Volume 3: Chapter 23: Terms of Contract
It all started as an ordinary day, Ras clan, although weakened, existed in stable condition. The servants carried on with their duties, everyone was carefree, and after all, they belonged to the clan of the Demon King. Presence of someone who led the entirety of demon kind as their patriarch was a great moral boost. As long as Akil Ras was there, they felt like that they would be safe.
But one day, when Akil Ras went away from his clan’s territory just for a few hours, the Ras clan was sacked by humans. Not just ordinary humans, but humans with silver knives wearing strange robes, they came out of nowhere, taking all of the demons within Ras clan by surprise. Soon, a massacre followed.
Kokjan fought bravely against the intruders, but then, she heard a cry followed by a sound of a slash. It was inside her family house. Then, there were other sounds; it was clear there was a battle going on in the inside. She ran towards her home while the servants and the soldiers of Ras clan fell one after another to blades of humans.
By the time she had arrived, both her brothers were killed with stab marks to their chests, and her mother’s body lay on the ground, beheaded.
As her mind could not comprehend the horror of her situation, she froze for a moment, and then she felt blood trickle down her shirt. Everything happened in just a moment, she did not know what happened until it hit her.
Someone just stabbed her from the front, right into one of her hearts. Luckily for her, she possessed two hearts, but it was still a critical injury. Some Ras clan members possess two hearts, but out of her family, only Kokjan had such a unique feature.
She did not see him come at her, nay; it was as if he just appeared out of nowhere, just to deliver the strike to her heart. And with application of lightning magic, she felt electricity transmitted into her body through the stabbed area. She felt her limbs lose their feeling and her sight started to blur.
Her body limply fell on the floor.
The assassin was wearing clothing that concealed every inch of his body, even his face was covered by a mask of a smiling devil. Who was he? Why is he doing this?
“Perfect. Now to wait until Demon King shows up.”
To her horror, she realized that this was a setup, a trap for her father, the 56th Demon King. This man, his voice was masculine, what is he planning to do?
This assassin, did he intend to kill the Demon King? But that is preposterous, not to mention ludicrous! None could beat her father, no, that is not possible.
Yet, her father’s arrival confirmed her worst fears.
When her father was trying to reassure her that everything would be ok, she gathered her strength to warn him that this was a trap.
But she was too late.
The assassin stabbed the Demon King from behind with his bare hand, but not before her father managed to break his mask with an attack of his own.
There it was, assassin’s face, for everyone to see.
His face, she memorized it well, it looked more human-like than any demon she has seen, only a single horn adorned his head, with his left eye glowing; it was obviously a demon eye.
He introduced himself as Hand of Death, and then shortly after, he beheaded her father, leaving all of them to burn within their home.
While her heart refused to accept what just happened, her mind managed to stay in control of her slowly dying body.
Despite massive blood loss, Kokjan managed to cast her spell, Travel by Water, which allowed her to use bodies of water to travel to the nearest body of water. Any kind of water can be used as a catalyst, so she used the nearest one available to her. She used her own blood as a catalyst in order to transport herself to a body of water far away.
With her body quickly losing her strength, she ended up within a river near Kas clan’s territory. Before her body bled out, she managed to swim up towards the surface.
Struggling to survive, she dragged herself ashore, and there she lay, her destroyed heart making it hard to move, but her second heart was not about to give up. Somehow, she managed to drag herself to a cave, where she finally passed out.
She did not know how long she slept; it could have been days or weeks. Plagued by nightmares, her father’s beheaded corpse, and the twisted face of the assassin wearing a smile as he killed everyone one by one, she forced her body to heal from the critical damage.
Yet, every time she closed her eyes, same vision would come ceaselessly. Her memories had her clan perish again and again, with the face of her father’s killer appearing within her dreams, smiling maniacally.
It was as if he was mocking her for her weakness, for her inability to protect her loved ones, but deep down, she knew it was her own guilt that was eating her away. She was not strong enough to help them, now they were lost to her forever.
Even if she managed to survive, her injuries were too deep, she lay within the cave, eating any small insect or animal that was unlucky enough to come near her and drinking the rain water. On a diet of mostly insects, snakes, and lizards, she began her slow recovery process after losing so much blood.
