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Knights of the Demon Chapter 4: Ring

GWS Aug 28th, 2015 441 Never
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  1.  
  2.         Mary glanced at her clock with a heavy sigh. It’s been a whole two hours since she’s been trying to save the life of the Jinko who, two hours ago, broke into her house and threatened to kill her if she didn’t get what she wanted. Her once baby blue gloves which she wore on her soft hands were now splattered with blood, and the surgical mask she wore on her face was slightly dirty, covered in the same blood that was on her hands and her own sweat. Even though the window was slightly open, letting in the cool night air into her room, she was still hot. Her grey and black hair stuck to her face and neck, and her shirt stuck to her back. Even as she pulled the mask off of her face and allowed it to hang from her neck, she breathed heavily into the warm air. She was tired; she was exhausted; and above all she was beginning to feel sick. Even as she pulled the bloodied gloves off her hands, tossing them into the same bowl which was filled with blood stained bandages, which sat next to a bottle of rubbing alcohol what was emptier than her own stomach, Mary felt ill. And the scene which was in front of her didn’t remedy the bile which was beginning its journey up her neck.
  3.  
  4.         The Jinko had to admit that Mary’s patch job was leagues better than what she would’ve done to herself. Considering that she herself had paws while Mary did not didn’t really make it hard to believe. Both of her fur covered arms were tightly bandaged by freshly applied bandages, with only the slight patches of red on each arm where the wound bled. The stitches on her chest and body were neatly made, as if Mary had been doing this for years. Which was a lie, considering all she really did was copy how she knew how to sew on normal fabric and did it onto the Jinko’s flesh. Her head was neatly wrapped by a white bandage, and her face had many different bandages. From small brown bandaged like the one on her nose to big white patches which were on her right cheek and neck. Her breathing was ragged, mostly due to the fact that Mary used a lot of rubbing alcohol, but she was in a much better condition than she was when she barged into her room unknowingly and threated her.
  5.  
  6.         She sighed in response, clutching her side. It’s not that she wanted to scare her; she just really wanted what was hers. The stinging sensation she felt when her paw brushed her side caused her to wince, and Mary looked at her in worry, clearly swallowing the bile that was in her throat. She told her that there wasn’t really anything she could do, for it was clear that something was broken. The Jinko told her the doctors did an x-ray and said that her hip on that side was completely shattered, but they replaced it with titanium. Though, and she looked away in embarrassment remembering what they said, she wasn’t supposed to move for at least three weeks while the wound healed. And even now, as she glanced at the teenage girl who sat in front of her and saved her life, worry painted on her features, she could tell that Mary was upset about her getting up. She shifted in her seat again, wincing as pain shot through her. She was a bit prideful, to say the least, and for someone to see her in such a weakened state slightly embarrassed her. It wasn’t as if it was bad enough that she had to change into the clothes in which Mary gave her; the clothes in which barely fit her due to the drastic size difference, both in height and chest department.
  7.  
  8.         “Why…” Her voice was more of a raspy whisper than anything, but she looked at Mary for answers. “Why…?”
  9.  
  10.         “Why not?” Mary answered, gaining a look of confusing look from the Jinko. “Although calling the police or especially an ambulance would’ve been a much better decision, I couldn’t let you bleed out. I saved you not because of the fear in which if I didn’t you’d kill me, but because I should.”
  11.  
  12.         The Jinko looked into Mary’s eyes. There was no hint of a bluff, but instead a burning resolve which made the Jinko close her eyes and look away. She looked off into the distance, particularly at nothing.
  13.  
  14.         “I see why it picked you…” She said under her breath.  Mary was about to say something, but she continued. “You know, you give off the aura of vulnerability… But in truth, you’re actually really brave when someone else’s life is on the line...”
  15.  
  16.         Mary blushed. “Thanks… Uhm-“
  17.  
  18.         “Shiroe.” The tiger said, looking back into her eyes. Mary winced at the intensity of her green slit eyes. “Just Shiroe: my last name… Isn’t important anymore…”
  19.  
  20.         Mary sensed that there was a story behind that, but didn’t pry.
  21.  
  22.         “You said that you wanted something.”
  23.  
