"WHAT?!", yelled Corvin, slamming the table in between them. Arikin raised an eyebrow, as he casually sipped a cup of wine. The sun was creeping in their windows, it reflected Arikin's red hair, illuminating the room with crimson dye. It was mid-afternoon.
Corvin just stared at him, wide eyed by his employer's story. And, what's more, he wanted him to be bait for this Demon.
"This is a joke right?!", Corvin asked, a hint of frustration in his tone. He knew what Arikin said is true, he had no reason to lie about it, but what he didn't believe is that he is supposed to be bait.
Arikin shook his head, then placed his feet on the table, nonchalantly stretching. "Look.. With a wig and a bit of makeup, you'll look like a girl in no time.. Besides, I won't let it eat ya'.",
"I don't look like a GIRL!", Corvin retorted.
Arikin waved his hand away. "I told you, with a bit of makeup and a wig, you'll be trapping in no time.",
"I AM NOT A TRAP!", Corvin blurted.
Arikin laughed hard, gripping his abdomen. "You know what a TRAP is?",
"Of course I do! You plan to trap this demon with me as a bait!", Corvin retorted.
Arikin's laugh faded. "Ah. I see. ",
He sounded as if Corvin misunderstood.
Arikin wondered if the neighbors are listening in on this argument. They must sound crazy. It sounded like they wanted to hoodwink some important noble or something.
He was right though, with Corvin's slender frame and prepubescent shoulders, with the right wig and makeup he would be mistaken for a female. Perfect bait for the changeling.
"Look.. I have no one to turn to right now. You know of the dangers monsters bring. Do you really want Sarah's death be unavenged? ", he said, "And besides, you did owe me for saving you from that lizard man.",
Corvin sighed, realizing a petty problem. All he had to do was to be mistaken as a girl for that day. He accepted, nodding slowly , looking at the wooden floor below.
"Alright then.. Come with me.",
Heading their way upstairs, they ran into Pomph, which immediately ran away after seeing Arikin. Corvin let out a chuckle, and Arikin rolled his eyes.
Arikin had a number of wigs tucked in his secret cabinet. It was located behind his bookcase, and he hoped Corvin didn't see it yet. It wasn't a secret anymore if he did.
When they arrived at the door, he instructed Corvin to wait, as he went inside to gather make-up, and wigs.
After he went out of the room, Corvin looked at him suspiciously.
"What need do you have of make-up? Why do you have them?", he asked, a brow raised. "The wigs, I understand but make-up?",
Arikin sighed. "It.. Belonged to a friend of mine.",
"Really? Where is she now?", challenged Corvin.
Arikin glared at his friend. "She's dead.",
"Oh..", he paused. "I didn't-",
"Shut it..", he said, pointing at a stool beside the door. "Sit down over there, let's get this over with. Daylight's burning..",
Arikin knew what he was doing. Corvin felt soft brushes caressing his skin. A bit of powder there, and a weird tool which Arikin pressed against his eye. He froze, but Arikin put a reassuring hand in his shoulder.
A few moments later, he went to get a mirror.
He flashed it to Corvin, who before, was looking skeptically. Now, he was breathless.
Eyeing the female in the mirror, he noted long eyelashes, blushed cheeks, and lips so red it even rivaled the noblewomen's who would pass by. Was this him? He asked himself.
Arikin did excellent make up work.
Arikin chuckled. "It's best if you don't talk though. That rough voice of yours can turn off any male.",
Arikin handed a 3 dresses to him. One was blue, one was red, and the other was black. It had similar designs.
There weren't any jewelry embedded in them, like what nobility would wear, but he knew it was well made. It had a smooth silky touch to it, and the sleeves were stretchable. There weren't that many frills, but the design was not bad to look at. The collar had a white embroidered design that complemented each colour. It had a small slit on the chest, he thought where the bosom would be, if he had them.
"You've been hiding this all along? Why?", Corvin asked curiously, eyeing the clothes.
Arikin looked away. "Memories.", he murmured under his breath. He then wiped his eyes.
