The summer sun had warmed the land and the air above it. Now that it had set, the warm air spiralled upwards while a cool breeze blew outwards from Patera lake to take its place.
Nurarihyon, Shogun of the Tokugawa Shogunate, Lord of the Night Parade of the Hundred Demons, Heaven’s Chosen, and possessor of titles too numerous to count, tilted his head slightly to catch the breeze on his face, his eyes closed in contentment.
He sat on the ground, leaning against one of the sturdy wooden stilts of the Felidae residence. His shaggy hair covering his forehead and a faded lime-green shirt adorning his body. Whenever the loose collar fluttered in the wind, it offered glimpses of the toned body beneath. Tattoos in various styles and colours overspread his torso, no inch of skin free of ink.
The sound of approaching footsteps caused him to look up to see a bedraggled boy approaching the home with heavy footsteps, a dispirited expression on his face. It was Mars Felidae, the one he had taken in as his disciple.
Nura Rihan sighed. The boy was too young after all. And inexperience came with youth. Leaving him to solve such a large problem on his own was asking for trouble. He really couldn’t understand how the minds of Phobos’ parents worked.
He silently watched Mars trudge past, hesitate at the door for a long moment before finally mustering his courage and entering. All without noticing him just a few metres away. Well, there were very few people who could notice the Lord of the Night when he didn’t want to be found.
The same could be said about his right hand.
Turning his head, he stared fixedly at the shadows beneath the house. “Chusei, come out.”
The shadows congealed into a figure which stepped out into the moonlight, revealing a dead eyed man dressed as a barkeep.
Chusei bowed deeply towards him. “Welcome to Patera, Lord Rihan.”
Rihan waved at him to dispense with the formalities. Picking a blade of grass which had grown tenaciously within the small period of time when the waters didn’t cover the soil, he placed it between his teeth.
He drawled out, “So… what is the situation?”.
“Hai!” exclaimed Chusei before activating his Call of the Dark. Ripples of darkness covered them both, cutting off the sound as well as obscuring the movement of their lips.
After some time, the shadows diverged leaving Chusei standing at attention as Rihan chewed upon the stalk of grass as he contemplated.
Sighing, he turned to Chusei. “Well. It was too much to expect everything to go smoothly. Then… it seems some external impetus is required. Do it.”
For the first time that night, something other than apathy appeared in the man’s eyes: hesitation.
When he didn’t move for some time, Rihan noticed and looked up at him inquisitively. “What is it?”
“Lord… it is not this lowly one’s place to question your decisions but is it truly wise to place all your hopes on this plan? If we go through with this, then there is no turning back. Please reconsider.” He bowed deeply and held his head lowered.
After remaining silent for a moment, Nura Rihan slowly got to his feet, towering over the bowing man. Patting the dust off his pants, he raised Chusei by his shoulder, causing him to straighten up.
His voice was quiet, yet filled with power as he said, “Turning back? The day the six Daimyos gave me this post and took my wives and children hostage, there was no turning back. The common people all venerate me as the Heaven’s Chosen one. Then what does that make the six of them who raised me to my seat? The heavens?”
“Hah… hahaha.” He laughed softly, the sound causing the hair on the back of Chusei’s neck stand erect at the ice-cold murderous intention concealed within.
He stopped suddenly, his dark eyes like bottomless abysses. “Lord? A daemonic bloodline with the power to command all other daemons? Such a thing is too incredible to exist and even if it once did, all members of that bloodline must have been exterminated by the six families, their bodies burnt and the ashes scattered over the earth. In their place they placed a Hominum puppet. Married to a woman from each clan, I am but a tool to be called upon for arbitration whenever they reach an impasse in their disputes, a neutral party, a figurehead.
“Yet this time, they have made an error in their judgement. The day they took my children from my bosom in the name of letting them visit their maternal home, I pledged to the Heavens that I would depose them, return the Shogunate to the way it was meant to function: with one true Lord.
“I will reign over the hundred demons or die trying.”
Chusei bowed deeply again, “This one shall do all in his power to assist in this noble undertaking. But… is placing so much importance on the boy truly necessary?”
Rihan closed his eyes and breathed deeply, returning his mood to tranquillity. “He was the only Hominum of the appropriate age and status who had been trained in the martial arts. I had no better choice… but, the Heavens haven’t abandoned me, his natural talent far surpasses my expectations. His disposition is a flaw but a little whetting and experience can remedy that. He is a key in my plan. Go, Chusei… it won’t take Felidae long to find her. We need them to take action before that.”
Chusei clenched his teeth and spoke out one final time. “Lord, but they are our countrymen after all…”
An irritation flashed past in Rihan’s eyes and Chusei’s back was soaked with cold sweat as he suddenly felt like he was being stared at by an ominous beast. After a long moment, Nurarihyon withdrew his gaze and Chusei nearly collapsed in relief.
“This is the last time I allow you to question me. The country goes by the name of Shogunate. The moment they took the mission knowing full well that their actions went against the Shogun, they ceased to be part of the country. They are nothing more than traitors in my eyes. Their death is deserved. Now go!”
The Tier 4 shadow mage didn’t dare to delay as he immediately vanished into the shadows, hurrying to fulfil his duty.
Only one thought ran through his mind as he left: The Lord of the Night had grown stronger. Much stronger.