38. COD BLOOD
Demian remained completely silent as he followed the demon that looked more like a soulless golem made of stone, animated by an external power that used him as a means to accomplish primitive tasks. As he walked down that path, he could hear a giggle, dancing around him with a somewhat familiar sound. He even thought he saw the silhouette of a shadow gliding around, swiftly yet gracefully, as if trying to taunt him. However, he just kept on his way, ignoring anything that would distract him from meeting his father for the first time.
The hall he had to walk through was long, but at the bottom he got a glimpse of some sort of high platform in front of a flatland with little illumination. The demon stopped in front of it and he did the same. Around him was nothing but darkness, and though he could make out some contours and silhouettes in the platform, still couldn’t see clearly. It was like being in the middle of a trial, appearing at the witness stand with him being the focus.
He watched the platform more carefully, there was a stone throne at the center and peered a pair of figures standing at its sides, guarding it. He decided to focus on that sort of throne. He could see the outline of a figure sitting on it like a statue, unmoving, and despite not being able to discern him because of the darkness surrounding him, he could feel his gaze fixed on him. It had to be Dark Angel, his real father. He held his gaze without uttering a word. He had so many questions, but refrained. He was the one who was owed an explanation and who had been summoned, not vice versa. The silence lasted a few minutes that seemed endless, and Demian didn’t divert his gaze at any moment, only until the silhouette to the left of the throne suddenly made a move. This figure approached him with something in his hand, like a goblet.
“Master Death Angel.” The demon bowed in front of him. His eyes were completely black, as though he had two holes in the darkness instead of sockets, and his skin seemed carved in bone. “Your father is pleased to finally see you.”
“Why doesn’t he say it himself?”
“Because he’s resting,” the demon said, and once Demian had a better look at him, noticed he was indeed holding a goblet with a dark liquid inside. The demon lifted it after realizing he was looking at it. “Your father requires a small contribution from you.”
“Contribution?” Demian repeated. The demon raised the cup again, offering it to him, and he held it in his hands in confusion. He looked at its contents and then back to the demon, waiting for instructions.
“Drink,” the demon said, pointing at the cup with a tilt of his head.
Demian looked at its contents once again, wondering what it was or why he had to drink it, but at the demon’s insistence he ended up taking the goblet to his lips, though with some reservations, and finally took a sip. Once he tasted the salty flavor mixed with a metallic and acid aftertaste, it flooded his throat. He pulled the cup away and began to cough, taking his hand to his mouth to stop himself from retching.
“What is this?!”
The demon held back the goblet without answering and extended his other hand, waiting for his. Demian hesitated for a moment while trying to recover from the retching, made a quick glance to where his father remained still and then to his right, where another shadow flanked the throne.
His face clenched after discovering that the figure was staring at him from the darkness with bright amber eyes. The same eyes from the shadow of his memories. The one that had tried to smother him when he was a baby. The amber eyes shone with a flash of recognition and, he was almost sure, viciously. By the time he realized it, he was already squeezing his hands so hard that he could almost feel his fingers digging into his palms. Then the demon in front of him took him out of his trance, signing for him to stretch his hand.
With a snort, Demian finally extended his arm and left it suspended without paying attention. The demon smiled as he touched his uncovered wrist.
“Well, master . . . this is going to hurt just a little.”
Demian squinted, but before he could ask what he meant, he felt a sharp pain, looked down and saw he was making a cross section on his wrist with a claw. Before he could protest, the blood began to flow from the cut and the demon placed the cup right below to collect it. Demian didn’t know what unnerved him the most, that he was collecting his blood or that it was black. Demon’s blood. If he still had any doubt of what he really was, the proof was right in front of him.
When the goblet was finally full and mixed up with the other liquid —perhaps also blood?— the demon withdrew and turned Demian’s hand up to stop it from bleeding.
“It will close soon,” he said, given that Demian had already covered the cut and applied applying pressure on it.
“What was that about?” he asked, increasingly confused, but the demon didn’t reply. He just returned to the platform and placed the cup in front of Dark Angel, who first seemed to consider it and then, without further delay, sipped from it.
Demian’s face contorted with revulsion. He wished to leave and not watch anymore, but it seemed to be far from over, as the bone-carved demon held the cup again and then offered it to the demon with amber eyes at his right. The latter grabbed it firmly and gave Demian a death glare right before drinking from the cup too.
That was it, he could no longer bear the disgust. He eventually turned around and walked away. If they intended to pass that cup to all the demons nearby to drink his blood like an elixir of some kind, he wasn’t going to stay and watch. He walked back on the same path he had taken with the golem demon and once again heard the giggle that seemed to follow him at a certain distance, sometimes far, other times too close, and even though he tried to ignore it, he couldn’t help but feel uneasy at how familiar it sounded to him.
After several minutes of walking in the dark, Demian finally reached the portal. When it opened, he suddenly felt a presence behind. He turned quickly and saw those amber eyes dazzling in front of him, in the dark. He tried to make a move, but couldn’t do anything since an external force impacted him and threw him several yards away, crashing into a wall and instantly knocking him unconscious while the door closed again.
After getting back to Lucianne’s house and making sure Franktick was okay and Officer Perry still unconscious, they tried to think of what to do with the latter while Lucianne laughed wickedly.
“Could you stop laughing?” Marianne demanded, feeling riled up.
“You should see your faces right now. You should’ve seen them when you came in! It was glorious! I wish I had a camera to immortalize that moment,” Lucianne said with her back against the layer and her chest vibrating with laughter. “Too bad Frank didn’t get through the layer in time, it would have been my perfect escape.”
“You caused this! You got him wounded! If Samuel hadn’t arrived maybe he’d be dead by now! And you keep laughing as if it were a joking matter!” Marianne yelled outraged.
“Enough,” Frank said, sitting on the stairs with his shirt open while Lilith cleaned the blood from his wound.
“He’s right, it’s not worth it to argue with her,” Lilith intervened. “Not in her current state. You know she doesn’t care about what you say, anyway.”
Marianne clicked her tongue and sat back with folded arms.
“I think the important thing here is what to do with him. Even if he’s unconscious right now, when he wakes up, he’ll still remember what happened here, besides having seen us. It could mean problems,” Mitchell said, collecting from the floor the bullet cap that had shot Frank and watching it with curiosity.
“I’ll try to erase his memories from today,” Samael decided, standing up.
“Are you sure? You’ve done it once. Wouldn’t it end up affecting him if it’s done repeatedly to the same person?” Marianne asked.
“I have no idea. Does anyone have a better option?” They all kept quiet, except for Lucianne’s laughter in the background. “Well, then we’ll have to take the risk.”
He walked over Officer Perry’s unconscious body and held his head, placing his thumbs on the sides of his forehead. He then kept his concentration for about a minute and finally stepped away.
“Done. Get him out of here before he wakes up. He won’t remember any of what happened today.”
Mankee and Mitchell lifted the officer’s body between the two of them, making sure not to leave anything behind.
“Hold on,” Frank stopped them as they were going upstairs, and began to check Perry’s pockets, taking out a set of keys. “He won’t be able to enter the house now.”
