Nightmare in Parisé – Chapter One: Paradise Lost

“He’s late,” I comment to myself as I check the time on my phone.

Rather than sitting around at our agreed meeting spot, I decided to take a quick look around the mall while I had time. I told myself that but in truth, I was nervous. It had been five years since I’d last spoke to Sid and while I was glad that he reached out, it was totally out of character for him. When he told me in the eighth grade that he was moving back to his hometown, I was already prepared to never hear from him again.

The mall was well populated but with how large it was, you could claim that it was empty. Rather than a shopping mall, it was more like I was in a small town. As I walked through the indoor garden, I leaned in to check the bushes, taking note of the small berries hanging off them.

“They’re real, you know. You can take a few if you’d like a taste.”

I looked back to the source of the unknown voice, finding an elderly man smiling kindly in my direction. Judging by the nametag and dirt on his apron, it was safe to assume his job was looking after the surrounding greenery.

“T-Thank you but that’s alright. I was just admiring the garden, that’s all.” I managed to answer, nervous as always.

The man chuckled and nodded as if thanking me on the garden’s behalf. He looked around before slowly gazing up at the skylight roofing.

“It’s really something, isn’t it? Parisé Mall was built to be anyone’s home away from home.” He said with a clear sense of pride.

As impressive as I found this place to be, I could never see it as a home. If anything, it felt more like we were all trapped in a giant snow globe. Not wanting to offend the man, I gave a simple smile and waved as I began walking back towards the spot Sid would be expecting me to be.

There he was, sitting on one of the two benches with his phone in his hand. I thought of calling out to him but there was no way I could bear the possibility of drawing attention to myself like that. As if the thought of a bunch of strangers staring at me wasn’t scary enough, the idea of Sid giving me an awkward look was even worse. People often make me nervous, but he’s always done it in a way that was different from all the rest. While I stood at a distance, overthinking how to approach such a basic social interaction, I received a text. There was no doubt in my mind that it was Sid, wondering where I was.

“Alec, you here?” the text read.

“Great. Now I’ll seem like the one who was late.” I thought to myself as if this was some sort of competition.

Forgetting all about my planning of how to greet Sid, I simply walked towards him with my hand slightly raised, gesturing a half-hearted wave. Sid responded with his own salute, taking the necessary steps to close the gap between us.

“You’re late.” He said in a flat tone.

“W-What? You said that you wanted to meet at three, so I got here fifteen minutes early and you were late so I—”

“I was only kidding, relax man,” Sid said with a sadistic smirk, giving me a light punch on the arm as if he was pressing a button to turn off my stammering.

“I apologize for making you wait. It must have seemed pretty rude to keep you waiting here when I was the one to reach out to you.”

Sid began walking off, forcing me to pick up my pace. It had been nearly five years since we’d really talked to each other. He and I were practically inseparable when we were kids but one day, it was like he’d completely shut down on me. I considered asking him now about what happened, but I feared it might feel like an interrogation. Sid used to tell me all the time about how messed up his home life was and even though he never went into specifics, I could see how much it used to affect him back then.

“You look a little different Alec.” Sid casually commented as we walked, his hands buried in his jean jacket pockets.

“Different? H-How so?” I asked, blushing a bit at the idea of Sid studying my appearance.

Sid stepped directly in front of me, pondering on his answer. I hadn’t noticed until now that he’d grown taller than me, not that it was saying much when compared to my below average height. He reached out and placed his hand on my head, resting it there.

“If I had to put it into words, I’d say you look…more reliable?” He said, slightly messing with my straightened auburn hair before pulling his hand away.

I couldn’t say anything in response to Sid’s words but my displayed a look of discomfort. Not only was it embarrassing to hear but it also made me feel a little guilty. Nobody’s ever considered me to be reliable, or useful at all for that matter. There was nothing special about me. Nothing at all.

“Still, your hair is getting a little long. I might’ve mistaken you for a girl if I was meeting you for the first time.” He added, attempting to distract me from his first comment.

