Standing proudly, I walk towards my kneeling prey, ready to end his pitiful life, anticipating the warm spray of his lifeblood upon my skin. I did well today, staying in control of my temper and actions, only really losing it a few times. Baby steps, but some progress is better than nothing. I deserve a reward, maybe I should take his weapon. It’s ugly, but better than the other one’s I’ve seen, a meter-long, gleaming-white sword of bone, a beautiful, fearsome looking weapon. My hand itches at the thought of carrying it, using it to kill my enemies, chopping through Defiled flesh with a weapon of their own making. It would be poetic, to wield one of their weapons against them, let them know the pain they have inflicted upon others.
Before I can end his life, Vivek straightens up and howls in agony, his back arcing as he screams. I pause my steps, curious as to what is happening. I haven’t even started cutting into him yet, why is he already in pain? That’s not fair. His muscles ripple beneath his armor, his skin quivering as if made of gelatin, the inhuman sounds coming from his mouth invoking a primal fear as his low, guttural cry send a shiver down my spine. My feet remained rooted to the ground, my fear holding me in place as I watch the sickening metamorphosis, his skin seeming to turn inside out as his muscles burst out, my stomach twisting and turning at the sight.
A voice begins screaming at me to move, to strike and kill before it is too late, but my entire frame feels like its been locked in place, a dreadful feeling suffusing me, as if death were at my side, its hand around my neck, ready to take my life. His skin begins to break apart, spidery cracks forming outwards from his body, a lattice framework of black-green lines crawling ever outwards. Two bulges form on his back, straining against the armor before bursting out, spiked, bony protrusions covered in blood and hanging bits of flesh. The air rushes past me as if being sucked into the void, the wind whipping at my skin as it moves towards him, its cold and icy bite snapping me out of my fugue.
It has to die, I have to kill it, it cannot be here. Unwilling to approach it but unable to leave, I’m left with only one option. Lifting my sword, I throw it with all my strength once again, and it travels the short distance and impacts upon Vivek’s back, right between his shoulder blades. A clanging sound of metal on stone sounds off, and my sword bounces off his impossibly hard skin, and Vivek barely notices it. The bony protrusions continue to emerge from his body, not only the two on his back, but more from every surface imaginable, like a plant growing out of his flesh it entwines him, covering him until soon there is nothing that can be seen of the man he once was.
What the fuck? This is how Demons are born? The thing that used to be Vivek remains kneeling as it continues to sprout bony vines, growing thicker and larger as it continues to wrap around itself, rings of the growth lining it’s entire body. The sword remains behind, but it is growing as the Demon does as well, remaining similar in proportion, but now the blade is well over two meters long, and the Demon has similarly doubled in size. It continues to grow as I watch, frozen in place by my fear and anger, my jaw clenched so tightly my neck feels ready to burst.
Without warning, the Demon turns and pounces at me, offering me the briefest glimpse of its face, smooth and shiny, stuck in an eternal grimace, its eyes cloudy and dark. its humanoid form crashes into me shoulder first, a spike of bone piercing my chest. I feel it enter my body, and exit just as quickly as I’m shoved back, and its arm swings out, smashing into my side mid-air, sending me flying away to tumble across the hilltop, my arm and ribs shattered into pieces. Laying in the dirt, I gasp for air, the pain overwhelming me as I choke on my own blood, my consciousness slipping away as I fade into sweet slumber. At least I was too close to be cut in half by the sword. Small favors.
I can’t remember the last time I was able to sleep this well.
Kai shuddered at the sight of the newly morphed Demon, its maleficent aura almost overwhelming his senses with fear, despite having not even completely formed its body yet. Struggling to find his breath, he brought to mind all his training, calming himself to find Balance, but it slipped through his fingers. Gathering himself, he moved away from the Demon slowly, trying not to attract its attention as it was still being birthed. The Defiled mongrel had been fearsome enough in life, and Kai had already avoided fighting him in life. In this new form, he would stand no chance against the fearsome demon.
Although the pompous boy had defeated the Defiled, it had only been after his soldiers had injured it badly, not an accomplishment to be proud of, but still Kai was amazed by the boy’s fluid movements. His improvement had been too quick, his strength growing by leaps and bounds, too dangerous to be left alive. If the Demon did not kill him, Kai absolutely could not leave him alive. There was little else he could do besides continue to back away slowly, unwilling to turn and run, but unable to stay and fight.
A resounding clang shook him from his near panic, but almost instantly he began to quiver once again. The insane little runt had actually attacked the Demon! Kai’s mouth went dry with fear, the tension fleeing from his body as he fell backwards, barely able to keep watching. Crawling backwards, his breath came in shudders as he tried to stand, but his body betrayed him in his fear. Enough of this! He was Cho Jin Kai, Brigadier in the Imperial Army! What did he have to fear? Death? No, death was nothing, over in an instant, but living with this humiliation, to cower where a barbarian runt stood firm? No, that would not do.
