Rinko was never a patient girl. First off, Luke had been a sarcastic piece of human excrement for three hours straight, and if she had not applied the stinging ointment onto his arm, he wouldn't have shut up. Second, the twins were basically girl versions of Luke, except the snarky attitude had been replaced by stoic faces and monotone voices, complete with blunt comments. To ensure they would stay quiet, Rinko had summoned a small being of fire whom she dubbed "Pyra", and said small fire entity was hovering around the room. It had resembled Cendrillion by a bit because of it's physical characteristics, except it was smaller and it's hair were tied into twin tails, giving it an overall childish aspect.
Pyra was summoned to distract Abby and Ally. And it worked. Pyra was small enough to be considered cute and had amused the twins simply by performing simple fire magic that had formed tiny, glittering, harmless stars. As Rinko was a sorceress, she was able to summon small living objects with just a flick of her fingers. Pyra continued to perform simple tricks with her limited ability to use magic as had just Rinko finished taking notes of the marking that appeared in Luke's arm. She flicked a few pages of a worn-out book that was in her bag earlier, and once it stopped in one particular page, Rinko only made a silent coughing noise and had told Luke bluntly;
"So.. you're gonna die, apparently."
And the way everyone in the room reacted was utterly hilarious in Rinko's opinion. Pyra had spontaneously exploded in the middle of the room due to Rinko clapping her hands together, the twins had dropped their stoic faces in exchange for a rather fish-like look (meaning their mouths were hanging agape), and Luke was the first to explode in a not literal way by making a loud noise which was categorized as a scream, if Rinko guessed correctly. With a scowl, she grabbed a long piece of fabric and used it to squeeze his arm. Again, Luke screamed, the ointment burning the mark. God, was that the only thing he could do? Scream like a little girl? Oh wait, no, that would be a disgrace to actual little girls who screamed even manlier than this poor excuse of a prince. "Watch it, Aorin!"
"Whoever the heck this 'Aorin' is, I keep tellin' you, I'm not her. For the love of god, Prince Lucas, you had been referrin' to me by that name ever since I got here. And whenever I ask those twins," She glared at the finally-calmed twins at the other corner of the room, disappointed that Pyra wasn't there. "They would say something irrelevant or anything to push the topic off. Not that I care, but unless you want me to make sure your blood's still runnin' smoothly, refer to me by my actual name. For all I know, this 'Aorin' person could be your girlfriend-"
"She is not! She is an incompetent brat who has been kidnapped, and you just happen to act like her to the point you are an exact copy despite your looks! And I need my personal assassin to carry out my duties, otherwise, I might have to replace her with these two so-called women who even act as if they never had a single ounce of enjoyment in their pitiful lives!"
"With you, nothing is enjoyable." Both twins chorused in a sing-song way, obviously not hurt by the statement. Rather, they were amused by how Luke had easily gotten flustered by the comment of the young sorceress.
Rinko ignored them and continued to poke around Luke's arm. "You seemed to have been affected by a ritual known as Linking. It was the only way to get this mark on your arm. Do you know what Linking is?" She asked. While the twins looked confused, Luke looked as if he was ran over by a carriage of realization. "So you do. But to spare those two from confusion, lemme summarize it." She waved her book around for emphasis, flipping through the pages of the worn out book. "Back in the day up until now, people created a process known as Linking to share their life spans. By doing so, their abilities and powers are also combined, making them stronger. The downside is, if on of them dies, the other does too."
"Chain Link! Commence! By the power of a member of the Apollo family, I announce the linking of two individuals from two different families, families who are destined to lighten the dark! Aorin of the Apollo Family, Zack of the Hilbert Family. Destined to be demon slayers, those who rid of the shadows that roam the earth! I, Wallace Apollo, as a member of one of the families, whose duties regard of the erasure of demons, use my power as a demon slayer to form the bond between these two, a bond that shares their life! Link Partners! Aorin, if you were to die, Zack would come soon after you. Zack, if you were to die, Aorin would fail her destined mission as a member of the Apollo Family, protectors of members of the Hilbert Family. Part of our destiny is to share a life with a member from the opposite family, and we are the only ones that are able to rid off demons. I now link your lives together! From now on, your survival is limited! Chain Link!"
