Chapter 21


It was basketball’s day, and the girls were sitting on the stands, waiting for the boys to begin their selection game. Contrary to Marianne’s thoughtful expression after the new information she received, Lilith was smiling and tapping her feet rhythmically.

“I don’t know how you can be so smiley knowing that there may be a yellow eyed demon out there attacking innocent people.”

“Well, that’s become just one more day in our life,” Lilith said with a shrug. Marianne gave her a puzzled look and turned to the boys, who seemed to be taking notes from the coach. Demian was among them paying full attention, not even a single glance to the stands. She was hoping he would come to the benches so she could talk to him.

Dreyson went out of the locker room and walked towards the group gathered in the center. Marianne squinted, having a bad feeling.

“He’s cheating,” Kristania said, sitting next to them after leaving the locker room. “He must be somehow; there’s no other explanation for all of those victories out of nowhere.”

“How’s he cheating, according to you? Bribing the other guys to let him win?” Marianne asked.

“Could be. Or he might be using steroids,” Kristania said, and Marianne decided to ignore her, knowing it would be impossible to convince her otherwise.

The boys began to disperse, and Marianne looked for an excuse to go down to the benches where Demian was approaching.

“I think… I forgot to close my locker. I’ll go check it out,” she said, and Kristania followed her lead.

“I’m behind you. I’m not sure either if I secured mine.”

Marianne looked at her with suspicion while she just showed her best Kristania trademark smile. They both went down the stands; Marianne reproached herself for not having thought of a better excuse and tried to devise another way to talk to Demian without Kristania around. She glanced at him, hoping he got the message, but he was staring at his gym bag, rummaging inside. Bad luck. On her way back, he was sitting on the bench, putting a warmer on his wrist. She tried once again to get his attention and slowed down, walking a little closer to the benches even if Kristania was attached to her. She was already a few feet from him and was sure he could watch her from the corner of his eye, but he got up and walked to the center of the court without even giving her a single sidelong glance.

Distraught, she returned to the stands with Kristania stepping on her heels, convinced that Demian noticed her presence, but had chosen to ignore it and she didn’t understand why. Maybe the messages from last night had something to do? But she was not to blame!

“I think they’re going to start now,” Lucianne said when the boys gathered again at the center, and the coach was spliting them into groups of five. They couldn’t hear what they were saying, but they saw Frank creeping up to the front, raising his hand and saying something. The coach then pointed to one of the groups. “…Oh, no, what is he doing? I hope he takes it seriously.”

“I think the problem will be if he takes it too seriously;” Marianne snapped, watching Dreyson also being channeled to another group.

Demian was placed in the same group as Frank, and although the latter didn’t hide his displeasure, he remained impassive and waiting for the whole process to be over. At the end they were formed into four teams that would contest for the chance to be in the selection and the title of captain.

The game started, fifteen minutes each with the sole purpose of displaying their skills to the coach. He had agreed to include two rookies at their insistence, but he made sure to place them into groups with experienced guys.

In the first match, one of the teams was Demian and Frank’s. The first one took immediate lead despite the reluctance of his teammates to recognize him as captain —after all, they had formed an alliance to overthrow him, and he wouldn’t forget that so easily—, however, the habit eventually made them follow their routine inside the court, and despite Frank’s histrionics and lack of experience, rarely listening to instructions whenever he was in possession of the ball, he managed to score a point after ignoring Demian’s orders to pass the ball to the closest team member when he was cornered and prefered to throw the ball to the hoop from that distance. Naturally, he bursted into shouts of celebration, showing off his feat against all odds, strutting in front of his peers and looking for Lucianne in the stands to sign a V for Victory.

“Show-off,” Marianne murmured, rolling her eyes as Lucianne shook her head and suppressed a smile.

It was Dreyson’s team turn. He seemed focused and attentive to everybody’s moves, and even though he wasn’t exactly the star of the game, especially since others were the ones scoring points, a trained eye might have realized that his drawing and passing of the ball had led his team to the victory. While his teammates celebrated with high fives, he remained laid-back and ignored every time one of them raised the hand to him.

“He’s like a robot,” Lilith said. “He’s not even enjoying the victory.”

“I think he really enjoys it and a lot; he just doesn’t publicly show it,” Marianne refuted with a grimace, remembering all the notes he threw at her during class.

“And by that you mean in private just for you?” Kristania said and Marianne turned to her with a frown. That seemed more like a comment from her former self than the transgenic version she had become. She smiled as if suddenly remembering how to act. “I’m kidding! Geesh, relax, you take everything so seriously.”

Marianne decided to look back to the cout before making a snarky comment that would surely bring the old Kristania back. The third and last game soon started after a few minutes of rest; on one hand the group that had Demian and Frank and on the other, the one with Dreyson.

Demian didn’t look so lively —and considering the situation, no one would blame him. While each team was standing on their side of the court, he adjusted the band of his wrist while briefly glancing at Dreyson. When the coach whistled, the first to reach the ball was Demian and promptly headed to the rival hoop, looking for a score, easily dodging his adversaries, but when Dreyson was in front of him, he felt a heated wave stinging his wound. When he remembered to make a move, his time with the ball was running out and was forced to pass the ball to one of his teammates, but as soon as the other had it in his hands, Dreyson ran with the speed of light, stealing the ball and rushing to the other end of the court. Demian immediately shouted orders to go after him, but when they finally blocked him, he passed the ball to someone else, resulting in a score.

The boys from Demian’s team blamed him, and he just took the ball after falling from the hoop to not waste any time. His teammates followed him, asking for the ball, accusing him of holding it to himself, so he ended up passing the ball under peer pressure, following them to be available in case someone was blocked. When the guy with the ball was cornered, Demian motioned him to pass the ball, but he ignored him and passed it to someone else. And so, it was like that onwards. Like they were in collusion. The last to hold the ball was Frank, and when he was blocked near the basket area, Demian came to his left asking for the ball while another of his teammates did the same to his right. Demian was sure he would end up passing the ball to the other boy, but Frank’s individualism and hunger for victory were even stronger and decided he would score that point himself.

He gained momentum, flexed his arms, threw the ball and when it was getting to the hoop, it was intercepted by a hand, blocking what seemed to be an inevitable basket, remaining in possession of the ball. Holding it in his hands, Dreyson showed a brief smile that seemed directed at Demian, and immediately bolted to the opposite end of the court.

