∼ In The Darkness ∼
Chapter - 081
Aria looked as if she wanted to protest the man further, but any frustration or anger that fueled her courage had run dry. She retreated back into herself, her head hung as her mind fought with new worries.
"Enough talk of that. There's another reason why I've summoned you both. Aria, you'll soon be meeting a larger quota for your healing services. And you, Nyx. It is time you held up your end of the bargain."
Whereas Aria's eyes filled with distress, Nyx's filled with excitement. "I finally gets to fight?" He asked excitedly. But to both their surprise and Nyx's sudden disappointment, Zechariah shook his head. "No, at least not if everything goes to plan. I need you as backup for a mission. To be the insurance that no matter what, the outcome is one of success."
"But I want to fight!"
"Your magic and stature are far too recognizable. We can't have an unknown warlock very easily identifiable as the mercenary Nyxel Brasshand suddenly appears on the side of the Orphans. It'd shatter the illusion of your fake identities that all our hard work has been trying so hard to separate from your real ones. The thin veil of misinformation and manipulation will inevitably fail when the Stained Tooth begins to dig for answers. And Nyx, you already have eyes on you. A mercenary dying on the same mission that another walks away alive tends to draw eyes of suspicion. So no, we can only use you when absolutely necessary."
"If it is that important, then why not use Shank? You have far more powerful men under you. Why Nyx?"
Shank's eyebrows rose as he finally looked away from the papers he was reading, the glass of liqueur held to his lips.
"It doesn't work like that," Zechariah said. "You forget that the Stained Tooth has even greater manpower than we do. Our strength does not lie in power, but in our network and operations. Cultivated from the roots we have in this city. The consequences of sending our strongest will not only incur Crowley to do the same but also draw the ire of those beyond the underground. Those who just barely tolerate our existence for the sole reason that we do not cause too much trouble."
Aria faltered at that, finding some logic in what Zechariah was saying. Yet, Nyx was still adamant. "I don't want to just observe, human!"
But the twin simply shook his head. "No. Your magic, it's too-"
"-I can fights without my magic," Nyx cut off challengingly to which Shank snorted. But Zechariah's eyes just narrowed, peering at the small figure with a hint of something unreadable in his gaze.
"Bwah! That little wand-pecker wants to brawl? Haha!" Shank laughed. "You should stick to your spells, little man."
"-Fine then, show us," Zechariah said calmly over the laughter, making Shank suddenly pause in surprise. "Huh?"
Nyx shot from where he had stood with a speed uncanny for his class and figure. Shank had barely any time to comprehend his brother's words before his hand had flickered to intercept the fist flying right for his face. Shank's brows rose even higher, as the second fist was only moments behind. Though the much-powerful man parried it with the back of his other hand.
"Hey-hey, he's not half bad!" The man was smiling from ear to ear. Not angry, but pleasantly surprised. Shank was holding up the imp by the iron-grip he had on the demon's fist, dangling the flailing beasts as he amusedly dodged the flailing kicks and swipes.
"I'll show you half-bad, you stinkin' human!" Suddenly, Nyx leveraged Shank's hold on his fist, pulling himself forward and twisting his forearm and wrist. Passing through his defenses, Nyx's kick filled with momentum was only inches from the human's face. But unsurprisingly, Shank managed to dodge that too, head tilted to the side as the small foot hit him right on the shoulder.
|[You have taken 1 damage!]|
Nyx yelped as the red damage notification flashed in the back of his consciousness. It felt like his foot had hit a boulder with all his force behind it. Just how tough was this human? He barely even budged. Neither did his face show any indication that it had any effect on the man. It was a chilling realization to the demon who had yet to stand face to face with such a raw and unmistakable difference in power.
Shank barked another laugh. "Where have you been hiding all that strength?" He turned his head. "Hey, Zach, didn't you say he was a warlock. What's this then?" He asked whilst holding out the demon for his brother to see, exuberant as curiosity danced in his hard eyes.
There was a silence as Zechariah just peered at Nyx, seemingly in thought. But when he spoke, he wasn't answering his brother. "Alright - you can fight on the frontline as part of the crew. But under no circumstance other than if absolutely necessary will you use your magic. Do you understand?"
Nyx's expression changed to one of joy. He twisted his body just enough to flip Shank the bird, still dangling in his grip with a shit-eating grin on his impish face. Shank did not take offense though. He merely snorted in amusement as he gave the little demon a shake.
"For the gods' sake, just put him down already," Zechariah groaned, going back to his work.
In the encroaching darkness of the mind, dispelled only by the glowing strands of mana that flowed and intertwined in inexplicable paths, an ethereal whisper spoke to Nyx. "Follow the flow, exert your will. Do not force. Simply keep moving, keep pushing - acting as if to never relent." Aria's voice was distant, almost unrecognizable in the haze of his own mind. But it held a soothing quality, guiding him so he did not get lost in unconsciousness.
Riding along the strands of mana as if he himself was one, Nyx could feel how he was manipulating the ways of chaos to his own will. It was an intoxicating feeling despite the repetitiveness of it all. "That's it," The whisper said. A strand, seemingly with a mind of its own was almost imperceptibly being tucked at. Following not the ephemeral flow of chaos, but the well-laid path of a river. The river of Nyx's will.
At either end of the darkness, was something. One an aura of unfettered blue intermixed with the dark, and the other, an orb of dense blue. Nyx's mind and core. Slowly, he shepherded that one strand of mana, guiding it from the blue expanse of his mind towards the compact radiance of his core. It was a long and tedious process. But when the thread finally touched the bright blue surface of the orb, it tethered itself onto the core with a sudden tautness. Like a bow strung.
In a sudden luminosity, like a beam in the darkness, his mind linked to his core. The surge of unobstructed mana channeled into that beam, directly from the ephemeral space of mind to his core, and filled it with mana. Nyx had succeeded. In that moment, it suddenly felt like he could finally breathe. As if he no longer had to draw breath through a muzzle.
Unlike ever before, the darkness was driven back in the intense light to reveal something.
As the blinding glow subsided it settled on the sight of a blue expanse. Plain of grass as blue as the arcane mana he wielded stretched onto the distance, stopping at the point where his core that hung like a sun above could no longer dispel the darkness. Lacking brightness to show more.
Inspecting this strange anomaly, he realized it was not all blue. Looking closer, the blue grass and dirt beneath shared a red tint glinting in the core's glow from above, domed by the shifting blue of his mind, imitating that of the aurora that could be seen hanging over Boreas and the Spine from time to time. Nyx realized that the red tint was a representation of his infernal mana. This whole place was a representation of his mana.
Knowing this on an almost intrinsic level, Nyx felt inexplicably calm here. Though, he was at a loss regarding what to do with it.
Though the process of entrancing his mind as such, turning it inward towards the depths of his consciousness, was an arduous and difficult task, leaving it was comparably easier. Senses, one by one, returned. Sound, smell, and feel. It all came rushing back. Rousing from his trance in the abandoned courtyard of the Orphan's hideout, Nyx opened his eyes to be met with the cold gust of the city wind and an open, cloudless night sky.
[Congratulations, your proficiency in Mana Manipulation has increased!]
[Mana Manipulation: Moderate → Superior]