Demonic 1: Intertwined Fates
Blaze was speechless. A hundred things ran through his mind, both the illogical and unimaginable:
Hope -- the Hope -- had a Demon.
Is she good or bad?
Does she really want to help me?
Is she really who I think she is or is she an imposter?
His mind kept giving him absurd ideas, each growing more absurd by the second.
"You must tame your Demon." Hope's face was stern. She was serious about having a Demon.
The word tame brought back memories from the days in the Academy. They had been learning about the ancient (but not noble) sport of Demon-taming. His thoughts on the matter had been quite simple: who'd be crazy enough to fight a Demon much less tame it? Demon-taming had been quite popular during the medieval times when dragons still lived. It had been a long, long time ago, and simply learning about it had been gruesome.
Demons were uncontrollable -- that was the base of it. From what he knew of Demons, they couldn't be tamed. The sport of Demon-taming was a useless, senseless, and meaningless past time, and those who participated in the sport almost always died.
Blaze was doubtful of his famed Master's sanity. Maybe he had misinterpreted the rumors about her; maybe she was famed for her imfamy. It would make a lot more sense. "Tame? I was going to trust you on your judgment. I was going to trust you. But tame? That's impossible."
Hope had a sincere look on her face. "I misspoke. You must befriend your Demon."
Tame or befriend, Blaze thought, both are impossible tasks. "How?"
Hope started to pace from side to side. "What I mean by tame isn't not what you're thinking."
"What was I thinking?" Blaze asked coldly. He didn't like the indifference in her tone.
"Demon-taming," she replied coolly. Blaze shut his mouth and decided to wait until she finished talking. It would help him look less stupid. "More often than not, people mistake demon-taming for what it truly is: befriending.
"A Demon is like your life-long companion. It stays with you until you die -- unless it is given to another person willingly but these circumstances have specific instructions -- it makes perfect sense to befriend someone who would be there for your whole life. Imagine being married to a person you hate. Marriage itself is commitment. If you both can't make that commitment, it's near-impossible to keep that marriage intact. Demons, however horrifying they may be at first, are simply your tool to use, perhaps more.
"That is also why they call a Demon the 'worst friend' and 'best enemy'. The worst friend because it's always a part of you. It will remain with you forever. It knows your mind inside out, even if you yourself don't. You can't leave your Demon as you can a person. It knows all your weaknesses as well as your strengths. It will destroy you from the inside out. It will kill you."
Blaze was surprised by the matter-of-fact way Hope had explained this -- as if she had done so a hundred times before. He dreaded the best enemy part. "And?" He motioned for her to go on.
Hope drew a deep breath before continuing. "You can use the Demon. As difficult as it sounds, it really is quite simple. You know the Demon more than anything else. You probably know it better than some of your friends. That attachment may linger for a long time. You can use it. No matter how much your Demon may despise you, it won't be able to do anything if you don't let it."
Blaze felt the urge to scoff but suppressed it. So she was basically saying: It can kill you because it is you. You can defeat it by using its attachment to you. It can only harm you if you let it. She might as well have told him to tame a puppy. That actually might be harder than it sounds, Blaze thought. Since animals hate me...
"Focus," Hope told him sternly. "When you zone out in Cadent training, you zone out on life survival. You might die because of what you don't learn. Listen carefully. You will master your Demon. You will befriend it. You will tame it."
Was that all? Taming was simply befriending your Demon? That made it a whole lot simpler. "Then let's get on with it. I want to hurry and sleep."
Hope gave him another stern look. "You will come to regret this later. I assure you. It will come back to you."
Blaze said nothing.
Hope instructed him to sit down on a nearby fallen log. After he had done so, she told him to close his eyes and clear it of all thought. "A blank piece of paper. A stream of crystal clear water. Calm, devoid of all thought, don't think."
Blaze tried but it was hard to concentrate.
Hope placed her hands on Blaze's back, feeling the unnaturally hot warmth. He was a Fire-type, that was for sure. She concentrated her Psychic energy, trying to draw power from Blaze. The first attempt was a failure but the second was not.
A sudden roar of energy filled the clearing. Hope managed to keep a firm grip on Blaze and whispered, "Keep them closed."
A blaze of inferno streaked across the air, its red color burning into their sight. Fire continued to stream like flames across the sky. The color made it seem as if the sky itself was on fire. No, the whole world was on fire. The scorching heat brought beads of sweat to Hope and Blaze's foreheads. Something emerged from the flames. Something raw, and powerful.
"Are you... the host?" a voice shrieked. It cracked on every other syllable. The voice itself was scratchy and worn, as if the being had spent that whole day screaming, or even longer.