This was something I’d heard often as a kid when someone would try picking on me. Sid constantly defending me from the others must’ve made him feel that he had permission to do the teasing himself. I gave him my best attempt at a scowl, only giving him more fuel for laughter and it wasn’t long before I found myself laughing along with him.

The two of us took our time window-shopping while we caught up on each other’s lives. The familiar sensation I got from being around Sid was refreshing and once things got going, the two of us were talking as though we’d never been apart. I never managed to bond with anyone else in quite the same way.

“This mall is great, isn’t it Alec?” Sid asked, just as we walked out of an electronics store.

“It’s unreal. I’m surprised you chose a place like this. You’ve never been one for such crowded places and this mall isn’t exactly close to either of our houses.”

“I wanted to make sure today went well, no matter what.” Sid answered, walking into a gift shop.

I was happy knowing that today meant as much to him as it did for me but there was something about Sid’s answer that left me feeling uneasy. What was Sid not telling me? A sparkle of light caught my eyes, interrupting my thoughts.

“Sid, look at these!” I said enthusiastically, kneeling in front of the nearby rack for a closer look.

I picked up a matching pair of sparkly black skull keychains. It was likely only because they sparkled, but I found them to be quite cute. I held them up to show Sid, waiting for his approval. He gave a slight nod, shrugging his shoulders before continuing to wander around through the store. Deciding to purchase the keychains, I made my way over to the sales counter while looking at other items along the way. Almost everything in the shop was designed to promote Parisé Mall, having the name somewhere. Realizing that made these skulls in my hand appear even more unique and out of place.

“Alec, come on.” Sid called out from across the room, already waiting by the store’s entrance.

I quickly paid for the keychains, pocketing them afterward along with my change before moving to catch up with Sid. The next few hours went by in a flash. If not for the sudden sound of my stomach rumbling, I doubt that either one of us would’ve realized that the sun was already beginning to set.

“Dinner’s on me tonight.” Sid offered, leading me towards the mall’s food court.

“Huh? You don’t have to do that, really.”

Ignoring my words, Sid walked to the nearest fast food restaurant and returned shortly with a tray full of food. He proceeded to sit down and signaled for me to sit across from him, taking a burger and fries off the tray for me.

“Thanks.” I said timidly, sitting down and clutching the burger.

Sid simply smiled, passing me a drink. In the still crowded mall, the two of us ate in the food court. For the most part, it was a typical meal. It wasn’t until we’d finished eating that things became unsettling. Located not far from where we were seated was a man who for seemingly no reason, went berserk. Thankfully, mall security detained the man before he could do any harm. We both stared at the man, still raving mad as he struggled underneath the weight of the security guard pinning him to the floor.

“Can we get out of here?” I asked, already standing in preparation to leave.

I expected Sid to stand as well but he sat there, frozen, his eyes locked on the scene ahead of us.

“Sid?” I called out slightly louder with a tinge of fear in my voice.

Snapping back to reality a moment later, Sid’s eyes met mine as he stood.

“Sorry.” He said coldly, gathering the leftover garbage and placing it all on the tray neatly before beginning to leave.

Things felt tense after we’d left the food court. Not only had Sid gone completely quiet but he refused to even look at me now. After walking for a while, Sid finally stopped in his tracks. He appeared lost in thought for what felt like an eternity before letting out a sigh and facing me.

“Alec.” He said heavily, making me wonder what was wrong.


“Before we leave, will you make one last stop with me?”

I followed Sid to one of the mall’s escalators. After getting about halfway up, Sid vaulted over the escalator’s railing and landed on the roof of the nearby kiosk. I hesitated to do the same but seeing Sid standing with his hand out to grab me, I managed to find my courage. I leaped over the railing, barely making the jump but managing to grab Sid’s hand, allowing him to help me up.

Sid sat by the edge of the roof, swinging his legs around a bit as he leaned back to look up at the night sky through the large skylight. I sat next to him, waiting for him to speak but he’d do no such thing. The longer I waited, the more anxious I began to feel. It took what felt like an eternity before Sid finally spoke.

