It’s been days since they freed the pack from the mountain. Adalyn’s mum and the other pack members were all being treated and there was nothing for Adalyn to do but sit at Oliver’s side. She dozed lightly in the armchair she’d been sleeping off and on in for nearly three days. She would continue to sleep there for three years if that is how long it took for Oliver to heal. She was just so grateful that she had him at all.
It was a miracle that Oliver was alive. Adalyn thought again about how sick the river made him and how even now after three days he was still fighting to stay alive. Chloe said that she could heal him but so far nothing she did was successful so instead she put him in some kind of coma. He didn’t get better but he wasn’t getting any worse. The coma however didn’t do anything for his pain. Adalyn knew more than anyone else that pain was unbearable for him. If they knew the truth, she was convinced they would have suggested it would be far kinder if Adalyn let him go. Forcing him to stay alive while he was in this kind of agony was cruel. Adalyn wanted that to be a lie but Adalyn knew better. When she opened herself to his pain she cried like a baby. Every time Adalyn looked down at his sleeping body, she felt more desperate and cried harder.
Adalyn knew she would do anything to keep him. She hated that he was suffering but she couldn’t let him go. She wouldn’t tell anyone the truth about his pain but she did her best to suffer alongside him every day. In her mind it was proper punishment. If he suffered she would too. Adalyn forced herself to sit here hour after hour and feel every single emotion he had. She only voluntarily left Oliver just once a day to feed and to spend a little time with her mum. Her mum was having a really rough now that her da was gone.
Today, Adalyn was being forced to sit downstairs with Chloe and learn more about Oni Warriors. Chloe confirmed the truth about Adalyn’s birth and felt it was important for Chloe to know everything there was about Oni warriors. Chloe believed that part of unleashing Adalyn’s powers were in pulling her Oni clan together.
"As you know Oni Warriors are born not made but that wasn’t always the case. The tales have always said, the first Oni Warrior was essentially a human that was converted by an anomaly in the blood. It was so long ago that no one really knew anymore what made that anomaly and honestly no one ever real cared anymore. But we did care that every Oni became an indentured servant the moment they turned eighteen and nothing they or anyone else did could change that. It was all a mystery. How long would they be a slave? How was their master chosen? Why was every Oni clan made up of exactly thirteen Oni? How did the fates always ensure that a new Oni turned eighteen the moment one died or was set free? What set them free? Hell, we never knew any of it. We just accepted.
Then I met Cooper and Iona. Cooper is the missing link. I know this is going to sound like a fairy tale but it’s the truth. I know because, I touched his soul. Cooper is the first Oni. He was a human child. His adoptive mum Lyla was a druid priestess and his adoptive da, Arturo was a Kitsune. Life in those days was hard. Everyone was fighting with everyone and the races lived with their own kind and rarely if ever mixed. When they did it usually turned into a bloody battle.
For that reason, they weren’t accepted by the kitsune or the druids. They became outcasts. Unwanted by all. Alone and without adequate resources his parents had taken to sifting through rubble after large fights. With no real home to call their own they often found supplies in the abandoned camps. That’s where they found Cooper. A human child of no more than three years. He was curled up to a human female that had clearly died several days prior.
Seeing the small defenceless child was too much for Lyla and her soft heart and before nightfall she had convinced Arturo that Cooper was meant to be their child. They loved Cooper with all their hearts. They taught him survival in a world that was rapidly changing. He was their world and they were his.
When Cooper was about twelve years old he had gotten ill with a rotting disease that affected many humans. Without treatment the humans died a very painful death. Knowing this Lyla immediately sought treatment for Cooper, but despite giving him the medication Cooper remained ill. As she watched her young son waste away and die before her eyes she became desperate.
She knew she'd do anything to save her baby and eventually she managed to convenience Arturo into doing dangerous blood magic with her. They created the spell out of fear and desperation. Once the spell was cast and the blood was consumed Cooper's condition improved remarkably. So much so that he was even bigger, stronger and faster than he'd ever been before the spell. Lyla and Arturo celebrated their son’s new found health and strength, but after a few weeks Cooper fell ill again.
Lyla insisted they repeat the blood magic and again. Like before Cooper got well. This time he was even stronger and healthier than the last time. His mother remarked that now he was even stronger than the werewolves and faster than kitsune. But like before after just a few short days he weakened and fell ill again. Again they repeated the process. Cooper healed once again. This time his senses like smell, taste and sight seemed to improve dramatically. Even odder however was his physical appearance had changed. His ears had elongated, and he suddenly sported two very long fangs. In addition he seemed to grow allergic to direct sunlight. Then as before he fell ill just a day later.
They continued this spell ten more times. Thirteen in total. But when he got sick yet again, Arturo refused to do the blood magic again. He feared the repeated use of dark blood magic would have a terrible price on Cooper's soul. He’d been right. During the process they were selling bits of Arturo soul for power and strength. The made pact for his life that would affect every Oni for all eternity. Arturo reminded Lyla that each time they performed the magic the possibility for great evil improved. He knew the price would not only seek retribution through Cooper but through Lyla and himself. He insisted that nature needed to take its course.
Lyla disagreed but without Arturo to do the spell with her she had no options. Cooper survived the illness without additional magic; however he didn't survive without the curse. What Lyla and Arturo had no idea of what that each time they did the spell on Cooper, it was effecting other children. Twelve other children to be exact. The first Oni clan. They would all be called together on their eighteen birthday.
That's how the others found out about them. When a group of darach discovered what Cooper and his other clansmen had become they too wanted to run their own experiments. They were curious if they could create new Oni that they could make their slaves. As a result human children were hunted and turned all over the world.
The darach group managed to create thirteen clans of thirteen, but when they tried to do the process again for a fourteenth time, instead of a new Oni clan being born it released Cooper’s clan from the slavery. In turn Cooper, Iona and the rest of his clansmen hunted and killed the darach group and with it destroyed the knowledge of the magic that created them. Still, the darach group and Cooper’s parents were responsible for creating a new race. The rules of which are still to some extent a mystery. Though we know every time an Oni is born another Oni either dies or is freed for indenture. It's strange to think that an attempt to save a single child's life, Cooper’s life gave birth to a whole new species.”
"What if he never gets better? What if you can’t heal him? Maybe I am being cruel forcing him to stay alive." Chloe smiled and ran her hand down the side of her hair before she continued
"He will get better. I can and heal him. You don't need to worry about that. Oliver will survive. Hell, he stayed in a self-induced coma for nearly a hundred years. This will be a cake walk for him. Believe me when I tell you, he would willingly pay this price. His pain means nothing to him. He would fight forever and do whatever it took to stay at your side.
I know from experience. Blood magic always comes at a high price. Sometimes higher then we even know. I sold my own soul back into slavery to try to save my promised mate. But for every big win, there is always a big loss. My promised mate Yonni survived initially but the magic still took him away from me. Magic always collects. No one gets anything for free. Oliver’s pain is the price this time.”
Adalyn knew Chloe and Cooper weren’t promised mates but this was the first time she ever got any insight into what happened. She wanted desperately to ask but Chloe continued.
“I just can’t talk about it right now. The pain is still too much. Another time, I promise. Right now, I need to go check on a few other patients. Let’s talk more later. Do you promise to stay here and rest? There’s nothing you can do for Oliver. I'll be back in less than an hour and maybe I will try to tell you about Yonni."
Adalyn nodded and watched her walk out of the bedroom. But still her heart ached at Oliver’s pain. She buried her head under a pillow and squeezed her eyes shut.