Prelude*

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Quick and Important Author's Note: Thanks for choosing to read--or at least check out--my story. :D

This story is currently being revised and edited, so there might be some inconsistencies and plot holes. "Revised" chapters are the ones that have an asterisk (*) next to the name, so they may have a different writing style than the rest of the story. Hope you enjoy the story all the same! :)

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Prelude

The village was silent with death.

Sturdy wooden huts lingered in darkening stillness. They were empty, residents strewed outside on the wet dirt. The bodies were mutilated, their limbs scattered like autumn leaves waiting to be crushed underfoot. Doors and walls were decorated with impaled limbs. Red lines adorned the necks of corpses. Children held their mothers' bloody sleeves with tiny, stiff hands. Most of the villagers wore their nighttime attire, but the various weapons—some still held by severed hands—suggested they attempted to fight back.

Overlooking the carnage was a grand building raised on beams. Its once grand curved rooftops were splinters on the ground. The sliding doors were broken and torn, stained with blood. Unlike the commonly dressed people that were decaying outside their huts, the dead that littered around this house wore finer clothes, some garbed in the threads of priestesses and warriors. The village's protectors that failed to guard it.

"Demon!"

He turned to who had called him, his last standing opponent, and grinned. It was a young woman. She held a dark wooden bow, a fletchless arrow strung on it.

"Life courses through you still." He tapped his red-stained sword on his shoulder. "Why do you not flee?"

She scowled. "Because you still live."

The demon laughed and walked toward her, bloody mud bubbling around his feet. The woman followed him with her arrow even though her hands shook. He faced her, stabbed his sword in the ground, and extended his arms as if to welcome the attack.

"A simple priestess-in-training is hardly a challenge to a demon of my caliber as I am certain you are well aware of," he said.

She bared her teeth at him.

And he her fangs at her. "Indeed. Attempt to kill me."

His black hair swirled around his face, dancing with the hasty burst of wind that visited the bloody battlefield. The gust soon left as if saddened by such a sight.

She released the arrow. Swift as a gale eruption, the shaft glowed with a dull white glimmer. A fletching of silver light appeared on the arrow only to fade away when it hit its target.

The fiend's grin did not waver despite the half-buried arrow in his chest, over his heart. He lifted his head and faced his opponent. His grin turned into a snarl just as the sun finished setting and the moon came to its full shine.

The young woman's bow fell from her hands in defeat followed by several drips of blood. Multiple gashes adorned her flesh. An especially deep wound ran up the outside of her thigh up to her ribs. Her clothes—a simpler version of what the village's dead priestesses wore—were glued to her skin with her blood as the sealant.

It was too late now.

The demon grasped the hilt of his sword and pulled it out from the ground. The veil of mud dissolved from the blade as it gleamed under the moon, appearing like a moon ray itself. He smirked as he walked up to the young woman and peered down at her. His long hair caressed her cheeks and the protruding arrow in his chest dug into her collar bone.

She met his stare despite her bucking leg wishing to topple her. Liquid red eyes bore into her black ones.

"Why?" she croaked. Her heavy breathing gurgled through the pink foam in her mouth. "Why did you have to kill them all and leave me for last?"

The demon reclaimed his full height, glowering at the dark-haired beauty before him. Hesitation washed over him before anger molded onto his features. "The reason is known to you, wench."

The young woman's words came out hard and solid. "I didn't do anything."

With a single, furious tug, the demon pulled out the arrow lodged in his chest. A fan of red misted out and drizzled onto her face. With a trembling hand, she wiped off the best she could from her eyes, enough to see the demon snap the arrow in two. The broken wood splintered into a fiery, white ring, cindered pieces falling to the ground, blackened and useless.

The fiend brought a hand to his chest where the arrow had been. Though the wound began to heal, blood coated his palms and ran down his fingertips. He balled his hand into a fist.

She flinched.

He recoiled.

Their eyes locked for a brief moment with a familiar intensity. An intensity they hadn't expected to feel but knew they never would again.

The sword wedged between her ribs, a perfect stab through her heart. He held her body up with an arm around her shoulders and pushed the blade so it erupted from her back. He pulled away and she was held up by solely by the sword, impaled like a victim of war. He withdrew his weapon, knuckles white, and watched as she collapsed and hugged the soiled land.

It was all her fault.

He had killed them before her. Her entire family and the village clan members. Traditions and customs forever gone so that in her death, she knew true despair, but more importantly, she knew who bestowed it upon her.

The demon looked at his hand where her blood had splashed on his palm. He wiped it across his chest.

Her blood touched his.

He gasped. A tight, burning sensation seized his body, poisoning his blood and sapping his power. He collapsed to the ground on one knee, using his sword as a support. He touched his unhealed wound as his eyes widened with realization.

"The arrow..." he grunted. "Foolish to not have acknowledged it..."

As if summoned, the arrow that had broken so effortlessly appeared, embedded in his chest. He tried to reach for it, but a crystal barrier kept him away. Groans of pain escaped the demon's lips as the arrow began to burrow into him the stone tip pierced out of his back, a mirror to what he had done to the young woman. Blistering flames exploded in his chest, searing his flesh from the inside, melting his bones to his racing heart.

"No!" he said.

For the first time in several years the demon was in agony he could not fight off, and for the first time in his long life, he felt fear.

From the ground, the young woman's motionless figure stared at the fiend with glazed eyes, the remains of her healing power fighting in vain to keep her alive so that she could see and know for certain. She blinked away her tears, her testimony to the anguish the demon successfully granted her.

As she life faded away, the demon too faded away into the same white ring of fire as the arrow had when it snapped in two. One piece for the demon, the other for the demon slayer.

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