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ROSE MIN - THROUGH TIME

Book 1: The Celestine Chronicles


2006
_____________________________________________________________

The holy fires of Heaven burned


In the hearts of those who learned,
That happiness gained but not fated
Could bring sorrow and pain that hath created.
And in the desperation that brought
Actions that they had wrought,
Those whose will they had fought
Could never grant peace that they sought.
For time was all they have left
And there they lurk in shadows in theft.
That through time they will be
Together at last with everlasting peace.
_____________________________________________________________

Prologue
Dig . . . Dig . . . Dig . . .
The smell of the stale earth permeated his nose, delighting
at the scent of moss and the excitement added an
exhilarating sense of thrill brought about by the current
stealth.
He shivered in anticipation, almost rubbing his hands
together like a child.
The craftiness of the plan was carefully thought up. He
almost patted himself on the back.
Looking up, he could see that everything would be done
sooner than he had expected. He applauded the tenacity of
his minions.
They were all excited. Of course, there had been a little
grumbling when h
e picked up those who would go with him in this oh-too
important mission.
He wouldn’t tolerate their show of disrespect though. They
knew well enough what would happen to their sorry selves if
they disobeyed him.
His wrath would be the last they would be unfortunate to
experience.
His reputation will be proven true if some demonstration was
done. He was not someone to trifle with. He earned every
title called to him alone. The scoundrels would know better
than challenge his authority.
He guessed he would have to show them his appreciation by
giving them a well-earned vacation if everything goes well
without a glitch. That will settle the wagging tongues behind
his back. He’d been weary of those for a long time now.
He could almost feel the power . . . Entering his bloodstream,
stroking his e
very sense and making him delirious with want. His wishes
were a breath away.
His hands itched to touch it . . . To control it . . . To wield it for
his own glory.
The fools above thought that their strongholds were
invincible . . . Not! Ha–ha–ha! There’s always a flaw. It only
takes a cunning mind to find out what and where.
The power – it calls to him . . .
No one could understand the ecstasy of wanting something
and finally being able to grasp it fully and admire it for the
beauty and the power it held.
It was something more precious than anything he had
wished before.
Then, a pang of hate took over him in a sudden realization.
Someone does know what he was feeling right at that
moment. And he would stop at nothing to get it from him. He
was bound to fulfill that one’s every wish, much to his
chagrin.
He almost let out a shout of frustration.
He’s just a servant after all.
One mightier than he would seize control of it and he
couldn’t do anything but give in to the will of the mighty.
He gritted his teeth as he bellowed his outrage. His minions
took the brunt o
f his vicious hate as he whipped his staff and struck one of
his minions in t
he back, making the others hurry up in the digging while
wails of pain pierce
d the air.
Whatever happens, he cannot hide it to where it was obvious
to be discovered.
If only he could find a way how and where he could . . .
***
One
Present Day
Damn!
There has to be some thought up reason to make the
situation justifiable or else
she’ll start pulling hairs . . . The hair of the person next to
her.
If he qualified being called a person, that is.
All she knew was that he’s not mortal. But that’s about all
she knew about
him. Of course, he’s probably the most handsome man she’d
ever seen in he
r entire life, which confounded her.
It should be easy. Heck, everything should be easy if she’d
just stuck to the
plan.
She’s now screwed beyond salvation. She let out a deep
breath of exasperation.
Not once did she come out of an assignment that needs to
devise a backup pl
an. She should be efficient. That was expected of her as
always.
She prided herself as being an agent of the Order of Grigori
that gets the job done without a sweat.
Guess she had to reevaluate herself on that. She’d also
better prepare herself for being humiliated in front of the
whole Council.
If Ysem could get wind of this, he wouldn’t let her have
peace ever again.
That thought troubled her more than the whole troop of
marid hunting them and perhaps was on their trail right at
that exact moment.
Sneaky bastards!
She couldn’t rightly know since she’s embraced by total
darkness.
Used to the darkness, she wasn’t the least bit afraid of it.
She even welcomed the adventure of fighting djinns lurking
in the shadows of darkness. But,
she’d kill to have something to light the way somehow now.
It was too damn dark.
She heard a chuckle from the pest, who was sensuously and
unconsciously (?) rubbing his body behind her.
She gritted her teeth to stop from screaming at the
uncomfortable sensation that was brought about by the one
plastered sensuously against her back. It was so irritating . . .
Totally unprofessional. She tried shoving him far from her
skin since her traitorous body was annoying her other
senses. She had to focus and the only way she could do that
was with no physical contact from him.
Perhaps there’s something in the air that made her body
sizzle with his nearness, cursed place that it was.
“You shouldn’t be here, you know,” came the whispered
voice near her face in the dark. The sweet and spicy breath
that fanned her hair sent tremors down her spine, her whole
body becoming alive.
They haven’t said much to each other for a considerable
amount of time they were in each other’s company. She
avoided doing that as much as possible.
Even if its one of the rules she needs to follow whenever
she’s in a mission like in that exact moment, she’s not much
of a tête-à-tête person. It’s dangerous, especially when their
scents were hunted in enemy territory.
Yet now, all she could think of was what his voice were doing
to her, playing havoc with her senses, sending sparks all
over her, which was making her crazy.
She tried biting her tongue to take control of her senses. She
needed more discipline than she had expected. She needed
a resounding slap.
Then, she had the urge to knock someone so badly to keep
control of her traitorous body. A snort escaped her at those
thoughts, disguising the thrill she felt of having him close to
her. She’s behaving exactly like an idiot.
Snap out of it! She scolded herself.
She took shallow breaths instead as she heard another
chuckle coming from him, making her want to strangle him
just to keep him quiet.
There were many places she ought to be other than the one
she’s in now. Perhaps that would be the case before when
her world had been normal.
To speak frankly though, there were more important matters
she ought to be doing other than the mission she had helped
plan. Her damn stubbornness got the best of her. But it’s
already done. There was no going back.
Everything has consequences, as what Ysem often said to
her.
She’s here and she has to find a way to get out of her
present predicament.
The person next to her wasn’t helping much, but she
guessed that was supposed to happen too.
Bother that.
She breathed hard, taming the tempest inside her chest. It
was a close call, as the footsteps of the marid troops that
passed them by seemed so close that she had to be extra
careful next time.
They hid in the darkness of what she guessed would be a
large rock, straining her ears for other footsteps.
“I shouldn’t be in many places,” she finally answered him in-
between her ragged breathing. She heard his hard breathing
as well and smiled a little at that.
“Then, why are you here helping me?” Even through the
dark, she could fee
l where he was and she scowled at him even if he cannot see
her.
“Because I’m an idiot. That’s why,” she snarled. I’m going to
burn in hell for that lie, she inwardly told herself.
He snorted. “You are that among others. There is a hundred
and more reasons I can think of for you stay behind and
leave the saving to the others.”
“Well, you weren’t there to tell me those reasons. So, shut
up and be grateful that I’m not choking you to death right
this minute,” she retorted, hissing between gritted teeth. “I
guess hoping to get a simple thank you from you is asking
too much, huh? If I’d known you would be this ungrateful, I
shouldn’t have come.” She waved her hand to prove her
point. It seemed pointless to make him realize that through
the dark and he couldn’t see her clearly.
“Yes, I suppose you are right,” he agreed through gritted
teeth. “But I have a feeling that there’s more that you aren’t
telling.”
She’s such a firecracker. He smiled in the dark.
He was so fascinated with her that he couldn’t contain the
hammering of his heart inside his chest. More so with every
action and every word that comes out of her delightful
mouth.
When he saw her rappelling from the rooftop of the tower
where he was, his immediate reaction was to smother her
with kisses and keep her in the circle of his arms forever.
Then, that feeling was suddenly replaced by an urge to
strangle her for being so reckless and having no regard for
her safety since she still needs medical attention herself.
Now, they were like two ridiculous lunatics groping in the
dark of his enemy’s stronghold trying to get out without a
troop of marids detecting them.
His apprehension increased as the feel of dread suddenly
overcame him, heightening his senses to the awaiting doom
for the both of them.
No one ever gets in and out of Evanom, the stronghold of
Iblis, without being discovered and would eventually face the
dire consequences.
This time, she let out a halfhearted laugh, sounding more
like a sneer to him.
“Your instincts, huh? May I remind you that you abandoned
all sense when you foolhardily marched here demanding a
demon who mocked you back for being arrogant in the face
of your nemesis.” Then, she turned furious again.
“It is bad enough that I get no thank yous for my effort. I’ll
have to think of a plan to get us out of this disgusting place
in one–piece without you helping me as well.”
If looks could kill and if there were enough light, he would be
writhing in pa
in down the filthy ground in that instant.
He ignored her ranting. “So, you want me take over the
decision-making for you when you’ve ranted at me on and
on for having no sense at all?” came the hushed retort.
She could almost hear teeth grinding because of frustration.
She couldn’t tell if it was her teeth making the grinding noise
or his. “You don’t want to help? That’s fine with me. But, let
me remind you that you owe me big time after this. Oh, why
did I have to follow my stupid feelings?"
So, she was following her feelings. That produced a tingling
sensation down his body. He grinned broadly at that
confession from her. He was not harboring any one-way
affection after all.
“Do I have to do all the work here?” she asked, not
particularly waiting for an answer. “I’m like baby-sitting in
here.”
“No one asked you to.”
“Oh, that’s right. Heap all the blame in me. May I remind
you, your highness, that I am the one rescuing here, not the
other way around? So, drop the exasperating tone in your
voice and let me do my work as an agent of The Order.”
“Then, I guess I’m in capable hands considering your
competency as an agent and all.” The sarcastic tone coating
the compliment like a cake full of teeth-decaying icing
rippled like lava down her throat, making her unable to come
up with a quick and suitable retort just to make her feel
better.
She stayed her anger at bay, mumbling to calm herself
down. It wasn’t working.
She took deep breaths as she started counting in her head.
1, 2, 3 . . . 1, 2, 3... .
“Do you think they are gone now?” he suddenly asked,
interrupting her musings and unconsciously rubbing his
muscled chest against her stiff back.
Her back’s killing her. Her wound had been jarred and
scraped many times that it throbbed so painfully now. There
was no hope in that as she suppressed the pain the scraping
was causing her.
Setting aside the uncomfortable feeling that he gave her;
she alerted her senses to the present predicament they were
in.
They had to get out of there real quick.
She honestly couldn’t tell from the darkness but her sense of
hearing was sharp enough to gauge that their pursuers were
out of sight. Oh, why didn’t she bring along her night-vision
headgear when she needed it most?
“They’re gone,” she said, reaching for the arm close to her
and they both stood up, skimming their backs against the
wall to avoid getting caught. Her hand was on her gun
tucked in the waistband of her jeans. There wasn’t any time
to get her gun belt as the alarms resounded before she could
strap it back around her upper torso. It was a good thing that
she didn’t forget to tuck the damned thing in her waistband.
Her gun was special. It can fire two rounds in just under a
minute. The firepower was like using a heavy loaded gun
whereas hers was light and handy.
She’s going to miss the gun belt though as it was made
beautifully. Justice, the blacksmith, made it to go with the
gun. It was made of soft black leather adorned in silver with
the angelic words that meant Conqueror of the Dark
engraved around it. Justice would surely understand given
the circumstances.
Her breathing became steady and calmed as she tried to
focus.
Large hands suddenly grasped her hand when they were well
away from the threat, surprising her out of her skin. She
could feel the familiar gentleness as the palm that grazed
hers, burning a path that made her shiver a little. She can
feel some calluses on the palm of that hand and thought that
it was a contradiction for someone like him to have slightly
rough hands like that.
They were strong yet gentle as it held her to a stop.
Then, before she could take another step through the
darkness, she lifted up a foot off the ground with his
powerful arms and seductively plastered against a hard and
lean muscled body and kissed thoroughly.
She couldn’t think or do anything other than kiss him back.
It was deep, consuming, erotic and unbalancing. She gripped
the muscled shoulders tightly to support her weight and not
let her fall as she heard herself let out a soft moan after the
way he took over her.
***
Two
What’s wrong with her?
This was totally unacceptable behavior for someone like her.
She’s working, for crying out loud! She’s a professional at
work!
Preposterous!
It’s against all the rules of the Order to associate with
someone very unlikely . . . someone like him. And the fact
that they’re from totally different specie was completely
unacceptable. They’re on the opposite sides of the karmic
circle, for crying out loud!
If Ysem finds out . . . if The Grigori finds out, she’ll be toast.
She visibly shuddered at the thought.
The powerful hands gently framed her face, angling her head
to bring the kiss deeper.
Oh, boy. She’s drowning like an anchor.
This was trouble in the making.
She was lost. She was robbed of all common sense as she
savored him, a perfectly healthy and very attractive man. All
lean muscles and testosterone.
Minutes passed before the same gentle hands that had
made her a complete idiot disentangled her from her death
grip on the muscled arms.
“Thank you,” he muttered against her throbbing lips.
She was quick to react. She slammed her fist in the arm that
held her.
Yelping in pain, he growled at her in a low voice. “Ow! What
did you do that for?”
She stood squarely in front of him and tilted her head back in
a challenging stance. “Better your arm than the other part of
your anatomy that I really want to do extreme damage to,”
she hissed back.
She poked a finger hard in the middle of the muscled chest
that she was plastered against not a moment ago. “Are you
insane? I guess you being a man and all; I should have
protected myself not from the marid but from you. You’re not
supposed to do that especially with me,” she hissed almost
breathlessly, her face flushed and her labored breathing was
almost choking her. “What were you thinking?” she asked as
an afterthought.
Still rubbing the spot she viciously punched, he hissed at her.
“I’m thinking that I’m not a eunuch to disregard the fact that
you’re an attractive woman and completely healthy, I guess,
and we’re totally alone in the dark. I am just expressing my
gratitude in a way,” he answered, rubbing his sore arm.
“Besides, what’s wrong when you enjoyed it as well or isn’t
that your tongue inside my mouth a few minutes ago?”
She punched him again in the exact same spot she did
a while ago. “You’re insufferable! Couldn’t you think of
anything fruitful besides mauling me in the dark?”
He almost laughed at that albeit his arm stung at her
punches. “I do not maul,” he countered indignantly. Then,
thinking better of it, he grinned in the dark. “I can think of a
lot of fruitful things besides kissing you and I am guessing
that you’ll get huffy if you hear them.”
Her anger intensified and fanned to the brink of eruption.
“I am not huffy,” she defended herself indignantly,
stiffening her back in a breakable manner. “I do not get huffy
. . . ever.”
“Of course you are,” he countered. “Hear yourself and
tell me I’m wrong to conclude that. You become huffy at the
drop of a hat. The only time you’re not huffy is when I kissed
you and when you’re asleep. Want a repeat of that?” he
asked teasingly.
He was deliberately teasing her and she’s not amused,
although she could see the glint of his teeth through the
darkness and knew he was grinning like an idiot that he was,
she wanted to stomp on his big toe to get him to stop.
Regrettably so, she was quickly falling into his trap wrought
by his charm.
She reluctantly admitted to herself that she understood why
he was doing it.
Her senses deeply attuned to his, she sensed that he doesn’t
want her to worry much. Although she doesn’t agree with his
method of distraction, she’ll have to keep note to the fact
that he exhibited sensitivity for her.
Then, she thought, why do they always come with a catch?
He wasn’t human. That was more than enough reason to
stay the hell away from him.
Calming down, she sighed. “Keep your lips to yourself as well
as . . .” She looked at the silhouette the moonshine made of
his profile and she swallowed hard. “Just keep your person to
yourself or else you’ll feel bodily harm. Understand?”
“See,” he pointed out, still grinning like an idiot. “You’re
being huffy again. I don’t understand you very well. What
should I do to make you loosen up around me?”
“Nothing,” she hissed and turned her back to him, scanning
the area through her other senses. She could almost hear
Ysem saying, “Attune yourself to your surrounding and use
all your resources to help get out of a glitch.”
She carefully stalked through the dark using her alert senses
without bothering to know if he was following her or not.
If the marid found them and capture them, she’s ready to
sacrifice herself to protect him.
He could feel where her thoughts were leading and he
grabbed her arm tightly, halting her. “No one’s going to die
tonight,” he said furiously.
She couldn’t quite understand how it happened but she
ended up following him instead of leading him out after that
pronouncement. It’s all like a man to seize control and take
the fun out of a girl’s adventure.