Slowly, she healed, but due to the time it took for her to recover, she ended up missing the first trial. She no longer had the chance to become the Demon King.
Thinking that all was lost, she stayed within the cave, watching Kas clan from within it. To her, nothing mattered anymore, she might as well die, but the face she kept seeing within her dreams kept her alive, if only for vengeance. Vengeance became her sole reason for staying alive, otherwise, in current circumstances, death would have been preferable.
After more than a month, she managed to recover almost completely, she was still missing a heart, but she no longer was at a dire condition. She could finally move her body without any pain.
But then, she heard a commotion within Kas clan territory, when she flew up by manifesting her wings in her true demon form, she saw a battle unfold within Kas clan territory. Apparently another clan had attacked Kas clan.
Not wishing to be involved in a conflict, she wisely kept her distance, hiding behind trees or large rocks, all the while watching the events unfold.
Eventually, Kas clan lost, and the clan that invaded their territory had emerged victorious.
She witnessed as they were walking back to their territory in celebratory mood. While looking at the clan members, she saw a familiar face; it was her sister, Kizilkoz.
The joy she felt when she saw at least one member of her family alive was indescribable.
Kizilkoz, you are alive, you are ok…
However, the feeling of relief vanished completely when she saw the individual walking nearby her sister.
Her happiness turned to horror in an instant.
That face. There was no mistaking it. It was the same face as the one she saw that night when her clan fell. He did not seem to have horn or demon eye though, but aside from that, he looked exactly same as she remembered.
That bastard…Why is he there? Why is Kizilkoz with him? What has he done to her?
Fury swelled up within her body likes of which she had never felt, this demon, not only did he destroy her clan, kill her father, and left her to die, but he also tricked her beloved sister to be his servant.
Not even Great Ones can forgive an offense of such level.
As she saw the emblem of the clan, she realized that the murderer was from Tengu clan, thus he would be under Korgan Karatengu’s protection.
Korgan Karatengu…Don’t tell me, is he involved as well? But that can’t be, my father and Korgan Karatengu were sworn brothers, he would never…
…Unless he did not know about it.
That was the only viable explanation. However, that also meant that while this demon was within Karatengu territory, Kokjan could not hope to kill him.
So, she chose to wait for the perfect opportunity to strike, to avenge her father, her family, and her clan.
Hand of Death, you will regret messing with my clan! I will have my revenge!
* * *
“I know Master Morphus gave you the order to get rid of the Demon King, but I never thought you would actually do it.” A masked demon with silver horns addressed her compatriot and technical superior, Hand of Death or Death Hand.
They were meeting within a house on the outskirts of the demon city, away from the prying eyes.
“Orders are orders, that is all there is to it.” That was his terse reply, this demon, although he was very effective, he also possessed a very cold demeanor. However, it was perfect attitude for a killer.
“Yet, I am curious, how did you persuade the Pishak Priests to attack the Ras clan and was it necessary to get rid of the entire clan?”
“It was the easiest way to draw the king out and catch him off guard. I needed the help of humans in order to not attract attention to myself, and when the main forces of the clan were busy with them, I got rid of the strong ones, one by one. Pishak Priests were easy to persuade, just pretend to be human and tell them that the demon clan is at its most vulnerable, they practically begged me to lead them to the Ras clan when I told them.”
“What did they ask for compensation?”
“I told them they could take anything they want, apparently they wanted the demon corpses for some reason, I did not mind.”
Although he was ill suited to fighting multiple foes, there was none among the Divine Lords who was equal to Death Hand in terms of assassination skills. No matter who the opponent was, he will surely find a way of killing them. If it was a matter of eliminating a single target, he was the right person for the job.
Both of them were the only representatives of Divine Lords, whose actual base of operations was located in other world, called Axum. This reality, the one the demon kingdom of Kalkan resides in, is located in a world called Sulum. The world that is occupied by humans is called Alem.
With certain means, like crossing portals or passing through barriers when they do not separate worlds, they were able to sneak into the demon Realm of Sulum, under Morphus’s orders.
