The first part of Eis' Story. Unlike June's story, Eis directly recounts the events of his life and particular encounters. This part predates the first chapter of The Soft-Hearted Devil by a year and a half.
A Little About the Guy Telling This StoryEdit
My name is Eis, Eis something or other in germanic, I could never remember the spelling or pronunciation. I am less than twenty years of age, have a tangled mess of white hair- all natural by the way, my hair rejects all dyes and bleach- that nothing short of garden shears could tame, jade colored eyes according to my mother, though everyone else says that they're sapphire or amethyst, and an almost pasty complexion I apparently inherited from my father whom I've never seen since my third birthday. I live someplace somewhere in the world with my mother, nowhere really important in the grand scheme of things so I see no need to disclose the actual location.
If you really must know something about where I'm from, imagine a slum where it rains for most of the year and the streets are clogged with muck and garbage and waste when they aren't flooded or buried under fifteen feet of the dirtiest snow you've ever seen. Now imagine that the norm on the streets is mugging, gang violence and dealings of the unsavory sort. Lastly, imagine that you live in the magnificent country of Hamaoni, only replace magnificent with tiny, crowded, headache inducing, aggravating, water logged, etc. Your choice. It's a small place, almost invisible on the globe, located somewhere between Thailand and Sri Lanka and is constantly at the throat of one or the other for an endless list of reasons. Personally, I find this to be absurd and stupid, but a misfit has no real say in the running of his home.
Speaking of home, I live in a tiny apartment with my mother, Solais, but we've been over that already. Because we're poor, not dirt poor thankfully, we share the same room and rarely use the lights and stove if we can and always take quick baths(Showers use over twenty times the water a bath does within ten seconds). Both of us also work, with me acting as a barista at the crappy coffee shop a little down the way while Ma works as a dancer in the nightclub in the richer district of the island, just a dancer. Before her current occupation, Ma worked as the maid at one of the wealthiest estates on Hamaoni, but she quickly resigned when her employer, a real sleaze bag of a person with "Exotic and Esoteric" taste as he called it when we met after the resignation, began making advances on her. In retrospect, I could've warned the poor fool that Ma's heart belonged to someone else, a person I hadn't seen since my third birthday: my father. Back on topic, it's needless to say that didn't work out and mom needed a new job and the nightclub happened to be hiring dancers since a couple had quit. Now, I head off to the coffee shop at the crack of dawn, get back home by dusk, see Ma off, then escort her home a little before midnight to keep her safe from any of the opportunists lurking in the night regardless of her claims to be perfectly safe and that I need the sleep. I'll be honest, I do need the sleep so that I don't start each day hating the sun and anyone loud for the next four hours, but I'd rather wake up as a ticking time bomb than let my honest to a fault, practically ageless mother get preyed upon by some human sack of filth waiting in the night because I chose to sleep for more than four hours.
I do apologize for my jaded tone, but have I thoroughly expressed how discontent with life I am or, by the time you see this, was? I hated Hamaoni, loathed it and not just because I lived a crappy life, but because my mother did as well. I could stand being treated like crap and being yelled at by people complaining about the burnt water with coffee grounds I had to serve because my boss couldn't afford replacing the old coffee maker that short circuited a few days after I got the job, but let some man put his hands on my mother or allow someone to yell at her for being as innocent as a child? I've gotten into scraps for less and for pettier things and when someone incites my fury, expect me to be out for a little more than blood and a bit less than life. This is around the time when I explain why I'm dangerous and it's not because of a concealed weapon or two. Compared to most people, even those with muscles the size of barrels and the strength to lift cars, I'm strong. I'm also fast, on par with a speeding car when I'm serious. To top it off, I'm a little special in a couple of ways. First off, I heal quickly, like insanely quickly, like recovering from a steak knife nearly gouging out my eye and shredding the skin and muscle in my face within half an hour with no scar or lasting damage quick. Secondly, I'm always aware of anyone within one hundred meters of me, even when I'm asleep if four hours of semi-consciousness counts as sleep, and have a natural danger sense of sorts that warns me when things go south. Lastly, I do have a bit of a secret weapon, nothing anyone would expect though. To describe it, imagine having a living shadow that you could control as you saw fit. It would be something like that, but with the addition of metal and a few physics defying traits like hammer space voids and teleportation like in Portal and its sequel. Apparently I had inherited this from mother rather than father, but I never saw mom use anything like my self subbed "Dark Hand," so she may have been talking about something else... Or so I thought. It wouldn't be long before I learned there was a lot more to me and mother than I thought and that- Oh who am I kidding, I still hate Hamaoni to this day, more so now because of reasons I won't disclose this time around.