  24.         Shiroe snorted, as if responding to her obvious question
  25.  
  26.         “Thought as much.” Mary sheepishly said with a blush. She noticed the ring, more of distanced her face from the glare of the lion’s face and piercing gaze, and looked towards Shiroe. “Is it this?”
  27.  
  28.         She nodded.
  29.  
  30.         Mary looked into Shiroe’s eyes, as if trying to read her. The stoic expression on her face never seemed to waver, other from when she was string to stitch her back together and disinfected the wounds which seemed to be all across her body. She was lucky she didn’t manage to bleed out, but it was mainly because the doctors themselves did a better job than her. The most in which Mary actually didn’t was reclose the stitches that managed to tear back open due to Shiroe’s overexertion. But all of them were well off from being fully healed. Even though it had been a day since the accident, she expected her to at least know when to restrain herself.
  31.  
  32.         Then again, Mary really didn’t know who she was.
  33.  
  34.         Mary shifted on the edge of her bed. “Take it.”
  35.  
  36.         “I can’t.”
  37.  
  38.         What Mary expected was for the Jinko to take the scorching hot ring off of her finger and then Mary could call an ambulance to take her back to the hospital where she could finally rest and fully recover. What she didn’t expect was for her to out and eject taking back what Mary assumed was rightfully hers. She looked into her eyes, and was met with the stoic defiance look she seemed to have permanently etched onto her face.
  39.  
  40.         “What?”
  41.  
  42.         “I can’t.” Shiroe repeated.
  43.  
  44.         She didn’t understand it. Why? Why couldn’t she take it? Why couldn’t she take the thing which was filling her mind with an unrelenting demon that seemed to haunt her mind and purge her into endless nightmares? Why? For what reason? Even as she looked at Shiroe in disbelief, as if looking for an answer in her emerald green eyes, or for some form of anything that could explain why the Jinko who sat in front of her --who was in visible pain, who broke into her home to take back her possession in which Mary seemed to have found back into her hands—would say no even after she clearly broke out of the hospital to get it back, baffled her. Shiroe seemed to stare back into her eyes without the hint of any sort of emotional change. Her right eyebrow did shift after staring at Mary for a while, and Mary returned her gaze with confusion. The sudden wet feeling on her hand caused her to look down. She was crying.
  45.  
  46.         “Why…?” Mary’s voice was wavy. She stared into her hand, watching as another tear fell onto it. She looked back at Shiroe, and ignored the tears which were flowing down her rosy cheeks. “Why!?”
  47.  
  48.         “I just can’t.” Shiroe said flatly. Mary rose to her feet.
  49.  
  50.         “Then why would you even come here!?” She didn’t even care if her voice was raised. “Why would you break into my room if you couldn’t even take what you wanted; why are you even here; why!?”
  51.  
  52.         Shiroe seemed slightly taken aback from Mary’s outburst, and Mary huffed and puffed. She wasn’t one to get angry, or to even raise her voice, and she knew it. Her face felt as if it was burning up and she slowly sat back onto her bed. She began to wipe away her tears with her hands, but her sniffles and whimpers never seemed to go away.
  53.  
  54.         “S-Sorry-“
  55.  
  56.         “No. You’re right.” Shiroe interjected. “You’re right to be mad. You’re in the right to yell at me…” She seemed to stray away from her gaze, her green eyes setting onto nothing. “I’m a failure…”
  57.  
  58.         The two sat in silence for what felt like hours. What was there to say? Mary wanted Shiroe to take the ring, to free her from the torment it seemed to give her, but was denied. To be angry was something she didn’t usually express, but she was more afraid than she was enraged. If Shiroe, probably her only hope of taking away this lion-faced ring and ridding her of the endless nightmares that seemed to haunt her every time she would close her eyes, was unable to take what Mary assumed was hers, then who could? Who could take the burden off of her? Who could loosen the grip of fear that seemed to hold her close in a tight embrace, with no sense of letting go no matter how many times Mary would wake up in a cold sweat screaming to the heavens? She looked down at the ring, and her chest ached. The face of the crimson red demon, the lion that didn’t care how peaceful her dream would be, stared back at her, and her body seemed to shiver in response. It wasn’t as if it was driving her mad, but the way it looked, the way its auburn eyes glared at her, the way they seemed to glow in a light not even Mary knew was from, she swore it wasn’t just her mind but the actual beast that was looking directly at her. Something lumped in her throat, and she gulped hard.
