Chapter 30


Kristania closed the box and went out of that huge closet without averting her gaze of it, fearing it would disappear if she did it just for a second. Once outside, she locked the door and kept the key in a jeweler, and presto, her secret was safe.

She straightened in front of her dressing table to admire her reflection and brush her hair as she used to do every night, and her eyes drifted to one side of the mirror where she had attached several pictures and clippings of Demian, most of them taken from afar. She smiled, lifting an eyebrow while tilting her head sideways in a flirtatious way.

“…What did you say, Demian? You like my hair, whichever style I have?” she said, letting her hair fall over her shoulders. “How flattering of you, but maybe it’s time for a makeover. I’m tired of comparisons. I need to highlight my features and let my face be the focus. I know I’d look astonishing with any kind of cut, but I must choose one that can catch your eye even more.” A less than pleasant answer sneaked into her thoughts, and her lips quickly twisted into a grimace. “…Not that. Never. And you just didn’t say that; it’s just my mind playing tricks.”

She rose from the dresser and went to the window, in need of fresh air to soothe herself, and as she deeply breathed in, she noticed heavy clouds starting to swirl in the distance. Probably a thunderstorm was about to fall upon the city.

“…Great, now my plans for tonight are ruined,” she snorted with a grunt, and just as she was about to close the window, she looked down the street. There were several people watching her, motionless and with a blank stare. She frowned and finally closed the window with a swift motion, clicking her tongue. “I hate this neighborhood full of nutcases! Someday I’ll convince dad to move farther north. What do you think? We could be neighbors.” She went back to her shrine dedicated to Demian, getting lost in her fantasies again, when suddenly, a loud noise like broken glass came from the street, along with a car alarm. “…What the hell?”

She didn’t move from her spot, she just stood still and quiet for several seconds, waiting and listening carefully until a stone shattered her window and she ducked for cover. More alarms shot up everywhere, distant shouts, more rumbling of broken glass. She didn’t understand what was going on, were they in the middle of a terrorist attack? Perhaps if she could reach her phone, she could call the cops…

She heard a roar coming from downstairs and a scream echoed the walls. Her mother. What the hell was happening? Too terrified to react, she crouched next to her dresser and stuck herself below, facing the door, her heart pounding. She could hear footsteps coming up and down the hallway, but she didn’t dare to move…

It wasn’t happening. They lived in a quiet place despite her constant complaints. That couldn’t be happening!

A loud thump was heard outside her room and her door opened with a shove so strong, it was almost torn from its hinges. From her position on the floor, Kristania could only see feet coming at her, and all she could do was cry, covering her head as if that would prevent them to find her. Hands slid down her back and arms to lift her up.

“No! Don’t hurt me, please! Take whatever you want, but don’t hurt me!” she yelled covering her face with shaking hands, but she was forced to pull them aside. Kristania opened her eyes, feeling the dread crawling through her body, and when her eyes focused, she discovered several classmates right in front of her, and her own friends were holding her, completely expressionless with lost stares. “What the—?”

She noticed then dark spots like oil under their skins and their hairlines, starting to invade their eyes and changing their color. She had never seen anything like it, and they all looked unflappable, which made her think it was all a nightmare, until the scream that was forming in her throat finally emerged, loud and strong, while her once friends dragged her out of the room.

“Loui! Change of plans!” Marianne flung open the door and looked around. “Where are you? Something came up and we need to leave right away. You better stay here until further notice.” She opened the closet and looked under the bed but couldn’t find any trace of him. “…Loui!”

“I don’t like this,” Samael remarked, standing in the doorway.

Marianne left the room and went downstairs, calling for her brother and waiting for an answer that didn’t come.

“He left,” Addalynn suddenly said, standing like a statue in the living room, and Marianne started.

“…What do you mean he left?  What are you talking about?”

“While you were speaking up there, he came down hastily, put on a jacket and took off,” Addalynn said offhandedly, and Marianne looked incredulous at her.

“…And you didn’t think you should say anything or even warn us?! Did you think it would be wise to allow a twelve-year-old kid to leave on his own, aware of the danger upon us?!” Marianne shouted, unable to believe her total lack of empathy.

“It’s not my house,” was all Addalynn could respond, trying to understand what she did wrong, which only got Marianne even angrier.

“What planet are you from?!” she shouted, and Samael put a hand on her shoulder to try to calm her down, so she paused to compose herself. Then she took her phone to call her brother, but it immediately diverted to the voice mail. Marianne grunted impatiently. “We need to find him. Can you track him down?”

“The human energy is usually too weak to perceive and track it down, but… perhaps I can find him.”

“Try it,” Marianne asked and right at that moment her cell phone rang with an incoming message. She hesitated before looking at the screen. It was a text from Loui, or at least from his phone. “…I guess that won’t be necessary anymore.”

‘School auditorium. 8:00 o’clock. Come alone.

Or the child will pay.’

Marianne raised her gaze after reading and Samael frowned.

“…No. Don’t even think about it. You’re not going by yourself,” Samael said before she even spoke,

“It’s my brother. I can’t abandon him or allow him to get hurt.”

“But you can’t go alone! We have to reunite the others, make a plan…”

“I only have fifteen minutes!” Marianne snapped. “We can’t reunite everyone. Someone has to do it while I go to the auditorium.”

“I can go with her,” Addalynn said before Samael protested again. They both looked at her with the same incredulity as if saying she liked dancing salsa or singing in the shower.

“…I can’t be seen arriving with anyone,” Marianne said and Addalynn just stretched a hand to the front. The hand slowly lost density until getting transparent and then visible again.

“…You can become invisible,” Samael murmured with surprise, though it almost immediately seemed a silly statement to him since she also was an angel. However, it didn’t seem appropriate that she would be the one to go. It had to be him, it was his responsibility, his duty. He turned to Marianne and tried to convince her again. “…Listen, I can do that too. I’ll go with you, and I’ll find Loui and—”

“No, you have to reunite the others and explain everything. Besides, your power has been very erratic lately, we can’t take the risk,” Marianne replied, and seeing that he still seemed reluctant, she grabbed his shoulders and stared at him. “I’ll be fine, okay? Trust me.”

