The trees stood hundreds of feet above the Demon King in the permanent darkness his world contained. These trees marked the end of the Dark Realm and warned people of the Gray Area, a place where there was neither good nor evil and where everything was the same neutral color.
“Come out, Demon King,” a voice cooed from within the Gray Area.
The Demon King used his ghostly pale hand to push himself off the tree. He paused before entering the Gray Area, closing his eyes so the adjustment of sudden light wouldn’t be too painful when he crossed over.
“Sir are you okay?” one of his men asked.
Without opening his eyes or turning around when responding, the Demon King murmured, “Yes,” and stepped into the Gray Area.
When he opened his eyes, the overcast sky of the Gray Area churned his stomach and made his head pound.
After his eyes adjusted to the lighter sky, he saw the amused face of the Angel King and the Angel King’s army. But the Demon King didn’t care about the army. He just let the natural frown sit on his lips as he stared into the Angel King’s piercing, blue eyes.
So this was it. This was the supposed legend of the Light Army. The Demon King had heard hundreds of stories about the Angel King and how deadly he was. Stories about how he had wiped out an entire Dark Army battalion in a matter of seconds.
The Demon King grinned.
The Angel King was nothing but a man—probably around the same age as the Demon King. There was absolutely nothing frightening about him. How could this young man be the legend that the Demon King had heard so many stories about?
Smirking, the Demon King shifted his eyes to the face of the Angel Queen. She, too, was young with white hair and deep blue eyes—unlike eyes the Demon King had ever seen. But unlike the Angel King and his army, she was not smiling. Instead, she kept a neutral face as she studied the Demon King with her oddly colored eyes.
“Well?” the Angel King said loudly, drawing the attention of possibly every creature in the Gray Area.
“Well what?” the Demon King snapped, taking long strides closer to where the Angel King and his army stood. “You call me all this way to negotiate peace just to have me lead the meeting?” The Demon King scoffed. “If that’s the case, I would be delighted to negotiate peace on my own terms. How about—”
“That’s enough,” the Angel King calmly said. He took a few steps, getting in the Demon King’s face, but the Demon King was at least a half of a foot taller than the more muscled legend. “Let’s just get this over with.”
The Demon King smiled. “Gladly.”
The soldiers in the Angel King’s army carried a table and three chairs into the middle of where the Dark and Light armies stood. They gently set them down, then hurriedly moved away as the Demon King approached to take his seat. Before he sat down, he faced the Light Army and demanded, “Leave us.”
The Angel King whipped toward the Demon King. “Wh-what?”
“I said ‘leave us.’ Do you not have two functioning ears?” the Demon King snapped.
As the Demon King and Angel King spoke, both armies stood readily, awaiting commands and closely watching their leaders.
“I’m not going to kill you, Angel King.” The Demon King spat as the word Angel King left his mouth. “You made it very clear what an ambush would arise in your invitation to me. I just prefer my meetings in private without the distraction of hundreds of soldiers continually watching my every movement. Plus, my army will leave, too.” When the Angel King didn’t immediately respond, the Demon King added, “And aren’t you supposed to be the legend.”
After a few moments of stillness from the Angel King, he turned to his army and motioned for them to leave. The Demon King subtly motioned his hand behind his back as a signal for his army to leave. He then watched the Light Army reluctantly leave, but one figure remained. The Angel Queen.
“I was wondering who the third seat was for,” the Demon King commented as they took their seats.
“Thank you for meeting with us here today,” said the Angel King. He seemed exhausted, which was perhaps the reason for this meeting on peace. “I think we both know that this war is pointless. We’ve been fighting for years and years, yet it seems that no side has any kind of advantage what-so-ever. We are just wasting resources and lives. Can’t we just end this insanity?”
“No, we cannot,” the Demon King replied. “Your father stole something from my family and I want it back.”
“You know I can’t do that.”
“Well, you could give it back, but you won’t, which is why this war will never end. There will never be peace as long as the dark orb is in your possession.”
The Angel King sighed in defeat, running a hand through his white hair.
“Why don’t you have a duel to resolve this conflict? The Demon King gets the orb if he wins and my husband gets the peace our realm desperately needs.” the Angel Queen quietly said.
The Demon King perked up at the sound of this. Yes, a battle for the dark orb, he thought, I would have to defeat this supposed legend, but tricks are quite easy to pull off, especially with someone so gullible as the Angel King. He stood up, pushing his chair back and sticking out his hand. “I accept,” he said almost too eagerly. He was willing to sacrifice everything for the orb.
The Angel King flashed a look of anger at his wife but quickly got it under control. “We would have to work out the specifics, but I think this could be a fair compromise,” he said hesitantly.
The two rulers shook hands. Then the Angel King turned and strode away, heading towards his army. The Angel Queen, however, remained with the Demon King. “My husband has me do all of the business negotiations for him. He’s quite lazy that way.”
The Demon King only stared at the Angel Queen.
She stood there standing as if she were internally debating something. “Listen, I want you to kill him,” she said out of nowhere.
The Demon King’s jaw dropped. “What?” he managed to get out.
“You probably haven’t noticed but my husband oppresses our people. He and I live lives of luxury and wealth while mothers and fathers wonder if they’ll be able to put food on the table for their family’s next meal. Then we convince them to go fight the evil Demon King and die for their ‘beloved’ king, who they hate anyway. Ripping men and women away from their families to fight a war they don’t even care about. I am tired of this and want better lives for our people.”
It had been years since the Demon King had been to the Light Realm, but when he had gone, it was nothing like that. Everyone he had observed had sufficient livelihoods. However, his land had changed a lot since that time, as well. The never-ending war was crushing innocent people, but innocent people were the least of the Demon King’s concern. He only cared about the dark orb.