That was what Wallace announced earlier. Luke remembered it clearly. How couldn't he? He was dragging the younger boy earlier and with a cry that came out from said boy's mouth, Wallace's protective side went crazy and he forced the two of them to link.
"The Linking Ritual is exclusive to members of two families known as the Apollo Clan and the Hilbert Family. When members of either family are born, they have things on their necks to state what family they're from; Apollo members have tattoos, Hilbert members have neck chains." She took out something from the bag she bought. It was a small bottle with purple liquid. She opened the bottle and poured some of the liquid onto Luke's arm. The liquid was nothing special; it was to cool down the stringing sensation of the previous ointment. "Linking is a process of sharing their life. And as I said, it's exclusive to members who were born into the family, or married to a member of either family. When a non-member or an outsider is nearby when the Linking Process initiates, they get the same weird mark as the prince here." She rubbed the liquid on the tattoo roughly with a fabric she had taken out of her bag. "Though you believe elemental deities exist, did you know there are also such things as," She paused to apply more of the liquid onto Luke's arm. The twins looked at her with interest sparkling in their eyes, but Luke merely scowled.
How did this girl know so much about the process of pain that Wallace had bought onto Aorin and Zack?
With a slight, almost-sadistic smirk, she managed to ask the question to the three people in the room, her eyes sparkling with a bit of mischief. "Did you know? There are things known as demons that roam around the land of the living and breathing? And they are going to kill you by the end of the year and use your body as their own? Cool stuff, huh?"
Another loud shriek pierced through the tension, a tension so thick that it could have been cut by a knife. That proved her point; screeching was the only humane thing Luke could do. She had instantly regretted learning about the ways of being a sorceress, honestly. If she knew she had to deal with healing people that screeched as if they were fingernails against a chalkboard, she wouldn't have wanted this job in the first place. "Oh, do shut up." She groaned.
Aorin stood in front of the building with a rather uninterested frown that was hiding her pained expression. She wasn't interested in meeting the mayor of this blindingly bright town, because this town's source of light, which was the sun itself, was the very cause of her intense headache right now. She needing something, like glasses with black tints on the lenses, to lessen the pain and to block the ray of sunshine the sun was delivering to her eyes. Heck, she wasn't looking at the sun directly, but it was beyond painful to even go wide-eyed at anything the town had to offer her eyes!
Or maybe it's because she was accustomed to the cold darkness and not the warm, colorful atmosphere. Unlike Zack, who seemingly had no problem about the cheerful town and was acting as normal as she saw him at his own kingdom. She wanted to summon Cierra just to drown this town in eternal darkness, but Zitomir told them to keep a low profile. And if she were to summon Cierra at this instant and attract the attention and fear of the townspeople, she could always sacrifice Zack to save herself. Then again, they'd execute him for disrupting the peace, and if Zack dies, so does she.
What's the point in doing that when she's going to die either way? Her selfishness couldn't save her this time, unfortunately. "Argh, damn that blinding star on the sky, I prefer the darkness over this shit. Zack." She called out to her partner. "You do the knocking the door and stuff. I prefer this town when it's night, and I can't focus when the sun's rays are trying to pierce both of my sensitive eyes. I'll do the talking and introductions later since I know you'll turn into a stuttering mess. Oh, and try to avoid being too suspicious."
Zack nodded shyly, brushing some of his bangs off his eyes. He was thankful for the hairclips holding some strands of his hair on place. "Oh, um, okay. Here goes.." Zack gently knocked on the door of the town hall building, so gentle that the knocks had been barely audible to Aorin. But instead of someone answering the door, the door eerily creaked open, and without anything else to do, Zack meekly looked at Aorin. He made an unsure whimper, almost like a kicked puppy. "Um.. Aorin? What do we do now? The door's open.." He seemed to be freaked on how the door simply opened, when it looked like it was fixed enough to be locked properly.
