Trials of the Junsuikaoni: Beginnings (Book 0)

Noah Gremory never wanted much out of life and has always enjoyed living humbly with his mother and older brother Caleb in their small textile district of the Wakaba Prefecture. You can say his life is nothing other than ordinary with the exception of just one thing…he lives in a post-apocalyptic world of demons. 450 years after the end of the “Cursed War” of the Junsuikaoni demons, which took the lives of billions and destroyed most of the planet, the world has been reborn, but the threat of the Junsuikaoni still remains, leading to a strict system of control for those afflicted. Noah never paid much mind to these things, as it had nothing to do with him, or so he thought. However, on the day of his 12th birthday, something changes in him. This leads to a series of events that propels Noah into the center of this world of demons that he doesn’t really understand and sets him on his path of destiny. Will Noah come out of this journey unscathed or will he succumb to the darkness?

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11. Forming Bonds

“So hold on a second, do you really expect us to believe that you are a real Junsui demon?” says Nik

“It’s the truth, so yeah, obviously I would. I mean you don’t have to, but it won’t change that I am one.”

“Alright then, prove it. It’s my understanding that only the Ancient Junsui demons could manipulate natural elements rather than just their inner soul element, so if you can, then maybe I’ll believe it. What’s your element anyway? I can normally figure people out, but I can’t really read you well.”

“How about I just show you what I can do? Since I want to see what you guys can do too, why don’t we cover it all at once? I’ll stand in one place and each of you can try and hit me with your strongest attack. I’ll repel it if my element matches yours, if it doesn’t, then I guess I’ll just be at risk won’t I.”

“You want us to attack you? What are you thinking? If we attack you and it’s not your element, you might get hurt. Besides, we can’t really attack you without a weapon. You should know that marked kids don’t have the ability to project their full power without a weapon to amplify the energy we call forth.”

“Don’t worry, you don’t need to be at your full power and since you won’t be at your full power, you don’t have to worry about hurting me. I’ll be just fine. Also, I want you all to attack at once.”

“What! You must be seriously out of your mind. You’ll definitely get hurt if we attack at once. You’d have to try and avoid three attacks and repel the other all at the same time. That’s impossible!”

“Only one way to find out right? Come on guys, be adventurous. Just give me all you’ve got.”

They all look at each other in uncertainty, but with a nod from Nik, they are in agreement.

“Fine, we’ll do it, but make sure you tell Tahno it was your idea when you end up in the hospital.”

“Ok, no problem. Now come on, I don’t have all day and I’m kind of hungry. On my count, 1…2…3!”

They all stand side by side and on three they each summon elemental balls of their respective elements and project them at Noah as hard as they can. A fireball, water ball, air ball and earth ball go flying at Noah and just as it seems as though he isn’t going to make a move at all, the projectiles stop in midair. Everyone is in awe as Noah stands there, just as he was before, as the projectiles float in front of him.

“No…no way! You can…you can control all four? How is that possible? Even the Ancients couldn’t.”

“I’m not sure, no one is actually. They’ve examined me every which way, but ultimately, I’m one of a kind, among both marked children and the Ancients. I’ll show you even more awesomeness.” Noah walks over to the kitchen and turns on the sink and burner. With his arm outstretched, he grasps the air and pulls his hands back. At first it looks like nothing is happening, but then they notice the flow of the running water changes direction and like a snake, it trails in the direction that his hands move. With is right hand, he twirls his finger around in a circle and the water follows his circular motion. With his left hand, he extracts a fireball from the flame and brings it towards him as well. He is now holding both a fireball and a water ball in each hand. “So what do you think, pretty cool right?”

Everyone is so captivated, they barely even register his words, but Nik snaps out of it and says, “That’s cool, but that’s only fire and water, what about earth and air? We’ve yet to see you do that.”

“Ok, how’s this?” He focuses on the water ball and it slowly begins to solidify until it’s frozen. “I’ve frozen it to absolute zero and now if I add this fire I’ll get….” A thick fog fills the room as the ice is rapidly cooled. The ice is quickly melted and the fire dissipates, leaving just the fog. It begins to spread, but then using more hand motions, Noah manipulates the fog and commands it to condense into a ball and float around. Finally, he opens up the cabinets, which are made of wood and then disperses the fog against each one, closing them like a breeze. After his show is complete, he turns to face the others.  “There you go, have you seen enough or do you still want more?”