Samael remained unconvinced, but it was Marianne, after all; even if he refused, she would end up doing her will, so he turned to Addalynn and tried to convey with a single glance how important it was for him not to fail.

“Let’s go then,” Marianne decided, opening the door, but she barely stepped forward and stopped short again when she saw several figures standing in front of her garden, looking absently at the house. The darkness and dim light coming from the poles made it difficult to distinguish their faces, but still managed to recognize some of her neighbors. Before she could say anything, a rock flew over her head and Samael quickly pulled her in, closing the door with a slap. “What the hell?!”

“It’s begun,” Samael said in a fatalistic tone. “…The marked ones.”

The window beside the door exploded and they cowered while a shower of glass bathed them. Marianne looked at her watch and saw it was already ten to eight. Time was running out.

“Can you transport us?!” she asked towards Addalynn, but she shook her head, still stooped on the floor to prevent glass from falling to her face. They heard another window crash, the one from the living room; then another, the dining room. The kitchen’s window suffered the same fate, and they even heard distant screams that surely didn’t come from those trying to invade the house. They were nothing but machines following orders.

“Come near me!” Samael yelled while the banging of the door became more intense. Once they were at his side, he grabbed their arms and the three of them disappeared, just as the door gave in.

They reappeared inside the school, right in the intersection. The halls were empty and the lights off, but they knew they weren’t alone; the atmosphere was heavy, and they could see several motionless shadows through the glass of the doors, as if in pause, waiting for an order. Marianne tried not to pay attention to them and pulled out her phone to make a call. Her mother answered almost immediately.

“Mom, whatever you do, do not leave your office if you’re still there, okay? No, don’t ask any question! Just do what I tell you! There are riots throughout the city; you better stay where you are! I’ll call you when it’s safe.” And without any further explanation, she hung up and did the same with her father, only this time he didn’t answer the phone and she had no choice but to leave a message over the voice mail.

“Are you sure about this?” Samael asked with concern since they would be separating from that moment.

“Yes. I’ll be a distraction all the time I can while you bring reinforcements.”

Samael nodded and closed his eyes, intending to transport himself back, but other than a brief flicker, nothing else happened.

“…It’s failing again,” Samael said with exasperation, feeling the time ticking.

“The coffee shop is across the street,” Marianne reminded him, and even though he still seemed hesitant about leaving her, he finally did.

“…Don’t let her do anything impulsive,” Samael said towards Addalynn right before running to the side gates.

“Give me some credit!” Marianne yelled, although he was already halfway through. She then turned to Addalynn. “…Are you ready?” The girl nodded. They could see the shadows of the figures behind the doors, moving slowly as if starting to come alive. “…Not that I doubt your self-restrain… but your mutism would come in handy right now.”

Addalynn frowned, as if taking offense of it, but didn’t say anything and simply became invisible, a slight outline looming around her until getting completely transparent. Marianne sighed, taking that as a sign.

“…All right. Let’s go.”

The coffee shop had closed its doors and lowered the protective grids, but Lilith and Angie were still inside with Mankee, looking mystified at the strange presence of several people on the street, staring motionless in their direction.

They had decided to turn the lights off, but the number of people outside kept increasing.

“They’re like zombies,” Lilith said, stepping away from the window with a shudder.

“Vicky says her house is also surrounded,” Angie said after hanging up the phone. “Although no one has made an attempt to enter either. I tried to call the others, but they don’t answer.”

“What do they want? They don’t move, don’t talk, don’t do anything. Will they react if we go out?”

“I don’t think it would be wise,” Mankee said, closing the curtains and pushing away just a little of the corner to look nervously outside. “I think this is the danger that the hidden bruises posed. They may have orders to attack anything that moves.”

“What are we supposed to do then? Stay here locked up all night?”

“My father left me several messages,” Angie said, checking her cellphone. “He says there are riots all over the city. He’s left stranded in his office. He thinks I’m still home because he’s asking me not to get out.”

“Could someone get rid of those people already?” Latvi left the kitchen, clutching her temples, seemingly in pain. “I can’t stand this headache, and their presence doesn’t make it any easier.”

“Be thankful they’re just standing there,” Lilith replied, turning to her with her hand holding the blinds, and as she finished her sentence, something crashed against the window, making her jump away from it. This time the three of them peeked out carefully. A dumpster rolled on the floor after being thrown against the window, crashing instead with the grid, leaving a dent in it. They didn’t doubt it would only take a few more dents to eventually yield. “…Did you see that?! What if the grid wasn’t down?!”

There was no time for a reply; other objects began to get stamped against it, denting it while people began to dangerously come closer.

“Is there an emergency exit? I don’t think this will hold up for long,” Angie said, moving away from the window.

“Only the door in the back of the kitchen, but I see people ensconced in the alley.”

“In other words, we’re surrounded,” Angie said.

“Something’s happening. They’re now moving towards the center,” Lilith pointed out, looking cautiously out the window when the projectiles stopped crashing against it. They saw the people were in fact gathering in the middle of the street and watching to the other side as if waiting for someone. The horde suddenly launched in that direction, like part of the same intelligent organism trying to catch something, until the group opened for a second and they got to see a fair head, practically glowing among those shadowy figures. “It’s Samuel! He’s coming! We must open the door!”

“Bu-But we would have to lift the grid and if we do, nothing will stand between them and us,” Mankee said, unable to hide his fear.

“We’ll take the risk.” Lilith opened the door immediately and then locked off the mesh, while Angie watched her side on guard, in case a defensive move was needed.

