[COMMISSION] Hong and Momiji’s Duel

Thanks to the wonderful Joebito for commissioning this! If you’re interested in commissioning, see my pricing/guidelines HERE


The sun blazed over Youkai Mountain. Fairies flew over the sky, pestering the crow tengu that flew to and fro. High up the mountain lied a small clearing in the forest, connected only by an ancient stone staircase. In this clearing sat a small wooden building, and in front a large stone circle, encircled by a short wooden fence. At the end of this arena was Momiji Inubashiri, sitting atop a small rock. As she watched the staircase, a new figure slowly climbed it. Hong Meiling approached, a determined expression on her face and clothes stained with sweat. Momiji smiled, and stood up as Hong approached.

“There’s no need for you to handicap yourself before the match Hong!” The tengu barked.

“Please.” Hong grinned, wiping sweat from her forehead. “You know what they say about not warming up before a match?”

Momiji smiled back, her opponent hopping the small fence and walking to the center of the arena. As Momiji headed towards the center, she noticed something over Hong’s shoulders. A few fairy maids flew up, settling themselves far from the barrier. Momiji sneered. “Those your cheerleaders?”

“A little support doesn’t hurt now?” She pointed behind her, Momiji turning around to notice a few other wolf tengu had appeared, observing over the barrier.

“Well it’s not like I invited them. They’re just here to watch a good old-fashioned danmakuless fight.”

“Same here. The mansion does get pretty boring with Sakuya doing all the work.” Hong cracked her knuckles. “I’m all set. Fighting until knockout?”

Momiji punched her fist into her palm. “Is there any other proper way?”

The two walked to opposite ends of the arena. They turned around, locking eyes. Momiji pulled a small baton from her pocket.

“Once this hits the ground, we begin.”

Hong silently nodded as she tossed it high into the air. From the moment she tossed it, Momiji kept her eyes locked on the baton, whie Hong kept her eyes locked on Momiji. She braced herself, keeping her fists up.

The exact moment the baton touched the ground, Momiji bolted forward, closing the distance between her and Hong in mere seconds. Hong was quick to raise her guard as the wolf clawed and battered her with a flurry of blows. She flinched and winced from the onslaught and took a few steps back, still enduring rapid-fire swipes and jabs from the wolf. Hong took notice of a small break in the attacks, and  quickly dropped her guard to throw a few jabs towards her chest and head. Momiji attempted to dodge each one, but still took a few to the chest without even reacting. She wasted no time in returning to the offensive, Hong reacting likewise to return to holding her guard. It wasn’t long until she was pushed back to the very edge of the arena’s fence.

“You do realize you’re actually supposed to hit back, right?” Taunted the tengu.

Hong held fast, feeling her arms sting from the unrelenting scratches and hits, but willed herself to hold on. Her patience soon came to fruition, as she felt the intensity of the blows wane. Hong quickly shifted from blocking, taking some scratches to the face to counter with a hard, well-placed jab to Momiji’s stomach. She slid back from the blow, coughing. Hong seized the initiative, sprinting forward and kicking her in the chest, sending her sliding backwards even further. She ran forward rearing back her fist and throwing a punch, but Momiji quickly ducked beneath the blow, swiping at her stomach. She winced, trying to retaliate by elbowing the tengu in the back, but she quickly slipped away, lurching forward quickly to slash again. Hong brought her guard back once more, blocking her strikes, and retaliated with a few more well placed jabs to the chest and stomach. Momiji coughed a few times and leapt back, locking eyes with the gatekeeper. She growled as she observed how Hong only bore multiple scratches on her arm, and her uniform was barely torn near the chest. Hong smiled, practically reading the tengu’s thoughts. She took a defensive stance.

“You wanted me to hit back, didn’t you?” She beckoned the tengu with her hand tauntingly. Momiji sneered and lurched forward, her hand sprawled ready to swipe. Hong dropped her guard, preparing to evade and counterattack. As she dodged, however, instead of swiping, Momiji clenched her fist and launched a powerful jab to Hong’s stomach. She wheezed, stepping back and clutching her stomach. Momiji lurched forward, swiping and scratching at the guard. Hong tried to back away while dodging, but took a few slashes, leaving her face marked by the tengu’s claws. Hong leapt back and Momiji lurched forward, her fist balled up and reared back. Hong quickly reacted with a roundhouse kick, slamming into the side of the wolf. She flew away to the side but landed right back on her feet, skidding to a halt. Hong sprinted forward, leaping into the air attempting to land another kick. Momiji quickly rolled out of the way as Hong slammed into the ground, and the wolf swiped at her back as she recovered from the miss. Hong spun around, throwing a few jabs and striking the wolf tengu, but she quickly retreated. The two stared each other down, waiting and carefully observing each other. Hong returned to her defensive stance as Momiji slowly circled her.

“What’s the matter?” Spoke Hong between breaths. “Your bite isn’t matching your bark at all! And you wolves really call yourselves the guards of Youkai Mountain?”

She growled in response, still continuing to circle. Hong observed carefully, taking utmost care not to show her fatigue and pain from all the tengu’s assaults. Without any indication, Momiji leapt forward, her fist reared back. Hong quickly blocked, but still winced at the intensity of the blow. She raised her leg to quickly kick in retaliation, but before she could even hit the wolf, she had already retreated to a safe distance. Hong smirked and scoffed.

“Again, you really call yourself a guardian of the mountain?”

“Most troublemakers of the mountain don’t have time to complain about my tactics.” Growled Momiji. She lurched forward again, Hong this time dodging her powerful blow. She landed a few jabs on the tengu, but Momiji was quick to respond with a few more powerful punches of her own. Hong winced with each hit from the tengu, trying to retaliate, but Momiji had retreated to a safe distance once more. Hong was covered in sweat, clothes badly scratched, and deeply panting. She was aware of this herself, if Momiji’s expression didn’t already completely give it away. She lurched forward for what she hoped would be the final time, but Hong suddenly dropped her guard, leaping forward and kicking in retaliation. While the tengu still managed to land a powerful hit on Hong’s shoulder, she took an even more brutal kick to the stomach, sending her flying away and crashing into the opposite end of the arena. Hong gripped tightly onto her shoulder, wincing. Psyching herself up, she did her best to purge her mind of the pain, and focus on winning the fight. Momiji groaned as she stumbled up from the ground, but caught the slight moment of Hong’s weakness. She took a deep breath and charged forward at full speed. Before Hong could react, she took another strong blow to her already weak arm. She audibly yelped and leapt back, but Momiji dashed forward, prepared to deliver another blow. Hong ducked and dodged, but Momiji continued to attack. She intermixed punching and swiping faster than she had before, knowing she was too exhausted to dodge them all. Hong kept backing away, retaliating whenever she could with her good arm, but the tengu simply tanked each and every blow. She kept approaching, giving Hong no respite from her assault. For the first time in the fight, Hong was growing concerned. The tengu barely looked like she had been phased by any of her previous blows, and certainly had stamina to spare. Hong poured every ounce of willpower she could to trying to dodge and block the endless flurry of blows from her. Amidst the flurry, Hong still hatched a final plan to counter the onslaught. As much as she tired out, she could see the tengu was slowing down her assault as well. Taking advantage of how out of breath the tengu likely was, took a step forward amidst the assault and used her good arm to throw a devastating punch to her chest. Momiji completely froze from the blow, unable to take another breath. She glared at Hong with the slightest speck of fear as the gatekeeper smiled. She took another step forward, kneeing Momiji in the stomach. She keeled over, staring as hong took a step back and delivered a powerful kick right under her jaw. The tengu flew away from the blow, literally howling in pain, and eventually crashed into the ground. Hong gasped and panted, staring at the body of the tengu carefully. No movement. She hobbled over, holding tight to her injured arm, looking closer. Suddenly, Momiji coughed and groaned. She opened her eyes, and she only saw a blurry sight of Hong.

“I think that counts as a knockout.” Hong smiled, offering a hand to her opponent. Momiji grabbed hold of it as Hong tugged her to her feet. The tengu stumbled, and the gatekeeper offered her shoulder as support.

“If my head weren’t spinning right now, you’d be finished Hong…”

She burst out laughing. “Yeah, and I’m assuming you could beat me with only one arm as well?”
She groaned, knowing she had used that to taunt Hong into the duel with her.

“Let’s just get our injuries treated, all right? You did do a number to the shoulder you’re leaning on you know.”

The two had taken rest inside the small wooden building, which was in actuality a small barracks for the tengu guards. Momiji had bandaged her chest, lying down in bed. Meanwhile, Hong had her uniform tossed to the side, as she was busy still treating and wrapping her wounds. Hands, arms, chest, stomach, back; Had she bandadged herself any more, she would look close to a mummy. Momiji looked over, slightly amused by the sight.

“Sheesh. I had you on the ropes, right?”

The guard chuckled. “If you believe so, yes.”

Momiji grumbled. “It certainly isn’t a belief, it was downright a fact! Still…” She rolled over, staring at the ceiling. “To think you even got me at my fiercist…”

“There’s an old reading from where I come from. ‘If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.’”

