Under the scorching sun, below the sandy ruins of Tokyo he walked down the street to hunt his next batch of ghouls, half-naked with only his iron bracers and mask for protection, imitating the bloodthirsty expression of his foes. He was serious in killing more than yesterday, enthused in fact, bringing a larger, bulkier sword to see if it could cleave through their mutated bones easier than before. Every week brought a new visceral sensation and taught fresh and exciting ways to destroy more efficiently, and indeed he would keep exterminating.
And exterminating. And exterminating.
He was being watched from atop one of the scrapers, monoliths of a long forgotten past. A ghoul woman who’d heard of his legend since she was small crept out of her hiding place only short of the shadows to get a glimpse of the one her parents warned would hunt children who stayed awake at daylight. Ghouleater, they called him – the man who feasted on ghoul blood.
Under the shade of a truck a lazy guard was too late spotting the naked warrior approach from the highway. Ghouleater drew his sword sweeping its head clean off before it could make for the gong beside. The ghoul’s bright green blood spurted from the stump of its neck briefly before falling with its lifeless body. The ghoul woman held her breath paralysed, stricken with horror.
Ghouleater looked around certain he just heard a rasp or whisper in the buildings to his right. The woman hid behind a metal beam, her skin almost indistinguishable against its grey pallor.
Ghouleater paused a moment and then moved on. He went down to the local park where one of the bombs in the wars past made a crater. He knew this was the entrance to a network of caves below the city where the main hive of the ghouls, Gehenna, was based as traumatized survivors relate to taverns back home.
‘Hey there!’ the woman called out. Ghouleater turned immediately. ‘Whatever have we done to deserve this?!’
He drew a throwing knife from his bandoliers and threw it with such paper-thin accuracy it almost pierced her head dead-centre had she not ducked.
‘Again!’ she said. ‘What’d you do that for?!’
He threw another but this time she retreated inside.
Ghouleater looked at the ruins where it once stood, wondering why that female variant was howling and snarling at him – did it mean to frighten him away? It was something to note for now. He turned and resumed for the crater.
The woman went a floor down to tell her elders that Ghouleater had found the entrance. The oldest of them, a shaman, stood up and asked if one of the ghouls had a slave to sacrifice. A warrior did, bringing out from his hovel a human baby he conceived by a captured slave. The shaman took the child, slit its throat, and poured blood upon a sacred altar dedicated to Tebaru, the universal father god of the ghouls, saying,
‘The god of the humans! The god of death! Has sent his apostle to do battle with us once more! He rides him like a horse into battle to taint and defile pur lands with plague! Gird your loins and be men, men of Tokyo! Drive out this devil!’
Crater in sight Ghouleater continued down the ramps for the gates to Gehenna situated at a cave’s mouth. A battalion of twenty came out to meet the intruder, completely covered in armour to protect from the light. Ghouleater simply procured a flash bang grenade from his belt and stopped them in their tracks. Each listened in blood-curdling fear as they were cut down one by one blind.
Screeches and squeals further in gestured reinforcements. Ghouleater took out dynamite he preserved and set it on the entrance walls. With one push of a button he was about to lock an entire colony of these filthy abominations in to starve. His one regret being that he couldn’t examine the results himself.
‘Stop!’ said the woman behind him. ‘Go no more or we’ll be forced to defend ourselves!’
Ghouleater turned around to face fifty ghouls he didn’t see before, one of them the creature who got away earlier. It almost looked normal enough to pass for a human woman but grey enough to be unmistaken from the cave-dwelling cannibals. Its figure was petite wearing nothing but rags and it legs were long and slender, attesting to its agility. Probably as to how it got down so fast.
‘Why do you do this?!’ she spoke but all the Ghouleater could perceive was growls and snarls. He raised his sword to finish the job and the ghouls prepared for the worst.
The dynamite went off unexpectedly blowing them all up, sealing the entrance and crashing Ghouleater beneath rubble.
Amidst dust and smoke lay a field of chocked ghouls burned alive from sunlight, their armour rent and useless. The woman got up mostly unharmed thanks to reflexes but had suffered a sprain in her knee. She surveyed the area looking for help but found no one for all were dead.
It wasn’t hers.
It wasn’t her brethrens’.
It came from the entrance.
Limping hesitantly she found the Ghouleater in a compromising position, his body covered in stones and his iron mask cracked. She took up a rock thinking to claim this legend for herself and all the honours and fame that would go to her clan much less for herself to the end of her privileged days. The Ghouleater was sleeping and all his years of experience and strength was wasted. He was as vulnerable as a baby in a crib.
She kneeled over him raising the stone over the murderer’s face, a little gleeful that it was finally his end. She slowly removed the mask, the one that mocked them for every moment he stared at them with their own expression.
And she saw his face.
The rock fell.
The woman was still, unable to do anything more, mesmerized. The rock lay unbloodied on her lap and there it stayed. She looked again at his face and it felt as if she could read his whole life, the scars of his battles, the furrowed, serious nature of his brows, but most of all his own personal expression – he was crying. She knew he was asleep so it wasn’t like he was mourning his defeat. She saw the sadness in his face and felt a sympathy that didn’t belong to a human, for humans were merely beasts. She wondered how he got to this point and why he did the things he did. Why did he hunt ghouls so passionately? Why does he risk his life everyday for something that he could’ve profited better elsewhere? Whatever the reason she couldn’t bring herself to hate him anymore.
As strange as it was to say – she loved him. Not romantically, of course, but she couldn’t stop her heart from wanting him to recover, to smile again and rediscover what she sensed was a lost innocence. She smiled, running her fingers to wipe his tear.
His eyes opened.
That gentle look turned to daggers and quickly he tried to sheath one from his bandoliers – but found his arm trapped by rubble. The woman quickly held his head still, worrying that she won’t get another chance, and slunk down to bite his neck. Ghouleater quivered and cringed, trying desperately to wriggle free.
She parted her lips, got up, and fled the scene. Ghouleater finally escaped his binds but knew it was too late…Start writing here…
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