Everyone is completely awestruck, even Nik and so no one says a word. After a long silence, Gunther suddenly shouts out, “Dude, you're just like the Avanar! You are an actual master of all elements!”

“The Avanar? Oh, I think my brother may have read those comics. It’s the one about that fire city girl who could control all the elements and had to protect the world from evil air nomads right?”

“Yea, that’s the one! That’s so cool! We actually know a real life Avanar, I’m so happy!”

“The Avanar is just a comic book Gunther, that’s not real life though I think the author based it off the Junsui demons and stuff. That being said, though, it’s weird how similar he is to that character.”

“I’ve read many books and never have I read that even the Ancients could do that, so how…?”

“Like I said Mai, I don’t know. All I know is I’ve had these abilities since I was like 12 though I didn’t learn to control them until I came here a bit afterward and Tahno started to teach me. I can actually do a lot more than this, but it’d be dangerous to go all out in such a confined space. I think you get the idea though right? I’m the only one in the world who can do this, so naturally Tahno would want me in his super team. I don’t really have a desire to lead and if he’d allow it, I’d totally let you be leader Nik, but he won’t. He said it has to be me and he insisted on it. So I guess we’ll just have to accept that.”

Nik didn’t look like he was completely satisfied with that, but he knew there was nothing to dispute, so he lets it go and simply says, “Fine, but just know you’re not the boss of me. Only I control myself.”

“That’s fine with me, I don’t want the extra responsibility anyway. So are we in this together or not?”

After a moment of thought and with a glance at the others, Nik accepts that they must do it. “Ok, I’m in.”

“I’m in too! I’ve always wanted to be a superhero, so this is the best chance I’ll get!” Gunther says.

Mai looks at Lili, who, after a moment of hesitation, nods at Mai and she acknowledges her decision. “We are in as well. I hope we can all get along and that we can be successful for the sake the children.” Mai places her hand in on top of Nik’s and Gunther’s and Lili follows suit, placing hers on Mai’s hand.

“Alright, I guess we’re doing this then. I hope we can too Mai. No, I know we can.” He places his hand on top of Lili’s and she immediately recoils back, extracting her hand and hiding behind Mai.
Noah jumps too, not expecting her to react that way. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to….” Mai is scowling.

“She doesn’t like to be touched, so don’t do it again.” She makes a protective stance around Lili and Noah finally realizes that Mai is like Lili’s personal bodyguard, hence why she’s always at her side. He doesn’t really care, but he can’t help but wonder why she needs to be protected so fiercely. He suddenly has an idea on how to break the ice more between them and  start to bond the way they need to.

“I think we need to get to know each other better, so how about we do official introductions and tell everyone our hobbies, happiest memories, and insecurities. Who wants to go first?”

Everyone is silent and looks uneasy, as though they don’t want to do it, but knows they should. Finally, Gunther decides to take the initiative. “Ok, I guess I’ll go first, but you guys better not laugh at me.”

“We won’t laugh Gunther, thanks for volunteering. Whenever you’re ready.” Everyone sits in attention.

“Well, I don’t really know what to say about myself since I’m not that interesting. I’ve always been bigger and stronger than the other kids, and that made people scared of me, so I didn’t really have friends at first. But then I started to be really nice to everyone and socialize more and that made everyone realize I really wasn’t scary and then I had loads of friends. They really rely on me now to help them with stuff, especially if it’s strenuous. I’m not all that smart, though, so I can’t really help them with classes. Making my first friend was my happiest memory and as for insecurities…well.” He takes a moment to think. “Well, I guess it’d be to be forgotten. I hated being alone all the time and watching everyone have so much fun together, but never being able to join in without scaring them off. I don’t really like to admit it, but I do understand that sometimes they take advantage of me, but if it means I can be friends with them, then I don’t really mind it. At least I won’t feel alone anymore.”

Everyone looks at Gunther with sympathy, as, in one way or another, they all understand what it’s like to be an outcast. Nik places his hand on Gunther’s shoulder and says, “you’re not alone anymore.”

