Warsong Chapter Six: The Mysterious Village

Unaware of the demons that plotted against her, Yukiko strolled down the road, Kieskei at her side, desperately trying to think of something to say that didn’t make her sound utterly idiotic. She had never been good with people in general, but men specifically confounded her.

She briefly glanced back over her shoulder at Katsume, who walked with Inari and Ger, a good dozen yards behind them. The dark look on the Demon Slayer’s face had not lifted, making the demon girl wonder again what really went on in her mind.

She had threatened Kieskei, rather bluntly, if he so much as looked at Yukiko wrong. Yet, in the brief time they had spent together, Yukiko had never gotten the impression that Katsume liked her. Quite the opposite really. So what had prompted such a reaction?

Was it possible Katsume was not so hard as she had suspected? Or was it something else? Yukiko sighed softly, no closer to understanding her traveling companion, or people in general, than ever.

“Everything alright?” Kieskei asked, smiling at her.

Yukiko flushed, fiddling with her fingers. “Oh, yeah, it’s nothing. I was just wondering why Katsume would act the way she did earlier.”

Kieskei shrugged. “I wouldn’t worry about it. Demon Slayers and devil hunters have never gotten along very well. It’s almost a tradition that we hate each other on sight, really.”

“You think that’s all it is?”

He smiled at her again. “That, yes, but also, she was protecting a friend. People do all sorts of things we can never expect when they care about another person.”

Yukiko frowned a bit at that. “I wouldn’t call our relationship that friendly. More like barely contained hostility.”

“I don’t know,” he replied. “Perhaps Lady Katsume cares for you more than you suspect. It could be that she simply is unaware of how to show it.”

Yukiko gave a derisive snort at that. “That wouldn’t surprise me. She’s practically a barbarian. I’m surprised she’s even literate.”

“You must not have known her long, then, for Lady Katsume is far from a barbarian,” Kieskei chuckled.

“How would you know?”

He glanced back, getting a dark look for the subject of conversation. “She said she had met my mother, and carries the Demon Slaying sword, Shoki. I doubt she meant to, but she told me exactly who she really is. You could say I know a great deal about Lady Katsume.”

“Like what?” Yukiko asked, suddenly curious. Katsume had never been one to talk about her past.

Kieskei gave her a grin that said nothing. “It isn’t my place, I’m afraid. If she has not told you, then she has her reasons, and I’m not one to question them.”

Yukiko frowned. “I guess.”

“All things come to those who are patient,” he told her. “Do not worry, though. However she may seem, trust me on this, Lady Katsume is above reproach.”

Despite her misgivings, Yukiko let the matter drop. Kieskei seemed sure of himself on the issue, which only made her wonder what all Katsume hadn’t told her. She thought of the pendant the Demon Slayer carried, and her heart break at the thought of having lost it, but that only raised more questions.

They continued for a while in silence, Kieskei giving her occasional glances that made her feel warmer than usual. She found herself smiling soon, and felt even more embarrassed for it.

“Can I ask you something?” she finally managed.

“Anything, Miss Yukiko,” he replied with a genuine smile. “My family has always demanded I live my life with nothing to hide.”

She giggled at that, then went dark red, having never heard herself make that sound. “I was, um, just going to ask about you being a devil hunter. What’s the difference between that and a Demon Slayer?”

Kieskei pondered that for a moment, rubbing his chin. “There really isn’t one when you get right down to it. The only real difference goes back several hundred years, to the time of the two empires.”

“Oh,” Yukiko brightened up. “I’ve read about that. That was the golden age, right?”

“Indeed it was,” he chuckled. “The two empires were separated by the Serpent’s River, the widest, deepest, and fastest moving river in all the lands. Between them, they ruled over all that is, and the people knew bounty like never before, or since.”

“What do they have to do with the difference?”

“Well,” Kieskei grinned. “There were demons back then, same as now, and often as not, they liked to cause mischief. Naturally, both of the great empires wanted to keep their people safe, so both began training special soldiers who could battle demons. The southern empire of Shang called them Demon Slayers, while the northern empire of Wu called them devil hunters.”