She turned her head to Hong. “So what, you were able to mind-read me and know when to strike?”

Hong smiled. “You were a bit too haughty, and you made that very clear with your challenge in the first place. Maybe instead of trying to overwhelm me, you could have thought of a better approach than being too easy to read.”

The tengu huffed. “Probably…”

“I still admire your sheer self-discipline. To hide your exhaust all the way throughout that entire match? Outright amazing.”

Momiji smiled, closing her eyes. “I told you, we gotta be the best of the best to guard the mountain.”

Hong stood up, putting back on her damaged uniform. She turned to Momiji.

“Once we’re both better, I want a round two. Especially since now we both know what we’re capable of.”

The tengu sat up, smiling and giving a thumbs up. “Till next time Hong!”

Tales from Congeria: The Closing Festival

The moon shone down onto the blazing skyline of Romitum, hovering high over the temporarily clear streets. Many roads were closed in preparation for the Closing Festival, celebrating the two-hundred and third end of the Harvest War. Members of law enforcement were quickly establishing barricades on several of the street entrances, making sure every street leading up to the city’s Capitol Building were clear, while construction workers and civilians prepared several stands and attractions. At the top of the skylines, two figures watched several trucks full of various materials and goodies pull up to each barricade. One figure was armored from head to toe, wearing a large camo cloak, while the other wore an oddly frilly dress, exposing much of her hardened physique. The armored figure turned back to her, giving her an obvious “are you serious” expression that even she could tell through his tinted helmet.

“Hey c’mon Simon, once everything’s clear, I wanna celebrate too! I thought may as well have the armory whip me up something quick so I wouldn’t have to change…”

He sighed, returning to watching each truck.

“I swear Joy, someday you’ll learn how useful wearing around a ton of armor can be in this field. Or at least somebody is going to bash that lesson into your skull.”

She huffed as he held up his hand.

“And speaking of being thick-skulled, I think I found the ballsiest people of today.”

From his cloak he handed her a pair of binoculars. She looked through, noticing a few sketchy looking men in a line of trucks moving several crates out of their truck into a nearby building. Simon shook his head. “They’re gonna try and move those crates of Bliss and whatever else with the crowd when the festival finally opens. I’ll let law-”

She put her hand on his shoulder. “Hey, we didn’t come here just for tattletale duty. Besides, I’m sure the officers here want to enjoy the festival as much as I do.

“Point taken.” He drew his railgun from his back, hitting a few switches on his scope, before eyeing through it. “Just let me know on the radio if you need anything specific. Other than that, I’ll just keep you out of bigger trouble as per usual.”

She grinned and took several steps back. She then broke into a full sprint, leaping off the edge of the building towards the suspicious truck, Simon sighing.

“Would a little bit of subtlety just kill you?”

He eyed through his scope, picking up heat signatures of several men and women moving in and out of the suspicious building.

 

Joy crashed down right in front of one of the barricades, cracking the ground around her and scaring the ever-loving shit out of both of the officers. They quickly reached for their guns before she held up her hand.

“No need to worry officers, official Crusader business!” She broke into a sprint, effortlessly leaping the barricade and zooming past the trucks, leaving the two officers dumbfounded. It wasn’t long until she had to skid to a halt, reaching the truck of note. She peeked into the back of it: completely empty except for a few planks of wood to assemble a stand. Turning her eyes towards the building they all entered, she casually pushed the door open, entering a room full of several men moving boxes behind a steel door, and women armed with pistols glaring at her. One of the men directing everyone stopped and turned to her, gawking slightly at her outfit before regaining his focus.

“Uh, lady, the hell are you doing in here?”
Joy exaggeratedly shrugged. “I dunno, I thought there was gonna be some festival stuff in here because I saw you guys unloading your truck in here.”
“Well you’re wrong. We had some food that was rotting so we quickly need to check every box to make sure the rest of our goods are fine. Just move along, all right?”

She continued to walk inwards, the man backing away and some of the others reaching for their pistols.

“Hmm… You sure you aren’t hiding something really cool for the festival? I mean, this is a pretty heavy door for some food.”

“Ain’t you ever seen a freezer before-”

She reared back her fist and threw a punch at the center of the door. It completely bent inward, taking a few of the hinges off with it, but still standing. Everyone in the room jumped, a few of them shooting at her stomach in retaliation. She winced as each bullet pecked at her abdomen, each one crumpling and falling to the floor.

joypunch
Art by https://sheepapp.tumblr.com

“Yeouch… First, that wasn’t very nice. Second, that’s the world’s heftiest freezer door I’ve ever seen! I’m pretty sure you’re hiding something awesome!”

She grabbed the door by it’s crumpled sides, straining somewhat before ripping it completely out from its frame, whirling around as all the armed men in the room began to fire. Using it as a shield, each bullet either bounced off the door or harmlessly off her arms until she heard all of their guns click dry. She grinned as she tossed away the door, noticing a few men were grabbing assault rifles from one of the crates. A few bullets pierced the wall, flying into both of them.

“You’re welcome” crackled across Joy’s earpiece. Her grin now back in full force, she leapt towards each terrified goon, easily knocking out each one: A punch to the chin, the stomach, kick to the side, showing enough restraint to try and incapacitate with her immense strength instead of kill. Soon the entire room was either knocked out, except for the few poor men who tried to go for heavier armaments. She turned towards the ruined doorway where the steel door once was, waltzing in and tearing off the roof of one of the crates. There she stared wide-eyed at several small rat-sized creatures, each bearing numerous razor-sharp teeth, frozen completely in red crystal.

“The room is clear and we need to get a purification team here. Those shits thought they could smuggle in a bunch of crystallized doomrats.”

“Copy that, nice work Joy. Head back to me, and authorities will be there very soon.”

She first picked up one of the crystals, gripping as tightly as she could. It shattered, completely crushing the demon inside of it. She smiled, turning back towards the exit.

 

The rest of the night thankfully went off without a hitch. Crusader purifiers and local enforcement officers apprehended every man and safely purged every last doomrat. More crusaders were present at the festival, ensuring that no rat would suddenly disrupt the festival, but thankfully they weren’t necessary. Joy was fully aware of this, and spent most of the time with the citizens, enjoying the food and activities the festival had to offer, and spending time conversing and showing off her physique with other amazed citizens. While all this happened, Simon solemnly stared down at the festival, taking in every little detail with his rifle to his side. He sighed, letting out the slightest smile from behind his mask at the sight.

Norman and Mia

This is a bit of a short story based on a brief concept I thought off a few months back, and a continuation of the sneak peek I posted a while back. It’s rough, but I hope you all can enjoy!


In the endless expanse of stars and space, a force that had been drifting for centuries without end had finally reached the system of planets mankind called home. A colossal cluster of strange ships, incredibly blocky and robust in design and looks, all tightly surrounding an even more massive cube-like ship. It’s size rivaled that of some of Earth’s largest cities, bearing several thousand scratches and scars. Years more of drifting, the ominous fleet finally approached Earth, carefully maneuvering into an orbit behind the moon. Lunar satellites that passed by were swarmed by several human-sized objects, which quickly departed after moments, leaving the machine seemingly untouched. As the last satellites passed by, the massive city-ship began transforming. Multiple mechanical obelisks began to emerge, each as wide as the faces of the ship and reaching sizes that rivaled even the tallest human structures. Fully formed into a terrifying station, the machine deployed even more ships of several rigid shapes and sizes, creating a formidable fleet around it. To finish its appearing act, it launched numerous car-sized ships from one of the obelisks, each one slingshotting themselves around the moon right towards earth. Firing thrust towards each other, they adjusted their trajectories towards the various countries of earth, eventually drifting apart and out of sight. As one of the ships blazed through the atmosphere, a massive plate of metal flew off the ship, and along with a part of its cargo: A large chunk of metal, vaguely in a humanoid form. It flew horribly off-course, charing up as it crashed further and further away from its ship.

 

“Get out of bed Norman! Breakfast is getting cold!”

A messy-haired teen groggily rose from his bed, rubbing the last remnants of sleep out of his eyes. Letting out one final yawn, he moved over to his dresser, topped with a few books, toys, and photographs. He slipped on a pair of jeans and a white shirt, then swiping his backpack up off the floor. He moved to his desk, shoving in the scattered papers and assorted schoolbooks without a thought, and finishing up by unplugging his laptop and shoving it in. He zipped up his bag and glanced at his watch with bagged eyes: 7:20. Hurrying on towards the kitchen, a still-steaming plate of eggs and toast sat on a small table. His mother who was wiping down the stove noticed him seat himself, and smiled.

“Please take your time and eat, you won’t do well on an empty stomach!”

He shoved a few forkfulls of eggs into his mouth and downed it with milk.

“I need to get walking now or I’m gonna be late. Thanks.”

He took one last chomp out of the toast before scuffing on his shoes and walking out the front door.

