Editors: Queen of Hearts, Marshy, LamB
V.O Artist: Seraphim
Listen to this Chapter.
I Killed the Immortal
By: Oro Prizyvaushiy
The crypt’s doors didn’t even get close to me. I could clearly see the brown-haired guy who tried to crawl towards the exit but ran out of time in the moonlight. The blond guy, however, was harder to see, since he laid a bit farther away. I was probably only able to recognize him due to his outline. Nevertheless, the bloodstains that hadn’t yet clotted glistened under the moonlight, making picturesque scenery.
And, of course, there was me in all my glory. The blood was dripping from the crowbar in my hand; my body was covered in it, too. My half-decayed clothes made me either look like undead or a crazy maniac who escaped from an asylum. My first half-hour in the homeworld was way different than what I had imagined.
The man under the tree was looking at it all with a silent grin. His shadowed figure was not very visible, but somehow I could see that grin in detail. It looked like he was unfazed by what he had seen… it might’ve even amused him.
“Demon,” I stated, coming out into the light.
He looked perfectly human; there were no horns, no tail, no hellfire in his eyes. But I was not that blind to mistake a demon for a human. His habits and manner of speech clearly gave him away.
“Oh!” The demon briefly raised his eyebrow without moving. “You really learned something from Vissarion.”
I was staring at him indifferently. After this evening’s events, I only wanted a few things—to get away from here, to get some rest, and to search for new information. Talking to demons at the cemetery near the bodies of the assholes—which I had murdered—wasn’t on my list. I gripped the crowbar tighter.
“Get to the point.”
Demons can be divided into two different types: those who try to kill you and those who try to tempt you. This one looked more like the second type—someone’s messenger, probably. But I shouldn’t let my guards down. Sometimes, those demons will actually turn out to be the first types.
“You are in such a hurry as if you actually have a reason to be so.” The demon moved with his arms crossed on his chest. It started to annoy me.
“And you act as if I came to you, and not vice versa.” I retorted, pulling the thing that used to be my shirt off my body and wiping off the stickiest bloodstains with the dilapidated cloth.
The demon shrugged.
“How do you like my gift?”
“Gift?” I raised an eyebrow.
“I thought that I’d have to step in. I was going to come inside, tell you who they are and what their fathers did… and maybe even help you kill them. But you successfully did all of that on your own.”
“I succeeded,” I nodded. “But why should I believe that it was your gift?”
“It wasn’t hard to lead them here,” the demon stated. “I told them that, supposedly, there was some powerful artifact in Sergey Gottfried’s grave and that it could only be acquired especially tonight…”
“You don’t understand the question,” I interrupted him. “Why would you even give me a gift in the first place?”
“Oh, that.” My interlocutor lightly chuckled. “You see… I need your help.”
Oh, of course, you do. I knew for sure that you wouldn’t tell me what exactly you want from me.
“I came to you, but there will be others who will come for you,” he continued. “You broke our deal, and such things are not forgiven. Plus… do you remember about the services we did for your master? When he was alive, no one collected debts from him just because no one dared to. But now, the time to pay those off has come. Many will want… to grab their share.”
Well, those were not exactly… contracts. Traditional beliefs said that Vissarion never made deals with demons. He just used them—only because he could and wanted to.
“Well, let them take it,” I remarked. “What do I have to do with it?”
“When they come for it, they will go after you,” my interlocutor was still smirking as if we were talking about something very funny. “My kinsmen.”
“I do not have Vissarion’s soul,” I answered. “Even if I knew where it was, I wouldn’t lift a finger to save it.”
I was telling the truth. After the things, I’ve seen in the homeworld… I have resented the one who tore me out of my home and made me his student and assassin without asking for any consent. But now, this feeling has tripled.
Still, these words were said to provoke a response. Things weren’t as simple; I could feel it. Otherwise… the demon wouldn’t have come to me, right?
“You are wrong, Arthur,” he shook his head. “Oh, how wrong you are. Vissarion’s soul is stronger than you think, and you are his student. Even if you don’t know where it is… do you really think that it will bother any of those who will come to collect the debt?”
Hmm. I could’ve guessed that. ‘Kill me, kill me.’ I have never doubted for even a second that something would happen after Vissarion’s death, that one of his plans would come into effect. However, I still hoped—or wanted to hope—that I would not be a part of that plan.
Those hopes were crushed. I didn’t even try to convince myself by saying that the demon could lie, that demons always lie and are, by definition, liars…
Bullshit. Demons don’t always lie; they only do so when it is beneficial for them.
Truths, just like lies, could be a powerful weapon, and they would use it—just like now.
“And I suppose that,” I grimaced, “Now, you will offer me your humble help to solve all my problems. In exchange for my soul or something like that, right?”
