Chapter 16:

Truths to be revealed (2)

There's a Demon in my Basement!

Astaroth looked at Drake in disbelief. “Are you kidding?! This can’t be Ciana - this must be- some sort of imposter!” They shook their head, while the Huntress tried to wiggle herself out of the demon's grasp.

Drake shook their head, staring at the girl, silently demanding an answer.

The huntress gave up struggling with an annoyed sigh. "What a stupid question." The disgust on her face was imminent. "You really thought anyone could consider the likes of you a friend? Don't make me laugh."

Astaroth blinked. "What?"

"You two are vile creatures, murdering without a second thought - and if you can't get another living being in your hands, you'll just attack each other. Isn't that correct?" She stared directly at Drake.

"I don't know. You're the one who attacked us." They put one hand on their hip. "So you tell me."

"Just drop the act and tell us who you really are!" The Demonlord had no patience for a conversation like this - especially not with someone who took on the face of their friend.

Ciana looked at Drake. "Are they really that stupid?" She rolled her eyes before directly looking at Astaroth. "Your little friend made a very huge miscalculation, you know? Blake thought I was human. However, I am not. So his little magic trick to manipulate my memories - yeah, it didn't work. So I very well remember who you are. Astaroth." A smile found its way on her face. "And I have no intention of staying any longer like this." The weapon, still stuck in Astaroth's hand, changed its form once again - this time however its length got reduced and instead its width grew, essentially tearing up the hand from the inside out.

Astaroth screamed out in pain, holding their own arm, trying to mend their pain in some way. The huntress, now free once again, changed her weapon again to a simple sword she used to launch an attack at Drake. The demon grabbed Astaroth and brought both of them out of her direct range. "Accept it - it is Ciana."

"But that's-"

Drake didn't wait for them to finish and instead changed back to the cat-like demon form, splitting up into multiple of them once again.

"You think I never fought multiple monsters at once?!” The weapon transformed into a more flexible type of material, resembling a whip, even though there were sparks dancing around it, making it rather obvious that there was some sort of electricity flowing through it. With a pirouette she swung the weapon and hit everything in a certain radius around her, leaving a few of the creatures to be thrown around, against the next surface.

However, Drake didn’t seem to care. Their number didn’t feel any less - still there were many cats around and if they couldn’t get close, they would use ranged combat. A reddish kind of energy gathered around some of the cat’s mouths, while the others kept coming at Ciana from all kinds of directions, keeping her occupied.

Dodging the melee strikes wasn’t an issue. The problem was the other attacks currently building themselves up. Maybe she was in a pinch. She should have used another strategy from the very beginning. From the corners of her eyes, she noticed Astaroth, who still seemed to struggle with her identity. Maybe attacking Blake hadn’t been necessary in the first place. Even though she would have to cut off his tongue afterwards so he could never summon another demon anyway, regardless of whether or not Astaroth surrendered. The Mortal Realm was no place for creatures like that and so it was her duty to get rid of them.

A duty she failed, as she realized when the first beam of pure energy just missed her by a few centimetres. She also managed to dodge the next one and the next, but she knew many more were to follow. For how long could she keep this up?

Drake fired the last beam. They had destroyed quite a bit of the street, stirring up quite a bit of dust in the process. There was no way she survived. With a sigh, they slowly started to mend back into one creature and then back to a humanoid form. They turned around to face the other demon. “Asta-”

Astaroth was gone. In confusion, Drake frowned. They didn’t have a good feeling about this. The other demon’s scent was still in the air so it was no question - they were still here. But not on the spot they had been in earlier, they were-

Drake turned on their heels, the dust was settling, giving view to Astaroth, kneeling in front of Ciana, who was lying on the ground. “What are you doing?!”

Astaroth looked over their shoulder. “Keeping you from murdering our friend!”

“Ok, fair point, but she tried to kill Blake earlier, you idiot!” Drake’s voice picked up even more in volume. “She is not our friend.”

Astaroth’s face dropped a little bit. “...Yeah. She did that. But…” They looked at the Huntress who was barely able to move at this point. “She can’t hurt anyone now.”