“I’m sorry it took so long for us to reconnect. Life got…complicated.”

“You don’t have to apologize. We’re together now, right?” I ended with a short laugh, hoping to lighten the obviously heavy mood.

Sid stretched out his arms, still looking off into the distance.

“I wish things could stay like this forever, with just you and me.” He said, suddenly looking in my direction.

“Sid…No matter how much time has passed, I’ve always considered you—”

“That’s enough, Alec. You know I’ve never been good with these types of things.” He interjected, chuckling.

I knew Sid didn’t want to hear it, but I needed my feelings to reach him somehow. I needed him to know how much he’s always meant to me and that no matter what, we’ll always be linked. Being struck by an idea, I quickly reached into my pocket and pulled out both skull keychains before handing one to Sid.

“It isn’t much, but I want you to have this in place of those words.” I declared, struggling to avoid drowning in my own embarrassment over how lame I must sound.

Sid held the keychain out in front of him, taking his eyes off me to stare blankly at the skull before switching back to me with the same empty look.

“Just like I expected, you’ve become such a sentimental guy.” He joked, putting the keychain into his pocket before putting his arm around my shoulder for a brief hug.

While it felt like the mood was finally shifting in a positive direction, we were both caught off guard by sudden violent screams.

“What the hell was that?!” I questioned loudly, looking around for the commotion’s source.

Suddenly, a great force smashed into the kiosk we were perched on, prompting me to pull my feet back in fear of falling off the ledge.

“Sid?” I called to him quietly, nervously crawling back to the ledge.

“Something’s wrong…” Sid muttered quietly.

Below us were two men, furiously attacking each other. We could feel their viciousness purely through the force of them slamming each other into the kiosk. It was practically animalistic. The looks on their faces left me paralyzed but the screams of onlookers pulled me out of my trance. Even with the small crowd, the men showed no sign of ending their fight. In fact, they weren’t even responding to anyone else’s presence. Suddenly, Sid stood up.

“Everyone, please get away from here! You’re all in danger!” Sid shouted to all the onlookers.

Mere seconds after Sid’s warning, one of the men managed to pin the other down on the floor and began brutally beating him. Merging the sight with Sid’s warning, people began fleeing in panic.

“We need to go Alec, now!” Sid said, looking at me with a clear sense of urgency.

As much as I wanted to question him about what exactly was happening, it was obvious to me that now was not the time. Moving to the opposite end of the kiosk, Sid climbed down and gently landed on the ground to avoid attracting unwanted attention. I followed suit but hit the floor in a far less graceful manner, alerting the man sitting over a now lifeless corpse. With little hesitation, the man stood up and began making his way around the kiosk.

“Shit!” Sid cursed, pulling me to my feet before pulling out a weathered pocket knife and crouching slightly in a combat-ready stance.

After watching those two men battle to the death the way they were, was Sid really thinking he could stand up to a man like that? It was hard enough to rationalize Sid carrying a knife on him in the first place. He’s always been tough, but nobody would peg him as a criminal and it’s not as though Entro City was a particularly dangerous place to live in. I can’t say that statement holds up all that well now, however, not after what I’d just witnessed. The image of that deceased stranger passed through my mind, making me feel sick to my stomach.

Sid focused on the approaching man. As I listened in on his footsteps and heavy breathing, I wanted nothing more than to run all the way home. He turned the corner, taking one look at Sid and I before lunging at us both. I shut my eyes tightly, causing me to miss out completely on the man being tackled out of the way just as he was within striking distance. As I opened my eyes to take in the current situation, Sid grabbed my arm, whisking me away with him. Our saviour was another crazed man, sporting a similarly enraged look to match his wild actions. Looking around us, many of the shoppers were quickly becoming just as frenzied, transforming the mall into a war zone.

“This is insane! What are we going to do Sid?!” I shouted, hoping for Sid to miraculously come up with a plan.

“I’m sorry Alec. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. For now, we’ve got to focus on getting as far away from these people as possible.”

