Chapter 31


Lucianne counted mentally to ten with her back to the door in her father’s office and then opened stealthily, poking her head out. Once the riots had started, Perry had gone out with most of the police men inside to contain the ‘protesters’; but she knew very well they were controlled by the Legion of Darkness, bodies that were mere vehicles of the demon’s will they were tied to. The few officers left at the base were soon outnumbered, and a considerable amount of ‘marked’ people had entered, wreaking havoc left and right, but after a while they seemed to lose interest when they didn’t find any more people to attack.

She went out, hunkered down, trying to stay glued to the door and keeping her senses alert. She still heard the revolt outside and couldn’t afford to attract their attention. She needed to contact the others, but there was no signal in the phone, so she had to find a way to get out without being seen.

She heard a noise and quickly hid behind one of the desks, peering carefully above and finding herself face to face with a shadow that was leaning over her, so she let out a gasp before covering her mouth and dropping to the floor, her back touching the wall; the shadow loomed over her to hold her arms while she squirmed desperately.

“Shhhhh! Quiet, it’s me!” Lucianne opened her eyes when she heard the voice coming from the shadow that looked a lot like the smoke demon, and suddenly transformed into Mitchell. “Come on, I think I found a way to get us out of here.”


“What? This?” he said, metamorphosing again into the smoke demon. “I just thought that if they’re controlled by a demon, perhaps they would overlook me if I looked like one. It has worked so far. Let’s go, stay by my side. Perhaps they’ll believe I’ve taken you prisoner.”

She didn’t stop to question the plan, just wanted out of there, so she clung to him and let him take her arms behind her back as if escorting her. They went out the street and saw the chaos that had taken the place by storm. All of those who were controlled vandalized shops and buildings, smashed windows and doors, and the few people left unmarked were left to defend themselves with tooth and nails, just to be reduced after a brief struggle. Screams from the last standing police forces trying in vain to control the masses could still be heard in the distance. For every shot they heard, they had to stiffen and keep their charade since they couldn’t do anything to avoid the confrontation without getting caught.

At first some of the marked ones looked vacuously at them, as if some part of their brain would make the connection, but soon they seemed to lose interest and continued their task in destruction.

“Don’t mind me; I’m just a humble servant of evil taking a prisoner to his master,” Mitchell muttered while walking through groups of marked people, too busy picking up whatever they could find to throw at the windows. Lucianne kept silent all along, her face alert and a trail of sweat on her forehead while crossing the street, overrun by frantic persons who had reverted to a primitive state of savagery. “When we get to the passage, I think we can sneak inside the courthouse and find some other way out—”

Lucianne felt something pulling from her back as if Mitchell had stumbled, and when she turned around, she saw him lying on the floor with a figure sitting on top of him, threatening him with hands clenched into fists.

“Hurt her and you won’t live to tell about it, you freak,” Frank shouted about to punch him in the face.

“Wait, wait, it’s me!” Mitchell yelled, transfiguring again.

Frank hesitated for a couple of seconds, right before stamping a fist in his cheek anyway, though not with the same intensity he had intended first.

“That was for elementary school.”

“…Couldn’t you pick a better time to get even with old grudges?! We’re basically in the middle of the invasion of the body snatchers! That could wait!” Mitchell protested, rubbing his already reddening cheek.

“I waited ten years for that and I don’t regret anything,” Frank said, letting go of his collar and shaking his hands.

“…Guys,” Lucianne called them out, almost stepping on them when she retreated, and they looked up to see dozens of expressionless faces fixed on them. The two boys got up and stuck to each side of Lucianne, shoulder to shoulder, realizing they were surrounded.

“I told you this wasn’t the time,” Mitchell murmured.

“I still don’t regret anything,” Frank snorted, standing in a defensive pose and leaning on his right foot, so the asphalt started shaking and cracking in several directions.

“Frank, don’t. Remember they’re not demons.”

“I mean no harm to them. At least not permanently. Just follow my lead.”

He started running as soon as the horde was already over them, and every time his feet touched the asphalt, it formed mounds that stretched to the sides like Moses parting the Red Sea, creating a clear path forward to escape while the marked ones were on their heels, holding on to whatever they could grab, digging their nails into their exposed skin, leaving shreds hanging from their clothes and scratches on their arms and faces. They were forced to summon their armors to reduce the effects of the attacks. However, the horde didn’t seem to dwindle; there were even more emerging everywhere and blocking their way.

“Where do so many of them come from?! They’re like hydra heads: cut one and ten more will spring to replace it!” Mitchell said, pulling his limbs to get released as several hands tried to hold on to him; soon their path was closed, despite Frank’s efforts to shake the ground beneath their feet to keep them at bay.

The mob had surrounded them, and Frank had been gradually wearing out to the point of only being able to create small mounds to make them trip. They were in a desperate situation, and had already begun to consider punching their way out when the rows ahead of them suddenly began to split in two, with people thrown away through the air, getting closer to them until the marked ones that hold them were also ripped from their side, leaving an open path right in front of them where they saw a group of figures getting closer.

At the head of them was Belgina, repelling anyone who tried to approach them and, apparently, she’d been doing it for quite long since she looked about to collapse, but remained on her feet through sheer will. Vicky followed her closely, staying in the center of the group while Samael and Mankee stood at the end of the row, also struggling to prevent the marked ones to regroup behind them. Once they got to them, Belgina made two sweeping motions with her hands creating gusts of wind that pushed the group behind them, leaving enough distance between them and the marked ones gathering around.

“…You’re a goddess,” Mitchell sighed, staring spellbound at her.

Belgina’s face flushed red with a mixture of fatigue and embarrassment, and once her concentration was broken, it was like her power vanished immediately, giving the marked ones the chance to charge against them. However, Samael went ahead and created a barrier around them, just about the size they occupied, so they ended up trapped in a small bubble, leaving out dozens of marked people, crashing against it only to jump away once they felt the shock of positive energy through their bodies.

“The barrier won’t last for long,” Samael said, leaning to close their wounds with a quickly pass of his hand. “If we don’t do something soon, they’ll end up destroying the city. They’re more than I thought. I don’t understand how they managed to take control of so many without being detected.”

“What can we do? They’re still people after all; we’re not supposed to harm them even in self-defense,” Lucianne said.

“They have to be released of their control,” Samael replied, approaching the barrier to see how people threw themselves against it despite the effect on their bodies infected with dark energy. “…Mankee, you know it’s necessary. Only you can do it. Otherwise, the whole town will fall.”

Mankee languished motionless for several seconds, also watching the frantic beings launching themselves against the fragile layer protecting them; empty eyes and skin that seemed covered with stretching tattoos that changed shape while the dark energy flowed inside them.

“…It’s too much negative energy and too many carriers. I’ll die.”

“No, you won’t. Believe me. You have to trust a little bit more in your power,” Samael repeated, before turning again to them. “…I need to get to the auditorium. Marianne is there along with Addalynn. Lilith and Angie must have joined them already. Since I can’t sense her for a while, I’m confident that Demian is also there.”

“Say no more. Go to the auditorium; we’ll take care of this and we’ll get there when we’re finished,” Lucianne solved sympathetically.

“Once I’m gone the barrier will yield—”

“We’ll handle it,” she assured him, and even though the others seemed dubious, they echoed her decision.

“Be careful and remember they’re still innocent people controlled by the Legion of darkness. You must not harm them,” he gave a last look at them before taking a breath and transport himself out of there. The energy layer instantly began to crack like shattered glass and fell apart.

“…Well, does anyone have an idea?”

The rest of them looked at Lucianne with eyes popping out.

“What?! Did you tell him he could leave without even having a backup plan?!” Frank claimed while shards of wall fell on them.

“It was the right thing to do. His duty is to protect Marianne, he had to go with her.”

“And how does that help us survive?!”

The barrier already had several holes where the carriers introduced their arms, trying to get a hold of them like an army of hungry zombies, forcing them to stick together at the center, so they couldn’t reach them. Mankee gritted his teeth, trying to muster the courage he needed, until he stretched his arms and grabbed the ones in front of them. The owners immediately began to stir while the stained tattoos started accumulating at the end of their arms and transferred to him, absorbed by his own skin. Once he finished with those, he let go of them as they fell unconscious outside the cracking bubble and then continued touching the other limbs introducing through the cracks to repeat the process, but with every black spot transferred to his skin, his face became paler and sweatier, stains dancing around his skin like a lava lamp. The others looked worried at him, but didn’t dare to stop him until he did it himself, hunching with his hands resting on his knees.

“…I can’t breathe,” the boy panted like having something stuck in his throat, while the barrier crumbled into pieces.

Vicky took off one of her gloves and touched the layer, thinking maybe she could do something to close the holes, but its molecules just shifted from side to side, creating new holes and branches until it deformed.

“It’s coming down!” Lucianne warned them and they all gathered at the center, close together. The barrier finished cracking down and fell into pieces, allowing the horde of carriers to go for them. Belgina sent bursts right and left, trying to stop their advance, but while some were thrown by the wind, others were already passing over them to take their place. Frank tried to lift the area in a mound, but wasn’t fast enough for hands to claw their way through, searching for a handhold, digging into their skins despite their efforts to shake them off.

“…Mitchell, lift a barrier!” Belgina suddenly shouted, focused in her waning power. Mitchell looked surprised at her over Mankee’s shoulder while trying to hold him.


“A neutral barrier!” she repeated increasingly exhausted, scraping the last reserves of her power.

