Ghost Mist

Chapter One

The Beautiful Demon

"Do you ever get the feeling that a black butterfly is watching you?" Tesai asked the lanky youth sitting opposite him.

"A black butterfly?" the youth responded. "Are you talking about an insect, or a demon, or a half spirit?"

"I'm not really sure," Tesai said vaguely, as he rubbed the puncture wound in his left hand. His skin was broken and inside the hole, you could see bone and tendon. An arrow had pierced his palm eighty-two years ago and it still hadn't healed. For eighty-two years Tesai had slept as his spirit attempted to mend the wound, but what was lost would never return – not from a demon's body. That portion of spirit energy was gone forever and a sliver of his power had been defeated, even though he remained. The skin would never close up without help, and since his body was different from a human's, there was no blood. Instead, he leaked the black ooze that filled a demon's body and then the injury merely became a hole that needed to be filled. Even now, after so much time had passed, he could still slip his index finger clean through his palm to the other side. It didn't exactly hurt anymore, but existed as the perfect sign to show anyone who saw it that he was not human. That wasn't the only hole either. He had another one through his shoulder. That one had been a more dangerous wound. Somehow he felt like that one had come to close to home, even though he knew that he shouldn't have worried. The gash had been made mere centimeters away from the place where a human heart would normally dwell. He knew that the distance from the heart-spot shouldn't matter to him. He was a demon. He had no heart. The wound was only difficult because it had broken his shoulder blade.

Tesai smiled and pulled a black leather strap, which he used to tie his ponytail, out of his hair. His shining white hair fell straight and brushed against his shoulders. He ran his fingers through it absently to remove any tangles. He knew he was beautiful, not because of the way the boy sitting across from him looked at him, but because Tesai had always been beautiful. Even though his body was half-wrecked as he sat there, he knew his natural beauty had not been diminished much. Tesai was not conceited when he acknowledged to himself that he was beautiful. It was only the truth. His immaculate hair was only a fraction of his appeal. He had gentle features that managed to be attractive even when he was registering displeasure. His eyes were reptile green, which was a colour rarely found among humans. His eyebrows were arching and perfectly white, like the wings of a bird about to take flight. Naturally, his skin was darker, created to contrast against the white of his hair and eyebrows, but you would never say that he had a tan. His skin didn't tan. He wasn't very tall either, but he knew that height wasn't always an asset as he liked to look women in the face rather than tower over them. He wasn't created to look muscular, because it would interfere with his beauty, but he was created solely to be the beautiful demon. All in all, Tesai was completely satisfied. He knew his mistress had given him a good body. And his beauty was even better in the setting of Lyla's shrine in early spring.

It was a beautiful day. The sun was high in the sky and it was warm. The two demons were sitting on a beam of the Demon Goddess Lyla's shrine, as light from the sun reflected off her wading pool, and the fountains created shining rainbows that sparkled like the new ribbons tied to a maiden's wrist. The beam was supported by two grey stone pillars that surrounded her pool and fountains. It was the antechamber before Lyla's temple. No one was worshipping today and so the place was empty, except for Tesai and the youth, Nightfaux.

Now Tesai was pulling selected hair from his head and it wasn't a fun job. Not only did it hurt, but he didn't grow hair the way a human did. The hairs on his head were numbered and he didn't casually shed on furniture. He had what he had and he wasn't going to grow any more. It was also depressing for him that his hair was so short. Lyla's hair grew down to her knees. Sigh. He was about to use his hair to sew his wounds shut and it would take two hairs for his hand and probably eight more for his shoulder – insult to injury.

Nightfaux handed him a silver needle. Tesai took it and threaded it, looping his hair and tying it at the end. "Thanks," he said.

"Thanks for not asking me to do it for you," Nightfaux said, leaning forward and resting his elbows on his knees - brooding.

"You're not near artistic enough for this," Tesai said, puncturing his skin with the needle and preparing to close the hole.

"You know," Nightfaux said, reverting back to their previous subject. "I don't think this is the first time you've mentioned a black butterfly to me."