Aorin shrugged, wanting to get inside to avoid the bright sun. "We get in, naturally." She nudged Zack gently inside and shut the door, letting the older teen lead the way. She was a bit surprised that Zack finally pronounced her name right, but that didn't make her mood feel any better. She preferred the meek teenager getting her name wrong over the harmful rays of the sun.
Why had her mood gotten more sour once they stepped inside? Because the halls were as bright as the ones at the Hieran Empire with glittering, sun-shaped diamonds crested upon the gleaming, golden walls. Zack scratched the back of his head awkwardly, a nervous smile stretching onto his face. Aorin covered her entire face with her palms and as hard as she held her internal screaming earlier, she screamed onto her palms which were muffled. "Dear god, kill me now. Screw this shit."
Zack chuckled nervously. "Oh dear.. this town is rather focused on making every inch of their buildings shine bright like the stars themselves. I shall head on to where the town's mayor resides. Are you alright, Aorin?"
"Fine. Lead the way, you're a tad bit taller, so you might be able to block the light. Knock on the doors, 'cuz I'm pretty sure we're gonna get arrested if you let me kick the door down.."
Wallace and Zitomir had managed to leave the Hieran Empire. Wallace's and William's plan had went as smooth as they planned it; William had sent the soldiers back to the Aurien Empire, saying he would "look" for the prince himself. William assured his nephew that he would find a place for Ashe to stay at until the demon inside him were to be removed. Zitomir had suggested that they look for the new slayers first, just in case. Because other than the strong demon possessing Ashe, they knew that the demons from hell sensed the awakening of their master.. and had escaped hell to intrude their land.
The demon inside Ashe was their leader. "Shit. If the one possessing him is their leader, there's a chance it can kill off whatever is left of Ashe's soul once the seal has been broken." Zitomir cursed as he remembered. "You sure your uncle would be fine with a demon like that? He seemed rather unfazed by your attacks.. even if Ashe's soul would be free for a rather generous amount of time, he would still experience the side affects. If we're unlucky enough, the demon might break the seal before we train those two.. I'd hate to see them dead."
"You think I'd want to?" Wallace growled, his patience instantly dropping at the thought. "You think I don't care for Zack? You think I don't care for Aorin?! Zack, besides being your brother, had been my best friend even before he lost his memories! Do you think I didn't feel immense pain when I found him at the empire and he didn't recognize my face?! Do you know how much it hurt whenever that damn Ashenigma slapped him across the face and I wasn't allowed to do anything because I was merely disguising as a butler?! Do you know how much it hurt to see someone as young as Aorin, as a family member of mine, get used to seeing so much blood shed and she was merely indifferent?! You think I wanted this, wanted Zack to be hunted, wanted Aorin to be raised by a sadistic prince?!"
Zitomir stopped in his tracks. "What is wrong with you?!" Zitomir snapped back. "I didn't say anything about you being comfortable on seeing my brother and his partner dead! And how did you think I felt when I heard that you had to maintain undercover for an unknown amount of time just to ensure that my brother wouldn't die?! He's my baby brother, of course I was worried! But panicking wouldn't do anything now, wouldn't it? The clothes I made all those years were for him! I always made clothes for my brothers and their partners, I even made yours, which you've replaced with that hideous empire's uniform! But.. I wasn't able to make one for Zack, since he disappeared.. and to find out he was alive just gave me inspiration to keep doing so! And his partner.. they're both so young.." He grabbed Wallace by the shirt, pulling him close with a threatening glare. "Listen numbskull, you better be thankful that I'm not planning on telling your uncle or anyone else about your confession on how your attachment is no longer considered platonic. If you dare hurt my baby brother, I'm dragging you to hell with me."
Wallace snapped back into reality, the dark look disappearing and replacing it with Wally's more big-eyed expression. "I.. what in the hell.. came over me? I'm sorry, Zito! P-Put me down! Hey, that's painful! You're gonna rip my shirt!"