He methodically pushed his way through the hall full of students as he and they all tried to make their way to classes. He continued moving, bumping and being shoved by others, letting a yawn out among the turmoil. He finally arrived at his first class: Accounting. He pulled out a notebook and his textbook and rested his head on his hand until the teacher arrived. Then it was an hour and a half of lectures and notetaking. It was a grind he was very familiar with; Every class of his operated the same way, be it calculus, statistics, or english. Constant notetaking and focusing unless a test or quiz broke the flow. Still, by the end of the class he’d noted everything he’d need, absorbed by the contents of the day’s lecture. When lunch finally rolled around, he sat with his friends, Andrew and Mike. He’d eat and talk latest news, video game talk, and just general small talk with them until he finished his lunch. Once the last bite was done, he’d let them know he’d talk to them later and headed off towards study hall until the next bell rang. Then it was back to more notetaking and focusing until the last bell rang. Slipping his notebooks and books into his bag as the teacher informed the class of homework for the following day, he stretched out before beginning his trek home.

 

When he unlocked the door and took a step inside, his parents were still out at their jobs. He placed his bag on his bed and went to the kitchen, preparing himself simply a ham sandwich and glass of water. Quickly finishing the meal, he worked back to his room, pulling out his books and worksheets, spreading them on his desk, and promptly got to work. A few hours of filling out answer after answer on his accounting worksheet, and her heard the front door slam.

“Norman, I’m home!” announced his mother.

“I’m busy working right now!”
Finishing up the accounting sheet, he slipped it into a folder and brought out his economics textbook, turning deep into the thick book. He then pulled out a notebook, and studiously began his reading.

Soon when the sun dipped beyond the horizon, several minutes after hearing the door slam once more, he had a few pages worth of notes filled out and closed the textbook shut. He let out a quick yawn, taking his laptop off of his desk and moving onto his bed, getting himself comfy and flipping the computer open. He opened up his browser to a video site, some social media sites, a few forums, and online academic resources. He spent a few more hours watching whatever he found entertaining on the site, barely clicking to the social media sites every so often.

He let out a yawn, pausing a video, looking at his computer clock, reading at nearly eleven. He put his laptop back on his desk, plugging it in, and began to change into pajamas. Mid slipping on a shirt, however, a fiery orange light blazed through his window. Rushing over, he caught sight of a ball of fire soaring over the sky. It was only a matter of seconds before it crashed far into the woods that sat at the edge of his neighborhood. He froze in place, staring still staring out where the object crashed. “WHAT” was the only thought that constantly resounded through his mind. He reached for his phone to call the fire department until a tiny thought spoke from the deepest part of his mind: “Wouldn’t it be pretty cool if you were to own an asteroid?”

He paused right at the numberpad. Somebody probably already called the fire department, I couldn’t have been the only one to have noticed this, he thought to himself. I better hurry before somebody beats me to it. Quickly throwing a coat over his pajamas, and hurrying to grab his keys, a fire extinguisher and oven mitts from the kitchen, he scuffed on his shoes and ran out into the night, hurrying over to the plume of smoke that was slowly blotting out the starry skies. As he pushed deeper into the brush, using his phone as a flashlight, he eyed around him. Nobody had seemed to come out. He smirked to himself as he hurried deeper, noticing an orange glow not too further ahead. Finally pushing through the last bit of brush, he came across a large crater, surrounded by destroyed or blown-back trees, with several flames and embers surrounding the area. In the center of the crater was still on fire, so he promptly began hosing down the area with the extinguisher. With most of the fires now quelled, he stared at the still-glowing object. Holding up his phone-light to it, it looked more like a massive disfigured chunk of metal more than anything. He sighed.

“Seriously, just space junk?“

Several cables sprouted forth from the junk, latching onto his phone. He shrieked, holding deathly tight onto his phone as the cables tugged hard away from him. Using his free arm, he smashed the cables with the extinguisher, causing them to all suddenly recoil back into the heap of metal, and sending him back a few inches. He checked his phone, finding no damage, but the battery deathly low. He sighed in relief, but froze up when he heard the sound of shrieking metal come from the crater. The scrap was now moving, deforming itself like some strange sludge. It began to take on more of a humanoid appearance, the once damaged and scratched metal now smoothing itself. Soon its body shaped itself more and more like a female’s, properly molding legs, arms, hands, fingers, and a visored head. He froze as the machine stood up, a pair of eyes lighting up on its visor. He was completely frozen, thousands of commands to run, fight, or hide constantly bouncing within his brain, until the machine spoke:
“Please, don’t be alarmed. I promise, I won’t hurt you.”

She turned behind her, noticing there were still a few fires silently burning behind her.

“Perhaps you would feel more comfortable if the environment were safer? Please, hand me that fire extinguisher, I can help.” She held out her hand. Fear of what would happen if he didn’t moved Norman’s arm upward, handing the extinguisher to her. The metal of its canister slowly bent and deformed as she absorbed the device into her arm, canister, hose, and all. She turned behind her, reforming her hand into a nozzle as she sprayed down the rest of the area with ease. She turned back to him, returning her hand to normal.

“Much better, yes? Now, do you care for this planet?”
He jolted up his hand. “Excuse me what the FUCK?”
She tilted her head as he sputtered constantly.

“Are you okay? Did I strike you during my entry?”

He stops himself, taking a deep breath. “All right all right ALL RIGHT. Let me just ask something first before you start asking anything: Who are you, and what is going on right now?”

“That is easy. I am an advanced extraterrestrial battle-scout, sent here to gather information on your planet. My probe unfortunately had a malfunction, and I crashed here far from where it landed. When you came along, I automatically detected that cell phone in your hand as a source of power to help jumpstart my system, but however it provided more than I anticipated. It connected me to a global information database known as the internet-”
He held up his hand again. “So you’re an alien, just here to scout, got it, I didn’t need your entire life’s story. So you’re just going to finish up this scouting mission and leave and never bother me again, right?”

She crossed her arms. “It’s only fair that you answer my question first: Do you care for this planet?”

His face grew pale. “I care for living, and by extension that does mean this planet. I would NOT like it taken over or destroyed or whatever you plan on doing with it.”

She nodded. “It is not in my power to decide the fate of your planet, but the rest of my kind would like to see it processed.”
“Oh god…” He stumbled back. “So what, you’re going to kill me now?”
“Not exactly. The crash disconnected me from the rest of my kind, and browsing the internet gave me what you refer to as ‘sentience’. From what I processed, you all seem like a very interesting species to live among, and I wish to do so as well.”
Some color returned to his face. “You can do something about this oncoming invasion then, right?”

“Not alone.”

He felt a large lump form in his throat.

“Judging by how reliant on electronics your world is, it would only be a matter of weeks before we could purge your species from the planet. However, I am an exception to this: I am designed to be protected against any electronic warfare. However, with my connection to my kind severed, I won’t be able to operate as efficiently as any other machines. With a pilot, he could help me operate and react far faster than any others linked to my kind. I have already made the adjustments to my body to accommodate you if you accept to fight with me.”

He once again froze up. “Too much shit happening tonight, somebody help me” was all that he could think of. Staring more at the robot, his mind cleared up: She would effectively change his life forever, but that would mean throwing himself into several near-death scenarios. However, if he chose not to pilot her, she would leave, and likely find somebody else to pilot her.

“Fine, I’ll do it, I’ll help!”

A happy expression appeared on her visor. “Wonderful! Before we start however, what is your name?”

“Oh uh, Norman. Norman Maxson.”
She turned around, the entire back of her body opening up. “Please, step in.”

He slowly stepped forward, carefully sliding his arms inside hers, followed by his legs, chest, and then finally fitting his head in. The suit clamped down all around him, feeling rather cramped, but soon re-adjusted feeling somewhat more comfortable. A HUD appeared in front of him, with a small red dot appearing in the corner of his vision.

“Oh Norman, there’s one last thing. Could you name me? I believe a human name would help me fit in better.”

He rolled his eyes. “A lack of name would be the least of your problems, but fine.” He paused for a few moments. “Mia.”

“Mia? Why that name?”
“I don’t know, the first that came to mind, it sounded cute?”

“What constitutes for things to be cute?”

“Hey, don’t we have some world-saving to do right now?”

He felt Mia clamp a bit tighter around him, and he could move his limbs around freely. He took a few steps around, moved around his arms and hands, trying to move every body part until he gained the hang of it.

“There, you should be set for action. Now as for what you need to do, it is simple. I’ve already marked on your HUD where the rest of the scouting party should be. If you disrupt our scouts, you can delay the invasion until they send another party in around a week of earth-time.”
“That’s awfully convenient now, isn’t it?”
“It’s the price we pay for utmost efficiency. Now, proceed to fly there.”

He thought to himself “Fly?” until he looked down at the Mia’s legs, noticing an assortment of jets jutting out of them. They suddenly lit up to a bright blue as he felt himself elevating up into the air. He looks up, thinking of soaring up into the sky and she obeyed. He did a few flips and tricks, taking in the fact he was actually flying.

“Holy shit, this is so easy!”
“I can assist automatically with most complex maneuvers, so do not worry. Now that you’re used to flying, let us get to work quickly.”

Turning to face the marker, he flew off into the night. He stared down at the dozens of buildings, cars, and people he zoomed on over, excitement slowly building up until a thought rudely interrupted his wonder.