"No?"

"No," Nightfaux replied.

"Well," Tesai said, looking up from his work and examining the landscape. "I think I must have been dreaming."

"Did you dream about a lot of things?" Nightfaux asked.

"I think I've forgotten most of it. It's not like they matter, anyway. They're just dreams," Tesai said as he continued to prick his palm.

Nightfaux regarded Tesai carefully before he commented, "That hole in your hand looks sort of like the cuts in your arms that you made when you sacrificed some of your power to make Sugarglow and me. I always wanted to tell you that I was glad that you didn't stitch yourself up afterwards."

Tesai looked up abruptly. Nightfaux had turned his black eyes away from Tesai and was looking at the water rippling in the pool. It was true; Tesai had cut two marks, one on each arm where he made his two minions – Nightfaux and Sugarglow. Now they appeared as two black stripes, not unlike a human's tattoo, in the groove of his arms, right before his biceps.

"Why would I do something stupid like that?" Tesai asked intolerantly as he returned to his work. "Did you know that the Demon God Tigrix used to cut stripes into his body like that when he created his minions? At the time, every demon was chasing him because the Tigrix Scripts had just been made public knowledge, so everyone was enraged. Naturally, it's easier to attack a demon's minions in order to lower a demon god's power, so his minions were always getting killed off. When fighting someone like Tigrix, you'd want to avoid having an actual confrontation because he was an incredible monster when provoked. You'd get squashed. Going after his minions makes much more sense."

"It couldn't have made that big of a difference to his power level. Most demons never make more than five minions," Nightfaux argued.

"That's because demons are jealous of their power, but Tigrix needed minions for his research, so he would make as many as he needed. They say he made so many that he had stripes up his legs from ankle to thigh and he was starting on his arms when he was defeated."

"I don't understand, Master," Nightfaux asked unsteadily. "Why are you doing the same thing as a demon that is beloved by humans and utterly loathed by his own race?"

Tesai cracked his neck heavily in response to the youth's question. "Of course demons hated him. Demon's are so jealous and Tigrix was the perfect person to be envious of," Tesai snapped heatedly. "In his time, he was probably the most powerful demon god alive. It's just a pathetic waste that his notes found their way into human hands. If they hadn't, then eventually he probably would have found a way to become invincible - perfect. Other demon gods were angry that he'd figured such things out first. And they were angry because the Tigrix Scripts describe in detail how to kill a demon as well as a complete guide that a human could easily use to become a fantastic sage. Obviously, a document that teaches a human how to kill a demon as well as how to better their own sorcery sounds like a terrible thing, but I believe that it's totally valid as a demon document as well. Tell me we don't kill other demons. We do it all the time! And whether we like to admit it or not, whether it's passed on by word of mouth or by actually reading Tigrix's documents, the knowledge is the same. As for the training of sages, you and I both know that corrupted sages are the best people to bind in blood pacts. When they die and their spirits become our energy, they are fifty times more valuable than just some idiot you find in the fields. That's what we're after – human energy. Tigrix knew how to find good candidates for blood pacts long before anyone else got the hang of it. He also knew how to eliminate his enemy with as little mess as possible. He was the greatest demon god! Everything would have been great if his scripts had not been stolen and exposed to humans!" Tesai exclaimed passionately.

Nightfaux looked hopelessly overcome by his master's enthusiasm, and simply could not answer. His eyes were large and his lips were parted in awe, but now a strange silence hung in the air between them that Nightfaux simply did not know how to fill.

"I was named for him," Tesai said at last, his words falling like pebbles on the surface of the reflection pool.

Nightfaux gaped, but said nothing.

Awkward moments passed before Tesai finally picked up the conversation again. "Lyla thought Tigrix was brilliant as well. I was born the year he died. My name is Tesai Tigrid. It's in honour of his accomplishments, but I couldn't be named for him exactly. The demon community would think that Lyla shared his philosophy and then there would be trouble. Therefore, my name is not exactly the same, but as close as Lyla could get."