Corvin decided to stop asking questions. These clearly belonged to his beloved. There's no mistaking his eyes. Whenever he glanced at the make-up, or the dresses, he gave off a sad smile.
He would ask more if it was the right time.
He cleared his throat. "Uh.. What about. the...Y'know..", Corvin fidgeted around uncomfortably.
Arikin smiled mischievously. "I have these.",
He held out in both hands a pair of studded cloth, it seemed to resemble a boob.
"Ah.", Corvin replied.
"Now let's see those titties!", Arikin said.
Then they heard a clank just in front of them, disturbing the lamplight. A ball of white fur peeking over. When it met Corvin's gaze, it hissed and scurried away to the rooms below.
Arikin laughed out loud. "It-It-It RAN!!",
Corvin rolled his eyes.
By the time Corvin wore the dresses and was put with the pads Arikin gave him, it was almost dark. The sun was still out, but it gave off a waning yellow glow. "We need to hurry.", chited Arikin.
As they passed by the marketplace, Corvin felt a few stares from the workermen, even a few nobles. Corvin was red in embarrasment. He didn't like it one bit. He liked women, but getting stared at by these men were disgusting. He couldn't wait to see this Demon dead.
Arikin paused as they arrived the stairway leading to the riverside below. He went closer to Corvin's ear and said in a hush voice, "Go under the bridge. Act like a noble with nothing better to do. Remember, don't speak a thing.",
Corvin nodded in agreement. He felt a slight breeze from his back, almost lifting his skirt. He turned back, but Arikin was long gone.
He sighed, and continued down.
The stairs were a burden now. He didn't know how to walk in heels. His feet hurt, and his ankles felt like they were about to get twisted. He gritted his teeth, and tried to make his way down safely.
The sun was giving off a waning glow, as sunset was about to set in. A cold chill of the river's breeze swept through, giving him shivers. He went under the first bridge, knelt down, and started picking up rocks and tossing them over the water.
He did this for almost 20 minutes.
Afterwards, he noted a little boy was staring at him intently just a few paces by the stairs, not like the men's lusty stares, but more of a curious innocent child's. He was carrying a fishing pole twice his size. He stood up and jogged towards him.
Not intending to break his disguise, Corvin smiled at the young boy. He stopped and was visibly blushing. Corvin knew though, that when this boy knew that he himself was a guy? His blush would then turn into a face of disgust.
"What are you doing pretty miss?", the boy asked.
Corvin smiled again, hiding his discomfort in getting called miss. He then continued to throw rocks. Afterwards, the little boy followed his lead.
"Not much of a talker huh?", the boy said throwing rocks. "My friend got missing.. I miss her..",
Corvin now realized that this was Bryce from his employer's story. Corvin reached out to the boy's shoulder, placing a reassuring smile. He wanted to tell him that his friend was getting avenged, but doing so..
"Bryce!", a loud voice bellowed from over the stairway.
The man, was huge, and was staring at Corvin with piqued interest. He even heard a whistle as he came over.
"Who is this?", the man asked, accentuating his tone.
"Uh.. I don't no pops..", Bryce replied.
Corvin then nodded, and bowed, gently lifting up his skirt in polite greeting.
When the man saw the gesture, he fidgeted.
"Uhh.. I'm sorry milady.. I didn't mean any disrespect!", he said, bowing low. "Well. Me and my boy should get going now.. It's getting dark soon.. I recommend you do so as well.",
Afterwards, they went up the stairs and disappeared into the influx of people on the market. Corvin let out a sigh of relief. He didn't know how long he could last with his demeanor. Most of the times he felt like he should run, or tell the man that he was a guy.
He shook his head, and started to throw rocks again.
Then, he felt a breeze behind him ,followed by thud. He spun around, seeing a man with a black cowl.
"Arikin?", he asked, his heart about to leave his chest in surprise.
"He took the bait.", Arikin replied. "He'd return, presumably offering to be your escort, then lead you under the second bridge.. When you're out of sight, you'll feel a needle pricked against your neck.. A tranquilizer venom, to render you paralyzed. Just stay calm, he wouldn't kill you yet.",
Corvin gulped. He was getting in deeper and deeper, he realized.
