Chapter 1- The Proclamation of Competition
Another day has begun in the Karatengu mansion, and within it countless demons went on with their lives like everything was completely normal, at least that was what it appeared like from outsider’s point of view. In truth, the members were rather nervous because the time of the Selection was fast approaching, now any day could be the day when the Great Ones announce time of Selection trials. The Great Ones were worshipped by Demon kind as the protectors and benefactors, leading the Demon kind by appointing each Demon King. Currently the balance of power and unity among the demons was rather in poor shape, due to the fact that the old Demon King, Akil Ras along with his entire family was assassinated. Many clans sought this as an opportunity to expand, so they tried to ally with those they could not overcome and squashed those they could. After all, enslaving your enemy is the ultimate way of showing your own authority.
Curiously, the clans that originally thought to be at the head of conquest-namely Kas, Jou, and Aiu clans were in decline. None knew completely what exactly happened to make all three top tier clans become so weak all of a sudden. Jou clan tried to take over Kalkan, but failed after their leader and heir was defeated and imprisoned by former Demon King. Kas clan likewise lost an heir and was driven away from their territories. Aiu clans lost all of its precious resources and were struggling to fend themselves off against opportunistic enemy clans. It was almost like some kind of a natural disaster has struck them, to make them topple over at such a critical time. Aiu clan was still active but weakened, desperate for allies to help them recover, while their enemies preyed upon them mercilessly. Kas clan, under the leadership of Nar Kas was fighting back, although they were driven off their lands, their spark for battle was far from finished. As for Jou clan, with their key members gone, other clans didn’t hesitate to crush them, now it was rumored that other than Korkau Jou’s younger sister Karli Jou, none was left alive of the clan.
Now, it was unclear what would happen next. Great Ones would find it hard to predict the next turn of events.
Meanwhile, inside the forge, within the Karatengu territory, a certain blacksmith was admiring her finished product. On the work table lay five razor sharp knives, each about the size of a forearm. The blades were glistening black, but were reflective and intricately sharp. The handles were black as well; they were ornamented to have markings on them that actually were minor enchantments to prevent rusting. This was one of the blacksmith’s best works. When she was asked by her employer to make this, she assumed they were made for the purpose of war, which was why they resembled nothing what the kitchen knives supposed to look like. For starters, the knives were double bladed, oversized, and worst of all were designed for combat not for cooking.
As she presented the knives to the demon who requested them, the demon just held the knives in disbelief in his hands, with a rather nervous expression.
The blacksmith confidently chimed in “How do you like it? These are my best creations yet, they can be used in any combat situation while imbued by the elemental energy of the user. What do you think; it’s a great success, isn’t it?”
Her employer’s right eye twitched. “Kizilkoz, this is a …. COMPLETE FAILURE!” he exclaimed so loud that the walls of the forge echoed the sound of his voice.
“What?” She stared at disbelief.
“What the heck were you thinking? These knives look nothing like the kitchen knives I requested! These knives look like they were made to butcher demons, not food.”
“Isn’t that the entire idea? To use the knives to cut down your enemies?”
“Of course not! How would I use these monstrosities in the kitchen?”
“In the kitchen? Don’t tell me…” Kizilkoz’s expression darkened. “You are not planning to do something horrifying in the kitchen, are you?” she imagined him using the knives to cut demons into pieces inside the kitchen.
“Who told you that? I will have you know I am very clean cutter. I sever the meat so neatly that blood only spills on three fourth of the room.” Ren referred to how he cut meat. But he gave off entirely another idea altogether, considering he was smiling with teeth showing while holding the knife in his hand in a backhand grip. To anyone who looked at him, he would look murderous.
“Aaah!” Kizilkoz exclaimed. ‘He is far more twisted than I imagined. No doubt about it, he butchers his enemies in the kitchen while smiling just like that.’
“I only asked for set of knives because I broke the original set. I suppose using knives as a chisel while hammering it down was not the best idea.” Ren of course referred to how he tried to cut tough vegetable resembling a giant nut with the knife as a chisel.
“Oh Great Ones have mercy!” Kizilkoz imagined Ren hammering the sharp knives into his suffering enemies while laughing maniacally. ‘Oh no, if I don’t do something to please him, I might end up next inside that horror kitchen!’
“So, I suppose I will keep the knives, but can you make me a skin peeler and some spatulas?” it was for taking off skin of fruits and flipping cooked meat. So far, the food he has made was far from edible even by demon standards, and he broke many tools as well. Since he was the heir of Karatengu clan, the ban on kitchen was lifted for him, and he began passionately experimenting with various ingredients, often with disastrous results. The worst part is that he kept trying, resulting in even more mess than there was before.
“Skin peeler and spatula?” Kizilkoz now could vividly imagine Ren skinning a demon with the demon having a fruit stuffed inside its mouth. ‘How in the world did I end up allied with a demon like this? He is far more scary than the Altyn clan demons or even Kumis clan demons!’ she sighed. ‘Still, he is my only ally; I can’t afford to lose him, even if he is a depraved lunatic with a hobby of sadistic cannibalism.’ Her impression of her ally was anything but right.
“Yeah, those would come in pretty handy, the skin is usually really rough, but the sweet, juicy inside is what counts, it’s essentially the best part about it. Then I can take the insides, cut them up and either fry them or make soup out of them. I still didn’t come up with a name, but what do you think about ‘Demon Soup’?” he referred to how the vegetables he was going to add would make the soup demonically spicy.
“Demon Soup?” Kizilkoz said with calm expression of horror, her eyes were focused on Ren, her face completely dark from fear. This demon, her ally, was not joking, he was extremely dangerous. She suppressed the growing urge to run away at top speed.
“Yup, I thought it would be a great addition to culinary list of the Karatengu clan. Don’t you think that would be great?”
“Yea… yes. It would be wonderful.” She said while cringing. ‘If I say something that would disagree with him, no doubt he would make soup out of me!’
“Yes! I am so glad you think so. Thanks for the knives; I will take them after all.” Ren reached for the knives and put them inside the Orin Yakit crystal hanging on his necklace. The knives instantly were transported into the pocket dimension of the crystal. “Well then, see you around.” Then he left the forge.
“In all my life, I never met a single demon who made me so afraid for my life while smiling like that. What the heck is he? Father mentioned Korgan Karatengu as extremely strong demon, on the same tier as Altyn clan’s patriarch, then does that mean Ren’s power is equivalent to his grandfather’s? That would be rather far-fetched considering how young Ren is, but that is the only explanation I can think of, considering my inability to sense Ren’s power. I couldn’t sense Master Korgan’s power either. Does that mean both are much higher level than me to the point I am like an insect in front of them?” She shuddered from the thought.
