19. AN ANGEL AND A DEMON
WALK INTO A BAR…
“The more practical thing to do for other schools in such events is to put a few snacks on a table and let the students serve themselves as they wish; they belittle our taste by thinking we’re gonna take some stale fries and softened biscuits or whatever they give us as long as it’s free. But we don’t want to do that; we must show that we have class and can organize an event worthy of our institution,” Kristania said while Lilith followed her around, taking notes. “In our case, no greasy and unhealthy chips, we’re athletes on our way to compete in the interstate games, we must set the example. Fruit snacks and pickles to start, asparagus with dressing, light foie gras canapes and herbal tea from a drinking fountain and of course, decoration, we must leave enough budget, so the table looks like out of a first-class event, because IT WILL BE.”
“…Pickles, asparagus, ‘foagra’, tea and decoration, okay,” Lilith repeated while writing it down and Kristania made a grimace, as if hurt by her ignorance, and just patted her condescendingly.
“You’ll learn. Let’s continue now; you must make sure that all the products are high quality, which means you can’t go for the cheaper ones, we don’t want an outbreak of salmonella just hours before the games. Quantity doesn’t equal quality,” Kristania continued her tirade and Lilith suddenly stopped in front of a shop window to watch one of the mannequins wearing a red dress down the knee shaped like an inverted rosebud. “…That’s a nice dress. I think you would look good in it.”
“You really think so?” Lilith asked, contemplating the dress like a dog in front of a ham. Kristania then took her arm and dragged her into the store.
“Come. Try it on.”
Lilith tried to protest, but the attraction of the dress was bigger. Within minutes, she had already put it on and watched fascinated in the mirror how the fabric took the form of falling petals.
“If I could go back in time, I would take this dress to prom. Hell! I would take it to each and every ball I go in my life!”
“Maybe you don’t know this, but at the end of the interstate games there’s always a closing party for each school,” Kristania remarked. “I’ve already chosen my dress in advance, and I think you have chosen yours.”
Encouraged by the idea, Lilith pulled the garment price tag, and her expression immediately lost all hope. It was just too expensive for her.
“There are other possibilities… didn’t your beau from the coffee shop turned out to be a prince? Surely the price of the dress would be nothing to him.”
“No! I won’t ask him for anything! Besides… he’s got a fiancee,” Lilith said.
“What a shame, but don’t lose hope. Maybe you get lucky one of these days and you’ll be able to buy it,” Kristania said as if trying to lift her spirits, though not particularly commited to it. “Let’s go to your house, I’ll help you get the estimate for the event.”
“Okay,” Lilith agreed, atempting a smile to hide her disappointment.
Lucianne’s days were reduced to go from home to school and viceversa. It was already driving her crazy.
While stirring her barely eaten salad with her spirits down, her father watched her askance. He took his last spoon of food and cleared his throat.
“…Well, I think that after a week you have shown proof that you still have the good judgment to behave properly despite having… temptations nearby.”
Lucianne looked up from her plate to give him an incredulous glare. It wasn’t like she had done something to be punished for. Moreover, she didn’t even consider herself punished; she was just following her dad’s whim of being under close surveillance while she pursued her research under the radar.
“I think I can trust you will be more careful from now on, so… I’ll stop coming for you at school, and you’re free to meet with your friends again… while you’re in a group, of course.”
Lucianne sighed to maintain her composure and pursed her lips in a pout that was halfway between a smile and a grimace.
“…I’ll do my best to honor that trust, dad,” was the only thing she could say just to play along. “…I’ll go do some homework. I’m not hungry.”
As she left the kitchen, she took her phone out to see if she had any notifications, but she had none. She sighed and continued up the stairs when she heard a knock on the door.
“I’m coming!” Lucianne shouted to spare her father from going all the way to the door. She went down the steps and walked distractedly to the door, weaving in her mind other ways to get the truth out of Frank, so when she opened it and saw him right in front of her, all the weaving crumbled, and her mind went blank. “What… What are you doing here? You’re not supposed to—”
Frank grabbed her wrist and pulled her from the doorway, taking a short detour to the side of house, away from the front view.
“May I know why you’ve been questioning members of my family about me?”
“I… was just trying to understand why you avoid talking about professor Leiffson and what happened a year ago—”
“I told you I had an altercation with him over a grade, why do you keep digging?”
“Because I know that’s not true,” she said, regaining the strength in her voice to show she wasn’t willing to quit on him. “That was just an excuse, but I’m sure there’s something else behind this lie that you’ve kept for so long.”
Frank didn’t answer, but she could see by his scowl that she was right. Now she just had to dig deeper for the truth and hopefully help him overcome that episode once and for all to move on with his life. The problem was that the theory that had been brewing in her mind —origined by Mitchell’s dirty mind— was not a nice subject to bring light to. She feared his reaction just to mention it and had to be careful about it.
“Whatever actually happened between the two of you, I’m sure you had your reasons for what you did even though I don’t condone it… but keeping quiet about it may ultimately be counterproductive, not only for you but for other boys that… may have the misfortune to go through the same thing as you, and the guilt will haunt you, thinking that you could have done something to avoid it.”
“…What the hell are you talking about?” Frank asked with narrowed eyes, his eyebrows furrowed in a gesture of utter confusion.
“I know it can be hard at first, you may think people will judge because of it,” Lucianne kept going, ignoring the interruption to follow the train of her thoughts, hoping it would eventually help Frank, if not to exorcise his demons, at least to open his heart to her, “But the point is for you to be able to get over it and be sure that despite the ideas you’ve been harvesting during the year, you didn’t provoke it or were responsible for it.”
“Wait, stop, hang on a minute!” he interrupted her again, this time with a bewildered expression, so much that she could be accusing him of murder and not even then he would be that perplexed. “…Are you implying what I think you are?”
“I just… don’t think you have anything to be ashamed of. I want to support you and help you in any way possible to be able to leave everything behind.”
Frank’s face stretched in such a horrified gesture that Lucianne thought she might be pressing too much and too son.
“You think he tried to… touch me or something like that?” he asked, horrified. “…Hell, no! How could you think such a thing?”
“I—I have no idea,” she quickly answered, feeling embarrassed for having been carried away by Mitchell’s crazy theory.