How I Met the Devil and Learned That My Mother Wasn't Fragile in the Same HourEdit
Another day like any other. Boring. Dull. Slow. I wished it could be over already. I sighed, both from sheer boredom at how mundane life was and from the usual four hours of sleep. My boss said to try and clean up my act and be polite to the customers, but how can I when all they do is whine about every little thing when they aren't pulling knives on me and yelling out various demands. That's what the guy on the other side of the counter was doing, yelling at me with a knife drawn... Wait no, that's a gun. There's no difference really, at least to me. I should probably be trying to hear his demands instead of nodding off like I was, but I really didn't care. Oh, he's pointing the gun at Fei Lin, I should probably do something about that... Maybe in a few minutes. Seconds. Hours... Soon.
I yawned loudly, not on purpose mind you, but the sleep deprivation was really catching up to me. I started to doze off again when I felt cold metal touch my temple, so I looked up and saw the guy glaring at me for not taking him seriously. Probably. Dude, don't interrupt my sleep, I need it so I don't go off on someone. I conveyed this with my eyes before nodding off again, only to have the weapon pressed harder into my temple. What a drag. Just let me catch up on my sleep this one time. The click of the gun's hammer told me he wasn't keen on listening. Fine, he wants to do this the difficult way. A simple count to three should do.
One. I jerked the gun away from my head, causing him to misfire. Two. I promptly crushed the weapon's barrel, making the man's eyes bug out in surprise. Three. I headbutted the guy, breaking his nose in the process, then delivered a swift chop to his neck with my free hand, flooring him like a sack of flour. All is at peace... I went back to nodding off and was asleep within the minute.
"Dost thou shirk away thine destiny?" Huh? Of all things, I heard that clearly. The voice was a fair mix of masculine whisper and metal singing, whatever it was. Since I couldn't see, I was probably having another weird dream or something along those lines.
"Wherefore art thou abandoning thy heritage?" There it was again. I didn't really understand what it was talking about. Destiny? Heritage? Since when did those hold any relevance to me?
"...is!....ke u...!" I'm being called, but I don't want to return to the waking world just yet. Just another few minutes, please allow me that.
"Eis, It's time." I snapped awake. That last voice was Father's! Yet when I looked around, he wasn't there. Instead I was greeted with the sight of a beautiful woman. She had caramel colored hair that fell in wavy curls, mahogany colored eyes with a faint wine tint, faintly bronzed skin free of blemish and a soft expression on her face that always made me think of home. Her features were sharp and familiar to me, not overly angular but not too soft either. She seemed to radiate a glow that brightened the day of everyone around her.
"Ma, what are you doing out so early," I asked, fighting off another wave of oncoming sleep. "It's not time to go to work now, is it?"
"No Eis, that's a few hours off," she replied with a homely smile that could melt the coldest of hearts. "Kamara called and said you fainted after stopping a gunman from running wild in the shop."
"Fainted? I don't remember fainting, only drifting off after the guy went down," I managed, suppressing a yawn. "Wasn't a big deal."
"No baby, it was." Ma shook her head lightly. "You saved Fei Lin's life and who knows who else's."
"They would've done the same. He wasn't all that tough," I said, failing to suppress the next yawn. Ma laughed a little at that.
"You forget, not everyone can do what you do, sweetie." Right, that was true, but I really wished it wasn't. "Kamara says you can take off early today, you and Fei Lin. He'll manage the shop today." I nodded faintly and picked myself up from the counter. Before I could do much else though, I found myself in a tight embrace from another person. Fei Lin...