Samael ran steadily through the throng, launching against him like piranhas after a lump of meat in the sea. He felt their rough hands trying to grab a hold of him, clawing and pulling his clothes, hair, even throwing bites, but his plight and resolution was such that he felt light, almost disembodied, managing to wriggle out of their hands like he was covered in butter. There was a slight tingling on his skin, glowing like it hadn’t in a long time; perhaps it was his own power trying to break through and act like a protective bubble to him without harming his attackers. After all, they were only humans controlled by evil.

Among the jumble of bodies that he tried to dodge, he caught a glimpse of the protective mesh and the frantic waving of hands trying to get his attention. He scurried away, eluding those robotic figures with empty faces, and managed to make his way up to the coffee shop; the mesh dropped behind him just as the zombified horde launched at them. The door was then closed, and he leaned on it for a moment to catch his breath.

“There’s no time to lose,” Samael said between gasps before the others could speak. “Marianne and Addalynn are heading towards the school auditorium right now. You must go with them. I still have to find the others.”

“Haven’t you seen that we’re in the middle of a zombie apocalypse?” Mankee said, thinking it was madness. “How are we supposed to—?”

“We have to get rid of them,” Latvi intervened, snapping his fingers and a line of saber men instantly marched out of the kitchen, standing on both sides of the dining, awaiting instructions; their faces as undeterred and vacuous as the people lunging at the entrance. “Extraordinary situations required drastic measures.”

“No. They’re just humans under evil control. We can’t hurt them,” Samael snapped firmly. “They need to be freed of their control. They’ll no longer be a danger once they’re back to normal.”

Mankee sensed the attention focused on him, and immediately felt a chill when he guessed the reason.

“…No. No! I told you I wouldn’t do it anymore and you can’t force me to!”

“Mankee, we don’t have time for this. Do you realize the whole city may be controlled by now and we’re the only ones left to face them?”

“Even more so! If absorbing the energy of a small group of people got me so ill, I don’t want to imagine what an entire population will do to me!” Mankee replied, refusing to be used that way.

“Listen to yourself! We’re supposed to protect people, not let them be consumed by a bunch of demonic energy just because you don’t want your tummy to ache!” Lilith spat with her back against the door from where they could see the protective mesh sagging under the weight of the possessed bodies.

“It’s not out of your skill,” Samael added. “You just need to learn how to use it properly. The important thing is to not hesitate. Not right now.”

But Mankee still doubted. The maddening feeling of drowning and dizziness he had felt that time still chased him. How did they expect him to release an entire city from the control of a demonic power when he only had one experience? They expected a lot from him. He didn’t want to be a hero, just wanted to live a normal life.

“You can do it,” Latvi suddenly said, removing one of her bracelets and using it to pull her hair in a bun while taking off everything that could be considered just a decorating garment: the shawl, the skirt, silk scarves that she put on her waist until she was only dressed in spandex shorts and a cotton blouse in warm colors. “Remember everything you learned in Gerbinkav. This may not be so different.”

“…What are you doing?”

“I too have tricks up my sleeve,” she said, pulling out a set of small bottles with some sort of white powder and attaching them with a strip formed with the scarves, tying it around her waist like a belt. “You have five minutes; the door won’t last much longer, and I won’t have them wrecking this place that is so important to my prince. Leave by the kitchen door and wait until it clears out. Then you can go.”

“No! What are you trying to do?”

“I’ll be the witch you’ve always thought I am,” she replied with a smile, and after another snap of her fingers, the saber men stood on both sides of the door as she faced it. “Sometimes sacrifices are necessary, Hisham. Don’t forget that. Now get out of here.”

Samael pulled Mankee’s arm before he could protest, and Lilith followed them after giving Latvi a military court in sign of respect. Angie joined them out in the alley. Using the huge dumpster as a hideout, they peered into the street and got to see the shadowed forms of the marked army outside the coffee shop, silently lashing out against the protective mesh.

“You two go to the auditorium once it’s cleared,” Samael whispered, pointing at Lilith and Angie. “We still have to reunite the rest.”

“What about me?” Mankee asked, still feeling numb and out of his body.

“You’re coming with me. We can’t let those people be controlled. I know the idea scares you, but you need to be strong. We all have something at stake this time.”

Mankee wasn’t in the mood to protest, so he just sat there, nodding meekly, while Lilith crouched after sticking her head above the dumpster.

“They’re moving! We should take the chance now that we have a free way!” Lilith said, and the four of them stood up again.

“Hurry up to the auditorium then. We’ll go for Vicky and Belgina,” Samael said, holding Mankee by the arm and closing his eyes to test whether it would be possible for him to transport or not, and when he felt the yank in his back, he knew he was ready. He signaled the two girls to go ahead, and he disappeared with Mankee amid a flash.

Marianne came to a halt before the closed doors, watching them anxiously. She could hear noise in the opposite street, which concerned her, but had no time to find out what it was. She must first deal with the reigning problem.

“…You’re still there?” she asked in a whisper.

“I’m here,” Addalynn’s disembodied voice answered behind her.

“All right. I know you don’t need to be told but try not to draw any attention. Focus on locating my brother and get him out of here,” Marianne said, taking a deep breath, then she put her hands on the huge double doors and pushed. The hinges squeaked as she pushed them enough for them to enter, and then they closed like automatized. The place was dark and just a bit of light went through the high windows, so she tried to adapt her sight to the shadows, trying to see any kind of shape in the middle of the track. There was something there, a motionless shadow waiting. She was hesitant about whether or not to keep walking, fearing a trap at her feet.

“One minute late. Anyway, I admire your punctuality.”

The stage reflectors suddenly turned on right at her, blinding her for a moment and forcing her to cover her eyes. There was another one illuminating the center, where someone sat on a few steps leading up to the stage for special events. She set her eyes on the stage, trying to glimpse any kind of figure on top of it, although the distance and intense light blocked her out, she could see a hunched shape beyond the spotlighted area.

