared his... and Brin’s feet. “I always preferred leap frog!”

The purple frog bellowed a croak, sending all putty men around flying into the walls and arches of the courtyard. The ground quaked as its back legs tensed, cracking as it leaped. Saliim grabbed onto Mel’s shoulders, screaming as wind rushed passed them... and only then did Mel realize that this was probably a bad idea. J... just a touch... the “frog” jumped entirely over the courtyard. In fact, it jumped over the left wall of the Institute, and continued to fly into the abyss beyond.

All that was left was to wait for it to hit the limit and he would be transported back to the courtyard to start anew... Taking its time though... How high did they actually leap! Yes, the Institute was little more than a speck below, even now as they fell, but it didn’t seem that high... Still a speck. Still falling. Hmm... Maybe now would be a wonderful time to post facts, learned from Professor Molly! Did you know that the world was once flat? Well, the great magus Pontius Gyromeld did not appreciate his trade ships always falling over the edge since they kept mishearing west as weast so instead of fixing his speech impediment he decided to make the world round, instead. Can’t fall off something that doesn’t have an edge... Sadly, this lead to many natural disasters, and two main ports of business (Herculaneum and Pompeii) went up in smoke. Did you, also, know that humans had the capacity to live hundreds of years before? Well, Lirius the Pestilent didn’t like that fact. She thought only those with Gifts should be able to live more than a century, so she cursed humanity with frailty. To this day, she is still isolated on a tiny island off the coast of Japan for what she did, to think about what she’s done. Her sister, Oliren the Famished, has an island right beside her for, also, cursing humanity with unending hunger. She’s allowed to keep a cappuccino machine, however, because the hunger wasn’t only the physical kind but ambition and progression. For the fourth fact, did you-

Finally!

The “frog” landed with a crash... but not in the courtyard. The spell took the putty men back to where they originated, in the dark undercroft of the Institute. Sadly, putty men aren’t the most durable of building materials, so they crumpled into nothing, leaving Mel, Brin, and Saliim in those dark, stony depths. Where there were once sconces to house flames were now rusted and forgotten. Even then, when there was light, it wasn’t much to look at. Just old, crumbling stone left to rot away and cause the entire Institute to collapse once it did. This raised an interesting point for Mel: why weren’t these underground infrastructures taken care of better? It’s always the same, in movies, games, books, TV shows. You name it; these locations are always so derelict, so decrepit. Don’t they realize that, unless you take care of them, they will lead to the destruction of what you keep pretty above. It’s not like it needs a lot of work, either! Have ten or twenty people go down for five to ten minutes a day, do maintenance, a bit of light cleaning. It never fails, either, that such places, also, house something important to the overall building, so it just seems like good s-

“You okay, master?” Brin whispered, shaking his shoulder.

“No! I’m pissed,” he said. A pale blue orb rose from his hand, washing the old, grimy stone in its soft light. They were at a four-way, right under an entry to one of the towers. Considering he couldn’t see through the tippy-top, it was most likely not his tower, which left Daisy’s and... there wasn’t an entry in Benjamin’s, so that only left Daisy’s, yeah. “I lost my frog, and was left with an existential question that would be considered meta if I was in a book or something.”

“So, you found me,” a random... squeaky voice said... Mel turned around, looking at the passage leading to... the dining hall? It’s hard to tell down here; at best, he could say it was the southern path. However, he could not see anything in that direction. Odd; he could have sworn he heard it- “Hey! Down here.”

Mel looked down... and was even more confused. It looked to be a blob of red jam, but a blob that had been forgotten on the carpet and grew over time. It was easily as big as a cat, as round as a watermelon, and seemed to have two, racist lines for eyes. It hopped into the light, showing that it had a small swirl on its head, flowing backwards down its spherical body.

“Greetings, Mel Llorwyn. I have been wanting this chance of us to meet,” the blob said.

“S... should I be flattered or confused that a raspberry tart wanted to meet me?”

“I’m not a raspberry tart! I’m a slime.”

“I don’t know...” Mel knelt and stuck his finger through the blob’s swirl. It was squishy yet liquid, sending ripples through its entire body. He pulled out the smallest chunk and tasted it. “Ah! You’re right. You are actually cherry- no wait... cherry-lime.”

