The demon that emerged from the void  had large hands, a pet.i.te body and a long, slimy tongue which it slurped occasionally.
(A/N: I already mentioned that a spatial rift connects the mortal world to another dimension. This other dimension is the 'void'. It's a pitch black s.p.a.ce which houses millions of creatures of the dark)
It sniffed the air and stupidly grinned the moment it spotted the rotting corpse lying in its way. Perhaps the smell was what had attracted it over from the void. It slowly and cautiously approached the bait, and once it had ascertained that there was nothing wrong with it, it dived in and hungrily chomped away the meat all the way to the bones.
The speed at which it devoured the corpse was almost frightening, but when the deed was done, the demon suddenly became quite strange. It straightened up mechanically, flapped its tiny wings and wobbled away towards the sky.
Ren, a little disgusted, "Where is it going?"
Shin, "It should probably be the place where I last left my trace."
"Wait, what? Doesn't that mean it's the place you last visited while you were still injured?  Then that place is…."
(A/N: When Shin was injured, he couldn't hide his presence and could be detected. So the last place where he couldn't hide it was at the Clan the night Ren took him there.)
Shin, somehow feeling a little proud that Ren caught on, "Correct. It's your clan."
While his veins were on the verge of popping, another movement from near the void drew their attention. Three figures in violet robes appeared from the woods.
Ren was taken aback, not simply because he found it strange to sight humans in the demon's nest, but rather because he recognised the two men trailing behind as the direct attendants of clan head Kazuki of the Takasu clan, who often came over during inter-clan meetings. The two men were young and skilled, and had a well earned position in their clan.
Shin whispered in Ren's ears, "Told you you will find something interesting here."
The third person who walked ahead was wearing a hood and facing them with his back, which was why Ren couldn't quite figure out who it was. But one thing he was sure of was that the person was quite tall and had a muscular body.
It was then when the hooded figure spoke to the men following him, "Take it out."
The voice was clearly that of a man, but it was unusually hoa.r.s.e and ragged for a normal person.
The moment the two men heard the order, they rushed forward, then rummaged through a large bag and took out something that looked like a...broken human hand.
The stench of rotting flesh immediately dispersed in the air.
The hooded figure roared, "Pathetic! Don't you know that demons prefer a whole corpse?���
The men deeply bowed, "Forgive us, my lord."
Ren noticed a low growl in the man's voice as he said, "Forget it! Hurry up if you don't wish to replace the corpse!"
The men turned the bag upside down with trembling hands and a disarmed corpse rolled on the ground. The hooded figure approached the corpse and kicked it with his feet.
One of the two subordinates mumbled, "M-my Lord, why must we leave behind one corpse at a time? If we bring a lot at once, wouldn't it attract more demons? It would even save my Lord's b-blo-"
The figure shot him a sideways glance. Although Ren couldn't see his face, he was sure the man must have glared at his companion, because the latter immediately quieted down and shriveled in himself.
The hoa.r.s.e voice said, "Demons... are gluttonous by nature. Unless there's an entire horde of them, if we waste all the corpses on a single stray, even a city full of corpses can be cleaned to the bone by a single one of them. However... if you are not satisfied with this Lord's knowledge, you can offer your flesh and see if it attracts more demons."
"N-No my Lord! Forgive me. This lowly one will never question Lord's omniscience again."
The man bowed deeply and didn't dare raise his head again. The hooded figure sneered and in a quick few steps, he bit his own skin and dripped his blood on the body lying on the ground.
A howl resounded from the void. It seemed a stray had already sensed the presence of a corpse.
Yet, at this very instance, Ren's gaze still hadn't moved from the corpse and the glob of blood wriggling above it.
Only, the blood wasn't red. It was black.
When Ren unconciously shifted his gaze to the man's face who had now turned around, he was struck dumb.
Shin, on the other hand, merely scowled with disgust.
