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 Edict of the Demon, Chapter 4

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Demon
Academy Student
Academy Student


Fame : 9
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Element(s) : Lightning
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PostSubject: Edict of the Demon, Chapter 4   Tue Mar 04, 2014 5:52 am

"I'm not kidding, it really was the prophecy."

Yukio turned his head the other way and let out a 'tch', chewing on the thin straw of hay, his third one that night. He reached over for his bottle of beer and took a large swig, exhaling a coarse sigh as it scratched down his throat. Then he took another one, armed with the same reaction. "You rich types are allowed to say shit like that." Asura let out a laugh and shook his head dismissively. The two of them sat atop Old Forgetful, as they did around once a month on the last Friday, and they talked about things such as these. On this particular occasion, Asura had chose to reveal the prophecy to Yukio. It had been around a month since Asura was informed of it, and i felt about time that perhaps his best friend should know.

Jinzo Yukio kept looking to the side, and with a quick motion of his hand, pushed over a door-handle and the two listened to the little thing clang its way down the heap that they sat on. "Why would I make up shit like that?" Asura was looking upwards at the sky. The smog index was not a measurement Asura had taken any interest in before, but now it held a poignant relevance to it. If the Takayama son was any more poetic, he might have drawn a relation between this prophecy and the inability to see the stars. It was hard to beat destiny. But Asura wasn't relating his own situation to the starless sky above him. Instead, he just wanted to see the stars as he was told they looked. Apparently they shone and shimmered fearlessly. Apparently they lit up the night.

"They're probably going to demote me soon, put me under protective custody, and lock me away so that when it happens-"

"When what happens? When someone comes by and kills you? You're really preparing for that kinda' shit?"

Asura let out a heaved sigh, and his breath furled into a thin and pale mist before him. It was a chilly time to be out and about, but the alcohol helped as far as it could. The remainder of their warmth would come from conversation. Yukio spit out the hay in his mouth audibly and jumped up to his feet. Turning and facing the other way, Asura's best friend looked over the rest of the junkyard. "And what happens to Yume? Hasn't she lost enough?" Yukio's words were fumbled by the noise of Asura unsuccessfully flicking his lighter, failing to bring it to life even after the third and fourth try. The shivering moist air had laid a curse on the ember within his machine such that each spark died before it had come to life. The cigarette in Asura's mouth quivered with Asura's jaw, as everything shivered in the cold. 'The blind man knows not the difference between black and white, and to him, that sense does not exist. It is an irrelevant addition to a description of things that he considers superfluous. He can understand the world around him without ever needing to know the color of what he feels and what he touches, so to add color, is to waste the blind man's time.' Was this little corner of reality also an acceptable interpretation of his perception? Could it be said that everything that chose to surround him now and point its spear heads at him were a figment of his doing? Perhaps this was not the proper interpretation of that saying, but he had found himself become defensive when first hearing it. of course some things can just happen to people. Bad things happen to good people all the time -- in fact he was paid to make that so. 'And what happens when we are blind to good and evil and see the actions we do as simply the consequence of economics and supply versus demand? Then suddenly the murder of a population is just a blip in the history of things. We were hired, paid, and directed, so we did it. Should we be to blame? Should we carry this burden upon our backs? Or should the world accept us for the pivotal role that we play in the grander scheme of things? We are the actors in this grand theater, and if the matters of plot in this play should offend the viewer, can it be the actor's fault?' But for how long could it disappear? He had pondered upon the 'evils' he would need to undertake in order to react to this new threat, and in pondering, he met the devil's advocate, and he didn't like what that advocate had to say.

"Oi oi just use the fire thing."

"I can't anymore."

"The hell you mean you can't?"

"You're going to get mad... but I stopped learning that shit. Ninja arts just isn't for me Yuki." The children at school used to call Yukio Yuki, to embarrass him. The truth was, Asura had started that nickname endearingly, and a few of the other boys misconstrued it as a taunt. Yukio used to cringe every time he'd hear Asura call him 'Yuki' out loud, but for the past few years, Asura was the only one left who would call him that. And Yukio was the only one who remembered that Asura used to be called 'Red' in school. Everyone was so busy calling Asura something in between 'Demon' and 'Leader' that the names that mattered slipped through the cracks.

Yuki stepped besides Asura, and while Asura looked straight ahead, on his tenth attempt at bringing his lighter to a blaze, Yukio looked down still. Reaching over, the boy snapped his fingers, calling out a tiny line of fire from his index finger to the tip of Asura's cigarette. Taking what help he could get, the Takayama inhaled forcefully, lightning his face in an orange hue as the cigarette roared in inferno.

"So you've given up?"

"What's the use of learning all this crap about Chakra control and Handseals when I'll be six feet under before I can use any of it?"

"So you..."

"Yeah, I quit."

Yukio reached over, and Asura pulled the cigarette out of his mouth and handed it over to him. Jinzo Yukio was technically a member of the Yakuza Clan. His father had joined, and this gave him the benefit of being a Jinzo. The boy's family had an enormous debt to pay to the Alligator Shark Gambling Corporation, and the Takayama offered to pay if off in return for a lineage of servitude. 'An actor can be the villain or the hero, and it depends on the angle through which he is seen. The actor can have no morals when morals are defined as what another person believes. But at the very same time this actor can be the most moral of all when those morals are defined by someone else. The relative nature of perception demands that we allow for this sort of leniency. We must admit to ourselves that there are only absolutes in measurements, and all interpretations beyond that are localized to the person doing the interpreting.' Sands of time... what a convenient way to mask the atrocities of our time with the vastness of time. Does anything stand the test of time? Yukio had approximately twenty years worth of debt still on his name, bequeathed by his father. But when the Jinzo boy took a long pull on the cigarette, Asura could tell that it was from the same feeling of suffocation that Asura had felt, hearing of his coming demise.

"You have to fight."

Asura held back a grin. What a childish thing to say -- as if all of this were some children's cartoon that could be overcome with heart and perseverance. And even if it was, who was to say that Asura could persevere? A singular cloud drifted past the moonless black above them, and for a moment it seemed as though behind it would be a clear view of the stars. Instead, there was another veil of black, a disingenuous black that was not the same as the space beyond it.

"I know, Yuki."

Asura pulled the cigarette out of Yuki's mouth and pulled at it again. As burning agents of cancer spread quickly through his lungs, he finally looked down from the starlessness above and looked straight at Yuki. Asura did not expect that Yuki was looking at him as well. The two of them shared the same determination in their eyes. As Asura's jaw clenched, so did Yuki's, and the two of them thought of approximately the same sort of thing.  But what do we do when the needs of this age have grown barbaric? How many more women and children would the Demon have to kill before the needs of this age became aware of itself, became knowing of the ugly shape that it had taken after all these years of sophistication? His stamina wore thin, and with each step he spent more chakra propelling further. Asura was always faster than him, and it made sense for Asura to be, considering the Takayama did not have access to Chakra Concentration and other such techniques. The two of them wore cheap ponchos, Asura’s was a faded blue and Yukio’s was some shade of green, and the rain pitter-pattered with moments of rhythm and moments of pandemonium.

The Demon would have dreams some times that he was lost in this nothingness, caught somewhere in his past. And he wasn't sure if it was a nightmare, as the past was usually covered in blood and core -- or if it was a dream, because his present was no different. He was there now, in between one world and the next, suddenly. His arms wriggled, sending pangs of pain through his arms and when he looked to either side, the knives were still there as they always were every time he visited this corner of his mind, going completely through his flesh. It burned in an unrealistic way and it told him that none of this was true. But at the same time, he had been losing track of what was true and what wasn't. The crunch of his bones when he moved was not something he could ignore, it was not a pain he could bare, and in helpless retaliation, he let out a loud and graceless roar. Blood from his mouth sprayed out into the open, summer air, and the people seemed to move away from where it fell. Was he so disgusting to them? In the scorching heat of the season, the people below wore thin veils of purple and maroon to keep the rays off of their face. Their exterior, a couple shades lighter than his, wrinkled to peer up against the sun to see him, the spectacle. But the only thing here that was a spectacle was that any of this was allowed to happen.

So much for progress. They were all hoping that this Duke could be the answer to the stillness that came over their desert village. But the truth was that Oyashira was no different from the others. They functioned off of the same types of energy, and because of this, they often followed the same rules. Of course the oasis at the center of their town made them a bit ahead of their time, but it did not make them immune to the rules of the world. And the world's rule was absolute, afterall.

He was given a simple assignment. It was a murder mission and murder missions were his favorite sort of missions. He was a man known for his intellect, and had won some sort of game competition in his younger days. It was not clear at the time, or perhaps it was not clear now, as Asura reflected over those moments. He could not bring himself to remember the research he had done in the same way that he could not bring himself to realize that this truly was a dream. The fame he had gained through competition translated to political recognition when he won his primary elections. That was many years ago, when Sora lived in a far away land and a very different life. The Duke's name was Genbu, a young fat man with thick eye-liner. He might have resembled the villain of a book were he not a real man in the real world. And while the Duke of Oyashira did not have a perfect rise to power, his road was not marred with too many pot-holes. He continued attending game tournaments, winning most of them even as he aged and the new age of competition rose in the ranks. But his popularity became something more than just a cult following. People outside of his circle of relevance began paying attention to a man that had mastered a game of warfare.

Chess was it? Yes, yes it was. Asura remembered now the way the Duke's eyes darted from left to right as if he were trying to predict all possible extrapolations of what little actions his opponent provided. He traced where Asura looked and he extended that line so that at all times, the Duke saw what Asura saw, and saw much more as well. It was a form of playing Chess, to constantly put yourself in the shoes of your opponent so that you know what he is thinking and what he is likely about to think and what he was likely to have thought before. This lets you predict the future, to a hauntingly close approximation.

A freak amongst men? A true prodigy? That, too, was subjective.

Demon had never met something the likes of this man. Up until then Tsuki had been the smartest person that Demon had ever known and even Tsuki would not have matched up. He thought systematically, as if going down a grocery list of options every time someone spoke to him. Given the situation, the Demon had quite a few opportunities to observe the Duke and his behavior. After-all, Asura was as good as dead, so it didn't matter where he was held captive. This act of arrogance, too, was calculated. But even in the loss of hope Demon could bring himself to observe the ways of his enemy, to see how he functioned when he was behind closed doors.

His ministers would come to speak with him and he would take a bit of time to answer them. It was because of the way his eyes darted back and forth, following where the ministers were looking while mentally calculating what the ministers were thinking. It was much too many computations for one mind to handle and the latency with which the Duke spoke was exceptional, to say the least.

