Category: Casual Villainry

Casual Villainry Excerpt – The Swordsman

The Swordsman 

The colosseum is packed as it always is for one of his matches. It doesn’t bother him as he walks a dark-arched hallway towards the sand-coated arena. He walks with a confident and casual stride, as if he’s just going about his daily business. This is the body language of a man who’s comfortable in his routine, already knowing what the outcome of the fight will be.  

The audience participates in equal parts excited chatter and utter silence. If one sat among them, they would be able to feel the building excitement ready to burst out at a moment’s notice. A moment that would be difficult to not be caught up in as the anticipation alone threatens to carry them to their feet.  

Then, the voice of an announcer begins to echo between the limestone walls and the blatherers joined in on the silence. “Welcome one and all to the grand colosseum of the third haven! Here, we converge once more to escape from the truths of our forsaken world and release the undirected anger that boils within! There’s no need to hold back, so don’t let yourselves be silent! Scream, shout and watch the blood flow!” The announcer pauses for a brief moment, noticing a figure about to step into the light. “Tonight’s hunt has already begun! The Demon Slayer comes in search of his prey!” 

As the titled ‘Demon Slayer’ steps out, the colosseum erupts with the sound of thousands of brutal, unrestrained voices. A vast majority cheers but among them are the hints of viscous hate and simple, raw screams with no purpose but to vent personal frustrations. A release of raw emotion, yet the Slayer’s expression doesn’t change. This is still just another day, the response he’s come to expect, what he’s most interested in now is the face of the opponent he’s going to humiliate.  

Then, from another darkened hallway at the far side of the arena, that opponent enters. A gigantic frame, imposing enough to briefly tame the thundering crowd. At least ten-foot tall, further exaggerated by vicious horns which jut from her forehead, grey skin and muscles that would make a mountain range blush. Comparatively, the Slayer is just a regular-sized, lithe man. His own muscles are noticeably toned but they’re nothing compared to the demonic challenger stomping towards him. At a glance, the most notable thing about the Slayer is the odd sword he grasps in his right-hand which curves in the same way a snake would slither.  

Another look to the audience and one would notice that there are more than a handful who also have similar demonic traits as the challenger. Horns of countless unique types and skin tones of grey, red and purple. The minority who jeered the Slayer as he entered are largely made up of this demographic, and those same people are the ones now cheering for the goliath woman who has now stepped up to him. His expression has not changed.  

“Tonight’s challenger is also someone you should know very well! An Aljani whose potent synergy with her demon has yet to be overcome! Undefeated in this third haven, more then certain to be a worthy hunt for the Demon Slayer!” 

The Slayer’s expression changes at the announcer’s comment, from a pure neutrality to a mocking smirk. If only it could be a worthy hunt. The challenger clearly notices and sneers but allows the announcer to continue.  

“If there were mountains out there left to crumble, she would be the one to topple them! Today she seeks to cement herself in what’s left of this world’s history! Aerei Gora!” He attempts to put an energy behind his voice which can cut the tension in the arena, yet his tool is a blunt object. The only resolution here can come from the imminent fight where the sands, already tinted black and brown from old and dried blood, will soak in a fresh serving.  

The bellowing of the crowd begins once more, not in support for any one side but just to release more of their pent-up energy. They are as hungry as the fighters for this fight to begin and, feeling that, the announcer hollers “It’s time to kill each other until you’re satisfied! Begin!” 

There aren’t any rules or conduct to a colosseum fight like this. The two combatants are stood practically toe-to-toe with each other as the start of the match is called. An advantageous position for the Slayer, whose body is better built to make a quick and decisive first move. It’s not like he isn’t strong enough to cut through Aerei’s body, unless she’s underestimating him and thinks he can’t, that’d be a stroke of luck all itself. It’s not satisfying to just take the win that’s handed to him, though. He doesn’t make the first cut and instead chooses to see what this opponent has going for her.  

Her weapon is an axe, as giant and ferocious as her own form. From Slayer’s perspective it only makes the close-quarters situation better for him. The size of the weapon on top of the length of her arms means she has to have some distance to use it to its full effect. She should know this, so her first move is– 

–to slam down with the butt-end of the weapon, which in itself is big enough to be considered as a mace. Slayer, of course, can’t just stand still and let himself be hit. As lucky as this scenario has been, luck is just luck after all. Aerei, an experienced fighter, should know the state of her body and weapon, so it’s not like she would just collapse before him. Luck can’t warp reality; thus, Slayer waits until reality does something which forces him to act. This is such a situation, because he will die if he lets himself be hit with even the butt end of this axe.  

