A Game of Ash and Bones by Nyse Vicente

Gods, he hated the sewers.

Not because of the stench or the pile of shit laid on the side. It was actually a convenient way to get around unseen by human eyes. 

He would have liked it, if it wasn’t such a hard place to find a rotting corpse. 

Ryo sniffed at the air, clamping down the bile rising in his throat. He took a step forward, careful not to step on any vermin, or rat poison or whatever else lay hidden inside the gutters. 

‘Right’ he swallowed hard, holding onto his knife. He paused, taking off his gloves, unleashing his iron claws. 

She was watching him.

He could feel her presence lurking in the darkness. Black wind whipped at his feet. Little pools of water slithered its way towards him, snaking itself around his ankles.

His stomach coiled. Gods no, it couldn’t be happening. 

But he knew it would be minutes. Minutes until the water came at him, roaring and snapping and unyielding, squeezing every life out of him. 

He had to hurry. He took a few stops forward, shutting down the tightness rising in his chest. Ryo held his breath. Gods, it was her. 

She was a fool. For letting her back exposed like that. Black blood scoured its way down from her face onto her ankles. He lowered, baring his canine teeth.

Water swished at his ankles, making small gurgling noises. He closed his eyes. *Shit*.

She turned, cocking her head to one side. A low hollow laugh left her scarred lips. 

She lunged, iron teeth snapping.

He didn’t even have time to pull out his blade. Moon white nails dug into his neck, twisting back and forth. If he was human, he would have been another victim within seconds. Only his blood, as a deity of fire, kept him from being sent to the underworld.

The water was reaching his waist. Pure, unadulterated pain seared down his back. He kicked at her waist, sending her flying towards the edge of the sewers. 

Roy’s eyes lit up. The fool hadn’t preserved any of her energy. He snapped his teeth together, taking one glorious moment to celebrate his victory. 

He grit his teeth, pulling the blade out. And lunged 

                                  ***

‘Are you telling me you’ve never killed a human soul?’

Yuki looked at him, from between sipping her bubble tea. Her face was slender, grave, if pretty. She couldn’t have been older than twenty. 

She shook her head, resorting back to drinking her bubble tea. Her eyes lay fixed on the wooden table.

‘And you only attacked me out of self-defense.’ 

She gave a slow nod. Her midnight eyes didn’t meet his own this time though.

His muscles tensed. Out of all the things he’d faced in the past 300 years, he hadn’t expected drinking bubble tea in Bali with a zombie to be his newest one.

They had had thirty seconds, thirty seconds, to swim out of that hell hole before the festering water smothered the fire in his veins. Switching into his human form had nearly taken the very life out of him. And trying to convince the receptionist at the sauna they didn’t smell of rotting corpses had been nearly impossible.

And the girl. What would he do with the girl? She looked up at him as if reading his thoughts. A lazy smile left her lips before she took the last few remaining sips.

He couldn’t destroy her. She hadn’t killed a human for that. But he couldn’t keep her here on Earth either. That would attract too much attention.

‘I’m going back to the Mystical Realm in a week’ he said, leaning back, enough to show the tanned chest underneath his white shirt. It was a shame really. Bali was beautiful. 

‘Okay?’ 

Ryo clicked his tongue. Her voice was so so slow. 

‘Would you like to come with me? There will be a place for you somewhere there’

Gods, she was reeking already. He pulled out a small bottle of perfume, spraying her neck. A few locals turned their heads, wondering what on earth was happening. 

‘Surprise?’ he smiled, letting out a small laugh ‘It’s for you darling’

‘Me?’ 

‘Yeah’ he smiled, waving the bottle. His jaws clenched. The last thing he needed was unwanted attention from prying human eyes.

‘Thanks’ 

He grit his teeth. Gods, she was insufferable. 

‘Is it a yes or a no then?’ 

She let out a soft yawn. ‘For what?’ 

‘Do you want to go the Mystical Realm with me  or not?’ a low guttural growl was rising from deep inside his chest. 

Yeah okay’ she said. She shook the bottle of bubble tea. He wasn’t sure if she even heard him. Still, it was good enough of an answer ‘Can we order something else’ 

‘Sure’ he said ‘sure’

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