Everyone nods in agreement, but Noah is the one who speaks. “I guess it probably feels better to feel included rather than excluded no matter the cost, but at the same time Gunther, you can’t let others take advantage of you. I don’t know you well or your friends so I can’t speak with certainty on this, but I can say this. We’re not going to use you just for your strength. I’m not one for being social these days and I’m not really interested in friends either, but you guys are an exception. I won’t get all emotional or sentimental, but I promise I’ll appreciate you all for who you are and I want you all to do the same. To be a real team, we have to trust each other completely and so although I may not have the right, I’d like to ask you all to be completely honest about everything. No secrets. I’ll do the same. Thanks, Gunther.”

Everyone is silent for a moment, probably deciding what deep dark secrets to tell, but finally Mai breaks the silence. “Alright, I guess I’ll go now. There really isn’t much to say about myself, though. I’ve always been a loner, but I never really minded that. Dealing with others was always such a bother, especially when they saw how skilled I was. I’ve always been at the top of my class in both training and academic activities and that made a lot of people resent me. They also loved to make fun of the fact that I kind of act like a guy. I’ve always been a little aggressive compared to most girls and I’ve never really liked to wear skirts or dresses, but that’s not really a reason to call me manly. I actually really like cute things, flowers, jewelry, and fashion, but people always just judged me on my physical appearance. So I decided it was easier to just pretend not to care and keep to myself than be made fun of. I can’t say I really have any happy memories; I just live for the mission. They tell us what to do and I do it, I don’t waste time on other things. I don’t have fun. I just do my best in everything so that I’ll be useful.”

Everyone is a bit somber once again, but then Lili speaks. “I don’t know what type of guys were in your class Mai, but I know what they were like in mine. They were gross, mean, creepy and wild, but you’re nothing like that. You’re plenty cute and not just that, but you’re so charming, sweet, kind and protective. You’re like…you’re just like a prince! I feel really safe with you, it’s what I like most.”

Lili smiles sincerely at Mai, making her face turn bright red, which can be seen clearly despite her dark complexion. She quickly regains her composure and says simply, “Thank-, Thank you Lili.”

Everyone watches their heartfelt moment and just as things starts to feel intrusive, Nik breaks the silence. “Well, I’m happy to say I wasn’t really a loner, in fact, I was well liked. I’ve always been the most spirited student as well as the most powerful in my class, so people idolized me most of the time.”

“Well weren’t you the lucky one. Way to brag about it.” Says Mai.

“I’m not bragging; I’m simply stating how it was. However, before you judge me, let me finish.”

She says nothing, but motions her hands as to say, “Well go on then.” He clears his throat and continues. “So as I said, I WAS idolized. However, one day I made one stupid mistake and it turned everyone against me. After that happened, they started to ostracize me. So to avoid being ignored, I started to become extra aggressive. I figured if they didn’t want to acknowledge me, I’d make them. Hence, I started to live up to my fire elemental name by becoming very fiery myself. I became a jerk to everyone and started to rely on only myself. I’d rather everyone hate me, but still talk about me rather than saying nothing at all. I wanted to prove that I was the strongest there was, no matter my personal feelings.”

The others all nod in understanding and but Noah isn’t satisfied. “What about your happy memory and insecurities. Even you must have at least one. I don’t believe your story is that simple.”

Nik’s face twists in agitation, but he maintains his composure. “Ok, I guess my happiest memory is when I scored the top place in the mock elemental battles. As for insecurities, well I guess it’d be that I want people to see me as the best. I don’t want to seem weak. That’s all.” He shifts uncomfortably.

Noah is the only one to catch this and decides to push further. “I’m still not buying that. There’s something missing. I know, what was your big mistake? Why’d they all turn against you?”

Nik tenses up and Noah knows he’s hit the jackpot. Nik is visibly annoyed now. “That’s none of your business! Just because you’re the leader, doesn’t mean you can force us to tell you everything.”

“I’m not trying to force you, but did you not understand me when I said no secrets. If you can’t trust us with whatever it is, then how could you possibly trust us with your life out there in battle. How could we trust you with ours? Everyone else is putting everything out there, so it’s only right you do the same.”

“Yea Nik, it’s ok. We won’t judge you. If you have a secret that painful, then wouldn’t it be nice to let it out? If there’s anyone who you can let it out with, it’s us. Right, guys?” Everyone nods in agreement.

