She had really done it this time.
Demetria knew that it would only be a matter of time before the rogue elemental turned her gaze to Jack. She could not, under any circumstance, allow Jack to be taken by this monster. So when she saw the blindspot in her ‘vision’ venture in close proximity to him she didn’t hesitate to send for his immediate extraction, the results were mixed.
As she thought, Jack did not want to come willingly, he didn’t want to have anything to do with her. On the other hand he had no problems declaring his intent towards the other elemental. Demetria stood and walked the halls of her magnificent castle passed down from her mother. Arriving at a reflective sheet of ice Demetria gave herself a once over, her frown becoming more pronounced.
‘What does she have that I don’t?’
Having more or less seen the rogue elemental through her Glacies, Demetria could not arrive at an answer to her silent question and her reflection did not provide an answer. She had heard the saying “absence makes the heart grow fonder” and for Demetria the saying held some truth. She had been stricken with an anxiousness over their anticipated meeting and concluded that it must be because of his Spirit Energy. Demetria had never had to be this close to take what she needed but now with him in the castle she was practically soaking in it.
Her gait took her to a room guarded by two armored Glacies holding halberds made of ice. They opened the door to an extravagant if not bare room made entirely of ice. The room’s contents barring the Queen sized bed was made of ice with magic applied to give it the feel and visage of furniture. For just a moment panic raced through the Ice Queen upon seeing an empty bed and it threatened to crack her emotionless mask. She only maintained her façade once she saw him standing by the window, having apparently gained consciousness at some point.
Like the rest of the castle the windows were made of ice though it was very hard to tell the difference between it and the real thing. Demetria saw him looking out the horizon, the view would have been breathtaking to some, her father certainly thought so but Demetria herself didn’t think the view mattered much to Jack, especially since it was somewhat tainted by the bars just outside the window.
Bars which looked out of place in terms of decor compared to the rest of the castle.
When the door was locked Jack looked over his shoulder, his green eyes glared into her crystal blue ones. This was the first time in nearly a decade since they have met face to face, this was certainly the first time he had seen her after that day. But for Demetria, through her snow storm spell she had paid close attention to his growth.
Despite not meeting she knew more about Jack than any other person alive. Not that it brought her any confidence, watching him turn from the person she knew into the man he is now was one of the most heartbreaking things she had to witness. It made her lips trembled slightly just thinking about it. It also said a lot when he can still glare at her with such intensity despite standing only a few feet apart seemingly not the least bit encumbered by the powerful charm magic in her mana which saturated the air.
“Have you come to finish what you started?”
The question caught her off guard and to her embarrassment she realized it was the sound of his voice rather than the question itself which elicited such a response. In either case she remained silent, her expression giving nothing away. It almost did when he turned around fully to show her the broad shouldered, bearded and ruggedly handsome man he had become.
Her heart skipped a beat then froze a moment later once he continued “are you going to kill me, like you did my father?” his teeth gritted.
Demetria had a white knuckled grip on her scepter but did not allow the anger to break her mask nor fuel her words.
“I did not have you brought here to harm you.”
“Then why am I here? Why did you send your puppets to destroy my home and kidnap me?”
And this is where things got difficult for Demetria to explain as there was no rational reason for Demetria to keep him here. At least there was no reason outside of personal ones but she was not willing to admit such a weakness to a man who did not care for her.
“I sent the Glacies to apprehend the rogue elemental”
“Her name is Kori” he interrupted “what did you do to her?”
Her jaw set in jealousy at his concerned tone for the foreign ice elemental.
“She is locked in the dungeon.”
“She left fourteen humans nearly depleted of their essence, she attacked and injured their wives-”
“Then she ‘attacked’ me” Jack finished “a lonely exile no one gives a damn about. And if you actually gave a damn about what she was doing you would have sent your puppets to help with the lynch mob the other monsters formed.”
“She destroyed all the Glacies I sent to apprehend her.”
“Horse shit!” he stalked closer “and you still didn’t answer my question! Why the hell am I here if you were after her!? For what reason am I being held prisoner in your fortress of ice!?”
He was panting, the frost on his breath was visible, he must be cold, freezing. Her presence was having some effect on him and he was doing his level best to ignore it.
“…I brought you here because I wanted to speak to you.”
For a while the only sound made were his increasingly loud breath, he was nearly shuddering at this point and he seemed to realize his position and took several steps back.
“We have nothing to talk about.”
Demetria took several steps towards him “yes we do.”
“Stay away from me.”
“No. I…I grow weary of this distance between us Jack” she said sincerely while resuming her slow steps towards the frightened man.
Jack started backing away faster until his back hit the window. He glanced at it and used his elbow to smash a hole in it after which he ripped out a shard of glassy ice out and pointed it at her threateningly.
“I said stay back!”
This time Demetria did just that, she didn’t even bother to glance at his ‘weapon’ and did it more out of response to his desperation.
“Jack, what happened to your father was-”
“Don’t you dare say another word” he gritted out “murderer.”
At this Demetria had finally had enough, her anger surfaced in the form of a frosty edge to her tone “that man was no saint Jack. He slaughtered many innocent Mamono. He killed my father.”
Jack’s glare lost some of its edge and his eyes averted to the shard he held in his hand “my father killed your father” the hand squeezed the shard until it bit into his palm drawing blood “so in return you killed my father, allowed the monsters to invade and take over the village then ruined what was left of my life by having the old fool cast me out of my home never to return.”