“I’m glad you came. I thought I would have to resort to more drastic methods.”

“…Hello, Dreyson,” she finally spoke, standing firmly and making a brief gesture with her hand on her back to give Addalynn indications, hoping he wouldn’t notice. “…Or should I call you some other way now that apparently your body was found in the same place where they found your father’s corpse.”

Dreyson smiled but didn’t answer. He just stood up and started walking against the dais, with his hands in his pockets. He was still wearing the same clothes, only now there was a hole in the center of his shirt and a patch of dried blood bordering it. Right where Addalynn had shot him. His bare feet seemed so light on the track that the wood didn’t even creak at his steps.

“It wasn’t very kind of you to throw me out the window; I didn’t expect that, to be honest. But hey, I guess my behavior wasn’t quite appropriate either. I still have a lot to learn,” he said, like talking of any other worldly thing, walking across the stage, and then turning around to retrace his steps. “So here we are now, it can be a new beginning. All I ask for is a moment alone, and maybe you could finally see—”

“Where’s my brother?” Marianne interrupted him, sick of hearing him. She knew Addalynn must be approaching on one side of the court and needed to distract him. Dreyson stopped at the same spot he had started and let out a snort.

“Of course. You must be worried about him. Don’t be. He’s okay.”

“I want to see him,” Marianne insisted, and after snorting again, Dreyson snapped his fingers and a reflector lit up the back of the stage.

Handcuffed and immobilized, Loui winced and blinked as he felt the light striking his face. He had a gag over his mouth, so he couldn’t talk or scream, but when he saw Marianne at the other end, he began to grunt.

“…Let him go. Release him right now,” she demanded, clenching her hands, but he laughed and resumed his walk across the stage.

“No, I think I’ll keep him there a little bit more,” he said as if it were all a game. He kept coming dangerously close to the side end and Marianne couldn’t help glancing nervously towards both sides, wondering which one Addalynn had taken. “He’s okay, see? Nothing will happen to him for a few more minutes.”

“What do you want?” Marianne asked, walking a few steps forward and the reflector followed her. Dreyson stopped about to reach the corner of the stage and turned to her as if the question surprised him.

“You really have no idea, do you? I thought you were smarter.”

“The only thing I can do is take a guess, but only one person can confirm it,” Marianne added, taking a few more steps, glancing intently at the nearest corner where he had stopped. “My only real question right now is… when did you take Dreyson’s life? Was it by the time you came to school all changed, or before you even came to town?”

Keep him busy and distracted; she had to focus on that. He smiled as if he had been waiting for that question, and his body turned around.

“…I wasn’t even supposed to be on the same class as you,” he said, raising his chin and giving her an amused look. “Seniors class. That was my goal. But something got in the way, and I had to make some decisions.”

“Oh, please, I hope you’re not talking about me, or I’ll be forced to laugh when I don’t feel like it,” Marianne snapped with a squint, but it was him who let out a bemused laugh instead.

“I’m sorry to disappoint you, but no. You were nothing but any other random person to me. But then I discovered something that caught my attention and made me wonder: what if…?” he said, putting his hand to his chin and giving her an analytical look, the corner of his lips lifting.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Marianne interrupted him again, slowly resuming her walk, trying to force him to go back to the center of the stage.

“I guess you’ll end up getting it eventually,” he said, taking a couple of steps to her relief, until he suddenly stopped and with a quick motion that caught her off guard, returned to the corner, raising his arm, and struggling with the air. Just a couple of seconds later, Addalynn materialized, her fingers gripping the arm around her neck and a wild look in her eyes. “Were you going somewhere? Did you really believe you could fool me with such a cheap trick?”

Marianne made a move to go help Addalynn, but within seconds her arms were also held against her back, making her scream and squirm at the pressure. Glancing over her shoulder, she saw a woman with sunglasses, which ended up falling with the struggle, revealing bruises that seemed to come alive under her skin, flowing around her eyes and rooting through different directions. Marianne stifled another scream, biting the inside of her mouth, and then turned back to Dreyson.

“…Who the hell are you?!”

“I’m surprised you’re still asking,” he replied with a smile, holding Addalynn with one arm while the other rested on his side.

Loui snarled in another futile attempt to communicate something, shaking his head vigorously, but the gag was too tense to loosen it.

“Oh, wait, I know what’s missing,” Dreyson said and immediately tilted his head forward, a curtain of hair falling on his face, and taking his free hand to his eyes. When he lifted his head again with his hand up, he was holding something between his fingers. “Better?”

Marianne tightened her jaw and didn’t dare to utter a word —or simply couldn’t find the voice to do so— when she met a pair of amber eyes fixed on her, with a gaze so intense she could see them glowing in the distance.

“Do I ring a bell now? You may have heard some rumors,” he added with a satisfied tone upon her reaction, and then focused on his free hand, the light reflector falling on tiny crystals held between his fingers. “…Amazing what these tiny things can do. You gave me the idea, you know? The glasses were starting to be annoying and impractical. Having to wear them all the time so no one would notice my eyes…” With a quick motion, he squeezed his fingers, and the lenses crushed to dust, dropping to the floor.

“…The amber-eyed demon,” Marianne finally spoke, trying to stay still so her arms would stop hurting.

“I’ve been called so many things over the years,” he said, shaking the rest of the dust off his fingers. “My favorite so far has been the golden devil. You don’t happen to have heard of it, do you?” He directed his attention to Addalynn waiting for recognition; she kept her fingers digging into his forearm but seemed unfazed by his words. “I think you do. I think we’ve met before, though I’m not so sure. I’ve been following a trail between your kind for someone like you; I thought I had a solid lead back in London but then nothing, it vanished into thin air. Imagine my surprise when I came here and saw you. It was then that I decided to be in the same class as you.”

