The Ring of Void: Embers
"Once upon a time, there was man whom no-one paid attention. He was another face of many: a customer at the market, a hedonist when hungry, an altruist when working. This was his mask whenever the Sun would guard over the day, but at night, when no eyes paid heed, he walked freely in pursuit of his own dark desires. He stole many young from their parents and fed both his lust and gluttony. Eight lives needed be undone until someone saw him without his mask. A crime as hideous, how was one to punish such a monster justly? Did it deserve a just punishment? The villagers pierced his lungs, but did not kill him. They turned the blade to cause more pain and left him to bleed out while his burning home collapsed on him. Then what remained of the corpse burned to ash, the ash turned to mud and the mud fed to pigs. Or so they say," finished the demon cub.
"Spirits were always overly zealous with their tales. Never take them for granted," said Shinnosuke as he examined the burned down ruins.
"You're part spirit yourself, and show just as much zeal. Why condemn the dead for the same? Hypocrisy doesn't suit you, Shinnosuke." The cub sat at the edge of the ruins like a watchdog, not wishing to enter them.
Shinnosuke kept looking around the ruins. He knew what he was searching for, but where was it?
"Maybe he has gone to the ethereal?"
"He still has the girl. Regardless of how strong he is, he cannot carry mortals into the land of the dead."
"You still believe she's alive? That is optimistic. Demons like that never keep their victims alive for too long, and she's been gone almost a full day."
"You listened to dead men's tales and got stories. I asked the living and got something actually useful."
"The living are now more reliable?"
"They remember the dead better." The ninja saw a lock of hair on the ground and picked it up. He then saw a wooden beam and moved it, revealing a trap door.
The demon cub moved from his watchdog stance and paced slowly to Shinnosuke, an inquisitive, but also amused look on his face. "And what did the living have to say?"
"He held them in the basement and would eat their limbs over eight days before they would either bleed out or have only the head left." He opened the door, a dark resonance emitting from what seemed to sound like the bowels of the Earth. "The taint has warped it. Fighting on his terrain. Not smart."
The ninja then jumped in, the cub looking from the top of the ladder and shouting back at him. "I thought you said it wasn't smart to fight him on his turf?"
Shinnosuke payed no mind to what the cub had been saying. Before him was a long, dark tunnel, warped in such a way that it seemed like a giant earthworm had burrowed through it. It was a linear pathway, so it saved him the trouble of wasting time on searching. His steps did not echo, but his presence could not be masked in such a tainted environment. His soul had to fend off any influence, which was no effort but still made any demon perceive him as though he was holding a torch. At one moment, he could hear the muffled cries of a human, and large hooves approaching him.
The demon had red skin which seemed to continuously peel off the body. His feet ended in hooves and, aside from the horns that decorated the head, those were the only demonic features. The whole figure was a towering, disfigured juggernaut, drooling as he spoke: "This is mine. Go. No share."
"You're disrupting the balance. The dead should stay dead. Only warning I'll give."
He always gave a warning.
"I make you dead and then you stay dead then!"
They never listened.
The juggernaut attempted to pounce Shinnosuke, but he dodged backwards and then leaped forward, summoning his blade and piercing the demon's skull in one swing. The monster slowly desolved into ash. Yamagami then walked to the captive girl. She was missing her left hand. The ninja freed her from her bonds and took her away from the ashen grave. The parents beckoned Shinnosuke to accept a reward for his help, but he merely walked out without a word, followed by shouts of "Thank you" ornate with sincere tears.
On his way out of the village, he passed a medicine shop, with the owner, a middle-aged woman enjoying the morning sun in front of it. "Did my story prove you useful, wanderer?"
"It did." He passed her a jar filled with the demon's ash remains and was about to leave before being interrupted by the medicine woman.
"You saved a young life, rid the world of a monster and restored balance. Yet, a person can still feel grief in your heart."
"That's a good thing, then. It means I still have one." He continued his journey, the loyal demon cub right behind him.
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