It wasn’t supposed to be like this? That’s the greatest understatement I’ve heard in a while. I don’t think anyone reconnecting with an old friend ever predicts that they might end up in the middle of the world’s most violent mosh pit. Like Sid, I wanted to get out of this alright, not only for the sake of survival but also to find out just how much Sid is obviously hiding about this whole thing.

We continued running past store after store until coming upon a narrow hallway to our right. Having noticed it first, I gave Sid’s arm a tug before going on ahead to scout it out. On both sides of the hall were a series of doors which I began frantically trying to open. Six doors in and not even one was unlocked. Even worse, the hall led to a dead-end, trapping us in a corner.

“Alec, they spotted us! Hurry up!” Sid shouted down the hall to me, looking at an unknown number of oncoming assailants.

I gave the doors one last glance, not wanting to let go of what seemed like our final hope before heading back. However, I noticed something strange about the fifth door. In front of the door, I could see something glowing in midair. I rubbed my eyes focusing in on it. It was some sort of…hologram?

“Place hand here to begin energy detection signature scan.” The holographic screen read.

I had no idea what it meant but my curiosity compelled me to follow the instructions. With so many strange things happening, there was no telling what could happen if I placed my hand there. As I reached out, I could hear Sid angrily shouting my name. The message on the screen began changing rapidly as I started to feel a warm sensation envelop around my hand. I had no idea what was going on, but it was beginning to frighten me. I attempted to pull my hand away in regret, but it was no use. Something was now holding me firmly in place. I looked to Sid, prepared to call for help but just as I was about to speak, he took off in the opposite direction.

My heart sank as I watched Sid disappear around the corner. Did he abandon me? No, that would’ve been preferable to me at this point. The direction Sid ran in was the same as the crowd of crazed people we’d been escaping. Sid ran directly into the heart of danger while I’m stuck here, laughably defenceless. Useless. I’m just as weak as I was back then. Even if I made it out of this, I’d never be able to live with myself if Sid died protecting me. He’s already done so much for me.

I grabbed hold of my wrist with my free hand and began pulling with all my might. I needed to get out of here. I needed to help Sid. The harder I pulled, I realized that I was tiring myself out at a much faster rate than normal. It wasn’t long before I began feeling lightheaded. With the last bit of my strength. I went for one final pull. I could feel myself drifting from consciousness as the door in front of me flew open, pulling me inside before slamming shut behind me.

When I next opened my eyes, I found myself in a room with an entirely different interior. The floor I was laying on was almost eerily clean, and the faint blue glow emanating from the floor pattern looked like it came straight out of a sci-fi film.

“How did you get in here?” A stern yet feminine voice asked.

I was so groggy and surprised by the new setting that I hadn’t even noticed the woman to my left, peering down at me.

“Where is…?” I tried to question the woman standing to my left but a stopped myself as another figure appeared to my right, completely covering me in his shadow. I looked over at him only to be met with a hearty laugh.

“Oh man, it’s been a long time since I’ve seen an entrance like that! Makes me miss the days of fresh recruits. Don’t you agree, Haruna?” The man remarked, holding his sides as his laughter slowly died down.

The woman, presumably Haruna, looked blankly at the man trying to engage in conversation. She kneeled, taking my arm over her shoulder and lifting me to my feet.

“You’re the only one who ever found that funny.” Haruna stated coldly, before guiding me through the new area.

Looking around, there were several men and women who appeared to be hard at work on similar holographic screens. They were all wearing uniforms, resembling clothing from the late 1700’s. It wasn’t long after that noticed a distinct blend of the room’s architecture. While parts of it were using tech I certainly didn’t know even existed, the rooms themselves made me think of an old castle.

“Um, Ms. Haruna? Where exactly am I?” I asked timidly, unsure if this was all just a crazy dream or not.

Still carrying me, Haruna didn’t even flinch in response to my question. Thinking back to a few moments ago, I might’ve had an easier time getting information out of the big guy. Haruna led me into a midsized room with a bed. She sat me down on the bed, standing in front of me.

“Stay here.” Haruna ordered before walking away, leaving the door half-open on her way out.

