Aszurya sits quietly in her chair, rubbing her temples once more. Ambrose notices her distress and tilts his head like a predator. Just as he opens his mouth to ask her a question, I cut him off by clearing my throat. Asteris stands up, bowing her head to her boss before walking out of the room, making an excuse about continuing her chores.
“You said you have demon slayer magic. What does it do, and how did you get it?”
“Trying to rival me, are we, child of light?”
“Just answer the question.”
“Demon slayers have similar powers to the ones they hunt. I was always thirsty for blood from birth. I killed my parents at the age of 6 and then wandered around, hoping to find somewhere to stay. Everyone was afraid of me, but eventually, I made my way into the deadlands and stumbled into a nest of lesser demons. Of course, I tore them apart and stayed in their nest for a few months, feeding off of their corpses.”
Ambrose and I both gaze at Aszurya as she closes her eyes and leans her head back. Her fingers pull at the hem of her shirt for a quick moment before relaxing. Once Aszurya seems calm once more, Ambrose continues to tell his life story.
“When I had sucked the demons dry, I was forced to leave the nest and find my next victims. I spent two years in and out of demon nests before I hit a strange one. It was just my luck to trip over a long tail belonging to one of the Daemon Princes. He was long, filthy, and grotesque, but he emitted rays of immense power.
“The bloody bastard was ready to eat me, but I bit its arm and started feeding on it as if I wasn’t going to die within minutes. Long story short, the prince took a liking to me and raised me as his own. Now, the only one that can take him down is me or maybe Aszurya.”
“So you have similar powers to Aszurya?”
“Some of our powers are similar. But, Aszurya does not have control over her powers,” Aszurya’s brother says out of the blue. I frown at Michaelis and look back to Ambrose. He grins like a Cheshire cat as Micha growls and slams his fist against the wooden arm of his chair.
“If you ever try to control me again, I will rip your head from your shoulders.”
“I would love to see you try.”
“Both of you shut up,” Aszurya whispers. Her long fingers curl in on each other, squeezing until her knuckles turn white. “King, I only have access to the powers of two of my demons. The others— the powerful ones— are in a dormant state. Only two lesser— I understand you’re a powerful demon, but—”
Aszurya doubles over, clutching her head as her mouth opens in a silent scream. Ambrose and I are both by her side at an instant. I’ve seen this happen only once before in Facies. It was right before she showed me what my mother had done before fleeing. Just as I expect, Aszurya’s eyes darken until pitch black. She looks up at me, something dark yet soft lurking in those dark eyes as her claws raking down the side of my face gently.
“She’s alright, deary. You both can sit back down. I will explain to you my holder’s situation before relinquishing her body back to her.”
“You’re one of her demons.”
“Yes, we’ve met before on unofficial terms. I’m sure you remember.”
“You’re the one from Facies. She considers you to be the wicked one.”
“Only because we but heads plenty of times.”
I nod my head and make my way back to my seat, signalling for Ambrose to do the same. He eyes her, shadows forming around his body as he assesses the demons. The she-demon holding Aszurya’s body sticks out her tongue at the demon slayer before, sitting up and crossing her legs.
“There are six demons who confine themselves to Aszurya and her body, including me, as a part of her devil’s mark. Three of her demons are extremely high levelled demons, categorised at the highest level of power. One of them is a prince much like the one who fathered you, Ambrose Sanquinarius. Her parents were quick to realise this and placed a heavy protection spell on her to keep those three asleep until the right time came.
“Of the three that are awake, I am the only one who takes on a female form and therefore, I’ve managed to wrestle control over this body on several occasions. Sometimes, Aszurya puts up a fight; other times, she willingly let me take control as was the day in Facies.”
“You speak of a time when your companions will rise. When will that time arrive?”
“There will be a time when Aszurya will be required to wake her demons and ally with them for something or someone she loves.”
The creature possessing Aszurya’s body gives me a pointed look, running her tongue over her lips. I raise my eyebrows and smirk, storing the information at the back of my mind. Who knows when that might come in handy.
“Does she know how to wake her demons?”
