Outside the wall, Zyrkana collapsed, coughing up blood. That bastard! She slammed a fist into the pavement. A normal swordsman she could handle, they'd been falling like cut grass before her blade for centuries. But one with a holy relic like that...
This job was quickly shaping up to be more trouble than it was worth. If she were slain by that sword, she'd truly die, not just be sent back to hell. It was time to have a word with that mage.
Flitting from shadow to shadow, she made her way back to the home of the one who'd summoned her. Jaren's house was a small place, unassuming, and he was much the same. A plain man, thin, consumptive, he made his living peddling snake oil to the more superstitious citizens of Shindatoshi. None suspected the power he wielded, that his family had safeguarded for generations.
She landed outside his door and knocked, knowing he'd still be awake agonizing over whether she'd accomplished her mission. Her wound twinged, and she fell on the doorstep, writhing in pain. That blow had done more damage than she thought.
The door opened, and Jaren appeared, excitement on his face. This was quickly quelled as he saw Zyrkana doubled over bleeding on his mat. He reached down and grabbed her by the arms, dragging her inside, ignoring her cries of pain. He slammed the door and reset the electronic lock, arming the security system with a few swift button presses.
"Did you do it? Is Boss Mai dead?"
Zyrkana snarled up at him, eyes flashing, fangs coated in gray blood. "What do you think?"
Jaren stepped back, forgetting he had control over this monster. "W-well, what happened?"
She sat in the hallway, breathing hard, hand clasped over her gut wound. It was healing, but slowly. Zyrkana leaned against the wall and closed her eyes. "There was a warrior with a holy blade. I underestimated him."
Jaren stared, struck dumb. He rubbed his hands together, trying to compose his thoughts. This wasn't something he'd prepared for. The demon ninja indebted to his family was supposed to be unstoppable, summoned only in the most dire of circumstances to wreak untold death and destruction on their enemies. This groaning, writhing creature before him was not what he'd been expecting at all.
"But you can kill him, right?" His voice was high and tight with nervousness. "If you don't, Boss Mai's men will come for me! I don't want to die!"
She pounded the wall with her fist, putting a hole in the plaster. "You think I give a damn about your problems?" With effort, she regained her feet and grimaced at the ceiling, eyes shut tight. "I don't care about your stupid gambling debts. It was a mistake pledging my service to your ancestor. You could at least do me the courtesy of being as handsome as him, but no! I should kill you right now so I can go back to hell and forget about silly humans!"
"You can't do that!" he cried, knees knocking. "The pact forbids it! You're sworn to do my bidding!"
She growled, swallowing thickly. "I should've listened to my sister and become a succubus. At least then trips to the mortal world would be fun!"
"So what do we do about this warrior?"
"He won't be a problem. Next time I'll be ready for him. I won't get distracted again."
"What were you doing?"
"The flowers..." she trailed off.
"Flowers? What are you talking about?"
"They were...so...beautiful." She collapsed again, well and truly unconscious.
Jaren shook his head and carried her to his spare room. He placed her on the bed and bandaged her wounds as best he could. Not being a doctor, he could only hope she'd recover on her own, before she bled out and ruined his bedding.
Zynkara awoke with a start, wondering where she was. She threw off the cocoon of blankets with a snarl and sat up, wincing at the pain in her gut. I was stabbed, she thought, and her hand flew to her stomach. Her wound had healed, leaving an evil looking scar. It still hurt when she prodded it, and her mind cast back to last night, and the warrior who'd bested her.
For all the trouble he'd caused, she couldn't help but reflect on how handsome he'd been in the moonlit garden. His strong jawline, how well he'd fought, how quickly he'd recovered from her attacks. She hadn't seen skill like that since...
Shaking the memory from her head, she sighed and sat up. Her wound still twinged, but she could ignore it. She would just have to finish this job, holy warrior or no. If she didn't, she would be trapped on the mortal plane until Jaren died. And given the lengths he was willing to go to get out of trouble, that could take a very long time.
She looked around and found her clothes lying on a chair nearby, along with a tray laden with food. It was normal human fare, but it would do, and she laid into it with gusto. The carafe was full of sweet wine, and she drained it to the last drop.
Feeling refreshed, she looked to the window and saw the light was fading. I must have been worse off than I thought, if I slept through the whole day. She stretched and dressed, noticing he had stitched her clothes back together for her. Smiling at the thoughtfulness of humans, she placed her hand on it and concentrated, and soon the bodysuit was properly mended. Gathering her weapons, she went off to find Jaren.
She came upon him in the library. Yawning, she asked, "So, find anything interesting?"
"A little," he said, looking at her with irritation. "There are only a few holy swords that haven't been lost, but I don't have anything on how to counter them." He turned to her, a serious look on his face. "You might just have to be faster than him."
She humphed at him. "I know how fast he is now. It won't be a problem again. He's only human, after all."
"Didn't stop him from almost killing you last night."
Her eyes flashed red and she bared her fangs. "That was a fluke! I underestimated him. Our next encounter will be very different." She nodded to emphasize the point.
"They'll be sure to up security tonight. Are you sure you don't need help? I know of a few other summonings I could perform to get you some backup-"
He was cut off as her hand slammed down on the book he'd been reading. "No!" she said, the force in her voice making Jaren cringe. "This one is mine! This isn't about your stupid gambling debts anymore. I'll be damned again before I let a human get away with besting me in combat like that!" She leaned in close, Jaren growing visibly more uncomfortable. "He's mine. Understand?"
He gulped and nodded. She backed off, cracking her knuckles as she crossed the room. Jaren watched her, wondering if perhaps he wouldn't have been better off trying to turn lead into gold to pay off his debts. Her hand flowed through her long ponytail, and she turned back with a grin that was positively wolfish.
"So what do you intend to do?"
"Simple. Get back in, kill the human, steal his sword, and take out the boss. Now that I know what to expect, he won't stand a chance."
"Just be careful. Boss Mai is who I summoned you to kill, not this warrior. You should avoid him if you can."
In a flash she was inches in front of his face. He hadn't even registered her crossing the room. Jaren flinched as she laid her hand on his cheek and, with irresistible strength, turned his head to look into her eyes. "You should remember your place, human. I'll handle this my way. Boss Mai will die, but the head of that warrior will be mine. Don't interfere."
He gulped and nodded, seeing fire in her eyes.
"Good." She smiled, and patted him on the head like a lapdog. "I'll go back tonight. There will be more security, but they won't be a match for me. I'll find Kazan, rip his sword arm from his body, and beat him to death with it!"
Questioning the wisdom of potentially aggravating her further, Jaren said, "You seem to be unnaturally preoccupied with this warrior. What's so special about him?"
Zyrkana thought for a moment. What was so special about Kazan? Sure, he was handsome for a human, and a swordsman of no mean skill, but why had he come to dominate her thoughts like this? Was it just the challenge he represented, or something more?
She shrugged. "I haven't had a proper opponent since before your grandfather was born. That man almost killed me. That's not something I can ignore."
"Just be careful this time. We likely won't get another chance at this."
If you enjoyed this story, you can find many more like it on my Original Fiction page, or in the anthology Darkest of Dreams from DimensionBucket Media on Amazon. You can also find more of my work at my website, jimfear138.blogspot.com, including my weekly podcast and audiobooks I've produced. You can also throw me a tip if you like at Ko-fi.