I waited a minute to make sure Haruna had gone far enough away. With a personality like hers, I’d hate to get caught disobeying any instruction coming directly from her, but I need to find a way out of this place and get back to Sid. Still lightheaded, I stood up and crept towards the door.

“Going somewhere?” The large man from earlier asked, chuckling as he blocked the only way out.

“I figured I’d come and check up on you, but it looks like you’re A-Okay.” He commented as he made his way into the room, forcing me to back up in the process.

Despite his intimidating size, the man’s appearance felt far less threatening compared to Haruna’s. His uniform was untucked and loosened, almost looking sloppy. He headed towards the bed, stretching as he plopped down onto it. With his relaxed attitude, it was hard to believe that he was one of the people holding me prisoner.

“Why are you guys holding me here? I really need to leave.” I pleaded, hoping to be able to reason with the man.

“You and me both, kid. I’m sure my partner didn’t explain much so I’ll apologize in her place. She’s in an especially bad mood today thanks to all of us being locked in here while all the chaos is going on out there.”

“Your partner? So, are you two like undercover FBI agents or something?”

The man shook his head, waving his finger at me.

“FBI? CIA? They’re jokes compared to us, kid. We’re the Parisé Magic Guild.” He said proudly, going as far as standing up and performing a Superman pose as he declared it.

I paused for a bit, waiting for him to reveal that he was joking. It wasn’t too long before my pause turned into an awkward silence. Powering through the tension, the man continued by introducing himself.

“The name’s Grant, Grant Maxwell. My strong and silent type partner is Haruna Aiko.”

Grant stood with his hand extended, looking to shake mine. I’d never met someone who blatantly believed in such outlandish ideas, but I wasn’t able to start an argument with him right now.

“A-Alec Sadler.” I took his hand, shaking it gently while avoiding making eye contact.

After shaking my hand, Grant showed an expression of dissatisfaction.

“Hm, that’s all? I expected more of a reaction after dropping a bomb like that.” He explained, making me out to be the strange one.

Our conversation was kept brief by a sudden announcement being made in the hall.

“All magical circuits are now fully operational. Available units are free to deploy.” The announcer reported, replaying the message a few times.

“Well, that’s my cue. I’ll catch you later if you decide to stick around.” Grant said, waving quickly as he started taking off.

“W-Wait! Take me with you, please!” I asked, grabbing hold of Grant’s arm.

Grant gave me a long look, seemingly thinking the idea over.

“You’ve got more guts than I thought! Alright kid, you can come along. Just don’t expect me to babysit you out there. I’ve got a job to do after all.” He decided, pulling me towards the door.

I wanted to thank him but by the time I started to speak, Haruna had already appeared, standing in the doorway.

“Grant, let’s move.” She said commandingly.

“Good to see you’re in a better mood now.” Grant commented with a quick laugh, following her down the hall and into a room guarded by two men.

Left without direction, I decided it might be best to return to where Haruna and Grant first found me. Returning to the spot, I placed my hand against the solid wall. With there being no door, did I use magic to get into this place? As I waited, I watched the men and women around me working. Were all these people mages as well? Looking at them all, it made magic seem so commonplace.

Now equipped with sheathed swords and holstered sidearms, Grant and Haruna approached me. Instinctively, I took a step closer to the nearby wall as if retreating. Taking my visible fear into account, Grant closed in and rested his hand on my hand, ruffling my hair as he smiled.

“Don’t worry kid. They’re only for protection.” Grant spoke gently, attempting to ease my worries.

His hand on my head reminded me of Sid. The way Sid managed to calm my oncoming anxiety. There was something so genuine about the way he’d tell me that things would be ok. Grant didn’t have this ability. Not helping was the disapproving look Haruna shot over to Grant the moment he explained what their weapons were for.

“Commencing magic transport in three…two…one…” A woman working behind a holographic monitor counted down, a familiar blue energy swallowing the three of us at once.

In a bright flash, we were back in the mall. Thanks to the rows of doors, the setting was easily recognizable. I found myself once again landing face flat on the tiled floor, only to hear Grant’s obnoxious laughter in the background.

