Chapter 1:

Inspiring Pride

Divine Authority: Inspiring Pride (Chapter 1)

“It's soooo cold! Where am I? My eyes are still adjusting to the infrequent lighting of the drab alleyways I find myself in. The stinging numbness coursing through my limbs is difficult to ignore as I stagger to my feet; my body feels unsteady as if I hadn't used it in days, just standing feels like I'm being beaten by a club. It's as if my muscles have been cut to shreds. However, this mild discomfort is the least of my worries.

Where am I? The last thing I remember is being chained to the Colosseum wall. Master Tonis has made a habit of doing this when I show off too much; I must've passed out and been transported to another hellhole to perform in. Now that I think of it, being sold to fight is better than working away in shit-infested mudholes all day. Heh, just thinking about those suckers makes me laugh. I take in my surroundings to find the arena where I am supposed to perform, but I am still waiting to see something. I must have fallen out of the wagon while heading to the next arena; I better find it before Master Tonis thinks I tried to escape.....again. The streets are vacant except for those strange winged creatures that float around, and their eyes, or rather eye, maintain a strict focus on the ground. Wherever these creatures look, a bright red spotlight will surely be there. I should avoid that for now. Clearly, they are looking for prey. There's no telling what happens if I'm spotted.

Something is nagging at the back of my head. I feel like I'm forgetting something, but it's impossible to focus on that right now. The air here is heavy, like a toxic syrup flooding my lungs. It's a chore to breathe. My body feels tense, but not the typical kind of tense; tense, as in my muscles, now takes considerable effort to move. I'm not sore or hurt; I don't believe I am, at least. I must be fatigued, which isn't too much of a hindrance for someone like me. My concern lies in the fact that every move I make feels like my muscles are ripping themselves apart over and over and over again. It will only worsen if my master finds me stalling. So I better get my performance done before my master loses his patience. I force my body to move down the road even though I don't know where to go.

What awaits me at the border of this decrepit city is nothing but a barren desert stretching to the horizon. What's more, there is no sight of any more flying creatures. I made it this far, though; there's no quitting now.

I begin my journey down the pot-hole-infested road, full of anticipation for my next fight. Less than an hour passes before the sound of clacking hooves can be heard in the distance. Seeing this as a clear sign that I'm nearing civilization. I force my weakened body to stand straight and with poise. This could be a caravan of admirers or some royals heading home. I can't let potential clients see me in such a lame state. No matter what or who I thought was coming my way, it was nothing compared to what it really was. My excitement turns to confusion as I lay eyes on what was actually approaching me.

A large herd of half-man, half-horse abominations, at least thirty or forty of these creatures charging towards me on the road. I've never seen any such creatures; what are they? I need more time to ponder their origin. More importantly, I need to move. The four-legged men are about two city blocks away. The landscape doesn't house any good hiding areas, nor would it be wise to face these beasts head-on. There's no time to think anymore. I need to move! I attempt to get my body in motion to at least try and evade the herd, but something has me stuck in place. Those odd horse-men shout in a language I can't even begin to decipher as they approach and surround me. My heart starts beating faster as if I were preparing for a fight.


A loud voice booms from the crowd. One of the more decorated horse-men walks closer, holding a hooked sword stained red with fresh blood. Its stature and demeanor are intimidating, though if I had my full strength, I'm sure this entire mob would be at my mercy. The creature opens its torn mouth and speaks in a crude imitation of English.

"You will be entered the Golden Goodness's domain. Come with the common arena!"

My laughter is stifled only by my inability to move. I can interpret what it is trying to say. I work to force words out of my mouth in response.

"Tell your goddess to fetch me some wine."

It was a catty remark, but it brought me a small bit of joy. My humor is not shared with the hulking beast, which was to be expected. I was ignored in favor of more broken commands.

"Follow pack, and yous tell her from the mouth. Uh, gov'na."

Is this a threat….this sounds like a threat. The language barrier is irritating but fun to be a part of. Before I could get another smart remark out, this "pack" leader turned around and raised its peacock-like tail. The strangest part is that this "tail" is actually a mass of flesh with eyes glaring at me. Despite its disturbing appearance, I am allured by its…beauty, for lack of a better word.

