The Plains of Forbidden Sights, near Mikmereth, Land of Marduk
Hundredth First Day of Pisces, The Fall
Sathariel: My people!
Standing on a balcony on the top of the headquarters, accompanied by the Qliphoth generals, Isaac, Esau and Cathariel, Sathariel screams to rally 160 units of 2 million Daemon that almost disappear into the horizon.
Sathariel: Beth of the Word said that the Malakeben emanated the Divine Light of Tav and we, Daemon, were the husks of the land where the Divine Light shines on. The light shines to shun the shadows, but when I see Eretsaphir drowned in shadows, I must ask: does the light not shine or does the land refuse to be lit? Only one side of the dichotomy is true and the land is not to blame! What to do with the light that doesn’t shine? If the light loses its shine, what else will shine on us? As the light that shines on the land reserves our unconditional faith, the light that doesn’t shine at all only deserves our spite. So what must we do, lowly husks of the land? Well, the husks and the light share two properties: they surround what is good and keep it away from corruption. I am not a fool, I know that there are husks already corrupted by the shadows and even those which brew shadows within them instead of good, but is the function of the light to restrain them from corrupting others. Considering the light doesn’t shine, isn’t it corrupted too? And as we throw away the husks that are corrupted, so we must throw away the light that is corrupted. The Malakeben might be our creators, but they clearly have been corrupted by their own sense of grandiose. And we, the Daemon, will knock the Malakeben down and prove that they are the true Divine Light. We’ll no longer be the Qliphoth, “the husks” who receive the Light, we’ll be the Sephiroth, “the emanations” of the Light!
Excited cries propagate through the ranks, much to the joy of Sathariel.
Isaac: Magnificent speech, melech. Fitting of the last of the race of the “bringers of light”.
Sathariel: Let’s hope it won’t fall victim to the cruel grasp or irony. Generals, be at the front lines in fifteen minutes. Warn the colonels and majors in charge of units to be there. Isaac, Esau, Cathariel, take care of the headquarters while we’re away.
Thamiel: Sure thing, melech.
Isaac: As you please, melech.
Fourteen minutes later, a stampede of more than a thousand hooves sounds the departure of the harras of sleipnir, eight-legged steeds of the Land of Forseti, gray as the rocky fjords that limit the pastures they graze, orange as their bewildered mane. Running at a velocity of 88 kilometers per hour, they quickly send the unit leaders riding them into the front lines. There, Sathariel raises his arm and quickly points forward, declaring the beginning of the march of his army into their last residence.
Inside the headquarters, on a private living room, Cathariel seats on an armchair while Esau helps Isaac seat on the sofa.
Isaac: Thank you, my son.
Esau seats next to his father, letting out a disappointed sigh before he stares at the ceiling.
Isaac: What’s the matter? You don’t seem well.
Esau: It’s just that… I wanted to go with them! So my sword would serve my melech!
Isaac: You know very well why you can’t go.
Esau: I know, but sometimes I dread the possibility of melech losing because I wasn’t there! If that were to happen, I couldn’t bear the crown with such guilt!
Cathariel: Either they win by a landslide or lose by a landslide, so you wouldn’t make the difference between victory and defeat.
Cathariel: Don’t you think I’d battle alongside my father if given the chance? But Eretsaphir is above our desires.
Esau sighs more frustratingly.
Isaac: Put your head to rest, my son. At least you want to serve higher purposes, unlike your brother.
Esau: Father, don’t worry yourself with Jacob, he probably doesn’t anyway.
Isaac: It’s easy for you to say, my son, you don’t have children of your own. Even if he abandoned the Ward of the Sword Saint, even if he abandoned us for years, he’s still my flesh and blood. If only I had a way to know where he is and what he’s doing and, more importantly, the why behind his desertion.
Miburo, on the northern slope of the Yamakujira, near Nagasukujira, Land of Izanami
Crowning the south of the Land of Izanami, Yamakujira is the only volcano in all of Eretsaphir and, while eruptions are an extremely rare event, it’s still active with magma circulating in its core and emanating sulfurous gases on the forsaken western slope. Nagasukujira, the capital of the Land of Izanami, lies in the fertile soils found in the south and is habited by more than half a million people. The eastern slope is marked by basalt beaches and the northern slope is marked by dark fields of basalt with some green of persistent oaks sprinkling in the midst. It is unknown if Yamakujira was named after the razorback whales that pass by the nearby shore or by the wild boars that are seen munching on the acorns the mountain provides, but either way it definitely marks the landscape as the biggest solitary mountainous formation, passing with ease the six kilometer height mark.
