World“s First Demon Lord Chapter 26: A Thousand Lifetimes' Worth of Knowledge Is Wasted On A Beas
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March 26, 3:38 pm, Canberra, Australia
"Hello? Anyone there?"
Tarik tapped on the door of the store, like some sort of middle-aged white lady one minute after closing time at a Target. Gadiel was mortified.
"Dude. Stop," he whispered. "You're acting like a crazy person."
There was a clear sign saying "closed" on the glass door. The shopkeeper obviously did not want to be disturbed.
"But the hours are wrong," said Tarik, pointing to the trading hours right next to the "closed" sign. Sure enough, it stated that the store would be open until six pm today.
"Maybe he just went out for a small break?" Said Gadiel.
"And he doesn't have a 'Back in five minutes' sign instead?"
"Maybe not. You don't know the life of a small, niche shopkeeper."
Tarik rolled his eyes and pushed the door. To everyone's surprise, it opened easily.
They both froze for a moment. Then, without warning, Tarik simply strolled in.
"Tarik! What the heck?" Gadiel hissed.
"The door was open!"
"But the sign!"
"The trading hours sign begs to differ!" Tarik countered, walking further into the store. "Besides, if he really wasn't here, would he really leave the door unlocked?"
"Maybe he forgot!" Said Gadiel, following him in. He looked over his shoulder to make sure no one was looking. He felt a weird sensation in his stomach, that he was doing something he really wasn't supposed to.
"It isn't like we're trying to rob him," said Tarik, amused as he watched Gadiel sneak in nervously. "We're just here to ask some questions. And if he can't help, we leave. Innocent."
Gadiel gave Tarik an incredulous look.
"What kind of white people excuse is that?" Said Gadiel. "Has that excuse ever actually worked for you?"
"No, but that's cause people get confused by my accent and hear me out, and it never gets to that point," said Tarik. "I see no reason why that won't work for me now either."
Flabbergasted, Gadiel could only watch as Tarik walked deeper into the store. After a few moments of internal struggling, he followed.
"Hello? Anyone here?" Tarik called out as he reached the counter at the back of the store. Gadiel noticed that the book the shopkeeper had been reading - the one with the red cover and binding and no title on it - was lying on the desk, alone.
"Welp, we tried, let's lea-"
Something made a noise from the curtain behind the counter. Tarik and Gadiel shared a look.
"No," said Gadiel automatically.
"He could need our help," said Tarik. "What if...maybe...a bookcase fell on him?"
"That's a ridiculous situation," said Gadiel, but he was wavering.
On the one hand, they weren't supposed to be here. On the other...the shopkeeper might really need their help. He might have suffered a stroke, or something (the bookcase falling was too ridiculous a situation, honestly). And if they just left, closing the door, with no one else around to come by and check on him...
Gadiel felt his stomach tighten.
"One look," he said. "We look, and if it's nothing, we go back."
But Tarik had already walked past the counter, and through the curtains behind.
Gadiel followed, only to find Tarik standing in front of a large, metal double doors, with an Eastern dragon etched across.
"What the..." Gadiel trailed off, blinking furiously. Of all the things that could have been behind the curtain...this was...
Tarik stepped forward, and touched it. With a creak, the doors slowly swung open inwards, to reveal a set of ancient, stone stairs leading down into darkness.
A beat passed.
Without a word, Tarik headed down. A few seconds later, and with much sighing and eye-rolling, Gadiel followed.
The air grew damp and musty the deeper they went down, the light slowly fading. Lit torches hung from the walls, casting the stairs in a flickering, yellow glare. The deeper they walked, the more Gadiel felt like they should not be here. A weight seemed to be growing in the pit of his stomach with each step they took.
Eventually, the steps ended in front of another metal door, this one as solid and the last, but much smaller. Nothing etched into it either.
Tarik stopped in front of the door, contemplating.
"What are you waiting for?" said Gadiel. "You haven't stopped so far."
"Just making sure you're still with me," he said shakily.