It all started with Alem, nine hundred years ago, First Demon King stole over half of the human kingdom’s land and transported it to another world which came to be called Sulum, the safe haven for demon kind.
As for Axum, it was a reality which Master Morphus had personally founded and all of his forces he sends in order to disrupt the order of world of Alem come from there.
Among his forces, the highest elite, the ones who take orders personally from him are called Divine Lords. There are less than twenty members. Not all of them knew about each other, some, like Death Hand, even wore disguises at all times to prevent being recognized.
In every realm they operate in, they have spies and observers reporting in and feeding information to the Divine Lords that were sent on a mission.
For this mission, member of Divine Lords, Death Hand, was sent to personally take care of the matters.
The goal of the plan was for Kalkan kingdom to find a new ruler who will be in favor for a full on invasion of human kingdom in the realm of Alem. Such a leader must be found or created if there isn’t one.
It was only a single phase of the master plan, but it had to be done accordingly. Death Hand was free to carry out the plan any way he chose to, as long as he got the desired results.
However, Master Morphus made it clear that the previous Demon King, Akil Ras, had to be removed from the picture.
A little over a decade ago, many demons led by their leaders chose to wage war against the human realm. Demon King was opposed to this and so were the humans.
Demon King led the demons to suppress the warmongers with his own forces within Sulum while the humans slew the demons that managed to invade into the human world.
This cemented Akil Ras as a pacifist ruler, who wanted to just let things be instead of waging war against humanity, but as a result of suppressing the warmongers, his clan’s strength declined, and many demons perceived Akil Ras as a weak leader, many even plotted to overthrow him.
Little did he know that he wouldn’t meet his death at the hands of humans but at the hands of a fellow demon.
“How curious, by demon way of measuring levels of strength, you are most definitely a Demon Lord level demon, somewhere between silver and gold rank. It is impressive that someone so young can be so strong.”
“Don’t concern yourself too much about it, Silver Sparrow.”
Death Hand addressed his informant. She was the one who provided him all the details, names of clans, and the important things to watch out for. She was also the one who observed any events that occurred with her power of clairvoyance.
Silver Sparrow was sent here long before Death Hand arrived, to collect enough information, so when he arrived, there would be no unwelcome surprises.
Silver Sparrow, nicknamed as such due to her silver wings and two silver horns. Death Hand was once told that she once was a demon who lost her horns and wings, but Master Morphus restored them with silver replacements. Although they looked just like the organic horns, the silver shine was still a little unnerving.
As her horns were replaced, she was able to access her demon eyes, but instead of usual white glow, her eyes glowed crystalline silver when using them. Her demon eyes possessed a single ability, the ‘Bird’ Eye View’, which allowed her to watch anyone within a certain range no matter where the person was. The range was proportional to how much mana was used on her demon eyes.
Using this ability, she kept track of all the perceivable events that happened among demon clans, while making sure to stay hidden. As such, her contributions as an informant were enormous.
“Still, even if you are trying to find a suitable person to become a king, why participate in the Trials yourself?”
“To weed out the weaklings, off course.”
Unlike the Silver Sparrow, who was not wearing a mask to conceal her face, Death Hand constantly wore a mask; she never once caught him without it, he even ate with scarf over most of his face. It made conversations a little awkward.
Apparently his face being seen was a very bothersome business to him. It is understandable, in the human kingdom of Tazak, he is the most wanted assassin, while none knows what he looks like, and he never wanted to leave his face to be seen by chance. It is said that all those who saw his face were shortly killed by him. Master Morphus trained him to be a very discreet and leave no evidence of his actions.
And apparently, he likes masks.
If judged by rank alone, as an informant, Silver Sparrow was a subordinated to Death Hand, who technically was her superior. Yet, there was an awkward fact that Death Hand was most likely far younger than her. She was in her late thirties, while Death Hand, she suspected, was not even twenty.
“And if there is none who can best you or if there is none suitable to lead the invasions against the human realm or fit the needed criteria, what will you do?”
“If none like that shows up, then I guess I will just have to crown myself a king.” Death Hand shrugged as if that was the most obvious answer.
He meant that if none would lead the invasion, he might as well be the one who will push it forward.