On the northern slope, secluded from the rest of the populace, lies a forge that uses the natural heat emanating from Yamakujira to produce Darksteel, a special kind of steel known to being able to harness and cut through elemental spells. The forge is named Miburo, “the forge of the martial body”, alluding the brawny orc operating it for 30 years. Such is the mystery around the orc that even he adopted the name of the forge, making many people suspect he left Sathariel Lucifer’s empire to be forgotten. What many don’t know is that he was once a Qliphoth general that fell from grace after attempting against his emperor’s life. What led him to such act, nobody but him knows.
After dropping an heated sword in fresh water in order to temper it, Miburo gently rubs his right eye, the only that still can see, but suddenly stops. There’s someone in the forge with him.
Voice: Miburo, isn’t it?!
Miburo: You speak the language of the Empire but you have no discernable accent. That tells me you’re one of two things: either you’re a scholar of scripture who took the dumb turn the way home or you’re an assassin.
Jacob shows himself to Miburo.
Jacob: Your wits are as sharp as the stories around you told. I’m Jacob Alastor.
Jacob extends his hand to be left with no response. He slowly moves it back.
Miburo: And I’m a smith, so, unless you want a weapon, get the fuck out of my forge.
Jacob: What I want isn’t a weapon, it’s a way into Iemitsu’s court.
Miburo: Do I look like a map to you?! Out, now.
Jacob: My mistake then. I thought I was talking to a defender of democracy, but I guess I was wrong.
Miburo quickly rushes towards Jacob and lifts him up to the ceiling by the collar with his weaker left arm.
Miburo: Don’t talk about thing you know nothing about, you piece of shit.
Jacob: You tried to kill Sathariel so Eretsaphir would become a democracy instead of the current absolutist monarchy.
Miburo drops Jacob, making him fall to the ground with a big thud. Jacob sorely gets up and arranges his clothes.
Jacob: That makes the more jarring you being under a kingdom with the same problem.
Miburo: Like I give a damn anymore. It’s been made clear that only one man can’t change the status quo.
Jacob: That’s where you’re wrong. Let me in on Iemitsu’s presence and I’ll eliminate the problem.
Miburo: By shifting the power from one dead tyrant to another living one. What a brilliant plan, dumbass!
Jacob: Sathariel will probably die today and with him all the remaining Qliphoth. He’s leaving the power to my brother, Esau Alastor and to Cathariel Satan, son of Thamiel Satan. My father, Isaac Alastor, will probably die of old age in the next few years. With your crime being void, you can go back to Sitra Achra as the third highest power and convince those two idiots of making a rotating parliament.
Miburo: I’m impressed, the son of that old fart is an assassin with a foot on politics. You’re dangerous.
Jacob: I’m just making a living.
Miburo: And how are you so certain Sathariel and the merry bunch will die?
Jacob: They’re fighting the Malakeben.
Miburo unleashes a hoarse cackle.
Miburo: He just lost his fucking mind! Well, at least Pe will have something to chew on. Alright, I’ll let you in on Iemitsu’s court, you got me on my good spirits and I got nothing to lose anyway! Listen, Jacob, you might be an assassin and all that shit, but that will do squat in the city where everybody and their mother is a fucking ninja. Your best shot is to enter into his chamber hidden in plain sight.
Jacob: Like pretending to be a courier?
Miburo: Fuck no, Iemitsu is too paranoid to leave a courier alone with him. Maybe this bit of trivia didn’t reach the Empire’s intelligence, but Iemitsu makes every little ninja leave the court when he has the chance to put a young man to make him bite the pillow. Catch my drift yet or do I have to draw a picture for you?
Jacob makes a dry swallow, as a cold shiver runs through his spine.
Miburo: Thinking twice about that plan, are we?
Jacob: I’ve killed many before, this is just another one.
The Plains of Forbidden Sights, near Mikmereth, Land of Marduk
Esau walks around the room, treading so heavily one could say he was about to open a hole out of anxiety. Isaau, although unable to see his son, was following the stomping sounds he was producing. Cathariel enters the room.
Esau: Any news yet?
Cathariel: What? No, I simply went to the privy. I heard nothing.
Isaac: Isaac, it’s only been twelve hours, calm yourself down. Knowing melech, he’ll only send news when all’s done and that’ll probably take a whole day.
