Chapter 33 – The Lightning Temple

Maria had a damn good singing voice. Granted, Julius couldn’t exactly understand a word of what she was singing at the moment, but it did still sound really nice.

The caster of their group, currently decked out in some golden, lightning-bolt emblazoned robes provided by the Torahikos, was standing right outside the huge round door leading into the Lightning Temple, her hands clasped in front of her chest as she sung in a light, clear voice that vaguely reminded Julius of a peaceful forest clearing. Most of them had actually gotten some armor upgrades from the Torahiko Clan–free of charge!–which mostly meant they were all looking significantly more decked out in gilded armor and yellow and/or orange cloth. 

Even Tisma had a snazzy lightning-steel breastplate on. She might’ve been forgoing pretty much everything else, armor wise, but he’d seen a spear literally shatter against her face, so he wasn’t too worried.

It did suck that most of that couldn’t really be shown off in the perpetual downpour that was Rainfall Island though. Douglas had casually formed a thin shield above the huge circular area littered with pillars that made up the temple’s exterior entryway to keep the rain off of them, but still. Julius’s sense of aesthetics was telling him that all the clothes would’ve looked fantastic in the bright sunshine and it was mildly irritating him that nature wasn’t complying with the damn style.

“You looked mad, Jules. Should I assume you’re not a fan of Maria’s singing?” Tisma asked in a low voice, smirking to show it was a joke. She was standing beside him and Douglas was on his other side while the rest of their students sat around to listen to the ongoing performance.

“No, she’s a great singer. I’m just annoyed at the weather,” he replied as he glanced up at the downpour overhead. The rain was splashing against the shield like it was a glass window, bursting and running down its sides.

“Heh. I get your meaning there. I never was a fan of these murky climates. Too damn humid for my liking.”

“So the Sun Lands weren’t humid?” 

“They were in a few places. There were more jungles around than you’d think, plenty of tropics and all.”

“Oh I really should visit there again some time,” Douglas mused, rubbing his chin.

“You went down to the Sun Lands?” Julius asked.

“Indeed I did, as so I did to the Frost Lands and even the Barren Lands, partially at least.”

“…Why the fuck would you go to that literal hellhole?”

“Oh come now, I’ve seen an actual hellhole and let me state clearly now, they have nothing on the absolute wasteland that poor country is.”

“Does it count as a country if there are no people there?” Tisma wondered.

“Yes, I’m fairly certain it does, you’re thinking of a nation.”

“No, I think she’s right,” Julius spoke up, trying to hide a grin, “A country needs people in it to be a country, right? And wouldn’t the Barren Lands be a continent anyway?”

“No, certainly not, it’s far too small to be a continent, but it’s too big to really be considered an island. Hence ‘country’.”

“Semantics aside, why did you go down there anyway?” Tisma asked, bringing them back on topic. Kind of a shame. Julius was wondering how far he could get Douglas to go with arguing that point.

“Arcane studies, primarily. I visited the temples and shrines of each continent, and the one country, in order to further my understanding of the magical arts through directly interacting with the adherents of various faiths, whether they were Rakulian, Ouzan, or Lautic, which is why I have so many tattoos.”

“Ah. And Jules here knows exactly what all those tattoos look like now, don’t he?” Oh dammit.

“We never got as far as removing our undergarments, so I wouldn’t say he’s seen all of them.” 

“Oh my fucking gods Douglas, stop,” Julius immediately deadpanned, frowning at his friend as Tisma snickered behind him. And why the hell did he hear clapping?

“You know, I probably could name a number of gods that would count as ‘fucking gods’, due to those studies, and you only glanced at my crotch a few times so-”

“Uh, hey, Teach? Or…teaches?” Sue frowned, considering her words for a second. Oh, and she was standing up for some reason. Weird. Did Maria stop singing?

“I’m fairly certain we call those teachers.” 

“Serg-…” Julius blinked, staring at Sylsa. Who had spoken. Instead of Sergio.

He looked at Sergio, who shrugged. “What? I can’t be the snarky dick all the time. Also, I think Sue wanted to say the door’s open, which you would’ve noticed if you weren’t talking about each other’s dicks.”