But at this time, it was the best demon she could rely on. The ones who attacked her family definitely were humans and the other clans would without a doubt be hostile to offspring of the deceased Demon King. Ras clan, despite the fact that it produced a Demon King had managed to make many enemies, many other demon clans opposed to the Ras clan and were only held at bay by the power of the Demon King. Now that her father was gone, the only thing left for her to do was to enter the Selection in hopes of reclaiming the throne. However doing such an arduous task by herself is impossible, she needed backing of someone very powerful, and that’s where Ren came in. Not only was he descendant of her father’s closest ally, he has also proven himself to be extremely strong even by her standards.
‘I must rely on him, no matter how scary he is, no matter what he demands of me; I must take back the title of the Demon King. I will restore the stability to the kingdom and exact my revenge.’ Kizilkoz wasn’t sure who was responsible for her father’s death but she swore when she finds out she will show no mercy to the culprit.
Meanwhile, Ren was practicing manipulating the Darkness element produced by Akjan.
“Ren, it might not be the best idea, considering the last time you have done this you have lost your consciousness. It’s far too risky for you to risk your health over something as trivial as this!”
“Akjan, it is absolutely necessary! I must learn to control this in order to be able to advance to the next stage, but unless I understand exactly how to control it I will never be able to go forward.”
“Still, is it necessary for you to be practicing with my Darkness element? Darkness is a rare element, it’s not one of five common elements, and so trying to master it right off the bat might be rather tedious. Why don’t you practice with fire instead?”
“Done it already.” Ren gestured at the candles lit with black flames. The flames rose into the air, leaving their candles altogether. Now the black flames were making circular arks based on Ren’s finger movements. Ren took his time to show his mastery of the flames by manipulating them in various ways. “It took me some time but I finally got the hang of controlling the flames without depleting too much of my stamina. Now I can even make it change color.”
“Wow, the flames turned white! This is…”
“That’s not all I can do.” Ren made the flames change their color to shade of red. “I suppose red flames are too normal, well then, what about pink flames!”
“Uhm, Ren, this looks weird. I am pretty sure flames are not supposed to be pink.” Akjan observed his flames. “Now they look somewhat sickly blue”
“Well, you can also have half and half. So what do you think about it?” top half of the flames was pink while the bottom was blue.
“Ren, this looks somewhat like a painting. But making such colors with flames and making two colors simultaneously… How did you do that? I thought the flames that each demon produces were limited to their own color, is that not the case?”
“I don’t know if that actually is the case, considering I did not produce these flames. I found out how to change the color after I fooled around with flames while trying to change the intensity with which I am suppressing the will of the flames. Depending on how intense by ‘squeeze’ upon the will of the flame is, I can freely control the colors, ranging from easy red to other harder colors.” Ren continued. “But that is not all I have learned.” Now the flames took on a tint of green, just like Aijasyl’s flames.
“Observe the flame, now it is not only a burning something …” the flame shaped itself into a hand holding a knife. Then the knife slashed at one of the candles. The candle was cut in half horizontally, with the top falling off. The surface between the cut pieces was visibly melted.
“The flame, it changed shape! You made it cut that thing… it interacted physically with an object without completely swallowing it! I thought flames would spread the moment it touched something.”
“Oh, the flames did want to spread across the candle, but I held it back, forcing it to just cut the candles without spreading too far. Had I not been concentrating on the flames I would have set the entire candle not to mention the surface the candle is on fire.” Ren sighed. “But concentrating on such small details takes too much wind out of me, so…” he took out a bottle filled with strange liquid. “…Shaula gave me an elixir that will restore my stamina every time I drink it.”
“What kind of elixir is that?”
“She said it’s called Em Elexir, it’s good stuff. It does not restore lost mana but it allows your body to feel rested and loosens tight nerves.” Ren gulped the elixir, swallowing cupful into his mouth. It tasted like grapes mixed with potatoes and honey. A rather strange but effective combination.
“Wow, I think I will ask her for one as well. It does sound very useful.”
“Yep, well so far I have learned how to control the flames and manipulate them, but the finer details still elude me. Firstly, notice that the place the candle was cut in melted a little. No matter what I did I was not able to make it cut without melting it. Secondly,…” the flames now returned back to the candles. “I am not sure how I am supposed to carry around someone else’s magic. I can’t produce magic on my own, so it’s essential I have spare magic on me at all times. But the trouble is, how do I do it? Obviously, I wouldn’t carry the candles with me everywhere, it has too many risks with it. If I get distracted even for a second I could catch myself or others on fire, so unless…” he sighed in defeat.
“Uhm, I think I know how to alleviate that particular problem.” Akjan said in shaky voice. She could tell that her beloved Ren really did his best trying to master control of mana. Now it was her turn to help him. She took out a small bottle from her pocket. “Mana can be stored inside of an object, like this” she showed him the small clear glass bottle. “If I just take my mana and create a substance” she created a small blob of darkness “and then compress it and put it inside of the jar” the compressed blob fit seamlessly inside of the jar “then command it to stay in standby mode until the next order is given, it will stay there until I will use it later.”
Ren looked at Akjan with eyes full of admiration. “Akjan, have I ever told you that you are the best demon I have ever met in my entire life? I feel so grateful for having met you, teacher Akjan Tang; allow me to bow in respect!” Ren proceeded to make a bow while on his knees. It was a bit off the top notion.
“Ren! Quit it! This is embarrassing! Teacher? I thought Aijasyl was your teacher!”
“All she taught me was how not to break dishes and clean the kitchen. I will take you as a teacher over her any day of the week!” Ren said while still bowing and holding his hands together as if praying for Akjan to mentor him.
“I see. I suppose I wouldn’t mind teaching you other things…” She said while playing with her right cat ear that has dropped down from embarrassment. The redness of her white face combined with red horns made it obvious that she found his compliment rather touching.
“So you are trying to replace me aren’t you?” a polite voice filled with malice sounded out. “Well, Master Karatengu, aren’t you the brave one? Your boldness is most commendable.” Her face however made it obvious that she was extremely angry. She was smiling, but that smile was clearly fake. Her eyes were closed in slits, so it added another frightening effect.
“Oh, Aijasyl! I didn’t mean it like that! I just meant…” Ren began but was interrupted by Aijasyl.
“Do not apologize young master, it is my fault for not being a proper mentor to you. Allow me to mend my ways by giving you the true lesson from hell.” She said the last part with her eyes open. She raised her arm into the air. “Ot jasyl! Aid me to strike down this fool!” immediately green flames sparked in her palm, becoming a green orb, then the green orb extended and became a green spear made of flames. “I have been doing some training myself on my magic recently, allow me to show you the fruits of my labors!” she threw the flame spear in Ren’s direction.
Ren jumped away from where the flame almost hit him. Now the ground was on flames as well.
Not waiting for Ren to run away, Aijasyl produced another green flame spear and threw it towards Ren. What followed was a cycle of her throwing flame spears while he relentlessly dodged.
