I join the others in the pit, where we suit up for battle. Our normal uniforms are black, with a high-neck collar, with trim in a color matching our respective classes and buttons are lined down the middle. However, for battle exercises, we wear a different uniform, one that is much more suited for battle and survival, especially on days such as this. Our battle uniforms are more or less the same as any other military would be, with the camouflage cargo pants, boots, tank, and jacket. However, we don’t use helmets and there are no bullet-proof vests here either. In fact, we really don’t go into battle with much more than our uniforms and weapon. However, this is more than sufficient for us, since none of us are technically human. This might sound a bit complicated, so I should probably explain some things.
You see this world is not the world as it was 500 years ago, just before the Cursed War began. This war was one fought between two demon factions, the Karyuhdo, and the Kusaru. The Karyuhdo were the intelligent side, or “Sanes” if you prefer and they knew how to survive in the world peacefully amongst humans, and did so without conflict by utilizing animals for their dietary needs. However, the Kusaru were the impulsive, wild side that could not control their hunger for human flesh and, therefore, would slaughter countless innocents, being labeled as “Ferals”. They had existed already for 500 years before this and 500 years after in the present, they still remain, but in secret. However, their Cursed War dragged many humans into it on either side, dividing them and leading them to ruin. It’s taken 450 years to rebuild civilization, but it’s a New Age, where things have become completely different from before.
In this New Age, the world has been sectioned off into Prefectures, multiple districts contained in each. Some countries have just one prefecture, where others have many, it all depends on the size. This prefecture unites all of Japan, where we reside, split into five districts, Hokkaido City being our capital. Despite being in Japan, however, it’s a very different Japan than it used to be, having the most diversity of all the prefectures across the world. This is because immediately following the end of the war, the world had become toxic, wiping out most populations, leaving just a small section of Japan with a habitable atmosphere. This led to the migration of the few resilient humans from all across the world who were able to survive. Along with the founder, General Yoshii Wakaba, these people rebuilt civilization starting right here in Wakaba and once it had flourished, they migrated across the world, which had slowly regained its habitable atmosphere over time and then they built the other prefectures.
Somewhere along the way, Marked Children began to be born. These were children who were born with a specific mark on their inner arms and when these children reached puberty; their first step into adulthood, they’d develop powers with which they were able to produce a single element from within. These children did not appear to pose a threat if they were well managed, however not long after their emergence, the Ancient Demons of the past, known collectively as the Junsuikaoni Demons, began to resurface. The Sanes went on to form their own secret societies in the outskirts of the wilderness, and maintained a peaceful existence, such that no one was aware of their true nature. However, the Ferals also resurfaced and once again began to ravish the outer districts, formed by deserters who no longer had the right to the prefecture’s protection. However, the biggest issue was that Feral lords, who were able to exercise more restraint, learned of the existence of the Marked Children and wanted to use them for their selfish gain of taking back control. So they began to kidnap them and manipulate them into causing destruction from the inside, where they were never suspected because they’d never been a danger before. Once they were discovered, the Wakaba parliament put intense security measures into place.
This led to the creation of the very first Junsui Hunter Academy here in Wakaba, which was intended to protect the Marked Children from harm at the hands of the Ferals and maintain Wakaba’s safety. At least that’s what they told the citizens. However, we know the truth as students of this Academy and we’re not here for our own protection nor the good of Wakaba. This is just the councils selfish attempt at exploiting our powers for their gain, by training us to amplify our powers and fight the Ferals as well as the Sanes, who only want peace. They don’t care about one side or the other, they just want to suppress the Junsui Demons once and for all so their power will never be threatened and we are simply tools. We are not exactly human, despite our appearance, simply because we have demon blood coursing through our veins. This ultimately makes us Superhumans, with abnormally resilient bodies, advanced speed, senses, agility and we can pull that demonic energy from our soul force and materialize a single element.