Nik clenches his fists, obviously very agitated, but also seemingly on the verge of tears. “You guys are so damn annoying!” so he says, but there’s a hint of a slight smile. “Ok, I’ll tell you, but don’t blame me if it makes you uncomfortable.” He’s silent a moment and then finally says it short and blunt, “I’m gay.”

Everyone is quiet for a moment and then Gunther finally speaks. “Wait, so you mean you like guys?”

Nik’s face turns red. “You think it’s gross don’t you? I bet you don’t want to be roommates anymore.”

Gunther looks slightly confused. “Why wouldn’t I? Can we not be roommates if you’re gay?”

“Aren’t you worried that I’ll try and make a move on you or something? Or I’ll turn you gay too?”

“I don’t think it works like that. I don’t think I can “turn” gay. I don’t really know about that kind of stuff, but I do know that I like you as a friend. If you like me as more than that, I don’t mind, but I don’t think I’ll be able to return your feelings. No matter what, I still want to be your roommate and friend.”

Nik looks a bit surprised but then starts to laugh. “You are so innocent Gunther, but also kind. Thanks.”

Noah finally speaks. “There, was that so hard? We still don’t know what your “mistake” was, but I don’t think it matters now that we know your true insecurity. As Gunther said, though, even if you like guys or whatever, we still want to be your friends and we won’t judge you. Just don’t get any ideas about me.”

Nik smirks and says, “Don’t you get the wrong idea. You’re not my type at all. I like guys who are more active and a little less depressing, so no need to worry. You don’t have to worry either Gunther. You’re super cute and nice, but I don’t like you that way. I’m happy that we can be roommates, though.”

As the two deepen their broship, Noah notices Mai looking at Nik in awe, until she notices him looking. He also notices Lili, who looks terrified, probably due to the fact she’s the only one left. “Alright, I’m glad we got that out, so I guess that means it’s your turn Lili. Please share with us.”

She looks very nervous, as though she may pass out, but she still tries. “I, well, I, um….” Despite her efforts, she can’t seem to find her words and suddenly she starts to tremble as tears fall down. “I….”

Mai hugs her in an attempt to soothe her. “It’s ok, you don’t have to talk about it. I know it’s difficult.” She turns to Noah. “She’s not going to be able to share right now. It’s too painful for her.” Just as Noah starts to accept that, he sees Lili whisper something into her ear. “Are you sure? I don’t mind but….” After a minute, Mai turns to Noah and the others once again. “She says I can tell you all she told me.”

“Look, if it’s something that deep than we can just skip it. I’ll make an exception for her.”

“No!” Lili suddenly cries out. “I, I want you all to know the truth. It wouldn’t be fair for me to get a pass when you made Nik tell his. I just can’t bring myself to talk about it personally. But Mai knows everything from when we talked earlier, so I give her permission to tell you now.” She wipes her eyes.

As Lili leans against her, Mai takes a breath, preparing to speak. “Ok, I guess I’ll start then. I’m going to keep it short and general since even hearing it is really painful to her. For a really long time, as long as she can remember, Lili was sexually abused by several security guards.” Everyone takes a deep breath at the heaviness of that statement. “It went on for so many years, but no one knew and she couldn’t tell anyone either. It went on up until two years ago when the guards were suddenly gone and never came back. Even though they were gone, though, Lili could never feel safe, especially around any males.”

Noah finally understands and it all makes sense as to why she’s been so on edge since he’s arrived and freaked out when his hand touched her. He realizes she can’t trust men and he honestly can’t blame her.

“Since she couldn’t be around males, it made being in any social setting difficult since all classes are integrated. She ultimately decided to just isolate herself from everyone, so that no one could hurt her again. Despite these difficulties, though, she’s praised by the teachers as the best air elemental in her class, especially in meditation and other spiritual activities. She got so used to being alone, she can easily disconnect from reality and meditate within her mind for hours. It’s apparently an extremely rare skill among air elementals. This makes people idolize her and wants to befriend her, but she always ends up pushing them away, making her a voluntary outcast. So naturally, she has no happy memories.”

