Long before Sakaki Yuushou’s four sons were born, he and Akaba Leo allied with one another against the most powerful force that the world had ever seen: the great dragon god himself, Zarc, sent mad by unknown forces. The dragon god wrecked chaos and destruction all over the world and mankind hovered on the brink of extinction, only a few scattered remnants left.
“We have to seal his power,” Akaba Leo decided. “We can’t destroy a god, but we can seal him, and bring peace back.”
“How do you seal a god?” Yuushou waned to know. “And can we do it without him destroying us in the first place? He’s only not done it so far because he enjoys the destruction that he’s causing piece by piece.”
Leo did not answer for some time. “There is a way,” he said at last, “but it will require great, great magic drawn from the world itself, for only that which Zarc created can bind him in the first place. And that’s not all.”
Yuushou waited. Only a handful of people remained in their little hiding hole: Yuushou himself, Leo, Leo’s daughter Ray and son Reiji, and Yuushou’s wife Yoko, currently tucked out of sight and hopefully knowledge of the great dragon god, as she carried their first child.
Yuushou wanted above all else for this child to be born, to see a fresh world of life unfold before them. If they did not bind Zarc, that might never happen.
“It will require a sacrifice. Not just any sacrifice, but a full human life, who gives their life willingly and in full knowledge of what they’re doing and why.” Leo pressed his lips together. “That will be me.”
Yuushou froze. He’d never expected his old friend to do that.
“Leo, you can’t! You have a family!” He gestured to the deeper parts of their hiding cave, where Ray and Reiji awaited the results of this discussion. Despite their young ages – Ray, the older, hadn’t yet attained twenty – they fought as hard as they could with Yuushou and Leo, wishing the return of peace as much as they did.
Leo smiled. It was a tired expression, made more so by how much loss they’d both suffered over the years of this war. Reiji, thirteen hadn’t even been born when it began.
Zarc loved taking his time to ruin all that he’d created.
“There is no other choice. You must see your child born, Yuushou. And there is no one else.”
Yuushou didn’t like this at all. But no matter how great his dislike, he could not deny that Leo’s words were true.
“What do we have to do to get this binding magic?”
It took another two years before they could bring it all together: the deepest magic of the world, perhaps somehow even deeper than Zarc himself. Powers from the earth, the air, the ire, the water, all woven together in ways that Yuushou didn’t understand. He’d never known how a simple bard, who enjoyed bringing pleasure and entertainment to others, could be one of the few survivors of the end of the world. He didn’t know how Leo worked all of this together, only in the end, it happened.
Now Yoko tended to their daughter, and Yuushou could hardly believe that such life existed in the world at this point. Sometimes he didn’t think that it would, given how little food they had left. But perhaps now it would be over with. Perhaps they could begin to plant crops and hunt for food once more, instead of fearing Zarc’s arrival at a moment’s notice.
But now the two of them stood ready to enact the binding and bring peace back the world.
Zarc stood before them, wearing human form, more to mock them, Yuushou felt, than anything else. He looked so very human, robed as a king, with a gleaming head of silver hair, and eyes of shimmering gold. He smiled down at them, like the benevolent god legend painted him as.
Behind him there stood his four dragons, the symbols of north and south, east and west. He petted one of them, the one with mismatched eyes, and smiled at the silly humans in front of him.
“Did you think that I wouldn’t know? That I wouldn’t be aware of you gathering my own power to use against me? Foolish, foolish humans. This is why I will start the world all over again: because humans are fools who know not how to worship and fear their god.”
He strolled forward, eyes moving from Leo to Yuushou. “Your binding will not work. You do not have a true sacrifice.”
“You’re wrong! There’s nothing more that I want in the world than to see you bound, Zarc!” Leo declared, raising up the four shimmering gemstones he’d bound the power into. “And I will gladly give my life to see that!”
Zarc smiled. The expression resembled his dragons far too much for Yuushou’s comfort.
“Then try it. Try and see what happens when you attempt to tame a god.”
Leo snarled, rage lighting his eyes, and incanted the spell he’d spoken of to Yuushou, untold magic meant to bind a god. Zarc stood where he was, his four dragons watching even as he did, and as the magic shot toward him, he raised up a hand and easily deflected it.
“I am God of this world, Akaba Leo,” Zarc said, staring down at the humans. “It is not for one such as you to dare to bind me. And for your hubris, you will be punished.”
His smile didn’t improve by any means as he reached out and seized Akaba Leo by the throat, lifting him off the ground.;
“I curse you, Akaba Leo. I will spare your life and you will see the new world I shall create, but you will find neither peace nor pleasure in it. You will feast upon the blood of humans and so will those you embrace as your children, and those who carry your blood. You are forever undead, Akaba Leo, and so shall it ever be, for only I can lift the curse and kill you.” He bared his teeth in what other people might’ve called a smile, if he didn’t look ready to devour them all.
His head snapped forward and Yuushou had only a moment to see sharp fangs in his mouth before those fangs sank deep into Leo’s neck. Leo struggled in vain, but in mere moments, those struggles ceased, and he hung in Zarc’s grip, defeated, mouth partially open.
Then Zarc pulled his fangs out of Leo and bit into his own hand. Blood welled up, shimmering brilliant gold, and he held his hand over Leo’s mouth, letting it drop inside.
“Taste my punishment, Akaba Leo, and know that from this moment on, you will prey upon those who you thought to protect from me. You are my curse on the new world and you will obey me from this moment in all things. And I command that you pass this curse on to others in the new world, first of all to your own children.”
His words crashed into Leo as if crafted of stone and steel. When Zarc dropped him to the ground, he lay there twitching, helpless. Yuushou tried to reach for his friend, but Leo brushed him aside as if he were nothing more than gossamer, rising to his feet, eyes glazed and unseeing as he turned to where they’d left the children.
“When God speaks, mortals obey, Sakaki Yuushou,” Zarc said, and as if to prove his words, Yuushou found himself turned around to see the god staring down at him, that malevolent smile bent toward him. “And now for you, for you also dared to raise your hand against me. What to do with you?”