Esau rashly seats on the sofa, lowers his head and puts his hand behind his head. The anxiety within him was acting like steam on a boiler left too much time unattended, ready to explode in the form of insane screams. Before he could so, a Murmur, a gryphon-like Daemon with jet-black feathers and a pale lion skin, enters the room.
Murmur: Captain Esau Alastor?
Esau almost leaps from the sofa.
Murmur: Melech sent a message by crow requiring your presence in the front lines with urgency.
Esau & Isaac: WHAT?!
Isaac: Did he say why?
Cathariel: Or why I wasn’t summoned?
Murmur: No, he didn’t.
Isaac: How odd of him to do that.
Esau: Is there any horse left in the stables?
Murmur: I’m afraid not.
Esau: No problem, I’ll run.
Isaac: No, my son, don’t go!
Esau: Don’t worry, father. If melech summoned me, it’s because he both needs me and won’t let harm meet me.
Isaac stares blankly at his son. He knows he doesn’t have any argument that would convince him not to go.
Esau: Cathariel, take care of my father while I’m away.
Cathariel: He’ll be in good hands.
Esau leaves the room, as if he was powered by the steam of anxiety turned into resolve. Isaac sighs profusely at his son’s decision, but perhaps Tav was kind enough to rob his vision or else he’d cry at the sight of Cathariel giving a hefty bag full of shekels to the Murmur.
Heika no Kaidan, Nagasukujira, Land of Izanami
Someone unwise would say that Nagasukujira belonged to another world, with buildings made of pinewood and rice paper rather than stone and glass, with walls painted in white and red contrasting with the dark roofs, unlike the grayish white buildings with red roofs that mark the majority of Eretsaphir’s urban landscape. Furthermore, the common motifs of whales, be them paintings on the streets, printings in the paper money or golden plaster statuettes on the very tops of the noble houses is something unseen in any other city.
Cleaving in twain the city are the Heika no Kaidan, “the Stairs of His Majesty” or “the Upstairs of Downstairs” as the jesters would pun it, a grand stairwell that would go from the beach to the heights of the Temple of He of the Science, where Iemitsu’s court is placed. Going up the stairs while the transient citizens stare at him, Miburo carries Jacob, who has a burlap sack covering his head, by the shoulder. At the top of the stairs, two guards: a Gyuuki, an ox-like Daemon, and a Tianma, a winged Daemon with horse-like features.
Tianma: What’s your business here, orc?
Miburo: I just want to talk to Iemitsu Oni.
Tianma: How rude of you to address Iemitsu-heika like that!
Miburo: He could be Iemitsu-heika-sama-rama-lama-ding-dong-kun for all I care, just move your little fucking hooves and say to him the Miburo smith has a delivery for him.
Jacob starts wheezing, much for the guards’ distress.
Miburo: See what your over-politeness got us?! Go before he chokes, dimwits!
The two guards run panicky to the inner yard of the temple.
Miburo: Bravo, you were right on queue.
Jacob: You could loosen it up a little bit, to be honest.
Miburo simply shrugs at the slightly muffled request of Jacob. A couple of minutes later, behind the guards appears the royal Oni. Iemitsu slowly parades his dark sokutai with a golden razorback whale patterned on its front while he disguises his face under a dark veil coming out from his rather ostentatious kanmuri which manages to be larger than his head and completely obfuscate the horns that compete with it for space. If that wasn’t enough luxury, he lazily waves a shaku with very elaborate paintings of a wavy ocean.
Iemitsu: Hmmph, you better have a good reason to disrupt my reading session, Miburo-shi.
Miburo puts Jacob on floor and removes the burlap sack from Jacob’s head. Jacob breathes heavily before Miburo places his right foot on his back, making Jacob fall on the floor.
Iemitsu: Hmmph, and who is that supposed to be?
Miburo: This guy just happens to be a goddamn thief that thought he could steal me.
Iemitsu: Hmmph, is that it?! Take him to the city watch and stop wasting my time!
Miburo: But there’s a reason why I brought this thief. As you can see he’s an Alastor, so he’s far away from his land. The poor guy was banned from the Empire and needs a roof above his head and he said to me he’s willing to do anything to have that. Anything.
Iemitsu rubs the tip of his shaku against his chin, as he was pondering the situation.
Iemitsu: Hmmph. Let me see his face.
Miburo removes his foot and picks up Jacob singlehandedly, allowing Jacob to take a proper look at where would be Iemitsu’s face. Iemitsu points his arm to Jacob, making the shaku touch his neck and then he makes it slither from his neck to his mouth, to which Jacob sticks his tongue out and lick the shaku with a look of debauchery on his face. Iemitsu instantly draws his arm and starts waving the shaku in front of his own face, as if the redness of his face was visible.
