There was this new guy where she worked that she was real friendly with. Samuel Arnell, he was called. Mousey-haired tool with a spotty face but a nice enough smile and this cutesy humble-bumble charm. I didn’t mind the two getting friendly because he was a harmless enough sort and heck, I kinda liked the guy and even went for a few pints with him. Sammy was a weird kid though, you could just trust him and never quite know why but something about him seemed a bit hypnotic. Perhaps I was just paranoid?
Katakura and I were to meet a client named Memphis Stone, a rich land-owner and heir to a mansion so big you could build a mansion inside it and have room for a small village. I sat at my desk with my feet up when Katakura walked in, two bags of shopping in each hand and a scowl on his face like he’d eaten something pretty sour. I raised an eyebrow and he huffed.
“Got sick of living off take-away food alright? Don’t jump up and help with the shopping or anything,”
I shrugged and nodded, resuming my daytime nap. There was some bustle in the other room for a moment and then Katakura clipped me around the air with a snort of contempt. I looked up at him.
“Our client is on our way here so look sharp Lee”
Katakura is a great guy but his talent for stating the obvious is a real pain in my neck. I nodded again and sighed, putting my feet on the floor and getting up to be ready to greet the client. Ten minutes passed and then there came a knocking at the door, our client had arrived and as Katakura let him in and made us all tea he explained his sitaution.
“You see,” he began “Stone Manor is my pride and joy, the house left to me by my father and to him by his father ever since the eighteenth century”
“Get to the point…” I said. Katakura frowned and put his palm to his face, Memphis clearing his throat and resuming as if undeterred
“Well,” he continued nervously “Lately I’ve been having trouble with… erhem, a ghost…”
I sat forward and glared at him for a long moment, no words being exchanged until I broke the silence with a sceptical retort.
“Ghosts? Horse shit”
I couldn’t think of much better at the time. Memphis looked down at his feet in that awkward fashion a scolded child does then added
“I’d be willing to pay you handsomely if you looked into this for me…”
I was suddenly very interested in ghosts.
Katakura and I were told to investigate the mansion at night because as you’d expect, this ghost didn’t work the day shift on the mystic bullshit regime. I figured this was probably nothing, at most a lesser demon looking to stir up trouble to relieve a little boredom. Nonetheless, we came armed, Katakura with his trusty pistols and cane and me with my sword. I looked around and sighed, feeling a bit bored myself but Katakura seemed edgy. “You don’t think we’re actually dealing with something serious do you pal?” I asked him. He shrugged his shoulders and I laughed to myself before pulling out my sword, extending out the blade.
“Doubt it. I suspect our culprit is just an imp looking for a laugh so let’s just clean this up real quick so I can get home fast. I have a few shows to catch up on…”
Katakura didn’t look all that convinced and pushed a door to, finding nothing on the other side. The building creaked and groaned, wind rattling the trees outside and the long hallways were lit by nothing more than gas lamps on the wall. I never bought into haunted houses, a load of jump-scare bullcrap. I looked at Katakura and he didn’t seem as calm as I was, as if genuinely scared. I felt something touch my hand and turned on my companion with a raised eyebrow
“Dude, are we doing hand-holding now?” I smirked. Katakura looked at me with a blank face.
“Fuck” we said in unison. I looked down at my hand to see an ugly looking spider crawling over it, roughly the size of a mobile phone with bright red fur and green glowing eyes. I shook my hand quickly and it fell to the floor. Katakura hastily dispatched the bug.
“Hate spiders…” he sighed and replaced his gun in it’s holster. I would love to say that at this point everything was sweet and dandy but if I told you that we heard scurrying feet almost immediately after he said that, you can tell what happened next. Before either of us could even say shit, a swarm of spiders burst out of one room with their fangs gleaming in the low light and hunger in their eyes. I jumped back a step and Katakura groaned loudly before pulling out both his pistols and firing like mad.
“WHY?! WHY SPIDERS?! WHY DID IT HAVE TO BE SPIDERS?!”
I resisted the temptation to laugh and shot out my palm, firing a burst of flame at the ground at the oncoming pests. Nothing seemed to be working because for every one we stomped, shot and scorched, two more would appear from some nook or cranny and jump up at us. Katakura looked crazy as he stamped around in circles and swung his cane around due to a lack of ammunition. I sucked in air through my teeth as I considered the situation and hoped for the best whilst shooting flames hectically.
We decided we couldn’t keep fighting the spiders forever so we darted down the corridor and hoped they couldn’t keep pace, which of course was stupid. I slipped into one of the bedrooms and pulled Katakura in with me, closing the door behind us and barricading it with the wardrobe. For a moment we stood there puffing and panting.
“Fucking… hate… spiders…” he said. I laughed a little and patted him on the back. I was just about ready to relax when a red mist drifted into the room from under the door and formed a cloud in front of the barricade. We both stepped back nervously, weapons ready, as the cloud took on a humanoid form and began to laugh at us. I looked on in amazement as the gaseous creature suddenly had a human face, a pair of dulled gold eyes set in a Caucasian face with a long and narrow nose. The mysterious man had thin lips and a head of white hair that flowed down to his hip and was dressed in an exquisite looking suit and overcoat. I felt my head ache and scream at me as the figure looked more and more familiar. A white smile cut through my soul like a knife and my breath escaped me.
