Jenny Calhoun was surrounded by monsters, her best friend was dead on the pavement behind her in a puddle of her own blood, and she had a long blade in an underhand grip in each hand. In other words, she was in her element.
“She was like a sister to me,” she told the throng of growling werewolves. “You shouldn’t have killed her.” Despite herself, a cruel smile curled across her face. “It’s time to get stabby.”
The werewolves attacked. The first four didn’t stand a chance.
She sliced the belly of the first one open as she dodged. She cut the jugular of the second on her way into a roll, and drove one of her blades hilt-deep into the skull of the third as she came back up. The fourth growled at her. In response, she plunged her free blade into its jaw, pinning its mouth shut.
With a yank, she freed both blades and stared at the others. “So stabby,” she said, taking a deep breath. Even with her supernatural strength, speed, and agility, there were too many of them. But even if her odds were slim, that didn’t matter. She could feel the blood of her monster slayer ancestors pumping, her heart throbbing, and the adrenaline flowing. All of this she had experienced many times before. It was expected.
The weird looking Asian tourist, on the other hand, was new.
He strode into the alley without a care in the world, wearing a costume out of a bad low budget fantasy series. Horns sprouted out of his head. A glowing and humming orb hovered a few paces behind him.
The werewolves turned to stare at him. He gazed back with curiosity. They growled. He said something in what sounded to Jenny like Japanese, raised his hand and intoned, “Zveit telekinesis.”
Jenny jumped as a chunk of masonry ripped out of the building on her left and slammed into the monsters, smearing them against the pavement. The tourist looked at the smear with curiosity, looked at her, and then gave her a friendly smile, saying something else in what was probably Japanese.
Jenny realized that her mouth was hanging open. She closed it and said, “Who...what are you?”
The tourist said something else she couldn’t understand and smiled again, looking as though he was trying to appear reassuring.
“I’m sorry, I don’t speak Japanese, or whatever language that is,” she said.
The tourist frowned and approached. Jenny tensed, her hands squeezing the grips of her knives. But, as the tourist put his fingers on her forehead and face, she didn’t strike. Something held her back, although she couldn’t put her finger on what it was. Her forehead tingled.
“What an interesting language,” the tourist said in perfect English, stepping back. “Are you aware that many of your spellings are not phonetic?”
“I hadn’t thought about it,” Jenny said. “I guess so? Who are you? What’s your name?”
The tourist frowned. “I don’t have a name. In my old world I was known as The Destroyer, but that’s a title, not a name.”
Jenny’s hands tightened on the hilts of her blades. “What are you?”
“I don’t know,” The Destroyer said, kneeling and poking at the gore. “In my old world I was a demon king. But now I’m not. What creatures were these?”
“They’re called werewolves,” Jenny said, shaking her head. “I’m sorry, but what do you mean ‘now I’m not’?”
“In my old world I commanded an army,” The Destroyer said. “I conquered continents. But I don’t know why. It was just something I did. And then I left. Now I’m travelling.”
“Wait, you conquered continents?”
The Destroyer stood and looked around. “I suppose my army did. I wasn’t with them at the time. They took the First Continent, and then the Second Continent, and when I left they were conquering the Third Continent.”
Jenny thought her brain was going to melt out of her ears. “Do those continents have names?”
“Of course they do. I just told you their names.”
“Who names the place they live the ‘First Continent’?”
“The people who live there do,” he said. “Is that strange?”
Jenny blinked. “Very. Those aren’t really names.”
The Destroyer stepped out to the street corner and motioned to a large building at the end of the block. The orb floated behind him. “What’s that?”
“That’s a high school,” Jenny replied. “I went there before all this,” she gestured around her, “happened.”
“A ‘high school’,” The Destroyer said. “What’s it for?”
“You really aren’t from around here, are you?” Jenny said. “It’s for educating people. Making them smarter, I guess.”
The Destroyer smiled. “That’s clever! An entire building just for making people smarter. I like that. Every world should have one.”
“Don’t take this the wrong way,” Jenny said, “but you really don’t seem like a demon king, or a conqueror. Except for the horns, I guess.”
The Destroyer sat on a bench and looked thoughtful. “I suppose I don’t. Back in my old world, I had an irresistible need to conquer. It took me ages to realize that I didn’t know why. It didn’t make me happy. It never seemed to make my generals happy.” He frowned. “I suppose it didn’t make anyone I conquered happy. And then I saw somebody travel between worlds one night, far away, and I decided to follow. And when I got to the new world she had led me to, I couldn’t understand why I would want to conquer anything at all.” He looked around. “So I just travel now. At least until I think of something else I want to do.”
“What’s with the orb?” Jenny asked.
“Oh, I took that from the second world I visited. There’s this one world that’s a hub – you have to go there first to visit any other world. It’s very busy and interesting. But, there’s a problem. As soon as you arrive, any power or magic you have starts to fade away. It’s very slow, and it would take years for a higher being like myself to lose all of my power. The orb replenishes me. And, travelling between worlds takes more power than I thought it would.”
“So you just took it from another world?” Jenny said.
“Of course,” The Destroyer replied. “I needed it.”