Consequently, my body can move, but when I try to run away, I instead trail behind the leader's fabulous tail. The rest of the pack breaks into small groups, searching for other fools to capture. At least, that's what I imagine.

I have been in this trance-like state for days while following the four-legged man; there are no signs of this trek slowing anytime soon. While on this journey, I take time to acknowledge the sad state of this country. The foliage is mostly dried up and withered. Life doesn't thrive here; that much is clear. Trees randomly buckle under their own weight and fall over. Bushes have no leaves and crackle when a small breeze brushes against them. Even the grass on the floor seems frosted over with death; it's unnerving. The massive cities we pass are even worse off than the nature around us. The leader speaks up for the first time in the past two days.

"The Goodness's influence rots dodgy mess in cities. Us peoples, my centaurs, serve to stay liv'n. You serve to live too. Yes?"

Despite my captivation by the majestic tail, my sharp tongue is as quick as ever.

"You serve a goddess out of fear? Pretty pathetic for someone so imposing."

The centaur leader ignored my retort and continued his own rambling.

"Decay of ring is quite…….fortunate. T'was…..uh… nae bother for the Gold Goodness to take throne. Gold Goodness's grace is blessed. Life is good here."

"A life in subjugation is not a life you want. I see that you're no warrior. You're merely a dog doing your master's work. Weak bastard."

There is a brief pause in the air. I may be projecting a bit.

"We are very similar in those respects. Do what you need to so you and yours can survive."

Our conversation ended, and we moved in silence for the rest of the day. That is until I can hear an all too familiar noise. The sound of clashing steel. There is no mistaking it. I've reached my stage.

I was led into the crowd to observe the current match. Two meek-mannered men are locked in a rather lackluster fight. It's obvious that neither of them had fought a fair fight in their miserable life. They're sloppy and scared. Pathetic! There are barely any battle wounds on them. Their swords are practically brand new! What a waste of perfectly crafted steel. If this is the best this area offers, then drawing out a fight here would be pointless. No entertainment could be drawn from a one-sided beating. And yet even with such terrible gladiators, the crowd is cheering; these people must be deprived of real entertainment. The centaur who was leading me seemed enthralled in this mundane bout. I find the willpower to break out of the tail's psychedelic grasp in his distraction. I should jump in and show these fools a good time! But even if I were to fight these "gladiators" simultaneously, I would easily be crowned the victor. I shove through the ignorant audience, being sure to avoid the centaur's sight until I make my grand appearance. Once at my destination, I jump into the makeshift square ring and start my speech. If I am at all successful with my words, I should be able to inspire some form of battle sense into these Neanderthals.

"What the hell is the matter with you two fools!? Have you no care for the sport you so freely mock, grip your weapons, look your opponent in the eye, and kill each other! NOW! This arena is not to be mocked by cowardly clashes; real entertainment comes from bloodshed and triumph. So far, I have seen neither! You're both poor excuses for men!"

I shout at the men in an abrasive tone; I'm usually as polite as can be, but such disrespect can't go on! The men look at me as they grip their swords. I can see it in their eyes; these men aren't fighters, not in the slightest. So why are they here, then? Did they even go through basic conditioning? Before they could waste another second, an echoing voice boomed in my direction.

"And who are you to interrupt my entertainment? I should have your head for such outlandish behavior."

A woman's voice locked me in my place. The thundering tone nearly dropped me to my knees. I could hardly control the pace of my own heart. I haven't felt this way since I fought the Golden Beast of Meldi. This woman's voice is so powerful; am I going to die? No, that can't be it. I need to maintain my composure. I can't look weak, not now, especially not since I made such a grand entrance.

"You call this entertainment? THIS?!"