“Do we really need to bring up our teachers’ dicks?” Sylsa muttered, frowning. Huh. Her face looked a little red again.

“If it’s on topic, sure. Besides, only two of them have dicks. I think.”

“Yeah, definitely no dick over here. None of y’all are getting a look though,” Tisma bluntly stated, before looking above their students’ heads at the door. “And hey, looks like the door is open. Great job, Mini-Loren!”

“Why am I ‘Mini-Loren’?? I’m taller than my mom!” Maria complained, then frowned. “Well, aside from antlers, but those don’t count.”

“Sure you are, pipsqueak.” Maria yelped as Tisma casually patted her head, nearly getting knocked down just from the weight of her palm. “Don’t worry though, I’m sure I’ll think of a better nickname for you soon. Maybe Orange Junior? I did call Cy ‘Orange Boy’ at first…”

“Didn’t you call him tangerine too?” Julius asked, walking along with his students to the temple’s entrance.

“Tangerine, Clementine, Sunball,” Tisma counted off, holding up a finger for each nickname as she fell in step alongside him. “I called him just about anything that came to mind when I felt like making fun of him. It definitely helped that all y’all humans had distinct hair colors. That made it real easy to come up with dumb things to call y’all.”

“Is that your way of saying you started calling us by our names when you ran out of stuff to call us?” 

“Not my fault I couldn’t keep track of all the dumb shit y’all did. How am I supposed to make fun of you for stupid stuff if I don’t know what you did?” 

“Missed you too, Tisma.” 

“Not to be rude, but could we maybe keep the reminiscing until after the temple?” suggested Adrien as they all stopped at the doors leading to the temple. 

“Speaking of, want to take charge this time, Tizzy?” Douglas asked, beaming again, “I had my turn last time and Jules has been taking the lead every time before then.”

“Hm? What, you want me to take charge?” A small frown formed on her face as she glanced over their students. “I know I don’t do dumb shit like y’all, but that also means I’m smart enough to know I shouldn’t be in charge of a bunch of little kids.” 

“We are literally all adults,” Sylsa deadpanned.

“Well Jules has been doing fine enough as it is,” Douglas continued, ignoring her. He, Tisma, and Julius casually strolled ahead into the brightly lit interior of the temple as their students trailed behind them, muttering some things Julius was pretty sure weren’t exactly flattering or respectful. 

The interior of the temple looked about the same as the last time Julius had been by. It was huge and circular, another ‘hub room’ with two doors on the west and east sides of it, ringed by torches lit with yellow flames. Despite the downpour outside, the ‘skylight’ at the top had constant sunshine pouring through, illuminating the whole area and especially the huge, bronze statue of Innominatum taking up the far end of the room, its hands resting on a large, western-style greatsword that stabbed into the pedestal it stood on.

Douglas didn’t pay any attention to their surroundings though, still chatting with Tisma. “So really, I doubt there will be any problems at all if you decide to take charge-”

“Ow!” Adrien abruptly yelped, stumbling back and rubbing his nose as Julius turned and…the fuck?

“What?” Julius muttered, staring at the sheer, golden shield that had formed right in the entrance, cutting him off from all his students. Douglas and Tisma were still with him, both of them staring bewildered at it too while every last one of their students were on the other side, unable to get through.

“Huh. That’s different,” Douglas mumbled, then raised a hand, his eyes flashing brighter for a moment. “…What?” Well shit, that wasn’t good.

“What ‘what’?”

“Would you two saying ‘what’ and explain wh…Explain that?” Tisma demanded, pointing to the shield as Adrien tried to stab through it, gritting his teeth when it held firm even against Iginia’s point.

“It’s a shield,” Douglas replied, frowning, “The temple itself formed a shield separating our two groups.”

“And why did the temple do that?” Julius asked with a scowl of his own. The rest of his students had started backing up, talking amongst themselves as they tried to figure out how to get through the shield. Mask seemed a little anxious, actu– “Mask! How immune are you to water?”

