Blue felt the demonic energy in the air as soon as he entered the village - it felt like a physically oppressive force weighing down on his SOUL, as if it was trying to pry his rib cage open and know him.
It was a gross feeling.
He noted that it was having a similar effect on his brother - whose usually lax posture was tense, chest puffed like there was something crawling down his spine.
“what th' hell …” The taller skeleton muttered, hand fidgeting with the inclination to reach into his hoodie pocket (he’d owned the article for years, and its once vibrant orange had been dulled by time, use, and dirt into a faded burnt sierra). He usually kept a pack of cigarettes in said pocket, but at his brother’s insistence, he’d not brought any to the village.
(Smoking was a deplorable habit, really. Part of The Academy’s training was to ‘overcome your personal demons’, and this certainly applied to Stretch’s smoking.)
Blue’s brow bone quirked at the taller’s nervous tell as he patted the other’s arm.
“Easy on the language, brother! We’re on a job, professionalism is key!”
A brief huff was all he got in response, along with a few mumbled choice words.
“The Good Goddess is listening at all times, you know.” Blue reminded him, starting towards the village entrance.
The brothers (Blue, specifically) had been called into town by the local priest who’d seen the rise of violence and debauchery among the youth and feared the worst.
Usually, Blue would send advice through letter correspondence - how to handle rebellious teens, words of comfort for the parents - and if the acts of defiance continued, perhaps he would send some cleansing incense. Unrest among the youth was common, and whilst Blue didn’t want to discredit the priest, he also wasn’t one to go on wild goose chases for demons that didn’t exist.
It had started that way, too - Blue hadn’t been particularly interested in this case since it was from a small and poor village, away from the action of the Capital where he’d done his apprenticeship and consequently gained an appetite for the high-risk and exciting life of an Exorcist - or as he preferred to refer to it - Demon Hunter .
As he’d worked up the ranks, however, the less action he got in on. Nowadays they had him cooped up in an office somewhere looking over legal work, giving speeches on new techniques (which he’d yet to be approved to be put into use) and, yes , sending correspondence to concerned priests.
He felt more like a glorified PR representative than a Hunter .
His taller, lazier, younger brother disagreed. As an apprentice himself, he had required quotas and strict training regimes. He often expressed his envy over Blue’s ‘Cushy Office Job’.
And - well, Blue couldn’t disagree with the cushy part. He got paid well - well enough to keep a decent roof over he and his brother’s skulls and to cover leisure expenses as well.
Back to the oddity of this specific case, though. As far as Blue had been concerned a week ago - it was a simple case of Pissy Priest Syndrome and nothing more.
That is, until the murder.
Again - sad as the reality of it was, murder was not the most uncommon thing in the world. What is uncommon is a brutalized corpse found in an ‘urban’ alley, completely mauled with bites taken out of the body.
Most concerning was that the bites didn’t match any natural animal that was native to the mountainous area around the village. Then there’d been the lack of DNA or clues that would lead to a suspect. The priest… the priest had enclosed photos of the crime scene.
Neither Blue nor The Academy could ignore his cries for help any longer, and, as the most knowledgeable Exorcist of the case, Blue had been quickly dispatched. Stretch had come along more as an afterthought since The Academy had gone on its summer break a few weeks prior. Blue… was understandably hesitant to leave his lazy brother home alone for any amount of time.
Last time he’d done something like this, Stretch had played video games for three days straight, not once getting up besides to get another fizzy, sugary drink or a bag of chisps.
He’d been so depraved that he’d started to drink honey of all things. To Blue’s chargin, Stretch had almost developed as much of a taste for the condiment (!!!) as he had his precious death sticks .
Successful as Blue had been in getting Stretch to leave behind said cancer bombs, he was reminded of his failure to get his brother to leave behind no less than ten bottles of the sticky, viscous condiment .
Two of which he’d already managed to down within the five hour train ride on the way to the village.
“ bro …!” Stretch wheezed out from behind Blue as he attempted to catch up. Amusingly, his long legs were still no match for Blue’s fast gate.
“Hurry along, brother! The priest of the village has been kind enough to pay for us to stay at a local hot spring, and I would not like to make a bad first impression by being late!”