I had known Fei Lin since my early childhood, when she and her family moved here from Taiwan for personal reasons. I suspected triad ties, but that's neither here nor there. I grew up with her and my good friend Chai and we used to get into all sorts of trouble before things got awkward between us. Essentially, we grew up. Chai had always liked Fei Lin, but was too shy about it up until last year. They got together and to be honest, I was happy for them, but it's hard to spend your free time with a pair of lovebirds. Maybe not hard, but awkward as all can get. We sort of drifted apart around then and we had barely spoke until I found this job at a coffee shop that Fei Lin coincidentally worked at as well. Of course this was also around the time my sleep schedule was shot in the foot and I began living through twenty hour days, so we hadn't really been able to catch up until today.
Fei Lin was sort of like my Ma, Solais, in the sense that she hadn't really aged much over the years. Whereas mom has looked the same since I was seven, Fei Lin stopped changing when she turned fourteen. She was still a tomboy, never caught outside of decidedly sporty clothing or with healthy chocolate colored her hair outside of her trademark buns unless she was exercising. She was the type of girl just about everyone would think was pretty, despite being somewhat average. She wasn't too short or too tall, standing a little under a head shorter than me, had a toned physique from working out in her spare time(mainly running and climbing whatever could be scaled) and wasn't slim nor was she bulky, then again only the upper echelons of society really put on weight on Hamaoni. Like me, she didn't tan, which was odd considering the fact that she was outside just as long as I was on a regular basis and the sun was unforgiving when it was out. In truth the only thing I found off about Fei Lin was how touchy she was, but I was never the most sociable and open person so that could just be me.
"Xie xie, Eis," purred my friend, tightening her embrace. My ribs, they hurt... Thank you. She let go not long afterward.
"No problem, Fei. It wasn't that big of a deal," I tried to say, but she would have none of it.
"Always one to make mountains into mole hills. You haven't really changed," she remarked. "To you, that wasn't a big deal, but to me I now owe you my life. Sort of." I smirked at that.
"You did say that all the thing you did were on the house for me and Chai."
"I'm surprised you remember that," I said, shrugging. "Just pay me back as you see fit, you're a friend so I won't ask anything specific of you." Fei Lin nodded, but her expression said that she was less than satisfied with my answer. That could turn out troublesome or helpful soon.
"So what are your plans," asked Ma abruptly, "I'll be going back home until it's time for me to go to work."
"I think I'll catch up with Chai and Fei Lin and meet you back at the apartment before dusk strikes," I said, shrugging.
"Then I'll see you later." Ma winked, waved us off, then left for our apartment.
"C'mon, let's find Chai," smiled Fei Lin, pulling me by the arm through several of our old haunts, old alleyways in need of serious repair and cleaning thanks to the accumulated junk people had discarded in them. I felt a wry smile form as the literal stroll down memory lane continued. The red car hood that had acted as a sled in the winter. The old brolen mirror that Fei Lin vehemently insisted was a gate to another plane. The surprisingly still intact pair of goggles that Chai would don when he was serious. The sights made me remember the highlights of a rather unpleasant childhood rather than see all of the bad and none of the good. To Be Continued.
It didn’t take long to find Chai. He was at his usual haunt, a makeshift junkyard comprised of bent and broken tools and random pieces of metal twisted into random shapes. Glass and plastic pieces were carelessly strewn around the area, most broken beyond use or jagged and sharp to the touch. In the middle of it all stood- crouched rather as he was fumbling around with something near the ground- Chai Linga, my best friend for the longest time. He was about my height, give or take a few centimeters, with sea-foam green hair and a natural dark tan that he wore with pride when he wasn't covered head to toe in soot, dust or whatever substance he managed to coat himself with when the goggles were on. His eyes were a startling green and he had a faint scar across the bridge of his nose, where he had once been cut by a knife when the three of us got into trouble we had no business being in at the time. His clothes consisted of baggy brown cargo pants over steel toed boots, a dusty grey hoodie covered in various scuffs and burn marks where it had been scraped against things or burnt, a tea green shirt and a pair of goggles, goggles that he'd worn since we scavenged them up as kids, rested on his forehead.