Years later, Demon would see this very trait again.

But this time, it was in the Uchiha.

The Duke had met with little opposition to his climb in fame, but for the most part his endeavors were not the sort that got world-wide attention. He stayed mostly in the small collection of cities and villages around Oyashira, uniting the people under the belief that he was their dark horse. But it was a few years ago during the Ducal elections that he took Oyashira by storm. Oyashira, referred in short as Oya, was a large metropolis for agriculture. In the middle of the desert they had made a city around an oasis, and managed to maintain it with their technology. In lands filled to the brink with sands, having access to water was more powerful than having access to ready death.

But with power came the gamble of stability. No civilization had risen to power and never faced an equally expedient fall from grace, and this was true for anyone that set foot in the world of markets. Commerce flocked around them and they became the center of produce. But for a large portion of time there was no regulating body put into place. It was practically the only place in hundreds of miles where livestock could be kept, and so their mode of business never ran dry in the same way that their oasis never did. But the profits they reaped from this were abysmally lower than it should have been. Of course, this was what the news papers said at the time, and Asura could not have claimed to agree or disagree with any of it. It all went over his head.

Demon supposed that this was how prophets came about. Through the art of convincing others that they had always been waiting for someone like you - someone that can carry their burden with a smile and an understanding nod. Was it really an art of deception to do this? The duke was their new leader, the one who would take them to the next stage of growth. The man had ideas that were not very palatable to the upper class. He wanted to expand the village's energy resource by incorporating the oasis, which was a publicly accessible resource of water. Up until then all of Oya used Wind Factories for their energy, not having thought to tap into hydraulics. So when Genbu suggested that one of the first orders of business he aimed to complete was to get the village off of the privatized Wind Factory trade and onto the nationalized oasis resource, he had made quite a few rich people very angry.

And that's why the Demon was there, on an assassination mission to take out the Duke, to solve a problem in the most primal of ways.

Unfortunately for him, they had been prepared. The Chess player had made the King's Gambit, hiring his own spies and sending them off to his opposition. So by the time Sora had arrived, he was expected and captured with ease. And for the first time Genbu showed aggression to the public. Up until then he had been the silent mastermind behind this new era of success that he wanted to usher in. The people were ready to trust him in what he said because of his success in politics and chess but now... now when he had shown to the village what a traitor looks like... he had morphed into something else.

As Sora looked down at them he saw the fear in their eyes. Right before them, this man was changing. It was an unfortunate side-effect that Sora was the object that represented this change. The first of many, surely.  And somehow he chose to focus on a small boy standing at the front. His mother was behind him and she was watching Genbu as he paced to his left and to his right. But this entire time the boy, who must have been no older than six, was watching Sora hang there. He was mouthing something under his breath, and for whatever reason, Sora focused on those silent words.

A prayer.

With a scream he awoke in a hospital bed, in the dead silence of night. His chest heaved to and fro and the smell of dirt and sweat hung thick in every direction that he looked. The window was open, and outside the blue mist of dreams floated along the village's surface like an afterthought. He remembered the man with the green hair, with the swords that appeared from nowhere, and the turtle that could dismantle a chair. This was the new breed of competition. He had seen and suffered through many different shapes and sizes of enemies, people that could see the future, change the past, and grip the present with their hands soaked in war and terror. His path was never rid of people more powerful than him.

He wrapped his arms around his knees, seeing the note that lay to his side. The wooden sword reminded him of his own. He wished he hadn't broken it. He wished he hadn't allowed it to be broken. Beads of sweat that pitter-pattered down the sides of his face moved with the rhythm of his heaving breaths. To refuse to adapt was to concede to defeat.

“Keep up,” came his command, and Yukio pushed a now painful burst of Chakra into his next leap. Still Asura raced ahead, and out of fatigue or hopelessness, the rain seemed to thicken. Yukio was a year younger than Asura, but only Asura really knew that. When they entered school, the entrance exam had dictated that Yukio was far ahead of the first year course curriculum. Walking into second year of the Academy, the shortest and skinniest of the kids there, was a difficult thing to do for Yukio. Not everyone there was a bully, but those that befriended him asked only about his training – whether it was luck or skill that got him past the first grade exams, and so on.

“We’re almost there. Stay on guard.”

“Yeah yeah.”

The teacher had said once that Yukio was very fortunate. Not only did he get to skip a year of the Academy but the children in his class all seemed to be interested in him. Yet Yukio had never eaten lunch with the others. It grew tiresome to talk about his regime and his skills to a handful of star-struck kids. Spending his hour of lunch on the Academy terrace seemed logical at the time. After the first week of devouring his lunch against the caged railing of the terrace, the boy became suddenly aware that he was not alone. It was only a hunch at first – the unnatural creaking of the pipes that ran along the side of the building, or the unprecedented thuds along the ladder. Yukio had concluded, then, that it was just one of the students, trying to get some Shuriken advice from the class ‘genius’.

“There it is. Fuck this rain… we would’ve been here an hour ago if the road wasn’t flooded…”

Asura had come to a stop and Yukio did too, besides his old friend. The two of them panted uncontrollably, the thickly humid air refusing to fill their lungs the same way they had wanted it to. That day, in the Academy, when Yukio detected someone else on the very roof, he had not found what he expected. When the boy climbed up to the top of the water tank that was located at the corner of the terrace, he saw a boy with red hair, dangling his legs over the edge, coughing and wincing as he dipped pieces of his sushi into orange wasabi. It wasn’t even real wasabi – it was the type they made specifically to be packaged in lunches for children. But Yukio focused more on the boy’s face, a face that he recognized. This was Asura, the heir of the Takayama Royal Bloodline, and soon, the subject of the Crimson Prophecy.

Back in the present, both Yukio and Asura looked up, wincing at the drops of rain pelleting their revealed faces, and they stared in awe at how large the fallen statue was. It was the statue of the Vajra Kumara, the Demon King of Hell, buried more than half way into the Earth. It was rumored that the statue was, in its original form, larger than even Her Mercy. Even as only its chest, arms, and head stuck out of the ground, it seemed monolithic. Only four of its eight arms could now be seen.

One held the Chakra, a discus which was rumored to have been the origins of all Chakra-related science of today. The other held the Trisul, a trident that symbolized the tri-partisan nature of the world, told to be the source of the three-branch system that Shinobi had followed for millennia. In his third arm, the Vajra Kumara held the world, with its nails digging into the oceans and the lands, likely an analogy for the birth of energy usage by humans.

The last visible hand of the Vajra Kumara held the skull of God.

“This is weird.”

“Tell me about it.”

When Yukio and Asura had their first conversation atop the water tank at the edge of the terrace, Asura didn’t say many intelligent things. He insisted that he wasn’t up here to avoid the other children. Pointing to the medical teacher, the two of them stared down her shirt. It wasn’t a bad view. And since then, the two of them ate their lunch up at the very top. Asura didn’t ask Yukio about how he managed to get into second year, and Yukio didn’t bother Asura with questions about the Takayama Royal Family. He thought of Takayama Saaya, the angel who had been his tormentor for so many years. He thought of how he had hated her, despised her kindness and values because he could not bring himself to see her as anything more than a wench exercising her powers. Did that really qualify as a valid perception? When do we concede that perception can some times be misinterpretation? The two of them continued with this symbiosis until Yukio’s dad fell into debt and ran to the Takayama for help. Takeuchi was Yukio’s family name before his father made a deal with the Yakuza Clan. He remembered the burning sense of embarrassment he felt when his father cited Yukio’s and Asura’s friendship as the reason why the Takayama should accept his father’s offer.

In the end, the Takayama agreed. Yukio, his mother, and his father lost the ‘Takeuchi’ in their name, and replaced it with ‘Jinzo’. Yukio didn’t go to class for almost a month, and when finally he was forced to attend, he ate his lunches in the cafeteria.

On this inauspicious morning, the two of them had travelled outside of the village and towards the site of the Vajra Kumara in order to exhaust the last lead they had. If this failed, they would have no line of defense against the prophecy that told that Asura would be killed in the coming future. It was not unreasonable to expect that if a political figure were to die an untimely death, it would be from another human’s hands. But Asura wasn’t a political figure. He was just a kid. Yukio looked at the eyes of the statue. These were all things for adults. The curse of the Demon King, the sacrifice necessary, and the power it granted, these were not things that they had to worry about before. When Asura stepped forward and put his hand on the stone surface of the Demon’s face, Yukio felt a chill run up his spine.

This was all Feira’s advice. She was the one to prophesize Asura’s demise, and she told Asura how to save himself. It wasn’t the sort of advice Yukio would have wanted to hear, but he expected it from someone with such a background. There was only ever one way to see in the dark.

Hunched over in a squat, the Demon lit his cigarette. He held it close to his lips, under the protective plastic hood of his poncho, as the rain tried its hardest to cut the blaze short. “It should be here,” grunted the Takayama as he inhaled a mouthful of toxic. “Where is it?” Yukio looked around, scanning the protrusion of the ground from where the statue now stood out. The two of them looked for some sign of burial, as Feira had told them that besides the Vajra Kumara’s head there was buried an amulet. If the amulet was still there Asura had gotten lucky, because anyone approaching the statue was inevitably followed by the local tribe. Finding the amulet meant that they knew it even existed, which told the tribe that the visitors were welcome guests. When the tribe arrived, should the visitors have no amulet to show, then the secret location of the Vajra Kumara had been revealed to unwelcome eyes.

Turning back to look at the nothingness in the rain, Yukio thought he saw movement along the far left side of his vision. Instead of following through on what he saw, he turned back to the statue, dropped to his knees, and began digging alongside Asura. The rain made the mud slide back into place, forming puddles at the bottoms of the small ditches they carved out. Asura looked over his shoulder too, probably aware of the same thing Yukio was. The tribe – the Circle of Kahani, a people known for their cannibalism – was here. Yukio dug faster, clenching his teeth as small rocks scratched against their fingers. It was supposed to be near the chin of the Vajra Kumara. It was supposed to be here.

“Yuki…”

“Yeah I know. You’re good with this kind of stuff… talk us out of this mess!”

Asura’s nervous chuckle didn’t help as Yukio pushed his arms down to his elbows, his fingers swimming through freezing cold soil in hope for anything hard. He could hear foot steps behind them now, splashing through the flooded earth, approaching ever closer.

