Internal Nebula, Litholeukos, Land of Prometheus
Twentieth Second Day of Taurus, 15 years before the Fall
Built inside the shaft carved on the mount’s entrails, the Internal Nebula is a network of teleportation orbs, placed in the many entrances to the complex, that grants access to any level, as long as the person using the orb has clearance, given by a key made of a piece of the same crystal of the orbs, Numenite. The gentiles of the Hod district only can go to the first four levels, the dwellers of Hesed to the first five and the nobles of Binah to all levels but the seventh, which access is granted only to the soldiers serving the city and its stewards, the Gorgon Sisters. The reason behind the name of the structure lays upon the visual effect the teleportation spell provides, an ghostly white glow that coils along the shaft, which in times of great activity forms a luminous cloud.
As he holds the key in his left hand near the orb, the captain of the platoon whispers some words, summoning a magical web that binds all the soldiers, Sathariel and his personnel, allowing everyone to be teleported at the same time*.
*Yetzirah’s Word of Bond: Wraithlike Winding Web
Everyone arrives safely at the orb in the seventh level, located in a wide veranda with a great view to both the Internal Nebula downwards and the Royal Palace in front of them.
Captain: We’ll end our escort here, melech. The guard of the palace will ensure the safety of everyone.
Sathariel: Thank you, everyone.
As soon as they finish their bows, the platoon goes back to the orb, while Sathariel’s entourage walks towards the palace. Inside of it awaits a long hall, filled with many stone statues of body language and expressions so defined one could swear they were once alive. Beyond the doors at the end of the hall lies the throne room, where the Gorgon Sisters patiently await their emperor, dressed in white cotton burkas. On the left sits Euryale with a small and chubby figure, while on the other side Stheno shows a tall and thin figure. In the middle, Medusa’s attire, even if discrete, reveals gorgeous curves.
With a welcoming brigade of trombones, drums and sitars, Satheriel is the first to enter the room and the Sisters get off their thrones and bow down.
Sathariel: I came as soon as your words reached Sitra Achra. The enchantment is complete, right?
Stheno: Ssstraight to the point, aren’t we, melech? Emperorsss, alwaysss running to catch time lossst!
Sathariel: I beg your pardon?
Euryale: Forgive my sssissster, but please come with usss to the enchantment ssslab, melech.
Euryale points to a door to the left with a wave of the hand, and the Sisters walk towards it, quickly followed by Sathariel and Isaac. Behind the door lays a room filled with witchcraft bric-a-brac, from the runes drawn in every surface to spell books and passing by various plants and body parts conserved in jars. Medusa lifts a velvety rag, revealing two crowns.
Euryale: These grand crownsss have the enchantment you requesssted, melech.
Sathariel: Good, very good.
Isaac: Forgive me if I’m being meddlesome, melech, but those are two grand crowns, so milady Gamaliel won’t be wearing it…
Sathariel: That’s because they’re not for me and my wife. They’re for Esau and Cathariel.
Isaac: Truly, melech? And what is this enchantment?
Stheno: It’sss the Blessssssing of Immortality!
Isaac’s jaw nearly drops at Stheno’s statement.
Sathariel: It’s a measure of prevention, in the case I die in the plan to conquer the Land of Izanami. Times can be turbulent for all Eretsaphir if that happens and I’m simply making sure they won’t be killed because of my decisions.
Isaac: Why don’t use it yourself, melech?
Sathariel: Because there’s no point of perpetuating my bloodline by only perpetuating my life. If anything, being the last of my kind is a sign that my time is running thin.
Isaac: Melech, but…
Sathariel: You sound like I’m dying tomorrow. Don’t worry about it, please. No, if you excuse me, I’ll go to my chambers to rest. Riding a behemoth does a number on anyone’s back.
Euryale: We underssstand, melech. Your chambersss are in the upmossst floor.
Sathariel: Thank you. And before I forget, Medusa, I’ve noticed you’ve been awfully quiet. If it’s still because of my father, I can’t apologize enough for what happened.
Stheno: Inconsssiderate bassstard, jussst forget about it!
Sathariel: Then it’s no longer here who said it.
Sathariel and Isaac leave the room, prompting a muted laugh from the Gorgon Sisters.
Medusa: FilTHy luciFer.
Stheno: Who doesss he thinksss he isss? Talksss about rape ssso casually!
Medusa: i can’T waiT FOr hIS lasT BreaTH sO hIS KinD is Finally purgeD FrOM tHe Face OF ereTsapHir.
Euryale: Calm yourssselvesss, my sssisssterss. Now we jussst have to wait for the sssuccccessssssorsss to wear the crownsss for usss to become immortal asss them.