“I suppose that is one way of doing it. However, do not be overconfident, there are those among demons that possess extraordinary strengths, and among them, Phoenix demons are most dangerous.”
“I met one already, he was weak.”
“Kin Altyn, yes, I saw what happened. But I fear that he was the weakest one among the five sons of Altyn clan’s patriarch. There are other strong members in Altyn clan’s branch families as well. Among other clans, there might be those who have reached the level of silver or gold, making them Demon Lord Level. You may have managed to kill the king, but only because he let his guard down, had it been a one on one fight, you would have surely perished.”
“That is why I never fight fair. After all, my job is not to fight with honor, but to kill efficiently.”
“It is as you say. But for the sake of caution, I will give you this.” She manifested a silver bracelet in her hand.
“Wear this and I will be able to keep track of you and see everywhere you go, I will be able to see if you are in danger, no matter where the trials send you, and if need be, I will be able to teleport myself to your location, if such need arises.”
“In a sense, you will be my backup, is that so?”
“Fine by me.” He proceeded to put the silver bracelet on his left arm.
When he was about to leave, Silver Sparrow called out to him.
“Demon King’s daughter is alive; if she finds you she will seek revenge.”
“Then I will just have to send her to the same place as her dear father.”
Death Hand replied before activating his single demon eye, in his left eye.
His demon eye, unlike the other demon eyes, was not a pair, but singular, manifesting only in one eye. He was told that was because he was born together with another, as such, he only had a single horn and one demon eye.
The power of his demon eye was ‘Light’, which he mainly used in order to teleport from one location to another. It used up mana proportional to the distance traveled. As any type of teleportation, he could use it to travel between realms, but if he were to say, teleport himself from demon realm of Sulum to human realm of Alem, it would take enormous amount of mana, it would quite literally send him to the death’s edge.
Because of this, he refrained from using his demon eye to teleport over very large distances. At first he thought that his demon eye just had the ability to teleport, but soon he found out that it was only the derivative power of his demon eye. The real power is that allowed him to access the element of light, which along with element of Darkness, was an extremely rare element to possess. However, he could only use light element with his demon eye instead of his whole body, and overuse caused him to initially pass out from strain.
Demon eyes, like any kind of power can be trained and developed, each in their own different ways. In his case, he learned to use it sparingly for long distances, while using it consecutively over short distances. While his mana reserves were very large by demon standards, they were not infinite. If he used them up for a single extremely long distance teleportation or teleportation between realms, then his body would use up nearly all the mana in his body, leaving him passed out and vulnerable. However, using his demon eye over short distances, allowed him to use it multiple times in succession, he could probably use it twenty times in single day before he feels any mana drain effects.
“Second trial shall start shortly, if there is any information that I will need to know, you can send them through your ring.”
Each member of Divine Overlords and other trusted subordinates of Morphus had rings that could teleport objects in between them. Master Morphus used it in order to pay salary to his subordinates.
Now, with a flash of light, Death Hand vanished, teleporting somewhere else, somewhere none would find him.
I am not surprised that Altyn clan or even any of the other clans are participating, but why is Karatengu clan going in a well? Omir is dead, Ymit is dead, Master Korgan is not legible to enter the trials and he is far too old, but someone is leading them, someone strong, yet despite how much I scry, I cannot find anyone who could be their mysterious leader.
No matter, if they get in Death Hand’s way, they will perish, however, that would break Master Korgan’s heart. He already lost so much….Get a hold of yourself! Ymit is gone! Now the only thing left to do is follow Master Morphus’s orders….
It doesn’t matter if there are any past regrets, my beloved one is gone now, and even the child who I came to love as my own is most likely dead as well. There is none left waiting for me here…
* * *
It was all a lie.
Everything up to now was a huge lie.
Kizilkoz couldn’t believe what a fool she had been up till now.
When he clan got raided by Pishak Priests, they managed to capture her alive, with her limbs tied, mana concealing collar put on her neck, she was put inside of a wooden chest.
She always thought that she got lucky and that Ren had somehow accidentally saved her by putting a trap in the middle of the road, so that her kidnappers who were carrying the chest perished, while she remained safe.