  59.  
  60.         “Long ago, centuries before your time, there were two factions that were above all else on the world.” Shiroe’s monotone voice startled Mary. But even though it sounded as if there was no emotion in it, she senses something: sorrow. “The Order: a zealot group who worshipped the Chief God. And the Monsters: children of the then Demon Lord. The Order, at the time, fought for peace--through divine judgement. The Chief God would judge those accordingly, and would smite down those who were judged as guilty. From the smallest things like petty theft to murder and rape—The Chief God saw all and knew all. And the Paladins were there to serve its divine judgement without any sort of mercy. There were those who thought the Paladins were too radical and too devoted to their worship that they were borderline insane, but most who would say such things –heretics they would call them—were burned at the stake and purged.
  61.  
  62.         The Monsters on the other hand saw a different incentive. Peace, through tyranny. The Demon Lord never liked how the Paladins deemed them unholy spawns, for she viewed all her children accordingly. So if the Paladins were to force their movement, their religion, on the lives that inhabited Gaia--her children’s home-- then she would too. In the eyes of the many her motives seemed cold-hearted and merciless, but in the eyes of her children it was just. Her children were to do whatever they wanted, have whoever they wanted, and live however they pleased-- Including murder. They were free to force whoever into monsters. They were free to prey on the weak. They were free to kill, to eat, to devour.
  63.  
  64.         At the time, most were afraid of us Mamono, or Monsters at the times. Demons, Hell spawn--unholy abominations as the Order called them. But to say it to our faces was certain death, and to question the Demon Lord was to question your entire meaning of life. At the time, we weren’t like how we were today. We were just monsters; animals; creatures who took pleasure in killing to survive. So no one would dare step in the way of those who could easily overpower you. No one would dare to stand in defiance against a Monster like then then Succubus who would prey on your loved ones and take their soul--Except for the Paladins.
  65.  
  66.         That’s when the war began.”
  67.  
  68.         Mary thought for a moment. “I remember this all in History. Or at least what I heard.” She sheepishly brushed away some of her hair out of her face. “Eventually, a new Demon Lord rose up and defeated the previous Demon Lord, and then the truce was made. And I guess we were too.”
  69.  
  70.         “It’s not the full story.” A pain seemed to shoot through Shiroe, and she growled under her breath. “At the time, the truce was a wise decision. There was too much bloodshed during the generation long war; both warrior and innocent. But many saw it as something that was made by a cowardly Demon Lord that wanted no violence and wasn’t like the original who would cement her reign by any means necessary.”
  71.  
  72.         “So then the Druella’s Hand was made, consisted of high level Mamono such as Lilim’s and Baphomet’s: the old Demon Lord’s right hand.” Mary paused. “But they disappeared.”
  73.  
  74.         “They were hunted down and killed.” The tone in which Shiroe said it, in a monotone, emotionless voice, chilled Mary to the bone.
  75.  
  76.         “Killed?”
  77.  
  78.         “After the truce was made, both the Chief God and the new Demon Lord knew that something like this would happen. So, with the help of the Order, the Knights were made.” Mary was about to say something, but Shiroe continued.  “The Knights were, at the time, one of man and Mamono’s greatest achievements in magic. The armour was entirely made of Holy Metal, the strongest and most fortified armour which could withstand the relentless battles they would endure. They were created for those who were deemed worthy and pure to wield them and their assortments of weapons by both the Demon Lord and The Chief God to hunt and destroy any and all who would try to break the truce or push their own law. In short, they were the Guard.
  79.  
  80.         The suits were made for only Mamono to wield –an agreement both the Demon Lord and The Chief God came too. It would strengthen the user by giving them the same strength, agility, and power that their inner Monster would wield.”
  81.  
  82.         She looked at Mary. “That is what you hold.”
  83.  
  84.         Mary’s heart sank. She gazed down at the ring on her finger, and felt overwhelmed at how much importance the ring truly was. She didn’t even care that it was looking right back at her, she was more afraid of the power it had, the power in which she had, than the being within.