Addalynn pursed her lips, refusing to speak or even granting him a look. Marianne decided to take the moment of distraction to repeat the trick she had previously used on Dreyson; she projected her energy out of her body to hit the woman and throw her away, which attracted his attention. With that new diversion, Addalynn sank her fingers deeper into his arm and then became a sort of lightning rod, using her hands as a conductor to unload her power onto Dreyson. He wasn’t expecting this at all, so he loosened his arm, and she ran towards the entrance while Marianne was coming from the opposite side.

“My brother!” she yelled, crossing paths with Addalynn, but she held her arm and pulled her towards the doors, ignoring her protests. However, before they even reached them, one of the scaffolds fell and slammed against it, blocking the entrance, and making them correct their course to the locker room, where Addalynn immediately pushed the lockers against the door while Marianne stood aside, panting, and looking at her as if she had gone mad. “That won’t help! He doesn’t need a door to enter! He can appear at will! Didn’t you hear he’s a demon?!”

“Hush! I need to think!” Addalynn replied, squeezing his temples as if urging herself to think of something quick. She suddenly bent down with a pang and the locker room filled with some kind of cold fog, giving it an eerie appearance.

“…What is this? What just happened?” Marianne asked, and her voice came hollow, muffled, as if the place had been emptied of all air and time had stopped. They seemed the only ones with any kind of motion ability, and even that action struck her as surreal, like an out of body experience.

“I guess we’ll be safe for a few minutes,” Addalynn said, trying to collect herself though her body quivered. “I think he won’t be able to come in.”

“You think?” Marianne repeated. “…He said he joined our class because of you. Did you know him?”

“No,” she answered without hesitation, even though Marianne wasn’t convinced.

“He mentioned London, you’re from there. He said he was looking for someone like you among ‘your kind’, I guess that means angels. Did you know anything of this?”

Addalynn forced herself to lift her gaze. There was a hint of ferocity and reluctance in her eyes, but she also looked tired. Oh, so tired. Perhaps the effort of whatever she was doing to keep them safe was weakening her usual iron will.

“…There were some attacks back in London,” she finally said. “Attacks unrelated to the gifts. We didn’t know the reason. They were searching for something; that was for sure. But the people they were attacking—” She stopped as if she couldn’t keep talking. Another attack of mutism? Or did she fear to reveal something else? Marianne wasn’t sure, but she waited for her to continue, it was then that she noticed something in the corner of her lips. It looked like a stain; a little dust stuck to her lipstick.

“Wait, I think you have something…” she said, covering her hand with her sleeve and trying to rub her lips, which caught Addalynn off guard. She winced and jerked away with a start, glaring at her as if she had done something unforgivable. However, Marianne was too busy watching the part she had rubbed the lipstick off. She gave Addalynn a quizzical look, and then leapt onto her again, trying to rub the rest of the lipstick despite the girl’s resistance, until she finally let her go and watched her bare lips. “…What the hell? How did that happen?”

Addalynn took a hand to her mouth, not daring to touch it at all; there was a dark stain covering her lips. She couldn’t answer, either by force or not. Anyway, Marianne could tell from her expression what had happened, or at least guessed it.

The muffle sound of banging against the door came to them, and although they seemed distant, Marianne knew it was Dreyson trying to break down the barrier or whatever Addalynn had raised around them.

“…It doesn’t matter. At least he doesn’t control you entirely,” she concluded letting her armor cover her clothes and bringing forth her sword, standing next to the door in a defensive pose. “Now, undo whatever you did. I’m ready to face him and get my brother back.”

“I don’t know— I don’t know how to do it.”

“Nonsense. It must be inside you. You always come up with some skill we didn’t know you had at the must fitting times. Must be some angel stuff, I guess,” Marianne replied.

“I don’t know!” Addalynn repeated with an increasingly angered tone, as if her words would have riled her up. Suddenly she doubled over again, and the hazy atmosphere slowly began to subside. The room darkened and gained consistency, just like it was before, barely illuminated by the dim light coming through the back window.

Marianne tightened her grip on her sword and focused on the door. The banging on the door became stronger as the fog dissipated and suddenly stopped. She knew what was waiting on the other side, so she had to be ready for it.

“…Call the others. Tell them they have to get here as soon as possible… or at least try to tell them,” Marianne asked.

She moved the lockers away with her power to unblock the entrance and waited until the last trace of icy fog vanished; she grabbed the doorknob then. She took a deep breath to fill her lungs, and then pushed the door open, holding the sword in front of her, hoping it would take him by surprise. But she was the one taken aback to see her brother’s terrified eyes in front of her, being held by Dreyson like a human shield. She managed to stop a few inches from him and immediately felt her legs wavering with horror.

Dreyson took that moment of hesitation to snatch the sword away and tossed the child aside like a sack of potatoes he no longer needed. The door slammed shut before Addalynn could reach it, and then he gripped Marianne’s wrist so hard she writhed with a pained expression while he looked at the sword and analyzed it thoroughly.

“…This is the sword. No doubt about it,” he said with a smile and a spark of recognition in his eyes. “Perhaps I wasn’t entirely wrong.” Despite his apparent interest, he threw the sword to the ground and focused now on Marianne, who was too busy trying to free herself by hitting, scratching, and clawing at his hand, even though he remained impassive. “Don’t worry; when I said I didn’t want to hurt you I was serious. I have other plans for you.” His body jerked, and he looked down to see Loui kicking him in the shins despite being tied up.

Although it wasn’t Loui’s intention, Marianne took advantage of the distraction to extend her free arm towards the sword, and it flew back to her hand.

Dreyson turned his face back to her, but it was too late, Marianne had already raised her sword, lunging against him with a swift movement, and he leaned back to lessen the strike. She jumped on her brother, dragging him away and cutting his tethers with the blade.

“I’m sorry! I should have told you! I thought I recognized him when he first went home, but I wasn’t sure! And then I saw him picking up that lens in the kitchen—!” Loui blurted out as soon as his mouth was free. “I should have told you all, but I chickened out! This is all my fault, I’m sorry!”

