A man stands near a large door, looking out at the rain. “Was it all that you imagined it would be?”
“Ahh, I thought I would be happy watching him die, but…”
“You became friends. Developed strong feelings for him. When you were placed into that body, there is no way you could have known how it would affect you. Don’t you think it is time you…”
“Ahh, is this what we are Atsuki, simply demons of the Nakamaru?”
“Little brother, you always think way too much.”
“Ahh, you say I think too much, yet you are the one that is always….” He halted his words.
“Shiano, just let it go.”
“Ahh, don’t call me that.”
“I kept a body alive for you, I take it that it will not be needed? Do you think it is wise to remain in that form?”
“Ahh, I still feel her touch. I won’t allow Hero to harm her. He got what he wanted, we assisted him in destroying the clans, the gods, there is not enough left to make a difference.”
“He fears that Kazuma will find a way to be reincarnated.”
“Ahh, even if Kazuma does, he will be a child.”
“We both know there is another way for him to return.”
“Ahh, Kazuma is much to picky and the majority of the Kari are gone. We will deal with what remains as soon as Hero is able to track Tationy’s group.”
“You were so callous in-regards to the daughters of Kazuma…”
He turned as a half smirk formed, “Ahh, he never deserved them as his children. I do not understand men like him.”
“Certainly the Kari are far different from we Nakamaru. Shiano, I know you do not wish to hear my protest, but I must say it again. I feel that remaining in this form is a bad decision. You were nearly killed by those Maiba warriors, had I not happened along at that moment, both you and Tationy would have fallen. My own failure did not anticipate the arrival of Taku so rapidly, otherwise I would have made certain the three of us escaped. Sadly the most I could do, is make it appear as though you were dead.”
“Ahh, you say that, yet you allow that Takahashi to talk about killing her.”
“He will not lay a hand upon her, she is much to valuable an asset. He can talk all he wishes, we will be dealing with him soon enough. At this moment, he is needed.”
A voice forced the two men to stop talking. “I hate to see such a look of unhappiness upon the face of my son. Shinao, you are the son of Myia of the Nakamaru, anything you wish will be yours. If the girl means that much to you, we will not allow anything to happen to her. She is the last of the Tylo clan line and children with her would…”
“I am sorry Shiano, you know I wish to have grandchildren.”
“Ahh, I killed her husband, the man she loved, her friends, what I have to offer is not going to mean much to her.”
“We have the perfect body for you picked out, Shiano.”
“Ahh, I don’t want it.” He told her simply.
“Shiano, that body is aging. While being Kari certainly slows down the visual signs of time, you will not be able to compete with men younger than you. Tationy is still quite young and it will be easier for a younger man to….”
“Ahh, enough.” He voiced as he left the room.
“He has a lot of anger in him right now.”
“He never expected her to fall in love with him.” Atsuki who was in the body of Togore responded.
“Tell me honestly do you think this woman is worth keeping alive? She has brought great pain to my little Shiano.”
“Shiano, agreed to become Iashi of the Kari. He has been within that body for over thirty years. It is a long time to be away from your clan. He made friends, fell in love, those are connections that sometimes push aside duty. We are Nakamaru, true demons amongst the demon clans. We swap bodies and continue on for centuries, it is not a power that many would understand. We brought down the Empire of Aslann, we brought down the Empire of Torgahdah, it is time we move forward. These lands are ravaged by savages, the Matsuo, the Anami, the Maiba, the Zenaku, the Yamada. Clans that do not wish to progress and love to fight, dominate, and kill. We have managed to get her to journey south toward Thacian. Once she is there, we can finally make our appearance known. Shiano was picked because he is endearing. Unlike many of us, he has the ability to be liked and loved. Now it is a simple matter of making sure they cross paths. Through her, the demons will rise. She is worth it. We are Nakamaru creators of the darkness, masters of the demons, we will not be stopped. We will have a glorious world filled by demons….we had to destroy a few nations and millions of people to accomplish it, but we are so close now.”