As I spoke, I finally locked eyes with the woman who sat on a small ivory and gold throne just a few feet from the arena. This throne stood on top of a pedestal to make it appear larger, but even from the arena, I could tell its size is artificial. Looking into her glistening green eyes, I saw nothing but confidence and determination. Snow-like skin allowed the orange glow from the sun to reflect off of her. She was just perfect! This woman barely has to work outside in the fields or battle; no sign of strife or struggle in her eyes, no bruises or scars are to be seen. Based on her frame, it's safe to say that her training was minimal at most. The queen's straight golden hair sat on her shoulders perfectly and shone as the radiant sun beams down on us. This woman is adorned in thick silver and gold armor with a sigil of a spider's body with the head of a goat, an odd choice for a marking.

Noticing that I was eyeing her, she stood up and postured herself to take up more of the spotlight, and it worked; not a single pupil escaped the tight grasp of her alluring form.

"I am far more than a queen. I am a goddess that stands above filth like you! I am the golden spire that holds up the very rings of Hell. If I like your performance, I'll let you return to the crowd. So, by all means, perform!"

She stood from her throne, and all eyes were on her. Her words felt like shockwaves through my body; a lesser man would let this drive him to cower and beg for forgiveness, not me. I refuse to bow to any royal, in battle at least. Those who have others fight for entertainment are not to be feared; it just means they're too scared to fight for their own thrill. So pathetic. I nod to the woman and then look at the two men. They cower in fear and attempt to fall back deeper into the crowd. So pitiful! I look over the audience in search of a worthy opponent. Everywhere I look, there are worried faces and enough tears to fill an ocean. Cowards to my left and right, what's wrong with these "people?" Why are they so scared to die? Where is their sense of fun?

"You lord over children in fear of their own shadow. Do your subjects honor you with such cowardice!? Watching these worthless fodder fight does no good for anyone. Let's demonstrate what real power looks like. I may even let you lick my boots when we're done."

The men looked between the woman and me as our conversation went on. I can only assume they were praying to be released from the arena without injury. Such is the wish of a good-for-nothing half-wit. The woman laughed in a boisterous tone that rumbled the arena before waving her hand at the men. The two men eagerly run out of the ring in a disgusting display of cowardice as they quickly blend in with the terrified crowd.

"That tongue of yours is displeasing. You will learn your place in my domain. And to teach you such a lesson, I will personally demonstrate the power of The Pride Sin of Hell! Prepare to grovel at my feet, you loathsome peasant."

That's the second time this wench has mentioned Hell. That word sounds oddly familiar. Oh! I get it. This is a dream. I've heard about hell from a book my brothers, and I stole from our doctor. I must still be unconscious and dreaming about the book; how fun! Master Tonis is probably transporting me to my next stage at this very moment. In the meantime, I may as well enjoy this. As I ponder my situation, the woman reaches behind her back. She draws a six-foot-long claymore, A Blade of Silver with many abrasions from previous battles. The overwhelming shine of the golden hilt is blinding; I avert my gaze to let my eyes adjust, and as they do so, I notice the audience. No longer cowering maggots underneath me but entranced by the golden light as if it was hope itself. After a moment, I look back to the shining queen, and the mere sight of her with the blade makes me tremble. My face twisted into an uncontrollable grin as I took my fighting stance and faced the woman who was now entering the arena. I have a nasty fixation on thrilling battles. My body nearly acts on its own when in a fight. I find it difficult to hide my anticipation whenever I get excited about a fight. In contrast to mine, the woman's face houses a confused look. She almost looks disappointed.

"Do you intend to fight me without a weapon? How pitiful? You value your soul so little that you wish to face me unarmed; take a sword from the last fighters. If you fight as good as you boast, I'm sure you'll find some use for it."

"I won't be needing any kinda weapon. You're no different than any other beast I've slain up to this point; my fist will be enough to put you down."

Why did I say that? I want to grab a weapon, but my body won't move. I can't take my eyes off the woman. As they stood in shock, the crowd began to murmur amongst themselves, dumbfounded at my apparent confidence. I speak before thinking it's a bad yet entertaining habit. My words often get me in trouble, but I couldn't care less. I always find my way out of trouble; this time won't be different….right?

