Hi, all! Heh, sorry about the delay. I had a horrible writer's block for JCA fics and attempted to write two new fics for other fandoms. I hope you like this chapter. At least I had fun writing it. That's usually a good sign.
Yay! More people are reading this fic! I was beginning to think that no one else would bother to. Thank you very much to all of you, reviewers and silent readers!
VampireNaomi – I hope I am still keeping things in control between Cassius and Bai Tsa. I'd be most displeased with myself if I made them fall in love that quickly! The slow development is the best part, after all.
Forgotten Love – Hey, thanks! I hope you'll come back someday... and still like my fics.
I am the Pimp Lord Spleef – That's good. The bad thing is that I am lazy and take so long to update and review. I'll take some time to read your updated fics. I love them! I'm very happy that you like mine.
Sylerna – About Valmont, yes, Cassius is him in a certain way. I imagine Valmont when I write the scenes and I try to make him have Valmont's personality while fitting it into the mentality of a man who lives in the time of the Roman Empire. He's indeed his ancestor and... something else. I think this is not the right time for that, since I still have to discuss it with a certain person. About the rest of the JCA crew, the Chan clan and perhaps even Tohru's ancestor would make an appearance in future chapters, but I'm still thinking about it and considering if it's even possible.
The sunshine reached Bai Tsa's room, announcing a new day. The water demon pulled her sheet and covered herself until her head to avoid the light. She had a horrible headache and felt like she had been run over by Po Kong. She tried to remember what had happened in the previous night, but her memories were not very clear. She then decided not to make any effort to remember, because thinking just worsened her headache.
When she was about to fall asleep again, the sound of a gong ring echoed in the whole palace, causing the walls, the floor and Bai Tsa's head to vibrate. The feeling was so awful that for a moment, she thought she would get sick.
She at last opened her eyes and took at least three minutes to focus the room. Then, her brain seemed to have finally started to work again and she realised that the light around her was not the sunshine, but the candles and the candelabra, since Dai Gui's palace was underground.
She rubbed her eyes and moaned in weariness. Dai Gui... She had something to talk to him, and it would not be a friendly conversation, but now she could not remember what it was about. Remembering still made her head throb.
She opened her eyes again and looked down at herself, noticing she was in her human form. Beside her bed, at her left, there were at least three wine bottles – counting was difficult as well – and what really looked like a stained shirt. She frowned, still a bit dizzy. She turned at her right side and saw a strong and tall man with tanned skin, black hair and beard, naked, sleeping beside her.
The shock made her wake up completely and she yelped, jumping out the bed as if it were suddenly very hot. Then, she looked at herself and noted that she was naked as well. The door was half open and she hurried to wrap the sheets around herself in the case someone passed in the corridor and saw her like that. Of course, she could have tried to take her true form, but that required some concentration – not much, but she could barely stand up.
The man turned in the bed, stretched his arms and opened his eyes, smiling as he saw the black-haired woman wrapped in fine sheets, looking at him in surprise and confusion. He leaned on his left elbow to watch her with his blue eyes.
"Good morning, my dear wild one," he purred. Bai Tsa exhaled hard, indignant. She opened her mouth to say something, failing in the first five attempts until she finally pointed at him accusingly, a bit more self-controlled.
"Who are you and what are you doing here?" she asked.
"Don't you remember? I'm Marcus, and it was you who brought me here last night. You said this place was better than the rooms in the tavern and, for Jupiter, I have to agree. The food here is great, in both ways," he said, raising his eyebrows twice in a row. Bai Tsa grimaced and walked to the door to open it.
"Get out! If you leave now, I shall spare your life!" she ordered, pointing at outside. However, the man did not move.
"Now, what's that? It was the most wonderful night I ever had, and you agreed," he implied. Bai Tsa felt even more disgusted as she began to have vague memories of the event.
"Get out of here now!" she hissed with her true voice. Seemingly, Marcus did not notice that and looked dreamy, probably remembering the nice night. Bai Tsa felt her blood boiling and glanced around, looking for the most practical way to get rid of him. It was a surprise to see the Marcus himself had left a war axe on the floor, next to his helmet and his clothes. She did not bother to wonder why he had an axe and a helmet, and actually, now that did not matter even to him anymore.
