Chapter 6: Demonstration
It was mid-morning when Kumello came to. His head pounded like a drum and everything in front of his eyes rocked back and forth like a ship on the sea. His stomach churned with nausea and his muscles felt tight as if he had just lifted a great load. Kumello tried to see where he was, but everything was still spinning. He closed his eyes waiting for the dizzy spell to pass while feeling around for his spear. Lying on the ground unarmed in the forest was not a good idea. But when all he felt was the rough ground and the various pebbles, Kumello opened one eye and hoped the weapon was nearby.
It was a good six feet from his right arm. Kumello managed a groan. Not good. He tried to sit-up but sharp twist in his stomach told him that was a bad idea. He closed his eyes and waited for his stomach to calm down. As he lay there he realized something else. He was hot. Unbearably hot. He shifted in his spot try to find a cool spot, but the heat persisted. Heat ran up from his stomach into his chest and quickly spread through his body like a river. Everything dried up. His mouth felt as dry as sand. He tried to take a deep breath, but the air seemed caught in his throat. He thrashed on the ground trying to ease whatever was wrong with him. In desperation he slammed his hand on the ground.
A good amount of heat left his hand. Eager for any relief, Kumello struck the ground again and like before the heat left his body. After four more strikes, the heat abated enough for Kumello to sit up.
"What the hell was that?" He struck the ground yet again and as before heat left his body. But he noticed something else. The heat moved through the ground like a pulse or a wave. He couldn't see it, but he could feel the pulse. Like a part of his arm was moving through the ground. Kumello closed his eyes and did it yet again, this time closing his eyes. He felt the odd pulse through the forest floor and behind his eyelids images flashed before him.
Suddenly he was moving through the bushes in front of him. Trees rushed past him as if he were running through the path. A feeling of absolute awareness filled him. He could count how many times the birds above him flapped their wings, he could feel every footstep from the ants below him. But just as suddenly as it started, the images stopped. Kumello opened his eyes and realized he hadn't moved an inch.
"What's going on?" He got to his feet and realized his other symptoms had disappeared. But there was a still good amount of heat in his stomach. He leaned against a tree, retracing everything, trying to figure out what was happening. But in his musings, a jolt suddenly ran up his spine.
His body straightened up and his muscles tensed up the moment he took a breath. The jolt came again. The hair on his neck and arms stood on end and the heat in his stomach flared up. Something was coming and it was dangerous. He didn't know he knew, but something just told him to either arm himself or run.
Two more jolts ran up his spine. The danger was getting closer. Follow his first instinct, Kumello ran over to his spear. Another jolt told him the danger came from behind. The boy whirled around to face the rustling bushes.
With each second his heart sped up to the point where it seemed to hammer in his ears. The sweat from his palms made it impossible for him to hold the spear correctly. He bit his lip to stop them from trembling, wishing he could do the same to his legs. He wanted to run but his body refused to listen to him. It took all his might to get his right foot to take a step back, but by then it was too late. The bush parted, revealing the danger. Kumello nearly emptied his bladder.
Before him stood a seven foot monster.
It stood on angular three toed feet, both with talons four inches thick. Save for the loincloth around its waist, the monster exposed its dark red skin for all to see. Boils ran up and down its body in random areas. Muscles filled the creature from chest to his legs, which allowed it to wield the spiked club in its hands as thick as any tree. A single horn grew out from the center of its forehead while its eyes stared at a glowing purple rock, then at him. Kumello knew what it was right away. The legends were filled with them, a demon.
His heart slammed against his chest at the realization. His limbs froze, while a whimper left his lips, the only sound his seemed able to make. Sweat rolled down his drenched brow with his bowels feeling like they could empty at any moment.
It wasn't possible. Demons didn't exist. They were only legends, stories! But the creature before him matched the description exactly for a common type of demon, an Oni. Everything was right, from the horn to the clubbed weapon called a kanabo.
The monster took a step forward, making the ground shake for a brief second. It was then Kumello's body seemed to remember what movement was, he took a step back. The oni glanced at the glowing purple rock then at Kumello again, as if unsure of something.
Move! He screamed at his body. Move damn it! But his legs remained rooted to the ground. He couldn't even bring his mouth to cry out for help. Not that anyone could hear it, but it had to be better than just standing.
Whatever doubt the oni seemed to have vanished with a soft grunt to itself. The monster looked at its prey again and raised its kanabo. A single savage roar erupted from its lips, making every small creature in the area scamper away in terror.
"This is a dream," Kumello whispered to himself, tears streaming down his eyes. "This can't be real, it can't be!"
The oni took a step
"Wake up! Please something wake me up!"
"I have to wake up! Wake up! Wake up!"
Two more steps.
"No please stop! Get away!"
The oni broke into a full charge. Its kanabo rose for a strike.