They were well away of the shadows, drawing towards the
unholy dimmed lights coming from a tower manned by more
demons, when he stopped short, pulling her down to hide
behind a big boulder as a troop of marids suddenly passed
by, fey creatures that they were. He could clearly hear their
conversation through the distance and understood the
strange language.
Sensing his trepidation, she asked, “What is it?” Her
whispered question with a poke of her finger in his back
caught his attention.
He turned his head over his shoulder to look at her through
the darkness and replied. “They’re convening in the grand
hall of Iblis. Something about the Diadem.”
She absorbed the information and reminded herself to find
out more about that Diadem from Ysem or better yet from
Chasan. The kuriote would know everything, if she could
have a chance to be alone with him after all this mess
though.
They had been keeping more from her and she’s irritated
with that realization. If they wanted her to continue working
for them, she’ll have to be enlightened one way or another.
By doing a direct approach, she’ll not be violating more rules
compared to having to conduct her own investigation that
would mean getting down and dirty.
He listened more to the conversation of the marids talking
amongst themselves, unaware that he’d been avidly
listening to them. When she poked him again, he hesitated
into telling her more of what he heard and then decided to
lie instead. “They’ll eat first before going since they have a
lot of time before the assembly.”
She almost bought that.
He began to let out a relieved sigh at the thought of her
believing that lie.
He didn’t want her to know that Iblis wanted more than the
elusive Diadem; the overlord wouldn’t hesitate to annihilate
the people who were keeping it from him.
The demon overlord already let out his ifrits to haunt those
who had been keeping it. If the woman next to him would
have the slightest idea that the demon overlord was
planning on killing her kind, she would definitely march down
Iblis’ hall and challenge him in hand-to-hand combat. And
the fact that one of the marids mentioned something about a
demonstration didn’t sit well with him as a chill came over
him and knew exactly what kind of demonstration it was and
who it was going to be done to.
She can sense bullshit a distance away. She jabbed him hard
to get his attention yet again. “Tell me the truth. Do you
honestly believe I’m stupid or something?”
Her voice turned menacing and he can’t think of any more
excuse not to tell her. “Raiha is with Iblis,” he said in a barely
audible voice that was grave and had a hint of finality.
That news made her more rigid and her heart beat so hard
that it hurts. She clutched a hand to control it. Much to her
dismay, it became more unbearable.
Her head pounded achingly. What should she do?
She stared down at her hand that he held with his larger
ones to stop their trembling. She looked at his face and she
doesn’t care if he saw the fear in her eyes.
Raiha, her friend, her partner. She couldn’t very well
abandon him. She swore on a code that when in a mission,
none should be left behind. But Iblis’ stronghold was too
much to overrun even with all her skills and the help of the
man staring at her with unmasked concern.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered as the marids were well away of
hearing them. He clutched her hand tightly, briskly rubbing
her hands that suddenly went cold.
He knew there’s no hope to rescue the man and he can’t
think of any possible way to help her see her friend again
when the fortress of Iblis was heavily guarded and no one
can step inside without Iblis’ permission and get out alive.
He tried and failed miserably.
Two skilled warriors cannot match the strength of the demon
overlord in his domain.
“I have to get him,” she muttered while her hand trembled
uncontrollably.
He shook his head. “Are you crazy? Do you really want to die
today? What you’re thinking is foolhardy and plain stupid.”
“He would do the same for me.”
“He wouldn’t want you to endanger yourself for him. He’s
with Iblis right now,” he pointed out. Then, he took both of
her hands in his stronger ones and gripped it tightly. “I don’t
want to lose you again. Do you hear?”
She stared dumbfounded at him. “Again?” She doesn’t know
what he was talking about. Confused, she continued to look
up at him as he struggled for words, making him
uncomfortable with her stare. “What in damnation are you
talking about?”
He wanted to shoot himself in the head for that. He had
revealed more of himself that he shouldn’t. That was stupid
of him. But the curious glint in her eyes while she looked up
at him told him that she wouldn’t let it rest until he told her
everything. He was unwilling, of course.
He took an oath and promised to take that oath to his end.
The memory of the past must remain in the past no matter
what. Her curiosity must be redirected into a more serious
matter. “Forget I said that,” he mumbled. “What are we
going to do? How can we escape with a hundred or more
demons hunting us?”
That trick didn’t work as he assumed.
She shook her head vehemently and her look turned sinister.
“Too late, mister, you’re telling me all or I will kill you right
here and right now.” Her hand rested on her gun that was
tucked inside the waist of her pants.
He had no doubts that she would do exactly that.
How could he let that one slip out? Damn his unreliable
control!
She could sense the trepidation in his touch. She knew that
he was struggling inside but has no qualms in making him
squirm in his feet more. She hated being kept in the dark,
metaphorically speaking of course.
“Did you ever ask why you were given the gift of seeing
things out of the ordinary since you were young, why you
were recruited by The Order and made into an agent? And
they concealed everything they know about me as much as
they could. They were sworn to secrecy not to reveal
anything concerning me.” Those last words were spoken in a
sad tone that she didn’t miss.
“Maybe the fact that I excelled as a potential agent during
my training was one of the reasons,” she answered matter-
of-factly. “If that’s not it, I’m lost. As to your origins, I have
no time to ask them.” She shrugged and waited for him to
enlighten her.
It was against the rules of The Order for an agent to ask
questions to his or her superiors.
He took a deep breath.
After he revealed the truth, there was no going back. It was
unfair to keep her from the truth in the first place since
everything that had been happening to her now was deeply
intertwined to the past that they both shared.
He prayed for all the strength to get it out of his chest. He
doesn’t care for the wrath of those whom he took the oath
for. It was high time that she knew the truth even if only a
fraction of the truth.
She patiently waited for him to speak up, a first for her since
she’s not known to be the patient kind. Ysem tried to drum
the virtue into her but she remained what she was.
The truth was that she was inwardly delighted at the
chagrined look on his face to make him utterly lost before
her. She wanted to prolong this.
If only she brought a video cam with her as well. Whew! This
was really priceless.
He braced himself, leaned close to her and cupped her
cheeks gently with his large hands and tenderly whispered
his confession for her ears only. “I have loved you since the
beginning of time and would still love you ‘till the end of
time, wife.”
“What?!”
***
Three
Thousands of years before. . .
“My Lord,” the reverent greeting echoed throughout the hall
accompanied by the kneeling form of Zethos, Prince of
Omiron, resplendent in all his princely radiance. The white
light shining from the glass ceiling throne room sent an
ethereal brightness around him, making him glow with a
radiance that was both enthralling and formidable. His
raiment was that of a higher being of importance.
Completely clothed in white woven through with golden
threads in intricate patterns lining the neckline, his sheathed
silver sword strapped on his hip and his long bronzed hair
tied at his nape with silver ribbons that swayed around him.
His face was that of fairness and the light of heaven shown
upon it.
He looked up with those heavily fringed amber eyes of his
and found a very saddening realization. His lordship has
fallen into a deep and troubled trance only wrought by the
growing phantoms of evil lurking at their wake. Zenos’ will
was all but exhausted. He had nothing more to do other than
watch the fall of everything they’ve worked hard to guard for
as long as he remembered.
They were the Arranto, Guardians of the Passages between
good and evil. For eons of ages, they have kept the gates
secured, undefiled and wholly impenetrable to those who
were not meant to pass.
They were appointed by the most high, after the Great Strife
and the creation of evil, which was now condemned to lie in
the deep most recesses of the undying world of the fallen
ones.
Zenos was appointed the head of the Guardians. The weight
of the responsibility he was given he took to heart and
seriously upheld the doctrine of the Supreme Divine.
Although immortal, their powers rely mostly on the goodness
of things and no evil could tarnish their everlasting soul.
They were made solely for the purpose of guarding the
passages and the gates between the three planes: celestial,
astral and mortal planes.
Their beginnings were unknown to all immortal beings even
to most of their kind. They’ve been given life through the
thoughts of the Supreme Divine up on the fall of Lucifer in
the great oblivion.
They’re a separate people, not celestial, not divine and not
demon.
Not once have either side defiled their power -their
authority, for they answer solely to the Supreme Divine and
no one else. Until, the forewarned words of the Supreme
Divine echoed through time and space towards the ears of
Zenos alone that their feared beginning of the shadows
started.
The Karmic Cycle had been disrupted. Nothing would ever be
the same again unless some action would be taken. Then
again, things won’t return to the way it had been.
“Where have I erred, Zethos?” came the barely whispered
voice of his lordship. “I have guarded and I have nurtured
but nothing seems to be enough. They’ve taken it away and
now, the doom is near.”
Like him, Zenos had the same long bronzed hair and blessed
with the fair face but the difference between them was the
wizened look on those blue depths of his eyes that forever
shone with the light of heaven.
Zethos can’t think of any comforting words that will apply to
the defeated Zenos upon his throne. His eyes were trained
solely at the lonesome figure of the once glorious Arranto,
broken and looked as if all life had been drained out of him.
“Messengers had been dispatched, my lord. They’ve just
return to bear good news from our friends whose arms are
willing to help us retrieve what was lost,” Zethos offered in a
quiet voice.
He waited for some reaction from his lordship as he stayed
kneeling down the dais that supported the Throne of Omiron
. . . Zenos’ throne.
It was an impressive structure wrought of silver and gold
that shone like the precious gem none on the mortal world
would ever see.
Among the brethren of immortals created by the Supreme
Divine, they were one of those who could come and go
through the three planes. Their kind had the ability to
assume a mortal body and interact with the Younger Children
of the Supreme Divine – the mortals.
When some of their kind first descended into the mortal
world, men had easily mistaken them for gods and
goddesses and worshipped them, building temples for them
much against their real purpose of existence as accorded by
the Supreme Divine.
Some of their kind embraced the worship and became false
gods. But those who remain faithful reject that practice and
remained observer among mortals and not a dominant
figure.
Those whose pride consumed them dwell in-between the
astral and the celestial plane and established their dwellings,
calling it Paradise. But the real paradise was forever locked
against them as long as their pride endured.
Through centuries of men, they’ve watched as civilizations
fall, pride and evil propagated and goodness all but
extinguished. The mortal world became a battleground of
greed for more power. The mortals suffered the more and
were helpless against the onslaught as their souls were
condemned for their actions and where their loyalties lie.
“The Kuriotetes and the Potentiates are moving and are
willing to help, my lord. They’re only waiting for you to open
the passages.”
Zenos looked directly at Zethos’ kneeling form and
counseled himself to pierce the wall of consciousness of the
immortal brethren and knew that it was true.
“Rise up, Zethos, and come closer to me,” he commanded.
Zethos humbly took the steps to get near his lordship and
sank down on his knees before the throne.
Zenos laid a hand to lift Zethos’ face up. “Are you going as
well, my child?”
Tears welling in his eyes, Zethos couldn’t look directly at the
wiser one’s face. “I have to do something, my lord. A great
wrong had been done to us.
The Supreme Being’s disappointment shadowed these walls,
making it unbearable to sit and do nothing. It consumes us
into powerless beings. We’ve sworn to protect and that’s
exactly what I have to do.”
“Your heart’s set in this and no amount of words could sway
you from your decision. It seems as if everyone is
abandoning me.”
Zethos shook his head. “Please don’t think that, my lord,” he
pleaded, clutching the elegant hand of the wise one and
bent his head towards it, touching his forehead to the
warmth of that hand. “We . . . I am not abandoning you to
your loneliness.”
Zenos flitted his hand to pat his Zethos gently in the cheeks.
His voice took a graver tone. “I’ve seen too much of what
will come to pass as the Supreme Being had endowed me of
that knowledge. I believe that the doom the shadows bring
will envelop you and take you from these halls forever.”
Zethos tried to reason out, “But the Fates can be altered.
They could be . . .”
Zenos dropped his hand and interrupted. “The Fates! Bah!”
he interjected. “
They do nothing in their halls but weave their looms and
thought they hold the lives of every being in their hands.
Only the Supreme Divine knows all that will come to pass as
I had been unfortunately shown.”
“An enduring heart will alter it,” Zethos tried again.
“The heart will also be the bane of life,” Zenos said in
fatality. “Go, child, and do what your heart tells you. But
before you leave, take the Vial of Lemnos. It will protect you
and take you back here in Omiron when it is time. Only you I
entrust to have it and protect it as I have faith in you.”
Zethos kissed the back of his lordship’s hand as he retraced
his steps down with a bowed head. Then he looked up, “This
won’t be the last you’ll see me, ada.”
“I pray that it won’t be, my child,” Zenos replied, his eyes
blurring. Goodbye, my child . . . my son. I shall await you in
the Hall of the Spirits soon.
Zethos left the hall and breathed his last breath of the main
hall of Omiron as he said a silent farewell to his father . . . a
father that loved him so much to let him go and follow his
heart’s desire.
The troops were all gathered in the courtyard, awaiting the
light that will signal the opening of the passages.
Zethos took his stand beside his dear friend and clutched the
vial inside his jacket against his breast tightly. He’d done
what his father asked of him. He knew where the Vial of
Lemnos rests and took no time in getting it.
A few minutes ago, he faced the majestic tower of Lemnos in
the southern side of Omiron. The intimidating structure sent
a chill down his spine as he walked with sure steps towards
it.
The Taliantii guarded the tower and the crypt where the vial
was kept. They were the companions of the Arranto, a race
unique than everyone since they were created through the
angelic hymns of the Ophanim, the glorious Merkabah or the
Wheels of the Chariot of God. They were also the adoptive
daughters of Talia, one of the glorious Ophanim, who
especially trained them to become her personal
guardswomen. But when Talia was slain while guarding the
Citadel of Taros, the tower of the Ophanim, by her own
brother Balan, who was secretly in league with Lucifer, she
called out for Uriel the Seraph to take the Taliantii,
younglings then, with him into a safe place after entrusting
the Vial of Lemnos into their safekeeping for only the power
of the Ophanim can handle the heat of the Vial without
burning them unless a charm can be cast to a handler who
hasn’t the power of the Ophanim. Since the Taliantii were
progenies of the Ophanim, they were the only ones who can
handle the vial.
At first, Uriel the Seraph whisked them away to Kalidon, but
seeing the utter chaos in the Potentiate’s abode, he took
counsel with Camael, the leader of the Potentiate of Kalidon,
and decided to take them to Omiron and asked Zenos,
progenitor and leader of the Arranto, to take them in only
until the chaos in Heaven can be contained for they were still
younglings back then and couldn’t fight their own way
against the forces of Lucifer. All younglings had been shifted
to different strongholds to avoid being slain. Some went to
Tyr, the land of the Lerrion and some were in Bismyr, the last
impenetrable stronghold of the celestials controlled by
Verchiel, the Potentiate general.
But after the war ended and everything was set to rights
once again, the Sarim, the angelic princes, took counsel and
decided that the Taliantii would better serve their purpose
with the Arranto and thought to keep them there.
Since then, the Taliantii had been working alongside the
Arranto in guarding the passages while making sure that the
Vial of Lemnos stayed safe until it was needed for the glory
of goodness.
Meanwhile, songs of Talia’s deeds were sung by the
remaining Ophanim in reverence, making her renowned
among the angelic choirs. It was also mentioned that the
Supreme Divine held Talia so dear to his omnipotent heart
and that love had extended to the Taliantii.
Seeing them in their glory standing before him, he wondered
what would have happened if they weren’t rescued by Uriel
the Seraph. Such beauty would be lost. Such love he had
recently found wouldn’t be his as well. His heart wouldn’t be
the same if that happened.
They were all dressed alike in flowing white garments that
grazed their knees, knee length boots embellished in dark
gold, their waists cinched with their impressive armaments
and carried tall spears in bronze and emerald. Their hair tied
from their faces and flowed in long strands at their back held
by a cord of golden ribbons. Only their captain dressed
differently from them and much more impressive in her
garment of deep blue with the same embellishments and a
silver sword sheathed with roughly cut diamonds hung
against her hip by a belt of silver.
The captain of the Taliantii dropped in one knee in front of
him as he approached the opened heavy silver doors of the
tower. The others fell in place behind.
“Your grace,” greeted Katiana, the lovely guardian of the
holy fire. Her eyes shone intensely that no immortal or
mortal could extinguish the fire that burned in its depths. A
single stone that shines like frost was set between her
brows, accentuating the exotic features that she was blessed
with. She bowed curtly before him as her hair swept down in
front of her, the dark tresses in contrast to the other Taliantii
who all had the same light-colored hair. Diamonds glittered,
woven all around her dark hair that shines like a halo in the
bright light.