She grabbed the axe and easily lifted it, which impressed the man, though did not scare him.
"Go away," she demanded one more time.
"Hey, be careful with that, woman. You can get yourself hurt," he calmly warned, and at the next moment she threw the axe towards him. Before he could do anything, the weapon hit him in the chest. He widened his eyes and fell back again, staining the bed with blood. Bai Tsa approached with a cold expression and ran a finger on his bleeding chest. She raised her hand and observed the blood for some seconds, thoughtful, before licking it. It had been so long since she last enjoyed a slaughter, killing just for pleasure. On the one hand, she was sure again that she was a real demon and was not softening; on the other, she had just contributed to the stereotype that demons were bloodthirsty maniacs and had no feelings. For some reason, that annoyed her.
Bai Tsa ran to the room where her siblings were having breakfast. She got there slightly breathless and sat down on the only seat left and which just increased her bad mood: between Shendu and Xiao Fung.
"Hey, Bai Tsa, you took ages to come. We were wondering if you had died or was having some more fun," the wind demon remarked. She frowned, not sure if he had dropped a hint or just making another of his stupid remarks. Hsi Wu tried to suppress a laugh and she glanced at him, now almost sure that it had been a hint. Even so, she decided to ignore it. Perhaps her brothers were just stupider than she had thought.
"I was just getting ready. Unlike you sloppy males, we females take care of our appearance before joining the rest of the family," she answered calmly.
All the siblings looked at one another. Shendu seemed to have a sarcastic comment on the tip of his tongue, but since he was right beside his sister, he decided to remain silent. Tchang Zu, however, being the oldest one, stronger and seated at a safe distance from Bai Tsa, spoke.
"But Po Kong didn't take so long."
Hsi Wu whispered something that Bai Tsa guessed to be "And she had a hectic night as well..."
Bai Tsa kept ignoring her youngest brother. "Well, Po Kong and I are fairly different," she replied to Tchang Zu while helping herself to breakfast.
"Well, yes, we figured that out by now," Xiao Fung said, smirking. The water demon glared at him.
"Really? I didn't think you were clever enough to figure out anything," she snapped, but the wind demon merely shrugged, not shaken at all. A sepulchral silence fell among them and Hsi Wu and Shendu were the only ones who were smiling in amusement. Bai Tsa glanced at each one at the table; the two youngest ones were still smirking, Tso Lan avoided to look back at her, Po Kong seemed to be on a rather bad mood and the three remaining brothers looked very calm, perhaps even bored.
"Oh, Bai Tsa, " Xiao Fung suddenly called, making her startle.
"What is it?" she asked sharply. He shook his head, smirked like Hsi Wu and Shendu, and leaned closer to his sister to say something in a quieter tone.
"How was your night?"
"What do you mean?" she asked, paling slightly.
"It must have been good, and I hope so, because we, too, had some fun last night. It all began when Hsi Wu and I tried to make Tso Lan tell another joke, but he didn't want to. Then, we tried to force him to become funnier by starting a basic food fight. Then, Po Kong came back with a great surprise for us and, for our even greater surprise, you arrived some time later. The night was complete with the sounds coming from both directions and Po Kong complaining that you make a better use of only one than she does with two."
"How subtle, Xiao," Tso Lan commented dryly.
Xiao Fung went back to his normal position and burst into laughter, along with Hsi Wu. Shendu was trying hard to control himself, but it was very difficult. Bai Tsa blinked in confusion and reached the conclusion that her three youngest brothers had really lost it for good.
"I don't think I understand what you said after the part about Tso Lan," she said.
"What that idiot meant..." Po Kong clarified, snorting. "... is that we, the oldest ones, were... shocked by your behaviour last night."
The mermaid blushed slightly. "What?"
"You drank wine until you got completely drunk, brought a human to the palace, took him to your room and... were not in silence," Po Kong explained sharply. Her younger sister was all red now.
"You... heard us?"