Blue slowed marginally, if only out of pity for his brother who seemed rather unused to the weight of his packed bag on his back. Blue himself had no trouble with his own bag - he packed light, and besides that, trained regularly to keep himself in tip-top condition.
He briefly thought about contacting The Academy and alerting them of some of the student’s lack of weight-lifting ability.
“hot springs sound like heaven …” Stretch sighed, adjusting the pack on his back.
Blue hummed in agreement - the demonic energy was getting stronger the further inward of the village they traveled, feeling almost like it was slithering between his bones to better acquaint itself with him.
“I don’t think that it’ll be very relaxing considering the heavy Presence in this place - the demon is either very strong, or has been here for awhile… perhaps both…” He muttered the last part to himself, not wanting to concern his brother.
“yeh? think it could’a been a dormant type? could’a taken root years ago an’ came up an about when violent energy started up.”
“It’s possible. Buuuuutttt…. If it truly is an activation-type demon, then it’ll be…” Blue looked at his brother expectantly, trailing off on a high, questioning note.
Stretch thought for a number of moments as he followed Blue, even scratching at the top of his skull a few times before answering.
“rooted in an’ object?”
“Yes! Good job, brother. Most activation type demons are activated by violent intent or presence. Once it’s awakened, it’ll spread the same energy and slowly start to poison the SOULs of the occupants of the village.”
“ ugh . i thought school was on break, ” Stretch whined. However, despite his complaint, he continued to listen as Blue lectured.
“ - It’s an important lesson, Papy, especially since you’re going to be on the field with me. Anywho, since activation-type demons are low level and take root in inatimate objects, it’s unlikely to be the type we’re dealing with now. Remember the murder? Activation-types have been known to influence others into undertaking violent acts, but it would be happening on a mass scale.”
“sooooo… not an activation-type?”
“Most likely not,” Blue confirmed. “To me, it seems to be a textbook case of Summoning Gone Wrong - letting a fairly powerful demon loose. It would also explain the odd murder, which seems to be neither an animal, human nor monster act.”
Stretch grunted, “how’dya figure?”
“The priest mentioned rising conflict among youth. Most summonings gone awry are conducted by misguided youth in a tense living situation - which you’d know if you studied, by the way.”
Affonted, Stretch countered Blue’s theory.
“i study , mr. office job. also - th’ demon would have probably killed th’ kid if that was the case. th’ murder victim was an adult male. plus th’ presence in th’ village has been here for awhile. i can feel it in my bones .”
The elder skeleton simply offered a non-committal hum in response. Stretch was, however, very correct in his statement - the energy of this small town was too corrupted for a blitz demon summoning.
The Presence was thick . This demon was cocky - not even bothering to hide their presence. If Blue’s previous encounters with demons were any sort of indicators, the demon was likely full of themselves.
Blue had seen many prideful demons in his days working in the field. It was a fatal flaw of theirs and quite often the strongest tool in their downfall. Getting one to underestimate him, what with has, ahem, lacking height and round cheekbones, Blue wasn’t the most intimidating monster.
But. Annoying as it was to be looked down upon, the look of utter shock and the sudden spike of fear he could feel coming off of them always made up for it. More than made up for it, really.
… Blue wouldn’t let anybody know it, but he was a bit of a sadist.
“yeah?” Stretch teased, lightly bumping his hip into Blue’s side, “too high and might with yer fancy title to listen to yer kid bro?”
Blue gave a more aggressive shove to his brother, but Stretch anticipated it, so he did little more than sway to the other side slightly upon impact.
Unsatisfying. But. Someone needed to be the bigger person.
And given Blue was unable to do so physically...
“I think that your theory was largely based on your ability to make a pun at the end.”
“an', i , the great papyrus, think that you are closed off to new theories that ain'tcher own.”
“OH. WOW. WOULD YOU LOOK AT THAT??” Blue grabbed at his brother’s arm to drag him towards a building.
… According to the map the priest had drawn up, this should be the hot springs.
“GUESS WE’RE HERE!!!”
A few moments later, Blue looked up at his brother innocently. “Sorry, Papy, did you say something?”
A small huff of laughter, “nah, bro.”