“Asura I say we run…”

Desperation held Yukio by his throat as he prepared to pull his hands out of the mud and throw down a smoke bomb. His mind imagined what the tribe must look like, deformed after so many years of consuming other humans. Would they look harmless, like all of such professions tend to? Or would they have eight arms and the Demon’s face?

They were behind him. Yukio felt an unfamiliar chill run up his spine, forcing him to pull his hands out of the ground and reach for his utility vest. One smoke bomb to their feet and he’d grab Asura by the collar and bolt for it. They would give chase, but Yukio knew enough water Jutsu to take advantage of this situation and even the odds. Unplucking the seal from his case full of small smoke pellets, Yukio armed himself with two of them, enough to cover the area for a good minute before things cleared up. Taking in a deep, anguished breath, the boy raised his hand, ready to launch the pellets down when…

“Found it!,” said Asura’s reassured voice, cracking with happiness as he raised the amulet. It was made of pure gold, with a crimson ruby in the center. The edges curved into one another intricately, some of them ending in sharp edges while others branched out to more curves. From afar, it was shaped like a spade, but upon closer inspection, Yukio thought perhaps it was an upside down heart.

“Welcome, son of Oshiro.”
The ride back was burdened by silence. Yukio sat at the front, navigating the motor car along the long and winding road. The vehicle was lead still by horses, the motor used only to make the load a little lighter. The rain had smoothened out the numerous bumps, leaving moist clay in its place, so not even the wheels filled the silence with any noise. The Circle of Kahani was more shrouded in mystery than it was when he had not met them. All of them were theatrical masks, each adorning a different expression, painted different hues of red and gold and black and blue.

The most mysterious part of the meeting wasn’t their appearance, but the way they conducted themselves before Asura. When Asura first raised the amulet for them to see, Yukio could only lean forward, push his pellets back down into his belt, and sigh in relief. He knew that all too well. When the attack by Hajin happened, it was the first and last time that he did not act in accordance to requirement. It was all a moment of loss and shock, and when his mother came to save him, it was only because he was slow to react, unable to assess the nature of his demise that approached. But that relief was short lived, and the feeling of anguish, the animal instinct that told him that something was terribly wrong, persisted and grew very much stronger. It was only when they turned around to face their greeters that Yukio noticed his own underestimation. While he had heard merely a few footsteps, in fact, they were surrounded by the Circle of Kahani, and in no trivial numbers.

There were thousands of them.

The rain splashed off of their skin in unison and made them appear to be of the same blood and flesh. Asura and Yukio were surrounded. No technique Yukio knew could get the two of them out of this mess if things were to go sour. Asura rose to his feet, and so did Yukio. The two pressed their backs against the statue of the Vajra Kumara, both caught in the entrapping awe of the moment. The Circle’s eyes were pointed towards Asura, and not a single one of them moved. The rain grew deafening now, and thunder cackled in the backdrop, painting the sky a dark violet for the duration of an instant.

Then the thousands of them all, in one motion, lowered to their knees, with their hands raised above their heads, and their palms facing up. It was as if they all were presenting some invisible gift for the Demon, who they had referred to as the ‘Son of Oshiro’. Yukio had noticed his own clenched jaw, recognized the whitened knuckles from his tightened fists, but didn’t stop. It was his only way of being poised for what was to come.

“My Lord, we are undeserving.”

This time, it was not the closest one that spoke, it was all of them. Their voices sent a hum through the density of the forest, and caused even the rain to skip a beat. Yukio could see that all of them were around the same tone of skin – a dark complexion that was found most commonly amongst those of Oshiro. He thought of his father, the man unaware that he had taken in a Demon into his homes. It was a terrible fate to fall that family. But if his wife knew, then perhaps he did too. What had stopped him from kicking Asura out to the curbs and letting Asura die? There was not a single woman in the gathering, which lead Yukio to wonder about how large their entire clan really was if this was only about half of them. Through their masks their eyes, that held no pupils, looked to the floor before them. They were showing their respects. But why?

Was it possible that people can act against the flow of nature? Were we really programmed to behave in such a way that the general narrative of the species moves forward? Or were there chinks in that code?

Asura was the faster to react, and he walked forward. His hands were not clenched and his jaw was not stiff like Yukio’s. Instead, Asura brushed his soggy red hair past his face, scanned over the many that had come, and spoke with the same declarative tone that he had at the funeral after the Akazora attacks.

“Take me to your quarters. I have business with you.”

Their response was quick and coordinated.

“As you wish, My Lord.”

Enormous horses larger than any Yukio had seen were brought for both of the guests to ride on, horses that tread through the rain-tortured roads just fine. What had begun as a brisk pace broke into a sprint as the horses began to gallop fearlessly forward, with a thousand of the Kahani behind them able to keep up without any sign of slowing down. But how? Had he not learned the opposite of this in every course he ever took? Was warfare not the study of imposing fear on another and bending their will into final submission? If that were the case then how could it be that we allow ourselves to fear? But the fear he carried was ugly and repulsive. It made him aware of his own frailty, of the old ways that had inhabited themselves into him. This went on for almost an hour before the horses slowed and the army behind them did as well. Ahead was a city that the two of them had only learned about in school, a place that should not have existed beyond the realms of story books. Merely half a mile in front of Yukio, where the rain stopped, and the forestation stopped too. In fact, the soil turned from its natural brown to a reddish orange, and only when they moved closed to this abrupt change of atmosphere did Yukio realize that it was sand. Soil had turned, abruptly, into sand.

“We… are we... where is this…”

“We’re in Oshiro, Yuki. And this is the Lost City of Agora.”

It is believed that there is a place that exists outside of time and space, a place cursed to never exist within the realm of man. Those that returned from this place, made the mistake of calling it 'Heaven'.
Yukio turned around, looked to Asura and let out a short sigh. The Demon had been quiet for the entire trip. Oshiro was in sight now, the Great Wall of Fire extending beyond the horizon and clouding the sky. It was a monolithic structure when compared to the trees and shrubberies beyond it. After almost an entire day of traveling, with the backdrop of a setting sun behind them, there was an exhaustion that bore down on the Jinzo boy as he guided the motor car. It no longer rained, and the cumulonimbus clouds that had once thwarted the sun had now dispersed, leaving a brilliant orange in its place.

“You’ve got to tell someone. It’s silly for us to pretend like-“

“Like what? You told me you’d keep it to yourself Yuki. Didn’t think you’d back out.”

“I’m not backin’ out man. But at least tell Feira.”

Asura let out an audible grunt, rustling in the back as he presumably turned to face the other way. He was laying down now, his head rested up against the ribs of the cart, bobbing from side to side as they all trudged along in unison. Yukio knew for a fact that Asura had not slept.

“Okay. I’ll tell Feira.”

Yukio managed to smile, reaching back into Asura’s belongings to pull out the pack of cigarettes. Lighting one and sucking noncommittally on it, the Jinzo blew nonsymmetrical o’s into the air. Asura was not as stubborn as people made him out to be. Yukio recalled the first time the two of them spoke after Yukio’s father joined the Jinzo ranks. It was during a family meeting, where the Takayama were delegating tasks to the different sub-families. Yukio attended absentmindedly, caught up with the theatrics of each interaction with the prestigious Royal Family. What he did not expect was for Asura to attend. Immediately, the red-headed heir cornered Yukio, and began the expected line of questioning. ‘Why’re you avoiding me?’, and ‘Did my family tell you to stay away?’ Yukio’s answers moved from dismissive to immersive, and soon they were arguing.

The next day, Yukio once again began having his lunch on top of the water tank atop the terrace of the Academy. He noted that there was someone else there. A certain Shinsen Reika, who was a year ahead of Asura so two years elder than Yukio, had been trying to climb the water tank. She couldn’t yet use Chakra Concentration to walk vertically, and Asura had managed to knock over the ladder leading to the top of the fountain. He used to think of whether it was really necessary for him to find a way to survive. Was it really required that he defeat the odds and trump the deck stacked against him. The answer was no. He could succumb and allow for fate to have its way. But what weight did that answer have when in the end he did exactly what was predicted? Was it merely the illusion of choice? So when Yukio helped the girl up to where Asura was sitting, the redhead was understandably enraged. It turns out in Yukio’s absence; some girl had developed an interest in the boy. So from then on, the three of them ate their lunches together. Yukio would be made to sit in the middle by Asura, so that Reika would stop feigning excuses to brush her arm past him or lean her shoulders on his.

But more than Asura’s feeling of inconvenience with such a effeminate interaction, Yukio had wanted to sit between the two of them. He did not understand the feeling at the time, but he despised Reika. However, children are often unable to carry hate within their hearts for very long, and past the first few months, the three of them had become good friends. Yukio would talk about his absurd training regimes, and how his father had once been a high ranking Anbu. Asura and Reika were the only people Yukio had felt comfortable talking to about these things. He would lay back, his hands under his head, and stare at the clouds while recounting the humorous and the heartbreaking tales that had made him such a capable Shinobi at such a young age.

Soon, Asura opened up as well. The stories of the elaborate conventions and the majestic conferences with leaders from around the world seemed as though they belonged in books. Asura’s perspective was always refreshing to Yukio, with how he would describe even the most regal practices with a sense of degrading satire. During those days, Asura really seemed normal. Yukio had not known then that Asura would be declared the first CEO of the Oshiro Corporation. It’s hard to stay innocent with such sorts of burdens.

Looking back into the cart where Asura slept, Yukio felt a clenching in his chest. Quickly, he turned around and turned up the speed, letting out a small cough of smoke from his mouth as they moved faster back home.

“And will you tell your family?”

“Yuki.”

“Sorry sorry.”

Perhaps people lose their innocence in sudden, graceless moments of their lives. Yukio had not seen the world in the same light ever since Valentine’s Day at school. By that time, everyone on the grounds knew that Reika was head over heels for the Takayama boy. So there was an understanding that no one else would offer Asura chocolates on that specific day, as it threw a wrench into an otherwise straightforward romance. So with the right dosage of peer pressure and guilt, Reika and a few of the girls from class convinced Yukio to stand guard of Asura that day, and make sure that no one else was able to approach him.

This was particularly difficult for him to explain to Asura, without giving away the plot. Quite a few girls, that year, had thought their chances of scoring a long term relationship with Asura were relatively bright. Unfortunately for them, Yukio was better at keeping them away than they were at getting to Asura. So during the Valentine’s Day Festival, the two of them ended up wandering about on their own, playing the games and losing what little money their parents would afford them. Every moment of that night played clearly in Yukio’s mind as he drove the car past the familiar ‘Welcome to Cloud City’ sign.