“But if I do, any of you will be able to use your powers…”

“We can’t use them anyway! Do as she says, you fool! It will buy us some time!” Frank seconded, his knees and arms trembling with the effort. Mitchell tried to straighten with Mankee’s weight over him, and stretched one arm, drawing an arc over their heads. An opaque layer rose around, enclosing them in another small dome which at least allowed them to take a break.

“Now what? Do we also wait for it to fall?” Mitchell asked, watching the marked ones clawing the bottom of the barrier. Frank had managed to lift the mound until almost two feet above ground level, but the carriers ended up using whoever they got in front to climb.

“Maybe when it falls, I can lift us a little more, and given some time I could even build a bridge to help us get through safely, I don’t know,” Frank said, leaning on his knees with bated breath.

Mankee slouched painfully, squeezing his chest, coughing nonstop and gasping for breath. Mitchell moved to hold him, but he refused, pulling away and staggering to the edge of the barrier, placing a hand on it to get a hold. The black spots invading his body began to swirl and form a single one, drawn like a magnet to his palm, and to everyone’s bewilderment, including Mankee himself, the stain began to transfer into the layer until getting out of his body and spreading across the dome, which got darker. Mankee immediately pushed away, the color back in his face; his eyes fixed on the darker dome around them. They all gathered at the center, looking confused at how the layer got so dark they couldn’t see through it anymore, they could only hear the slams from outside.

“What did you do, Mankee? Did you just infect my barrier with your demonic virus?”

“I-I don’t know. I just… leaned on it, that’s all,” Mankee said as if waiting for the barrier to come down on them or explode in their faces.

“…You don’t have the stains anymore,” Lucianne said, seeing his arms spot-free.

“I think… I think they transferred to the barrier somehow.”

Belgina’s face lit up as if a sudden thought crossed her mind.

“…We must break it,” she said decisively, although the others looked at her as if she’d gone mad.

“Break the only thing that protects us at the moment? What shall we do then? Will you make us fly over the rooftops? I hope you’ve got a bigger energy reserve than I, because if I can get this mound up just one inch, it will be a miracle.”

“It may not be necessary,” Belgina said, staring at her own calculations. “…Can you create a barrier around that excludes us?”

It took Mitchell a moment to realize she was talking to him; she’d been avoiding him for so long now that it was still hard for him to convince himself it wasn’t a dream.

“Uh… yes. Like a donut? I think I can do that.”

Belgina nodded, though immediately averted her gaze like reminding herself the terms they were in. That was enough for him to get him focused on what to do next. He approached the barrier while the others retreated to the center and then placed his hands on the layer cautiously, fearing the dark stain spread across it would now stick to him. But it didn’t, he felt nothing under his palms. This invigorated him to continue.

“Ready? Here I go,” Mitchell announced pressing his hands against the wall until it burst into pieces seconds later; every dark shard that crashed into the ground evaporated in a fumarole of acrid smoke that eventually dissipated into thin air.

There was no time to be surprised by it, soon they were surrounded by the group of carriers at their feet, climbing the mound to reach them, stepping on one another to achieve their goal. While Belgina used her last spurts of energy left to push them away from the edge, Mitchell closed his eyes for a second to visualize the shape of the barrier he intended to lift and then swept both arms around. The barrier rose around them, completing the round on the opposite side to form a small donut-shaped dome enclosing the nearest carriers and blocking the others. The guys watched the opaque layer that skirted them and the people trapped in there, hitting and throwing themselves against it with no regards.

“Now what?” Mankee asked after seeing the rest of the free carriers gradually finding a way to climb the barrier crawling over it to reach them.

“…Put your hand on the layer,” Belgina suggested, watching nervously how they climbed the walls, getting even closer.

Mankee took his hand hesitantly to the layer, but didn’t dare to settle it down, fearing what it might happen.

“Do it now before they get here!” Frank shouted, trying to lift the mound a little more.

Mankee watched the reflection of the bodies above the barrier, so he gave a sigh, trying to concentrate, putting his hands on the neutral barrier. The locked group stood still while the dark spots were extracted from their bodies, as if the layer exerted some kind of magnetism in them, until the barrier darkened entirely. He pulled away and stepped back, exchanging a puzzled look with the others. It had worked, despite not having the slightest idea of how was that possible.

“…Destroy it! Do it quickly!” Frank pushed Mitchell to the barrier after seeing the carriers crawling over the layer toward them, apparently unaffected by it. Not in the same way as the ones inside.

After losing a few seconds over the shock, Mitchell rushed to put his hands on the layer en pressed again to create a crack that spread all over it, shattering like glass and collapsing along the climbers. The dark shards vanished in wisps of black smoke once they touched the ground where several bodies lay unconscious, but free of the bruises.

“…It worked,” Mitchell muttered with an incredulous gasp.

“Let’s not waste any time. We need to free these people and then go to the auditorium,” Lucianne suggested, since the remaining marked ones started to reorganize.

“You heard it, vacuum hands! Get to work!” Frank gave Mankee a strong slap on the back to force him out of his reverie, and he started working on par with Mitchell; the latter trapped the nearest people under a neutral layer while Mankee absorbed the stains through the barrier. Within minutes there was already half a street full of unconscious bodies while the remaining carriers continued lunging against them, driven by the order they had seared in their minds to attack them. The others took turns to push away those who managed to creep up the mound; it was a grueling task ahead, but seeing the street clearing out was enough incentive to continue.

“Hey… something’s going on up there,” Vicky pointed at the courthouse’s balconies. A group of carriers came out through the doors, standing in line at the edge of the guardrail.

“…Don’t tell me they’ll start shooting. I don’t know if my barrier is bulletproof, but I don’t want to test it,” Mitchell remarked.

“Ignore whatever they’re doing up there and focus on those who are closer to us. Just a couple more and we may be able to leave,” Frank said, slapping the forehead of someone who had eschewed all obstacles to reach them, but soon they were all taken aback when another group came out the balcony, dragging people with burlaps over their heads.

They all stopped and looked up. The prisoners were stirring, struggling or simply stood still until their captors pulled the burlaps off their heads. A gasp came from their throats when they saw what was under those sacks.

“…Oh, no,” Lucianne muttered, covering her mouth after seeing her father at the end of the line, all tied up with his head leaning on his chest, unable to know if they had knocked him unconscious or he was still under the effects of the sleeping pill she had given him so Mitchell could take his place for a while.

Next to him, Belgina’s mother remained stoic, as if ready for the gallows, while Frank’s mother squirmed, trying to get loose. Beside her, Mitchell’s mother trembled with fear, her mouth moving in silent prayers while Kristania went from threats to pleas to let her go. There was also a little girl paralyzed with fear in the middle, her frightened eyes looking around, as if trying to convince herself it was all a nightmare. Lilit’s little sister.

“Those bastards…” Frank mumbled with clasped hands, and so tense he could almost feel his feet sinking into the asphalt. “They knew. They know everything about us. All of this assault on the streets was merely a ruse to get us.”

“What should we do? What will happen if we surrender?” Mankee asked, seeing the marked ones regaining their advantage around them.

“Start running,” Mitchell suggested, jumping from the mound and running toward the courthouse, imprisoning every carrier that crossed his path, and his eyes fixed on the balcony where his mother and sister were held captive.

The others went after him, following the little domes he was leaving behind, while Mankee touched them on their way. Their stares were on their relatives, so stressful and bewildered that they didn’t seem to look beyond the situation they were in.

Kristania saw the little figures approaching the building, four stories below the balcony. Her eyes narrowed, and her angled eyebrows became a straight line as she opened her mouth to express her confusion.

“What—?” whatever she was about to say was cut short by a shove in her back. Vertigo seized her as she felt the twirl her body made until completely losing her foothold. She went from looking at the ground to watching her captors’ expressionless faces further away. She was in free fall, her hands tied and without any possibility to get a hold from nowhere.

Mitchell watched horrified as his sister fell down, and the rest of the prisoners were next, pushed to the void amid screams of terror. Everything seemed to happen in slow motion; the groups of marked people finally overtook them and knocked Mitchell unconscious in the distraction. Belgina tried to use what was left of her power to cushion their fall, but her arms were trapped behind her back.

One by one, they were all reduced. Outnumbered and unable to fight. they could only watch in horror the trajectory of the bodies falling from the balcony before their view was totally blocked by the group of carriers closing around them, catching a final glimpse like the crack of a lightning through their visual field before everything went dark in the middle of a tangle of hands immobilizing them.

It hadn’t been longer than a minute of silence, though it seemed like an hour to them, gazing befuddled at those pair of black wings that made Dreyson look more threatening than ever. He had recovered his posture to rise imposingly with his wings outstretched above his head, and his chin lifted to show superiority.

“You look surprised,” he said, seeing Demian’s contorted expression. “I bet you didn’t even know the different levels we can reach with our power. You know so little about your own kind that you fail to go further than the second.”

“…Go get Addalynn and leave immediately,” Demian repeated without even turning around. He expected opposition and reluctance, but the girls seemed to detect something in his tone that they made no protests.

“Will you be alright?” Marianne asked hesitantly, a last trace of her usual rebellious nature.

“…Whatever happens to me doesn’t matter. I only need to know that you’re all safe,” he said, glancing at her, showing a fleeting smile that seemed exclusively for her, followed by a pleading look. “…Please.”