"What do you mean wouldn't kill me yet?!", he almost shouted in response, his rough voice echoing under the bridge.
"Exactly that. Changelings render their victims paralyzed, torture them. They relish on bringing suffering on others, especially women. After it injects the paralyzing venom, it'd show it's true form to you, but you wouldn't be able to speak or yell, just move your eyes. It'll then drag you to it's lair where it will torture you, But don't fret. I'll be waiting inside, and kill it..", Arikin said, staring at Corvin with icy saphhire eyes.
"And if it kills you?", Corvin gulped.
Arikin looked sideways. "Then you'll die suffering. And, maybe raped.. You wouldn't want that though right?",
Corvin shuddered with the thought, and hoped that it wouldn't come to that.. After the exchange, one eyeblink later, Arikin was out of sight again. He vanished with the shadows.
"Lady.. I thought you were gone..", a voice came from behind Corvin. He knew it was coming, from the footsteps he heard.
Corvin nodded, and bowed again.
"May I, accompany you, my lady?",
Corvin cringed at the statement, but fearing discovery, bowed again in polite manner. The man took Corvin's hand, and kissed it gently, before walking towards the second bridge.
Corvin's hairs stood up on end, he was red in embarassment, and just wished this would be done quickly. The sun was set now, and in the dark light emanating from the moon, this would've been a romantic walk, if he was with a lovely woman instead of a gruff tall Changeling Demon.
He sighed in thought. He trusted Arikin, and knew he knew what he was doing. He was a professional. It was wrong to argue against that fact.
What he didn't know, is that what kind of professional Arikin was. He knew he dealt in all kinds of jobs. Protection, hunting, or monster hunting. He was a jack of all trades.
He looked up to see that several paces in front of him was a dark way. It was the second bridge, Corvin realized.
His train of thought however was broken, when he felt a sting on the back of his neck. A thin, hairlike needle had pierced his skin.
A surge of cold went throughout his body. His knees grew weak, the muscles relaxed, then he didn't feel anything at all. Numbness.
He slumped on the ground motionless, and could only move his eyes.
He caught the man in the corner of his eyes, smiling maniacally, but then his expression grew grim. Then, he saw the most hideous thing possible.
The man's visage started to distort, the muscles of the face now turned into red veiny flesh.
"Wha- What is happening?!", the man yelled. The sound of his voice now sounded more like a beast's growl than a man's shout.
The man continued cursing and muttering under his breath, but it still continued in morphing into a dark red, veiny beast. It had long thin arms, with claws the length of a street lampost and it glowed a shiny red under the light of the moon, it's eyes, burning like hot coals. It had a thin, slender body, and legs short, but thick and hooved.
It turned around to Corvin, anger clear in it's gaze. "I'll enjoy this.. But not after I'll kill the one who disturbed my lair.",
It picked up Corvin, and dragged him across the ground. It's long claws barely scraping his skin, or so he thought. His whole body was numb.
The darkness was everywhere. Sure, he could move his eyes, but all he saw was the Demon's glowing eyes. Fear, was all he felt now in his numb heart.
Arikin lay under the dark demon's lair. Meditating. He knelt down, his eyes closed, mentally preparing himself for the task to come.
After a few deep breaths, he uncorked three potions this time. "IRING", for him to see in the dark, "IRO", to enhance his senses, and "TIKI", for his wounds to mend quickly.
Demon's can be dangerous. Their claws are razor sharp, able to cut between steel like paper. One wrong move, and he's dead. He is prepared to face one though.
After the preparations, he went towards the glyphs surrounding Bruce's body, and flung his wrists to whip out his hidden blades. Each, were about a dagger's length, and would only potrude from his vambraces when carefully activated.
One by one, he slashed the glyphs, until they didn't glow anymore. A surge of magical tension swirled in the air, as a barrage of colors swept throughout the lair in response of the destruction of the glyphs.
