Lukewarm water surrounded everything, with bright green tones glowing within as shades of sunlight reflected off the surface. Hypnotizing multicolored hues dazzled in the bottom. There was no current, and yet she was still engulfed by the depths. As much as she struggled, the friction of the water was against her. It was dragging her down.

Her skin chilled as the intense green darkened, and she was close to losing consciousness in the softness of the water. The light from the surface began to fade.

“Hold on! You have to endure!”

The voice forced her to open her eyes. A winged silhouette floated amongst the waves until it vanished in a glance.

Are you an angel?” she whispered in her mind as her last breath escaped her lips.

“I’ll protect you. I always will,” the voice replied, as if it were coming from within her, from the water, from everything.

  The little girl closed her eyes and drifted away.


First day of school in a new town and Marianne was already lying flat over her school bag, with all her belongings scattered around the floor, after unexpectedly crashing into someone else at her rushed entrance in Saint Pearl Academy. That couldn’t be a good omen.

Still stunned from the impact, she pulled back a short strand of black hair from her face and looked around, setting her emerald green eyes on the person in front of her, a girl wearing the same school uniform as her. Her long, brown hair was pulled back into a ponytail with a few elusive locks falling onto her face. She rubbed her eyes with one hand as the other felt the ground until picking up a magazine that had been spat out of Marianne’s bag.

“I—I’m sorry. I wasn’t watching where I was going,” Marianne quickly apologized, attempting to help her up.

There was a crack at her feet and she looked down in dread, slowly lifting her foot and revealing the remains of the girl’s glasses.

“I guess . . . these are yours,” she handed over the broken glasses as the girl sighed in resignation. Marianne felt a pang of remorse. “I . . . I’m really sorry. I’ll replace them . . . if that’s okay with you.”

“ . . . It’s okay. It doesn’t matter anymore,” the girl replied bleakly. She was taller than Marianne, and despite her slender physique, her broad shoulders gave her a certain air of strength, and even though her violet eyes didn’t seem to provide her with good vision, they were certainly striking to look at. Suddenly, she stood up hurriedly, grasping the magazine to her chest. “It’s late! I must go to class!”

Marianne watched her stumbled away through one of the hallways until realizing she had taken something from her.

“The magazine!”

She bolted behind her, all the way through a set of pillars, up to a point which diverged into three paths, each one labeled with plaques. According to the pamphlet she received upon registration, the Saint Pearl Academy included two educational levels: middle school and high school. So the left path led to the middle school section, the one in the center led to high school, and the one at the right, going up a stairway, was exclusive for seniors.

The girl had gone right to the one in the center, so she kept following her all the way to a classroom with a plaque that said “9-A”. Casually the same in her registration sheet. The door was open and she could hear a strong voice inside. A teacher was waving a magazine that looked familiar to her under the title ‘Paranormal world’.

“ . . . and I suggest you to never make the same mistake as Miss Marx by bringing this kind of literary garbage to school!”

The girl she had been following stood to her side in front of the class with her head hanging low and her face red with shame. Marianne couldn’t help but feel a wave of guilt.

“I hope I’ve made myself clear. You may sit down now, Belgina.”

The girl’s eyes never left the floor in her way while her classmates seemed to be enjoying everything.

“So, you must be the new transfer student. Why don’t you come in and tell us your name?”

It took Marianne a moment to understand she was talking to her and found herself at the center of attention. She felt her body tensing and stood by the door for a few seconds before taking a breath to reply.

“My name is . . . Marianne,” she introduced herself, looking askance at Belgina. “And… I would like to ask for my magazine back, please.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“The one you’re holding, it’s actually mine. Belgina took it by mistake when I bumped into her outside. That’s why she was late.” The teacher was tongue-tied and Belgina finally dared to raise her eyes. “I’m sorry if I waste my time with that kind of garbage, as you pointed out. It got mingled in my stuff because of the rush, but anyway, if I want to read about angels, ghosts, aliens, or the tooth fairy, it should not be a reason to be shamed like that.”

