E.R. Warren writes speculative novels and serials.
The Princess and the Fox Demon
A shapeshifter falls in love with a girl who can see through his lies and illusions—something he can’t decide if he wants or not—as they journey together to save the world. Read here.
Unlike most people, Imre Void never forgot his previous lives. He was a failure in all of them. Through the creation of one company, he will banish that memory and destiny forever. Read here.
A fortress appeared from nowhere.
Asuka had never seen anything like the multistory building hovering above the waves with its bronze walls and blue tiled roofs. As they approached the front, a door appeared and a gust of wind unrolled misty stairs from beneath the fortress.
Chirikai jumped off his horse and strode onwards, as if the entire thing was normal, and Asuka stumbled down. Wind chimes made from bones dangled down from the gutters, which featured fox carvings, some growling and others shapeshifting into other animals. Chirikai led the way up the misty stairs. The front doors opened for him as if magic.
Before them stretched a hallway that defied the limits of the space, no matter how large the fortress, the high ceiling covered in gold.
Asuka spotted pictures of winged demons and ancient turtles, snakes with swords in their mouths, and foxes in all shapes, sizes, and colors. Tiny shelves protruded at points in the paintings, and incense burned in dozens of tiny dishes, casting smoke over the narratives.
“Do all fox demons live like this?” asked Asuka, stunned.
Chirikai snorted. “Do all humans live like you?”
Asuka turned to see that the door behind them had disappeared, and when she completed her rotation, a fox was hurrying towards them.
The fox leapt up onto his hind legs and transformed in a burst of light, revealing a young man with a narrow, worried face.
“Master Chirikai,” he said breathlessly. “I’m so glad you’re here.” The other fox demon glanced at Asuka. “Your father is here. He’s been asking for you, and we’ve had no idea where you are—”
“My father’s here?” hissed Chirikai. He grabbed Asuka’s arm and dragged her from the middle of the hall. “Right now?”
“Yes, Master Chirikai. He’s in a bad mood! We don’t know what to do!”
Chirikai swore under his breath. “Don’t say anything to him. I’m not here.”
The younger fox demon looked uncomfortable as Chirikai pulled Asuka through one of the golden paintings. The wall gave before her body like sea mist, and she shivered as Chirikai raced through several rooms—a red room filled with swords, another with foreign costumes—before pausing in a silver make-up room. Chirikai jumped, and they fell down through the floor, slipping into a dark, damp room.
Chirikai snapped his fingers and pinched off a globe of purple fire to hover in the air between them.
“My father doesn’t know about this room. Stay quiet. I’ll get what we need, and I’ll come back for you.”
Asuka read the agitation in his features: his tense shoulders, his narrowed eyes. Chirikai stepped away from her and jumped back up through the ceiling.
I suppose he blames his father for his mother leaving them.
Asuka sat down against the wall between what looked to be stacks of rice wine barrels. Even at the height of her powers, she would not have wanted to fight Chirikai. Humans, even shamans, knew little about demons, but Asuka did know that demons typically grew more powerful as they aged. The last thing she wanted was a confrontation with an old demon. She thought about Chirikai’s comment on lifestyle. Was his father some sort of demon lord?
She wondered how demons decided such a thing. But really Asuka was just trying to get over her disappointment that she would not be able to spend the night in a bed or have a bath.
Asuka sighed and tried to refocus.
No doubt Chirikai fears that emotional sort of confrontation. He dislikes discussing his problems.
She waited. When it became clear that Chirikai was not returning immediately, she continued to formulate her plan for what they would do once they reached Kouji’s homeland, Gekkōguni. She closed her eyes trying to remember how he had said it.
Yu-eh... Something. Yuéguāng-guó. She hoped she would never have to pronounce it. Kouji had laughed at her accent. As she began to remember a happier time, she felt a presence beside the room. Someone powerful was nearby.
It wasn’t Chirikai.
Asuka cursed herself. She had been clumsy in hiding herself. She slipped behind some barrels and pressed her back against the wall, even though she was positive her visitor already knew she was there.
“Good evening.” His voice was deep enough to dig a mine.