A vampire leapt out from the shadows. Before Jenny could react, The Destroyer stood and caught it in midair by the neck. He looked at it with curiosity.
“What is this?” he asked.
“It a vampire,” Jenny said.
“‘Vam-pire’,” the Destroyer said, rolling the sounds around in his mouth. “What does it do?”
“It, um, bites you and sucks your blood. And turns people into vampires, I guess.”
“That seems very impolite,” The Destroyer said, squeezing his hand shut. The vampire’s head popped off and crumbled to dust. The Destroyer knelt and poked at the pile of fallen dust. “And untidy. Are there many of these vampires and werewolves in your world?”
Jenny sat down on the bench. “Half of the town is overrun. I mean, my friend and I thought we had saved the town – and the world, for that matter – from this primal evil. But then this gateway to hell opened up, and all these monsters came pouring out. And they killed my friend.”
“Do gateways to hell happen often in this world?” The Destroyer asked.
Jenny sighed. “There was a time that I didn’t think so. And then I got to this school, and learned that I’m some sort of chosen monster slayer, from a long line of monster slayers. And the monsters started appearing, and I stopped them, because I’m the one who slays the monsters. I was able to save my friends, but not all of them, and that was fine – you can’t save everybody, right? Winning in the end is what matters, right?”
The Destroyer nodded.
“But then, worse monsters showed up. And I stopped them, and saved as many of my friends as I could, but I couldn’t save all of them. But I won, and that was okay, right? And then this primal evil showed up, and would have destroyed the world, but I stopped him. But this time I was only able to save one friend. And then the gateway to hell opened up, and I couldn’t save my last friend.” Jenny’s shoulders slumped. “And I know that I’ll find a way to close the gate, just like I always do. And I guess I’ll make new friends. But, I don’t think it will ever end. I think that once I close this gate, something worse will happen, or some other, even bigger evil will appear. It always does.”
“I don’t think this world makes you happy, Jenny Calhoun,” The Destroyer stated.
“I’m just so tired,” Jenny said. “What’s the point of saving the world if there’s always something worse coming?”
“This doesn’t seem like a pleasant world,” The Destroyer said. “Too many monsters and too much unhappiness. I think I’d like to see another, happier one.”
Jenny sighed. “Wouldn’t that be nice. Just leave and go somewhere without all the monsters. I wish I could do that.”
“You can come with,” The Destroyer said. “I don’t mind.”
Jenny blinked. “Wait, you serious?”
The Destroyer nodded.
“I could just go with you, like that.”
“And this hub world you mentioned, does it have monsters?”
“I haven’t seen any.”
Jenny took a deep breath. It was all she could do to not start crying. “Yes, yes please, take me with you.” She startled. “Wait a minute, how did you know my name is Jenny Calhoun?”
“You know your name is Jenny Calhoun,” The Destroyer replied. “I learned it from you when I learned your language.”
Jenny laughed. “We are so going to have a discussion about boundaries when we get out of here. So, how do we do this.”
The Destroyer held out a hand. “You take my hand, and we go.”
She took his hand. The world became a blinding light, and she felt her entire body stretch. And then the light faded and she was somewhere else.
Jenny let go of the Destroyer’s hand and looked around. She was standing in a side street of a city at night, bustling under neon lights. Animated signs flashed Japanese characters.
“We’re in Japan,” she said. “My god, we’re actually in Japan!”
“This city is called Tokyo,” The Destroyer stated.
“And there are no monsters here,” Jenny said. “No vampires, no werewolves, no demons?”
“You mean besides me?”
“You don’t count!” Jenny laughed. “I’m safe – I’m actually safe! There’s no world ending evil out to get me here! No vampires or monsters to kill my friends!” She grabbed The Destroyer and hugged him. “Thank you, thank you, thank you!”
“You’re welcome,” The Destroyer said.
Jenny let go and stepped out onto the sidewalk. Grinning, she took a deep breath. Then her eyes fell on the animated billboard, and her entire body stiffened. She could feel her heart pounding in her chest.
She pointed to the advertisement. “Tell me what that says,” she said.
The Destroyer looked at the sign. “Monster Slayer High School Girl Jenny Calhoun,” he replied. “Tuesdays at 9:30 PM on Tokyo Television.” He cocked his head. “It’s a very good likeness.”
For over a century, fictional characters have been falling out of their stories into our world. Some, like mech pilot Atria Silversword and isekai protagonist Daiki Yamato, want to go home. Some, like JRPG non-player character Princess Stellaria, want a new life. Some, like superhero Captain Infinite and devil king The Destroyer, want to meet their creators. Some, like monster hunter Jenny Calhoun and super-assassin Jack Death, want justice for their suffering.
And one will fight a bloody war to liberate them all.
New chapter(s) every Friday.
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Art by Foxtail: https://www.deviantart.com/wilsanne07/gallery/
Review by Josh Piedra at The Outerhaven: https://www.theouterhaven.net/2022/05/light-novel-review-reapotheosis/
Print and e-book editions, with a new afterword by the author, will be released on November 21, and are now available for pre-order!