“She shall be honored as a martyr put to death by these heinous criminals, enemies of both humans and majin and reviled by all. Never will we submit to their repulsive designs! No matter where these cowards may hide, they shall be found, and they shall be destroyed to the very last!”

I listen to the child’s ridiculous speech as he extols the virtues of his dead sister and condemns the evils of, well, me. The contents enter in one ear and leave out the other, but I take great care to carve the face and voice of the speaker in my memory, for future reference.

The son of Wayland Adkins.

There will come a day when I drown him in his own blood.Continue reading

I walk quietly through Pamthen, looking around at the rowdy warriors everywhere, drinking themselves silly, picking fights against all and sundry, and generally being a bunch of insufferable assholes.

Pretty much like any warrior anywhere, really.

Right now, I’m not wearing my usual form. I currently look like a stout, old, matronly human woman, with wiry gray hair. I have large muscles and wide shoulders and a battle-scarred, ferocious face. I’m ugly enough that even a drunk, blind idiot wouldn’t even consider touching me. Which is just as I want it, of course. If I appeared in my true appearance in this place, I’d end up in a back alley somewhere with a string of guys taking turns to fuck me, no matter my protests.

As it is, my way is peaceful. The people I see, contestants of this meaningless pissing contest of a tournament along with their attendants and their spectators, all ignore me like I don’t even exist. I take a swig from the bottle of cheap rum I swiped from the ship earlier and enjoy the feeling of the chilly breeze cooling my face flushed from alcohol.Continue reading

“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

I look down the hole in the mountainside.

Far below, the residential district of Alsomn lies, its surface pockmarked by the debris of AK-A-13’s exit from the tunnels. A good part of these tunnels is now in ruins. The room that contained the demon-sealing stone is unrecognizable. The frozen and shattered corpses of the palace’s guards litter the grounds everywhere; it’ll most likely be impossible to piece them back together again for a decent funeral.

And the city really suffered, too. From here, it doesn’t look like much. Only a few irregular spots breaking the maze of streets and alleys below. But I’m sure that, at ground level, the devastation is another spectacle altogether.

How many people died beneath these boulders? They were peacefully sleeping alongside their loved ones, their families, when all of a sudden, disaster struck. How many parents lost their children? How many wives lost their husband? How many households lost all their possessions, crushed beneath the stone?Continue reading

“Fuuu… Haaa… Fuuu…”

The room is utterly silent save for the sound of my breathing. In and out, regularly. Carefully controlled as I bear the strain my training puts on me.

With each inhalation, the amount of qi in my dantian replenishes. I then immediately send it flowing into my meridians. Once it’s evenly distributed throughout my whole body, I let it slowly seep into my muscles, my bones, my flesh, my organs. Stabs of pain shoot out as all my cells tremble. Beads of sweat, sometimes tinted red with blood, leak out of my pores. My brows crease and my teeth clench as I bear with this suffering.

But it’s worth it. Each cycle strengthens me minutely.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 watch through Akasha’s senses as the wall approaches in front of her eyes, almost faster than I can see. I understood what she intended to do while she ran through the tunnels for the first time, but I still can’t help but flinch when she slams into the wall. I feel cold sweat on my brow at her recklessness, but Akasha herself is imperturbable. There is absolutely no hesitation, not even a tiny scrap of fear or anxiety to be seen in her demeanor. She seems perfectly confident that, if she uses herself as a cannonball against that mountain, the mountain will be the one to shatter first.

As it turns out, she’s right.

In a single instant, she plows through a dozen meters of solid stone, shaking the entire mountain and coming out the other side, into the open air, free-falling toward the city of Alsomn below.

(Unbelievable…)Continue reading