“Just leave it that way, okay?! I won’t be returning to that class as much as you try to dig up something I want to leave in the past. The last thing I want to see is that megalomaniac face again. Never more.”
Lucianne paid attention to the resentful attitude Frank took every time he talked about him, and despite his request to leave it alone, she couldn’t help but wonder what the teacher had done to him if it wasn’t what Mitchell was thinking.
“Is there a problem?”
At the end of the side wall, Officer Perry stood very straight with a hand near his gun belt. He had a warning gaze and neither of them doubted he would dare to shoot if he considered that Lucianne was in danger, after all, he had hade done it once when she was lacking the Kindness gift.
“That depends. Are you looking for trouble?” Frank grumbled and after seeing the guy’s hand now rested on the butt of the gun, Lucianne moved in front of Frank.
“Everything’s fine, Perry, thank you. Frank was already leaving,” she assured to avoid any problem that might draw her father’s attention. Frank gave her an incredulous look until finally putting his hands in his pockets and lifting his chin.
“Well, it seems that I’m leaving after all. I don’t usually stay where I’m not required,” he added in a resentful tone, walking along the wall past the young officer and giving him a cold stare until he was out of sight.
Lucianne sighed. Why did he have to make things difficult to her with his attitude?
“Are you really okay?” Officer Perry repeated once he left.
“Of course, he’s just… mad. And rightly so, after finding out about the research I’ve been doing on him and Professor Leiffson.”
“It’s not so different from what he did with that professor, looking into his past as his register shows,” Perry said, prompting Lucianne to reflect on it. She was missing some important piece of information she hadn’t consider. She followed the young officer back to the house and as she walked behind him, her mind kept going.
She reviewed the events one by one from the first time Frank started behaving strange at the parents’ meeting, and then when professor Leiffson introduced himself as their new biology teacher.
There was something. Something that had drawn her attention in that moment besides Frank running away. Would he still have run away if the professor hadn’t recognized him? Besides, he had been investigating about him even before the incident. Why would he be interested in him? Something was missing… His words after recognizing him… ‘A familiar face’… Frank investigating… His mother’s teacher more than eighteen years ago… She suddenly stopped short in the doorway as if she had finally seen the light.
“…Oh, my god,” Lucianne murmured with her face livid. “…He’s Frank’s father.”
As soon as Marianne got home, she went up the stairs until getting to the attic, but Samael wasn’t there. She quickly went down to her room without wasting time, however she couldn’t find him there either.
She stood in the middle of the room, trying to think where he had gone until a flashlight announced his arrival.
“Oh, thank god you’re here! Where did you go and what were you doing?”
“I was checking some things. We need to talk,” Samael said, still holding the phone.
“You’re right, we have a situation.”
“You were with Demian, right?” Samael asked as he sat in front of Marianne’s desk and turned on the laptop, connecting cables to the cell while she looked curiously at him.
“How’s that you—?”
“Whenever you’re near him, I can’t locate your presence. But now that you’re back, I need you to see this. It’s important.”
“What I have to say IS important too.”
“I’m sure it can wait after this.”
Marianne decided not to argue this time and waited for him to finish those connections. He loaded the video from the memory card and prepared it to play.
“Watch it carefully,” Samael asked, stepping away from the screen and pointing at the chair. She just did what he told her and sat down.
The video started playing, and Marianne almost jumped off the chair at the first image on the screen: a guy with a gray hood over a helpless boy, holding him still against the floor with his body weight while digging in his clothes until tearing them appart, leaving his chest exposed. He then placed his hands above it while the boy let out a series of chilling screams that sounded like he was burning him alive. There were several more bodies around, unconscious, or unable to move.
Marianne quickly reached for the keyboard and pressed pause. She stared in silence at the frozen image, heavy breathing.
“…It’s wearing a gray hood,” she finally said, her voice barely a whisper.
“That’s right, I wanted you to see it before anyone else. Does it resemble your guy in gray? I just got to see him from afar when you lost your gift.”
Marianne kept quiet again, too shocked to talk.
“Just that… it’s got a gray hood,” she insisted, unable to take her eyes off the screen. “He was very elusive, I barely got to see him like a couple of seconds before somehow he… helped me. His most striking feature was the gray hood and that’s it. I never saw his face, nothing.”
Samael nodded and waited until she decided to continue the video, but she seemed too mesmerized by the image.
“Maybe you should finish watching. There’s not much left anyway.”
Marianne took a deep breath, and after making sure she was clutched to the chair, she pressed the play button. Those dreadful screams resumed and although the video trembled —due to the owner’s shaky hold—, she saw the gray hood guy suddenly turning to the camera —more tremors and a gasp—, and even if it was impossible to see the face under the hood, she saw a pair of glowing amber eyes. The image suddenly stirred and there was a cut at that point.
Marianne remained seated for a while after finishing the video and Samael waited patiently for any comment.
“…Amber eyes,” she finally said.
“Just like the guy who attacked those boys at the party.”
“It has to be a demon, right? Otherwise… why would it attack unsuspecting guys? And what’s it doing to them?” Marianne asked, her eyes fixed on the screen despite the video being already over. “And if it’s a demon… why haven’t we felt its attacks or its presence?”
“That’s one of the questions I’d like to solve.”
“You went to that place, right? The place on the video.”
“There’s no sign of any struggle there,” Samael said. “No remaining energy. Nothing. It’s like… the guy doesn’t even exist. Doesn’t even have the energy of a commom human.”.
Marianne played the video again, this time watching from beginning to end with no pause and remained pensive for a while after it was over.
“…You think it’s the same guy in gray who helped me sometimes?”
Samael imagined the confussion she must be feeling at the time. Why would that kind of being help her and attack other people? It didn’t make any sense to her, and he feared the kind of sense it would make to him.
“The gray guy didn’t leave any trace behind either and his energy was undetectable.”
Marianne nodded, but it clearly wasn’t the answer she was looking for.
“If it’s a demon… why helping me then? I don’t get it.”
Right the question he feared to answer and preferred not to delve deeper in it yet. He simply disconnected the cell and turned it off while Marianne was still sitting at the chair, racking her brains in search for an answer.
“Who recorded the video?”
“Well— He thought he could get our respect and we would accept him that way,” Samael said hesitantly, and Marianne knew exactly who he meant. She sprang to her feet and rolled up her sweater as if preparing for a fight.