“Help?” The demon laughed. “You think I can stop those who will come for their unpaid debt? As I said, I need help myself. You see… we have common enemies, Arthur. I am… a little at odds with my kinsmen who plan to come here…”
He finally moved away from the tree and stepped forward.
“No. You will have to deal with them yourself—just like how you will deal with the Vissarion’s soul that will awaken and start to claim your body. I’ve come to bargain about a couple of services and may help—a goodwill gesture—will be much more humble. I will give you pants.”
And he actually handed me trousers, as well as a T-shirt and sneakers.
“Sorry, I didn’t grab a towel—it was hard to expect that you would’ve already killed those two in the first few minutes,” he added. “But I can offer you my handkerchief.”
“Don’t need it,” I grinned crookedly, taking the clothes.
Of course, I could have taken clothes from one of the deceased, but… it would be a vile deed. Especially when the bodies were covered in blood. However, these clothes could serve as a clue… In short, it was just easier to take them.
“So, a couple of services,” I repeated after putting on the sneakers.
They fit perfectly on me, just like the clothes. I wonder what else this dude knew about me.
“Of course, I didn’t come just to bring you pants,” he nodded. “And I am surely not an altruist. I have my own interest in this… But for now, you should just know about the hunt placed on you and that you have to survive.”
I could easily believe this. Cunning plans, intricate schemes… I had firsthand experience with it all.
“However,” my new acquaintance smiled, “I would like to discuss one more point… separately.”
I looked at him without any happiness in my eyes. I shrugged, and he probably took that as a “yes.”
“So, Arthur. How many times have you been in the Fog?”
The Fog. Damn, I almost forgot about that.
The Fog covered one and a half percent of the earth’s surface. Although this number might sound small, it’s actually a huge area. And that percentage was from twenty years ago. I have no idea what it has now become.
The Fog didn’t have a clear beginning or a clear end; it wasn’t a magical portal that you could step in and end up on the other side. No, as a matter of fact, the Fog was the Other Side, which was slowly taking over our world. It was seeping in steadily, sneaking like a hired assassin.
Customary distances and shapes did not exist in the Fog; Euclidean geometry was just a flimsy convention there. As if… between point A and point B, in a mere distance of half a kilometer, someone inserted a whole area that was unpredictable, unexplored, and dangerous.
If you go through it, then sooner or later, you would come to point B, as it should be. That is if you lived through it.
And, of course, not only could people enter the Fog, but its inhabitants were constantly trying to get out. Sometimes it was just single monsters, while other times, they came in swarms. Shortly before I left, the Fog had taken over a densely populated city in India—a few thousands large, bull-sized spiders just covered everything with webs as thick as a rope.
“Thrice,” I nodded to the demon. “I’ve been in the Fog three times.”
Twice—intentionally, with a big group. Once—accidentally, when the new area opened; that time, I barely got out.
“What do you think?” He was looking closely at me with that unaltered demonic smile, “How many percent of the planet’s surface has the Fog now covered?”
I shrugged. I had no idea, but it was obvious from the question that it was a lot. In my time, the Fog had been something relatively new that had been around for two or three years, but it had been a source of big problems even then. The incident in India… had been more of a rarity than a repeating scenario. Still, its daily manifestations had been even more troublesome.
“Around… six percent? Maybe seven?” I guessed. If the number was smaller than that, he wouldn’t even ask that question.
“Not even close,” the demon smirked. “It’s thirty-two percent of the Earth’s surface.”
No matter how hard I tried to stay cool, my eyebrows raised by themselves. So, while I was doing whatever I was doing in the other world… a third of my world turned into a lifeless wasteland inhabited by otherworldly beasts?
“But there is good news too,” the demon was looking at me without taking his eyes off. “It’s not spreading anymore.”
People found a way to stop it? Yeah, that’s good, but here’s the real question—how much did they lose in the process?
Thirty-two percent, a third of the planet… It was hard for me to imagine… all of the territories that have been wiped off the face of the earth after getting swallowed by the Fog. Cities, roads, houses, works of art… people… their lives…
All of this probably didn’t happen fast, but I already felt that I had missed a lot.
“And most importantly,” my interlocutor added. “People now not only know what’s inside of it but also actively go there.”
“Twenty years ago, we’d also been in the Fog,” I shrugged.
“Twenty years ago, you were wandering along its edge without trying to go further, but you’ll be surprised to find out what’s hidden in the deep,” the demon laughed. “It so happens that ‘wandering in the Fog’ is not just a pretty metaphor for searching, but also a very profitable occupation.”
I looked around. The cemetery was located at the top of the hill, where you could clearly see the city spread out below. It was brimming with lights in the surrounding darkness like a Christmas tree… It looked like it had become taller. Much taller.
Some buildings, however, stood out even against such a background. For example, a skyscraper in the shape of a black arrow, tapering towards the top—unusual architecture. I wonder what was located there.