Gadiel blinked in surprise. For the first time in the past fifteen minutes, he noticed that Tarik's fists were clenched tight. Had they been that way the entire time?
The realization hit Gadiel like a tonne of bricks.
Of course Tarik was scared. Or at the very least, apprehensive. He didn't know that they would find a weird set of doors; they came to talk to a shopkeeper! And yet, here they were, pressing on, trying to find out what the heck all this was about.
They both came here for answers; they didn't know what any of this all meant. If Tarik didn't feel any sort of apprehension or fear, in this crazy situation, he would have to be a complete idiot.
In other words, Tarik was just as nervous about this as he was.
Feeling like the world's biggest idiot, Gadiel took Tarik's hand. Tarik looked up at him in surprise.
Giving his warmest, most reassuring smile:
"Don't worry Tarik," said Gadiel. "I'm here with you."
Tarik smiled. It was a small smile, but an honest one, full of relief and maybe just a little bit of embarrassment, and cute enough to make Gadiel's heart skip a beat.
With that, Tarik opened the door.
It swung inwards silently, to reveal a narrow corridor. On second look, Gadiel realized that it wasn't really a corridor; the sides of the entrance were simply walled of by two, very tall bookcases.
Straight ahead was a small, circular clearing, with the bookcases forming a circle like the rays of a sunbeam. The only light source – a large, crystal and golden chandelier – hung from above the circular clearing. They boys stood there in shock for a moment as they realized the size of this place from how high and large the ceiling was; it was at least the size of a soccer field.
Of all the things Gadiel expected to find behind a secret door inside a shop, a massive, underground library was not one of them.
There didn't seem to be anyone in here either. Tarik took a tentative step forward, and Gadiel followed.
"H-hello?" Tarik whispered, walking forward.
"Why are you whispering?" Gadiel whispered back, following. "No one can hear you if you whisper."
"Library habit," Tarik grumbled. He opened his mouth again.
Before he could try again, something slammed into the central clearing. At first, Gadiel thought it was a gorilla or a similar animal. Then he noticed that the thing had large, bat-like wings. And a tail with a stinger on it. And claws for hands. And it was pinning the shopkeeper down.
Oh. There was the shopkeeper. Dressed in what seemed to be a blue and green, traditional Chinese robe.
The monster roared at the shopkeeper, who yelled something back in what Gadiel assumed was Chinese.
"Enlève tes griffes de lui!"
To Gadiel's shock, Tarik rushed in with a shout, drawing the attention of the monster and the shopkeeper.
"No!" yelled the shopkeeper. "Stay back!"
The monster roared, and leaped towards Tarik, who barreled straight ahead.
Before they could clash, the monster suddenly disappeared. One bewildering moment later, Gadiel realized that the monster had crashed into a bookcase on the other side of the room, wrapped in chains. Following the chains lead to their owner; the shopkeeper, who stood up and dusted himself off.
"What are you doing here?" the shopkeeper barked, standing straight. He looked annoyed.
"Didn't you see the sign?"
"What is that?!" Tarik practically yelled, pointing at the monster.
The shopkeeper's eyes narrowed, ignoring the question as he took in Tarik's full appearance. His gaze flicked between Tarik and Gadiel.
"You...have the Yin amulet," he mused. "And him the Yang. And you're both fine."
"Why wouldn't we be fine?"
The monster burst forward from the pile of books, now royally ticked off. It took one look at its opponents-
-and dashed straight for Tarik.
"Who do you think you're fighting?" the shopkeeper snorted. He flicked his wrist, sending a wave down the chain and causing the monster to go flying into another bookcase.
"And you!" he said, turning back to Tarik. He narrowed his eyes.
"You accepted a gift, didn't you?"
He phrased it like an accusation.
"Yeah, from you!" said Tarik.
It was at this point that Gadiel started laughing.
Once he started, he couldn't stop. Both the shopkeeper and Tarik were looking at him now, but the ball was rolling now. The laughter would not stop.