  85.  
  86.         “So, the reason why it feels so hot-“
  87.  
  88.         “Wielders will not feel the burn, but the scorching heat in which you feel is due to it being raw holy metal.”
  89.  
  90.         “But it burned me yesterday!”
  91.  
  92.         “That’s because it hasn’t accepted you.” Hasn’t accepted me, Mary repeated to herself. Shiroe continued. “The nightmares in which you’ve been having are not just nightmares. It is the beast within that lies dormant inside the armour: The Gatekeeper.
  93.  
  94.         It was created by both The Order and The Demon Lord to choose those who were worthy of the armour. It strives off of Demonic Essence, and every full moon it will take a portion of yours. But it is not your friend. It feeds off of your fear, off of the torment it causes you and what you will suffer. It is your inner beast, the monster within you. And it gets stronger and stronger the more afraid you are of it. It is a demon, not a monster.
  95.  
  96.         Due to the power in which it can gain by feeding off of the user, the Chief God placed a limit of how long you can wield the armor. Usually, its three minutes, but sometimes it can be longer depending on how the user tames the beast. Or shorter, depending on how much dominance the beast has over the user.
  97.  
  98.         But any longer, and it will take over.”
  99.  
  100.         The last sentence that left Shiroe’s mouth chilled Mary to the bone. The Gatekeeper, she repeated to herself. As if mentioning its name, she heard a low growl from nowhere.
  101.  
  102.         “It seemed to have chosen you, but it hasn’t accepted you. You will continue to have persistent dreams--the same dreams in which you’ve been having for two days--until you can tame it. Only then it will accept you as its master.”
  103.  
  104.         “And if it doesn’t; if I fail to tame it?” Mary seemed to know the answer, but she asked anyhow.
  105.  
  106.         “Then it will take over, and you will be hunted.” The way she seemed to say it, the way in which she spoke the sentence--the ten words in which left her mouth--made Mary gulp in fear. It wasn’t the first time it’d happened.
  107.  
  108.         “How do I tame it?
  109.  
  110.         “You must fight it: for dominance.”
  111.  
  112.         Fear took hold of Mary’s spirit. Fight it, she repeated. Defeat the monster that turns all your peaceful dreams into nightmares. Defeat the monster that threatened to take her life if she didn’t. Her cerulean eyes looked down at the ring, and the ring looked back. It seemed to glare at her, as if challenging her to fight it. She could feel its hot breath on her neck, as if it was directly behind her. He could hear its low growl, as if its maw was right next to her ear. And the heat in which it seemed to generate off of its metallic body seemed to cause her to sweat. She actually began to shake in fear, her whole body telling her not to turn around. From the corner of her vision she saw it; its long metallic tail that swished to her right, and on the floor she didn’t see her shadow, but the shadow of the beast behind her. There was an orange glow on her neck and shirt, and her heart betrayed her feelings. Another growl, this time on her left, made her flinch in response, and she could feel its gaze on her at all times.
  113.  
  114.         “Mary.”
  115.  
  116.         Mary quickly looked up to see the gaze of the Jinko on her. She looked back down to see that her shadow was back to how it was, and instead of the hot feeling of the beast behind her, it was the gentle breeze of the night. Did she fall asleep? No, she said to herself looking back at the ring which glared at her, it was an illusion.
  117.  
  118.         “Please take it back.”
  119.  
  120.         “It has formed too much of a bond with you. If I came earlier before you were having nightmares, I could.”
  121.  
  122.         “But it started giving me nightmares since it was on my finger!”
  123.  
  124.         “You’ve had it for about a week.”
  125.  
  126.         Silence was restored to the small room, and the air began to feel thick but dry. Even as the small sound of the wind was ruffling her curtains, and the midnight air blowing into her room, there was nothing. Mary looked down at her hands, and they were shaking.
  127.  
  128.         “A… week…?” Her voice seemed to shake like her hands.
  129.  