"The whole palace heard you!" Tchang Zu said. "Of course, those two not only heard, they also wanted to see it," he added, nodding at Xiao Fung and Hsi Wu. Tso Lan shook his head, disapproving all of them.
"It was just a glance," Xiao murmured.
"I am so sorry, my brothers and my sister. I don't know what I was thinking," Bai Tsa apologised, lowering her head. She quickly raised it again, though, as soon as she saw Shendu's triumphant expression, and regained her cold composure.
"Ah, but it wasn't only that. What happened before that is... curious," the mountain demon continued, with a less angry tone.
"Dai Gui will want to know about it with more details later," the earth demon said.
"About what?" Bai Tsa asked, having really no idea what they were talking about.
"Nothing," Tchang Zu, Tso Lan, Po Kong and Dai Gui answered in unison. She raised her brows lightly, shrugged and kept eating.
"Anyway, Bai Tsa, where is that human that you brought?" her sister asked.
"You know what? I didn't like him that much in my sober condition. He was very arrogant, and that's not a good trait in humans. So, I killed him."
Xiao Fung dropped his fork and his knife and turned to Bai Tsa so fast that he almost twisted his neck.
"You killed him? Killed how? Did he bleed?" he asked, accidentally spitting some of the food he had been chewing.
"Yes, I killed him with an axe. He's still there in my bed," she said, cleaning her face.
"There's a bloody corpse in your bed and you tell me only now?! Do you think I can still get any organ of his?"
"Perhaps," she answered, losing her nerves. Xiao Fung stood up and rushed to her room.
Po Kong watched him calmly, chewing her food, and then turned to her younger sister.
"You know, if I were you, I'd go after him. He's going to get your room all dirty with blood and human organs," she suggested.
"Yes, even for demons, sleeping in a room like that is nasty," Hsi Wu agreed. Bai Tsa's right eye twitched when she pictured the scene and she immediately went after the wind demon.
The mermaid-demon burst in the room and noted that she had arrived right on time. Xiao Fung was preparing to hit Marcus with the axe with all his strength.
"Stoooop!" she shouted, charging at her brother and snatching the axe from his hand.
"Hey! What's that for?" he asked, upset.
"If you want to dissect that body, fine, but do it far away from my room!" she demanded.
"You're so annoying! I'll be careful!" he defended himself, trying to get the axe back. Hsi Wu discreetly entered the room, examining Marcus.
"That one was very strong, good for works that require much strength," he commented, although his two siblings were still fighting and certainly did not hear him. He shook his head. "What a waste. He'd have been valuable in the slave market in Iberia."
"Give me that, Bai Tsa!" Xiao Fung demanded, fighting his sister to get the axe.
"No way! Get off!"
Hsi Wu sighed heavily. "You two are behaving like little children," he stated, making Bai Tsa hesitate.
The toad-demon took advantage of that to grab the axe and before she could object, he said, "Wait, let me explain. I happen to have learned a way to cut up a human body without getting the place dirty, like doctors."
Bai Tsa raised a brow and crossed her arms, sceptical. "Oh, really? And how do you think you'll do that?" she enquired.
"It's easy, actually. I just have to calculate the angle and the force of the blow," he replied, proud.
"What a joke. You can't even calculate two plus two," she retorted.
"I bet he memorised that phrase. He mustn't even know what 'angle' is," Hsi Wu mocked, also crossing his arms and smirking sarcastically.
"Don't you think you are exaggerating?" Xiao Fung said, offended. "I may not be as clever as brother Tso Lan, but I know some interesting things." He prepared to hit the man again, making Bai Tsa widen her eyes.
"Back away!" he shouted. His siblings barely took a step backward and the wind demon hit Marcus in the abdomen, making blood sprinkle everywhere. Bai Tsa and Hsi Wu closed their eyes and flinched when they were covered by the blood and reopened them to see the man's entrails coiling up the axe as Xiao tried to pull it back.
"Eww, disgusting!" Bai Tsa exclaimed, grimacing and glancing at herself, then around. "You ruined all my clothes! In fact, all my room!"
"And I had just bathed," the sky demon complained.