“Please think of this as an exclusive training, master Karatengu. Try to defend yourself against my arsenal.” She changed the flames in her hands, now it became a bow and arrow. She started to shoot arrows made of green flames in Ren’s direction.
“Training? Please tell me you are joking!” Ren saw so many arrows fired at him. There was no way he could dodge, but wait! The flames that covered the ground! They must have been spreading due to her flames that ended up striking the ground. Sure, they were Aijasyl’s flames, but if the same principle applied to her flames as Master Korgan’s flames, then he should be able to do something.
Desperate to avoid the arrows Ren shouted out “Obey me!”
The flames on the ground heeded to his forceful command. They rose up from the ground, leaving scorched grass and burnt earth, towards the air. Now the green flames were under Ren’s control.
The arrows were still coming, there were at least ten of them, and there was not time to move far away, so the only thing that would save him in this situation would be…
A giant flame shield!
Obeying Ren’s will, the flames changed shape and condensed into an impenetrable floating shield. The arrows landed on the shield and got absorbed into the shield. It was obvious whose control was superior. If Aijasyl’s control was stronger, then her arrow surely would have penetrated the flame shield, but that was not the case, so her arrows got absorbed into the flame instead.
“Very impressive, Ren” Aijasyl said with a smirk.
“I am glad you dropped the Master Karatengu thing, it was getting really weird.” Ren continued. “I am personally am more fond of Red flames, so if you would excuse me.” The green flame shield changed to bloody red. “There, much better!”
Aijasyl only could watch in disbelief. “He can freely alter the color of my flames and control them to such an extent. Even I am limited between black and green flames, but he… he is something else.” Internally she thought ‘As expected of a true Karatengu!’
“Don’t think we are done yet!” She produced a green ball of flame and threw it into the air. When it reached certain height, the ball exploded and it fired off blasts of fireballs at Ren’s shield.
There was no sign of stopping this training, Akjan could only watch with awkward expression on her face. “This might have gotten out of hand.”
“It truly has, hasn’t it? I never thought those two would take playing with fire this far.” Master Korgan said after appearing behind Akjan.
“They are both amazing! But is it ok for them to be practicing here? They did burn the place down.”
“Not to worry, I will have both of them fix the training area after they are done; however right now, what matters is how far can they advance considering how much time is left before…” he paused.
“Before what, Master Korgan?” Akjan asked confusedly.
“You will find out soon enough, little one.” Master Korgan said casually and resumed watching Aijasyl and Ren’s mock battle. Neither one was trying to kill the other, but each one was trying to push the other to be more creative and apply more control over the element instead of producing more of it. Korgan observed that Ren was taking advantage of the fact that Aijasyl wasn’t reusing her flames but instead producing new flames in order to gain distinct advantage. It was obvious from Korgan’s view that Ren’s control was stronger, he no longer was passing out from exhaustion; his body must have gotten used to the mental stress of mana control. That was good; he is going to need it soon.
The training lasted for two more hours before both Aijasyl and Ren were too exhausted to move. Overall, the training was success, but of course Master Korgan held both of them responsible for the damages so they would have to spend the next day fixing it.
When the evening arrived, Ren was walking around exhausted. Even after drinking another bottle of elixir, he was still tired. It took all he had to keep up with Aijasyl. He had to admit; she was extremely strong with high mana capacity and advanced control. No wonder she is qualified to be his mentor.
Every Tengu clan member was going around with their evening, until every single demon felt an uncomfortable noise inside their skulls. It sounded like screeching metal, and many were clutching their ears for the sound to go away, instead a voice resounded within everyone’s brains.
“AS DECREED BY THE OBSERVERS OF THE KALKAN KINGDOM, THE FIRST TRIAL OF SELECTION SHALL START AT THE FIRST MOON OF THE FIRST DAY OF THE MONTH AT THE BORDER OF THE KINGDOM’ LIFE SPRING. BE WARNED, ONLY THE WORTHY SHALL ADVANCE FURTHER.” Then the loud proclamation had stopped.
Young demons were whispering among each, asking what just happened. Only Master Korgan just shrugged and said “It has begun.”
Chapter 2- Night with the Assassins
“The selection will begin just after two days?” Ren exclaimed as Korgan finished explaining.
“Indeed, it will be the first challenge against every demon eligible to participate.” Said Korgan. “Many members of the other clans are likely to show up, every demon that does not wish to lose the once in a life time opportunity shall enter.”
“Speaking of which, you said something about being eligible, what did you mean by that?” Ren asked with one raised eyebrow.
“It just means demons like me who have participated in the last Selection are not eligible to enter.”
“What!!!? Grandpa, you have participated in the Selection before?”
“I have, and as you can see I have lost.” Korgan said with a chuckle. “Of course my best friend, Akil Ras emerged victorious, so it was not a complete loss.”
“I see. So the last Demon King was selected this way as well then?”
“All of the Demon Kings had been selected this way, all fifty six of them until now.”
“Fifty six? No kidding?” Ren shook his head. “Wow, so the tradition of choosing the ruler through trial has been going on for centuries.”
“Demon kind needs a protector, with the threat of humanity constantly at our necks, with them producing more and more of their famed warriors and adventurers, the demon kind needs a strong leader in order to survive. That is the purpose of the Demon King-to protect all of the demons.”
“I see, so basically Demon King is like the hero for demon kind, right?”
“More than a hero, Demon King is the one who sets a right example for others to follow, the one who guides, nurtures, and protects. Demon King is the one responsible for it all.”
“Wow that sounds amazing!”
“Regardless of the status, a ruler shall always have enemies. Regrettably, I suspect that what led to my dear friend’s demise.” Korgan looked at Ren straight in the eyes. “Grandson, I know you have the ambition that lies ahead of you, and that for that purpose you desire to participate in the trials. I am sincerely proud of you having such strong ambitions, but…” he paused. “Please don’t die. With deaths of your grandmother, your uncle, and your father, you are the only family I have left. If anything, do me a favor. Live so long that you will outlive your old coot for a grandpa!”
“Grandpa, don’t say that!” Ren protested. ‘Wait, does that mean I am participating in these trials? Well, guess I have no choice in the matter, then.’ Ren continued. “I am not going to die, that I promise.” He grinned while pointing his left thumb up.
Korgan smiled while looking at his grandson. ‘He definitely is Ymit’s son. That smile…’ Korgan’s right eye filled with tears, which Korgan proceeded to wipe off his face with the sleeve of his robes.
“Thank you, my grandson” Korgan was at least head and half taller than Ren, who was about size of an average demon. It was mostly because Demons get taller as they age. So it was easy for Korgan to place put his left palm on top of Ren’s head in an affectionate manner. ‘For so long I didn’t even know I had a grandson, I never had the opportunity to be a grandfather until now. So many moments in my grandson’s life I have missed. Heck, I don’t even know who my daughter in-law is! But that doesn’t matter, what matters is that he is alive and well. I just have to make sure he survives.’
