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Thursday, 19 November 2015

Blood & Brimstone Part 1

Blood & Brimstone

Part 1

It was a Sunday, like every other day. It could also be a Thursday, a Friday, or a Monday.
Thankfully, it didn’t really matter, as this was not Earth.
This was actually the Grand Palace of the Great Emperor of the Demon Realm, Samyaza.
Therefore, it wouldn’t matter what day of the week it was.
But just to make it easier, let’s all agree on calling it a Sunday.

On this particular Sunday, the palace was filled with people.
Ahem, demons I mean.
And witches, and vampires, and dragons… well, all kinds of creatures.
Except for unicorns, they were always with the fairies.
Those fairies would never go anywhere close to demons.
It had nothing to do with not getting along, it was simply racial hatred.

In this particular hall, a brown-haired human woman, easily misunderstood as a human child, stood regally in her fineries.
She was Anastasia – family name long discarded.
Despite looking like a cute middle school girl in a gothic Lolita cosplay, she was very much an adult woman.
Anastasia, family name long discarded, was the new Witch Queen.
Anastasia, family name long discarded, was one of the Ten Councillors of the Demon Realm.
She was to this date, over six centuries old.

Today, she, like every other demons/creatures in this Audience Hall in the Grand Palace of the Great Emperor of the Demon Realm, gathered due to the summons of the Great Emperor himself.
Suddenly, the giant door of the Grand Hall slammed shut.
In front of it was a woman of Asian descent with large fox ears and a bushy fox tail.
She yawned slightly, not caring at all that all eyes were on her.
She was after all, stylishly late.
That was just said to be polite.
She was actually late by two days, despite the fact that she could fly.

Anastasia knew of her, of course.
Her name was Ching Mi, known otherwise as the Beastial Lady.
One of Ten Councillors of the Demon Realm, holding the same rank as Anastasia.
Unlike Anastasia, whose powers were reliant on curses and the spirits, Ching Mi’s power was the ability to borrow aspects of her familiars.
It wasn’t unusual for the Beastial Lady to be seen with an eagle’s wings or a tiger’s claws.
This time she appeared wearing the aspects of her fox familiar.

Anastasia’s train of thought was interrupted by the heavy footsteps on the marble staircase behind the throne.
She thus quickly positioned herself in front of the crowd and knelt in submission.
Just like the other councilors.
On her left, were the Beastial Lady Ching Mi, The Vampire Lord Dimitri, the Mother of Monsters Yaksun, The Angel of Divination Naamah, Mistress of Illusion Agrat and The Lord of Fury Garrol.
On her right were the Spectre King Ilsu Al-Nash, The Dragon Lord Shen Wu and The Lord of Fire Arua.
The positions made no difference; they were all equally low in the eyes of their emperor.
Though they themselves didn’t think so.
Of this, the Dragon Lord Shen Wu, believed himself to be the most powerful of all.
Of course, everyone else thought the same of themselves.
Anastasia wasn’t any different, she truly believed that with her powers, she could obliterate Shen Wu if only she was given the chance.

“Raise your heads, my loyal subjects.”

Loyal? No, far from it.
They actually knelt out of fear.
It had nothing to do with loyalty.

Anastasia raised her head to look at the face of her master, the Emperor of the Demon Realm, Samyaza.
He looked old and frail, though that was debatable.
In Anastasia’s memory, the Emperor had always looked that old.
Anastasia’s mother, whose name Anastasia herself had long forgotten, once remarked that the Emperor had always had that appearance.
Some believed that he didn’t actually age, and that this appearance was all an illusion, but Anastasia didn’t care about that.
His power was real, and that was all that mattered.
Anastasia knew this, because she had seen her mother, the one who taught her magic, turned to ashes with just one glare from the Emperor.
Anastasia’s mother was part of a rebel faction that wanted to assassinate the Emperor.
The Emperor then revived her just enough to question her, and Anastasia’s mother made just one request in exchange for the information, “Please don’t kill my daughter.”
The Emperor agreed, before he scattered her ashes and proceeded to bring down the whole rebel forces.
After that, the Emperor adopted Anastasia.