“Hey uh, Mia. Do you have any weapons I can use?”
“Recon drones aren’t armed with anything but tranquilizers and a stealth drive. My stealth drive was unfortunately damaged in the crash, and tranquilizers are useless against robots.”
“All right all right, I can infer that, I’m not stupid.” He stared at Mia’s fist, opening and closing it. “Hopefully you pack enough of a punch to make this just quick and easy.”

As he passed beyond his city’s more urban areas, he approached forested hills, noticing several red outlines highlighted within the forests. Another screen popped up on his visor, zooming in on the outlines, revealing them to be four strange and bulky quadrupedal robots, each with a large eye-like device on the front of them.

“Let’s hope to God this works…”
“Norman, who is humanity’s creator? I read about several theologies but none seem to have any singular answer.”

He stammered. “Now is NOT the time for philosophical bullshit, full speed ahead onto those recon drones!”

He cut all thrust to engines and angled Mia’s leg straight out towards the drones. Crashing straight down and kicking up an explosion of dirt, he landed smack in the center of one of the drones, completely cracking the machine in half.

“Norman, make sure to at least make sure to immobilize them. They can’t be destroyed unless I properly disassemble them.”

The other two drones quickly turned towards her, sprouting a few tubes and launching a few darts. They merely dinked Mia’s armor as Norman charged forward, ripping off the legs of the second bot.

“That was information that I could have used earlier!”
“I’m sorry. I was busy thinking about everything I learned so far, and since they pose no threat to you, the information wasn’t as pertinent.”

The remaining drones still fired darts as Norman rushed forward, picking up one of them and tossing it at the othered, followed by repeatedly kicking them together.

“There, all done. Mission accomplished, right?”

Mia’s back suddenly opened up, ejecting him out.

“Hey, what the hell?”
Her back closed up as she turned towards him. “In order to properly dispose of them, I needed you to be out of me. It would be too dangerous otherwise.”

She walked towards the two drones jammed together, still struggling to try to move. She knelt down and placed her hand on them, slowly watching as they dissolved into a strange molten-looking liquid that she absorbed. He turned to the other drone that he split in half, noticing that despite the devastating amount of damage, that it was still twitching.

“What are these things made out of? How are they still even moving?”

Mia stood up, her armor looking much more polished and sturdy.

“All of us are constructed from living metal. As long as we store a proper amount of energy, we can freely move and operate, and even self-repair if critically damaged. You should have inferred this from me.”
He rolled his eyes. “It’s almost as if you’re totally alien to me or something.”
“Didn’t you say you weren’t stupid?”

“Oh shut up.”

Several minutes passed as Mia slowly dismantled and absorbed the last of the drones, adding on more and more armor to her frame. Finished, and now looking much more imposing with her additions, Norman spoke up.

“All right, so we gotta do this like, once a week and we can avert an invasion, right?”
“That is correct.”

He sighed. “That’s good, at least I can fit in one night of alien-fighting with everything else I’ve got going on-”

“But, because this scout unit was destroyed with no evidence to their whereabouts, the next one they send will be better equipped, and after that perhaps with a proper military escort. You need to make sure to help me prepare for the next unit.”

He sighed. “You shitting me? I don’t have time for any of this, well… Maybe I DO have some time but it’s going to eat into everything else I already have to do. I have a busy life, you know?”

Her eyes lit up. “That can still be excellent for me! I’d love to study you and your life more. Oh yes, the drone units… If you can show me weapons blueprints or designs, I can try to adapt them to my frame. Perhaps that could make our job easier?”

“So just one day to show you loads of guns? Sounds easy enough. Now open back up, I need to get home and get some sleep.”

“Why should I open up? We aren’t in any threatening scenario.”

He paused for a moment. “Well, I do still need to get home. You ARE going to do that for me, right?”
“Yes, I can still bring you home. Though piloting me is unnecessary. I can carry you instead.”
“C-carry me? Are you insane? How high and how fast are you going to fly now? You could drop me and then I’d be history, and then humanity! Come on, just open up, it’ll be easier!”

She shook her head. “I’m sorry, there’s no reason to. Please don’t worry, I’ll hold onto you tightly and fly at a safe speed.” She opened her arms to him.

He groaned, and slowly walked over as she picked him up, flying up into the sky. Although she did fly no faster than the average car below her, he still held onto her feeling his heart about to leap straight out of his throat. What took only minutes felt like an eternity for him as she silently and safely touched down back near the woods.

“This neighborhood is where you live, right? I can stay with you too as well?”

He shakily stepped out of her arms, propping himself onto a tree for support.

“Look…. Ugh… You can’t exactly… Stay inside the house with me…” He coughed a few times before shaking his head. “I mean first, there’s my parents questioning where the robot alien came from. But just follow me, I have SOME place you can stay without being found.”

He shakily pushed himself off the tree, stumbling over but quickly caught him. She continued to walk by him, using herself as a support as they hobbled over to his house. He pulled out his keys and unlocked the doors to the garage, revealing sports equipment, toolboxes, his parents’ car, and various other old boxes. He pulled a stepladder from between one of the shelves and climbed up, grabbing hold of a wire hanging from the roof. With a quick tug, a door from the roof opened, a ladder falling out. He presented it to Mia.

“Up here’s the garage attic. We usually keep REALLY old stuff up there and nobody heads up there anyways.”
She nodded. “Thank you for this place, I’m sure it’ll be of some worth.”

She hovered up into the attic as he shut the door behind him. Letting out one last sigh, he walked back up to his room, slowly lying down in bed. His heart still felt like it was stuck in his throat, yet exhaust from the night eventually overtook him, falling into a deep slumber.

 

“NORMAN, GET UP! YOU’RE GOING TO BE LATE!”

He lurched forward, whipping his head around. His sight first locked onto his frustrated looking mother as he slowly turned down to his watch: 7:45.

Shit he thought internally as he shoved aside his blankets, scrambling to yank clothes from his dresser.

His mother continued to chastise him. “Seriously, I shouldn’t have to wake you up like this.”

“Yeah yeah… I stayed up a bit too late uh… Working.” He slipped a shirt over his head, sighing as he noticed his laptop was left unplugged, all of his papers were even more of a mess on his desk, and his pencil pouch was spilled atop it all. He groaned, carelessly trying to force everything into his bag.

“I at least bagged breakfast for you so you can eat it as you walk. Eat something before you start the day!” She turned around, returning to clean up the kitchen. His heart throbbed as he constantly checked his watch every winking moment, running all the math in his head of how fast he’d have to go to get to school on time. Then a rogue question scrambled his thought process: “Wait, did last night actually happen?” Leaving his belongings behind, he sprinted out the back, quickly unlocking the garage door and yanking open the attic. Climbing up, there he saw Mia’s eyes glowing in the dark. He flicked on the lights, finding her surrounded by several neatly stacked old photo albums. She glanced up from an open one on her lap.

“Hello Norman. Are we ready for a day of learning?”

He hauled himself up to his feet. “First of all, what the HELL are you doing going through all my belongings?”

She stared at the albums surrounding her. “You said nothing here was touched so I thought it would be no issue if I did research on you and your family.”

His eye twitched. “Look, first I’m not some kinda lab rat. I can’t help you right now because I gotta get to school. But when I do, I gotta set some serious guidelines with you!”
She tilted her head. “School? You’re still being educated? Aren’t there more pressing issues than basic education?”
He sighed. “Look, I still need to not get expelled and all. Alien hunting isn’t exactly a good long term career plan. So just, for now, lie low, don’t get caught, and watch my back for any more aliens or whatever. Simple?”

She nodded.

“Good. I’ll see ya after school which…” He glanced at his watch, feeling his heart nearly leap out of his throat. “Oh fuck me…” He slid down the ladder, making a beeline for his room.

 

His sprint towards school was filled with numerous watch-glances mixed with shoving bits of food into his mouth, panting as he pushed through the front doors. It was now 8:05, and the halls were empty and dead silent. A nice change of pace, but at what cost, he thought. Wheezing for breath, he pushed open the door to calculus, most of the class, the teacher included, turning to his arrival. He gave a wry smile to them and the teacher.

“Yeah uh, sorry for being late.”

The teacher returned to his lesson as he slinked into his desk, silently shuffling through his bag to grab a pen and notebook. Most of this class and the following were filled less with proper notes, and more the words “Oh fuck what am I gonna do with Mia” running on constant loop. He had to exert even more mental stress just to snap him out of the loop, only to find he had missed a good chunk of the lesson. By the time lunch came around, his stomach still churned with anxiety and thoughts still raced about Mia. He simply went straight to the library, not even bothering to stop at the cafeteria. He flipped through his textbooks, trying desperately to focus to little avail. The day continued, constantly being called out by teachers and students alike for his lack of attention. The only other thing that knocked him out of his constant trances was the closing bell. The moment it stopped ringing, he threw all of his belongings into his bag, dashing out the door. He blew out the front door and kept sprinting until the school was out of sight. Noticing this over his back, he skidded to a halt, sighing.

“Christ how much worse can this day get…”

He glanced around, realizing he had sprinted into one of the more sketchy neighborhoods around his city.

“I guess I answered my question-”

He felt somebody tap on his back. He whirred around to a man somewhat taller than him holding out a pocket knife.