I stood in my battle stance for a moment as I absent-mindedly reminisced about my past battles—the screams of my enemies as I slowly bled them dry. The desperation in their eyes as they see firsthand how outclassed they are is intoxicating. Unfortunately, I rarely get the opportunity to challenge royalty. It's heartbreaking that this is just a dream. I would love to beat down some of my past clients.

My thoughts nearly blind me to the ferocious attack aimed at my neck. This woman's speed is astonishing for someone who forces others to fight. I narrowly avoided the attack but felt some intense heat sweep past my face; where is that heat coming from? The rest of this domain is cold and frigid. It makes no sense. My dodge was sloppier than usual, probably due to this strange climate messing with my body. My sloppy movements caused me to stumble back. I'll need to adjust my style to defeat this woman in her domain; I will use a more passive form to bait out some mistakes. Not even a second after I steady myself, the woman lunges at me with a flurry of slashes. Each one of her attacks emits that same heat. My body feels like it's moving independently from my mind as I dodge the slashes and weave between the glistening claymore. The woman doesn't have proper training with that blade; she just flails it like a barbarian flailing a massive club. As I escape the woman's attacks, I take opportunities to shoot swift punches at the openings in between her movements. Soon I find that my attacks are useless against her armored body. With every punch, I tear more and more of the skin on my hands. I don't mind this pain; I'm used to it, but I'm not used to what happens next. I lose my balance for just a second, and suddenly, The air is filled with my anguished screams.

Her sword creates a deep gash across my chest; within this gash, flames burst out and cauterize the wound. I jump back to avoid follow-up attacks and do my best to cope with the searing pain. Unfortunately, doing so causes me to almost fall out of the ring. THIS is bad. I need to gain some ground. How do I do that exactly? My attacks are no good against that armor. No matter how many hits I throw, it won't hurt her; I got it! I jump to my feet and charge straight toward the armored woman, I'd hate to ruin her flawless face, but this is the nature of fighting. I attack with a flurry of punches ranging from jabs to hooks to back fists, but none seem to land on their mark. Good. I'm forcing her to play by my rules, at least for now; I'll gain an opening any second now. A few more seconds of my relentless assault go on until THERE!

The queen ducks under one of my jabs and prepares to slash my legs with her claymore, perfect! She took the bait, and in an instant, I raise my knee to her chin and knee her with all the force I could muster. This attack forces her back up as she steps back and rubs her bruised chin.

"You've done well to persist this long against me. Take Pride in that young imp. I rarely kill those beneath me, but you have made a good case for your death. You will die honorably and by my blade!"

I can't help but enjoy her display of "dominance"; I love this kind of bravado when faced with my greatness, I may have a large wound, but this is nothing but a minor setback. I start running toward her blindly as I prepare my next flurry of attacks. When I close some distance between us, I feel a sharp pain pierce my chest. It starts burning, the searing pain now amplified by this new wound. She swiftly stabbed me in the chest as I was running. My grin stays planted on my face as I continue staggering forward, causing the blade to pierce through my body. My chest bursts into flame as I continue walking. The woman's face shifted from pure confidence to one of concern.

"I am Nanashi; I have won over one hundred matches against beasts, humans, and monstrosities like you; I do not lose! So, first, you will taste my power; second, I will become the new king, and you will take my place as my slave."

I spoke through my gritted teeth as I grasped the sword to prevent the woman from pulling it away. The woman's attempts to retrieve her sword only makes my grip tighten. I can't see straight. I lost too much blood. At this rate, I'll have to slaughter her before my master takes a front-row seat to my triumph. Oh well, this is still fun. While thinking about my current situation, I can't help but outwardly display my enjoyment. Finally, a battle that I might lose, I doubt it, though as long as the sword stays in, I won't lose more blood. The fire makes breathing difficult, but even in such a predicament, I can unleash a volume of punches onto the woman's face. For some reason, she refuses to let go of her sword and chooses to endure my attacks. My grip stays firm on the sword until something strange happens. The sword starts shrinking, or is it vanishing? I can feel the fire in my wounds fade away; whatever it's doing is helping me live just a little longer. I can feel my wounds close and heal. The woman and I stand in bewilderment at the spectacle; whatever is going on, I like it! My fist start to grow some strange black and gold aura around them; it must be from the sword. After the sword completely disappeared, I regained control of my body. I look down at my hands again and notice that the aura has turned into thick, heavy metal black gauntlets with gold accents; I can't help but admire my body and newfound strength. I jump and bounce a bit to get a sense of my restored mobility; I feel as light as air.