Marianne bit her lips to avoid saying out loud what it seemed to her: a suicidal act, a sacrifice. But she refused to think about that. She just nodded and signaled Lilith and Angie to follow her to the locker room, dragging Loui with them; however, they didn’t advance that much since a few feet from the door a couple of floodlights and beams fell in front of them, blocking their way.

“No one leaves until I say so!” Dreyson shouted, his tense hand lifted in the air, following the motion that had dropped the spotlights. “I’ll decide whoever leaves alive.”

Demian clasped his hands, and a wry smile appeared on his face as his memories of his encounter with the Angel Warriors were triggered.

“Let me tell you then what I was told once: That will NEVER happen.”

In the blink of an eye, he launched against him, embroiling in a lopsided fight from the start, due to the relative ease in which Dreyson could guess his movements and dodge them. As much as Demian used his power to keep his pace, he was out bettered and constantly repelled, slammed against the door, wounded and beaten. But he just cleaned the blood and took a breath before charging back again.

Marianne saw him getting stamped against the bleachers and stepped away from her friends as if intending to help him out.

“No,” Lilith said, holding her before she walked away from them. “He said he would take care of it, we must give him that vote of confidence. We have to get Addalynn.”

Marianne made a grimace before reluctantly continue their way, and then the three girls tried to set aside the beams that blocked the entrance.

“How’s that she got locked away?” Angie asked, pulling one of the beams on par with the others while Loui watched in awe the fight that was developing on the other end of the building.

“Shhhh, did you hear that?” Lilith interrupted them, and the three girls stopped to sharpen their ears in order to hear above the fight. There was a boxed buzz beneath all that noise, like an electric current trapped under a tombstone. The sound was growing louder, and Marianne’s eyes widened when she realized the origin.

“…Move away! Duck for cover!” Marianne warned them, tugging them and pushing her brother to the corner before the explosion occurred. They dropped to the floor, with their arms in front of them like that could protect them, but when they heard the explosion without feeling the wave that should have followed it, they ventured to lift their faces and saw Samael standing in front of them, holding a protective layer that had prevented the effects of the explosion.

“Are you okay?” he asked once he considered it was safe to dispel de barrier. Marianne looked at him as if he were an apparition until finally letting out a long sigh.

Samael turned around, looking for clues of what happened, but the cloud of dust after the explosion prevented him from seeing beyond their perimeter, until he could make out silhouettes on the other side as the dust began to clear. Dreyson and Demian, deep in their own fight, even though it was clear that the first one was in the lead.

“It was Dreyson,” Marianne said answering an untold question. “…It was Dreyson all along. The amber-eyed demon, the origin of those bruises. Everything comes from him.”

“I know now. I remembered everything while I was gathering the others. Once I discovered him, he didn’t even try to pretend anymore; he ordered the two guys to grab me and then he attacked me directly without giving me time to react. I really thought I was going to die. It was hard for me not to leave everything aside to come for you.”

“But that’s not all, you know? He’s not just another demon like the ones we’ve faced before,” Marianne continued while they all shook the rubble off them. “He’s Dark Angel’s son, his firstborn, which makes him—”

“Demian’s brother,” Samael completed her sentence, the tension in his face increasingly overt.

The dust finally settled and they all saw a figure standing before a large opening in the wall, wisps of energy glistening around her body. Addalynn, glanced around until setting her eyes at the other end of the auditorium. Demian was thrown against the boards once again, smashing the floor. He struggled back to his feet anyway, exhausted and badly wounded. Marianne made an attempt to run and help him, but Samael stopped her.

“Wait,” he said, noticing Addalynn had stretched an electrified arm toward Dreyson, firing a lightning once she had a free shot.

Dreyson hunched forward, splattering Demian with dark blood. His body started to convulse by shockwaves while Demian only watched, disturbed, until he straightened up again and pulled his hand away from his chest, revealing a hole that was already starting to close. Dreyson watched the perforation and laughed as if it were just a tickle despite the blood. He then turned to Addalynn with folded wings.

“Did you just try to kill me with that?”

She didn’t answer, but neither was surprised at his quick recovery. Dreyson spread his wings making his intention very clear. He moved swiftly toward her, and although Samael managed to stop his advance by interposing between them, he didn’t have time to raise a protective barrier, and Dreyson only had to shove him to the floor, holding Addalynn’s shoulder with his amber eyes fixed on her, and yet she didn’t flinch, just stared back with a defiant glare, letting her charged body to unload all her energy against him, even though he seemed to resist.

His body stiffened to withstand the shock, until there wasn’t any shred of electricity in her body, and even then, she remained unfazed. She just lifted her chin and looked down at him with her sparkling blue eyes.

“…Amber-eyed demons should be eradicated,” she spluttered, as if repeating the instructions of a manual by heart.

“You can try all you want,” Dreyson replied, applying more strength to his grip to subdue her. “I still need you alive, so step aside and don’t interfere again.” He pinned her against the wall; iron rods gushed from the base of the foundation to immobilize her.

A change in the air flow alerted him to turn around and stop the strike Samael intended with his hand covered in a layer shield. Dreyson kept his grip on his wrist while twisting his hand, watching it with fascination.

“Ingenious. But it won’t work with me.” Samael yelled when his wrist cracked; he could feel his bones splintering while Dreyson increased the pressure. He then released him and took him by the throat, lifting him to his height. “I almost killed you once. I can do it again with my eyes closed.”

A stinging and burning sensation in his back forced him to let go of him and turn around. Marianne was clutching the handle of her sword after stabbing him with it as close to his heart as she could, and although the armor covering his body and the position of his wings had cushioned the impact, the blade penetrated enough to hurt him bad.

She strongly pulled her sword out and stared back at him with a snarl, while the blade burned with a reddish glow.

Dreyson twisted his body to touch the wound. It wasn’t closing and he felt the skin burning at the contact, and yet he dared to smile as if she had done exactly what he expected from her.

“This doesn’t change anything,” he said, twisting his shoulders and back as if the wound was nothing but a nuisance, a simple muscle tear and done.

Suddenly something jumped on his back and he began to shake like a mechanical bull to get rid of it. But Angie had taken a hold of him, reaching her bare hand to his face, and when she finally got to touch him with the tip of her fingers, she let go, dropping to the floor and making a swift movement with her arms to try to control him like a puppet. Dreyson’s arms moved a few inches while he struggled to keep them rigid, his face concentrated in breaking the link. Angie’s body shook with the effort, but within seconds it all foundered. Dreyson suddenly stretched his arms, forcing Angie to make a move that threw her to the floor. All the while, Marianne was recoating her blade with another layer of Lilith’s fire, but before they could react, the smoke demon went through Lilith, emerging on the other side with a glowing sphere in his hands, while Marianne was immobilized from the back. Glancing over her shoulder she could see the dark bruises around the woman’s eyes, almost invading her sclera. The woman Dreyson had been posing as his mother —perhaps it was real Dreyson’s mother, she couldn’t discard it.

“That was a ballsy move. Don’t try it again or there will be consequences,” Dreyson said, moving the shoulders and his neck as if it would numb the wound in his back, while the smoke demon hovered around, juggling Lilith’s gift. He then leaned on the floor and picked up the sword, its blade still glowing with a reddish tone. “…But appreciate the gesture. Now it’s time to erase the mistake that should have never been born.”

Marianne watched in horror while he walked towards Demian, who was trying to get on his feet, spitting blood and holding from the cracked wall behind him.

“You can’t! That’s my sword! Give it back!” Marianne yelled, squirming between the woman’s rigid arms; the evil bruises seemed to give her extraordinary strength.

“Is it?” Dreyson replied, turning his face to her with a strange smile.

Marianne wriggled, trying to invoke the force she had previously released, but she seemed worn out.

“…I know you think he’s your son, but he’s not,” she whispered, trying to reason with the woman. “He’s an impostor. He’s been posing as your son all this time when the real one has been found in your backyard. And I don’t doubt that he was responsible for it, you understand? He murdered your son and took his place!”

The woman’s body trembled, letting out a yelp of rage from her damaged vocal cords, while the stains danced on her skin, darkening even more. Marianne took advantage of her distraction to apply all her weight on her feet, swaying forward with the woman in tow and trying to make a move that seemed more akin to a Greco-Roman way of wrestling, but just as she was getting the balance to tilt to her side, she felt added weight that made her stumble. Loui had jumped on the woman’s back with the intention to get her off his sister, but instead complicating things for her.

The struggle lasted just a couple of seconds before Marianne’s legs gave way and tried to fall over to the side, taking a good blow to her head when it bounced on the ground. Her sight was filled with white dots and her audition closed for a moment. She saw a shadowy figure in front of her with a canned voice she couldn’t understand until it gradually cleared, feeling a gentle pat on the cheek.

“Marianne! Can you hear me?” Samael was holding her back with one hand while the other tried to close the wound on her temple. When her gaze refocused and looked sidelong at the unconscious bodies of Loui and the woman, she opened her eyes wider and sat up with a start.

“Demian! My sword!”

He was on the other side, trying to avoid the sword wielded by Dreyson despite already having a deep cut on the side, which he tried to cover with his hand to stop the bleeding. Marianne almost jumped to her feet, but Samael stopped her with a sign and then stretched out his arm towards them, forming a layer above that locked them. He knew Demian would be affected too by the heavy positive energy he had imprinted in the barrier, but there was no other solution at the time; at least it would buy them some time while they gathered strength. That was his improvised short-term plan, but his confidence was shattered when they saw Demian falling on his knees with an agonized expression while Dreyson remained standing with no shred of pain in his face, even worst, he was smiling like a private joke.