“So it’s just a matter of tradition then?”

“Not really,” he sighed. “You see, my sword, Seiken, was forged during that time, and as I told you, has been handed down my family line every since. I am a devil hunter because my ancestors were. It’s the same with Lady Katsume, I imagine. From what little I know of Shoki, it was forged during that time as well, and probably comes from Shang, as Seiken comes from Wu.”

“How is that not tradition?” Yukiko asked.

Kieskei chuckled. “Okay, so for me, and likely Lady Katsume, it probably is, but not for everyone. You see, after the two great empires collapsed, many of the devil hunters turned mercenary, but had grown tired of fighting demons, and as such, usually just tricked people into paying them for a job they never did. On the other hand, most Demon Slayers stayed true to their heritage, and worked to protect people. As time has passed, people have just come to consider one to be one way, and the other to be the other.”

“So, it’s more a way of saying one person is trustworthy, while another is not?”

“More or less,” he agreed. “The main thing to remember, however, is that regardless of actions, the basic meaning of the titles is the same. All who answer the call, be they devil hunter or Demon Slayer, are suppose to be willing to lay down their lives for others. Many no longer adhere to that, I’m afraid, so the real point of both is ultimately lost.”

Yukiko thought about that for a bit, glancing back at the sulky Katsume. “I wonder if it even matters in the long run. I mean, just because you give a person a title, doesn’t mean they have earned it, or can ever possibly live up to it. People are people, after all, and can’t be defined so easily.”

Kieskei laughed at that outright. “Well said, Miss Yukiko. Well said, indeed. In the end, they are just words that utterly fail to capture the heart of a person. Which means, of course, that it hardly matters at all.”

She grinned a bit at that. “I guess so. Which means, all of Katsume’s bragging about being the greatest Demon Slayer alive is just empty bravado.”

Kieskei smiled at her softly. “Don’t be so sure. She may just be.”

Yukiko gave him a curious look at that, but he had turned back to the road, and somehow, she had the feeling that even if she asked, he wouldn’t elaborate. Glancing over her shoulder once again, she wondered what secrets Katsume carried.

From the look on her face, there was one thing Yukiko was certain of. Kieskei had not overstated the lack of love Katsume held for devil hunters. Though she wasn’t sure why, it bothered her, but Yukiko could tell that broaching the subject with her traveling companion was likely only going to start another of their famous arguments.

“What do you know about the fall of the two empires?” Kieskei asked suddenly, drawing her back.

“Oh, um,” she replied, thinking back to her time at the monastery. “Not much, really. There was a war, I know, but I can’t say that I really ever learned much about what started it, or how it ended, beyond the collapse of both empires.”

Kieskei nodded thoughtfully. “It was a demon, according to legend. Not just any demon, either, but the king of demons. Lord Orochi, the most powerful of all demons, grew resentful of the two empires and the peace they had brought.”

“Orochi,” Yukiko muttered. “I’ve heard that name before.”

“That’s hardly a surprise. Even now, his name is a curse. Using his demonic powers, he started a war between the two kingdoms, and when it reached its height, he swept in with an army of demons and laid the lands to waste. Only the combined actions of the devil hunters and Demon Slayers drove him back, forcing him to return the deepest pit of all the hells.”

“Oh,” Yukiko murmured, looking down at her hands in shame. “I guess that’s a good reason people can’t bring themselves to trust demons.”

“That, and most demons aren’t all that friendly.” Kieskei gave her wink that made her flush. “Still, I think with time, a demon with a pure heart could prove herself, especially when she has friends willing to stand by her.”

“You really think so?”

“I know so.”

Yukiko felt her face burn, but smiled anyway, his kind words making her heart feel so light, she thought she might float. That, of course, made her blush even more furiously.

軍歌

Behind the devil hunter and the demon girl, Katsume stalked, a foul expression steadily growing on her face. By her side, Inari watched with growing confusion, trying to understand what motivated the woman to act so irrationally. Ger just hummed a tune, and off key at that.

