Well, I had chapter 2 half-done a few months ago, but then life happens and I revamped the daevas and in turn I had to tinker with the Demon Realm system too and etc etc etc... I had to redo chapter 2 entirely, but fortunately chapter 1 didn't have anything that changed much between then and now, so I didn't have to do anything about it. Yay!


Maybe, just maybe, being too different was not a very good idea after all. This Nanghaithya realized when his ruzisam suddenly decided to sit on his head and try to build a nest with his hair. He would not have minded that much if the creature had not been in the middle of delivering a message that may be very important. He supposed the other daevas did have a good reason to prefer to use gargoyles as messengers.

He lifted the creature from his head, taking care to disentangle his hair from the spikes that covered its body. The ruzisam tried to wriggle free, flailing its tiny arms in protest, but immediately stopped when Nanghaithya glared at it. He snapped his fingers once and the creature's arms and legs slid inside its body, giving it the appearance of a spiky, translucent blob of goo. He placed the creature on his desk. It timidly slithered into a small golden tray and, the moment it settled on the tray, promptly went rigid and a number of coloured balls grew out of its spikes. A bright green ball then started glowing.

Tyberius again. Nanghaithya glanced at the hourglass next to the ruzisam's tray. It had been a few hours since Tyberius' last contact. That was ample time for anyone to wreak havoc. Hopefully his spy was contacting him because he had more information, not to report a disaster.

He tapped the spiky creature and Tyberius' voice began speaking.

"The human girl is apparently also controlling a darkling. It is travelling with them now, but I didn't see it earlier. I do not know if it means anything to you, master, but the human is named 'Mel', and one of the spirits is named 'Nox'. They also mentioned that they were only 'passing through'. I assumed they meant they were trying to return to the human world."

The moment the message was over, the ruzisam immediately grew back its arms and legs and attempted to run away. Before it could manage to do so, Nanghaithya grabbed it at stuffed the creature into his drawer. It made awful squeaky noises and banged on the drawer, but Nanghaithya ignored it, focusing instead on the news Tyberius had brought. The names didn't mean a thing to him, but the mention of a darkling being involved caught his attention.

For one, Darklings were not native to the lands of Ashth Pereth. They came from the Underworld of the human realm. While he had no idea how many darklings were in the lands, other than the bunch he himself brought a long time ago, the chances of the human encountering one was very small. He began to wonder if the human had been around for much longer than Tyberius thought.

Then there was the matter of the spirit manifestations. Spirit manifestation and astral projection are very similar. They both require the being to project their soul outside their bodies. The difference is that astral projections cannot interact with their surroundings, while spirit manifestations could.

Astral projections could see, but could not be seen; they could hear, but could not be heard; in essence it would be as if they were not even there at all. A spirit manifestation functions almost like teleporting oneself somewhere else, except that the spirit body would always have an ethereal glow surrounding it. However, the visibility of manifestations depended on one's magic strength and concentration. Weaker manifestation would look somewhat transparent like a ghost and the very weak ones could not be seen at all. If a spirit manifestation could look fully human, then it meant that the one performing the technique had very powerful magic.

Nanghaithya sighed, picking up the opened book from his desk and flipping through it aimlessly. There were so many things about the situation that puzzled him. Why did this human have spirit manifestations as companions? If she could transport herself into Ashth Pereth, then shouldn't she be able to transport her companions physically as well? After all, in spirit form one would become far less powerful. Wouldn't it be very counter-productive to travel to Ashth Pereth in spirit form, especially for humans? And what about the darkling? Where did it come from and why did it obey the human willingly? Darklings do not like to follow orders, especially from humans. If the girl had somehow enchanted the darkling into submission, then how strong washer magic? Based on his own experience, brainwashing a darkling requires performing a very complex spell. Unless there was another way that he did not know of.

Rashnu should know better about darklings than him. He decided to give his cousin a call. Normally he would have dropped for a visit himself, but he didn't feel like travelling at that moment.

Nanghaithya placed the book back on his desk and picked up the black ruzisam that hung from a chain on his belt. Rashnu had given it to him sometime before the gates between Ashth Pereth and the human realm was closed. He had not used it for a very long time, preferring to visit in person once the gate was accessible again.

Rashnu's ruzisam was a simple, round, spiky blob. It didn't move much, unlike his own, and for the most part looked like an inanimate object. Nanghaithya pressed the silver crescent on the creature's surface and the design turned into a bright yellow grinning face that reminded him of the pumpkin lanterns in Ghed'ahre. The face glowed and formed a yellowish haze above the ruzisam. Moments later, Rashnu's face appeared in the haze.

