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Azo
Sep 12, 2022
In Short Stories
Word Count: 1,295 Created for the Tropetember Event – Noble Demon … The demon king’s throne room is a cavernous hall of sleek black stone that glints like an oil spill in the spirit fire that drift lethargically across the high ceiling. The only decorations are massive pillars, the middle carved into great heroic figures, so mocking perfect and strong, heads high, swords raised, armour practically gleaming. Totelos does like a good joke, after all. When the heavy double doors are slammed open, the great bang resounds through the entire hall and it’s really incredibly satisfying. Totelos does it at every opportunity, mainly to scare his minions. This time when the doors open, it’s only the left one, and it’s pushed open a bit to let a figure step through before it slowly levers closed by itself with a thunk. The summoned hero enters with his sword still sheathed, his party members missing. Totelos’ ready smile wavers but firms up into something more like baring teeth. He holds his pose, legs crossed at the knee upon his throne of bleached bones on the raised dais. “I’m sorry, would you like to try that again, Riccardo?” The princess he stole is chained to the throne, very dramatically ragged and bloodied from a fight Totelos was half-assing, the steel collar around her neck weighing heavily since she snapped the nice delicate gold one, because gods forbid she co-operate for once in her life. She sees her hero and lurches forward where she’d been pacing around the throne like a caged tiger, occasionally taking potshots at the demon king whenever she thought he was distracted. “Riccardo! You shouldn’t have come, I could have escaped myself.” Totelos rolls his eyes. “Let Samia go,” the hero says evenly as he walks down the long room, boots thunking on the black floor. Totelos laughs. “If you want to save your precious-“ “You don’t even like her,” Riccardo cuts in, annoyed. “Neither of you could stand each other for long. Just – we need to talk.” Totelos grits his teeth and then forces a smile back on his face. “Where is my surprise, hero? Where is my rage and betrayal? I’ve been travelling with you for a year in disguise, and you come to defeat me, and I get a ‘we need to talk’?!” Riccardo stops at the bottom steps of the dais and just looks up at him. “You stopped bothering to pretend, at the end there. Wasn’t much of a surprise.” He shakes his head. “Let Samia go.” Totelos yanks his hand up in a sharp motion and the chain dissolves into dust. Samia lurches forward, sprinting down the steps and scrambling at the hero, drawing his second short sword with a scrape of metal against the scabbard. Samia turns on the demon king, falling into a ready stance. “Good work. Now call in the others and we can finally finish this,” she snarls. “You are just the worst princess,” Totelos complains, rubbing his forehead. “I really should have taken Gwenn. Riccardo, why couldn’t you have been better friends with Gwenn, then I wouldn’t need this?” He gestures vaguely at the local princess. “I still would have come to kill you anyway,” Samia snaps. Riccardo puts a hand on Samia’s shoulder. “The others are waiting outside the castle. Go get healed up. Your father is frantic.” Samia darts a glance to Riccardo, expression softening. “You don’t have to do this alone. I’ve trained for this too.” “Can we get to the fighting yet?” Totelos drawls, slumped in his throne. “I was summoned here for this,” Riccardo tells Samia with a wry smile. “I think the church would be upset if you stole my glory.” He leans in and lowers his voice, eyes earnest. “Please, go get healed, I know you’re in pain.” “He only got a few shots in,” Samia mutters. She hesitates but hands the sword back. “Keep it, there are still demons wandering around,” Riccardo explains and gives her a gentle push towards the doors. Samia scowls at Totelos all the way to the door. At least she slams it though. Totelos bounces his hanging foot, frowning down at Riccardo. “You’re not here for a fight, are you?” “What did you except to happen?” Riccardo throws up his hands. “Really, you become my friend and then you -what- think I can still do this?” “That’s why I had a hostage,” Totelos snaps, rearing up and uncrossing his legs so his boot thumps down. “I wasn’t expecting you to be upset and then cry about it, I was expecting betrayal and anger!” “What is Samia compared to you?” Riccardo admits. “You were the only one I could really trust. The only one who would put me first. You had no motive except to help me get stronger.” “And now you have no