“Okay, I’m lost,” the nine tails finally sighed. “Usually you want to break Mistress Yukiko in half. What’s with the sudden defensiveness.”

The look the Demon Slayer gave him had Inari shrinking away quickly. “He’s an Atochi. What more do you need to know?”

“Specifically?” the fox huffed. “What’s got you so bent out of shape?”

Katsume sighed. “It’s not something you’d understand. Let’s just say I’ve got a score to settle with his family and leave it at that.”

“Let’s just say we don’t,” Inari argued. “In case you’ve forgotten, Mistress Yukiko is my primary concern. If Master Kieskei poses some sort of threat, I need to know.”

“He doesn’t,” Katsume told him, voice low and tinged with sadness. “He gave his word he wouldn’t harm her, and he’ll keep it. I’d stake my life on that.”

“Okay, that’s good,” Inari nodded. “Still doesn’t explain why you are in such a foul mood, though.”

“You’re really going to press this, aren’t you?” Katsume growled.

“If I must,” he grinned.

She shook her head slowly. “Fine, though I’m surprised you don’t already know.”

Inari chuckled. “I know much about you, Lady Katsume, but not everything. I am, after all, just a lowly functionary.”

“You know what happened to my parents?”

Inari’s smile faded as he turned to face ahead, no longer able to look upon the woman at his side. Her pain, the open wound in her very soul, was too great. The burden she carried far too heavy for him to stand.

“I do.”

“After they died, and were laid to rest, I sought out the Atochi’s, for my father had always spoken highly of them. I was just a child, mind you, only twelve years old, when I met Tohru Atochi, Kieskei’s mother. She was the wielder of Seiken then, and I petitioned her to teach me how to hunt and slay demons.” Katsume trailed off, her eyes burning with anger as she stared at the man ahead of her.

“I suppose that explains your skill now,” Inari murmured.

“No,” Katsume snapped. “She refused me. Told me I was driven by hate and vengeance and could never unlock Shoki’s true power so long as I was. She sent me home with nothing but my pain, to an empty house, while my parents spirits rest unavenged. I’ll never forgive them for that.”

Inari frowned a bit. “It may not be my place, Lady Katsume, but it seems to me that you’ve done rather well for yourself all the same. Would it not be best to let it go?”

The laugh she gave was sorrow coiled around bitterness. “Done well for myself? It took me twelve years, half my life, to grow strong enough just to unlock the first ring of Shoki. All the while, he was trained in my place.”

“He was Tohru’s son, Katsume,” Inari said softly.

“Her son, yes,” Katsume growled. “While my parents lie dead and their child grieves, he is trained to guard a temple and hold twelve demons there. The Atochi’s have forgotten their true purpose. To hunt and slay demons in the name of peace. I can see how my need was so beneath her, oh yes.”

The nine tails sighed heavily. “So this is simply anger at the Atochi family for making you wait to avenge your family then, and nothing more?”

“Nothing more?” Katsume snarled. “Oh, it’s much more than that. I finally have a chance, a lead, something that will guide me to the demon who killed my family, and he shows up. Kieskei Atochi, and already he works to rob me of my chance. Yes, nine tails, it is so much more.”

“Hold on,” Inari gasped. “Are you trying to tell me that the only reason you threatened him was because of what I told you? That Mistress Yukiko could lead you to the demon you seek?”

“Why else?” the Demon Slayer asked.

“Because she is a demon, and he is a devil hunter?” Inari snapped. “How about because she has a good heart, one even you have admitted to seeing. Is that a good reason? Let’s try this one. Because she is your friend, a commodity you do not trade heavily in.”

Katsume fixed a dark glare on him. “Heavenly being or no, watch yourself, fox.”

“I will not,” he growled. “I said she could lead you to the demon you sought, yes. But if you think you stand even the slightest chance of defeating him without her help, you are sadly mistaken. This foe is, and always will be, far beyond your skill. Yukiko is your only hope of defeating him, and without her at your side, you will die.”

