By the time anyone reads this, the whole shebang that this story used to be part of should either be split apart completely, or that should be underway.
Main reason I'm doing it is...
Well, I doubt anyone would disagree that the posting format I've used those past three years was weird/messy and awkward to wade through, and that's mostly my own fault. It's primarily because the Story Collection got away from what I originally wanted to make it - a series of one-shot stories with a new thing every update, so I wouldn't leave anything unfinished if and when I called it quits.
Instead, it's played out as a few half-baked settings and stories that the chosen format couldn't manage, especially the Darkness World stuff, that haphazardly intertwined.
Everything multi-chapped that used to be in it is gonna get re-uploaded, but as individual stories, without a ton of other stuff to interrupt it.
I'm mainly just explaining alla this to alleviate any confusion about why the thing's gone. Semi-lecture over. Happy reading.
Kari had expected, in summoning a demon from the pits of Hell, a few things.
She had expected the demon to look monstrous, or perhaps a red-skinned humanoid being with claws and horns and fangs, or something utterly unfamiliar to her. She had expected the demon to be imposing and awe-inspiring, with a presence that could silence mortal humans, with loud and bombastic declarations galore.
She hadn't expected to see a human appear instead.
The brown-haired mage looked her conjuration over for a second time, seeing not the slightest bit of demon about him.
What he was, was a boy around her age with hair that, though it was primarily black, had hints of blue to it. His sole observable garments was a reddish-brown pair of pants and a black jacket worn open over his bare upper body.
"I'm sorry, mister!" the teen was quick to say. "I think I've messed up the summoning ritual. It was supposed to call a demon here, not interrupt your day."
Kouichi grinned. "Well, it worked just fine, then. I'm a demon, and my name's Kouichi."
Kari studied him curiously. "Really?" inquired Kari. "Well, I'm Kari Kamiya, and though it might be kinda obvious, I'm your summoner."
The dark-haired teen inclined his head, a mildly indignant glint in his eyes. "Yeah, of course I am. What, you think I can't be a demon because I look human?"
"Well, not to be rude here," answered the brunette, "but pretty much, yeah. All the texts I checked say that demons are supposed to look weird or different from humans, and you don't."
Kouichi began to turn around, casting a glance around the room. The fiend took note of the summoning circle beneath him, and the absence of anything in the room save the circle and a few bits of runework she'd likely used as mana-containers. It was apparent to him that this was no impulse-act.
Then, her conjured creature turned back to her.
"I'm what you might call a shapeshifter," he informed her, raising his left hand from his jacket-pocket.
The extended appendage began to glow, with midnight-black light. Then, an irregularly-shaped ring of the dark light washed over his hand, down from his wrist-area, and the hand took on the shape of a hollowed-out cranium. What animal, infernal or terrestrial, it had belonged to in life eluded Kari's conscious mind. "Cool."
The glow began again, this time washing over the skull hand from the tip of the lengthy maw. Once that ended, what there was attached to Kouichi's wrist was a rounded lump of flesh that was covered in jet-black feathers, and had a dirty-gold talon sticking out of it.
"And," Kouichi went on, shaking his hand a bit as though to shake some grime off, "if I may ask, why were you trying to summon me in the first place?"
"Just wanted someone to help with my schoolwork," she was quick to admit. He blinked, regarding her uncertainly. "What?"
"So you're telling me," Kouichi began with undisguised surprise, "that you attempted an inter-planar summoning rite, with only your own mana for the job, without a more specific subject for summoning than 'demon from hell' to help you pass a class?"
Kari scratched her cheek, sheepishly. "Well, you make it sound like a bad thing."
He sighed. "Miss Kamiya, in attempting a ritual that could very well have killed you, you've managed to avoid contacting any archfiend or Hell Lord who gladly would've gone along with the summoning for the chance to invade your plane, and you also avoided calling upon a creature from the Deeper Pits. I want your luck."
"It wasn't luck," countered the brunette, allowing herself a moment to take pride in her work. "I'm not exactly a novice, but you can have it anyway once I figure out how to transplant metaphysical properties."
Kouichi almost couldn't wrap his mind around this situation. Fifteen minutes ago, he was in Hell, running for his life away from Lord Purson's hellcat, now he was on an Earth-plane to apparently be the research-subject of a young and overconfident mage who was talking nonsense. "How is this my life?"
Kari's face scrunched over with unhidden worry. "What is it?"
"Nothing," replied Kouichi, flatly. "So, uh, why don't we get started? With the work, I mean."
She nodded, starting to walk. Over the next fifteen minutes, he followed her through the building. Entering her bedroom, she spoke and gestured for him to take a sat.
Kouichi sat down on the chair. The brunette likewise sat down, opposite him. The bedroom around them was quiet and well-furnitured.
"Okay," opened Kari while grabbing a blank piece of paper and a pen off her desk. "I'm doing this report on demonology, so that's where you come in. Mind lending a hand, or claw I guess? What's it like to live in Hell?"
Kouichi gave a shrug. "Not really that different from this world, I guess. The plane of Hell I'm from is a pretty quiet one, so I can't complain about anything of that."
Her face scrunched over in confusion. "Plane of Hell, wha?"
"It's complicated," he answered without moving from the chair, mentally cursing himself, "and something I'm under orders to not discuss with humans, so, sorry, can't elaborate."
Kari hmmed, jotting it down on the paper. Kouichi noted the gesture. "You really shouldn't write it down; if any Hell-Lord finds out about me letting forbidden knowledge fall into human hands, they'll slaughter every last soul in Hell and on Earth."
Kari had a distinct feeling that this was gonna go down-hill. "Why do I have a feeling this is gonna go down-hill?"
Kouichi rolled his head back, then forward to eyeball her. "You tell me."
"Never mind," Kari decided eventually. "Next question, what do demons look like? A lot of the books tend to contradict each-other, a lot. Or, can't you answer that either?"
Kouichi smiled, amused. "Yeah, I can answer that one. Well, we're pretty much... well, I guess we're all over the place. There's demonic cats and dogs," he began counting on his fingers, "succubuses and incubuses that look like humans, and so does the human-based vampires, and there's ones made out of fire, and all that's just the tip of the iceberg."
Kari glanced at her paper, frowning in thought. After a moment, she jotted down, 'the case appears to be that demonic life involves a great deal of diversity in shape.' "Okay, you say 'human-based vampires', so, does that imply what I think it does?"
"Pretty much," affirmed Kouichi, a bit of a smile on his face yet confusion present in his eyes. "How exactly does this world define vampirism, if I may ask?"
"Undead humans, " summarized Kari. "Yours?"
"Undead forms of anything," disclosed Kouichi. "Ever seen a vampire hellhound?"
A wide grin broke out on her face. "Is that seriously a thing in Hell?"
Kouichi grimaced. "Ooooh, yeah."
Kari glanced at the demon, sensing there was something up here. "Want a moment?"
"No," he answered, closing his eyes for a moment. "I'm good, thanks. Any other questions?"
Eventually, Kari answered, "Yeah. What kinda government does Hell have?"
After a pause, Kouichi informed Kari, "Look, not to be rude here, but you're looking at Hell from the wrong perspective," she responded with a curious look. "Most of the stuff you asked about so far has been rooted in the assumption that demons are all one big whole, that we're all identical products of the same big system, and that's just not true."
Kari paused, to consider that. "Okay," replied the brunette while jotting that down.