“D... did you... did you really just TASTE me- stop that!”

“I can’t help it. You’re delicious.”

Mel reached for it again, but it hopped back a step, just out of reach.

“You are as... eccentric as my master said you were.”

“And who would that be?”

“He never gave me his name-”

“Ah, but it’s at least a man!”

The slime spluttered, little steam clouds forming by its head.

“I am trying to be friendly here, but you are really pushing it.”

“Welcome to my world,” Saliim grumbled.

“Yes, this is about your world. For now, though, this dimension.” A map appeared above the slime, showing the Institute and several pegs, each for a different target. One had a crown on it, and, from where it was on the map, it could be deduced that it was for the slime. “You see, I have a great plan. With your aid, we can overthrow my master and this entire dimension. Then, we can hunt down the other pocket dimensions, amass a magical army, and take over the real world, returning it to the way it once was: a paradise for all magical creatures and beings.” The map disappeared, and the slime bounced forward again, its cheeks brighter than normal. “You have shown your merit. You took down my putty army like it was nothing. You and that Daisy woman; once she gets here, I’ll be offering her the same deal.”

“And what would that be?” Mel said.

“It’s simple really: you serve under me, help me take over the world, and you may live.”

Mel... stole another taste, forcing the slime to hop back.

“Serve you, huh?” He said, licking his finger clean. “A cherry-lime jelly?”

More steam clouds appeared around the creature.

“I’m not a cherry-lime jelly! I’m. Just. A. Slime! No! Wait. I’m not... just a... slime.” The slime went quiet as Mel shook a can then turned it over on its head. It hissed a moment, and slowly, carefully Mel put the contents on the top of the slime’s head, ending in a little twist. “W... what did you just do?”

“I put whipped cream on your head.”

“Y... you did WHAT!”

“Thought a bit of sweetness would balance out the tang. Plus, you look even more delicious.”

Now the slime was really starting to steam. The whipped cream melted fast as more and more steam puffed from it, and it splattered the walls around in the dairy product as it bounced.

“Will you quit it? I will not be eaten!”

“Not with that attitude.”

“If you’re not careful, I’ll eat you.”

“You don’t want to do that. I’m stringy and must taste terrible after bathing in so much putty blood.”

“It doesn’t matter. I’m a slime! We don’t have tastebuds.”

Mel hummed, and threw the can of whipped cream aside. Who cared if he littered down here in the undercroft?

“So, this deal of yours. I serve you... and you let me live? Am I right in assuming that means if I don’t you kill me?”

“That is exactly the case. You would be a threat to my plan.”

“Trust me, little slime. He would be a threat regardless,” Saliim said.

The slime turned to her, cocking its head... and what was left of the whipped cream on its head became a mohawk, turning, flopping alongside.

“You should be on my side in this, Saliim,” it said. “I can release you from your bond. You too, Brin.”

“Y-you can?”

“Yes. If I take care of him, you two would be free to return to your lives.”

“And how would you take care of him?” Brin said.

“It’s quite simple. I have the ability to eat anything and gain its power, as well as sever any and all ties attached to it. My fool of a master summoned me, thinking I was but a simple minion summoner, but he didn’t realize that I am no ordinary slime.”

“Of course not. You’re d-” Mel began, but the slime cut him off.

“I am a blessed slime! A slime with a name! I am Firenze Holocaust- why are you laughing? S...stop laughing! Stop it!”

Mel couldn’t, though. His chest, his stomach ached from how hard he was laughing, made all the worse with how high-pitched its voice was. His laughter shook the stone around, making dust fall as it bounded into the distance, swallowed by the shadows before it could return. The gate above opened, and Daisy dropped in, coated in more ash than blood now.

“Hey! You missed the party,” she said, patting Mel’s shoulder. “What’s happening down here?”

“Oh, you know, the usual,” Mel managed to say, settling himself at last. He wiped a tear from his eye, waving his hand lackadaisically at the slime. “Made a giant frog out of body parts, went out of bounds, ended up down here with Cherry-lime Hitler saying it was going to eat me unless I became its slave.”

“Is it Tuesday already?”

The slime now glowed white-hot, the whipped cream on its head reduced to a puddle around it, boiling away.

“You do know that holocaust has two meanings, right?”