The two boys continued their way up to get the young officer out of the basement while the rest followed them, and Angie suddenly had to get a hold of the handrail as she stumbled a few steps. Samael caught her before she fell, and they all stopped, watching her worriedly.
“I just got dizzy,” Angie said as if it were no big deal. “It’s over.”
The others exchanged glances, knowing what it really meant. Angie was nearing her own gift crisis. Perhaps she had some days or weeks left at most and once that ended, the natural order of things indicated that Lilith would be next, then Lucianne, Frank and finally Marianne.
“My sister’s been weakened in recent days too,” Mitchell said, but nobody dared to say anything. As if just by talking about it, their remaining time would shorten more than it already had.
“Now are you gonna tell me what were you doing there?” Samael asked once they came back home and Marianne dropped, exhausted, on her bed.
“Can we talk about this tomorrow? I’m dead.”
“I think we should better talk about this now.”
“What for? I’m fine, after all. You don’t have to worry.”
“You were in danger today! I could feel it, and you expect me not to worry?”
Marianne sat up again with a snort.
“I wanted to give something back to Demian. I went to his house, but he wasn’t there and the place was completely upside down. The demon then appeared and I guess he intended to attack me, but I ran away. I waited for you to show up and it took you so long that I decided to face him myself. Anyway, I didn’t see him again, it was like he just disappeared. Then you came and I told you we should leave. End of the story. Will you let me rest now?”
“You say that the demon attacked you despite your being in your human form?” Samael asked. “But why would he be interested in you after getting the gift they needed? It doesn’t make any sense. For them, humans are disposable items, so they wouldn’t go hunting for one unless it had something they needed.”
“You know? This talk about me being disposable or not isn’t exactly the one I would like to have when I could be sleeping right now,” Marianne snapped, raising an eyebrow, but Samael seemed focused in his own train of thought.
“Think about it, the only reason he would have decided to attack you must be because he’s discovered you’re an Angel Warrior . . . ”
“I doubt it, we’ve been very careful when it comes to transforming.”
“ . . . Or that he thinks you’re some kind of threat.”
“Threat? How could I be a threat for him?”
“That’s what I’m trying to think,” Samael said, stroking his chin and closing his eyes, but the closer he was to the truth, the more worried he was. “You’ve been seen with Demian lately . . . ”
“Just a couple of times and because I’ve come across him by coincidence, so what?”
“Maybe . . . he thinks you’re a distraction,” Samael continued with his musings, pacing back and forth. “After all, it’s already unusual for Demian to keep interacting with humans despite learning he’s a demon. Maybe his servant thinks that’s interfering with his actions and makes him believe it would be better to get rid of anyone who might be a nuisance to his plans . . . And you’re the one he’s seen most often near him.”
Marianne became silent once she was aware of what it meant. Samael approached the window, looking around carefully for a few seconds before closing it again, locking it up and unfolding the curtains.
“I’ve decided that from now on you won’t be alone anywhere, not even at school. I’ll go with you everywhere I can, and if not me, one of the guys will, either inside the school, the street or even right here. If he’s tried to attack you once, he will surely do it again.”
“Great, now I won’t even have a moment of privacy. My life couldn’t get any better,” Marianne protested, rolling her eyes.
“I’m sorry, but it’s absolutely necessary. We can’t risk something like the last time you were attacked when Frank failed to mention you’d been targeted.”
While he was saying this, Samael verified the door was locked and settled at one side of the bed to start his guard.
“I guess that means you’re staying here.”
“As long as it takes, until that demon is eradicated, at least.”
At least. Marianne knew that choice of words implied Demian was considered in the list of ‘demons to eradicate’ by extension. She slightly winced and then went to her closet to get the pillows and blankets meant to Samael each time he stayed in her room.
“I just hope you won’t enter my dreams this time or even watch me in my sleep, okay? The mere thought is disturbing,” she warned while giving him the blankets.
“I’m sorry . . . What does disturbing mean?” he asked with wide eyes, which gave him that childlike quality he normally possessed when he wasn’t acting like a warrior or a guardian.
“Just promise you won’t do it,” she repeated and Samael just nodded. “Okay. Ensconce yourself, I’ll go get something to eat.”
As she headed for the door, Samael also got up as if intending to follow her in his determination to not leave her alone at any moment.
“Relax! Will you? I’m home and you’re also here, nothing’s going to happen!”
Samael sighed and sat down on the floor again, trying to relax. She went to the kitchen, and as she opened the door, she saw her father sitting at the table, putting away a piece of paper he seemed to have been reading.
“Good night! How was your day?” Noah asked with a smile as he placed his hands over the paper.
Marianne noticed what looked like an envelope under his arms, which he had quickly placed on the table to hide it. She remembered the mysterious scented envelopes with no returning address. He said it was over, he promised, then why was he still receiving them? A surge of anger began to invade her, and even though her father had asked her to tell him whenever she felt that way, she just couldn’t do it.
“All right. I’m exhausted. I just came here for something to eat and go back to my room, I’m too sleepy,” she replied, trying to seem indifferent. She checked the fridge while she could hear the unmistakable sound of paper folding. He was undoubtedly making sure of keeping it safe before she turned around.
“I was thinking, how about retrieving all the things that stayed behind in Palmenia? I think there’s enough space here to accommodate them, or even if you prefer to donate them is fine, but we shouldn’t let them cast aside to collect dust.”
“Are you looking for an excuse to make another one of your ‘trips’?” Marianne couldn’t help but blurt it out. She turned to him with a hard stare, and the look on her father’s face immediately changed once he understood her meaning.
“It’s not an excuse. I’m not leaving, I promised, remember? I just meant hiring a moving service to transport all of our remaining stuff here,” her father said, keeping his stoic stance, but even if he would have sounded convincing in some other moment, she was sure the new letter had something to do with his sudden idea. But she wouldn’t say anything else, she wasn’t in the mood to get herself into a new discussion about her father’s questionable fidelity.
“As you wish, then,” she finished, shrugging. “You’re the one paying, after all.”
After saying this, she quickly prepared some sandwiches and went upstairs again without looking back.
Back in her room, she handed a sandwich to Samael while sitting heavily on her desk, staring at hers, though not hungry anymore.
“Is something wrong?” Samael asked while taking a big bite of his sandwich.
Marianne shook her head, but deep inside she still had the feeling that her father was looking for a way to break his promise, and despite having said that she didn’t want to know what was going through his mind, she found herself constantly thinking of that.
“Is your offer about reading my father’s mind still open?” Samael stopped mid-bite and pushed the sandwich away as he looked up at her. “Well, don’t look at me like that. Just tell me if you can do it or not.”
“What made you change your mind?”
“I don’t know, I just . . . I know I said there are things I’d rather not know, but after talking to him and finding out precisely some of those things, I think it couldn’t be worse.” Samael was hesitant and thoughtful, almost seemed reluctant even though he used to insist that he could do it as long as she asked for it. “So, will you do it or not?”
“What exactly do you want to know?”
“Only if he’s planning on going away with the excuse of bringing the rest of our stuff from Palmenia . . . just to see that other woman.”