Stheno: Well, Medusa thinksss eternal youth isss better.
Medusa: jeaLousy is sucH an ugly THing.
The District of Hod, Litholeukos, Land of Prometheus
Twentieth Third Day of Taurus, 15 years before the Fall
The night turns the grey mist that embraces the district into a reddish haze due to the lanterns hanging just above every house and shack’s door. Walking through the haze, a soldier arrives to a door of a rather small house and knocks on the door.
Soldier: Hey, Kuon, the ninth grand hour is almost upon us and we need to start our patrol.
At the answer of silence, the soldier knocks a second time. A third. On the fourth knocking, he exasperates and grabs the door handle, to find for his surprise that the door was unlocked. Opening the door, the soldier finds a dead Glasya-Labolas, an undressed lupine-like demon with gryphon wings covered in blood. Horrified by the sight, the soldier quickly grabs his bugle, strapped to his thigh, and lets loose the yowl of the brass.
When the bugle sounds chain from Hod all the way up to Keter, the captain leaves the palace, rushing to the verge of the district and stares to Hod, making his eyes glimmer of gold*. Soldiers leave after him, one of them approaching the verge.
* Beriah’s Word of Intelligence: Golden Eye
Soldier: What’s going on, Captain?
Captain: First Lieutenant Távros Marax found Second Lieutenant Kuon Glasya-Labolas dead in his home. Shiroi Kiba is on the move and disguised as one of us. I want eight soldiers to cover each hectare of the city, with special focus on the edges of the districts. I also want every soldier with a password, “chocolate-bathed prostitute”.
An uncomfortable silence nestles between the two.
Captain: Did I stutter? The password is random enough for him not to guess. Now let’s get him!
As the whole guard of the city flees from the palace, Sathariel looks through the window.
Sathariel: I wonder if you’re here, Jacob.
A blue, ephemeral light rises from Hod to the roofs of the Temple of Daleth*, materializing into a soldier. Tiptoeing upon the tiles, Shiroi Kiba has a simple mission: to assassinate Sathariel Lucifer in order to save Izanami from a potential invasion. But more than a patriotic act, it’ll be the testament he needs to prove that a ninja is not made by what his Word of Asiyah is, but by how he uses it.
*Asiyah’s Word of Lightning: Blue Jet
According to the legend, the Four Words of Existence are based on the Planes of Existence where Tav dwells. The Physical Plane, where Tav’s unknown body lies, is Asiyah or Action and determines the power every Daemon harness in their body. The Emotional Plane, where Tav’s love for the Daemon lies, is Yetzirah or Formation and its Word is formed by the Daemon’s feelings. The Intellectual Plane, where Tav’s thoughts of creation lie, is Beriah or Creation and its Word is created by the Daemon’s reasoning. Finally, the Metaphysical Plane, where the true form of Tav lies, is Atzilut or Emanation and its Word emanates from the Daemon’s soul. The legend says there’s a fifth Word, Adam Kadmon, exclusive to Malakeben and results from witnessing all the threads of existence of Tav.
Shiroi Kiba, being a canine-like demon known as Raijuu, was born with Asiyah’s Word of Lightning, a trait commonly seen in soldiers and samurai, is a rarity within ninjas, where the Kitsune and their words of Shadow, Mirage and Trickery or the Bakeneko and their words of Shapeshift, Mimicry and Pretense dominate. Shunned by fellow ninja, he asked Iemitsu Oni the biggest chance of them all, the do-or-die that, if successful, would revolutionize the ninja world.
Back to reality, Shiroi Kiba is already halfway through the roof of the temple when a feeling of eeriness jolts his spine. It was like he was being followed, but no matter where he looks, he sees no living soul looking at him. He approaches the bell tower, which lies near the wall that leads to the district of Geburah. He uses Blue Jet to reach the arched roof just a few meters above the grand iron bell, but when traversing the windows at the bell level, he’s kicked in, making him clash head-first into the heavy bell and making him fall halfway the tower shaft. Now in control of his movements, he uses Blue Jet to get to the temple’s floor, to a room filled with various mementos containing bones from once considered holy men and women, showcased on shelves protruding from the walls and lit by candles near the ceiling.
Looking up the shaft, he sees nobody. How was he kicked in, when he saw nobody over the bell tower? As he asks himself that, he senses a presence right behind him. He uses the wall in front of him and uses it to do a flipping jump, seeing that a person under a black cloak and a white mask was trying to stab him tried to stab him with a short sword. The figure turns back to see Shiroi Kiba grab a couple of shuriken and throw them, but it disappears in a blink of an eye.