“Eh? Uhh…pretty immune, sir?” They shrugged, then glanced up again at the storm clouds overhead. “I’ve absorbed plenty of water slimes when I was younger to build up a resistance.” …Well that raised some interesting questions about slime physiology that Julius had never considered. “I’m just getting a bad feeling, like there’s something…predatory around. Like an instinct-”

Shit. Shit, shit- “Maria, can you hear anything?”

She stiffened, then craned her head, frowning. “I, uh…No, just rain. Maybe some thunder? Syl? You get anything?” Right, right, two elves, should’ve asked.

“…Give me a second. Sir Goldforge, Mister Yew, Dame Vlahos, can you handle the inside of the temple for now?” 

Julius felt a slight weight come off his shoulders at her calm response, then nodded firmly. “We can.”

“We definitely can,” Tisma agreed, though she was frowning. “But first, Jules had a point there. Why did the temple block the kids out?”

And that’s when every single light, including the ‘sunlight’ overhead, completely blacked out. 

“Now that would be my fault, my dear~!” Julius slowly turned, already feeling a headache coming on as a cheerful voice boomed out somewhere in the shadows. Definitely leaning masculine, kind of deep, but with an amused undertone to it. Drawing his sword, Julius let it crackle with lightning to get some light in the dark. Something Douglas seemed to agree with since he suddenly conjured and threw a ball of light at the source of the voice. 

“Now now, don’t any of you have any manners at all?” Came the cheerful voice from an entirely different position as the ball of light barely illuminated the clearly magical shadows around them. “You should let people properly introduce themselves! Propriety is the foundation of a stable society!” 

The ball of light flew right over to that spot, but revealed nothing but more shadows, leaving every single part of the room in some kind of dark void.

“Tut tut, so impatient! Please, gentlemen and lady, clean your ears, for you’re about to be introduced to the illustrious me~! For I am the Prince of the Night, the greatest of Lord Valondrac’s generals! You see, dear watchers and listeners, I am the wondrous, terrific, and utterly amazing-” the voice continued to sound out all around the room as Douglas frowned and started sending more and more balls of light into the room, until they were all suddenly snuffed out at once.

In an instant, the natural lights of the temple came on, all at once, but came back wrong. For some reason, all of the flames and even the ‘sunlight’ were now a deep purple, matching the bizarrely altered room around them. It was still a huge, circular room, but all the stone had gone completely black and huge violete tapestries with a stylized ‘V’ in white, red, or black hung down all around the room.

The statue of Innominatum had been messed up too. Huge demon horns curled up from the sides of its head and it had a ridiculously huge, sadistic grin on its face, baring sharp teeth. And there was a man standing up on its shoulder, one hand casually hanging onto a horn as he grinned down at them, baring his own sharp teeth.

He was a well-built guy, broad-shouldered but more on the slender side. Sort of like Douglas, if Douglas was ridiculously pale–almost completely white–and had a full, thick, dark-brown beard that thinned into sideburns as his facial hair connected to his short-cropped hair. He was also making it as blatantly obvious as possible that he was a vampire. Seriously, if the all black vest, undershirt, dress pants, and heeled boots didn’t scream ‘vampiric noble’, the fact that he was wearing a blood-red cravat and a black cavalier shoulder-cape would’ve. 

Hell, even if Julius was willing to write that all off as the guy being overly dramatic–which he definitely was–the red eyes and long canines gave it away.  

“-Count Jonathan Terrence Bleaksky!” he finally finished, throwing a gloved hand outward and causing his cape to flutter fancily. And huh. Something about that name sounded familiar…

“Nice to meet you. You wanna get down from there so we can talk proper?” Tisma called up at him. She hadn’t taken her hammer off her shoulder yet, so she did actually want to talk. Hm.

“My apologies, Madam, but I shall remain up here.” Bleaksky leaned against the demonic head, smirking at them through the space between it and the horn. “But if you wish to speak to my esteemed self before we do battle, then I shall allow it!” 

“Right, so what exactly did you do to the temple, Fangy?” 

“Ah, I see you noticed my beautiful decorations!” He pointed out towards them with a jeweled cane, gesturing at each of the banners. “T’was a difficult thing to do, but I believe my sense of aesthetics greatly improved the temple.” 