The ice shattered in his fist.
Demetria’s eyes widened minutely at his last words.
“Did you think I wouldn’t know you were the one to put that in his head?” she remained speechless and he scoffed turning his back on her “you won’t let me leave. You won’t let me die. And when I finally meet someone who shares a fraction of my pain, you take her away and throw her in your dungeon. And even now you continue to torture me with your very presence. It is as I say Ice Queen, we have nothing to talk about.”
With barely a tremble Demetria walked away but halted at the door and without so much as a glance gave orders to the Glacies “ensure that he does not leave the room…or bring harm to himself” and she walked away.
Demetria managed to turn two corridors out of sight from her subordinates when she let out a shuddering gasp and leaned heavily against the wall, her scepter fell on the floor as she clutched at her chest. Crystallized tears poured in small icy droplets with every wretched sob she bore. Jack wounded her in the cruelest most intimate way he could never fathom.
His words, the venomous tone he spoke them with and the unbridled hatred in his eyes would have been enough but it was not with these emotions he spoke them with. He spoke them with the tone of a man who was tired, of a man who had been beaten down, broken then on his journey to pick up the pieces gave up and just wanted it all to end. Demetria brought him here in a fit of impulsiveness fueled by panic and rationalized through the want and need to see him and to reaffirm their relationship.
If it could be called a relationship at this point.
She may have just driven the final nail in the coffin with this.
Ice Queen’s rarely fall in love, their species are a solitary one and they rarely if ever make contact with another outside of their Glacies guards. When they do make contact their mana is so powerful that humans and monsters alike are easily overwhelmed by it. Men would almost always try to assault them in a fit of mana induced lust and the Glacies would react by putting themselves to receive that man in the stead of their Queen.
The few Ice Queen who are successfully assaulted and ‘awakened’ to a man’s spirit energy would become wholly dependent on that man for the rest of their days. It was the case for Demetria’s mother, Eira as was the case for Demetria herself. It was by complete coincidence she met Jack all those years ago and they were both too young to know what the feelings they felt towards each other were to appropriately act on it as an adult would.
All that could be said was, when Jack first laid eyes on her he collapsed from her presence cold, wanting and confused. Feeling responsible Demetria went to the boy ignoring the Glacies guard her mother assigned to her. After she helped him find his way home, as thank you he gave her a hug and a chaste peck on the cheek that managed to send the young Ice Princess’ heart aflutter. From that day forward Demetria was infatuated with the boy known as Jack Konstantin.
They would meet frequently on occasion as her infatuation rose and became mutual for them. Demetria experienced many emotions her species seldom experience at such a young age. They knew each other for five years but never told their respective parents due to fear of their reaction, especially on the part of Jack’s father.
Ivan Konstantin, the then commander of the town’s militia and de facto leader had been waging war with the local Mamono but mostly it was a pack of werewolves who had then been terrorizing the town by stealing food, kidnapping men and turning the women into more of them. In one of the latter incidents Jack’s mother was turned into a werewolf resulting in her death and he had hated that particular species of mamono with a passion ever since. Ivan on the other hand hated mamono in general and will indiscriminately kill them or any sympathizers.
Demetria’s own parents remained neutral or at least her mother Eira did. Her father Adrian, was a former resident of the town who sought the ice monarch’s aid and ended up marrying to her and sired a child, Demetria. Being a former resident of the village he was caught between his loyalty to his fellow man and his love for his monster wife and empathy for monsters and humans in general who suffer because of Ivan’s war. So with Eira’s support he tried to work to broker a peace treaty between the two groups.
Somewhere along the line her Adriana and Eira had found out about Demetria’s relationship with Jack which was expected. Unfortunately Ivan also found out and forced Jack to break up with her, naturally Demetria did not accept this. To put an end to the conflict the plan was to have Eira talk to the Werewolf pack leader, Hannah while her father met with Ivan. Demetria accompanied her father to the meeting knowing Jack would be there as well.
The meeting turned out to be an ambush led by Ivan. The results of which ended with the deaths of Adrian by Ivan’s blade and the subsequent death of the madman by Demetria right in front of Jack. It happened so fast, one moment the man was ranting and raving over the corpse of her father with his bloodied sword stalking towards her with inhuman rage, even going so far as to knock down his own son when he tried to stop him.
And the next Demetria had her hands outstretched reaching inside his body and freezing the blood in his veins, turning them into jagged spikes. It was so easy to turn his own body against him, Ivan did not die a peaceful death, he died feeling his body freeze and rip itself apart from the inside out before exploding into a frozen gory mess.
Demetria didn’t know what kind of expression she wore back then but it must have been terrifying if the wretched screams from Jack as he looked at her was any indication. Was it really such a wonder that even after all this time the man still hated her to this day?
Eira did not take the death of her husband lightly and unlike Demetria she was unsympathetic to Jack’s anguish and did not lash out. Instead Eira introverted, reverting back into the cold Ice Queen she was before her husband came into her life.. She forced peace by having the werewolves integrate (invade) into the town, anyone who disagreed faced her frozen wrath, having their spirit energy stolen through her icy mana forcing them to seek the warm embrace of an eager werewolf.