“There’s no time for regrets!” Marianne interrupted him, pulling his arms tied with a rope to cut it out. “This is what I wanted to prevent all this time around! This is not a game, you understand now?!”

“Oh, but it is.” Marianne turned around to see Dreyson already up again. Even though a diagonal cut crossed his chest and blood soaked his torn shirt, the wound seemed to be closing. “This is just a game, and we are all pawns. But at least I decided to stop being one to start moving the pieces.”

Marianne urged her brother to stand up and then stood in front of him, holding her sword tightly as Dreyson was approaching. She looked around for something she could use: the compartment under the bleachers was open and she could see several cleaning supplies in addition to the ‘ball pit’, as they called the container where they kept the spare balls and stage props. So, she concentrated on them, trying not to lower her guard, and several objects, including the balls, launched flying at Dreyson, hitting him squarely in the back.

“Stop that,” he said impassively, but she kept throwing whatever she found at her disposal while retreating with her brother to the entrance. Eventually, he let out a sigh of annoyance, and after a simple shake of his arm, Loui was dragged across the floor, but before Marianne could do anything about it, she already had Dreyson practically upon her, pushing the sword with a slap. “I asked you to stop. Now, I think it’s time for you to hear my proposal.”

“I won’t listen to anything that comes from you!” Marianne spat with rage; saving her strength for another power blow. Dreyson watched her, almost fascinated by her fierceness, and smiled at her proximity.

“I think you’re not in position to make decisions right now,” he said, getting so close that she would be able to perceive his scent if not because he didn’t smell of anything. It was like his presence was non-existent, perhaps that was the thing that made him go unnoticed so far.

“…You don’t have a soul,” she said, holding his gaze. His glowing amber eyes didn’t show or reflect anything either.

“You don’t say!” he replied, almost laughing. Marianne clenched her teeth and her eyes flashed with hatred.

“…Why?” she muttered, trying to gather her power. Dreyson tilted his head, curious at her question. “Why did you help me all those times? What was your goal? Why keep me safe then if you were going to act like this anyway?”

Dreyson just looked at her with an enigmatic expression and in the end, he just extended his smile.

“…You really have no idea, do you?” He seemed amused by her ignorance. “That makes it even more interesting.” Marianne frowned with confusion; he then began to get closer, so she tensed and intensified her gaze, stopping him a few inches from her, an invisible force preventing him to continue. He squinted but didn’t erase his smile either. “…We can go on like this for hours, let’s see who gets tired first.”

Marianne gritted her teeth, feeling she wouldn’t be able to keep him at bay for so long, and finally decided to give all her might in a sole energy punch that she projected out of her body, throwing him a few feet away while she dropped exhausted to her knees. There was an insistent knocking behind her, and she could also hear Addalynn’s attempts to get out of the locker room, but that was all in the background. She knew it wouldn’t take longer until he was up again, and she couldn’t wait to regain her strength, so she strove to reach her sword and attack Dreyson.

He was already standing up, unruffled, and she brandished her sword again, making another diagonal cut to his chest, but even when it looked deeper than the previous one, the blood ceased to flow within seconds, leaving an X mark that left the shirt in tatters. He just stumbled a bit before looking at his chest and smiled again.

“…This is getting better,” he said, pulling off the remains of the shirt, leaving his bare chest to flaunt the two cuts almost proudly.

Marianne wasn’t sure she would get to use her power again, and when he started to run towards her, she stepped back to the door, holding the sword tight. He was right in front of her, when a force appeared between them, throwing him to the other end and forcing her to duck for cover. After peering cautiously, she discovered a figure materializing before her in the middle of a smokescreen. It took her a moment to realize it was Demian, looking at her with a mixture of concern and alarm. He was all pale and dark, the only touch of color in his blue eyes staring at her. The first thing he did was holding her by the shoulders with a worried look in his eyes.

“Are you hurt?”

“How did you—?” she started, without knowing how to react.

“I was following the guys with bruises when the smoke demon appeared and I decided to confront him, but suddenly he changed his course and guided me here and—” he stopped once aware that he might be acting a little abrupt, so he released her and just tightened his own hands to restrain himself. “What are you doing here? I thought you’d be with the others—”

“I came for my brother. Besides, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the whole city is a mess right now… And all because of Dreyson.”


“I take full responsibility,” Dreyson said from the other end, pushing himself up like a spring. Demian turned to him, standing protectively in front of Marianne. He watched as the other boy shook the rumble off his body and walked out of the dust cloud that had formed around him. “I wasn’t expecting you so soon, but since you’re here, I guess I should welcome you properly.”

Demian’s wrist began to sting. He first rubbed it unconsciously until the itching became unbearable and he raised his hand to see it. The skin around the scar was swollen and so reddened it contrasted with his pale skin. He didn’t understand what it meant, but Dreyson’s sudden laughter forced his attention back to him.

“It’s funny how a simple scar may be more receptive than its owner. It’s expected when he’s so self-absorbed that he’s got no clue of what’s happening around him.”

Demian became rigid when he met those golden eyes glinting upon the dim light of the place.

“…Contact lenses. He was using contacts,” Marianne explained, noticing his expression. “He deceived us all. There was no way to know…”

Demian turned to her and grabbed her arms again, looking into her eyes.

“Go get your brother and get out of here. Don’t look back; don’t seek help for me. This is my responsibility, you understand? He’s here for me, no one else but me.”

“Do you really think so?” Dreyson interjected and he turned around, his hands closed into fists while his scar burned. His initial bewilderment transforming into rage. “You must think everything revolves around you. The heir of the Legion of darkness.”