Despite his peer’s clear sabotage, Demian didn’t drop his role as captain, giving orders left and right to defend their loop. He wanted to make sure every member of the other team was already marked, and despite the burning tingling in his wrist, he wanted to handle Dreyson himself; it was almost like his throbbing wound impelled him to go after him, so much that, for a moment, he felt carried away by the heavy sense of power flowing from inside and started looking for a point to get a hold of him.

“You won’t be captain this year,” Dreyson suddenly said when they were close, taking him out of his trance and making him falter, realizing what he was about to do, but before he could even react, the boy threw the ball and another one appeared to take the pass, going straight to the basket and scoring before anyone could stop him.

When the game was over, the entire team glared at Demian, walking past him as if blaming him for their defeat. He just stood there, panting, and rubbing his wrist tightly, trying to keep control of the searing pulsations and his own evil energy struggling to stay afloat.

“I’ve made a decision,” the coach said after a few minutes looking at his notes and all the boys kept silence, waiting for his verdict. He then named the boys from the two last teams and four more from the rest upon their expectant faces “…The names I just mentioned have made it to the official team for the interstate games. We have a couple of rookies who have shown great potential and surely with help from his teammates will learn more along the way. Now, I have to consider what’s best for the team, and after what I’ve seen on the court, I’ve decided who will be captain.”

The boys remained silent, waiting for the announcement. Demian didn’t move, staring at the coach and watching Dreyson out of the corner of his eye; he was sitting on a bench looking almost too relaxed, as if he were sure to hear his name.

The coach, who never looked away from his notes, took a pause so long that the others began to move restlessly in their places. Finally, the man looked up and scanned everyone with his gaze, stopping for a few seconds on Demian before continuing with the rest. That was the signal, a silent apology for what he was about to do, and the throbbing in his wrist grew even more intense.

“…The new team captain is Aldric Morrison.”

The guys of the team quickly congratulated him. He had virtually acted as the captain of the winner team, and also scored the two baskets that gave them the victory. The boy celebrated with the rest, surprised and pleased with himself.

Although the idea of losing his position as captain was hard to swallow, Demian felt his limbs distended and his itching scar began to recede slowly. At least it wasn’t Dreyson; losing his place twice to him was already too much. With a sidelong glance, he wanted to make sure that at least Dreyson had also taken the news like a bucket of cold water, but he didn’t seem disappointed at all.

“How you like me now?” Frank said, approaching the stands with a smirk, bragging about his achievement. “Will you keep saying it was a begginer’s luck?”

“You may have got it at the first try, but what you all did on the court was really unfair and wrong,” Marianne replied with a reproachful tone.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Frank said with a frown.

“You all plotted to deny Demian the ball; that’s playing dirty!” Kristania interjected, apparently taking it more personal than anyone.

“We didn’t plot against him! At least no one told me anything,” he replied with a shrug. “I was too busy in my own game.”

“You didn’t even notice no one was passing the ball to Demian?” Lucianne asked and Frank meditated for a moment.

“Now that you mention it… each time someone ran past me I could hear ‘Don’t pass him the ball’, but I had no idea what they meant or if they were even talking to me, all I could think of was to score at any cost.”

“It was planned then,” Lilith said, stamping her fist into her other palm.

“Well, then… it sucks for him, but I’m in the selection, and nothing can take away that from me,” Frank finished, without letting them lessen his enthusiasm.

Marianne glanced at Demian, who was already in the bench collecting his things, and before they could even come down towards him, he was already going to the locker room.

He stayed for quite a while in there until everyone had gone and only Dreyson was left. He had just finished dressing up and headed calmly towards the door, followed closely by Demian’s wary look.

“You must be disappointed for not getting what you wanted,” Demian finally spoke and Dreyson stopped at the door, turning to him with one of his unfathomable expressions. “The title of captain. That’s what you aimed for, right? Just like everyone else.

“Maybe, or maybe not. Perhaps I just want to play, don’t you?” A faint smile appeared on his face, giving the impression that he was making fun of him. Before the throbbing would take control of him again, Demian took a towel and walked to the showers.


He tried to look disinterested as he opened the shower, until he finally heard the door close. Right then he tossed the towell to the wall and put his hands against it, his muscles so tense that even the concrete beneath his hands started to slightly crack. His wrist was burning; it felt like being branded with a hot iron, but he didn’t want help from Addalynn this time, not after learning she was an actual angel.

His demon nature made him immediately wary of their intentions —just like he was sure it was the same the other way around. The fact that Addalynn had been helping him, selflessly it seemed, did nothing but make him suspect that se must had some kind of hidden agenda, perhaps to study him and find out his weaknesses to determine if he deserved the chance to live among humans. But none of that mattered anymore, maybe he would stop living among them pretty soon.

He got into the shower fully dressed, removing the bracelet warmer to release the throbbing scar, already red and swollen, and yet it didn’t seem infected. The water cooled him down and he stayed there for several minutes, letting the water fall on his face. He finally came out of the locker room a while later, feeling more relaxed and the scar was again a barely visible mark. He owned his own emotions, he could do it, he could keep them under control.

“It was all planned.” Demian looked up at the voice and saw Marianne standing in the the front door, as if waiting for him. “What they did during the game, they had planned it in advance, so you don’t have to feel bad about it.”

“…I know. I’m not stupid,” he replied, walking past her.

“Are you mad at me?” she asked, blocking his path. “Is it because we didn’t wait for you when Samuel examined Loui’s memories? I tried calling you, I even texted you, but I couldn’t reach you, and Loui warned us that if it wasn’t done right then, there wouldn’t be another chance.”

“Although I admit I was somewhat upset, I understand that you decided to continue without me. I wasn’t available… at that moment,” he said, keeping his distance. “I guessed you would give me the details later anyway… What I don’t understand is why you had to tell him.”

“Huh?” Marianne’s face shrank, more puzzled than before.

“About the obits, the fact that one of them recognized me. I trusted you, it was personal, and you told your angel,” Demian snapped with a resentful tone.

“I-I had no idea I had to keep it a secret.”

“I’m not supposed to give a confidentiality notice each time we talk,” he replied sourly, making her step back. Her usual defensive response was overshadowed by guilt; after all, he had a valid point to be angry at her.

“…I’m sorry. I just… thought it was important for him to know.”

“Because ‘he’s your guardian angel and you have no secrets with him’; yes, I’ve heard that before,” he said, rolling his eyes wearily. “Just consider this: while you’re willing to share everything you know with him, he still keeps secrets from you.”


“Maybe I’m aware of one or two things he hasn’t told you. Perhaps I’m one of those things,” Demian continued, unable to stop anymore despite Marianne’s overwhelm. “Have you ever wondered how I managed to deal with the possibility that the gifts were being hunted again to tie me back to the Legion of darkness? It wasn’t exactly because of your good intentions and confidence that I could control myself. I made them promise, both him and Frank, that if the gifts were still being collected, they would finish me. And of course, they agreed.”