Drake facepalmed. “I can’t believe that is the same guy who tried to burn the Sakura Tree the other day…” They shook their head. “Just make sure, she doesn’t do anything. At least… tie her up or something. I’ll see how the other ones are doing.”

“Sure.” The concrete beneath Ciana changed its form so it went over her wrists and bound them to the ground.

Astaroth watched Drake disappear into the ruins of the house looking for their summoners. Then they faced Ciana again. “...You didn’t mean to kill Blake, did you?”

She averted her gaze, not that she had too much of a choice as to where to look, given her limited movements. “...I don’t kill humans,” she finally explained, “Only demons.”

“But why? What did we ever do to you?”

A bitter laugh escaped from her. “‘What did we ever do to you?’ Are you kidding me? I am the last Valkyrie. And the reason for that is your kind.”

Realization showed itself on Astaroth’s face. “Oh,” was all they could mutter, “I… I am sorry.” They truly were. The war hadn’t been pretty. They were aware that a long time ago there had been a fight between demons and Valkyries, causing the latter to go extinct. Or at least almost extinct.

“It must have… hurt. A lot.” Surely, even more, as it did when their father exiled them.

“What would you know?” Her voice was dripping from disgust. “What does a demon even know about loss?”

Too much. “Nothing… I guess…” They sighed. “Sorry.”

Drake returned with Snow and Blake, even though they supported the latter - probably against his will if the look on his face was anything to go by.

Without hesitation, Snow ran up to the huntress and the demon. “Ciana!” She kneeled down next to her, even though Ciana’s reaction was a loud and annoyed groan. “Why… Why did you attack us?”

The huntress sighed. “It is… my duty…”, she explained simply. Her fingers were stretching to reach her weapon, despite the fact that she could barely move. That and how she was obviously no match for the people she tried to oppose.

“It’s my duty,” Astaroth said with a stoic expression on their face. There was nothing to discuss about this - they said it just like one would note that the sky is blue, “That’s what I have to do. That’s why I’m here.”

“So what?” Astaroth’s words made her halt her movements. “How is that important? It’s your life. It’s not about what you’re supposed to do. It’s about what you want to do.”

Hades put his hands into the pockets of his suit and looked at them. “And? Who cares? It’s your life. It’s not about what you’re supposed to do. It’s about what you want to do.” The God of the Underworld looked at Astaroth with the patience only an immortal being could have.

"Is that so?" Ciana averted her gaze staring up into the sky. A bitter laugh escaped her lips. "Well, then what should I do instead?!"

"That is a tough question." Snow adjusted her position a little bit, sitting down in a more comfortable way as if she was currently on a picnic. "What do you want to do?"

The Valkyrie just kept on laughing. "... I don't know," she stated eventually, "I don't know…"

"What I…" Astaroth looked down to the empty hall beneath them. "What I want?" They paused for a few moments. It should have been an easy question. The answer should have been obvious. Going home. But somehow, that didn't feel right. Was it actually what they wanted? "I… I don't know…"

Somehow a weight had been lifted off Ciana's shoulders. Speaking it out loud hadn't given her an answer, but it helped to realize where she stood. What did she want to do?

Snow took her hand. "It is fine if you are not aware now. You have all the time in the world to figure it out."

The Valkyrie looked at her in confusion. Was that correct? Did she have time? … At least in regards to Astaroth and Drake, she had that. They wouldn't go rampage any time soon, she could admit that. She relaxed, letting go of the hilt of her weapon. Yet, she couldn't help, but feel that she lost a part of her sanity. Or maybe regained it after it had been gone for a long time.

"And until then we can be friends. Just like before." The smile on Snow's face didn't waver for a second. "Let us do all the things people do to entertain their friendships. You know, trying out new clothes or talking about cute boys." She nodded enthusiastically.

“That sounds terrible”, Ciana stated.

Blake couldn’t help but agree with the girl who had shot an arrow to his shoulder just half an hour earlier. “Okay, fine. That’s like- cool and all. But can we talk about the fact that you guys just destroyed my house?”

Real Aire