Iemitsu: Hmmph! Hmmmmph! By Tav-kami, you didn’t sell me cat for rabbit, orc! Does he speak Benzetsu?
Miburo: No, he doesn’t as far as I know.
Iemitsu: Hmmph, we can manage that! And his name is…?!
Miburo: I don’t fucking know, I don’t ask thieves their names!
Miburo addresses Jacob in his mother tongue.
Miburo: He’s asking your name.
Iemitsu: Hmmph… Gozu! Mezu!
Gozu & Mezu: Yes, Iemitsu-heika?!
Iemitsu: Inform Gozaemon that he and his ninja have the day off and take Rei-kun to the guest ward, the orc and I have a reward to talk about. And if Gozaemon bickers about it, tell him that I’ll behead him myself if he doesn’t obey me, hmmph!
Temp de Tav, Ters de Tanen
Esau ran and ran, the morning became afternoon and the afternoon was near its end and still no signs of the army but the footmarks on the soil. And the deeper he goes through the land, the more alien it becomes. Ever since Esau entered the valley he’s running on, what he could see in the midst of the mist was that the plants were as mobile as the animals, the animals themselves were misshapen abominations with no semblance to any other in Eretsaphir, the air is thick one could almost swim in it and the water on the little brooks has become as bitter as absinth. But the most worrisome of all is the constant white noise that sings without any wind, which makes Esau unsure if the incomprehensible landscape is starting to damage his sanity or the Malakeben themselves are whispering in a language lost to time.
As the sun sets in the west, Esau drops on his knees from exhaustion and stays ducked for a couple of minutes until he gets on his feet. Sure, his Word of Asiyah being Stamina helps, but his resolve is the main reason why he keeps running to an unknown place. To defend his people, to be a warrior of legend, the dream is so close he can almost grasp it. Closer than he thought, actually, since a couple hundred meters away is a cliff leading to a basin where the High Temple of Tav hid. Esau can’t believe his eyes, the Temple is as big as a metropolis, mostly because of the gargantuan size of its structures, being the main building a monastery that makes Litholeukos look like a bump in the road. However, there’s no sound emanating from it except the white noise, which only seems to be intensified, nor any sign of the army.
After descending from an earthen ramp that connected the valley to the basin, he stares with awe its entrance, an eighty-four meters tall diamond arch shaped as the letter of Tav, with all the letters representing the Malakeben, from Aleph to Shin. Nevertheless, the mighty wolfram gates of the monastery being closed are even more surprising. It was as if the army never made it here, what’s going on? He carefully treads towards the door and, when he reaches it, he touches it and it instantly recoils to the hollow spaces on the sides, revealing an empty nave entirely composed of strange metals and diamond, giving it a rather synthetic and cold appearance, accentuated by the lack of benches and any imagery coupled with the ridiculous dimensions of the nave, to the point of both the ceiling and the altar on the other end of the nave being small to the eye. The white noise no longer is, since the loud levels reveal that one of Esau’s assumption was true, it’s a melody sung in words he couldn’t understand, but the tone suggests both to explore the temple and to leave it at once and, more eerily, it seems to come from every direction.
As he approaches the altar, also made of wolfram, he notices there are three doors, on right in front of him and two to the sides. There are also sculptures in the only stone visible indoors in front of each lateral door. They’re shaped as coffins laid upon a low table and on top of them rest figures reminiscent of Daemon, a female on the left and a male on the right, lying on the coffin as they would within them. Esau approaches the female one and notices that the feet of the table are four chimerical figures that seem different composites of an eagle, an ape, a bull and a lion meshed together, along with minutiae on the sides of the coffin repeating the same three figure pattern over and over again. Esau inspections the male one and notices differences in the feet and sides of the coffin, being the feet an eagle, an ape, a bull and a lion, perfectly intact in terms of morphology, and another three figure pattern, but with different figures. Could the patterns be the names of someone these coffins are representing? And why would they be here in the first place, clashing visually with the rest of the nave? Unfortunately, Esau did not have the time or the sapience to solve this riddle, so he walks towards the frontal door and taps it and it opens like the first one, but this time the sight is very different.
Blood and guts and dismembered limbs and decapitated heads and lonesome torsos and corpses decorate the halls. Corpses after corpses after corpses after corpses, Esau’s blood freezes and his bowls boil and his throat can’t contain the acidic horror brewing in his stomach and he vomits and he stares away from the necrotic orgy. Step after step after step after step, his mind only sees the purple of the mangled flesh, his mind only smells the foul stench of death, his mind only hears the splashing blood from under his feet, his mind only tastes the iron of the blood coming from his sinuses, his mind only feels the hollow seat where his heart once was.
