J.J. - Cheers all around for my second story! (-crickets chirp-) >.>; Anyway. This was inspired after reading the first part of the online comic 'Pawn'. My family thinks I'm an even bigger loser because I just spent the better part of my Saturday plowing through this first chapter before I lost my motivation.
Disclaimer: I own the entire second season of YYH, several doushinji, and 9 mangas. That's owning some serious Yu Yu Hakusho if I do say so myself. I also give the generalstory starteridea to the artist of 'Pawn', whoever he/she may be.
The Chains That Bind Us
The Unwilling Slave
Wo unto all those that enter the cursed Lair of the Isle.
Home to unimaginable treasures and monsters
Many have ventured here in hopes of securing such treasure
None have returned
Any who dare to brave the endless stairs and twisted labyrinth
Have met only a gruesome end
Doom awaits those who encounter the fierce Gatekeeper,
Guardian of the treasures
A millennia of brave warriors and powerful mages who have tried
A thousand years of death and failure.
Botan grinned self confidently and rolled the scroll back into it's neat position. "I guess I'd better watch my step then," she said. Setting the scroll carefully down to the side, she stretched her arm, holding her torch high. "Silly priests..."
The warm, orange light of the flame lit her view of a crumbling archway, decorated in ancient runes and symbols. A large stone block rested on the top, a perch for two particularly menacing looking gargoyles. There was no door, but the inside was dark enough that Botan couldn't see anything. She took a cautious step closer.
"This must be the right entrance..." A warning scroll, protective statues... how much more obvious could it be?
As she approached the darkened doorway, a feeling of unease blossomed in her stomach. This was the tomb that supposedly housed enough treasure to make you richer than every king in the world. Combined. But it certainly wasn't the treasure she was frightened of, oh no, it was the creature said to guard the horde. The Gatekeeper. She had a picture of the demon, but it was drawn by ancient Romans and was thus strictly two-dimensional, and looked liked it belonged in stain-glass.
She took a breath, mentally chasing away her fears, and placed a hand on the cool doorframe. She'd come all this way, provisioned by her own money and hard-work, and she was not turning around now. A scholar at an esteemed European college, her life's passion was the study of demons and their mythology.
It was not the treasure she was so daringly walking into that lair for; it was the demon.
She raised her torch out in front of her, peering into the darkness. More stairs. Muttering an incoherent curse of complaint, she began to inch her way down the crumbling stones. She had been descending stairs since she had arrived at the Isle– the place was filled with them.
Slowly, so as not to blow out the flame, she stretched her torch to her right and then to her left, trying to judge what was on the sides. There was nothing. Only a sheer drop on either side of the zig-zagging staircase. Biting her lip, the blue-haired scholar consciously moved more to the center.
She breeched the bottom of the stairs, coming onto a cracked, stone floor. Glancing around, she wondered how long it would be before she encountered the infamous Gatekeeper.
"Well, well, well."
A deep, guttural growl of a voice.
She gulped. Not long at all. Trembling, she turned towards the voice. Her torch revealed the distinct, but shadowed, form of an enormous monster a mere few feet away from her. She felt as if all of her life-force had left her body in a mighty swoosh.
"What have we here?" the demon growled. "A puny mortal?"
Botan could only whimper in response. The demon chuckled, as if her actions proved his point. She supposed it was a chuckle, anyway. It sounded like a cascade of rocks tumbling down a rough mountain side.
It leaned towards her, bringing them more to eye level. It was so close she could smell it's smoky breath. Now fully in her torch light, she could see the details of it's appearance. Although crouched, she could tell that it's anatomy was much like a humans, with the exception that it tripled the size of any human man, and held far more prominent and sculpted muscles. The hands were normal only in the sense that they contained five fingers. The claws upon each of these fingers, Botan guessed, were at least the size of her arm. It's hair was unruly and spiked in several directions, a deep black color set off only by the white starburst of hair near the front. It's skin was a smooth green, but was marred grotesquely by numerous pairs of purple-hued eyes seemingly embedded in the skin.
"So puny mortal," it spoke, revealing a set of gleaming fangs. Botan could have touched them. His yellow eyes, sparked with crimson-colored irises, gleamed as it grinned, revealing even more dangerous teeth. "You come seeking the treasures, I imagine, but the only thing you will find here, fool, is death," it's grin lessened into a smug smirk before it promptly blew out her torch in an easy breath, "and darkness."