“You are right. Kisho’s manipulation of the Gods, centuries ago, forced them to become mortal. His manipulation plotted the course for the demons to rise to power. It unlocked the doorway, it is time we return to our maker. I will journey to Thacian and speak with him, he is the enchanter these days to the King. I will inform him that Tearra is en-route. I know you like this body, Togore is rather powerful, but it is important for all of us to leave these forms. It will be dangerous if she sees us like this. She knows that you, Atsuki are within Togore’s body. Certainly she has been told this information. She may also know from Taku that I am not as I appear to be. The issue comes with Shiano, he does not wish to leave that form. You make sure he does and help that Takahashi to kill those that journey with her. It is important that only she escapes. It will be difficult to manipulate her if others survive.”
“There is nothing to worry about mother, I will not fail.”
“I have no doubts.” She voiced as the two walked outside and Myia who was in the body of Nene of the Ishi, turned into a dragon and flew away.
Atsuki sighed as he entered the homestead to take a seat. He had to wait now for Hero to inform them that he had found the trail of Tationy and those that escaped with her. He did not trust the man, but sometimes it is necessary to take allies where you can get them and there was no denying how powerful he is. It gave him a lot of time to think about the past.
He was born Izumo of the Nakamaru and he wore that name proudly, long before he became Atsuki or possessed the body of Togore. He apprenticed under Mikira, elder of his clan. He was born to Myia, a chalta, witch, mage, there were many things she was called. Myia had no husband and even amongst the Nakamaru there were stories about his conception. Some say he was born of a dragon and Myia, some say Myia was a dragon herself. He had a little brother, named Shiano. Shiano had the eyes of Tearra. Myia never spoke of his brother’s parentage, but the talk was that she seduced Soti Tylo, truth or fiction, it was difficult to say.
“A little birdie told me that I might find my baby brother sitting alone in the elder’s office.” The memory seemed so real, as though it had just happened yesterday. “Why are you hiding in here, little Shiano?”
“I don’t want to do this.”
“You were chosen…”
“I don’t want to do this.” The emotion in his tone was heartbreaking.
“Tearra is a powerful gift. The Zenaku woman I encountered on my journey told of her reincarnation and the plotting of our future prince. It is important little Shiano that we prepare for her arrival. You are special amongst the Nakamaru, that is why you were chosen.”
“The Kari are so far away, I don’t want to leave.”
“No matter the journey, no matter the distance, you and I are connected by blood. I will always be with you even when I no longer exist.”
“Please don’t talk like that. I don’t want to lose you.”
“You will never lose me.” He responded. “Mother is talking to Elder Mikira, word has reached the ears of Kisho and he is coming to see you.”
“You are always so afraid, be strong little Shiano. You are destined for greatness. It will be you, who captures the heart of Tearra. We are going to make certain she sees no other.”
“Manipulation is not love.” Shiano yelled as he stood and ran out of the room.
Atsuki’s attention turned toward his mother as she quickly entered the office. “Elder Mikira is being unreasonable?”
“He wants to stand in the way of progress.”
“What will you do about it, mother?”
“It is too soon to react. His life will be considerably short if he continues to hinder our clans progression. We have the backing of the Matsuo, you have placed spies within the Waichia, the only thing left to do is to prepare my baby for his journey.”
“Do not tell me he has developed a conscience again?”
“He is young, we ask a lot of him.”
“It is for the good of our people that we do this. It will not be easy toppling these nations. It will not be easy manipulating millions. We do what we must to survive. I shall have Kisho speak with him, when he arrives.”
“Do not worry Izumo, the Nakamaru will become more powerful than this world can even comprehend. Once we have the blood….” She stopped talking suddenly as Mikira entered the room.
“If you will excuse me, I need to make preparations for Kisho’s arrival,” Myia said leaving Mikira and Izumo alone.
“You should not be sucked in by your mothers wish for power, Izumo. You are smarter than that.”
“Are we going to be Nakamaru who cower beneath the feet of the other clans forever?”