Ever the gallant prince, Zethos held out his hand as he
watched the Talian captain took it gently and held it in
reverence and touched the hand against her forehead,
grazing the smoothness of her skin against the back of his
callused hand. “I assume you already know why I’m here?”
he asked after the moment was over, a moment he knew
would be one of the last if things go awry with the retrieval
mission.
Katiana nodded. “My lord Zenos had instructed us to await
you,” she said, releasing her hold on his hand and stood up,
drawing him to follow her.
The rest of the Taliantii followed behind him. They walked the
few distance when Katiana stopped in front of the marbled
crypt with the angelic symbols of fire and earth engraved in
bold writings atop a gilded frame of twines made of gold and
encrusted with diamonds.
She turned around to face him again with saddened eyes.
“Must you go, your grace?” she asked quietly, her lip
quivering with unshed tears.
Zethos had no idea of the effect his departure had wrought
among his people especially to this woman who had stolen
his heart. He saw Katiana’s sad eyes and he could almost
see the fire within slowly diminishing into depleted embers.
He held out one hand to cup her glowing tawny cheeks,
laying his hand against her trembling warm skin and said,
“Why the sad face, Katiana? I can feel that you have no faith
in my return, which is sad beyond reason since you have no
faith in my abilities at all.”
A burning tear rolled down her cheek against her will, hot
like the fire inside her. She shook her head despairingly. “I
have every faith that you shall return to us, your grace. It
only saddened me that I cannot go with you . . . to guard
your back and to protect you from the evil that was lurking
where you’ll be going.”
He brushed the tears from her cheeks and leaned down to
kiss her cheek tenderly. “I am grateful for your concern,” he
whispered close to her ear. “I hold you dear to my heart. You
know that. And I shall forever hold you dear,Katiana.”
Those words only made her sadder as she composed herself,
held her back rigid against the well of emotions churning
inside her. She had her duties to fill out the silence.
Regaining her composure, she resumed her task and opened
the jeweled lid laden with roughly cut gems shining like frost,
and extracted an elongated glass no bigger than the palm of
her hand that glowed a bluish color so bright that would
protect the wearer from too much darkness and would guide
thewearer into the light.
Their kind was not afraid of the dark or the evil that lurked in
its wake. But the Vial of Lemnos had the remnants of the
holy light that Lucifer once guarded before his fall.
Inside it was the most precious of the light created by the
Supreme Divine before the world began and before the War
of the Heavens.
Lemnos, Lucifer’s squire, preserved it before his death on the
hands of his own master.
Whispering a chant to grant guardianship of the vial to
Zethos, she reverently held the vial towards him and placed
it gently in the opened palm of his slender hand. “Lemnos
shall shine for you, your grace,” she said and she dropped on
one knee with her head bowed low and her right hand over
her heart.
The Taliantii all dropped on their knees, mimicking her
posture as he held it high for all of them to see and then,
carefully placed it inside his jacket pocket.
Breathing deep, he looked once more at the face of the
woman that had given him more warmth than any woman he
ever knew. “Katiana, this is the time for goodbyes,” he said,
helping the maiden up on her feet. “Now that I have the vial,
you have none to guard in this great tower anymore.”
She nodded in assent. “Lord Zenos had reassigned us to be
among the guardians in the main throne. We would all wait
for your safe return.” And I shall long for you, my love, until
it is time to meet you again in these halls. Here in my arms,
your welcome shall be my desire.
He could very well read her heart’s desire and it brought a
wrenching ache in him to see the same defeated look on
Katiana’s face much like as with his father.
He took his leave with one final longing glance at Katiana
and prepared him self for what’s to come. His feet dragged
with his raiment billowing around him as he took one step
after another that brought him farther away from her with
each step he took.
“Was that hard?” came the inquiry beside him as they
awaited the opening leading to the other side.
Zethos looked to his right and saw the grave face of Oriel.
His men and Omiron’s troops were all lined up behind them
and were anxious to get the deed done.
He knew that Oriel was as adamant to get going and was
trained for all of this. He had a trusty soul, much like those
who were all lined up behind them.
Courage was Oriel’s gift and Zethos felt comforted to stand
next to his friend.
Through the ages, Oriel had fought the demons of the
underworld. He comes and goes to the other side to guard
the depths, guarding the mortal world from all the evil that
never desists to crawl out of the pits of hell.
Oriel, with a handful of his men rallying with him were honed
to skill in the borders of Kalidon they call Bismyr under the
tutelage of the great Verchiel, who opted to stay behind with
all his confidence on his fosterling to guide the Potentiate
soldiers for him.
The men all loved and respected Oriel unconditionally. Oriel
inherently commands respect and obedience effortlessly
wherever he went. The soldiers were all ready to follow their
leader wherever he went. His silent gazes were all the
needed prodding to make his brethren be loyal to him. That
ability he undoubtedly inherited from his former superior,
Camael.
As Zethos looked at the tall, dark-haired Potentiate beside
him, he has no doubts why his very presence commanded
respect from those who stood silently behind them. He was
born a leader, having the compassion and strength of a fine
Warrior of Heaven.
Oriel’s strength was unquenchable. He was created to be
among the mighty.
And he was proving himself worthy for a very long time.
They both may be from different races but they both think
alike. A wrong done in the name of evil should be restrained
while still in its beginning.
Zethos let out a deep sigh before he answered Oriel. “It’s
more than what I had imagined it would be. Seeing father so
defeated was too much to bear.”
“And Katiana?”
Zethos looked back at the glint of the Tower of Lemnos and
his heart wrenched with a pain he couldn’t shake out of
himself.
“It’s alright not to say anything,” Oriel said, putting his hand
on Zethos shoulder. “There are times when silence becomes
a sufficient answer to a question that has answers which
cannot be described in words.”
Those wise words sent a comforting note in him that he
patted that offered hand and composed himself. “She
grieves, but she won’t show it,” he used telepathy to say
what he cannot voice out without broadcasting his secret.
“It is understandable that she will react thus. Barely a week
and you have to be off fighting again. Any woman would be
aggrieved to have the duty of seeing someone she loves go
off to possible danger.”
“But I cannot shake the feeling that she’s foreseeing some
kind of doom, that she sees that I will not come back.”
“Maybe she does. She’s a progeny of an Ophanim after all.”
Zethos bit his tongue from cursing the day when the
Ophanim created Katiana and the others. If the Taliantii
haven’t been created, he wouldn’t be facing this dilemma.
“Tell me something, my friend, would you have gone,
knowing that you’ll be leaving a piece of your heart behind?”
“Yes. I am what I am before all else. I have a duty to protect.
It’s good that I’m not you though. I sympathize with you. But
safety comes first before anything else. I know Katiana
understand duty as you do.”
Zethos let out a defeated sigh. Only Oriel knew about his
secret with Katiana. His father might have inkling, but he
doubts it. He was good in keeping secrets and blocking
unwanted mind-readers.
A great light shone upon them, as the passage was being
open.
Oriel, emotionless and used to it all, asked “Are you ready,
my friend?” He welcomed the warmth, ready to be embraced
by that light.
“Ready as I can be,” Zethos replied, closing his eyes and let
the warmth of the light take over his body as they were
transported to the other side where the shadows and his
inopportune fate awaited him. In the darkness, the real test
must be overcome or he wouldn’t come out of it in one
piece.
His hand tightly gripped his silver sword by his side as his
body dissolved, becoming one with the holy light, sucking
him in and taking him away from the place where love
nurtured him and where he won’t come back if his fate
demands it.
Zenos eyes were trained at the departure of his beloved son
and prayed to the Supreme Divine that what was
forthcoming shall not come to pass for the future looked
bleak enough to even contemplate the coming long
separation.
He prayed so intensely that a single tear rolled down and
dropped into the marbled floors in scattered diamonds that
Katiana had accidentally witnessed.
Her heart went to him, sharing the agony of being parted
with someone that was loved beyond all else.
Zenos felt her presence before seeing her. He beckoned a
hand and watched her with a grave face. When she was
beside his throne, he said, “My daughter.”
Katiana gasped. “You know?”
Zenos nodded.
“How?”
He reached for her hand and cradled it gently between his. “I
know everything that happens in Omiron, my child. No one
can keep a secret from me even if they try very hard. I
cannot condemn you for loving my son, but take care of that
heart of yours, my dear Katiana. That same heart that is
overflowing with love with also be my son’s doom.” Katiana
shook her head. “I do not understand.”
“I have seen something of the future that I cannot tell
another soul.”
Dejected, she collapsed at his feet and Zenos took her head
to cradle in hi
s lap as he had done once a very long time ago when she fist
came to Omiron
, full of fear and tears. He stroked her silken hair and voiced
out what wa
s in her mind. “I do not have the will to stop you from doing
what you so d
esire, Katiana. One way or another, you will go to him and
nothing can stop
what was forthcoming. But for the grace of heaven, do not
endanger your li
fe more than it already is. You are like a daughter to me even
before you t
ied yourself to my son. Zethos was right to choose you
above all the women.
But he had exercised foolishness in doing so after so many
wasted years.”
“I am at fault,” she countered. “I thought you will not
approve.”
“How can I not approve of a love match, my dear?”
She looked up at him with tears glittering her eyes. “I have
to be with him,”
she said.
He stroked her cheek lovingly and dropped a kiss on her
forehead. “Then go
and await your destiny.”
Zenos watched with a heavy-laden heart as another one he
loved disappeared
from his sight.
“My lord, I am too old to see my son taken away from me.”
“We all make choices. Unlike my other sons, your race has
been given free
will. There is nothing more you can do.”
“But you can, my Lord.”
“No, I cannot. I won’t interfere in fear that I will alter other
destinies. And i
t is too complicated to allow that.”
“I understand.”
“Be strong, Zenos of Omiron. Everything will work out in the
end.”
“But it will take a lot of time, my Lord. I am not even
confident that I will s
ee that day.”
“Oh, you will. Do not doubt it.”
“I won’t, my Lord.”
Then, a comforting breeze enveloped him. Zenos can smell
the fragrant flora
that can only be smelt in Paradise. It made a moment of
peace settle in him,
but was quickly gone after the breeze left.
Despair was his companion and would remain so for
thousands of years to com
e. That was what he had foreseen and couldn’t utter a single
word of it to
any other living soul.
***
Four
Darkness greeted their arrival.
They were all dressed in complete dark garments as Oriel
signaled the men to
conceal themselves. Invisibility will be their cloak.
In the mortal plane, their powers were great and they could
transport themse
lves from one place to another with just one thought. They
could become invi
sible to the naked eye and see the Netherworld if they
wished it right befor
e their eyes.
The Netherworld had gradually ascended and co-existed with
the mortal plan
e through the past centuries, merging with the world of men
although unsee
n by the naked eye. The only thing that hinders the
Netherworld to complet
ely dominate the mortal plane was the astral plane that was,
fortunately,
heavily guarded.
Only those among mortals with the gift can conjure the
images of the unk
nown world when they wished it. And their arrival was deeply
anticipated
by those who waged war upon them by stealing the Diadem
from Omiron.
The Diadem, a crown-like symbol of power that was forged
by the Seraphim at
the beginning of time, had been in the keeping of Zethos’
people after the
fall of Lucifer. It was said that Lucifer had been one of the
Seraphs that
made it and thus the holy fire had been entwined with it
along with unspea
kable power to dominate the world of the lesser beings.
If fallen in the wrong hands, the Diadem can be manipulated
and wielded to
do evil and used as a weapon of mass destruction. It was
that they fear m
ost. If Lucifer gets a hold of the Diadem, the damage that
was going to be
done in the mortal plane would be beyond reparable. The
world of men will
be completely under the dominion of the Netherworld.
In Omiron, the Diadem was safe, buried under the Tower of
Isra. But unkno
wingly, it was stolen from the underground by the forces of
Harbonah under
Lucifer’s orders.
The Celestial princes had been alerted to the threat and
immediately held a
council to decide what to do. That was when Zenos let
Zethos attend in his
stead for he was ashamed at the terrible robbery done under
his domain.
Zethos was greeted with no such hostility, as the Arranto
feared. All the be
ings present were sympathetic and quickly offered their help
for the retriev
al of the Diadem.
Among those who were the first to offer were Camael,
Verchiel and Uriel the
Seraph. But Michael suggested not taking all of the able
troops with them
to avoid another catastrophic war.
The Diadem had been taken in stealth and it shall be
retrieved in stealth as
well. Those were Michael’s words.
Verchiel staunchly stood up and offered to take his best
Potentiates after th
e thieves. Michael saw the wisdom of letting Verchiel’s
troops go since they
were particularly trained in stealth and secrecy.
Then, Zethos stood up and volunteered as well since the
wronged done was t
o his people and the Diadem was their responsibility.
Michael greatly admired his courage that even against his
better judgment; h
e permitted Zethos only if Zenos agrees to let him go.
Zethos surveyed the mortal world with eyes so keen; he
doesn’t need light
to see what was before them. The fumes were unbearable at
that time of the
night as Harbonah’s demons came through a thick fog that
settled heavily
on the ground.
Demon lackeys that sprung out of the ground in a black mist
quickly surrou
nded them. They were numerous and Zethos immediately
felt that their arriv
al was foreseen.
“I have no time for this,” he said, stepping forward and
simultaneously un
cloaking himself. His outstretched hand produced static
energy and he blas
ted away those demons that blocked their way. “I didn’t
come here to play
with your puppets!” he thundered, blasting some more.
Oriel did his share of dealing with the demon lackeys when a
sinister laugh p
enetrated the air. He felt a malevolent force closing in on
them.
The demon lackeys quickly disintegrated and replaced by a
different breed
of demons that now blocked their path.
These demons faced them with their maniacally grinning
faces contorted by
evil and despicable in nature. These demons were marids,
djinns that tempt
s humans with beautiful appearances and enthralling voices
that manipulate
into committing sin and eventually consume their souls and
trap them into
the abyss where they dwell.
These demons do not look like monsters or beasts. They
were so seductively
handsome but oozed with evil that their handsomeness
cannot hide what their
true nature and form was in front of a being that had been
nurtured in sig
ht of the holy light.
Harbonah, the demon lord and leader of that marid troop,
stepped in front a
nd faced them with his wicked grin and taunted them. “It is
nice of Michael
to send his men to retrieve something that originally belongs
to our Lord,
” the demon lord said, standing before his minions
confidently, deftly play
ing with a dagger on his hand.
Oriel faced him squarely. “You blaspheme even when you
know that the Di
adem doesn’t belong to Lucifer but with Heaven.”
“That’s right, defend the teachings of the old fool who sits in
His throne li
ke the sluggard He is. He has abandoned everything after
creation. Isn’t that
hard to accept, shito?” Harbonah spat the words.
Zethos was seething with anger, the first time he
experienced that kind of e
motion.
“You have no right to even speak God’s name in my face,
you filthy creature,
” Oriel hissed, drawing his sword out of its sheath that
glinted in the dark
ness like a lethal blade of the fey. “Have you forgotten that
He was the one
who created your sorry self in the first place or does your
twisted mind be
tray you into thinking that you sprung out of nothing?”
Harbonah laughed at the taunting. “You speak courageously,
boy. I came firs
t before you and know how pathetic these men are and they
do not deserve th
e treatment your God has for them. We are better than them
. . . higher bei
ngs that should be their masters.”
“Your folly is in thinking that,” Oriel said, stepping forward
and ready to s
trike first. “Let’s cut this talk and give us the Diadem. You
don’t want to h
ave the full force of Prince Michael at your wake, do you?” he
taunted the de
vil but received not the reaction he was aiming for.
Silence sizzled between the two forces.
Then, Harbonah’s wicked laugh pierced the air. “You’re
outnumbered, boy,”
he said as more marid troops came from the shadows and
fog that encircle
d Oriel and Zethos’ men. “Do you think I’ll be foolish enough
to come and
face you with so few warriors with me? I am smarter than
you think.”
It was useless to fight with powers. Both forces knew that.
So, they silently
agreed to fight with skill of arms.
Oriel cast a mystical energy barrier to protect the mortal
plane from being d
estroyed with the fight about to ensue. He was among those
who could create t
he protective spell of a larger scale, spanning at least ten
miles of the pla
ne.