"I see," Nightfaux said, groping for a way to measure up to his lord's fervor. "All Lyla's other minions have the last name of Arum. I didn't realize your name was different for his sake. Were he and Lyla lovers?"

Tesai nearly choked and gave Nightfaux a strange look. "I don't think so. Lyla isn't the type to let her guard down during the race to become the most powerful demon alive. I wouldn't either. Any demon who isn't your master or you minion will eventually be your enemy. You know that." Tesai took a deep breath and looked at Nightfaux's almost eager eyes. He clearly believed everything Tesai told him. "Besides," Tesai said, taking the conversation back to their talk about scars. "I'm not the type to make a minion out of a lock of hair. I know a lot of demons gods choose to do it that way because it's so non-intrusive. The only reason it's non-intrusive is because a demon god gets their spirit energy replenished when one of their blood bound sages dies. They don't have to pay for a minion with their appearance in that case, but I think that it's better to have to suffer a little when you make a minion. If you're a demon god and you cut your hair, then that's not much of a price. Your hair will replace itself eventually. But how much would you value a minion if you didn't have to pay for him with something real? However, I'm a minion myself and I don't get any more energy. What I've got is all I've got. Not only that, but I can't do whatever I want. I can only do what Lyla gives me authorization for. What I cut out of my flesh for you and Sugarglow was all I was permitted to."

"Don't talk about yourself like you're an ordinary slave. It sounds ugly coming from you! You are more powerful than some demon gods! They say that when Lyla created you, she divided herself in half for you. You are easily the most powerful minion ever born, and that's why I'm proud to be your servant. I'm glad you didn't stitch up the cut that made me!" Nightfaux shouted before thrusting his chin into his palms and looking at the water again.

Tesai looked away and continued stitching. It was unusual for Nightfaux to make such a show of gratitude – very unusual. Nightfaux was a very stoic creature and had never made any wild declarations like that in the past. It was awkward for both of them to talk like that, but their conversation was strange anyway because it had been so long since they had last talked. Nightfaux was different than how Tesai remember him. If possible, he had become even more bitter and distrustful. Not towards Tesai though, never towards him. Tesai thought he knew what was on Nightfaux's mind, but he decided that he'd better confirm it.

"Sugarglow should be back by now," Nightfaux said darkly. "He's so lazy. He should have been back with your new clothes ages ago."

"But if he were here," Tesai said, "you wouldn't have talked to me so freely just now. That was a really odd outburst of yours. I mean, we all know I'm amazing, but we don't usually talk about it. Tell me, what spurred it?"

"You torture me," Nightfaux said gloomily before he prepared to explain. Finally he said slowly, "It's just that you defeated the Demon God Spideck."

Tesai nodded. That made perfect sense. Nightfaux had eighty-two years to analyze what happened that last day.

As Tesai had sat there sewing himself up he had been half wanting to think about what happened the day he had been forced to go to sleep and half dreading it.

Nightfaux had been in the shape of a black dragon, and Tesai had ridden on his back to the place of battle – the Silver Bottle Plains. It was an ancient, well-established place where demons fought. Originally, Spideck had wanted to scrap with Lyla, but Tesai received the challenged when she was not available and went to battle without her. He didn't know where to find her, anyway, and he wasn't going to leave Spideck waiting. There had been plenty of silent warfare between Spideck and Lyla up to that point and Tesai was tired of enduring it. He was ready for a fight and if it turned out to be a nasty one, then so be it. He sent Sugarglow to find Lyla and set out himself.

Spideck was one of those rare demons who chose to exist in a shape different than a human one. He was a spider; a horrible black spider the size of an elephant with legs as thick as tree trunks.

Tesai and Nightfaux went all out fighting him and his trail of minions. Nightfaux had his hands full protecting Tesai from the lesser spiders who thrashed like wild dogs. Tesai attacked Spideck himself with his spear, and the fight was brutal.