The teacher was left stunned, and the students began to murmur. Marianne remained silent, waiting for a reply that didn’t come, and finally opted to go inside, take her magazine and walk between the desks, looking for a free seat. Every single eye in the classroom was on her, scrutinizing her. She could already imagine what they were thinking, and it didn’t take long to confirm when she clearly heard the word “freak” while walking past one of the seats, followed by a derisive chuckle.

She turned around and a girl with a sharp face and long brown hair that fell down her back in waves held her gaze defiantly with a cold, mischievous look and a pronounced angle in her eyebrows.

Marianne averted her gaze and kept walking towards one of the seats in the back. Her own record broken: first day of school and she already felt the collective rejection from the group. She felt so mad at herself that she didn’t even notice, among all those judging stares, a pair of purple eyes watching her with genuine concern.

The streets got crowded with students and their parents picking them up after school, but Marianne wasn’t in the mood for people. She took a detour on a less crowded street, even if it meant she had to walk more. Unbeknownst to her, pebbles rattled in her path as if a magnetic force pulsed on the floor.

Her day could not have gone worse. She reproached herself for her inability to control her temper. It had been a problem all her life, alienating her from other people, always this urgent need to talk back in defiance to whatever she considered an injustice.

She stopped at the corner to untie her bowtie and stuffed it in her bag, the vibration of the pebbles suddenly stopped. The traffic light went green so she just had to wait. A gust of wind began to blow, bursting out of nowhere, stirring her hair.

“Go on,” whispered the air. Puzzled, she lifted her gaze. A black feather fluttered from nowhere and fell in front of her. Was that a crow?

Mesmerized, she dropped her bag and went after the feather, which started to freefall toward her until it reached her hand, right then she heard a distant voice calling her name with a sense of urgency, shaking her out of her daze.

She turned around, looking for the source of the voice. For a fleeting moment, she met a pair of blue eyes, alarmed at the sight of her. The last thing she heard was the screeching of tires as everything faded away.

The water was dark and cold as she floated within. Nothing held her up or made her sink. There was no surface, no bottom, it was just whole. A winged silhouette appeared before her, shining as though it were made entirely of light.

“Who are you?”

«You should know.»

The figure’s soothing voice conveyed a strange feeling, almost familiar.

“Are you . . . an angel?” she asked again, and the figure began to retreat and dissipate.

«You’ll know when you’re ready»

 “Wait! When I’m ready for what? What does that mean?”

The silhouette disappeared entirely as she was sucked away from the watery place. She began to hear a voice calling her by her name. The voice became clearer as she opened her eyes, and the youthful face of her mother appeared in front of her. Relieved, the woman smiled as Marianne regained consciousness.

“Relax. Everything’s okay now.”

“What happened? Where am I?” Disoriented, Marianne tried to move her head, but her neck was immobilized by a cervical collar.

“You’re in the hospital. You had an accident.” The woman helped her to sit up on the gurney. “It wasn’t that bad. Just a sprained neck and a few mild bruises from the fall, but luckily this boy had the good sense to bring you here.” She pointed to the door, a boy was standing there with his hands in his pockets.

She watched him intently for a moment, trying to recall where she had seen him before. He was wearing a school uniform, but his jacket was missing, so she couldn’t figure out which school he was from and he was tall and athletic. His black hair hung over his face, which helped him avoid Marianne’s gaze. Finally, he looked up, and she recognized those blue eyes she had seen right before passing out.

“You!” she pointed accusingly at him with her index finger.

The boy averted his gaze, embarrassed.

“I’m sorry, I . . . didn’t see you and . . . ”

“I could’ve died and you think an apology will be enough?” she interrupted him furiously. The boy stopped talking and kept his eyes on the floor.

“I think you’d better go,” Marianne’s mother suggested. The boy nodded and turned around, but stopped before closing the door.