His barrier will hold as long as he remained unharmed, as it
was solely dep
endent on him. He would guarantee that it would hold for the
sake of concea
ling their world from any passer by. One mistake would lead
to the tipping
of the balance between the planes.
Trepidation claimed Zethos. The vial inside his jacket was
kindred of the D
iadem and it warms through his chest, telling him that the
Diadem was close
at hand. If only he could sense where it was.
Then, his gaze drifted at the breast pocket of Harbonah and
a certain glow il
luminated from the inside. Zethos sent his thought to Oriel
and they both agr
eed to a plan.
Harbonah took the first charge by hurling his dagger in the
direction of Orie
l’s heart. Oriel ducked just in time and sidestepped to his left
only to see
that that dagger struck one of his warriors. The potentiate
disappeared in a
bluish-white light and was never seen again.
Oriel waved his sword that produced a zinging sound before
it came crashin
g down on the demon closest to him. He engaged three
demons into hard comb
at, using all his strength and skill as he deflected the
demons’ blows qui
te easily. He charged in and cut the demons by their chests
and saw that t
he wound easily closed up and the demons became whole
again.
He charged once more, ducking his head as the demons
tried cutting his hea
d off and swerved his sword, taking the one demon’s legs off.
Then, he too
k one swing of his sword and chopped all three demons’
heads and a flash o
f black smoke rendered it gone.
Zethos, after killing more than a dozen marids, turned to the
others and dea
lt the demons with lethal blows that turned them into black
smoke. No one co
uld be spared by the furious swing of his sword as he
searched for his frien
d fighting on the other side and engaging a dozen marids all
at once. Oriel’
s fighting skill was impressive.
Oriel’s eyes darted to where Harbonah was, annihilating the
celestial forces
one by one, getting closer to Zethos’ direction.
Zethos had engaged four marids and quickly finished them
off with the letha
l blow of his sword. He then took out his shackle and threw it
in the air,
chopping six demon heads in succession.
Then, he heard a familiar voice far behind him. He looked
over his shoulder
and saw Harbonah battling one of his warriors.
He immediately recognized the familiar way of combat.
Then, in sudden reali
zation and a denial that followed, his heart started pounding
a wild beat a
s he shoved his way in that direction, hacking marids along
the way.
He has one thing in mind right then that thundered
throughout his system -
to engage Harbonah in a fight with him and away from the
celestial warrior
the demon lord was currently battling with.
As he got closer, his fear was confirmed as dark glittering
hair so familia
r to him had come unbound and spread like raven’s wings.
He shouted, “Katia
na!”
Oriel, alarmed when he saw his friend dash towards
Harbonah and heard the f
urious shout, ran, following behind Zethos after finishing off
the marids h
e was fighting with.
Harbonah ruthlessly wielded his sword and struck Katiana
across her belly
. Her face was already bloody from the numerous blows she
received from H
arbonah’s lethal blade. Blood continuously dripped down her
face, droppin
g on the ground where she stood in a pool of death.
She looked so beaten up and was getting weak as time
passes. She swayed on
her feet at the sudden faintness claiming her.
The wound in her belly opened up in a gushing wound. Much
to her surprise,
she bled more. She could taste blood in her mouth, choking
from it as she h
eaved for breath and more strength to stay up on her feet.
Her eyes rounded questioningly at Harbonah when she
looked up. The demon l
ord smirked at her and quickly enlightened her with a
malicious grin. “My
sword can wound even an immortal like you in a death blow
and bleed like a
mortal,” he explained, sardonically. “Pitiful creature,” he
added tauntin
gly. “Unlike you, we do not underestimate our enemies and
came prepared. A
spell can do wonders, you know, for someone like you . . .
Taliantii.”
She stood there shocked that the demon lord knew what she
was as she stagg
ered back on her feet, doubling over from the pain, trying to
keep her wou
nd from bleeding more as she clutched her belly. Pain shot
through her and
she dropped down hard on her knees, choking blood out of
her mouth.
Zethos heard those taunting words and was too late to
rescue Katiana as Ha
rbonah dealt her another blow, piercing her chest with his
sword. He saw h
er fall with Harbonah poised looming above her to cut her
head off when Or
iel, shouting, charged at Harbonah.
Katiana, gasping for breath, held her belly as more blood
gushed out. Zetho
s kneeled beside her fallen body and cradled her head in his
arms gently, w
iping the blood from her face with the palm of his hand.
“Why Katiana? Why did you come where you are not
supposed to be?” Zethos
asked, caressing her cheek tenderly with the back of his
hand.
Gasping for breath, she answered, “I can’t fathom of thinking
of you alone t
o fight these demons. I have to protect you . . . to keep you
safe and bring
you back in your father’s hall hale and whole.” She winced at
the pain in h
er chest. She was beyond salvation now. She let out a short
laugh. “So much
for protecting,” she muttered to herself.
He shook his head at her, laying a hand against her cheeks
that was getting c
old to his touch. “Even at the cost of your own life?”
She sniffed as she drew his hand to her lips and placed a kiss
to his knuckl
es. “I love you too much to be separated from you,” she
confessed.
“You are doing that now. “
He has no more words to tell her what’s in his heart as he
leaned down and ca
ptured her bloodied lips in a kiss full of love. He tasted the
bitter reality
of death in her lips as he poured himself into that kiss. He
cradled her hea
d as he deepened the kiss and suddenly tasted her tears. He
pulled away and s
aw that she was openly crying. “Don’t cry,” he whispered
close, rubbing his f
orehead tenderly against hers, kissing her hair, and
breathing the comforting
scent of her.
Then she let out a curt laugh. “It seems as if my plan of
protecting you bac
kfired. I would be separated from you nonetheless.”
He lingered his lips against hers and hushed her. “Don’t think
that, my love
. You and I won’t be separated. I promise.” He leaned down
and kissed her ag
ain as he felt her strength pouring through that kiss.
Oriel finally dealt Harbonah one furious blow of his sword
and saw that th
e few marids left vanished when they saw their leader
perished under Oriel
’s sword. Harbonah’s body suddenly vanished without a
trace. Oriel was lef
t staring at the spot in the ground where he pinned
Harbonah with his swor
d, which was now empty save for his sword.
His eyes then searched for Zethos and his heart broke at the
sight of the Ar
ranto huddled with the fallen body of Katiana. He hesitated
in going in that
direction as the precious moments belong to them alone.
Death hung heavily in the air.
Oriel could taste it. This encounter would forever hang a
gloomy cloud above
his friend’s heart.
Katiana lifted a hand and laid it in the handsome face of her
Zethos. He kis
sed her palm tenderly and saw the glazed look that came
over her eyes as the
fire was all but extinguished from those depths.
“Stay with me, my love. Don’t leave me.”
She smiled. “I’ve longed to have you by my side, Zethos. But
when my dreams
are finally realized, this happened. I cannot dream without
something disr
upting it. I am cursed after all.”
“No. You’re are far from cursed. You are blessed.” He gripped
her hand firm
ly to his beating heart and whispered closely, “I will say the
words you lo
nged to hear over and over again so long as you stay with
me and never leav
e me. I love you too much to let you go, Katiana.”
“I’m afraid I cannot accommodate you in your request,
husband.” She whispe
red back. “My body is broken and I shall leave you but only
for awhile as
I will await your coming to the other side with my arms
open.”
“Don’t say such nonsense,” he said. “You will live and
together with me, we
shall make all our days happy and full of love,” he added.
He’s in denial. H
e couldn’t help it.
“That is a nice dream you’re sharing with me. I can almost
see myself like
that with you,” she said, coughing more blood from her
mouth. “My dreams ar
e quite similar to yours. I dreamt of having children with you,
blessed wit
h your fair face and grace.”
“I’d rather have them look like you with the fire burning
warmly inside thei
r soul,” he suggested, bringing her body to rest on his lap as
his arms enci
rcled her in a hold so tight and secure that it seemed he
didn’t want to let
go. His breath fanned the hair that came loose as he leaned
down and kissed
her temple. “I can imagine little girls with their mother’s
beautiful black
hair and glowing tawny skin dancing in the lush meadows of
Omiron.”
She smiled broadly at the thought. “I can imagine little boys
with their father
’s hair glinting in the bright light like golden strands and
running around wit
h their sisters.”
“That’s a fun site to watch, isn’t it?”
She slowly nodded.
He rested his head against hers and breathed in her
essence. “Those dreams
will become reality as long as you stay with me.”
Her hand gripped something inside her shirt and extracted a
medallion with
the crest of the Taliantii on it, bejeweled with tiny diamonds
and hung i
n a white gold chain. It was the same medallion Talia hung
over her neck b
efore the Ophanim was slain. An essence of Araboth, the
seventh heaven, wa
s captured there. It was something that Katiana held dear
aside from her h
usband.
“Keep this, my love,” she whispered, drawing the necklace to
him. “Keep i
t with you always and remember that I will wait for you to
come back to m
y arms in Paradise. Promise me.”
A tear rolled down his cheek and dropped at her cheek. “I’ll
promise more f
or you.”
“I love you. Zethos. It’s alright now. You can let go now. I am
not afraid.”
Those were her final words as she dissolved into a bright
glittering white
light and his arms became empty with just the necklace
dangling from his han
d.
He shouted his agony . . . “Katiana!” The unfair reality of
death shadowed
his heart. He took deep gulps of the fetid air and raised his
head to the
sky and shouted his maiden’s name once again, more heart
wrenching. “Katian
a!”
Oriel felt his friend’s woe and the terrible sound of his pain
emanated thr
oughout space that the ground trembled beneath them. He
felt the heartbreak
ing pain and knew that Zethos won’t be the same being he
once was. His loss
was just the beginning of something that he feared for his
friend.
Zethos kneeled there on the ground for sometime, shaking
at the pain of Ka
tiana’s death as he became oblivious to what was happening
around him, eve
n when everything was very detrimental to his safety.
Oriel finally sought out his friend after he saw the dejected
form and the p
ain slowly receded into something he couldn’t describe. He
stood beside Zeth
os’ kneeling form and said through grave eyes that mirrored
his sorrow at th
e death of the maiden, “It’s time to go, Zethos.”
“The Diadem?” Zethos asked without looking at Oriel. He
gripped the necklac
e tightly before he clasped it around his neck and let the
warmth of the me
dallion sear his chest where his beloved shall rest until he
was reunited w
ith her.
“Harbonah doesn’t have it when I killed him. He must have
known that we’ll
get it and secreted it away somehow,” Oriel explained.
Seeing the dejected
silhouette of Zethos, he can’t think of any comforting words
to ease the pa
in he could feel emanating from his friend. He reached out a
hand to help Z
ethos up.
Zethos took the offered hand and stood before Oriel with
unseeing eyes and K
atiana’s blood splattered all over his clothes and hands.
“Help me, Oriel,”
came the hushed request that tore Oriel’s heart.
Oriel cannot deny a friend in need. There was no other way
to help someone i
n that state that he became helpless. “I shall. I promise.”
“My path is clouded from my vision, Oriel,” Zethos sadly
said. “I don’t
think that the heavens would embrace my homecoming
anymore. The doors of
Omiron are shut from me.”
Oriel laid a comforting hand on Zethos’ shoulder. “Heaven
hasn’t forsaken
you, Zethos.”
Zethos let out a short bitter laugh, “I think naiveté doesn’t
suit you, Orie
l. The heavens had already forsaken me the moment Katiana
left Omiron to be
by my side.”
***
Five
A tear glisteningly rolled down Athena’s cheek, wrenching
her heart open at
the agony she saw on Zethos, a brethren . . . her cousin.
They were related and they were close before she took the
path of her fat
her and now dwells away from the Heaven she’d known and
loved.
Omiron had forsaken them thousands of years before. Along
with her family,
they fell from grace because of pride, the same pride that
made Lucifer t
he very devil that was wreaking havoc with the Supreme
Divine’s creation w
ith his multitude of demons rallying behind him.
Pride cometh before the fall.
Her decision to leave the blessed halls of Omiron where
everything was si
mple and every deed flourished, she fully admitted was
solely because of
the pride that grew in her heart when she descended among
the mortals, dw
ell among them and taught them her knowledge and was in
turn worshipped f
or her inherent gift. She eventually began to get used to be
worshipped a
loved, becoming great among her kin and beloved by
mortals.
Along with her family and some of her relatives, they’re now
sundered from
their kin and the glittering halls she grew up in and still
painfully remem
bered as precious memories.
Even if the Supreme Divine cast them out, they still
intervened in the morta
l world and help men to overcome the evil that Lucifer had
set lose.
Their duty had become almost impossible to accomplish
through the ages as
they grew to develop human emotions, weakened by that
state as men all but
forgotten the old ways and about their existence.
Their becoming almost human was one of their mistakes.
They had loved the
mortals so much that they experience what they feel and
more so that they
were forever bound to the mortal world until the end of time.
Evil was yet again on the move.
A shiver ran down her spine as she contemplated her visions
of it. She coul
d see more of what will happen compared to the others of
her kin, as her mi
nd was not wholly blocked out from the celestial lands.
A sigh escaped her on those far gone memories. Her heart
constricted at the
dejected look upon her cousin as she continued looking at
him, thinking of
a way to ease his pain somehow.
Artemis, dashing inside Athena’s hall in sprightly steps after
a bout of hun
ting with her favorite hunting partner Orion following behind,
possibly with
every intention of disrupting her older half-sister’s well-
ordered day from
the naughty look that came over her face the moment she
spotted Athena’s so
mber face.
Athena’s younger half-sister was full of spirit as usual, as the
exhilaratin
g hunt brought roses in her cheeks and abundant energy
that she suddenly hal
ted on her tracks when she saw the anguish on her half-
sister’s eyes amid th
e somber face.
Artemis became troubled after seeing that look. It clearly
boded ill since
Athena seldom looked that way and when she does, there’s
a grave reason b
ehind it . . . a very grave reason that Artemis was inwardly
dreading to k
now. The last time she saw Athena that way was when Troy
was razed to the
ground.
“What has happened?” Artemis asked, walking towards
Athena steadily, openly
curious as she set her bow and arrows down the marbled
steps before standi
ng beside her older half-sister in front of the gilded mirror.
Orion, feeling that he shouldn’t be there, took his leave from
Artemis, bowin
g his head with a quiver of silver tipped arrows on his back.
“I shall take l
eave of you now, my lady,” he said ever so respectfully.
Artemis looked fondly at the young man and bid him go with
a slight nod. “I s
hall call you later, dear Orion,” she said.
When they had their privacy, Athena waved her hand in front
of the gilded m
irror and the silvery substance inside swirled to show her
half-sister what
had happened.
Artemis saw their cousin Zethos. He always took her breath
away with his
handsomeness that was simply his own. Not one of her kin
can compare to t
he splendid figure of the Prince of Omiron. Maybe, perhaps
his brother Ap
ollo could hold his own against Zethos on the latter’s worst
day. But Zet
hos would unanimously and undeniably become the victor
even when his face
was ravaged with sorrow and blood, like what the mirror was
showing them
. He was such a fine specimen of manhood that she became
as soft as a lov
esick fool.
She controlled herself. She’s a Virgin Goddess, for crying out
loud! She sho
uldn’t lust after a man, especially someone who was related
to her. Well, it
wasn’t unheard of for siblings to marry and procreate. Their
father married
his own sister to preserve the species. And their Uncle Hades
married cousi
n Persephone because of lust. But still, it would be wrong to
lust after Zet
hos. He’s definitely off limits. After all, Zethos of Omiron is
Zenos’ heir
apparent. Since Zenos was the first of their kind to be
created, Zethos was
considered to be far too good for outcasts like them. Though
it didn’t hurt
to admire the perfection of her face and body from the
mirror.
In control of her sensibilities, Artemis focused more on the
vision instead
of Zethos’ handsomeness and almost cried out when she
belatedly realized t
hat their cousin was in anguish – real anguish. There was
enough pain there
in those molten amber eyes to cross the distance and touch
her seemingly f
lighty heart in the most wrenching kind of way. She
shuddered at the sight
and took hold of her sister’s arm to steady herself. “Why
does he look that
way, Athena?” she asked curiously as Zethos’ anguish
reverberated througho
ut the hall.
“Love,” came the single sad reply of Athena, who was
choking inside while con
trolling her tears for fear of letting Artemis see her in that
state. She has
a reputation to uphold after all.