But in reality, neither of them had any feelings of love towards each other.
They had hardly seen each other anyhow.
They saw each other even less after the Emperor granted her the title of Witch Queen and gave her the position of councilor.
They only times they would meet would be during a meeting, which would only happen once every half a decade.
In Anastasia’s eyes, the Emperor wasn’t her father; he was merely the one who fed her after killing her mother.
Everything else was Anastasia’s own efforts.

“As you all well know, I have reigned over the Demon Realm for many millenias. The burden of the crown is started to wear on me after so long.”

Nobody said anything, but inside, everyone groaned.
The Emperor had said this so many times, they were already getting tired of hearing it.
How could this time be any different?

“As such, I have decided to pass on the mantle of leadership of the Demon Realm to the most worthy of you.”

Everyone perked up. This is something new, was what everyone thought.

“Well, despite saying that. I haven’t decided myself who will be my successor. So I’ve thought about it, and decided that, whoever is able to unseat me from this throne, will become the new Emperor, and by that, all should follow him.”

Something rushed forth in the shape of smoke, intending to cut down the Emperor.
Of course, none of the councilors did anything to stop them.
Their duties never included protecting the Emperor.
It wasn’t any surprise when they saw the smoke flashed and disappeared as if there was never anything there.

“Although I said that, I never said it will be that easy, Dimitri.”

The Vampire Lord Dimitri took one step forward and knelt with his forehead touching the floor.
“Please forgive my subordinate’s impetuousness, Your Majesty. I did not expect him to act so suddenly.”

“Although I applaud his courage, I’m annoyed of his stupidity. But let’s put that aside for now. Raise your head, Dimitri.”

“I thank you for your mercy, Your Majesty.”

“From what I can see, all of you councilors are about equal in might. Dimitri…”

“Your Majesty.”

“Your mastery of life and death is astounding. The ability to turn a living creature into a loyal brethren is extremely powerful. The ability to deny death is undoubtedly amazing. “

“Shen Wu…”

“Your Majesty.”

“Your magic is one of a kind, the ability to call forth lighting from the skies, to bring calamity from the power of ocean waves or earthquakes, to curse those who displease you and to reward those who please you with powerful blessings. Instead of calling you a demon, you should be called a god instead.”

“I thank you for your praise, Your Majesty.”

“Arua. You who were born from the fire stepped on by Moses. You who creates fire out of nothing. You who destroy with fire. You who will never die under the nourishment of fire. Who can touch you without being burned?

The Lord of Fire bowed.

“Ching Mi. Beautiful, wild, uncontrollable Ching Mi. How many times have you been late to a meeting so far, Ching Mi?”

“Erhm… that…”

“Regardless, your power over beasts, and your ability to mimic beasts. It is a power that can turn the tide of battle in an instant.”

“Haha, thanks.”

“Yaksun, mother of monsters. Without you, the behemoths, the gargantuans and the leviathans couldn’t have been born. You, who single-handedly populated the demon realm from the day of its discovery. You alone are indispensible. Who can bring themselves to kill their own mother?”

Plenty, actually, Anastasia thought.

“Garrol, my dear old friend. How many times has it been that we fought side by side? How many times had we protected each other’s backs? How many times had you attempted to sink your axe into my neck?”

“Countless times, Your Majesty.”

“Agrat. Seductive Agrat. Born of human parents, learned magic from the fallen angels and fell into hell by your own hands. Your mastery of illusion is truly mesmerizing. I am still in awe of that time when you trapped me inside an illusion that was as expansive as the world. Yet all you wanted for that trouble was the opportunity to sit on my throne for five minutes without being turned into ashes. Your audacity truly amazes me.”

Agrat smiled, creating rainbows, sparkles and fairy dust, until the Emperor dispelled the illusion with a sweep of his hand.

“Naamah. Once a fallen angel, a princess, a queen, a goddess and now a demon. Once, you were even a compatriot of mine, a fellow Watcher. You are the one single torn in my side that I had failed to remove time and time again. For you who can see the future with absolute accuracy, there is nothing to fear. Not even from me. If there is a way, I really want to kill you with my own hands.”

“The feeling is mutual, Garbage.”

“Ilsu Al-Nash. A being created from the holy fire. A being of shadows and darkness. Your power to appear and disappear at will is truly fearsome. Faced by the shadows itself, who will be able to defend against you?”

“And last, my daughter Anastasia…”

Anastasia shivered at being called ‘daughter’ by the man who killed and tortured her mother.