“I’m really sorry about everything. I’ll be gone now.”

“Yeah, sure!” Marianne replied loudly enough to be heard through the door. Once he was gone, her mother slapped her arm.

“Don’t overreact, it could have been worse! He could have left you for dead, lying in the middle of the street. After all, you were the one who was reckless enough to cross the street against the light.”

Marianne looked outraged at her mother and eager to protest as she held onto her stinging arm. But after grumbling for a moment, she just let out a snort.

“Whatever, Mom.” Marianne crossed her arms and, humoring her mother. The only thing that was clear to her was that her awful day had just peaked and she couldn’t wait to put an end to it.

Little did she know, it had just begun.

Laying on her back to prevent any movement that could affect her collar, Marianne looked at a vague point on the ceiling. She had kept the feather from the accident in a case, stored under her mattress, but couldn’t bring herself to sleep.

She forcefully closed her eyes until the voices in the house faded away. She had almost reached a dreamy, soothing state when she heard a soft buzz, slowly growing and becoming a faint voice that touched a forgotten fiber of her memory until it finally resounded, calling her name. “Marianne.” She opened her eyes and sat up quickly, frightened.

“Who’s there? Who said that?”

She remained alert for several seconds, watching the shadowy corners of the room. She thought it might have been her imagination, but then the voice spoke again.

“Can you hear me?” This time it was incredibly clear, as if the speaker was near her ear. She turned on her bedside lamp and grabbed a statuette from the nightstand to use as a weapon.

“Get out wherever you are! Get out or I’ll scream!”

“I understand you’re scared, but you don’t have to be, I would never hurt you.”

“Enough! Show yourself!”

“I’m sorry, but I’m afraid that’s impossible.”

Marianne had already gotten out of bed and scanned the room. She held the figurine firmly, and made a full turn every time she heard the voice.

“Why? Got something to hide?”

“I can’t show myself because I don’t have a physical body. I’m inside your mind.”

She came to a sudden stop and dropped the statuette to the floor.

“Oh, no.” She returned to her desk and pulled out a bottle of pills.

“I’ve been trying to communicate with you for a long time, and now that you can hear me we should not waste any minute. I need to fill you in with everything you need to know.”

“I’m just hallucinating. That’s it,” she murmured to herself, taking a series of deep breaths.

“I’m not a hallucination. Please, listen to me—”

“That’ll be enough.” She lay down and closed her eyes, ignoring the voice.

“I’m not a figment of your imagination. You have to believe me. At least listen to what I have to say, you have to . . . ” The voice gradually dissipated as she fell into a deep sleep and soon stopped hearing it.

When the alarm clock woke her, it seemed to her like it hadn’t even been five minutes since she fell asleep, but it was already 7 a.m. She set the alarm again, imagining it would be another horrible day like the previous one. Or maybe even worse —her collar wasn’t exactly a discreet accessory, after all. And that feeling was proven right once she opened her classroom’s door.

All of her classmates turned to her. Silence hung in the air until the girl with the sharp features burst into laughter. She didn’t even have the courtesy to hide it. Marianne sighed and went to her seat, trying to ignore all those prying eyes on her and that girl’s squawking laughter. She didn’t notice either the concerning eyes watching her from the other side of the room.

And once another day of school was over, Marianne took refuge in the bathroom. She stared at the mirror in the sink after splashing water on her face and began to make faces as she recalled the night before.

“That was quite a dream.”

“Do you still think it was a dream?” After hearing the voice she released a scream she immediately tried to smother by covering her mouth.

“Who is it? Who’s there?”

“I think we already went through this last night.”

The voice sounded as clear as she remembered, even more so, now that she was wide awake in broad daylight.

“No, this can’t be happening. It has to be a nightmare. I’m still sleeping, that must be it!” she shouted, closing her eyes and covering her ears, going in circles.

“Please, just listen to me, it’s really important. My name is Samael. I’m your guardian angel.”

Marianne stopped and opened her eyes.