He heard uneven footsteps coming towards the lair, as well as a dragging sound. It was the demon and Corvin.
It went inside the lair, squeezing through the tight crack in the wall, and tossed Corvin to where Sarah's corpse was laying. It's red glowing eyes carefully eyeing the lair.
Arikin cringed at the thought.
Before it could even catch sight of him, Arikin drew out his shortsword from his back, a sound of metallic brush echoing throughout the sewers.
He charged to the demon, and swung with full might. The demon was caught off guard, and tried to shield itself with it's arms. It held them up, and Arikin felt the sword tear through flesh and bone. The demon gave off a pained shriek, which echoed loudly. It wasn't enough to cut them off though.
He stepped back, and made sure to put the trap he placed between him, and the beast.
It laughed, a dark and distorted laugh, that pierced Arikin's ears.
"I knew it.. You are a Ranger.", It said. "I knew from the moment I saw you. Your presence, your aura, it's unmistakable.",
Arikin glared at the beast. His icy gaze piercing the creature.
The demon laughed. "Demon blood is unmistakable to demonkin...You do know this, correct? In some words, you are like my brother..",
Arikin spat on the ground. "I'm nothing like you.. Nor are all the other Rangers..", he hissed.
"And yet.. You carry demon blood in your veins...", The demon replied nonchalantly.
Arikin's fuse was lit now. He didn't want to be reminded of his blood. It wasn't his choice.
He clenched his fists, and readied another strike, forgetting the plan he just hatched a few moments before.
He darted forward, and the demon readied a counterattack. As Arikin slashed to where the demon's head had been, his weapon only caught air. The demon disappeared, then reappeared behind Arikin. It spun, and Arikin felt three gashes on his back, the searing pain immediately followed.
He winced, and staggered backward, feeling warm liquid oozing from his back. He spun, facing the demon, defiance burning brightly in his icy gaze.
He needed to chill down. He caught Corvin's gaze from the corner of his eye, and it was all he needed to get his head back in the game.
He needed to kill this demon. He needed to save Corvin from the trap he made. He wanted the Baker family to have some closure.
Following the momentum, the demon slashed violently towards him , but he ducked down and barely missed the razors, and followed it up with an upwards vertical strike, severing it's chin. Blood gushed out and sprayed his face, and he strafed backwards fearing a counterattack.
Disoriented, it staggered backwards, and Arikin made use of this opening. He charged forward, and plunged the shortsword deep into it's slender abdomen, just below the heart.
"Tsk.", Arikin muttered. He missed his mark.
The demon let out a chuckle, the walls quaked as it echoed through. The hairs of Arikin's body stood on end as the voice pierced his hearing.
"You missed.", It stated, grinning.
He gave out a worried smile. But he knew it wouldn't be long until it begs for mercy.
The wounds on his back have already begun to mend themselves thanks to the potion he imbibed earlier, but it still hurt like hell. He needed to lure the demon onto the glyph traps he weaved on the walls and on the floor if he wanted to stand a chance.
The sword was still stuck in the demon's abdomen, out of reach.
"What will you do now?", The demon taunted, tapping the sword.
Arikin spat, and let out a groan.
With a flick of his wrist, two silver blades potruded from under his vambraces. The demon stepped back in surprise. He then showed them off, doing a series of fighting forms. The two blades glittered like stars under the night sky.
He darted forward again, and slashed at the demon's arm. He felt it sink in to the flesh, but not deep enough. He needed to get in one more strike. One more, and he could tear the arms apart, rendering the demon defenseless.
The demon pushed away Arikin's blades as expected, flinging him in the opposite direction.
A faint glow of the glyph trap he etched caught his eye. It was an arm's length away from him.
He strafed backwards, and made sure to put the trap between him, and the demon.
"Come on! Ya piece of filth!", Arikin taunted, brandishing his blades in a series of twirls.
The veiny face of the creature began to expand, as it visibly heated.
The demon charged again with a berserk fury. Letting out loud battle cries that shook the walls and pierced his ears. He shrugged it off, focusing on the task at hand.
