I can remember a time when I was but a simple poet, neither human, god, devil, but just an anomaly. There was a time before the plagued nickname, Demon King, fell upon me like a tear of the faceless sky. The divine ruined me. In a time before all times…
I walked just a simple quest of knowledge, travelling the cosmos, world to world, recording incredible facts and adding them to my library. These were the greatest days of my life. So many beings I’ve met. So many people, food, ideas. For some reason, humans were separated from everyone else by the divinity. I learned this when I made a stop on a world far away from other civilizations. It was a miracle that I accidentally detected and transported to this world without any problems.
I’ve seen many beautiful places and even advanced worlds with incredible waterfalls of pure essence. Today, essence is simply called power, a mysterious substance of creation and destruction. I thought I’d seen it all, until I came across this lonely world. I created a separate notebook for it and recorded what I saw.
Communication with anything here would be no problem since I can speak all languages written in the divine’s book of Tongue. When I stumbled across a civilization what is now present-day Italy, I flexed a little power to disguise myself and blend into the lives of the people here.
Humans are rare beings who cannot directly use power, outside of occasional glitches, yet their bodies have souls. Souls made of untouchable power. Their true astral bodies. No doubt, I believed the King himself was behind their creation. I felt that his son once walked this plane, too. Such power in a place like this? Why? What was so special about the humans? As the Keeper, I would find out. This secret could get me in so much trouble if I was foolish enough to leak it. I felt the presence of this universe’s ruler, Conus, and he definitely knew of the humans. What could he and the King be up to? A piece of the King’s power lay in every human born, every soul. I smiled. What a discovery.
I glanced at the sky of a cloudy afternoon. At this point, I had lived in this realm for hundreds, maybe thousands of years, observing amazing human accomplishments. I have also borne witness to some terrible, terrible things. Wars, plagues, slavery, and extinctions. I interfered in one of them, which almost got me discovered by patrolling divinity. Since then, I’ve kept hidden, disgusted and intrigued by the King’s secret project.
I decided to take on my true name, Dante, in this era. I’d live in this generation, then depart. Maybe the King created more secret worlds, maybe other divines did. There was so much out there, though a part of me didn’t want to leave. Not everyone gets the privilege of watching civilizations rise, fall, and then rise again but to greater heights.
The market was unusually quiet as I strolled through. That’s when time froze. A boulder-sized ball of light, brighter than any star I’ve ever seen, appeared in front of me. That presence… I didn’t expect it so soon.
“Relax,” he said. “If I didn’t want you to see this, then you wouldn’t be here, child. Keeper, man of origins known only by me, I offer you a tour of the human soul’s journey. It is then you should try to understand what you see, what you live. The self-sustaining civilization, one that does not rely on essence. Incredible, are they not? Yes, there are black sheep among them, but their imperfection is what allows man to thrive.”
A thrill of excitement burst through every vein in my body. A tour from the King himself? This was beyond comprehension—I didn’t deserve it, but craved it like my favorite food.
“My lord,” I said as I bowed. “Please allow me the honor of this tour.”
“Rise, and let us be off.”
And so, the King gave me an expedition in which I never expected to witness in my eternal life. A bizarre tour, even for me, who had explored many worlds. From this, I wrote the Divine Comedy. Life in the human world was great until that day…. That day which changed everything.
On that day, I found a strange book on my desk as I returned from a walk. Years had passed since I received the journey from the King. The poem I wrote, I allowed the humans to read—it felt fair.
While it wasn’t the first thing I wrote, the piece obtained unexpected fame.
The moment I touched the black book, a rush of strange, unexplainable energy ravaged my insides. The feeling was so alien to me that I jerked my hand away and ran. It took me half a day at the tavern to regain my nerves. It was then that I decided I had to know what was inside.
When I arrived at my home, I closed all doors, covered the windows, and locked everything using essence. Then I dropped my human guise to grant myself full access to my spirit. I approached the book and inspected it without touching. It looked to be made of some kind of flesh, etched with white symbols, similar to hieroglyphics. I knew opening it could be a risk, but as a scholar who sought knowledge, there was no turning back from this. The strange energy filled me as I read page after page like a madman—unable to stop, craving its contents like a starving animal. It contained so much information, from controlling stars, controlling what humans today call black holes, confirming the existence of special space bodies unknown to anyone, and harnessing their power to shift universes. Then it dove into types of beings, some that even I had never heard of, living in the depths of the cosmos.