"Nanghaithya," Rashnu greeted, "I would ask 'how are you', but I just saw you this morning, so I don't think I'd bother."

"The same to you," Nanghaithya replied, eyeing the projection with jealousy. He still haven't figured out how to do the visual projection yet, and he was itching to find out how.

Rashnu chuckled. "Now let's get to business, shall we?" he said with a smile. "What do I owe this call to? I'm certain it wasn't because you miss me."

"Ah, yes. I wanted to ask about darklings."

"What about them?"

"I just received a report that a human girl who had a pet darkling was wandering around a village in the Akatash region. What I want to know is whether or not there a method to control darklings exist, other than directly brainwashing them with a spell."

Rashnu raised an eyebrow. "That is news. Darklings are very independent and strong-willed. They're not the kind of beings that are easily tamed and taken as pets. For one to willingly serve a human... There must be a strong motive behind it. That, or the darkling has been brainwashed."

"My thoughts exactly."

"I can go to Underfall and ask if anything had happened. Is there anything I should know about?"

Nanghaithya thought for a moment, then replied, "There were also two spirit manifestations following the human. Maybe you could look into that as well." He paused, then added, "The human was named 'Mel' and one of the spirits was named 'Nox'. Does that mean anything to you?"

Rashnu shook his head. "No, but Nox sounded like a name that a witch or a warlock would have. You could tell the minions you have in the witches' and warlocks' community investigate."

"Good idea."

"If there's nothing else, then I shall take my leave."

Nanghaithya nodded, and Rashnu's projection vanished. Moments later, the yellow haze faded and the smiling face turned back into the silver crescent.

Well, that was helpful,Nanghaithya thought, Sort of.

He had more leads, but still no answers. He sat down on his chair and glanced at the book on his desk. It was a book about spirits and souls he had taken from the human realm. Before Tyberius called, he had been trying, and failed, to find information about spirit manifestation in it. There was something about astral projection, but nothing about spirit manifestation.

Granted, the book was old, but surely a spiritual manifestation isn't that new of a development. The first time he witnessed a spiritual manifestation was the one Agas performed not too long after the kid was reinstated as daeva. It was a quite recent occurrence, but that was only because nobody knew such a thing could be done. One was required to have a soul to perform a spirit manifestation and demons generally have none. Agas had been the only one among the daevas to have the closest semblance of a soul and he did it purely by accident. If humans know about astral projections, shouldn't they know about the spirit manifestation too?

As Nanghaithya replaced the book on his bookshelf, a thought struck his mind. Maybe those spirits were not manifestations after all. Maybe they were souls forcibly removed from their bodies by a special method. Something like a spirit manifestation, but done by someone else. He'll have to go ask Zarich about that later. As a Felqennaq "Ripper", Zarich should know a thing or two about souls. Before that, he needed to tell his spies to investigate the human and the spirits. He'd have to get physical descriptions from Tyberius first, though.

Returning to his desk, Nanghaithya opened his drawer and took out the still-squeaking ruzisam. He placed the creature on the golden tray, where it once again became stiff and sprouted colourful balls. He pressed the bright green ball and began speaking.

Welcome back daevas. So. A couple of notes here.

1. Ashth Pereth is Demon Realm. I don't believe the demons would call their own place Demon Realm. Sheian Lyr is a special case because in my headcanon it's inhabitants are not-quite-demons.
2. Hello Rashnu. In my whacky world Rashnu is a half-demon and Nanghaithya's cousin. They are bad influence to each other.
3. The ruzisam are pretty much telephones, if you noticed. Or rather, Nanghaithya's is a walkie-talkie and Rashnu's is a video phone/skype/webcam.
4. The coloured balls on Nanghaithya's ruzisam are "speed dial buttons" to his minions.
5. Yay infodump aplenty?
6. Nanghaithya's "minions" are all those Nanghaithya-clone warlocks. Derez the warlock from AV1 is one of them.
7. In case I wasn't clear, Felqennaq is the tribe/village/place/species Zarich is from and he is a "Ripper". Don't worry what that is for now. It's not important to the story.
8. Yes, Agas has a not-quite-a-soul in him. It's not exactly like human soul, but enough to make him unable to wear the Soul Pendant without being harmed.
9. Nanghaithya came out as more serious business than I wanted him to be, but then again, this is kinda a serious situation, so...
10. Akatash is the district where Sheian Lyr is. Lengthy backstory, yadda yadda yadda, don't worry too much about it.

This story ends up being longer than I originally meant it to be. At first I just wanted Nanghaithya to call security *coughagascough* after receiving the report, but Nanghaithya is too much of a scientist to not want to know what's up with the darkling (Yemite) and spirits (Uma and Nox). So now Rashnu and Zarich are involved.