“And how the fuck did you do that?”Julius asked as he glanced back and saw Douglas trying to dispel the shield. 

“Isn’t it obvious, my dear man?” Bleaksky walked further out onto the shoulder so they could see him clearly and snapped his fingers. A very large orb suddenly dropped into his hand, it’s surface almost entirely black except for the small core of gold light in its center. “I did my job! I performed my Lord-given task to the utmost of my abilities and have in turn been rewarded with a grand accolade!” He chuckled darkly. “Complete control over this temple.”

What. “How?! Torahiko said you only got in here recently!”

“Hm, I suppose a week ago would be recently, wouldn’t it? But the simple answer there, my dear man, is that I am easily the greatest wielder of magic amongst my lord’s immense forces! Aside from my lord, of course, and perhaps Samore, but still! My immense magical might has gifted me with incredibly powerful, corruptive abilities! So now the core is mine, and none of you can have it.”

“So this barrier is being created by the core, which is, judging by the color, more than halfway under your control,” Douglas spoke up, turning back towards Bleaksky and frowning.

“Indeed it is!”

“Wait, but doesn’t Claire want those cores?” Julius abruptly realized, “Why wouldn’t you be already on your way back to her? You have the core under your control.”

“Ha! A very good question, and thank you, dear sir, for saying my Lord’s name so casually! It’s very good to confirm that you are indeed Sir Goldforge and my reasoning for being here was not in vain! And that very reason was, most certainly, to do battle with your so very esteemed self! And your noble companions, though I admit their presences will likely complicate matters.” He crossed his arms over his chest. “I was aware of the ‘former chosen hero who is now an arcane mage’ in your presence, but the brutal champion, no, she I was not expecting.”

“Good to know. I’m fond of surprising people,” Tisma replied, smirking back.

“So what, you want to duel me?” Julius asked, frowning instead. There was a lot about this situation that he really wasn’t liking.

“In a sense! Though I admit, to do battle with three heroes of your caliber is a particularly enticing prospect! Ah, and not to worry about your dear students!” A sudden, loud thump abruptly sounded out behind Julius. “I’ve provided a very kind sparring partner for them!”

Julius grit his teeth, trying to keep the blood from pounding in his ears as he looked back and saw that fucking dragon, Seth, had landed right behind his students and was rising up to his full, four-legged height, his horned head glaring down at them from his snake-like neck. Lightning flashed and thunder boomed behind him, lighting up his cold blue eyes as he glared down at Julius’s students.

“Oh how fantastic! I doubt I could have timed that any better!” Bleaksky crowed, clapping his hands gleefully, “It seems even the gods favor this glorious plan of mine!”

“DOUGLAS! GET THE BARRIER DOWN NOW!” Julius immediately shouted as he whirled towards him.

“Don’t be stupid, Goldforge.” Julius flinched, then glared up at the vampiric bastard smirking back at him. “The barrier will only go down at the command of whosoever holds this core.” He chuckled. “And I have no intention in the slightest of letting you try to ruin our battle.”

“Teach.” Julius turned, again, because apparently no one could just be standing in the same area, and saw Adrien staring back at him with a confident grin. “Leave this to us.”

“What!?” Oh for fuck’s sake, now Adrien was losing it! And apparently everyone else was too because Sophia had started muttering protective enchantments while the rest of the students were spreading out, readying their weapons. “You’re talking about fighting a dragon!”

“Well yeah, duh. I don’t see a way out of this where we don’t fight the dragon here,” Adrien replied with a shrug, “But is that really such a big deal? He’s not even a Great Dragon.”

“…What??”

Adrien actually had the fucking gall to grin again. “You were two years younger than I am now when you killed your big bad dragon, right? Granted, I don’t think we’re gonna try to kill Seth here, but I don’t think he’ll be trying to kill us either, so count it as a handicap on both ends.” He paused, scratching his chin as he glanced back at Seth. “He’s also still got that gaping chest wound you gave him. It looks barely healed, so that’s even more of a handicap in our favor…

Adrien smirked, turning back to Julius. “My point is, we’re you’re students, so we were bound to wind up fighting a dragon at some point. Just consider it our rite of passage.” He actually gave him a thumbs up. “Oh, and make sure to kick the vamp’s ass too. After all, it’s gonna look really shitty for everyone if we wind up having to rescue you from some poncy noble after beating a dragon.”