Once the instigators were all converted it was relatively easy for the other villagers to accept mamono, everyone except for Jack whom was ‘spared’ due to his relationship with Demetria. As time went on, Jack became more and more of a pariah in the town as the only person who did not accept the way things were and consistently undermined everything they worked for.
It was relatively easy for Demetria to suggest to the new town leader, Roland, to exile him. By that time no one cared for him and it showed when his banishment was announced. The feeling was mutual, he couldn’t stand the sight of what his home had become and sought to leave it all behind.
To leave her behind.
Demetria did not allow this and his first attempt to leave was barred by heavy storms of her own creation. She did not let up even if her inexperience then might have cost her time and energy. She needed him desperate enough to come to her after all that time. He did not choose that option, he chose to make a noose and hang himself from a tree. Demetria did not know of this until it was reported to her by her mother who at that point had taken to teaching her how to be a proper queen and mastering her abilities.
Jack would try several more times to escape and twice more he would try to take his own life. On third and final attempt Demetria personally visited him and the man was so broken that the sight of his father’s murderer did not even faze him. She remembered his eyes were almost hollow, the sorrow and loneliness of his existence overcame him and was further amplified by her own presence.
Demetria had approached him and silently offered her hand. She had allowed her emotionless façade to break and showed her true expression of a pleading woman. He had stared at her hand for a long moment and for the life of her Demetria still couldn’t figure out what went through his head. Whatever it was it made him lash out and slap her hand away.
She would never forget the look in his eyes, the fire that had somehow melted the ice she placed in his heart. The hatred he radiated in that moment almost made her take a step back but surprisingly he did not attack, he only told her five words.
“You will not break me!”
Those were the last words she would hear directly from him for years to come.
After that he never tried to escape nor did he attempt to take his life. Demetria had watched as he started to seemingly accept his fate and pick up the broken pieces that were his life. It never seemed ‘genuine’ to her though, oh sure he acted the part of a man surviving against all the odds however it was always with an undercurrent of anger and bitter resentment. As if he only lives in defiance of something.
Her mother would soon die after that, Ice Queen’s rarely fall in love but the lucky few who did, the few who first felt the warmth of a man’s love will never be able to go back to the way they were. Whether she could no longer sustain herself without her husband’s spirit energy or she willingly left this world Demetria could never quite figure. In either case she stopped pondering such things a long time ago for it was all the same, she was left alone. After being given the proverbial ‘keys’ to the kingdom she has watched over her territory for close to a decade now.
Demetria never left her castle, instead choosing to watch over her kingdom from her icy throne. On occasion when there was trouble she would send her Glacies to deal with it. Other than that her presence was only felt through endless winter. She hardly received visitors and in truth worked to deter anyone who would try with exceptions being the rare occasions when one of her Glacies would bring back a husband.
The silver lining was that at least he was here under her watchful eye instead of out there where he would be alone and free to do something truly drastic. It took minutes before she properly calmed down enough for another part of his words to sink in.
“And when I finally meet someone who shares a fraction of my pain…”
That was what he said. The rogue elemental who had terrorized the humans and Mamono living in that town, the one who had undermined her authority, evaded capture and destroyed dozens of her Glacies in their attempts to capture her. In the short time it had taken the Glacies to reach him, that Mamono had somehow made a connection with Jack than any other has since…herself.
…she would see this rogue elemental herself.
Kori jolted awake, her eye darted around, taking in the scenery. She was in a prison of sorts, chained to a wall. Her hands were held above her while her feet up to her waist was incased in a block of ice. In fact her shackles were also a block of ice encasing her arm up to elbow and attached to the ceiling. All around her was ice, absolutely everything was made of the stuff, from the walls and the bars to the guards standing in pairs across from each other going down a long corridor.
The ice was very convincing in its mockery of brickwork making up the walls, ceilings and floors, she had no doubt that they would be just as sturdy if not even more so, the problem with this was that trapping an ice elemental inside a fortress of ice was a folly, or it would have been in any other case. At the moment she was in the stronghold of an immensely powerful ice elemental, someone able to blanket an entire region in her storm if she so wished, compared to that Kori would be hard pressed to compare.
And speaking of the elemental…
The doors opened widely revealing a single figure, the lesser elementals kneeled without any preamble as the figure started to approach. The closer she got the more Kori could see her and what a sight she was. Kori had never thought much of her physical appearance before beyond what she was trained to keep in mind to be appeasing to men. The concept of beauty and holding oneself to a higher standard of it (as human women do) was almost completely lost on her.
Deep down however she had always thought of herself as a different kind of beauty, a cold one. Something that was all her own and thus could not be mimicked by any other human or Youkai. That is, until right this moment. This youkai was just so similar to her that she couldn’t help but compare herself and as the first time Kori had to compare herself to another in terms of overall beauty this is the first time she found herself lacking.
Every physical attribute of this woman was comparable to Kori except it being more than what the Zinpangu yokai had. Her hair was just a bit longer, shinier and devoid of any jagged ice. Her skin was of a healthier pallor of blue. Her face was unmarred by any injury and even her emotionless façade seemed to be cut from the finest ice and sculptured by the greatest artisan. That is not to say she was not also sexually superior with her hips being wider, her waist thinner, her breasts more perky and her exposed legs more slender.
From what she could see, her gait spoke of a lack of training in the martial arts or any form of actual combat, something Kori was very well versed and confident in but the sheer power of this person and the absolute authority she had over everything and everyone in this place made all of Kori’s battle experience moot.
