Hunt 1: Bewitching
Twentieth day of Triini’xahr, 4044 AOT
Dimatagpuan Region, Uar
Gigantic trees are covering the foot of the mountain that houses creatures both dangerous and amiable. Squirrels are running around the trunk of a tree as they chase each other while one keeps a nut secured within its grasp. Atop one of these giant trees’ big branches is a girl; sleeping without a care in the world. One of the squirrels quickly runs up to her left shoulder to get into the hole in the trunk near the girl’s head. After feeling the cold toes of this little one, she wakes up gasping for air as if she just is having a nightmare. Seemingly half-asleep, a magic circle glows and her arm quickly gets covered with a blade of ice. Her movement is swift and smooth as she almost cuts the second squirrel in half. She fully regains consciousness before inflicting any form of damage to the frightened creature. The moment she looks around, the bright rays of light that is passing through the thick cluster of leaves impairs her vision making her instinctively use her right hand to cover her eyes. Before realizing it, the left hand that is supporting her, slips off the side of the branch causing her to fall hard on the ground. A pile of light brownish decaying leaves flies in the air after the arid ground receives the impact of her drop.
“Ouch!” She cries in a low toned voice.
“That was a loud thud.”
“It said ouch.”
“Hey, that’s a person?!”
She carefully stands up like nothing happened. “I forgot that I was sleeping on a tree branch,” she mumbles while rubbing the lower side of her back.
Her slightly tattered clothes sway following along with the movement of her body as a few dried leaves that stuck to her fall away. Her warm beige skin is covered with dust and dirt, or mud. The metallic gold and red plating of her partly grazed light armor glitters as the sun’s rays touch it. Her golden-yellow, long, messy hair danced with the wind as she stands up. She stretch her back, made a cracking sound on her neck, before fixing the hood of her red, gold and white robe to partly hide her face. She adjusts to a more comfortable stance; her medium high white and red boots are decorated by scratches and mud.
“That day is about come again,” she whisperes while looking up the branch where she fell off. “No wonder I’m feeling terrible. I don’t even wanna look at the calendar.”
It took her a few minutes to turn towards the group of people who had been looking at her strangely after being startled by her drop. Three guys and a girl. One of the guys gives off the air of formality, he looks stiff. He must be acting as the leader of this group. The boy on his right side looks a bit reserved but his posture presents a sense of reliance. Though he is wearing a headphone, it does not seem that it is turned on making it look like something for display only. The other guy on his left looks playful, enthusiastic and easy going. He must be a pain to deal with. The only girl in their group looks classy and proud with an air of elegance and beauty inside and out. Looking at them as a group reminded her of some character tropes she usually finds in novels.
She turns towards her weapon, which resembles a spear and a staff. Her arms appear well-toned as she stretches it to touch the body of that large weapon. A magic circle lights up and then the spear-like staff float close to her side. Her stance with the staff behind her produces an air of animosity. Her exposed abdominal muscles are just muscular enough to make them look incredibly toned while still keeping a feminine sense. The four strangers cannot take their sight from her. On the other hand, she simply turns away, not sparing another glance at the group of teens.
One dried twig crunches as one of the boys took a step forward. She felt the urge the keep a distance as she checks back. She stares at them silently while holding down her hood as if she is anxiously hiding her face.
Neat clothes, nicely brushed black hair, and his light brown eyes directly looking at her shadowed face. His skin is clean, unblemished medium beige. The boy stood still inducing a sense of pride and formality. “Umm… Sorry, for not being helpful a while ago. Well, we were startled.” His voice is deep, like what one would expect from those high ranking office workers.
The guy with headphones standing behind him looks very alert. He is quiet, he barely said a word. However, his amber eyes are observing and vigilant. He does not even blink as the wind blew on his dark brown hair.
They are all wearing a black and white uniform with green borders. They are carrying huge hiking bags. Despite their enormous luggage, none of them seems to be carrying anything that resembles a weapon. They are wearing normal uniforms, no special protection spells like some simple armor. A crest she had never seen before stands out on their chest. Maybe they are members of a very rich guild. Whatever kind of guild it is, they must not be well-versed in hunting.
She did not respond. She ignored them. She turned her back and started to walk away calmly.
“Wait!” The easy-going guy at the back shouts.
He sure gives off the air of a playful fellow who acts before he thinks. Unlike the other guys, he only got a dark blue sando on while he is wearing his coat on his waist with the sleeves tied. He has dark brown skin, spikey black hair, and heather colored eyes.
Before the easy-going guy is able to step forward, the formal guy before him blocked his way using his left arm, a strong gesture to prevent him from acting on his own. “Please do listen to us first.” The formal boy eagerly states as they follows her. “We are students from AB Academy. We’d like to confirm something before you go.”