“Why doesn’t it work on Dreyson? What’s going on?”

“I don’t… I don’t know. I don’t get it.” Samael replied, as puzzled as her. He was a demon and all demons were susceptible to positive energy, but they hadn’t even perceived his presence all this time, not once. This was beyond good camouflage; he seemed like a different kind of demon. “…He must be somehow immune.”

With a triumphant look, Dreyson turned to them with a smirk, making sure they were watching. He squeezed the hilt of the sword and maneuvered it towards Demian, who couldn’t even get on his feet.

“Vanish the barrier! Undo it quickly!” Marianne urged him after seeing the maniacal gleam in Dreyson’s eyes.

Samael rushed a motion with his hand, and as the barrier disappeared, she reached out just as urgently. The sword was already over Dreyson’s head, his wings folded to his back and a pernicious smile, eager for violence.

He gathered momentum, but right before lowering the blade, it was snatched away from his hands and flew back to Marianne, who pointed it threateningly at him. He only laughed and leaned over Demian, lifting him up until his feet were off the ground. He then turned him towards her in provocation.

“I don’t need no sword for this,” he said with a shrug and his hand pierced through Demian’s chest. His eyes opened wide while gasping for air, clinging to the arm that held his neck and the one protruding from his chest.

“No!” Marianne yelled, pressing the hilt of her sword; in a split second she was already dodging debris and holes in the floor with her sword ready.

Dreyson was waiting for her with his head still turned, pleased to have achieved his purpose, so he didn’t foresee Demian pulling strength he didn’t know he still had inside and using his distraction to break his forearm with his own hands, with such a savagery unbeknownst to him that tore it apart.

Dreyson stepped back, mildly surprised, as if he were only pushed instead of being torn out of his arm. Demian stood there, with his feet firmly planted in the floor, throwing down the limb and fixing his eyes on him with a frantic expression, his chest going up and down at short intervals. Marianne looked shocked at the savage glint that made his eyes spark with an intense blue, as if about to transform into a beast and jump over Dreyson to tear him up in pieces.

“Go now!” he shouted in a voice that sounded graver than normal, and it took Marianne a moment to understand that he was talking to them.

“Why?” Dreyson asked with the same control in his voice as if he were in the middle of a conversation. As he spoke, the torn remnants of his stump began to braid and rebuilt his lost arm. “Do you fear that they will see you as you really are? I think that ship has sailed long ago.”

“This only concerns to us, I don’t want anyone else involved,” Demian snapped. His body trembled in restrain. But his estranged brother simply tilted his head sideways, as if hearing something in the distance.

“…Too late. The guests have arrived.”

They heard noises outside, multiple footsteps, the creak of wood being hit and a banging on the door so strong that shook the boards under their feet. Marianne and Samael exchanged concerned glances.

“I suppose you could use some help,” Dreyson added, raising his new grown hand, and after moving the fingers to confirm its correct functionality, he made a sweeping motion to move away all the obstacles that blocked the door to give access through it.

The banging from outside became more intense until the door finally buckled, allowing the entrance of a large group of people whose blank expressions made them look like the army of the dead. They gradually began to identify some of their classmates; the bruises spread all over their faces and other parts of their bodies.

They trooped in almost a militarized rhythm, invading all the space from the entrance to them and blocking every possible exit. The rows divided once they stopped, and another group came through them, halting at the front and dropping some things to the ground that turned out to be their friends, strongly tied, and with visible wounds.

Marianne wanted to step forward, but Samael held her still. The guys ventured to lift their heads and look around: the shattered floor, several torn stands, broken reflectors and collapsed beams. Addalynn was caught between iron rods protruding from the wall, while Angie tried to push herself up, holding from the rods. And beyond them were the motionless bodies of Lilith, Loui and some unknown woman.

“…Well, I guess we were not the only ones with technical difficulties,” Frank said lightly, spitting blood on the floor.

“Let them go! Let’s end this just the two of us!” Demian said.

“Where would be the fun in that?” Dreyson snapped with a mischievous smile, and with a snap of his fingers, the marked army resumed the march now towards the free ones.

Demian barely took a step, and a force dragged him down the floor, stamping him against the wall. Soon, Dreyson’s forearm was pressing the back of his neck.

“Oh, no. You and I still have unfinished business.”

Angie squirmed against her captors while Lilith and Loui were simply lifted from the floor like rag dolls. Marianne and Samael were surrounded, but as much as she tried to keep them at bay with her sword, or pushing them with her power, they kept piling up and moving in hordes.

“…I guess you won’t have some last-minute plan to get us out of this mess, will you?” Marianne murmured with her back to Samael.

“We have to release the others first. Take my hand.”

She did and soon they were transported behind their friends. Marianne tried to repel the nearest marked ones, and Samael calculated enough space to raise a barrier to enclose them. The unfortunate bruise-carriers holding them collapsed, like struck by lightning, writhing in pain.

“Quick, they won’t withstand the effects for long,” Samael dragged one of them near the edge of the layer and pushed it out through an opening; the others followed suit, while Mankee absorbed their bruises to stop their pain.

“Quick resume to catch up: we were outnumbered, they went straight for us and held our families hostages,” Mitchell said while pushing one of the bodies. “And if we add our failure to defend ourselves with the 100% of our power, we didn’t stand a chance.”

“Your families? What did they do to them?” Marianne asked and although they all seemed reluctant to talk about it, Belgina finally answered.

“…They were thrown from one of the courthouse’s balconies when we were surrounded, but… there was something else. Like a blur that cracked beneath them, diverting their path, as if I would have used my power to save them. That was the last thing I saw. But I’m sure they didn’t touch the ground,” she said, even if the rest seemed unconvinced.

“We’ll go back for them, but we must get out of here alive. All of us.”

“That means we have to finish that guy. The cause of all this mess.”

Frank leaned against the wall to look over the heads of the group that surrounded them to see Demian and Dreyson fighting as if they were the only two in the place.

“I knew there was something wrong with that weirdo.”

“How could we beat him?” Lucianne asked.

“Positive energy doesn’t affect him, it’s like he’s immune to it,” Samael explained, sealing the layer again after pushing out the last body. “…There’s not much that we can do. We don’t know the limits of his power. The only one that can face him is Demian. But maybe we could turn the balance to his favor.”

“Let’s do that then,” Marianne interjected, looking through the barrier. “…Let’s make it difficult to him.”

“Don’t move. I’ll try to be as careful as possible,” Vicky said as she approached Addalynn, pulling one of her gloves and moving her bare fingers with hesitation before touching one of the metal rods.

It immediately began to sprout roots and the structure transformed, varying in thickness and arrangement until the iron rods holding Addalynn eventually fell apart and released her. Vicky let go of the structure and the girl jump from it, unscathed. Addalynn just rubbed her joints and neck and locked her eyes on the fight unfolding at the other end of the auditorium.

“…I must tell him,” she whispered, and Vicky mumbled a dubious “Huh?”, though Addalynn didn’t seem to take notice of her, just kept talking to herself. “…At least he should know he can defeat him.”

Vicky was more confused than ever, but before she could ask her, the girl broke into a run toward the chaos, electrifying whoever got in her way.

“Vicky!” Angie called her, pointing behind her. “The boy!”

She turned around and saw three kids holding Loui, as if threatening to tear him apart if anyone approached. She left her hand exposed and touched the splintered floor, so it began to rearrange and grow like some kind of ivy wood, reaching them and curling up their feet, causing them to eventually release the boy.

The child stumbled forward in his rush to put some distance between them, and Vicky reached out to him, but remembered she had her left hand ungloved, so she just stretched the other.

“I got you. Stay near me and everything will be fine, okay?”

Loui just nodded with a frantic movement and eyes on the floor, trying to hide his flushed face, even though Vicky didn’t seem to notice; she just smiled and patted him on the head.

“Good boy. Now let’s get away from—”

Before she could finish, she collapsed on the floor, followed by a smoke figure emerging from her chest with a glowing orb in its hands, ascending in spiral. Loui looked up, dumbfounded. Everything seemed unreal while watching the demon going down again towards him, and his only reaction was to hunker down. Seconds before the impact, a bubble closed around the demon, trapping it in the air, a few feet from the boy.

The wraith looked confused and tried to go through the bubble and leave its confinement, but the layer reacted, electrifying it inside. It looked like a cloud charged with lightning.

Samael stood a few feet away, his arms lifted to hold it firmly, his hands wrapped around an empty space, as if holding an invisible bubble. With his eyes fixed on the demon, he slowly closed the distance between his hands, and the bubble also began shrinking on par with it, reducing the free space inside.

“He’s got Lilith and Vicky’s gifts!” Angie shouted while dragging Lilith’s body next to Vicky, and struggling to keep the marked students out, while Loui didn’t dare to move from where he was, watching everything with eyes so wide he seemed in shock.

“Not for long,” Samael replied, reducing the size of the bubble even more. A streak of sweat poured down his forehead as he watched the demon stirring desperately inside, shrieking at each touch of the layer. Its smoke body was undergoing some changes, condensing as more time passed, transforming into some kind of mud creature. Its hands holding the glowing orb looked like melted claws, and when it had no more space to fidget, compressed inside the bubble, the next change took place upon the prolonged touch of the layer; the creature solidified and dried out into dust, so the gift dropped in freefall through the barrier without resistance.

“Hold it!”