“All right kid, just hand over your wallet.”

Norman completely locked up, retreating to his mind.

“Shit shit shit, what should I do? Run? But what if he can catch up? Perhaps I can just kick him in the balls and run? But what if he deflects? Oh christ I’m so screwed. I don’t think I fully loaded my wallet though? I’ll just lose my school ID but then I can get it replaced, all right.”

He threw his bag off his back, scrambling to try and find his wallet. When he yanked it out, he noticed the man’s face looked completely dead, slumping over. Norman jumped back, noticing a metallic dart sticking out of the back of his neck.

“Norman, all you all right?”

He yelped as Mia appeared out of thin air, landing right beside the downed mugger.
“Jesus Mia, what the hell are you doing?”

She kneeled down, absorbing the dart out of the man.

“You told me this morning to watch your back, didn’t you?”
He zipped up his bag throwing it over his back.

“I meant more aliens specifically. Now, did you just kill this guy? And since when could you turn invisible?”

“No, he was merely tranquilized. For your second question, I was able to take one of the scout drone’s stealth modules.”

He froze, staring at her for a few seconds. “How long have you been invisible and ‘watching my back’?”

“All day. I do have to say, school seems like an inefficient way of learning. Why do you still go there when the internet exists?”

“First, saying ‘I learned all I know off the internet!’ isn’t very impressive to employers. Anyone can say that. Second, you were STALKING ME?”

“Stalking? I was watching your back for any threat. Not literally, of course.”

“And how much did you… “ He stared at his assailant. “Just stay out of sight and follow me back home. And don’t kill anyone! They could trace it back to you, which would mean back to me, which would mean the end of the world. Got it?”

She nodded, grabbing the man’s knife before flying up into the sky. He sighed, and proceeded to leave the neighborhood.

 

Finishing his sprint, Norman whipped out his keys as he caught sight of home. Behind him, he heard a light clank, whirling around to find Mia. He flinched for a moment, noticing her hand now resembled that of a knife.

“Jesus Mia, what did you do?”

“That man’s weapon, I thought it would be useful for future endeavors. It’s an interestingly primitive design that I was able to make much more effective thanks to adding my own alloy to the blade.”

He froze. “Wait, you can do that with ANY weapon, right? Does that include schematics for the stuff?”
“Yes, as long as I have the proper materials.”

His face brightened. “Hoo, this is gonna make this world saving business a lot easier. My parents shouldn’t be home yet, so I want you to come on in and wait for me. I need to get some things for you.”

He quickly unlocked the door, kicking off his shoes and sprinting in towards his room. Mia slowly followed, peering around. Not too far from the door was a small living room with a TV, couch, and a few armchairs connected right to the kitchen. She closed the door behind her, walking to and taking a seat at the couch. Her weighted form sunk into the fabric, and she stayed motionless as she sunk into the couch more and more. Norman ran towards the room with his laptop in-hand, but paused at the sight.

“What exactly are you doing?”
“Processing comfort. I think I like this…”

He moved himself over and sat right next to her, turning his laptop. On screen was a web browser with multiple tabs open to various guns, explosives, artillery pieces, tank and anti-tank weapons, and swords. She wriggled out of the couch a bit.

“Wouldn’t it be faster if I just finished downloading most of the internet? It would save me research time too.”

As she reached for the computer, he yanked it away.

“Nooooooo no no no. Trust me, you do NOT want to do research on humanity through the internet.”
“Is there a problem? Does it have fallacies?”
“Kinda. The thing about the internet is that it’s home to a lot of horrible shit. If you download it all, it would probably make you think humanity isn’t worth saving.”

She cocked her head. “If humanity is that awful, won’t I learn that through observation?”
He shook his head. “The internet just has a habit of magnifying our worst traits. You can analyze visually fine, right?”

She stared at the schematic for the assault rifle he had brought up for a few moments. She paused for a few moments, holding up her hand as a barrel-like shape protruded from it.

“Hell yeah, now this is going to make dealing with those other bots easy.”

She held up her finger. “One issue. I lack any ammo. The only supplies I have on hand are some fire retardant, the tranquilizers I took from the scouts, and my natural supply of metal. Bullets for these weapons requires gunpowder.”

“What? Come on, you’re alien. Can’t you just propel it some other way? Like with electromagnetic bullshit?”
“I don’t know what electromagnetic bullshit is. If you provide a schematic, I can replicate that for you.”

He groaned. “Nevermind. I’m not exactly old enough to get you gunpowder which we kinda need for ninety-nine percent of weapons that are useful, and I don’t think there’s public stuff available for military grade railguns.”

“If you need me to acquire that data, that should be no issue-”

He held up his hand. “Remember what I said about NOT getting caught by authorities? Hacking the military is a good way to get caught.”

He closed his laptop and sighed. “I guess we’re just going to have to make the most out of knives and swords and whatever else.”

She re-formed the barrel back into a hand. “Norman, may I ask a question about you?”
“Hm? Yeah sure, whatever.”

“When I observed your school, I noticed a majority of the students there were in groups or constantly talking together. You and a few others were outliers to this. Why were you alone?”
He scowled. “Look, I have friends, seriously. I just talk with them every other lunch or whatever.”

“Ah, friends. I read somewhat about bonds humans built, and was intrigued how despite your individuality, you all managed to get along. Why do you have friends?”
“Oh, well my buds, Mike and Andrew, it’s connections. Mike’s father runs a bank, and Andrew has connections with accountants. When I graduate, I can use those connections to get me a good accounting internship. Basically with that experience under my belt, I have a better chance of getting hired, and living a good smooth life as an accountant.”

“So you aren’t friends because of sharing feelings or personal bonds… but because they’re business propositions?”
He shrugged. “Yeah I guess. So?”

“From what I’ve observed and read, I don’t think that’s an actual friendship.”
“Hey, what do you know, you’re the fucking alien here.”

The sound of slightly squeaking brakes and a running engine turning off came from outside.

“Shit!” Norman leapt from the couch and threw the back door open. “Hurry up and slip back up into the attic, my parents are home!”

She vanished into air, carefully pushing past him. He slammed the door shut as he heard the front door open.

“Norman, I’m home!” Called his mother, but he quickly grabbed his laptop and hurried back to his room. He placed it back on his desk, plugging it in as he stared at his loaded backpack for a few moments, then out his window.

“Man, was it really worth getting wrapped up into all of this?”

 

I Became Overpowered in my Favorite MMO

My name? My name will be well known across the land soon. I am Darkedge, the King of Man, Scourge of Demonkind, and once a nobody of the earthly realm. I never was this godlike before. I used to be a skinny pushover. That was, however, until I got sucked into one of my favorite MMOs. A dream for any kid like me, really. Only difference is I still need to eat, drink, and use the bathroom, but those are just minor drawbacks, especially considering what I know. I was somewhat disappointed I was a level one new character, but then I remembered something interesting only level oners like me could do: A good exploitable bug. Normally in this game you can lose a few of your levels to respec any skills, handy if you screw up a build or something. A few users found something rather hilarious, however: If you respec at level one, the game doesn’t know what to do and underflows you to a level feasibly impossible to get in-game. It doesn’t give you any skill points, but with stats that high you can just brute-force anything. The devs banned anyone who attempted this glitch, but in this video game reality, there’s no banhammer here!

With stats this high, I’m pretty sure I can hold a mountain over my head with no sweat. My agility is already so high I can just barely start a jog and zoom on over to wherever I need to be! I don’t really need all of this intelligence since I don’t have any skills to use. Vitality is so high I don’t need to worry about dying, that is, if anything could harm me before I destroy them. My charisma should also make me the most charming man to have ever existed, so I could just tell a king do give me his kingdom and he’d agree! That would be boring, however, and I know exactly how I’m going to make myself appear epic to all these low-leveled losers! I did a bit of grinding in the first area of the game to get a single piece of armor I was looking for: A dark, menacing looking cloak that covered my entire body. My weapon of choice I was going to use for everything? A broken shortsword. It’s gonna be awesome, everyone is gonna be like “Holy crap he killed that demon king with a broken sword he’s the coolest!” It’s an easy one way trip to fame, fortune, and girls!

Stumbling over myself a few times thanks to my speed, it was literally seconds for me to traverse through all of the cheap easy early areas and made my way to the game hub, or in this world, I guess it’s the capital city of the game’s nation called Imperius. What should I rename this city to when they give it to me anyways? I’ll think about that later. I couldn’t reveal my full power to everyone just yet, so I had to be careful not to break into a jog, else my agility would kick in. If I were playing the game, I would just click where you’d want to go and BAM, you’d warp there. Now I gotta walk through all of this boring stuff step by step until I get to the parts that are actually important. But, it’ll allllll be worth it. Finally, I arrived at my destination: The Hunters Guild. Here they put up all sorts of bounties for major demons across the land, along with some story missions as well, but the story doesn’t matter. Walking up to the listing’s board, ugh, I had to browse through various pieces of papers tacked on. Why couldn’t they had made this world with magic listing boards? It’d make it a lot more convenient for me. It only took around thirty seconds of digging, but then I found what I was looking for: A listing for a level ninety archdemon at hell’s crater. I tore it from the board and pushed the doors open to the guild, walking towards the mission desk.