one,” Totelos sneers. “That was genuine fear in your eyes when I was hit with that spear.” Riccardo slowly paces up the steps of the dais. “You panicked. You killed all those people, an entire city, because they almost killed me.” “I would have murdered them eventually anyway, I’ll slaughter all the humans,” Totelos argues. “If you died – do you know how long it takes the church to summon another hero? Another three fucking centuries of boredom in this wasteland with demons no better than animals wandering around as the only thing to entertain myself with?” His mouth snaps shut with a click of teeth. “What is your point?” Riccardo stops in front of the throne. And then he just sits down on the top step, staring out into the massive hall filled with all the other heroes that came to defeat the demon king. Totelos lunges out of the throne towards Riccardo’s back, a blade of shadow swinging through the air so fast it sings. “Is that meant to be Chanwook?” Riccardo asks, pointing at a nearby statue. Totelos stands, hand gripping the handle so hard his knuckles have turned white, the blade kissing the skin of Riccardo’s neck. “Don’t disappoint me. Not you. I put so much effort into you. You were going to be the strongest of them all.” Riccardo looks over a shoulder and the blade draws a clean line across his neck when he turns into it. It soon beads with blood and starts to drip, soaking his collar. “You did this to yourself, Apolytus.” “My name is Totelos,” he hisses, slashing the sword away and it splatters droplets of blood on the ground. “I am the eighth ruler of demonkind, son of Ruperta the Flame, the prophesised demon king to end this world in fire - but quite frankly I’ll choose whatever fucking manner I see fit.” The sword gushes into black steam and swells, grows into a broadsword with teeth, rattling scales, jutting spikes of bone and ore. “Why won’t you fight me?!” And Riccardo, he just asks, “What have you done that’s so terribly worse than any other ruler in this world’s history?” Totelos stares. “I’m the demon king.” “I try not to be racist,” Riccardo huffs out a pathetic laugh. “Everything was so simple at first.” “I made it simple,” Totelos retorts but the sword wisps away back into shadow. His hand falls back to his side. “You’re the one who made it complicated. Save the princess, kill the monster - no, you couldn’t leave it at that.” “Was it bad?” Riccardo murmurs. “Was it boring travelling with me?” “I just want to fight you,” Totelos admits. “We can spar.” “Don’t humour me like I’m a child.” Riccardo purses his lips. “I was thinking we could go Naslo next. A few weeks by boat, fight some monsters over there. They have dragons, I heard. You like dragons.” “Their dragons are pathetic,” Totelos mutters. He stumbles back until his legs hit the throne and he sits heavily. “Frinei has better ones.” “Where’s that?” “I don’t know. North-ish?”
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Azo
Sep 05, 2022
In Short Stories
Word Count: 1095 Warnings: Language, threats of arson, sex jokes lmao Created for the Tropetember Event - Pining . "I need you to sit him down and ask if he's gay," Stavros says seriously, hand on Rafael's shoulder. "You already know he's bi," Rafael complains. "He's literally your best friend. You knew before I knew." "Then why doesn't he like me?" Stavros groans, lurching back and into the wall of the school hallway. "I'm the most attractive person on this planet! I'm smart -when I want to be- and I'm funny! He loves funny people! Stupid Rebecca knows like three puns she repeats, and I can't believe he fell for that." "Maybe it's your personality," Rafael deadpans and takes the shove, swaying around until he stabilises. "Look, he's kind of dumb. I really think it's just you need to tell him to his face-" "I have begged on my knees to suck his dick!" "-and don't make it sound like a joke! Obviously he's going to joke back!" Rafael throws up his arms. "You're dumb! You're both dumb! Be dumb together!" "What dumb things are we doing?" Nicholas asks excitedly, slipping out of the classroom and throwing his crumpled detention slip on the floor. "By the way, sir gave me detention as if I'm actually going to go, isn't that cute?" "He's new, he'll learn soon enough," Stavros tsks, slinging an arm around Nicholas' shoulders. "So how gay are you feeling right now?" "Gay enough for a threesome!" Nicholas cheers, grabbing Rafael's hand and dragging him along too. "Let's go bang in the principal's office and then set shit on fire!" Stavros wheezes. "I love you so much." "Love you too, babe!" The four of them arrive late to lunch and sit at one of