Loui barely realized that the angel was talking to him and rushed forward to catch the sphere before it hit the ground. He watched it puzzled in his hands and lifted his face to wait for more instructions, but Samael was busy, so the only thing he could think of was to crawl back to Vicky, and after analyzing the orb, wondering what to do, he finally decided to just let it over her chest. It instantly shone when it made contact with her. The gift was absorbed and Vicky’s chest swelled with a strong desperate gasp for air. She looked around with frightened eyes and touched her chest to make sure she wasn’t hurt.

“The other one!” Samael screamed and they both looked up at the shrinking bubble, slowly crushing the smoke demon that now looked like a dying creature, spewing another glowing sphere from its jaws while the layer crushed its body. Just like the previous one, it went through the barrier without resistance and began its rapid descent toward the ground. Loui launched again to catch it, but once it fell into his hand, the floor began to shake so hard it slipped through his fingers and rolled away from him.

The angel struggled to keep his balance and not let the demon escape —which at that point was a shapeless and bubbly drying mush as the bubble closed around it—, but then he heard an uproar that shook the place, so strong that a long crack spread all over the floor, opening a deep gap below.

They heard yells from the other side, bodies lying in the ground and slipping to the hole. Vicky staggered, seeking a foothold, but ended up also slipping into the gap. She was swinging at the edge and glanced down, unable to see anything but broken structures and darkness that swallowed everything. Her hand was slipping, and soon realized she wasn’t going to make it. She braced herself for the fall, and when she couldn’t hold herself anymore, Loui grabbed her just in time with both hands, only to be dragged himself into the hole. And yet he refused to let go of her, squeezing her hand with all his might.

Samael reduced the bubble to the size of a gift, fully darkened, and when he realized their difficulties, he made a last quick motion with his hands to close them, causing the bubble to collapse, scattering its contents that were now nothing but ashes. Then he approached the edge of the hole and held Loui by the legs before he ended up falling and kept pulling until they were back to safety, away from the border.

“Are you okay?” he asked, and the boy just nodded, pale and enfeebled on the floor. Another scream at the opposite end alerted the angel. “…Stay together and get everyone you can out of here!”

As he left, Loui gave a long breath, and when he saw movement out of the corner of his eye, he noticed that he was still holding Vicky’s hand. He was paralyzed as she sat up and lifted her face toward him, exhausted but relieved.

“My little hero,” she said with a smile, causing the boy to almost suffocate by all the blood pounding in his face. “We can’t stay here. There’s still much left to do.”

Loui thought his legs wouldn’t respond, but still jumped up to help her up, his hand stiff around hers. Vicky propelled herself up, accepting the child’s help, and while she shook the dust off her, she realized the hand she was using was the gloved one. She looked terrified at the hand that the kid had been grabbing.

“Is-Is your hand fine?” she asked, fearing the worst as he kept them behind his back. The kid was still silent, but eventually forced himself to show his hands. Vicky looked bewildered at them; apart from a few scratches and bruises, they were still intact to her surprise. Hesitant and cautious at first, she took his hands once again to his amazement, and when nothing happened, she gave out an incredulous giggle. “…Is it possible? Is it finally under control?”

A few feet away, Lilith’s gift had rolled up to her body, reacting at the single contact and being absorbed by it right away. She arched her back and straightened up with a surge, with her terrified eyes wandering around as if still immersed in a nightmare, starting to yell out of a sudden. Angie stopped dragging one of the unconscious bodies away from danger and turned to her.

Lilith was shaking her head in desperation, shooting fireballs around in a fit of panic. It took her seconds to control herself and remember where she was, but it was too late by then: one of her fireballs had struck Vicky’s back. She collapsed on the floor while Loui stood to one side, stunned, and still holding her hand, watching befuddled the charred circle on her back and the smoke rising above her body.

“…No, no, no.” Lilith muttered as she realized what she had done. Nightmarish scenes besieged her mind. The voices knew, they warned her, but she didn’t listen. And now it was done, they were telling the truth: she was a murderer.

She got up, staggering, and gave a few steps before coming to a full stop; she didn’t dare to approach. There was still chaos around, but at that moment she could only think of Vicky lying motionless on the floor. Angie examined her vital signs while Loui was still shocked, clinging to her hand.

“It-it wa-was an a-accident, I—” Lilith tried to explain while sobbing, but her voice broke before even continuing. She couldn’t stay after that. How could she look them in the eyes?

Loui suddenly winced as he felt a squeeze in his hand, and his arm stiffened when Vicky started to get up upon their astonished gazes.

“…What was that?” she asked, and Angie examined her back, shaking off the dust after the impact.

“Y-You are okay… I-I thought you—” Lilith stammered, unable to believe her eyes.

“Looks like the armor received the whole impact. Her back is unharmed,” Angie informed after making sure the charred spot was only superficial.

“Can anyone explain what happened?” Vicky insisted, and before she could give a step, Lilith launched at her, sobbing, and holding her as she had never done.

“I’m so glad you’re okay! I wouldn’t have been able to forgive myself! It was an accident, I’m sorry!”

Vicky just patted her on the back, surprised at her reaction, until another shake of the floor took them back to the reality unfolding around them. They needed to finish the job and clear the place as soon as possible, so they turned to the source of all the chaos at the other end of the auditorium and wondered if they could get everyone out before the damaged structure would collapse.

Addalynn dodged anyone across her path, going past her teammates while they tried to release all the people controlled by the stains. Marianne and Belgina used their powers to gather everyone they could, so Mitchell and Mankee could take them on.

“Where are you going?!” Marianne asked when she ran past her, but she didn’t reply, her attention was fixed on her goal at the other end. “…Belgina, can you handle the rest?!”

Belgina turned to her with a haggard face. She was obviously having difficulties keeping her power up, but she was still giving her all. She merely nodded with an exhausted expression, taking only a few seconds to lean on her knees before turning around and blasting away another couple of marked people. Marianne felt guilty about leaving her alone with that task given how they kept getting inside like cockroaches through the door. She gathered all the strength she could and swept around with her arms to channel her power, bringing together tens of marked people to one single side.

“There! Take care of them!” she said to Mitchell and Mankee. Still dizzy from the effort, she followed Addalynn steps, only to come across a huge dome that seemed made of polarized glass, though they could still see through. Demian and Dreyson were inside, the former increasingly weary and weakened, but still determined to resist the attacks. It took Marianne a second to realize that Addalynn, Frank and Lucianne were on the edge of the barrier a few feet from her, unable to access it.

“We can’t do anything, the layer repels us,” Lucianne explained while Frank kept kicking the layer, only receiving electric shocks in response. “Nothing can get pass it.”

“Dreyson,” Marianne snapped, a bitter taste in her mouth just to pronounce his name. He wanted to make sure that no one could help Demian. However, Lucianne shook her head, ignoring Frank’s monumental tantrum at her side.

“It was Demian,” she clarified to her surprise. “He said he didn’t want us to intervene and raised the barrier, so we couldn’t get any closer.”

Marianne winced to hear that and settled her gaze on the two guys, trying to think of a way to get through the barrier.

“Is it true? That guy… demon, or whatever he is… It’s his brother?”

Marianne nodded gravely, thinking of the times she had noticed some resemblance between them, but eventually discarded it, assuming it was due to Dreyson’s apparent obsession to follow in Demian’s footsteps and take his place, but now she knew. He believed it was his right. He was chasing what he thought belonged to him as the firstborn, the rightful place that had been taken from him. It was all he knew, after all. And even though Demian would rather ignore everything involving the Legion of Darkness, there would always be that unquenchable connection. At least while he was still alive.

“He’s gonna kill him,” Addalynn suddenly said as if echoing Marianne’s thoughts. “If he doesn’t do it first, that demon will kill him.”

“He’s doing what he can,” Lucianne replied.

“No, he isn’t,” Addalynn assured, and Marianne turned to Demian. He was exhausted, panting, seriously injured, staring at Dreyson with an expression that she had already seen before when they confronted him once, except that he had a different plan at the time.

“…It’s his brother,” Marianne murmured. “He abhors him; he represents part of his life he wishes erased, but nevertheless, he sees himself in him, in what he would have become. Somehow… he feels responsible for him and what he does.”

Addalynn turned to her in a way that seemed to agree with her, though Marianne would rather be wrong, because it meant Demian wouldn’t dare to kill Dreyson without fairly meeting the same fate.

They suddenly heard a crash; Demian had been thrown to the ground from a considerable height and Dreyson flew up again, preparing for another onslaught. Demian quickly rose to his feet, but when he looked askance and discovered Marianne’s presence, he hesitated. Those few seconds of doubt were enough for Dreyson to take him unaware.

He soared with folded wings and crushed him, burying his claws on his shoulders. Demian only let out a scream, trying to lift his arms, but they were nailed against the shattered floor.

Marianne desperately wanted to charge against the layer, but Frank stopped her before she could get hurt.

“The sword!” Addalynn said urgently and Marianne got loose from Frank, making her sword appear with a quick motion and lunging against the barrier, only to be rejected.

Addalynn approached her while she looked frustrated at the barrier and took the blade in her hands without a word. Power chips went through it to Marianne’s surprise, and when she stepped away, the blade remained electrified.

“Do it now,” said the girl, pointing at the barrier, and Marianne didn’t waste time wondering if it would work this time. She brandished the sword again and struck a blow against the layer, creating a reaction like a clash between two opposing currents of energy, and the layer instantly faded.

