Chapter 1: After the End

It was a tale as old as time, a tale of light against darkness, good against evil. From the darkness, came the ultimate evil. Many names it had been called, but in this age, it was called the ‘Demon Lord’. From the light, came heroes of boundless courage and relentless will. Bravely did they stand against evil as the bulwark for all that was good.

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A chosen of the gods, a bearer of a sacred sword, a paladin of the light, an archer that had grounded a dragon, and a magus bearing wisdom of many lifetimes, five heroes stood before the Demon Lord and their wicked horde. Behind them, the armies of kingdoms united as one against the darkness.

The rest… was history.

Their armies devastated, their powers spent, the Demon Lord fell to the sacred sword, their body incinerated by its divine light. At last, the Demon Lord was no more. The world rejoiced as light conquered darkness and peace was restored to the land. Truly, it was a glorious moment in history that would be told and retold for generations to come.

And yet, it was but another cycle for the Demon Lord. As the end of one age was but the beginning of another, so too was the defeat of the Demon Lord a signal of another beginning.

***

In the plains ravaged by battle, above the corpses of demonkins and humans alike, there floated a cluster of corrupted Aether. By its sheer mass, it pulled in the dissipating Aether from the fallen, stabilizing its form. Even so, corrupted or no, Aether without a vessel was fated to be scattered amongst the winds. Increasing its mass could only slow the process, never close to stopping it.

“Mas… ter…”

Crawling over the dead bodies was a creature, bleeding profusely from its wounds, struggling with its every breath as it approached the swirling ball of corrupted Aether.

As if responding to its feeble call, the corrupted Aether floated over and began enveloping the creature. The Aether within the creature reacted violently, trying to resist, but it was to no avail. Slowly, the corrupted Aether seeped into the creature’s being.

“To be able to recognize me in that state… Was that the instinct of a beast?”

As it spoke with an eloquence it had never displayed prior, the creature’s wound gradually closed, stitched together by a force invisible to those lacking in certain talents. Once healed, the creature slowly rose to its feet, standing tall as it set itself apart from the corpses.

The figure of the creature was by no means elegant, with a single twisted horn protruding from one side of its head, a tail that was revealed to be a viper, limbs possessing razor-sharp claws that could tear through sheets of steel, and patches of both scales and fur growing all over its body, it was a creature that could only be called ‘twisted’. Yet, the most twisted thing of all was that it had the face of a human child.

The resemblance was not by design. This creature, using its ability of shape-shifting and mimicry had, upon sensing its life to be in danger, decided that taking on a guise of a human child would cause its opponent to become hesitant. Even its voice had been changed to similar to that of a child. The creature’s cunning would have been amusing to behold, had it not been so disturbing.

“What a thing you’ve made, Cato, you madman,” the creature uttered with its childlike voice. “Yet, it held a mind of a beast nonetheless. The animalistic processes of its brain are proving difficult to rein in.”

“Master? Angry?” As if the semblance of intelligence it had shown was but a lie, the creature began to speak simply once more.

“My ‘soul’, my Aether, will only continue to dissipate. It will lose its sapience soon enough. When that happens, I’ll be reduced to but a mere beast. I’ll have to find a proper vessel before then. Do you understand what I am saying?”

The creature responded to the words that came from its own mouth with a shake of its head.

“Oh? You don’t? That is to be expected, but listen regardless. Just having you hear my words through your ears makes it easier for me to gather my thoughts.”

“Yes… Listening…”

“Good. Now let us be off.”

“Where? Go?”

“We head southwest. I sensed a new life being born amidst the chaos before my demise. Perhaps our fates may cross.”

Without it fully understanding anything, the creature’s legs had already begun to move. From a nearby banner, broken and laid to rest, the claws of the creature ripped the flag off the pole and fashioned out of it a makeshift cloak with which to hide the creature’s hideous form.

“So ends one cycle. So begins another.”

“Master?”

Not bothering to answer the creature’s concerned inquiry, the creature’s legs began moving, as if its body was but a puppet on a string.

***

The Demon Lord, having anticipated their demise, injected a mass of their Aether with all of their memories, experiences, as well as their final thoughts. The cluster of information within the Aether weaved together a semblance of sapience, forming into what *could* be called a soul. It was to be the final fragment, the last seed to be sown.

Over and over had this process been repeated, over and over had the Demon Lord spread their fragments, sowing the seeds for the coming cycle. With the fall of the Demon Lord, once again, it came time for the scattered fragments to conglomerate.

To struggle, they will. To fight, they shall. Till only one remains. Through battles will they evolve, through devouring one another shall they become strong, till the one true Demon Lord arise from their ashes.

So it begins anew, a battle royale of the Demon Lords.

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***

End of Chapter 1

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