Now consumed in darkness, Botan finally found her voice. She screamed and backed away as fast as she could. She tripped over a loose stone and crashed painfully onto her backside. She heard the gravelly chuckle again, and then the sound of heavy footsteps approaching her. She squealed in panic, turning frantically so she could move on her hands and knees. As she scrambled away, she distinctly felt a claw run along her leg.
She screamed again. "I call upon the ancient laws of the demon lords to claim my soul and flesh by the challenge of the mind!" She shrieked out the words, certain the demon hadn't understood a word because she had rambled it off so fast.
She waited, either for death, or his acceptance, her breathing short and raspy. After an eternity that was probably only a few seconds had passed, she heard a distinct noise that sounded suspiciously like a sigh. In the next instant, everything was lit up by several torches, revealing a dank and rather plain cavern. Slightly disappointed at not seeing mounds of gold and jewels, she looked around for any things that might lead to treasure. Sure enough, behind the demon was a doorway.
"How do you know the laws of demons?" the growl-like voice snapped her out of her train of thought. She glanced up at it, still holding her torch, although it wasn't necessary anymore. The demon was glaring down at her, not with hatred, but annoyance. Her death had only been delayed, as the demon no doubt saw it.
"Well, I... uh..." she spluttered.
"You are a scholar," it said. It wasn't a question, so Botan didn't answer. It snorted. "I should have known when you waltzed in here alone without any armor or other means of protection. No weapons either. . ." It growled angrily at itself. "I took your for a stupid thief."
Botan laughed a little, though it still sounded frightened. "Me? Oh, I'm no thief..." She cleared her throat nervously. "Um, my name is–"
"Pointless!" the demon growled menacingly in such a roar that it blew Botan's small hat off. She stumbled a little.
"Why?" she asked, more than a bit miffed that she didn't have a hat anymore.
"You're going to die anyway," it said, sounding more aggravated that he had to kill her this boring way, then smug.
"Oh really?" Botan challenged a bit daringly. "I beg to differ."
"You will beg!" the demon roared, instantly dropping the smirk from Botan's face. "After I have beaten you at this pathetic challenge. Name your riddle now, mortal, so I may devour your flesh and soul."
"Riddle?" Botan echoed, letting out a breezy laugh. "No, no, no. Way too easy. I have something else in mind."
She had caught the demon off guard, and the angry scowl dropped from it's features, changing instead to a perplexed scowl. "No riddle? But what else is there to challenge the mind?"
Botan grinned. "It's a surprise. I left it in my bag, so I'll just run up the stairs and get it, okay?" She turned and began running up the stairs.
"Hey!" the demon began.
She glanced back. "Oh don't worry, I'm bound by the law of the demons, so I won't try to run away or anything."
Not waiting for a reply, she continued to run up the crumbling stairs, taking them two at a time. In seconds she had reached the archway and after a quick glance, she ran to her bag. She quickly knelt, rummaging through her notes, maps and other tools. Finally, her hand brushed across a square box. With a triumphant, "Aha!" she pulled it out.
Tucking it neatly under her chest, she flew back down the stairs. The demon watched her the entire way down until she stood in front of it's massive form, holding the box out towards him, panting a little.
"A game?" it inquired ruefully.
"Not just any game– chess!"
It gave a particularly sour look.
"Oh come on, it's a human game, surely you can beat me at that," she urged pleadingly.
"Indeed," it agreed with a touch of annoyance. "Well then, mortal, let's play."
Triumph and excitement erupted in Botan. She broke out in a grin, setting the game on the floor. "Great! Hold on, I'll set up the pieces for us." She unfolded the box into the game board, arranging the pieces expertly in their correct positions. She straightened and tucked a strand of hair behind her ear, proud of her handy work. She looked up at the demon. "Would you like to be black or white?"
"Black," it answered simply.
Botan settled herself comfortably next to the board, shifting it so the black pieces were towards the demon. "Since I'm white, I'll go first." She picked up a white, porcelain pawn and placed it two squares ahead. A simple beginning move. She smiled at the demon. "Okay, your turn."
It made a low grunt and moved it's gigantic hand towards the pieces. It paused, a frustrated look across it's features.
"Do you need help... with your claws and everything?" Botan asked timidly.
"No," it growled dangerously. But it continued to stare perplexedly at the board, and Botan could have sworn she saw it biting it's lip in thought, if only for a second.
She tilted her head, regarding it through thoughtful, narrowed eyes. "You..."
"What?" the demon snapped it's gaze to her.
"You don't know how to play, do you?"
The demon's eyes narrowed to dangerous slits and it snarled.