"Oi, if it ain't Eis," called Chai, nodding at me after he collected the object, a mess of wires that I couldn't make much out of, and stood up. I returned the nod, striding over to him as Fei Lin slinked over to his side and wrapped him in what appeared to be a tight embrace before pecking him on the cheek. I gave him a wry look as he chuckled bashfully after returning the kiss to Fei Lin's forehead. "Been awhile since the three of us could hang... Something happen at the job?"
"Guy went postal over is coffee," I remarked, "Boss gave the two of us the day off after it was solved."
"Oh really," he asked, turning to Fei Lin, knowing that I'd give the bare bones of the story rather than all the meat.
"What Eis didn't say was that we were held at gun point and that he stopped the incident before either of us could be hurt," she further explained. "Kamara gave us the rest of today off, figuring tat we wouldn't be getting many more people for the day after people see the heat at the shop."
"I see," he nodded. "Why can't you be that descriptive, Eis?"
"Too much work," I yawned.
"Fair point when that comes from you... lazy bones."
"Oi, no hitting below the belt," I countered as Chai gave me a sarcastic smile.
"All's fair in love and war, Eis," grinned them man.
"Yeah, yeah, just you wait til those words bite you in the rear," I huffed, feigning offence before fist bumping with him. "Anyways, what do you two wanna do?"
"Iunno," shrugged Chai, "I'd say scavenge for more stuff, but I'm pretty sure that if it's valuable and we haven't found it, it ain't meant to be found. Plus... apparently there've been some weirdos skulking around at night. Animals and women have been going missing after dark and I don't wanna risk that with Fei Lin."
"I can take care of myself, big softie," said Fei Lin, lightly punching Chai in the shoulder before untying her hair. "But yeah... I've been hearing about that too as of late."
"Hold on. What," I asked rhetorically. "How long has this been going on?"
"Since we had that weird as hell plane arrive, allegedly," said Chai. I groaned at that. A week and a half ago, a plane landed on Hamaoni, but no one got off it. Customs waited twenty minutes before having the plane opened externally only to find the mummified remains of all the passengers and an empty cabin for the pilot and co-pilot. The incident was quickly covered up, but it was quite unsettling by far. The fact that women and people's pets began to vanish right after that didn't seem coincidental, but back then investigating that kind of thing wasn't on my agenda, Ma's safety was.
"The heat that does actually care has been looking into the cases, but so far nothing. May wanna accompany Ms. Solais to work until everything's in the clear," continued Chai, "Heck, I'll go with you if need be."
"Me as well." chimed in Fei Lin.
"I'd rather you didn't Fei," said Chai. "If anything happened to you and I was able to prevent it, I'd never forgive myself."
"I know you can take care of yourself, heck you can fight better than I can, but I can't let you do all the protecting. How else am I gonna earn Fei Long's approval?" Fei Long? Oh, Fei Lin's elder brother and the head of the house hold. If Chai wanted that mean sonnuva gun's approval that meant...
"Don't go getting yourself killed just to impress a future in-law," I sighed, "You two take care of each other, I'll take care of Ma myself."
"You sure," asked Chai, "I've been working on my-"
"Yeah. Call it cheesy, but if you two or Ma get hurt, whoever did it isn't seeing the light of day again," I interrupted, dead serious too. Chai and Fei Lin were my best friends, even if I knew Chai long enough to regard him as the senior of the two in terms of... best friendness? In any case, those two were about on par with Ma in terms of how much I cared for them, so I was willing to bust more than a few skulls for them if needed. "But enough about that, let's just relax before we have to head our separate ways for the day."
"Y-yeah," nodded the couple in unison. Thus we talked until the sun began to set before we made our farewells and departed. I made my way home, intent on taking Ma to work as an extra precaution, but... when I got to our apartment, I was greeted by an open door, broken furniture and a suitcase with a tag on it. I immediately called for Ma, but got no answer. Growing more frantic, I called out again, hoping I'd be able to detect her but nothing. Alright, something definitely was up, but I wasn't gonna point fingers until I had proof. Unfortunately, proof came in the form of a malevolent force manifesting within ten meters of myself.