Closing his eyes, he said a prayer to the Mother before settling into a trance. Live or die, it mattered not, only how, Kai would fight today. Reaching for Balance, he found it easily now, his mind calm, his emotions in check. Circulating his chi, he sloughed off the hold of the Demon’s aura, tearing its dark tendrils of fear and helplessness from him. Shameful, for him to have succumbed to the aura of a newly-formed Demon, to falter before the Enemy in plain sight of his Soldiers. Holding onto Balance, Kai opened his eyes in time to watch the Demon attack the boy, a pleasing sight to him, but he only allowed himself a fraction of a smile. It was time to redeem his pride and reputation.
Lifting his bardiche high, he bellowed out his challenge to the Demon, mere meters away. “Come face me Demon, and let me send you back into the Father’s Maw.” Channeling his chi through his weapon, he swung through the air, his chi soaring towards the Demon in a blade of air, impacting with a thunderous clap. The creature stumbled backwards from the impact, and Kai swung again, stepping forward to close the distance. A second strike rocked the Demon back three steps, his third only forcing it back a single step, and the Demon began to move forward as well, the impact of his attacks lessening as it adapted to the strikes, the thundering clap that accompanied each hit lessening in volume as it somehow counteracted his attack.
Step by step, he moved closer to the Demon, continuing to strike out as he approached, readying himself for the confrontation. As soon as the Demon was within his range, Kai concentrated all of his power and chi into a single chop, bringing his weapon crashing down onto the Demon’s blade, the creature brought low by his power. Slipping into the Forms, he began his assault in earnest, a heavy thrust followed by a backwards step, a sliding swipe into a half moon twirl, again and again, Kai struck the Demon with everything he had, white shards of chitin breaking off with every move, he continued to keep his distance, using the range of his weapon to keep out of harms way.
Seeing an opportunity before him, Kai struck hard at the Demons shoulder, throwing it off-balance and stumbling through the dirt. Gracefully stepping backwards, he made distance and gathered himself into a leap, his weapon held high. Controlling his chi with his utmost concentration, he gathered it about the blade of his weapon, using every skill he had to build the energy up to explosive levels. Bringing his weapon down with a roar of victory, Kai crashed it into the Demons head, his chi exploding on impact in a maelstrom of power, sheering through the chitin like parting water with a paddle. Following through with his strike, he drew the blade from the creature and stabbed it over and over again in a frenzy, each strike piercing a different part of the body, leaving deep furrows in the white plates of his opponent, sending it back with every thrust. Bringing the weapon back, he spun himself in a full circle swing, cutting deep into the creatures shoulder, sending it crashing to the ground, digging a trench through the dirt with its body as it slid through the grass and dirt.
His chest heaving with exertion, he stood there, weapon held low, holding his stance after the attack, allowing himself a small smile. The soldiers watching would tell this story, and Kai would be heaped with praises and rewards, a fearsome opponent defeated with grace and dignity, a story told again and again by common soldiers, venerating their heroes. Turning back towards the fallen Demon, he began to gather his chi once more, attempting something that had been in practice for years, something he had failed at time and time again, but Kai knew that it would be different this time. It just felt right.
Concentrating, he moved his chi in concentric circles, alternating directions, creating a small whirlpool of air, condensing in the palm of his hand. Increasing the power, the wind began to visible move about his palm, forming a multilayered rotating disc, gray and razor sharp. Excitement bubbled up within him, the success of his Mentor’s signature attack filling him with pride. He was Cho Jin Kai, and the Empire would speak his name, a peerless warrior in command of the Divine Wind.
Thrusting his hand forward, the disc facing the Demon, a whirlwind of air shot forward, a surging strike that erupted from his hand, striking the Demon as it tried to rise, countless blades of wind cutting it to pieces, its screams of pain and anguish delightful to hear. Laughing in exuberance, he could only imagine the look on Mentor’s face when he told him of this Demon, nothing like the one Kai had first faced, and of his success in utilizing the Divine Wind. Turning around, he looked upon the faces of worshiping soldiers, beaming with pride as they began to cheer for him, returning now that they had nothing to fear. Cowards, one and all, but Kai felt magnanimous today, and would forgive them with only a stern warning.
After all, Kai required these soldiers alive, if only to spread the word of his achievements.
Marching forwards, he lopped off the head of the quivering savage child, laughing as it rolled to lay next to the Demon, the amber eyes staring fearfully as it dissolved in the Demon’s ichor. The Lieutenant General arrived, and upon seeing his power, knelt in submission, offering herself to him, swearing herself to slavery without his prompting. Grabbing her by the hair, he tore her clothes off, her shrieks of delight filling him with lust as he pressed her to the ground and enjoyed the pleasures of her flesh.
This was how life should be lived. Everything was finally going right for him.
Akanai rode at the front of her troops, her bow held high, three arrows in her hand, firing them one at a time at full draw, watching the Defiled die in droves before her. While it had been her plan to draw them out for ambush, there were far more warriors for her to deal with than she had expected. Adujan had been unable to give any estimates to the numbers, nor had any of her other scouts, but upon arrival, she could see that there were outnumbered, by a small margin.
Ideally, this would have been a smaller group, and her Sentinels would have been able to encircle them, trapping them against the anvil that was Kai’s and Alsantset’s detachments, killing them all, but having seen the odds stacked against them, Akanai had no choice but to act. Swimming across the river on quin back, her Sentinels moved to support the troops already embroiled in close quarters combat.