Shiroi Kiba: What the-?
Before he could comprehend what he saw, the figure comes from below and tries to slash his back, but to no avail, since Shiroi Kiba turns into lightning and travels to the other side of the room in a second*. When returning to the original form, he no longer sees the figure, but knows where it is. Right behind him. He activates a mechanism right under his thumb to reveal a katar blade on his sleeve, which he uses to turn around and slash the figure’s mask away, while the figure slashes his cowl. After the slashing they take a step away and Shiroi Kiba witnesses the face of his assaulter: a very young Alastor with purple eyes, not older than 12 years.
*Asiyah’s Word of Lightning: Horizontal Lightning
Shiroi Kiba: … a kid?
Jacob: So what if I’m a kid? I’ll kill you anyway.
Shirou Kiba grins a little. The nerve of this little guy.
Shiroi Kiba: What’s your name, kid?
Jacob: Why does it matter?
Shiroi Kiba: It’s simply a matter of courtesy.
As he says it, he disappears. Shiroi Kiba asks to himself how can someone gloat about killing him when he’s a one-trick pony, as he simply does a wave motion to his right all the way to the back, making Jacob’s shotsword and his katar blade parry.
Shiroi Kiba: You have to do better than that.
Jacob simply grunts before disappearing. Shiroi Kiba, a veteran against Word of Shadow users, isn’t impressed by Jacob’s parlor tricks and hits the floor with his palms, emanating from them a surge of lightning that covers the whole floor*. He knew that, as soon as Jacob would reappear upon his shadow, lightning would rise from the floor, frying him. It’s just a matter of time.
*Asiyah’s Word of Lightning: Sharaiman Neban (“House of the Myriad of Sticky Lightning”, a pun with the Finnish Salaman Nevan, “Lightning Swamp”; it’s also a reference to a technique used by Nevan, the Lightning Witch from Devil May Cry 3)
But after a few seconds, he found Jacob’s absence strange. He couldn’t simply disappear in thin air, Shiroi Kiba knew he had to be attached to some shadow and the only ones were around him and beneath the shelves. Then he remembered: the bell tower shaft is filled with shadows. As he takes a step towards it, he only has time to barely dodge Jacob’s attack coming from above, which gashes Shiroi Kiba’s right leg. When Jacob almost hits the floor, he disappears again but manages to trigger Sharaiman Neban, unleashing a thunderstorm from below. Shiroi Kiba uses Blue Jet to avoid being a victim of his own spell. When he almost reaches the ceiling, Jacob is awaiting him and does a slashing motion, slashing this time his left shoulder.
After the drawing of blood, both of them descend into the ground, now safe for landing. Staring at each other, Shiroi Kiba realizes his mistake: Jacob isn’t using the Word of Shadow. When he reached the ceiling, he saw it was too well lit from the candles to create any shadow. He needs to figure out what is Jacob using in order to get rid of him. To give him some time, he uses Sharaiman Neban, to which Jacob responds by disappearing. Smirking, Shiroi Kiba rapidly waves his hands, filling the ceiling with lightning*, making Jacob jumping from the wall on the bell tower’s side, now behind Shiroi Kiba’s back.
*Asiyah’s Word of Lightning: Thunder Dome
Shiroi Kiba: You fool!
Shiroi Kiba claps his hands, making a myriad of electrical discharges cross between the ground and the ceiling*, also summoning an electrical barrier around him**. Jacob simply dodges the lightning bolts by disappearing from one spot to appear in the next, but Shiroi Kiba already has a plan to pin down for once Jacob. He draws a wakizashi and extends his arm, coating it with lightning. In a fraction of second, he turns around and thrusts the wakizashi forwards, stabbing with precision Jacob’s stomach and unleashing a surge of lightning through the young boy’s body. As Shiroi Kiba pins Jacob down to the ground, he dismisses every Lightning spell. Jacob looks unconscious on the floor while Shiroi Kiba removes his wakizashi from the stomach and places it on its sheathe.
*Asiyah’s Word of Lightning: Lightning Round
**Asiyah’s Word of Lightning: Tesurai Koru (“Thick Thread of the Guarding Lightning Hand”, a pun with the Tesla Coil, an electrical transformer)
***Asiyah’s Word of Lightning: Raichou (Homage to Chidori. Chidori can mean “plover” while Raichou means “ptarmigan”)
Shiroi Kiba: Truly a pity.
He leaves Jacob behind. How cruel of Lucifer, to hire a child to do his dirty work. Out of the blue, a couple of daggers protrude from his chest, uncomfortably close to his heart*. Jacob was up and had stabbed Shiroi Kiba’s kidneys on an angle that allows him to simply slide the blades and slice off major veins and arteries, if he didn’t already.