“That intrusive little worm is always looking for trouble!”
“I think he already feels bad enough.”
“Since when did you become the defender of smartass little nosy kids?”
“I just think the experience has left him so shaken that I doubt he’ll try to follow our steps for a while.”
Marianne snorted with her hands on her hips.
“I guess we have to show the video to the others, right?”
“They have the right to watch it too. Although… we don’t have to tell them about the gray guy if you don’t want to,” he added, and Marianne considered it for a moment until she shook her head.
“They should know. It is important to inform them when it comes to something of this nature; perhaps someone comes up with a solution.”
Samael just nodded as he toyed with the phone in his hand.
“You had something important to tell me,” he added to change the subject.
“Obits!” she shouted all of a sudden and he twisted his eyebrows “Remember when we talked about them the day when I was pondering about the possible origin of the Death gift? You said that ordinary humans couldn’t see them and that there was no way they would have any kind of relationship with the Legion of Darkness. Well, I already told you Demian saw one—”
“And as I said, that’s not entirely unreasonable because he’s not even human.”
“Yes, I know that and he’s also aware of it,” she said impatiently after his interruption. “What I was trying to say is that today he saw the obit again. I was there.”
“…Do you mean you also saw him?”
“No, no! In fact, to me it seemed like Demian was talking alone when I reached him in front of the burial. It was right after saying someone was going to die. Which it certainly happened within minutes. As disturbing as it was, it was enough to convince me that he was telling the truth.”
“Burial? What…? Where were you?” Samael asked, stunned by so much information.
“At the cemetery, I went because… it’s irrelevant. The thing is that, according to Demian, the guy he had seen on several occasions was there, he has talked to him previously and identified itself as an obit.”
“…Okay. Leaving aside that the chance of meeting those beings is usually quite low, I don’t see what that might have relevance for us.”
“I didn’t tell you… but the day Demian told me about seing that guy, he also said that the first time he saw it… was the day he almost run me over,” Marianne revealed, trying not to show the creeping feeling she had just by thinking about it. Samael looked perplexed and speechless; she then went to her closet, knelt down and forced a loose floorboard until detaching it and taking something from inside. “Do you remember this?”
In her hands she held a small wooden box with some details carved on its four sides. Samael had never seen it, but he knew about it from the time he was still in Marianne’s mind as a disembodied presence. It was the feathers box. She uncorked it and took from it a well-preserved black feather.
“When I woke up in the hospital, I discovered this feather stuck in my clothes. At that time, I didn’t give it much importance, it was just an addition to my collection… but now that time has passed, and I can think with a cool head about what happened that day… I recall a flutter in front of me, the hint of a black bird flying away and this feather dangling in front of me in a hypnotic way. Like trying to attract me right to that point in the middle of the street. I was hardly aware of what I was doing, I just wanted to take it… and this afternoon in the cemetery I could swear I saw a crow fying over that burial we came across.”
Samael took the feather and felt again a shiver running down his spine, an ominous sign. He quickly returned it like it burned.
“If I was fated to die that day, I would think they would have tried a little longer to come back for me, don’t you think?” she continued, putting the feather back in the box and keeping it back in the closet under the loose board.
“They wouldn’t stop at nothing if your time was past over,” Samael admitted, even if he disliked the topic.
“Exactly, just what I thought. And yet, I’m still here and it’s not like I’ve been in deadly danger every few minutes,” she added in a tone too casual for the subject matter. She had already shut the closet door and approached him again, shaking her hands. “So, why that time only? What made them go after me?” Samael had no answer. He was even more confused than her. “…Unless it wasn’t really me they were after but Demian.”
“Why would they be interested in him?” Samael asked with a frown, knowing it was unlikely for an obit to go after a demon.
“Because somehow, that obit met him when he was just a baby.”
Samael didn’t think possible to feel even more confused, but now he even felt dizzy with so much information contradicting his preconceived knowledge. Obits didn’t look for demons and tried not to cross paths with them. They just didn’t. They both were beings devoided of any soul, but their tasks were completely opposite. Obits preserved souls; demons corrupted them. What did it mean then that one of them had met Demian as a baby or that it was present the day of the would-be accident? So many questions and so few answers.
“What else did he say?”
“He didn’t manage to get much from the obit. Demian says he’s very elusive and I think he scuttled from him yesterday because I distracted him.”
“…I think there’s been too much for just one day. Get some rest and we’ll see how to handle this tomorrow.”
“Do you think… both events are connected? That everything strange and unexplained that we have faced has something to do with it?” Marianne asked when he was already going out the door and Samael stopped, his hand on the doorway while he thought about it for a minute.
“…If it is, we’ll find out sooner or later.”
Marianne nodded, not entirely satisfied, and once alone in her room she took the time to meditate on these two seemingly unrelated events.
Demian looked through the window into the cold dark night. He didn’t feel like sleeping after what happened that day. First, his new loss of control in fencing, and then meeting the obit in the cemetery. Despite not getting the answers he sought, he felt like he had a better strategy to find him again: he just had to constantly frequent the most likely places for a death to happen. Hospital, dangerous crossroads, perhaps the prison, he could even intercept police calls; it seemed a little disturbing to go find that being at the expense of someonelse’s life, but his options were decreasing, and if he didn’t find answers soon, he would need to rely on his last resort, and the prospect of returning to the Legion of Darkness didnt’ attract him at all.
The sound of an alarm took him out of his reverie; a blue light flickered on his desk in the dark room. A new message. Enough of brooding at the window. He pulled away and took the phone reluctantly, dropping on his bed while checking his inbox. When he saw it was from Marianne, his face immediately showed interest and sat up. Perhaps she had managed to get some more information out of her angel about the obits.
He opened it right away, but it seemed to be a text sent to multiple contacts as it said: ‘Watch it and we’ll discuss it tomorrow. It’s important.’
He leaned back against the headboard of the bed and played the attached video without expectations. The very first seconds were enough to propel him forward with his back straight and face twisted in a gesture of bewilderment. It wasn’t even a minute long and yet it was enough to cut off the slight calm he had achieved at the end of the day. He quickly went to his computer and loaded the memory chip to see the video in a larger screen.