“My guardian—? Okay, very funny. Whoever is behind this joke, HA HA, you’ve made fun of me enough! What did you put on me? A hidden microphone or something?”

“It’s not a joke. I have always been with you. I know everything about you.”

“Even if I have magazines about angels, it doesn’t mean I’ll be so gullible as to fall for that, you hear me?”

“You hate bugs, you love sweets and since you were a child you have collected every kind of feather you find, like the one from yesterday, when I tried to warn you.”

Marianne stood there at a loss for words, and the only thing that made her react was the sudden sound of a bell.

“I—I have to go now. I promise I’ll listen to whatever you want to say, but please, don’t talk to me while I’m in public, I don’t want . . . to draw any attention.”

“Fair enough.”

Too shocked to answer, she just left, pale faced.

She was out so quickly that she didn’t notice the girl with the sharp face coming out of one of the stalls in complete and utter confusion.

“What the hell was that?”

Belgina was standing next to the door, looking anxiously outside when Marianne walked out.

“Are you waiting for someone?” she asked, making her jolt.

“Yes, I—I was waiting for you.”

“Me?” Marianne was surprised. No one had ever bothered to wait for her after school.

“Are you . . . okay?” Belgina gestured toward Marianne’s neck.

“What? Do I have a stain?” Marianne touched her collar as if it weren’t there. Belgina couldn’t help but let out a shy chuckle. “It was an accident, but nothing too serious. I’m a tough cookie.”

“I’m glad to hear that.”

“That I had an accident?”

“No! I meant that it wasn’t serious, I—”

“Relax, I’m kidding. Of course I got it.”

Belgina heaved a sigh of relief and then made another pause, trying to find the words to continue.

“It’s just that . . . I was going to get my new glasses and—”

“Oh, I get it. Sure, I promised I’d replace them.”

“No! I don’t mean that. I just . . . thought you could come with me,” Belgina explained nervously. Even though Marianne seemed surprised, she smiled because, for the first time, she felt her day wasn’t wasted. She finally had the chance to make a friend, despite her bad start.

They entered the first optical store they found and while Belgina was in the middle of her eye exam, Marianne browsed the shelves of sunglasses. She tried on several pairs, looking in the mirror just to kill some time, and when she reached up to grab a pair on the top shelf, her sleeve caught the edge of the showcase. She tried to loosen it, but it was stuck. She glanced sideways to check if anyone was watching her and pulled harder, but as her sleeve was released, her arm swung back, hitting someone in the process. And then came the crash.

Marianne stood still for a moment. Her luck couldn’t possibly be that bad, could it? But it was clear that her streak of accidents was worsening. She sighed and turned around to apologize.

“I’m sorry, my sleeve got stuck and—” Her unfortunate victim stood up with a pair of broken glasses and Marianne recognized him immediately as the boy from the hospital. “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

He also recognized her and remained silent for a couple of seconds.

“This is. . . awkward,” he finally said, looking away, as if searching for the nearest exit. He was missing his school jersey once again.

“I could have died. I have to use this annoying collar and stuff myself with pain pills and yet somehow you’re the one who’s most uncomfortable in this situation,” Marianne retorted sarcastically.

“Listen, I’m really sorry, but the truth is . . . I had the green light, it was you who suddenly came out of nowhere.”

“So I’m the one to blame. Just what I needed!”

“Now you’re just taking things out of proportion. The car didn’t even hit you. Luckily I braked in time, but you passed out,” the boy protested, becoming exasperated.

“Well, then, thanks for letting me keep the gift of life. You’re so kind!”

The boy gritted his teeth and finally turned around.

“Forget it, I don’t need this.”

“Neither do I!” Marianne snapped, increasingly angered.

“By the way, you owe me a pair of glasses now,” the boy said before making his way out. Marianne replied with a snort and a fierce stomp.

“Is there a problem?” Belgina asked, getting out of the optometrist’s office while adjusting her new spectacles and looking at the mirror.