Some even existed in dimensions existing only in the center of great stars. So much—and I had only made it halfway through the book before I heard a voice. I looked up to see a frowning archangel.
“I will ask only once more. Where did you get that?” he said, venom in his voice. I stood up, taken aback by this treatment.
“It appeared on my desk yesterday,” I said.
“You take me for a fool?” he growled. “That book belongs to the King’s library. I find it to be no coincidence that you have it, after he gave you a tour, ungrateful wrench.”
“No—it just app—”
The archangel raised a finger, which emitting a high-pitched noise and light everywhere. It cleared a second later and there I found myself standing before five archangels in a field of golden flowers. Paradise Realm.
Looking back, it was probably the most uncomfortable feeling I had in my life.
“You have committed a grave sin,” one of the archangels said as he stepped toward me. “We will sentence you here out of respect of who you once were, but nothing else.”
“You’ve got it all wrong,” I tried to explain but another archangel cut me off.
“Stealing from the King is an automatic sentence to the depths of Hell.”
“Summon the King,” I snarled. “He’ll vouch for me. Do you imbeciles really think that I could possibly make a tour to his library unseen by his eye?”
“Yes,” an archangel said. “You have the power to go anywhere as the Keeper. You also lived on Earth undetected, for many years.”
“The King knew—”
“Your job ends today. You’re under arrest, Dante.”
A surge of rage blasted through my veins as realization dawned on me. I was about to be eternality imprisoned for something I didn’t do.
“Your story would’ve passed had you not opened that book and simply returned it. But you learned of secrets only meant for eyes that need to know. Keeper or not, you crossed the line.”
I gasped. This was a setup but by who? I needed to speak with the King, to clear my name. “Fine,” I said, “if I cannot request the audience, I shall go to the King myself.” I attempted the transport but instead of the feeling of essence granting my wish, the pressure of rejection pushed me back. I glared at the archangels.
“For the King’s safety, we have restricted access to his realm.”
“I will force my way there if I have to. I will not be sent to the depths for a crime I did not commit.”
I held my hand to the side and accessed a pocket dimension. The swirling vortex of green light, the size of a coconut appeared and from it, I pulled out a long blade, forged for me a long time ago by a woman in the realm of weapons. I had named it Nova some time ago. It is one of nature’s allowed special blades which can only be created by using a piece of a soul. Long platinum blade, diamond sheath with symbols engraved on the hilt, this masterpiece was what I one day planned to have passed down as a family blade. Even a Keeper had plans to pass on his legacy. If I ended here, everything I’d accomplished would be for naught.
Just then, something unexpected happened. All seven rulers of the realms bonded to this universe appeared before me, including Conus, the head of it all.
“You are deeply tainted with that book and dare to make a threat on the King’s realm,” Conus said. “We will not stand by and allow you to have your way. A declaration of war is set. This is your last chance to surrender.”
I shook my head, furious. “Are all of you this blind? I will not allow myself to be sent to the depths for a crime I didn’t commit. You have no idea what you’re up against if you think to get in my way.”
“Really, threatening us?” Conus said. “Foolish to the end.”
“No, Conus,” I said. “It is you that is foolish.” I moved before he had to chance to detect me, nailing him in the chest with an essence-fueled punch. He gasped, collapsing, down, but not out. The other rulers reacted too slowly as I held up a finger. The sky of Paradise Realm shifted to black. I poked it with essence and created a giant human-shaped eye in the center of it. I made sure to make it look as grotesque as possible—something that would keep fear into those that dared stand against me. The arrogant leaders had underestimated me. They had betrayed my trust, the poet who only wished to seek knowledge. I was a bearer of more than a thousand techniques? This would be the downfall of the rulers. The eye in the sky would keep track of them without even moving. It’s intangible too, and can only be removed by me or a being of absolute dominance. They would not get a blind spot out of me.
Three of the rulers rushed me, firing bolts of lightning and essence, things that would’ve easily vaporized anyone else. I deflected the attacks with the hilt of my sword, then quick-ascended to two rulers that planned to collaborate a strong spell. Too bad the effort turned out to be fruitless, thanks to the eye.