Asura’s parents were against him going to this event. They insisted that it was too dangerous. So when Yukio’s mother offered to cover for Asura, telling the Takayama that Asura was coming to Yukio’s house for the day, both Asura and Yukio were quick to jump on the offer. Asura wore Yukio’s Kimono that day, and the two of them ran from one corner to the other in the blue, mediocrely embroidered silk. But would dawn break for Asura? Would there be a reckoning or salvation for someone that was doomed from birth? He supposed that it was natural for him to seek shelter and wait it out, but it all felt like one taste of helplessness after the next, and it all added up until he could not take it any more. Yukio had to keep the girls away from Asura until the firework show, and the longer they went on, the easier it became. At one point, on the very top of the Ferris wheel, Asura had said something that made no sense to Yukio at the time. ‘I wish Reika was more like you,’ he had said. Now, in the present, Yukio reasoned it as just the mumblings of a confused child. But at the time, turning to face away, Yukio simply blushed a deep red.

‘That’s stupid,’ Yukio had retorted, hearing something odd in his own voice. ‘She is uh… kind, and smart, and I guess she’s pretty so-‘

‘Yeah you’re right. She’s not that bad.’

Yukio could feel his stomach tensing at the words. At some level, his trust for her was just a derivative for Asura’s trust for her. Had Asura decided to push her off of the water tank, Yukio would not have let her up. Regret swam through his gut, the byproduct of an emotion he did not understand then. They were in their fourth year of the Academy then, and it had been two years since the three of them had become friends.

When the Ferris Wheel came down again to the ground, the fireworks started.

Reika was waiting for them as they stepped out of the line. She wore a yukata of red and gold that Yukio had not thought she could have afforded. Her hair stood still, tied up over her head, as she glided towards Asura and took a hold of his hand. Yukio looked down and watched Asura’s hand, waiting for his friend to jerk it away from Reika as he always did. But on that day, Asura let her hold it. And given this window of liberty, she slid her fingers through Asura’s and pressed her face to the boy’s shoulder.

‘Asura, can you come with me?’

Yukio quickly moved his gaze from Asura’s hand over to Asura’s eyes, curious if they should look back to Yukio for approval. If they did, would Yukio have pleaded Asura not to go? Would he have begged the Takayama boy to stay and spend the festival with him? Asura did not look at anything other than Reika, seeming more pensive than Yukio had ever seen him. ‘Okay, lead the way,’ said Asura, and suddenly, the two of them were off towards the woods. Yukio realized that a few of the girls had been watching, waiting to see what Asura would say, and now they held their cheeks and whispered loudly to one another at the scene of Asura agreeing. This would be the talk of the whole school tomorrow, grumbled Yukio mournfully. But helpless to some morbid curiosity, Yukio followed the love birds.

They walked deep into the surrounding forest, away from the crowds, and then away from the lights. Yukio's heart pounded, noticing before even his eyes did, that Asura had not let go of her hand. When finally Reika stopped, they were in a small clearing where only the light of the fireworks could reach. It cast Reika in the shade while Yukio could see Asura's expression clearly. The boy wore a thoughtful smile, as if he had seen a side to a story that was not there before. Yukio clenched his fists in vain.

'I made this for you,' she said, in a vexing tone that only girls could conjure. Pulling it out of her sash, Reika presented a small box of chocolates to Asura. Did she really make them herself? He wanted to discredit her emotions. But she seemed to be happy when Asura was around. Maybe her feelings for him were genuine. Maybe she deserved reciprocation from someone like Asura. That was when Asura took a hold of the small box with both of his hands, and bowed his head.

'You know, this is the first time I'm happy to receive a gift from someone.'

Asura let out a laugh, keeping his head bowed while holding onto what she had made, but Reika reacted differently. Almost immediately she quivered her shoulders, then burst into tears. Her crying was not womanly, and like a little girl does, she ran into Asura's arms. Burying her head against his neck, she shook with waves of tears, as Asura ran his free hand down her hair as softly as he could. Yukio could not turn away. In retrospect, that would have been the perfect time to turn away.

'I'm glad you like it, Asura-kun. Won't you take a bite?'

It was then that Asura's arms wrapped around the girl, and leaned his chin down on her shoulder. Opening the box, he pushed the first piece into his mouth. Then he leaned away and offered her the second piece. She shook her head, tears flicking to each side when she did. 'I've always wanted to do this', came her words while she looked up into the Takayama's eyes. And perhaps even the evils of the world could be understood by those willing to understand them. Even the murderers and rapists and politicians and smoothtalkers. But what happens if no one understands it? What happens if no one stops and asks why the Takayama Family, Demon's family, was murdered in that pyre? But if there is no one to play the Devil's advocate, does that mean the Devil has no advocation? Could there exist evil in the world if there was no one to defend it? Or was that too contingent on the current state of the human consciousness. The true nature of everything around us. He had crushed his bones while muttering this saying to himself, feeling the waves of helplessness wash over him while his fists crashed against the shores of a tree bark. Yukio felt himself tense up in poise. He had seen enough movies to know what came next. She leaned in close to Asura, her face closer than it had ever been to Asura's. Yukio strained to see if Asura would kiss her. What he expected was for Asura to do it. What he hoped for was for Asura to pull away. But what happened was Asura spat out a thin mist of blood onto her cheek. His eyes darted from her and then beyond her, and he stumbled back.

And she watched him motionlessly.

With a burst of blinding pain, Yukio fell down to the ground from the branch he had stood on, barely conscious. His dimming vision saw only Asura, as his friend dropped to his knees. Yukio's arms would not move even if he tried, and his throat felt dry as it tried unsuccessfully to utter Asura's name. The redhead spat out more blood, this time on Reika's dress. She didn't step away. Instead she reached down and clenched her fists onto his hair. Four others landed around her, one of them with a bloodied knife. It must have been what stabbed him. It wasn't a fatal blow but he felt himself dying nonetheless. He could not, however, take his eyes off of Asura.

'I'm so sorry, Asura-kun,' she uttered, her lips remaining straight-laced as before. 'I'm so...,' she hovered her thumb over his right eye. He was looking up at her with eyes that quivered from either intense anger or bottomless fear. His teeth clenched as she began pushing her thumb's nail into his eyeball. Blood sprang to life everywhere, painting both his clothes and hers an adamant red. He was noiseless, and Yukio had feared that he had died. But she kept pushing, and as a waterfall of crimson shed from his socket, she finally pulled her thumb out. The smile that appeared on her face was something Yukio would never forget. 'I'm so... happy... today. I've wanted this for a very long time. From this day onwards, you'll never mold Chakra again. Unfortunately, you'll probably fall unconscious before they break your Chakra circuits, and that's no fun.' She sounded like a different person as she spoke. He did not stop looking up at her, and Yukio thought perhaps he had seen a tear flow down from Asura's remaining eye.

'Father says I can't kill you. So taking your one eye shall do.'

She let go of him and his head slumped, a clutter of blood rushing through his destroyed eye and onto his lap, pooling near his knees. She turned to leave, a satisfied grin painting her face. He needed to do anything to survive. The amount of time he lived and the method of his demise mattered more than the slippery slope of actions he took. Were people during war not permitted to commit atrocities? Then, in desperation or anger, Asura let out a growling scream, his fists clenching onto the girl's dress as she watched him fade. He screamed as blood gargled in his throat, as blood flowed from his eye and his nose and his ears. He screamed until he had no strength left, and when finally he had given everything he had, Asura fell down, face first onto the blood-red grass.

Feira looked older than she did the last time Yukio had seen her, and when she sat down in front of the two of them, she looked only to her hands. Her hands were wrinkled, more so than her face, and they looked jaded with a tar color that make her otherwise peach palms into an off-putting shade. She knew Yukio as Asura’s first friend, and he knew Feira as the Devil Conjurer. It was the name Yukio’s father had used to describe the woman. Being a Koroshi to the Takayama Royal Family, Yukio’s father had access to quite a bit of the family’s darker secrets. The vile and thriving underbelly of a dynasty that could stay in power for so long was far-reaching and terrible.

And at the beating heart of it all was Feira. The rumors said that she was a thousand years old – that she was a descendant of the Gerudo King. But what Yukio remembered the most was his father’s words, laced with slow and deliberate sips of Gin. His father was afraid. ‘Stay away from that lady,’ he had said, in a volume that existed between whisper and scolding. ‘She’s a Devil Conjurer.’

Yukio continued to look at her palms until he noticed them open. When his eyes moved back up towards her face, he saw that she was looking at him. Her slender and dark face took pride in showing her age, but she looked no older than a fifty-year-old might look. She had looked that way for as long as Yukio could remember. For a moment he imagined what his father could have known to have been so afraid of this woman.

”And you let him do it?”

”I tried-“

”You let him sell his life away like this?”

Yukio could feel his fingers tensing as they intertwined into one another. His jaw clenched and he couldn’t bring himself to turn to look at Asura. Asura was never as afraid of Feira as Yukio was. In fact, Asura wasn’t afraid of her at all – or at least, he didn’t show it if he was. Yukio stood quickly to his feet and offered a deep bow. His head lowered down almost to his knees as he held on to the sides of his thighs, keeping the position as he spoke. ”I’ll make sure nothing happens! Please accept my ap-“

”Silence, dog.”

There was something in her voice that made it different. It was an incremental depth to it that resembled the opening of some gate, and out of it slipped a despairing sensation that Yukio could not ignore. Asura would not notice it, because he never noticed such things. Yukio could feel his hands trembling. A blinding shot of relief ran through his veins when he heard Asura stand up.

”Hey Feira, it wasn’t his fault!”

”It wasn’t? You’ve been made aware of your own terrible end. You’re not supposed to think rationally. It is a Jinzo’s duty to protect the Takayama and Jinzo Yukio is no different.”

”He tried to stop me, he did. I just… I didn’t listen to him. I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about anyway. This is for the better, Feira, believe me. I won’t die when I have-“

”Believe you? Do you know what you’ve done? Getting assassinated was a much better fate than this you fool!” Yukio had kept his head down, seeing only the tips of her leather shoes that stuck out beyond the drape of her gown. She didn’t dress like someone who was so closely tied to the Takayama. He could see the sense in that now, and suspected that he had always seen it. The Hajin was not a murdered, but someone who did what he believed, what was required of him due to his tribe's way of looking at the world. And this darkness was what he had been afraid of all along. Perhaps it was having been alone for so long that he feared. To admit that those against him were not in the wrong but merely acting on how they saw the world was to admit that in some ways, he really was a Demon. When those very shoes turned to point towards Yukio, he knew that she was looking at him once more. Reluctantly, he straightened up from his bow, his hands rigidly encased at his side and his head still tucked down in apology.