However, even with all of that, Marked Children are nothing like the true Junsui Demons. They aren’t immortal, they can’t hold a candle to the resilience, strength, and ferocity that Junsui Demons have, they can’t heal themselves, they can’t transform into full demons, they can’t control natural elements from the environment and as the one benefit, they don’t require nutrients from a direct living source. That’s the one downfall the Junsui Demons have though luckily, they don’t need to consume those nutrients all the time, just every few days and animals suffice just fine though the human flesh is certainly tempting. So as I said, we’re not humans, but unlike the rest of my team, I’m not a Marked Child. As I said earlier, I’m a full-fledged, true blooded Junsui Demon, transformation and all and it totally sucks. Sure I’m just about invincible, but at the cost of needing to eat living things, even if they are animals, to survive and not being able to do things as freely as the others and humans, all because one wrong move can literally be deadly. I’ve got to keep my temper in check, my emotions in general really, otherwise even a small thing could send me off the edge and into demon mode, which is dangerous for everyone around me.
So how did I end up here, in this Academy full of people being trained to kill people like me? Well, that’s a long story so I won’t be telling it here, but I’m sure someone’s written a book* on it by now, so there you go.
“Earth to Noah!” Nik waves his hands in front of my face. It gets my attention, but I don’t flinch at all.
“What?” I continue to strap on my gantlets, each holding a retractable Sai blade, as I wait for his reply.
“Oh, nothing. It’s just, we’ve been watching you stare off into space like a zombie for like the last five minutes. Talking to those people in your head again?” He chuckles at his own lame joke. “Come on.”
“Oh, you’re so funny.” My sarcasm reaches a new high. “Let’s see how much you’ll be laughing out there once we start fighting those Ferals.” As I snap the final latch down, I turn and face him with a grin.
“Yeah, we’ll see alright. Don’ think you’ll get an advantage just cause you’re a demon, I’ll kill mine before you can kill yours. Just watch!” He hoists his battle bow and arrows over his shoulder as he walks
Gunther quickly latches his double-sided Warhammer against his back and chases after Nik. “You mean OURS don’t you?” He easily catches up and walks together with Nik to the exit door where they wait.
I look over to Mai, who’s just slid her second Katana Blade into its sheath against her back, right next to the other one, the two ends forming an X pattern. “Lili, be sure to hook it on properly this time.”
“I know, I know. Here, check it for me.” Lili stands in front of Mai with her arms out to the side, so she can see her harness. Mai tugs on it to ensure that Lili’s Double-Sided Scythe Staff is snug against her back. She nods in confirmation and pets Lili’s head, which she always enjoys. “Ok, let’s go now!”
I watch as Lili drags Mai off to join the guys at the exit door, wondering what type of relationship those two actually have. From Mai’s constant blushes and flustered behavior when Lili gets too close, I’d think she had feelings for her. Her unjust animosity towards me sure seems to suggest so, yet I’ve never seen her make any advances or show any indication otherwise that she has feelings for Lili beyond that of like a little sister. Petting her head, checking behind her and tending to every need as though she’s still a child, that’s not very fitting behavior for someone who’s in love. Unless she just hasn’t realized her true feelings herself yet, that’s a likely possibility. You can’t count on Lili to pick up on it since she’s oblivious to a lot of things and is so out of touch with love and relationships, she’d never really understand it even if she shared similar feelings to Mai’s. I shrug my shoulders, no longer caring. I’m sure they’re happy with things as they are now, so what happens in the future is their business, not mine.
I finally make my way over to join the others and just as I reach the group, Tahno comes over to us.
“Alright, I see you’ve all geared up, good. Now, today you’re going to be faced with a training exercise a bit more challenging than normal. Usually, each pair would go out and wait in the clearing until I released a captured Feral, but this isn’t all that typical of a real-time situation. So instead of sending the Ferals to you, I’m sending you to them and you’re all going to go at the same time, not pair by pair.”
Everyone is visibly surprised at Tahno’s sudden change of protocol except for me, I’m not surprised by anything the sadistic bastard does anymore. “You mean they’ve already been released?” Mai asks.