Artemis clenched her teeth. “Aphrodite is no good at all!”
she started ranti
ng. “She always does this. Look at poor Zethos!” she
exclaimed in outrage, w
aving her hands in anger and agitation by her sides. “She
has no regard what
soever. I shall deal with her after this. See if I don’t.” she
harrumphed to
let Athena know that she was serious even if everyone
considered her to be
a child. That really chafed considering she was already more
than six thousa
nd years old.
“Like the way you dealt with her when you fell in love with
Endymion?” At
hena pointed out with a knowing glance.
Artemis sputtered at that. Then, she calmed down and
reverted to more seri
ous matters. “It’s just unbearable to look at him in that state,
Athena. I
haven’t seen that kind of anguish on any other being before.
Not even Dem
eter upon losing Persephone to Uncle Hades. And everyone
knows how she wai
led and caused enough destruction to make father start
pulling on his beard.”
Athena looked at her younger half-sister and was again
reminded at how yo
ung Artemis was compared to the rest of them. She wasn’t
born in Omiron a
nd doesn’t know how things were back then. A pity really.
Artemis would f
orever wonder on the what-ifs.
Looking back at their cousin, Athena remembered all too well
the same look
on Zethos once before . . . before they were cast out of
Omiron. Everythin
g seemed to be easy then.
It was the same look she saw from Zenos as well as Michael
the Seraph whe
n they departed from Omiron that would forever be
imprinted in her memory
. That same anguished look was reminiscent of a deep loss
that shall neve
r be salvaged – ever.
“Aphrodite cannot work her powers over dear Zethos,”
Athena enlightened the
young goddess. “Zethos’ love for the guardian of the holy
fire, Katiana, w
as neither of this world nor the mortal world. It is of a higher
kind of lo
ve none of our people would ever experience again.”
Artemis saw the sadness that came over her half-sister after
speaking those
words and sensed a deep regret Athena failed to conceal.
“Oh, I see,” Artemis sighed, turning her attention back at the
mirror. “It’s
just that I’ve never met him up close before and only heard
stories about him
from the chattering of the Muses. They sing about him,
painting a clear pict
ure of a dashing prince that seemed all too perfect that the
image of him in
that mirror is surprising and unbelievable.”
“Zethos is as old as Father yet he possessed more might
than any other Olym
pian. He is his father’s son, the great Zenos of the Throne of
Omiron. Zeno
s is the head of our race, our progenitor.”
Artemis clucked her tongue. “Then, there’s no real problem.
Zethos could sim
ply bring his maiden back to life if he is that powerful. We do
it all the t
ime.”
Athena shook her head at the impulsive words. “It’s not that
easy, sister.
I almost forgot how young you are compared to the rest of us
who remembered
the days gone by.”
Athena waved her hand in front of the mirror and it showed
Katiana’s soul
traveling in a different direction compared to the usual
ascent of their p
eople. “Unlike mortals or us, Katiana’s soul will travel back to
the Supre
me Divine where she would become one with Him and can
never come back. She
’s a creature unique to everyone. She’s a progeny of the
Ophanim, someone
created out of their glorious hymns for the Supreme Divine.
Because of the
beauty of those songs, the Taliantii, where Katiana was one,
was created.”
“Never be resurrected? But Zethos . . .”
Athena clenched her fists at her sides as the image in the
mirror returned to
the dejected form of their cousin. “I know,” she quietly
interrupted. “I hav
e to help him. I have to repay the kindness he’s shown me
even after –”
Shaking her head, Artemis stared at her half–sister and
asked, “What’s on
your mind?”
Closing her eyes, Athena made a silent decision that she
wasn’t yet willing t
o share before the plan was executed satisfactorily. She
glanced at Artemis,
patiently waiting for her answer. Her flashing eyes trained on
her sister and
said, “I have to see Hela.”
Artemis shook her head to disagree on that course. “Can’t
Uncle Hades help
you instead, him being one of us?” she asked, unable to
mask her concern.
Hades would be more bending compared to the terrible
Nordic goddess. Even
if their uncle was lord of the dead, his dominion was only a
small part
of the whole kingdom of the Dead. Hela presides over more
parts than thei
r uncle and no Olympian had dared seek her out and be
accommodated.
The two kindred were not that close.
Artemis only heard rumors of Hela, not really into the hands-
on experience
of finding it out for herself. The rumors made her shudder at
the thought t
hat a goddess would be willing to take charge of the
Kingdom of the Dead. T
he office most likely fit a god than a goddess. Some even say
that Hela’s a
terrible goddess who was selfish and quick to wrath. But
they’re just rumo
rs and maybe held no truth in them. She has complete
confidence on Athena t
hough, and whatever her older sister decides, she’ll give her
full support.
Zeus only knows how courageous and fearless his daughter
was. She was ri
ghtly called the Goddess of War and Wisdom.
Artemis watched her sister sweep her overcoat over her
shoulders in one flu
id motion as she glided down the steps in her usual graceful
fleeting pace,
vanishing from sight with her golden helmet on.
Then, her gaze returned on the gilded mirror, her eyes
transfixed at the magni
ficence of Zethos as her heart silently cried out for his pain.
Omiron’s grounds trembled and Zenos knew what the cause
was.
The future for his son that he had feared most had come
true. He could feel h
is pain, share it and all he could do was to sympathize.
Katiana had been like a daughter to him since the beginning
when the Supreme
Divine entrusted him with the care of Talia’s maidens. He
also knew the gro
wing love between the guardian of the holy fire and his son.
He had no reser
vations with it especially after finding out the two secretly
plighted their
troth and that the secret ceremony was presided over by his
son’s dear frie
nd Oriel. In fact, he rejoiced, waiting for the time when the
two will come
forward to confess their deed.
When Malika, one of the Taliantii, came running towards him
with news that
Katiana was gone, he suddenly became troubled. The tears
of the Talian di
dn’t help. He couldn’t do anything. He numbly watched the
Talian leave the
hall as hurriedly as she came to be with her sisters to grieve
Katiana’s
death.
There will be no rejoicing now as that path had completely
shut down. The
halls of Omiron became washed with sorrow for a valiant
woman that was los
t and a prince that had gone astray.
Zethos was lost to him now and would be a great loss to the
celestial world.
The glorious Prince of Omiron shall never be sighted in the
glittering halls
again.
Then, Zenos heard his son through the distance, calling him
through his thou
ghts.
“Ada! Help me!”
“I’m sorry, my son. Your path had been shadowed for me to
help you. I am
powerless.”
“I cannot lose her, ada. I am lost without her.”
“I know and I am more lost because of this.”
Then, there was silence as Zenos searched his mind to reach
his son. But, to
his utter dismay, he couldn’t bridge the distance and
penetrate the wall th
at was quickly erecting around Zethos’ consciousness.
A phantom wind brushed through him and he whirled to face
his visitor, una
ble to mask his anguish over his son’s condition.
Michael the Seraph stood before Zenos in his magnificence
and radiance.
Zenos bowed his head curtly.
“We heard what happened and I’ve come to comfort you, my
friend.”
Zenos turned his head away from Michael’s sympathetic face
that burned his
pain anew. “Zethos is lost to us now. He could never come
back here again.
His heart is now full of misery and pain that he would be
restless in the c
onfines of this world as long as his heart calls out for his
Katiana. A def
eated soul has no place here in Omiron.”
Michael laid a comforting hand on Zenos’ shoulder. “I have
seen, my friend,”
he solemnly said. “All of heaven cries out because of your
son’s pain as well
as the fair Katiana’s demise. It is unfair to have that fate
bestowed upon s
omeone as glorious and fair as Zethos. But, there are rules in
life as well a
s in death.”
“I am well aware of the rules, Michael. That is why I have no
means to comfo
rt my own child in his time of loss as I cannot think of a way
to restore Ka
tiana’s life. Her soul is already journeying to the Supreme
Divine.”
Michael was about to say something when he heard a
familiar voice echoing
in his head.
“Michael . . . hear me.”
He knew who exactly was calling him. He can’t tune her out
after the note o
f desperation in her voice. “What is it Athena?”
“I grieve for Zethos, my beloved cousin. I cannot stand idle
and do nothing.
It pains me to see him like this. We must do something.”
“What could we do?”
“Come here in Niflheim and we’ll discuss it.”
Michael was surprised at hearing Athena talking to him after
thousands of
years of silence. He was also surprised that she would have
the audacity i
n communicating with him in that insolent manner. She had
disregarded all
protocol. Maybe her chosen lifestyle had influenced her to be
like that. S
he no longer cared for the chain of command. What
surprised him most was w
here she was communicating with him. Niflheim? Has the
world really gone m
ad that an Olympian would dare be in the same hall with an
Aesir?
Athena’s pride had been her bane. Those were the last
words he said to her
before she embraced banishment.
And Hela’s with her too. That was surprising. Michael could
have laughed
out loud if not for Zenos’ presence. Everyone knows the two
kindred were
not on good terms.
“How can you help someone like Zethos when we here can’t
even find a sol
ution to Zethos’ predicament? Do you consider yourself all–
powerful now
too?”
He heard her scoffing. “I’m indebted to Zethos more than
you’ll ever know
and wished him happiness all throughout his days, that’s
how.”
Michael smiled inside at that. The stubbornness of Athena
was to be expecte
d and the compassion was a little bit of a surprise. Although
he had known
her since she was born until the day she decided to stay
beside her father
in exile, he had lost all hope of ever seeing her again up
close as thousan
ds of years with no communication stretched between them.
He still remember
ed her lively silver eyes and the way she looked at him as if
absorbing his
thoughts to her own. She was a precocious child back then,
cunning and has
a limitless compunction to learn everything. She loved
knowing things, exp
loring everything she could get her hands on. She loved all
knowledge and s
he delights in verbal banters that enhanced her sharp mind.
Her curious nat
ure fascinated him and earned his respect for her along the
way, even when
she chose exile over heaven.
Her pride had been her doom.
Now, Michael almost smiled at the anticipation of seeing
sparks fly between
the two females.
“Will you come or not? It doesn’t matter anyway. I’ll help
Zethos whether y
ou like it or not. I’m just asking you out of respect.” The
persistence of
Athena was to be commended as always.
Letting out a deep breath, he answered, “I shall be there,
incorrigible brat.”
He cannot help saying that as he heard her snort across the
distance.
Zenos looked at Michael with a questioning look.
Michael cleared his throat and said when his attention went
back to Zenos,
“I’m sorry, my friend. I have some pressing matters that I
suddenly need to
attend to. I shall take my leave for now, but remember that I
shall find a
solution to help you and your son as repayment for all
you’ve done in the
name of Heaven.”
Zenos shook his head to counter his words. Some strands of
his hair swept f
orward, touching his ashen face. “I’m only doing what I am
supposed to do,
Michael. This is my purpose of existence . . . my mission.”
Michael bowed his head respectfully before Zenos and said,
“I know. But still
, you remained faithful. And that, my friend, is no simple
matter to take for
granted. Don’t think that the crime of Lucifer’s forces was
yours to bear al
one. The crime is our problem . . . all of us.”
After saying those words, Michael vanished with the
phantom wind at his
wake much like the manner he came in.
One moment, he was in the glittering hall of Omiron and the
next, he stood
before the almost unfamiliar woman with titian hair and
flashing gray eyes.
“Michael! It’s so nice to have you join us,” Athena greeted in
a mocking ton
e. She was still seething after he called her brat, the name
he teased her w
hen she was young.
Hela, the self- appointed goddess of a part of the Kingdom of
the Dead sat
stoically on her gilded throne. Her halls were much more
sedate and almost
gloomy as glittering slabs of dark marble lined in columns
supporting the b
ig domed structure with sparkling gems from the earth
adorning every crevic
e of the hall.
She inclined her head at the celestial prince in his
magnificent robes and en
viable poise that shone amidst the gloom of her hall. It
seemed that nothing
could rattle the glorious prince.
Looking at the two females, Michael, the ever epitome of
manners, opted to
grace each of them with a sweeping bow that delighted the
females.
“Athena, you looked lovelier than I remembered,” Michael
said, not waiting t
o see the blush that crept on to the goddess’ face. “So as
you Hela,” he add
ed, inclining to the other female.
He straightened up and inquired with an elegantly raised
golden brow as to
the purpose of the uncharacteristic summons. “I suppose
there are much mo
re important matters that needed to be discussed other than
giving complim
ents to each other?”
Always direct to the point, Michael wanted to have it done as
soon as possib
le as he felt he was needed someplace else, some things
that needed his imme
diate attention. Fighting Lucifer was a full-time job as he
anticipated evil
at every turn.
Athena, always direct and frank, began, looking at Michael’s
beauty with u
nfazed eyes that shone through the dimmed lights of Hela’s
hall. “We all l
ove Zethos. Everyone loved Zethos, except maybe the
shaitans.”
Seeing that Athena was going astray from the topic, Hela
intervened. “There
is one solution that Athena and I are pondering but it’s a
very complicate
d one,” she said, standing up from her throne and walked
towards them with
confident steps that were admirable and yet perplexing.
Her hair was a mass of curly light blonde hair that fell down
below her wai
st, swaying with each step she took. Her robes were simple
and barely adorn
ed with jewels and ribbons compared to Athena’s garb. But
the lushness of t
he fabric cannot be ignored. She wore a circlet of gold upon
her forehead w
here a single red stone sparkling in the dimmed lights of the
hall.
Hela was wiser than she looked. Her years cannot be gauged
by what she look
ed like. It was no wonder why she was held as one of the
greatest of the Ae
sir, the Nordic gods of the mortals.
“A terrible thing happened and an unexpected one,” Hela
continued. “Katiana
wasn’t supposed to die yet. It wasn’t meant to be as the
Norns had told me
. Skuld haven’t seen that fate in both Zethos and his
beloved. And so the
Supreme Divine couldn’t possibly take the soul of Katiana
yet. There is sti
ll time to amend this mistake in their paths.”
Michael silently applauded them. “You both are quick. I shall
commend you
for that. But, even unexpected, Katiana’s soul shall travel
back to God wh
ere she was supposed to be. She’s not of your dominion and
thus not subjec
ted to the Norns’ fate control. She’s a progeny of the
Ophanim, and thus a
part of the Supreme Divine. How can any of you deduce how
to handle a sou
l that cannot be contained in the physical realms any longer?
I am curious
as to your plan though. That is, if you both have a logical
plan to begin
with.”
“We can undo the damage,” Athena insisted, arching one
brow up. “But there
will be certain sacrifices in Zethos part to be with his beloved
again. We
also need you help in it considering that you’re one of the
Sarim and could
intervene with the cycle if needed.”
“Souls are not my dominion. You should have contacted
Metatron or his bro
ther Sandalphon to help you,” Michael reminded there
derisively as he cro
ssed his arms over his chest and regarded them with an
ominous look.
Athena gave him a glower. “If I’m in speaking terms with
Metatron or Sanda
lphon, I wouldn’t have deigned to interrupt your holiness,”
she said mocki
ngly, mimicking his stance. “So, I have no choice but to call
you.”
It’s true. Metatron or Sandalphon wouldn’t normally speak
with someone like
Athena, an outcast. Truth be told, the brothers were still
quite chafed abou
t the outcasts’ audacity to act like gods and goddesses on
earth.
“If what I’m thinking is what you meant, then there will be a
lot of trouble
. A soul of someone like Katiana doesn’t work like any other
ordinary soul.
Hers is special, you understand.”
Hela and Athena exchanged a look. Then, Hela squarely
faced Michael. “You
need to intervene. It’s meant to be.”
Such fatality in the Aesir’s words worried Michael. “Contrary
to popular opi
nion, I do not have a penchant in interfering with other
people’s lives. I o
ftentimes act as the messenger and most of the messages I
give out have abso
lute confidence in succeeding. This plan of yours has no
guarantee.”
“The only guarantee you need to think about is Zethos’
possible happiness,”
Athena retorted.
“And why should I care?”
“You have to take counsel with the Supreme Divine once in a
while, Michael
,” Hela said. “The future depends on Zethos and Katiana’s
survival.”
Michael suddenly became rigid as he let his arms down on
his sides. “And
how would you know that? Have you been dabbling with the
dark arts again,
outcast?”
Athena snorted. “Dark arts indeed. You of all people know
that it only beco
me dark in nature when the objective is to cause harm.
Otherwise, it’s not
dark but good.”