“Nothing, it was just . . . some jerk I hope I won’t ever come across again,” Marianne spat, trying to recover her composure. “ . . . But let’s not talk about it anymore. Have you finished here?”

“Yes, we can go now,” Belgina said, feeling better with her new glasses, and both walked away, unaware that a few feet from there, a grey hooded figure was watching them.

Back at home, Marianne went past the living room where her little brother was lying on the couch, watching TV and eating popcorn, and tried to go unnoticed.

“Oh, there you are. I thought you had managed to get into another accident again.”

Marianne grunted in response and glanced at the TV. Three cartoon dessert-looking characters burst in the screen in the middle of colorful landscapes.

“I don’t know how you get good grades when you spend your time watching things like that,” she said as she headed upstairs.

“You’re just jealous that I don’t have to break my neck studying like you!”

“I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that!” she yelled, rushing to her room, where she shut the door and dropped exhausted to the bed, causing a cramp in her neck. “Ouch! This damned collar! I forget I’m wearing it.”

“I can help you with that,” the angel suddenly said. Marianne freaked out, as if it were the first time she heard him.

“You again!”

“You promised to listen to what I have to say.”

“Ok, I hear you.” She sighed, convinced she was still hallucinating and couldn’t do anything but play along.

“As I said before, my name is Samael and I was assigned as your guardian. There’s a power within you that’s been asleep for a long time, a power only bestowed to those who are fated to fight evil. Those called the Angel Warriors.”

 “At this point it would be more believable if you told me I died in the accident and now I’m trapped in purgatory,” she scoffed, incredulous.

“I understand it’s hard to accept, but if you make an effort it will get easier. Now, put your hands around your neck.”

Marianne was still skeptical, but after a snort she did as he asked and placed her hands over the collar, covering it up. She waited for instructions, but heard nothing else for a couple of seconds until she started to feel a wave of heat through her neck.

“Okay, now take off the collar.” She obeyed once again, and as soon as she removed it, she was able to move her neck, no longer feeling any pain to her surprise.

“What did you do? Is this some kind of magic, witchcraft? How—?”

“I told you. I’m an angel,” Samael replied as she stood up, bewildered.

“I can’t believe it. This is not happening. I refuse to believe it,” she repeated to herself, pacing in circles around the room while the angel tried to catch her attention.

“I know it’s a lot to take in, but we can’t waste any time. I must help you to develop your skills before it’s too late.”

“I’m still hallucinating, that’s it. It has to be. Angels don’t exist. Even if I read about them that doesn’t make them real. Not at all. They are NOT!” There was a crisp sound and her mirror cracked from the center to the sides, leaving her speechless for a few seconds. “What—what was that?”

“You did it.”

“But . . . how?

“I told you there’s a hidden power inside you. It will gradually grow now that the bindings that kept you tied to the earthly realm broke. You need my guidance to control it.”

“I can’t deal with this right now.”

She put the collar back on and left the room without saying anything else.

“Won’t you eat something?” her mother asked from the kitchen as she walked by.

“I’ll go to the library, be back in a while,” she said, going straight to the door.

A few hours and several unsuccessful calls later, her mother set her cell aside and began tapping her fingers on the table.

“Loui, could you go see if your sister’s at the library? She’s not back yet and won’t answer her phone. I still have files to organize.”

The kid had no choice but to get off the couch where he had been lying all afternoon watching TV.

“If dad was here, we wouldn’t have these issues,” he blurted out. His mother lifted her face from a pile of documents, but he was already gone.

The section of the library where Marianne had taken refuge was very quiet, which only accentuated the clarity of Samael’s voice to her misfortune. Definitely a bad choice.

“Listen, even if you’re trying to ignore me, it’s really important for you to take this matter seriously.”

“I’m not listening,” she muttered, trying to be as quiet as possible to not draw any attention.