“Yes, they’ve been running around out there for almost a day now, so they’re quite famished too.”
“But, that means they’ll be even more aggressive right? A day without flesh makes them even madder!”
“Yes Gunther that’s correct, but that’s the point. Ferals in the wilderness outside these walls are not the tame demons you’ve been fighting so far. They are starved, aggressive beings that will devour you in seconds if you leave yourself vulnerable. Now these will not be that intense, but don’t think you can underestimate them, though, they are still fierce and will require quality teamwork, which is my aim.”
“So we have to fight them alone? More than one? I don’t think I’m ready for that!” Lili calls out in fear.
“Well I’m sorry Lili, but that’s how it is. You’ll; never be ready for a fight with them out there, so you should just get used to it. That’s why you must rely on your team to help you and protect each other.”
Mai places her hand on Lili’s head. “Don’t worry, I’ll protect you Lili, just like I always do, ok?”
Lili seems to have calmed down from Mai’s reassuring words. “Ok, I trust you, Mai. I trust everyone.”
“Yea, don’t worry Lili, we’ve got your back! I’ll smash any Feral that gets close to you into pieces. Then I’ll bury them with my rocks. I don’t like fighting, but I won’t let those creeps hurt my friends.” Gunther is pumped up for the battle, flexing his chests in a way that shows off his hidden muscles.
“Hold the iron there buddy.” Nik pats Gunther’s shoulder and then turns to Lili. “We’ve got your back Lili; we’ll make sure those freaks don’t lay a finger on you two.” He shows off a valiant pose and grin.
“Thanks, but I can protect myself and Lili too. Just worry about yourself.” Mai bites back with ferocity.
“Wow! Isn’t someone a bit touchy today? Is it that time of the month, or just your normal bitchiness?”
Nik spits it right back and Mai scowls, creating a hostile contrast between them, fire and ice indeed.
“Mai, calm down. I’m sure he didn’t mean any harm; they’re just being nice.” Lili pleads with her.
“Yea, chill you guys. We shouldn’t go into battle with such animosity, we have to work together.”
Hearing Gunther’s words, Nik starts to back down and Mai relaxes in response to Lili’s plea.
I’m sure this is a moment where the leader is supposed to step in and rally the team, but I’m not really feeling it today, so I just simply say, “Guys just cut the shit and get it together. We have the battle to win.”
They all look at me as though I’m a nuisance, but they say nothing more. Tahno, who’s been watching silently this whole time, says nothing about the matter, but instead continues his briefing. “Ok, so you can remain in your usual pairs to fight, but you should stay as a unit in the same area so that you are available to aid a teammate outside your pair if things get intense. There’s three Ferals loose out there, so one for each pair and one for Noah. I won’t be participating of course, but I will be observing. However, don’t think that’s a safety net because I’m not going to step in if things go bad. You’re on your own for this one, so understand that if you don’t work diligently and work TOGETHER, you can and will die. He opens the exit door with the push of a button. “Happy hunting!” He says enthusiastically.
We step out into the open air and feel the cool breeze on our faces. For being March, it’s surprisingly warmer than usual, though the breeze does give a slight chill. We look at our surrounds, which is basically an open field surrounded by a thicket of trees, in which our Feral targets are surely hiding.”
Tahno closes down the door and with its click we’re officially on our own. We hear screeches. “Well, I guess it’s time to man up and kill these fuckers. Just follow my lead Noah, I’ll show you how it’s done.”
As Nik runs off into the woods, the others quickly follow and with a smirk I take off too. “Bring it on!”
*(Author Note)*- I've referenced my prequel book, Trials of the Junsuikaoni: Beginnings (Book 0), in this series for the sake of those who may not have read it. I will explain the most important details in this story, so reading Book 0 isn't mandatory, but if you want to know more on Noah's full past as well as the others, you may want to give it a read, it's not that long. Thanks!