Merlin dug his front foot into the dirt, readying himself to face off against Nyx. He saw his hands and legs tremble in fear when the hooded man faced him, and now he had second thoughts about being Bral’s “savior”. Despite knowing he cannot win this fight, he stood his ground and held his chin up, taking deep breaths.
“Y-You stop this right now! Why are you doing this?!” Merlin shouted.
Nyx chuckled and pointed his knife at Bral. “You are judging me? Why am I doing this? The question is, why not?! He has tortured you, demeaned your very existence, treated you worse than the dirt he treads on! And you question why I’m doing this while his head should be grinding upon the floor?!”
He began to laugh uncontrollably. “A-Are you kidding me?! Have you lost your mind, boy?!”
Merlin gritted his teeth and Nyx’s laughter died down. He picked up Bral and threw him, making the noble skid across the ground and in front of the wizard’s feet. The defenseless young man looked up, seeing Merlin’s expression darken and he prepared himself for a horrible fate. Nyx smiled, and his yellow serpent eye sparkled in excitement.
“Yes, you wanted this! See him bleed, see him beg, see him crawl for his life! Say you want it and I’ll torture him until he breaks. See, I’m on your side!”
Nyx tilted his head. “What was that? I can’t—”
“I said shut up!” Merlin yelled. “I-I’m… I’m not a savage beast like you, nor I would steep so low for me to get back at someone! You’re not on my side: that’s just an excuse for you to kill him!”
The hooded man lowered his knife and walked to Merlin. “I see… Then you will volunteer for his suffering? I accept your kind gesture.”
Bral lifted his head, gritting his teeth. “Y-You idiot get out… of—!” he said and fainted on the spot.
A mysterious shadow loomed and when the mage turned around, Nyx’s creepy eye and smile appeared in front. Merlin’s heart raced and sweat poured from his forehead. He swung his staff several times and Nyx casually dodged. The wizard backed off and prepared a red arcane circle in front of him. He commanded the spell “Fireball”, only for sparks to come out from his long wand. He changed to a light blue arcane circle, trying to cast “Icespear”, but snowflakes sparkled from the end. Without any options to attack, Merlin erected a magical barrier around him since that was the only spell he can cast effectively.
“So, you want me to come forth? Very well, I accept your challenge!” Nyx roared.
He instantly appeared in front of Merlin’s barrier and slammed his knife onto the shield. The spell repelled the attack and so Nyx continuously hammered his weapon trying to pierce through.
Merlin breathed heavily and winced whenever the barrier took damage. Relax Merlin, focus! Delay until the others come! He thought.
Nyx smiled. “Confident, aren’t you? In that case…!”
The young mage blinked and before he knew it, a hand was choking him through the magical shield. Nyx somehow penetrated through and at this state, he cannot sustain the spell, so it broke. He was desperately grasping for air and the murderous hooded man lifted in the air. Nyx twirled, executing an overhead kick and the foot landing upon Merlin’s back. The young wizard coughed blood and the ground cracked beneath him when his body impacted the floor. Nyx smeared his foot onto the mage’s head and cackled upon seeing blood pour from the body.
“I like you. So noble, so humble, so naive! Ah, you remind me when I was a young b****r like you. But people like you do not know the harsh reality when facing true strength,” the hooded man growled.
People were yelling in the distance and Nyx saw torches in the distance. Reinforcements were coming in close, though it did not concern him. He turned to Bral and shrugged. “I guess our time here is limited. Any last words before you I smother you to the ground?”
Bral stood on his two feet and grunted. “S-Screw…you.”
“So be it. Die!”
Before Nyx was able to pursue Bral, Merlin quickly stood up and swung his staff at his face. The attack landed, and the hooded man was sent flying across the ground, recovering when he had the chance. The young mage, for some reason, was able to stand despite taking lethal injuries. Bral’s was astonished to see Merlin glow bright blue and yellow.
Nyx laughed and pointed at Merlin. “I see. You are indeed special after all! He was right.”
Merlin dashed to Nyx, yelling at the top of his lungs, and his staff collided with Nyx’s knife. The force of impact shattered the floor beneath them and the young wizard struggled to overcome Nyx’s strength. His aura became brighter and in a flash of light, the knife broke in half and the blunt weapon came soaring to Nyx’s body, knocking the man down to the floor. Dust accumulated in the air and when it settled, Nyx was gone and Merlin stood over the small crater, breathing heavily.
“Did… Did I…?” he quavered.
Merlin fell to the floor, his vision turning into black. Bral limped to him, shouting his name, but even his voice faded out. Eventually, he could not see anything other than darkness. The place was frightening, yet it gave some comfort. The wizard curled up into a ball and let out a deep sigh.
“Did I die? Is this my perception of the afterlife?” he said to himself.
He smiled. “Well, no one would know I’ll be here. I guess staying wouldn’t be too bad.”
He saw a glimmer of light shine on him, so he stood on his feet and looked to where it came from. There was a small ball of light floating some distance in front of him and he approached it with curiosity. When he held the illuminating orb, the light became brighter and it overwhelmed his sight.
It’s okay. I’m here… My son.
Merlin only saw black in his vision and it was quiet, so he assumed he was still dead. Then he heard gushing water being poured into what sounded like a metal pail. A soft, cold cloth was placed at his forehead and he felt someone’s hand squeezing his cheeks.
He was alive.
A door opened to his left and the sound of tapping shoes became audibly louder. It stopped, and someone sighed.
“Gloria, I need a raise if I have to babysit him every time, you know. I got other things to experiment on, so…”
“It is part of your doctorate’s oath to save those in need. Isn’t that right, Wolfenstein?”
Head Maester and Dr. Stein?! What are they doing here? Wait, am I in an infirmary? Merlin thought.
“That’s bogus you’d have to agree on to get your license. Something unnecessary to—”
“Then I’ll have your license revoked. I am the reason why you got it in the first place, dear friend.”
Stein grumbled. “Whatever you say. That’s not going to stop me from conducting my research.”
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The two became silent. Merlin believed they were watching him sleep, so he felt his face heat up in embarrassment. The Maester soaked the cloth in cold water and placed it on his forehead again. Something dripped on his face and it slowly trailed down his cheek. He heard someone sobbing.
“I-It’s not fair Stein, it’s not fair,” Gloria wept. “I never wanted this for him. It’s hard for me to smile whenever he comes back beaten up and it breaks my heart. He almost died for God’s sake.”
Merlin felt a gentle warmth on his cheek and then, a kiss on top of his forehead. “He’s strong for someone his age. However, he’ll end up just like them: not caring about how I think or feel…”
Stein grunted. “Gloria, you know that’s not the case. They didn’t have a—”
“I don’t care. They went and left, and never came back. I never wanted this, and this is my chance to save my poor child from the same fate they encountered. So, I think I’ll stop his lessons.”
“Stop right there. Though I’d agree with you, it’s not right to stop his growth.”
“I don’t care! He’s my son and I will fight for him in his steed even if he hates it. I just… don’t want him to…”
“Then how about this: if he does not improve within the next week he recovers, then you should do what you wish,” Stein proposed. Gloria was silent for a bit and she stood up, making her way to the exit of the room. Stein let out a sigh again. Judging from their interaction, she agreed on his proposition.
“Good luck Merlin. You’re gonna need it, kid.”
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