 “You still don’t understand the magnitude of all. The Legion of Darkness never rests and—”

“Legion of Darkness?” she repeated, cautiously curious.

“It’s the realm where all evil dwells. So far they’ve kept a low profile, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t done anything all this time.”

“And you know this how?”

“I can feel it. I’ve sensed their presence many times before, but you couldn’t hear me then, so there wasn’t much I could do. Think about it, behind every mysterious death, it’s likely the Legion of Darkness is involved. Do you understand my urge to start your training?”

Marianne kept silent at those words. They had resounded deep inside, leaving her pensive. So much that she didn’t notice a shadow prowling the area, hiding in the corners, looking for prey.

“They’re close,” Samael said, taking her out of her reverie right when the shadow passed near her, causing a chill down her spine.

“I don’t even know why she has a cell phone,” Loui huffed, putting away his own cell after unsuccessfully trying to call his sister once again. He’d arrived at the library and entered through one of the many corridors with access to the building, each one of them connected to the main hall. The hallway was empty, and the lights were flickering.

He still wasn’t sure where to look, the place was huge, like a maze. He made a turn and saw a figure standing at the end of the hall. He didn’t give it much thought until a second one joined the first, blocking the aisle as if they were waiting for him. The kid slowed down. It wasn’t until they began to walk towards him that he stopped.

“Go get him,” the taller figure said, and the second one appeared before Loui in a blink, pinning him to the floor and covering his mouth. The tall guy approached gloatingly and once above him, made a motion with his hand, pulling something from Loui’s chest. A bright, translucent sphere appeared over him, as though it were attached to the man’s hand.

“Someone’s being attacked,” Samael announced.

Marianne felt this tightness in her chest, like a somatic response, triggering the urge to get her cell out, and by doing so she saw an incoming message.

‘R U still @ library?

Mom told me 2 come 4 you, don’t make me go inside.’

It was her brother. Dread spread like a cold rush through her body.

“You have to stop them!” Samael repeated firmly. She stood up, deciding this time to take his word for real, and dashed off, following the angel’s instructions, ripping off her collar for greater freedom of movement and coming to a halt just before turning down a hallway when she saw two figures next to an unconscious body. The one standing up was holding a shining sphere in one hand while the other was on top of the little body lying on the floor. That was when she noticed it was Loui.

“Those guys have my brother!” she mumbled, watching the scene from afar.

“They’re from the Legion of Darkness. Now listen carefully, before you face them you have to make sure that . . . ”

He hadn’t even finished speaking as Marianne impulsively bolted out from her hideout.

“Let go of him!”

The two entities turned around and Marianne felt paralyzed in terror. She wasn’t prepared for what she saw in front of her. Despite looking morphologically human, their eyes were completely black, with silver irises and a glowing cornea that shone in the darkness. Strange tattoos seemed imprinted on the periphery of their faces, and their own veins sprouted out of their skins, intertwined in a dark coating that covered their whole bodies like shielded suits. Their main difference was that while the guy standing up had his hair made of the same oily material sprouting out of his skin, the other one had a more natural and human-like copper hair.

Those were demons. She had no doubt about it. Marianne took a couple of steps back, shocked at the sight, and the taller demon suddenly smiled, showing a sharp pair of fangs between his perfect set of teeth.

“I’ll take care of the witness.”

In no time, he appeared right in front of her, grabbing her neck and pushing her against the wall. She clung to his arm trying to get loose, but his hand was closing around her throat, making it hard to breathe.

Her angel was calling her urgently, she could hear him, but his voice was fading out along with her consciousness until her feeble arms fell to her sides and the wraith tossed her to the hallway she had arrived from, like some useless rag.

“Marianne! Can you hear me?! Marianne!”

But she wasn’t there anymore. She had already sunk back into the dark deep waters where she floated surrounded by the void. She barely opened her eyes and saw a bright winged silhouette in front of her for a brief moment before it disappeared and she closed her eyes again. The previously quiet waters began to stir and some sort of shell started to cover her body, right over her clothes and up to her face. Her eyes flew wide open then.