“I’m sure she has an idea of how this might happen. But I will not diverge this to you, no matter who you might be.
“And what of the other two who are awake?” I inquire, directing all attention to me for a brief second. Micha raises his eyebrows at me before turning back to his sister, who takes a deep breath.
“Aszurya has temporarily rid herself of one as he found a calling in that creature-like female. That one was quiet and generally peaceful. As for the other who still inhabits, he is obnoxious and annoying. He is the source of our mistress’s unnecessary sexual desires. ”
“So Aszurya only receives power from you and the active demons.”
“That is correct.”
“One last thing. What is your name, she-demon?”
Aszurya’s eyes narrow as the woman examines me. She waits a few moments before grinning, the darkness beginning to recede from her body as the she-demon grins at me.
“You may call me Nerezza.”
Aszurya gasps, her eyes rolling back as she regains control of her body. She rests her head back against the back of the chair, her lips slowly pulling into a smile. Our gazes connect when her eyes are glowing green and full of merriment.
“You, my darling, are one charming man.”
After Fjevern brought Diamond to Aszurya’s training grounds, we all headed down to the caves hidden a few miles away. Because of my shortcoming, we took a portal to the entrance. The screams and bellows coming from deep inside nearly deafened all who hadn’t prepared for it. Before we head down, Aszurya’s lieutenant hands us each two thick cotton balls to stick in our ears.
Diamond stays at my side as we descend the long stairs. Nothing lights the passageway down, leaving us to apply gyens for our sight. Ambrose toys with Aszurya the entire time, annoying the crap out of me, but I keep my mouth shut. Turning my attention away from my girlfriend, I notice the pallor of my aunt’s skin.
“Everything’s going to be fine, Diamond.”
I wrap my arm around my aunt’s shoulders, pulling her close to calm her nerves. Her arm snakes around my body as her head rests on my side. Aszurya peers over her shoulder, her eyes searching my body and Diamond’s. She looks at my aunt with a sneer before dragging Ambrose forward a few more paces. A frown tugs my lips downward as they disappear in front of us, the four of us tracking them by the sound of my girlfriend laughing.
Within seconds, they disappear out of our range, so Fjevern takes the lead. I frown as my skin begins to crawl. The sensation reminds me of nails running down a chalkboard. I shudder, my muscles tensing as I ready myself defend my aunt from any immediate threat. The stairs level out to a large chamber with connecting hallways lit with torches widely spread apart.
Diamond sucks in a breath and steps away from me, looking at something in my blind spot. I turn to see Ambrose tongue deep in Aszurya’s mouth, his fingers gripping her waist tightly. I growl as the woman pulls away and smirks at me from over Ambrose’s. Ambrose runs a hand through his silver hair, his eyes lurking dangerously low as Aszurya stalks away, her hips swinging with every step.
I grab her wrist, dragging her away from prying eyes and ears with no particular gentleness. My canines lengthen as I bare my teeth at Aszurya, slamming her against the wall. She hisses from the pain but sobers as I corner her.
“You want me to be friends, yet you go off with him to make out. What’s your problem? You got a problem with my aunt?”
“I don’t like her. And, you never hold me that way. What the fuck is so special about her that she gets that treatment?”
“God, what are you talking about?”
Aszurya narrows her eyes before shutting down. Her long arms fold across her chest as her lips pull into a pout. Aszurya refuses to answer my question, forcing me to rake my head, trying to find what she is talking about. Is she talking about that hug? I frown questioning Aszurya’s antics?
“By the first! Aszurya, are you jealous? Over a gods-forsaken hug? Baby, aren’t you a cute thing.”
“I’m not cute!”
“You’re right. You’re adorable.”
I pinch Aszurya’s cheek, causing her to try to bite me. Pulling back just in time to avoid those sharp teeth, I plant a kiss on my girlfriend’s temple. With a smile, I rub her head, messing up her hair. As expected, Aszurya sticks out her tongue, so I lean in and capture her mouth under my own.
“What’s wrong with me hugging her? You don’t even like hugs.”
“When you hug her— hug anyone— like that, you give them easy access to your vital organs. You should only do that with people you trust.”