DEATH IS EVERYWHERE!!!
Where is Sathariel Lucifer?
Where are the Malakeben?
Is there anyone alive?
He loses his mind and wanders aimlessly through the monastery, only to find more cadavers until he finally found sounds of clashes and explosions in the distance. Running like never before, he finds a dark fume obscuring one of the massive corridors to witness Sathariel’s body being thrown out of the fume, treated like a damaged rag doll. Before Esau could react to such a gruesome fact, six giant, fiery eyes pierce through the smoke and gawk Esau, making him feel like he met his perdition and that every cell in his body sublimed under the fire of the gaze of Shin, the Judge of Æons, deemed the most powerful of all Malakeben.
Shin: Why are you here, Esau?
Esau: Wha- how do you… I, uh-
Shin: To be one of them? It leaves me flummoxed that your kin, the Daemon, is so keen to devour each other. And, if that fact wasn’t shameful by its own, the fact that the big names devour the little names. If it were the other way around, many of the little ones could devour a single big one, but a big one has to devour by the tens, the hundreds, the thousands, even the millions. Such a thing is alien to reason, considering you’re all of the same descent and of the same land. Mind you, Esau, that all these corpses were already devoured before they stepped in this temple of holy. The lawyers ate them for their written wills; the banks ate them for the taxes of keeping the goods intact; the smiths ate them for their weapons and armors; the doctors ate them for their good or bad health; their creditors ate them for unpaid debts; their heirs ate them for the goods; and, the most gluttonous of them all, Sathariel Lucifer ate them for an ephemeral dream. Poor corpses, not even the tip of the tongue of my fellow Pe, the Devourer of Souls, reached them and they were already consumed. Do you want to be devoured that badly, Esau?!
Esau: No, I-
Shin: Then why do you want to please Lucifer so eagerly? A big name that wasn’t satisfied with his rule of eating the people, the little names, one by one or a few. No, he only met satisfaction when he ate two millions in a single bite and thought that such injustice would be tolerated and unpunished. He thought that, for being one that devoured, he wouldn’t be devoured. He thought that, in our absence, he could go astray from the words left Æons ago. He was wrong. And you? Aren’t you satisfied? Don’t you have enough people eager to devour you? Don’t you see the hollowness of Lucifer’s hunger? Or are you so accustomed to all the devouring of the mortals you can’t think of another way of sustenance?
Esau: My melech wasn’t selfish! He was good!
Shin: Such ignorance. He dressed the lure in such wondrous concepts of freedom and self-worth that everyone bit, including himself. To be willing to give up your own life for measly bait, you’re nothing but a gullible fish on the wrong end of the fishing pole. A fish willing to call one of his creators a liar to hang on the deadly hook. May this bloodshed be a lesson to you and all of your kin: don’t forget that we created you to consume for sustenance, not for gluttony, and we’ll stop you from dooming yourselves as a populace. Leave this place at once if you value your life and make sure everyone learns the lesson. However, know that, at the end of this day, you shall know the consequences of your devouring. Away with you, mortal!
The fume turns into a large, moving wall of fire*, forcing Esau to flee from it without having a chance to fully rationalize what’s happening. Unraveling the labyrinthine halls, he reaches the nave, in time for the wolfram door to close and save him from the fire. However he doesn’t stop running, what drives him now isn’t resolve, it’s absolute terror.
*Asiyah’s Word of Fire: The Pyre of Gehinnom
Temple of He, Nagasukujira, Land of Izanami
Wearing a yukata, a golden bracelet and a pair of geta, Jacob enters the inner garden of the temple, illuminated by a fiery magical projection of Eretsaphir’s astrology, the second and smallest world counting from the central celestial body, although it’s the six if one counts all the 67 rings representing the orbits of all the bodies, being all but the fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth almost invisible to the eye. Beneath the projection is a hot spring, a must for the chilly night outside. Removing his geta and yukata, he enters naked in the spring, revealing a scar near his navel, a reminder of his battle with Morohamune. As he lowers himself enough to get water by the shoulders, Iemitsu enters the garden wearing a fancy jinbei and holding an oyster shell and, unlike what Jacob thought at first, with the veil, baggy clothes and odd mannerisms, Iemitsu has stunning looks and a robust physique in the shade of red.