Frank saw the opportunity he was waiting and ran towards them; the floor was shaking as if giving giant steps. He launched onto Dreyson’s back, trying to get to his neck, but he only waved his wings to shake him off. However, he barely touched the floor and was already charging again, this time removing the floor below to create protrusions that pierced through him without even caring if that also hurt Demian in the process.

Dreyson spread his broad wings again and shook them to knock Frank out, focusing on Demian.

Shortening the distance, Lucianne pointed at him and started shooting lasers beams, trying to stabilize her shaky hand to not miss any shot, piercing his wings, though its holes slowly regenerated. Dreyson shook again, tired of interruptions. He looked over his shoulder and made a motion with his hand, gathering shadows under Lucianne to immobilize her. A sharp pain on the opposite side caused him electric shocks throughout his body, and his wings flapped defensively as an automatic response to ward off his attacker, and Marianne was thrown to the ground a few feet away, leaving half blade stuck between his ribs.

Demian took strength he believed lost, and with a grunt, he grabbed one of Dreyson’s wings and tore it apart. He then drew the sword from his ribs and pushed him away, using his legs as a lever. Once freed, he got up with raw wounds in his arms, and staggered toward Marianne.

“Are you okay?”

Marianne leaned on her elbows and stroke her cheek. One of the wings had left her a cut and a contusion in her forehead after dropping to the floor.

“…I think I’ll survive,” she said, wiping the blood from her face. Demian helped her up and felt again an electric flux running through his skin like a chill. She noticed the concern in his face, even though he looked in a much worse condition than her.

For a moment she felt blood rushing to her cheeks, but fearing it would leak through the cut, she gently let go and tried to focus their priorities.

“…We don’t stand a chance with him, right?” she asked, trying to be practical and objective. Demian winced in a way that could be due to the pain or the fact that they had reached to the same conclusion. “…We can stop it. We’ll do everything in our power to help you defeat him. But you have to let us do it.”

“No. Just knowing you are close and that you might become his target at any moment keeps me unfocused. Don’t you get it? You need to leave.”

Marianne scowled at his refusal, but she wouldn’t give up.

“Look around you. We’ve been targets since the beginning, so we’re already involved whether you like it or not. Let us help because we’ll do it either way, even if you refuse.”

Demian held her gaze with the same intensity as her, and even he would rather have her out of the way, he knew very well that she wasn’t going to stop. She would find a way to intervene. She always did.

A scream caught their attention. Addalynn had made her way to Dreyson and sank her hands in the deep wound on his side to then shock him with her power, getting wrapped in an electric tangle that didn’t seem to affect her. She waited a few seconds and jumped back, turning quickly towards them to finish the job while he was still vulnerable.

“Come on! You have to finish this before he recovers!” Marianne shook Demian’s shoulder urgently and he hunched in pain. “I’m—I’m sorry! I forgot for a moment!”

“Never mind,” he said, straightening back and focusing on Dreyson. His shoulders were still regenerating at a rate that seemed to depend on the physical damage and his reserves in general, so there was no point in worrying about it for now. It was Dreyson he had to deal with. There he was, with a torn wing, stricken by the force of lightning and multiple injuries, but it wasn’t until then that the sum of all seemed to take its toll. Incidentally, that was the moment he saw himself in him the most.

“Do it now! Don’t get distracted!”

Demian planted his feet to keep balance and raised his hands, concentrating all his energy between them, shining with a neon glow.

“Get away as much as you can. I’m so tired I don’t know how much control is left on me,” Demian asked, putting his hands together before opening them and letting out a powerful dark beam that shot straight to Dreyson while he was still trying to get up, with his torn wing weighing him down.

He barely had time to raise his arm to protect himself when the impact happened. There was a brief burst of light that forced them all to cover their eyes. When they opened them again, Dreyson was still there, kneeling, and unharmed, staring at the woman standing right in front of him after receiving the impact meant to him.

Dreyson’s mother —the real one albeit— stood motionless, with arms outstretched in a protective gesture, free of the stains she had before, except for a new one stretching from the hole in her chest, searing her skin while expanding in all directions. The woman turned slowly and looked at her son’s substitute. Her skin was turning gray at a quick pace as the stain expanded, deteriorating, and consuming her. She reached out to Dreyson with blackened fingers, trying to caress his face, but at the bare touch they became ashes. That was enough for the rest of her body to begin dissolving into dust. Her teary face was the last thing to vanish from her, with one last smile swept by the wind.

Demian was appalled, his arms paralyzed in the same position, while Marianne covered her mouth, baffled. That woman had sacrificed herself for Dreyson despite being released from his control. Why? He had murdered her family. What had propelled her to give her life for him? And that last loving expression… Was there possibly something redeemable about him that they hadn’t seen yet?

Dreyson finally got up with an unsettling calm in the middle of a disturbing silence. His wings folded in his back while his own demon blood regenerated his torn appendix, and once he straightened up, he lifted his face and gave Demian a glare sparked with hatred.

Demian looked beyond shocked, now undoubtedly responsible for the dead of an innocent woman. Before Marianne could shout anything to make him react, a swift gust passed to her side and smashed him into the wall.

Once the dust cleared, Dreyson was holding him by the neck with renewed nerve and a bleak expression.

Before they could go to his aid, the floor began to shake with increasing intensity to the point of fracture, opening cracks in all directions and forcing them to stop for balance. Once the floor settled, they saw it was completely cracked, forming several seemingly deep holes. Demian and Dreyson had been isolated in a section, only held by the foundation.

“…You still think you’re above me?” Dreyson muttered through clenched teeth and a face that accentuated the dazzling golden wrath of his eyes. “You’ve killed, and I know it’s not the first time. Don’t pretend to act under the guise of virtue. You’re not better than me in that regard.”

“…You cared for her,” Demian said, unable to hide his consternation while Dreyson held him against the wall. The material of his suit surely was tough, otherwise he would have crushed his neck by then. “That woman— You really cared for her.”

Dreyson’s face contorted again, and he tightened his grip.

“I should have killed you when I had the chance, when you were just a baby,” he spat the words, lowering him to the height of his face. Demian recalled the amber eyes preying on him, reliving the feeling of suffocation now that he was strangling him. “And I would have made it if not for your mother.” Demian’s eyes widened and fixed them on him.

“My mother— Where… Where is she?” he asked, as if suddenly forgetting he was trying to choke him. A mischievous glint appeared in Dreyson’s eyes, drawing out a crooked smile on his face. He moved closer to his ears until he could hear his breathing.

“…She’s dead. Because of me.”

The words were enough to cloud Demian’s reason. He began to shake like a pressure pot about to explode.

“You really thought you would meet her someday,” Dreyson added, enjoying his reaction. “Well, don’t worry. Thou shalt make her company soon.” The muscles of his arms tightened to apply more force in his hands, surrounded by a halo of dark energy. However, Demian threw back his head to gain momentum, and slammed it against his face.

Dreyson finally let go and staggered back, but Demian gave him no chance to recover. With a yell of rage, he charged against him, forgotten already the place they were in and the people around them, dragging him to the edge of one of the wider holes after the quake and hurling himself, clung to him.

“No!” Marianne yelled, running to the opposite end of the hole, and kneeling to try and see something in the darkness. Samael appeared a few feet from her and held her shoulder to prevent her from falling. “…I didn’t hear what he said to him. He suddenly lost his mind and lunged at him… I think he knew about the hole.”

Samael peered cautiously, trying to glimpse something down there, and suddenly he pulled Marianne away from the edge. A gust of wind whipped them and pushed them away. Dreyson was flying off, struggling to get rid of Demian, still clung to him, trying by all means to take him down by attacking straight to his face, his most vulnerable part. Once they were out of the hole, Dreyson changed direction and headed to the bottom stage, throwing himself as a cannonball with Demian upfront, so he would receive the most damage in the crash. The structure shattered upon the impact, and everybody was forced to shield themselves from debris and pieces of wood and metal raining down on them. Dreyson flew up again, clearing the dust from the point of impact but moving erratically, as if the blow had also left him reeling.

Marianne ran towards the broken stage, but Samael stopped her when he saw Dreyson launching against Demian once more to then rise again, several feet up to the ceiling.

“…He’ll do the same until exhaustion,” Samael said. “We can’t risk approaching him, it could be us too.”

“We can’t leave him!” Marianne replied, loosening, and resuming her way.

She jumped holes and dodged torn down structures until getting to Demian, who struggled to his feet.

“You need to stay away,” he said when he saw her pushing away rubble and broken pieces to reach him.

“I told you we won’t abandon you,” she said unflinching, but not even five seconds had passed when Demian made a sudden motion with his hand and Marianne was pushed by an invisible force, away from the area. Dreyson was launching again, falling onto him.

“That was very reckless of you!” the angel chided her, although she was too distracted watching Dreyson already going up again.

“…Come on, you have to move away from there,” Marianne murmured while Demian sat up with increasing difficulty. Addalynn suddenly joined them, staring at him.

“Take me to him.”

Samael looked at her, confused after realizing she was talking to him, and even though he was hesitant, he finally offered his hand, but not before turning to Marianne.

“Stay here.”

Marianne opened her mouth to protest, but they both disappeared before she could do so and in a split second, they were right next to Demian. She snorted like a child being punished and looked up at Dreyson.

He was stretching his limbs to make them creak, rearranging his bones. He would soon be charging down again. She looked around to see what was left of the auditorium until she found what she was looking for.


The girl turned to her, and although she seemed too stunned to react at first, she abandoned her task of bringing the unconscious bodies together to meet her.