The mere fact of having to mention it made her feel vulnerable, and normally she wouldn’t dare talk about it with anyone . . . but she figured it was the least she could do. He then nodded, took a deep breath and stood up without saying a thing. Marianne gave a sigh of relief and felt grateful that he wouldn’t keep asking.
“I’ll be back in a few minutes,” he said, becoming invisible and leaving the room.
Marianne sat, waiting at the desk, unable to even try a bite of her sandwich, being as impatient as she was. Her eyes ran through various points of her room while several possibilities passed through her mind, and after what seemed like an eternity —though it hadn’t been more than ten minutes— the door opened again and Samael appeared with the same inscrutable expression.
“So?” Marianne asked, encouraging him to talk. He stared at her for a few seconds, which made her guess she wouldn’t like what she was about to hear. He finally sighed and walked to the makeshift bed he had formed with the pillows and blankets.
“You don’t have to worry. He’s not leaving,” he said, taking his half-finished sandwich to his mouth.
“What? That’s it?”
“What else you expected? That’s what you asked, right?”
“Well, yeah, but . . . ” She didn’t know how to justify that despite her words, she was expecting a little more, maybe that he would pick up some more information. But she had asked him to do exactly what she forbade him to, and maybe after some time he had begun to understand how inappropriate it was to access private thoughts, and her request had put him in a dilemma. She suddenly felt guilty for practically forcing him to do something she considered wrong for personal reasons, so she decided to leave it that way. “ . . . Okay. Thanks for that.”
She tried to draw a grateful smile and focus on her own sandwich, doing her best to finish it up. Samael looked at her as if there was something else he wasn’t telling, but said no more. He gazed back at his sandwich and continued eating in silence.
“Master?” The voice came from far away, like from the end of a huge wet cave. “Master, wake up.” It was slowly starting to sound clearer, and Demian opened his eyes, expecting to be blinded by a flash of light, but there was only darkness.
In front of him, Ende’s silhouette stood on its feet, with his shining silver eyes staring at him. He remembered then what had happened. His eyes widened and he sat up, looking around for the amber-eyed shadow.
“Where did he go? Where is he?” Demian asked, striding around and trying to remember the way back to his father, but all roads looked alike.
“What are you talking about, master?”
“The guy who was guarding my father! The one with the yellow eyes! I was getting out of there and he suddenly attacked me!” he said, feeling lost in that maze.
“Relax, master. You don’t have to worry about him.”
“What happened in there . . . What the hell was that?” Demian continued, recalling the moments before losing consciousness. When he remembered the goblet, he quickly raised his hand to look at his wrist and noticed the cut had already closed, although it had left a tiny yet visible mark.
“Master, forget about it now, there’s something important you need to know.”
“I hope it is, because right now I have a lot of things on my mind,” he replied, still looking at the mark.
“I followed the girl,” the demon said unceremoniously and Demian became tense. “I found out something you need to know.”
“What girl are you talking about?”
“That human you’ve been wasting your time with. I thought I could try to figure out why you were so interested in her and I found out more than I expected.”
Suddenly Demian’s hand closed around his neck with a strength and speed he wasn’t expecting, lifting him up the ground with a savage look in his face.
“Listen to me. If I ever find out that you even laid a finger on her, you’re dead. I can get by just fine without you, you’re disposable.” His voice was booming yet controlled. “She has nothing to do with us, so keep her out of this. I won’t say it twice. If you get near her or if I even hear you mention her, I’ll kill you.”
The demon looked at him with eyes so wide that they seemed to dance inside his sockets. He couldn’t breathe, but it was the brutality that sparked in his master’s eyes and the severity of his voice that made him realize it was a fatal mistake to say something like that so lightly. It was clear that, regarding the girl, he wasn’t playing around and wouldn’t hear what he had to say about her. He wouldn’t believe him unless he saw it with his own eyes. It was time to change tack.
“Understand?” Ende just nodded and Demian finally released him and turned away. “Don’t follow me this time.”
Saying this, he disappeared, leaving the demon frustrated at his failure. There was only one thing left to do: he had to expose her before him, to make him see the truth. It would be risky, but there was no option, it had to be like that.
Demian came back home. He looked at the mess he had left and saw the floor was full of dead leaves and even dirt that had slipped through the open door. It looked as if it had been abandoned for several days as well. He returned to his human form and decided it was time to put the furniture back on their place. Nothing he had done seemed to matter, anyway.
He was beginning to move one of the couches when he noticed in the middle of the main hall a garment that looked familiar to him. He got closer and realized it was the jacket he hadn’t seen since the night his whole life had changed. He then remembered giving it to Marianne at the time. How did it end up there on the floor? Suddenly another thought crossed his mind: the medical record. He quickly checked the pockets until he found the papers he’d been searching for, and a flash of relief appeared in his face. He started to flip the pages quickly until stopping at one, handwritten, a note apparently, and proceeded to read it carefully. He spent several minutes on it, scanning the page with his eyes, only to eventually fold the papers and put them back in the pocket. Then he hung his jacket and went up the stairs with determination.
He stood before his mother’s picture and watched it intently for a moment, as if gathering courage for what he had to do, until finally taking down the portrait and turning it around to examine the back. Then he just punched through the corner of the frame with a closed fist. It had been less difficult than he’d expected. He began to pull out the base of the portrait to leave the back of the canvas exposed. Taped in the back was a small saddlebag, closed with a ribbon. He stopped to examine it closely without daring to touch it, as if afraid it would dissolve in his hand, but then he finally took a breath and unstuck it from the fabric, letting it rest on his palm, weighing it. There was something solid and compact inside. He just felt it under his fingertips. He tried to figure out what was inside before finally deciding to untie the ribbon and place the object it had stored carefully in his palm. A type of medallion made of foreign material fell in his hand, with intricate carvings that seemed to modify as it changed position, very much like the vessels that held the gifts. In the center, it had a gem embedded that shone with an intense blue hue, like a sapphire.
Demian examined the object carefully, flipping it in different ways, trying to see if it had some kind of mechanism hidden or if it could be opened, but it was one piece, and the most he could see was that the back, at certain angles, created a shape, apparently in the form of an ‘S’. He frowned confused. He didn’t know how would that help, but it was all he had to hold on to for now, so he placed it back in his pack and kept it in his pocket.
Next, he went down and looked back at the jacket he had left hanging at the end of the handrail. He wondered again how it had got there if Marianne was the one who had it. But he finally decided to put it on and get out of the house, realizing that unlike the time he had left the place in broad daylight, it was just beginning to get light. He must have been unconscious all night . . . thanks to the amber-eyed demon. He shook his head, trying not to think about it. He would take care of that demon later. Driving the car would have been enough, but he felt like walking, so he went past the gate and walked up the streets on the same route he took to school, until he suddenly stopped at the corner. Was he really heading for school? Or why else would he be going in that direction? He thought to turn around and go back when he saw Marianne about to cross the street one block ahead, wearing her uniform. Demian recalled that she lived on that side. He thought asking her about the jacket, so he started to take a step forward, but then stopped. Samael reached her from the house and walked beside her across the street while they both talked about who knows what.