the tables close to the doors. The other students are about done eating so the chatter is louder than ever, though there is a wide berth around a couple of teachers who eat at a small table on the far end. Nicholas is nibbling on fruit because he's not too hungry, Rafael and Stavros on either side, and all of them are too concentrated on eating right now to keep a conversation going. Nicholas plucks another grape and pops it into his mouth as he looks around. He kicks Stavros under the table. "Think I can get one into the teacher’s cup?" Nicholas plucks another grape. "Bet?" Stavros asks. "Suck my dick," Nicholas crows and launches the grape. He's sitting down and basically has his back to the rest of the cafeteria so he's really not expecting the grape to fly across, over heads and under rafters, just about to land in Ms Connell’s plate until Connell picks up her glass to take a drink AND NICHOLAS LANDS IT! The cafeteria stutters to a hush because Nicholas is just screaming hysterically at the top of his lungs and Stavros leaps to his feet with his arms flying up into the air. "That was the greatest thing I've ever seen!" Stavros yells. Nicholas wheezes, hunching forward over the table. "I'm so bloody brilliant I even scare myself." "My beautiful champion!" Stavros crows, grabbing Nicholas by the shoulders and shaking him. "My sweet summer prince!" "I've peaked," Nicholas sobs, flopping back and forth with the shaking. "This is it, it's all downhill from here. Just kill me so I don't live the rest of my life in fucking disappointment." "Why is there a grape in my water?" Connell asks in confusion and the hall is quiet enough that a majority of the confused students slowly start to understand. "I saw it!" cries an excitable little year seven. "I saw the whole thing, it flew right in!" Cheering bursts out from the others in Nicholas’ year as a few friends scattered around jokingly give Nicholas a standing ovation for the shot. Stavros falls back down into his seat and crushes Nicholas to his chest but it's an awkward pull and they end up almost headbutting each other. The massive spike of elation still swelling up in both of them is enough to cause Stavros to tilt his head just a bit more and they're kissing - and Nicholas is kissing back because he feels good and he wants to feel even better and holy fuck did you see that shot?! "Huh," Rafael says as Nicholas and Stavros start snogging in front of him. Rafael looks between the two because...are they going to stop? Is Nicholas going to pretend it was a joke or is he really into this? Not that these two idiots haven’t played gay chicken before. The two start really getting into it though, Nicholas clutching at Stavros' hair and Stavros with one hand around Nicholas' waist and the other hooked under his knee to try and drag Nicholas up and onto his lap. No one else cares about the kissing, half the school thinks those two are already in a relationship with all the dumb jokes. They separate only after the manic snogging calms down into soft, slow kisses that linger. Nicholas’ glasses are crooked and he’s half on Stavros’ lap. He blinks at Stavros who only stares back, their arms still resting around each other. "Was that weird?" Nicholas asks idly. "Because we're soulmates and all." "Most soulmates are romantic," Stavros muses. "So aren't you contradicting yourself?" "No, but we're the kind of soulmates that were split in half at birth instead of being a perfect match, you know? So if you're an extension of me, then isn't this just jerking myself off?" Stavros cracks up laughing which sets off Nicholas too. Rafael raises an eyebrow at them both. "That wasn't the stupidest conversation I've ever heard but it's top twenty." "You'll be my everything until the day I die," Stavros whispers, still a bit breathless from the laughter. "Why wouldn't I want to do this with you too? Why would I ever hold myself back from loving you in every way there is?" "Bro, that's so romantic," Nicholas gushes. "I'm being so fucking genuine right now, please don't shrug me off or I'll ugly cry all over you." Nicholas pauses, hesitates. "You make a good point." "Yeah?" "Yeah." "Any arguments?" Stavros makes sure. "None that I can think of?" Nicholas admits. "I feel like I should have one, but...nothing is coming to mind?” Nicholas leans back, trying to think. "We good to go then?" Stavros insists, still clinging to Nicholas' jumper. "Yes? Yes, sure." Nicholas shrugs. "Damn, I actually can't think of a reason we shouldn't, that's - fuck, alright. Well, bound to happen sometime." "You really just roll with the punches, don't you?" Rafael muses.
