One thing I hate about new places: I tend to stand out, and I mean that in nearly every sense of the phrase. Especially since I’m a six-foot behemoth roaming, and mostly stumbling, through most of Southeastern China. It’s like looking for a Blue Whale in a pile of dolphins. Before you ask, no, I’m not some American spy who’s trying to get top-secret intel that only high-ranking political figures would know about. You see, I’m not working for the American government. Yes, I still have to sneak around, and yes, I still have to get top-secret intel. It’s just a tad bit…supernatural.
Before I continue any further, you must know something: all the fairy tales you’ve been told are real. Jack and the Beanstalk, the Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus, all of them. My job is to make sure that some of the more ruthless of them, “them” being Supernaturals, don’t wreak havoc on humans. You see, I’m what they call a hunter. I hunt down the bad guys, either destroy them or bring them back, and the job’s done. That is what I do on a near-daily basis.
What I’m hunting this time around is known in Chinese folklore as a Yaoguai, enormous demons that put some of the tallest NBA stars to shame. Nowadays they pretend to be the Triad, a horrid group of international organized crime syndicates. In reality, this business feeds them in both a literal and metaphorical sense. This Yaoguai just-so-happens to be one of the bigger bosses of the Triad, and a regular run-in of mine. He was just about to become a Yaoguai King, and after that, a deity. A very, very evil deity at that.
This Yaoguai was located somewhere in Southeastern China, which is why I am here. He’s too big of a threat to capture, so I was ordered to deal his immediate execution, which is one of my favorite things to do. Based on my shaky knowledge of Cantonese and little detail the locals gave me, I guess he’s in one of the local Pagodas. Out of the three in a courtyard, the largest one stood out to me, not because this particular Yaoguai wasn’t so big on subtlety, but because there were a bunch of men standing outside of it.
I wasn’t going do anything about them, though. They had no weapons. Their clothes were a bit too tight to carry anything without it being noticed. He was expecting me. How flattering. One of the men was walking up to me, and that’s when I noticed they weren’t alive. Jiangshi, or the undead, I believe. They must have passed recently since they weren’t very far into decomposition.
The one walking up to me said in surprisingly good English, “The master has been expecting you. Drop your weapons here and we will take you to him.”
“I’m flattered and all, but what guarantee do I have that your boss won’t have a weapon? What if he calls on you to fight me while he slithers off again?”
“Trust us, Hunter. We will not interfere. If he wins, his goal will be complete. If he loses, we die. Simple as that.”
Very reluctantly, I dropped my weapons. Specifically: a wrist-mounted crossbow with silver-tipped darts, throwing knives, some small vials of Greek fire, smoke bombs, and my phone. Apparently, radio waves from a phone screws around with some monster’s physical forms.
“Is that all?” The Jiangshi asked in unison.
“Other than my fists and my will to turn your bosses’ face to silly putty, that is all.” I also had magic, but that couldn’t be taken from me unless I was dead, so there’s that. They gestured me to follow them into the pagoda, and I followed. Two big, paper doors stood in the way of whatever laid inside. The undead present in front of me slowly opened it, I guess for dramatic effect, but it did sound like steel grinding on steel. Inside was barely lit by four or so candles, right by the entrance. As I walked in, the undead behind me hastily shut the door, and I was face-to-face with a familiar metal reflection. So, it was a steel door.
“You’ve finally made it, hunter.”, said an ancient, gravelly voice behind me. If I were a normal person, I’d probably be shivering in this twenty-degree Celsius room. But I was far from normal. If anything, it’s just a normal day at the office.
“Hey, Hao! How’s the whole ‘obtain god-like power and control all these feeble humans’ plan going?”
“I told you, I have no name!” He gets really defensive when his human name is brought up. Apparently, he was some extremely bad farmer in a previous life.
“So how are you going to finally defeat me today, Hao? Something elaborate? Sick your minions on me so you can slip away? Or are you going to finally fight me man-to-eight-foot-tall-demon? Cause I’ve been wanting to do that last option for the last year now.” I took an offensive stance and cast a spell that caught my hands on fire, lighting the room up. His figure was finally lit, and he was more than eight feet tall now. More like eleven. His tusks were nearly as long as me and was now more fit than he ever was. He looked like a bodybuilder who lived at the gym. His hood still covered his face, but an elongated and partially rotted snout hung out. His pale, greenish skin seemed to absorb the light my fists made.