Demian felt a sort of cold wave running through him and his teeth and hands clenched. The surge went from cold to hot, feeling like a thousand needles circulating through his veins. He saw them going from one street to the other until finally losing sight of them, too distracted to notice him. The adrenaline rush began to subside and noticed that not only the asphalt beneath his feet had sunk as if something very heavy had fell into the place, but his hands had also begun to lost color, midway his demon form. He shook them off and regained color. His body relaxed again.
For a moment, he had felt a strong urge to cause destruction, chaos, just like Ende had said. Maybe it meant that soon he would feel an overwhelming need to fulfill the mission he had imposed: to kill the Angel Warriors. It didn’t matter how long it would take, he was certain that his intention wasn’t to avoid it. By now he had just embraced his heritage. But still felt he had something left to do before. Though he wouldn’t think about it anymore, he just turned around and walked back home with firm steps.
As Samael had arranged, Marianne didn’t spend a single second alone since the moment she left her house. She almost felt like Kristania, being followed around by the pair of goons she had for friends.
“Have you decided what you’ll wear then?” Lilith asked while crossing to the coffee shop.
“No, and I’m not even sure I’ll go.”
“But there’s one week left! Maybe we can go shopping together or look in someone’s basement or attic!” the blonde insisted. “You’re going, right, Angie?”
“Sounds boring, but everything seems boring to me now, so I may end up going.”
“I do intend to go, so we can all make plans together,” Mitchell said, rushing to open the door.
Lilith immediately ran behind the counter to store her stuff and put on an apron, ready to work. They were surprised to see Franktick sitting on their favorite table before someone else took it, so Mitchell and Angie went to sit in front of him while Marianne approached Samael just to say hello.
“Is everything fine?” Samael asked, carrying two trays.
“Another day without news on the front,” she said, patting his shoulder and noticing that the girls at the table he was attending glared at her and hissed like cats about to sink their claws on her. She grimaced and drew back, afraid that they would really do it.
“You’re not the only one, trust me. You have no idea how many times they’ve growled at me if I attempt to ask for their orders instead of Samuel or even if I dare to speak to him,” Lilith whispered while passing by her. “I’ve been thinking of bringing a muzzle.”
Marianne gave one last look at those girls who showed their best of smiles once Samael approached them to deliver their orders, but as soon as he looked away, they practically murdered her with their eyes. She lifted an eyebrow, puzzled, and better chose to go take a seat with the others.
“Has anybody seen him again?” Mitchell asked while watching the daily menu.
“Not since that day,” Marianne said, trying to sound nonchalant. True to her new determination to be honest with everyone, she had told them about her last meeting with Demian.
“He must be planning something,” Frank suggested. “With that zombie-demon. They must be planning another way to attack you without being noticed.”
“I told you he wasn’t there, he knew nothing about it,” Marianne said.
“Or maybe he hasn’t appeared because he knows now,” said Angie.
Marianne had no way to argue that, so she just stared at the table, pretending to see the menu. She remained like that for several seconds until the doorbell sounded and they all looked sideways out of habit. Demian came in casually. Marianne’s eyes widened when she saw him wearing the jacket she had taken to his house.
He looked to their table and greeted them with a crooked smile as he walked to the counter. Mitchell immediately went into his ‘normal acting’ mode and waved back with a huge fake smile. Frank remained stuck on the side of the window, watching him askance, though he just seemed to ignore him. Demian turned his eyes to the opposite side of the room and noticed Samael was serving a table. His face darkened as Samael gave him a serious and cautious look. Demian turned to the front again and didn’t stop until getting into the kitchen. The guys exchanged glances.
“Hello, big kahuna!” Lilith greeted, overacting when she saw him in the kitchen.
Mankee immediately became rigid and kept his hand stiffened around a soup ladle.
“May I speak with Mankee for a minute?” Demian asked, nodding slightly in response to her greeting. Lilith looked at Mankee, who seemed about to collapse.
“Sure! I was on my way out anyway,” she agreed, taking the first plate at hand, without even checking what table it was for, and headed for the door. Mankee looked startled at her, as if she were leaving him to his fate and he would have to walk alone on the scaffold. She paused before getting out and gestured for him to hang on, which Demian managed to see out the corner of his eye before she closed the door.
“What was that about?” Demian asked, raising an eyebrow.
“N-Nothing! It’s just that . . . she knows I’ve been under a lot of pressure lately so . . . she tries to cheer me up!” he said, trying to force his hand to drop the ladle.
“Listen, I appreciate what you’ve done for the place, especially during all this time I’ve been . . . indisposed,” Demian began to say with a serious face that didn’t seemed to fit at all with what he was saying, “ . . . but let me remind you that I only gave approval for Lilith to work here.”
Mankee blinked a few times, trying to understand what that meant while trying to appease his frayed nerves.
“You . . . you mean . . . Samuel helping out there?”
“I don’t want him here, okay?” Demian said with a sullen tone. His face was expressionless, but he could sense a dark aura coming out of him, as if suddenly his true nature was coming to light through his words. “Nor Mitchell’s cousin either. These are my new instructions. Try to make them happen when I leave.”
His grave tone, coupled with that stern expression, caused Mankee’s blood to run cold, so he only nodded fervently, shaking his head while his hand still clutched the ladle. Demian then smiled without a second thought.
“You’re doing a good job, Mankee. You deserve a raise.”
He gave him a pat on the back before getting out of the kitchen, leaving the nervous boy stiff as a board. Meanwhile, Marianne stood in the counter, waiting for him.
“Where have you been?” she asked him with a hint of complaint.
“In the kitchen. I don’t know if you noticed, but I just got out of there,” he replied in a tone half-amused and half-confused by her weird question.
“You know what I mean,” she said, dedicating him a severe but restrained gaze. “You said you wouldn’t shut away again and then you go and disappear for another whole week.”
“What are you talking about? We just met at the hospital yesterday, remember?”
“ . . . That was over a week ago.”
Demian smiled at first, thinking it was a joke, but when he realized she was being serious, his brow clenched. Samael stood watchful from a table while the girls he was attending giggled as if he had said something funny. Frank didn’t take his eyes off of them either, waiting for him to make a false move.
“Did you really . . . not notice how much time has gone by?”
“Of course I did. I just wanted to see your face if you thought I had lost track of time,” Demian said, smiling again, though inside he was starting to raise some theories. “I’ve been busy with some stuff.”
Marianne knew his ‘stuff’ lately was related to the Legion of Darkness, so she chose not to ask about it.
“I found this jacket on the floor and the last thing I remembered is that you had it. So . . . how did it get there?”
“I went . . . to give it back to you . . . but you weren’t home,” she replied, trying not to look nervous. “I left it hanging on the rack, I’m not sure why you found it on the floor.”
“How did you get in?”
She raised her eyebrows, trying to form a word and think quickly of a response.
“The gate and the door were open. I thought you were home so I went in. Didn’t see anyone so I left the jacket and got out,” she finally said, mixing part of the truth with a small lie. Demian nodded, though not quite convinced. The only thing that was clear to Marianne was that he wasn’t aware of what happened that day or Ende’s sudden attack, which for some reason made her feel relieved.