“Leave us” her voice was leveled but the force washed over the entire area and the kneeling warriors of ice stood and marched out without so much as a second glance or a pause.
The staff she held seemed a fitting and perfect weapon and symbol of power, more ornate and practical than any weapon she could make.
And this person had also set her sights on the same man as her. Kori closed her eye, she never truly had a chance against this elemental, this woman, this… Ice Queen.
The bars of the cell collapsed apart as Demetria strode in, only stopping when she was five feet apart.
“I am Demetria” she introduced herself “ruler of this lands and protector of all who reside in it. Who are you?”
The Tsurara-onna spoke nothing, her eye downcast. Demetria’s grip on the scepter tightened and with a thought she invoked her magic. Almost immediately the captured Youkai stiffened and a look of discomfort came over as she gasped.
“Ah…” the noise came out as a near silent grunt of pain “K-Kori…my name…is…Kori” the pain subsided afterwards.
“I do not recognize your kind but it is obvious you are not native to this land. Why are you here? Why have you caused such discourse within my territory? Why…”
‘Why does Jack care for you?’
The bound elemental spoke words in what must have been her native tongue which Demetria did not know.
“Speak your words so that I can understand, foreigner” she demanded.
“…Jack…” the Tsurara-Onna rasped holding the other elemental’s gaze “he has…warmth. I…need…it.”
In hindsight Demetria knew she shouldn’t have been surprised by this and yet she was nonetheless rendered speechless. In a way she could sympathize with this elemental and it made her various assaults on the men of the village so much more sense. It wasn’t that this Mamono was a deviant so much as the desperation she must have felt that she would encroach on another mamono’s mate to stave off the madness and loneliness caused by her own nature.
“You have my sympathy” she really did “however, Jack is already spoken for” Demetria made sure her words contained the necessary inflections to convey the unspoken words.
He is mine, so back off!
From the glint of realization in her lone eye followed by the subtle look of dismay, her message looked to have been received. Still she could show some leniency despite all that has happened and Demetria does feel responsible as she thought Kori was a deviant she kept her within the territory as a measure of easier capture wasn’t lost on her.
“I will allow my Glacies to escort you elsewhere with a larger male population, you will be able to find a mate there.”
“I will not…leave…without Jack”
Slight shock turned to anger “Jack is already betrothed-”
There was a surprising amount of fierceness in the bound elemental’s gaze, one that Demetria returned with equal fervor.
“I did not sense…your mana…on…him…”
“I have simply not claimed him yet. I plan to very soon.”
Demetria held herself from lashing out. If even this person can so plainly see the hatred Jack has for her then…
She banished the thought “it does not matter what his thoughts of me are.”
‘I love him.’
She turned and walk away “you will be escorted out of my territory. Never show your face again. Consider this mercy.”
Kori did not speak and Demetria never looked back.
Demetria never paid another visit which was for the best in Jack’s opinion, the less of her he saw the better it was both for his mental and physical health. Jack knew exactly why she brought him here, the same reason why she had him secluded all these years and kept him from leaving in almost every sense of the word. Demetria wanted to rekindle their past romance which was all but impossible at this point.
If Demetria saw knew how he acted towards Kori then of course she might just do something drastic. Seducing him seemed like a viable option and combining her unnatural beauty with the equally natural allure she seemed to exude towards him and she would have damn near succeeded too. Yet it was this unnatural temptation she had that made him remember what she was truly capable of and why he made sure to distance himself from her.
But now the world he had rebuilt for himself was crashing down around him again and all because he couldn’t resist the temptation of yet another ice-woman. He once read that those who fail to learn history are doomed to repeat it. So it would seem that Jack will once again be made to suffer for his impulsive choices only this time he isn’t sure he’ll be able to make it out with his sanity even partially intact.
The sound of the door opening jolted him somewhat but the lack of a chill going down his spine made realize that it was not Demetria or any of her Glacies. Instead it was a man, a fairly older man dressed in fur lined clothing and carrying a familiar rucksack.
“Who are you?”
“I am Turner” he introduced himself with a hand out “no need to introduce yourself, I know all about you from stories of the Queen’s youth” after a moment he retracted his hand
The man brought the item and placed it on the neatly made bed, something he observed “you’ve neglected to make use of the bed” his voice carried an accent which suggested he was from the south “I can guarantee that despite the ice they are warm and comfortable. You will need to get used to it from now on.”
“What is that supposed to mean?”
“For one your cabin was destroyed in the battle earlier”
‘And whose fault was that’ Jack thought angrily
“-so Queen Demetria has deemed your home too dangerous and so from now on you will be living in the castle from now on.”
“What…” Jack was stuck in a state of disbelief at the man’s words.
It was made all too real however as a troop of Glacies marched in holding his belongings and began to decorate the room with them. Jack could only look on speechless as one of the worst possible scenarios came true.
“Don’t look so surprised” Jack took a step back from the man who was suddenly closer “from what I understand her majesty cares for you a great deal.”
Jack scoffed but said nothing.
“Many would feel honored that a woman of such beauty, elegance and power fancies them.”
“…I am not like other men.”
“Clearly, if you can still hate her after everything she has done for you.”
Jack scowled at the man, internally seething but did not act upon his impulses.
“If you like her so much, then why don’t you try your luck?”
Turner smiled “I am already happily married. Oh it looks like they are finished. You don’t keep a lot of personal items do you?”