“With the kind of power we possess, fear will rise easily amongst the other clans. Such fear leads to us being hunted and killed. You need to see the bigger picture. What the Zenaku woman said may be true, but that does not mean we Nakamaru need to react to it. It is a dangerous position we are put in having such knowledge and demons can never truly be controlled. Bringing our world out from the darkness, causes dangers to the very fabric of existence. When lesser demons get a taste for power, the whole world changes and sometimes in the least positive ways. Your mother is more demon than human these days. Remember this, before reacting. What she seeks is far different from what you seek.”
“What do you mean?”
“I could tell you, but you will learn nothing if I explain everything to you. Some paths you have to walk alone. You should find your brother, he does not wish to walk this path with you. What you decide to do next will lock your path. You will not be able to turn back from the course you take, I hope you are prepared for the outcome.” The Elder’s words always gave him pause.
“You are mad at me?” Izumo asked as he knelt down by his brother, whom he found in the library of the Nakamaru clan elder’s estate. He turned his face away and Izumo smiled knowingly. “You know I will not force you to do this. You are the strongest person I know, the strongest amongst the Nakamaru. You are special, beyond the rest of us that is why I ask this of you. They say Tearra is the most beautiful creature to have ever existed. There is a story about her dancing with us demons under the light of the full-moon. Do you want me to tell you the story?”
“So you are angry with me.” Izumo responded, “I am sorry little Shiano, I have placed a heavy burden upon your shoulders. I promise it is for the best.”
“There is no guarantee that this reincarnate will even arrive at the Kari. There is no way of knowing if she will fall in love with this….Iashi of the Kari.”
“It is not Iashi that she will fall in love with, it is you.”
“I am not interested in love.”
“You are young yet, your heart has not yet been seized by love. You will understand the importance of this as you get older, besides your role is not purely to make her fall in love with you. You are meant to keep an eye on Kazuma’s reincarnate and more importantly you are to make certain that Iashi of the Kari does not succeed at the trials. We want to make certain that you are in control of his body, by the time he gets to the final trial. We do not wish for him to die at the hands of Kazuma.”
“This is not right.”
“Tearra forced the hands of her people by refusing to be reincarnated for thousands of years, it is the only way to protect the Nakamaru. If Tearra’s reincarnate returns and rises to power as the future ruler of either Aslann or Shimragata, the Nakamaru will suffer. We will be forced to stay in the darkness and those are the ones lucky enough to survive. Tearra will punish us all for what Kisho did. He was driven by power and the want and desire to have what the Gods had. His manipulations of Ryozo when he descended to Earth to bed mortal women caused this. He infected Ryozo with a powerful desire spell, which infected the Gods when he returned to the heavens. Their kingdom crumbled as they infected each other and in the end, Hisoka abandoned the Heavens, Ryozo was cast out, Tearra chased after Hisoka, Rin ravaged Tearra, and Kazuma was pulled from the heavens by Rin. That is the power of sin, not even the Gods were able to withstand.”
“If Kisho is the cause…”
“Kisho is the first of the Nakamaru, he is to be honored and revered. He like any mortal has sinned and understands his weakness. He understands the dangers he has placed upon his kin. It is why it is so important little Shiano, that we fix what has been done. You have the power to make her see someone other than Kazuma.”
He bowed his head, “I understand.”
“The armies have settled….” Sadamitsu stopped walking and looked upon the Ishi body before him, “Forgive my intrusion you were in deep meditation. I was unaware.”
“Hardly meditation, simply thinking about the past.”
“I see, is there something you wish to atone for?”
“I have no sins.”
“We all have sins. Perhaps, yours are more regrets than what you might consider sins.”
“The Elder of the Nakamaru, Mikira told me once that I could not change my course once I chose to walk this path. I have often found myself wondering if his words were more a warning then advice.”
“Are you thinking about this because of your feelings for Tationy.” There was silence. “You are in love with her, are you not?’
“I am in love with the girl she was, not the girl she is. You would have to have met her, in those days even at a young age she knew exactly what she wanted and was not afraid to do what she had to obtain it.”