“You think I don’t have faith in you, baby? I trust you enough to have you hold a knife to my throat and not kill me.”
“Fucking hell, King, you’re an idiot to trust me like that.”
Aszurya lets out a breathy laugh and presses her lips against mine. My tongue rolls over hers as my fingers cup the nape of her neck, angling her mouth for better access. Slowly, Aszrurya eases her way out of my grasp and back to the others in the open chamber. I growl at her absence but take a deep breath before adjusting myself.
When I walk back out into the large chamber, lit with a dozen firelights, Ambrose stands off at a distance with a scowl etched onto his sharp features. His disgust deepens as his gaze reaches mine. The slayer is the first to look away when two arms wrap around my middle. I take a deep breath, ignoring the tautness in his posture, and squeeze my girlfriends hands.
“The Pits are just down the 3rd hallway to the left.”
“Where will you be?”
“I have to check on my wyvern. I heard him roar earlier and it was unsettling.”
“That was us. We were close to Kitana.”
“Regardless. Fjevern, take them to the pits.”
“As you wish.”
The lieutenant bows to Aszurya before heading down the mentioned hallway. With one last kiss, Aszurya warps from deep within the caves back outside to check on her beast. Micha follows the soldier, leaving just Ambrose and me. Before I can follow suit, I feel a large hand on my shoulder, stopping me from moving. The demon slayer walks into view with his arms folded across his broad chest.
“If you hurt her, I won’t hesitate to rip your heart from your chest.”
If I thought Aszurya’s father was a terrifying man, I was wrong. Shadows curl around the man’s form, making his silver hair stand out. Death lurks in his onyx eyes as he looks me up and down. I realise the territorialisation from earlier wasn’t just a show.
“You love her.”
“She’s the only one who understands what it’s like to be the devil’s incarnation. I know what you are and how much you mean to her. Just remember, I’ll always be there whether you like it or not.”
“We’re fine as long as you don’t touch her.”
Sanguinarius snorts and rolls his eyes, the darkness slipping back into him. “Feeding requires contact, you ass.”
I chuckle, and we both walk through the hall the others went down. We come out into a large cavern with luminescent gems embedded in the stalactites coming from the roof. We come out on a balcony overlooking a vast pit. Guards line a gate below on the other side of the hole, and others stationed around to break-up unwanted fights.
“The Pits are battle rings for the beasts we raise and keep here on the ground,” Fjevern says, leaning against the brick rail. “This is where you, Diamond, will be bonding with your new wyvern. I suggest making it quick before Aszurya gets back.”
“No… I c-can’t do t-this.”
“You must. And you must do it alone. I have orders to break the arms of any who try to assist.”
A warning threat towards me. I scoff and roll my eyes, joining Ambrose by the wall. He eyes my aunt before looking down into the vast pit. I follow his gaze to see him watching a familiar red-haired Siethen. She looks up and smiles shyly at us, a blush spreading on her face as she looks at the man beside me. I frown but turn my attention away as Fjevern takes my aunt’s arm.
The pit silences as the two Siethens stand upon the stone ledge and jump into the pit. As one, Ambrose and I surge forward to see the two land swiftly on their feet. The midnight Siethen whispers something to Diamond before reappearing at our side. With a soft chuckle, the demon slayer rests his folded arms against the stone wall and calls out to the trembling woman.
“If I were you, Diamond, I’d make this bonding quick before Aszurya gets back. Cause once she enters that pit, the wyvern will look like a mere cat compared to her.”
Despite my better judgement, I smile and scan the area for the familiar worker. I catch her watching Ambrose subtly from her position on the floor. She notices me watching her and blushes when I wink.
“Seems like you have an admirer, Sanguinarius,” I murmur to the man standing next to me. He frowns at me, so I look over to where Asteris stands, still blushing. His eyes trail her body up and down, quirking an eyebrow at the girl. Strangely, he just shrugs his shoulders and looks to the massive iron gates now groaning as they get pulled upwards.
“Aszurya has permitted you to bond with one of five wyverns. Ranbou, bring in the first.”