Jack remained silent and turner shrugged “I suppose it doesn’t matter, you will be well taken care of here. But going back to what I was saying, I don’t know the history between you two but whatever it is I advise you to make peace with her. Despite your hostile attitude Queen Demetria is patient with you but” he paused to give the man a stern look “I do not wish for you to do something that would have her take drastic measures, for both your sake.”
Meaning he should fall in line. Jack had a few choice words in response to his ‘advice’ but came up short at the sight of a familiar Glacies.
“Turner, it is time to leave”
“Coming dear, I was just about to inform Mr. Konstantin of the banquet her majesty will be throwing in his honor.”
“Banquet?” Jack found himself internally questioning in tandem with the Glacies.
“Well, less banquet and more of a small dinner” he bumped her side with his elbow as they shared a look “if you catch my meaning.”
His Glacies wife blinked before nodding minutely “yes, forgive me I was not informed.”
Jack narrowed his eyes ‘what the hell are they talking about?’
“You will be expected in the dining room within the hour so I suggest you make use of the bath. Clothes will be provided as well as a Glacies guard to escort you when the time comes. Your attendance is mandatory so don’t dawdle and don’t think we won’t haul you down there regardless.”
Turner soon exited along with his wife who spared the fuming man a glance before shutting the door behind her. Now alone Jack waited a few minutes before he punched the wall, hard. The ice cracked and his knuckles split but he ignored the pain with gritted teeth.
‘Who the hell does he think he is!?’
The door suddenly opened again and Jack’s gaze snapped to it, Turner peaked through only pausing with a raised eyebrow before speaking “I almost forgot, you will also be required to shave and…” he trailed off at seeing the absolutely murderous glare Jack was sending him and coughed while averting his gaze “no need to worry I will take care of that myself.”
Jack’s eyes narrowed, shave?
‘Over my dead body.’
Demetria had opted to take a soak in her luxurious and spacious bath. She had not felt in the mood for making anymore appearances around the castle that evening, however that was before Turner had returned. She knew him from her mother’s reign when he had been rescued by Glacior one of her mother’s then Glacies sentinel. The two would eventually be married and Glacior would gain true sentience from their love. Normally at that point they would choose to leave the castle and live out their lives and for a time they did. Due to circumstances however they had returned and with a second wife for Turner.
That same second wife now sat behind her humming while combing her long hair. She was yet another ice elemental of foreign decent called a Yuki-Onna whose her real name is Shirayuki. Demetria had known the threesome couple for a number of years now as they chose to stay in frequent contact with her. Most of Demetria’s knowledge of the world beyond the snow filled mountains came from the foreign elemental who became something of a friend.
Demetria had just finished explaining the meeting she had with Jack and Kori and now awaited her words of advice. For her part the Yuki-Onna hid her troubled gaze. She never agreed with the Queen’s choice of keeping her distance, to her that was tantamount to leaving him free for another Mamono to pick up (which was exactly what happened apparently ). She understood the reasoning behind the decision however but personally Shirayuki would have chosen to immobilize him then use her various skills and especially her body to shower him in love and affection until he was forced to confront his feelings and made to see the error of his ways and love her.
That was how she got her husband and is primarily how mamono treat especially stubborn humans. This did not go over well with Demetria but it was understandable as unlike Shirayuki and most monsters in general she had options when it came to receiving spirit energy. If monsters could receive the precious spirit energy over a wide radius and from the comfort of their homes, monsters wouldn’t be as aggressive as they are in finding a husband.
Shirayuki could say that she was thankful something finally happened to let the Ice Queen take the next step. Though she still deferred to the man it was a huge step to have him living with her. All that was left was to force the two of them to interact more often. She believed that something would give, whether it be the man’s abnormal resistance to the Ice Queen’s charms suddenly breaking or the Ice Queen’s longing to have him overcoming her restraint.
She would have them making sweet love to each other before she left the castle even if it’s the last thing she did!
On the note of the other yokai Shirayuki had never met such a species in Zinpangu before and she knew quite a bit of the ones native to her homeland. She vaguely recalled hearing rumblings of a new species of ‘Yuki-Onna’ that had been briefly sighted. There were a few other rumors here and there but Shirayuki hadn’t paid attention to them much. She did remember the name they called this species though.
“Tsurara-Onna?” Demetria tried the pronunciation on her tongue.
“That is correct, though I don’t know much about them except that their name roughly translates to ‘Icicle-Woman’.”
Demetria’s lips pursed “she is able to make weapons out of ice.”
Shirayuki hummed in thought “what was she like?” Shirayuki asked in genuine curiosity.
“Calm, emotionless, fierce”
“Oh, that is strange”
“I believe Yuki-Onna’s are the strange ones” being an ice elemental with a naturally warm emotional disposition that is.
Shirayuki giggled “what else?”
“She is strong and experienced in the ways of war. And…” she hesitated.
“What is it?”
“I feel she will not give up on him, Shirayuki. I saw something in her eye when she spoke of him. I know the reason why she attacked, it was out of desperation but maybe after meeting him she…” Demetria trailed off.
“You think she may have fallen for him?”
Demetria offered no verbal response but the silence and her worried expression said it all.
“And with Jack, I feel the feeling is mutual.”
Shirayuki frowned “I am not so sure”
“What do you mean?”