But that was no accident, was it? None sane would put a trap in the middle of the road, unless they know they will catch someone in it. I should have been suspicious of him from the get go based on that fact alone, yet, I allowed myself to believe in him. I trusted him….
But there is no such thing as coincidence.
He had planned this out. After causing the downfall of her clan and murdering her father, he laid a trap so that her supposed kidnappers would be caught in it, and she would be tricked into trusting him.
When he brought me to the Karatengu territory, I thought my hopes were answered. After I learned that Ren was Karatengu, I thought we could be allies, working together just like our forefather have before us…But now I know, I have been deluding myself.
How fun it must have been for him to pretend to be my friend while he was the one who took everything away from me. Always pretending to be a hopeless fool just to have me let down my guard and even start admiring him…He toyed with me, from the get go.
Kizilkoz now confirmed her worst fears, Ren Karatengu was no fool, not even close, and he was the hidden master mind pulling all the strings, making all the events unfold.
I thought if I allied with him, I might be able to avenge my clan, not even knowing that I made contract with the one who destroyed my clan in the first place…I am such a fool.
Shaking his bloody, murderous hands, with my own…Making a binding promise that cannot be taken away…What have I done?
Kizilkoz felt like sobbing on the inside, but she chose to hold back her tears as much as she could, but even then, she felt something warm flow down her face.
Don’t cry…Don’t cry…Not in front of him…not in front of me enemy!
“Kizilkoz, I …” Ren was about to begin.
He took away my clan, my family, my father, and practically enslaved me. Now I understand, my real enemy is not humans, it is YOU!!!
“Shut up.” Without looking back at him, she tersely replied.
“I am tired of your lies.”
She now turned around, while everyone was looking, her red eyes, full of fury, were streaming down with tears, but her wrath was far greater than her grief.
“You knew all along who I am, didn’t you?”
“I did.” Ren affirmed it. His grandfather told him she was daughter of Demon King, Akil Ras.
“So it is true.” She clenched her fists, but as if her hands were shackled, she could not move them to tear his neck apart.
“You killed my father, 56th Demon King, Akil Ras.” Her voice was clam but it was obvious that had she a choice, she would be violently beating him to the brink of death. “You destroyed my clan, murdered my family, and then had me make a contract of loyalty to you, all the while ignorant of who you truly are. But now I know. I know everything.”
She finally placed all the puzzle pieces together. Nothing happened by luck or chance, there is always someone who is controlling everyone behind the shadows, but she realized too late that he already had her by the strings.
Ignoring the other demons that had their mouths open in disbelief at the revelation, she walked up to Ren, and mustering all her strength she attempted to punch him, but her hand wouldn’t touch his face. The contract bound her with loyalty, thus such act of betrayal was not allowed.
Lowering her hand, she spoke.
“As long as this contract remains, I am bound to be loyal to you.”
She said it with so much anger transmitting through the air that Ren almost had a panic attack, yet he persisted in calmly meeting her gaze.
“It appears so. Then what now?”
“By the Terms of Contract, I am obligated to be loyal to you until we reach the final stage of the Selection. But know this, when I shall become the Demon King, I shall personally slay you.”
“So be it.” Ren nodded in agreement.
With the entire Karatengu group in an awkward atmosphere after the assassin’s attack and the subsequent revelation, Ren walked in front with other following behind him. None spoke a word, each had a different look on their faces, it was obvious none was sure how to take the news. Behind everyone was Kizilkoz, who was begrudgingly following them. It was as if her body was no longer obeying her will, instead enforcing her contract.
Oh goodness…What just happened? Why in the name of bloody murder does Kizilkoz think I murdered her father? She looked so scary that I froze when she accused me of killing her clan. Does she really think I am capable of doing something like that? Me? I am the physically weakest demon among the Tengu clan, for crying out loud! Even female demons are stronger than me!
Why does she seem so convinced that I did something like that?
Why would her sister sprout such a bloody lie?
I am a simple gardening demon. How did I get myself involved in something this convoluted?
She wants to kill me, she is staring daggers into my back…I can feel it. If it wasn’t for that contract we made, she would already have killed me.
I am so scared….How did I end up in such a mess?!
Please, someone help!