Korgan took out a small bag from his Orin-Yakit crystal, which he wore as a necklace. Inside the bag, he had many small glass bottles. He proceeded to pass the bag to Ren.
“Grandson, take this. This will help you along the way.”
“Thanks, grandfather. But what are these things?” Ren opened the bag and stared at the many bottles that seemed to have something inside of them, but he wasn’t sure what.
“Bottles filled with my magic.” Korgan gestured at the set of bottles that were dark in appearance. “I put my fire type magic inside these bottles, while these” he gestured at the bottles that were brownish, yellow, and clear in appearance “contain earth type magic, lighting type magic, and my spiritual form.”
“Spiritual form?” Ren asked out of curiosity.
“You have never heard of it before?”
Ren shook his head.
“Then allow me to show it to you” Korgan closed his eyes and concentrated for a moment. The reddish black aura around him became more visible till it was obvious the air around him was shifting, as if something was manifesting. Like some sort of an ethereal body coating itself around Korgan, it was see through, but it indeed exuded the aura of impregnable defense. All in all it was a gigantic form that resembled a crow; it even had jet black wings. The mouth had a big beak. It noticeably was missing its right arm just like Korgan.
“This is the spiritual form” Korgan was floating inside the mighty manifestation.
“Wow! Grandfather, this is amazing!” Ren exclaimed.
“I fear that some of your enemies will be able to use this power, because of that I gave you some of my magic.” Korgan’s face turned serious. “Be warned, each bottle of magic can be only used once, that is if you use it up. As for spiritual form, if you use it once it will be active for around one hour before dissipating, which was the most energy I could muster to put inside the bottle.” Korgan had to admit, concentrating his energy while draining his energy from his hand into a bottle took a lot out of him, he was still feeling drained. “Use mana inside the bottles sparingly and wisely, don’t forget, these are the tools for your survival!”
“Understood” Ren nodded. ‘Wow, he truly is serious about survival thing, I guess it means what is ahead of me is very dangerous. What in the world have I gotten myself into?’ Ren just realized that he literally was walking into the danger zone. Cold sweat ran down his brows while a shiver passed through his spine.
“Uhm, grandpa, you said you participated in the Selection before, do you by any chance know what kind of trials it has?”
“The trials are different for each generation, even if I told you what I have been through; I doubt you will go through the same ordeal.”
“Oh, I see.” Ren sighed. Apparently getting knowledge from the past would not help a bit. “By the way, do you know who is participating in the Selection aside from me in the Karatengu household?”
“I am not completely sure, but I presume most of them, including your friends, especially Kizilkoz, would aim to participate.” Korgan mentally thought ‘Akil Ras’s daughter, just how far her ambition will take her?’
“I see, then I will just ask around then. Thanks grandpa” Ren left the room.
“I truly hope the trials go well, and these are not my last moments seeing him” Korgan nervously muttered. “Great Ones please protect my grandson!” he begged while praying.
Meanwhile, Ren happened to find out that Orin, Akjan, Kizilkoz, Aijasyl, Shaula, and some other Tengu demons he didn’t know a lot about planned to participate in the trials. There were some lizard demons like Sukesir and Sirinke who also wanted to participate.
“Boss! I truly can’t wait for the Selection to begin!” Orin exclaimed excitedly with all four arms pointing skyward.
“It truly is an opportunity for all demons to show their worth to the Great Ones; truly a chance of a lifetime!” Aijasyl said with pride. She looked at Ren with scary gaze “So please don’t do anything stupid!”
Ren nervously laughed. Considering she has been keeping track of how much destruction he caused inside the kitchen with his mishaps, it was natural for her to worry about his future actions. “Oh, c’mon, it’s all in the past now, right?”
“Of course it is! My Ren would never do anything stupid!” Akjan said while looking at Aijasyl strictly for demeaning Ren.
Ren thought ‘Since when did I became ‘her Ren’ to Akjan?”
“Akjan, you have not seen the half of what he did to the kitchen knives. Just the other day when took a knife out of its scabbard the metal shattered into pieces. And if that wasn’t bad enough he tried to put some weapons in their places! I had him take all of them back and apologize to the head chef.”
“Is she talking about the knives you requested me to…?” Kizilkoz began before Ren covered her mouth with his hand.
“No, it’s a completely different set of knives. Don’t be mistaken.” Ren lied in order to make sure Aijasyl didn’t find out how he tried to use trickery to get himself out of a bad situation. She would chastise him for deceit and would give him a very painful lecture while chasing him. That was truly a scary thought. Ren shuddered from just imagining it.
“So the Selection, huh” Ren purposefully changed the topic of the conversation. “I can’t wait until the day comes!”
Just like that the two days have passed. The members of Karatengu household have all organized themselves and began to move out, in total there were twenty demons from Karatengu household participating. Master Korgan bid them farewell while wishing for best of luck.
While they were on the road, Ren was talking with Orin.
“Do you know where are we going?”
“Of course, Kalkan kingdom’s Lake of Beginning. That is the life spring specified by the Great Ones.”
“Is that so? I see, so the life spring is that place? I didn’t know that”
“It’s a place that is rumored to have nurtured our ancestors for its water is consumable. It is one of the factors that allowed our ancestors to survive here. I heard it has lots of fishes there as well!”
“With you leading us, I think we will be ok against any obstacle, boss!” Orin said while expressing his complete trust in Ren’s abilities.
“Oh, don’t say that, I will need your help as well.”
“Any time you need my help, I will be there, my leader!” Orin said loyally. He was rather glad to follow someone who was as ambitious as he was humble. The demon Ren Karatengu did give him a new light to look up to; he truly was a demon to be admired. Orin couldn’t think of anyone else who was more suitable for the position of Demon King. Unbeknownst to Orin, Ren didn’t even know everyone assumed he desires to become Demon King. In truth, Ren’s sole desires are cooking and gardening, but each demon he met got completely wrong idea of Ren’s character, which caused this warped version of fearless leader Ren to emerge in Karatengu household’s mind.
In Kizilkoz’s mind in particular, he was quiet terrifying.
Once they reached the lake, they set up a camp near it. Many clans have set up their tents near the lake as well. All of them would have to wait until the morning until the first trial begins. Until then, everyone would have to spend the night here.
As expected, female demons camped with other female demons, while male demons camped with male demons.
On the male side, along with Ren, Orin, and Sirinke were five more demons from Karatengu household. All of them were having some fun time over a bonfire and cooking up giant caterpillars that were everywhere. Strangely, they tasted delicious once they were cooked over flames. Orin used small explosions in order to light the bon fires.
“Couldn’t you have just lit them with fire magic instead of exploding them?” Ren asked.
“No can do boss, I am not able to use fire type magic. The only magic I am proficient in is Mi mana usage for explosion. I am afraid that is the extent of my magical ability.”
“What about the spikes you have growing from your arms?”
“That is just my body’s ability, it is not based on mana.” Orin replied.