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Azo
Sep 02, 2022
In Short Stories
Title: As Sickness Blooms Word Count: 1700 Created for the Tropetember Event - Gaia’s Lament . "Ground." The elevator closes up behind her and Jade flicks her fingers to turn the glass transparent as it shoots down from her office floor, sliding down the outside of the amber-tinted building. The windows have absorbed the light of the artificial sun seeping over the sky, turning the amber brighter with stored power. The elevator's view of sleek towers in beautiful rainbow hues of glass is interrupted by her neatly dressed reflection. Jade huffs and untucks her blouse, hikes up the pencil skirt to make it easier to move in and swings her purse over a shoulder. The meeting wasn't that bad, but she still has adrenaline from the presentation - or too many caffeine rings. She's definitely working from home tomorrow. The elevator hits the ground floor and the sides fold back completely. Jade steps off, short heels clicking as she strides across the road currently showing massive artwork of a pastel woman contrasted strongly with hair made of iron deposits. The art flutters her rust-coloured lashes, lips parting, and turns her head. The hair cracks, crumbles and reforms in staggered towers. Jade waves off a private carriage that slows to a hover over her, and it shoots off again soundlessly. She turns a corner and the next artwork fades off to a pure white with dancing, spinning colours, pulsing in rhythm to her click-steps. Jade snaps her fingers and does a shoulder wiggle, the starbursts shaking it with her. She steps onto the outlined platform in soft purple. Two others are there: one tapping idly away on the screen they’ve thrown up on the side of the building nearby, another wearing blackout glasses for whatever they're watching. Both have slim earcuffs on to provide audio. The tram pulls up in a few seconds just as a fourth joins their small group. The sides open up to reveal seats that people step out of, most wearing the glasses. One closed panel is currently advertising boxy shoes in hot pink that Jade bought last week. "I don't need another pair," Jade quietly hisses at it. It turns into spiked heels in sunset orange. Jade bites her lip, tempted, but by then the other three people standing at the stop have entered through the open front of the tram. Jade steps in next and walks down the aisle, steady even as the tram closes again and shoots straight up, gliding down the street a couple stories above the sprawling art. They must have upgraded the tech recently because she doesn't even feel a hint of momentum. Most of the aisle is walled off, the seats filled, but the tram wouldn't have stopped if she had to stand. She finds a single seat, a comfortable armchair facing the aisle that she falls into. The entire structure turns to face the tram side, to block her off from the rest of the passengers. She taps twice on her lap, a screen lighting up over the skirt on her thigh. She picks her stop on the list of them and sends a kissy face to Hein. A flick of her wrist dismisses the screen, and she looks out of the one-way glass just in time to watch the tram run through a series of yawning peepholes cut out of the buildings, a dizzying blur of colour. That's always her favourite part. Jade searches through her purse and lifts out a small plastic package. A small popup on the window informs her that she can press the down arrow to check her hormone levels before she uses the ring. She raises an eyebrow at it and the popup sheepishly disappears. Ripping a corner dissolves the wrapping into nothing and a ring falls into her waiting palms in marbled grey. She slides it onto a finger and the GABA hits immediately, relaxing her muscles and she flows with it, going limp with a sigh. A cat-mod exclamation mark appears, the little tail swaying and ears twitching, and Jade looks at it for two beats to open the message. It’s a kissy face from Hien. Jade smiles. Another popup, looking like a cute tram this time, comes when her stop is next, and soon after the glass slides open. Jade steps out and the chair turns to reset behind her, going through a sterilisation before the next person uses it. The artwork here is a long, trailing snake in dots and dashes, boldly organic. Jade follows it around the corner and looks up at the huge monument of water flowing through a complicated set of gravity pipes that loop in concentric circles. Not a drop of water lands on her as she passes under it to the elevator of her apartment door. The building is a soft grey and the walls glow softly as the elevator opens up. A line of brighter lights flares up to guide her to her apartment. "Really, honey?" Jade sighs as she follows it. "I take a wrong turn once and you mock me for the next week?" The line dims but is still present. It changes to a soft