I knocked them flat on their backs with an explosive wave of pure force. Conus and a few others attempted to fire power at my back, but the eye shot me an internal warning. I dodged with quick-ascension behind Conus. Before I could lay the killing blow, a familiar book appeared in front of me…The thing that got me into this conflict in the first place. I planned to destroy it; however, something strange happened. It called out to me, not with words, but with sensations and silent promises.
I wanted nothing more to do with the book, yet it absorbed itself into me, combining its knowledge, power, essence, and heart with mine. But this…this...was just too much for me. I lost control then. My will became the book’s will. The eye above cried tears of blood. Strange, half-bat, half-wrongness—these creatures spawned from the tears in many shapes. I laughed maniacally. Or to be accurate, the book laughed. I was simply the backseat consciousness.
The seven rulers and the archangels worked together to take out the twenty demons but were no match for me. With one strike of force, I had them on their knees, fighting the intense pain of injury. I prepared the killing blow for Conus—he’d be the example. A powerful voice halted me.
“That’s enough. I will end this.”
The King and his son stepped out of light, armed with incredible glowing gold swords—the finest craftsmanship an artist could design. Both of those swords were special blades, a piece of the King’s soul putting them at the top. I believe nature would only allow seven of these swords to exist at any time. The universe had a will too, demanding balance and order. Swords like those warped time and space, so natural law kept them in check. I wanted to document the sight of them…but my will…it couldn’t overpower the book. My judgment changed, my thoughts cloudy.
“I will kill anyone who stands in my way,” I said.
“You let that text exert control, but raising your sword against me will—”
I thought I would feel horrified at lurching at the King with a false intent to kill, but…that never came to be. Our swords collided, releasing tremendous essence. Enough to destroy a planet ten times over. The King’s eyes widened, unable to comprehend that he wasn’t as untouchable as he thought. Whatever this book did to me, put me at the point of no return. There would no forgiveness. The King parried aside my sword and then backhanded me to the ground. I laughed, stood, and met him face to face, blade to blade, blow for blow. His skill was incredible, too incredible.
But…I had the book. It poured illegal essence into me, increasing my speed tenfold, my strength, my senses, my knowledge. I roared as I knocked the king onto his back. The seven rulers and his son joined the fight, preventing what would’ve been a wounding blow. Not a killing blow, it’s impossible to strip the King’s immortality. The wounding blow, however, would be good enough as the pulse of panic that will make me feared forever.
It didn’t take long for the King to rejoin the battle against me. I injured the other rulers; however, even with the book, I couldn’t hold off against nine—this assault came too soon, unplanned. The King’s son struck a blow that brought me to my knees. I knew I had lost, so I recreated the pocket dimension and tossed my sword inside. I could not allow the relic, a memento of my blood and my line, be confiscated.
“You will be banished to the depths of Hell,” the King snarled. “Dante, you disappoint me.”
Now was the chance to explain myself, but I only stayed put, seething. The King grabbed me by the throat and smacked me, before creating a vortex of essence, lights, and screaming voices on the ground, the size of a manhole cover. He tossed me inside.
The pain of brutal fire hit hard as I fell for what felt like an eternity. My surroundings grew darker and darker as I fell for hours. Screams, roars, and maniacal laughter roared through my eardrums the entire time, bent on driving me to madness. Eventually I hit the rocky ground hard enough to give it a large crater—I know because I felt the cave-in.
The effect Hell had on my powers almost drove me mad, but I did feel something. The book briefly appeared in front of me, lighting the darkness, before reabsorbing into my skin. Essence roared within me once again, though, far from my original standing.
For some reason, I was still able to perform limited transportation, only from the depths to earth, but there was a time limit. I had to go through the painful, maddening fall, all over again. The feeling of losing freedom, again and again. I stopped visiting the human world and focused on expanding my power. Demons didn’t dare challenge me—I made sure my presence radiated. My abilities weren’t fully negated. They knew that I was extremely dangerous.