"You don't," Botan concluded with a triumphant smile. "Don't worry, the law of the demons states that I have to teach you all of the rules of my challenge, or else I forfeit."
"Damn," the demon cursed harshly, clenching it's fist.
She arched an eyebrow. "Oh..." She paused. "You didn't honestly think I would cheat and not tell you the rules, did you?"
The demon continued to glare.
"Nice try," she said, "but I know the demon laws by heart. And so, I will now tell you all the rules of chess. But don't hesitate to ask if you have any questions."
Several Long and Boring Explanations Later
"What an infuriatingly complicated game," the demon growled.
"Well, if it's too hard..." Botan began.
"It's fine." Another fanged grin. "But you're only hurrying your own demise, you know."
She answered the grin with a flat, almost bored look. "Quit stalling and play, demon."
The air heated threateningly, but other than that, the demon said nothing, placing his own pawn into action. It was a tricky business to manage with the long claws, but he exuded a practiced grace that surprised Botan. "There, I've moved. Happy now?"
'Yes, thank you,' had been on the tip of her tongue, but at the last moment, Botan caught herself. "No, I'm not happy until I win." The demon's lip curled downward in disgust. "Trying to secure your victory through a slip of my tongue again?"
Having been seen through, the demon cursed, glaring to the side. Botan only smiled softly, placing her next piece into play. And so the game went on, each player in a battle of wits put into game against each other. Botan had to hand it to the demon, it was actually very good for having just learned. Although it was a surprise, she didn't let it deter her. She was a scholar, and a human. Everyone knew that smart humans were playing chess all the time. She couldn't lose.
It was nearing the end of the game, and it was the demon's turn. A very long turn, as it was turning out to be.
"Are you stalling?" she yawned.
"No. I'm thinking." It stared intensely at the game board.
"Yes, so shut up."
"Your brains awfully slow to have to take this long..."
The demon slowly lifted it's gaze up to meet hers. It glowered angrily, all four fangs showing. It was obviously not a good idea to infer that a demon of hellfire was stupid. In a fury, it swooped it's hand down and placed a bishop three squares away, placing it down hard enough to rattle the entire game. "I'm a demonic prince of fire." I'll show you! Seemed to be the unspoken words in the gesture.
It now looked very triumphant. "Check."
Shocked, Botan glanced down at the board. "Hmm... that was unexpected..."
Taking this as worry, the demon smirked. "Your soul is as good as mine."
Botan did a couple more 'hms' and other thoughtful noises, her brow crinkled, before picking up her king and placing it right in front of the ebony queen. She grinned up at the demon smugly. "Checkmate."
The horror upon the demon's face was priceless.
But feelings of triumph quickly turned to fear as the demon exploded. The demon, now identified as male, was on his feet in an instant. He roared, knocking the chess game to pieces. Botan was knocked unceremoniously out of her seating position, hands held tightly over her ears. When the roaring stopped, she cautiously removed her hands, peering to her side.
The demon had his back turned to her, shoulders quivering. She sucked in a breath, actually feeling a bit of sympathy. She stood to her feet and approached it slowly. "Are... are you okay?"
"No I am not okay!" It whipped around to glare at her, their faces once again perilously close. The color drained from her face and she couldn't think of anything to say. "I was just defeated by a little girl! Not by a might warrior, or even another demon, but by a damn scholar!"
He groaned. "I will be scorned and labeled as one of the weak. I won't be deemed fit to haunt children's dreams."
"I'm sorry," Botan offered weakly.
"What are you sorry for?" The demon apparently liked to yell at her. "You're not the one going back to the hell pits of Makai!"
She paused, taking a deep breath. This moment was what all her hard work and studies came down to. Trying to hide the excitement from her voice, she said, "Who says you have to go back?"
"What?" the demon's voice sounded so full of hatred, she almost quivered. "You want me to help you take all of the treasures I've been guarding?"
"I see," Botan said softly. "If you fail to guard the treasures, the magic seal binding you here will be broken and you'll be sent back to Demon world in shame."
"Yes," the angered reply came.
"But I don't want the treasures."
The demon blanched. "What the hell do you mean?"
"I told you I wasn't a thief." She folded her arms across her chest and turned away as if she'd been highly insulted.
"Everyone wants the treasure! Everyone!"
"Not me," she turned back towards him. "I already have what I came for."
The demon seemed infuriated by her responses. "But that means you came here . . . ." he trailed off slightly. Pink eyes locked with the larger, far more intense demonic ones. They held each other's gaze for a moment before the demon finally finished his sentence, "For me."
