A Demon’s Temptations — Part 1
「『Huh. I have no idea what you’ve been going on about, but that’s a good soul you’ve got there. It almost feels like I’ve seen it somewhere before… Well, whatever. It looks delicious, so I might might as well eat you right up too!』」
The demon’s disgusting voice entered my ears as I turned to face it.
「Is that supposed to be a compliment? I’m much rather believe a demon’s ramblings than an angel’s, but I really could care less about what you think.」
I scornfully laughed off the demon’s words as I fixed the grip I had on the【Heart Flame Ghost Blade.】
「『Man, you sure are a merciless one. And you seem like you’re probably a pretty decent swordsman too, with how you lopped my arms off.』」
「Yeah, and? I know your kind. You don’t give a shit. A cut like that doesn’t mean shit to you. Losing a limb or two doesn’t even count for real damage, with your body being how it is.」
「『Oh, you’ve met my brethren before? That supposed to mean you’ve got a good pair of eyes or something? It doesn’t look like it.』」
Demons were, in essence, a subspecies of spirit. All spirits fit into one of eight distinct categories, with the biggest similarity between them being that they were all clumps of mana with consciousnesses. Though there were eight subspecies and eight different elemental systems, the two in fact lacked a one to one mapping. Only six of the eight were based off the elements, with those six being: fire, water, earth, wind, light, and darkness. The two remaining element types, null and non-systematic, didn’t have any spirits associated with them even though they were elements for which people could have affinities. The last subspecies of spirits were instead classified as angels and demons. Personally, I hated them both even though they were on the exact opposite ends of the spectrum.
That, however, was irrelevant. What did matter was that I was currently staring down one of the aforementioned spirits, specifically the kind that was demonic in nature.
「Let’s just say I’ve had a bit of an odd past, one convoluted enough for me to know that you demons don’t have brethren to begin with.」
「『Wow, what a surprise. So you’re even aware that we don’t see each other as brethren even though we’re of the same make? Silly human, if you know that, then you must also know just how purposeless your opposition is.』」
The demon grinned as it regenerated its arms.
The two limbs I’d cut off dissolved into thin air as the demon healed. It was like the process of restoring himself involved reabsorbing them.
I turned my gaze towards her in response to her incomplete question. She’d collapsed onto the bare earth beneath her, her clothes torn and dirtied.
「Sit still for a bit. I don’t want you dying on me before I recruit you.」
Saying no more, I focused my eyes back on the demon.
「You’re being a bit of a bother. You mind scramming?」
I raised my blade and pointed it towards the inhuman creature as I spoke.
「I don’t want to waste my mana, so I’ll let you off if you run your ass away right this instant.」
「『You think I, being the esteemed demon I am, would run away? And from a delicious looking meal no less? You’ve gotta be kidding me. What the hell, man? You got brain damage or something?』」
「Well, I see you’ve made your choice. Die.」
I poured my mana into the【Heart Flame Ghost Blade,】lighting it ablaze with a blue-white flame as I pursued the demon. Its attempts to open up some distance between us failed. The flickering flames that decorated my sword flashed as I robbed it of its other arm. Light filled the underground prison as the fire spread from my blade to the wound it created.
「『Woah there. So you were a magic swordsman? That does make you a bit more notable, but still, won’t make much of a difference. Your flames are too weak to burn me.』」
I ignored the demon’s words and instead used my time to shred the arm I stole from him.
「『Come on man. You know that’s pointless. All I have to do to make a full recovery is shift my shape a little bit, and I’ll be right as rain again. Just like th—』」
The demon, who’d been acting all high and mighty, froze up in the middle of his sentence.
「Well? Weren’t you going to regenerate?」
「『W-What the hell did you do to me!?』」
「Take a guess.」
Demon’s bodies weren’t made up of flesh and bone. They were just lumps of a specific type of mana given a physical form, meaning they were only able to reabsorb their body parts so long as they remained constructed entirely of their own essence. Its body needed a very specific composition. All I had to do to prevent it from healing was disturb its magical composition by injecting my own mana into the body parts I lopped off.
Purifying its magical essence was effectively the same as filtering a specific type of sand from a dune, a task that was too time consuming to be considered practical mid-combat. My flames, which were in fact fueled by magical energy, would continue to scorch the demon’s body and maim its wound beyond the point of recovery in the meantime.
The【Heart Flame Ghost Blade’s】ability to grant me a spiritual form seemed impressive, but was in fact nothing more than an added bonus. The soulblade’s true worth stemmed from its ability to attack magical and spiritual beings. Its flames could reduce creatures without physical form to ashes; it let me murder angels and demons by mixing my mana with theirs. The whole spiritual form thing was just an alternate application of that same ability.