“You feel bad for betraying her.”
“She had not seen it coming.”
“Are you so certain that the Prince of Aslann was unaware?”
Atsuki turned his attention on the Anami at his side, “What are you saying?”
“The Prince of Aslann is said to be the most powerful of all Tylo, certainly someone that powerful was aware of your deception.”
“By your reasoning, if that is true, then she has already made preparations to stop me.”
“You knew her, tell me do you think her capable of anticipating your movements?”
Atsuki sighed noticeably, “She was always more dangerous than her guardians.”
“You should be cautious….” Sadamitsu remarked, “I noticed your mother has already departed, I only came to let you know that I as well will be taking my leave. The Chantry waits for my arrival. I will see you and yours in Thacian. Do check in with me when you have arrived.”
Atsuki watched as the Anami priest departed the small homestead that they had turned into their base of operations while they were in the Forest of the Ancients.
His mind could not help, but to replay the words of his elder, the man that he had killed years ago the night that he had sent in the Matsuo assassin squad to scatter the guardians. He had not wished for them to die, it would have made things far more complicated, and back then they were still useful. Now, they were simply in the way. “The only person that can kill a guardian, is a guardian,” He said aloud. He along with his mother had manipulated Sohma. His weakness came out before Taku who had killed him. The Prince had ordered Sadoo to kill Otoha when they crossed paths. Under normal circumstances one might be concerned about the outcome of facing invincible forces like Abe of the Sosa, Taku of the Kensuku, and Chochi of the Waichia, but Atsuki was not worried in the slightest because there was a powerful beast that would do his dirty work. Hero of the Takahashi had taken down the Dragon Lords. Atsuki doubted that even the might of the three strongest guardians could stand against him.
“Ahh, I remember that smile.” Shiano spoke. He stood near the door, causally, like only Iashi of the Kari could.
Atsuki smiled broadened, “I was thinking about the other guardians of the Prince of Aslann. I wonder how they might fair against Hero of the Takahashi. The direct descendant of Cho, is powerful and dangerous.”
“Ahh, I would not underestimate your former allies, brother.”
Atsuki smiled, “Come I want to show you something.” Shiano followed his brother closely as he led the way to a small sitting room. There on the floor unconscious and bound Kuro of the Ishi and Moromari of the Saitama. “You have no idea how difficult it was to capture these two alive.”
“Moromari of the Saitama is a pure-blood, born of two Saitama. He possesses an ability similar to that of the Tylo clan. His mother was a chalta named Aza. She was powerful enough on her own to protect herself and her husband from the Saitama. There is a reason that the Saitama had never tried to kill him. It is said that Aza’s power as a chalta in the lands of Torgahdah could not be matched. Her husband Zixin was a fierce assassin. It was said that he had killed thousands of people and had never once failed a mission. There is only one body other than Moromari’s that I would have preferred and that is the body of Tien of the Kensuku, but his age kept me from taking it. Kuro of the Ishi should be fairly obvious why his body was chosen. As a member of the Ishi he has high-speed regeneration, longevity, and chalta-like abilities. He is the child of Rin, which makes him just as powerful as any god. She also has feelings for him.”
Shiano turned his head quickly to eye his brother, “Ahh, you are mistaken.”
“I am not. When the Prince of Aslann was a child she had feelings for three men. She was influenced heavily by their power, myself, Mikio of the Ishi, and Kuro of the Ishi. Certainly as she got older there were other men, Hiko of the Kari, Taku of the Kensuku, Seiji of the Shima, and through the centuries there have been too many to keep track of, but one thing remains consistent. The sons of Rin can have her if they want her.” He paused a moment before continuing, “You cannot remain in the body of Iashi of the Kari, it is time you relinquish control and allow your mind to be placed within the body of Kuro of the Ishi.”
“Ahh, that is it, I just leave and you kill Iashi?”