She continues to ignore them while they continue to follow her. At that moment they notice some magic circles that keep on appearing and disappearing simultaneously around her back and head.
“Are you, by any chance, Azalea Blakewood, the Demon Hunter?”
She stops suddenly while turning her head a little, just enough for her to see the four at the corner of her eyes. They stop at a considerable distance as they wait for her answer. She keeps her hood down, covering almost half of her face. “Please don’t talk to me, you are polluting the air.”
Their brows twitch. Those words are making them nearly snap.
“What an incredibly rude and unaccommodating character,” the formal guy whispers.
“The hell is wrong with her personality?” The easy-going guy mumbles with scorn.
“Do all reveils outside the city have such terrible attitude?” The reserved looking guy asks himself quietly.
“I want to smack her with a ‘How to respect your seniors’ guidebook!” The classy-looking girl mutters gritting her teeth.
She then starts to walk away again. The floating staff followed her as she moves forward. The formal looking guy gets impatient, following her promptly. After getting to a close enough distance, he tries to grab her arm however a mysterious animal suddenly jumps in front of him.
The furry thing startles him making him step aback. “Whoa-! It’s a cat?!”
“Wait, that’s not some ordinary cat.” The classy girl says after a careful observation. “That’s a Sabercat which can be classified as rank S monster.”
The playful guy took a fighting stance. “Why is it here?! Anyway, it’s just a cub so we can easily deal with it, right?”
“Touch the cat and I will skewer you all right here.” Her voice snaps with a very serious tone.
The classy looking girl raises an eyebrow. “Is that your pet?..”
She keeps her silence.
“Not gonna answer, huh.” Feeling irritated, she points at the sabercat, “Earl Spade, grab the cat!”
The easy-going guy takes a step forward. “Okay,” then he reaches out for the poor cat that does not bother to run away. “This one’s tamed well,” he grins as he picks up the cat from its nape.
“Hey, hey,” the formal looking guy seems uneasy. “What now, animal abuse?”
The classy girl grins. “We’ll be taking the cat if you keep on ignoring us.”
“So, it’s catnapping.” He mutters after a deep sigh.
“It’s not my cat,” she responds as if it has nothing to do with her. “If you want it that bad, you may take it but be sure to take care of it properly.”
“W-what--?!!” The girl jolts.
“What an uncaring master.” The easy-going guy clicks his tongue.
“This is getting out of hand.” The reserved boy mumbles while looking away.
Azalea ignores everything they said and walks away, but something suddenly makes her stop. Her staff remains floating within her arm’s reach. She begins stretching her right arm forward. In front of her, her palm feels something solid and smooth. It is like a barely visible glass.
The classy girl laughs, “I just had enough time to set it up.” Her voice sounds full of confidence. “We’ll detach from the outside world for now. And because of that, you have no choice but to listen to our proposal.”
Azalea checks her surroundings. “I can’t feel the breeze around,” she tells herself. “The ruffling of leaves, and the chirping of birds, they suddenly vanished in silence.” She stares down her feet. “It’s some type of barrier, I wonder if it extends underground?”
“Stop looking down.” The classy girl shows a smug smile. “It’s no use, this is a cube. I’ll tell you more details about my power, if you have any intention of listening to us, that is.”
“Okay, I just have to listen, right? Then I can go, right?” She answers reluctantly.
The formal guy steps forward to lead the conversation. “For starters, let us introduce ourselves.”
Azalea rolls her eyes to the side.
“Rude little shit.” The easy-going guy mutters gritting his teeth.
“My name is Zharyx Dimasalang, second year student from AB Academy.” He continues while taking out his ID. “I am currently the Student Council’s Vice President, and this girl here is our current President.”
“Hello, I am Lillian Adams, the prez.” The classy girl introduces herself casually. “I am in fourth year now and will be graduating this term. The next prez will be Zharyx here so I hope you listen to him well. Oh, do I need to show my ID too?”
“I don’t really mind.” Azalea answers while obviously averting her eyes from them as if she is not paying attention.
Zharyx pay no mind to her attitude and continues. “Okay, this guy here is Victor Luha, second year and currently the Secretary.” He points out the reserved guy on his right side.
Victor nods, “Hello.”
Then the cheerful guy steps forward, “I am Earl Spade Reyes, I’m not in the Student Council and I have no intention of joining. Nice to meet you, Miss Mage-sprout.” He extends his right hand towards Azalea to shake hands.
Azalea just stares at Earl Spade’s hand, “Okay, now what?” She then turns her eyes on the Sabercat which is still carried by that person.
Lillian walks forward to stand beside Earl Spade, “You’re supposed to introduce yourself too, young lady.”