  130.         “When one is given the armour, the beast which lies within–the gatekeeper—begins to feed off of the user. Due to this slow feeding, time seems to move at an almost faster rate for the wearer than usual.” Shiroe looked towards Mary, but their eyes never met. “I escaped the hospital in which you and your friend sent me to three days afterwards. Trailing you was more difficult than I anticipated, especially in my… current condition…”
  131.  
  132.         This couldn’t be possible. Mary couldn’t even believe what she was even saying. Her mind was trying its hardest to wrap around the concept of a secret organization forged by The Demon Lord and The Chief God who were tasked to keep order, but now to be told that what she initially thought was just two days was actually a whole week? It didn’t make sense! It was yesterday, or in this case, the day before, that she and Felicia met the armour clad and heavily wounded Jinko and took her to the hospital. And it was yesterday where she was awakened by the horrifying nightmare of the beast which dwelled within the ring that was on her delicate finger and discovered the ring in the first place. But for this to be all told to her, that a whole week has passed since the event in the alleyway was not only unbelievable but impossible. Even as she tried to control her fear and to stop her hands from shaking, the appalling impossibility of that much time passing was hard for her to grasp. What if she was to wake up tomorrow to be told that an entire month has passed; or a year?
  133.  
  134.         In the midst her thoughts, of her trying to think back and try and remember all the time in which has passed, a memory seemed to twinkle in the darkness: a certain look in which Felicia gave her on a day in which she didn’t even remember. It was a time, Mary assumed, where they were talking and eating lunch. But Felicia’s emerald eyes never seemed to look directly at Mary, but they instead seemed to wander towards her hand. But why? She tried to dig, and more unusual memories began to appear. At some point in time, her teacher seemed to glance to the same direction Felicia looked, and Felicia munched on him for looking at her up and down. There was another point where Mary’s little sister, who Mary just remembered was right next door and was a light sleeper, seemed to ask her something as well. But she brushed it off? But then something dawned on her: the question in which her mother asked not a few hours ago. It sounded familiar; almost as if she’d heard it before?
  135.  
  136.         “I had it the whole time…” The words escaped Mary’s mouth like a puff of air. A whole week she had it on her finger and she never noticed it.
  137.  
  138.         “That seems apparent.” Shiroe confirmed. “Through the three days in which I’ve been tracking you—one day for trying to place your scent—you didn’t once notice the ring on your finger. At first I thought you were… not that knowledgeable upstairs, but it seems that I was wrong and you weren’t aware of it.”
  139.  
  140.         “How…?” Mary asked, looking at the ring on her finger in bewilderment.
  141.  
  142.         “Perhaps the demon within was judging your worth.” She paused in thought. “Or perhaps it didn’t want to tell you so it could feed off of your fear when it got the chance. Considering how it refuses to speak…”
  143.  
  144.         “It can speak?”
  145.  
  146.         “All magic items with a spirit which lies dormant within have the ability to speak. Considering it hasn’t spoken to you once, it probably refuses to speak to someone it sees as ‘under’ it.”
  147.  
  148.         Mary’s blue eyes seemed to be locked onto the orange gaze of the ring even as she spoke. “And there’s no way to remove it?”
  149.  
  150.         “At some point in time, in a dream in which you’ll never understand, a contract will be presented to you in whom you must sign.” The way in which Shiroe’s eyes narrowed hinted at something. “Considering the contract is a permanent bond with the demon, it will try and trick you into signing it. And how you seem to have forgotten a whole weeks’ worth of time, at some point it must’ve tricked you into signing it then made you forget. Judging by how you’ve been having nightmares as of recently, it must’ve been hours, or even a day before they persisted.”
  151.  
  152.         “’Till death do us part’…” Mary quoted. Sorrow seemed to embrace her from behind, and her shoulder slouched. She was angry; enraged that whatever was inside the ring—inside her—tricked her into forming a contract with it, but it wasn’t as if she could fight something which seemed to freeze her in fear.
  153.  
  154.         Shiroe noticed the change of atmosphere and coughed. “There is one way to remove it…” She almost flinched at how Mary’s head was lifted and her ears perked. “But I don’t think-”
  155.  
  156.         “If it’s an option I-I’m willing to take it!” Determination was in her eyes, and Shiroe almost smiled at how it reminded her of herself. But her suggestion filled her heart with apprehension.