As if on cue, Zitomir smirked and dropped his serious facade to make a mischievous smile. "Just kidding. If your clothes rip, you'd be damn sure I would sew it back. And apology accepted, Wally! I guess you were stressed out, but take it out on Mother Nature, not me. Too pretty to handle your teenage problems." He waved his hand as if to dismiss him. "But what I said is true, Wally. If you hurt Zackie, kiss goodbye to your living body. I haven't seen him in years.. ah, he's so cute! I'm pretty sure my two younger brothers and my emotionless rock of an older brother would adore him as well!"
"Zachary, Zion, and Zolten, right? It's been awhile since I've seen them.. you know what, out of all of you, Zack is the most tolerable. At least he's polite and careful.. you're too flamboyant, Zachary has a huge stick up his ass, Zion barely smiles, and Zolten would probably burn someone's house just by attempting to sew." Wallace had no loosened up a bit, still feeling bad for his outburst.
"Rude. The four of them would be utterly unfashionable and suspicious-looking if not for me making them clothes that don't make them stand out too much. Anyway, I think we should take a break! I'm beat, and we need to give you new clothes to avoid suspicion on how you, a member of the Hieran empire, are traveling without permission from the prince. I doubt your uncle would make a story on how you and Zack disappeared. I don't sense anything bad, and I doubt a demon would still be roaming after hearing their leader got sealed once again. Unless they lack common sense and just want to take human bodies for their own self-gain, because some demons actually do that. Pathetic, huh? Desperate morons." He scoffed. "Oi, lemme measure you. Stand straight, chest out!"
Wallace wanted to decline by refusing to stand. He was fine with his clothes for now. But Zitomir thought otherwise and yanked him by the back of his coat and slammed him against a nearby tree, before tying him up with some linen fabric that had been stuffed mercilessly onto his bag. "You don't get a say in this, Wally; I wouldn't be caught dead walking with someone as unfashionable as you. Shut your trap and stop struggling, if I make a single mistake in my design, I'm forcing you to wear the dress I plan to give to Aorin."
The mayor of the bright town was just as bright, Aorin concluded as she slumped on the cough and rubbed her temples irritatingly. The mayor was a jolly old man that had worn a suit that was glittering to the point she wished to burn it from existence. The mayor had introduced himself as Velius Solarion III, an ancestor of the person who found Solaria Town, which had been a "damp dark place" at first. And Aorin preferred if the town had stayed that way instead of turning into some nausea-causing display meant to burn into her brain.
Zack had been polite to the man, which she was thankful for. The man had already taken a liking to him and had offered both him and Aorin some iced tea. "Um.. s-so our business in this rather lovely town is to ask you for a job. We are travelers from, uh.. somewhere far from here.. yes. And after an exhausting trip from the cave nearby, we decided to find a job that would do us good as travelers, because w-we can't stay in one place for too long." Because that man, my brother.. Zitomir, said so. If Ashe is really dangerous, then we need to stay as far from the empire as possible! And Prince Lucas too! He's utterly dangerous and probably sadistic! If he has assassins like Aorin in store, then she'll be labeled as a traitor if they find out she burned half their soldiers, alive, no less! If s-she dies, and so do I! This job is only meant for us to get money we'll need to survive long enough to keep on running! "We are skilled physically and have been taught some magic at our hometown, so we can prove to be useful to other towns."
"Magic users? Well, that's not very uncommon around town." Velius responded. "But young magic users? That sounds like the kind of companions that our town's alchemist is looking for." He chuckled. "She's a young girl that doesn't really accept help from anyone, unless they're younger than her, for some reason. And she's been wanting to travel around the world to study more about alchemy. And alchemy requires a lot of materials! Thing is, the woman doesn't know how to use more than one type of magic, which is only weapon enhancement. To gather most materials would require magic that is able to turn normal materials into better and enhanced materials."
