Chapter 0:

A Hasty Decision (Prologue)

Aria and the Seven Artifacts

“I’m sorry. Care to run that by me again?”

Irises dyed a crimson red glared up at a pair of sheepish eyes, colored the same. Two men stood at the entrance of a barren cave. Flames burned all around them from the outside, illuminating their figures.

They stood within one of the many fiery wastelands that made up Hell. Like many believed, it was a barren wasteland of molten lava, fire, rocks, and smoke – at least in one area. While it was all surround in fire, some of the areas were more built upon and utilized.

Contrary to popular belief, humans that found themselves in Hell didn’t experience an eternity of torture and anguish. Naturally, they had to atone for the sins they committed that landed them there. But within a few years, they were released from their repentance and free to live and thrive in the many cities constructed for them.

The cave that the two demons stood inside, set within a barren wasteland, was set aside specifically for fellow demons who tried to disrupt the natural order. As most demons were smart enough to follow the few rules imposed by the higher ones, there was no one else in the surrounding cave cells at this time, allowing for privacy.

The taller of them laughed and raised his shoulders.

"I don't know what else you want me to say. One minute, they're there. Next, they're gone. They're crafty little things, you know." The smile never left his face.

This didn't placate the other at all. It only served to irritate him even further. "Lucien, those damn things could not have walked off on their own! Did someone else come in?!"

"Hmm..." Lucien looked up as if in thought. "I don't think so. You're the only person who even bothers to visit me. And I certainly can’t leave this place."

To prove his point, he thrust one of his arms towards the entrance to the cave. When his fingers reached a certain point, there was an invisible barrier preventing him from going further. He tried to push further but could not breach that resistance.

“But I don't see the problem,” he continued as he retracted his arm. “They’re nothing more than paperweights without a demon’s guidance, are they not?" After a pause for dramatic effect, he added, "Or am I wrong, Dian?"

Dian inhaled sharply and visibly tried to reign in his rising anger. It was becoming clear that yelling wasn't going to affect Lucien in the least. "Most of those items can be used by anyone with a functioning brain."

“Oh yeah.” Lucien laughed again, not in the least bit worried. "I guess I was just thinking of the big one. This certainly isn't good then."

Dian pinched the bridge of his nose and pushed his spectacles back up. He was starting to remember why he avoided visiting this demon. “I’ll just have to retrieve them and put them back where they belong. This is going to be a pain…”

“I’ll be happy to do it. It’s my fault, after all.” Lucien grinned as he said this. Underneath the gesture, one could tell that he was itching to leave the cell and spread his wings freely.

A hand extended to keep him in place. "That won't be necessary. You’re still on lockdown. I’ll have this handled."

"Hmm? Are you sure? Wouldn’t it be faster and more efficient to have a high ranked demon sweep in and take them back before something bad happens?” His voice, though light and cheery, was hiding a challenge.

He was challenging his fellow demon's authority. And Dian wasn't going to have any of that today.

"I'll send one of the lesser demons to clean this You just... Stay here!" Before another word could be added, the smaller demon stormed out of the cave, muttering curses under his breath.

Dian knew better than anyone in the endless circles of Hell that Lucien was considered one of the more powerful of all the spawn of Satan. Falling short of only a select few and the Prince of Darkness himself, he had the power to easily destroy entire nations if he felt like it. Though for all the powers that he boasted, it was a shame that he also had to be one of the most air headed morons ever conceived. He would lose his horns if they weren't stuck to his head!

What kind of demon loses track of cursed objects that were specifically left in their charge? And this was after he had gone through the trouble of offering the idiot as a candidate to watch after them! Since there were no demons of a particular clan to watch over them, he thought that Lucien would be a good candidate to step in until another was found. He thought that it was a simple enough task for someone who wasn’t permitted to leave his cell, anyways. Yet the moment he turned his eyes away, anything resembling common sense was tossed out the window.

Dian shuddered at the very thought of what could happen if no one intervened quickly. He almost considered letting Lucien go out and retrieve them himself, taking responsibility for his own foolishness.

“No... having him clean this up is going to be another headache in itself...” With that, he completely dismissed the idea and moved on.

If they were average, everyday objects with no hidden power, he wouldn't mind so much. But these seven artifacts were imbued with demonic energy and had wills of their own. They would seek out anyone they deemed fitting and play with them until nothing was left of them. They were meant to be used as a means of testing humans. But those days were long gone, and they were destined to collect dust in a chest.

He briefly considered going to locate the artifacts himself. That idea was dropped just as quickly as the last. He had more important things to do than to play fetch anyways.

He mentally went through the list of lesser demons. Most of them, while perfectly capable, were off doing other assignments. If he was truly desperate, he could report to the Lord of Darkness himself - that was, if he could guarantee he would walk away unscathed. As he stewed in his worsening mood, he suddenly hit a solid object and hit the ground. Before he could let out a word, a high gasp made him freeze.

"Ah! Sorry about that!" A short girl with lavender hair jumped back. Her dark red eyes widened in fear as they trailed up to the ram-like horns on Dian’s head. Tiny black horns stuck out from her own head, marking her as the lowest on the demon totem pole. By the time Dian regained himself, the girl was preparing to make a speedy getaway.

A hand on her wrist stopped her in her tracks. "Not so fast!"

Caught, her face contorted into defiance. "Oh, come on! I didn't chip your fragile little horns, did I?"

And like that, her attitude had done a 180. He had to admire the gall she had to mouth off to an obviously higher ranked demon. But admiration was placed to the side as he addressed her. "I have an assignment for you on Earth. It's simple enough for a demon of your caliber."

She scoffed in response. "Making fun of me now?"

"Complete this mission, and you may just be promoted to the next rank."

That got her attention. "Really?” She stood still for a moment, considering her options. Coming to a decision, she looked up and met his gaze. “Fine, what do I need to do?"

It appeared that the attitude was gone when a reward was on the line.

"You just need to fetch some cursed objects that idiot Lucien lost. Nothing complicated, I assure you."

"Ugh, a cleanup mission?" Her spark of excitement had quickly been extinguished. "Not exactly what I was imagining when you said you had a mission. Can’t you clean up your own grunt’s messes?" She clicked her tongue when Dian shot her a warning glance. "What? Am I wrong?"

"Not exactly, but you're in no position to speak to a superior demon like myself."

“You ain’t my superior.”

He ignored her and continued, "I'm sure you're aware of the Seven Cursed Artifacts, correct?"

She paled. "You... Are you serious? He lost those?!” She realized that she was getting a bit loud and lowered her voice, “Does Father know?"

At least this weak demon understood the gravity of the situation, unlike a certain other demon.

"We're not reporting this to the Dark Lord. But it seems you understand the urgency of this mission. You may leave now." He released his grip on her and walked off, smirking when he heard her grumble about "needing to be nicer to lesser demons, ya jerk".

Watching her figure disappear into the distance, he briefly wondered if he even knew that demon's name. Was passing the buck to such a weak demon really a good idea? For all he knew, even more trouble could manifest from this decision.

But she would have to do. He just hoped that he didn't make the wrong decision in his haste.