“…Go,” Demian murmured, his eyes set on Dreyson, and although Marianne would have refused under normal circumstances, the most important was to bring her brother to safety, so she ran towards him. Dreyson followed her with his gaze and a grim expression. “…So, it was you all along. The amber-eyed demon was you.” Demian’s rage was increasing. Now that Marianne was out of reach, he could focus entirely on him. The guy that had subjected him to so much misery lately. “All this time you knew who I was. You pretended to be a student to watch me, follow my steps, to sow discord among my teammates or, I should say, manipulate them with those bruises. All for what? Did you even think it would break me and get me back to the Legion of darkness? I barely set a foot there and you immediately tried to kill me. What’s your end game? Phoning loyalty in front of my father and then plotting behind his back? You will be sorry when he learns that one of his servants has been disloyal to him.”

Dreyson’s mouth tense in a grimace, his fingers digging into his palms.

“…You still think this is all about you. You’ve always made it about you,” Dreyson muttered. “But not anymore. It’s over.”

There was a creak on the roof, but Demian refused to look away from him, as if they were in the middle of a battle of glares that he wasn’t willing to lose.

“Demian!” It was Marianne’s scream that finally forced him to look up. The roof beams above him were falling, like torn by a invisible giant hand and thrown against him. He made a motion to jump away, but his feet seemed glued to the ground. He looked down and discovered a pair of shadow hands holding him, just like he had done once. Other shadows came to hold him down, so he wouldn’t use his hands. He had no choice but to bend forward and prepare for the impact.

But when this didn’t happen, Demian opened his eyes and lifted his face again. The beams were hovering just a few feet above him, frozen in midair. He turned to Marianne and noticed her face tense by the effort, her arms raised as if she were holding the beams from a distance. Their eyes met for a brief second, but he made sure to convey his gratitude. He then took those precious seconds and focused on breaking free from those shadows, throwing himself away from the impact area right when the beams resumed their fall, crashing noisily near him, catching his legs in the process.

He barely had time to breath when he felt something crushing his hand, joining the painful throbbing of his scar. He lifted his gaze and saw Dreyson with a cold expression, and then kneeling to his side, taking his wrist, and turning it upwards.

“In the flesh, and I’m sure it hurts like hell,” Dreyson said, watching the scar and touching it with his finger. “And yet all this time you haven’t been able to grasp its meaning. It was right in front of you, in your face and decided to ignore it. That just shows how blind you are.”

“What the hell are you talking about?!” Demian spat, trying to push himself up with his other hand. Dreyson released him and showed his own wrist with a throbbing scar, as swollen as his. “…Okay! Got it! I did that! Are you expecting an apology?! Because I’m not giving you one!”

“Don’t be stupid,” Dreyson huffed, abruptly pulling him up, tearing his legs in the process from beneath the beams that held him down. “This isn’t an insignificant cut from fencing. Think carefully and remember when you first got yours.”

Demian recalled his father’s strange court, the stone throne where he sat motionless as a statue, hidden in the shadows, and the amber eyes watching him with hatred since his arrival. The cup with the liquid they made him drink, the cut in his wrist and then his blood spilling into it. His father had drunk from the cup, and then the amber-eyed demon. Dreyson. The disgust he had felt right then forced him to leave before he could see the cup being shared to everyone around. His mind returned to the liquid he drank from the cup. Dark, thick, with a bitter taste that churned his gut. One certainty began to slither down his spine, chilling him with goosebumps.

“…It was your blood. In the glass, that was your blood,” he muttered, feeling his stomach turning again after reaching to that conclusion. Dreyson smiled and straightened up, while Demian fought the symptomatic revulsion he now felt. It was no time to get sick. “That’s why you could find me so easily. All I’ve done so far, when I thought I had cut ties with the Legion of darkness, everything has been in vain. You could have reached me whenever you wanted. Anyone who’s drunk from my blood…”

“Only three of us drank from that cup,” Dreyson interrupted. “Two of which are standing here, face to face, while the third one can barely move from his lethargy. If you had paid more attention, you would’ve known that from the beginning.”

He showed his scar again after saying this, a perfect mirror for Demian’s throbbing scar, and as if responding to it, he could feel the sharp beats.

“…Why the smoke demon then? Why send it for me when you already knew where to find me?”

“You still think this is all about you,” Dreyson said with similar rage flowing through him, the floor beneath him began to shake, extending through the rest of the floorboards up to the walls and ceiling, throwing dust and debris everywhere.

Right then, a dark cloud came through the roof and went down, hovering around amid a hissing sound. Demian was able to identify the smoke demon, hectically going around the auditorium.

“Master, master! Come back, master!” he repeated causing a turmoil around at every turn while Dreyson kept staring at Demian trying to ignore the interruption though it did nothing but increase his anger until he finally raised a hand and the smoke demon stopped instantly.

“…This is what I had to deal with every day. Demons so stupid and so used to follow orders that are unable to act on their own,” muttered Dreyson with a tone of annoyance in his voice. “I liked Hollow though. He had his own ideas and convictions. He would’ve been a great ally if you hadn’t got rid of him in a fit of ‘justice’— Ally for me, that is.”

He relaxed his hand and the smoke demon moved again with the same excitement as if moments before he hadn’t remained still in the air.

“Master, master! Come back! Master returns!” He took another spin in the air before descending, going past Demian and reaching Dreyson while repeating his tune, hovering around him like an insect around a light bulb. Demian frowned while the other stood haughtily as if trying to prove something to him.

“…Like I said, this is not about you,” Dreyson replied allowing a hint of a smile finally showing on his face.

“What are you…? What’s this? What does it mean…?” No complete sentence went out of Demian’s mouth; his anger had given way to confusion.

“Your father.” Marianne suddenly spoke so they turned to her. She was still in a corner of the auditorium trying to catch her breath after her effort to hold those beams, but she had walked a few steps forward, totally involved in what she had heard so far. “…When you said he could no longer control you, you didn’t mean your pretended father.”

Demian only looked at her as if not understanding at all or didn’t want to. Dreyson, on the other hand, smiled again, lifting his chin in a proud gesture.