Katsume’s expression had changed as he spoke, fading from anger to shock. “You know his name, don’t you? You know the name of the demon that killed my family. Tell me!”

“No,” Inari snapped. “That will become clear in time. For now, you should focus on growing stronger, and helping Yukiko to as well. The day you long for will come, Katsume Oda, when it is meant to, and no sooner.”

Shock turned back to anger. “Heaven damn you, fox, tell me the name of the beast. I need to know it. I have to know!”

“For what end?” Inari asked with as much anger. “So you could run off and die fighting him? Are you so desperate to rejoin your family that you will give up your life for nothing?”

Katsume recoiled from him at that. “What? No! That’s not it at all. I know I’m not ready. I just, I want to know. I need to know who I’m hunting. I have to have a name to put with that face.”

Inari stopped dead. “You saw him?”

Katsume stood, staring at the road, face twisted in pain. “I saw it all, Inari. I saw everything. I watched, helpless, as that monster slaughtered them. Who was he? Why did he do it? Please, tell me.”

“Even if I do, it may change nothing, Katsume,” Inari said quietly. “There is much you do not know yet. Factors at play here you cannot guess or imagine.”

“So you won’t tell me, then, is that it?” Her voice was a coarse whisper, years of agony choking her.

“I will, on one condition,” the nine tails finally said with a sigh. “You must never tell Yukiko any of this. She will learn everything when the time is right, and no sooner.”

“I swear it in my father’s name,” Katsume replied. “And on my mothers grave.”

Inari nodded, and said. “The demon that killed your family, Lady Katsume. His name is Orochi, Lord of the thousand hells, King of all demons.”

Katsume went pale.

軍歌

The day was waning as they arrived at the village Kieskei had told them about. Small though it was, with a sparse population, they were greeted warmly and shown to the tiny inn. There, they were given rooms on the devil hunters reputation alone, the innkeeper waving off attempts at payment.

Yukiko bowed deeply and thanked the kindly innkeeper for his generosity even as he gaped at the demon girl in the company of the devil hunter. Katsume growled something that sounded kind of like it might resemble a thank you.

Kieskei smiled at that, but said nothing as the two women were shown to their rooms, accompanied by a nine tails and a goblin. Somehow, he doubted the innkeeper had ever seen such guests as these. Shaking his head, he stepped back on the porch, where the village headman awaited him, a good natured man called Rio.

“How went the hunt, Master Atochi?”

Kieskei shrugged sheepishly. “It would have gone poorly had I not been rescued.”

Rio chuckled. “I see. I was wondering where a man like you would have picked up two such lovely ladies. Now I know. They saved your bacon.”

Laughing, the devil hunter nodded. “I’m afraid so. I’d be ashamed, but I’m too busy being grateful I’m still alive. Junto proved far more difficult than I thought.”

“Well, he’s had a hundred years or so to stew, if what I’ve heard of your family is true. I imagine he wouldn’t go back easily.” Rio slapped him on the shoulder as he spoke.

Kieskei nodded. “Also true. The Twelve Sacred Demons have been imprisoned for some time now by my family. How they escaped remains a mystery, but they must be returned, least they cause unimaginable harm.”

“Remind me of the story,” Rio coxed. “I’m afraid my demon history is a bit rusty.”

Nodding, Kieskei said, “After the war between the empires, when Lord Orochi had been banished back to the hells, his generals remained. The Twelve Sacred Demons, beings of terrible power, that continued to cause havoc all through the lands. Han Atochi, my ancestor, sought each one of them down and imprisoned them using Seiken and sacred beads given to him by a priestess of Sora. After that, my family vowed to make certain they could never cause humans harm again.”

Rio rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “And now they are on the loose again. An ill omen, Master Atochi.”

“As ill as they come,” Kieskei agreed. “I fear something dark is on the horizon. They Sacred Demons must be either destroyed, or bound once more, least their master return and wage war on humanity again.”