Julius dimly heard Bleaksky start laughing behind him as he stared back at Adrien.

After a few seconds, he couldn’t help but crack a grin of his own. “Don’t get yourself killed. I really don’t want to train up another hero after all of this.” 

“Heh, thanks for the vote of confidence, Teach.” With that, Adrien turned around, pulling his sword from its sheath as he approached Seth. 

“Hmph. They could afford to consult me too,” Douglas muttered, pouting, “I’m their teacher too.”

“Yeah, you are, and all of us know you’d let them fight Seth on their own even if you could help them,” Julius snarked back. He couldn’t keep the proud grin off his face though, even as he turned back toward Bleaksky up on the statue.

“Yes, but it’s the principle of the thing!”

“It’s always good to see you two are dumb as ever,” Tisma spoke up with a smirk of her own.

“Yeah yeah, whatever. Let’s just kick this prick’s ass already,” Julius replied.

“Finally!” Bleaksky clapped his hands together, still chuckling slightly. “I appreciate the necessity of pre-fight banter, but really, the dramatics were getting a little much, even for me!”

“…I really don’t want to hear that from you, jackass.”

“Now now, don’t be rude, though I admit you have a fair point.” His smirk widened as he casually tossed his cane aside. “I do so love my dramatics.”

Bleaksky suddenly erupted into a massive colony of bats, swirling around themselves as they shot upwards, curved, and slammed straight into the middle of the floor, leaving the pompous noble rising up from a crouch, his teeth bared in an eager grin. 

And then he bent backwards, avoiding the head of Tisma’s hammer as she swung it straight for his head. “Ha! Good try!” 

Bleaksky twisted and punched her straight in the chest, sending her sliding back across the floor as he swung his arms out and two large, broadhead axes formed in his hands. 

Tisma went right back on the attack though, and Julius ran towards Bleaksky’s side, seeking to flank the vampire and beginning a timed count in his head. Timing his attacks, he began to swipe rapidly with his electrified blade, doing his best to keep Bleaksky off balance as Tisma tried to crush him.

But every single swing and stab was either deflected or dodged. Bleaksky moved unnaturally, bending out of the way of Tisma’s hammer swings and sending sparks flying into the air when he blocked Julius’s cuts with his axes, their handles made of some kind of non-conductive metal.

That wasn’t a problem though. As Julius reached twenty seconds in his head, both he and Tisma jumped backwards, letting Douglas’s fireball land on target. 

Bleaksky yelped, knocked off balance by the blast, but quickly rolled back to his feet and rushed forward so rapidly that Julius just barely blocked the heavy swing right for his head.

“Odd choice of weapons, Count Bleaksky!” Douglas called out, his hands clasped together like he was praying, even as he glared at the vampire, who jumped back to avoid getting crushed by Tisma’s hammer. Julius suddenly felt the familiar rush of healing magic in him and couldn’t help but grin. It seemed Douglas was going for the support this time. And distracting the vamp with talk. Double nice. “I took you for a classier man!”

“Ah, but what is class but savagery bound, my new friends!” Jonathan cackled with an eager grin, “But ah, I’ve so clearly underestimated the lot of you! Barely a few seconds and already you’ve taken first blood! And I admit to some-”

He suddenly burst into bats when Tisma swung that time, her skin emanating a sudden wind as she moved with far more speed than before.

“-exhaustion, even! I’m getting quite the workout here!” he called out, still chuckling as he reformed across the room, near the right entrance, “So, offense, defense, support, good to know your roles! And here I am, fighting solo!” He cackled again, suddenly chucking one of his axes at Douglas–So of course Julius stepped right in front of it and slammed his blade straight into its head, sending sparks flying as the axe blade shattered into shards of steel that splashed harmlessly against the shield Douglas was maintaining around him.

