Ankek's figure streaked across the room, her ice sword reflecting the blue light of the mana torches, as a vicious snarl appeared on her face. "How dare you look down on me when you're nothing but trash."
The moment she was in striking distance of Mors, Ankek swung the ice sword with all her might, a blue hue emanating from it, as she released a shout of fury, however, what happened next, left everyone, including Verz speechless.
Mors' body momentarily blurred, appearing in front of the demoness before grabbing her wrist and twisting it violently. The sickening snapping sound was echoed by her right knee as Mors' left leg slammed into its side, causing Ankek to release an ear piercing wail as she started to fall.
Before she had even dropped a few inches, Mors had already spun around, using his tail to sweep away Ankek's remaining leg, the spikes tearing lumps of blue flesh, while her body flipped, causing her head to smash heavily into the floor.
"Damn, that was brutal," commented Rock.
Velcea shook her head. "Not a shred of mercy."
"I approve," nodded Kelora with a serious face. "He might not be one of us yet, but he is basically representing the Huntsmen right now."
Leaping off the group, Mors span forward, extending his leg with the intent of using his heel to deal a killing blow.
Just as his foot was about to make contact, Mors was suddenly raised higher, causing him to graze the demoness's temple, as Verz lifted him up by his collar. "I think that's a little overkill. Killing is forbidden in duels."
Mors did not resist as he dangled limply. "Depends on who you're asking... she's still breathing and like I said, I do not care about rules."
Verz sighed before leaning forward and whispering. "You can't win the next match. Put up a token fight but conceal your abilities. Markek will keep his word, but the deal was until your opponent is bored of you. Do not invoke her interest or I am leaving you behind to be her plaything."
Applauding, Markek stood up as one of the guards unceremoniously dragged Ankek away by her foot, small whimpers of pain escaping her lips before she disappeared back into the wall. "Bit anti-climatic but not surprising seeing as you are the Bloodhounds disciple. Looks like I was right."
"Remember what I said," Verz casually threw Mors to the other side of the room, in the general location to where Ankek had previously started. Due to falling head first, Mors used his palm to flip himself over, landing on his feet.
Turning around, a young woman, one he had not seen before, was standing on the opposite side, just in front of Verz and the other huntsmen. Holding an ice sword in each hand, her glowing yellow eyes appeared to be remarkably similar to Ele's while small crystals, matching Markek's body, protruded from her elbows.
Guess this is the granddaughter, thought Mors as he started to analyse his new opponent. Her leather armour is a lot thicker than the previous woman's, and from how she is holding the two swords, it would appear she is a front line, combat type.
Mors slightly frowned. Didn't he say she was a support class?
"My name is Ryen Ice, second daughter of General Tilak and granddaughter of Markek, Patriarch of the Ice Clan." The blue skinned woman gave an elegant, half bow, never breaking eye contact with Mors, knowing that even though he was pathetically weak, he wasn't one to be complacent around.
"Where the hell did you come from?" hissed Mors. Crushing the other demoness had lightened his enough for him to attempt small talk, even if was a little provocative.
"Not very observant are you?" replied Ryen with a mocking smile. "I guess that even with that garbage underestimating you, you really had to concentrate and didn't notice me arrive."
Mors' jaw tightened.
"Begin," roared Markek, sitting on the edge of his seat in anticipation, however unlike the previous duel, both Ryen and Mors continued to stare at each other.
"What's up? Only know how to defend?" laughed Ryen after a minute, spinning the swords in her hand majestically. "Fine, I'll go first."
Turning into a blue blur, Ryen appeared at Mors' side and with a sweeping kick, sent him flying into the air before reappearing, almost instantaneously, above him. With a simple drop-kick, she sent him plummeting downwards.
Mors hit the floor with so much force that he bounced back into the air, vomiting a significant amount of blood and before his body could drop, Ryen was back.
With a much weaker kick, she span Mors, mid-air, causing him to land on his back.
"I tell you what, kiss my feet, admit defeat, and I'll go easy later," laughed the demoness playfully. "Although it's my first time so I can't promise anything."
Mors spat a mouthful of blood on her feet causing the leather shoes to sizzle, releasing small plumes of toxic smoke.
Ryen smiled. "Oh, you like it rough?"
Feeling like she was in complete control, Ryen felt she had maybe overestimated the demon's abilities.
Letting one of her swords dissolve into nothingness, Ryen grabbed Mors' tail and, seemingly impossible for her small stature, even if Mors was a child; she easily lifted Mors into the air before smashing him into the floor.