“It is the way of things. You know this. You allowed him to live. That was your own weakness. When a Nakamaru assumes the body of another, we devour the soul that way when we leave that body their vessel is vacant. You were young and not adept at the process, it was an understandable mistake, but one that you need to rectify. Take the body of Kuro and make it yours, and I will deal with the vessel of Iashi.” Atsuki placed his hand on Shiano’s shoulder as he left him alone to gather his thoughts. He knew that Shiano would make the right decision.
Shiano’s attention was quickly drawn toward the body of Kuro. There was laughter as the man pushed himself up even with bound hands. He was smiling that devilish smile as he looked straight into the eyes of Shiano, “Your brother talks too much. So you are Shiano of the Nakamaru. There was much speculation about what happened to the bastard son of Soti Tylo. How is that dragon of a mother of yours?” He asked as he casually walked to the sofa and took a seat. With his hand’s bound behind his back he spoke, “Nakamaru clan, always so distasteful in their underhanded tactics.”
“Ahh, don’t talk about my clan.”
“You are going to defend them. Your brother plans to execute an innocent. Iashi of the Kari had no say when you possessed his body. Now you plan to discard it so casually and take mine. You do realize that Iashi is more powerful than I am, it is rather a step down, don’t you think? You go along with your brothers wishes so easily, without question. Tationy told me that she was attracted to that man.” He voiced directing his attention to Moromari who was still unconscious. “Aren’t you at all curious why he has chosen the body that could bring her the most comfort?”
Shiano glared at the man before him.
“I do not know much about all of this chalta business, but there is something I do know. Something your brother is failing to mention.”
“Ahh, what is that?”
“I cannot be possessed. As much as I am Ishi, I am also Hamara. Hamara clan cannot be controlled. You even attempt to enter my body, the blood of Hisoka’s dragon will devour you. That is your brother’s plan. Certainly he is aware of the consequences of trying to possess a Hamara.”
Shiano took a seat on the sofa directly across from Kuro, “Ahh, my brother loves me.”
“Your brother only wishes to save the Nakamaru. He wants power, just like the rest of your clan. You are simply a tool.”
“Ahh, you are lying.”
“Am I? He captured me and Moromari, when he could have simply have captured Kazuma himself. He does not care if Kazuma is resurrected because he already knows that Kazuma is alive and well. There is no fear that Tationy will see Kazuma and rise to the heavens as Tearra. He does not need the body of Kazuma, he needs a body she is attracted to, one she can bed, one who is capable of getting her pregnant. A Saitama is perfect….Let me tell you what your brother has planned. I saw Hero of the Takahashi on the battlefield, he is most likely looking for Tationy using his exceptional tracking skills. The goal is just for him to discover their location, but Chochi of the Waichia is powerful enough to sense him. He will engage in battle against the guardians of the Prince. They will be killed. Your brother, even with the power of Togore cannot risk facing off against the Guardians of the Prince of Aslann because he will surely be killed. Hero is the direct descendant of Cho of the Takahasi. He was capable of killing the Dragon Lords on his own. He has the power to kill the Gods, so the guardians of the Prince of Aslann will mean nothing to him.”
Shiano looked toward the corner of the room, his mind mauling over everything that Kuro had said.
“Were you always in control?”
“Ahh, no.” He responded honestly. “Most of the time Iashi was just along for the ride, but there were times I allowed him to have control. I was not interested in the girl. I knew what was required of me, but…it was easier to allow him to spend the time with her. There were other times when he broke free of my control, not often, but he has not talked to me in a while not since I killed the daughters of Kazuma.”
“You can stop this.”
“Ahh, I can’t. I never wanted to be a part of this to begin with, it is to late now.”
“It is never to late. Release Iashi of the Kari by leaving his body. Allow him to fix what you have allowed to happen.”
“He is powerful enough to kill your brother, let him loose.”
“Ahh, you do not understand.”
“I understand what it is like to have a brother more powerful than you. I understand what it is like to be small and insignificant. I understand what it is like to be unable to say no. I am Ishi, these things are not foreign to me. If you want that feeling to go away, you have to fix what you have become a part of.”