“I don’t think that man is thinking too clearly Demetria. I doubt he could reject you and accept this yokai. You two are too much alike with the only difference being that she is a stranger.”
It couldn’t be a coincidence that the only Mamono to actually get so close to him after her was another ice elemental and Demetria noticed. And yet it was only a small comfort.
“I killed his father”
“And he has had years to grieve” and this was the only instance where Shirayuki agreed with Demetria keeping her distance “but now it is time for the both of you to move on and I know a perfect way to start.”
Though it didn’t show on her face Demetria began to get a little nervous, Shirayuki is an eccentric and a hopeless romantic at the same time. Some of the ‘ideas’ she had of her getting Jack to reciprocate her interest actually scared her a bit.
No matter how desperate she got Demetria refused to stoop so low as to tie him down to a bed, break his legs and nurse him back to health.
“What do you have in mind?” She asked warily.
“Hm? Oh nothing too convoluted for now” she added the last part in a whisper “how about a simple dinner to get yourselves reacquainted.”
Demetria thought she did earlier during the visit to his room and explained as such when she was cut off.
“That hardly counted, the atmosphere was all wrong and you weren’t even properly dressed.”
“What do you mean?”
A downright sinister grin formed on the snow maiden’s face “oh, you will see.”
…was it too late to decline?
Kori had not once lifted her head since the meeting with the Ice Queen known as Demetria. Her worst fears had been confirmed, the powerful elemental had an interest in Jack. No to call what Demetria had a mere ‘interest’ would be insulting. Even from their brief conversation she knew the Queen was truly in love with him despite his apparent revulsion towards her. It was sad in a way to have the man she loved hate her, Kori could sympathize, she was truly sorry for the Queen’s predicament. Kori was also grateful for her mercy, as she was getting exactly what she wanted and it wasn’t safe a passage to another village with an abundance of men whom could be her possible chosen.
No, it was time away from her to rest and think of a strategy to rescue Jack for Kori had determined a long time ago that he was her ‘destined one.’ It was something she realized while imprisoned in ice, the fact that she had suffered the cold quite fiercely since her exposure to the Queen’s power. And yet while in the heart of said Queen’s home and even being confronted by her she hadn’t felt quite so cold.
It had to be because of Jack, those few minutes they spent in each other’s embrace, her taking in his spirit energy through close contact and exchanging saliva was enough to keep the chill at bay. No even the very thought of him sent a pleasurable tingle over her body. Kori had regrettably tasted many men’s essence over the past few weeks and Jack had been the only one that had stuck. This went beyond her desperation for warmth or hunger for spirit energy, this was…
This was love.
She loved him and she couldn’t bear the thought of him spending the rest of his days forced to love someone he despised. On the other hand she could not simply take away the Queen’s obvious chosen, it went against everything Mei had taught her of the Kunoichi code. This was the conundrum Kori had been pondering ever since the Queen left but as the Glacies guards entered her cell to escort her away Kori’s eye opened, a horn made of ice formed on the right side of her head above her eyepatch and expanded like a star at the base.
Kori had made a decision.
Jack had found a genuine and newfound hatred for Turner. It was actually uncanny, as if everything about the man was designed with the intention of urging Jack to punch him in the face. From the way how he talked, his stupid looking face, the way he dressed and his relationship to the ice puppet who lead the charge that destroyed his home.
Jack’s pride could take a great many things. Being virtually powerless against Demetria was at the forefront but no one and he meant no one ordered him to do anything. So when Turner came back and gave him the ultimatum of doing this ‘the easy way or hard way’ Jacob gladly took the latter. And for Turner the hard way took a glass shard cut, black eye and bloody nose before he had to call his wife.
This led to Jack being knocked out and having his hair and beard cut and shaved respectively. When he gained consciousness his hair was cut into a fringe and his rather bushy beard was shaved to a goatee. His clean shaven appearance was a complete contrast to what he looked like before.
The three piece suit he was forced to wear only reinforced the image. So much so that Turner couldn’t help but compliment him “well don’t you clean up nice, at least now you look more presentable to the Queen, you savage” he spoke in a condescending tone.
‘Two can play that game.’
“Unlike you Turner and that ugly black eye”
“…how’s that jaw feeling?”
“Fine, how’s that stab wound?”
Jack smirked as Turner’s jaw set and a glint entered his eye but he was held back by Glacior who shook her head.
The man composed himself “thank you for your concern but ‘tis merely a flesh wound, hardly worth the attention or effort to address…” he gave the man a meaningful look.
Jack didn’t rise to the bait and in fact it went almost completely over his head much to Turner’s disappointment.
“Come, the Queen is waiting for us.”
Jack didn’t have a solid plan here, being surrounded on multiple sides by armored Glacies in Demetria’s castle fortress, there was no way he could escape. But he had no intention of staying another day under the same roof as her. One way or another Jack was leaving this place and right at moment he didn’t care how or in what condition he was leaving in.
They escorted him to the dining area, the extravagant hall was decorated with crystal chandeliers and a lavish décor all made entirely of ice. It was nighttime now but no candles were lit, instead ice crystals glowed a iridescent blue. Honestly for a first time seeing such a thing it was breathtaking even to someone like Jack.
But this was not as breathtaking as her.