"Perfect. This is what I came here for! A fun fight to the death with a high-value opponent! I take back my offer to house you as my slave. You've earned an even better outcome! You're going to die right here, right now!"

The woman appeared confused at my outburst; however, her confusion was short-lived as I swung a heavy overhand punch at her face. My newfound strength already proved helpful, and what's more, something odd happened when I threw the punch. My fist burst into a beautiful golden flame before connecting to the woman's face. She then fell to the ground at nearly the same moment. She rolled around when she hit the ground, holding her face in her hands as she weeps like a child when you take their food away. I didn't think a "warrior queen" would be so weak. But when compared to an actual warrior, it's clear how little training she had. Just a few well-placed attacks and the "Warrior Queen" is grounded. Yet despite the difference in skill, the audience has a shocked reaction.

"He knocked down Her Holiness!”

“The sword!? What happened to it!?”

“What's going on!?"

These are only a few things I can hear from the crowd. My greatness is being recognized by the once-indoctrinated masses of the queen's trance. Of Course, they would turn to my side once I proved my power.

"This is amazing! I've never felt so light. This strength is otherworldly! That sword is really something else! No wonder you thought you had a chance to defeat me. This power really is intoxicating. I applaud you for wielding it for this long."

I'm still unsure what happened with the sword, and it's safe to assume these plebs are even more clueless than I am. It feels like I stole its power, but it isn't the same. I made her strength my own. Of Course, it's improved, but it's still obvious that it's the queen's power.

"My glory, give it back. You're undeserving to wield it! I have held this blade and this position for hundreds of years; I won't let you take it from me! "

She crawled toward me in a pathetic attempt to reclaim her so-called "treasure." She began to rise to her feet, so to keep her down; I pressed her head to the ground with my foot. I see the royals do this to those beneath them. It's only fitting that I display my dominance in the same manner. As I forced her to the ground, her body started to wilt away; I'd never seen anything like it. Is this part of the dream?

"I don't know what you're on about. That weapon was absorbed by my body. So clearly, I am more of a warrior than you are. I have been chosen by the sword, by your ‘glory,’ which means I am more fit for it, does it not? In your futile attempt to kill me, your so-called ‘treasure’ rejected the act and embraced its new master, ME!"

I spoke as if I knew what was going on. The crowd seemed to buy into my facade. This makes it even easier to mold the already feeble minds of my audience. As I loomed over the woman, my adoring audience explodes into cheers and applause. This experience is truly bizarre. I can't help but enjoy the admiration and the victory I just attained. While in the midst of adoring my newfound abilities, I feel a warm sensation around my ankle. It was the queen; she grabbed my ankle with her lukewarm hand. Her FILTHY hand. How. Dare. She! Doesn't she realize her defeat is all but guaranteed?

"Wither away already! You've outgrown your use!"

"SHUT YOUR DAMN MOUTH! This isn't over until I kill you, you….you…..BARMY TOSSER!"

"Barmy Tosser?"

As I inquire about the strange……insult…if that's what you'll call it. The downed broad pulls my leg out from under me. I do my best to stay standing, but even with my greatest efforts, I am taken down to the queen's level. Almost immediately, as I get slammed to the floor, the now feral woman lunges at me. She rests on me; amid my confusion, the woman wraps her unworthy hands around my throat. This maneuver makes it even harder for my lungs to catch air.

"You think yourself a lord? You mock me in my own court! I'll gouge out your innards, you daft TWAT!"