“Wow, General Orin, that is so cool!” one of the demons with three bushy tails said with obvious awe.
“It is nothing special. Every member of my clan was able to do that.” Orin said in a sad tone.
“Come to think of it, you did mention your clan once. Can you tell me, if it is not a secret, what happened to it?”
“I suppose there is no longer a point in keeping quiet about it. All right, boss, I will tell you.” Thus Orin began his story.
“I was born into Rheno clan of Beetle Demons. Our clan specialized in long ranged and hand to hand combat. Rheno clan was powerful, but due to this it had attracted the attention of the other demon clans who wanted to weaken us. My family possessed artifacts that allowed us to gain exponentially greater power; they were our heirlooms, the artifacts passed on by our ancestors. Our enemies saw the importance of the artifacts to us, so they decided to steal them from us. Without the artifacts, my clan fell prey to the enemies pouncing on it one after another. Many of us were scattered while the ones who resisted were killed. By the end of it, I was left alone to carry out my vengeance. Left with nothing, I went on to be hired for other clans as an assassin in order to survive. Then, I found out that one of the artifacts of my family, one of the Power Stones was being traded. But sadly, that was not the case. Then I met you, boss.” As Orin finished his story, he found that Ren and others had tears in their eyes. Orin thought ‘What is going on?’
“General Orin, I never thought you had such horrible past! I am very sorry for being so rude!” said a demon with a large yellow mane and triangular horns.
“It’s ok. And what’s up with the ‘General’?” Orin asked.
“It was my idea. I thought that if young master is the boss, then as his right hand you would be a general.” Said Sirinke with a proud look on his face.
“Oh, is that so, then it’s fitting. Alright General Orin, reporting to Boss!” Orin admitted. He kind of liked the sound of ‘General’ title.
Everyone laughed at loud about Orin’s acceptance of his new title. The male demons side sure was lovely.
On the female demons’ side, Kizilkoz was having a rather nervous time.
‘This is it, the first trial. I have to make sure everything goes well, but I am not even sure what to be prepared for!’ even her father in the past had admitted to her that trials are never the same so knowledge of past trials would not be of any use. ‘Even so, they would have helped me a little!’
“There sure are many demons camping near the lake” Akjan said after meditating for few minutes.
“Is that so? I didn’t really notice until you pointed out, oh Great Ones, there are at least thousand living beings here; don’t tell me all of them are demons?” Aijasyl asked.
“Not necessarily, anyone can participate in the Selection, it does not exclude humans” Akjan said in frank manner. “Everyone, be careful, there might be humans beings in disguise among them and they will not show mercy.”
“If they are in disguise, how do you expect us to distinguish them?”
“To be completely honest, I am not sure. I used to distinguish by smell, but apparently there are demons that smell similar to humans.” Akjan admitted. “Take Ren for example.”
All of the girls imagined the hornless demon, their leader, Ren Karatengu. Everyone nodded “Agreed.” There was no denying it, his looks, even his smell was like human. He was just one heck of a weird demon.
“Say, Akjan, isn’t the Kas clan going to participate in this Selection as well?” Shaula asked, concerned that her friend might have to face her worst enemies. Shaula and Akjan have become fast friends, confiding in each other some of their intimate thoughts.
“I am afraid that is the case. Oh, how I wish that they would not be here! But of course, it is the Selection, the one chance in a lifetime, so they are bound to be here!” Her eyes now seemed red from the anger in them. “Shaula, forgive me for saying this, but if I encounter them, I am going to attack them. They have done too much to go unpunished.” Kas clan, those murderous demons, they have taken everything away from me; I will not let them do it again!
“If they do encounter us, they will be our adversaries, it wouldn’t be unusual for a battle to occur, but if what you said about their power is true, then we have very low chance of surviving.” Shaula muttered.
“Hold on, how strong are they?” Aijasyl asked.
“I am not sure, but the strongest of them exceed the Iron rank.” While Jar Kas was only Iron ranked, it was rather impressive since he was young. In demon society ranks measure the power levels of the demons, apparently humans used other scales. For demons, Earth Rank was the lowest, followed by Stone Rank, Brass Rank, Copper Rank, Iron Rank, Bronze Rank, Silver Rank, and finally Gold Rank. Akjan herself was only a Brass Rank, so she wasn’t the weakest but she wasn’t very strong either. As Demon gets stronger, the amount of energy within their body would expand, making them stronger, each rank higher than the previous had ten times more energy within their body for disposal than the rank below them. But putting the effort to train and allow their body to produce the energy and control it in order to grow it within themselves, it took time and patience. Those with talent could make their energy grow and become stronger in order to advance forward. If energy within the body starts out as a spark, then the practitioner is the one who uses that spark in order to light a flame, a flame that continuously grows larger and larger as the practitioner gets stronger. The ranks are measured by how much energy an individual demon can produce. The highest ranked demons said to possess powers rivaling human gods, some said to have gone beyond Gold Rank.
Akjan could tell that in Karatengu clan, only Korgan Karatengu was Silver ranked. She wasn’t completely sure of Ren though, considering the fact that she discovered he has no talent for producing energy from his body, he could not use mana at all. But his strength was enough to kill Jar Kas, who was Iron Ranked, then does that mean his physical strength is stronger than Iron ranked demon? Akjan’s thoughts drifted off to completely wrong direction before she focused her own thoughts.
“Regardless, even if Jar Kas is dead, there is still Nar Kas” She shuddered from the thoughts. Back when she was imprisoned, she was able to conceal her gender in order to not be violated due to being female. But Nar Kas, he took his time torturing the prisoners, one by one, while others were forced to watch. He would hang the prisoner by their arms and slowly slice their backs with a sharp knife, leaving wounds that never truly fade away. He did it while laughing hysterically; savoring the moment he could unleash his true nature. It was because of him, Akjan’s back had three scars etched on it.
His brother, Jar Kas was more violent, instead of relishing in pain of those enslaved to him, he would humiliate them further. If any prisoner tried to rebel against him, he would slice off their horns, their pride, leaving them less than demons, humiliated for life. She was a prisoner of Kas clan, with her younger siblings taken away from her, there was only her grandfather left, along with other Tang clan members. She didn’t know what happened to Akjai and Akjin, her younger siblings, she only knew she never saw them since the day they were taken, while she helplessly watched chained to a wall.
All of the prisoners were bound by shackles that prevented usage of magic, but her fellow Tang clan members managed to one day to steal the key that unlocked the cuffs. They tried to escape, but they were intercepted by Kas clan guards. Akjan was told by her grandfather to run, while he and the others would hold the Kas clan back.
“Don’t look back, Run!” that was the last thing she heard her grandfather say. She ran and ran, until she was far away from the Kas clan territory she did not stop. With the chains gone, her magical power slowly restored itself. But she kept running, until eventually, when she was far enough did she fall on her knees and cry with her cries echoing through the sky. It was the day she lost her last family member, just like that.