  157.  
  158.         “…The Watchers could have the power to remove them. They are the ones that usually issue the rings out, and are the ones who order the Knights to destroy the Monsters. They watch over each district of a country, and are part of the holy council.” Mary was about to something, but what Shiroe said next made her confused.
  159.  
  160.         “I don’t trust them…”
  161.  
  162.         It was clear that there was a reason for her apprehension; that there was a story as to why Shiroe never liked the Watchers. But there weren’t any other options.
  163.  
  164.         “Take me to them.” Shiroe looked into Mary’s eyes. She wanted to see if Mary was afraid, if she was so foolish enough to ignore her warning. But even as her hard sapphire eyes looked into hers, there was a hint of worry, of doubt.
  165.  
  166.         Of fear.
  167.  
  168.         With a low hiss and a grunt of pain, Shiroe began to get to her feet. Mary sprung to action and helped her up, to Shiroe’s prideful dismay. She hated showing weakness, and she hated how she had to be helped to do a simple task such as walking. Even as she slung her large bandaged arms over Mary’s shoulder, and how she hand to bend so low to have her support her 6ft tall weight without causing Mary to fall over, she wanted to spit—not at Mary, but at herself. With her left, she pointed towards what Shiroe assumed was the closet, and the two slowly shuffled towards it. She motioned for Mary to hold it, and noted at how the small holder of the ring’s face flushed. Shiroe didn’t care what was in her closet, no matter how embarrassing it was—she was embarrassed at how her pride was being damaged. Mary eventually obliged to her request and opened toe twin closet doors to reveal the inside of her closet. She shifted and squirmed in embarrassment as Shiroe seemed to look at every article of clothing that was in the large closet.
  169.  
  170.         But she really didn’t care.
  171.  
  172.         Forcefully, Shiroe pushed and pulled her clothes apart, revealing the back of the closet. But unbeknownst to her, she seemed to freeze. Was this fear that was now gripping her heart? She wanted to speak, but her voice seemed caught in her throat. Mary seemed to catch onto her change of demeanour, and looked up towards her. But Shiroe never glanced down. Her eyes seemed to be locked onto the closet wall, and Mary couldn’t tell if the shaking was coming from the pain she was in, or the fear that seemed to grip the stoic warrior tiger that seemed to lack emotion. But then she gulped, as if metaphorically and literally swallowing her fear, and pointed at the wall.
  173.  
  174.         “Point your ring towards it.”
  175.  
  176.         Mary looked down at her hand, and slowly clenched it. She tried to avoid meeting the gaze of the demon, but caught its eyes for a brief second before she pointed her knuckles at the wall. She couldn’t tell if the small orange light was her imagination or if the glare of the monster’s eyes gave off such light. For a moment, nothing seemed to happen, and Mary looked towards Shiroe for answers.
  177.  
  178.         But the blaze in which erupted from her ring shot her attention back to the wall, and more importantly, to her clothes. At some point, the metallic jaw of the lion’s maw must’ve opened, for a scorching blaze of orange fire seemed to spew from it. The entire wall was engulfed in fire, and the heat seemed to sear her clothed. The bright blaze caused her to wince, and the pressure in which it seemed to blow blew her clothes. For a moment, Mary was afraid that the fire would burn through the wall at to her sister’s bedroom, or set the entire house of fire, but as sudden as the hurricane of fire began, it eventually stopped. But what Mary expected—a charred and ablaze hole to her sister’s room that would no doubt be awake and visibly afraid—she instead found was something more mystical.
  179.  
  180.         A long and almost endless hallway seemed to be where the wall once was. Large pillars seemed to be raising high above the earth, with long white drapes hanging from wherever the ceiling began. A cool breeze seemed to blow outwards from the doorway to whatever or wherever, and Mary shivered as it brushed her skin. Her legs seemed to be unmoving, and even as she held Shiroe up as best as she could, her strength was wavering. Shiroe seemed to be in no better condition as her. Even as she kept her face stoic and unmoving, she neither moved nor reacted to the doorway. Her body did shiver, but Mary assumed it was mostly because under the hospital gown wasn’t really anything. In truth, the two were frozen in fear.