As her grip tightens, I instinctively gasp for any amount of air. She really isn’t letting up. At this rate I'll be dead before Tonnis gets here. I reach around, looking for a way out. There's nothing close to help me out of this situation. It's getting dark. I can't breathe. My hands eventually find their way to the queen's bruised face. Even while losing my life, I hate resorting to this. I hold the woman's face and use my thumbs to push into her eyes. It's a desperate move that lacks honor, but it's my only choice if I want to live. Her screams are quite pleasant; it motivates me to put more force into my retaliation. The queen's grip loosens a bit as I gouge her eyes, not enough for me to escape yet, but at least I can take small breaths.


In a fit of blind rage, the decrepit hasbin releases my neck, launching an unrestrained barrage of punches down at my face. I block what I can, but the ferocious assault is becoming too much for my tired body.


I feel the bones in my arms crack as her rampage rages on. My new gauntlets start behaving oddly…odder than usual. The gauntlets spread across my arms and to my shoulders; this increases the durability of my arms while also stunning the queen a bit with the sudden boost of toughness. That's exactly what I needed! I reach out and grab the queen's head. One more of my dirty tricks is underway. This will certainly win me the match. As I rear my head back for a headbutt, the black and gold armor expands even farther. The armor now covers my face in a dense and outwardly spiked helmet. There's no time to ponder the mysteries of the armor. I need to win. In the blink of an eye, I pull the queen's face towards me and meet her halfway with an empowered headbutt directly to her perfect nose…..not so perfect nose. This single attack sent the queen to the other side of the ring. I slowly rise to my feet while the armor returns to its usual gauntlet form.

"I apologize for my underhanded moves, but you left me no choice."

I turn my head, spit out some blood from the woman's tantrum. I also take time to wipe any blood from my face. After addressing my wounds, I stagger towards the queen.

"You should've known you were outclassed the moment we met. Begone from this world, you have no right to live in the same country I do."

I glared down at the woman as she glared back at me. The woman was about to say something but couldn't get it out in time. As my words pierced her ears, I could watch the last bits of her confidence fade away. I raise my foot and slam it down on her head to crush it against the stone floor. To be certain of my triumph, I raise my foot and slam it down again. After this exchange, her body turned to dust and blew away in the wind. I admire myself for a while until my eyes lock on the vacant throne. I look into the murmuring crowd and point to a random person.

"Hey you, is there a king of this nation?"

"N-no, s-sir! The Pride Ring has only known The Goddess of Gold."

"Well, in that case."

I walk over to the throne and inspect it before sitting down. There were no guards to stop me as expected, and with no king to claim the throne, I can freely enjoy MY new kingdom. This "throne," if you dare call it that, is terribly made. I hate how the old wood scratches my skin with every movement. The cushion is solid gold and barely gives any lower back support. I can feel my spine issues forming already. I'll have someone craft a better throne later.

"Welcome in, your new king! You have seen me defeat your "Goddess of Gold"; what more proof could you ask for! You may address me as your god of combat, your savior, The Gladiator King Nanashi!"

The crowd erupts into cheers; not like they have much choice. Now that I have a kingdom, I should do my best to build an army. The men and women I see in front of me are all pathetic. If we were to be invaded, I would need a force I could be proud of; not many can impress me, though I should lower my expectations. While I ponder the future of the Pride Ring, one of those flying eye bats from before flies toward me and observes me for a few seconds, it seems confused as to why I'm here. This drone stares into my eyes before speaking in an odd metallic tone. Its voice was as loud as a siren and shrill as a sickly animal. It's irritating; whoever made these should be hung.


The drone continues calling me several insulting things in its horrible metallic tone. Out of annoyance, I swiftly catch it with my right hand. This doesn't silence it; it lacks a mouth to be silenced. That black and gold gauntlet from my battle with the queen forms around my hand as I crushed the drone and let it fall to the ground. Instead of turning to ash like the queen, little wires and circuitry were exposed, along with blood and what looked like jumbled-up innards. Whatever this "thing" is, I don't appreciate its tone. This raises the question; why did the queen vanish so dramatically?

"Alright, everyone, listen up! These abominations will no longer be allowed to roam freely throughout my domain! Whoever brings me the head of these drone manufacturers will be my new guards and receive personalized training from myself. Whoever brings me a drone will get guaranteed safety. You all have twenty-four hours; get to it!"