Marianne’s face shrank even more in a mixture of confusion, bewilderment, and disbelief. She stood with her mouth open on the verge of saying something but kept silent, and Demian just held her gaze after venting off. He had clearly disturbed her with his words, but it was already done, and he couldn’t change it.

“…And I don’t think that’s the only secret he has kept from you. So, you should bear that in mind.” He decided to leave it that way to not upset her more than she already was.

He kept going until he left the auditorium, while Marianne stood there, her face broken by his words, not only by the fact that Samael kept it a secret, but also what that revealed about Demian’s mood; his confidence was so low that he didn’t see any other hope in the future than his own destruction… and it scared her at levels she couldn’t understand.

Angie waited outside the athletic field with a worried expression everytime a fellow club member arrived, and at the same time glancing at the ones heading for the swimming dome. She hadn’t seen Samael pass by yet, but she reminded herself that there were more important things to worry about, for example, her racing test and most of all… that her father would be there to watch her race with his own eyes.

She finally saw him approaching with another man, who she was able to identify as the principal. She didn’t know what they were talking about, just hoped that her father wasn’t trying to convince him to take her out of the team or forbid her to join any other kind of sports club if he noticed her struggle during the test. She was so nervous that her determination to keep her heart rate within the normal range had gone overboard, and her heart seemed seconds away from detaching itself from her arteries. And that meant bad news for her because it would become pain soon, and she didn’t know if she would be able to hide it, or even run in that condition.

“Mona,” her father said as soon as they arrived in front of her. “I assume from what you’re wearing that you’re going ahead with the race.”

“Everything will be fine,” she assured, fearing her nerves would betray her.

“We’ll see,” he finished with a sigh while being led into the field by the principal.

As soon as they disappeared from her sight, Angie took her hand to her chest and began panting, giving a series of breaths in order to calm down.

She noticed Samael heading for the swimming dome and immediately sprang towards him as if her life depended on it.


“Hi. Are you feeling okay?” Samael asked, noticing the pallor of her face as she stopped in front of him, with her hand on her chest and heavy breathing.

“…My father came to see me run,” she said between gasps; just as she feared, her agitation was already giving way to the feeling of having a hand twisting her inside. “If he notices the slightest physical discomfort in my face, if he sees me agitated or I make the slightest move to hold my chest, he will take me out of the team… And I think at this point I’m not precisely the look of perfect health.”

“Maybe you should try to relax.”

“I’ve tried! But I’m too pressured by today’s results. Could you help me somehow?” Angie asked with a pleading expression. “I don’t know, some trick in your repertoire to override this suffocating feeling I have inside.” Samael tried to think of something useful but couldn’t come up with anything, so he ended up shaking his head to Angie’s despair. “…If only I didn’t have this gift that only torments me with all of these emotions—”

“Don’t say that. You know what would happen if you didn’t have it.”

“Eventually, but at least it would be helpful in a moment like this,” she replied, gripping her chest with her hand like a claw.

Samael seemed to consider it, an idea trying to break into his mind as if conjured up by a higher power (or perhaps sent by the Superior realm? It wasn’t needed for him to be asleep anymore?).

“…I think there’s a way,” Samael said with a thoughtful and uncertain expression. “I’m not sure it will work, but we can try.”

“Really?” Angie said, still panting but hopeful.

Samael seemed to weigh his possibilities, and as if he had been called, he suddenly turned to his back. Addalynn was walking near by, and just glanced sideways at them as she walked towards the dome. The angel watched her, wondering if the sudden and spontaneous knowledge that had popped out in his mind had something to do with her proximity. She was like him after all, maybe now that her true identity was revealed she had no reason to keep her walls up and somehow this had reopened the lines of communication with the Superior realm for him. Maybe they could even have some sort of knowledge exchange at some point.

Realizing Samael’s attention was focused on Addalynn, Angie felt that unbridled twinge in her heart. She automatically took Samael’s hand and he turned back to her with renewed interest, as if he only had eyes for Angie now.

“I like your freckles,” he suddenly said with a smile that made Angie blush, but then reminded herself she was holding his hand and transmitting what she wanted him to feel, so she immediattely released him and Samael continued with his idea, as if moments ago had never happened. “Come with me. No one must see us.”

Angie followed him away from the entrance to the space below the stands. As Samael stopped, she did the same and waited for whatever he had in mind. He beckoned her to lower the hand that clutched her chest, and she did.

“Stay quiet,” Samael said, placing his hand above her chest, and before she could react, his palm irradiated a flare that made her skin tingle, a heated wave wrapped her inside as if crumpling her up for a split second before the effect faded away, making her stagger. He took his hand away, waiting for the results.

Angie blinked and looked around, disoriented but distant. She touched her chest again to check that the pain was gone and then just let out a simple “Huh!”.

“…So? How do you feel now?” Samael asked, waiting for an answer.

“Funny. I can’t answer that because I literally feel nothing right now,” she said with an expressionless face. “It’s like not having the gift, but I know it’s still in there, though it seems to have no effect on me.”

“Then it worked,” Samael said with a sigh. “Given that the gifts are features that can be suppressed, though with adverse outcomes, it occurred to me that I could temporarily seal it. Technically, it’s still inside you, so there is no risk for you to fade out without it.”

“So, I can run without having to worry about any emotion that might directly affect my performance? Let’s put it to test then.”

Without thanking him, and as stoic as she was without the gift, she headed to the field, followed closely by Samael, who stood on one side of the stands to see how the race unfolded. Angie joined the full team in the tracks, and after getting organized for several minutes, the long-awaited selection test started.

From the stands, Angie’s father looked uneasy, watching her taking the starting position without glancing at anyone, staring straight ahead, and waiting for the whistle. When it finally sounded, the girls lined up in their respective lanes started to run and Angie’s face remained unfazed during the race, steadily speeding up to overtake the rest of the girls and crossing the finish line before anyone else, making it look effortless. She wasn’t even panting as hard as the rest of her peers who crossed the line after her. Her father almost jumped up and refrained from raising his arms and shouting in celebration. He had to keep an image in the presence of the school principal.

Angie began stretching as if her achievement meant nothing to her while Samael approached her.

“Congratulations! I guess that means you made it,” Samael said, and she just looked around, scarcely breathing. The defeated and disappointed faces around her said it all, and she just shrugged.