The city has changed. I couldn’t see the details now, but it was clear two decades hadn’t come and gone without anything to show for it. It was as if I was looking at an old acquaintance, recognizing and not recognizing him simultaneously, reviving the long-forgotten memories. But still, it didn’t look destroyed or devastated. It was an ordinary city in an ordinary world.
“I know what you’re thinking about,” the demon chuckled. “All more or less large cities are protected from the Fog. The small ones… well, there are fewer and fewer of them. If they still exist somewhere, they are just relics of a past era.”
“Wait,” I stopped him by stretching out my palm forward. “Let me gather my thoughts together.”
I needed to think for a while… to put everything I had on hand together.
So, I came back after twenty years. My family was destroyed, my relatives were dead, and those who did it were exceptional bastards. The Fog had taken over a significant part of the world and probably made life harder for the other part. My source of magic was almost empty; I don’t have a place to go—no home, no money. Friends…
Maybe some of my old friends were still alive. But could I still call those with whom I haven’t been in contact for twenty years ‘friends’? Can I come to the—young, not having aged for a single day—and say that I did not die at all?
No, maybe, some of them would help me. But too much has changed. Even the world around me was not the same as the one I left. They may not remember me… or they may not want to remember me. So, I really was alone.
I used to have a fiancée. I had friends… Who of them was now dead? And who was still alive after aging for two decades? How was their fate?
These were my problems—the main of them. Regarding the plans… well, I had some of them. Most of them could be summed up to, “Make up for lost time and take what was mine.”
Of course, I would have to start from scratch. From rags to riches, as they say. Name, connection, resources—I had none of that. But to come to terms with the losses and start a peaceful life… was not for me. I don’t think I would even be able to handle that—considering Vissarion’s soul was inside me, and the demons’ hunt for that very soul.
The demon offers‘ pants.’ For this little help, he didn’t demand anything. He was cunning. He understood what I needed most. In fact, he just offered a sip of water to a person dying of thirst.
“Go on,” I nodded. “What does the Fog have to do with your offer?”
“The offer is simple,” the demon was patiently waiting for me to continue our conversation and started talking as if I hadn’t gone silent for five minutes. “I will help you get used to the Fog in its new form. I will also help you become a successful Wanderer.”
“You don’t think the Wanderers still go there with the same technique used twenty years ago—by touch—do you? Now, maps are made, auxiliary interfaces are created, and so on. You don’t have any of that.” He continued as I was listening intently. I could use the new information about the world anyway.
“The choice is quite simple,” the demon continued. “You either live like a rat that has nothing, always hiding and lingering in the mud… or,” he smiled even wider, “you accept my conditions and get everything you want in this world.”
“Conditions,” I repeated. “For someone who wants to make a fair deal, you say too little about them. Or rather, you haven’t said anything—as if you want to skip them quickly.”
“No souls, no eternal tortures,” the demon was still speaking in a cheerful, relaxed tone, like during a small talk over a bottle of beer. “One girl went to the Fog and didn’t come back. You will go there, find her and bring her to me. A small service, in return for which I will provide you with all necessary information and help you navigate in the Fog…”
“A small service,” I gloomily looked at him. “It’s like finding a needle in a haystack without knowing who that girl is and why you need her… Are you offering me to settle for a pig in a poke?”
“Well, let’s be honest,” the demon spread his hands. “Do you have any better options?”
“Yes,” I nodded. “For example, just refuse all your offers.”
“Great idea,” he agreed, cheerfully smiling. “You have nothing and your enemies have everything. How much time do you think it would take to rise above a homeless person?”
I turned around and looked at the corpses behind me. The smell of blood, pungent and metallic, was almost not there anymore.
“Fine,” I slowly pronounced, looking into the demon’s eyes. “I don’t like to admit it, but you’re right—I really don’t have anything. So, search for that one girl in exchange for information and help with getting settled?”
Then, I took a step towards the demon, my right hand stretched out for a handshake, the left firmly holding the crowbar.
“That’s wonderful,” he stretched out his hand and smiled with restraint. Apparently, he managed to restrain the triumph from the fact that his interlocutor agreed. “Then let’s not waste any time. There is a lot of information that you need to learn before your first expedition to the Fog. Today, being a Wanderer is a prestigious profession. If you intend to become one of them…”
The handshake was taking an uncomfortably long time. I clenched my hand tighter and widely grinned. The demon’s gaze grew a little puzzled.
Another second of his confusion and his knee gets struck by the crowbar. A strange, dull sound of metal hitting flesh. Crunch. And then, during his fall—a blow right to the neck.
No, he didn’t die instantly. Sprawled on the ground, he continued to look at me with confusion, as if he still could not understand how that happened.
The smile disappeared from my face.
“Sorry, but I don’t make deals with demons or bastards.”