Chapter 3 - Years as a Hybrid Demon
[Some hath managed to get away,] the serpent hissed. Its forked tongue darted in and out impatiently, [Are thou not going after them?]
“I can’t be bothered,” I replied as I absent-mindedly stroked its scales.
Clearly angered by my refusal, the serpent clicked its tongue in displeasure as it seethed, [Then perhaps thou should have left the ones remaining in a form that I can consume. What dost thou suggest I eat when thou hast turned them all to stone?]
Most people would’ve been terrified by the sight of the angry serpent—obviously primed to attack—but having borne witness to its rage for over 25 years, its tantrum-like display only succeeded in arousing my annoyance. “I’ll supply you with some demons for a meal when we return,” I placated.
Immediately, the serpent’s agitated tongue froze mid-air. Then, it said, [I request thou grant me a griffin.]
“Luna will be upset if I do.”
The serpent harrumphed, [As if I would be frightened by the likes of that—no matter how severe her anger, she’s fused with nothing but a lesser demon.]
Something about its remark tickled me and I burst into laughter. Gazing down at the smooth scales covering its body, I marveled at the curious situation I found myself in with renewed amazement. To think that I would end up coexisting with a demonic serpent—even conversing with it with ease and building up a friendship after naming it ‘Hiron.’
It was a rather baffling state of affairs, now I took a moment to consider it all. Each time I looked at Hiron, I was reminded once more that I was truly no longer human. Of course, it wasn’t like I could’ve pretended otherwise. Even if I wanted to ignore the fact, there was no way for me to become human anyway.
[Still, I must admit that thy skills have vastly improved,] Hiron continued. [Thou’st petrified more than 30 humans.]
Hiron’s comment made me look up and survey the collection of petrified statues collapsed in a heap before me. Indeed, I had killed more than 30 humans as the serpent stated. And yet, I felt utterly indifferent. In this world, the options were to kill or be killed. Whether my victims were human or demon made little difference to me—taking their lives was my only method of survival. I was simply doing what I must. If I were to be condemned for my actions, then who would take responsibility for my life? Despite my frequent pondering of this question, no answer ever emerged. Shaking my head to clear my thoughts, I said, “I need to get stronger.”
[Thou art strong enough already.]
“It’s not enough,” I retorted, gently tapping Hiron on the bridge of its nose. Stretching out my wings, I launched myself into the air and took flight. Feeling the breeze against my face, I whispered to myself, “After all, don’t I have to be strong enough to kill Xile?”
As I drew closer, I heard the welcoming cries of the seven apostles, dressed in black robes, eagerly awaiting my return. As I began my descent, they reverently kneeled in greeting.
Appointed by my father to serve the family, each apostle symbolized one of the seven deadly sins—pride, envy, greed, wrath, lust, gluttony, and sloth—and was granted a corresponding power that matched their nature. The supernatural powers they gained transcended the limits of humanity, morphing them into beings that could no longer be considered so. It made them the perfect vessels to proselytize and gather followers.
“Death will soon beget life and the Apocalitas—beings closest in essence to death—are existences that rival the gods!”
The apostles preached the doctrine and spread the Apocalita faith far and wide. The number of believers grew from few to many, and then from many to multitudes. Eventually, the devotees of the Apocalita faith swelled in size until they rivaled those that followed the Great God. Of course, I knew better than to mistake our followers as true believers. It wasn’t like they actually believed the Apocalitas were gods. No, they were simply hypocrites. The lives of sworn enemies were offered up as sacrificial offerings by those same believers. In return for enacting revenge on their behalf, the Apocalitas received a portion of their vitality. It was a transactional relationship through and through. It made me involuntarily laugh whenever I thought about just how contradictory in nature humans could be at times.
“This is the information on the believers that have registered to join this month. The names listed next to theirs are those of the sacrifices they’ve dedicated to Apocalita. And—”
Swallowing the laugh that threatened to erupt from my throat, I pushed the hands holding out the parchment away and said, “Saladin is coming, give it to him. You know I don’t handle such things.”
“Oh! Y-yes ma’am!”
They lowered their flushed faces, but I caught them peeking up to sneak a glimpse at me from time to time. Whenever their gazes happened to meet mine, they instinctively shivered and seemed uncertain about what to do. In a way, it was rather endearing. Of course, they couldn’t be faulted for their behavior. After all, I’d inherited the blood of Medusa, a monster of such immense beauty she’d even captivated the god of the oceans.
Songs praising my ethereal beauty spread quickly amongst the apostles and followers. My dark blue hair was said to rival that of the goddess of the night, while my chartreuse eyes were comparable to those of the goddess of the earth. It was even claimed that the goddess of beauty burned with envy and coveted the perfection of my beautiful features. In a sense, my looks could be pretty useful. The slightest smile was all it took to dazzle people into submission. Before they knew it, they were on their knees swearing their undying obedience. However, it also meant that I had the unwanted attention of annoying flies swarming about me as well.
Suddenly, there was a booming sound. The ground caved in and a cloud of dirt spewed into the air. Using Hiron’s body to cover my mouth, I coughed and frowned as I waited for the dust to settle.
[I am not thine handkerchief.]
“My throat hurts,” I grumbled.
[Then why dost thou not taketh to the skies!]
“That’d take too much effort.”
[Why, thou art such a—!]
Ignoring Hiron’s grumbles, I turned my attention back to the newly formed hole and prepared myself to receive one of the annoying ‘flies’ that was about to arrive. As if on cue, Saladin—another of my father’s test subjects that had been created much later than myself—materialized from inside the hole.
“Karina! I’m sorry I’m late!” Saladin’s pointy ears perked up as soon as he spotted me. Rushing to my side, he grabbed my hand and giggled, “I was going to come right away, but there was something bothersome I had to take care of first. It was the people of Latem. Oh, but don’t worry! I’m not hurt!”
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