Hidden beneath the hood was not a man, but a red skinned creature with a disfigured face. Not only could it talk and walk like a human, it seemed to even possess the intelligence of one.
Shin, "It's called a blood contract. If a goon drinks the blood of a higher demon, they are bound for a lifetime and must follow its orders. Looks like the first h.o.a.rd of demons is already headed for your clan."
Ren's clenched fist trembled slightly. Shin narrowed his eyes. It was finally time to take back what belongs to him.
Above the Akayama main house, the afternoon sky was darker than dusk. An amber colored translucent barrier surrounded the walls, and a crowd of villagers and clansmen were housed within.
The frightened commoners were camouflaged against the back wall, admirably looking up to the pract.i.tioners and mages who stood on the frontlines. In the purple sky of doom, countless demons floated while emitting black wisps of smoke.
Dull-witted demons  were a common sight around the Akayama clan. Whenever such demons sighted human meat, they would rush forward without restraint and devour anything they could get their hands on, from hands and feet to even the internal organs.
(A/N: Lower level demons who don't possess reason/thought process of their own.)
The Akayama clan's barrier was also specifically designed for such demons. If a human stood within the barrier and the creatures rushed towards him, the energy field in the middle would evaporate every trace of any demon that came in contact with it.
But currently this wasn't quite the case. The mages led by Yuan, who were currently holding up the barrier, faced two major issues.
The first issue lied with the demons hovering in the sky. Not only did their number slowly increase since an hour ago, they seemed to possess an unusual sense of intelligence. Yuan wasn't certain if it was an illusion, but he noticed some of the demons even conversed and acted like humans. As for the other minions who should have wreaked havoc at the sight of human meat, all of them mechanically floated at a safe distance away from the barrier, as if there was a strange force directing them to not make a move.
If the demons didn't come in contact with the barrier, there would be nothing to eradicate them.
The second issue lied with the barrier itself. When Yuan was teleported back, the incoming horde of demons alerted the entire clan, and he immediately set up the barrier around the main house. However, he noticed that the spiritual tool initiating the barrier was contaminated with intense dark energy.
The only way to keep the barrier up was by continuously purifying the contamination, but that required an intense amount of the mage's own spiritual energy in return.
It was only because of the amber stone that Shin had handed him earlier that Yuan managed to hold out till now. However, he wasn't the true owner of the stone. There was only so much it could do. It was a matter of time before the barrier would succ.u.mb and open up the path for demons to devour them all.
The mages supporting the barrier panicked as they sensed its rising instability, "Yuan sama, what should we do?"
"Keep holding on. Ask the pract.i.tioners to be ready with their weapons and talismans. Once the barrier is broken, we must prepare ourselves for the worst."
Although his words were full of encouragement, they were, afterall, only fake rea.s.surance. The mages of the clan were drained of their spiritual reserve. Having the pract.i.tioners tackle demons would be similar to using pebbles against a missile.
Among the horde of demons in the sky, there was also a Demon Lord looking over the clan below.
He chirped happily, "Soon the next horde of demons will be here. Once their spirit reserve runs out, I won't let that sc.u.m hide here any longer."
But before he could wholeheartedly rejoice, bad news came along.
Suddenly the demons all around began to lose the mechanical look in their eyes. While they were still and composed a few moments ago, they now restlessly began to turn their heads around as if they had just broken out of hypnosis.
Some of them even noticed the group of humans inside the barriers and began to crackle while peering at them with glutinous eyes. Scared that their feast would be stolen by the other minions, the greedy ones immediately charged towards the barrier.
The Demon Lord roared, "Wait, where are you going?"
But the minions didn't care. They were instead more scared that the higher demons would steal away their prey, and rushed over at a faster pace.
The purpose for which the barrier was erected was finally ready to be realised. Once the horde of demons came in contact with it, they began to evaporate with a sizzle.
Demon Lord, "Fools! What is Erndel doing? Ask him to discipline them right now!"