“Heeeeey, buddy!” Mitchell meddled with that fake tone he imprinted to his acting mode, which he probably didn’t even notice. “Prom will be next week, will you go?”
There were still a few weeks ahead to officially finish school, but prom used to be held near those dates to coincide with the end of spring, and in the following weeks there were nothing but exams and final projects. Demian used to avoid prom —mainly due to Kristania’s stalking— but for some reason the idea didn’t repulse him now.
“Are you all going?”
“Of course! It’s my first prom at school, I’m not missing it! . . . Even though Belgina’s in the hospital and can’t join us . . . but there’s nothing we can do . . . right?” As he said this, he glanced at Demian with an expression out of all acting. It almost seemed like a plea. Demian frowned a little weirded out by that.
“I’ll think about it,” he finally replied, glancing at Marianne and getting out of the counter. “I must go now. I was just passing by.”
“Did you find your medical record?” she asked as if trying to make him stay longer.
“Yes, thanks,” he finished with a smile and then headed for the door, but not before giving one last look to Frank and Samael.
They both held his gaze until he left the place, and a few seconds later, Mankee walked out of the kitchen, looking disgruntled, and approached the table where Frank was sitting, also calling Samael to come closer.
“I’m deeply sorry, guys . . . but I must ask you to leave,” he said after letting out a long breath, not daring to look into their eyes. The rest of them seemed puzzled.
“Are you kicking us out of here?” Franktick asked, raising an eyebrow. “Look at the immigrant! Who would have thought that of him?”
“N-No! I swear it’s not on me, I just . . . have orders,” he said, embarrassed. Frank stuck to the back of his chair and smiled crookedly.
“I get it. He asked you to do that, right?” At the boy’s silence, he could do nothing but sneer. “Of course! It was already strange that he hadn’t done anything after seeing us here.”
“Are you saying that Demian asked you to do that?” Marianne scowled with disbelief.
“He said . . . his new instructions were . . . that he didn’t want them here,” Mankee confirmed quietly to prevent other clients to find out.
“But why? It doesn’t make any sense!” Marianne refused to believe it.
“It does, and a lot. I’ve been telling you from the moment we discovered what he was. What he’s been showing until now had been pure acting. At least this small act of arrogance is more consistent with him,” Frank said, standing up and picking his jacket from the chair.
“But you don’t have to do it right now, after all he just left and doesn’t have to know it,” Mitchell said, trying to give a solution.
“I don’t want to sound un-timelier than I already have . . . but if he comes back and sees you . . . ”
“Got it. I didn’t even want to meet here in the first place. I’ve been kicked out of better places,” Frank grumbled, adjusting his jacket and walking to the door. “See ya.”
“Does this mean I don’t have to help here anymore?” Samael asked, not completely grasping what that meant. Marianne gave a snort of indignation and turned around.
“Let’s go. At least at Lucianne’s house no one can forbid you from coming in,” she grunted, pulling Samael’s sleeve and sending a bitter glance at Mankee.
“B-But I’m not the one who makes the rules! Try to understand me, this place is all I have!” Mankee justified himself while Samael left on the table the tray he was carrying, in addition to the notebook and pencil for the orders.
“Remember that when the place runs out of customers in his absence,” Marianne replied, gesturing at Samael and getting out of there.
“I guess we’re done for today, huh? So I’m gone too,” Angie also stood up and left.
“Too bad. Too bad. Now let’s see how you’re gonna deal with Samuel’s clients because I won’t go near them, not even by a chance,” Lilith said, shaking her head in disapproval and heading back to the kitchen while Mankee felt abandoned to his fate.
“Weeeeeell . . . seems like you’re on your own, my exotic friend.” Mitchell patted him comfortingly and looked at Samael’s clients, already starting to protest in his absence, so he took the notebook and pencil, picked up the tray and decided to take his place. “Be ready to call 911 if they get violent and wish me luck.”
“T-Thanks!” Mankee wheezed, watching gratefully at Mitchell going into the ring.
On the other hand, Demian left the place and drove a couple of streets with his hands gripping the steering wheel. For the first time, he discovered himself wishing for Ende’s presence, and he appeared as if been summoned telepathically.
“Did you call, master?” His tone was almost robotic, knowing better than ever that he should play the servant role after his fit of anger earlier.
“How long was I unconscious?”
“Minutes, maybe a couple of hours, master. Why do you ask?”
“If it was just a couple of hours, why, then, it has been over a week here?” Ende chuckled to hear that and Demian glared at him angrily. “Did I say something funny?”
“I’m sorry master, it’s just that if you were more familiar with the Legion of Darkness as you should, you would’ve noticed. The concept of time there is not the same as Earth,” the demon replied with a smirk. “What may seem to us a few hours there, can mean days or even weeks here. Time is relative . . . But given how much time you’ve spent in this place, no wonder you haven’t noticed.”
Demian didn’t answer, but suddenly some things started to make sense. Now he understood why it seemed like his father had let too many days pass to call for him after finding him, perhaps it hadn’t been more than a couple of hours to him.
“If I ask for an audience with my father, would he give it to me?”
“I thought you had already seen him, master.”
“I mean alone. No servants or guards. Without all those demons surrounding him. I want to talk to him about a few things I still don’t quite get.”
“I’m sorry, master. Dark Angel is the one who sets the rules and who decides that. But if you have any questions, I can try to answer them.”
Demian kept quiet, leery. There were things he wanted to talk only with his father and no one else, but out of everything he could have asked, a single question prevailed.
“Where’s my mother?” The question came out of his mouth long before even thinking of it. He didn’t want to sound vulnerable, but his voice came out more affected than he was planning to. Ende was silent until finally shaking his head in denial.
“And that’s one of the questions I have no answer to. Nobody knows anything about her, master. She’s never been mentioned.”
Demian stood impassive, as if his response wouldn’t have caused any reaction in him, or maybe because he was prepared to hear that.
“That’s all for now. You may leave,” he finished flatly.
Ende merely made a slight bow and disappeared while Demian stopped the car and pulled out from his pocket the odd medallion he had found. He flipped it against the windshield, so the sunlight seemed to slip through the grooves formed in its surface. The shapes drawn in it kept varying by changing its position, but at the back the same curved shape was always traced. If he only knew what that meant or what was its purpose. After several minutes, he put it back to his pocket. He had made a decision: he would go to the prom.
“No, I’ve told you that even if you insist I won’t go with you to the mall. I’m not even convinced to go to the prom,” Marianne said, holding the phone with her shoulder against her ear while typing on the laptop. “Yes, I know Angie is apathetic and it won’t matter to her what you choose, so what makes you think it will be any different with me? You should take your best friend ‘Kri’ to help you out, you may even go coordinated or even as Siamese twins if you want, you’d like that, huh?” A laugh was heard through the phone. “No, I’m not jealous! I already told you, whether I’ll go or not, I guess you’ll find out. See you later and just try to wear something that at least covers you up.”
As she hung up, she left the mobile on the desk and continued with her eyes on the screen while Samael watched her sitting on the bed.
“Why do you refuse so much to go? Are proms that bad?”