In the back of his mind Jack already knew that this farce was just another attempt at trying to sway him to her side. Why else would she have decided to change her outfit from an extravagant and modest ice-dress into something more risqué? Her dress left her toned stomach and cleavage exposed, her breasts were barely covered by the straps and the whole ensemble glittered in the light. She even let her hair down from its immaculate bun giving her a certain kind of allure.
Unbeknownst to him Demetria stared at him with the same wide eyed shock (though severely muted). For the time she had known him Jack had never been one for formal wear and the last time she had seen him without a beard was when he was too young for it. She had always found him handsome even at his worst but she much preferred him this way.
And suddenly Demetria saw the genius of Shirayuki’s suggestion because if she got to spend time with him as he is now. Her cheeks tinged a darker shade of blue.
“Good Evening Jack” she spoke in her most kind and regal tone internally shocked she hadn’t stuttered.
For his part Jack swallowed and glared or at least tried to, his glower had less of an impact without his long hair, bushy beard and usual clothing. And the fact that his cheeks were red made him look less threatening and more adorable to the Ice Queen whose small smile became more pronounced.
Jack swallowed, he could barely deal with Demetria before but like this he was practically naked in a snowstorm. His eyes darted for an escape and found that the windows weren’t barred. He more than likely wouldn’t make it through but he needed to do something to disrupt this atmosphere before he got swept up in her pace.
Before he could act on his (foolish) plan Jack was hit with the smell of something undeniably delicious.
“Ara-ara you haven’t taken your seat yet Konstantin-san?”
His gaze went to a woman leading a trio of Glacies each carrying a tray filled with steaming hot food. The woman herself wasn’t human but a Mamono, more specifically yet another ice elemental based off her blue skin and the fact that the room suddenly got colder…or could that last part be about something else.
The woman who carried an ethnic resemblance to Kori gave a closed eyed smile that sent warning bells ringing in his head.
“Why so hesitant? You wouldn’t disappoint our Queen by refusing her hospitality now would you, especially after I went through all the trouble of preparing such a wonderful meal.”
The temperature was now steadily dropping and Jack was now positive that this monster was doing it on purpose. He mentally clicked his tongue, as if he would be intimidated by some robe wearing foreign monster woman.
…He only sat down for the food and no other reason. Gods it was so cold he was shaking in his new expensive leather boots.
While this had been going on Glacior and Turner made their way to the dungeons where they would oversee the transport of the prisoner dubbed ‘home wrecker’ by Turner’s second wife, where and how she learned such a term (as well as several other things) will forever remain a mystery.
As much as he would love to stick around and see exactly how Shirayuki’s plan panned out he could guess what will happen by the end of it and he was not a voyeur by nature. There is also the real reason why he along with his wives were there. Glacior’s loyalty to the late Queen Eira and both her and Shirayuki’s fondness for Demetria aside it pays for her to have an experienced mercenary as a contact. It made them unable to completely part ways and such from time to time they would visit. Demetria also had the option of calling upon them if she needed a particular problem handled.
So here they were after completing part of the mission which was to capture the Tsurara-Onna. Now they were instructed to escort her to the nearest town outside Demetria’s territory which was a day’s travel by sleigh.
Turner smiled beside his Glacies wife. Dealing with Jack had its downsides and true the wounds were still healing but I the end he got the last laugh. Turner looked at the worn but no less impressive customized crossbow he acquired in the destroyed cabin. He’d never seen anything like it outside of something similar he saw once from the Order of the Chief God.
The moment he laid eyes on it he knew he had to have it.
“He will not be happy once he realizes what you’ve done.”
“That is if he ever finds out” Turner winked “and if he does” he shrugged.
Glacior’s head shook at her husband’s antics. A small imperceptible smile graced the edges of her mouth. Being married to her for several years Turner was easily able to notice it. They opened the door to all the Glacies Guards pointing their weapons at the immobile prisoner.
“What is-” Turner’s words were caught in his throat when the Tsurara-Onna’s glowing eye met his and a giant crack formed in the ice “shit”
The ice exploded in a shower of crystals and mist with the force knocking the guards away while destroying the glowing chandelier providing light from above. While Glacior had used her body to protect Turner they were both still knocked on their backs.
After making sure turner was alright Glacior stood “where is the prisoner?”
The door behind her slammed shut to further plunging the dungeon in darkness. The mist from the initial explosion seemed to thicken until it became a dense fog that the remainder of lights could barely pierce through.
“AH!” one of the Glacies guards exclaimed a blade pierced through her armored chest. Her body crystallized and shattered a moment later.
For a moment Glacior met the shining eye of the Tsurara-Onna before she stepped into and disappeared in the fog. A popular misconception of ice elementals is to say that they don’t experience emotions excluding the Yuki-Onna of course. This is not true they have trouble expressing and identifying some emotions (more the former than the latter).
There couldn’t have been a better example than with Glacior the moment she started to hear the sounds of shattering ice coming from all across the room. She couldn’t see in front of her through the dense fog. Being married and having experienced a great many things with her husband and sister wife for as long as she did Glacior can both identify and express fear. The former came from the sense of uselessness she felt at hearing her fellow Glacies being killed off one after the other by a foe she could not even see and the latter came once she turned to secure her husband only to come face to face with the Tsurara-Onna.
Glacior raised her sword with a shout on her lips “Tur-” in a single action the Tsurara-Onna disarmed and stabbed her in the chest with a kunai “-ner.”