Jacob’s head is spinning. Since his first kill he knew that an assassin is but an actor, killing the antagonist on the play of politics. His tools already included deceiving a fighting opponent to gain the upper hand, pretending to be someone else in order to gain access to a particular place, feign friendship in order to reach the target, but this as the first time he was obligated to simulate love and sexual pleasure to kill someone, specially going against his preferences on the matter. Sure, he did not have any issues with men loving other men, it just wasn’t his cup of tea and he had to play his cards in order to make Iemitsu completely give up his defenses before he’d notice how Jacob truly swung.
Iemitsu walks towards Jacob and places the oyster shell, filled with a greasy and translucent substance, near his head. He undresses his jinbei, revealing a brawny physique and seats on the left of Jacob. He notices Jacob’s bracelet is a Polyglot Bangle, which has an enchantment that allows comprehension of any spoken language.
Iemitsu: Hmmph, sorry for keeping you waiting all day. Royal affairs, thank Tav-kami I can relax and enjoy your presence for a bit. So, Rei-kun, tell me about yourself.
Jacob: I’m just a butcher’s son from Kithara who add the misfortune of providing bad meat to the emperor on his latest banquet in the city and, well, now I’m here.
Iemitsu: Hmmph, so that fuss last month from Kithara about Lucifer-shi almost dying was your doing?
Jacob: Even you know about that?! I-I’m so embarrassed!
Jacob seemingly shrivels in embarrassment. Iemitsu responds by fondling Jacob’s chin with his right hand and making each other’s eyes meet. Jacob’s eyes show some dread and hesitation.
Iemitsu: Hmmph, you’re really shy, aren’t you, Rei-kun?! Interesting, considering how you ended up here. That orc told you to do that, didn’t he?!
Jacob: Yes, he did. I-I just wanted somewhere to live without risking the chance of being thrown to jail. It was already bad I was pretty much dumped in Roi’s Canyon, but I spent days on the wild fearing people here would harm me, so when he said that, I just went along.
Iemitsu: You poor thing! And to think that, at first, I was judging you to be someone after my money! However, your eyes tell me you’re saying the truth. I thought this would be a one-night affair, but now I know it’ll be something more, hmmph!
Iemitsu leans forward and kisses Jacob for a brief second, after noticing a slight shrug from the latter.
Iemitsu: Hmmph, what’s wrong?!
Iemitsu: Hmmph, now I get it. You don’t like to bed with men, do you?
Jacob swallowed the dry truth that his Plan A just died. Since his fragile guise is still up, time for Plan B: half-truths.
Jacob: … no. In matter of fact, I left behind my girlfriend pregnant of my first child.
Iemitsu: Hmmph, that’s a shame. Both you being straight and being torn from your future family. And now that I was keyed up for you, Rei-kun…
Jacob: I could still… you know... I feel ashamed for deceiving you, it’s the least I could do.
Iemitsu: You’re selfless to a fault, bu- hmmmmph! Rei-kuuun!!!
Iemitsu is interrupted by Jacob’s naughty left hand, caressing the inner part of his right thigh, dangerously close to his private parts. Iemitsu’s rationality is waning at the same rate his manhood hardens: he knows he shouldn’t take advantage of Jacob’s apparent altruism, but his lust was screaming to do so and Jacob’s handsomeness, exotic by the land’s standards, wasn’t helping. Jacob, on the other hand, knows this is the golden chance to off Iemitsu without triggering any unknown message that would make ninja rain from nowhere. It’s a sacrifice, but many would say that a murderer making sacrifices it’s only fair.
Jacob leaves the side of Iemitsu and seats in front of him, still caressing the right thigh, but now the right hand is stroking the phallus, unleashing a string of moans from Iemitsu. Jacob takes a deep breath and starts lowering his head, but a rampant tremor propels Jacob forward, making his horns pierce Iemitsu’s heart and right lung, instantly killing him. Jacob is dizzy for a second, before realizing an earthquake is happening, already cracking the walls and roof of the temple, along with extinguishing the planetary projection, leaving Jacob in the darkness. He quickly removes his horns from Iemitsu’s chest and cleans the blood out of themWhat a cosmic irony, an assassin killing his target in the process of pleasuring it rather than actively trying to kill it. He dresses his yukata in a half-assed fashion for time’s sake and leaves the garden just in time, as the roof pretty much falls on the pond.