“A small matter for one such as you,” Rio chuckled.

Kieskei grinned. “No pressure at all.”

“What of our new friends?”

Kieskei glanced back at the inn. “Lady Katsume Oda, a Demon Slayer, and her companions. I think I may enlist their aid in dealing with the demons. Already, Lady Katsume has slain Junto with a single blow, using Shoki, the Demon Slaying sword.”

“Katsume Oda,” Rio pondered. “Wait. You don’t mean?”

“I do,” the devil hunter nodded.

“Well, this should prove a short hunt for you then, shouldn’t it?” the headman chuckled.

“Time will tell,” he replied with a grin. “But unless something unforeseen crops up, I think all will end well.”

Rio nodded. “I will pray for your success.”

“And I yours,” Kieskei smiled. “If you’ll excuse me, I think I’d like a bath before dinner.”

Rio nodded and watched as the devil hunter headed back inside, his kind eyes turning dark even as his smile turned to menacing. “Yes, if nothing unforeseen comes up. I guarantee something will. Count on that.”

軍歌

Yukiko looked out the window of the room she had been given, admiring the villagers as they went about the last business of their day. To live such a simple life, it was a dream she wondered if they even appreciated.

“Tell me,” Inari interrupted. “Where has your mind wandered off too, Mistress?”

“Nowhere important,” she replied with a smile, resting a hand on his head. “I was just thinking how peaceful it would be to live such a simple life as they do.”

“I suppose,” the nine tails nodded. “Though they have worries of their own, I imagine they are easier to shoulder than yours.”

Yukiko shrugged. “I don’t guess it matters really. It’s not a life I’ll ever know.”

“The grass is always greener,” the fox chuckled. “I must admit to feeling somewhat ashamed of myself. There was a time I looked down on them as insects. Having spent time living here, I see now that it was I who was the insect.”

“And still are,” Yukiko laughed, giving him a playful thump on the head.

Inari feigned agony. “My ego! How could you be so cold as to wound it so mortally! I’m destroyed.”

Honestly laughing, Yukiko opened her mouth to reply, but was cut off by a crash that made the room shake. Spinning, ready to bring her claws out, she saw instead through the sizeable hole in the wall that separated their rooms, Katsume wrapped in a towel.

“Is sorry,” Ger whimpered as he slid down the far wall.

“Really, I must find something to feed him to,” Inari groaned.

“That stinking, perverted little goblin was watching me take a bath!” Katsume raged, pushing the thin rice paper wall the rest of the way down as she stalked into the room.

“Gee, you think,” Yukiko intoned, poking the Demon Slayer in the breast.

Katsume fumed. “Watch it, pipsqueak, or I’ll punt you to the moon.”

“It would be worth it,” Inari nodded, eyes huge.

Yukiko sighed. “Inari, take Ger and get something to eat. I’ll calm the savage beast.”

“Who you calling savage?” Katsume bellowed.

Yukiko gave her a bored glare. The Demon Slayer met it for a moment, then slowly, backed down as she remembered she was wearing nothing but a towel, and that, only barely.

“Fine,” the nine tails sighed. “We’ll bring some back for the two of you. Hang a sock or something if we should spy discreetly.”

“Go,” Yukiko snapped, jabbing a finger at the door. The two vanished instantly.

“I swear to Sora, as if the damn fox wasn’t bad enough, now we got a sneaky Goblin to worry about as well,” Katsume huffed, folding her arms as Yukiko closed the door.

“Destroying property won’t make the situation better,” the demon girl replied, waving a hand at the destroyed wall.

“Yeah, well,” Katsume stammered, scratching the back of her head.

“Do you ever think before you act? I’d seriously like to know if we’re going to keep traveling together.” Yukiko shook her head as she examined the wall, but found it to ruined to even hope to do anything about.

Katsume glared at her for a moment. “Sorry.”

Yukiko froze, slowly turning to face the red headed warrior. “Say again?”