“I told you to stay away, what part you don’t understand of—?”

“You can defeat him,” Addalynn interrupted him while he leaned on his elbows.

“I’ve tried everything. He’s been a demon longer than me. Too long. It’s impossible that I—”

“You haven’t tried everything,” she interrupted him again with a firm voice. “You haven’t dared to take the next step, take your power to the next level.”

Demian hesitated at her words, though he knew well what she meant. The next level. Dreyson had not only talked about it but had shown it to him. But he didn’t feel able to do it. It would mean accepting the demon in him and letting it out. Would he lose part of himself by embracing it and releasing it to the world?

They were pushed to the ground, hit by a blast. They looked up and saw Dreyson had already launched against them, but only crashed against something invisible and pushed back up, hurled out the ceiling.

From the distance, Marianne held her sword steady with a silver halo covering the blade, dissipating when she lowered the handle.

Belgina looked dumbfounded at her side. Haggard and exhausted, she moved her fingers as if trying to loosen up.

“…I’m not sure we’ll be able to do it again!” Marianne said, leaning on the sword hilt like a cane. Demian looked stunned for a moment until their eyes met and he seemed to regain consciousness of what to do next. Whatever he needed to get everyone out alive.

“There’s not much time left,” Addalynn’s voice demanded his attention again. “He will return soon, so you must make a decision. Fight him as equals.”

Demian squeezed his eyes and sighed. He needed to gather all the courage he could to act.

“…I don’t know how to do it. I don’t even know if I have any energy left in me.”

Short of words as Addalynn always was, she only stretched a hand, more like an imperative than an option. It was obvious what she pretended, but that didn’t prevent his doubts of the effect that it might have on him. But finally, the urgency of the moment won him over, and he eventually took her hand, closing his eyes for whatever was going to happen next. He felt a spasm and a current passing through his body while Samael just watched to the side, alert for Dreyson’s return. After another spasm, Demian let go of her hand, panting as if he had traveled a long distance, and looking up at the ceiling gap with determination.

“…Leave the auditorium. No one must stay behind,” Demian ordered. A halo of dark energy surrounded him while he stood up, his body stiffened, and his blue eyes gleamed like will-o’-the-wisps. “You have five minutes.”

He didn’t need to say anything else; the fearsome emptiness in his expression was enough for them to understand that he only had one goal in sight at the moment. The floor began to shake at his feet and the rubble to stir around him. The unnerving creak of his back indicated that the process had begun. Samael knew they couldn’t stay any longer, but Addalynn watched him with a gesture he wasn’t sure if it was plain fascination or horror of what she had done.

“…Let’s go. You heard him. We have five minutes,” Samael said, pulling her away.

“What’s going on? Why did you leave him there? What did he say?” Marianne asked as they appeared in front of her.

“No time for explanations. We must get everyone out of here,” Samael urged them. “Quick! We must tell them!”

Marianne let them go ahead while she stayed behind to see what was happening to Demian. The glow around him had grown so much that he almost seemed covered in dark flames, and gradually stooped as if something weighed on his shoulders, until a loud crack made her think he had broken his back, but no, something was protruding from him, growing, and spreading over his head.

“Marianne! What are you waiting for?!” Samael’s voice gave her another wince after realizing he had comeback for her. “We have to get out of here!”

She forced herself to nod, letting him lead her and noticing Demian had turned his fiery blue eyes toward her before Dreyson lunged against him one more time.

The impact shook the foundations of the building, causing the fragile and damaged structures to eventually fall. The guys did everything within their power to pull the dozens of scattered unconscious bodies out of the way, so they wouldn’t end up crushed.

“We can’t gather everyone and get them out in time! The roof will collapse at any moment!” Lilith shouted, dragging one of the bodies while the rest did the same. The door seemed so far away from them.

“What if there’s more marked people waiting for us out there? For all we know the entire school was filled with them.”

As if emphasizing her words, the door eventually fell, pushed from the outside, and everyone turned around imagining the worst, another wave of carriers entering at the time, making the things a lot more difficult for them, but the one who broke in, kicking debris out of her way, was Latvi, dusting off her hands and looking around with dread.

“It’s like an atomic bomb was dropped here!”

“You’re alive!” Mankee said.

“Why wouldn’t I be?” she replied, settling a lock of hair, and looking in perfect condition despite the circumstances. “Do you need help?”

“We could use a couple of extra hands right now!” Lilith interjected, pulling a body from the arm along the one she was already dragging.

“Say no more,” Latvi gave a couple of claps and instantly a group of Saber men came in droves to help them carry the bodies outside the auditorium without complaining or speaking at all. The ceiling was falling apart already, so when there was another impact across the building, crashing into a nearby wall, they tried to find shelter from the rain of debris that followed.

They saw a towering figure after the impact, huge black wings unfurled behind him and approaching the one that was stamped against the wall. Marianne left everything aside and ran to the edge of a crack, trying to see more clearly.

“Demian!” she yelled, fearing he was in trouble, but the one who turned around was the figure standing. His blue eyes still shone, blazing in a hardened face devoid of all warmth and emotion, with a pair of black wings sprouting from his back like Dreyson, although they were peppered with gray streaks on the tips. Marianne shuddered, realizing that Demian looked more demon than ever; not even when he acted moved by the influence of the gifts had he looked like this, so scary and unemotional. What had they done to him?


Marianne barely got out of her stupor and saw Vicky beside her, looking equally disturbed at the change that had come over him. He kept his blazing eyes fixed on them with unchanged expression until he opened his mouth.

“Leave!” he commanded with thunderous voice, and they flinched so unexpectedly that they didn’t notice Dreyson was approaching them from the bottom. However, Demian caught him before he reached them, holding both his arms to his back, and pinning his wings. “I told you to leave! Go away now!”

There was not a hint of pleading in his voice or gesture, rather mild anger. It was a plain and simple order he fully expected to see complied. Vicky shrank at the tone of his voice, but Marianne kept her position. A dark halo formed around Demian, while the floor shook again, shedding more pieces of the roof.

“Come on! Everybody’s already out! The place is coming down!” Samael pulled them hurriedly, keeping a layer above them as protection from a collapse. Both girls were so disturbed that they just let him take them to the door where the other guys were waiting for them, struggling to keep it open so they could pass. So much debris had fallen that there was only a brief opening left that they had to climb.

Marianne decreased her steps closer to the door and came to a full stop while Samael helped Vicky climb the mound. She turned to the epicenter of all the destruction and could see the immense power flowing from Demian, and suddenly began to run back the same path, ignoring her friends’ warnings.

She pushed broken beams and falling pieces with her power, dodged increasing cracks, and jumped holes non-stop, all without losing sight of her goal, closer to the center of what used to be the basketball court. Demian firmly held Dreyson, who despite his grunts and writhing, couldn’t get loosened at all. The energy gathered around was such that even the floor was starting to break in pieces and the chips to float.

Marianne stopped at what was once the limit of the court, now covered by a mound of rubble and mangled seats, and then climbed over it to gain height.

“Demian!” she shouted with all the strength her lungs allowed. He didn’t lose his concentration nor released his prey, only turned to her with his blue fire gaze and waited. She hesitated, stunned by the apparent lack of humanity in his eyes, but she inhaled deeply and shouted again. “Come back! You must come back, you hear me?! Back to us! —To me!”

Was that a slight spasm she saw on his face? Perhaps she was just fooling herself, but for a moment Demian’s expression had softened; however, Dreyson’s sudden fit of laughter grabbed his attention once again, and if he were to say something next, Marianne wouldn’t know, because Samael reached her right on time, and before she could even protest, he took her shoulder and disappeared in a flash before the roof would collapse on them.

When they reappeared outside the auditorium, she looked at him with outrage, but instead of protesting, she turned back to the building, hearing their friend’s screams in the background. Then, the detonation; a ring of energy rose to the sky through the remains of the roof and the building collapsed. Samael raised a layer around them for protection from the havoc of the expansive waves after the explosion. The siege of energy merged with the atmospheric disturbance that had formed above the school, until it gradually disintegrated. Within seconds, the agitation had stopped, followed by an unsettling silence in which no one dare to move for a while.

Finally, they lifted their heads and got up cautiously. The area occupied by the auditorium and the gym had collapsed completely, and after a short wait, they seemed convinced that it was finally over.

“What now? What will we do when all of them react?” Mitchell asked, watching all the unconscious bodies they had taken out and the ones that were already there when they left.

“I suppose erase their memories if they show signs of remembering something when they wake up?” Mankee took a guess.

“You have hard work ahead of you, wings!” Frank said, shaking the dust off his head.

Samael didn’t answer, he just let the others to continue their task of dragging bodies to a safer place and approached Marianne, who was still looking at the remnants of the building avidly, almost expecting to find survivors of the collapse.

“He did what he had to,” Samael said, standing next to her, laying a hand on her shoulder. “You know that, right? It was the only way.”

“…What did Addalynn do to him?”

“I don’t know. I just… got her closer as she asked me to,” he replied, pulling his hand away, perceiving the reproachful tone of her voice. As if putting the blame on him. “I think… somehow it enabled his ability to reach the height of his power in less time than it would have taken with more practice.”

“…Yes. It seemed like it,” Marianne said with a sigh. “Could you… leave me for a moment? I need to think.”

The angel stepped back with a hurt expression but didn’t refuse. He nodded ruefully and walked away, not too far to keep her in sight.