"Mmhm.." Botan bit her lip, grinning like the little schoolgirl the demon had labeled her as. It was if she expected him to be flattered.
"Fine," the demon snapped and crossed his arms impatiently. It was harder to tell if he was more horrified or embarrassed that a mortal wanted him. "So what? You get a wish from me instead of the treasure. It's only one."
The demon crouched down, bringing their noses a mere foot apart. "Alright then, you little know-it-all, how do you intend to bring me with you? There are magical seals that bind me here. Besides, the passages are far too narrow for me to fit through and I can't exactly pass through solid rock!"
Frustrated and angry, the beast snarled, "Then how in the hell–"
Botan closed the small distance between them, leaned forward, and kissed the demon. She barely had time to see the look of shock across his face before black smoke erupted around them.
She took a step back, coughing and fanning her hands around her face in an effort to clear away the smoke. She looked up, watching as the smoked ebbed into transparent curls.
She gasped as a figure slowly came into view.
"I did it! It worked!"
The demon glanced down at himself in curious surprise. He was now about the same size as Botan, perhaps a little shorter. His skin was no longer green, and completely devoid of eyes. His hair stayed the same, although now it was a bit tamer. His eyes lost the yellow, but the passionate red irises remained. One remaining purple eye was in the middle of his forehead, evidence of his former form, shadowed by strands of black hair.
He was also completely naked.
Botan's eyes widened girlishly, her cheeks flaming.
"Turn around!" the demon's angry voice jerked her enough that she quickly whipped around. She covered her eyes too, just to be safe.
"Don't move," she heard him command. She obeyed as he hurried into the treasure room. He came back out, adorned in a dirty warrior's outfit. It was no doubt previously apparel for a skeleton.
He marched over until he was directly in front of her, arms crossed across a chest that was just as defined and muscled as before, just more suited to his current size. His eyes were narrowed, his lips a curl of annoyance. "Okay, so you knew that a mortal's kiss can alter the size, and thus form, of a demon." Botan beamed, and he coldly added, "It's not like it was that much of a secret anyway."
But Botan's look didn't falter, her smile turning coy, almost smug. The demon glowered at her. "You can wipe that smug look off your face. I'm still stuck here in the dungeons. Your kiss hasn't changed anything so it wasn't that special."
Botan chuckled. "But it was special. Very, very special."
The demon looked at her suspiciously, waiting for her to elaborate. She smiled, her cheeks rinsing a pretty shade of pink. "It was my first kiss."
The demon turned pale. He made an odd choking noise, as if he'd just swallowed an entire cup of lemon juice. "No...!" He lunged forward and gripped her upper arms tightly, an expression of horror across his features. He dragged her towards him, squeezing like he wanted to pop her in half. "You are a pure, untouched virgin?"
She smiled uneasily, nodding.
He released her in an angry shove, taking staggering steps away from her. His back was turned, but she could hear the colorful stream of curses he was emitting. She rubbed her bruised arms. He obviously hadn't lost all of his demon strength in the shrinking process. She let him have a few more moments before she decided to clarify, "So your soul is really bonded to me now?"
His entire body went tense, fists clenched so hard it looked painful. His head turned hardly an inch towards her. "Yes," came the ground out reply.
"And you are forever at my command?"
"Yes!" He turned his head over his shoulder to glower furiously at her.
"And I still have one wish left!" This was said more to herself, a grin brightening up her features.
"Yes! You win already, alright!"
Botan paused at his pained tone, immediately feeling a bit guilty, if not sympathetic. He turned completely away from her, slumping onto the ground, his shoulders hunched. "You can make any damn wish you want. I don't care."
She gazed at him for a moment, already knowing what her wish would be. She smiled just a little. I hope you like it. She strolled confidently towards the center of the cavern. She took a deep breath before raising her hands in the air. Speaking in clear, forceful tones, she began to summon her wish.
"Hear me, keepers of the laws! I call upon you to fulfill my wish!" She could feel the demon's eyes on her now. "Let the magic seals be broken! Release the demon that guards the treasure! Set him free!"
The final word echoed around the empty tavern like a dying symbol. Free, free, free. Outside the cavern, the ruby encrusted shield placed atop the archway shattered, littering the ground with it's now useless fragments.
Across the room, the demon's eyes were wide. I'm free. Then his gaze landed on the blue-haired girl, grinning broadly at him.
No I'm not.
J.J. - More to be explained on the exact reason Botan wants a demon so bad in later chapters. It is a big part of the plot, after all. >.>; Please review.
Next chapter: Bittersweet Freedom