”Please help us Feira. I didn’t know it was this serious. Asura told me about the prophecy and… and… I didn’t know what to do. He told me this was the solution and in the end, I really just want him not to die.” Yukio reflected at the choice of his words. It was an odd way to phrase that. But did he want Asura to live? Did he mind if Asura was tucked away in some hole in the ground, kept alive with dosages of food and visits from friends? Asura wouldn’t want that. But it didn’t seem so bad.

At least Asura wouldn’t be dead. And that’s what was important. It was a disgusting notion, but it was honest.

”Asura, go get some wood. We’re going to make dinner.”

”Huh?” With a look of confusion the CEO walked past Feira and out of the small hut. The door did not swing closed, and it allowed a trickle of sunlight to illuminate the otherwise orange hue of the place. Yukio was much too aware of the fact that he was alone with her, feeling the uneasy intrusion of her presence.

Yukio’s father would never speak Feira’s name, and Asura could not bring himself to understand that. Being wary of such a powerful figure was only logical, but to be terrified of her was uncharacteristic of his father. It was the basis behind coming to Kumo, wasn't it? The new age of hired murder was the Shinobi, and there would be a long gap of time until anyone discovered a discipline to defeat it. It could not be denied. Adaptation was what allowed for him to see this threat. He would not have come here and accepted such a low rank if it had not been for this feeling that he was on the brink of being left behind. The many times he had met Shinobi were all one amalgamation of blood or another. The way they moved was organized and the way they molded magic into their physical motions was a thing of beauty. He had seen flame-eaters before, but never could he imagine that there could be sword-fighters that ran flames along the edge of their blade.

Even the Medics were of a new breed. They used magic and medical knowledge together to achieve feats that surely must have been impossible before. The work they did on Demon's foes while the battle had taken a gasp of fresh air was amazing, and the healing that took place was almost ghastly. It was like he was facing a new person, his wounds now sealed and his eyes blazing with ambition. It was hard to find ambition after ruthless defeat. Often the spirit was broken due to this. Yukio had once insisted that Feira was harmless, that he had seen her interactions with Asura and perhaps she was just an innocent caretaker at heart. He remembered his father’s pained laugh at the comment. ‘Harmless? There’s a reason she’s that Asura boy’s caretaker. No one’s will be able to touch him as long as she’s in his room. That’s not harmless.’


Last edited by Demon on Wed Mar 05, 2014 12:08 am; edited 2 times in total
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Demon
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PostSubject: Re: Edict of the Demon, Chapter 4   Tue Mar 04, 2014 7:27 am

”Sometimes, protecting others requires us to hurt ourselves.” The hairs on the back of Yukio’s neck stood in shrill fear. Had she read his mind? Did she know of his irrational terror? Or was it perhaps just a cruel coincidence, concocted by fate to keep him on his toes? She stepped away from him and pushed the door open further. The sunlight shone onto half of the house, while she stood in the shaded region besides the doorway. In front of them, down the path by a few meters, was Asura. He was sitting down on a tree stump, hunched over collecting smaller twigs and branches into a large pile. While he was facing Feira and Yukio, his head was tucked down, so he did not see them watching him. ”I should not be angry with you. I know that you were scribed as well.”

”How did you know?”

Yukio wondered what this woman must have gone through to have obtained her powers. Was she just a pawn, trained from youth to be in her place, or was she the pawn that became the Queen, struggling from the very bottom and clawing her way to the very top? Perhaps necessity was the true evil, the only evil. All else was just a consequence of it. He felt himself caught in the awe of she who looked at him. The way that she composed herself was not familiar to him, and he had been conditioned by those older than him to fear this difference. But then should she not have feared Yukio and the people like Yukio? Therein lay the difference. One was not only in possession of another set of attributes, but she was wholly greater. And that thought scared him perhaps even more than her attention and her insight.

”I may be old, but I’m not yet senile. You’ve had yourself linked to him. When he is cut, you’ll feel the pain as well. It is an uncommon procedure. Is this your way of keeping track of him?”

”This is my penance.”

Penance was something that Asura knew well. Perhaps he knew it too intimately over these years. Training was one thing, bettering oneself physically was another, but could one really ever rid himself of the ghosts of his past? He never slept a night without the image of his burning mother coming to his thoughts. He never woke in the morning without the feeling of the word 'demon' being carved onto his cheek. His palm would press against his face and his eyes would stay wide open so that the images and feelings and memories and condemnations would not run back to him, but they always did. To have a curse hold on to his shoulders for all these years was his penance.

She was looking at Asura, and Yukio thought he caught a smile touch her lips for a moment, but it was gone just as quickly. ”Penance is for regret, Yukio. How can you regret allowing him to die when it has yet to happen? This solution that the two of you went through with… it complicates a lot of things you know. I know I sound like some old soothsayer when I say this… but he’s doomed.” Yukio crossed his arms, his eyes darting from left to right. It was difficult to understand what she meant. Her eyes looked at something distant when she spoke. It must have been the effects of being able to tell the future. After-all, Feira was the one to prophesize Asura’s assassination. But where in this puzzling understanding of reality was the punishment inflicted upon himself by man? Was it a deviation from the proper path of evolution? Could there really be a use for penance when advancement was the only final goal? He felt stupid, suddenly, for having spoken those words to her. He did not feel stupid for what he had done, just stupid for the way he had done it, and stupid for the way he had presented an explanation to her. And maybe this was where he fell behind. Asura was changing, going out of his way to find a cure to the predicament he was in, Yukio was stuck here in the old ways, trying to repent for his inability to protect. It was a pitiful state to be in when, when the world about him insisted on rapid and dreadful change yet here he was, crippled by his own clinging the past ways.

Asura felt bad for her. He regretted having to put her through this. But Yukio was different. He did not vocalize these thoughts, but he suspected that she had known of Asura’s demise much earlier than she claimed. How far into the future could she really see? At times, he wondered if maybe they were all trivial to her – bumps on an otherwise smooth and infinite plane of existence. The story would go on with or without some Takayama Asura and his best friend Jinzo Yukio. And along the expanse of this plane, in every direction that it extended, there were people like Feira – that is, if the rumors of her immortality were true.

But immortality was always so charred with superstition. There existed, surely, ways to elongate life. But when these stories and theories escaped unto the ears and eyes of the common man, the common man could never be ready for it. And the result was the hushed up fear-mongering that came when dealing with these 'immortals'. They were seen as enactments of God himself, born unto us to deliver judgment.

Immortality, however, was not a convenience he had. He was stuck in between a rock and a hard place, with a sniper on the top right that was using some sort of explosive shot to keep his stuck in the same place, and ground troops quickly making way from the left. The explosive shots were a technology that he was not familiar with, and it baffled him how they could store such power at their disposal without even a delay. From what little information he had gathered, the man was using a crossbow that probably had more than a few seals on it. Magic?

He would later find out that this was the Tal'hab hiring Shinobi to integrate their way with the way of the Ninja. It was a deadly combination, large organization and cult mindset, when mixed with hybrid power. They did not know, of course, that he was behind this specific building, but that was only because of the collage of towers that surrounded his location, making it hard to pin-point one dark-skinned person on the run. The town they were fighting in was lost on him, and it was probably because he had hit his head more than a few times. The trickle of warm red moving down his temples reminded him of the urgency of the situation. Even if they suddenly turned and left, he would still probably die due to bleeding.

His chest heaved almost in unison with the thud-thuds of the incoming assassins, each surely readying for some sort of restraining Jutsu. They didn't want him dead. That would have been too simple, and they would not have been such a persistent thorn in his ass if their goals were so simple. He had information that they wanted and he needed to be alive to give it to them.

Extraction was a simple way to put it. These past few years were a golden age for the process of interrogation. New methods came and went and optimizations were made and published. Of course with these sorts of people, the form of extraction was always the worst - almost exactly the kinds that you heard about and felt was exaggeration. They really did do those things to their prisoners. Breaking a man was not easy and not nearly as simple as one thought. Pain wasn't the route, hope was. But these people knew that, or so Sora had heard.

He exercised his resistances to this sort of thing every day, only to find that he was vulnerable with each time he practiced. There were things that he did not know how to handle, things that he was not taught to consider hen it came to his strength and his defenses. The way the Reverend Mother had looked at him had revealed more about himself than it had about her. She saw through his guise, saw right into his fears. At that time he did not know that she was a fraud, or as close to a fraud as you can call someone who still manages to do the impossible. She was not what she claimed to be. But she was definitely not just a pretender. In fact, she was more than what people had thought of her.

It was one thing to be born with the boon to read minds. Everyone was vulnerable to that and the solution to this was to redefine how one behaved around these sorts of people. But the natural talent to make people think differently was not something we could so easily defend against. The traditional methods of defense were all just a bag of bullshit. Meditation and Yoga were all things that he had no patience for. In fact it drove him crazy to think that the solution to deception was to torment yourself further with this sort of crap. People without the same demeanor as Asura might not have understood, but motion and drive were what fueled him.

They knew exactly how to drain promise away from one's eyes and leave him with little left. It was a terrifying sight to see. By then, Code Name Demon had been on quite a few rescue missions to extract those that were prisoners of war. And he couldn't remember a single one of them that ended happily. It was always the same story. Broken man, broken spirit, broken spine. He knew of one that had managed to turn things around. He was the monk Yajiro, who now spent the most of his time at the monastery in the mountains. Demon would practice there many times during this search for mental fortitude. But a monastery did not give one many methods of physical endurance, while on the other hand, it bent him backwards in the plane of mental stamina.

One particular training came to use even now. It was sitting below the warm waters of a small cataract, allowing for your body to be thwarted for hours until the skin was numb and resilient. Once in this state, the body lost its sense of weight, since the water pushed at it from all directions. And Demon would enter a trance like state within which all of time seemed to concede to his solitude. Within the depths of this silence, he pondered on the Reverend Mother and her abilities to see through men without even looking. The town of people that considered their hero infallible, that she had tricked into incriminating himself - they had thrown him into jail. His name was forever tarnished. But that wasn't the scary part, because anyone can pull off a minor fraud.

But when Asura spoke with the man again, he said that he was not sure of what was true and what was fabrication. He claimed vehemently that he did not rape those girls, yet somehow he held doubt in his voice. And in a moment of weakness he admitted that perhaps it was possible. It seemed like something he could be capable of doing on a bad day. It seemed to be something anyone was capable of doing. But Demon could not accept that. How could a man nod his head to his own beheading under the vague possibility that the crime was within the realm of possibility?