He dodges back, to a range where Aerei could effectively use the axe the way it’s meant to. Given the forward thrust of her first attack Slayer can tell this is what she wanted, so he gave it to her, but knowing allows him to easily duck under the subsequent swing. Fights are dynamic and in any given moment an opponent can make any number of actions, thus making successful predictions takes a level of luck even for the most experienced fighters. If Slayer’s prediction was not correct and Aerei chose to thrust with the butt of her weapon again, given the downwards angle it would have come at, it would have struck Slayer who chose to dodge downwards.  

Except, in all of his bouts in all of the world’s colosseums, Slayer has never made the wrong prediction. Any given fight can involve hundreds of these moment-to-moment predictions, yet his opponents always make the moves which are most beneficial to him. The moves that he predicts. This hasn’t gone unnoticed by those who bear witness to his fights. It would be hard to overlook the fact that Slayer not only has never lost a fight, he hasn’t ever been hit.  

As Slayer deftly avoids more swings from Aerei, electing to remain within her best range, a chant rises from those watchers. “Karma! Karma! Karma!” they repeat over and over. 

Her attacks failing to find purchase and the crowd against her, Aerei quickly becomes frustrated. All of her power amounting to nothing at all? Unacceptable. She wouldn’t allow herself to be embarrassed as all of Slayer’s other challengers were, she would be the one to splatter that dismissive face. Having decided this, her next move is more than just a feral axe swing. Her body seems to echo as she splits into five different actions.  

This is the ability which she used to ensure her victories up until this point. One which made it impossible for her opponent what the correct counteraction is. Five possibilities for what her next move could be, though only one is real. In this instance, one possibility is a beheading swing, another a disarming swing intended to remove Slayer’s sword arm, the third an attempt to reach out and grab Slayer’s throat, the fourth a sweeping kick and the fifth a headbutt with her sharp horns.  

At the very least she thought this would move his expression, yet it remains the same. Even when presented with this scenario where there appears to be no correct response, he doesn’t try to get out of Aerei’s range. He glides gracefully to the left, risking decapitation from the horizontal swing or being tripped by the sweep or even getting caught by the horned headbutt, to avoid the true strike; the axe swing intended to sever his limb.  

Aerei blocks out the loudening ‘Karma’ chants as she refuses to believe what it means. She attacks again, five possibilities, and Slayer guesses correctly again. And again, and again, and again. Her attacks devolve, becoming less the measured attacks of an experienced warrior and more a tantrum of metal and muscle. The crusty sand of the arena is kicked up, obscuring the fighters until Aerei can’t even see her target any more.  

Under the sand’s veil, Slayer calmly dips under one of Aerei’s flailing arms to get behind her without her noticing. She only notices and halts her bullish rampage upon hearing the cheers and laughter of an amused audience. As her eyes meet with Slayer’s again, he makes his first offensive move. An imperceptibly quick upwards slash which parts one of the horns from her head without even a hint of resistance. Blood quickly begins to flow down her skull though her rage-fuelled adrenaline prevents her from feeling the pain. 

Everything goes silent in the arena, as if this attack was Slayer’s signal towards the audience. Then, with a magically amplified voice, he tells Aerei “Ya made a bet with devils,” and the audience, familiar with the quote, finish it along with him, “and ya lost.”  

With his name being chanted loud throughout the colosseum, enough that it could be heard all throughout the third haven, he deals the second and final blow. A reckless thrust which happens to make its way through Aerei’s heart. The cut horn, itself bigger than Slayer’s head, was only an appetizer as Aerei’s dead body falls to the ground with a slam.  

Without wasting time, without appealing to the spectators, Slayer calmly makes his way out of the arena with the same expression he entered with. In the end, it was just another day, just another fight. With the main attraction taking his leave the announcer is quick to step in, “The Demon Slayer again proves that he is worthy of his title! Each bout he has with an Aljani only seems to prove the rumor of his karmic curse all the truer! Was he really born to punish we who have become too close and too reliant on our demonic benefactors? Fights like these make it difficult to believe otherwise!” 

Slayer doesn’t stick around to hear the rest. He already knows it, though he wonders how they can still call his performances ‘fights’. He’s the Demon Slayer not the Demon Fighter, his matches are executions. Slaughters which leave him invariably unsatisfied. 

 Officials who know his tendency to just walk off accost him to hand him his payment as the winner. More riches to add to the excess he already doesn’t know what to do with. If he tries to reject it, they give it to him anyway. If he tries to give it away, it finds its way back to him. It’s as if the best he can do is find someone to hold on to it for a while. He can’t even appreciate its value since it’s always been this way.