  181.  
  182.         But Mary, even as the fear gripped her heart, moved forward. Her action caused the tall Jinko to move as well, and soon they both took one step into what Mary’s mind was beginning to refer to as ‘oblivion’. The feeling of the marble on her hooves felt cold, and the ghostly fog which seemed to infest the floor, covering it in a ghostly white, tickled her legs. But there was another feeling Mary felt. A feeling in which seemed to run up her nervous system, feeling as if a million needles were stabbing into her legs. She winced in pain, and almost wanted to bend down to hold her legs in pain, but the grip in which Shiroe gave her made her stay upright. Judging by the pained and uncomfortable look on her face, she also felt it. But her experience in whatever realm they were in made Mary obey without hesitation, and the two began to walk down the endless hall. What they didn’t realise was how the hole to Mary’s room behind them seemed to disappear.
  183.  
  184.         The hall felt as if it would span on for ages. They passed the same columns draped in white, and their legs were beginning to strain under the constant pain their nerves were feeling. But they were getting closer; they knew they were getting closer. The ghostly fog seemed to get thicker and thicker the deeper they walked, and their breathing seemed to be harder as if the air was growing heavier and heavier. But as they walked, Mary’s nose twitched. There was something about the fog, the fog that tore their nerves apart, that didn’t smell right. Even as it grew thicker and thicker, causing Mary to almost cough on many occasion, Shiroe would always shake her head to not to. Was inhaling too much of it bad? Even as it grew almost unbearable to even see through, Mary’s head began to feel lighter and lighter. Her head ached, and her stomach churned, and she wanted to turn back and get some fresh air--but they pressed on.
  185.  
  186.         Eventually, Shiroe stopped, which caused Mary to stop as well. The white fog seemed to be at its thickest, for she could barely even see the tiger next to her. She only felt her body heat, and the weight of her resting on her shoulder. Even as Mary looked around, her eyes began to burn. There was something about the fog, or what Mary was now assuming was smoke, that she didn’t like. But her questions were beginning to be answered once the thick smoke seemed to dissipate. What it revealed made her heart stop.
  187.  
  188.         There seemed to be more of the white drapes here then during the long path towards what she assumed was ‘the end’. Some seemed to be draped overhead, creating an almost imaginary roof, while others covered the marble floor beneath them. She almost jumped when two figures seemed to be standing before them on opposite sides. The two were clade in blue and gold armour, with no indication of gender or even race present. Their massive shoulder pads were engraved in mystical runes Mary had never seen before, and two long clothes seals fell down in front of their biceps. Their helmets were enclosed completely, with only a slit where the eyes would be. A long black cape fell from their backs, and seemed to disappear under the low heel high fog. The gauntlets they wore seemed scratched, as if there was a scuffle at some point, and the black chain mailed hands that gripped the large polearm they had in their hand had small metal plates on each knuckle and finger. The plates on their thighs and legs were also engraved on the golden trim like the rest of their armor. They held in adjacent hands a large three bladed polearm, which was decorated in an assortment of golds and silvers. Engraving seemed to decorate the large metal pole and the razor blade that reflected the calm light from above.
  189.  
  190.         An assortment of red and white drapes seemed to cover a large couch of sorts, one in which was occupied by a race in which Mary had only seen in the history books. Her fair skin seemed as if it were only touched by the eyes of many, but never physically touched by anyone. A long black dress seemed to cover her slim form, showing off her perfect curves to the eyes of many. Even as she slouched on the long red and white couch in comfort, smoking from a slender tube which had a cigarette or what Mary assumed was incense—the same incense that flooded the area—her beauty was unrivaled. Long silver hair draped over her shoulders, some falling into her noticeable cleavage. Long pointed ears poked out from either side of her face, pierced with gemstones that were un-acquirable. She brushed some away from her face, revealing a pair of purple eyes which could tell a story about all they’ve ever seen. The twin black horned which were on her head curved forward, almost hugging the top of her head. She held the slender tube with her right hand and blew out a long streak of smoke, sighing in content. But the look in which she gave the two—malice, distaste, irritation, disgust—spoke more words then what she actually did speak.
  191.  
  192.         “And who are you two?”
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