This was ridiculous. A gigantic library underneath a shop where a monster was fighting with a middle-aged shopkeeper? While the guy he kinda-sorta had a thing for argued with the shopkeeper about some free jewelry he gave?
Who couldn't laugh at such a ridiculous situation?
Gadiel's laughter was abruptly cut off as the shopkeeper's eyes widened. They both looked down to the shopkeeper's chest.
A large claw had punched through the shopkeeper's back, all the way through his chest.
He coughed up some blood, before pointing to the way the boys came in.
"Take...the red...book..." he gasped, coughing up more blood. "And...run..."
With a roar, the monster threw the shopkeeper to the side, smashing him into one of the bookcases.
Gadiel was definitely not laughing now. He grabbed Tarik's hand and tried to pull him away, but Tarik was frozen. He seemed rooted to the spot, unable to do anything as he watched the monster smash the shopkeeper's body against the bookcase repeatedly.
"Tarik, we have to RUN NOW!"
The monster finally looked up, its yellow eyes suddenly locked onto the boys.
Finally, Tarik snapped out of it, and the two began running. But it wasn't enough. Tarik's legs seemed to not be working properly, and the monster was gaining.
"Come on, run, Tarik, just run!"
Tarik almost tripped, but Gadiel pulled him up, urging him to run faster. The monster was gaining on them, getting closer. Gadiel could see the door getting closer too, but it was still too far away. Somehow, instinctively, he knew that they wouldn't make it at this rate.
He needed to do it. He gathered his resolve, and hardened it.
They were only a few meters away. With a push, he sent Tarik running the last few meters on his own, then turned back to the monster.
"Gadiel, what ARE YOU DOING?!"
Focus. He had to focus…
He needed to make it cold, colder than he had ever felt before.
He needed the coldest thing available.
The coldest sensation he had ever felt.
Gadiel's eyes snapped open, at the same time he breathed out. The monster was right in front, close enough to smell it's breath.
Gadiel stayed there, immobile, his cool gaze looking into the monster's frenzied yellow eyes. He couldn't feel the monster's breath anymore.
Because it was frozen. Encased in a block of ice.
His block of ice.
He watched as the monster struggled, trying to break free, but it was useless. He was in control. He was the one in power. He was-
"Gadiel," said a voice, soft.
He blinked, a warm hand on his shoulder bringing him back to earth. He turned to see Tarik, looking up at him, worried.
What kind of expression had he been making?
Gadiel quickly rearranged his face into a smile.
"I'm okay," he said.
Tarik's eyes grew as wide as saucers, an inexplicable grin spreading over his face.
"That. Was. Awesome!" he whispered.
Gadiel realized that his breath was fogging up, and only then looked around to see that he had somehow frozen an entire section of the hallway, monster included. The books were all covered in a thin layer of ice, slowling thinning out after about a five meter radius.
He blinked as he took in the full extent of his powers. Had he really done this?
A slow grin started to form on his face too, just as-
Immediately, Gadiel noted the ice around the monster was cracking. He looked back up, only to realize the monster's eyes were looking straight at him.
It was furious.
"RUN!" he yelled, grabbing Tarik's hand.
They slammed the door shut, and didn't stop to look back, rushing up the stairs. Gadiel was certain that at some point, he heard the monster roaring again, and quickened their pace.
It was only once they shut the giant double doors behind the curtain, panting, that Gadiel felt safe. Safe and exhausted. As soon as the doors shut, he felt his knees grow weak.
"Whoa," said Tarik, handily catching him before he fell. "Easy there."
Gadiel grinned. He was feeling a little light-headed.
"You smell good," he giggled.
It was true. Tarik smelled like books and sunbeams. He wanted to smell him more, but he was tired. He felt like he had been run over by a truck. And had been reincarnated into the body of an geriatric old man.
"Alright, looks like overusing your powers makes you tired," said Tarik, helping Gadiel stand by taking an arm over his shoulder. "Good to know. Let's get you some rest."
He started leading Gadiel back to his dorm, careful not to let him bump into too many things. As he did, he silently took a certain red book from the counter.
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