The mood in the room has become more somber than ever before as everyone lets what they just heard sink in. After a few minutes of silence, Noah finally speaks. “I’m really sorry you had to go through that Lili. I can only hope those bastards got what they deserve. I hope that you know, even if you can’t do it now, I really hope you know that you can trust us and we’d never hurt you like that, or let anyone else.”

Although her face is buried into Mai’s shoulder, she peers out enough to say a simple, “Thank you.”

“Of course.” He thinks for a moment. “Ok then, I guess that means it’s my turn.” Everyone looks at him in confusion. “What? You didn’t think I’d make you all tell your deepest secrets and not do the same did you? I’ll tell you mine, but to be honest, it may bring you down even more than Lili’s story did.”

“It’s ok, we want to hear it. Like you said, it’s the best way for us to get closer to each other.” Says Nik.

“Ok then, here it is,” He tells them everything, from being born to the present, leaving nothing out. Once he’s done, everyone is silent and Lili is even crying. “Pretty depressing isn’t it? I told you it would be.”

“You lost everything and everyone you loved. Of course, it’s depressing. Not to mention that you have to live as the thing that took it all away. That’s such a sick twist of fate. For the killer to be your broth-.”

“That thing was not my brother!” Mai is startled by his abrupt response to her suggestion. Realizing he was too harsh, he calms down. “Sorry, but that thing was not my brother, no matter what it said. I only have one brother and that was Caleb. He’s the one who left me this wristband. It’s all I have left now.”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to offend you. I’m really sorry about your family, but honestly I can’t help but envy you a little as I, as is the case with the others I’m sure, have never met my family. So I don’t even have a memory of anyone to grieve over. As strange as it may sound, I think you should consider yourself very lucky for having them at all.” Everyone looks down, knowing she speaks their feelings.

Noah suddenly feels guilty, understanding that it probably would feel very lonely, to never have at least met your family once or have any faces to remember. “Well, I guess we’ve all suffered then haven’t we? It’s painful and sad, but I do believe that our pain can make us stronger. That’s what Tahno always says anyway. Regardless of where we came from or what we’ve experienced in the past, I can say that from today on, we are no longer alone. I promise to be the best leader I can be, but before that I promise to be the best friend I can. I’m not very good at it yet, but I will try to get better as we spend more time and start our training together. I won’t ask you to follow me unless you really want to. It’s your choice.”

Everyone looks as though they are thinking it over, but to Noah’s surprise, Nik is the first to speak. “I’m not the type of guy to follow others, but I guess I’ll take a step back this time and make sure you’re living up to the standards. But just know that if I see you getting out of line, I’ll take over your spot.”

He smirks and Noah realizes that it’s him giving his support in his own way. Gunther adds, “I don’t think things are going to get more fun than this, so I’m totally in. I’ll keep us all safe and happy!”

“I’ll follow your orders as I would any other leader and do my best to make our missions successful.”

“I…I don’t know how much I can do, but I’ll support the team in the best way that I can.” Says Lili.

“Thanks, everyone, I appreciate it, but please don’t be so formal. Just be yourselves. I’m not going to be a hard ass, that’s Tahno’s job. I’m just here to offer my demon powers if things get rough. That’s it.”

They all smile, feeling as though they’ve just made some sort of friendship pact. However, they all feel as though their shoulders are just a tiny bit lighter and their chests aren’t quite as tight. Even Noah, who spent the last two years hating everything and everyone, can’t help but smile. He’s not sure where they’re headed, but he knows that wherever it may be, they’re going to get there together.

Gunther stands up in excitement. “Ok, who wants to get this party started? Tahno said we could have the rest of the day off, so why are we just sitting around? Let’s have some fun!” He hops around.

Nik stands next and says, “Well, I guess I don’t have much else to do, so I could spare some time.”

Mai looks at Lili, who smiles, seeming to have calmed down from before. “What do you say Lili?”

“I’ll do whatever you do Mai.” She remains close to her, holding her arm, even as they stand.

“I guess we’re in then too.” Mai blushes slightly, as though she’s embarrassed. Noah looks at Lili, who averts her gaze as soon as his eyes meet hers. He can’t help but be concerned over her well-being and makes a mental note of something, before finally saying, “Alright, if you guys are in, then let’s do it!”

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