The key to fighting a demon is finding the original half spirit that the demon was created from. Once that tiny bit of spiritual energy is destroyed then all the other spirit energy the demon has collected will fade and naturally disappear along with all the minions the demon made. That was one of the truths Tesai had learned from the Tigrix scripts.

Eventually, he had to order Nightfaux from the field. He wasn't injured, but was growing faint. His powers were somewhat limited to transformations and hours of hot battle were exhausting for him. At first, Nightfaux would not go. He could not leave his master, but Tesai ordered and Nightfaux complied.

It was at this moment, when Tesai was heavily outnumbered, that Lyla appeared. Sugarglow had found her and brought her immediately. She was proficient with a bow and sent flaming arrows at the Demon God Spideck. She shot the places where demons usually hid their original spirit: the chest and the head, but nothing worked. His magic drowned the flames before they reached him and he brushed them aside like they were flower petals instead of steel shafts. One of Spideck's minions picked up one of these arrows and hurled it at Tesai, who instinctively reached out to catch it. Instead of catching it, it went straight through his left palm and pinned him against a coulee wall in the bottom of the plains. Tesai struggled, but his feet were off the ground and he could not pull the arrow out himself without dropping several meters. Should he pull it out anyway? In that moment of pressure, Spideck retrieved Tesai's spear and coming close, drove it into Tesai's shoulder and broke through Tesai's shoulder blade.

Tesai had never felt anything so painful. Luckily, it wasn't the paralyzing pain of being hurt. It was the urgent need for vengeance instead of the pain in his body. The Demon God Spideck was close. Saliva was dripping from his pincers and his eyes were shining with pitch-black murder. Tesai's right hand reached for the dagger at his hip. He ripped it out of its sheath and across the demon's many dark eyes in an instant.

Spideck's black essence sprayed from the wound like water from a fountain. The demon recoiled and smashed the wall beside Tesai's head. Apparently, he couldn't see as well with Tesai's tear and he missed.

Tesai took a firm grip on his knife and twisted it brutally into the demon god's head, before he slashed it across his eyes again. Then Tesai couldn't wait for the demon to back up or retaliate. The next time, Tesai was certain he wouldn't miss. "Fire snap!" Tesai screamed and the black, streaming wound instantly set fire. It was no low level spell. Tesai wasn't even sure if he could call up that level of magic before he said the spell's trigger words. The blaze he conjured was even more effective than he had imagined.

Spideck went sprawling backwards. Obviously, Tesai had hit a vital point. Spideck was burying his face in the grass in order to stop the fire and Tesai thought he heard the demon try to call up some magic of his own to stop the fire, but in his panic he couldn't seem to form the words properly and no spell was contrived. Then he stopped moving. Apparently, the original half spirit was lodged in one of the demon's eyes because he fell dead along with all his minions. His body was turning from black to grey and fading or becoming part of the white grass of the Silver Bottle Plains.

Tesai thought that Spideck wouldn't have been defeated if he suspected that Tesai was so strong. How could Spideck have known how strong Tesai was? He was only a minion. He was no supposed to be able to slay a demon god.

Tesai's head felt faint as he breathed in the air of dead demons through flared nostrils. His chest heaved and he felt the pain in his palm and shoulder for the first time. The wounds would leave holes, he knew. He also knew that the holes would not be repaired – not truly. He had lost a considerable amount of spirit energy this day and it pissed him off. The hole in his shoulder could have created a demon minion of considerable power and now the energy was wasted on nothing.

"At least Spideck wasn't a weakling," he groaned to Lyla when she alighted in front of him. "That should make me feel better, right?"

Lyla was staring at him with her red eyes like she didn't understand him. "You shouldn't have fought at all, Tesai. I was supposed to fight him. If you took on this responsibility for my sake, I'll kill you."

He laughed. "Didn't you want me to fight him? I felt like you wouldn't object."

"Oh really?" she said quietly, looking more lost than before. "Who's the master here?"

"You are, My Lady," he said flirtatiously, as he reached to remove the arrow from his palm.

"Shut up!" she said, reaching over and pulling out the arrow with one hand.