"Moe, grab a demon by his tail,"
"I WILL RIP YOUR BEATING HEART OUT," screamed Mors in anger as he tried to bend his body enough to grab hold of Ryen.
"If he yells." Ryen lets go of Mors, sending him flying towards the wall, where a guard lazily stepped to the side, allowing Mors to smash into it. "Let him go."
Large chunks of ice fell from the newly formed crater. However, Mors was already on his feet, steam rising from his body as he gasped for breath.
"How predictable," sighed Kelora, taking a gold coin from a disappointed Rock.
Verz, who was standing with the group shook her head. "He is losing his temper and is too easy to read."
Mors raised his hand slowly to his head and grasped the headband before pulling it off and smashing it to pieces.
A murderous, tyrannical aura swept out across the room, causing everyone's breaths, even Markek's, to slightly catch in their throats.
"Well, I wasn't expecting that," stated Markek, almost standing to get a better view of the fight. "Passive auras are so rare these days."
As the weakest person in the room, beside the goblin, who was surprisingly still sleeping, Ryen was the most affected by Mors' aura and was momentarily stunned.
The air around Mors slightly lightened, gaining a red hue, as he took a deep breath, tilting his head backwards.
Small, red lights appeared and raced towards Mors before sinking into his skin, causing his red devil markings to glow, only visible on his exposed skin, which was his face and hands, although not as intensely as back in the village he destroyed.
"Idiot," spat Velcea. "He needs to learn some self-control. At this rate, everyone and their pet mork are going to know that a first generation demon is running around."
Verz couldn't help but shrug. "I think he is trying in his own w-"
Suddenly, the red lines seemed to flow from Mors' hands and face, concentrating around his throat.
"Fire in the hole," chuckled Rock as Verz let out a defeated sigh.
Still dazed by the sudden appearance of Mors' aura, Ryen's eyes grew in surprise as Mors threw his head forward and opened his mouth wide. What started as a small, orange spark, turned into a raging inferno, exploding towards Ryen.
Snapping from her stupor, she jumped to the side without a second to spare, feeling the intense heat on her legs as the flames roared past, slamming into the recently vacated wall behind her.
Standing up, Ryan couldn't help but have a quick glance at the damage. A two meter wide, six-foot deep hole was blasted into the profound, mana imbued ice wall, one of the strongest materials in the world.
Once again temporarily distracted, Ryen was awakened from her stupor as her hair stood on and as she sensed intense killing into to her left side.
Lowering her stance, Ryen managed to dodge Mors' knee. However, she was too slow to dodge his tail as it slammed into the side of her face, one of the spikes cutting deep into her cheek drawing blue blood.
The moment Mors' feet touched the floor his body turned into a black blur, as he used shadow step to close the distance between them, and quickly unleashed a devastating barrage of kicks and punches towards Ryen's vitals.
As the sound of battle resonated around the room, Markek had stood up and walked over to Verz, never retracting his gaze from the fight. "Just where in the seven hells did you pick up a lower copper rank that could push a mid bronze ice demon, of royal blood, into using her heritage. I was expecting an entertaining fight from someone picked by you, but this is outstanding. Once Ryen has defeated him I might let a few of the scouts and warriors join in. Can't let a bloodline like that slip by."
Around Ryen, a blue aura was steadily forming, concentrating around her vitals where Mors seemed to be focusing his attacks, mitigating most of the damage.
Verz chuckled without humour. "I wouldn't push him too far. If he survives long enough, he is going to be someone you don't want to have offended. Anyway, why did you set this all up and how much information did your scouts get? This isn't something that you just thought of."
Markek chuckled and waved it off before refocusing on the fight. "I was wondering when you were going to catch on. Ryen has been focusing completely on strength, like many of my kind, and neglecting her skills which can be a fatal mistake. My scouts inform me that, although he is weak, that imp has committed some impressive deeds with his skills, so, as well as being a good match for her first mate, he might be able to open her eyes to what she is lacking."
Markek let out a frustrated breath. "Apart from a certain incident, at a now non-existent village, and the last few days of your journey, I don't know anything else and was hoping you would enlighten me. You know I can't bear not knowing something."
Just as Markek finished speaking, Ryen's head abruptly snapped back as Mors landed a powerful uppercut, causing blue blood to pour from one of her nostrils. "You little shit. I am going to kill you."
Charging towards Mors, Ryen's sword hissed through the air, but just as it was about to slice into his skin, his figure once again flickered, and he appeared behind Ryen, using his tail to sweep her off her feet just as he had done in the previous duel.
