The cellar was quiet, lit only with the dying flame of torches. Their light flickered over the damp stone walls, casting long shadows on the wooden floor. The only sound was a drunken soldier slumped over the table snoring through his half-pinched nose. His abandoned cup had long ago rolled across the room. The cheap wine soaked into the panels, only adding to the alcoholic stench.
Not that Ashura could smell the dank air. Nothing like that would touch the God. It was only natural for human filth to avoid the high being. No disease nor dirt came near their skin. Even the robes dragging on the ground remain pure and clean, burning away the scum as they passed over.
Ashura always had thought it was incredible what such pitiful creatures were capable of. The same species that built towering walls and lavish castles, that conquered the seas and mountains, also had hearts as black at night and cold as ice. Their own fear had caused much unnecessary despair.
Take Asagi Manor itself. Just under beautiful halls and plush rugs there was the worst dungeon to end up in. Only those sentenced to death by dismemberment were held here. The wretched souls that came through these doors, begging for release that would not come, were high in number.
Of course, that was what Ashura thrived on. The broken and bloodied whelps that made their way into the Nether, screams cut off by their shedding of physical form. Their sentence was never ending.
Ashura glared at the soldier blacked out in his chair. He was a warrior, was he not? He was in charge of keeping the dungeon door locked tight so no one could help those underground. The key to the heavy door hung loose from his neck, not even tucked under his chest plate. It was a wonder no ward had escaped Asagi Manor to this day.
Shougo was known for running a tight guard. If the Lord were to know of this lapse…
Perhaps they would put the soldier out of his misery? No, that was not their job, but his life would end very soon. Ashura bent low to study the pink face and heard war cries and screams. An image of blood and braids flickered across their eyes.
Yes, tonight his life thread would snap, though he would not end up in Ashura’s domain. Pity the only guilt he bore was failure at his profession. The man was otherwise upstanding and pious. He was saved from Ashura's wrath, but not from the tribe steadily approaching.
Ashura stood, leaving the man to his dreams. It was time to move on.
The torches roared back to life as they walked down the twisting steps. Everything that could be scorched, lit behind Ashura. Although the flames tamed a certain distance behind, their mark would stay etched into the walls. The Red Sun burned all to the ground, though it had been years since they last had a Hand. That would change this night.
Ashura found the cell they needed in the deepest part of the dungeon. The thick wooden door was barred and chained in place. In the center was a large paper ward meant to prevent magic on the inside.
They laughed lowly. The humans were trying very hard to keep this tortured boy repressed. For years, Ashura watched the situation, waiting for the perfect moment to strike. Now, their warriors were at the city’s doorstep and the hatred radiating from the boy was ripe. In a few moments, the sun would burn crimson and the attack would begin.
By then, this child would be free to roam.
Ashura lit the ward and melted the chains from the door. Although the door itself would take up to four humans to wrench open, their fire consumed it within seconds. This seemed an oversight, but it was assumed no God would go near the unholy twin.
The boy did not so much as twitch in response to the fire. He had been burned before. In fact, Ashura knew every pain the boy had been through for the 21 winters he had been alive. The child and his twin were locked away at the first sign of the Royal Curse.
While his twin merely showed signs of lunar healing, this boy was a Bridge. The day his mother died; her soul went through him to the Ether. It was a natural instinct for Bridges to guide souls right away before any evil festered. He had saved his mother's soul and nothing more.
To the untrained eye, the ability looked like he had absorbed it. The manipulation of the dead was something only a mage of the Sun Court could manage. This boy became the feared Warrior of Prophecy before his seventh winter.
The boy hung with arms spread wide in an icebox of a cell. His feet hadn’t touched the ground in over a decade. Scars ran rivers over his paper skin, telling tales of whips and steel. He had not even been given the dignity of a loin cloth. It would have been a fire risk if he had had Solar Affinity like they believed.
Humans were foolish indeed.
The chill abated as Ashura entered, “Fai D. Fluorite.”
“I’ve come to make a deal, child.”
His eyes moved to look at Ashura through the blonde mess curtaining his face.
“Do you know who comes for you?”
He looked back to the ground, “Mage.”
Ashura hummed, “That would be something, but no. Search your royal education and try again.”
Fai took a dry breath, “A God?”
“Punish me and leave.”
Ashura stepped closer, “What makes you think I would harm you? Perhaps I want to free you.”
They felt the anger boil up as he glared, “Do not trick me. It will not work.”
“Such disrespect,” Ashura grinned, “Save that for the Moon Court.”
Fai glared harder at the floor, “A Sun God now? You’re too late.”
“I am never late,” they frowned, “You are treading on dangerous ground.” Ashura leaned down to look Fai in the eyes, “It is not my job to watch over Lunar Mages.”
Fai narrowed his eyes but did not say anything further.
“Your family is terrified that you will destroy them all,” they continued, “They saw your ability and thought you cursed, but Solar Magic does not come from thin air. Your family line is Lunar, and so are you.”
Fai clenched his fists and flexed his arms as much as he could, “They were wrong?”
“Somewhat, but I could make them right.”
Ashura watched the thoughts go through his head. How much did he want his family dead? What would he pay just to be free? Would it cost too much?
“What would you do?”
“Nothing, really. It’s what you would do,” they mused and stood tall once more, “I am Ashura.”
“God of the Nether.”
“Smart,” Ashura smiled, “You know what I want, then?”
“Like your family.”
Something lit up in Fai’s eyes, “You’ll help me kill them?”
“More than just them,” they cooed, “I will lend you power to defeat anyone in your way.”
Fai closed his eyes, “Do it.”
“Hm? You don’t want to know the price?”
“You said you wouldn’t do anything to me,” he challenged.
“I also said Sun Magic does not come from nothing,” Ashura said, “I can lend you my power for a small sacrifice. Then you can free your brother and take your revenge.”
Ashura laughed, “Then I will take your voice, and you will be my Hand.”
Fai nodded in agreement.
Ashura released the chains, “I’m glad you agreed. Send me the guilty, but do not send the innocent. I have no time to sort through souls.”
Fai fell limp to the floor and hissed as the stone split his knees, "You-"
Ashura did not like to waste time and quickly grabbed his throat. Fai yelped as smoke and the smell of burnt skin and hair rose. When the God released him, a choker wove around his neck, under the nest of a beard, marking him for Ashura.
Fai coughed and felt around his neck. No words escaped. Only the last few tears from being burned fell from his eyes. He struggled to stand and stumbled against the wall.
“Get your bearings and wreak havoc,” Ashura grabbed Fai’s arm and kissed his forehead. A crimson cloth wrapped around his body and formed a loose robe, “Make me happy, Fai. You would hate me angry.”