He didn't even call out as the pain vibrated through his bones and caused him to shake head to foot.

When Lyla laid hold of the spear, Nightfaux flew under Tesai and prepared to catch him. She pulled it out and this time Tesai couldn't hold it in. He screamed. Nightfaux caught him and flew him safely home to Lyla's shrine.

The wounds in Tesai's body were bad and far above what the average demon minion could take. Lyla had no power to heal him without giving him some of the spirit energy that she'd gathered to herself. In the end, she decided to wait for his body to recuperate as much as was possible on its own. At least, his bones should mend. She said that she'd already sacrificed a lot to create him and she wasn't going to give him more for something as small as this. She ordered Nightfaux to lay him in a coffin and place it at the bottom of the fountain until he was healed.

"It could be a hundred years!" Tesai remembered hearing Nightfaux protest to Lyla's plan.

"Put him in!" she said unyieldingly. "A hundred years is nothing!"

Nightfaux had covered Tesai's frame with a blanket and bolted the casket shut himself before refilling the pool so that the water covered him.

Tesai did not have the strength to open his eyes to look at either of them one last time before surrendering to his desire to embrace sleep. He had never slept this way before and to do it now was like a kind of black magic that he had never experimented with before. He liked it. He rubbed his fingers in his wounds and felt somehow lighter. He hadn't rested much in the three hundred years he had lived with Lyla and resting now was like a miracle or a revelation.

He lay there for eighty-two years, until Lyla came and woke him up.

She looked the same as she always had as she told him it was time to get up. Her long hair fell around her like a black halo and she told him she had a job for him. It was a job that only he could do, so he had to get up, even though he wasn't completely ready.

He didn't question her and arose when she told him to.

Now he was sitting with Nightfaux, and Tesai saw how the sight of him destroying the Demon God Spideck had changed him in the eyes of his minion. Nightfaux thought he was amazing. Slaying Spideck was not something Tesai was supposed to be able to do. Yeah, doing it was really playing out of his league and it had been fun.

"Are you going to become one of my loyal followers now?" Tesai asked Nightfaux teasingly. "You could help me build a shrine like Lyla's and you could encourage people to worship me."

"Don't joke," Nightfaux said seriously. "You outdid Lyla."

"And that's incredible?"

Nightfaux nodded.

Tesai looked at his palm and thought of the price he had to pay to defeat Spideck, but he knew the fight could have been cleaner than it was. Lyla had mostly used him for things other than battle in their collective history. She liked him as a spy and as a tool to stir things up in the demon community. If he was this powerful, he didn't understand why she didn't use him more. Spideck had not been a lower level demon. Tesai knew he was one of the tougher ones. If he and Lyla had gone into battle together they could have been terrifying. However, as her minion, he instinctively wanted what she wanted so he would continue to do what she asked, even if it was just research.

"I'm here!" a cheerful voice called from under the pillar. It was Sugarglow. It was cute, adorable, furry Sugarglow. He was back with Tesai's new clothing.

Nightfaux turned quickly and hid his human face. For Nightfaux, his human face was the one thing he treasured and he never wanted his hated partner Sugarglow to see it. Nightfaux swiftly changed his sallow skin and dark hair for grey and black fur. He took on the shape of a tiny wolf, or a small dog and pattered away from Tesai and Sugarglow. He wouldn't stay unless he was ordered to - like always.

Tesai only noticed that nothing had changed between his two minions and went down to meet Sugarglow.

What kind of clothes were in fashion right now? Tesai wanted to see.


Author's Notes: I would just like to thank everyone who came to read this - especially my referral readers from I would also like to thank Kaytala for beta reading for me. She always does and she's always angelic. PLEASE REVIEW IF YOU READ THIS FAR! PLEASE! I feel like not many people might come to read this, so if you read - PLEASE REVIEW!

Pronunciation Guide:

Tesai is said with the Japanese pronunciation so the 'ai' make the same sound as the y in 'sky'. Kay?

Nightfaux is said with the French pronunciation so his name rhymes with Sugarglow. Kay?