“Looks like it; I didn’t even notice. I was just focused on reaching the finish line.”

“I’ll unseal the gift then,” Samael said, reaching out to her, but she quickly stepped back, covering her chest to block his way. “Angie?”

“Let’s be reasonable here. Without the gift affecting me 24 hours a day, I’m more efficient and functional in every way. I would call it more like a nuisance instead of a gift.”

“What are you implying?”

“I’m just saying we have to be practical. When we face the latest threat hovering over us for the last weeks, our best option is to be all in our best conditions. And having my gift activated I’m a walking disaster. So, why not take advantage of this useful and newfound ability of yours to disable gifts and let me be an improved version of myself?”

“…Because the best version of you is yourself,” Samael said, unable to believe she would ask him to keep her gift sealed.

“Come on. Not even you believe that,” Angie spat back, crossing her arms and raising an eyebrow to convey how unheard-of that was. “I prefer this version of myself where I’m not a hostage of my own emotions.”

Samael didn’t know what else to say; he turned back and saw Angie’s father already coming down the stands. He didn’t have enough time to try to convince her, so he decided to take the matter in his own hands: he hugged her and held her tightly to prevent her from loosening up as he slid his hand on her back. There was a friction force in his palm and a tingling, so when he pulled it away, it was like taking off an adhesive tape.

He stepped away and read on her face her distraught for having all those emotions back to her, suddenly invading her.

“I had to do it,” he justified, and she just nodded, still feeling overwhelmed by the emotional blast.

“May I know who’s the boy, Mona?” her father asked, throwing a wary glance at Samael.

“…He’s Samuel, a friend,” Angie said after a few seconds trying to find her voice again. “You know, from my group of friends.” The man kept looking askance at him and she decided to add something else in case that would help. “…He’s Marianne’s cousin. He lives with them.”

“Oh, I see!” her father said, shaking his hand as if that completely changed things up. “I’ve heard good things about you.”

Samael shook his hand back and began to retreat.

“I gotta go. I’ll be late to my club. Congratulations, Angie,” he said, waving off. She nodded in appreciation for what he had done, but also regretting having to deal with all those emotions that did nothing but disturb her life.

“…I bought the dress,” Lilith whispered to Kristania’s ear while leaving the club.

“Wow, so you did get the money after all.” Lilith only smiled showing her teeth like saying that was her secret and Kristania seemed to play along with a knowing smile. “Well, you’ll tell me later. It’s a pity I can’t come with you, but I have other things to do.”

Lilith waved her off with all the excitement that overflowed her at the moment and kept on her way while humming the latest Lissen Rox hit, something about intergalactic beings that had planted their seeds in the world, whose fruits grew empty and soulless so they eventually harvested humans in search for a heart to fill them; his songs were usually quite dark, but so catchy she would hum them as if they were the most cheerful songs.

She reached the cash register with her shopping cart and took an envelope out of her bag, starting to divide the full amount, but soon realizing to her dismay that there wasn’t enough money to pay the bill.

“…One moment, please,” Lilith excused herself with the clerk, stepping away to count the money once again, hoping to be wrong. But no, after counting several times and checking her bag and the envelope there was still money missing, over half of it.

She became desperate and tried to remember step by step every move she made, thinking that perhaps it had fallen somewhere, or someone could have stolen it without her nociting. But none of that mattered, the money was lost, and what she had left wasn’t enough to pay for the bill. She had one job, and she had failed. She stifled the urge to cry and had to leave the mall apologizing to the clerk and the rest of the customers waiting in line. She wanted to run away but held back until she was out and allowed herself to fall prey to despair, feeling a victim of fate like in the old days.

And while walking like a zombie in front of the display window where she had seen the dress she liked so much, she knew.

Lilith counted the remaining money and confirmed what she feared: the missing amount matched the dress price.

Mankee found her later in a corner of the Retroganzza’s kitchen with a sulky expression and defeated attitude, polishing silverware that seemed about to lose their metallic properties if she continued scrubbing them so hard.

“Why are you here, hiding from everyone?” Mankee asked while wandering around, looking for something to do.

Lilith looked up with a whimper and her mouth pursed in a pout, her lower lip trembling. She took a deep breath and let go in one sentence everything regarding her horrible day.

“…And the shop where I got the dress doesn’t make refunds, and the little left I have from my savings won’t even pay for a fraction of it, and the others must not learn about it because they would expel me from the club, and I will become a pariah and they will confiscate my house and everything I have!”

“Aren’t you making too much of it?” Mankee interjected, thinking she was taking her assumptions way too far.

“They won’t believe me. I should have realized there was too much in my savings, I just don’t know how the money got in there,” Lilith insisted, her head dropping to her arms and then repeating the movement several times. Mankee looked around, but the men remained in their stations dedicated to their work, like robots.

“How much did the dress cost?”

“You don’t wanna know,” Lilith said, shaking her forehead with her face pressed to the surface of the table.

“Try me, I don’t think it’s as expensive as you make it seem,” Mankee insisted, and Lilith held a note in front of him without even changing her position. “…Meelban! Why would you spend so much on a dress?”

“It’s gorgeous, okay?! It has ruffles like petals, and it was shaped like a rose! Sometimes I need nice things in my life to feel like a delicate flower, stop judging me!” Lilith said, lifting her head to defend herself, but dropping it right away with a hollow blow. Mankee remained silent about a minute, looking at the note and then to her until he cleared his throat.

“If you wish… I can replace the money,” he offered, and Lilith raised her stunned face. She saw in his eyes the same sparkle and insecurity when he’d asked her out.

“…No,” she shook her head almost immediately. Mankee blinked, puzzled by her refusal. “It’s a great gesture of you, but I won’t be able to pay you back, not even working here for a whole year for free, and I don’t want to owe it to you even if you say it doesn’t matter, because it matters to me. I don’t want to be an act of charity.”

“You wouldn’t be. But if taking the money bothers you so much, maybe I can help in other way,” Mankee insisted. “For example, we could take care of the food right here.”

“But… I would still have to buy the ingredients and the expense would be the same.”

“We have a full packed pantry and I have some tricks to make the most of the food, and of course, lots of workers as you can see,” Mankee continued, pointing to his back.

Lilith wanted to draw a smile on her face, but she contained herself after taking a look behind him. Mankee looked over his shoulder and his eyes fell on a vision of white laces and silk, watching them curiously.

“Is there a reason for the prince to be in a corner comforting the head waitress?” Latvi asked, but instead of jealousy, she sounded genuinely curious about their conversation.