“I said, I’m sorry,” Katsume sighed. “No, I don’t always think first, and yes, I know I should. I just sort of go on instinct.”

Yukiko nodded slowly, then poked her breast again. “Katsume? Is that really you?”

“Try that again, squirt, and I’ll shove your hand up your ass.”

“Yup, it’s you,” Yukiko nodded. “Just checking to be sure.”

“Funny,” Katsume snarled.

“One of us has to be, I guess,” the demon girl replied as she started cleaning up the mess. “We can’t go on like we have, after all. It’s gotten us nowhere. To be frank, you’ve got more anger than I do, so I’ll let you be the grouchy one.”

Katsume stared at her in shock. “I’m not grouchy. I’m just, you know, intense.”

“Okay,” Yukiko nodded. “Run with that.”

“I’m serious,” the Demon Slayer argued. “I’m not grouchy. I’m just…”

Yukiko looked over her shoulder. “Just what?”

To her surprise, Katsume knelt and began gathering broken pieces of frame. “I’m angry. You’re right. I can’t help it, and I don’t know what to do about it.”

Yukiko stared at her for a moment, overwhelmed by the grief in the other woman’s face. “Can I ask why?”

Katsume paused, holding the shattered wood fragments. “My parents were killed by a demon.”

Yukiko leaned back, staggered. “Oh, Katsume. I’m sorry. I didn’t know.”

“I know,” the other woman nodded. “I should have told you sooner, and to be honest, I can’t think of a single reason why I didn’t. It’s why I’m doing all of this, you see. I need to get stronger, better, so I can find and kill the demon that murdered them in front of me.”

Yukiko nodded slowly. “Are they the ones that gave you that pendant?”

“No, not them,” she smiled. “Shoki was my fathers, and the armor I wear was my mothers. It’s all I’ve got left of them. The pendant, though, that was given to me by another. My fiancee, Osamu. Before I left to hunt the demon and get my vengeance, he gave it to me, so we’d never truly be apart.”

Yukiko nodded her head. “I see. I can’t imagine how precious it is to you then.”

“More than that,” Katsume told her. “It’s all I have to remind me that there is another life awaiting me, back home. It keeps me from doing too many stupid things. It ties me to him, and the fact that he’s waiting for me.”

“It doesn’t seem to work all that well,” Yukiko pointed out with a smile.

Katsume looked at her in surprise, then slowly smiled as well. “No, I guess it doesn’t. Maybe I need something else to keep me from getting myself killed.”

“I recommend some common sense,” Yukiko laughed.

“Or a friend,” Katsume replied.

Yukiko felt her tongue go dead. Looking at the other woman she had traveled with for weeks now, she felt as if she was seeing her for the first time. There was no sign of the usual brash and arrogant manner present, only another lost soul, needing comfort.

“I think we both could do with a friend,” she said at last, resting a hand on Katsume’s shoulder.

“Maybe so,” the other woman agreed. “I know I’m a bitch most of the time, but I can try to be a bit nicer, I think, if you’ll stick with me.”

“Of course I will,” Yukiko smiled. “Why wouldn’t I? Besides Inari, it’s not like I’ve got a huge circle of friends.”

“I meant, you know, Kieskei,” Katsume mumbled.

“Oh,” Yukiko flushed. “I’m not sure what you mean.”

“You like him,” the Demon Slayer told her.

Yukiko felt her flush deepen. “It’s not like it would ever go anywhere. I mean, he’s a devil hunter and I’m a demon.”

“My father was a Demon Slayer,” Katsume replied. “My mother was a demon. It can go somewhere.”

Yukiko blinked. “Do you really think so?”

Katsume shrugged. “I don’t see why not. The only thing is, you’ll end up with a kid like me.”

Yukiko went a violent shade of red. “Who’s talking about kids?”

Katsume laughed at that. “Relax, I’m just saying that there’s no reason you two couldn’t have a relationship if you wanted. I just hope you’ll stick with me for a while.”