 “Not the gift we’re looking for,” the taller demon said, holding the sphere once it was rejected from a container with an engraving that read ‘Intellectual’. “Get rid of the body, Ashelow.”

The lightless orb was in his hand and the demon began to squeeze it with the clear purpose to crush it, until his arm was suddenly chopped off with one single blow. The demon howled in pain, clutching his stump and secreting a black oily substance from it. In his agony, he turned around and saw an armored figure holding a sword, pointing at him.

Marianne didn’t talk, just stared at him, her green eyes flashing through the helmet that concealed her face. The demon hissed and bared his teeth, his silver eyes burning with anger.

“Let’s go, Ashelow!” he shouted to the other one and they both disappeared by disintegrating into ashes, along with the severed arm.

Marianne stood frozen until her gaze began to clear. As she lowered her guard, the sword was sucked back into her right hand. She finally ran towards her brother and knelt beside him, shaking him, but he remained motionless with his dull eyes open.

“What’s going on? Why is he not responding?”

“After a gift has left the body, it no longer responds,” Samael explained in a serious tone.

“What does that mean?” she asked again, but the angel’s silence said enough. She looked back at the child’s lifeless body and then at the unlit orb lying beside him. In the spur of the moment she grabbed it and pressed it against Loui’s chest. “Wake up. Come on! Wake up now!”

Unexpectedly, the sphere between her hands started to glow, and slowly entered into the kid’s chest, to her astonishment.

The gift was completely absorbed and Loui’s eyes regained their brightness, a deep gasp bringing him back to conscious, as if he had been holding his breath for a long time. His back bent as he took long puffs of air, while Marianne moved aside, unable to comprehend what was happening.

“Who are you?” Loui asked with narrowed eyes and shrunken body, trying to discern what was right in front of him.

Marianne blinked in confusion underneath the helmet. He didn’t recognize her, she could tell him anything, the first thing to come to her mind . . .

“I’m—I’m an Angel Warrior.” She said, disguising her voice, even though she was already hiding her face behind the helmet. “Be more careful next time.”

Loui stared at her with eyes like slits, and fearing she could no longer keep up her act, she took off in a hurry, leaving the kid in complete and utter confusion.

She ran non-stop for several blocks until finally halting in an alley to catch her breath. 

“What happened there? Did you have anything to do with that?”

“No, you did everything. I told you that you had this power waiting to be awakened.”

Marianne just sighed, unable to say another word. She tried to take the armor off, but it seemed to be attached to her. “Okay. How do I get this thing off now?”

“Just relax, convey to your mind that there’s no danger. Then you’ll return to normal.”

She did as the angel instructed, and after a few seconds of concentration, the strange armor retracted until it completely disappeared. Although the shell was so light that she hardly felt it on, as soon as she was back to normal, the relief was immediate and she leaned against the wall.

“So, what’s next?”

“What happened is just a glimpse of what the Legion of Darkness has been doing all this time. It’s time to stop them.”

“What are they looking for? That shining sphere . . . ”

“The gifts. They’re distinct attributes of a person. Anyone can have different kinds of gifts, but only one epitomizes them, and this one is of vital importance. That’s why you have to protect it.”

“I don’t know how am I supposed to, I mean . . . I’m not even sure what I did today. It could’ve been a fluke.”

“I believe in you and you should too.”

She leaned her head against the wall, exhausted from the day she’d just had.

“Just remind me tomorrow that today wasn’t a dream. I still feel like I’m about to wake up in the hospital.”

“I’ll remind you as often as necessary.”

Marianne took one last breath before going back in the street, ready to go home after her first battle.

She was already one block ahead when a shadowy figure with a grey hoodie came out of the same alley, hands in its pockets, staring at her as she walked away. It patiently waited standing there until she was out of sight. Only then it turned around and vanished into thin air, leaving the alley as lonely as it was before.