Beneath the shade of an aged Kaiju tree, an apprentice Supreme Kai lay at rest, sipping tea. The color of the leaves had only just turned. He watched one fall, and, as it was carried by the wind, admired how the sunlight illuminated its veins. Another had dropped into his cup, sending dark ripples to the rim and back. Scoffing, he poured it out and looked up, and that was precisely when he noticed the creature.
A blue hand clutched an unripe blackened fruit; dead leaves fell in droves. Though his face was masked by foliage, his eyes shone through the leaves at first green, then blue, then red, then golden, then orange. The Kai rose to his feet, leaving his cup behind. Shivering, he stared the beast in the eyes, sensing its foul energy.
“How dare you?! Stealing fruit from one of our sacred Kaiju trees?! An unborn Kai is growing inside there. Put it back, thief. It’s not yours to take.”
Having heard him, the beast pocketed it in his robes. Pressing his hands together as if in prayer, the apprentice bowed his head and let out a long breath.
His foot made contact with wood, and with a groan, a splintering crack formed near the base of the branch. Wood and leaves flew into the cloudless sky. The Supreme Kai grit his teeth. His foe had landed in the stream at the bottom of the grassy hill the great Kaiju had grown upon. Without hesitation, he jumped down, though not daring to get his boots wet, he did not get too close.
Bubbling over stones, river water splashed on by, the only constant.
“You’re not leaving here with one of my people.”
A diminutive thief he was: blue-skinned, with wild jet black hair, a thin, pointed tail, a stub for a nose, a slit for a mouth, and wide, round eyes, as if he were a child. Indeed, his head was noticeably proportionally larger to his scrawny body than should be the case. There were three things about the child’s looks, however, that made the Supreme Kai’s blood run cold: his black curling horns protruding out from above his forehead; his broad black wings, folded around his shoulders; and his unusually long arms, which left his claws ever more terrifyingly in reach.
Throwing his weight behind a right hook, the apprentice attacked the demon with unexpected pace. Instead of blocking, the child contorted his body strangely, arms and legs stuck out at awkward angles as he floated towards the Supreme Kai. Again he punched, and again his fist made contact with naught but light and air.
Blinding pain exploded before his eyes as he was thrown to the river, a bump rapidly forming on the back of his head. He spun around, spitting water, tasting blood, and the coldness of it was not more than his shame. The demon grinned, leaning forward as if to pounce, claws out. The Kai felt himself being thrown back against the rocks, though he never saw the demon’s assault, slipping and sliding and kicking and groaning and blinking all the water from his eyes.
It was shock as much as the force of his enemy that kept the Supreme Kai pinned down. For all the force he could muster, the demon child weighed surprisingly little. “H-how could a mortal being hold such power?” he sputtered, trying in vain to push the little monster off.
The boy cackled, opening his mouth wide to show off all those sharp teeth of his. His claws were digging into the apprentice’s skin. It was only when the demon moved in to bite off his lower jaw that a group of Kais (a teamaster and his disciples) appeared on the edge of the next hill, idly making their way to the river.
His voice was a child’s–innocent, like a dewdrop on a blade of grass.
Without warning, the beast leapt up, ran a few paces off, turned back, looking to them, to him, and to them, mouthed something indistinct, turned back, and fled with a sonic boom, his aura fiery orange, cutting its way cruelly through the sky.
The Supreme Kai would not forget that look in the demon’s eyes before he had fled. Unsettled, he sat up, feeling his collarbone gingerly. It was probably broken. Water and blood dripped from his nose.
Squeaking tea-trolleys were drawing ever nearer, and on the wind blew.
At the old Kaiju, where once a thief had stood, now sunlight slanted through.
It was dinner time when the Supreme Kai of Universe 12 and his apprentice made their way to Lord Geene’s world. Bowing humbly in the door before the God of Destruction and his attendant, Ag cleared his throat, laughing nervously. The scaly-faced god gave him an ill-tempered look. His bowl of soup, as it appeared, was steaming up into his face, and he looked quite displeased to not be enjoying it at present.
“My apologies for interrupting your… meal, Lord Geene, but we have urgent news.”
“Why does your disciple have a black eye, Kai?”
“Yes, we’ll get to that in a moment, my lord. First, I must tell you that, according to the records we keep on the World Core, it appears there has not been a single case of a Demon Kai or Demon Supreme Kai being born in this universe in more than three million years. I had known it had been a long time myself, but I had never expected…”
Geene looked up from his meal, folding his arms. “And?”
“Our records indicate that Demon Kais were born fairly infrequently, but reliably, up until that point–roughly three million years ago. After that, not a single one was ever born again.”
“I think our universe’s rising Mortal Level has something to do with that.”
“I’m afraid not, Lord Geene. My apprentice Sukan saw the beast who stole the frui–”
“It was black!” the younger Kai interrupted. “Corrupted, just like what was described in the old records. It was buried deep in the tree. I hadn’t noticed it because it wasn’t even close to being ripe yet, I suppose.”
“Most curious,” said Martinu. “And why didn’t you stop him? Being an apprentice Supreme Kai, you must possess significant power for your species.”
“I tried to stop him… I tried. He was too fast. Unbelievably fast. Took me out in one blow. Would’ve killed me if a group of tea-enthusiasts hadn’t scared him off.”
“Did they fight him?” asked Geene.
“No. He was petrified when he saw them. Almost like he was scared. He fled right away.”
“That is most curious indeed,” the attendant smiled. “Perhaps he is a Demon Kai himself. He could have been harvesting his brethren in secret so they wouldn’t be cast down into the Demon Realm upon being discovered. There could be an army of Demon Kais out there, perhaps led by a fallen Supreme Kai of their own, plotting to overthrow you, Supreme Kai.”