“…Y-Yes. In fact—” Manke started, trying not to be intimidated by her presence. “…I was saying to Lilith that we’ll help her prepare the food for the event her club is organizing… and we will also hold the service. This Friday.”

Lilith gave him a confused look since the service wasn’t contemplated, and noticed that he was starting to shrink, so she decided to intervene

“I lost the money I was supposed to use to shop for our event! And since I don’t want him to replace it, Monkey decided to help with all the cooking for the event… He’s the ‘prince’ and he can do whatever he wants, right? His orders are commands.”

About a minute of silence followed; the girl simply looked at them with her fathomless eyes the color of the sand, and with each second, Mankee felt a twitch of anticipation and Lilith only waited for her to refuse.

“…That’s true, what the prince says is a royal command to us,” Latvi said with a nod towards Mankee. “…And so, it will be done. On one condition. You will stop calling Prince Hisham like that. A white girl saying that to a person of color doesn’t leave the best impression.”

“W-What?” Lilith was nonplussed, looking from her to Mankee. “B-But I… I d-didn’t mean to—”

“The thought doesn’t always count. But there’s always room to learn. We’ll be waiting for further instructions.”

She made a very pronounced bow, and then turned her attention to the servants in charge of the kitchen, saying something in another language and clapping to hurry them. Makee let out a long breath he’d been holding and finally allowed himself to blink while Lilith couldn’t hide her befuddlement. She turned to him with eyes like plates and stuttered.

“I… I-I didn’t want to offend you… I didn’t think—”

“Don’t worry, I know it wasn’t your intention,” Mankee said with a smile, shaking his hand to downplay it and soothe her. “Let’s go see what can we keep from that list for the event.”

Mankee started to check the list she had brought, but Lilith couldn’t help feeling ashamed at the thought of making him feel bad at any moment out of ignorance.

“When were you telling me about the pact you and Frank did with Demian?”

Samael looked up from the book he was reading and saw Marianne standing in the attic door with her arms crossed. At first, he didn’t know what to say, she had taken him off guard, but once he understood the question, he put the book aside.

“…So, he finally told you. You weren’t supposed to know.”

“I wasn’t supposed to?” Marianne repeated, squinting in disbelief. “Let’s talk about that then. There wasn’t supposed to be any secrets between us, you were constantly shoving it to my face, and now it turns out you’ve been hiding from me this plan you guys had to vanish Demian at his request.”

“He was the one who asked for discretion on the subject. He knew nobody else would approve and support his intentions.”

“Of course we wouldn’t!” Marianne said, with no intention of moving from the doorway this time. “You agreed to act as executioner for someone who’s still struggling to find his place in a world where he believes he doesn’t belong to and feels unworthy of! He’s not being stable lately, of course he’s gonna try to take extreme measures; it’s up to us to help him maintain the balance he needs!”

Samael just kept quiet, waiting for her to calm down. Marianne also went silent until her breathing slowed down.

“…You’re upset, and I get it,” Samael finally spoke. “If it’s worth it, I wasn’t really going to do it. I would seek some other solution in the extreme case his fears came true.”

“It’s not just that. It’s your actions behind my back, going after Demian because of the obit thing and then cornering my brother. How do I know you’re not hiding anything else from me?” she added, and Samael averted his gaze again, knowing that just by looking to his eyes she would know. Marianne frowned. “…I’m going out. Don’t try to follow me.”

“Where are you going?”

“I won’t tell you, although I suppose it won’t be difficult for you to find out, you always know where to find me,” Marianne said, pulling the door, but just before closing, she stopped and looked at him again. “…And by the way, do not think you know everything about me, I only tell you what I consider important and necessary. There are still things I rather keep to myself, so don’t even try to enter my mind or you’re gonna lose my trust. I still think no one should know everything about everyone.”

That said, she left, closing the door, and leaving Samael feeling guilty. After all, he did know things that he wished he wouldn’t have learned.

Marianne arrived a little bit later to her destination, waiting for the door to open while watching the small garden at the entrance, outbreaks of gardenias and azaleas springing from the grass. It only needed some garden gnomes to give it the final cozy touch she imagined everytime she was thre.

“Hi! It took you a while to get here, didn’t Samuel bring you?” Lucianne said as she opened the door.

“I rather keep this from him,” Marianne said, and her cousin decided not to keep digging on the matter.

Commissioner Fillian and his right (and left) hand officer Perry were inside along other officers occupying the whole dinner table with piles of papers and folders.

“I didn’t know you had… a full house,” Marianne said a little uncomfortable at the presence of her uncle’s squad.

They raised their eyes at the same time and she just make a brief gesture with her hand. The men mumbled some greetings and turned their full attention to their work table.

“They’ve been like this for days,” Lucianne murmured, leading her to the living room, “They’re trying to help with a case from a neighbouring city. I think they have run into a dead end.”

“Hmmm… what will you do when Frank arrives with the information? Didn’t your father forbid you to see him alone?”

“Not a problem, while they’re all busy in the dining room with their files, he’ll give me what he could find through my room’s rear window. He will let me know when he’s here.”

“Does he do that very often?” Marianne asked, lifting an eyebrow, and Lucianne blushed after understanding the suggestion.

“…No! Of course not! At least not when I’m around.” Marianne’s other eyebrow imitated the first one and Lucianne only frowned and gave her a slight slap in the arm. “…Don’t look at me like that! I assure you it’s not as you think!”

“I didn’t say anything,” Marianne said with a shrug as her cousin shook her head and suddenly her cell rang.

“It’s Frank, he’s here. Wanna come with me?”

“Mmmhh… I think I’ll just wait here. I’ll give you guys some space.”

“Oh, stop it!” Lucianne replied, feigning outrage while Marianne stuck her tongue out and stood in the way between the living room and the stairs to wait for her, so Lucianne rolled her eyes and got upstairs.

“Would you like something to drink?” her uncle asked from the dining room while the rest of his men headed in droves for the kitchen. Apparently, they had decided to take a break from their paperwork.

“No, thanks. I’m fine,” she declined and seconds later she was left alone.

She stood still in the same spot for a minute, until she started wandering around, taking a few cautious steps into the dining room to take a quick look over the table. Though lots of papers were scattered, they were categorized.

There was a stack of folders corresponding to police reports and some more labeled as evidence and interviews. She just wanted to glance over while Lucianne came back, so she opened the top folder on the evidence pile and saw pictures of what looked like the crime scene. Different objects and bloodstains with numbers, she was flipping them when she came across a picture of a man on the floor, his back against the wall and purple face, perhaps strangled, and a series of holes in his chest as if he’d also been repeatedly stabbed. It was so shocking that she dropped the photos and slapped shut the folder, causing some papers to fly away from the stack.