As the demon was in range, the glyph on the ground burst into light, a series of ethereal purple tentacles spurted from the ground then wrapped around the creature's hooved legs.
It let out a bellowing roar, but it was too late. Arikin had already closed the distance.
It raised it's claws in a desperate defense, covering his head and the neck. But Arikin had a different target. He was aiming at the arms themselves.
With full force, Arikin slashed at the demon's arms. Both wristblades made contact with it's flesh. The demon flailed and roared louder, but Arikin kept slashing at it. Left, right, left, right, he teared and rended at it's arms nonstop. The demon had no control, it was rooted to the ground, the purple tendrils strongly locking it in place.
He kept at it, until his blades made contact with bone. The demon's roared now turned into painful shrieks. The walls shook , and even the rats scurried away from the onslaught.
With one final swipe, the arms were loose, separated from the body. It fell to the murky, smelly sewer floor. It kept twitching, and a pool of blood oozed from demon.
The glyph had run out of energy, and the demon was let loose. It staggered backward, fear overwhelming the mind. Arikin glared at the demon with ice in his eyes.
Slowly, he walked towards it.
The silence, eerily disturbed by the deep breaths of the demon, and Arikin's shallow footsteps.
The demon whimpered, and desperately clawed at the walls behind it, finding an escape route.
"Where do you think you're going?",
A chill suddenly fell down on Corvin's spine after hearing it. A bit of feeling, now returning.
"P-Please... ", The demon stuttered.
"Please what?", Arikin asked in a whisper.
Arikin then stood over the demon. Glaring at it. He stomped it in the chest, just above where his sword is resting. He pinned him to the ground.
Arikin reached out to the sword, then pulled it. A fountain of blood oozed out from the wound, spraying his armor and a little bit of his face with blood. The demon howled in pain, a distorted growl echoed through the walls.
"Oh no.. It's just the start..", Arikin smirked devilishly.
He hauled the sword upwards, then plunged it deep in the creatures heart. It sank deep, he felt flesh being stabbed and bones break, and the howls of pain from the demon pierced his ears.
The demon twitched and shivered, clawing at the sword with the stumps on it's arms.
"Y-You.. Planned this.. Aiming at my arms... Not my neck...", It stuttered.
"Very perceptive of you.", Arikin replied coldy. "You made the mistake of revealing my identity.. I was planning on keeping it secret until I was sure of the boy's opinions of rangers... But now..",
Arikin trailed off. And a tear, fell from his eye. "He will leave me... Knowing that. I am a Ranger.. And I hold demon blood.. I am a monster. A monster that hunts monsters.. Ironic isn't it? Many people I know have left after knowing this.. I don't blame them.. After seeing me do things like this? Killing monsters and demons like it was a daily chore?",
Arikin paused briefly. The sounds of panting the only thing that broke the silence.
He continued. "Never mind that. Because of what you did, I plan to make you suffer.. You know what's about to happen right?", Arikin grinned devilishly. He tapped the sword that was sticking in it's heart. The demon winced at the slight poke. "I'm gonna twist this.. Very.. Slowly.. For Sarah.. For what you said. And for all the lives you took and ate.",
Arikin gripped the hilt of the sword, then gently, twisted it around. The tearing of flesh and bone was audible, and the demon's shrieks and howls even more.
Corvin heard the entire exchange, but he didn't see the fight. Just sparks of silver and red dancing in the dark... But even after hearing this, he felt no urge to leave Arikin's side.. The man had only given him help. Help he desperately needed. Arikin could've left him to die, but he took him in.. Arikin was no demon. But he wasn't an Angel either.. He was human. A man.
Corvin mustered the strength to speak, his rough voice like sandpaper against the sewer walls. "I-I won't- leave.. Arikin..",
Arikin turned to Corvin, stopping the torture.
"You will.", He replied..
Corvin gritted his teeth, and spoke again.. "You are my friend.. My only friend. My boss. My savior. My hero..",
The demon snarled. "A MAN?! ",
Arikin laughed loudly. "I know right? Looks cute too.", he said jokingly.