“Yeah, yeah,” Mel said. “You know, now I have to stop you on principle. I don’t want you to concentrate the juice. It’s already been concentrated enough.”

“Alright! That’s it. No deal for you. However, you still have a chance, Daisy. You can serve me and live.”

“Serve a slime?” Daisy said, kneeling to it... and she, also, stuck her finger into its head, tasting it. “Yum! Is that whipped cream?”

“Yup,” Mel said.

“It complemented it perfectly.”

“I know, right?”

The slime growled, which only brought a new wave of pain onto Mel: The GIGGLES. Its growling only deepened alongside them, its body rippling, boiling as fire finally frothed from its top.

“You two are the same, aren’t you?” It exclaimed.

“Nah. She’s way worse than me,” Mel said.

“It’s true,” Daisy said, giggling, and crossed her arms behind her head. “But I wouldn’t be without him, so... we’re about even, yeah.”

“Her crazy feeds my crazy which feeds hers.”

“In that case, I’m going to devour both of you at the same time!” The slime boomed, and its once pristine, orb-shaped body exploded out. Fire and cherry-lime jam expanded the entire room, roaring like the ocean as it bore down like a wave on them.

Mel gasped, looked to Daisy, and the rock underneath her erupted, blasting her back up into the tower. Saliim and Brin weren’t far behind, leaving Mel to be taken by the cherry-lime wave. It slammed into him, swallowed him into its depths, deepening quickly to darkness as it pulled him under.

So, this is how I die, he thought, spiraling into the depths, still buffeted by the tide, bashing into him hard enough for his bones to pop and crack. Won’t lie: being eaten by cherry-lime gelatin was not on my list of ways to go. Raspberry? Sure. Banana-cream pie? Classic... This was... almost as unexpected as the Spanish Inquisition-

“Hola!” A dozen voices said at once. From the darkness, light spilled forth, and a wave of red-robed individuals charged in. The slime went flying, freeing him, and he plopped onto the grimy marble floor of the undercroft, filled to the brim with... with... “No one out-unexpects the Spanish Inquisition!”

The robed conquistadors laughed, then charged away into the undercroft, leaving him with the remains of the slime, scattered around. The gate above boomed open, and Daisy, Saliim, and Brin jumped down. Saliim and Daisy aided Mel to his feet, but Mel was too focused licking his hands clean.

“Dude,” Saliim said, flat.

“It really is delicious,” he said, suckling his thumb, making sure to get every morsel out from under his nail. It popped out once he did, and turned to Daisy... looking a little down. “What? What’s the matter?”

“You... you saved me.” She scoffed, and punched him in the shoulder. “You jerk! What if you had really died? I’d be out of a card buddy and a boyfriend –in that order.”

“Eh. It’s my luck. I knew something dumb would save me. Always d-”

“Look out!” Brin shrieked. Mel only had a second to look back, and he saw that a fraction of the slime had survived and had spread out to try to devour them again. Him, Daisy, and Saliim fell to the stone, shoved aside by Brin, and the brave succubus jumped into the wave, wreathed in black fire.

“Brin! What do you think you’re doing?” Saliim shrieked.

She... didn’t say anything. Her eyes were locked on Mel, the fire rippling in them again, but a single tear managed to escape it, glittering like a diamond as it pattered onto the stone right before the slime consumed her. It returned to its spherical form, turning towards the three... but it shuddered violently. It gasped, exclaimed, questioned incoherently as it started to smoke and blacken, reduced to helpless shrieks as it shrunk ever smaller before becoming a single, solitary husk before even that turned to smoke.

“B... Brin?” Mel said at last. He shook his head, his heart hammering away, fighting so hard to keep from falling. Tears welled in his eyes, mind fighting to come up with an answer, tracing long, elaborate mazes around the cold truth that was truly before him. “Brin? You can regenerate now. Come on... Okay. I get It. We’ll go back to the room and you can paint the walls red again, so just come out... Brin?”

“L...let’s get you back to the room, master,” Saliim said, grunting as she goaded him to take a step. He hadn’t realized it, but his body had gotten significantly heavier in a short span of time.

“You’re right. She would totally be waiting there... Rain check on that card game, Daisy?”

“A...and the date, yeah,” she said.

“Good. Now, let’s go see Brin.”

Spoilers: Brin wasn’t up in the room.

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