Feeling silly for reacting that way, she immediately bent over to pick up the papers before his uncle and the officers were back from the kitchen. She gathered some pages that looked like statements, so she assumed they belonged to the interviews pile, and when she bent over to take the last one, she noticed it was a mugshot. The crime that appeared in the charges was domestic assault, and although the name of the suspect said nothing to her, she felt like having seen that face before, ruggedly square and intimidating eyes like daggers; perhaps it was because he had all the earmarks of a dangerous man like in the old western movies, he was just missing the eye patch, but it wasn’t just that. She looked at the page for a moment, trying to remember, and right then she heard Lucianne’s footsteps coming down the stairs, so she quickly put the paper back on the table and stumbled away, careful enough not to bump into anything.

“Did you go to the kitchen?” Lucianne asked, seeing her leave the dining room.

“I was heading there for some water, but I heard you coming down.”

“No problem, let me get it for you. Here you go.” Lucianne handed her a dossier, and as she walked to the kitchen, Marianne immediately went through it.

It wasn’t a very extensive file, a few pages with information about that woman, family and all kinds of public data. And even though she didn’t find her father’s name anywhere at first glance, she did find something that caught her immediate attention.

“…Elsbeth Marie Grenoir is survived by her only daughter, Embeth Harmony Grenoir, 36, living in Mount Fenix —that was three cities away—, and working mainly in art restoration. She has an eighteen-year-old daughter called Emmalee. She never got married.”

Marianne looked puzzled at the image along the information: it was a picture of a woman and her daughter. The face didn’t speak to her, but her long hair seemed dark copper, and despite not being the exact shade she remembered from the recent encounter with the ‘lavender woman’, she assumed that between the picture and the printing some tones and colors may darken. And then there was the girl. She was a little older than her, and though her features were almost a carbon copy of the woman, her olive eyes might well take a different color according to the position of the light. Could it be…? She shook her head to banish the thought from her mind. There would be enough time to speculate once alone, but not there.

“I have to go. I still have things to do and a bag to pack,” Marianne said after taking her drink almost in one sip.

“I thought you would stay a little longer; I could even help you in your research. I’ve discovered I may have a sleuth vein,” Lucianne remarked with a touch of humor, but Marianne refused.

“I don’t have much time. If I need anything else, I’ll let you know.”

Lucianne sighed and nodded as she walked her to the door. As it closed, Marianne reopened the folder on the picture of the woman and her daughter, and kept watching them for several seconds.

“Not all the information is there.” Frank rested his shoulder on the side of the house and by his posture, the only thing missing was a cigarette, but the place wasn’t right to take it out. “There are some things that are not listed in the records and you can only hear it around. Gossiping tongues, if you may like.”

“…You don’t say. Did her neighbors regarded her as a witch? Did they believe she danced naked under the full moon or made sacrifices to the devil and ate babies for breakfast or something like that?” Marianne snapped closing the folder shut.

Frank laughed and approached her without taking his hands from his pockets.

“People talk, you know. Some things stay in the records, others don’t, we just can rely on the ‘word of mouth’,” Frank said, glancing to the house to make sure no one could hear or see them. “And in the case of the distinguished Lady Grenoir, rumors say that, towards the end of her life, she was giving shelter to a recently orphaned boy, like a foster parent. But the funny thing is that there’s no record of that and the neighbors didn’t know about it until her death. Her daughter was gone before that, and she isolated herself so there were days she didn’t even leave the house, and she was already living in seclusion since the death of her husband.”

“The boy who was living with her—”

“The thing about word of mouth is that there are discrepancies very often between the versions. Some say that the boy was in fact a son she was hiding all those years in her basement, or that she had kidnapped him to eventually transform him into a substitute for her late husband. Anyway, as I said, just gossips. The only thing they all seem to agree is that, after the woman’s death, some people took him with them and never heard of him again. Oh! And of course, how could I forget about the boy’s main feature everyone seems to remember? A pair of ‘stunningly bright emerald green eyes’.”

Marianne twisted her mouth. It was clear from his haughty smile that Frank knew what kind of information she really wanted to get of that research.

“Calm down. I won’t tell anyone the real reason behind your research. I was just curious because you’re not the only one chasing the shadow of your father.” Marianne frowned skeptically and he just smiled once more before turning around and walking away, waving goodbye. “Oh, by the way! The house still exists. It’s on the other side, not so far away from where you live. It was abandoned until someone made an offer recently… Can you guess who did it?”

Marianne scowled at his deliberate smile as he left once he was done with it. She opened the folder again and went through the papers until finding the address. Despite feeling a hole in her stomach, for some reason she wasn’t surprised to see it was exactly the house her father had moved in to. She knew it somehow. Perhaps one day she would gather courage and go look for information. Maybe after the games. She wondered if there would be left something worth checking: deeds, old letters, a photo album maybe—

She instantly stopped, as if someone had pushed the pause button, leaving her frozen in time with an expression of dismay after recalling the memory that had previously escaped her. A surly intimidating face resurfaced in her mind between a series of static images, but instead of looking at it from a mugshot, it was from a photo album.

“…It’s his father,” Marianne murmured with eyes open like marbles.

The man the police wanted was Dreyson’s father.

The day of the event finally arrived, and despite the problems Lilith had at the beginning, and the doubts of her club after learning she had ‘lost’ the money for the catering, the huge table with all the food decorated with some hidden oriental touches and the striking presence of Latvi coordinating everything with the now properly dressed-up saber men, turned out to be a success.

“I must admit this menu is far more appetizing than the original proposed,” Lucianne said while taking one of the pastry snacks from the table.

“Careful, don’t let Kristania hear you. I heard she doesn’t approve of the high caloric content of the new menu and she’s been sticking her calorie-calculator-thingie in the soda fountain for each drink. Not even the water is safe,” Marianne snapped, choosing a wide variety of snacks for her own dish.

“It was difficult for her; she had already planned the whole menu for Lilith to buy the ingredients and when she lost the money, we could only improvise,” Vicky said, also tasting the snacks.

“Lilith couldn’t just lose the money without any explanation,” Marianne replied, still in disbelief and Vicky shrugged.

“She admitted it herself.”

Marianne scanned the special room they were in, where a couple of months ago the prom had abruptly ended after that demon’s attack. Since then, the windows had been replaced and now were reinforced with steel bars, like a prison, and each one of the exits had now a system which, when activated, automatically opened all the doors and sealed the windows. There were more people in the room than the selected for the games —Who would reject free snacks?—, and Marianne looked for familiar faces until seeing Demian near one of the exits, leaning against the wall with a drink in hand and a brooding expression.