“Oh my. I am terribly sorry, Lord Geene. I didn’t think the lack of Demon Kais appearing in the recent records was very suspicious, otherwise I would have come to you sooner… I have failed you, my lord.”
“Enough whining.” Geene stood, grasping his bowl with both hands and downing whatever it was Martinu had made for him in a single gulp. Wiping his mouth, he said, “Let’s go, Martinu. Divine Energy is rare in the universe. It won’t be hard to find them, wherever they’ve gone.”
The young Kai’s head was bowed; Ag beamed and thanked them profusely, and soon Martinu was warping them away in a cloud of pure white energy. Geene took a deep breath, cracking his knuckles, closing his eyes, and clearing his mind. He was looking forward to this fight.
They found him on some backwater world, in a crowded metropolis of floating billboards and even more floating trash. The thief was not at all like the Supreme Kai’s apprentice had described him. Tall, lanky, orange-skinned with a pinhead like all the other aliens of this world, he didn’t stick out in the crowd. They followed him for seven blocks before he sharply turned into an alleyway, ducking out of the streaming throngs of natives and offworlders alike.
Smoked meat in the air; squawking vendors and workers, all lost in the crowd.
Quick though they were in pursuit, the Destroyer and his attendant were not fast enough to stop the thief from savaging a native. The man’s gurgling screaming fell silent as they reached the alleyway. The beast noticed them at once, his eyes radiating a rainbow pulse of colors, blood dripping down his chin. And as they saw him, he melted before them, crumbling into a tiny figure of a demon child with great black wings curled around his shoulders.
Lord Geene stepped forward aggressively. “You’re the one taking all the corrupted Kaiju fruit. Where are the Kais you have been gathering? Where are you keeping them?”
Martinu, meanwhile, was tapping her staff on the ground, her face scrunched up terribly as she gazed upon the thief in his true form.
The demon, for all that, laughed hollowly and licked his lips.
“It is exceedingly rare for any being in the universe to possess Divine Energy. You were not hard to find, imp. This is the end. Give me the fruit in your pocket, and you’ll only serve three years in galactic prison.”
The sliver of light coming from down the alley, where the crowds ebbed and flowed, was broken as the boy threw himself at Geene. The God of Destruction caught his punch, kicking him into a wall. Panting and wincing, the demon dropped to one knee.
Three drops of blood fell from his face. Snarling, he bit his lip and attacked again. Parrying his spinning kick, Geene stepped up, ducking under an incoming left hook to elbow the boy in the ribs. As the demon flew back through the air, he fired two finger beams in quick succession, lighting up the alleyway in flashing emerald light.
The thief gasped as the bolts pierced his flesh, coming out the back and exploding against a far wall in a mess of dust, rock, and heat. Collapsing to his hands and knees, the demon did not again attempt to move.
“Where are the others?”
Violet now was the light of the alleyway, pulsating with heat enough to make the boy look away. Geene’s palm faced his foe, a fist-sized ball of destructive energy materialized in front of it.
The level of hate he felt towards that ball of death… and yet, its beauty…
“Fools,” the boy rasped, blood dribbling down the corner of his lip–blood that was almost purple in the light.
With a sudden jerk, the demon’s body twisted unnaturally first to the left, then to the right, and he was gone.
The god gasped. His attendant smirked.
A corpse bleeding out, space rats nibbling at his ear; smoked meat in the air.
“I don’t sense him anymore, Martinu, nor the fallen Kai. Where’d he go?”
“Lord Geene, I’m surprised at you,” she giggled. “That was a Time Rift he ripped open. He’s gone, my lord. He could be anywhere in time and space now.”
The destructive ki quenched itself. “A time-runner and a thief? His insolence knows no bounds. If I ever see that bastard again, I will destroy him. What was he? A Demon Kai?”
“Oh, I think not, Lord Geene. Fallen Kais may be physically distorted by their corruption, but not so much as he is. He is something else entirely. What that is… well, I must confess, my lord, that I am not quite sure about that, myself.”
“Bah! If he bleeds, he’ll vaporize. Let’s go, Martinu. I’m feeling ravenous. Perhaps this world will have something tasty for us to try before we leave…”
And oh how she had beamed at that, how quickly they had left the alleyway, and how soon their minds and desires had shifted to something more reasonable.
Storm waves broke against the shore in the shadow of the dead king’s palace.
It was getting dark. For some time, the demon regarded the crimson sunset. Feeling seawind rush through his hair, he fell to his knees, closing his eyes. One hand instinctively went to his wound, rubbing it. He had come to the remote world of Julahi to escape prying eyes. This island in particular had been uninhabited for hundreds of years. He had often come here in the past. They knew now. This would be the last time.
The rotten fruit was in his hand. He stared at its foul rankness, not noticing his breathing getting sharper and quicker. He was on his feet again. His chest wound was bleeding again. He held the fruit up to his face. He wondered why they thought he had taken them. Maybe they thought he had plotted out some grand scheme, some plan to harvest all the bad Kais and Supreme Kais in order to mount an insurrection against the twelfth universe. He retched, thinking about what he had to do.
But that was just it–this was the twelfth universe. There were eleven others. That was not to say that anyone should feel like their universe was superior to the others. It wasn’t like Myaku, demon spawn though he was, felt any differently. He was ugly, evil, and bad, though, so what did it matter if he didn’t like the taste?
On the quiet shore, a crouching cambion howled and succumbed at last.
|Ka Mua no. 12|
|Lights of Zalama |
The Deathless Scraps