Also, the rulers still watched me when I was in the depths, but had no idea of my capabilities. Thanks to the book, I created a small dimension and from there, built an enormous city that not even the King could see. It would evolve as human technology did. The sky was blue and had a day, night cycle without a sun. The temperature was perfect. I’d allow no blasted heat from Hell to ruin it. I created a palace at the center. Here would live the royal family. I had no intention of living my eternity in misery, though a part of me knew I would always be miserable. I am the Keeper, the traveler of the cosmos. I longed to get back on the go again but that privilege was stripped. Stuck and defeated, a ghost of his old self. Ghost… At that point, I changed my identity to Ghost and made sure the rulers knew.
They titled me, Demon King.
As centuries passed, I established a monarchy in Hell from the depths. I only allowed demons with human form and intelligence into my city. They were surprised to feel human, live, drive, and thrive like the humans did. Of course, I didn’t let them have this for free. Anyone outside of the royal family had to work and receive pay. Coin made of my essence.
There was one more thing I needed and none of these bastards would qualify for the position. I glanced at the drunken maid on my bed, then sighed. I brought three of them into my room without actually doing anything. They wouldn’t dare state their disappointment, though it showed on their faces.
“Out with you,” I said. The maid left without objection. She was as beautiful as the rest but that meant nothing to me. Demons and devils easily kept up their appearances, regardless of the social class. But inside, they craved power. Inside, they were dark, ugly, and conniving.
No one would dare to challenge me, not after what I’ve done. They’d still want to succeed my glory. They knew I planned to break out of the depths. I sat at the table in the center of my hotel-like room. Modern times… I stuck to wearing suits now, running my world like a business. Being the CEO. Time was nothing to me nor was it for the book, which meant I’d have control over it for a while longer.
To this day, I still know nothing of the book’s goals.
I split my time between reading in my study, improving the dimension, ruling, and plotting. I’d pay them all back for what they had done to me, an innocent. After that, I’d return to traveling and no one would find me. Not even the King.
A part of me wished things would flow into simplicity but being a part of the depths was far from it. Those sent here are bonded to it and the only being capable of undoing the chains is the King. I simply didn’t have the power.
At that moment, I made up my mind to gain a successor, but the old fashioned way. It took centuries, but I built up enough power to sustain a non-power-using life in the human world for up to five years.
I took the trip, married a human woman, and when she gave birth, I took the child to my dimension. A twinge of guilt at leaving her behind gnawed my insides, but the time limit gave me no choice. I named my successor Sin as an irony. In order to keep away questions, I disguised Sin’s soul as half human, half devil, though he is something else entirely. He’s half of what I am and what humanity birthed.
His curiosity about the human world often angered me to no end. I needed him to focus, as the next ruler. While I was eternal, I planned to retire to fully focus on dissolving the bond between the depths and me. My son was well-mannered, intelligent, but foolish. And though he tried to hide it, Sin was full of ambition. His banishment is simply a step in my plans. He wasn’t bounded to this place, so I sent him out for his own good.
And so, I said… And so, I shall emerge victorious. Maybe one day I can regain my identity as Dante. That friend of Sin’s…Epex. What a thorn to my side, but he may have some uses. I will keep an eye on his actions. The book, which still fizzles through my veins like lightning, showed interest in him. I cannot be sure, but I think at one point, it visited him... There are rumors that Epex was imprisoned, powers sealed, somewhere on the surface of Hell by his father, then escaped with an unknown spell. But spells must originate from somewhere. Sure, one can invent them but that will inevitably take decades…no, centuries, even millennia to perfect. Epex is something odd, manifesting objects, abusing the power of creation, in less than a heartbeat. Something that no other deity besides the King himself, can do. What…if the rumors are true about his escape? That unknown spell…Did the book crack Epex’s seal and then implant that spell in him? I stood up and gazed at my palms. The aura of the book, a translucent black, still danced around them, signifying its presence.
“We stand in something far beyond our heads,” I said softly. “It is no coincidence you found my son. I am as powerless against it as I was before.”
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- The Enlightener
Alvin Atwater is a man of humor, a starving author. With a unique writing style that can outshine even Jim Butcher, Patria Briggs, or Kevin Hearne, he is a character-driven lovable lump of mass. Born in Florida, he's on a mission to defeat his arch nemesis, Florida Man, once and for all.
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Author of the Blood for Soul series and a secret coming-of-the-age epic fantasy. Lover of anime and manga: so yeah, weeb shit? Fun. Sue me haha.
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