“As such, I do hope you won’t hold my handicap against me!” Jonathan finished, doing some kind of flourish with his free hand until a bizarre mask formed in his palm. It was a dark purple and seemed to be shaped like a demon’s face, with two prominent horns curling from its forehead and a fanged mouth curved in a bizarrely smug grin–And Jonathan suddenly twirled and ducked, dodging out of the way of the arcane beam Douglas suddenly fired at him.

So, shit, that mask wasn’t good. Julius and Tisma didn’t even need to ask as they immediately charged for Jonathan, but they were way too late to stop him from slamming the demon mask straight onto his face.

There was a sudden, huge burst of a purple and black aura all around Jonathan–like a massive inferno erupted from his body–as the ground cracked and spikes of stone suddenly shot out from the floor all around him.

Tisma suddenly stepped in front of Julius, tanking the hits as she shouted back at Douglas, “WHAT’S WITH THE MASK?”

“Devil Mask, worn by the forces of the Demon Lord Disara the Heretic, allows the wearer to channel the powers of whatever type of demon is sealed inside it!” he replied, his tattoos glowing as he did whatever the hell he was doing.

“The fuck are you doing?” Julius had to ask.

“Channeling Light and Purification! The Triarchs may be strict morons but their forces know how to handle demons! Tisma, do you know any techniques?”

“SOME SURE. WHAT DO WE GOTTA LOOK FOR?” she–Jonathan suddenly slammed a fist wreathed in stone right into Tisma’s face, actually knocking her straight off her feet–Julius ducked, turning to see Douglas catch Tiz in a quickly conjured cushion-y barrier and then immediately had to start parrying even more rapid axe swings as the cackling vamp tried to carve into him with his remaining axe.

For a brief moment, Julius could have sworn he heard a small sna–and suddenly he felt his back foot begin to fall and jumped straight to the side to avoid falling down a sudden hole–”GAH!”–and got an axe head digging into his side for his trouble.

With both hands on the handle, Jonathan followed through and tried to carve deep into Julius’s side, but the shield on him held firm so he only got a shallow cut in before the sheer force of the hit sent him flying across the room as Tisma charged back in.

Thankfully, Douglas caught him with that same cushion-barrier thing and he dropped back to the floor, wincing as the impact jarred his wound. “Ah, that’s not too bad-Oh, never mind, very bad.”

Julius blinked, glancing at Douglas as he immediately started healing him. “What? What’s ‘very bad’?”

“Just a little issue, nothing to worry about, mostly he seems to have enchanted the axe there with some demonic magic and that’s a slight issue, but nothing too bad, really,” Douglas answered, keeping one glowing green hand on Julius as he raised the other one and sent a beam of water straight at Jonathan as he traded blows with Tisma. The vamp ducked out of the way and returned fire with a mass of black and purple tendrils erupting from his hand and splashing against the blue barrier Douglas quickly conjured. “Ah, tricky devil…”

“What kind of enchantment, Douglas?”

“Hm? Oh, you’re still focused on that, well, nothing too bad, like I said. Superbians don’t exactly lean towards a particular element, mostly just pure force and arcane energies, but the corruptive aspects of all demonic magic is still inherent in them and also did you notice the ground back there?”

Julius blinked at the subject change. “Yes, I did. Is he using the core?”

Douglas hummed noncommittally as the ground around Jonathan and Tisma suddenly started raising and twisting as blocky pillars of stone erupted from the floor. “It’s a possibility, certainly.”

“…” Well fuck. “…Okay, explain the mask, quickly.” Tisma was doing good, adjusting to the changing elevation decently and still trading blows evenly with the supercharged vampire. She was definitely doing more damage with the hammer when she managed to hit him, sending him skidding across their platforms and probably breaking some ribs, than Jonathan was doing with his axe. Still, Julius could still see the axe was actually leaving marks on her, small sprays of blood spurting out as the axe managed to cut her, so a long fight against an asshole running on a constant source of energy seemed like a really shit idea, no matter how good Tisma’s endurance was. Didn’t help that he could see Jonathan’s body shifting back to normal thanks to his regeneration.