The reason was clear.

He honestly did not know. His own perception of himself was altered and thrown into question by some minor fiddling from a witch woman. And this terrified Asura. If a hero could fall under this spell, then what chance did a mercenary such as Asura have? And if the people of an entire village, one defined by loyalty and togetherness, could turn on their star child so easily... then it did not bode well for Asura's comrades. The band of mercenaries that he moved with were nothing like the village of people, and if they chose to see him in a different light, it would not be difficult for them.

Could one woman really hold so much power?

But now he saw the relation between the Reverend Mother and the Tal'hab. It was all in the head. The fear, the self-questioning, the hopelessness. Once the captured person stopped believing in himself then it was all but a matter of time. Yajiro was one of these people. He had once been a great gambler. His life was filled with women and money and lights and booze. It was the kind of life that Asura might have envied had he not grown fond of blood and war. When he was captured, it was a brutal sight. He was wanted by the Tal'hab's client and so he was taken in. He didn't put up much of a fight, because up until then, he was never really put into a corner. Luck was on his side. So when the Tal'hab kept him for a year, he didn't have any preparation.

When the Demon saw him again, Yajiro was a changed man. He no longer wore the same flashy things that he did before. And it was here that Demon learned what the Tal'hab were capable of. They could make you look at yourself and see something different. He had shaved his head and his eyes were a deep sunken brown. His smile, having recognized Asura, was labored, as if smiling was a foreign concept in its entirety. Demon didn't understand then why it was such a big deal. He should have been happy that he escaped with his life.

They had changed Yajiro.

They would do the same to him. And there was very little that Asura could do but rely on what training he had undertaken in order to save himself from the Reverend Mother. Even if he afforded them the information that they wanted -- even if he told the exact locations of the three different mercenary bases that he operated out of -- they would still torture him. And to break through their torture, no one else could save you. It was business as usual and surely their reputation had caused many of their resident prisoners to cave in before the torture began. But if word got out that they did not break the willing, then the fear that surrounded them would dissipate. It would seem as though they were open for negotiation and these people wanted anything but to give that image. The same would have happened if the Reverend Mother had ever allowed herself to be wrong. The Tal'hab would not send the message that they were prone to reconsideration. They were not open to talks, open to surrender. They killed.

He had done his research about them, and prepared for what was to come in that regard. The truth was, these interrogators, a group of around two hundred men, were mercenaries just like Sora. So it was perhaps ironic that they spoke so condescendingly of men of fire when they themselves were of the same breed. But they were much more organized and rightfully charged much higher. The Order of the Tal'hab was what they called themselves. In the desert language it meant something ominous that Sora could not remember now, in his panic. Sora had run across them quite a few times before, mostly in those rescue missions. Infiltration was not his strong-suit but his friend Tsuki was skilled enough to carry both of their weights. All of their rescue missions thus far had been a grand success, with Tsuki devising ways to break into the Tal'hab's temporary bases. That was the thing with temporary bases -- you don't get to employ the same standards and practices that you would otherwise. It was all a very messy setup to begin with and once you had to deal with mercenaries, it all went to shit.

This time, the Tal'hab was working for the Commissioner of Lands and Trades, from the Gaki Islands off the coast of Water Country. He had sent the Tal'hab all the way here to sniff out the mercenaries that were once hired to steal his documents and release them to the public. It was all a very big scandal and had caused the Commissioner his run at the Prime Minister position. But that was years ago, and while his reputation suffered, his connections were still real. So, in what must have been an attempt to get back to his former glory, he had sent these men out to find the exact perpetrators of that sting operation so many years ago. Now it just so happens that the person who released those papers to a group of young journalists was Sora himself. They were juicy. Real juicy. The kind of juice that lasts for years. The kind of juice that you let trickle drop by drop and each drop makes a tidal wave instead of a ripple, and boom you've got your career made. Everyone wants you on their prints, everyone wants to co-sign your articles, and you're the big man.

The two young men that he had given the documents to, however, were found gutted and beheaded the very next morning, after releasing the news in one fell swoop. See that's where Sora was different. Sora wouldn't give two shits about the good of the people when it came to things like these. You get the news out in tiny bits so you can cash in for a long time. That's just how the world works. You don't kill your golden goose before it's done laying all the golden eggs it can push out. But these young kids knew something that Sora didn't. They feared something that Sora had not considered. If they got this stuff out piece by piece, there was a chance that something would happen and the rest of the story would get lost in translation. There was a chance they'd get taken out.

To them, the news was more important than their lives, and as a result, they posted it all immediately. It was a big deal. The Commissioner's career hit a brick wall right there and then. The brick wall had god-damn spikes on it with the words that those kids used, co-signing the article and publishing it for free in every news outlet that was willing to run it. They didn't even make a fuckin' cent. Sora hated that he was about to die for that do-gooder bullshit.

He felt the blood draining from his veins. Lightheaded, he rested his head back against the railing and closed his eyes for one long and delicate moment. The weather was terrible. It was quite early as well, being six in the morning. You could barely see what was in front of your outstretched hands, if you were insane enough to go out in that pouring rain. The Demon, of course, was insane. He was insane enough to be awake at this time, to stand out in the muddy grass of the forest and hack away at tree bark for past two hours. He hissed and screamed profanities at the tree and anyone who was there from the very beginning since this oddity would see that he had only just scratched his elbow from its rough bark. How hacking his sword at it like a machete would resolve anything was anyone’s guess. “Motherfucking tree,” he muttered, swinging heavily against the bark. His manoeuvres weren’t mechanically sound as his usual attacks, but it wasn’t particularly needed for something as inanimate as a tree.

It was hardly productive time spent. The birds in the branches above knew this better, cawing and laughing away at his idiocy. Of course it didn’t fall deaf on his ears, as the Demon swung and embedded his blade into the trunk for the last time. He slowly raised his head and peered up into the canopy. His eyebrows furrowed deeply and he growled, “The fuck are you cawing at?!” They only responded with more calls and the flaps of wings. With his upper lip curled back and a sudden yank of his sword out of the tree, he flung it up at the branches. The birds scattered and flew away and the blade landed unceremoniously onto the mud just a few feet away from him.

Picking up his sword, he noticed the metal was already scratched under the muddiness. He clicked his tongue in annoyance. Fucking cheap shit sword. How the fuck do they make these things, with paper? In complete disregard that maybe, just maybe, he was just being careless with his attacks, Demon decided to use up its worth with a good little scuffle with one of the creatures that lurked in this forest. The rain was still not letting up, but he didn’t care. He stalked around the trees, not stealthily at all, in search of movement. Any movement. After one more step, he heard and saw it. It was a deer or something, a dumb looking one he thought. He gave it a wild chase, the deer scrambled about with wide round eyes.

“GET BACK HERE YOU FU- OW WHAT THE FUCK?!” The so called Demon stumbled, for the deer had stopped suddenly just to buck him in the face. Sporting a nosebleed and bruised cheek, he screamed, “I’M GOING TO HANG YOUR FUCKING ASS ON MY WALL, YOU LITTLE SHIT!” He sped up, lunging at the remarkably violent deer. His sword only plunged into the side of its rear and it screeched horribly, as all quiet looking animals do, and writhed about. It managed to kick him away again and he screamed furiously... again. Fool him once, shame on you. Fool him twice, you’re fucking dead meat. He leapt at the animal again to grab at the hilt of his sword. Upon managing to do so he ripped it out of the deer’s flesh and swung at the animal again wildly. He yelled once more, continuing to hack and slash. The poor deer was long dead, sliced to pieces. He could make a meal out of that, but hunger wasn’t exactly on his mind. He left it for the vultures and ants and walked off, sword bloody, scratched some more, but still usable.

He came across another deer. Laughing maniacally at first, he then transitioned into a screaming fit of rage in memory of the pain the previous deer gave him (thankfully his nosebleed had stopped long ago). He charged at it like a maniac and predictably on cue, the deer started to flee. He ran after it like a beast himself, tripping on roots and slipping on mud. The deer scrambled and slipped all the same and in the end, the crazy swordsman managed to lunge at the second one. He fought, it fought... well, it more likely tried to get away, but that didn’t stop him at all. He attacked it with fury and glee at the same time. The deer screeched just as horribly as the first until its last breath. He had managed to kill it, even though that wasn’t really a big feat in itself. It was just a deer after all. He didn’t care anyway. As long as he got to swing his sword and cut into something, it was good. Good, but not enough. His sword was still not broken. Maybe it was actually better quality than he thought.

Then the third deer appeared as he continued his wandering about. It’s a wonder how he didn’t get caught for just killing these harmless creatures for no apparent reason. But fuck it all. Maybe third time was the charm. He didn’t scream this time. He dove for the deer and once again, the deer ran from him. The rain was starting to lighten up, but the grass and mud was still slippery as always. He was still tripping on roots and slipping on mud. Idiot. The deer scrambled and too. The Demon jumped and sliced the deer’s leg to cripple it. The deer jumped and kicked about, but he was smarter now to dodge it. He hacked and slashed at its meat, enjoying the exercise. The deer screamed like a banshee before it dimmed down to a gurgle. He had managed to kill this one too. This time, once he pulled out his sword, it broke off, leaving only his hilt in his hand and the blade in the deer carcass. He frowned and spat to the side, muttering as he started to head for home, “Fucking cheap piece of metal.”

He caught a cold the day after. That’s what you get for fooling around in the heavy rain.

They were everywhere. Leopards, deer, vultures, trees... It was like he was outnumbered but who the fuck cared. The Demon surely didn’t. There were just more targets to aim, more targets to kill and destroy. He grinned in delight like a child, but all the while wondering if he had enough breakfast to sustain him today. No matter, he thought as a leopard swiped at him. “HOLD ON!” he roared at the big cat. “Fucking shit.” Clearly he wasn’t ready to start the fight yet. Dumbasses. He unsheathed his sword and prepared his stance, as ineffective and novice-like as it was. It did not matter, he reiterated to himself. He had sheer power. Lovely, lovely power. The second into the stance, the animals came at him, interestingly even the herbivores like the deer. Even more interesting was how they seem to be all working together against him, but charged at him one by one.