“How’s Demian taking it?” Lucianne asked after discovering his presence and Vicky sighed.

“Not too well; he’s been very quiet for the last few days. Sometimes I feel like… he’s hiding something,” Vicky said after a pause. Of course, the others knew very well what he was hiding from her, but were unable to talk about it.

“…Be right back,” said Marianne deciding to flee when she saw their coach heading towards them, and unconsciously began to cover the distance that separated her from the exit. She was still holding the disposable plate with snacks and had to juggle through obstacles and people on her way, so the only thing missing was a tightrope to feel like an equilibrist. Glancing around, she could see Addalynn and Samael listening to their swimming coach and Belgina talking to hers.

Meanwhile, Demian stood in the same place, as close as possible to the exit in case he felt like sneaking away, ignoring anyone passing by him, ocassionally taking his drink to his mouth.

“Thanks, I was hungry.” Before she could react, the plate with the snacks was snatched away and Marianne looked up to see Dreyson quickly getting one of them to his mouth.

“What do you think you’re doing?” she asked with a frown.

“The fencing coach wouldn’t let me go. He kept giving me advice after advice and I couldn’t even get to any table,” Dreyson said, taking a second snack and ignoring Marianne’s indignation.

“…Go ahead, finish my plate. It’s not like you could walk a few more feet and take your own food.”

“I’d rather take what I have at hand,” he replied with a smile. The plate was almost half emptied and Marianne snorted.

“What’s wrong? Now that you’re in the selection, turns out to be not as glamorous as you thought?”

“I like the practice. Not so much the theory, and even less the speeches.”

He kept eating the last snack from the plate and giving it back to her, while Marianne watched him disapprovingly, and then remembered the mugshot she had seen at Lucianne’s house.

“May I ask where you’re from?” Dreyson watched her curiously as it was the first time she had asked something about him. “Why did you move here?”

“Why are you asking?” Dreyson narrowed his eyes suspiciously. “Are you now interested in me all of a sudden?”

“Just a question, as I would ask any other,” Marianne said, trying not to reveal her true interest. “There’s a lot of reasons why people decide to move to another town. Perhaps a parent’s new job, I don’t know—”

Dreyson didn’t answer this time. He returned to his serious and sparing gesture from his first days at school and Marianne almost expected him to turn around and leave without talking.

“…You could say so,” he finally said, but he clearly looked displeased and wasn’t willing to say anymore. Then she noticed Demian already had one foot out of the room, and if she didn’t hurry, she wouldn’t reach him. “Will you go after him?”

“I don’t—!” she tried to protest, but he was already stepping in her way to block her.

“You’ll have to go through me in that case,” he said, going back to his confident and playful tone. Marianne was already preparing to push him away, but luckily for her someone else did the dirty work. The Tae kwon do coach appeared without warning and took Dreyson away to submit him to his speech in spite of how sick of it he seemed.

Marianne headed to the door, but there was no sign of Demian and she stopped a few feet past the entrance with a defeated gesture.

“Looking for something?”

She turned startled on her heels and saw Demian leaning on one side of the door. She had gone through the door so hurriedly she didn’t even look at the sides. He was looking at her with curiosity, his arms folded as if having nothing better to do.

“…Just wanted to get some fresh air.”

“And to flee from the coaches, I guess. I get it. They do the same every year during the farewell event; they hunt you down as if that would give you more motivation,” Demian said, taking another swig of his drink with a weary attitude. As if tired of everything.

“…I’m sorry,” Marianne pronounced almost unthinkingly. Demian raised his puzzled gaze from the drink. “…For telling something I shouldn’t, something that was personal for you. You’re right, Samuel hides things from me, I know. I do too, I think that’s normal. It’s just that I thought what you said… could have some importance for us. To help you out.”

“Help me?”

“To keep your humanity,” she added, trying to explain herself. “…Because no matter what you think, there’s humanity in you. You’ve got it on your own, and that’s more valuable than being born with it. We want you to have enough reasons to stay with us.”

Demian’s face flinched a little, surprised by her words. He kept silence for several seconds and his expression softened with a slight smile trying to show up on his face, but far from looking upbeat, it made him look helpless.

“…Okay. I shouldn’t have reacted that way either,” Demian said with a sigh and looking away to the horizon. “…Anyway, none of it matters anymore.”

Marianne’s brow furrowed, wondering the meaning of that. Demian straightened his back and walked away from the wall, stopping right in front of her. She didn’t move, waiting for him to do or say something; his behavior was confusing.

“Do you realize you’ve been holding an empty plate?”

She looked at her hand holding the plate, and didn’t know what to say, just babbled and cursed Dreyson inside. Demian smiled again, grabbed the plate and crushed it with his now empty throw-away cup into a ball and threw it to the dumpster on the other end, like a basket, unsurprisingly hitting the mark. He then straightened back, letting out another sigh.

“Can I ask something of you?” Marianne nodded, though her warning signs were gradually lighting up. “…Tell Vicky that no matter what happens, she will always be my sister.”


Before she could say anything, he placed a hand on her head.

“Take care of her. She has no one left,” he finished, walking past her, who was left stunned, trying to make sense of that.

“Wait… Wait! Why are you—?!” she finally reacted, turning as fast as her body allowed her, but Demian wasn’t there anymore, just an empty space where his silhouette was seconds before, after disappearing into the shadows.

Marianne stood there motionless for what seemed an eternity, but as soon as she regained consciousness, she realized she had to act quickly before Demian would do something he might regret.

Hidden behind a chocolate fountain and on her knees, Lilith kept topping the snacks surrounding the fountain and watching on the corner of her eye the accusing way some of her club mates looked at her. She was so distracted that when she tried to get another box of snacks from behind the table and grabbed a hand instead, she let out a scream that was quickly silenced by said hand, pulling her down. People turned to her spot following the scream, but since they saw no one, they continued chatting as usual. Lilith ended up biting the hand and a whimper of pain emerged from under the table. She lifted the cloth and saw Mankee rubbing his hand.

“What are you doing hidden down there like a thief?”

“I wanted to come too. Is it too much to ask? I can never be at your events, and now that I have the perfect excuse for the first time, I’m forbidden to come because ‘I shouldn’t stoop to this level’,” Mankee wailed, pushing away the tablecoth to take a look around. Latvi was making a round like a socialite and he shrank behind the table.

“Why are you so afraid of her? She’s harmless.”