Blaze finally opened his eyes. The sight that greeted him terrified him out of his wits. He gulped. A... A... Demon, he thought. This is my Demon... No. Way.
( <> )
Glacia bit her lip as she concentrated. What was with the sudden warmth in the air? For some reason, it seemed hotter than it should have been. It felt like she was being cooked alive.
Glacia concentrated on the task at hand. Blizzard! Blizzard! Nothing happened. She thought of the cold, its frosty chill freezing her to the very core of her existence. She thought of snow falling in flakes to the earth from the clouds, their individual patterns unique from all others. She thought of winter, and she bit her lip.
Something wet and cold hit Glacia on the back of her neck. She had been sitting hunched forward on a broken log. Looking up, she realized snow was sprinkling lightly on her. Her eyes widened in astonishment. She had made snow fall from the sky! No, that was incorrect. Glacia had actually made a miniature cloud a couple feet from the top of her head. It was from that cloud that snow fell.
The actuality of what she had just done hit home hard.
Glacia had always been in the bottom of the class for any kind of hands-on classes, like Elements. She had an element -- Ice -- but had never really learned how to use it since it was a rare one in itself. She had still been mastering conjuring ice at all -- pulling the tiny molecules of water in the air and freezing them to form little ice crystals. That had been her limit. While all her other friends had moved onto more difficult moves, she had stayed at that level. It hadn't been encouraging.
Glacia was smart, she had been at the top of the class for all academic work, but she lacked motivation. Perhaps being an orphan had made her that way. Perhaps losing her parents--
Glacia had to stop before she brought herself too far. It wasn't only motivation she lacked but also courage. She was scared to perform anything too difficult, too advanced. She bit her lip and tried to concentrate on making snow fall again. She admitted, snow was little progress on her overall goal, but it was a start.
Letting herself be pulled into the magic of snow, Glacia thought of ice. The solid, transparent, cold, and wet form of ice. Snow stared falling again and hit her on the head again. She thought of it again. And again.
Something solid and hard hit her scalp. Glacia looked up. Hail! she thought. I made hail fall! Glacia kept her eyes focused and tried to gather the ice in one clump, trying to imagine what Hope had done before. A cold gust of wind hit her as did a swarm-like gust of hail.
Glacia couldn't feel it. She had been thinking it would be cold, and her mind had made her believe it. She wasn't cold in the slightest. She tried again.
No matter what she did, her efforts seemed to prove fruitless. The hail stubbornly remained in midair like some photograph. Only, occasionally, did a few parts of the hail move an inch. Exasperated, she threw her hands up.
The hail shot up like gunshots. Glacia blinked. What had she just done? She lowered her hands carefully. Tentatively. Hail floated down in synchronization with her hands. With both hands, Glacia moved her hands a little closer together and moved them from side to side, imagining a huge ice-ball in between her hands. The hail clumped together as she had hoped they would and swerved from right to left, and back.
Sweat beads formed on her forehead from the effort. Her eyebrows knit together in an arc, her mind trying valiantly to keep the ice in midair. Finally, Glacia let go of her control of the ball. The ice exploded, shattering into a million little pieces of crystals. Her eyes widened as she remembered what Hope had done earlier. What she had just performed was nowhere near as graceful or beautiful but it was something.
It made her feel powerful.
( <> )
Blaze swallowed a nervous lump in his throat. He was face-to-face with a giant, flaming, dinosaur. No, that wasn't it, dragon. Its identity didn't reassure him. The dragon had great black scales, with a huge tail swishing about, the same coal color. The dragon looked as if it were on fire. Maybe because it was.
Blaze's mouth opened a few times, moving but not making a single audible sound.
"Are you... Blaze Ifgon?"
Blaze didn't reply, he couldn't reply. He had forgotten what he was doing. He had forgotten where he was. He had forgotten who he was. Blaze Ifgon. Had he heard the Demon right? "B-Blaze I-If-Ifgon?"
"Are you he?" The voice remained as scratchy as the first time it had spoken.
"I'm Blaze, but I don't know who 'Ifgon' is..." Blaze shrank back as a flame erupted from the dragon's snout.
"I am Ifgon! I!" it roared.
"Then why do you look for Blaze Ifgon? I'm Blaze Outer..."
The dragon -- Ifgon -- turned irritably to Hope, swishing his tail and nearly taking Blaze's head off. "You are his Master?" the dragon asked in a softer tone.
Hope stood her ground. Blaze admired her that moment. "I am. I am Hope Blissia, leader of Team Blissed."