“I’d like to take on this job!”
I slammed the piece of paper on the desk. However, instead of hearing the “Holy Crap!” of amazement I expected, I instead got a “Holy Crap!” of fear as the entire desk shattered, sending thousands of bits of wood flying everywhere. They all bounced off of me harmlessly, but I couldn’t say the same for the man behind the desk. He was kinda… decimated by the blast I caused. The sudden sound of several swords and weapons being drawn caught my ear, and I turned around to seeing several other hunters of varying levels, all ready to slay me.

“Demon!” one of them cried. “No demon shall breach the city walls and come out alive!”
“No, you don’t understand! I’m human, it was an accident-”

One of the hunters charged forth with an unusually large blade. I dodged and gave him a quick punch in the gut to incapacitate him. Unfortunately, he was sent flying out of the room, probably all the way into orbit. The rest of the hunters stared at me dumbfounded, and I’m willing to bet even the ones wearing helmets or masks were just as terrified. This was getting way too out of hand, but then I remembered: My charisma!
“Hunters, please, I am no demon! I am your new champion, the soon to be savior and ruler of this world!”
One of the more intimidating hunters wearing silver armor raised his sword at me.

“A demon god? Possessing a human vessel? The rest of you, this man is no match for any of us, run and alert the emperor, the church, anyone who can help! I will do my best to hold him off, so go!”
“God dammit, I said I’m not a demon lord!” I boomed at the top of my voice, shaking the room around us. The silver knight began barking to the others once more.

“You see? The earth quaked when he took the name of God in vain! Hurry!”

How the hell do you use this charisma stuff anyways? The rest of the hunters fled as the knight began casting several buffs on himself. Damage boosts against demons, defensive boosts, pierce vitality… Uh oh. This armor wasn’t going to do any good and that spell would ignore my vitality defense bonus… I should really get better armor, but I don’t think there’s any good cloaked armor. My thoughts were cut off as the knight lunged at me and managed to get a hit in, tearing away a decent, yet still scary amount of my HP.
“You fiend! Not even the mightiest of demon gods can resist my spells!”

“Dude, your buffs are useless! I’m not a demon!”
He lunged at me once more and I dodged. I had to do something but if I killed this knight I’d never shake this whole demon lord title and never get all the glory and love and fame I wanted… Wait… Demon lord? They have succubi in this game, right? It was a plan harsher than I hoped for, but the title of “Demon Lord” doesn’t seem like one I can get rid of easily. I smiled in the middle of dodging more blows from this knight.

“Ahh yes… You’ve seen through my disguise! I am Darkedge, lord of all demons! Soon, this city shall fall and I shall rule you all!” I laughed as evilly as I could.

“I knew it!” A whole boatload of footsteps was heard right outside of the door. “But you’re a bit too late you beast!”

Several city guards charged in, firing fireballs, lightning, crossbow bolts at me, and if it was a projectile in the game, I’m sure it was being launched at me. Some just barely were able to take off one to two HP at a time, but most were worthless. I can’t believe I forgot all about the game’s defense system for trying to attempt combat in the city, so it’s a good thing I’m invincible. For my first act as Demon Lord Darkedge, I drew my broken sword and swung as hard as I could at one of the guards, coming into contact with some kind of barrier. What the hell? Oh that’s right, guards are invincible… A few spellcasters entered the room as well and began chanting, and before I could even recognize what they were saying, I found myself teleported outside of the city gates. I tried to run back in but crashed head-first into an invisible wall blocking the door. God dammit, there may be no admins here, but all these stupid anti-griefing safeguards… But if I, a player can’t get around these safeguards, surely other demons can! I was hoping to just keep that title and just take title of emperor by force, but now I have to become the literal king of demons.

Moving God knows how many times faster than the speed of sound constantly tripping over myself, I rolled up to the Devil’s Crater, an area that’s supposed to be the end-game raid location, and a supposed portal to hell. Even from the entrance, several demon beasts awaited for me to step in so they could chow down on me, and it gave me an idea as a good show of force to the forces of hell. I sped up to a slight jog and flew through the entrance, smashing through wall after wall of this labyrinth, unintentionally I will admit. I just wanted to agro them and slay this massive army that would be trailing behind me in front of Satan himself, and now I had no clue where I even was in this labyrinth. Then another idea struck my mind: If Hell is in the deepest depths of the earth, then I’ll just dig my way down there with my fists alone! I reared back my fist and punched into the ground, sending a massive shockwave through the earth. Dirt, bricks, and various beasts were sent flying up into the air as I made the Devil’s Crater deeper. Then I kept punching, sending more dirt and rocks and whatever else was buried down here flying out, vaporizing some stuff as well. Punch after punch after punch, I smashed my way deep into the earth until I reached a large chamber, falling down onto a rather elegant looking read carpet. I stared around, noticing I was surrounded by archdemons, and the carpet ran up to a massive golden throne, where Satan himself sat.

“Mortal!” All the archdemons surrounded me at the sound of his voice, ready to attempt to kill me. “You come to my realm knowing exactly what fate awaits you. Tell me why you have done this?”
I stood up, dusting off my long flowing cloak.

“I’m here to show you I’m the true lord of all demons, Darkedge!”
He grinned. “Oh, is that so? How amusing! You really think you hold more power than me?”

“All that you’d have to show is all your finest succubi, and I’m positive you they’d pick me over you!”
He frowned. “Kill this rat.”

All the demons leaped at me simultaneously and all I had to do was whip my sword around as hard as I could. It sent out a shockwave around the entire room, cleaving every single archdemon in half. I sheathed my sword.

“Is that strong enough for you Satan?”

Now Satan himself was staring at me dumbfounded.

“That’s physically impossible for even a mere mortal to do… What on earth are you?”

All of the sudden I was teleported back to the completely decimated entrance of the area with a good amount of loot and gold in my inventory. Then, I realized because I just completed the raid I got teleported back to the beginning automatically. I tried to re-enter the area until once again I was stopped. I remembered you could also only finish a raid once every day. Well, I have no place to stay, no proper towns I can enter, guess I just have to wait and convince satan when the area unlocks. I zoomed out of the area to a lush green field and lied down, preparing for a twenty four hour long sleep.

When I woke up, I saw something funny in the distance. I zoomed uncontrollably over, crashing into and plowing through a massive army of soldiers. Great, they’re here to hunt the great “Demon Lord”. At least these soldiers are vulnerable out here I continued to think to myself as I flew through the air. To the very left of me, something even more funny caught my eye. Demons too? Marching along with humans? And they weren’t fighting each other? I turned in front of me and noticed at the head of the army: Satan and the Emperor personally leading this force. What the hell is going on? I thought a bit more and realized: A great opportunity. They’re out of a safe zone and I can kill both of them right now, and take over the world! I regained my footing, being harmlessly attacked by thousands of swords and pikes and maces as I prepared to leap straight at the two leaders. I leapt, cloak flapping and broken sword in hand, ready to destroy them until I was smacked in the side by a massive stream of demonic fire. I heard screaming among the human crowd: “Anti demon enchantments aren’t working on him, what the hell!”
A familiar voice rang out throughout the entire land: “Try anti-vitality then! I was able to harm him using a combination of the two!”
Uh-oh.

I crashed to the side of the army as the swerved around, trying to keep their leaders protected. The front lines stood firm as the rear began to re-enchant their weapons. It didn’t seem like much of a problem, I could easily stay out of range of them with my speed. Just needed to charge on forward and kill Satan and the Emperor. I tried to jump again until I realized I could only walk at most. Looking down, the land beneath me suddenly turned into swamp. If you haven’t clued in, in-game, swamp terrain prevents jumping and forces you to walk, and it still operates by the same logic here. I look to my left, noticing a few massive demons were belching loads of sludge into the area. The familiar voice spoke up.
“Good, now enchanted pikemen, surround him, give him no exit!”
I tried to work my way toward the only open end of the swamp but soon I was totally surrounded. This was really how I, Darkedge, was going to fall? In a swamp surrounded by generic soldiers? Suddenly a few of the pikemen parted, and the silver knight from earlier worked his way into the swamp, weilding a golden hammer. I guess he wants to be the one who wants to get the title of “Killer of the Demon Lord”.

“With this mighty artifact, we will send you back to the void from whence you came, you beast of man and demon!” He charged at me and swung. I didn’t even bother to dodge. What could he do to me anyways? Maybe when his attempt failed, I could destroy him and demoralize the entire army and get my plan back on track! Then the thing smashed me in the head and I suddenly woke up. Back in my room with my desk, bed, dresser, several scattered cans of soda, and my computer. Was that all a dream? I was frustrated at first, until I read what was on my screen:
“You have been PERMABANNED from all servers.”

Witch Hunt

“We’ve evacuated all civilians within two miles of the witch’s domain, and evacuation will continue until the threat is contained or neutralized. Explosives are authorized, but try not to cause too much collateral damage.”

I gripped tight to my assault rifle, staring down at the floor of the truck.