He remained glued to the screen while playing and paused it right in the moment those amber eyes glowed beneath the hood. It was like they were staring at him through the screen, and immediately felt a shudder at the base of his spine. Fragmented memories assaulted his mind, from the time he was just a baby and the amber eyed demon tried to smother him. And then a few months earlier when he was attacked by surprise after being summoned by his father. Was it the same guy from the video or was it just a coincidence? After all, he couldn’t be the only creature with eyes like those.
A wave of anger and frustration began to invade him. Had he followed him up there to finish his job? If so, then why didn’t he just show up the times his demon blood had taken over him or when he transformed into one? The idea sickened him, but he’d been seriously thinking about the possibility of going back to the Legion of Darkness. He was running out of options. There, he could find answers to some of the mysteries that haunted him, like his mother’s whereabouts, and verify if the amber eyed demon was still guarding his father or had followed him to Earth as he suspected. The problem was that the only way to return was by following that disgusting smoke demon, and he wasn’t sure what would happen after that; maybe they would try to tie him up somehow, perhaps with the couple of gifts they had stolen. First, he had to make sure they couldn’t get a hold of him.
He played the video a few more times and concluded that he could no longer lie in bed and get some sleep. He clenched his hands, feeling agitated, and even though the scar wasn’t stinging nor throbbing and didn’t feel out of control, he decided to let out some steam. He practically jumped up from the bed and walked back to the window, laying his eyes on the horizon. Then he disappeared amid a smokescreen.
When Samael entered the classroom, he saw that, unlike most of the time, Mitchell was already installed in his seat with his chin on his hands and looking out the window. He nodded with a ‘Hey’ as if it were the most normal thing to find him there so early.
“You didn’t show up yesterday,” Samael said, sitting in front of him.
“Pfff, yeah. Frank had one of his psychotic breakdowns and kept me captive in my room all morning. It was until noon that my mom returned from her chores and untied me. A little bit longer and I would have been forced to drink water from the toilet to avoid dehydration. Anyway…” He rested on his back with a relaxed expression as if it were nothing out of the ordinary.
“Should I ask why or—?”
“That’s just Frank being Frank. If he doesn’t like something, he takes action, although his methods could be way too extreme. But I’m alive and still have all my fingers, my hair’s intact, Rizzo is safe and that’s what matters,” Mitchell said, appreciating life more than ever. Samael merely raised his eyebrows and just played along. “By the way, I watched the video Marianne sent yesterday. Do you think it’s the same guy from the party?”
“It’s possible. But the way he attacked the guys from the video is slightly different from what happened at the party.”
“Have you thought about questioning them?” Mitchell asked, as if it were the most obvious step to take.
“It was too dark; there was no way to distinguish them.”
“Maybe the one who took the video had a better view without the shaky camera and the low resolution,” Mitchell suggested with a shrug and Samael was surprised not having thought about it before. They just needed Loui to allow him getting into his mind and perhaps they could not only have a better idea of the identity of the guys, but the amber eyed one too. “Hey! I heard what happened yesterday! Did a rookie really take your place in fencing? Dude, that must hurt!”
Samael looked up and saw Demian arriving. He looked very serious, and much to the angel’s surprise, he stopped before his seat.
“Who took the video?” he asked, unable to hide his anxiety.
“Good question! I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me before; well, I guess I’m more focused on the news than the carrier,” Mitchell said, but Demian didn’t seem to heed his words and kept staring at Samael, waiting for an answer.
“Why would you want to know.”
“Just answer,” Demian insisted, and Mitchell made a whistle from the backseat as if foreseeing problems.
“… You know, Mitchell? Belgina was asking for you yesterday,” Samael said, and he immediately straightened in his seat.
“Seriously? What did she say about me? Was she worried because I didn’t show up yesterday? Did she look sad, depressed, unwilling to do anything without me?” he asked more interested in the answer than the video.
“I saw her coming to school minutes ago, you should go ask her,” Samael suggested, and Mitchell glanced at him and Demian as if he could glimpse the trick, but he ultimately stood up.
“You don’t have to tell me twice. I’ll leave you two lovebirds alone,” Mitchell said, walking out, and not even that prompted Demian to bat an eye.
“Who was it then?” he repeated once Mitchell was gone.
“I don’t know what you intend to do with that information, but since you’re so interested in the subject, I think we can help each other out,” Samael said in such a calculating way that even Demian was surprised. He couldn’t imagine the angel offering a deal in exchange for something.
“The obit you’ve come across, do you think you can locate him again?”
Demian’s eyes narrowed at the mention of it.
“…She told you.”
“Marianne tells me everything, she doesn’t have secrets for me.”
Demian stepped away from the seat and walked back and forth with a restrained expression until finally stopping again at his desk.
“Why do you want to know if I can locate it? Are you trying to contact one of them?”
“Why are you so interested in the guy from the video? Do you know him?”
They both kept silent, looking at each other as if expecting the other to budge first.
“Take me to one of those obits and you can be present when I question the person who took the video,” Samael said to break the silence and Demian slightly frowned at his proposal. He didn’t understand the angel’s interest in the obit, but he needed to know more about the circumstances around the video, so, despite his reluctance, he had to make another deal with the angel.
“It won’t be easy. This guy is incredibly elusive. The times I’ve met him have been by chance.”
“But I guess you have an idea where to look for him.”
“Which is no guarantee to find him.”
“It’s worth the try,” Samael said with a shrug and at his insistence, Demian finally accepted reluctantly.
“We could try at the hospital. People die in there all the time, maybe we’ll be lucky today,” Demian suggested, and Samael arched an eyebrow at his choice of words. “…You know what I mean.”
“This afternoon would be okay,” Samael agreed and Demian took this as the end of the conversation. He sat two rows behind him and decided to distract himself looking through the window, though his mind was still full of the images from the video and the encounter with the obit the previous day, not to mention the incident in fencing that almost made him lose control. Every day was becoming more difficult for him to keep his aplomb.
But soon he found out that his self-control would be put on test again when he arrived at the Tae kwon do club and recognized the gleam in his peers’ eyes gathered around the coach like discussing something important. He didn’t need to get closer to know what it was all about; he could sense it. Given his recent experiences it wouldn’t be a surprise if they decided to also turn their backs on him.
Ignoring their gazes, he went straight to the locker room and while putting on his dobok, the door opened and Dreyson came in. He outlined a slight smile at the sight of him, waving his hand in the air to show the bandage around his wrist.