“Demon sealed inside, gives the wearer boost in whatever magics said demon is attuned to as well as increasing their physical abilities, but breaking or removing the mask while it’s active causes a bad backlash on the wearer, but, further but, breaking the mask lets the demon loose and removing it is next to impossible-”

“Can you handle the demon?”

It was Douglas’s turn to blink, before he abruptly grinned. “You have a demonic sword, right?”

“…Yes?” 

“Cut through the mask, don’t just smash it. Trebuchet time?”

“Trebuchet time.” They both nodded at each other, before Julius steadied his stance, getting the right amount of relaxed and firm to avoid–And the very second he was ready, a massive blast of air sent him rocketing up to the platform Tisma and Jonathan were dueling on.

It took only a glance for Tisma to immediately get what was going on and in an instant, she copied Jonathan’s earlier move and full on tossed her hammer at him. Though in her case, it was less an overhead through and more a massive swing that nearly snapped Jonathan in half as he barely avoided it just in time for her to grab him, locking her arms under his and yanking him back against her chest just in time for Julius to reach the platform and swing hard for the vamp’s face.

His sword cleaved straight through the mask in a spray of blood and purple mist–

About a second later, Julius was blinking and picking himself off the ground, a ringing in his ears that quickly faded in a familiar green glow. He glanced over at Douglas, who looked a little sheepish.

“…So that was far more explosive than I thought it would be.” 

“…You think?” Julius blinked again, frowning. “Is Tisma okay?”

“Ah, yes, I actually caught her first. You, er…sort of slammed right against the floor. No broken bones, I hope?”

Well, it didn’t feel like anything was knitting together inside of him, so probably not. Room was damn dusty though. It was kind of hard to see–Oh, that’s because he blew up most of it. 

Julius stared at the huge crater in the center of the room. “…Did we do that?”

“Not exactly, in fact I would say it’s more Jonathan’s fault, due to the backlash of the explosion going into all of the, well…everything.” Douglas shrugged. “And before you ask, I think he’s over there-ish.” He gestured towards some of the rubble around–Oh, yup, there he was. He looked like shit.

“So you’re more concerned about your half-immortal enemy than your squishy friend nowadays?” Julius blinked, then glanced over at Tisma, who was smirking and raising an eyebrow at him, her tone joking. She was standing around some of the rubble, her chestplate visibly wrecked as she rubbed at her neck, occasionally glancing at the floor, probably for her hammer. Interesting she seemed more worried about her weapon then the damaged she had received from the blast.

“…I have no idea who would ever call you ‘squishy’. You’re more solid than most golems.”

“I’d argue that, but I actually have met squishier golems then me…” She shrugged, then went back to her search. “Also, might wanna figure out what’s up with your sword before you do anything dumb.”

“My sword?” What was up with–Huh. Julius stared at his sword, which was currently shimmering with a mix of gold and violet energy. “…Douglas, what the fuck?”

“Ah, now that one, I actually can explain fairly simply, since I did intend such a result to happen. You see, your sword was made with an avarician-attuned metal, so I assumed it would retain the ‘greedy’ properties natural to it and absorb all the demonic energy provided, and not quite, well, explode, though your sword didn’t actually explode, so much as the energy conducted between the two of them exploded.”

“…So probably good to not stab more demons with this?”

“Yes, probably.”

Julius nodded. “Thanks for the advice.” And then headed right on over to Jonathan, glancing over the beaten general.

Most of his clothes were absolutely shredded, baring a lot of pale muscle as the bruised vamp stared up at him, one hand over his nose. A lot of his beard was singed and burnt–the same went for his eyebrows–and his hair was loose from its ponytail, splayed out under his head. “W-Well…h-hello a-again, Sir Goldforge…you seem to have cut through a good amount of my nose.”

“Hm…I’m not sure if I should apologize for that-”

“No, don’t, really. It hurts, sure, but most of my body hurts currently, and that’s all a part of the battle, isn’t it?” He grinned, showing those sharp teeth–…

So most of his teeth were busted. Wow, there were a lot of gaps there. “…So do those grow back, or do you need to see a healer?”