“Kas clan, I will destroy you, just you wait” that prison cell, the wall that had so many of her horns of her clan members, it was a horrifying sight she saw many times in her dreams since then. She touched her back, starting from neck down till her hip along her spine were three vertical scars, a reminder of the ones she hated above all. She knew that Kas clan was nearby; her scars itched in their presence
Meanwhile, Altyn clan, the clan of Phoenix demons, had a secret arrangement. They sent out a special assassin, Demon Killer, in order to kill the other demon leaders in their sleep, in order to lessen the competition. The Demon Killer was a unique demon, his body was literally made of poison and fire, making him strong in those regards, but it also meant he was weak to water. Regardless, due to his ability to shrug off flames that many demons were proficient in and ability to kill without being noticed by most sensors, he earned his position as the top assassin in Altyn clan. Now his task was to kill the leaders of the rival clans who were camping around the lake, just waiting for the first trial in the morning.
It was perfect killing time, the time when most demons were asleep.
His name was Tun, servant of the Altyn clan. Tasked with disposing of the potential enemies, he proceeded to merge his presence with the darkness of the light, in order to deliver well timed strikes to unsuspecting enemy demons. With his methods, he was successfully able to mix in poison to the cups used by the Aris, Bukka, and Kanat clans, so he was sure at least one member of each clan would succumb to early death. He did so by concealing his own scent and appearance. His unique body allowed him to distort the air around him to make anyone looking at him see right past him. His body was always coated in flames, flames literally made up his flesh and blood, so he used his nature to his advantage. If he concentrated on his flames hard enough then it would eliminate any scent on him, making him untraceable even by most sensitive trackers. The fact that he secretes poison from his body was another ability of his. Before becoming a subordinate of the Altyn clan, he was an exiled member of the Kumis clan, serpent demons specializing in poison. The reason he was exiled was due to his heritage, he was half a Phoenix demon, born from an affair between member of Altyn clan and Kumis clan, to produce an offspring that had the power of both. While the Kumis clan saw him as disgrace and exiled him, the Altyn clan gladly offered him a place among them.
“I will fulfill my duty, and then one day I will have them acknowledge who I am!” He declared within his heart before heading towards his next target.
Judging by the family crest, it was the Tengu clan.
“The Tengu clan is participating as well? They truly must be desperate.” The Tengu clan which served the Karatengu family is one of the age old enemies of the Altyn clan, with the heads of each clan fighting against each other relentlessly. By now, the Altyn clan was clearly winning, despite their struggles, the Karatengu family was almost completely destroyed at the hands of the Altyn clan, leaving only the old head of the clan alive. It was just a matter of time when the head of Karatengu clan, Korgan Karatengu, would pass away due to old age. He no longer was worth fighting against, he already lost everyone. The Karatengu bloodline has been severed, the Altyn clan no longer needed to bother with a frail one armed demon approaching deathbed. Still, the patriarch of the Altyn clan would be displeased if the Tengu clan members were allowed to participate in the Selection. It would be insulting to their pride, to assure themselves of their own infallibility; it would be the best course of action for Tun to assassinate the Tengu clan members right here right now.
“These Tengu clanners just don’t know when to quit, do they? They have already lost but they dare to step forward, such imbeciles!” He concealed himself as best as he could after sensing that not all of the members of the clan were asleep. In particular, a certain white haired demon was walking around the camp and looking from side to side, as if she was able to sense something was not right.
“My disguise is perfect, my scent is nonexistent, so she shouldn’t be able to see me. Then why is she still not sleeping?” he could see the small bags under her eyes, it was clear she was straining her eyes. “I see, paranoia. She expects someone to sneak in here and kill them. It seems like she has some experience when it comes to being cautious against possible threats. I suppose I should do this the old fashioned way.” He had a dagger at his hip; it was rather long and curved at the tip, resembling a crescent moon. Its main purpose was to be used to behead an enemy in a single swing, a perfect assassination tool.
Just as he was about to emerge from the bushes he was hiding behind, just in case so that she wouldn’t walk in on him, in order to sneak behind her and deliver a fatal blow to her neck from behind, he heard a strange noise.
“Oh YEAAAAH!” a very strange sound came from behind him, from on top of the tree that was above the bushes. Then a stream of hot liquid came splashing upon Tun’s body.
“Aaaggh” he tried to suppress the pain but it was almost impossible. His sole weakness- water has been doused on him from such a close distance. It has managed to touch right half of his face, most of his upper body and entire right arm. Due to the fact his body consisted of poison and fire, naturally adding water to the mix had horrifying consequences. The areas on his body splashed by water burned without stopping. The pain spreading throughout his entire body was unbearable, so much that he ended up running away while screaming in pain.
His screaming of course alerted Akjan who was keeping watch and woke up the rest of the Tengu clan.
“I heard a noise, what is going on?” a sleepy clan member asked Akjan.
“I don’t know, I thought I saw someone running away from here.” Akjan’s eyes opened wide. “Wait, it couldn’t have been assassins?” She looked at Shaula and Aijasyl who despite being woken up were on full alert mode.
All three of them exclaimed “REN!”
“Without a doubt, if it was an assassin, he would target Ren, our leader.” Shaula said with horror.
“Where is Ren, in the name of Great Ones, if an assassins did something to him I will find and kill them!” Aijasyl voiced her anger at the prospect of Ren’s death, something she couldn’t imagine happening. Ever since he rescued her, Ren found a special place in Aijasyl’s heart. She was not about to lose him.
“What happened to Boss?!” Orin was armed with spikes on all four of his arms. “He is not inside the tent. Where is he? Is he alright?”
“I don’t know… Ren! Where are you? Ren!!!” Akjan desperately called out to her beloved one’s name. She was afraid, afraid that she might have lost him for good. He might not realize it, but to her Ren meant everything. Just thinking of harm befalling upon him pained her heart enormously. ‘Please, please be alright, please answer me.’
As if to answer the calls of the worried Tengu clan members, a voice sounded out.
“Oh, hey guys what’s up?” It was Ren, sitting about seven meters high up on top of the tree, now zipping up his pants in the groin area.
“Ren. What in the world are you doing there?” Aijasyl said in a cold voice. It was obvious her anger was born of worrying. But the murderous nature of her aura although justified was extremely fearsome. Her face seemed to say ‘Give my concerns back!’
“I don’t know, I was just sleeping. Then I found myself on top of this tree, having some urgent business to take care of. Luckily I finished right before you arrived.” Apparently his bladder was full, so he unconsciously walked out of the tent and climbed the tree in order to take a leak.
The Tengu clan members understood perfectly what he was implying. Their expressions were varied. Aijasyl’s green hair seemed to be rising upwards in waves of her anger, Akjan was meekly smiling with embarrassed expression, Orin just put his upper left hand on his face as if to say ‘Good grief.’, Shaula was looking at Ren only from the sides of her eyes not willing to look at him in the eyes. Kizilkoz was the only one who was thinking “What kind of business is he talking about?” other clan members who understood the implication were embarrassed while the ones that did not stood in confusion.