“As good as new,” Dreyson said, like the incident meant nothing to him, but Demian kept quiet. The boy laughed again, amused by his expression. “You should relax. We’re down to two.” He then turned around and went the other side.
Demian frowned at his odd comment and moments later the door opened again, giving way to Samael on a mission. He glanced around and approached Demian with an air of mystery.
“…The bruise,” Samael said in a whisper and Demian just looked at him as if he had gone mad. “The bruise from that guy, I want to see it up close and analyze its energy.”
“And what am I supposed to do about it?”
“I need a distraction.”
Demian gave a snort, deeming unprecedented to have a second conversation with the angel on the same day. And to think they still had to go to the hospital. He motioned Samael to wait and after taking a towel over his shoulder, he walked to the bottom, where the sinks and the showers were. He splashed his face with water and then turned around as he dried it with the towell. Made a quick scan of the place with his gaze and saw Dreyson taking off his jacket in the last row of lockers. He then made a discreet gesture at Samael, who just nodded and suddenly became invisible. Demian slowly paced back and forth, thinking of a distraction, anything, until he sensed Samael’s presence nearby and said the first thing that came up to him.
“So… How does it feel to be the fencing pick after so little time in the club?” Demian asked, immediately regretting his question.
Dreyson turned to him with genuine surprise, holding the suit he pulled out from the locker. He had already taken off his shirt and a dark area in the lower part of his back was visible, just above the column. If he stood like that for a couple more seconds, maybe Samael would have the chance to touch the bruise without any problem.
But then, Dreyson smiled.
“Anyone would think you would be upset that I have taken the place you surely wanted.”
“I have more important things to worry about than just one place for the interstate games,” Demian answered in a pointier tone than he intended and Dreyson emphasized his grin with a defiant hint.
“…Then I hope you won’t mind when I take the rest.”
Demian scowled and his jaw got tense after his clear taunting, while Samael had finally walked past Dreyson to have a closer look.
At first glance it seemed like an ordinary bruise, it didn’t move or disperse under the skin like the boys from the hospital, but if something he’d learned so far was not to rely solely on the first impression, he had to make sure. He moved closer and began to reach toward his back. He needed to know if the bruise produced any kind of negative energy, and he could only be sure by touching it.
Dreyson suddenly tensed and turned to look over his shoulder. Samael stood motionless and held his breath.
“Everyone is free to try,” Demian said to draw his attention again. “… And they’re also free to overestimate their own skills.”
Dreyson smiled again while unfolding his garment to put his arms into the sleeves, and when Samael saw him about to put on the dobok, he quickly stretched his hand and touched Dreyson’s bare skin with the tip of his fingers, right above the bruised area.
He twitched like a cat and quickly turned around, looking at the supposedly empty space, but Samael had already slipped away stealthily.
“…Good luck with whatever you’re up to. You’re already overconfident enough,” Demian said, walking back to his locker, without waiting for a response from Dreyson. He just wanted to be away from him.
Samael was already there, taking out his own dobok and shaking his head in denial.
“…Nothing. I didn’t feel any kind of energy,” Samael whispered. “Seems to be a regular bruise.”
Demian opened his locker quietly.
“I guess that settles it then,” he finally said, heading to the back so he could change in private. “This afternoon at six, if you don’t have any problem. I plan to be there anyway, either you go or not.”
Demian’s suspicions proved finally to be true. His peers had demanded a quick tournament just like the fencing guys to decide the club leader, so to make everything more even, the coach placed the names of the eligible members on slips of paper and stirred them within a container to take out the names randomly. He was about to select the first pair when Dreyson got up from his seat with the rookies.
“I want to take part of it,” he said without further ado. The boys immediately began to murmur. He was the guy who had snatched Demian’s position in fencing, the newbie that had decided to measure himself with the most experienced and proved worthy. The rumors had quickly spread out, so everybody wondered if he thought he could repeat his feat of the previous day; there was always someone willing to milk the last drop of its winning streak.
“Are you sure, boy? Most of the members have at least one year of experience.”
“I assume any consequence.”
At the insistence of the boy, the coach decided to give him a chance and added his name to the list while Dreyson headed to the group of boys under Demian’s grim gaze. The boy looked back at him in a challenging way with those inscrutable dark eyes and slight smirk that seemed to emphasize as he caught his eye.
Demian felt a wave of heat flowing through his veins and his body stiffened. A tingling in his wrist made him assume his worst suspicions: if by any chance he was to fight against him, he wouldn’t be able to control the demon inside him and maybe the consequences would be much worse this time than the impossible cut with a foil. He didn’t know what he would be able to do in that case. He closed his eyes and tried to relax and clear his mind from those thoughts. He couldn’t depend on Addalynn all the time nor wanted to follow the path he was supposed to as a demon.
The coach started to take out their names from an improvised raffle box and when he mentioned his, Demian mentally prepared himself to face that boy again, but luckily it wasn’t the case. At least he could breath for the first confrontation and hoped that perhaps the boy’s overconfidence would be his Achilles heel; after all, Tae kwon do wasn’t the same as fencing. However, when Dreyson’s turn came, he found out things wouldn’t be so easy. Dreyson’s poker face during combat made impossible to guess his movements, and even when he seemed to have no clear advantage over his opponent, he suddenly corrected his mistakes on the go after studying the other’s movements, leading him to win his first fight. And then another. Each victory increased Demian’s throbbing scar. Until they were the only two left and the itching became unbearable.
The coach called them to the center, and Demian walked over there as if he were in the middle of a dream. His mind seemed elsewhere and when he looked askance at his teammates, he couldn’t identify them anymore, all their features erased, which did nothing but increase the surreal feeling. What if it was a nightmare after all? He didn’t use to dream whenever he took his sleeping pills. Did he take them before bed? He couldn’t recall, but if it was all a dream, maybe it didn’t matter the outcome…
He looked at Dreyson in front of him, stretching his limbs and shaking his head to the sides to warm up. He hadn’t done that with the others, was he so eager to face him again? A smile of anticipation was drawn in his face, permeating his patience. It would be so easy to erase it. A single punch to the face and he could break his nose, practically smash it. Yes, it would be so easy. It was all a dream after all, why not follow his instincts and let it run? Demian almost smiled, starting to surrender to this thought when he noticed that among the faceless people, the angel was watching him intently. The idea that it was a dream instantly vanished from his mind and his eyes cleared out. He snapped back to reality, to the pulsing wound in his wrist and the choking tightness in his chest. What was he about to do?