“It just doesn’t get old!” He exclaimed mockingly, going as far as giving his thigh a slap.

“Grant, quiet.” Haruna advised in a breathy voice.

Her hand on the sword by her hip, Haruna silently moved to the end of the hall, peaking around the corner. After helping me up, Grant and I lined up behind her. The sight we were welcomed to was beyond horrific. I couldn’t have been gone for more than fifteen minutes but in the time I’d spent away, the body count had dramatically increased.

“Damn it. With the magic circuit down, we lost visual over the whole mall. To think it’d be this bad.” Grant lamented, stepping out into the open.

Haruna nodded, drawing her blade as she stepped out as well.

“It’s unfortunate, but the spores have affected far too many of them. It’d be best to purge the inflicted to smooth the extraction process.” She proposed, stepping forward into a small pool of blood.

Purge the inflicted? This woman sounds like a genocidal maniac. I moved in front of her, hoping to talk her down.

“These are human beings you’re talking about. There’s got to be a better way to help them, r-right?” I questioned, voicing just how twisted her plan is.

“Afraid not, kid. Once a person becomes infected by a spore, there isn’t much humanity left in ‘em.” Grant admitted, cutting in.

Unwilling to spend time arguing with me, Haruna walked past me and into the crowd of bodies, calmly swinging her sword. As I watched, I couldn’t help but begin shedding tears for all the lives she was taking.

“Grant…Is this what you guys do?” I muttered weakly, fearful of what his answer might be.

“Unfortunately, it’s a part of the job. The Parisé Magic Guild oversees two things: Taking down Chaos Demons and keeping magic under wraps from the public. With how things are going, you can say we’re not doing the latter all that well right now.” Grant said, responding with a loaded answer.

It was hard to hear Grant’s explanation over the violent screams coming out of the people Haruna cut down. When you think about such innocent ideas like magic, you expect it to be like every child’s dream. Now I’m supposed to believe it’s all about killing demons and silencing anyone who learns the truth? Thinking about the nightmare I was now living in made me want to scream myself. Surrounded by piles of corpses. Blood dripped from the tip of her sword as Haruna returned to Grant and I.

“You killed them all?” I asked, still in disbelief. There had to be upwards of forty people making up that crowd.

Haruna shook her head, pointing back to a handful of injured stragglers.

“Grant, alert the medical team.” She requested.

Acknowledging his partner’s words, Grant began drawing symbols into the air. After drawing a few different symbols, another of those small holographic windows appeared in front of him. Though I’d seen brief glimpses of it already, I was still awestruck. This was magic at work.

“Contacting Parisé Magic Guild Hall Branch F. Grant Maxwell here. We’ve got one…two…six, eight injured civilians here. Requesting medical backup.” Grant spoke to the woman within the holographic window.

“Request denied. Medical service access is granted to Guild members only.” The woman countered.

“You can let it slide this time. They’re going to become new recruits soon anyway.” Grant argued playfully, following it up with a wink which ultimately failed to amuse her. The woman remained quiet momentarily before complying with Grant’s request.

“I will need to report this to the commander. You can explain your protocol breach to her when you return.” She added, promptly ending the call, causing the window to vanish.

Grant sighed before saying to himself, “That takes care of that. I don’t mind taking a bit of heat over this one.”

During most of Grant’s call, Haruna had been standing over one of the many corpses. Realizing Grant was finished, Haruna motioned Grant over to the body.

“This person was stabbed. While I was fighting, I noticed a few others like this as well.” She recalled, examining the stab wound.

Taking a closer look, Grant noted, “Now this is interesting. It looks like whatever kind of weapon punctured them, it burned their insides.”

“An unallied mage. We need to track them down and restrain them. Let’s move.” Haruna decided firmly, immediately rushing off to track the unknown target.

Overhearing their observations, it was entirely plausible that the blade-wielding attacker was Sid. The theory left me feeling conflicted. Of course, nothing would make me happier to know that Sid was alive but at the same time, this would make him a murderer. I already felt slightly deranged for following these two killers.