Glacior dropped to her knees but did not crystallize ‘so this is what death feels like’ she looked up at the other elemental ‘it feels…cold’
Kori leapt away to avoid a crossbow bolt as Turner came to his wife’s side “Glacior! Hey”
“Shit” he cursed and with crossbow in hand he took an arm over his shoulder and dragged her to the door but it was frozen shut.
“She…will not…die…not like…others” Kori’s disembodied voice carried across the entire room from every direction at once.
“Well that is comforting to know” he spoke sarcastically while trying to pinpoint her location.
“…that weapon…does not belong…to you…”
He needed to keep her talking so he could make a shot “yeah, well the other guy didn’t look like he would need it anyway.”
He turned left and fired, the bolt sped as fast as bullet yet was still deflected by the Tsurara-Onna.
“Where is Jack?”
He noticed the lack of pause between words and that made him nervous. Almost as much as the two ice-made katana she held in her hands. Turner learned many things being married to Mamono, mostly that they almost never kill a human especially a male but after what he witnessed happening to the Glacies and his own wife’s condition he was not willing to test this theory now.
“He’s having dinner with Demetria, should be well into getting inside her chambers at this point” he tried to sound casual and maybe that was what threw her off enough that her eye widened minutely in shock.
‘There!’ he switched gears to automatic with the crossbow and fired bolt after bolt from the weapon.
Kori used her swords to great effect in deflecting but just when it seemed she would be hit turner was knocked off his aim by Glacior who chose that moment to become ‘affectionate.’
“What the hell are you doing!?”
The Glacies continued to rub up against him, backing them into the door. Her emotionless façade now broken she gave him a hungry look that he’d only seen when…
“Oh” his thoughts trailed once a shadow loomed over them, it was Kori and she raised one of her ice katana.
On the other side of the door Kori’s icy blade pierced through and retracted followed by the light sound of a body falling. The doors slammed open letting out an icy fog and the sounds of the couple moaning as Kori stepped through with Katana in hand, a crossbow slung across her back and a look of determination on her face.
Meanwhile in the dining room the events in the dungeon had not gone unnoticed by Demetria who had ordered her Glacies to secure the room and apprehend the Tsurara-Onna. Demetria, Shirayuki and Jack as well as a small contingent of Glacies would retreat deeper into the castle.
“And things were going so well too” Shirayuki lamented.
Demetria silently agreed, it was just as the Yuki-Onna said. He could not stay angry at her forever and after the anger had ebbed away he could not run from her. The incentive of good food, temptation of Demetria’s state of dress and cordial attitude forced his mind to consider things about her and his overall situation he had been too stubborn to do before. At least this is what Demetria thought as Jack had been surprisingly silent during their meal. She was not one for idle chatter herself but the few times she thought to make conversation he would reply with a contemplative silence.
Even now Demetria could see Jack had distanced himself from them, standing in the farthest corner alone. Demetria hadn’t needed an announcement to notify her of the Tsurara-Onna’s escape so he did not know of it. She couldn’t let a single word of her escape reach his ears, they were so close to a breakthrough. But as much as she would have liked to stay with him she could not afford to lose more Glacies to Kori.
She spared a glance to Jack who did not return it as he seemed to be preoccupied with his own thoughts.
“What is it Shirayuki?”
“I am worried about Turner and Glacior.”
Demetria could tell from a glance and assuaged her fears with news of their location and health. Down in the dungeons she could not sense any of her Glacies guards meaning they were destroyed but Turner and Glacior are, as far as she knew, alright and it seemed were copulating if the exchange of spirit and demonic energy between them is anything to go by.
Upon hearing this Shirayuki stormed out towards the dungeon, any attempts to have some of her Glacies protect her was rebuffed.
“She is not after me Demetria-sama and I suspect-no I am sure that she will stop at nothing to get Jack-san. Unless you plan to kill her, I suggest you not leave his side for risk of losing him, in more ways than one.” Demetria gave her a questioning look and Shirayuki gave an apologetic one “I…have made assumptions based on what you’ve told me of your experience with him. Assumptions that I realize were mistaken after observing him tonight and for that I apologize. We’ve gone about this all wrong but it is not too late to mend this burned bridge”
There was something to that but it escaped Demetria “what do you mean?”
Shirayuki hesitated for a moment her eyes going to the human in question before taking the Queen outside the room. A few minutes later she came back alone, Jack hadn’t moved from his spot in the corner sitting on a chair anxiously avoiding her gaze while waiting.
“Leave us” she intoned to the Glacies “secure the room outside, ensure that she does not disturb us.”
Throughout her order she had not once taken her eyes from Jack whom seemed to fidget at her attention which only served to bring further evidence to what she feared. The door closed behind the last Glacies and suddenly she was alone with the object of her affections. After a few more moments of simply staring at him she made her way towards him in a slow deliberate gait until she was a short distance before him.
“Jack” her voice called out softly.
He did not give an answer nor looked to have acknowledged her. Demetria discarded her scepter across the room. The clatter made him flinch but he did not raise his head. She approached closer and kneeled before him. His breathing had become more erratic and his body trembled.
“Jack…” she reached out slowly, uncaring of his feeble attempts to pull away, this was no time for hesitance she needed to know.
Finally she cupped his cheeks and gently forced him to look her in the eyes.
“Is it true?”
She saw it as clear as day.
“Are you afraid…of me?”
She needed to hear it from him.
To Be Concluded…