“It’s just not my thing,” she said, shrugging without taking her eyes off the screen. Someone knocked on the door and tried to open, but it was locked, so she quickly glanced at Samael and he became invisible without the need to say a thing.
“Sorry, am I interrupting something? I didn’t know you locked the door now,” her father said, peering cautiously inside when she opened.
“It’s nothing. I just got tired of Loui breaking in my room whenever he wanted.” She then noticed he had his hands on the back, like he was hiding something, so she squinted curiously. “What have you got there?”
“I know you don’t like presents, but . . . I thought it could be handy when I heard about the upcoming prom,” he said, showing a long box that she looked as if it were a time bomb.
“Please, tell me it’s not a dress . . . ”
“Surprise!” he said with a smile, handing her the package. “At least give it a try. I’m sure it’ll look good on you.”
“You shouldn’t have bothered,” she mumbled, trying to show a smile that came out twisted at the prospect of what she would find in the box. Her father ruffled her hair with a loving gesture and left the room. After a few seconds, Samael reappeared, also looking curiously at the box.
“What is it?” he asked while Marianne opened the box discouraged, knowing for a fact that she would find a dress inside, but what she didn’t expect was the sense of déjà vu as she had the first glimpse of it. She thought having seen that color before, and suddenly felt a slight shudder that gave her goosebumps when she touched it, closing the top of the box again.
“Could you go out for a second?”
“Why? Don’t forget we agreed I wouldn’t lose sight of you.”
“I want to try on the dress, and I can’t while you’re in here.”
He said nothing, just twisted his mouth and eventually transported out of there. She reopened the case and looked at the fabric. Her eyes glittered with the flash of recognition. Even before she spread it on the mattress, she was certain of what it would look like, and when she did, she just held her breath while watching the green organza dress she had dreamed of.
She couldn’t help but feel curious about what it might mean. Maybe there was only one way to find out. She squinted with a determined expression. Perhaps she would make an exception to her rule of not wearing dresses, but it would definitely be on her own terms. All she would need now was a pair of scissors.
Prom night arrived, and when Samael saw her in that dress, he looked alarmed at her.
“That dress is . . . ”
“Different from my dream, see?” Marianne interrupted him, showing the changes she had made in it. She had cut across the front above the knee and had put on some jeans in a way that the dress fell like a tail and she had also added a vest to the ensemble. Samael frowned and she tried to smile. “Relax, I have everything under control. Things won’t be like my dream, because neither of us will allow it.”
He nodded, still unconvinced, and then followed her. When they arrived at the school, several of Samael’s regular clients from the coffee shop immediately noticed his presence and tried to get his attention from the distance.
The event’s hall was decorated as a turn of the century’s ball, with chandeliers, candles and a live orchestra. Apparently, most of the students had received a memorandum regarding the etiquette of the occasion as many of them were dressed in fancy suits and some seemed to come out of another era, although there were some exceptions.
“You came!” Lilith exclaimed, bouncing towards her. Her short magenta dress seemed metallic with ruffles that remained stiff as if made of tin. She looked like an intergalactic pop princess about to give a concert in a cosmic tour. Behind her, Angie approached with an enthusiasm worthy of a funeral. Her dress was quite simple in a pale pink empire cut that reached to her knees, her hair tied up in a ponytail without any ornaments.
“Look at you! Your dress looks awesome! Didn’t you say you had no fashion sense?”
“It’s not exactly something of my choice.”
“It was a present from her father,” Samael said casually and Marianne glared daggers at him.
“Well, I think it’s spectacular!”
“Hey, what’s up?” Mitchell appeared with what could be the finest wardrobe to his eccentric standards, consisting of a grid outfit with a dark purple background and multicolor lines. “Frank is outside guarding the perimeter. Would you like him to smuggle something other than the booze I already asked?”
“I should have known this would be the kind of thing I would be dealing with by coming here,” Marianne said, letting out a weary snort.
“Is it my idea or is it too hot in here?” Angie suddenly said, her face pale and slightly sweaty. The others looked worriedly at her.
“Are you all right, Angie?”
“Must be the people. Too many people gathered here, this will soon become a throng,” she insisted with an almost paranoid hint.
“Maybe you just need to freshen up a little. Come on, I’ll walk you to the bathroom,” Lilith suggested, taking her by the shoulders and dragging her away.
“I’ll go get something to eat, do any of you want some? I may even take the chance to alter the punch, if you know what I mean.” Mitchell decided, heading to the tables.
“I don’t get why you don’t like this kind of events. It looks like fun.”
“Yeah, well, I don’t really care much about them.”
“You could at least make an effort to enjoy it.”
Marianne merely huffed and folded back her arms. Demian entered the building at that moment, wearing an elegant black suit with no tie. Some guys looked at him as if he were an apparition when they recognized him and others as if they hadn’t seen him in years. Yet no one dared to say hello and he didn’t seem interested in them either, just looked around keenly until seeing Mitchell in the distance, grabbing some snacks from a huge table. He was going in that direction, but stopped when he detected Marianne’s presence on the other side. She was wearing a dress that, despite its adjustments, definitely made her look different than usual. He suddenly felt a strange surge on his chest. It took him a few seconds to also notice her companion. His eyes darkened instantly.
“What’s that?” Samael asked as a waiter walked past them, carrying a tray with several drinks of different colors.
“Flavored mocktails. Wanna try?” Marianne took two purple cups and offered one to the angel. “This is grape.”
Samael took a sip from the glass and tasted it for a few seconds. He liked it so much he lifted the glass again and Marianne showed her first smile of the night.
Demian’s eyes were fixed on the angel until the latter suddenly suffered a mild spasm in his hand, pouring the glass content on his shirt.
“Careful! These stains are difficult to remove.”
“I don’t know what happened. Suddenly the glass felt heavy,” Samael apologized, trying to clean his shirt.
“Perhaps you should go to the bathroom and try with water.”
“Are you coming?” Samael asked and she looked at him with an arched eyebrow.
“I won’t go into the boy’s bathroom. I’ll wait here, it’s not like anything would happen among so many people,” she said, pointing at the bathrooms and he followed the direction of her finger with a grimace. “Go!”
Samael sighed and decided to go quickly, closely followed by an entourage of girls. Marianne looked around, taking her glass unenthusiastically. The orchestra had started playing and some couples began to head to the dance floor as if they were in an old-time ball. Marianne couldn’t avoid rolling her eyes.
“ . . . This is going to be a long night.”
“I must admit you’re the last person I expected to see in a dress.”
Marianne’s body instantly froze after hearing that voice. Her eyes ran to her side where Demian was standing, looking straight ahead as if he had been there for a while.
“I even thought Mitchell was more likely to wear a dress before you, but I guess you should never rule out surprises.”
She looked at him with a mixture of bewilderment and disbelief, wondering whether or not to be offended by his words, but couldn’t think straight at the time.
“What are you doing here?” she managed to ask once she was able to control her breathing again.
“It’s prom. I’m also a student at this school, remember?”
“How convenient to remember it just now, after all this time avoiding it.”
“I think I’ve had good reasons,” he justified while she was starting to regain control over herself, including the outrage she had felt the previous days.