"I hate that skill," said Kelora, her smile instantly replaced with a glare as Ethemeusa nodded her head in agreement. "Unless you keep physically contact at all times, its a pain to get hold of him."
As she tumbled through the air, a wicked smile grew on Ryen's face as she released her sword and pushed her palm out towards Mors. "ICE BOLT."
A sphere of ice instantly condensed in front of her before shooting towards Mors with blistering speed, slamming into his shoulder before shattering. The force of the hit sent Mors sprawling backwards, rolling on the ground and dislocating his shoulder."
"Such an amateur, shouting her spell names like a moron," sighed Markek. "I will have to beat that out of her later."
Grabbing her sword, which had yet to reach the floor, Ryen dashed towards Mors and slashed downwards, cutting a large gash into his chest, before holding its tip at his throat and releasing a small, satisfied hiss.
"Not bad for an imp. I underestimated you, and let you get a few lucky hits. Shame I still haven't even used 40% of my power, but I guess I you can still hold your head high for forcing me that far. Submit," declared Ryen confidently.
The outline of Mors started to blur, but before Mors could fully activate his ability, Ryen stamped on his chest, causing a fountain of blood to rise into the air. "Is that the only skill you have? It's a shame that fire energy is so weak here... you might have been able to entertain me a bit with that fire breath. Even with Ice Fortress activated, I wouldn't want to take that head on. Come on, give up. I'm hungry."
"Fuck you," coughed Mors, "I would rather eat an angel shit than submit to yo-"
Mors' ribs made loud cracking noises as he was sent crashing into the wall, causing another, rather large, crater in the wall.
Ryen took a deep breath as she felt as if a large stone had been lifted off her chest as Mors' aura vanished.
"Tsk, why do you try to act so tough when you're so weak, fainting after a little kick," huffed Ryen as her sword dissolved and she turned to her grandfather. "He seems alright, but do I really have to mate with him? It's almost shameful how weak he is."
Markek looked at his granddaughter with a complex expression before letting out a deep sigh. "I was hoping he would provide to be a bit more of a chal-."
His words were cut off as he noticed Verz appear next to the pile of ice that had fallen on top of Mors and kneel down.
Mors was staring at the ceiling, seemingly despondent, his blindfold laying next to him, ripped by the jagged ice. His heartbeat thundered in his ears, as his vision pulsed in rhythm.
So this is the extent of my abilities, thought Mors. How... pathetic.
Mors sighed. He was exhausted, not from this fight but in general. His blood had felt cold and thick for hours, and his muscles refused to obey him immediately, which had cost him dearly. It felt as if he was trying to move underwater.
A self-mocking smile bloomed on his face. Well, I may have lost, but I will not submit. I wonder how I can take that bitch with me, not that I have anything against her specifically, but I can't bear the thought of dying without getting a single kill... I doubt I will be able to kill the guards or even scratch those old farts on the thrones, so it has to be her.
Mors' smile was replaced with a frown. Why do I feel so much better now I have decided to fight to the death? Oh well, it's not like death is the end... unfortunately.
As he was making a plan for his last stand, wondering if he could at least shatter the glass dome above him. Verz's head appeared in the corner of his vision. "That all you got, little demon?"
Mors attempted to shrug, only to remember his shoulder was dislocated. "I think I have one more round left in me. Should be fairly entertaining but I doubt there will be an encore."
Verz instantly recognised the look in Mors' eyes and felt a sudden chill, which for her current condition, was even more worrying.
Mors' aura was gone, along with his rage and anger however what replaced it was ten times more terrifying. The cold, calculating gaze of someone who had resigned themselves to death but not before trying to burn the world around them, with not a shred of emotion for anyone else. Simply put, a madman.
Verz cleared her throat, choosing her words carefully. "A hunt can only end in death, little demon, but this isn't your hunt. This does not even hold a candle to your revenge or the hardships you will face. If death is required here, why does it have to be yours? The dead give up the right to claim what is rightfully theirs, and that includes vengeance."
Blocked from view by Verz's body, Mors raised his good arm into the air, reaching out to the ceiling before closing it into a fist, as if he was trying to grasp something. "But I am so we-"
Mors stopped himself. What the hell am I saying? Spouting these pathetic excuses and accepting the labels others had shoved on me. I am not scared of death, I am not afraid of pain. Why should I obey by their logic and rules? What has happened to me? My purpose was so clear, but I lost sight of it so easily.
His arm dropped, and the demon revealed a sinister smile that even made Verz, the veteran of hundreds of battles and atrocities, to want to back away.