“What for? You already know who I am.” She answers crudely.
“Thi--” Earl Spade gets cut off before finishing a word.
“Hey, the way you hold the cat is ticking me.” Azalea raises her voice. “If you’re not gonna take the cat then put him down.”
“Huh-?!” Earl Spade growls losing his temper. “That’s not the way you should talk to your senior. And what’s with this hood? It’s disrespectful to talk to people with your face hidden like that. Are you some kind of a criminal to hide your face, huh?”
He is about to grab Azalea’s hood but she retaliates by hitting his hand away before he could even touch her.
She glares at them with her eyes half-showing from the shadow of the hood. “Bitch, don’t touch me.”
“Enough, we’re not here to start a fight.” Zharyx taps Earl Spade’s shoulder while Victor takes the Sabercat and then he gently put him down.
“I’m not starting a fight!” He reasons out grinding his teeth.
Lillian pats their shoulder. “Okay, let’s not act like kids now. Not in front of a guest.” She smiles and then turns her attention to Azalea. “Now, let’s get this hood off!”
Before Azalea gets to react, Lillian already got her hands on her hood and took it off revealing her golden-yellow hair and purple crystalline eyes, which had become her identifying features ever since she entered the hunting circle. Lillian’s clear blue eyes stare directly into hers. She automatically grabs on the hand that took her hood down. He tight grip digs into Lillian’s is fairly light and smooth skin. In an instinctive impulse, she is about to push Lillian away but something stops her midway.
She stars at Lillian’s face with a stunned look in her eyes, “Samie?..” She lets out a soft shaking voice.
“S-samie?” Lillian raises her left eyebrow. She pauses in an attempt to interpret the word that was spoken out of the blue. “Ah, there’s blood dripping from the side of your head!”
Those words somehow pulled Azalea back to reality. “Let go!” She pushes Lillian back to put some distance between them. “It’s nothing, so just get on with your business. I’m busy.”
“You really don’t have manners, mage-sprout!” Earl Spade catches and supports Lillian to prevent her from tripping.
At the same time, Lillian gets her balance back easily. “Ah, come on now. We don’t have that much time. Young lady, come and let’s get your wounds healed first.”
“No need, it’ll heal on its own.”
She extends her right hand making a serious look. “Don’t be stubborn; getting your face wounded isn’t something amusing, trust me.”
Those words echo inside her head, reminding her of someone from her past. The nostalgic feeling makes her subconsciously hold on the hand that is reaching out in front of her. An abrupt pull snaps her back to her current situation. When she realize it, she is right in front of Earl Spade.
“Now behave yourself.” Lillian keeps on holding her right hand.
Azalea no longer holds any reason to keep rejecting the stubborn bunch. She finds it pointless for both sides to be so stubborn over something so trivial.
Earl Spade brushes her hair aside looking for the wound. “There’s blood… but I don’t see any wounds… I can’t figure out where it came from.”
She sweeps his hands aside, “Are you a healer?”
“I’m a Contractor.” Earl Spade explains with a puzzled look. “My Yashou can heal you, but it doesn’t seem that you have any wounds to be healed. Or perhaps, you’ve already healed them yourself?”
Victor crosses his arms while his right hand touches his chin. “I didn’t notice her using any magic since we met her. The blood looks fresh too. Could it be-?”
“Can we just be glad that she’s not wounded?” Lillian pulls Azalea to her side to face the guys.
Now, I got her secured so I’m taking the barrier down. Let’s continue where we left off, Zharyx.”
“Okay.” Zharyx takes out his tablet and opens up a few documents. “The four of us were sent here with a mission. Our academy’s Headmaster wants you, Azalea Blakewood, to enroll in our school under the Dimasalang Scholarship Program.”
Azalea rolls her eyes to the side while standing in slouching position. “What a boring thing to say. You wasted my time just to listen to some insane scholarship offer.”
“Well, we figured you’d say that.” Lillian, who is not letting go of her hand, shows her sparkling eyes accompanied by a smile filled with uncanny sensation.
“Our main objective is to bring you back with us to the academy.” Zharyx stands straight; his feet are fairly apart with his hands swiping through some stuff in his tablet. He then showed a photo. “This is Al Duran, the demon you are going to hunt right now.”
She turns her head quickly to see and confirm the content of the photo.
He takes his tablet back to browse more stuff in it, “Let’s make a bet.” He continues as he put his tablet aside. “We will hunt this demon too. If we could slay Al Duran, you will come with us and enroll in AB Academy on the next term. If we cannot slay this demon, then none of us will go back.”
Breaking the status quo
Earl Spade Reyes
Support the artist
The Bewitched Demon Hunter
All rights reserved.
No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without prior written permission/consent by the author.