The quake keeps rustling the Temple of He and Jacob finds a corridor with countless windows and, when he’s ready to climb to one to jump out of the doomed building, a child enters the same corridor. Ietsuna Oni, the seven years-old son of Iemitsu, runs desperate, screaming on the top of his lungs for his father, not even noticing Jacob. The latter instinctively uses his Blink ability and appears behind the kid, grabbing him and jumps to the nearest window, which fortunately leads to a pine tree. Ietsuna starts to gesticulate, trying to get himself free from Jacob’s grasp.
Ietsuna: Let me down! Dad-
Jacob: Your father is dead because of this earthquake! I’m trying to save you, so calm down and climb to my back!
Ietsuna freezes for a moment before crying tears and snot. Jacob has nothing left to do but to put the child in position.
Jacob: Hang on tight!
Ietsuna rubs his arm in his eyes to clean the tears and nods, wrapping his arms around Jacob’s neck as he descends the tree. When he reaches the floor, he notices the both the ninja and the general populace flocking towards the temple and the reason for such: the coast receded just a nail short from a kilometer, which is the key sign of an incoming tsunami, so, despite the temple crumbling from the tremors, it is the highest place of the city, thus the safest. However, Jacob knows it’s not entirely safe, since the earthquake could very well awaken the Yamakujira to ends its stagnation with a town-devouring eruption, so he decides to head west to the border of the Land of Tanen, far enough of the shore and the sulfurous plains.
The city shatters apart as the unusually long quake keeps raging, but thankfully most of the houses and buildings are vacant due to careful education of the citizens of the ways to act in such catastrophes. The leader of the ninja, a houkou named Sakabe Gozaemon, tries to hold the temple by casting magic into the ground, making pine trees sprout from it and hold the building with their trunks and branches *. The other ninja enter the temple to rescue people, specially and uselessly Iemitsu and Ietsuna.
*Asiyah’s Word of Landscape: Matsumoto (“Pine Volume”)
Jacob still runs to the west, avoiding impulsively using Blink to keep Ietsuna on his back. To be saving this kid is an oddity, since he made many children orphan of father or mother, sometimes both, but it can be attributed to many reasons: the fact Jacob is indeed going to be a father himself soon like he told Iemitsu, so he felt compassion; the fact it was the first time he saw the true consequences of his murderous acts, even if accidental; or the fact that, even if accepting money for such a condemnable deed, he’s not amoral.
After an hour, the tremor stops, much for the relief of Jacob and Ietsuna, who are in a forest glade, resting from the panicky escapade. Ietsuna, still sobbing, stares at Jacob, the complete stranger who just saved his life.
Jacob: You should go back. It’s dangerous out here.
Ietsuna: Who are you?
Jacob: Someone you shouldn’t be talking to. Now go.
Jacob leaves Ietsuna and walks away from the glade, until Ietsuna holds Jacob’s waist firmly, crying.
Ietsuna: D-don’t leave me alone! I-I’m all alone!
Jacob releases Ietsuna’s arms and squats, putting his hand on Ietsuna’s shoulder.
Jacob: You’re the heir of a king-
Ietsuna: NOOO! I don’t wanna! I… I want my daddy!!!
Ietsuna yelps between his sobbing tears . Jacob feels like his heart turned into lead, heavy from seeing the child’s grief.
Ietsuna: I don’t wanna that stupid land! Daddy… daddy never had time for me! It was always land this, land that and meetings at night in the garden! I don’t wanna that! I just don’t wanna be alone!
Jacob, who is rather skeptic, can’t help but think that Tav himself is weaving the fates of both of them in the same direction. Killing a target while not wanting to kill it yet, saving the son of a man he just killed and now, the son who is ready to relinquish inheritance of power right next to the son whose inheritance of power was denied many years ago, there’s irony and there’s divine will sending a clear message, and the latter must be what describes this chain of events. Jacob has an epiphany and grabs Ietsuna’s hand.
Jacob: Let’s go then. I know someone on the north slope of the Yamakujira, we’ll just have to go through the sulfurous planes really quick so we can’t stop, okay?!
Jacob: Then climb on my back.
Ietsuna nods again and does so, and the two of them leave the glade headed to the north. Short minutes after that, Ietsuna points to the west, amazed at the sight. Jacob, still unaware, follows the tip and is horrified by it. A rebellious sea is where not even a day before were plains and mountainous ranges, as if the Malakeben devoured the whole land and the sea invaded the void left. But little they knew that Eretsaphir succumbed to a worldwide earthquake, changing forever the shape of the land. The Land of Izanami is now an archipelago; the Yam Bay, twin of the Nammu Bay, no longer is open to the latter, but to the south, making a whole peninsula of land appear south of Lechimayim; the great Euphrates river no longer ends at the Naga Gulf near the city of Sutz’kun, but to the southwestern Varuna sea; a new island appeared in the south of the Land of Hurakan with a strange arch-like structure dominating it, akin to the also new one a few miles south of Arion. Sathariel’s gluttony had devoured an extra 42 million of souls, crushed under buildings or swallowed by the cracking earth.