The entire pit begins to rumble from the thundering steps made by a large grey wyvern. Roughly 20 guards escort the beast out into the hole where Diamond now stands. Her face has adorned a deathly pallor at the sight of the hulking predator. The bull, rising to possibly 27 feet in height, raises its head and sniffs the air with a loud snarl. The beasts matte grey scales slide across the rough floor of the ring, and his long talons swipe against the cemented wall.
“That’s an impressive bull you’ve got there, Fjevern.”
“He’s one of the few Aszurya took the time to train from young.”
“From young, you say? If she doesn’t take him, I might have to.”
I laugh and shake my head. Any bull that Aszurya trains is worth a few million in this realm. I’m sure everyone one of these soldiers and guards with wyverns are in debt to the woman in some way. Ambrose clicks his tongue and shakes his head as the bull is led away. My head tilts to the side as I watch my aunt fold in on herself.
This is going to be a long process.
Involuntarily, I yawn and watch as the fifth and final beast is brought out. This one is smaller than the others, his head scarred severely. The bull’s growl is low but ricochets off the walls of the cavern. Fjevern fills us in on the beast’s record. According to the second, this one has injured several wyverns, all at least twice his size. The scars on his broad head were from Aszurya’s wyvern when they got pitted against each other. He yields to few wyverns.
My skin begins to crawl at the sound of sharp nails running against the iron gates. Even the two males with me flinch at the uncanny sound. Everyone’s attention is now on the haughty woman stalking out of the cavern mouth. Her hips sashay from left to right as she circles my aunt like a predator. Fjevern’s jaw lowers in shock as my girlfriend gestures for the guards to abandon the pit.
“I heard you’ve been boring your onlookers. Four wyverns, hand-picked for you, and none fit your needs? Is this what I receive for trying to be generous to you, Diamond? Your cowardice is unbefitting of a female warrior.”
“Stop! Just stop it, Aszurya. Please…”
I notice the disgust engraved in Aszurya’s face as she turns up her nose at the woman. With movements too fast to fully trace, Aszurya summons a dagger from her hidden arsenal and grabs Diamond’s arm. Her actions are deft and emotionless as she slices the woman’s arm, blood seeping from the deep wound. I snarl, ready to bolt between the two women, but Ambrose slips his arms underneath mine, to restrain me.
Aszurya glances up at me with a fierce snarl on her lips as she squeezes, letting blood drop to the floor. The wyvern’s broad head snaps over to the two women, sniffing the air for the blood. Still holding my gaze, Aszurya grins her pointy teeth at me as she makes Diamond cry out from the pain.
“Please… please, just stop.”
“You’ve lost your freedom here, Diamond. It’s well past dinner time. Bond with the wyvern or bleed out. If you refuse, you’ll become his appetiser. Chop chop, or should I say, chomp chomp.”
Aszurya snickers, shoving the beautiful woman in the direction of the salivating beast. The demonic bitch jumps up to our balcony as Ambrose lets go, pushing me against the wall. She snarls in my face, her eyes alight with deadly flames.
“I thought you said you trust me? If you want to jump in and save your pathetic family member, be my guest. I’ll sit back and watch as your bones get ripped apart.”
“If you want me to trust you, then stop being a bitch to everyone around you. That includes her.”
Aszurya turns on her heel with a scowl on her lips, walking over to stand next to Ambrose. With a few deep breaths, I cool my nerves before slipping behind her voluptuous body. My lips flutter against the woman’s neck as Diamond takes one step towards the petite wyvern. Ambrose flinches before disappearing over the railing and into the gutter canals.
Aszurya frowns in his direction before turning her attention back to the two below. Diamond makes her way over to the hungry wyvern, extending her hand to rest on his nose. Fjervern mumbles his relief, glancing briefly at the woman in my arms. I look down too, to find her gaze on Asteris and Ambrose.
“Good. Fjevern, get her out of there before she bleeds out.”
Standing to her full height, Aszurya begins shouting out orders to her soldiers and guards. To anyone else, she’d look like a dependable commander with nothing to fear. But I can see how rigid her form is. And her gaze continues to follow Asteris as Ambrose leads her out of the cavern, her fingers touching her silver chain.