"Oh, come on, it was rather fun," Xiao Fung said, giving up trying to pull back the axe carefully and doing it with all his might. More blood gushed out and splashed on the two siblings again. "Oops... Hehe, sorry about that."
"That's it! We're exchanging our rooms! Or even better, I'm leaving this awful place, I'm going back to Atlantis!" the water demon decided.
"But what about the war?" Hsi Wu reminded her.
"I don't care! You and those Ottomans can blow up one another, that's not my problem! I just want to go back to my palace and stay away from all of you!"
"But, Bai Tsa, they must be almost getting here! Are you really going to waste a chance like that?" Xiao Fung asked in disbelief. "I bet we'll capture many humans and do that same thing we did last night. Even better, we'll be able to watch it, or do it ourselves!"
She stared at her brother and frowned a bit.
"What did you do last night? Something I don't know?"
"Let's face it, sister Bai. You don't know even what you did last night," Hsi Wu remarked, but a dangerous glare from the mermaid made him shut his mouth. She turned to stare seriously at Xiao Fung.
"Right," he murmured under his breath, dropping the axe on the bed. "We were going to talk about that with you some time later. It's just that last night, Dai Gui was told that the humans were plotting against him. He sent some guards to invade the tavern, where the revolutionists were organising. He ordered them to arrest all those men and torture them to death. He just didn't kill their leader, because it seems that he's some sort of wizard and may be useful in the war. Isn't that right?" the question was asked to Hsi Wu, who nodded.
"We were also told that you knew about their plan, but affirmed clearly and aloud that you were not going to tell us about that revolution. We would like to know why, sister Bai," the sky demon added.
Their sister did not respond; she was speechless. It felt like she had been hit hard in the head, and she began to remember what had happened in the previous night. That meant that someone besides her had found out about those humans' plans and reported them to her siblings. Not only that, that same 'someone' had also heard her conversation with Cassius. He or she was probably spying on them.
"W-Who... Who was their leader?" she asked, trying to sound as if she did not really care.
"Uh..." Xiao Fung scratched his head. "A blond man. What was his name again?" he asked to his youngest brother, who thought for a moment.
"Cassius, I think..."
Bai Tsa paled. "Where are they?"
"They who?" the wind demon asked, raising his brows.
"Weren't you listening? They were all killed, except for the leader, who must be in the dungeon now."
The mermaid-demon flinched and clenched her fists. She had not expected that; they had ruined everything!
She hurriedly left the room. Her two brothers stood there, confused.
"What's her problem?" Hsi Wu asked and Xiao turned to him.
"Isn't Cassius that man from Britain who was brought here some days ago?"
The winged demon sighed, tired. "Do you think she's still into that nobody-steals-my-subjects thing again?"
The water demon hurried into the dungeon and took a glance at each cell. There were many dead or nearly dead humans and the air had a putrid smell. When she was almost in the end of the corridor, there were more empty cells and more alive people then dead ones. At last, she found the cell where Cassius was and quickly noted the bloody marks on his back.
He immediately noticed her presence as well and was initially surprised to see her, but then he turned around to glare at her with so much hatred that if a look could kill, she would have dropped dead at that instant.
"It is true, then? All of you were captured and only your life was spared?" she stated, breathless.
"So you came here to finish the job? Isn't it ironic that they didn't kill the only person that you wanted them to kill?" he said venomously.
"What are you talking about? I kept my word!" she replied, angry.
"But you rarely keep your word, don't you?" he said, smirking feebly and sarcastically.
Bai Tsa started at him, perplexed. That was true, but how could he know?
He laughed and, as if he had read her thoughts, he said, "One of your brothers told me. While he whipped me, he told me very interesting things."
She raised a brow. "For example?"
"For example? He told me that you reported us about our ambush, despite our agreement. And to think that for a brief moment I had trusted you. But I warned you that you were going to lose, no matter what choice you made. Now everyone will know that the demons have no honour, you're just sanguinary monsters." He smiled in victory.
"What?! I'm telling you I kept my word, at least this time I did! I didn't tell anyone!"
"Your brother also told me that you were quite drunk last night. I'm sure you got like that after discovering my plan," he went on, serious again. The water demon felt uncomfortably warm, but had to admit that nothing could have prevented her from saying something about the ambush in her drunken condition.