Kumello squeezed his eyes shut and let out one final scream of terror. He felt the heat leave his body once again, and then all was still.
Seconds past and there was no impact. Maybe the oni hadn't reached yet. No it wasn't that far away, it should have reached him by now. Did it miss? No it would have tried again. Either way Kumello knew he had to open his eyes to find out for sure.
His right eye peaked open. And what he saw made his left eye immediately follow suit.
The oni hadn't missed at all. It was still charging which what was bizarre. The creature somehow had slowed down, so much so that it seemed frozen in mid-charge. Its foot came down in such a sluggish manner and hit the ground with a drawn out thump. The dust and dirt that flew up from the step moved just as slowly. Kumello could even count the number of small pebbles the oni has just displaced.
As he stared at the dirt, his head suddenly throbbed. Kumello looked up and saw the kanabo coming down, but as just slow as everything else. The young man noticed something else as well. An odd thin brown line came out of the weapon in an overhead arc. Kumello followed the line with his finger and saw that it stopped on the crown of his head. On the boy's left he saw the kind of line; the only difference was this line was yellow. It came from his left foot. It started straight then formed a curved arc around the monster.
At that moment everything returned to its normal pace. The oni charged and swung in the same overhead arc that Kumello had just seen. Without another thought Kumello followed the yellow line. He took a step forward, spun on the balls of his left foot and suddenly he was behind the creature!
Kumello attacked with a thrust, but his spear merely bounced off the creature's rock-like hide. The oni let out an annoyed grunt in response. Its arm swung out in a backhand that stuck Kumello's chest sending him flying back into a tree.
Stars flashed before his eyes for moment and the forest seemed to rock from side-to-side. A shake of his head cleared his vision in time for him to see the oni charge for another attempt. The world once again slowed down. The brown line appeared out of the kanabo again. This time it stopped at his temple.
Speed returned to the monster and by the time it swung its weapon in a horizontal arc, Kumello brought his head to the ground in a fast duck. The boy attempted another thrust, but as before his weapon couldn't pierce its skin. Seeing a chance to catch its prey, the oni grabbed Kumello by the neck before he could move back.
Kumello's hands flew up to the demon's arm, trying to pry it off, but to no avail. The oni increased its grip, closing Kumello's windpipe, trapping his breath in his throat. A gurgled gasp was Kumello's only response.
As the monster drew back its kanabo for one final strike, Kumello's hands began to heat up. He winced as it only seemed to get hotter and hotter. With each moment the heat became more unbearable until it felt like his hands were on fire. Kumello opened his eyes to see what the cause of the pain and realized he'd been right.
A yellow flame like aura surrounded his hands.
The oni loosened its grip; it seemed entranced by the flame around Kumello's hands. Seeing a chance, Kumello cocked his right arm back and threw the hardest jab he could muster into the monster's face. A howl of pain from both combatants filled the forest as the oni's head snapped back. Its grip all but forgotten, Kumello managed to wiggle free. The moment he reached the ground, he ran towards the bushes, creating some space between him and the monster in order to nurse his bleeding knuckles. It had been like punching a stone wall.
Other than a new crooked nose and some dark purple blood streaming down its nostrils, the oni was nowhere close to damaged. He needed something that could stop the creature. He needed a weapon or some other way to get through its tough skin.
The oni charged one more time. The heat sprang up again. This time Kumello squeezed his eyes shut and mentally screamed for more heat to come to his hands. He had no idea who or what he was called to, or just what this strange was exactly, but either way it hurt the oni, and to stop it he needed more. A lot more.
The world seemed to slow down again. Whatever Kumello called out to replied. The flame aura sprang up, running up to his elbows. The heat so intense it felt as though it would burn off his arms, but still he called out for more. It rose up to his shoulders in response and the world returned to speed.
Kumello snapped open his eyes to find the kanabo only inches away from connecting. The boy pulled back and let out one loud cry, letting lose all his anger, fear, and determination.
He thrust forward his arms, releasing whatever power he had conjured up.
A great yellow blast exploded from his hands, obliterating the demon in seconds and ripped through the forest, reducing century year old trees to splinters in mere seconds. The blast tore a path through the forest yards wide, a great yellow flash told Kumello the blast had run its course.
When the light faded, there was nothing left of the demon, not even bone. A trail of destruction five or six yards wide had formed behind where the oni stood. Trees that weren't destroyed were uprooted or reduced to mere stumps. The trail had cleared a full view to the newly parted Adofo River and seemed to keep going.
Kumello felt as though he had just dropped a great weight. His tense muscles relaxed to the point where it felt as though they were jelly. His heart still pounded against his chest. His knees shook as if they were unable to hold him up. A smile formed on his lips. He did it. Somehow he did it, it was gone. He let his head fall back in a quiet laugh, but even that proved too much for his body. The young boy collapsed to the ground unable to stand again, and allowed the darkness to overtake him.