One of the other higher demons spoke, "My Lord, we cannot establish a link with the second master."
Demon Lord, "??"
It was then when a voice floated over, "Well, your second master has just been barbecued."
The demons were startled by the voice, and when they turned around , they spotted a white robed man standing at the edge of the forest. The man smirked when their eyes met, and flung a burnt corpse on the ground which rolled a few times and finally halted while facing towards the sky.
Demon Lord was horrified when he looked at the corpse. He cried out, "Brother!"
At the edge of the forest, Ren shook his head to stabilize his view. It was his first experience in teleportation, and he secretly admitted that it wasn't the most pleasant one.
He complained, "Didn't you say earlier that we couldn't teleport over?"
"Well, I forgot to mention that aside from opening spatial rifts, this spiritual device  can also allow one to transverse through s.p.a.ce."
(A/N: The black stone in his hands)
Ren, "Yeah, that's great. But couldn't you have made it a little more comfortable?"
"And what's with the strange neon patterns I saw while teleporting over? My eyes are bleeding!"
"Also, didn't you have half of that device earlier too? Why didn't you use it to teleport to the demon's nest?"
Shin, a little troubled by this erratic young master, "So nosy. I had my reasons!"
Watching them bicker like a pair of love birds, the Demon Lord roared.
"Merapi! You f.u.c.king sc.u.m. I will avenge my brother, and I will retrieve the core my master wishes. I will not let you live!"
Shin humphed, "Dont call my name with that unpleasant mouth."
The Demon Lord was on the verge of exploding, "My fellows, tear this man apart this instant!"
But the 'fellows' he seeked out were no longer bound by the orders, the master controlling them was reduced to a charred corpse, while they themselves willingly suicided against the barrier.
The Demon Lord gritted his teeth. He glared at Shin and after a fleeting contemplation, he conjured a vial full of bubbling purple liquid in front of him. Never had he expected that after everything he had planned since he entered this world while chasing after this fox sc.u.m, he would eventually still have to resort to his last option.
However, as long as it was something that could please his great master, even if it was something that cost him half his soul, he wouldn't think twice and would willingly accept it.
He immediately unscrewed the vial and gulped down the concoction. When the last drop of liquid slid down his throat, a sudden burst of dark energy emanated from his body.
The energy was such that it even influenced the nearby demons. The minions became more agitated and charged at the barrier all the once. Yuan's spirit reserve that had almost ran dry couldn't keep up with the upheaval movement, and the barrier surrounding the main house shattered into millions of tiny pieces.
Seeing the group of demons eyeing them as if they were a piece of meat, the villagers shrieked in panic.
Shin waved his hand, "Stand back."
A spark pa.s.sed through the air. Within a few moments, the main house and the surrounding sky was engulfed in a sea of flames. The fiery orange blaze roared and swayed wildly.
The villagers screamed in fear. On one hand the demons wanted to devour them, while on the hand they were standing amidst raging flames. No matter how they looked at it, the only thing waiting for them was an agonizing end.
However, it wasn't long before they realised that although the flame was so hot it burned the demon all the way to the bones, the humans were still left unscathed. Rather, they felt a soothing warmth from the flames instead.
The villagers heaved a sigh of relief and slumped on the ground. After staring at death right in the face, they felt as if their legs had gone weak.
On the other side of the flames, a figure shot through the air towards Shin. Although the flames around him burned and charred his skin, the wounds healed faster than they were formed.
Ren worried in his heart, he had never encountered a creature surging with this amount of power before. However, he somehow felt a strange comfort when he gazed at Shin's towering back ahead of him.
As the Demon Lord approached closer, he struck out his claw and aimed it at Shin's heart. A look of triumph appeared on his face, it must be because his speed was too fast that the opponent hadn't even attempted to flee. A scene of his master promoting him was projected in his mind. The closer he got, the more confident he became.
Until… he couldn't get close anymore. A force as strong as the mountains held him in place.