But she could not have been the informer. When she thought better, she remembered that her siblings had asked why she had not warned them about the revolution, even though she had known about it. It was obvious that it was not her fault.
"No, you're wrong. I really didn't tell anyone. My siblings even got suspicious about me, asked me why I didn't told them," she pointed out, more self-confident.
"Liar! Everyone in the palace was commenting about a female demon who knew about the plan. And your brothers told me that their sister was the so-called informer."
"I... I..." Now Bai Tsa was definitely confused. Instead of trying to convince him that she was innocent, she tried to picture what had happened since last night in all the details. Suddenly, an answer came and she felt enlightened. "Po Kong..." she murmured, widening her eyes a bit.
"What did you say?"
She looked at him, finally able to fit the pieces of the jigsaw together.
"It must have been my older sister. She, too, was in the tavern last night."
He snorted. "Do you really think I'm stupid enough to buy that? You may have deceived me once, but I won't give you the privilege to do it again," he replied acidly.
"But it does make sense! Especially because she was mad at me – I guess she was jealous – and did that not only to help my brother Dai Gui, but also to... kind of get a revenge on me."
"Great. Now you can go and argue with her about that matter and stop disturbing me. Unless you have come here to torture me physically, after torturing me psychologically. If that's the case, I think now it's the time for the next stage, right?"
"I haven't come here to torture you in any way," Bai Tsa said, rolling her eyes in exasperation and beginning to lose her nerves. He shrugged, which judging by his expression, caused him some discomfort.
"All right, you've already made it clear that you are too good to do the 'dirty' work with your own hands, so you send your brothers to take care of that," he implied, this time truly irritating her. She charged at him and grabbed him by his collar.
"I don't think you understand very well. I am a demon sorceress, empress of Atlantis and of the glorious Roman Empire. I can be as cruel as the other demons in my family, I am just more sensible than most of them," she hissed and threw him violently against the floor as she finished speaking. She looked at him in contempt. "But they are right. You are indeed a worm, and should be killed like the others."
Cassius make an effort to sit up and glare daggers at her. "You are finally showing what you truly are. Finally. You're quite stubborn."
"So are you."
"Ah, it is a pity to disappoint you, but your dear brother, Lord Dai Gui, doesn't intend to kill me any time soon. He wants me to help him in the war that is coming."
"I know. Hopefully, they will kill you."
The man looked away and was thoughtful. "That would be actually good. I'm getting tired of staying here in this dungeon with nothing to do, just waiting for those demons to come and torture me when they are bored."
She shook her head. "I don't know why I am wasting my precious time here with you. You are the most idiot and annoying human I have ever met. I despise you!"
"Ah, then our feelings for each other are mutual. Now I'm thrilled; I wonder if I'm blushing," he said sarcastically. Bai Tsa breathed hard and turned to leave.
Arrogant man. If it depended on me, I would kill him in the slowest and most painful way with my bare hands, she thought bitterly, clenching her teeth.
When she was already at some distance from his cell, he crawled with difficulty to the door of the cell and smiled. "Don't forget to attend the marking. I will be waiting for you. Perhaps I'll figure out a way to escape, and it will be interesting to see your reaction," he said and lied down. The water demon abruptly stopped, surprised.
The marking? He could not be talking about the permanent slavery mark, could he?
She snorted aloud and left the dungeon. Only when she was far away from it, she pondered about the matter.
The permanent slavery mark... Each demon had a unique, magical mark that if marked on humans – some cases also involved weak demons and other beings –, would be turning them into that demon's slaves forever. They would be doomed to serve their master for the rest of their lives, with no chance to run away. Their owner would always know where to find them and could cause pain through the mark. That was a very common thing to do with lovers and personal slaves who knew too much, in order to avoid betrayal, but it was also used with rebel slaves who were too important to be severely punished or killed. And once they were marked, no other demon could steal or buy them, not even exchange anything for them.
Bai Tsa narrowed her eyes and hissed nervously. Perhaps it was time to talk to Tso Lan.
To be continued...