「『T-That’s impossible…! That isn’t something that you should be even remotely capable of!』」
「Okay, that’s enough of that.」
Demons, being the magic-based creatures they were, typically wouldn’t take much damage from anything other than spells that made use of the the holy element, a higher tier version of the light element.
And as a result, the species’ members had the tendency to adopt a fighting style that involved outright ignoring their opponent’s attacks. They would typically brute force their way through their enemies by sitting there and casting powerful spells with long chants. For that reason, the demon found itself confused and incapable of a proper reaction to my attack. Its motions were filled with numerous fatal flaws.
I stepped forward and positioned myself right in its face as I raised my blade in an upwards slash. The blow tore both its left wing and other arm from its body.
「Yeah, no. You’re not getting away like that either.」
The demon leapt backwards while hurriedly altering its magical makeup and dematerializing itself, a tactic that would’ve worked on anyone but me. My ghost blade provided me the passive ability to see it even its dematerialized form.
I swung my sword diagonally over my shoulder, severing the demon’s entire right leg and everything under the knee on its left. Naturally, I made sure I cut the demon in such a way that it wouldn’t be able to regenerate.
「『W-Why the hell can you see me!? How the hell is that sword cutting me when I have no physical form!?』」
「What are you, stupid? Do I look like the type of softie that’d be dumb enough to explain my methods to you? You should know that already, demon. Can’t you see into my soul?」
「『Motherfucker! What the hell are you!?』」
Having lost its balance, the demon fell over.
It was game over. The demon no longer had any means to move. It couldn’t even fly seeing as how one of its wings had already been removed. It was far too close to me for it to actually complete any sort of magical incantation. I could easily destroy it the moment it tried.
「You demons have always believed too much in your bodies and how far they could take you. You don’t feel pain, and you’re able to regenerate almost any damage you take. You lack any semblance of the instinct needed to avoid my attacks. Wow, look how nice I am, explaining everything to you. What do you think? How’s my soul looking right now, demon?」
The demon’s only reaction to my gaze was to tremble.
How rude. I’d even gone out of my way to explain its downfall.
「『W-Wait! Please! This isn’t my fault! T-This is just something I have to do, I was forced into it by the contract I made!』」
My blade’s flames flared up and roared as I poured increasing amounts of mana into the weapon.
「Yeah, I know. You demons can’t do shit unless you enter into a contract. You basically have no effect on the outside world under any other circumstance.」
「『T-That means you’ll let me go, right? I-I won’t kill the girl you’ve got behind you if you do. I’ve already gotten everything I was supposed to have, according to the contract I made. Leaving her alone won’t violate it. Me and that other chick, we already don’t owe each other anything right now. I-I can promise I won’t make another contract with her either.』」
I lifted the blade in my hand above my head.
「『P-Please man, just let me go… Lend me a hand here, man…』」
「Nah. I hate it when people I could care less about ask me for help.」
「『S-stop it! No! Don’t! Please!』」
I readied myself to swing—
—only to be physically halted the moment before I could.
「Huh? What the hell are you trying to do?」
Shuria, the girl the demon had been torturing up until just a few moments prior, wrapped her arms around me in a desperate attempt to prevent me from executing it. My first instinct was to assume that she’d been charmed, but I knew that wasn’t right. I’d been constantly keeping tabs on her status in order to make sure I wasn’t caught off guard by that exact thing.
「Don’t kill it, Kaito.」
Shame filled me the moment I saw her hate-filled eyes. I couldn’t believe myself for overlooking what I had.
「I won’t let you kill it! I want to be the one that kills it!」
「Right… Good point. I should’ve known you wouldn’t want me to poach your prey.」
I would’ve felt the same if I were in her boat. I’d also be mad if some random smug looking douchebag that knew nothing of my suffering came out of nowhere and killed the person I wanted to take vengeance on before I could get to them. Mad enough to kill, at that.
I wouldn’t mind if other people joined in my vengeance, even if their reasons for seeking it differed from my own, but there was no way I could tolerate being unable to participate. Just watching was the same as getting cucked. It was, in and of itself, a form of torture. I’d rather sit on a chair made out of molten lava than idle around and watch as someone else got revenge on whatever it was I wanted to personally end.
（…It does seem like it could work. The demon will need a fair amount of time to recover.）
I glanced at the demon and confirmed that it was trying to take in magical energy from its surroundings despite being taken aback. It seemed to have either assumed that I wouldn’t notice, or figured that it had no choice but to attempt it even if I did.
Either way, it looked like I had enough time to finish what I’d come to do before it healed.
「Shuria, I’m here today because I wanted to hand you a sort of offer.」
I absorbed the magical energy I poured into the【Heart Flame Ghost Blade,】forced her off of me, and then turned to face her.
She ended up falling onto her hands and knees as I pushed her away.