At that moment, the only thing she needed was to keep watching. She was waiting for the least movement in the rubble, pieces of wood moving, a rock rolling away from the mound, anything that would give her hope, but there was only desolation. When the building collapsed, it meant that Demian had achieved his purpose. Would they have to wait for the city to send a rescue team to find their bodies under the rubble or they wouldn’t find anything at all? The anxiety was eating her alive, and if it wasn’t enough, a heavy rainstorm erupted, probably a side effect from the energy clouds swirling above the school. Now she could see movement in every corner fed by the rain, distracting her even more.

“…He’s gone, right?” Vicky said standing beside her, devastated at the thought of losing the only family she had left. “I won’t… see him again.”

Marianne bit her lip; she just didn’t know what to say. She took a deep breath to compose herself and lifted her face. She should follow the others’ example and take care of the survivors.

“…Come on. There’s so much left to do,” she forced herself to say, taking her gently by the shoulder to lead her back with the others. That was when she suddenly glimpsed a figure crossing the limits of her sight. She stopped and turned very quickly, hoping to catch the ghost that was creeping into her vision.

Amidst the heavy rain, she thought to see an elusive shadow prancing over the rubble, stopping on a mound formed by fragments of wall, and apparently focusing its attention on her. It then let out an ominous giggle that she thought having heard before, and then it vanished, like swallowed by the ground.

Marianne blinked in puzzlement, wondering if she had been the only one who had seen that apparition, but since Vicky said nothing, she tried to discard it, thinking it was all in her overwrought mind —and the impending headache—, and then a new movement caught her attention. The pieces of concrete that formed the mound began to shake like a quake.

“What’s going on?” Vicky asked equally confused. Suddenly, pieces of brick were pushed out by some kind of force buried below the remains. A dirty dusty hand emerged, followed by another one, looking for a hold among the rubble. The two girls stood still, until they saw a head with tousled black hair emerging from the wreckage grave. Vicky was about to break into a run when Marianne stopped her.

“Wait,” she warned her with a wary gaze and a tight grip when she saw the pair of folded black wings on the back. As much as she would like to burst into a run as well, she shouldn’t act impulsively. It could cost them their lives. Not until they were sure…

The guys had started to notice the presence and put everything aside in alert. The figure finally freed from that stone prison and staggered up to feel the rain; his eyes opened, and his wings spread out in an apparent act of purification.

Those eyes that still glowed like blue fire, eventually died down until they weren’t shinning anymore. His wings were absorbed by his back and the armor covering him retreated. Only a beaten and injured body with torn clothes covered with blood was left.

“…Demian,” Marianne whispered in a gasp, but he didn’t last two seconds on his feet. As if all his strength wore down in the act, his eyes closed shut and he fell on the rubble; the rain had started to tarnish it under him. This time she didn’t hold herself anymore, she bolted towards him with Vicky and the rest of the guys following close behind.

“Is he alive?” Mankee asked while Marianne and Vicky had already knelt beside him and turned his body on his back.

“He’s still breathing!” Vicky shouted in relief.

“His pulse is weak,” Lilith declared after checking his vital signs. “We should get him out of here and heal his wounds.”

Marianne could only watch, unable to speak. His face was muddy and full of cuts, closing at a snail’s pace, but the wound in his thorax made by her sword was still open and bleeding profusely. She stretched her hand close to his face, as if intending to wipe the dirt away, but stopped midway and just closed his fingers in the air.

“…Help us move him,” she finally said.

Samael was watching the hole he had emerged from while Frank removed the bricks with his power, digging into it to reach the floor level. He then decided to jump inside and rummaged in the rubble.

“Nothing. There’s no body,” he announced with a huff.

Samael also jumped, landing easily beside him, and looked around, leaning on one point, and picking something up. It seemed an old, torn out rag, but when the angel held it up and shook it, letting the rain to cleanse the mud, they saw it was a remnant of a previously white shirt, tattered and bloodstained. The two boys just shared a look before Samael kept it in his own clothes.

“…Let’s go. There’s nothing else to do here.”

They left once they made sure everyone was safe. Mankee and Latvi stayed behind to take care of the cleaning and reparations to the coffee shop after a long night of chaos. There was no doubt that in the morning, the city would look like the aftermath of a battlefield, and it would take days, if not weeks, to return to a state close to normal, but they couldn’t worry about it for now.

Demian was taken back home where his sister and Addalynn would take care of him while unconscious, and the rest decided to go back to the center, to the courthouse where they had last seen their relatives. They feared what they might find; they hadn’t allowed themselves to think about it, but now they needed to know.

The streets were still crowded by unconscious bodies that had unanimously fallen when the dark energy controlling them abandoned them, although they couldn’t say for sure if it was due to Dreyson’s disappearance. They walked past the bodies, careful not to step on them, until getting to the side of the building where they thought they would find their relatives, but there was nothing there.

“…I told you. They didn’t hit the ground,” Belgina said after the uneasy glances everyone exchanged. Samael looked at the stories above, and after setting his eyes on an open window, he decided to enter, followed by the rest.

They went past several other unconscious bodies in the corridors, making them seemed like the only survivors of a global pandemic. They climbed to the second floor and went inside the room corresponding to the open window, where they discovered the bodies they were looking for, gently resting on the carpeted floor as if they were just taking a nap. Everyone approached their relatives expecting the worst, but they soon found out they were safe and sound.

Standing in the doorway, Marianne watched her friends with a sense of numbness, her mind elsewhere, while Samael stood at her side after a round to check everything was in order.

“What if they remember something?” Marianne asked after several seconds in silence.

“I guess I can erase their memories from today as a caution measure,” Samael said with a shrug.

“…Do you think is finally over?”

Samael sighed. He knew she wouldn’t like what he was about to say, but he had to.

“Demian’s still alive. So, you know what that means.”

Marianne clenched her mouth. They’d had this discussion many times already and she didn’t feel like having another right now.

“…It means we must find a way to destroy Dark Angel, or he’ll never leave us alone,” she finished, stepping away from the door, giving him no chance to say anything else. Samael watched her walk away, but he decided to give her space. At that moment she seemed to need it.

He looked at the others, busy with their own families, and when he looked past the window, he noticed a red glow across the street. He quickly turned his gaze to that point on the window of the opposite building and the red light flickered for a brief moment before vanishing as suddenly as he had seen it.

The angel blinked in puzzlement. It had been odd, but the most concerning thing was that, for a moment, he seemed to notice a silhouette attached to the mysterious light, and next to it, another smaller one, as if they were being watched from a distance.

Vicky was on tenterhooks beside her brother’s bed, fearing his signs would fail at some point and stop breathing or his heart would stop beating, but he was stable at the time. She had no idea when he would regain consciousness, but if she had to, she would stay there all night guarding his sleep. She wouldn’t leave him alone ever again.

“You should sleep a little,” Addalynn suggested, standing at the door.

“I don’t want to leave him alone. What if something happens to him or if he wakes up and doesn’t see anyone and thinks we abandoned him.”

“He’ll be perfectly fine,” the girl replied, walking up to her chair. “Go get some rest. I’ll stay here.”

Vicky hesitated, looking from her to Demian, but she was eventually overcome by fatigue and gave way to Addalynn with a yawn, heading for the door and looking back at her brother. When she seemed convinced that everything would be fine, she closed the door behind her and Addalynn found herself alone, sitting in the chair and staring at the bed.

She did nothing for a while, just watched him, as if waiting for something, until she got up and moved closer to the bed, scrutinizing him with her gaze. He looked relaxed and serene, as if he were just sleeping soundly, but the huge amount of power he had unleashed must have drained him to an almost comatose state and his body would be slowly trying to gather his strength until fully recovering itself. Such was the power of regeneration among demons.

Sigh. Anyway, she had given him a chance. She carefully took a pillow next to him and gave him one last look before placing it on his face.

“…It must be done,” she whispered, as if trying to convince some invisible presence in the room. Addalynn frowned as she put more weight on the pillow, seemingly upset. “…It has to be done!” she repeated with emphasis.

Demian’s body remained motionless; his hands barely suffered a spasm. Addalynn suddenly relaxed her arms until she stopped pushing down the pillow and took it away from Demian’s face, stepping back until she dropped back to the chair with a broken expression.

“…Why until now?” she murmured, apparently remorseful of what she was about to do. At that moment she heard the alarm of an incoming message from her cell, so she quickly opened it:

‘He’s here. You better come.’

Addalynn took a breath and leaned back in the seat with an exhausted expression after reading the message.

“…What now?” she tossed the question to the air, as if waiting to be answered, then looked back at Demian, who remained unconscious in bed, unaware that only seconds earlier he’d been about to be suffocated by a pillow against his face, just like seventeen years ago when he was just a baby.

Kristania opened her eyes when she was back in her room and found herself lying in the floor. She sat bolt upright with confusion: she didn’t remember how she got there or what happened the last few hours. She must have fallen asleep at some point and didn’t even notice. It had to be that, but… why was her door crooked and off its hinges? Were they robbed?

The thought made her jump on her feet and run to her closet. After struggling with the lock for a few seconds, she rushed desperately to the back, trying to score the key to the lock box and make sure that everything was in order. When she managed to open it and look inside, a wave or relief washed over her. She hadn’t been robbed. Everything was as she had left it.

Smiling with satisfaction, she took what she kept inside the box and pulled it out. A sphere perhaps not as shiny as the first time she had taken it, but still a fascinating treasure to her.