The air grew thick with the scent of rancid meat as a red haze filled the apartment. Shambling footsteps moved towards the now open door as inhuman growls and moans rose like a steady din as I balled my fists and waited... And waited. And... waited... And then the tension was lost as annoyance crossed my face and I stomped outside, only to see my mother standing beside a man in a red coat with ivory hair, each with a weapon drawn. The man carried a broad sword of sorts with a notched blade and a skull engraved guard with wicked red eyes, while Ma held a black and violet great axe or halberd surrounded by a deep violet aura in one hand. The same hand was adorned by a black gauntlet that gave off a vibe akin to my shadow's when it was active. Surrounding the duo was a group of at least twelve or so people, all women, who appeared to be in a daze, behind them lying the burning, smouldering remains of... things.
"I had it covered, Redgrave," Ma said, her normally light and happy voice haughty and severe to the stranger. "The demon responsible for this should know not to invade another's territory."
"I forgot that that pretty smile of yours hid such a dark temper, Skadi," remarked the man referred to as Redgrave, sheathing his sword. "Still, to think that someone'd invade the queen's territory... Quite-"
"Foolish," finished Ma before glancing in my direction, her eyes jade with black where they should have been white. Immediately her demeanor changed as she strode over to me and wrapped me in a hug. "Eis, it's good you're alright! I thought something happened when I saw those demons chasing Chai and Fei Lin!"
"Demons," I asked, taken aback. In all my life I'd seen and heard about just about everything get blamed for the occasional oddity around Hamaoni, but never demons. Ma gestured at the remains on the ground.
"Parasitic pests possessing pure-hearted maidens," she hissed, eyes glowing briefly. "This must come as a surprise to you, but I'm sure now's not the time to explain."
"Explain on the move," grunted Redgrave, "More of these things'll appear if we don't get rid of the source, Skadi." Ma grunted in agreement.
"Eis, as much as I want you to not have to deal with this, it's about time you learn about your father's calling and your heritage," Ma said, more serious than I'd heard her in a long time. Her seriousness, in fact, left me silently dumb founded for a few moments as I followed behind her and the red coated man. It wasn't much later when Ma began telling her tale. Long ago she'd been revered as a goddess, but as time passed she grew weary of such treatment and vanished into obscurity. Skadi, as Redgrave called her, was one of her many names in one of her many roles before she came to live among the humans. Until she met my father, she wandered aimlessly, occasionally helping out humans as she traveled. When she met my father, however, she fell in love at first sight and, despite him being a demon hunter by trade, aided him until he returned her feelings, after which I was born. Father was a half human, half deific being, who renounced his ties to his heritage to protect humanity, up until he fell in love with mother. He was then forced to return to his homeland, having produced a 'suitable heir' before any of his siblings, which somehow made him the patriarch of his line. When I brought this up to mother, she smiled before answering with "Complicated god business" and continuing on.
Father, far from the deadbeat I thought he was, had wanted Ma and I to live with him, but his family refused to accept a 'lowly demon' in their lands and sent her to Hamaoni under a geas that prevented her from leaving. Father didn't take kindly to this and fought them over it, but by the time he was able to do anything, I'd been born and Ma was ill so we couldn't be moved. So father stayed with us for three years, though Ma said he planned to stay longer, before he was forced to return home once more, though not without leaving things for when I came of age. Then came the big thing, at least to me. While I had already gathered that I wasn't fully human, apparently father's deific heritage completely overwrote what would have made me even partially human, so I was a strange demi-god over nothing in particular that was also a half demon, which was hard to comprehend. Thus I followed Ma and Redgrave, having been reintroduced as Dante, in silence. It wasn't until I noticed the sky darken that I snapped from my thoughts, just in time to see one of the demons, possessing a bird, diving towards me.
Without so much as a sigh, I leaned backwards just enough to avoid the creature's claws before batting it away in a fluid motion, sending it rolling along the ground. I then hopped back slightly, just enough to avoid the claws of a demon possessed woman as Ma swung her axe around and seemingly severed her head- only for a strange pulsating mass of red flesh with dozens of eyes and a fang ringed mouth to fall from her body and burn as she froze in place, giving me a good idea of what I'd be seeing until this mess was cleared up.