“I can’t believe I’m hearing such nonsense,” Michael
retorted, taking a thr
eatening step forward the two. “If I were you, I won’t rely on
what I see w
hen using a conjuring spell in that cursed mirrors you craftily
made to see
into the future.” He glared at them, and then added, “Think
you I didn’t k
now about it?” he asked when he saw the surprised look on
both women. Raisi
ng a brow at them, he crossed his arms over his chest again
and drummed his
fingers over one steel-clad arm.
“No need to be a rigid dunce, Michael,” Athena said
defensively. “Those mir
rors are used for the greater good unlike what you’re
obviously thinking. W
e may be outcasts, but we’re not evil.”
“Could have fooled me.”
Hela raised a hand to put a stop to the banter. “We are
running out of time
. The longer we stand here bickering at one another, the
more time is waste
d while our plan could have resulted to making cousin
Zethos be redeemed.”
Those words calmed Michael and Athena. Michael patiently
waited for more
explanation.
Nodding at the show of maturity, Hela continued.
“Regardless of how we hav
e seen the future, Zethos and Katiana must be together. If
not, everything
we see now will be doomed. If you don’t believe me, Michael,
you can comm
unicate with your brethren on that regard. Or better yet, you
can ask Zeth
os’ friend, the mighty Oriel.”
Michael nodded. “I will personally go about my inquiries after
we finished h
ere. In the meantime, I’m going to trust the two of you that
you know what y
ou’re doing. I can’t be a part of something that will go
against every moral
fiber I possess.”
“Your every moral fiber will be safe,” Athena said.
“Then, let me in on your plan.”
Hela and Athena held out their hands palm up to show
Michael their plans t
hrough mind fusion.
Michael crossed his arms across his chest and stared at them
impatiently aft
er the mind fusion, still not convinced that it will work out
fine. “And how
do you suppose we do that?” he asked, drumming his fingers
against his stee
l-clad arm.
Hela walked away from them and her stride took her to the
far side of the
hall where a marbled pool of water stood. She looked at
them and beckoned
them. “Come here, my Prince and I’ll show you.”
She waved a hand and the pool of water sent visions that
explained the detail
s of the plan.
***
Six
“Pathetic fools!” Iblis, king of the ghouls, also commonly
known as Azazel,
one of his many names, shouted his displeasure over the
drastic turn of even
ts.
The ghouls all trembled in fear of their master in his rage.
They whispered
among themselves while Iblis’ back was turned away from
them. Then, three
ghouls became toast as his rage blasted fire from his hand in
the general d
irection of the chattering ghouls.
Black smoke filled the air as he shouted again. “Does anyone
else want to
turn into smoke?!” His voice echoed menacingly around the
domed hall, shak
ing the very ground they stood upon.
Iblis was usually scary, more so when he was angry. He was
that now.
His fury echoed around his halls. The ground trembled with
his voice as he c
ontinued ranting. “I’ve been given this task to complete and
you . . . you c
an’t get a simple piece of rock without getting killed!”
Harbonah cowered at the side, his spirit released from the
mutilated body h
e had inhabited for many centuries. His failure had been
spread out like la
va throughout the Netherworld and he was filled with shame.
And the wrath o
f Iblis was milder compared to that of Lucifer.
“Do I have to do everything around here?!” Iblis shouted that
question that
sent another trembling of the ground.
That question doesn’t deserve an answer as Iblis plopped
down on the cush
ioned throne he alone could sit upon. Anyone who dares
becomes fodder to
the marids and ifrits he commanded.
He had been ranting all over the place the moment
Harbonah came back empty
-handed and lost almost all the shaitans with him. It was
humiliating.
“Lucifer already knows,” Iblis continued. “I don’t feel sorry
for you, Harb
onah. Your failure knows no reasoning. Only Lord Lucifer
would deal with yo
u now, pathetic as you look.” His snide remark brought about
a shrieking la
ughter from the marids that loitered around the throne.
“I didn’t expect one of Verchiel’s men would lead the bloody
troops,” Har
bonah quietly mumbled.
“Your failure knows no bounds,” Iblis replied, tapping a
tapered finger on t
he armrest. “Perhaps it is time to let you experience what
Lucifer does to i
ncompetent fools like you.”
Harbonah shivered in fright. He knew exactly what
punishment awaited him.
Without a body, the punishment would be more severe than
what he saw Luc
ifer dealt Balan after slaying his own sister Talia.
Lucifer lusted over Talia. He wanted her for his own, to
become his mate an
d rule the Netherworld as his queen.
It was a known fact that after Balan dealt her the fatal blow
and her spirit
rose to the Thrones of God, Lucifer raged that he wouldn’t be
able to claim t
he Galgali for himself anymore.
Balan bore the blunt of Lucifer’s rage and was strapped in a
cross overhang
ing above, very close to the mouths of Hindor, the lava
spewing crevice tha
t bore the unholy fire of Djinn, that only Lucifer could
command with his w
ill.
There, Balan suffered the scorches of the fire for thousands
of years, neve
r was given reprieve and remained hungry and suffering the
torments dealt b
y Lucifer. He was later on released but became a pathetic
excuse for a bein
g that he shunned everything within sight and became a
petty demon lord tha
t was inconsequential to be mentioned.
Harbonah shivered in fright anew.
“Of course Verchiel would send his men after you!” Iblis
interrupted his mo
rbid thoughts. “He’s an interfering fool of a Potentiate! He
interferes wit
h everything. You wouldn’t really think that Omiron would be
the only one t
o act, would you?” He didn’t wait for any confirmation. “The
Diadem is all
of Heaven’s property. Of course, Michael and the rest of the
insufferable f
ools would act upon it. They have nothing else to do!”
Laughter erupted all around the hall.
Iblis slammed a fist in the armrest and bounded on his feet
making the lau
ghing demons still and hushed as he loomed menacingly
over Harbonah’s cowe
ring formless spirit. Everyone tensed instantly.
“We have the damned thing in our grasp and you lost it!”
Iblis raged. “We ha
ve the power and you let it slip away! This is unforgivable!”
Then, Iblis closed his eyes, engaged in a conversation inside
his head. Af
ter a fleeting moment, his glowing yellow eyes bore down on
Harbonah and g
rowled, “Lord Lucifer awaits you.” He smiled a bit, flashing
his sharp fan
gs as he swept a hand towards Harbonah.
The demon vanished from sight.
Suddenly, the ground trembled and Iblis whipped around to
bore his yellow e
yes and a questioning look at Facor, one of his marid
generals.
Facor, inclining his head, disappeared in a black swirling
smoke to find wh
at the commotion was all about.
There, in the gates of Evanom, stood a lone warrior with a
terrifying gait,
dressed in glittering garments that was unfamiliar around
there. The warrior
was obviously hailed from the other side.
Facor knew who it was and hurriedly came back in Iblis’ hall
to face his m
aster and relay what he saw. He lowered his head in a
submissive manner. “
Zethos,” was the only word that came out of the fanged
mouth of the marid
general.
Iblis rubbed his hands together, an unholy delight shining in
his yellow eye
s as he grasped his black sword to deal with the unwanted
guest.
Facor, along with a troop of marids under his leadership
followed their maste
r to protect and to engage in a confrontation if needs be.
Zethos waited in front of the heavily guarded gates, fearless
and uncomforti
ng.
Evanom was the first stronghold under Iblis’ rule that
guarded the gates of
the Netherworld. It was constructed with the purpose of
fighting the celes
tials back from the larger strongholds of the higher demons.
Having Iblis p
reside over Evanom, Lucifer planned to have the
Netherworld impenetrable.
Oriel had gone against Zethos’ decision to march on the
demons’ abode and
challenge the demon that slew Katiana, avenging her death.
Zethos knew t
hat Harbonah was under Iblis rule and thus would be with
the demon overlo
rd’s side.
Oriel reasoned with Zethos that it would be folly. But his
friend cannot be t
alked out of it. He was already regretting ever promising to
help him.
Zethos was deaf to all pleas. He was inconsolable. He was
driven to a blin
ding need for revenge and knew that his death would only
hasten his spirit
to join where Katiana would be, awaiting him as what she
had promised.
“Come out and face me, you cowards! Creatures of
darkness!” he shouted lo
ud enough to shake the ground. He saw some of the marid
guards shivering
with the power emanating from him. But he doesn’t want to
fight minions.
He was there to fight their master. “Come out!”
“You called?” came the questioning voice from the far left
side where Zetho
s bravely stood alone.
He turned to face the demon in his fighting stance. “You took
your time, de
mon,” he spat out.
Iblis laughed. “Pardon me, Zethos. I have some matters to
take care of first,
” he replied, quirking his carefully shaped brows.
Zethos gritted his teeth at the displeasure of seeing the
demon laugh at hi
m, mocking him. He saw through the misleading
handsomeness of the demon and
knew it for what it was . . . an epitome of evil . . . a monster.
“You kno
w why I’m here,” he spat out.
Iblis smiled, displaying his sharp fangs. “Undoubtedly. You
and I are seeking
the same thing. Or do you still insist to find the Diadem
here?” he asked, g
ripping his hand tightly at the hilt of his sword, itching to
chop off Zethos
’ head to be done with this annoying confrontation.
“If you have an ounce of common sense still left in that
cracked brain of yo
urs, you would deduce that the Diadem is not here and if it
was, your brethr
en and all the celestials would be ash by now,” Iblis
continued.
Zethos seethed in anger. The demon was toying with him
and he doesn’t like i
t one bit. “I didn’t come here to collect the Diadem. I came
here to slay Ha
rbonah. I know he’s still alive.”
“Alive? Barely.” A brow rose to challenge him. “I guess you
have to settle
with me. You can clearly see who would be slain before the
minute is throug
h. You’re a pathetic excuse for your kind, Arranto. Your love
blinded you e
nough to take on this suicide mission of yours. I am lord of
Evanom, Zethos
. I control the fate of anyone that steps into my domain.”
Then, Iblis charged, swinging his black sword in a hacking
motion that Zeth
os blocked with his own silver sword. Blow by blow, Zethos
and Iblis provid
ed the marids and the ifrits entertainment as they cheered
their overlord l
oudly.
Facor remained sullen, ready to come at his master’s rescue.
He memorized
Zethos’ moves, knowing that it would become handy in the
future when he fa
ced more of his kind. He was well informed of the skill of
Omiron’s warrio
rs and Zethos comes up in the top list of the most skilled
one.
He silently envied the warrior’s position and the respect he
commanded to
those who knew him. Now, his yellow eyes were trained on
Zethos as he nu
rsed his envy.
Zethos was breathless as he swung his sword towards Iblis,
moving with spe
ed and using all his body to disarm the demon. His raged
hummed into his b
rain, blinding him to all else.
He was also silently urging Iblis to slay him while he can.
There was nothin
g more for him to live by.
The demon wouldn’t humor him on his request as he toyed
with him, dancing t
o the rhythm of the fight. Soon, the fatal blow will render his
opponent an
d he wouldn’t want to end it as quickly as he wanted it. He
stepped to the
side and slashed Zethos arm, blood spurted out of the
wound.
Zethos didn’t stop to see his wound as he swung his sword
down only to be b
locked by Iblis and slashed him again, shallowly across his
chest.
He bled like a mortal, but was oblivious to the pain as he
charged again and
again.
Iblis slashed at him, his blows crisscrossed against Zethos’
skin. The Arrant
o was bloodied, but still fought valiantly. He became a little
more annoyed a
t that.
Then, Iblis mercilessly pierced the end of his sword through
Zethos’ side.
Zethos staggered backward, the loss of blood already
rendering him unstable o
n his feet. He flicked his wrist and slashed Iblis on his right
cheek.
Iblis growled with the pain and slashed his sword across
Zethos’ neck. He
stood there watching Zethos losing consciousness when an
arrow suddenly pi
erced him, directly in the middle of his chest. He looked
down, surprised
as his gaze sought the offender and saw another celestial
warrior carrying
a shining gilded bow running forward to rescue Zethos,
whose bloodied bod
y fell down the filthy ground.
Iblis looked at Facor and gave a silent command to retreat
for the meantime
. He was seriously wounded by the arrow and needed time to
heal before he r
egained some strength enough to kill the other fool he knew
to be Verchiel’
s fosterling, Oriel.
Facor, a little bit disappointed as he was relishing the idea of
engaging in a
fight, resigned and relented to his master’s command and
ordered his troops t
o retreat.
The demons disappeared out of sight, following behind Iblis.
Seeing the retreat, Oriel ran quickly to the fallen body of
Zethos. His friend
was struggling for breath and his heart constricted at the
pitiful sight of t
hat broken and bloodied body.
With his wits about him, he transported them into a much
safer plane where
he carefully held Zethos’ head and prayed for him to be
alright.
***
Seven
Zethos lay in the dirt, unconscious and in the brink of death.
Oriel doesn’t k
now what to do other than cradle the head of his friend in his
arms. The lifel
ess body . . . the bloodied garments . . . all reminded him of
the danger they
were still in.
He called out to Camael with his thoughts. Camael! He cried
out. “Please hea
r me . . .” But he received only the stale silence of the wind
blowing aroun
d them. He closed his eyes in helplessness.
The heavens had abandoned them to this doom.
He couldn’t think of anything to help his dying friend nor
ease the pain that
he felt from him.
His cries for help were suddenly answered with the wind that
smelled unfami
liarly fragrant.
“Fear not, Oriel”.
It was a woman’s voice.
He looked all around him but saw nothing. He could only feel
a phantom pre
sence near him and the fallen body of Zethos.
Then a glimmer of light shone and a woman appeared in
splendid robes with t
itian hair glittering from the shining light cast by her
garments. She had
the most fascinating flashing gray eyes. He frowned at her.
The woman kneeled before the fallen body of Zethos, still
struggling for lif
e. She laid her hand against the perfectly sculptured cheek
that was bloody
and almost cold to the touch. He is dying.
Oriel, finally knowing that the woman was one of Zethos’
kind, replied throu
gh telepathy. “He is and I can’t do anything to save him. I’m
a useless fri
end.”
“Don’t think such nonsense, Oriel.”
“You are the one they call Athena, aren’t you?”
“I’m pleased that a higher being such as you would know
about me.”
“All I’ve known about you I have heard from Zethos whom we
both care abou
t. Tell me, does your heart ache stems at the misery of your
kin or do yo
u come here to gloat at the expense of the one whom you
couldn’t have?”
She looked directly at him and bore her steel-gray eyes at
him. “You’re a P
otentiate, a higher being than I am. You can read thoughts
and heart’s desi
res. Tell me, can you read mine?”
Oriel remained emotionless as he watched Athena return her
focus on Zethos an
d glided her gentle hands, soothing the broken body of
Zethos. “He will carry
the scars for all eternity in this body of his, a reminder of his
folly . .
. his reckless behavior. But the most fatal scars he would
have will reside i
nside him and I cannot heal those for the life of me.”
Oriel continued watching silently.
“Michael and I have decided upon a course of action that will
greatly involv
e you, Oriel.”
‘Prince Michael, you mean,” Oriel said condescendingly. He
knew all too we
ll the reason why her kind was cast-out of Omiron. Her way
of addressing M
ichael the Seraph only proves that she had so much pride
inside her and an
even bigger ego . . . the doom of her kindred. “What have
you decided wi
th his highness?”
She looked at him seriously as she felt an urge to touch his
face that bore a
concern that unintentionally drifted to her. Her gaze softened
at those intens
e blue eyes that shined so brightly.
She memorized the Potentiate’s features. The stubborn jut of
his chin to the
fine planes of his cheeks. His deep-set eyes bore the holy
light of heaven an
d his hair a becoming contrast with its dark wavy tresses
complimenting his f
air features.
Handsomeness was abundant where he came from. But not
the kind of handsome
ness that was common. His was something that makes an
ordinary person seek
the light of Heaven. Oriel’s beauty radiates from inside of
him, both env
iable and tempting for someone like to get closer to him, to
bask in his b
eauty. It was an inherent ability of those who was created in
the Light.
Shaking herself to gain some self-control, she breathed
deeply. “You will be
Zethos’ companion for a while. He needed someone to share
the burden of his
exile and being his closest friend, there’s no reason for you
to reject the
idea.”
“I have no complaints. I am ready to go anywhere . . . even
in the Underwor
ld for Zethos.”
Letting out a deep breath, she added, “Then, it’s settled.”
“What’s settled?”
“Zethos will only find peace in the arms of his beloved. In
time you will rea
lize why this was fated for him. His love for Katiana halted
her spirit to as
cend to God with a little help from those who love him.” She
let out another
deep breath as she traced one finger in the planes of Zethos
face, trailing
her touch against each feature of her beloved cousin.