The assassin arrived back to the Altyn clan’s camping ground, greatly injured. When asked about what happened he replied that he was attacked from behind by water user. His right arm was completely burnt, while his face suffered the worst injuries. His once golden right eye was now nonfunctional white, his entire face except for area around his left eye looked like a bark of a rough tree. Even with the healing ointments and curing flames, the injuries to his skin were irreparable. Unlike a pure Phoenix clan member he did not possess the ability to regenerate limitlessly, but the flames could help him heal, albeit slowly. Even with the flames, the injuries hurt.
He told them that he managed to poison at least three clans before targeting the Tengu clan. He told them how he was struck from behind when he was targeting a Tengu clan member. The Altyn clan’s suspicion was confirmed- Tengu clan had some nerve not to be put down even after all the beat downs they received from Altyn clan in the past. Due to the assassin’s report the Altyn clan now had a mistaken assumption that Tengu clan has a powerful water magic user among their ranks. Assassin just nodded in agreement, too embarrassed to admit that he was caught off guard by someone taking a leak. Just like that, another strange rumor about the Tengu clan was created.
Chapter 3- First Trial
“Oh, my head…where the heck am I?” I looked around sheepishly, trying to answer my own question. My mind was not focused, everything seemed to be spinning. Now that he focused, everything shook for a moment and then stabilized to form a picture of a burning nightmare.
It looked like a village, burning in flames, all of the buildings reduced to dust. The closer inspection revealed that the corpses belonged to the Tengu clan members, the ones he got to know fairly well.
Orin was lying on the ground, all of his arms severed while his head was twisted backwards. Aijasyl was cut in half, her upper half dangling over a bridge clinging on to small amount of flesh from her lower body. Yet that wasn’t the worst of it. Shaula was pinned by her wings to the wall by knives, and her body looked like someone was torturing her. Worst of them all must have been Akjan, I walked over to see her corpse, broken horns, bleeding out of her mouth, her eye sockets empty and her body was slashed open vertically. Every Tengu clan member was lying dead here. Every single one of them. And I wasn’t able to do anything to save them.
“Pretty nostalgic sight isn’t it? It looks exactly like our old home, doesn’t it?” A figure that he saw in his dream several nights before emerged from the shadows, now donning an attire of complete black and red robes, his face was visible only from an angle, exposing upper half of his face, concealing his jaw.
“What have you done to them? Answer me you fiend!” I screamed with all my might.
“Me? The one responsible for this is you, and only you, and you know it is true. Face it, no matter where you go, disaster will follow you, just ask your dear old grandpa!” He pointed at the bloody corpse of the Master Korgan lying on the wall of the building. It was obvious that he was dead; blood was everywhere as if he was pulverized by an explosion.
“What happened here? How is this fault? I did not do anything to cause this…this…this …murder!” I found myself stumbling for words. Why did this specter have to haunt me so? What have I done to deserve such a punishment?
“Still denying your responsibility in causing all of the tragedies around you, aren’t you. But think about it, if you weren’t ever born do you think all the villagers in the Sunflower village could have lived? What about your parents, without your existence, don’t you think they still would be alive? What about your precious master Shan, didn’t her life end because you were there?”
“Why can’t you stop doing this, I don’t want to hear about it!” I tried to deny the small fragments of memories that kept popping into my brain. The sights, the experiences, her voice, it was all too real.
“I will not stop this until I… ” The hooded figure stopped when many grey shadows appeared right behind him.
“I am afraid that enough is enough” A grey figure materialized before the dark figure, and with a motion of the hand the dark figure dissipated into the thin air, but not before whispering “I will be back.”
There were countless grey figures, and unlike the dark figure, they were rather see through. They looked like ghosts, with each one having a unique face. Each one was focused on me.
“Um, thanks, but who are you guys? I don’t think I remember you.” I said while feeling rather stupid.
“I see, you don’t seem to remember the contract, but the contract still stands, so we will abide by it.” One of the ghosts spoke. The others just nodded.
“Contract? What do you…”
“We can’t have you pass away here, without fulfilling our unfinished business. That is why we will force you to snap out of this illusion.” As they kept approaching, the landscape covered in corpses started to disappear, now replaced by darkness. I saw nothing, just the ghosts.
“Now, open your eyes!”
I awoke to find myself lying on the ground. The ground was made of some kind of purple crystal. Apparently I fell asleep here, and it seems I wasn’t the only one.
The entire Tengu clan was napping there like there was nothing wrong. But their expressions on their faces could be described as anything but pleasant. The Tengu clan wasn’t the only clan that was unconscious, there were countless demons and other species lying down on the ground, not moving a at all.
“What the heck is going on here? Why is everyone taking a collective nap?” then I remembered. At the morning, the trial started, and some kind of strange voice transmitted itself through our brains and told us “THE FIRST TRIAL SHALL COMMENCE NOW. THOSE WHO SUCCEED SHALL PROCEED; THOSE WHO FAIL SHALL BE LEFT BEHIND. THE TRIAL SHALL END WHEN THE PORTAL TO THE OUTSIDE WILL CLOSE AT THE ALIGNING OF THREE SUNS.” And then near the lake some kind of a path opened, resembling doors but made of water, everyone entered them so I followed the suit.
Immediately after everyone went through countless doors made of water we ended up in realm covered in colorful crystals. But then, everything started feeling dizzy and then I remember falling down and closing my eyes.
“There is definitely something here that’s making everyone fall asleep, but what?” I wondered, but decided to forget about thinking of it in favor of waking up Tengu clan members. Luckily the scene of carnage was just a dream, a horrifying dream, but a dream nevertheless.
First I woke Orin up.
In Orin’s dream, he was forced to relive the day his weakened clan was sacked by savage demons, what’s worse, he was trapped in the small, under-developed body that he had back then, so even the skills he acquired were useless. The Rheno clan members were taken down one after another, each one tied by ropes on their four arms, while an executioner with an ax was approaching. “There is nothing you can do to stop this…” a singing voice sounded out. Orin himself was held down and made watch the systematic execution of his clan. It was getting from bad to worse every minute he was there. Orin begged someone to stop this eternity of pain, this continuous cycle that he was forced to look at for so long. After everyone was killed, the day would repeat, but then it would be even worse than the one before it. And the worst part-they left him alive to see his clan die again, again, and again. Orin clutched his head as his mind was starting to slowly break.
“Orin! Orin, snap out of it!” A voice was calling out to him. The red bloody scenery suddenly changed and he found himself hearing his Master’s voice. He saw the light glimmer into his eyes. He opened his eyes and he saw Ren. “Boss, it is you!” He was heavily panting for breath.