orange to make her happier. Jade passes through the hallway of identical doors up until the blank wall comes and with a flick of her wrist, the glass turns clear, showing the gaping peephole with a fantastic view of the water feature. Her old apartment was bigger, but she agreed to move into Hein's because she’s a bit old fashioned; likes the view more when it’s not AI generated. A hint of muted green and Jade stops. Turns back. She looks down, at the bottom corner of the floor. A slight crack through the thick glass that wouldn't have shown unless she made it clear like this. A budding leaf off a white tail, miniscule, damp from the water of small droplets shot off the fountain’s faulty gravity pipes. Barely geminated. Inside. She's breathing it in. Jade's fingers twitch and a popup appears saying that her stress levels spiked, and asks if she would like some assistance. Jade stares at the greenery as the popup counts down from 5- 4 3 2 "I'm fine," Jade rasps. "Dismiss." The popup stops counting down but stays up on the glass. Jade takes a shaky breath and turns, follows the line with a stagger, that turns into swift walk, heels clicking sharply. Jade takes the last corner and slams a palm on the wall, the door sliding open after it verifies her. Jade kicks off her shoes on the way in, throws down her purse and half sprints into the living room. "Jade-" Hien begins, standing up from the couch with the wall lit up on the opening scene, ready to play Jade’s favourite sci-fi series. "Pack a bag!" Jade cries, skidding past and into her room. "Clothes, food, just the basics. We need to go!" Hien follows her in, watching wide-eyed as Jade hauls out luggage and starts throwing things inside. "What's wrong?" Hien laughs nervously. "I mean I know you were worried, but I'm sure the presentation went fine." "I saw-" Jade cuts herself off and shoves a pair of shoes in. "Just, please, I'll tell you later. Pack the food, we need to get out of the district." "Why can't you tell me now?" Hien asks softly. "Jade, tell me while we pack, okay?" "They can't hear," Jade whispers, jerking the zipper closed in frantic stutters. She pushes the button on top and it slowly starts compressing itself. “It – it was…let’s just go.” Jade grabs another piece of luggage and heads out to the kitchen, shoving open the cupboard and grabbing armfuls of fist-sized boxes. Even in her panic she grabs mostly curry meals because they're Hein's favourite. Jade turns and Hein is standing at the edge where the kitchen meets the living room. Her mouth is parted, lower lip wobbling as she tries to speak, a dawning horror taking over her expression. "Hein," Jade pleads. "It's going to be okay, but we need to leave. Right now, we have to get out before they start locking down." Hein's eyes flicker to the side, the glass of the fridge. "Please," Jade begs, rushing up and cradling Hein's face with gentle hands. "We can do this. I'll take care of you, you know that. Love, please, we can get out." Hein swallows thickly. "Dismiss." She looks back at Jade, eyes wide. "We...we have to report it." "We can't." "They have medicine now, they can fix it!" "There is no cure!" Jade cries. "Hein, love, there's no cure. They purge. We have to leave." Jade fumbles and pulls off the marble ring, takes Hien's hand and slides it on. "Go pack anything you think we'll need. We'll take the tram to the major station and then get out of the district." "We can't, we have to take private." Hien turns as Jade moves past her to pack the water next. "It's – are we already sick? We need to stay isolated - dismiss! Fuck, yes, I know I'm stressed. Mute! Jade, if we're already sick, if we get others sick..." Jade leaves the luggage to compress and wraps Hien in a tight hug. They sway together a bit, clinging. Hien is shaking as she buries her face in Jade's neck, fingers digging into Jade’s waist. "It's new," Jade says softly. "It's new, we have time. We'll both take full sterilisation showers now and broad-spectrum health rings. We'll stay as far away from others as we can." Hien nods slowly. "Let's go, love," Jade says, pressing a rough kiss to Hien's hair. "We've got this." They split and pack the rest in ten minutes. They're out the door and in a private cab in another five. Thirty to get to the major station. Another private carriage to drain their bank account more. They're a day out after three more transfers, in a paired seat and gripping each other's hands tightly, but they can still see the dome come up in dazzling, dangerous green far off in the distance. Hien bows her head, pretends to be focused on the AI generated drama playing on her blackout glasses. Jade watches the dome flare and then sink away. The skyline is empty now. Hien starts coughing a day later. They pretend everything is okay, for as long as they can.
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