“Your clothes are very strange, Miss Akasha. I can’t see any seams at all,” Sirona says, matching her steps to mine and letting Jasper lead the way in front of us. “May I ask where you found them?”
Her interest was piqued when I reached for the black collar around my neck and reshaped my suit. I only added a hood to it. The hood can’t really hide my eyes since my horn prevents it from falling too low, but it should adequately conceal both of my sets of ears. I refused to attach a cape or cloak to my back, though. If I’m going to fight in this tournament, I don’t want any such thing interfering with my movements and providing opportunities for my opponents to grab me. As for whether people question if I’m truly an oni or not, like Jasper feared… well, I’ll let him deal with that. Leaving my tail in full view kind of defeats the purpose of adding the hood in the first place, but I don’t care. I only made a token effort to hide my species so that Jasper would shut up about it.
[…I found it in a Tower.]
“A tower?” Sirona repeats dubiously. “Where was this tower?”Continue reading
Since there is no point in hanging below the ship’s hull any longer, I let go and sink to the bottom of the harbor. I stay underwater, since many witnesses are walking around on the surface and I prefer to remain undetected, and go sit in a corner, where one of the piers meets land.
I wait until night falls and most of the dock workers go to sleep before getting to my feet. Slowly, I crawl up the wall and breach the surface. I peek over the edge of the wharf, making sure that no one can see me, then climb up, putting foot on the Island itself. My wet hair sticks to my body, and my tail feels heavy and uncomfortable, and there’s water in my ears. None of that bothered me when I was still underwater, but now that I’m back on dry land, I find that it’s quite a bother.
<Shake yourself. Doggy.>
I glance at Sanae, her tiny form skittering back and forth next to my feet. Her wet, black-metal body glistens under the moonlight.Continue reading
The Island stands something like 200 kilometers away from the Frontline’s coast. The trip can be made by boat, but it’s essential to follow a very specific path to avoid reefs, dangerous currents, and violent sea creatures.
A skilled captain can always deal with the first two, but the third will be the most troublesome. Both humans and majin find it difficult to fight to their best over- and underwater. Added to that is the increased ferocity and territoriality of sea beasts – to say nothing of sea demons – and the problem finds itself compounded.
All these factors make the Betwixt Sea, along with every other ocean on Caldera, practically impassable, save for very narrow channels. Even on those so-called safe channels, too much traffic will undoubtedly attract sea monsters. This all means the Island is a place where transporting any sizeable army without prohibitive expense is downright impossible, which makes it an ideal neutral ground. Both sides can only bring a very limited number of troops – not enough to threaten each other effectively.
That’s also why it ended up selected as the venue for the Inter-Species Competition.Continue reading
Is this an offensive formation or is it just supposed to trap me in here until someone strong enough can catch up and kill me?
And just when I was thinking I’d successfully escaped Alsomn, too…
Well, no matter what, this isn’t good. I need to get out of this formation. It shouldn’t be too difficult, I think, but I don’t want to take this lightly. Some formations can be truly lethal, even to the highest-ranked gods.
The easiest way out would be to kill the caster of this formation.Continue reading
Piles upon piles of papers are stacked in front of me.
Yet none of them contain what I seek.
No mention of Nerys at all in any of the records held by the Blackwood Chamber of Commerce, even though they do reach more than 300 years into the past. I even enlisted the help of the human man who opened the door to explain to me the filing system used to order the papers and then help my search.
But nothing.Continue reading
I fling the metal door so fast it only leaves a blur in the air as it heads for its target. I wasn’t particularly accurate, so it also takes a good chunk of the wall as it passes through the doorway.
As rubble flies around in its wake, I notice that the wall of the room holding the huge demon-sealing stone is made of several different layers. Regular stone encases some sort of reddish-brown metal. This metal is covered in intricate runes, which flash once then fizzle as the metal door bursts into the room, crushing all obstacles in its way.
Some kind of protective field, most likely. I didn’t feel anything when I wrenched the door out of its hinges, but whatever spell was used to safeguard the room must have faltered ineffectually against the adamantine of my hand.
Trailing debris, the door slams into the demon-sealing stone, eliciting another flash of defensive magic. Thanks to whatever shields were set in place to protect it, the stone doesn’t shatter upon impact. Still, like the formations carved into the room’s outer wall, I threw the door hard enough to overwhelm what defenses the stone had available. The metal door bounces off the demon-sealing stone at an angle and flies off toward one side, while the stone itself is flung toward the other side, embedding itself into the wall there.Continue reading
I rush through Alsomn, sprinting through alleys and leaping over buildings, yet no sound betrays my passage but a slight stirring in the wind.
My destination is the castle sitting atop its stocky, gouged-out mountain.
This late at night, there aren’t many people left roaming the streets, even in the capital, but I still need to be careful. With a population this large, exceptions to the rule are bound to be more numerous than during the previous times I needed to sneak around. It wouldn’t be good to be carelessly noticed by a random passerby.
There are two ways for me to reach the castle. The first and most straightforward is the road twisting left and right, slithering up the mountain’s slope. It leads from the actual city, lying at the foot of the mountain, to the castle I need to reach. The problem is that it’s also guarded and patrolled.Continue reading
With the formations successfully disabled, I approach the walls, keeping an eye on the sentries patrolling atop them.
As expected, avoiding detection by humans who are incapable of seeing in the dark isn’t a difficult task. No problem should occur.
When I step within 100 meters of the wall, a problem occurs. Unexpectedly.
A familiar qi fluctuation, minute but noticeable, like scrambled noise in the back of my ears. As soon as I notice its presence, I grit my teeth and retract all my qi, deactivate all the spells I usually keep up – like the one giving life to my left arm – and firmly cage my soul within the bounds of my dantian.Continue reading
What a big city.
The biggest I’ve ever seen, in fact. I’m genuinely surprised. I didn’t know cities could get this big. What a strange world I live in.
(No, no. I think your sense of what is strange or not is somewhat skewed. The Planar Tower was much stranger than this, you know? And this city isn’t that big, either.)
[…You’ve seen a bigger one?]Continue reading
(A handshake serves as a greeting or a parting that denotes cordiality and friendship. That’s not to say it’s only used among friends, though. You might also shake the hand of a business partner before and after a successful negotiation or something like that. Do you understand?)
(Now, you’ve probably seen it happen between humans in the past, right? There are a few little subtleties to it you might have missed, though. For example, it’s customary to squeeze the other party’s hand a little. Not too hard, otherwise it’s aggressive and confrontational, but not too limp either, or it’s like you don’t actually care about the handshake. You just need to squeeze enough that people know you mean it. You can also cover the handshake with your other hand, for emphasis, if you’re especially happy or grateful or passionate about whatever you’re shaking hands for. Be careful with this, however. Using two hands makes the handshake much more intimate, so some might be uncomfortable with it, in which case you should refrain.)
[…How do I know if they’re uncomfortable with it?]Continue reading