“Katiana would be reborn into the mortal world and with her
comes a great re
sponsibility of securing what was lost and for their souls to
return to the
undying lands. You will help him search for his beloved for
the fate of good
ness lies with the both of them.” She paused in explaining
and sent a fleet
ing look at Oriel’s attentive face. He was so captivatingly
handsome that he
took her breath away.
Her attention returned to a more important matter though as
she stilled her
wildly beating heart. She continued. “Until that time comes,
you and Zetho
s shall descend in the mortal world and fight the demons
that will dominate
humanity.”
Oriel read her rampant thoughts and the looks she gave him,
but thought to ig
nore her. His stoic face did not mirror the uncertainty in his
heart as he kn
ew that living among men was breaking a lot of the rules set
before his time.
Yet he felt a certain trust in the words of the outcast. Even
the mighty Prin
ce Michael had consented upon this decision. He had no
power to contest the w
ill of the mighty even if he has more power than the outcast.
If it were the
only solution for Zethos, he would do his part as a loyal
friend.
Athena looked at the Potentiate and pitied his loyalty to
Zethos for she coul
dn’t find any words of comfort to partake in that time of
dread. She touched
Oriel’s arm to get his attention, loving the way his taut
muscles feel to her
touch. Warmth enveloped her instantly in that single contact
of skin to skin
.
Then, she suddenly pulled away as if burned.
“We couldn’t stand idle in the face of Zethos’ misery over
the loss of Katia
na. They are fated to be together. Katiana’s demise was
unplanned. It was no
t to be.”
He nodded in understanding. “I thought so,” he said. Then,
mustering the str
ength he was created for, he looked at Athena with
unblinking eyes and added
, “I shall help Zethos fulfill this task only if you help me
revive him of t
he poison of Iblis’ sword.”
Athena eagerly nodded, finally glad to be of help to him, and
replied, “Gl
adly.” She fleeted one graceful hand over her cousin’s face
and leaned do
wn to blow a sweet breath on the unconscious eyes with
Oriel’s hand hoveri
ng towards the gaping wound on Zethos throat and side.
Closing his eyes, Oriel with his silent prayer of intervention,
took the woun
d and parted it from the prone body.
Athena watched the Potentiate at work and was held
mesmerized and had the i
rrepressible yearning to bring that wonderful head close to
hers and savor
the forbidden.
Her control was snapping away as she held fast on her
wayward emotions in f
ear of being discovered by the uncanny ability of reading
minds Oriel has.
It would be mortifying to her if that happened.
Zethos at last stirred awake. His eyes opened and a frown
marred his foreh
ead. “What are you doing here, Athena?” he asked curiously,
his voice and
muffled whisper.
Athena smiled at him affectionately as she watched him
struggle to sit up
with Oriel helping him. “Hello, cousin,” she greeted, her eyes
warming upo
n watching him.
He looked down at his bloody shirt and arms and sent her a
questioning loo
k. Then, realizing fully well what had happened, his eyes
shone bright wit
h anger, he asked, “Why have you revived me? I was ready.”
Zethos thoughts turned to his fight with Iblis and the last
thing he rememb
ered was the blackness that claimed him as he fell down in
the ground befor
e seeing the demon’s smirk of victory over him.
Oriel darted a pointed look at Athena for her to explain.
Athena darted an aggravated look at Oriel and her smile
sobered as her focus
darted to Zethos, still waiting for some enlightenment.
Then, her face lit up and said quite cheerfully while looking
at Oriel, “I’ll l
et Oriel tell you everything.” She patted Zethos on his
shoulder.
Seeing the irritation in the blue orbs of Oriel’s eyes, she sent
him a victo
rious look. She languidly stood up and held a hand to help
Zethos up on his
feet before her steel-gray eyes turned to Oriel again, her
face becoming ser
ious again. “Everything is settled. I shall escort you both
someplace. But b
efore we go, I have to give you this.” She leaned up at Oriel’s
side and pla
ced a hand on his forehead as she transferred all the
information he might n
eed when he explained everything to Zethos. She wasn’t the
right one to tell
. She would have to pass that honor to Oriel.
After the transfer, Athena pulled back and gave a confirming
nod at the bewi
ldered Oriel.
He was having a hard time ingesting it all as he became
uncomfortable of be
ing chosen as the one who would break the news to the
grieving Zethos. He k
new there was no one else to be considered for that job
other than Prince M
ichael himself, which was unlikely since the prince seldom
concern himself
with heartrending matters. Besides, the prince has other
pressing duties to
bother with.
Seeing that he had no choice in the matter, Oriel barely had
time to say s
omething back to Athena when she took both his and Zethos
arm and transpor
ted them into an impressive domed hall made of marble and
glittering stone
.
His eyes roamed around the hall and noted the opulence of
it. He turned a qu
estioning look at Athena, who was sitting in a cushioned
chair languidly opp
osite them, feeling at ease – at home, as if she had lived
there all her und
ying life.
Athena looked at the both of them with her unwavering eyes
and said, “You s
hall make this your home. There will be servants to see to
your care. Every
thing’s settled as I said. No need for you to worry.”
Oriel scowled at her. “I am not worried. I am just perplexed.”
Zethos can’t understand a word they were saying as his
head was pounding te
rribly and he was still unsteady on his feet. He slumped
down on the lushly
cushioned chair beside him and rubbed a hand to stop the
throbbing of his
head and said, “This is the right time for explanations, if you
don’t mind.”
“I’ll leave the honor of that duty to your friend beside you,
dear Zethos,” A
thena said as she stood up from the chair and appeared in
front of Zethos in
a blink of an eye, floating a couple of inches from the
ground. She cupped hi
s cheek and caressed it gently. “Take care of yourself for
me,” she requested
. “I shall be watching.”
Then she turned her face at Oriel, a tender look crossed her
features and he
r heart painfully thumping at what his presence drew at her
expense.
Oriel quirked a brow at her, reading her thoughts to a tee.
She blushed furi
ously as she settled her sight on Zethos bowed head. Then,
she braved to loo
k back at Oriel and saw amusement there. She gave him a
irritated glare and
reluctantly disappeared out of sight.
Oriel shook his head to ward off Athena from his mind. He let
out a deep bre
ath, bracing himself to the task at hand. He turned his
attention in explain
ing everything to Zethos.
Seeing the lowered head, he knew his friend was in a lot of
pain: body, heart
and spirit.
Oriel knew no balm to offer him. He also knew that it would
be hard to tell
Zethos all there was to know. But there’s no one more than
qualified to do i
t other than him.
He sighed, silently admonishing Athena for her deliberate
exit, apparently w
ashing her hands off the task that should have been hers. He
heard her stra
ining chuckles in his head and he gnashed his teeth
together.
He walked towards Zethos.
This was the longest day ever.
***
Eight
Present Day
Clement Pope knocked against the old oak back door and a
cheerful slight
ly plump woman opened it and greeted her with a welcoming
smile.
“Good morning, Ella,” she said, entering inside the well-lit
kitchen of her
favorite café for a fresh morning start. “I’m not intruding, am
I?” she aske
d when she caught a glance at the dishevelment of the
woman as well as her h
usband who left after she came in.
Ella Johnson took her arm affectionately and led her inside
the private dini
ng hall beside the kitchen. “Don’t think such nonsense. Den
and I are just h
aving our usual morning argument,” she explained, waving
for her to take a s
eat.
“Are you sure?”
Ella smiled. “Absolutely.”
Then, Dennis Johnson entered and scowled at his wife before
taking the seat
opposite Clement. “Don’t get any ideas, Clem,” he said,
flipping the newsp
aper to the sports page. “Ella was the unreasonable one in
this.”
Ella huffily went to the kitchen to get some breakfast after
darting her husb
and a baleful look. Dennis ignored her.
Clement shook her head as she watched the exchange. “She
didn’t say anyth
ing.”
“Well, just in case she did, don’t go on and persecute poor
me in the proces
s. I am only pointing out something.”
“What is it about anyway?”
Dennis pulled down the newspaper and leaned close to her.
“I told her that
we should accept her brother’s invitation to have a vacation
in Los Angeles
this coming summer. She doesn’t want to, saying that we
can’t possibly go
and leave the café. Then I told her that we could close up
since we’ve neve
r closed up before in the last seven years. I am only thinking
of her, you
know.”
Although they sounded like an old couple, Dennis and Ella
had only been marri
ed for eight years and haven’t been blessed with a child yet.
In the seven ye
ars of their marriage, Ella became too attached to the café
that she treats i
t like her baby. They’re also only in their mid-thirties, less
than ten years
her seniors.
Clement understood perfectly well what Dennis wanted.
Ella’s stubbornness w
as getting to him. He only wanted his wife to take some time
off and relax
for a change. Jeez, she really needed it.
Talking about that, Clement wondered when she did have her
own vacation. T
hinking upon it, she realized it was eons ago.
When Ella finally entered the room bearing a tray filled with
food and coff
ee, Dennis resumed his reading and Clement tried to engage
the woman into a
discussion, circling around the boring neighborhood bill
passed by the cit
y government regarding letting stalls line outside the shops
during the day.
Ella was against it all the way.
Owning a café along Magazine Street in New Orleans, the
Johnsons tend to put
up a table outside to sell half-priced bread before going stale
in the late
afternoons. Now, with the bill, they wouldn’t be able to do
that. Putting a
sign outside wouldn’t help either since and their usual
customers wouldn’t
see it and therefore wouldn’t come inside and buy the darn
breads.
“I swear, if I see Lou Welles coming in here to eat, I’ll let him
have a piece
of my mind,” Ella raged.
Louis Welles was one of their neighbors, a loyal patron and
who was also C
lement’s friend working in the legislative office. He’s a
lawyer, a good o
ne, and a Republican. His family owned a funeral home near
the Riverbend.
The fact that he was a Republican was enough to make Ella’s
blood boil whe
never she sees him around. So, Dennis usually serves him
when he comes in
the café. The passing of the bill was the ‘final straw’,
according to the
oh-so-colorful language of Ella. And guessing from what
she’s seeing, Lou
will become toast after Ella’s through with him.
Her morning habit relaxed her even with all the ranting. That
was usual, a pa
rt of her morning ritual.
There’s nothing more comforting than a cup of freshly
brewed decaffeinate
d mocha cappuccino and a honey glazed donut on the side.
The Johnsons were a close family friend. She regarded them
like family since
she’d been a frequent customer in their little café as well as
a friendly n
eighbor. They had been bonded as friends for more seven
years.
They’re a part of her daily habit . . . a habit she wasn’t willing
to break as lo
ng as she lives.
Her morning started out fine.
Walking along the sidewalks of Magazine Street in the
fashionable part of
New Orleans, she hummed along with her earphones
blasting on the sound of
Prodigy’s Breathe included on the playlist she made in her
iPod before she
left her apartment to get some decent coffee.
It’s also one of her habits in the morning that she couldn’t go
without.
She loved the blasting sound, waking her up completely to
start her day.
Stopping on her tracks, she breathed in deeply and turned
the key in an elect
ric purple painted door, a tribute to one of her favorite artists
– Prince. S
he let herself in, opened the blinds covering the windows
and unlocked the fr
ont door.
It’s going to be a busy . . . busy day.
Clement loved the peace and quiet in the mornings with all
the sunlight chee
rfully greeting her as she went through the transaction
receipts that needed
her attention. Her competent team filed them all
meticulously the night bef
ore.
Then, she heard the tinkling of the bells on the door and she
looked up, sm
iling as her employees started entering one by one with their
loud “Good mo
rning!”
Her employees started to get to work, scurrying around the
shop in their us
ual busy selves. She went to the sound booth and turned the
speakers up.
Let the day begin.
Customers came in and out. Some were pests who normally
ask a lot of quest
ions, let the salesperson find something for them without
buying anything.
Then, there were others who were just uninterested.
Those were the types of people who piss her off at a day-to-
day basis in
her shop – THE BOOM BOX.
Clement was orphaned at a young age of thirteen with no
family or relatives
to speak of. She was completely alone in the world with a
handsome trust f
und that helped her through her studies, graduating from
business school an
d finally putting up her own record shop.
She knew exactly how it feels to be alone in the world, no
one to share her l
ife with. But, that didn’t make her dull and somber. On the
contrary, she’s t
he exact opposite of what an orphan was like.
Her life was something other than dull and boring.
She’s friendly, compassionate . . . completely alive. She
makes it a point to l
ive her life to the fullest, having no regrets whatsoever.
Maybe that‘s the reason why her life had been all but
ordinary. Her friends
often remarked that for someone who doesn’t have any
familial ties, she tot
ally rocks.
She looked fondly at the general direction of a young woman
with a skinhea
d; the remaining hairs were dyed blue with streaks of bright
purple color
and a pierced right eyebrow coming her way with a beaming
smile that was i
nfectious.
“Hey, boss!”
“What is it, Harley?” she asked, smiling at the exuberance of
her employee.
She’s five years older but she could really relate to the
younger woman as
if they were born in the same year. They both love music,
live for music a
nd rock with music.
“I have this marketing idea. Wanna hear about it?” Charlize
“Harley” Kane b
ounded up the steps to the sound booth located in the
middle of the shop, w
aving a CD in front of Clement’s face. “I did my homework
last night,” she
continued. “Euro rock is in the mod right now, boss, so I
think that we sho
uld market it.”
Clement reached out for the CD and flipped it open. “What
do you have here
,” she said, stepping aside as Harley came up the booth,
turning up the vo
lume and pressing some buttons for the Dolby surround
sound.
Clement read the list. Bloc Party, Keane, Muse, The Rakes,
Kasabian, and ma
ny more. The first track rang out from the speakers. She
checked the list a
nd it was The Rakes’ Strasburg. “Sounds nice,” she
muttered, tapping a fing
er against the cover. She knew that if anyone should bring it
to the genera
l market, she should head on. She’s already thinking of
compilation CDs. It
would be good for the store. All she needed were copyright
royalties and t
hat would be easy.
The sound has a nice edge to it . . . upbeat and danceable
without sounding
cheap. This could definitely work.
“What?! Did you say something, boss?” Harley shouted,
bobbing her head to
the sound without bothering to look at her.
“I said it sounds nice!” Clement shouted back, close to
Harley’s ears so she
could be heard through the blasting sound.
Harley nodded to the beat of the music as she stepped out
of the booth and w
alked to attend to a customer while snapping her fingers and
moving her head
to the beat, thinking that she had the best and coolest job
ever and the fa
ct that she’s working for the coolest boss was like cherry on
top of her sun
dae.
It’s a wonder how Harley, besides the fact that she looks and
acts like a mo
dern-age punk/Goth, could still be an effective salesperson.
People would lo
ok at her and there’s an initial fear in their eyes, but the
moment she smil
es and started to speak, the customers would miraculously
turn into Jell-O.
Clement never asks how the younger woman manages it.
The first time she saw her was three years ago when she
applied for the jo
b. Clement just fired an employee because the person was
absolutely incomp
etent. Then, this punk chick entered the shop with numerous
piercing on he
r ears and her head bobbing through the sound of Prodigy
blasting from the
speakers. Harley approached her and slapped the
advertisement Clement pos
ted all around the neighborhood and said; “I hear you’re
looking for a kno
wledgeable salesperson with eclectic taste in music.”
Clement noted the cultured accent and concluded that this
woman was not
an ordinary punk chick. She nodded. “Yes,” she replied,
sizing the young
er woman up. “Do you have references?” she asked, knowing
that the young
er woman doesn’t have any.
“In this job?” she asked incredulously. “All the references
you’ll need woul
d be to test me. By the way, I’m Harley Kane,” she said,
extending one hand
that glittered with so many rings in each finger that was hard
to keep count
of.
The challenge made Clement smile and shook the hand
curtly.
She proceeded in her interrogation, spanning a whole hour of
questioning t
he punk chick in music ranging from Nat King Cole to Marilyn
Manson. Harle
y was as knowledgeable as Clement and was immediately
hired after proving
herself. Clement gave her the usual three-month
probationary period, which
was really unnecessary since Clement was a very shrewd
judge of character
even at first glance. It was an uncanny ability that helped
her through h
er life.
She later on found out that Harley just graduated from
college with a degree
in Music and Arts. Their relationship evolved through the
years and began t
o consider themselves as friends, a not so difficult feat to
accomplish in H
arley’s part since Clement was easy to get along with.