“Not exactly the best dream was it?” Ren asked with a goofy grin.
“No, more like a complete nightmare.” Orin had to admit. “Wait, this is not another dream, right?”
“Nope, I woke you up just now, help me get the others awake as well, or else we will not finish this trial on time.” Apparently there is a time limit-when the Great Ones deem appropriate, which apparently was not very long. Now that I think of it, the voice did mention that the trial will end as soon as the three suns will align. “By the way, do you know how long do we have until three suns align, assuming we didn’t sleep for too long that is?”
Orin glanced at the sky as if he was making a mental calculation. “I think we have less than two weeks, that was how much time we had when we just entered, now I presume we have far less time, Boss”
“Then it’s all the more reason to wake everyone up!”
“Right away, Boss!”
So, Orin and I proceeded to wake everyone up with rather mixed reactions from the ones receiving the wakeup call.
Orin would wake Sukesir, Sirinke and other demons named Aron, Neer, Maro, Lecro, Toro, and Aijasyl while I would wake Akjan, Shaula, Kizilkoz. There were female demons from Tengu household I wasn’t so familiar with like Shara, Lowa, Rona, Quo, Riosa, Mara, Gema. The unfamiliarity is due to them joining Tengu clan rather recently.
Inside Akjan’s dream, it was a complete nightmare. She was stuck inside the cell in which she was locked in for so long, but now she was seeing something she was afraid of, one thing she feared, even if she knew the truth, she still couldn’t avert her gaze. Her entire clan, still alive, but each one was smiling as each one’s horns were cut off with long daggers.
“Big Sister, why did you let this happen to us?” a pair of twins, very similar to Akjan in appearance asked her, both of them had blood flowing down their faces, their horns were gone, and their small hands seemed to be reaching towards her for help, but she couldn’t budge from the cell to which she was chained to.
The distance between their outstretched hands and Akjan’s own hand kept increasing, to the point it seemed like miles separated them..
“Why did you abandon us? Why have you left us behind?”
“Please, don’t leave me!” Akjan screamed in despair, she never saw any of them ever since that day when Kas clan took them away, the others have sacrificed their lives to let her escape. Seeing her entire family just within hand’s reach but so far was by far the most painful thing she had to see.
Then the landscape changed, she no longer was imprisoned
“Where am I?”
Looking around she realized she was walking on a pile of bones, demon bones, when she bent down to examine them she found a pair of disembodied blue horns.
“Shaula…” when she looked at the other horns, she recognized them by their shapes. “Orin, Aijasyl…Master Korgan…” all of their horns were here but the demons themselves were not here. She trembled from thinking what it could mean; her new family has been reduced to lifeless horns.
Then, she found an arm on the ground, when she inspected it, to her horror she knew whose hand it was. “Ren…No!”
Clutching the lifeless hand to her chest, Akjan cried streams of tears, now that her last hope to carry on has been broken, she could no longer stand up.
She felt broken, completely.
“Why? Why everyone I have ever loved is taken away? Why did they have to die? Great Ones, please tell me, why couldn’t they have lived and I perished instead?”
“Akjan… Akjan… Akjan…” a voice was calling out to her.
“That voice…it can’t be…”
“Please open your eyes!”
At that moment, the reality shifted, shriveled, and disappeared. As her eyes opened, she found herself looking in the eyes of the certain demon.
“Eugh! That’s a relief” Ren wiped invisible sweat off his forehead. “I am glad it’s only causing you to fall asleep, I was afraid it could be something worse.” Then he caught a glimpse of Akjan looking at him with eyes full of tears. “Aah aah.”
“Ren, if this is a dream, please don’t go away….I…”
“Uhm, Akjan, we are not inside of a dream, this is real” he pointed at Orin trying to wake Aijasyl up.
Apparently Aijasyl wouldn’t wake up no matter what he did, so Orin asked Ren to do something.
“I am no good with these things, Boss, I am a combat type not a medical type.”
“How is waking up a medical task? Look, let me show you how I wake demons up!” With that said Ren put his mouth upon Aijasyl’s lips and started blowing air into her mouth.
“Ren!(Boss for Orin) What are you doing?!!” Akjan and Orin saw what Ren was doing with wide open eyes.
“Resuscitating, of course, what else…” Ren took his lips off Aijasyl’s mouth and inhaled more air. “This ought to do it!” before doing the mouth to mouth again.
At that moment, Aijasyl’s eyes opened wide and to her horror she saw Ren locking lips with her.
“WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU ARE DOING!” she pushed him with such force that he ended up rolling backwards at least three times.
“I suppose I should say ends justify the results, right? Please don’t beat me up…” Aijasyl was staring at him angrily, while Orin and Akjan were looking in embarrassment. With the angry figure of the green haired demon looming over, Ren couldn’t help but shudder.
After giving Ren a visible slap to the face, Aijasyl heard Orin out while Akjan was busy waking others up.
“I see, so we were caught in a sleeping realm, huh. That explains a lot. But…” she stared at Ren with menacing gaze. “Did you really have to do that? You took my lips! It was my first!” She was angry with him; after all she never did kiss a demon before, not to mention a male demon.
“If it makes you feel any better it was my first time kissing as well…” Somehow Ren dug himself deeper in grave, considering now it wasn’t just Aijasyl but Akjan looking at him with disappointed look in her eyes.
“That’s just not fair” Ren whispered under his breath not realizing Akjan whispered the same thing at the same time. Both ended up looking awkwardly at each other.
In time everyone was up, Akjan and Aijasyl took it upon themselves to wake the female demons up after Ren’s ‘performance’ with resuscitation. Other than the fact that Kizilkoz mistook Aijasyl for her mother or Shaula snuggling Akjan, none had much trouble waking up.
“That was painful” Sirinke cracked his head in discomfort.
“True enough…” Sukesir mentioned while rubbing her tail. When they woke up they found one on top of the other, crushing with sheer weight, not to mention the one who was being crushed mistook the tail of the demon on top of him for chewing food, with mixed results.
“Let us never mention this again.” Sukesir said to Sirinke.
Everyone gathered up, with Ren looking at forward.
“Well, I am not sure how long all of us were asleep, but we have to start moving forward. This is the first trial, so we can’t fret; after all we have a long way ahead of us. So, let’s do this!” Personally, Ren just wanted to go home, but the only way to do that was to finish this trial. Thinking of the bath he was going to take after he got back to Karatengu mansion. Ren took a fist sized crystal-like rock that was broken off from somewhere. The Stone was greenish blue in color, so Ren in his curiosity thought it would make a nice tiling or a decorative material for the bathhouse.
The place they fell asleep in a place full of crystals, green, purple, blue, and of colors they could not even begin describing. What they didn’t know however was what the true capacity of those crystals. Most would prefer to not touch the crystals in fear that they somehow might harm them.
Unlike other demons with a sense of caution, this demon would find out the hard way what future the crystal would bring.