His memories focused in on a different time, just after he had taken control of the body of Iashi of the Kari. “A little birdie told me that I might find a small Kari child…” Those words made him instantly think of his big brother, even though he was certain that was never the intent.
He stumbled over his words, getting used to saying ahh before every sentence was proving to be difficult, “Ahh, Elder Bingwen, is something wrong?”
“I came here to ask you that same question. Your mother has voiced her concern. She says you are different since your injury. She has been rather vocal over her concern for your welfare, but she is not capable of addressing what the difference is in you. I must admit, I sense it as well. You are troubled.” He fidgeted a trait that was unlike Iashi of the Kari. Bingwen had taken a seat on the ground next to him. “We all get injured. It can be very disheartening. When I was about your age, I got into a fight with a young boy from the village named Hyase. I hated him, loathed him entirely. He broke my arm and I remember my mother fussing, much as yours is. She was seeing issues were there were none, only making the situation worse as I struggled to deal with the fact that I had been trounced by someone smaller than me and in front of the girl I liked. Regardless of what everyone else was seeing within me, I had to deal with my own inner conflict alone. However, with that said, you can speak with me Iashi.”
“Ahh, I….” He tried to find the words, “This girl you liked, did she like you back?”
Bingwen laughed, “No, she was not interested in me, not in the slightest. It was alright, sometimes we are destined for greater things than love.”
“Ahh, like being Elder of the Kari?”
Bingwen laughed again, “Do you wish to be Elder of the Kari, Iashi?” He did not get a chance to respond, “It was a position I never wished for. I was chosen because I was considered the strongest of our clan during my day. Truth was, I was not all that strong, I was just smart. Sometimes it is better to have intelligence than strength. You can push an object a hundred times with strength, but if it is meant to be pushed in a certain order, strength is only going to get you so far.”
“Ahh, I understand. Do you believe in demons?”
Bingwen turned his attention on Iashi rather quickly, his eyes squinted and then he smiled, “There are demons in this world, some even look like men. Why do you ask?”
“Ahh, I was just curious.” He responded rather quickly. He frowned inwardly wishing he could relax himself and slow his pace. He was certain that Bingwen would know what trouble lurked within his heart.
In a rather serious voice, Bingwen spoke, “During the war I faced off against a demon. His name was Mikira of the Nakamaru. We were just boys then or at least I was. He had the face of a boy, but the truth is Iashi, you can never know the true face of a demon. If we were the same age, this Mikira would be as old as I am now, if he is still alive and has not yet fallen to old age. He had eyes of different colors. There was a story about a demon of the Nakamaru clan who could unlock the gates to the lowest level of purgatory, releasing demons upon these lands. I learned quickly they were not simply stories.”
“Ahh, what happened?”
“We fought and mortally wounded each other. Truth is, I should have died, but the blessed Goddess Tearra smiled upon me and allowed me to live. Perhaps my task on this world had not yet been completed, I am uncertain. My road to recover was long and difficult and those eyes have haunted me. I am told I was fortunate because demons of the Nakamaru clan take bodies. They can live for lifetimes and are difficult to kill, I never felt very fortunate. Those eyes have haunted me the majority of my life. I had never witnessed anything like them before. I would like to think that I made a difference upon his life. That our battle had changed him as it did me, but I truly cannot say. My father always told me that demons cared nothing of the people they hurt that they could only take and inflict pain, but there has to be demons in this world that are simply spirits of virtue trying to find their own way.”
“Ahh, is there another way for them, other than death?”
Bingwen put his hand on the top of the head of Iashi and smiled, “That is up to the spirit.”
He was startled back to reality as he came face-to-face with Moromari of the Saitama. It was pressure, he felt it in his head as he looked into the uncovered eye of the pure-blood before him. He had heard stories, myths really about Saitama pure-bloods being able to seal away demons that possess humans. He never imagined this would be how it would end. “Your brother should have killed me.” Were the last words he heard before darkness overtook him.
To Be Continued