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Valley of Thorns

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His eyes seemed to glow with yellow fury.


Ace audibly gulped, scrambling to get out of the mess that he was in. Briar Rose watched in pity as Crowley ripped another hole into Ace, the nightmare from yesterday, and the other student. Looking at their defeated faces, she stared curiously at what Crowley said in order to make them look that way. 


“Ah, Briar-chan~” Ace said, finally noticing her standing in the doorway. He hurriedly approached the girl. “What are you doing here?” Briar Rose stared at the male before looking down at the fallen chandelier behind him. Ace sighed and slumped forward in defeat. He knew what she was asking about. 


“Oi Ace, we have to get going if we don’t want to be expelled.” The other student said. Staring at him, Briar noted the dark blue spade that was next to his right eye. His hair sort of matched the color of the spade, however, it was a few shades lighter than it. Making eye contact with him, the male’s face burst into a light shade of red. 


“... I know, I know.” Ace sighed, finding this task a huge burden. “Sorry, Briar-chan, I’ll talk to you later. Juice and I have to go get this magical stone for the chandelier or else we’re going to be expelled.” The girl tilted her head to the side, not understanding what he was saying. “Agh~~ We’re gonna get kicked out of the school if we don’t get this thing for the broken chandelier.” 


“Ah…” She mumbled, thinking about what to say. “I can help if you want?” Ace’s eyes lit up as she tentatively offered her help. “We’re just searching for a stone, so I can sleep while this little guy can search for me!” Briar hummed happily as Ace sighed once again. 


“Yea, we’ll probably need all the help we can get.” The other guy said, placing a hand on his hip. “Oh, I haven’t introduced myself. I’m Deuce Spade.” His blue-teal eyes furiously avoided looking into her light green eyes.


“I’m Briar Rose...” The girl started to follow Ace, who had started to walk to somewhere. “Where are we going?”


“To the Hall of Mirrors. We need to get to the Dwarves Mines. It should have at least a magical stone.” Deuce mumbled, the girl nodding along to what he said. 


“Ah~~~ If this stupid monster hadn’t gotten to the chandelier, we wouldn’t have been in this mess…” Ace groaned, glaring at the silent cat that was following them. “Why are you following us still?” The cat looked startled, then smug. 


“Well, the Great Grim is looking for a way to become a student here. If I manage to get this stone, and present it before you dunces do, then he’ll let me become a student while the two of you are expelled.” The cat grinned maniacally before looking at the girl. “And you! I’ll make you bow before me. I haven’t forgotten the humiliation you have given me yesterday!” He screeched but gritted his teeth as he saw that the girl was already sleeping.


The duo stared at each other before walking towards the Hall of Mirrors, making sure that Briar Rose was following them. The little knight in her arms seemed to be controlling the floating thorns as they walked into the darkness.


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Ace looked over at the girl as he heard a small groan from her. Briar Rose rubbed her eyes sleepily as she noticed the forest around her. Looking panicked for a moment, she relaxed as she saw Ace staring at her.


“Where are we…?” the girl asked, tilting her head to the side. 


“This is the path towards the Dwarves Mines.” Ace replied, “This whole place gives me the heeby-jeebies, so let’s get the stone and get out of here as soon as possible.”  Briar Rose took a look around her, noting that it definitely felt like somewhere inside of the library, perhaps in one of the rooms with the Giant Troll.


“Eh… I’ll protect you.” A petite hand came to lightly pat the top of Ace’s head. He stared up at her with curiosity. “If there are nightmares here… Only I am able to fight them… After all… No one here has the ability to fight them.” 


Grim, Ace, and Deuce stared at her like she was crazy. Of course they knew how to fight using magic? But what did she say about nightmares…?


“Hmph. The Great Grim should be able to scare anything off.” The cat stated. “I’ll get 'em with my flames.” Grim’s ears started to glow even more blue. Briar held onto her little knight even tighter, feeling a tickling sensation down the back of her neck. Ace let out a sigh of relief as he noticed the entrance of the mine in front of them. 


“Ah~~ We are finally here~~” Ace said, grinning mischievously. “That house didn’t have magic stones, so I’m sure that we’ll find some here.” Grim on the other hand, flattened his ears as he stared hesitantly at the dark hole that led towards the mine. 


“We are going into this dark hole?” He squeaked out, clearly scared about entering a sketch place. Ace and Deuce stared at the cat with eyes that said ‘duh’. 


“Scared, that’s lame.” Ace snickered out, clearly loving how Grim got all riled up. Turning towards the girl, Ace noted that she was more alert than she normally seemed to be. Watching her snooze in class earlier made him snicker internally a ton. Especially seeing Trien-Sensei get huffy and puffy about her sleeping made it really hard for the male to hold in his laughter.


“Briar-san, are you ok?” Deuce asked the girl, also remembering how she was sleeping a ton during class. The girl just floated towards the entrance of the mine, not saying anything. The Adeuce Combo yelped in surprise as the thorns surrounded the girl, before morphing as arm length gloves and knee high boots. Her little knight standing on her shoulder, gripping the back of the girl’s neck. 


“W-What is that?” Deuce gaped at the giant thorned sword that the girl was holding. It looked like she was struggling to hold it, however a small huff from her and the sword was snuggled in a bundle of thorns across her back. 


“... A sword.” She said, tilting her head to the side. Briar Rose stared at the mines with an unknown look in her eyes. “For fighting.” Ace and Deuce looked at each other like she was crazy. Ace sighed and shrugged, stalking towards the entrance. The rest of them followed his lead.


The trio plus Grim were looking through the mines, with the two males losing hope on finding a magic stone. Briar Rose stood far away from them, allowing her little knight to run around its miniature sword, using it to bang on the rocks. The girl felt uneasy, feeling that something was going to happen. 


Meanwhile, something was stirring in the mines. Gripping its stone pickaxe, a giant figure slowly started to make its way towards the intruders.


“m Y stONe.”