Ifgon pondered that. "Blissia, hmm? I haven't seen him for a long, long time now. Tell him hi, will you? I owe him so much..." Ifgon's tone turned sheepish. "Saved my butt a couple times."
The corner of Hope's mouth twitched. "Of course he would've. He's saved many people's hides as well."
"Yes, well... Anyway, as his Master, why have you sent him to me without the proper training?"
Hope stared him down. "There is no training required to summon a Demon. Courage, maybe, but no official training."
Ifgon's left eye curved upward. "Courage? Do you mean to say, this boy has courage? This boy?" The great flaming dragon moved his tail again, this time almost taking half of Blaze with him. Ifgon stared at Hope as if to say, "See what I mean?"
"He has courage. Tons of it."
"He will have to prove to me."
"Prove to you?" Hope scoffed. "Demon, your time has already gone. It is not your kind that rules the Nations now. It is us, Elementals, Demon hosts, Warriors." Hope turned to Blaze. "You will master your Demon. You will prove your worth, Blaze Ifgon. You will show your true colors."
( <> )
The King of Citria sat at his desk, listening absently to Minister Maloon's many complaints. He nodded at the appropriate times and agreed wholeheartedly with whatever he had to say. It was late into the night and all he wanted was to sleep.
There was a knock on the door.
"Yes?" the King called, his deep tenor voice velvety.
"Your Majesty, the Academy Director is here," the guard outside his door.
The King sighed. At last, maybe he would get some rest soon. He waved his hand at the minister. "You are dismissed, Minister Maloon. I will take heed of your words."
The minister bowed but only slightly. His obvious distaste at the current king was maddening to any court official. The only reason he kept him was because of his standing in court. Maloon knew this as well. "I thank you, Majesty." He left the room. He stopped just outside the door and remarked, "They let just about anyone meet the King nowadays." He sniffed and exited.
The King ground his teeth. He relaxed as his friend slipped into the room. "James," he said warmly.
"Your Majesty," he replied formally.
The King frowned. "Call me Jesse when we're alone."
"Although I did dare to say that when we were in our Academy years, I don't dare to call you that now," James replied.
King Jesse sighed again. "Still stubborn as a mule," he muttered under his breath. "How was the ceremony?"
James shrugged. "Same as usual."
Jesse rolled his eyes. "As usual? I heard Hope chose two Cadents this year."
James rolled his eyes as well. He doubted whether the king had simply 'heard' about Hope choosing Cadents. "I heard you gave her a firm talking to."
Jesse looked down in admittance. "Well, I'm sure she was going to, someday," he said in his defense. "I was just... hurrying up the process a little."
"Or a lot," James coughed.
"You are being rude," Jesse warned.
"You would know about being rude or not, your Majesty."
"What do you mean?"
"Minister Maloon, I mean. He still doesn't know about your, ahem, false promises, does he?"
"I have no idea what you're talking about," the king denied blatantly.
"So," Jesse asked, trying to be non-chalant. "How's Hope dealing with her Cadents?"
"Well, she's chosen a cabin out in the woods."
Jesse shook his head and sighed again. "Our Hope's always been a secretive one, hasn't she?"
"That she has."
"Who has she chosen as her Cadents?"
"Blaze Outer and Glacia Blix," James said immediately as if he had been waiting for the question the whole time.
"Anything special about them?"
"I don't know about special but that Blaze has made enemies with the minister's second eldest son, Craig Maloon."
Jesse smiled. "Sounds like my sort of person."
"Very kingly, your Majesty. Anyway, Blaze has gotten himself into a fair amount of trouble these few years. He has the Fire Element but I don't know anything else. Glacia Blix is Ice but that's all I know, with the exception of her being exceptionally smart."
"Do you think there's anything else that Hope picked them for?"
James shrugged. "Maybe, or maybe not. Hope's a tricky person nowadays. After being made a Master, she hasn't really done anything. She used to be up for a challenge but now..."
"I know what you mean. She might have chosen the two just because they are simple to deal with... I should assign them a mission sooner or later..."
James shook his head with a small smile. "Wait a month. Hope arranged a battle between Blaze and Craig for the competition coming up. We should give them plenty of time to get ready."
Jesse smiled. "That should be interesting."
"Might be... I hope so. It would be a bore if all the new Cadents were wiped out in the first round like last time."
"That was boring," agreed Jesse.
James hesitated on the verge of saying something.
"Spit it out," Jesse advised.
"You should tell her," James burst out.
"Tell who what?"
"Hope. Tell her... everything. She'll be wanting to know as well."
Jesse bit her lip. "That's not something I'm looking forward to."
James said, "You'll probably be better off if you do tell her."
"I suppose so."