Chapter 1:

Prologue: The Demon’s Wishes

Seething Shadows


“Lilliana, you shouldn't fight in your condition!”

The woman rolled her eyes at the comment made earlier. Granted, she was only a few weeks into her pregnancy and she was known to be reckless when she fought demons. She knew her husband was right - she should be more careful.

However, Lilliana had been bored ever since she had found out about the baby in her. While her husband had brought in decent money, Lilliana knew in her heart she had to raise money and fast before she would be big ‘as a whale’.

“Please, let me go on this last mission! The bounty on this one is huge and you know we can really use the money! I won't be able to work when I get bigger and especially when the baby is born!” Lilliana begged. “Please…”

“What about your team? Shouldn’t you contact them?”

“What? No! You know Diara and I...we have a history. I can’t involve them anymore. This is our battle. Please. I beg of you. Let me go.”

After much deliberation and reluctance, her husband agreed to it. His name was Jonathan and he and Lilliana had actually met while Lilliana was on a mission. He had been a target for a demon, as he was a professor in demonology at the local university, and Lilliana had to protect him while the rest of her team had to help dispatch the demon.

They were mildly successful as they managed to protect Jonathan, but the two ended up falling in love with one another. The danger had dissipated and the two had eventually married. Now with a baby on the way, Jonathan wanted Lilliana to retire from the hunting business and become an assistant for him - at least her expertise in hunting demons could help him in his work.

As such, Lilliana wanted to hunt this demon one last time - it was the demon that brought them together. While she’s darkly appreciative of that fact, Lilliana knew she had to stop her. Jonathan, her precious husband, was still a target. Others could be a target. Diara could stop at nothing before she would get rid of him.

She and Jonathan kissed each other before the two separated once more. Even though she had years of seeing the cruelest crimes demons commit, she already felt tensed up. She could feel her blood boil at the idea of Diara getting close to Jonathan.

Lilliana reached down and touched herself in the area near her stomach. Only a few weeks pregnant and she didn’t show yet. Still, she wanted to protect this baby of theirs; the proof of hers and Jonathan love for one another.

Originally, she took up demon hunting to find a purpose for her life. Abandoned in Maiden’s Coven as a child, Lilliana ran away from the orphanage after a demon attack by her orphanage. She fell immediately in love with the idea that she could fight a demon in such a way. Lilliana never knew if Maiden’s Coven ever even bothered to search for her but she became a successful demon hunter in her own right.

She got to travel all over the world and kill demons in many ways until she met Jonathan. Lilliana would never trade her experiences for anything in the world but after what happened with Jonathan… She rubbed herself a bit more gently.

“One more mission. And then I won’t run away anymore.”

The seasoned demon hunter resigned herself as she made her way. She was eventually led, along with her trusty Demon Slayer - a sword she stole from a sleeping demon hunter when she was a child - gripped with a tight hand. Liliana was more than determined to finish this between her and Diara.

“It will finish… No more!”

The mansion itself seemed to be abandoned but experience has told Lilliana that it was anything but. Telltale signs of a demon living in a house contained a mark somewhere on the property. Most rookie demon hunters make the mistake of attacking the mark - the mark is a sort of alarm system. If disturbed, the demon it belongs to would know right away there was an intruder on the property.

Lilliana had learned the hard way to avoid those. However, it was still her job to locate the mark before she could even enter the mansion. If she had accidentally triggered it as she tried to break into it… well, the situation wouldn’t bode well for her.

Normally, Lilliana would be in contact with her team of other demon hunters, each of them with their own story, but they had decided not to use any communicative devices - Diara is known to have super hearing and could hear any blips and beeps any machinery could possess. It was too much of a risk for them to take.

Lilliana would go on her own anyway and she’d be able to take it but knowing she’s pregnant, and determined to end this battle between her and Diara… she couldn’t take an unnecessary risk. It’s too dangerous otherwise.

The demon hunter put away the Demon Slayer and walked quickly with her quiet speed around the property as she searched for the demon’s mark. As long as she knew where it was located, she could work to avoid being caught.

She remembered that Diara liked being considered ‘unpredictable’ but the truth of the matter was, the demon was actually pretty predictable.

Eventually, Lilliana found Diara’s mark on the top of the porch and grinned her usual grin. To most people, it looked more like a sneer. However, now that she knew the location of the mark, she knew exactly where to avoid hitting. Though, she knew Diara - she is a high-level demon who would most likely create more marks.

However, there was an urgency. It didn’t matter. She had to defeat her once and for all - her new family depends on it. Jonathan counted on her to keep her promise of giving up her demon slaying. For him, for her… for the child within her, Lilliana had to win this time. She has to actually kill her.

The woman managed to sneak into the mansion without tripping on a mark. Now that she identified the symbol, she could very well ignore it that much better. As expected, it didn’t take long for her to find the marks once she identified it. Diara very much liked to change her symbols but the demon was a predictable creature in the end. Lilliana knew her and Diara knew her as well - that was what she most feared.