“The forest roof is too thick for proper aerial surveillance.Along with that, electricity is completely nullified within her influence as well, so you’re all going in blind and isolated. Every ten to twenty minutes, we expect to see a signal flare to see if you’re still alive, fire a green one if you’re retreating. Once the witch is terminated or contained, fire a white flare and we can safely airlift you out.”
I gripped tighter and closed my eyes. Deep breath in, deep breath out.

“We have no information on the target, but judging by the size of the domain she’s already claimed, stay on your toes and be ruthless.”

I jolted forward and bumped into one of my squadmates as the truck ground to a halt. The rear doors flew open, letting in the sunlight and the strong smell of a forest. I jolted to my feet with the rest of my squad, rushing out the back. All of us halted at the same time as well when confronted at the border of the witch’s domain. The two lines of houses were running into a thick forest, houses on the border slowly being consumed by the creep. The asphalt and concrete sheerly cut off to dirt and cobbled paths, and street lamps were slowly being transformed into rusted shells of their former selves. Merely an hour ago, this used to be a prime example of an American suburb, and now it looked like something straight out of one of Grimm’s fairy tales.

“All men, group up over here!” Our superior barked over to us.

We all marched on over to the front of his command trailer as he barked more orders to the lot of us. I still held tightly to my rifle and breathed.

The witches had only begun appearing across the world in a mere few months, and barely any solid information about them was allowed to the public. I was even thrown into this team for countering them, and we still weren’t allowed to know much, other than a sole individual is responsible for all of this overgrowth.

Other than the few bits of cell phone footage I unfortunately caught online of the body parts of police officers being tossed out of domains, The only thing my mind could turn to for information were the rumors that spread following their appearances.

Some said they were invincible and merely needed a large sacrifice to enter hell as one of Satan’s princes, others said their domains were worlds they had total control over. Some say its a Russian bioweapon developed to destabilize us. I’d prefer that explanation, it’d at least give us hope that we could engineer a cure. But as of now, our only hope lies in the guns in our hands and the grenades on our vests.

I looked back up, our superior finally dismissing us. I muttered over to the officer next to me.
“Can you give me the rundown? I… kinda didn’t catch everything.”

He still looked staunchly forward, trying to hide the worry beneath his face.

“We’re allowed to shoot anything that threatens us, save civilians, and record anything unusual that could be used for future operations. Also, don’t get in front of those guys.”

He pointed to two men near the front who were carrying flamethrowers. I looked down at my rifle once more, now beginning to march with my squad  towards the domain.

“All right then… “

As the sixteen of us stepped from asphalt onto forested soil, a sudden breath of relief left my lungs as I didn’t suddenly start decomposing into the soil below me. Our sergeant called out for us to have guns at the ready and to shoot anything that moved and didn’t look human. Raising my rifle, I swallowed a lump in my throat.

Why can’t we all be on the same page of information?

I called back.

“What exactly should we be aware of out here?”

“Shut your mouth and follow orders!”

Just great.

We all took formation, making sure we all had eyes on every side of our position. We slowly began moving, the border very quickly disappearing behind the thick foliage, passing by house after house, almost very literally being consumed by trees growing over them. We began our journey deeper into the forest, through the leaf-littered path overrun with roots.

 

Five, perhaps even ten minutes into our trek, we found zilch. Nothing but more leaves and trees. For a moment, I thought maybe all those reports in the news or videos online were just exaggerations. That was until a strong wind suddenly picked up, kicking up a massive pile of leaves. It blew between our legs and curiously spun up in front of us, twirling around in some kind of vortex. Branches from nearby trees suddenly snapped off, getting sucked in as well.
“Guns at the ready everyone! Flamethrowers, wait on my mark.”

We all took formation encircling the swirl of leaves and branches, fingers on the trigger. The flamethrower men moved in a bit closer. Soon the vortex split into five different masses, each one forming into large, wolf-like beasts with leaves for skin and what I can only assume as sticks for bones. The moment they formed they immediately charged forth, but they should have rethought their strategy of attack. A nice spray of gunfire from each of us very easily shredded through their frail bodies, slamming them to a halt several meters before they could even reach us. It was only temporary however, as every limb we shot off, they merely rebuilt from the surrounding foliage. The beast I was focusing on, I swear I think I blew off his legs and parts of his chest around five times, but he still tried to approach, undeterred. I was ready to back up and try and reposition myself.

“Aim for the head and keep firing till nothing’s left!”
Internally I really wanted to scream “Why?”

But I had no choice. Joining in with the rest of the squad, we aimed for the heads of the beasts, and there was a bit of joy in seeing those headless things finally collapse into the objects they once were. It’s nice knowing we wouldn’t have to totally rely on two people in this entire squad to get work done. With a bit more focused fire from the rest of the squad, all that remained were five awkward piles of sticks and leaves. The sergeant drew his flare gun, firing a red flare into the sky.

“Reload and re-form everyone! Let’s keep going on.”

Knowing the fact that these wolves could pop out literally anywhere was an unnerving thought I seemed to share with the rest of the squad, as we were kinda a mess. Every rustle of the leaves, every crack of a stick, sometimes I swear even at our own bootsteps forced us all to suddenly freeze, swinging our guns to every possible corner to find the origin of the sound. The even bigger nightmare was how slowly we were making way. I’m not sure how deep we had to go to find this witch, maybe the higher-ups knew.

My eyes suddenly caught a shadow move, and my head jolted over, locking on what it was. It was a tree, a dead, leafless one, swaying in the breeze. That was until I noticed that leaved trees beside it weren’t rustling to the supposed breeze.

I screamed and let loose a flurry of bullets as the entire squad whipped around to the insane sight of me firing at a tree. It was thankfully insane for only a moment, as when the rounds pierced right through the bark, the thing suddenly shrieked, uprooting itself to close in on me. The rest of the squad followed my example, letting loose a hellfire of bullets as the thing reached down and swiped at me. I tried to back away, but fell onto my back as one of its razor-sharp branches barely grazed my vest. Despite being riddled with bullet-holes, the thing still continued its advance, and tried to make another swipe towards me. Finding my rifle’s magazine empty, I slung it over to the side, pulled out my pistol, closed my eyes, said a quick prayer to god, and fired every last shot I had. The roaring of flames overtook my ears as I opened my eyes, finding the men with flamethrowers quickly laying waste to the monster. It let out an unearthly roar as it was completely engulfed in fire, very quickly dissolving into a pile of ash. I grabbed my rifle and scrambled to my feet as the sergeant called for a quick headcount.

By the time he verified we were all thankfully still alive, we were all reloaded, but much more on edge. I could feel the thoughts emanating from my squadmates:
“Bullets didn’t do a damn thing!”
“Why don’t we all have flamethrowers?”
“Jesus Christ, killer fuckin trees?”

“This is fucked man, just fire a tomahawk at the bitch causing this problem.”

That last thought is a good one. I don’t care how much property damage it’d cause anyways, anything is better than subjecting us to god knows what’s in here.

We kept moving down the dirt path, keeping an eye out for any dead trees and whatever else could likely slice us up into pieces, reaching a four-way fork in the road. The sergeant silently yelled at us to take point at the front and hold our fire on his mark. Moving to, the rest of us saw quite the beast: A literal fucking dragon. It was taller than the houses around it, head barely poking out of the top of the trees. Its massive body trumped that of the truck we all arrived, with larger wings folded neatly behind it, along with legs like tree trunks as well. The thing blended in with the forest incredibly well too, it’s lower body colored and textured to the trees around it with a leaf-green neck and head. The thing hadn’t noticed us yet, thank God once more. It simply silently watching the skies. Before our sergeant could mention it, a few men brought out their grenade launchers. He merely silently nodded to them, before raising up his arm. We all aimed at different parts of the beast, hoping to god bullets would work on this thing as well.

The sergeant dropped his arm.

“FIRE!”

Once more we let loose a flurry of bullets, grenades, and flames, completely overtaking the body of the dragon. Each grenade struck a different body part: The legs, the stomach, the back, the wings, leaving nasty scorches at worst on the back and legs, blasting a bloody chunk out of its stomach, and lastly blowing off one of its grandiose wings. It leaped back in reaction effortlessly destroying several trees behind it, while letting out a horrifying roar that would cause anybody else to piss their pants. Anybody who was foolish enough to aim at the legs found their rounds to do absolutely nothing, but there was a moment of satisfaction noticing some bullets managed to pierce its stomach, leaving not deep yet bleeding holes in their wake. It was certainly a way to boost morale, knowing that our bullets were doing something to the behemoth. It reared back as the sergeant screamed for us to split up. By the time I had dashed to the side, I barely escaped its ferocious charge, and a few squad mates were swiftly devoured by the thing. Almost as if it knew we were terrified, it chomped them in front of us and spitting out a gory mess onto the forest floor. I felt a horribly sickening sensation, but a rage managed to douse it. The sergeant screamed: “GRENADES, ARMOR PIERCING ROUNDS, AIM FOR THE FUCKERS STOMACH!”