“Lee… It has been much too long…”
I panicked and Katakura looked back and forth between myself and our guest. Katakura shrugged and charged forth, swinging his cane but the demon grabbed the delivery end of the stick and swung Katakura away to one side. I couldn’t attack, instead hesitantly edging backwards towards the window.
“Come now, is that any way to greet me of all people my boy?” it laughed. Katakura got up to his feet and barked at me angrily.
I croaked, my mouth open to speak but only a small gurgle coming out and then in my panic, I turned and threw myself out of the window and into the courtyard below.
I dusted myself off and looked around the empty courtyard to find I was truly alone, no sign of any spiders, Katakura or him. That suited me just fine so I started to resume my search for whatever else might be haunting this place, hoping to whatever god existed that I wouldn’t encounter him again. I can’t believe it was actually him, a man I thought dead, a man I killed personally and messily. I drifted around in the open air silently as the wind blew against me and scraped at my cheek like a phantom of the night. I had never felt less comfortable in my entire life than this moment, this calm before the storm of nightmarish trauma I knew I would have to face sooner or later.
Katakura tells me that after I jumped out the window the demon returned to his mist-form and disappeared back under the door, so after checking I hadn’t killed myself, he moved aside the furniture that had blocked the door and set off after the fast escaping cloud of red gas. I had just got into the main lobby by this point and was nervously checking in every direction for anything out of the ordinary but found nothing, not even Katakura at that point. Katakura, however, chased after the mist as far as he could but when he fell short of breath he had found himself in the kitchen and decided to stop and take stock. At that moment, he apparently heard something knocking at a door. The store closet. I imagine he looked pretty confused at this but what really bowled him over was what was in there. A man, dressed in a suit but bound in ropes with a gag around his mouth and fear in his eyes. Katakura removed the gag.
“Who are you? What’s going on?” he asked the hostage.
“I am Sir Felix Stone, lord of Stone Manor, what is the meaning of all this? I’ll call the police!”
“No that’s not right. Memphis owns this place, he showed us the deed to the building”
“Son, I don’t know if you’re a comedian or a moron but to suggest a British manor house is owned by a man called Memphis is preposterous!”
Katakura was taken aback with confusion when he heard laughter over his shoulder that seemed to taunt him.
I passed through the main lobby and through a double doorway towards the back of the vast room, entering what appeared to be a massive library. The bookshelves stood over me like great wooden giants and I couldn’t help but feel slightly intimated by my surroundings. A faint clinking of metal in the distance did not do my nerves any good but I was determined to get this over with, to confront my fears and more importantly, to get paid. I walked into the middle of the room and stood on a floor mural of a knight with a goat’s head, possibly some sort of reference to Britain’s pagan roots.
“You are here…” came a voice from above. A flash of light filled the room and a red barrier formed around the mural. I was trapped in a red ring of hell fire when from around the corner appeared our friend from earlier who laughed and then fired a beam of lightning straight at me. I screamed so loudly my throat felt like I had drank acid and then I fell to the floor under the constant fire of his lightning bolts.
“I’m so glad to see you at last Lee. A touching reunion indeed, with nobody to interfere so we can truly bond”
I looked up at him painfully and spat.
“Go to hell!”
In retrospect, an ironic choice of words. I was shot at again once more with a more powerful burst of energy before the flames died out and I lay there in a heap looking up at him.
“You will show your father the respect he deserves!” he boomed and as he got angrier, his voice became increasingly demonic and his armour materialised onto his body in all it’s hellish glory. My father, the Immortal Plague and one of the great riders that fought alongside Lucifer himself in the battle to claim Heaven. I was kicked aside and I rolled slightly, groaning in pain somewhat.
“Stand and face me son, end me and prove your worth!”
I picked myself up slowly and rose to my feet, my sword drawn as he raised his great broadsword in two claws, our eyes locked in venomous loathing towards one another. I charged forward, screaming at him as I swung for him with all I had.
Katakura got up and looked behind him at what had been laughing at him to see Memphis and Azrael stood together, the latter armed with his signature scythe and a blank stare from beneath his tattered grey hood.
“So,” Katakura sighed “This was a set up from the very beginning…”
“Quite right my friend,” said Memphis “Lee needed to be tested and so I brought him out here to see if he is ready to walk the path towards his destiny.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Spoilers my friend, spoilers. Azrael, deal with this one!”
Memphis turned away and as Katakura reached out to grab him, he disappeared in a puff of smoke and Azrael held his scythe to Katakura’s neck. Moving fast, Katakura flicked his cane upward and knocked the shaft of the scythe causing Azrael to lose his balance before Katakura followed up by a forward kick to the gut. Azrael stumbled backwards and as he did Katakura performed a jumping overhead strike but Azrael quickly blocked, Katakura taking the blow with a slight wobble. The two clashed with ferocity, neither seeming to have the edge.