The boy made the initial greeting as rules dictated and took his place, but Demian’s head was full of gruesome imagery. He could not continue. Not without consequences.
He was about to say something when he felt a cold tingling in his skin, which he had learned to identify as his own energy about to be unfolded. He looked down and saw a shadow extending beyond him, towards Dreyson. It was only visible to him, but he knew what it meant. He had already done it to Lester, and now given the circumstances, the outcome could be even worse. He stepped back in dread, and everyone watched him in confusion.
“What are you doing?” the coach asked, glaring at him to come back to the center, but Demian didn’t. He just couldn’t face Dreyson, aware of the great damage he was capable of inflict whether he wanted or not.
And so, for the second time in a row, Demian walked off from a match amidst gossip that would certainly find its way out of the club once the class was dismissed and would spread over the rest of the school by the end of the day. But he didn’t care, he just needed to put some distance at the time.
He didn’t know why he kept doing those activities among humans. He was a danger to others. And the more determined he was to prove that he could go back to his normal life, the more he was convinced that it was impossible at this point. He didn’t belong to this world, but he didn’t want to belong to the other either. Perhaps there was no way to erase his potential for evil, so entrenched in his own genetics, but if anything, he could contribute to his destruction. And this would require the dreaded visit he was trying to avoid.
“Is it getting worse?”
Demian came to his senses again and saw Samael a few feet away from him, at the end of the wall. He had sought refuge behind the building. Had he known the angel would follow him, he would have left.
“Your anxiety fits, the desire to hurt, to destroy. Has it been increasing?”
Demian didn’t answer, he just looked away with a grimace that seemed to say it was not of his business, but that didn’t stop Samael. He withdrew from the corner of the wall and approached him.
“I hope you’re not trying to get into my mind, because right now I’m not in the mood— Not now and not ever.”
“I couldn’t even if I wanted. I can’t go inside a demon’s mind; your thoughts are blocked for me.”
“So, you’ve tried before,” Demian ventured, arching an eyebrow, and Samael nodded, making him huff incredulous. “…You must be kidding me. And the worst thing is that I don’t even feel angry about it.”
“I guess the daily fight against your instincts can be exhausting.”
Demian gave a loud snort to let him know he was running out of patience.
“What do you want? I think we’ve had enough interactions for one day. You don’t want to pollute the air you breathe with my demon scent.”
“The lack of control you’re experiencing is normal, you can’t help it.”
“But of course!” Demian said with a bitter smile. “After all, I’m a demon. Trying to control my instincts is unnatural for my own kind, is that what you’re saying?”
“Partly yes, but not impossible. What I mean is that these uncontrollable outbursts are linked to more than your will and reasoning. They come from the blood bond you share with the Legion of Darkness.”
“Tell me something I don’t know already,” Demian snorted, fed up to hear the same thing over and over again.
“You’re not understanding. Once the source from those dark thoughts disappears, the influence exerted on you will be over too,” Samael explained and Demian kept quiet, assimilating his words. “…When Dark Angel is eliminated, you’ll have the power to take your own decisions and regain full control of your life.”
Demian took a deep breath, feeling a surge of heat in his chest, not a sign of a near loss of control but the opposite. The hope to regain control of his own life without the constant fear of becoming a danger to everyone.
“Why are you telling me this? I thought demons shouldn’t even exist in your opinion.”
“I changed my perspective a little. Yet I still think the Legion of Darkness must be destroyed.”
Demian nodded but seemed completely lost in his thoughts. The chance of freedom from the demonic influence he had inherited from his father stood strongly right in front of him— Maybe he would even have a real opportunity to get rid of it soon, if he played his cards well.
He pulled away from the wall with a sigh.
“They’ve all left the gym,” Samael said, thinking he wanted to go back. “That boy was finally selected as the club representative.”
“I knew it already,” he replied with a huff. “It wasn’t my intention to return anyway. I’ll go to the hospital to see if I’m lucky enough to bump into that obit again. If you decide to come or not, is your decision.”
He then disappeared with a smoke implosion and Samael straightened up, torn between following him or going back to class, but it was ultimately his need to know more about the obits that won, and he also disappeared with a flash of light.
Lucianne couldn’t focus during class; she kept mulling over the theory she had developed the previous day after Frank showed up at her house. It made sense if she thought about it. Why then would he investigate the teacher before the alleged incident? She couldn’t just sit still and do nothing with that information. She needed to check it out, she needed explanations. And Frank wasn’t there to provide them.
After class, she went to professor Leiffson’s office and stood outside, struggling to make a decision, knowing that Frank would disapprove it, but eventually curiosity got the best of her and knocked on the door, secretly hoping no one answered.
“Come in,” she heard inside and Lucianne took a deep breath, steeling herself for what she would do next. She got in and found professor Leifsson reading and correcting multiple documents scattered on his desk. He barely gave her a brief glance over the papers before returning to his own things. “Tell me, Miss Fillian, do you have any question that can not wait for the next class to solve it?”
“Actually, yes… but it’s not strictly an academic issue.”
“What a pity then. I’m afraid I can not help in that case,” the professor replied without even looking away from his papers, which did nothing but make Lucianne grow restless, her arms tangled to the front. She decided to walk forward, stopping in front of his desk.
“…Excuse me, sir, but I think I know what really happened between Frank and you and I think you should at least give him a chance.”
The man stopped taking notes and readjusted his glasses, lifting his unperturbed face to her and placing his arms on the desk.
“You think, that’s key word, and I think I told you to leave that topic alone, but let’s see, enlighten me with your information. Maybe I can help you decide if you have a place in journalism or the fictional world,” the teacher said, leaning back in his seat with that sarcastic and belittling tone he used to take, causing Lucianne to bite her lips.
“…I guess Frank faced you somehow, I’m not sure because he would not tell me anything,” she decided to keep going despite everything; she had already walked up there and wasn’t going to stop now. “Maybe he mentioned something about his mother to gauge your reaction first and at some point, you must have thought he wanted to blackmail you, that’s probably how the whole problem started, but I assure you that all he wanted was to meet his—”
The door swung open, and Frank appeared out of nowhere, heading towards her without even giving the professor a glance, and then he took her by the wrist and pulled her out without explanation, despite her protests.