「I’ve got a good idea of what that bitch did to you and I think I know exactly how you’re feeling right now. You hate her. You want vengeance. You can’t help but want to tear her apart with your own two hands, right?」
An expression of displeasure found its way onto her face the moment the words left my mouth. She glared at me, a murderous glint in her eyes, one I recognized and knew very well.
She was pissed, pissed that someone who knew nothing about her and her pains was acting like he understood her, pissed that someone was attempting to empathize with her even though they clearly couldn’t.
「And I’m sure you feel the way about that demon over there. You want to be a part of its fall, its demise.」
I hit the nail on the head. She and I had a lot in common, but we weren’t accomplices, nor were we partners in crime. Although our backstories were near identical, we were incapable of truly feeling each other’s pain.
And that would remain true regardless of how many conversations we had.
「But as you are now, you’re powerless. You can’t do anything to it regardless of how injured it is.」
「I-I know, but I still—」
I interrupted her by sending a wave of magic-laced bloodlust in her direction, one powerful enough to attack her instincts and force her down with brute physical force.
「It’s a pity, but still the truth. At this rate, you won’t be able to do a thing, not to the demon, nor to Yumis. I’ll murder her in cold blood without allowing you even the slightest bit of involvement. I could care less about how you feel, or what she’s done to you. There’s no reason for me to yield anything to you.」
Shuria leapt at me. She pushed herself to attack me even though I’d sent enough bloodlust her way to repel her.
The attack wasn’t one she’d thought through or planned. She simply lunged at me because she’d come to recognize me as a foe, someone that’d get in her way. To be frank, it was meaningless. There was no way she’d hit. I dodged her with ease, grabbed her by the back of her collar, dropped her to the ground, and pressed one of my feet against her back to restrain her.
「Rgghh… Get off of me…!」
「Do you know why you lost everything, Shuria? It’s because you lacked knowledge. You didn’t know what would happen because you were too naive to think far enough ahead, too green.」
「You were too lacking, both in strength and willpower. The world you live in is a horrible place. You can’t get by believing in it or its people’s kindness. What you need is doubt, a blanket of doubt that covers every last fibre of your being.」
「You tried too hard to believe in the people around you. You clung too hard to the concept of trust. And look at you now, look what it’s done. They played you for a fool, and only because you let them. You washed your own suspicions away and tricked yourself into thinking everything was fine, all because you wanted to think you could “trust” her. And that, that’s why you’re here right now. That’s why your life has become a living hell. You weren’t a bad person; you didn’t do anything you shouldn’t have. But it was still your fault. Here you are, at rock bottom, because you neglected your responsibilities, because you wanted to trust her.」
「I know! I know that already, and I don’t need you telling it to me!」
Her eyes blazed with a dark, fiery passion.
A pitch black conflagration had lit itself within her, one she had no idea how to expel.
「Hurts, doesn’t it? How about this, I’ll lift my foot if you swear that you’ll give up on exacting vengeance.」
「Fuck… off!! Yumis, that two faced whore, is my prey!」
「I’ll get you out of here if you give up on her. I really do feel sorry for you, so I’ll even give you some cash. You can find a place for yourself out in the countryside and live the rest of your life out in peace.」
「Screw off! How’s that any different from being dead!?」
Madness filled her voice as she continued.
「I’m going to kill her. I’m going to fucking murder her! I’d much rather die than forget about all the pain she’s caused!」
Shuria loosed an almost bestial shout, a proclamation that she’d much rather die than be deprived a chance to take her vengeance.
All reason had left her.
Her scream hadn’t contained even the slightest bit of rationality.
Her tantrum was almost like that of a newborn’s. Within it was the unshakeable will to live, to truly live.
No, it wasn’t like a newborn’s.
It was a newborn’s.
Her cry had signified the birth of an insurgent, a renegade with naught but her own desires at heart.
She rolled to the side, bared her fangs, and bit at my leg without even the slightest shred of hesitation the moment I lifted if off her back.
There was no more fear in her, only strength.
「You sure are a reckless one, huh?」
「Why… aren’t you fighting back?」
At first, she was suspicious of my complete lack of resistance, but her jaws eventually began to slacken.
「Because I deserved it. It was just for confirmation sake, but still. I spouted a bunch of annoying bullshit at you, and I know it.」
She continued to stare at me in an attempt to figure out my intentions, her eyes filled with suspicion.
「Have you already forgotten the first thing I said? I’m here to recruit you, Shuria.」
I squatted down in front of her now that she’d finally stopped struggling, and looked her straight in the eyes.
「You said you would rather die than forget your vengeance. And so, Shuria, I have an offer for you.」
I extended a hand towards her.
「Would you like to be reborn, here and now?」
I paused for a moment before elaborating.
「Won’t you join me down vengeance’s path?」