"Which we both have. 'Twas part of our training in magic, as well as offense, support and healing." Aorin choked out, not liking the sweetened taste of the iced tea. "Plus, normal materials wouldn't work. Alchemy usually makes tree wood stronger and sturdier, and elemental magic usually affects anything positively made out of alchemy-enhanced materials. I can see where you're going with this." My headband was already made of steel, which makes it naturally sturdy. And Luke gets most of our equipment from traveling alchemists. With the steel already being strong, and being enhanced by alchemy would most likely make it sturdier than anything and near invincible. Luke was actually thinking things through with our weapons, what a smart ass. It was to ensure that our weapons would never break.. that did cost a lot of money though. "..So you want us to aid her in her alchemy study?"
"If it wouldn't be a problem, that is! I'll send in some of our town's messengers at any town you might visit to deliver money to you, the longer you help her. I think she'll appreciate the help too. Ah, yes. She lives on the secluded part of town. It's rather dark in there, but she states that it helps her focus better. You'll know her house when you see it. Just say that you want to help her with her research so she could finally travel. Once she accepts, please tell me so! I would like to see you off."
Zack shyly smiled. "W-Will do, sir. Thank you for the assistance!"
The duo left the sunny hill and back to the sunny town, where they started walking around to look for a more "secluded" part of it. It was already noon, and Aorin had already been struck by the sun more times than she pushed Luke off the stairs and actually got in trouble for it. She had managed to tolerate the cheerful morning for a few hours, but Aorin was still used to the gloomy atmosphere of the Aurien empire. Why shouldn't she? She grew up in that empire! "Glad that's gone and over with. I nearly lost my shit if that guy laughed one more damn time."
"Don't be so pessimistic.." Zack giggled nervously. "Sure, he was a bit.. um.. too happy for a normal mayor meeting with a couple of strangers. Too happy, not even Wally could be that happy. But he helped us with finding a job, as Zitomir suggested. I'm sure that whoever this alchemist is, she'll be nice to us.. or to you. I don't think her house is located in this area.. oh dear.. we.. forgot to ask him for her name, correct?"
Aorin blinked. Oh damn. "..Damn it. We did. The damn headache made me lose my common sense for five minutes." Aorin cursed, realizing her mistake. Uh, but it's gonna take ages to climb up that hill again, with this kind of sunlight blinding my damn eyes. And it'll be a complete waste of time too. I could send Zack back in there, but that'll be risky; if our lives are linked from now on, I can't take any chances. We'll have to stick together if we want to live through this to find our families. "Well, no use in going back to that eye-bleeding house of his. Let's just look around and hope to find- What in the ever living hell is that over there?"
"Zack. Look. Up in the hill, where the mayor is."
Zack was confused but before he had a chance to turn, the chain around his neck suddenly tightened. He gasped and fell to the cobblestone floor with a pained screech. Forcing himself to look upwards, he saw a large black shadow-like figure, looming behind the mayor's house eerily. Before he could react to the creature, the townspeople had taken notice of the creature that seemed out of place in their bright town. A woman screeched, and soon enough, everyone was on the verge of panic. In just a few seconds, the sun had been blocked by what seemed to be an eclipse, leaving the town shrouded in utter darkness.
"The mayor's still up in there!"
"Ahhhh! What is that thing?!"
"Everyone, leave the town immediately!"
The tattoo on Aorin's neck burned slightly, and she hissed as she placed her palm against it. "Fuck! What the hell is this?! Wallace didn't say anything about continuous burning in the neck area! Ngh!" She had ignored the screams of the people as they ran away. It took her a moment to notice black sludge oozing from the ground and proceeding to swallow the houses and buildings. "Oh my god. This.. madness.." The black sludge had divided itself into two parts; while the bigger part proceeded to swallow buildings, people, and nearly everything in it's way, the other materialized into a bat-winged creature with large horns and a thin tail swishing behind it. The creature, as well as the shadow on the hill and the black sludge, went unnoticed by the townspeople, who had already been targeted by the sludge to swallow.