“Frank! Let go of me! What do you think you’re doing?” Lucianne looked embarrassed at the students walking past the area. Frank walked nonstop along the corridor to finally exit the building, making a detour towards the bottom, where he stopped and released her. “What’s your problem?!”
“What were you trying to do in there? What were you going to say to him?” he interrogated her with a hard look on his face.
“How did you even know I was there?”
“I put a bug in your jacket, and I was listening to everything,” he answered without any qualm, leaving her agape.
“…What? When did you—?”
“Yesterday, when I stopped by your house, but that’s not the point. What did you want to tell him and why can’t you just let the subject go?”
Lucianne was incredulous at his confession; she didn’t even know whether to be angry for the hidden microphone thing or for taking her out that way, but for now she chose to take her jacket off and give it to him to extract the device. Frank just reached into a pocket and pulled out a small round object shaped like a button and kept it to himself.
“I can’t believe the nerve to do something like that!” Lucianne huffed while putting on the jacket again though Frank wouldn’t even budge.
“What were you gonna tell him?” he asked again insistently and Lucianne sighed to appease her initial outrage.
“…Listen, I know how difficult must have been for you to grow up without a father and even though you denied it when I first met you, there’s nothing to be ashamed of wanting to find him. So, I understand how confused you should have felt when you finally found him. Maybe you were full of rage at the beginning and didn’t know how to handle it, hence all the trouble; maybe you got a little violent because of that, but—”
“What do you mean ‘when I finally found him’?” Frank repeated, increasingly upset, and Lucianne kept quiet, wondering if she had theorized the wrong way again, but she was sure to be right this time.
“…Yes. Professor Leiffson, of course,” she said, trying to sound firm, and Frank took his hands to his head as if resisting the urge to pull his hair off, rubbing his scalp and practically spinning on his axis.
“…That man is not my father,” he finally said as he managed to control himself.
“I understand you feel that way. And it’s true, he’s not; he never saw you grow up nor took care of you, he’s just the person who gave you life, nothing else.”
“He’s not my father! In any sense of the word!” Frank shouted, losing his temper. Lucianne stepped back with a scared expression, so he snorted, trying to restore his calm. “…Yeah, okay, I thought it for a while, I was even investigating him. My mother always talked so respectfully about him that I thought—”
“She took a class with him eighteen years ago, right?” Lucianne ventured and he just nodded with arms crossed.
“More than a class, it was like a course for students of advance medicine. It lasted like a couple of months, but my mother kept every article written by him since then. Every time I asked about it, she would say he was her inspiration to become an oncologist,” Frank continued without daring to look into her eyes. “…Of course, I did the math. Since my mother took that course until I was born.”
Lucianne didn’t have to ask to know it matched, just let him continue to learn the whole story now that he was finally willing to open up to her.
“That’s why I decided to investigate him, and when I heard he’d be my teacher—” he paused; it was obvious how hard it was to talk about the subject but still found the strength to keep going. “…I’m AB negative, you know? No one else in my family has my blood type.”
“I am too,” Lucianne commented, and Frank just stared at her for interrupting. “My mother was— Doesn’t matter, just… go on.”
“First day of class and he arrives saying aloud that his type is AB.” He paused again, waiting for her to get to her own conclusions and then continued. “…Then he started talking about genetics and other things I don’t remember. I was too busy meditating on the fact that he was the same blood type as me. Then he asked us to take a blood sample the next class to analyze it. I thought it would be the right time to confront him.”
“So, it WAS like that,” Lucianne interrupted again despite her effort to keep quiet. “Just like I concluded.”
“Let me finish. When we took our blood samples and he came to the microscope with me, he made a comment about me having a rare type of blood, but nothing else. I waited until everyone left and went to his desk. I tried to make conversation about the strangest blood types, and he said he would be interested in doing a deeper analysis of mine after seeing something through the microscope, and I took this as a chance to address the issue. I took out a picture of my mother and asked if he recognized her. He looked confused, as if he’d never seen her in his life, and that really upset me. I reminded him that eighteen years ago she had taken a class with him and all he said was that he had taught thousands of people for over thirty years and didn’t remember each and every one of their faces and most certainly would neither remember mine after class.” Frank stopped for breath. Recalling that day only revived the frustation and anger he had felt back then. “I said then, and I admit I may have rushed myself and should better keep quiet, that it was for cowards to forget the face of the woman they had a son with.”
“And what did he say?” Lucianne asked after another period of silence, anxious to know the rest of the story while suppressing the need to hug him and comfort him.
“He laughed,” Frank said, his jaw clenched, and his gaze averted. “He said that of all the nonsense he had heard and had been ascribed to him in his life, mine was perhaps the biggest and most ridiculous one. I insisted, I had evidence; the fact that our blood type was the same, and I was even willing to submit myself to a paternity test if he asked, but all I got in response was more laughter: ‘Boy, I’m flattered that in your desperation for a father figure in your life you’ve thought of me as a viable option, but you should have delved better in your source before making such a ludicrous accusation. However, I don’t blame you; children that grow up without a father are usually prone to antagonistic impulsive behavior, and it’s clear that your mother’s failure in the parental department led you to seek the care of the first authorative figure to cross paths with you’— And that was it, I lost it at that time. I just punched him in the face. I broke his nose, I guess, he had it plastered the next time I saw him during the meeting with the school principal. I hadn’t said a word about why I did it, and when I heard his version about the low grade, I just accepted it. I got suspended for a week, but I decided not to go back. I didn’t want to see his face ever again and now I bump into him in this new school. Me and my luck.”
“The comment he made the first day of class—” Lucianne interjected, and he snorted a bitter laugh.
“A little ironic humor to remind me of my position. That old man can be a real son of a bitch.”
“But… you never did the blood test to be sure?”
“It wasn’t necessary. He wasn’t my father after all, I was wrong,” Frank said, taking his hands to his pockets in an indifferent posture, even though Lucianne knew it was all a facade to hide what he really felt.