“I could ask the same regarding Vicky,” Mankee shot back and Lilith kept quiet. “Besides, you don’t know how she really is, just what you’ve seen so far.”

“That didn’t stop you from getting engaged to her.”

“But I didn’t! It was announced to me! I didn’t even have a say in it!” Mankee insisted and immediately shut when someone approached the chocolate fountain right in front of them. Through the tablecloth they could see it was Vicky. “…Well, I think this could be your chance to make amends.”

“Huh?” Lilith asked unaware and Mankee gave her a light shove to get her out from under the table just as Vicky was about to dip a strawberry in chocolate. Lilith looked up at her, embarrassed by her position on the ground and struggling to stand up. “I… uh… this—”

“Are you hurt?” Vicky said, letting go of the strawberry and helping her up.

“I-I’m fine, thanks,” said Lilith, shaking the dust from her knees. For a moment she didn’t know what to say, doing her best not to think of those same eyes on her, dull and lifeless, like her dream. “I… I hope you’re not mad… about me losing the money.”

“Don’t worry about that. It can happen to anyone,” Vicky replied with a wave of her hand. “You solved it fairly well, involving the coffee shop service.”

Lilith seemed abashed by her comment, perhaps thinking she had overstepped on her use of the coffee shop, taking advantage of it. She tried to explain herself, but Marianne came running into the room right then, going straight to Samael in such a hurry that she didn’t even seem to care that the coach was still talking to them.

“We have to find Demian. Soon,” Marianne trampled the words in her rush to pull him away.

“Why? What’s happening?”

“I don’t know! He just asked me to tell Vicky that no matter what, she would always be his sister. That sounds like a farewell to me, doesn’t it? What if he tries to do something like, I don’t know… threaten his life?” she asked, turning pale.

“He can’t. It doesn’t matter if he tries, the self-preservation instinct dominates his genes,” Samael explained, taking a hand to his chin in a thoughtful pose. “…I can’t think of anything he might be planning, but if he tries anything involving his power, it won’t be difficult to find him.”

“We cannot wait until he does it! It could be too late!” Marianne replied, unable to hide her concern.

“I know where to find him,” Addalynn interjected, appearing alongside them after getting rid of the coach. The rest of their friends were already gathering around them, knowing something was wrong.

“What happened now? Is there a problem?” Lucianne asked.

“It’s Demian, isn’t it? I saw him getting out a while ago,” Mitchell said, holding a plate of snacks with his mouth still full.

“What’s the deal with my brother?” Vicky asked and all eyes turned to her, causing her a shudder that gave her a bad feeling. Like expecting bad news in front of the phone until it finally rang… but given everyone’s faces, she wasn’t sure to pick up.

The place was nothing more than rocks now, charred trunks and stirred soil, of which its only sign that had once been fertile were the remains of seared foliage peeking in sporadic places, like fossilized witnesses of a nuclear war. It looked like a post-apocalyptic scenario in which one could only expect to fall victim to radiation, if not because a couple of miles away there was a green horizon of intact treetops that skirted the devastated area, as if drawing a clear line between life and death. Any expert would find difficult to pinpoint the time it had taken the area to reach that state of desolation when it was actually only a few weeks with a range that had been periodically expanding.

Demian watched the landscape, standing on a large rock formation that was right in the epicenter of the devastated area, where it had all begun. Now in full possession of his senses, without his demon blood boiling inside, he could see more clearly the extent of his power, the consequences of the search for a method to unleash his craving for destruction. And it was worse than he remembered.

“…I’m sorry,” he whispered as if the earth could hear him or the dry wind blowing in that barren extension could convey his message. He could do nothing else, he had to avoid hurting innocent people somehow. Although, depending on the results of what he intended to do now, maybe even that would turn out to be a waste of time, but he had to try. He stood firm on the rock, with clenched hands and jaw, his skin losing color on the pressure point. “…Come and get me.”

An energy field began to form at his feet, growing around him, shaking the earth, stones, and charred remains of trees and plants while taking his demon form. He looked at the sky that seemed to keep a cluster of gray clouds above that area and waited for something to happen.

“…Come on, come on,” he murmured through clenched teeth, and despite the gray picture of death around him, he seemed to discern in the distance some movement going from trunk to rock and everything capable of producing shadow, though the sun was hidden by the clouds. “…That’s right. Come. I’m waiting.”

A flash at his side caught his eye and saw a group of guys in armor emerging from the light, ready for any eventuality.

“…Go away! You shouldn’t be here!” Demian said, surrounded by all that energy coming from him to attract the smoke demon.

“We won’t leave! What do you think you’re doing?!” Marianne came forward, but the intensity of the energy decreased her steps.

“I’m doing what it takes to end this once and for all!” he said and then he saw Vicky among them. That took him out of balance for a moment, but quickly tried to regain control, looking away to avoid her gaze. “…Now move away and don’t intervene!” Right in front of him, the shadows had begun to concentrate to form the smoke demon, his reptilian cat eyes fixed on him with that smile that stretched from end to end in his face. “…I’ll be brief! I’m willing to go back with you to the Legion of darkness as long as you give back the gifts you stole!”

“…What?!” Marianne said, perplexed at his proposal. The demon tilted its head without changing its disturbing Cheshire cat expression. “You can’t—!” She interrupted herself after seeing Demian raising his hand to her, prompting Samael to quickly appear in front of her, thinking he would attack, but it was just a sign not to advance any further.

“The gifts and you can take me back,” Demian insisted, his attention on the smoke demon whose only spark of intellect seemed to lie in his disturbing eyes.

“Master back home?” it hissed with a disembodied voice that caused chills.

“…Master will come back home,” Demian repeated through clenched teeth.

The demon rose in height, the huge slot representing its mouth opened and his head split in two like the broken shell of an egg. The body of the demon swelled without consistency and then ejected the first of the spheres that fell at the guys’ feet. The same with the second, and finally the third gift. The demon lowered down to Demian’s level and looked at him with those glowing wicked eyes, waiting. Demian nodded, he was ready.

“…I’m behind you.”

“No! We have the gifts back! You don’t have to go!” Marianne exclaimed.

“I must do it, “ he firmly said, taking another look towards Vicky, still unmoving “…Remember what I told you. Only if she asks.”

The demon flew around him, forming a swirl of smoke while the others only could watch, unable to react. Addalynn took her hand to her head, as if shaken by a severe pain.

“…Don’t let him go,” she said, squeezing her eyes and temples, drawing the others confused stares, but before they could do anything, the smoke whirlwind disappeared, taking Demian with it.