“I can’t kill him,” the Demon King said. “He’s more skilled than I.”
The Angel Queen rolled her eyes. “Of course, you can’t kill him, which is why I am going to help you.”
The Demon King frowned. “Why should I trust you? You are the wife of the man I will be dueling. This could simply be a trick.”
“You’re right. You have no reason to trust me, but what would you do otherwise? Train hard? Because that surely won’t be enough to beat him. So I think it’s worth the risk of trusting me.” He stared into the Angel Queen’s eyes. Unlike others, the Angel Queen matched his gaze, not breaking eye contact. “What do you say, Demon King?”
After some consideration, the Demon King asked, “How do you plan to help me?”
“With this.” The clear vial seemed to appear almost out of thin air in the Angel Queen’s hand. She opened it, sniffed it, then looked back at the Demon King.
“Are you really going to make me ask what that is?” asked the Demon King.
A small smile fell upon the Angel Queen’s lips. “Yes.” She paused, taking her time to securely close the vial again. “This is a mist from the Light Realm. It was made in hopes of weakening those from the Dark Realm in battle but seemed to only take effect on those from my realm. I have the very last bit and I am giving it to you.”
Reluctantly, the Demon King accepted the vial from the Angel Queen. Excitement coursed through him as he envisioned destroying the Angel King and receiving the dark orb as his reward. With the dark orb in his possession, soldiers from the Dark Realm would finally be able to enter the Light Realm without being burned by the bright light. At the moment, the Demon King was the only one who could do so.
“How does it work?” he asked.
“Easy, just put it on your hands and it will absorb right away. When you touch him, he will instantly become weakened, but it will be so subtle, he won’t even really be able to notice it.”
“And you’re sure this will work?”
The Angel Queen laughed. “Of course, it will. I give you my word.”
Without the Angel Queen being able to see, the Demon King sprinkled some of the mist onto his hand and then shook her hand. It was just a precaution, just in case the Angel Queen was actually lying to him. Watching her sway ever so slightly gave him all the reassurance he needed to know that the mist was, in fact, a real thing.
As the Demon King turned to go back to the Dark Realm, the Angel Queen said, “The duel is in an hour, by the way.”
The Demon King faced the Angel King. They stood in a ring surrounded by thousands upon thousands of people from both realms.
Although the Demon King would have loved to drag out his performance, he did not for fear that the Angel Queen might change her mind about the dark orb. With the mist at hand, it was only a matter of seconds before the Demon King stood before the Angel King’s corpse.
He ignored the screams of terror from the Light Realm and cheers of praise from the Dark Realm. He only had one sole focus. The dark orb.
The Angel Queen wore a mask of shock and horror as the Demon King marched up to her and demanded the orb. After a few more seconds of acting, the Angel Queen told the Demon King to follow her.
He did. He followed her into the Light Realm, ignoring the bright light that burned his eyes. Giddy, the Demon King walked hurriedly through the Light Realm.
The dark orb would finally be his.
It wasn’t long before the Angel Queen and Demon King arrived in a marble building. The Demon King didn’t even know how they’d gotten there. He only knew that as they had neared the room, feeling the power of the one thing he coveted most in his life.
Once laying his eyes upon the orb, the Demon King stopped dead in his tracks. It sat in the middle of the marble room on a little column. The dark orb itself was just a black sphere small enough to be held in the palm of a hand. There was nothing special looking about it, yet it was beautiful to the Demon King in the way it could change the world forever.
Before he could make his way over to the orb, the Angel Queen already had it in hand. She looked at it for a moment, then said, “You know, I probably should have done this a long time ago,” before throwing it onto the orb ground and shattering it.
He heard someone screaming. The pain and anguish in their voice made the Demon King’s head pound. He soon realized the screaming was coming from him. Throat raw he managed to ask, “Why?”
The Angel Queen let out a vicious laugh. “Did you seriously think we would just hand over the dark orb? I thought you were smarter than that, Demon King. I suppose wanting really can blind a person.”
While he had been screaming, the Demon King had fallen to his knees in defeat, and now the Angel Queen circled him like a shark.
“You were too blind to notice how weak my husband was,” said the Angel Queen. “There’s a reason why he left the meeting early and performed so poorly in the duel—he was dying. A few years ago, we found out that he was sick. He lasted longer than we thought, but recently he had gotten much worse and it was evident that he was going to pass any day now.
“He said to me one day that he wanted to go out of this world knowing that you would no longer be in it, so I came up with this plan. We had to draw you out of the Dark Realm somehow—hence the dark orb—and we weren’t just going to kill you like that either. You may not be aware of this, but many blame my husband for the war, so it is true they despised him. They couldn’t seem to understand why we couldn’t give you the dark orb back.” The Angel Queen stopped circling the Demon King and now stood before him. “Being the prideful man he was, he wanted to go out to seemingly sacrifice everything for his people—hence the duel. You killed him just as we planned, thinking you used a magical mist to weaken his abilities, which was really just water from the springs here. The people love him again because he is now a martyr, and we all live happily ever after.”
The temporary no killing rule only applied to the Gray Realm, and they were no longer there.
Slowly, the Demon King rose to his feet. “No one will live happily ever after,” he rasped, “because I am going to kill you, and I will find a way to destroy the Light Realm.”
But before the Demon King could even think about an attack, the Angel Queen’s blade was in his chest. And as he fell to the ground, the Demon King realized he had not fought the legend minutes ago in the ring but now stared into her eyes.