“How could you be so sure? Perhaps the reason that the professor said that about the grades was because he was too ashamed to have rejected you that way. Maybe—”
“He was right, I should have delved deeper into the information I had gathered about him instead of focusing on the similarities,” Frank interrupted her before she would keep going. “Details I overlooked in my conviction that he was the man I was looking for. For example, the fact that he was AB positive, or that, according to rumors, he had a predilection for male company, and the most important of all, that he was born with a congenital disease that prevented him from having children. So, I went back exactly to the starting point and since then I wouldn’t care anymore. End of statement. Now would you please stop insisting to bring out that issue again, please?”
“All of this has just been… a huge mess caused by your longing to meet your father,” Lucianne said, mortified by what he had been through. Frank snorted and looked away, as if by doing so she wouldn’t see what he was feeling. “As much as you deny it, I think that this unfinished business is what really keeps getting you into trouble, and there is only one way to put and end to these conflicting feelings that keep you from moving on. I’ll help you find your father.”
Frank started coughing like he just choked and then looked incredulous at Lucianne.
Samael ran towards the entrance of the hospital as soon as he appeared on the lonely side street; he hoped to find Demian before he saw the obit… if he was to find him.
Demian was standing a few feet from reception, looking intently at the various halls, deciding which way to go. The intern area was the largest, but he could also go up to other areas such as cardiology and oncology. There was also a maternity area, but he doubted obits would hang around there too often, perhaps he should focus on the area with the highest rate of daily casualties. He was having these thoughts when he sensed Samael’s presence standing beside him.
“It’s like looking for a needle in a haystack; there’s no way to predict if one of them is going to be here, unless you know for sure someone is going to die,” Samael remarked, looking around, not knowing what to look for.
“Or just killing someone to force his presence.” Samael gave him a horrified look and Demian rolled his eyes. “…I was kidding! I may be a demon, but I’m not a psychopath.”
The angel said nothing, just looked around, as if expecting to see something odd or out of place. Demian felt like they were turning into a joke, ‘an angel and a demon walk into a bar…’ He just wanted it to be over.
“Oncology has a wing for terminal patients. We may have some luck in there.”
Samael was already starting to nod, just to do something instead of standing there, waiting for something to happen when they heard sirens. Several interns and nurses mobilized quickly to the door and within minutes they were carrying a stretcher surrounded by paramedics, running to emergency. On the stretcher, there was man covered in blood, still connected to a probe, and being provided oxygen through a mask. It must have been a very serious accident given his condition.
“We’re lucky,” Demian said suddenly, staring at a point beyond the congregation of lifeguards parading down the emergency hallway.
Samael followed his gaze, and among the curious people from the waiting area, he saw something that didn’t seem to fit: a dark figure mingling around people without being noticed. The strangest thing was when he suddenly took a more defined shape until he could see it clearly: a pale boy with both black hair and eyes, wearing a black hooded jacket. Sometimes it disappeared among people and emerged again, like following the path of the stretcher in no hurry.
“…Is it the one dressed in a black jacket with a hoodie?”
“Wait, what? You can see it too?” Demian asked in surprise, turning to him, but the angel was no longer beside him. He looked at the crowd before realizing what must have happened. The obit was also gone. Feeling used, he cursed under his breath and ran.
Samael had used his ability to become invisible to enter the emergency room and waited patiently in a narrow corridor for doctors, nurses and all the team behind the stretcher to finish their procession. Behind these, he saw the guy in black, walking calmly. The angel quickly stepped out and pulled him to the narrow corridor, trapping him against the wall to prevent him from escaping.
The obit didn’t look surprised nor had any sort of reaction, just looked curiously at him, narrowing those black eyes, which was like staring into the void.
“I’m not going to hurt you, I just want to ask you some questions,” Samael said.
“You can see me,” the obit pronounced without much inflection.
“I’m no ordinary human,” was all Samael said to avoid more questions about it.
“They proliferate lately,” the obit said with a meaningful smile, nevertheless, Samael was focused on the reason why he was there.
“Why did you go after her?” Samael asked and the boy cocked his head to the side, not understanding his question.
“You’ll have to be clearer, no ordinary human. I can not read minds.”
“Several months ago, earlier this year, you tried to lead a girl to her death, though it didn’t work. The car stopped right on time before running her over, saving her life. Why her? If it was her time, why didn’t you return for her?”
“I might recall something like that,” the obit said, eyes to the ceiling as if pondering on it, and then looking back at him with a shrug. “I was just following orders.”
“Orders from whom? For what purpose?”
“Purpose?” the obit repeated, frowning as if the question lacked sense. “It’s my job. I just collect the souls that I’m told.”
“Then why on earth would you leave a job unfinished? She’s clearly still alive and it’s on me that she stays that way.”
“Sometimes there are some drawbacks that can postpone or change the fates’ designs,” the boy with fathomless black eyes said and the angel’s face reflected greater confusion if possible, starting inadvertently to loosen his grip.
“What are these designs?” he asked again, his voice getting lower but increasingly anxious.
“Only they know. But I guess it has something to do with the realm disrupter.”
Samael’s forehead wrinkled even more in puzzlement. He had already let go of the obit and merely watched him with a blank mind.
“Hey!” Demian’s voice pulled him out of his reverie, and he turned for a couple of seconds to watch him approaching with an angered expression, and as he turned back to the front, the obit was gone. “You couldn’t wait for me to intercept him?”
“He’s gone,” Samael said and Demian looked around too.
“Great! And you’ve also let him go! Do you have any idea how hard it is to find him?! I also had things to ask!” Demian shouted in frustration.
“I don’t think him capable of providing too much information, anyway. After all, he’s just a pawn in a bigger system,” Samael assured, still mulling over what he had said while Demian tried to restore his calm.
“So, you could see him. I don’t understand why you needed me in that case.”
“I wasn’t sure I could. But now it’s become clear to me why we can see him,” Samael remarked, and Demian just waited for him to finish. “They’re invisible to the human eye, but we are no humans. I’m an angel and you’re a demon. We don’t belong to this world, so we’re more sensitive to the extra-terrenal things.”
Demian pondered his words and by his face he seemed to have just figured out something he hadn’t considered before. Something that definitely changed things.
“…In that case, we have an issue here.” Samael looked at him confused, until Demian finally dared to meet his eyes. “…Addalynn could see him too.”