Hunt... Death... Yes. Why have I made it so complicated? The Sun Clan, the Black Knight, that measly kingdom. Those are my real targets. This is a hunt, and I cannot afford to die here.
"A bit of advice," said Verz, watching the complex and varying emotions wash over Mors' face. "The demons you see before you are not the terrifying individuals of lore, they are the domesticated, civilised descendants who, for comfort and convenience, lost what truly made them strong and feared."
Mors frowned, then as if he had realised something, his face relaxed and breathing slowed, almost stopping, as his eyes closed. Instead of showing concern, Verz eyes sparkled with anticipation. "Ignore what I said earlier, Mors Letus. I do not want some run of the mill, civilised demon as a pet who is imprisoned by the world's rules and norms. I want a raging draconic demon who marches forward, destroying everything that has the audacity to keep him from his goal. Stand proud and fight till to your last breath, and if you are to fall, make sure you haunt their dreams until the day they die."
Verz watches as the shadows from the chunks of ice started to darken before snaking towards Mors, the faintly glowing red markings, almost invisible, turning black and thickening. "Good, now show them what a true demon is. Show them the true you."
Verz stood up and walked back to the others, who wore confused expressions, thinking that Mors was unconscious and she had left him.
"Abandoning him already?" questioned Markek. "His performance wasn't that bad. I guess I could take him off your hands."
Verz smiled as a small amount of her own madness danced in her eyes. "No need, he isn't finished yet. He was standing on the edge; I just gave him a little push in the right direction."
The blue lights in the room dimmed, briefly flickering as Mors' body unnaturally rose from the floor as if he had been resurrected by a necromancer, the ice debris falling off him and crashing to the floor as his head hung limply.
"Hoh, he's not unconscious. I thought his aura was passive, but it must be something he can control," nodded Markek before his smile faltered. " That's... disappointing, I can't feel any fighting spirit or killing intent coming from him at all. Has he given up?"
Verz just smiled.
After a few moments, Kelora's eyes went wide. "CAPTAIN! What the hell did you do to him?"
"A little pep talk. His mind is very... adaptable and will grab any chance it has, even if it must warp facts and reality, in order to survive and maintain his ideals and pride." Verz looked to Markek, "Can the guards be trusted?"
Staring into Verz eyes for a few seconds, Markek raised his hand, and the guards surrounding the room stepped backwards, merging into the ice walls before disappearing. His voice held a small tremor of excitement. "Something taboo? Oh, you always bring me the best entertainment."
Ryen watched intently as Mors rotated his shoulders, popping the dislocated one back into place as his body started to sway, in a weird, otherworldly rhythm.
"Not given up yet? You can barely stand," shouted Ryen, oblivious to what was happening in front of her. "Or are you ready to kiss my feet?"
A dark, foreboding chuckle escaped Mors, causing Reyn's hair to stand on end for the second time, but unlike the first, it didn't pass and instead, continued to grow.
Ryen's gut tightened as she experiences something she had not in a long time. Fear.
The room was many shades darker than it should have been, but that was nothing compared to the area around Mors, which was almost pitch black as his body greedily absorbed the surrounding mana. The energy was so dense, that the remains of his tattered shirt dissolved, revealing his scarred white skin, the wound Ryen inflicted to his chest and, black, winding lines converging in runic formations, seemingly shifting as if he was covered by black serpents.
"Devil markings! how could you keep something like this for me, earlier, the red ones were so weak I thought it was a tattooed enchantment," hissed Markek, nearly delirious with joy. "I... I must have his bloodline in my family."
"Remeber the deal. He wins, and you can't force him into anything." Verz only vaguely heard Markek, her attention solely focused on Mors. I knew he was subconsciously holding back, but this... its as if he is the aspect of death, descending to reap her soul.
Markek's face blanched at Verz's words before he turned to Ryen and bellowed with his full might. "RYEN! DO NOT LOSE! ATTACK NOW BEFORE HE HAS FINISHED ABSORBING THE ENERGY. YOU MUST MAKE HIM SUBMIT."
Mustering all of the resolve she could, Ryen was just about to charge when... the world fell away. The only thing that existed were two, glowing red reptilian eyes stareing at her, piecing her very soul.
A smile that no child could possess, demon or not, appeared dragging her attention away from the monstrous eyes. Cold sweat drenched her body as she fell to her knees, no longer having the strength to stand.
"W...w.....whhattt are you?" stammered the demoness, now looking no more intimidating than a human baby.
"Me?" responded a voice that made her soul violently quake, "Why I am your death."