The crowd disperses into the nearby towns in search of these drones. On the other hand, I stay seated on my new throne as I try to process everything that happened in my short time here. The thick air still weighs me down, and my last performance was sloppy. I doubt I would've been wounded if we had fought under normal conditions. This "Pride" queen was probably a prodigy who never truly applied themselves to their craft. No wonder she shriveled up in fear when face to face with an actual demon, someone who doesn't give up just because of a small cut or burn. I laugh to myself as I think about my battle. This small chuckle soon turns to outright hysterical laughter,

"Even in hell, I'm surrounded by USELESS royals and sniveling cowards! Is there no one who can best me?!"

"Are you proud of yourself, my lord? You should be."

A voice spoke out from no particular direction, causing me to practically jump out of my throne and assume my usual defensive stance. It must be one of the queen's subordinates. They probably want me dead so they can claim the throne; I've never been assassinated before, so they may pose a challenge.

"Reveal yourself, coward! If you wish to usurp my throne, you'll need to face me in the arena!"

Silence passes before a tall figure appears less than five feet from me. Black smog surrounds them as they stand to their full height. The figure stood around nine feet tall; its entire body was thin, lean, and red. I couldn't tell if that was its skin or blood. It smells like blood, but how could there be so much of it? The figure is wearing some sort of pelt around its waist. Although upon closer inspection, the "pelt" looks made from aged human skin, it's dry, and houses skinned faces of fear and pain. Large horns protruded from the being's head. This pelt also exudes an overpowering aura that has me in fear for my life. My body trembles as I stand face to face with a creature I can only describe in one word. DOOM! But whatever this unsettling being is, it doesn't matter. It will not put me down as easily as those who now "live" on the pelt.

"Calm yourself; I'm not here for a fight; I'm here to congratulate you. The 4th Pride has held her position for quite some time, relative to you humans. Though I myself am rather disappointed in how fast she lost her title. Only a mere three hundred and fifty-three years as acting Pride, she had so much growth potential."

The figure has a pompous voice that can only be comparable to the royals of Veluzina. It's a mix of condescending and demeaning. I. HATE. IT. I had to learn to temper my anger toward these kinds of "people," so it's no issue for me to conform to the conversation..

"Is that so? Pride, as you call her, was powerful in her own right, but she had the misfortune of facing me. Truly the woe of that cretin. It was really an inevitable outcome just waiting to happen."

I lower my guard but stand up to the creature as I observe his every minute movement. Finally, I let out a sigh and let the being continue talking. I usually stay on high alert, but keeping myself awake right now is very difficult. My body must still be acclimating to the nature of these mysterious lands.

"I see that now. So tell me, Nanashi, why do you fight? You have no master now. You are free. So why continue risking your afterlife for an audience."

This question caught me by surprise. I never really thought about the reason I fight. I tend to just do what Master Tonis tells me to do. This creature is absolutely right. I'm free! I'm a king. Master Tonis has no power over me anymore. I fight because I'm ordered to, but no one orders me around. Why do I fight? I don't really think it matters if I have a reason, but if I did, it would be;

"Because I'm the best at it. It's fun to be the strongest person in the land; I enjoy watching my opponents lose hope when they realize my greatness. People are starved for good entertainment, and I can provide that. So why wouldn't I enjoy it?"

The eery creature lets out a bellowing laugh after hearing my reasoning. I didn't find it funny, but the royals have an odd sense of humor. This thing is treating me like an underling! How irritating. I temper my bitterness, as I was instructed to do so frequently and let the being continue chortling. It finally stops laughing and begins speaking.

"You entertain me, Lord Nanashi; as a reward for conquering the 4th Pride, I will bestow you the title of the 5th Pride! Congratulations!"

"And if I refuse to claim this title? I already have the title of king; my urge for conquest is quenched for now."

"I'm afraid you don't have much choice in the matter. So, welcome to your afterlife and into my ranks; from here on, you will be known as the 5th Pride, The first Pride subservient to the Prince of Darkness."