The leopard charged first. It attacked him with a swipe. He got scratched from its sharp claws. Adrenaline kicking in, he charged in to attack back. The leopard snarled and lunged, turning the swordfight into a wrestling match. They struggled with each other until the leopard succeeded in pushing him down and leave a nasty wound on his arm. He screamed profanities, cursing out the animal, before getting back up and attacking again. The leopard dodged and circled him like its prey. It lunged again, but this time he was ready for a counterattack. He slashed at its underside and it roared in pain. It was desperate to kill him. This went on for a while. It would bite him and swipe its claws at him. He would punch its face; slice it with his sword and slash. Finally it would fall dead and he would stand in triumph. “Ha! You’re surprisingly weak as shit!” he taunted the dead leopard, even though he took quite a bit of damage himself.

Another leopard leapt at the successful Demon. It attacked him with a series of swipes. He fell back with more scratches to his body. Snapping out of his reverie of grandeur, he got back up to charge in and swing back at the leopard. The giant cat snarled and pounced, knocking away his sword. They rolled around on the grass until the weaponless swordsman punched it in the face with a burst of profanity. The leopard stumbled back and snarled. It ran towards the Demon again, knocking him over once more. Luckily, he skidded to a halt near his sword. He grabbed it quickly and slashed at the incoming leopard until it began to roar in pain. It was getting weaker and weaker. This fight was a little bit faster than the first. It would fail to bite him or swipe its claws at him. He was free to keep slashing and stabbing and hacking and slicing away at the leopard. Finally it was too much to bear for the cat and it toppled over. He half-laughed, half- screamed at the easiness of this battle.

A flock of vultures came to knock him out of that. They attacked him with a scratches and pecks. Scratches are really popular with the animals nowadays, aren’t they? He got scratched from their sharp claws. He screamed in fury. He hated birds more than anything... and they were fucking damn annoying right now! The vultures screeched and swooped, confusing him so much that he had to swing around his sword so blindly at them. They swooped and pecked until the swordsman finally succeeded in piercing one of the vultures, killing it. He screamed in successful glee, cursing out the flocks on how stupid they were, before they got more angry and continued to attack him again. The Demon swung his sword around wildly to fend them off. By skill, or sheer dumb luck, he eventually managed to slice almost each vulture to death one by one. The ones left over were desperate to blind him. This went on for a much longer time. The vultures would be fast in swooping at him and pecking and swiping with their long talons. He would swing his sword for their wings or neck, so that they couldn’t fly anymore. One by one they all dropped onto the ground like flies. Annoying, but they’re dead now so that’s something.

Like a video game, he progressed onto the next level. The deer stared at him with big dumb eyes. How hard could this be, fighting a bunch of deer? He readied his stance and the arbitrary countdown began. The deer reared their ugly heads and began their stampede. He was ready. He was so ready. These little shits have nothing on him-

“AAAARRRGH!!!”

He screamed and toppled over as the deer began to trample on him. “What the fuck, I wasn’t ready!” he yelled as he kicked one of them off. Bit prideful there. The Demon rolled over and stabbed another. They screeched, he screamed and they struggled, him being more outnumbered by the minute. Carcasses still dropped from his swings, but they kept coming from out of seemingly nowhere. Profanity after swear after cuss, he screamed and swung his blade at every foot and neck in sight.

What seemed like hours and hours later, all the animals had dropped dead around him from his blade. He was the only one that stood, panting heavily. Oh... he did it. Bloody head, a million scratches and a billion bruises, he did it! His wrist might be sprained or broken or something but it didn’t matter! He took down three leopards, a flock of vultures and a herd and a half of deer! With a huff and a small dance, he praised himself for his skill. “Aha ha ha ha, take that you weak ass bird brains!”

But his victory dance was cut short, as he noticed through the thick of the forest a dark shape of movement. He began to question it and then decided it was another prey to fight. Just as he smiled to himself, it came charging. It was a horse, but at the same time it wasn’t. Its face was grotesque and its mane flaming, the beast raised onto its hind legs. The Demon found himself on his back the next second, disarmed and mere moments away from that giant hoof smashing into his skull.

“AH!” He shot up suddenly and then clutched his head just as quickly after. The blood was only just starting to flow in his aching head as he gathered his thoughts.

What? Oh... a fucking dream. Fuck. How long had he been asleep? His eyes shot stark open, looking around as a cold shiver ran up his spine. They were only a floor ahead of where they had been so he must've dozed off for only a couple of seconds. It was odd for that entire sequence to have fit in. It was a memory. And it help a clue.

And now, that same Commissioner had bribed his way into power again. He wore make-up and good clothes and white shoes and white ties and white plastic teeth all over again as if someone had pressed one big fuckin' reset button. It pissed Sora off. And now he was going to die for this bullshit. Looking to either side, Demon could tell which path they were taking from the way the shadows moved. They wanted him so that they can find out who paid for the initial job, which one of this Commissioner's friends wanted his shady dealings to be broadcasted to the public. Then suddenly a spear shot through the wall that he was leaning on and cut a scathing wound into his shoulder. He whirled around just before the wall fell and the troops behind caught sight of him.

He was genuinely afraid in that moment.

”I guess I just don’t understand how he’s doomed. It can only help, to have that kind of power…”

Power was something that Yukio had always seen from a distance. He had observed it from a distance and measured it in his own discrete ways. Power was something that people other than he would deal with, a measurement of progress that was irrelevant but curious to him. He could understand why Asura felt powerless with the knowledge that there were people that were trying to have his head. The feeling of powerlessness stung harder than most other things and it was this feeling that drove people never to want to feel it again. Like learning to swim after almost drowning, one grabs and holds on to what power he can maintain before he finds himself compromised yet again. It was a terrible cycle, as when we grab power, we grab it away from someone else, and in Demon's case, it was away from the others in the Mercenary group.

He had set his eyes on becoming the lead assassin, and that meant dethroning the three leads that existed before Demon. There was a certain balance to having three leads but Demon wanted none of it. He wanted to make sure that his position in the band of mercenaries was solid. He wanted to know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that they could not so easily turn their back on him like people tended to do. It was indeed a pitiful reason to grab for power, but Asura knew no better. He had been intimately close to abandonment his entire life and now, with a group of people behind him, he knew only to fear their loss rather than enjoy their company.

Of course if you asked him about why he wanted the lead assassin role, he wouldn't waiver from his answer. He wanted to become stronger, and to take the title of lead was the only true measurement of that. And perhaps to him it was the truth of the matter.

”All power comes at a cost, Yukio. You’ve been given a powerful link to Asura, one that will let you find him wherever he is, and will let you feel what he feels. But you know the cost.” He did, and the cost was the reason Asura had fought to stop him from getting it done. But if Asura was going to go through with his own plan, then this was the least Yukio could do. They would not get this opportunity again. He would need to learn fast as well. With this new age of Shinobi coming in there was only learning left to do. All other forms of preparation was futile and superfluous before the proper research and adaptation was undertaken. It was inevitable that Asura would reach this conclusion to come to Kumo. And he'd make a terrible fuckin' fairy tale character, that's for sure. A day might come when Asura’s taken away. They won’t kill him quickly. They will torture his mind and his body until he gives in and finally dies. Do you think you will be able to lead a normal life after that – if you even survive?”

”As long as I feel the pain, I know that he hasn’t died. I can find him.”

”Will you get up and walk when you feel his ligaments being sliced and extracted?”

”I’ll get up and run.”

”People of his lineage aren’t privileged to peaceful deaths. How will you save him from this curse he’s undertaken? When you two went to Agora, you did not come back alone.” The same chill ran up Yukio’s spine, a feeling of dread that he had become accustomed to.

”You mean… the mark…”

”The mark is just a gateway… not to power, or immortality, or anything that Asura would want…”

Yukio’s hands trembled again, his senses becoming aware of some invisible darkness that lingered thick and pungent in the atmosphere. Feira reached up to Yukio’s shoulder and placed her hand on him. A sharp surge of chakra rushed through his system and came together at his eyes. ”Asura stared into the abyss when you two went to Agora.” And the abyss was where they were pushed to out of this grip of fear. They could not escape something so pervasive that it had managed to entangle a billion souls before Asura's. He could feel the dreadful soaking wetness of the fear that spewed out of Asura when they were in Agora. They might never have gone to such a place had they not been backed into a corner. Because enemies came from about and not from within. It was not an act of admission that they chased down the solution. It was a necessary move. Do not be ashamed of the humanity that defines you. Beyond the initial daze that came with her chakra, his vision had not changed. He looked to her in a panicked stare, and saw that she was looking at Asura. The faint hint of a smile on her lips had faded now, and in its stead was a straight line along her lips.

Instinctively, he turned his head to Asura.

Then he screamed and pulled away, falling backwards onto her table, knocking over the small ceramic cups that had been arranged on top of it. Once contact was broken, he could no longer see it, and he was immediately thankful. Asura was looking up now, having heard Yukio’s voice.

”What’s wrong Yuki?”

”N-no-nothing,” Yukio managed to reply. But he could not forget what he had seen. Behind Asura, in a form of pitch black, its wings spread across the entire horizon. Its horns pierced through even heaven. And its arms wrapped possessively around Asura’s shoulders. It smiled at Yukio, when Yukio looked. Perhaps it was smiling now, the face of dread and evil.

Behind Asura, stood the Devil.

Agora had been like a dream, the type your brain scrambles to forget immediately after waking up. They had walked into Oshiro-like plain with little to no plan on what to do if they couldn't get out. Yukio's nature made him wary and suspicious, but Asura seemed unfazed by slippery slope they now slid down. He sat at their chair, his elbows pressed against his knees and his hair draped over his face like a curtain of blood, and he made no noise as they pushed the long needle into his spine. It was rumored that the dragon on his back moved -- a rumor some girls he had slept with liked to spread as 'proof' that they had really done the deed. Those who claimed to not see anything move were immediately discredited, so now it became commonplace amongst young girls to claim that they had spent a night with him, watching the tattoo on his back come to life in curves of black and blacker.

Yukio wondered, in the mild heat of Agora, if Asura's tattoo really did move. The Jinzo bodyguard was abruptly pulled out of his trance-like stare at his friend when the redhead let out a stifled grunt. It wasn't like Asura to let his pain enter the world of the audible. Yukio stood, instinctively, and went to stop the procedure, when almost a dozen of the clan members stepped in between him and Asura. He could see Asura's fists clench. Yukio felt his throat catch.

"Oi... you alright?"

A cold shiver ran up his spine when Asura did not respond. Was he in that much pain? Whatever it was that they held, some large dark blade that carved through Asura's back, seemed to emanate with a sickness that caused the air to thicken and smell like boiling blood. "Give the word Asura, we'll g-"

"This is the only way." Yukio stepped away, diverting his gaze. He hated the Takayama. He hated the entire Yakuza. He hated the City and the way it engulfed people in one way or the other. Another of Asura's grunts made Yukio shut his eyes tightly. What a terrible fate to be born into.