Arikin smiled. A swirling of emotions twirled in his heart. It had been ages since anyone called him friend.
Before, the people would spit as he passed by. The people which he had called friend, betrayed him. And was secretly talking behind his back. That he was a monster. A demon. A heartless Killer.
"I'm glad you feel that way.", Arikin replied.
Corvin felt relief. He idolized Arikin ever since they met. And now, he revealed he was a Ranger. He never could leave him now. Demon blood or not, he was his hero. Nothing could make him change his mind.
The demon was barely alive by now. It's gaze now listless. It was begging for death. "K-Kill me already..", It groaned.
"Not yet.. I am still curious about something.", Arikin then let out his hidden blades again. Then etched a glyph beside the weakened demon.
It burst into white light, illuminating the sewers, then black again.
A surge of revitalizing energy filled the demon, but it was paralyzed. It can only move it's mouth and eyes now.
"A revitalizing glyph? Do you plan on tormenting me further?!", It hissed.
"Yeah.. And now. You'll answer my questions.. Were you acquaintances with Bruce?", Arikin asked.
The demon looked away from Arikin.
"So my suspicions were correct..", He replied.
"How makes you think that?", the demon asked.
Arikin pointed at the corpse at the end of the sewer. Corvin couldn't see it, but both Arikin and the Demon saw it quite well.
"No bite marks. No signs of struggle. It was a natural death.. What of the boy?", Arikin stated.
"The man was my friend.. He helped me escape from the dungeons of Lord Rathkor's prisons.. I owed him.. He asked me to take care of his child., and so I did.. I did so to the best of my ability.",
Arikin snorted. "I see.. But It doesn't absolve you of the murders. Sarah. A little girl...You raped her.. A girl with a future. She could've been a beautiful maid, or a merchant. You robbed her of that..And for that I will kill you VERY slowly..",
The demon closed it's eyes and said, "Go ahead then.",
Further into the night, nothing but pained shrieks and howls filled the demon's lair. Corvin still lay beside Sarah's corpse. Gagging and belching with the smell.
He was still numb and paralyzed, but at least he can feel his toes now. He wriggled them, and regretted it immediately. He felt a gooey and spongy substance at his feet. Was it flesh? He pushed it out of his mind, and started to belch again.
Finally, with a loud snap, Arikin had twisted the demon's neck, killing it instantly. He pulled out the sword from it's heart, then sheathed it back into the scabbard on his back.
The road back to the building was quick, and boring. Arikin had carried Corvin on his arms like a damsel in distress. He didn't like it one bit.
He was red in embarrasment, and wanted this day to just end.
Arikin, had a look of worry though. He feared that Corvin would leave him. He would lose another friend. He was unsure if what Corvin said in the sewers was genuine, but until the paralysis would subside. he would confront him one more time.
He placed Corvin into his bed, and laid him flat. "Effects should be gone by tomorrow..", He said, not turning back.
Corvin tried to reach out his hand, but only managed a slight raise of his finger. He wanted to reaussure him, but his voice won't come out. Arikin left shortly after.
It was almost midnight, and he went back to the lair bringing a hand cart with him. He parked it just outside the sewer grate, then headed inside the small crack leading to the lair.
Grabbing a sharp hunting knife, he cut off the Demon's head, bundled it with ropes, and hung it from his back just like his shortsword.
He then went towards Sarah's corpse. He looked at it solemnly. Wondering what would happen if he just received the job right after the girl was kidnapped. His mind swirled with limitless possibilities. She could've grown up to be a swordswoman, a mage, a huntress. Or a barmaid, a seamstress.
He shook his head.
There was nothing he could do now.
He turned back to see Bruce's corpse now decomposing rapidly. The flesh had begun to rot, black flesh and foul stench emanating from it. The only distinguishing mark is the size of it. He thought of Bryce..
How could he explain it to the child? Should he take him in? Just like Corvin?
He sighed deeply, shoving the thought for later. Right now, he needed to finish his job.
He carefully carted the corpse towards the Baker household. At least, with this, they can finally have closure with their daughter's disappearance.