“She got it even faster than you.”

“Master will come home now?” the smoke demon went flitting around like a nagging fly. “Master needs you. Master—”

“Shut up and leave me alone!” Dreyson shouted losing patience and with a simple motion of the hand the demon was sent away through the roof without even averting his gaze from Demian. “I wanted to understand what led you to give up a throne. What could an ordinary life among humans offer you? But most importantly, I wanted to do it on my own terms. I’ve spent my whole life under the rigid shadow of someone who had the courage to name a boy, who practically grew up beyond our borders, his heir, and even when he refused his blood, he wasn’t able to let him go,” he kept talking with growing anger seething him. “…I should have been the heir. I, who was his firstborn. It should have been me!”

There he was, he had said it. Demian felt the knot in his stomach getting tighter just to hear it from his own mouth. They were siblings. Dreyson was his brother.

“…I never wanted to be that. Nor did I ask to be what I am,” he finally answered, his throat just as tense as the rest of his body. “If you want to be the ‘heir’ so much, go ahead. Keep the title you want, I’m not interested. But you should know I will fight against anyone who poses a threat for those I care.”

“A threat? And what do you think you are?” Dreyson replied with a wry smile. “Maybe not now, but sooner or later you’ll end up being the thing you fear.”

“Don’t listen to him,” Marianne intervened, staying in front of Loui to protect him. “Remember that you decide what to do with your powers, they don’t define you.”

Demian turned to her as if just remembering she was still there. Dreyson said it wasn’t about him, but it actually was. He aspired to what he believed to be his by birth right and in his growing resentment towards the brother that had taken it from him, though not by choice, he’d decided to follow in his steps not only to slowly destroy him but to take everything he considered important from him. He wanted his life, now it was clear to him.

“We are what we are and we can’t change it,” Dreyson contradicted her. “Give it some time and not even having you will please him anymore. We demons are so whimsy.”

“I told you to leave. Go!”

Marianne winced at Demian’s authoritative tone and gritted her teeth as she usually did when she thought of a response, but she held herself and pulled Loui toward the door. However, they didn’t get too far; halfway through, the kid fell on the floor pushed by an invisible force and before she could do anything, Dreyson was already in front of her blocking the way.

“You don’t have to worry. I have plans for you,” he said with a smile that accentuated the golden glow of his eyes.

It hadn’t even been a couple of seconds when Marianne felt another gust of wind passing by, forcing her to withdraw. In a blink of an eye, Dreyson wasn’t there anymore; Demian was now holding him against the wall.

“What are you waiting for?! Leave now!” he yelled trying to contain Dreyson, and even though she hesitated, she went back to get her brother and helped him up.

“…Addalynn is inside the locker room! You need to get her out of there!” she informed him before continuing to the door, but once she put a hand on it, it shook from heavy blows, so she stepped away from it. She heard muffled cries outside, voices that sounded familiar, and suddenly a flame filtered through the chinks forcing her to retreat. The door was pushed strongly until it just opened enough to see two figures getting inside and quickly closing it again before an entire mob would come in. While both wheezed exhausted, Marianne looked surprised at them. “…What are you doing here?”

“Samuel sent us to help you, is that how you welcome us?” Lilith gasped with her back against the door as if it were the only way to keep it locked.

“The school is surrounded. They’re everywhere, like a plague. We had to force our way through with my power to not hurt them,” Angie said, and despite having her armor on, she had traces of blood and scratches on her arms and hands.

“It’s Dreyson. It was him all this time. He’s not who we thought it was. He knew everything about us, it was a trap,” Marianne tried to explain the basics before running out of time, but the two were already focused on the two guys wrestling against the wall.

“I don’t care if you’re my brother or if you’re now out of the Legion of darkness and on your own. If you threaten to destroy the peace I’ve achieved here or the people I care about, I won’t spare you,” Demian muttered, one hand holding his back while the other held his wrists behind.

“Peace?” Dreyson snorted with laughter, turning toward him despite having his face squashed against the wall. “There will never be peace as long as we exist. We’re a cursed breed in case you haven’t noticed.”

Under his hold, Demian felt pressure and bones creaking like self-adjusting so he looked down and noticed the dark stain on his spine, the one that made him suspect the first time. It was still there, only now was spreading along his vertebrae, enhancing them in its advance, like the spine of a dragon. Puzzled, Demian pulled away and backed off, keeping his eyes on that voracious black spot going up his back.

“You thought this dark spot made me one of the ‘marked’… but you didn’t stop to think up until now that you haven’t seen my true form.”

Dreyson hunched, resting his hands on the wall, arching his back with every inch of his backbones swallowed by the stain, transforming his spine and spreading like branches across his back as if thousands of veins rooted on it. The creak of his bones was so chilling, it made them feel it on their own flesh.

“…What’s that on his back?” Lilith asked, unable to take her eyes off the show despite the disturbing nature of it.

The dark stain had finished its way to the top of Dreyson’s spine and pushed his shoulder blades now like trying to break free from his skin. He pushed away from the wall and bent forward, holding himself with his arms, his muscles visible tense until the creak of his bones eventually became a tearing sound. Blood, skin and tissue gushed from his back with black filaments like tentacles. Blood changed from red to black and from his back went out a couple of limbs like an extension of the same stain, embracing his body.

The limbs soon stopped growing and wrapped Dreyson in some kind of cocoon. When he finally stood firm and straight, the appendices that enveloped him spread in all its breadth, revealing a pair of huge black wings and the filaments had completely covered him, weaving an outfit very similar in shape and form to Demian’s armor. His skin had also paled and his intense amber eyes were the only touch of color in him. He was so similar to Demian that it was impossible to deny they were related as much as he tried not to think about it.

“…And by the way… they’re siblings,” Marianne murmured, forcing herself out of her shock to inform both gaping Lilith and Angie about that little detail.