Meanwhile, I was still doing my best to hold out against my father. Hard to fight against the man who taught you everything you know about how to use a sword, especially when his sword is the length of your arm and then some. I stood my ground nonetheless and pushed back against him as he tried to force me into submission.
“You insubordinate child, taking after your whore of a mother!”
I roared at him in anger and struck at him with a frenzy of strikes, steel against steel as the flames in my eyes sought to incinerate all that remained of his soul. I could tell he wasn’t intimidated at all but more than that; my father seemed to be empty inside as I looked into his eyes. My anger bore into him but through the visor of his helmet I saw nothing but two blank red eyes starting back at me. I hesitated and he got me, disarming me and knocking me down to the floor yet again. A sword thrust towards my neck but I rolled to the side, barely escaping the attack but I moved fast and scrambled for my sword whilst blindly shooting fireballs in his direction. I heard him laugh as they fizzled out against his armour.
“The time has come for you to surrender to me Lee. Join with me and let us purge this world of the weak as father and son!”
I refuse to ever let that bastard control me, not after what he did. I felt my blood boil at that moment and every fibre of my being bayed for his blood.
Katakura struck a blow against Azrael and as the demon retaliated with two shots of dark magic, he narrowly avoided both but with that steel resolve he always had as if everything was a breeze. Azrael swung at him with his scythe, a sweeping horizontal attack that Katakura took with a gash across the gut but being the determined little bastard that he is, he shrugged off the pain and kept going anyway.
“I cannot die just yet… Too damn busy”
Azrael flinched in amazement at a human putting up such a fight but swung again, the scythe descending at an angle but Katakura just blocked it flippantly and then brought his cane down on Azrael’s head with a thud.
“Bastard…” he hissed “You got off lucky this time human, but this is only the beginning. Lee has proved his worth and so have you. As your reward, you may live…”
Katakura watched in confusion as Azrael grinned at him then faded into thin-air, leaving behind nothing but the faint cackle of laughter that was soon lost to the open space.
Things weren’t finished my end with the family issues so whilst my buddy was busy duelling with that cloaked creep, I was locked in a duel to the death with my own father. Our swords clashed, never breaking or bending despite the abuse they received in battle.
“You should have stayed dead!” I growled.
“Given my name, I think you know I don’t die easy!”
We were both pushed back and then looked at each other. Last round for the night. I ran at him, sword pointed forward as he charged towards me hoping to cut me up at a diagonal angle. The silent air trembled with the sound of two souls colliding in blood-drenched war and as the smoke cleared, I found myself blinking and breathing with my hands around the handle of my sword, my sword embedded in a soft point in my father’s armour.
“This is how I fight…” I said, with venom in my voice. I felt blood splatter on my shoulder as he choked, then he smiled and nodded.
The armour faded into mist and the body broke apart into many tiny pieces that flew away into the night without a sound, leaving behind my father’s famed sword. I leant down and picked up the blade and then Katakura stumbled in, fainting at the doorway.
I patched Katakura up and we headed towards the kitchen together.
“So…?” he said.
“Hmm?” I replied.
“Back there… you were scared of something. Who was he?”
“I’m not sure…”
“Don’t lie to me Lee, you’re a great fighter but shit with people. You recognised him so tell me who we are dealing with!”
“When I was a child, a little boy, my parents and I lived in hell and my father was a dark knight in service of Satan. The Immortal Plague, Lazarus, who took the name of the man who lived twice when he discovered immortality. My father was too ambitious though and when we were all cast to hell he thought he should usurp power and wage war against God. Needless to say he was found out but when they came to arrest him he had fled to another realm and so they executed my mother instead and I was exiled to Earth…”
“Your father killed your mother?!”
“That bastard will pay in blood… I will kill the immortal and avenge her so that she might rest in peace, or as close as possible for a creature of hell…”
Katakura fell silent and put a hand on my shoulder, nodding and sighing a little. I smiled weakly and then suddenly sat up.
“Where were you?” I asked.
“Azrael,” Katakura replied “Memphis Stone is a fake identity, he was a demon partnered with Azrael and they set this up to watch your response as some sort of test”
“Your destiny awaits you apparently, and Memphis Stone holds the answers there”
I looked down at my feet then once again sat up.
We found the real Mr. Stone and untied him quickly before we sat him in a chair, made him tea and then smiled really politely at him but he looked horrified.
“What in blazes happened here?” he asked
“Well,” I said with a sickly grin “You had a demon infestation so we came to investigate and we managed to drive them off, you’re totally safe now. With that in mind, I hate to be rude but business is business and we don’t work for free so if we could discuss a method of payment…”
I was cut off.
“Demons? Totally safe? Payment? You get yourself off my property this instant or I’m reporting you two vandals to the police for holding me to ransom in my own home!”
I got up and went towards the door, followed by Katakura, and we had got as far as the main gate when police sirens were already starting to provide the theme music for a fuck it and run scenario
“Ah for fucks sake…” I sighed.