"A-are those.. demons? T-There are more demons besides the one.. possessing Ashe..?" Zack uttered, gripping the neck chain. "M-My chain! I-It only squeezed me like this whenever Ashe was around! Why..?!"
Whenever Ashe was around? It only choked him whenever Ashe was near him.. oh god. Ashe was possessed. The demon inside him was fighting against his soul. My tattoo and Zack's chain.. could it be that..?! Oh god, of course! It's the only logical explanation on how these things even function! Damn, Wallace could have told us that too, not just the powers or advantages and disadvantages of being linked! "Zack.. I think that thing is a demon! The purpose of that chain of your's and this tattoo of mine is to alert us if a demon is nearby! Shit, we could skip whatever the hell the mayor told us and go along our merry way, but..! We can't let these demons go! I mean, Wallace and Zitomir handled Ashe for us! If we leave them here, chances are, they're gonna have to encounter them and get smashed by these guys!"
Zack looked as panicked as the fleeing people and wasn't able to answer properly. Instead, his eyes remained glued to the hill, where the house was being attacked by the shadow. Eyes darting shakily to the black ooze, his eyes remained fixated on one particular villager, who had just been swallowed by the ooze. And the winged creature.. it was staring at him and Aorin with such hatred. "W-We're.. going to d-die.. we're going to die, Aorin.. t-they're going to hurt us.. like A-Ashe..!" His blank eyes flooded with tears. "I don't want to die.. I don't want to die..!"
Aorin gripped him by his shoulders and started to shake him. "Chill out! Breathe in and out, damn it! We are not gonna die, I'm not gonna let my death place be this absurdly bright town, no, if I was going to pick any place to have my final moments, it will be in the deepest pits of hell! Snap out of it, we're not Link Partners for nothing! Why do you think we were linked?! We are destined to be demon slayers!" She removed her headband from her head and removed the feathers beneath it. Raising both feathers up, she took a deep breath. "Cendrillion, Cierra! I summon thee to the battlefield! Hence forth, elemental deities of fire and darkness! And help us beat these demons!"
The feathers flew out of her hand and had transformed into the deities. Cierra seemed to be unfazed by what was going on, and so did Cendrillion. The fire entity didn't say anything, until she noticed the boomerang gripped tightly by Aorin. She floated over to her. "Mistress. Throwing your weapon will not have an affect on the demons, unless the procedure has been completed thoroughly. It appears not, as your partner.." She pointed to Zack, whose left shoulder was gripped by Aorin's free hand. "Is in a panicked state."
Aorin looked at her with an expression that resembled utter annoyance. "What? You know something about the abilities of linking and how to defeat these demons?"
"Yes we do, as we are not human, nor are we mortal, unlike you mistress. What Cendrillion meant to say was that your weapon was made by humans, and thus, shan't have any effect on immortal beings. You will have to proceed with your partner calming down first, and you both proceed on starting the Linking Field, and-" Cierra answered for Cendrillion, but was interrupted by their mistress.
"What the heck?! Oh, never mind! We are talking about this later, you hear?! Gah, what'd we have to do?! And I demand you to explain it as simple as you can!"
"Calm down Mister Zack first." Both of them said in unison.
Aorin started to shake him again, but this time, she didn't put too much force. Forcing herself to put on a calm voice, she looked straight at him with a serious expression. "Zack. Calm. Down. Right. Now. You wanna live to see another day in this blinding town? You wanna see Zitomir and Wallace again? Heck, you want to save that scumbag Prince Ashe? We'll help Wallace and Zitomir in destroying the demon possessing him. We'll save him. But, we need to face what you fear; which are demons."
Zack finally looked at her, still terrified. "That's.. a promise, I assume? You promise.. that we'll help Wally and Zitomir.. save Ashe?"
Characters Introduced; Velius Solarion III (Solaria Town's Mayor), Alchemist (Solaria Town's Alchemist, Unnamed), Mentioned Brothers; Zachary, Zion, Zolten.