“Maybe we can all stick together,” Yukiko said quickly. “I mean, Kieskei has these Twelve Sacred Demons to find and all.”

Katsume cocked her head and pondered that. “It would be a good chance to test myself against some real powerful demons.”

“Just what I was thinking,” Yukiko nodded, laughing nervously.

Katsume chuckled and stood, holding an armload of debris. “Then that settles it. It Kieskei needs our help, we’ll travel with him for a while. Good thinking, pipsqueak.”

“There’s no chance you’ll stop calling me that, is there?” Yukiko asked, a plaintive tone to her voice.

“Probably not,” Katsume laughed as she took the garbage out of the room.

“I figured as much,” the demon girl sighed. Slowly, though, a smile spread across her face. Things really were looking up.

軍歌

Far away, in the forest where the two had first met the devil hunter, the scattered remains of Junto had been crawling ever closer to each other. Tattered and scorched though they were, the immortal power of the demon could not truly be stopped.

Nearby, Nushi watched with boredom. Lord Onihone had already taken a place near the village from which to watch what was to come, leaving her to the task of dealing with Junto.

It had taken hours, as well, of waiting for the demon to pull himself together. She was certain she had seen the grass grow a bit in the time it took for his devastated remains to inch ever closer.

Finally, his jaw found the rest of his head and reattached itself. Junto groaned, working it around until it popped. With that, he sighed and waited for his other eye to crawl back into his head.

“Took you long enough,” Nushi grumbled.

“Eh? Who’s there?” Junto growled as he worked his head around to look at her. “Oh, it’s just Lord Onihone’s pet priestess.”

Nushi planted the butt of her glaive on his head. “I’d watch that tongue of yours, demon, unless you want to spend a month looking for it.”

“Sorry, sorry,” Junto grumbled. “What brings you here? Come to gloat over my state, human?”

“Hardly,” she sniffed. “Lord Onihone sent me with a message, should you actually pull yourself together.”

“Did he now,” Junto chuckled. “How gracious of him. What does the Lord have to say?”

“Kieskei Atochi and the two women went to the village,” she replied, jabbing her glaive in the direction they had traveled. “You are to deal with them. Slay them all save the small demon girl.”

“Shit,” Junto spat. “In case you hadn’t noticed, I wasn’t all that successful last time. What makes you think I will be the next time around?”

“They think you dead, so the element of surprise is yours,” she told him. “Plus, you now know how powerful they are. It should be a small matter for a general of Orochi to deal with a demon, a half demon, and a human.”

“Perhaps,” Junto grunted. “Though at this point, I’m inclined to beg off least I have to reassemble myself again. Perhaps the Lord Prince Onihone could be so kind as to screw off and leave me be.”

“Watch your mouth, cur,” Nushi snapped, swinging the glaive around until the sharp tip hovered before the disembodied head.

“I get it,” the demon sighed. “Do it, or else. Fine. Though I think I’ll need some help if I’m to get it done quickly.”

“It’s been arranged,” Nushi told him, swinging the glaive up. “Kamachi is on his way, and will assist you.”

“Kamachi, eh?” Junto chuckled. “He’ll do nicely. Alright then, let Lord Onihone know I will tend to this matter for him, as my way of saying thank you for freeing me from my long imprisonment.”

“Do not fail,” Nushi warned. “Or you will suffer as you never have before.”

Junto grunted his understanding as the priestess turned and left, vanishing into the woods with a speed that made the demon wonder if she truly were entirely human. Not that it mattered.

“You and I will have our turn to dance, priestess,” he growled as his body lifted his head to his shoulders and attached it. “Come that day, I’ll eat your heart out. Rest assured of that.”

Turning towards the village, he smiled darkly. “For now, though, I think it’s time I sprung the trap I laid in case Kieskei Atochi got lucky and trapped me again. Soon, I will feast on his heart, and then yours, priestess.”

He couldn’t contain his mirth at what was about to be unleashed, and began laughing as he headed into the woods, bound for the village.

©-2017 Cain S. Latrani

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