“Whatever reasons you may have, I don’t think they’re enough to explain why you banned Frank and Samuel from the coffee shop,” she blurted out, aware of the risk, but unable to keep quiet. “Maybe Frank I buy it, but why Samuel? What did he ever do to you? You haven’t ever treated him well.”
“You dance?” Demian asked, his eyes fixed on the dance floor as if he had decided to dismiss her words completely.
She looked at him agape, wondering if it was all a distraction.
“No! Do you think you’ll actually distract me with that?”
“I’m just wondering. I don’t dance either. I thought it would be interesting to try,” he replied with a shrug. There were plenty of girls in that place and he could ask any of them, but she repressed herself from telling him off, realizing that he had indeed distracted her from her previous claim.
“Hey! I’m so pumped to see you here!” Kristania came unwarned and hugged her from behind, making her wince. She was dressed in an outfit very similar to Lilith’s. “It would have been a shame to miss this!”
“ . . . Right. Just what I needed,” she said curtly, trying to let loose of her, until it was Kristania who finally released her after noticing Demian.
“Oh, Demian, you’re back! I was so worried about you!” she said, going now to him and gripping his arm. “I’m really sorry about everything you’ve been through. It must be horrible! Anything you need don’t hesitate to come to me, and I’m being totally honest here, no hidden purpose. I now fully understand that my feelings are unrequited, but that doesn’t have to stop us from being friends, right? You can lean on me. I don’t care about what others say, they don’t really know you.”
Marianne looked horrified at them, fearing Demian would get fed up at any moment and act impulsively. His arm was getting stiff, but then he turned to Marianne without even replying to Kristania.
“Would you like to try?”
Both girls looked dumbfounded at him. Marianne noticed his tense face, like he was struggling to stay under control, so she supposed he was trying to get away from Kristania. Even though she had previously refused, she suddenly found herself nodding.
“Oh, I get it! Of course, go ahead,” Kristania said, stepping aside and acting like it was okay for her.
Marianne walked ahead, unable to believe what she was about to do, she couldn’t even feel her feet with every step. She stopped at the dance floor and turned around, face-to-face with Demian who seemed as distraught as her, despite it being his idea.
“As I said before, I don’t usually dance, so I apologize in advance if I step on you.”
They stood facing each other as if they were deciding how to start, and when they both extended their arms to the other, there was a brief moment of entanglement in which they didn’t know where to put their hands until they looked around to solve the embarrassing little problem. Demian decided to place both hands on her waist and Marianne klutzily settled hers over his arms.
They tried to move around, but were completely uncoordinated and did nothing but stumble or crash against the nearest couples. After several sorry’s and spending more times stepping on Demian’s feet, she was ready to let the earth swallow her whole and didn’t even dare to look up after a long awkward silence. But when she heard him laugh, she couldn’t help lifting her gaze and realized he was smiling, apparently amused by the whole situation.
“It seems like we have two left feet. I guess movies lied, not everyone can dance just because they decide to.” Marianne tried to hold back, but also smiled, though she quickly suppressed it. “So . . . you weren’t planning to come?”
“Not really . . . I was driven by circumstances,” she replied with a sigh of resignation.
“I bet you didn’t expect to end up in the dance floor as a scapegoat,” he said in a jokingly way. “Though . . . I must admit that dress looks good in you.”
That last sentence came out so unexpectedly that even he seemed surprised. Several seconds of silence followed, in which he looked away as if internally reproaching himself while Marianne couldn’t help a mild blush covering her cheeks.
Samael left the bathroom after being unable to clean up his shirt completely, a purple stain was still visible and he tried to hide it by closing his jacket. He started walking back without noticing the row of girls following him closely, giggling and whispering to each other. On his way, he bumped into Lilith and Angie staring at the dance floor.
“What is it?” he asked after closing the top button of his jacket.
“Hell just froze over,” Lilith replied, pointing ahead, and Samael turned. Marianne was on the dance floor with Demian.
From the highest point of the ballroom, specifically one of the windows that rounded the building several feet above the ground, Ende also contemplated the scene in disgust, but he had a plan that would put an end to it. With a wave of his hand, he ran it over the surface of the window and a thin layer of energy covered it. He then moved to the next window, proceeding to do the same thing.
Outside the school grounds, Franktick was smoking a cigarette while going around the place, watchful. He stood facing the fence and leaned on it, one hand on the bars while the other held the cigar. He perceived someone approaching behind him and quickly turned and grabbed his shirt, raising a fist in a threatening manner.
“It’s me, it’s me!” Mankee said, placing his hands upfront to avoid the punch. Frank released him, rolling his eyes and relaxing again.
“What are you doing here? Did you also come to stop me from prowling around your stupid coffee shop?”
“That’s not fair. You know it’s not my fault. I’m just trying to survive in a city I don’t know,” Mankee said in self-denial and Frank snorted in response. “Lilith told me about the prom and that you would be watching around, so I thought to come and help a little.”
“Well, go ahead and do what you please, the streets are free, it’s not like I can forbid you to be here,” Frank replied begrudgingly. Mankee sighed in resignation and then stared oddly at a point beyond Franktick.
“Is it normal that someone is standing on a window sill?”
Frank turned to follow his gaze and got to see a shadow going from one window to another in the blink of an eye. It just took him a second to understand what it meant.
“We have to get in there by any means and warn the others. Come on! We’ll jump over the fence, no one would see us that way.”
On the dance floor, Marianne and Demian looked like they had finally controlled their clumsy movements and at least kept themselves without tripping or bumping into other couples. However, they hadn’t said a thing or even looked at each other, and their limbs were incredibly stiff. She was starting to wonder what the hell she was doing there and why she had agreed to do it when Demian suddenly spoke.
“What would you think if I told you I’m not what I seem?” Marianne looked up at him hesitantly. “Maybe . . . there’s a reason why I can see that entity wandering around people about to die. Maybe it’s because . . . I’m not like the others.”
Was he seriously about to reveal what he really was? Marianne suddenly felt restless. If he told her, how should she react? After all, she already knew, but the fact that he was about to tell her by himself wasn’t something she had contemplated, something none of them had, actually.
“If I told you I know where I come from and that my father is a monster . . . would you consider me one?”
Indeed, it seemed to head in that direction. Would he reveal the whole truth to her, supposedly an ordinary human?
“Metaphorically speaking, right?” was the first thing she could say. Demian’s lips curled slightly upward in a bitter smile. That gesture made her doubt. “I already told you what I think. Your father is the one who raised you, not the one who conceived you. Even if cod blood ran through your veins, that doesn’t mean you’d automatically forget how to breathe and walk, all it does is expand your possibilities. Now you could also live underwater, but it is ultimately your choice.”
Demian stared at her for several seconds with a mixture of perplexity and disbelief until letting out a slight laugh.
“Cod blood? Seriously, where do you get these things?”