Twisting, crooked horns grew from the young woman's head, with black and purple veins like receding roots coming from them. Her skin was deathly pale and her eyes were completely black, while her hands were clawed, having three digits fused by some sort of fleshy red roots instead of the usual five. The same roots spread from her knees down to her feet, replacing them with four toed claws. The back of her clothes were torn, primarily from the mid back to the nape of her neck, where the central mass of the roots should have been, had Ma not cleaved the thing off with her blade. The roots soon began to wither and fall from the young woman, returning her limbs to normal, at the cost of her balance. Her eyes faded from black to a glazed blue as the veins that once marred her face faded and the horns fell off. Not long afterwards did color return to her complexion, giving the semblance of life to what appeared to be a sheet of a person.
"Looks like none of the Treants have fully taken root," noted Ma, hefting her great axe over her shoulder like it was weightless. "Still, to use Treants as opposed to Scarecrows or Marionettes... Either this demon is too cocky for its own good or it knows what it's doing."
"I'd bet on the former thinking it's the latter," commented Dante before addressing me. "Kid, pretty sure you need or want a weapon. I'll lend you-"
"No need, Redgrave," interrupted Ma, again, digging into one of her pockets to retrieve... the head of a fancy cane. "Eis, this was your father's and no, it isn't just a jewel studded cane head. He left it for you until you fully awaken your potential and find your true arm. Well this and a few other items." Thus I accepted the not-cane head from Ma and felt a slight shock from it upon contact with it. It was cool to the touch as a strange hybrid of spun wood and metal, never seeming to warm in my grasp as I looked it over. The head was rounded as opposed to the "J" shape I was used to seeing and had an oddly seven pointed star stretched over the top, with a small sapphire at each point. The tool, at least I assumed it was tool, held a slight luster when in my hands as opposed to Ma's.
"May the seven stars act as your guide, Eis. Let the Septentriones be your blade and shield in one." And there was father's voice once more, just as cryptic as earlier in the day, and with it I felt something within me open. A wealth of knowledge suddenly flooded my brain while my senses expanded and threatened to overwhelm me until I felt warmth wash over my being and the sudden growth I felt subsided to a more reasonable measure. Yet I felt foreign in my own skin, as if my body was too large and too small for me to properly control at the same time. It was like having double vision, only one image was the usual while the other was overlaid with things that weren't there, things that couldn't be there, then applied to all my senses. I could feel the air against my skin and the individual grains of fabric touching me, while at the same time I could feel the life within myself, within my mother, within the girl, within Dante and within everything else within what I estimated to be a mile of myself. I could feel, no see, their movements, even if they were static, as a phantom blur before my eyes and i could hear not their thoughts, but their true nature if that makes any sense. I could smell the foulness, once a norm, in the air, as well as a sinister intent suffocating the scent of filth and human despair. It was like being introduced to a new world of flavor or having an extra color cone in your eyes activated while having your ears attuned to ultra high-pitched and low-pitched frequencies and your skin experiencing hypersensitivity while your nose gained the ability to actually smell fear. It was sensory overload and my body couldn't take it, and yet my body very easily could withstand this and more at the exact same time. And so I decided I agreed with the part of myself that said I could withstand this new world so to speak, ending the contrarian divide within myself. My old sense were replaced by my new senses, albeit toned down, and I felt lighter, faster even, once I fully regained my composure.
"Thou hast accepted thy fate then." And there was the other voice, still foreign to me, yet I had some idea as to what it was now. Silently nodding, I brandished the cane head- Septentrione- and focused on the star decorating it. No sooner than I did did a brilliant triangle of white light form from both the head and end of the weapon, creating a twinblade of light. Perfect was the only word that came to mind as I swung the weapon around to test how it felt in my hands, knowing I could adjust it at will if needed.
"Father chose well," I muttered, slashing behind myself with the light blade as the Treant possessed bird flew towards my supposedly exposed back. The weapon ignored the bird, but cut clean through the parasitic roots, causing the bird to falter mid-flight then fly away after a beat.