“You had always been a truly exceptional child. No matter what adversities I threw at you, you always found a way to come on top. Now, you are truly a force to be reckoned with. But I bet, despite all this success, that single thought still remains in the back of your mind, is it not? About how I killed your mother, revived her, killed her again, and revived her again repeatedly in front of your eyes?”

Anastasia couldn’t help but feel rage.
The muscles of her cheek ticked many times in a second.
Her brows creased as she tried to control herself.
Her face red from her attempt to bottle her anger.

“Do you still remember? How your mother begged for her life, dear daughter? Do you still remember how I defiled her corpse?”

Anastasia leaped towards the Emperor.
She had in her right hand, a spear of light that bathed the whole hall in holy light, incinerating lower class vampires upon contact.
In her left, a shield of light, to block the power of the Emperor’s gaze.
She raised the spear of light while chanting,
“I am the queen of magic. I command the forces of light to grant me strength. In my name, I curse you to a century of agony and torment. In my fury so shall your soul be scorched. Thus is my will. Burn for all eternity!”
Anastasia threw the spear of light as her shield of light flickered from the constant attack of the Emperor’s gaze.

The spear of light struck true.
The Emperor tried to block if with his hand but the spear of light simply pierced his hand, stabbing itself deeper.
As the shaft of the spear disappeared even deeper into the Emperor’s figure.

Anastasia grin in triumph.
She had researched this magic for decades.
All to bring down the Emperor.

Suddenly she fell to the floor.
She tried to move her body, but something was stopping her.
A kind of pressure that made her body felt as heavy as lead.
As if to make matters worse, a metallic boot stepped on the back of her head.
The boot pressed her head into the floor, crushing the marble under her face.
All she could do was to protect her head with a diamond skin spell.

“Dear daughter, if it really was that easy, don’t you think your mother would have succeeded?”

“You bastard… how…”

“How I’m still alive and kicking? Well, you had the right idea. Spear of light against a demon would work, even if that demon is the demon emperor. But you failed to understand one single fact.”

The Emperor stabbed the crushed tip of spear onto the floor.

“This is your error, dear daughter. With light this fragile, did you seriously think anyone would die from it? Have you even tested it on any demon before?”

Of course not.
Anastasia didn’t want anyone to see her secretly developed technique.
Anastasia was also not the kind to kidnap anyone just for experimentation.

“So will you plead for your life like your mother did, my dear daughter?”

“I will kill you, bastard.”

“Very good reply. I’m glad you still have the will to defy me.”

Suddenly Anastasia was kicked to the lower floor.
At the same time, the Emperor returned to his seat.

“For such an entertaining performance, Anastasia, allow me to give you a reward.”

To all in the room, except for the subordinates of the Witch Queen, a resounding ‘not fair’ atmosphere could be felt.

Well, what did they expect?
Who said anything about demons being fair?
Who would expect demons to be fair after all?

“Your power right now is still very much inadequate, dear daughter.  But there may be a way for you to become strong enough to defeat me.”

Everyone in the hall strained their ears to listen at the following words.

“In the human realm, there is a computer game called The Roman Life. In it is an entity, called the Virgin Mary. While all parts of this game is make-believe and has no basis in reality, the Virgin Mary is a real existence. She is capable of granting blessings that carries over to the real life. With her blessing, it is very possible for you to gain enough power to kill me.”

Those who heard it had different expressions. The hall quickly filled with whispers.

A game? Something like football?

What is a football? The last time I was there, archery was the only game allowed by law.

I think it’s the machine that calculates navigations and solve arithmetic problems.

How is that a game? Arithmetic is incredibly boring.

No, you idiots. You’re a century behind. Modern computers are used to encrypt secret codes and the bigger ones are used to help in research. They can even launch rockets!

What’s a rocket?

So they walk into the computer to play football?

But the name is Roman Life, maybe they engage in theological philosophy?

How is that a game?

Anastasia, who was doubled over on the floor as she cast healing magic on her ribs decided:
She will go to the human world, enter the computer, play this football game and meet the Virgin Mary.
In that order.

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You may say whatever you want, even if you don't like the story. All I ask is that you be polite about it. For example, "You suck, you should rot in hell" and "Balduadapdahdaydai" are totally not acceptable. If your comment is "Your grammar is horrible, please find a grammar checker", then it's fine.