The Defiled moved through the hilltop defenders with ease, and unable to watch the losses continue, Akanai put aside her bow and took up her ax-lance. Raising it high, she sounded the charge, her Vanguard Sentinels riding behind her, the moonlight gleaming off of their steel weapons as they took the fight to the Enemy, the pit-pat of the quins paws slapping in the dirt as they moved quickly through the grass. Crashing into the lines, she swung her weapon freely, cutting through beast and Defiled alike with ease, leaving their bodies twitching in the grass, rolling down the hillside in a macabre scene as bodies began to pile up at the bottom. Arrows continued to fly into them from the riverbank, cutting down hundreds at a time, the Defiled trying to flee like the cowardly scum they were.
Distracted, she gazed forward at a dark gathering of energy, a harrowing vortex of hatred and blood thirst, setting her skin to tingling in anticipation. An aura so malevolent, it sent waves of revulsion through her body and she suppressed the urge to vomit, to cleanse herself of the filth that had so tainted her. The birth of a foul Demon, felt from so far away, she would see it dead before it could kill too many of her soldiers. Rallying the Sentinels about her, she led them forward through the Defiled lines, slaughtering all those in her path in an effort to reach the new threat, their quins moving in short bursts of speed, her Vanguard doing their job with renewed vigor, clearing the chaff from her way, allowing her to save her strength for the coming battle.
They were her elites, her most skilled warriors, 300 strong, humans and demi-humans alike, veterans all, each personally chosen by her for a situation exactly like this. Former Bannermen, reformed bandits, disillusioned soldiers, these warriors were the core fighting strength behind the Sentinels, and with them at her side, Akanai was confident in facing any threat short of the Emperor’s armies. Smiling to herself as she moved through the carnage, she prepared herself for the coming battle.
A freshly born Demon, yet able to let off such a terrible aura, enough that she could feel it tearing into the world from kilometers away, should it be given time to adjust, it would be a fearsome opponent indeed. A powerful Demon, inhabiting a suitable host, likely the leader of this group, or close to it, she sensed that this would be an opponent worth fighting, a glorious battle to be had.
Cresting the hilltop, her vanguard froze almost all at the same spot, the ones who followed and made contact freezing as well, and Akanai soon saw why. A massive Demon of white, covered in red gore as it ripped apart soldier after soldier, all of them motionless and slacked faced, as if their bodies were frozen in place, The Demon feasted upon them, growing as it consumed their bodies, already more than four meters tall, a hulking beast of bone blades and spikes, humanoid in shape. It reached out, and grabbed a soldier in each hand, its massive mouth stretching wide open, the sound of flesh and bone being crunched and ground as it placed its victims within its maw, the soldiers faces showing no pain or fear.
“Fall back, all of you.” Akanai quickly ordered the Sentinels not under sway, and they backed off, leaving the influenced behind. Even the quins were frozen in place, all of them locked in some mental binding, some power belonging to this new-born Demon. A fearsome power, to manipulate the minds of those around it, showing its victims hallucinations ranging from terror to bliss, locking them within their minds. It was something rarely seen, but not wholly unheard of. For it to control so many, hundreds of soldiers, with seemingly little strain, so soon after its descent, this was a formidable foe indeed.
Dismounting from Kankin and sending him away, she quickly made her preparations to fight the creature before her, centering herself and protecting her mind from the creatures machinations. She began to step forward but paused almost immediately, cocking her head at the sight in front of her, the Demons latest victim familiar to her. The Brigadier Cho Jin Kai was being devoured, with a silly, idiotic smile pasted upon his face. Bothersome, the sight had brought her too much joy, hindering her preparations to kill the creature. Taking a deep breath, she renewed her preparations once more as she watched the Brigadier die, stepping forward to fight once he had been consumed whole, and Balance had been found.
At least that was one problem she would no longer have to deal with.
Bursting forwards, her lance penetrated deep into the Demon’s shoulder, the impact rocking the creature back. The mental assault rolled off her as she pressed onward, her mind in total Balance, unable to be affected by her emotions. She struck it half a dozen more times, each seeming to cause great injury, but all the damage she caused quickly healed, the Demon not even bleeding from her attacks.
Troublesome. Her strength was not endless, nor was her mind impervious to its attempts to enslave her, the distraction keeping her from utilizing her full strength. Time worked against her in this fight, and if she were unable to kill it quickly, she would join the other dead within its belly, succumbing to its mental onslaught. To make matters worse, the Demon began to strike back physically, a sword of bone emerging from its arm, swinging it about with consummate skill, solidifying her guess that it had been a warrior of some skill. A good base for a Demon to build upon, unlike most who formed their bodies from creatures and objects.
Steeling her resolve, she continued to fight, trading crashing blows with the creature, each one capable of ending her life, dancing atop the hill beneath the moonlight, knowing that with each second passing, her death came closer as her mental defense began to crumble.
She grinned to herself, accepting the challenge, ready to die for her people and the Empire.
Such was life, tribulations without end.
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