Instinctively, she covered her belly. She needed to get this battle over with. This demon will not longer curse her life anymore. Before she could remember when she first met her, she could hear the window suddenly open.

“I know you’re out there!” Diara cried out with a hiss. “You’re late for the party!” She slammed the door and Lilliana was annoyed. She had to hide quickly in a dark nook away from the mark. Had she accidentally stepped onto a mark?

She was sure she was able to avoid them as much as she could. She growled under her breath as she unsheathed her Demon Slayer. She used whatever magical power she possessed to power it up like she normally did. Perhaps if she had stuck in her orphanage, she could’ve honed her powers into something more than just power-ups for her weaponry but it is as it is.

Once her eyes adjusted to the darkness, she wormed her way through the foyer and looked for an entrance she can use to her advantage - one that doesn’t get her caught. One that doesn’t end her life and her baby’s life before it could start. She can’t afford that.

Lilliana never knew her parents. She never knew the reasoning why she was abandoned at the Maiden’s Coven, although she couldn’t help but wonder if it was because she was a witch. Regardless if her own child was a witch, she would love and cherish her. She would protect this baby with her life.

With her resolve hardened, she continued to make her way inside with as limited noise as she possibly could. Her weapon was ready. Any underlings that could ambush her at any minute and she’d be ready.

However, it was strange as the house, or mansion, was extremely quiet. Too quiet for a demon like Diara. She would have parties in “celebration” of her unwanted guests but they would have a trap somewhere and anywhere. This was too easy.

Lilliana's instincts kicked into higher gear. Something was wrong. She knew she had to move quickly or she would become a victim of such a trap. She strained her ears to hear anything out of the ordinary.

Aside from the creaks and moans of the old mansion, nothing was out of the ordinary. Not even the usual steps of Diara. She had to move quickly.

She used up whatever magic she had for her quiet run and to create a protective barrier around her and her future.

The demon hunter explored the house and found no one. She found nothing. Not even a trace of Diara and every empty room unnerved her more and more as she explored.

Arrogance soon caught up with Lilliana, she was getting angry. The longer she spent time searching for Diara, the longer she was away from Jonathan and the longer she was from having a family.

“Where the fuck are you, you shitty demon?!” Lilliana finally shouted. She kicked a random chair when she found the empty dining hall packed full of cobwebbed furniture. “Get out here now!”

A voice, clear as a bell echoed in the room before her. “As you wish, my dear.”

The lights suddenly came on and there was an extravagant scene before her. Diara was a demon of illusion - she knew she absolutely couldn’t trust anything to be real. She couldn’t trust anything to be true. She only trusts what she held in her hand.

A chandelier appeared with grand music playing - although there wasn’t an indication of where it came from. Lillianna looked around and grew more and more irritated. She kept her guard up as high as she could and then she turned around. Once she turned around, she saw Diara.

If Diara were a human, she’d be sinfully beautiful. Her short black wavy hair against her pale skin along with red painted lips - one would think she’s an otherworldly beauty. However, one thing about demons is that they pride themselves in being a demon. They love showing off their horns and tails - they love showing those they believe are weak how much power they have and what they could do.

Diara was no exception. Her demon form would otherwise be terrifying but she knew that Lilliana was weak against her. She would show this human form to toy with her and to play with expectations.

“Hello again, dear Lilliana,” Diara said as she smiled. Her yellow demonic teeth contrasted against her ruby red lips. “I see you finally joined us.”

Lilliana got her wits about her. She positioned her Demon Slayer in an offensive position, ready to fight. She knew Diara loved to talk; the demon loved the sound of her own voice. “Shut up and fight me.”

“Is that all you humans ever do? You can’t enjoy a quick quip or two?” She laughed demurely. “But let me show you my guest of honor!”

She then pulled the string to a curtain that appeared before Lilliana could react and whatever it was behind the curtain fueled Lilliana’s anger.

Behind the red curtain, Jonathan’s head was placed on a chair. There was absolutely no sign of life. His eyes were forever closed and his mouth was forever sewn shut. This was an illusion.

This had to be an illusion.

Jonathan was safe.

They had just kissed mere hours ago.

“That,” Diara suddenly said, “our dear Jonathan couldn’t make it to the party without having to say anything. So I made sure he would never speak of demons again!”

Lilliana fought back her tears. She kept her mouth shut. This was an illusion because Diara was a demon of illusions. She tried to control her anger but was unable to keep her Demon Slayer steady. She bit her tongue so hard she could taste blood. Her blood, that wasn’t an illusion, just like how Jonathan’s head before her was.

“What’s this? You don’t believe my illusions anymore? Have you grown so used to my work that you could actually tell?” Diara said as she walked towards Lilliana. Lilliana wanted to back down. The child in her told her to step back but Lilliana refused.

She refused to listen because this was an illusion.

“You flatter me,” Diara said as she got so close to Lilliana, she could see the sweat on the grown woman’s face beading down. “You get on my nerves, Miss Lilliana. You’re so brave when you’re so scared. Humans push themselves to the limit quite often, don’t they? That’s annoying. You are very weak actually.”