"You will never want power again."

Asura let out a scream and his pain rattled Yukio's bones. But he didn't do what every instinct told him to do. Instead, Yukio hunched over his knees, curled up, and pressed his palms against his ears. Asura's screams were louder than what his palms could hold out. The tearing of his flesh was crisp and clear to Yukio's mind. "Son of Oshiro, you will know no fear." Yukio trembled as a hot finger of salt traced from his cheek and dropped onto mat below. "You will know no death."

Asura shrieked out in despair. Yukio could hear his friend's ribs breaking. It was part of the procedure. They hard warned Asura about it on their way into the tent that they now had gathered inside. Asura had given Yukio a hesitant look before agreeing. Yukio had suspected perhaps that was the only chance he would have had to stop Asura from going through with this. It must have been Asura's way of offering one window of opportunity for the rational voice to speak up and regain control of the situation. But Yukio had been as caught up in awe as Asura had, and the two of them struggled to believe that the legends were true, and that the Kahani even existed. And just like that, that moment was gone, and now they were here. Something warm pressed lightly against the bottom of his feet, causing Yukio to open his eyes. That's when he saw the blood. It was everywhere. There was a lake of red that soaked through the mats and carpets, into the sand below. In the center of it was the Takayama heir, heaving and screaming. Every inch of his skin was covered in the same red.

Yukio did not expect Asura to look up towards him.

"This is the only way... Yuki..." His eyes were wild and his teeth were clenched. His bones pushed out of his skin and his face had its skin torn almost entirely off. Holes along his back showed signs of where they had injected him with whatever it was that now consumed him like acid against the surface of wet wood. His flesh and bone seemed to melt into the crimson waves below, and he gave a despairing grunt. It reminded Yukio of the noise Asura had made when Reika betrayed him. When possibly the only person Asura could ever love had pushed her finger through Asura's eye, he had uttered a similar, anguished howl - like a rabid dog caught in a bear-trap, barking furiously ahead. Fearless but hopeless.

What a pitiful thing. Yukio had observed this as one observes the ending of the world. There was a cataclysmic despair to it all that had lost its sense of meaning. What use was there of being terrified when the inevitable had already come to pass over them? He did not scream, he did not budge, he only watched as his heart sank and his stomach clenched in the overwhelming feeling of loss. All was lost. All was done.

'Don't fuckin' pity me!' was the first words Asura had said to him when Yukio visited Asura in the hospital, after the incident with Reika. They had broke his Chakra Gates and overloaded it until finally his body relinquished its control over chakra entirely, in exchange for an opportunity to continue surviving. The incident was hushed up effortlessly and all that remained was the flimsy white sheet that fluttered about from one mouth to the other, carrying a story that was too ludicrous to be true. Reika never appeared in school after that and Asura was hospitalized for the remainder of three months. The kids didn't know what to assume, and the parents were too fretful to allow postulation.

'Everyone around me ends up hurt or hurting me.'

It was not a particularly surprising thought to have when you're in that sort of a position. Asura was not gifted with a life of fortune, and the only luck he had met was taken from him with hands of metal and fire. These were not things one could forget. These were not things one could rationalize away and attribute to the law of large numbers or the odds of evenness. Instead this was the overarching pattern of madness that enveloped everything, starting from misfortune, and ending in bloody revenge. He could tell at that very moment that what Asura had in his mind was vengeance. It was not that he hid it incorrectly but Yukio knew that he would feel the same. How could you not hope for vengeance against these people that hounded him?

Yukio had not done a very good job at hiding his tears, and when Asura said those words, the boy broke back into his state of hysteric sobbing. Asura had uttered those words in a whisper, in between clenched teeth and a balled fist. It was said quiet enough for even the adults near the entrance not to hear. So to them, it must have seemed as if Yukio was just some child crying for his friend. But his tears then had stung more than they would were he mourning. It was the way Asura looked out of the window, his jaw trembling from being pressed so tightly together, that made everything feel lost. And it hurt Yukio to know that there were people that saw Asura as the demon in disguise. There were people that believed in the stories and trusted the myth that he was the Devil incarnate. Despicable, superstitious, and cowardly people they were. In the eyes of his father, the surrogate mother of Sora was the devil. So if he himself was so close to someone with a flawed perception, then how could he claim that this sort of philosophy was wrong? Watching Asura grow stronger was a vexing ordeal. He had been more and more able to defend himself, and to never let the atrocities of his past repeat themselves. But at the same time, he had become more distant from all things rational. The war that he so feared as a child became something that defined him. Some times it felt as though his hatred for his blood mother was driving him again. To gain power through hatred was surely a product of these times. He saw it in the way the punches curved and the way the bits of skin tore so freely from flesh and bone. There had to be hatred behind those eyes that burned forever onwards. So it was not absurd that there were people who should insist that Asura was the evil. He was born of omen and raised of omen and by extension, perhaps, his life would be of the omen. All was red and black in the river of death that flowed over Asura's life.

Sword training was always a revealing aspect of Demon's, and one that he was not aware of. Depending on the day, the hour, and the mood, his swings would change. The way he held his blades could go from understanding and caring all the way to callous and cold just by the way his mind was at that time. It was a flaw, surely, to allow for emotions to so powerfully dictate one's style, but at the same time it was probably a good thing. Demon was hard to study. Many had tried and many had wondered why his decisions, given the same parameters of entry, were different each time. But what people didn't realize was that there were more parameters than they were aware of.

There was the way he had woken up, how horrible his nightmare had been, and so on and so forth. Hell, even the breakfast he had determined the style that he used when in close quarters. And with each day he learned more, and added more facets to the diamond that was he.

But diamonds were over-valued, and Yukio saw that from a mile away. Demon would fall to a truly talented swordsman. He had, to himself, no actual god-given talent. He was weak when compared to the real strong men, and his speed was a derivative of his eagerness to kill. If aptitude in battle was measured by how well one does in a clean slate, then Demon would lose to right about everyone. He needed motive to fight, and without it he was useless. This was his curse. To be driven by hatred was to realize that without hatred, he was nothing but a lowly dog.

This is the nature of the Demon. The way he wields his sword is the way he wields his anger. He holds it by the throat and makes it bend to his will, but he does not let it go. They say holding hatred is like drinking poison and waiting for your enemy to die. But what happens when you lather your insides with that poison and bite into your enemy? Does the hatred pass over? Does it ever go beyond the limits of your mind? Or will the torture you've endured always be just a skeleton in your closet? If it were true that all evil and good was up for interpretation, then it made no sense what Demon was doing. Not many people knew, and even less people survived after finding out, but this story of Demon's was a revenge story. It was the story of a son born in red and burned in red who would find his way to his vengeance. How can someone whose life is so intrinsically weaved in with warfare be ever pure enough to judge as abstract? The truth was that it could not.

There would always be people who saw those that fell from Demon's sword as victims. He would be the Reaper of the Desert, come to extract the vengeance of God unto the world. His deeds, his motives, and his ambitions were irrelevant in comparison to his actions. And it was rightfully so. And some times, existing as a tool of an evil time made you evil too. But surely that was not what Asura believed. He believed that it was those that willed these evils that were evil, and that Demon, along with the other mercenaries, were just the incidental methods through which this evil was carried out. He insisted that even without people like Demon, the world would still burn in the same fury by some other fuel. But without being a judge, can we at least be the jury? Yukio did not see the end in sight for Asura. This journey he lead had no happy way to conclude. It ended in a growling lowly death. But did not all of our deaths end in that fashion? Does anyone accept death onto them once they have accepted war as their way? He had always felt that the smiles and nods on the hospice of one's reckoning are a way of delusion - induced only partly by the opiates flowing through them. The rest of it was a self delusion that gave them sense to the incoming nothingness. Nothingness that could only be described as dark.


"My lord," spoke the entire Circle of Kahani, including the dozens inside the hut and the thousands outside. "The deed is done." Long ago Yukio and Asura learned of the Kahani from Feira's passing thought. They found out more, kids caught in the pulls of curiosity. The tales told of a simple exchange that the Kahani facilitated. The gap between want and power was bridged by a black acid that flowed through his veins now. It let his blood flow faster, adulterating it with some ashy substance was was said to be enchanted. The Demon would later describe it as feeling like he was running on fuel. Asura fell face-down into the pool of blood about him.

How far would one go for power?

It was difficult for them to believe, when they were kids, that Feira's warnings could hold truth. The books regarding the Circle were all removed from the Library the next morning, immediately after Asura had inquired about it. How far would one go to live? Yukio looked down at his palms, now soaked in Asura's blood, and heard his friend rustle. The blood was darker than it should have been, and as it flowed outward in one quiet wave after the other, it grew only darker. The Demon pressed his palms against the floor as he pushed himself up. Yukio didn't watch, but through the corner of his eyes he could tell that Asura was healed. He could not have imagined, then, what sort of power Asura had gained. Without a single scratch on his body, the CEO of the Oshiro Corporation slicked his hair back with his own blood. In the next eerie moment, Asura looked to Yukio, and Yukio reciprocated the gaze, his much less confident than the Takayama's.

The two of them would later discover that there could only be one man through which that sort of blood flowed. He was as much a vessel to this power as the power was a vessel for him. What waited on the other side, hungry and thirsting for its first taste of life in a thousand years, would want nothing less than utter dominance. Yukio often wondered, months after that Agora incident, why Asura had not changed. Did he hold back his darker urges, or was he simply in disguise? There would be moments, gaps in time, when Asura would not be who he once was. And in his stead was a newer thing, empowered and fearless.

Would one sell his soul?

Was this the final edict of the Demon?

"Let's go, Yuki."


Last edited by Demon on Wed Mar 05, 2014 2:58 am; edited 2 times in total
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PostSubject: Re: Edict of the Demon, Chapter 4   Tue Mar 04, 2014 7:30 am

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PostSubject: Re: Edict of the Demon, Chapter 4   Wed Mar 05, 2014 6:32 am

Approved

96 stats and 192 Jp

o-o thats some serious training there bro, used a plagiarism checker and it came up with nothing [did this on this one and the other one]


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[3:26:23 PM] Zee: Out trolling the guy who was once named troll. nice.
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PostSubject: Re: Edict of the Demon, Chapter 4   Today at 4:20 pm

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Edict of the Demon, Chapter 4
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