When he slowly looked down, he saw a hand choking his throat.
Shin, "Such an arrogant creature. Did you think your master would have sent a weakling like you here if I wasn't already at the verge of death?"
It was the first time that someone other than his master made the Demon Lord tremble with fear.
Shin, "I will not kill you. Because I want you to return and let your master know: 'Count the days you have remaining in this world. When the 8 legends reunite, even h.e.l.l will tremble.'"
Once Shin was finished speaking, the Demon Lord's surroundings warped and his body disappeared. Even the other higher demons following him were nowhere to be found.
The flames around the main house continued to surge until the last one of the minions was burnt away. When everything was over, the clansmen heaved a sigh of relief. They immediately busied themselves with clearing the aftermath of the attack, and aside from a few minor casualties, the clan was broadly left without any damage.
Yuan spotted Ren at the edge of the forest being teased by a carefree Shin. He also noticed that Ren was holding the end of a rope tied to two men whom he recognized as the Takasu clansmen.
Even without a need for explanation, he understood everything.
The next few days were very chaotic for the Akayama clan. When clan head Yashuo got the news of a demon attack, he immediately left the emergency meeting to return back to the clan. However, he was faced with countless obstacles and a.s.sa.s.sins along the way. All he could say was… it was a road laid with many thorns.
He managed to return back to the clan in one piece, but the knowledge of clan head Kazuki's personal attendants in the demon's nest made him furious. He tortured the men until they confessed that their clan head did indeed collude with the demons.
It turned out that since a long time ago, the Takasu clan would capture demons and relocate them in the forest behind the Akayama clan. This was initially done to impair the trade route and weaken the Akayamas, but a few weeks ago, clan head Kazuki became strange. He brought home a few strange looking guests and began to pot cruel schemes. The clan head eventually told his close attendants that the guests were in fact demons and wanted to help them annihilate the Akayama and establish the Takasu clan as a ruler of all the clans in the land. Once this sinister scheme was out in the open, the inter clan a.s.sociation severely punished clan head Kazuki and even banished him from the land.
As for the forest, the spatial rift was sealed and the energy fluctuation of the forest stabilized. It was once again lively with the movement of villagers and traders. Even the magic beasts who had earlier migrated out of fear of demons slowly began to return.
Despite being occupied with clan work, Ren would often visit the sanctum to ensure that his beasts were living peacefully. And although he would never admit it himself, his eyes would unconsciously seek the white robed man who had disappeared since the day of the demon attack.
"Could it be that he went back to the world he came from?"
Yuan, who accompanied Ren to the sanctum, wondered loudly.
Ren's hand caressing a rabbit beast seemed to have trembled slightly. He pretended to not have heard Yuan's words.
A month pa.s.sed by and the clan reverted back to its normal lifestyle. The people were satisfied, the trade flourished, but to Ren, life was once again boring and meaningless. Although his father no longer restricted him from wandering around, Ren thought that there was only so much he could see in the forest.
When he was restrained, he wanted to be free. But now that he was free, it just wasn't enough. He wanted to travel more, to explore more.
On one such dull and lifeless night, when Ren headed over to his only place of bliss, he noticed that the little lively beasts that usually crowded around him were nowhere to be found.
Ren's heart thudded loudly, Isn't this like deja vu?
He hastened his pace and searched around the sanctum, until his eyes finally fell on a fluffy tail spread out from a nearby bush.
He immediately rushed over and parted the leaves, and lying amidst the soft gra.s.s was a large, fleecy fox. It was snow white in color, with a fiery orange circling its closed eyes, and a phoenix shaped patch on his warm fur.
When the fox noticed a visitor. It slowly opened his eyes.
Ren was exhilierated and pounced at the fox for a hug. Within his embrace, the fox's body transformed into that of a man.
Behind the forest of the Akayama clan, under the moonlight brighter than ever before, a man in white and an unpredictable young master stayed entangled in a warm, heartfelt hug.