“Has it been a year, Hunter?” He stood up as he talked. He started walking slowly to me, showing his long crocodile-like tail. He had to crouch over just a little bit to get under the entryway that led to the center of the pagoda, which I knew wasn’t going to be our arena for long. “Time does fly when you are caught up in activity, yes? I might miss some things about this. Our constant game of cat-and-mouse, and how you get rid of my more useless Jiangshi. But I am putting an end to our little game. When I kill you, I will become a deity and rule this pathetic world!”
“Really? That’s interesting because I could’ve sworn that I was sent here for your immediate execution.” I smiled as he staggered back slightly. “Hao Zhang, for the continued attempts to corrupt your mind, body, and soul, you have been deemed by the council of elder-hunters uncontrollable, unhealable, and too far removed from your human self to remain alive. For your crimes of dehumanization, murder, and further inhumanities, you will be given no trial. Prepare for your execution.”
At that moment, I charged him. With a little speed boost from a minor explosion spell, I hit him with the full force of my body, flinging him into his makeshift throne. Without relenting, I fully engulfed him in the flames currently covering my hands. He jumped from the flames, the only things singed were his clothes, extending one of his clawed hands to slash at me. I ducked down, hitting him with a fiery uppercut, but not before he completely obliterated a wooden post behind me.
My uppercut sent him flying to the top of the pagoda, and before he hit the floor, I ignited the fire spell on my foot and roundhouse kicked him through the steel door into the courtyard. When I went through the wreckage to chase him down, I saw how thick they really were: 18 inches. A new personal record.
A deep, low laugh rumbled as I entered the courtyard. “I must admit, Hunter,” Hao said as he threw one of the doors off of himself. “I have not had this much of a challenge, or fun, fighting someone.”
“So, does this mean you’ll miss me?”
“Oh, dearly.” He then charged me again, but this time actually landing the blow, knocking me against the side of the pagoda, where I learned that the entire structure was made of steel. He jumped at me, swiping me down into the concrete.
“I’ll definitely miss killing you!” He nearly bashed my head in if I hadn’t used my under-arm grapple hook. Yelling in rage, in a mix of an elephant and a crocodile, he threw a chunk of cement in my direction, which I easily dodged.
“I said no weapons, hunter!”
“Well, I’m sorry your zombies don’t have the brains to give me a pat down. Besides, a steel cable wouldn’t do anything to you!”
“You still lied!”
“Really, Hao? You’re upset that I lied? You’re a big bad monster that runs an organized crime syndicate, and you’re hurt over a lie about something that can’t hurt you?”
“You will regret What you have done here! You have played me for a fool for the last time.”
“Well, I’m going to pull one on you again, Hao. I’ve been holding back, and I’m done playing.” He gave me an expression along the lines of him not believing I was being cocky, but I have every right to be. I leaped at him, and with one hand, I punched where his sternum would have been, which still knocked away his breath, and with another, wrapped the ground around him. When I knew he wouldn’t be able to move, I started moving him to the center of the courtyard.
“So, this is your true power, hunter? What are you going to do now? Parade me around like a trophy?”
“Oh, no. just picking a reasonable execution. I think electrocution will work.” Before he could ask, I started summoning an electricity spell. Storm clouds started gathering overhead, and the crackle of thunder rolled heavier than Hao’s voice.
“No, no, NO! This is humiliation! I do not accept this death!”
“You have belittled and used humans. Through bribery and lies, you drove fear into the hearts of the weak and helpless. If anything, it is too glorious of an execution.” Before he could protest any further, I linked the lightning from the clouds between the tops of the pagodas and directed them to strike Hao in the middle.
In a puff of green and grey dust, Hao disappeared. My job was done. Oh, by the way, there’s one extremely minor detail I left out: Not only am I a hunter, but I am also one of, if not the, best hunter this world has ever known. Just a small, minor detail, right?