Amphiblestron, Land of Prometheus
First Day of Aries, the day after the Fall
For the first time ever, the sun seems to rise from the sea instead of the land to illuminate the city, which south half fell in the cliffs created yesterday. Many of the survivors of the north half were still searching the ruins and burying the deceased. The rest either can’t believe what happened or feel a profound sentiment of anguish. What did they do to deserve such fate?! Why must the spilling of innocent blood pay for the misdeeds of the guilty? One of them, an amdusias, Daemon with aspects of an horse with a single horn in his forehead, walks towards the edge of the cliff and screams to cast out his grief, when he suddenly sees a body floating in the debris, with the face in the water, all the way down. Quickly he returns to his fellow citizens and gathers their attention.
Amdusias: There’s someone down there!
Using various ropes and nets intertwined together to sustain the amdusias, he descends the cliff, aided by a group of people on the edge of the cliff, and reaches the body. He quickly turns it up and checks the pulse: it’s still alive! He quickly compresses the chest to let the water escape the lungs and succeeds, as the person coughs out the sea water.
Amdusias: Are you alright?!
Esau: … thank you.
The amdusias makes a signal to the people on the cliff and grabs Esau. Thank Tav, the amdusias thought, today isn’t just for funerals.
The Tower of Tzimtzum, Sitra Achra, Land of Zeus
Tenth Day of Aries, ten days after the Fall
No sooner than a few days, Eretsaphir drowned in political turmoil. Sathariel Lucifer, the emperor, had died and so did the only other sovereign, Iemitsu Oni. Many separatist movements were gaining enormous momentum due to the contempt of the people towards Sathariel’s last campaign, while others would defend that fragmenting the empire now would only weaken every single fraction of it and union was the only reasonable path. Worse than that, there was no political figure that the common crowd recognized and felt secure with. Cathariel Satan’s name was thrown around quite a bit, but the majority didn’t know who he was or why he was being mentioned in the first place.
The nation’s ignorance of him is no matter for Cathariel, he knows he’ll be appointed the next emperor anyway by exclusion of the other two candidates. Jacob was not allowed to be an heir to begin with and he got rid of Esau in a manner more efficient than he could ever hoped for, considering he couldn’t dream the entirety of the land of Tanen would cease to be. He waits inside the Tower of Tzimtzum, in a hall that leads to the Pulpit of Gilgul, a veranda built for the Emperor to speak to his people. He holds one of the crowns enchanted by the Gorgon Sisters and his heart races for the kiss of immortality that will come as soon as he wears it.
Such luck didn’t Isaac have with him, languishing on what would become his deathbed, with the other of the crowns on the right nightstand. Such unfortunate soul, not hearing a pip from or about his children in the last days makes him wish to see them one last time in every decrepit breath he takes.
Isaac: My son, you came back! Bless your divine name, Tav, for my son came to me before I join you! Come, come to me, so I can give you the last of my blessings!
Isaac awkwardly searches for the crown with his right hand due to his lack of sight, grabs it and extends his left hand so he knew where his son was. He feels a hand joining his, so he delivers the crown to what he feels is an open palm.
Isaac: Make me proud, my son.
Voice: I will, father.
Isaac’s soul is soothed. Now he can die without qualm.
Out in the Pulpit of Gilgul, the citizens look up as Cathariel speaks, finally wearing his crown. Many of them are truly curious about this political event, some smile at the promise of unity of the Empire, while others protest the forfeit opportunity of independence of the lands.
Cathariel: Do not freight, my fellow Daemon, for I will make every effort, imaginable and unimaginable, to undo the damage Sathariel made, for I, unlike him, I’m not a fool like him. I have my feet steady on the ground and I know that only with foolproof, realistic plans we can prosper. No longer will the children of the world serve as meat for the cannon of pipe dreams of defying our creators, for I’ll make sure our faith to Tav will never decay to that point ever again!
The crowd cheers his speech as someone else enters the veranda. Cathariel takes a quick glimpse and he couldn’t believe his eyes. Entering the Pulpit of Gilgul in a royal cape and wearing the other crown is Jacob.