“…Huh?” Jonathan tilted his head at him, then started poking his tongue at his teeth. “…Hhhuuuhhhngh…whell thhat’s-Blehk, I shouldn’t talk with my tongue like that. Yes, I will most certainly need to see a dentist sometime soon.”

“Yeah, that sounds like a good plan.” Julius crouched by Jonathan, frowning at him. “So, you’re done? No more trying to kill us?”

“Indeed I am and indeed I will no longer.” He suddenly smirked. “Though you really should not focus your concerns on my broken form, Sir Goldforge. Your students do face an opponent of equal strength to myself, and once he done with them, you will most certainly-”

A loud thump caught Julius’s attention, and he glanced back at the barrier. “…So Sue just punched your pal there into your barrier.”

“…” Jonathan sat up and stared at Seth, who groaned softly in pain as he pressed up his draconic head against the barrier, drool leaking from his massive mouth. His body was absolutely covered with gashes and burns, and he had a mix of knives, arrows, shards of metal, and conjured spears visibly protruding all over his skin, along with some vines looping around his wings to keep him from moving–Julius winced as Mask actually start yanking their knives from Seth’s scales, earning some whines of pain from bloodied dragon even as Sylsa and Sophia started using a mix of stone and barriers to tie down his limbs. “…Bugger me with a scythe, what sort of monsters have you been instructing??”

Julius casually cuffed the top of Jonathan’s head. “Don’t be a dick.”

“Ow! Er, noted…If I may, er…what do you intend to do with us?”

Julius glanced back at the vampiric noble, then shrugged. “Honestly? I was thinking you’d just teleport out with your friend there. It worked with most of your other pals, and all the shit that happened with Ariel has kinda put me off the idea of taking you prisoner. Just don’t be an asshole and try to attack us on your way out, got it?”

Jonathan blinked. “…My, you really are a generous soul.” He huffed, amused, then glanced down at his legs. “Hm…well, unfortunately, these do not appear to be working, so I’m afraid I cannot quite bow to you.” He shrugged, grinning as he leaned back–And then flopped right back down. “…And it seems my arms are giving out now too.”

“…Are you going to be okay?” 

“Indeed I shall! I appreciate the concern, but it is unnecessary, my dear man! I merely need to will it, and I shall vanish back to my noble master in an instant! And while I am on such a topic, SETH!”

Seth blinked from the barrier, his eyes focusing slightly. “…Whrt?” Wow, his mouth looked even worse than Jonathan’s.

“We’re leaving now, my dear comrade! We’ve most assuredly lost, and so there is no more point in remaining!”

Seth grunted, then abruptly vanished in a flash of black light, much like all the other generals. Which left a bunch of arrows and knives falling down to the ground.

“…So how do those teleport things even work?” Julius decided to ask, turning to–Well shit, Jonathan vanished too. “…Well, at least this is over with.” 

Wait, why was it getting dark all of a sudden? 

“Uh…why is the statue still all demon like?” Tisma asked as she fished her mallet out of a pile of rubble. 

“Oh, that is odd,” Douglas muttered, then shrugged, “Well, no matter, we simply have to use the core to change the temple back by uncorrupting it. Or would that be ‘decorrupting’ it?” 

…Shit. 

“…I think he might have taken off with the core.” 

“What?” “What.”

Julius turned to his friends, scratching the back of his head a little awkwardly. “Uh…so, when I told him to leave, I didn’t actually see him leave the core behind.” 

“…”

“…”

“…”

“…He escaped before we could stop him,” Tisma suddenly said as the barrier began to fade away. 

“His control over the temple gave him enough time to run,” suggested Douglas to further help the lie.

Julius nearly laughed, but held it in. “G-Glad we’re all in agreement then.”

And with their future excuses set up, they all prepared themselves to sell the lie, turning to their students as they rushed in. 

“Teaches! Are you all okay!?” Adrien asked as he came in, helping Sue stand as he did, her arm over his shoulder and his around her waist. She had a gash around her waist that Julius really wasn’t liking.

“Well none of us are dead at least. What about all of you?” Julius asked even as he headed over to check her out.

“Sue is doing worse for wear right now, an-” 

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