Marianne blushed, but managed to laugh at the end, admitting how ridiculous it had sounded. Her gaze wandered around and suddenly stopped at Samael, watching her, unsettled. She then realized why: she was on the dance floor, wearing a dress that, even modified, was still the same she had dreamed of, and the orchestra had begun to play the theme she had also heard in her dream. She slowly looked up at Demian, her face getting pale. Could he be the shadow? The uncertainty began to grow inside her and her limbs got even stiffer. She felt Demian’s fingers firmly pressing her waist and he stared back at her.
He seemed eager to say something else, yet undecided. Suddenly a strong pang forced him to loosen one hand and take it to his chest. Something was hammering his heart, trying to break through him, and then it just vanished as sudden as he felt it. It was odd, but he still decided to take the chance to finally talk.
“I want to show you something.”
She knew what that meant, he intended to show her what he really was. She felt her stomach rising to her throat. What was she supposed to do now? She had no time to think, though. One explosion after another echoed around the room, bringing down fragments of broken glass, falling on everyone as a big hailstorm. The blast and the screaming brought widespread panic, forcing students and teachers to lie down or seek shelter, as if a bomb had just exploded. When Marianne opened her eyes, she saw Demian covering her with his own body, still standing. She felt something warm running down her cheek, and after wiping it with her hand, she realized it was blood. She wasn’t hurt, though, so she lifted her eyes and saw blood dripping from Demian’s hand. One of the shards of glass had pierced through it. She didn’t miss the fact that his blood was also red.
“Are you okay?” he asked and Marianne nodded, unable to speak. The fact that his blood was red gave her enough reasons to be taken aback. He thought it was the shard of glass piercing his hand that disturbed her, so he quickly took it off without showing a single hint of pain, and looked at the windows that were completely broken now. Ende was coming down, in the midst of horrified screams and crowds trying to escape. Demian gritted his teeth in a furious gesture, almost like a wild animal about to growl.
“Follow me. We gotta get out of here.”
Before she could react, he pulled her towards the opposite end, where one of the emergency exits was kept sealed.
Amid the chaos of the room, with people running and screaming from one side to to other, Samael saw him pulling Marianne away, and she looked at them with confusion reflected in her eyes.
“Marianne!” Samael tried to break through the crowd, but there were too many people blocking his way, preventing him from reaching her.
It was just too similar to her dream, he couldn’t let him hurt her. In the middle of the uproar, Frank and Mankee managed to sneak into the building and get beside them.
“What happened? We saw a shadow up in the windows.”
“It was that demon!” Lilith pointed at Ende, making his way through people, staring at a specific point.
“They got Marianne! We have to go for her!” Samael pointed to where the demon was heading: the only emergency door that used to be sealed.
“Stop!” Marianne yelled, forcing him to stop once they were outside the building. He released her, trying to regain his composure
“I’m sorry, I just . . . need to show you something while there’s still time . . . before the person in front of you is gone forever.”
“Gone? What are you talking about?”
Was this his farewell maybe? Was he thinking of leaving behind his life as a human after all? But he still had a chance . . . The blood . . .
Demian raised his hand where the shard of glass had pierced through, and turned the palm towards her. Although it was still stained with blood, the wound was closed. This was the first peek to what would be the full disclosure. He really was willing to reveal himself to her. Suddenly, an idea flashed through her mind: if he was able to reveal what he really was . . . maybe if she did the same, things might be different.
“Stop . . . You need to know something before.”
“Move away! He’s coming!” Demian pulled her behind him, just as Ende walked through the same door and headed towards them with steady steps.
“You’re making a mistake, master,” the demon assured without showing a hint of fear or insecurity. “That girl isn’t who you think she is.”
Marianne paled. That demon knew who she was, it had to be that.
“I’m warning you! Do not come any closer! Go away!” Demian insisted, keeping Marianne behind him while she was beginning to twist her fingers in case she had to defend herself.
“Fine. I’ll have to show you then,” Ende said with incredible ease, fully confident in his actions even when his master was about to lose his temper at his insubordination. He stretched forward and Demian was already preparing to block any attack when the guys appeared behind the demon, coming to their way and stopping a few yards away.
“Let her go!” Samael said and Demian seemed confused to see them there.
“Don’t worry, master. I’ll get rid of the meddlers and we’ll continue with this,” the demon added with a passive and controlled tone.
“We’ll see about that!” Frank said, standing in front of everyone and stomping on the ground, which made it rumble and formed into waves as if the soil itself came to life, going straight towards Ende, who dodged the onslaught and Demian stopped the mound once it was in front of him, looking then at Frank and the rest with a contorted face. He had begun to connect the dots.
The others had no chance to react. Ende tossed them with a quick stroke of his hand and focused again on Marianne, knowing he had not much time to prove his point.
Despite Demian’s obfuscation, when he realized Ende was ready to attack, he stood in front of Marianne, but the demon wasn’t stupid, he knew that if he pretty much approached a single inch he would be more than dead, so, a single motion of his hand was just enough to toss her to the side. She crashed to the wall and, without losing any second, he threw an energy ball to her.
“No!” Demian yelled, trying to go to her, but Ende stood in his way, only to be lifted by the neck.
“Just look at her, master! Watch!” he said, pointing at the spot where the dust was starting to clear after the impact.
Demian glanced without erasing his deranged expression and it suddenly began to change after discovering what the curtain of dust had left behind. The guys were also standing up and caught sight of her, standing in a defensive pose and panting hard. Marianne was clutching her sword and the armor had covered her back to protect her from the collision. The fingers pressing Ende’s neck slowly loosened, until Demian dropped him completely. He then turned around, looking perplexed at Marianne.
“You . . . you are . . . ” he muttered, staring at her.
Marianne ran her eyes through her friends and then back at him. She gulped and blinked for a second, lowering the sword and standing upright, allowing the armor to completely cover her, but leaving her bare face. Demian’s eyes widened and stepped back.
“You’ve known all along what I really am . . . All of you.” It wasn’t a question, but Marianne still nodded, waiting for the right moment to explain the rest.
“That’s what I wanted to . . . ”
“You tricked me.” Marianne paused and noticed his face was starting to crumple and transformed from an initial bewilderment to a gesture that glowered with rage and indignation. “You fooled me all this time to set me up.”
“No, it’s not like that . . . !” she tried to explain, taking a few steps forward, but a strong flow of energy coming from him pushed her away, forcing her to bury the sword into the ground to have something to hold on to.
Samael appeared in front of her in a protective gesture. Demian lifted his face with disdain and his skin began to lose color while the black frame coated him. He cast a cold glare at the rest, stopping on Marianne. The hatred reflected in his eyes could hardly compare with the look he gave to Hollow just before killing him. It was worse than that, the face of someone who felt betrayed.
“I hope you’ve enjoyed this period of grace . . . because it’s over.”
After saying this, he burst into thin air followed by Ende, who outlined a triumphant smile.
“Good bye, Angel Warriors. Next time it will be your end,” he said, vanishing in a smokescreen.
The guys kept silent until it was Samael who finally dared to speak, cleaning Marianne’s cheek.
“Are you hurt?”
She shook her head with a veiled expression.
“It’s not my blood,” she answered, also running her hand through her cheek and watching the blood soaked in her fingers.
Hot red. Could he have a chance? However, the color quickly changed to black.
No. He was a demon.