The dragon turned to the orders and let out another deathly roar, but stumbled backwards as another volley of grenades struck it.
Dropping my current magazine, I loaded a new one quickly. I grabbed a grenade from my vest and chucked it as hard as I could, it landing right on top of its back next to its good wing. With another deafening boom, it screeched and backed towards me more. Overcome with rage, I sprinted towards it mindlessly to get a shot at its stomach. Running beneath its legs, I pointed straight up, screaming as I unleashed another volley of shots right at its stomach. The thing recoiled and roared as each bullet punched through its flesh, torrents of its blood splashing on my face. I snapped out of my rage as I realized the thing was stumbling. Whatever adrenaline I had left running through my veins, I used every last ounce of it to sprint out of the way as the beast collapsed to the ground. Not shortly after, its head crashed down, and the sight of its gaping maw that tore apart my squad-mates… I screamed, unloading the last of my magazine into its face.

“Private, stand down!”

I kept firing until the last bullet left my rifle with a distinctive click.

“Private!”
My high on rage wore off, and I realized what situation I was in. I turned to the sergeant.

“What the fuck do you think you’re doing? You put yourself right in the line of fire of us with that stunt of yours earlier, and now this? First of all, I know this is wild shit, but I need you to NOT be stupid like that and throw yourself in the front of the line of fire! We already lost two good men to this forest and I don’t wanna lose any to friendly fucking fire! Second, I don’t care if you have a grudge with this…. Thing in particular! Get ahold of yourself and don’t waste ammo!”

I nodded. “Yes sir!”

I never would have said it, but there was somewhat of a rush to being able to harm that thing. Maybe it was because it gave me that faint amount of hope that we could do something to witches as a whole. He fired a red flare into the air as he called for another headcount.

 

I’m willing to bet most of us were really badly shaken, but I felt a lot more empowered after that at least. We kept moving down the dirt path until we reached the remains of a cul-de-sac. Each of the houses here curiously seemed more intact, yet instead of the recognizable suburban house, many of these, still covered in leaves and vines, had devolved to look more like primitive wood and stone housing.

Our sergeant held up his hand to us all as we were all likely muttering in our minds “What the fuck is going on here?”
“All of you, split up into groups of four. Check each house for any civilians, and bring them out here.”

“Yes sir!”

We all followed orders, following a group of three to the leftmost housing. Taking out a knife and cutting away the foliage, we were able to rather easily push open the door, finding the inside looking just as devolved as the outside. Most of the appliances were being broken down, seemingly by the vines themselves, the stove looked like it was being repurposed into a woodfire one, and all of the furniture looked archaic. We split up once more, searching the few rooms left in this house separately. I pushed my way into the bedroom and I saw a sight more terrifying than the dragon: A family. All of them covered with vines on a king-sized bed. I yelled out to my mates that I found survivors and quickly started cutting them out. By the time I had removed the restraining vines, I found another issue: Each one of them had roots plugged into their heads that connected somewhere outside. The others rushed in, halting at the sight.

“Fuck… What do we do?”

“Keep an eye on them, I’m gonna see if the sergeant knows anything.”

I sprinted out of there, seeing other groups carefully escorting a few other families to the center of the cul-de-sac. My heart felt heavy at the sight. I skidded to a halt in front of the sergeant.

“Sir, we found a family but… They’re like plugged into the trees!”
Right there, I honestly expected to be committed. But he merely sighed.

“Leave them then, we can’t do anything for them.”
“But Sir-”
“You heard me, now get back to searching! Understood?”
“Understood.”

 

Another signal flare was fired out when we finally rounded up the last of the civilians. The sergeant had a group of four others help escort the thirty or fourty civilians out of the forest as the last of us had to stick around and finish our mission. I wish I was lucky enough to be picked, even hoping that my outburst would let me leave early, but I’m sure the sergeant didn’t want to give me what I wanted. When the civilians cleared out, he told us to take formation once more and begin moving off-trail. We obeyed, obviously, passing the devolved houses pushing further into the forest. This time, thanks to me and a few other squadmates, we caught the sight of a few of those dead trees, reducing them to ash before they even had a chance to act. With how all bizarre this shit already is, I’m hoping to God I can get out of this force before a mission two, but if a mission two ever does happen, I want a flamethrower in my hands as well.

Moving further in, the forest grew thicker and thicker. Soon, we had to form a small line in order to squeeze between small cracks the clusters of trees. Even the dead tree monsters grew more and more apparent, and I think I heard one of the men mention he doesn’t think he has enough fuel left for the job. Now I’m praying that I’ll do a mission two if it means we can make it out of this alive. Up ahead behind a grove of trees, I notice a person, and quickly mentioned it to the sergeant. He suddenly froze, turning back to us.

“Guns at the ready everyone. If he’s right, we may have ourselves a witch. Surprise is our only advantage, don’t waste it.”

I quickly changed my magazine to armor piercing, just to be safe.

We moved closer, finding a clearing in the forest leading to a thick grove at the center. Inside the grove was a woman. She had barklike skin, clad with leaves and with abnormally long hair. She had her eyes closed, smiling. What a smug bitch…

“That’s her. Everyone, spread out. On my mark, I want grenadiers to turn that grove into her grave. After that, all of you toss any remaining grenades at her. If somehow she’s still alive, keep firing at her and pray to god, you got that?”
We all silently nodded. He’s resorting to praying to God too now, huh? Looks like he’s at the limit of his information too.

Finally in position, he raised his arm once more. He dropped it swiftly, without even saying a word, but the grenadiers still fired away every last bomb they had. I covered my face from the flames as I felt a multitude of splinters bounce off of my helmet and armor. Without a second thought I pulled the last few grenades off my vest, pulling the pins out and chucking them towards the smoldering mess of smoke and trees. Getting my gun ready smoldering mess, I noticed the sergeant had a look of horror on his face. It took only a few seconds to process why: First, roots shot up from the ground, impaling both of the flamers. They coughed up blood, falling to the ground. We all watched, shocked as a figure cleared away the smoke with a swipe of her hand, bringing in a gust of wind. It was that bitch, her skin looking horribly charred but quickly returning to a healthy look. And she was still smiling? Floating a few feet off the air, she slowly started hovering towards the sergeant.
“WHAT ARE YOU DOING, SHOOT HER!”

The rest of my squadmates burst from the trees, opening fire, but she somehow managed to dodge the flurry, the few bullets that struck her bouncing off of her bark-like skin as if it were nothing. With a deft swipe of her hand, more roots burst from the ground, impaling squadmate after squadmate. Fear had overtaken me long before he gave the order and I retreated into a bush, peering over at the carnage. The sergeant watched with horror as she effortlessly killed the rest of the squad, but I have to give him credit: He wasn’t sergeant for no reason. Ditching his rifle, he drew his knife and charged the witch. It was the bravest fucking thing I saw all day, even made me ashamed for hiding, as he charged forward and tried to stab it into her stomach. Unfortunately, like the bullets, it stopped at impact. She was still smiling, and grabbed him effortlessly by the throat. Tearing off his vest, he tossed him into the center of the grove as ashy roots rose up, restraining him. She still smiled, not even muttering anything as smaller ashy roots extended from the ground, plugging into his head. He began screaming. The screaming wasn’t scary, no, it was WHAT he was screaming: “Shoot me! One of you fucks, kill me! Kill me right now!”

Yeah no way in hell I was gonna attempt to get a shot. If I miss or get a non-fatal blow, I’m fucked. But God knows what the hell she’s doing to him… I had to find a way, and that way came in a familiar smell: Gasoline. I’m not sure if it’d kill the witch, it’d be painful as hell for the sergeant, but if I could toss and ignite one of the flamer tanks atop of him, I doubt he’d last. An insanely cruel thought, but it was my best course of action.

I silently crept towards one of the downed flamethrowers, this sneaking assisted by my sergeant’s screaming, unfortunately, and carefully unhooked it from the hose. She was still smiling as she continued her horrible ritual. Even if this was gonna kill me, I at least want to see that smile wiped off of her fucking face. I threw the thing as hard as I could, smacking right into the back of the witch. She was briefly stunned by the impact, and that was enough time for me to open fire. A few bullets through the tank was all it took and it combusted in a glorious fireball. I’m not sure if the sergeant preferred that method of death, but it had to be better than what she was doing. The screaming didn’t stop, however, but this time it was that fucking witch, this time visibly in pain and that fuckins smile gone. Her bark skin was also charred black and peeling off as the napalm continued to burn her away. It was another miracle from heaven I thought, and I had to take full advantage of it: I opened fire once more, bullets finally piercing right through her skin, leaving spurts of blood in their wake. That joy of finally being able to overcome her stupid magic bark bullshit hit me hard. I emptied my magazine into her, taking in the joy of watching this shit bleed. Soon she collapsed on the ground, still hacking up blood but somehow still bleeding, skin still charred to hell. I threw aside my rifle, drawing my pistol and walked towards her, firing a shot into her head. She finally collapsed to the ground. I spat on her corpse, stamping what remained of her charred head.

I walked over to the sergeant. He was completely roasted, a disgusting sight I caused. I swallowed a bit of puke that tried to push its way up. It was the only way to be sure.

I drew my flare gun from my vest, loading in a white flare, and fired it into the sky.