Haruna was leading us through the mall when we were all stopped dead in our tracks by an unexpected crash.

“There we go! I knew it couldn’t have been too far away!” Grant shouted excitedly.

Ahead of us was a grotesque amalgamation of what I could only assume were once individual humans. It appeared to be a twenty-foot mountain of indistinguishable people, each of them groaning while a black tar-like liquid oozed from of their orifices. Extending from its left and right sides were four symmetrical, enormous, muscular looking arms. It swung two of its arms at once, decimating a few of the shops found on each side of it.

“Look alive Alec! Get a good look at your first Chaos Demon!” Grant introduced me to the beast with an almost terrifying grin.

Drawing both his sword and gun Grant warned, “Give me some space and I’ll show you what being a mage is all about!”

Just as Grant was going to leap into action, Haruna intervened, holding her blade in front of him as if it were a roadblock.

“You’ll get in the way. You’re no good to anyone when you’re like this, certainly not to them.” Haruna stated bluntly.

In his eagerness, Grant failed to spot the three civilians crouched near the Chaos Demon.

“Sid!” I shouted at the top of my lungs. I couldn’t quite see his face from the angles we were positioned at, but it had to be him.

Proving me right, Sid turned to return my call. “Alec! You’re ok!”

I wanted to run over to Sid but considering what was going on, now wasn’t the time for a heartfelt reconnection. Looking at Sid, he was covered in bruises and his clothing was torn. With him were two young girls, seemingly worn out as well. Readying itself once more, the Chaos Demon prepared its right fist for another solid strike.

“Speed enchant: Blitzkrieg.” Haruna whispered, pulling her gun and firing it. A strange holographic sigil appeared in front of her before she disappeared entirely.

In the blink of an eye, Haruna was in front of Sid and the two girls. Her finger on the trigger, Haruna fired off a second shot, resulting in a different sigil showing up this time. The Chaos Demon’s incoming punch was met with resistance, almost like it hit an invisible brick wall.

“What the hell…?” I said out loud without thinking.

“This is what we do as mages.” Grant said, answering my incomplete question. “I’m a little jealous I didn’t get to be the one to show off for you but if it can’t be me, Haruna puts on a great show.”

Grant spoke as casually as he was earlier but something like this was far beyond words. Earlier, Haruna could’ve been easily perceived as an average killer but against this monster, she moved like a well-trained assassin. It was almost enchanting watching her fight, quickly switching between evading and defending through her magical enchantments while slowly closing the gap between herself and her opponent. As I stared wide-eyed, Grant dropped what could be considered an even bigger bomb.

“Don’t get too starstruck, kid. Despite its looks, this Chaos Demon is nothing special.”

“You mean they become even bigger?!” I asked, shocked by the idea.

Grant laughed, shaking his head while responding, “Actually, the smaller ones are the most dangerous. Chaos Demons long to take on human appearances. There’s a reason it’s got so many human looking parts to it.”

Placing my focus back on the fight, Haruna had complete control over the flow of battle. She’d already severed three of its arms, targeting the final one. However, Sid ran towards the beast on his own, plunging his knife into its final arm.

“Ignite!” Sid shouted, triggering an explosion which blew off the Demon’s final arm, also knocking back both Sid and Haruna.

With an excessive amount of the tar-like blood, flowing from its exposed wounds, the Chaos Demon expelled the last of its life-force. As the smoke cleared, I found Haruna dashing towards a weakened Sid.

“Wait right there.” She commanded.

Scared, Sid slashed at the ground to create a tall pillar of fire in front of him. Immediately after, he’d created a portal and escaped into it.

“Teleportation magic? How’d the kid learn a spell like that?” Grant questioned, looking over at me.

I needed to go after him. I ran towards the nearest mall entrance door where I learned of my harsh new reality. Looking out through the glass door, I gazed despairingly at the now ruined Entro City, littered with now mindless humans and various Chaos Demons.

“I wouldn’t advise you step out there yet kid. At least, not until we properly train you.”

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