*Yetzirah’s Word of Cruelty: Kidney Shot
Shiroi Kiba: … how?
Jacob: You can’t teach an old dog new tricks, isn’t that what they say?! I knew I couldn’t win over an adult I never met before, so I had to make you never figure out what my Word of Asiyah was by tricking you into thinking I was using others.
Shiroi Kiba: It’s neither Shadow nor Teleportation, then…
Jacob: It’s Indolence. The first spell I used, Blink, simply makes me appear where the opponent isn’t looking. Since you don’t have eyes behind your neck, I simply used the fact some of your shadow was behind you to trick into thinking I was using Shadow. That’s why I was able to get into the ceiling when you electrified the floor, you were still running on the assumption I was using that Word. Of course I used another spell in order to make my feet adhere on the ceiling, Idle Gravitation. Now that you thought I was using Teleportation, I knew you wouldn’t care anymore if you were facing me or not, since you were expecting an ambush from me anyway.
Shiroi Kiba: Smart kid… but how did you get up after my Raichou? You should be… unconscious. Or at least your stomach pains should… slow you down.
Jacob: Indolence’s original meaning is “lack of pain”. I can’t feel any pain, couple that to my Yetzirah’s Word of Cruelty…
Shiroi Kiba: The best ninja.
Shiroi Kiba: Were you to be born in the Land of Izanami… you’d be the best ninja in history. You were born… to kill.
Jacob stares down, feeling the weight of Shiroi Kiba’s words upon his shoulders.
Shiroi Kiba: Since I’ll die here anyway… let me lend you my power.
Shiroi Kiba: We may be on opposite sides… but is of the same coin. I struggled my whole life to prove myself and… to be killed by a boy it would be a shame for any other person… but I see it as a sign. A sign that a new age is coming. If I can’t be there… at least may my power be there. You deserve it.
Shiroi Kiba makes a fist out of his right hand and puts the palm of his left hand over it.
Shiroi Kiba: Sengoku Morohamune. That’s my real name. It’s simply a matter of courtesy.
As he speaks those words, he starts to disintegrate into lightning*, gathering around his wakizashi, which drops on the ground, making a metallic clink as the last bird-like chirps of electricity quiet down. Jacob grabs it right before hearing steps coming from the nearby hallway. As a couple of soldiers enter the room accompanied by a deacon, they see nothing out of the ordinary.
*Yetzirah’s Word of Sacrifice: Soul Weapon
Sathariel still looks outside his window, trying to figure out the frenzy happening in the lower districts, when someone knocks on his door.
Sathariel: Who is it?
Captain: Captain Peteinón Valefar, melech.
Sathariel: Come in.
Peteinón enters as Sathariel faces him.
Peteinón: Melech, Lightning sounds were heard within the Temple of Daleth’s reliquary and there’s blood on the floor, but no sign of Shiroi Kiba.
Peteinón: We’ll restrict the searches to the upper five districts and reinforce the guard in the palace to protect you, melech.
Sathariel: Good. You’re dismissed.
Peteinón bows and leaves Sathariel’s room.
Sathariel: You’re here, aren’t you, Jacob?
Jacob appears from a shadowed corner, wielding a wakizashi on his hand.
Jacob: Sorry for not bringing his head, but he decided to imbue himself in his blade.
Sathariel: I thought honor was of the samurai. Well, you can keep the sword for yourself and consider it spoils of w-
Sathariel is interrupted by the convulsive coughing of Jacob, who was expelling blood due to his wonded stomach. He falls back and Sathariel quicly picks him up.
Sathariel: I’ll call a medic.
Jacob: Don’t *cough* my father will find out.*cough*
Sathariel: Don’t worry, he won’t. Just don’t be so reckless next time.
The Plains of Forbidden Sights, near Mikmereth, Land of Marduk
Seventieth Ninth Day of Pisces, a week before the Fall
Although a city of almost eight hundred thousand habitants in the present day, back then not even the cattle head count of the little village of goat herders, Mikmereth, amounted to eighty. One can only imagine the surprise said herders had when they found themselves surrounded by an army of two hundred myriads, spawning from the temporary headquarters located on a kilometer down the Seventh Road in the direction of Amphiblestron. Inside the headquarters, Sathariel presides an assembly involving the Qliphoth and two promising captains: Esau Alastor, now a 27 years-old broad knight and Cathariel Satan, a 21 years-old wizard. On the other hand, Isaac had grown too old for a proper sight, but still a great listener and counselor.