I have no time to rebut this statement as the being swiftly reaches its hand to my face. Out of reaction, my hands shoot up and grab the monster's wrist to keep its hand away from my face. However, I am still tired due to this area's effects and my battle against Pride. The being's hand plants onto my face as I desperately attempt to remove it.

"What are you doing? It burns! Stop this; stop it now, creature! I'll kill you!"

As I scream in anguish, something akin to a branding iron is pressed against my forehead. It burns! Why can't I make it stop? I should be able to remove its arm. It's just one arm. I am NOT weak; I refuse to be weaker than whatever this "thing" is! I strain every muscle in my body while trying to remove its hand. My fatigue limits how much force I can use, but this should still be plenty. This being's hand feels like it's still heating up. I can feel my veins boil as I try to save myself. Finally, I successfully got the hand a few inches from my face halfway through the branding. I glare into the creature's cold black eyes while recovering from the damage to my face.

"DAMN! Still not enough influence!"

The monster is dumbfounded as it steps back while grasping its hand as it screeches. The hand that grappled my face now appears to be shriveled and burnt. Bits of muscle can be seen where the skin once was. Whatever this attack was, I must've disrupted a vital part. I can only assume it's astonished by my incredible strength. Its face briefly shows signs of worry as my face heals some of the scarring. I can still feel the sensation of burning skin on my face, but now it seems to be moving. I raise my hand to the brand on my face and wince in discomfort. The brand stings when my hand comes into contact with it. I will kill whatever that "thing" is. It so blatantly tried to enslave me. This transgression can not go unpunished. I walk close to the creature and glare into its eyes as I speak. I stand about three feet smaller, but that doesn't hinder my drive.

"I don't care what country you're the king of, I don't care how many you've enslaved before me, and I certainly don't care how weak you perceive me to be. I will kill you! Once I heal from this, I will locate your capital. I will raid and thrash anything and everything I see. You and your people are not safe. So be prepared, bastard! I AM THE GLADIATOR KING! I! AM! Nanashi!"

The creature scowls back as it looks down at me. I can't help but feel inferior in its presence, but that won't stop me from ruining this thing's way of life. Then, suddenly, the being lets out an earth-shattering laugh as it looms over me. It’s pitch black eyes lock me in place as It began to speak in a voice that commands authority. It's cold demeanor sends chills down my once confident body as I tremble. Yet, even in such peril, I can't help but display my signature grin.

"You certainly deserve the title of Pride. Your strength is impressive, considering I haven't granted you your curse. But, know this demon! I will be quick to appoint a new Pride if you step too far out of line. My will may not capture you, but I have other means to keep my underlings in check. Do not test me. "

Its booming voice grows more and more unsettling as it speaks. This is someone, or rather, something I should be worried about. This commands respect and obedience. But even through my fear and its intimidating stature, I refuse to be a slave anymore.

"Just give me some time, and I'll show you what it means to be a Gladiator King. You will fall before me, and I will savor every moment of your groveling. But, for now, I'll let your unfound arrogance guide you. You are dismissed, "Demon King." "

I do my best to stay calm as I speak. The bastard held a resentful scowl as it turned to walk away; it didn't acknowledge my threat and simply vanished. That THING just faded into a cloud of black smoke and disappeared. I examine the nearby area for it but can't see any traces of the so-called "Demon King ." So that thing must be the Devil; it has a malicious aura. A blood-stained aura. I need to be careful around it.

I've never encountered anything like it. No beast alive has ever scared me as much as that monster. I should make the most of my afterlife if I really am dead. How did I die anyway? Why can't I remember what killed me?

As I try to remember my death, the roar of a raging crowd approaches me. I rise from my throne and stand before what looks like a small army; As I bask in the noise of the eager mob, I take time to listen to what they are shouting about. They are arguing over who caught the best drone. They all wish to impress me. This is amazing, my kingdom with subjects that wish to please me with such vigor. If this is what being a mere underling is like, imagine how great being the "Demon King" will be. I should focus on gaining more power and more skill. No matter how amazing I am, I can always be better!