By now, Diara was so close to Lilliana, the demon hunter could see where her human form and normal demon form blended together.

“So let me destroy you further into letting you in a little secret. What you saw earlier was an illusion. Wasn’t it strange that your dear Jonathan tried so hard to keep you back? He normally wouldn’t, now would he?”

Lilliana’s hair, which was tied up in a tight bun started to come loose because of Diara’s claws that came out and took and played with a lock. She would not admit to these demon’s games. She would not admit to this demon’s quips.

“That was the illusion.”

Lilliana finally swung and it cut the skin off Diara’s beautiful mask - yellow blood came out and the demon merely laughed. “You finally get it! You finally attack! Wonderful!” The demon continued to laugh as Lilliana tried to create distance between the two. However, her child within her could barely acknowledge her father’s head. Lilliana could feel a heaviness in her body - she had to be very careful about her acrobatics.

“You’re with child! Splendid! Now you all can join together as one family!”

Diara finally revealed her true form - a demon similar to a Ruby Monster; a monster who would grow larger than a giant and with a half skeleton head. Her horns grew into her head and unlike a Ruby Monster, there was no corpse on her back who screamed in pain and agony.

As she transformed, the area before them became fiery - all this time, it was another illusion. Lilliana did her best to keep her emotions in check - her husband truly was dead, wasn’t he? Diara wouldn’t have said out of the kindness of her heart - she wouldn’t let him live to trick Lilliana of all people.

It was because of his studies, wasn’t it? It had always been about his studies. He studied demonology but what he really wanted to find out was who the Demon Lord was and how to defeat him. From what he had told Lilliana, demons had killed his family when he was in high school. And now he met the same fate as them - murdered by a demon.

Murdered by Diara.

Anger flooded her heart as a twisted grief. She wanted, no, needed to defeat Diara once and for all. Lilliana did her best to protect her belly. As the fire consumed the area, as Diara transformed into her true self, Lilliana had to risk her body to protect her precious baby and as a result, she had gotten severely burned. It was fine. It was okay.

She knew she had to survive this. She had failed to protect Jonathan. She must protect her baby’s life and if it meant burning for this instance, that was fine. Burns are temporary. It’s claimed demon fires can permanently scar a human’s skin but she’s beaten the odds before. And she’ll do it again.

Diara had to die.

She could feel a surge of power within her grow. Was this her magic as a witch? Perhaps and she would make damn sure her small family is protected from now on.

The demon’s laughter echoed in the fiery cavern as Lilliana made her way towards its domain. Remnants of the house that did actually exist littered the cavern and Lilliana used the burning waste as a way to move along the fire. She did get scratched and burned but as long as her belly was safe… as long as her belly was safe…

Eventually, she reached the demon’s den. Diara stood proudly in her monstrous form and beckoned the woman to go after her. Lilliana didn’t make a grand speech - she wanted to get out of there and get rid of Diara once and for all. It was her fault - she killed Jonathan. She left him alone when she should’ve contacted her team. It was her arrogance that killed him.

The battle was fierce as it was hard. She managed to get in a few blows to Diara’s body but Diara managed to get her too. She would scream as she cast spell after spell against her and as she used her sword, the Demon Slayer, to fight against Diara’s razor sharp claws and horns.

Soon, before she realized it, she noticed similar shadows - her team!

“Lilliana! Get out of there! We’re about to blow this place to hell!”

When did they set the parameter? When did they even showed up? Did they follow her? Was she really that obvious to not just a fucking demon but to her team as well? She really was a failure, wasn’t she? Lilliana was never meant to be a demon hunter, after all, wasn’t she?

But she had to finish the job.

“Let me kill her! Let me kill her! At least let me kill her!!” Lilliana yelled as she crossed her Demon Slayer against Diara’s claws once more. Her stance was strong and her base was a stronghold. She had a duty to protect what family she had left.

No one would answer as Lilliana’s strength suddenly increased as she finally pushed through and stabbed the demon through the heart.

Or what she believed to be the heart.

“Ah, once again, Lilliana…” Diara growled as she clutched the Demon Slayer and forced it out of her body. She threw the sword on the ground and Lillianna picked it up, ready to stab her again. She did it anyway and stabbed the demon multiple times over and over. One for Jonathan, one for her baby, one for the family who abandoned her, and one for Lilliana herself.

Her guard was finally down. She was close. She could taste the end of Diara.

Before the beast fell, she grabbed Lilliana’s belly, her precious belly she worked so hard to protect with her ghastly claw.

“I...curse...your baby. The shadow of your sins will follow her. She will rue the day sh--”

Before the demon could finish, her claw suddenly got cut off by a giant cleaver. She yelled and Lilliana tried her best to finish the job but she was pushed back by a force she could only recognize as her teammate’s.

Once she finally hit the ground, Lilliana hit her head against a rock. Her body was tired and worn out.

“Mama.”

She closed her eyes as she used the last of her strength to protect her belly once more. She curled her body up and whispered a quick spell before her body completely shut down.

Veekeeki
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A.A. James
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