Gamchitoch: Our numinous readers can’t pick a thing beyond the borders of the Land of Tanen. The soil itself is oozing of Numen.
Chaigidel: We’re complet-t-tly ignorant-t-t-t of what-t-t’s out-t-t th-th-there.
Sathariel: Here we go again, moaning like a bunch of hags. We simply need to adapt our troops to the terrain. We’ve been teaching them all the strategies my father used on his reign. He managed to conquer Ahalzeer by climbing a 2000 meters tall mountain with his bare hands along with an army of a thousand and won’t when we have two hundred myriads divided in 160 units? If I’m correct, that’s more than a myriad in each unit. Trust me, we do not need to worry about the numbers or strategies.
Gamaliel: But we’re talking about the Malakeben.
Sathariel: I know, darling, but even gods have their limits. There’s no such thing as perfection and we need to figure out their weak points. That’s why I gathered such a big army, in the eventuality we struggle to find them out.
Nehemah: And you think your plan will work, melech?
Sathariel: It has to work, since we have no other alternative. Now, we need to choose the unit leaders. The first ten units are already locked for us.
Samael: Plenty of people are between the 21st and 27th martial ranks, melech.
Sathariel: You mean the 21st and the 26th. You know very well I have ten generals and not just you, the nine Qliphoth.
Thamiel: You are too kind by still calling him your general, melech. He’s a rogue with a rank too high.
Created by Sheireil Lucifer, the Martial Ranks go from 1 to 30, given to warriors and mages considering their power and aptitude and distinguishable by rank titles. Ranks 1 and 2 are given to apprentices, ranks 3 and 6 are given to cadets, ranks 7 to 11 are given to second lieutenants, ranks 12 to 15 are given to first lieutenants, ranks 16 to 20 are given to captains, ranks 21 to 24 are given to majors, ranks 25 and 26 are given to colonels, ranks 27 to 29 are given to generals and rank 30 is exclusive to the head of the empire. But, for the dismay of many, an high rank doesn’t warrant loyalty to the empire and many stop serving it, either to work in private enterprises or, most appallingly, as members of insurgent militias or even defectors who pledge allegiance to Iemitsu Oni.
Sathariel: May it be so, but we still need to appoint leaders for the units.
Samael: First we need to narrow down the candidates, melech. If the data isn’t wrong, there are 27 colonels and 437 majors.
Sathariel: Well, obviously the colonels will have units 11 through 37. Well, if someone has to use the privy or eat something, I advise you to go now, since this is going to be a long day skimming through names.
All but Sathariel and Esau leave the table.
Esau: Melech, I noticed I’m still not assigned to any unit.
Sathariel: We’re still deciding where the majors should go. Have a little of patience.
Esau: Forgive me, melech, but I know that’s a lie. I have corporals subordinate to me that I know for sure they were already assigned to units.
Sathariel: Sorry for not being completely honest with you, Esau, but I’ll need you in the headquarters alongside your father.
Esau: But you know I want to fight alongside you, melech!
Sathariel: I know, but I love as if you’re a son of my own. You must understand that I want to be safe.
Sathariel: As I said, have a little of patience. If this campaign is successful, I’ll make sure you’ll be fighting in the invasion of the Land of Izanami. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to the privy.
Sathariel leaves a disappointed Esau behind and, as he walks the corridor that leads to the privies found outside, a familiar face appears. Jacob, now 27 years-old, has embraced a dark purple attire with a long cape and cowl covering the overwhelming majority of his body.
Sathariel: Great sense of timing, Jacob, you can’t imagine how glad I am to see you.
Jacob: Tired of the dog begging for scraps, I presume.
Sathariel: You call your own brother a dog?
Jacob: What else is he? My brother only scratched some wooden dummies, barked to other dogs in make-believe of fights and thinks that by wagging his tail he’ll get a bone. He doesn’t know what is to have blood in one’s hands, what a real fight is.
Sathariel: The more I hear you, the more assured I am that you’d never be a captains as your brother. You’d be a wolf in the middle of dogs. Nevertheless, I have a job for you. Maybe the last I give to you.
Sathariel picks an envelope from his pocket and hands to Jacob. Jacob starts to read it, getting merrier by the word he reads.
Sathariel: You seem to like it.
Jacob: I’ve dreamed of this for years. But why now?
Sathariel: Just in case this campaign fails. Dogs need protection from bigger dogs, you know? Don’t forget, do it on the night of the turning of the year. Until then, study your strategy.
Jacob: Will do.
Jacob disappears as some of the generals come back from the privies. Sathariel now takes a deep breath, knowing that all the wheels were set in motion for the greatest feat in Daemon history.