The job was a real giveaway.
After a year working for her, Clement suggested to Harley
that she could mo
ve in with her as a roommate in the third floor apartment she
has above the
shop. In that way, it would be convenient for her to work
there after fin
ding out that the younger woman travels an hour or more
from her house to w
ork.
When Harley refused, Clement suggested that she find some
suitable lodging
for herself near the shop and actually helped her by talking
to a friend of
hers who owns an apartment building five blocks away.
Harley was a nice kid, almost like a sister that she never had.
Clement drummed her fingers in the tabletop of the sound
booth, perusing th
e catalogue of new gadgets when an eerie feeling settled on
her spine. She
looked up and saw two tall black-clad strange men walking
steadily towards
her. She immediately noticed that they wore the same,
almost uniform-like s
uits with a mandarin collar and dark-red piping in the cuffs
and around the
collar.
She calmly reached down the table and grasped the shotgun
she concealed und
erneath. There’s no need to panic, she kept telling herself.
When the two men were a foot away from her, she looked
down at them as a
frown appeared on her forehead. “What can I do for you,
gentlemen?”
The one on the right side grinned mischievously. “There’s
something you ha
ve that we want,” he hissed, drawing her gaze to the
luminous orbs of his
eyes. They were yellow.
She gritted her teeth. “I have nothing you could possibly
want. If you don’t m
ind, I have a business to run. Now go away,” she replied
rudely, not a little
sorry for her attitude.
As if those words will be heeded, she really prayed they
wouldn’t. She itch
ed to do something she was born to do.
“Come on, little girl. Stop being coy. You know what we
seek,” the other ma
n bitingly said.
“If you really insist, let’s not do it here. I am not the type of
person who
hands out something without fighting for it nor do I care to
give you somethin
g or anything of mine alone,” she said against gritted teeth.
“I suppose you s
till follow certain rules even if you’re in the opposite side of
the pole . .
. demon.” She spat the last word like venom complete with a
look of disgust se
nt their way.
The two men smiled broadly . . . tauntingly.
“We’ll wait for you in the alley, little girl,” one of them hissed
closer to her.
She could almost see its forked tongue and smell the fetid
breath of decay a
nd death.
Then, they left.
Clement growled low in her throat with her hands tightly
fisted at her side
s as she waved at Harley. “Could you cover for me in
awhile?” Her voice was
a semblance of control, a total contradiction to the play of
emotions insi
de her when Harley came up the booth.
Harley didn’t question her as she was used to taking in
charge of the shop w
henever her boss decided to take a break.
Clement walked purposefully, her heels clicking in a steady
rhythm against
the polished floor as her steps took her to the back door
where her weapons
were kept, concealed by a wall of shelves no one knew but
her. She pressed
a button and the shelves divided to open the passage. She
went down the fl
ight of steps and a dim glow of the overhanging light bulb
lighted her way.
An array of weapons she collected over the years was
displayed on top cond
ition. They ranged from the well-crafted crossbow to an
assortment of swor
ds, mostly Japanese swords.
There’s an elaborate dragon-scaled carved Nodachi, several
Tanto, Kaiken a
nd a couple of Kodachi. But her favorite were the two similar
Tachi or Aik
uchi Katana (swords without hand guards) hanging from the
wall. The blades
are thirty inches in length and their scabbards were
artistically crafted
especially for her. She had them made by a master
blacksmith from Japan,
who was a direct descendant of a well-known blacksmith
dating back to the
Tokugawa era.
She reached for the katanas and the weight of them was
familiar to her. The
glint of steel reflected in her eyes as she unsheathed them
and made swingin
g movements with it, hearing the swish and zinging of the
steel cutting thro
ugh the air with each flick of her wrist.
Then, she went up and locked the door behind her. She
stored away her joll
y self and assumed the role she had embraced for more than
five years now.
She went outside in the alley where she faced the two
demons with their grin
ning disgusting faces that she despised most of all.
As far as she could remember, they were always after her
and her soul, so t
o speak. She was told time and again that she held
something inside her tha
t they desperately wanted but didn’t dare enlightening her
as to what it wa
s. Her disgust overshadowed her curiosity every time she
faced one of their
kind. They were the ones who took away those she loved.
Her hatred burned
inside her as she unleashed the dangerous side of her being.
It was one of those damnable rules that applied to all that
they couldn’t exp
ose this side of the world to the populace. So they kept their
duels hidden f
rom the people as long as the challenge was done in a public
place.
She suddenly noticed that these two demons weren’t the
ordinary ones she s
lays in a regular basis. These two were a different order of
demons that n
ow mysteriously populated the world and kept on bumping
or rather finding
her.
They have this keen sense of locating people like her. The
gifted ones, they
call her kind. They feed on their souls, gaining their gifts to
merge in th
eir own to become powerful. She even heard one demon
she’d dusted off that t
he soul of a gifted tasted real good.
The two demons shed their coats, waiting for her attack with
their wide grins
oozing with malice. “You took your time, little girl. Did a little
exercisin
g before we kill you?”
Clement curtly laughed, giving them a baleful look. “Not
likely. Before I’m
through with the both of you, you’ll be wishing you haven’t
ascended in th
is world only to face me.”
The demon with the yellow eyes yelled as he charged at her,
swinging his sw
ord down on her. She blocked it with one fluid motion of her
wrist and pivo
ted on her heel, swerving to the right and swung her other
sword in the dir
ection of his midriff. A shallow cut was made, but before she
could count t
o ten, the cut disappeared.
She didn’t waste more time before she did a hacking motion
with her two sw
ords, crisscrossing to chop off the demons into pieces.
The two demons were acting out of desperation, she could
sense. But, they h
ave the audacity of facing her in her state of anger. There
would be no mer
cy.
Her arms aimlessly wielded the two katanas, deftly swinging
it, dealing one
lethal blow in rapid succession as the demon blocked each of
her blows, fu
eling her rage to charge more brutally.
Her body danced with her fluid movements as she used all
she had to dodge
the demons’ blows and deal them with hers. Her face was a
mask of conceale
d disgust as her fighting skills came to her advantage. She
was born to sl
ay.
She honed her skills to perfection for the only purpose of
slaying unsavory
beings of darkness such as these two.
Her long legs shots out, giving a powerful kick that sent one
of the demons
hurling against the cemented wall. Dust flew as she chopped
the other demo
n’s head off, barely seeing the demon turning into black
smoke and disinteg
rating.
She ran to the other demon that crashed against the wall
with her powerful
kick and shot her leg out, making hard contact with her heel
in his chest,
slamming it forcefully and heard a crack. Then, she swung
her blade, choppi
ng off the demon’s head.
Clement stood there and watched the demon turn into black
smoke, fading awa
y into nothingness. She stood there in the same spot for a
while, catching
her breath, smiling and silently congratulating herself
without noticing th
at someone was watching her.
Then, she heard someone clapping and her head turned
toward that sound.
***
Nine
She narrowed her eyes at the approaching man wearing a
long sleeved white r
obe-like shirt that was unbuttoned, loose and airy that
displayed a lean mu
scled chest. His slightly loose black pants tapered along,
hugging his long
muscled legs. His dark blonde hair glinted against the
sunlight and she im
mediately noticed that he was not what he was supposed to
be. There was som
ething otherworldly about him . . . not sinister though.
“Who are you?” she asked, tightening her hold on her two
katanas, one in e
ach hand. She was ready to do battle again if needs be.
The man raised a quizzical brow at her fighting stance as he
approached her.
He stopped a couple of feet away from and stared stoically
at her. “They ca
ll me Kylos,” he said in his slightly accented and cultured
voice.
She remained unyielding, impatiently waiting for him to
continue explaining
his presence.
Reading her mind, he smiled at her cautious nature. “I’ve
been watching yo
u for some time now, Clement,” he continued, stopping a
few feet away from
her and crossed his arms against his powerful chest,
mimicking her stubbo
rn stance.
His voice held a note of a certain superiority that added
something to adm
ire with his handsome features and impressive built. His face
was a wonder
to behold. She couldn’t remember if she’d ever seen such
looks in a perso
n, both men and women, before.
He towered over her, a great turn-on since she’s not
considered as petite by
normal standards. She guessed that he stood at least six
feet and five inches
tall. She couldn’t be certain, considering the distance that
separated them.
His looming figure didn’t intimidate her the least. It would
take more than
that to intimidate someone like Clement Pope. Not even the
powerful built he
presented could do that either.
“How did you know my name?” she asked curiously, silently
memorizing his f
eatures for future references. She makes it a point to know
everyone she c
omes across with for future references, so to speak.
He shrugged his muscled shoulder. “I asked around,” he
readily answered, o
bviously sizing her up and at the same time unconsciously
irritating her.
“You’re not a hard person to know, Clem.”
“No one calls me Clem other than those close to me,” she
retorted, taking a
couple of steps towards him. As her legs brought her closer
to him, she no
ticed how brilliant his eyes were and her head just came up
to his chin. Sh
e was considered tall among her peers, yet this man really
towered over her
. She scowled back at his smiling face. “Don’t get personal
with me,” she w
arned in a hard tone of voice. “I don’t know you,” she added
pointedly.
“But, you will. We’re also going to be close . . . you and I,” he
countered,
challenging her back with his eyes eerily glinting down at
hers. The bright
green eyes held a mysterious depth that almost mesmerized
her.
But then, her practical mind resurfaced, coming to her
rescue and saving he
r from acting like a complete idiot. “Not likely,” she replied
jutting her
chin in a stubborn manner. “You’re not a demon,” she said
that as a stateme
nt, not waiting for any confirmation from him. “What are
you?”
He silently applauded her spunk. He expected that from her.
“Just someone h
ere to help you,” he quietly replied, uncrossing his arms and
drawing them
to grasp her shoulders to bring her closer to him.
She was unable to resist as she let him draw her to him. Her
hands still held
her swords tightly but her whole body tingled at the feeling
those large han
ds imprinted in her skin.
“Let me teach you, Clem. Let me show you how to protect
yourself better,” he
said, placing a tender kiss on top of her head, grazing his lips
on the wis
ps of hair that came loose during her fight with the demons.
Kylos knew it wouldn’t be easy to tell Clement her true
purpose in life.
He had stood watch over her from the distance, gauging her
strength and wai
ting for the right time to come forward and meet her. He had
admired her sk
ill, her courage.
He had watched her fight the demons that sought her and
her ability to separa
te her private life from her demon-killing life. The most he
liked about her
was her ability of breathing a certain aura of tranquility when
at her relaxe
d state, drawing the people around her to feel the same.
Her innocence in contrast to her slaying intrigued him. He
wanted to know mor
e about her . . . to understand her . . . to appease the
questions about her
that burned in his mind.
After seeing her effortlessly slaying the two demons without
drawing a crow
d and compromising the safety of the people inside her shop,
he finally dec
ided that it was time that he would be known to her at last
as he had wante
d to do the moment he saw her on her first slay more than
five years ago.
His kiss sent a calming effect on her as she watched him pull
her away at a
rms length and gazed at her with those hypnotic green eyes
of his. “Come wi
th me, Clem. I’ll teach you more than you already know and
more still as th
e time passes.”
How could she say no to him when all her inhibitions had
been warped from
her system and left her like some damn puppet on a string?
Shaking herself
half-heartedly from the stupor he was inflicting on her, she
still stubbo
rnly asked, “Why should I come with you when I don’t even
know if I should
trust you?’
“Because you were meant to be with me,” he casually
answered, surprising hi
mself with those possessive words for a minute, then,
resigning, he knew th
ose words held the truth of what’s inside his heart that he
couldn’t take b
ack.
His tender look upon her was more than she could take. She
wanted to be sw
ept off her feet by this handsome being and yet there’s a
doubt in her min
d that made her cautious amidst the hypnotic ability he was
wielding on he
r, manipulating her to do what he asked or rather demanded
of her.
She felt herself gradually going numb. Her body not anymore
hers to control
. Her katanas fell with a clang down on the ground. Her eyes
rounded at his
fading form as she blinked to focus her sight. She was losing,
drowning in
the abyss that was claiming her. She finally lost
consciousness.
He caught her in his arms and lifted her. Her head fell tucked
under his chi
n. He breathed on her subtle lavender scent that surrounded
him. There was t
he innocence on her face that he wanted to know . . . to
explore.
He snapped himself awake against the idea as he
remembered the doctrine he
had taken oath to.
It was forbidden.
But how could he resist someone as lovely as Clement Pope?
He closed his ey
es to control his wayward thoughts as a strand of her dark
hair curled and
grazed his hand that held her by her waist. Her flesh
tempted him. He fiste
d his hand against it.
It would be hard to tamp on his desires when the very
thought of Clement ha
d damned him for all eternity.
It was not supposed to be, he knew that. Everyone knew
that. That was why i
t was hard on his part to control himself and opted to stay by
the sideline
s and watched her from afar for more than five years.
She was to be protected.
He sighed aloud, thinking that it would be much difficult for
him in the da
ys to come. One more look at the face of someone he’s not
supposed to nurse
some tender feelings for and then decided he should stop
procrastinating.
But then, he couldn’t possibly go through the task given to
him right away.
There was one place he knew he could stay and evaluate.
He carried her effortlessly out of the alley and disappeared
with the phanto
m wind at their wake.
***
Ten
Head pounding . . . constant aching that really hurts.
There was something in the air that soothed her senses yet
brought an unfami
liar sensation she couldn’t describe.
Then, she heard a familiar voice that oozed strength and
confidence. It was f
aint, sounding like it was coming from so far away. She
strained to hear more
of it as it sent calmness in her otherwise confused state.
“Come to me, Clement. It’s alright. You are safe.”
Those words were repeated over and over again like it was
recorded and chan
ted for her benefit. She tried with all her might to open her
heavily lade
n eyes. They stung and wouldn’t budge.
Then, she sensed another presence not far, talking to the
one with the famil
iar soothing voice. They were talking in a strange language
and she couldn’t
understand a word to save herself.
She still wasn’t ready to come out of the abyss.
“You were not supposed to bring her here, Kylos. The Order
specifically tol
d you to take her in Q’uen.”
Kylos took a lock of her hair and twirled his fingers around it,
feeling the
softness of her hair as his gaze focused on the frown
appearing between her
brows. He crooned at her to be calm and he saw that it was
effective as the
frown disappeared from her face and replaced with a look of
serenity.
He sighed as he darted a look at Chasan. “I can’t. You don’t
understand.”
“I understand perfectly well. And the sooner you resigned to
fate, the better
you can make the most out of your life.”
Kylos shook his head. “That’s easier said than done, friend. I
know what lif
e has in store for her and I cannot stand by and be a teacher
to someone who
deserves a normal life.”
“That normal life had been forfeited from her the instant she
had been give
n the gift and took arms and let the demons know about her.
The best you ca
n do right now is to teach her, make her ready as The Order
had ordered for
you to do. You have to do your duty, Kylos. It’s the only way
to achieve y
our real purpose. It would only be harder if you insist on
having these for
bidden feelings.”
Kylos knew that Chasan’s words were right. But the nagging
feeling inside h
is chest wanted to protect her from the life she would she
would have to em
brace the moment she opened her eyes and start her
training.
He had to distance his emotions from her while he spends
his time beside her
. That would be the most difficult duty he had to do.
Chasan looked seriously at Kylos and felt pity for him. “I
should leave y
ou now. There’s much explaining to do and you know why
and how.”
Kylos nodded in understanding and didn’t catch the look on
his friend befo
re vanishing with the phantom wind.
He laid a hand on Clement’s warm cheek and caressed it,
feeling her stirrin
g from the deep sleep he took her under.
He watched her open her eyes and the disorientation
marring those brown eye
s that gazed up at him stirred some of those emotions he
wanted to suppress
. He laid a finger across her lips when she started to speak
and said, “You
don’t need to worry, Clem. You’re safe here.”
Ignoring his fingers, she opened her mouth and inquired,
“Where am I? You ha
ven’t told me what you are yet . . . friend or foe. All I’m
certain is that
you’re not mortal.”
“Even now, you couldn’t still categorize me among your list
of friends when
I haven’t killed you already and taken your soul,” he replied,
standing up a
nd watching her struggle to sit up. He didn’t bother to help
her at all. “Yo
u should be able to distinguish if I am the good guy or not,
Clem. You’re sh
utting your heart out to see what’s clearly before you.”
Clement ignored his attempt to manipulate her thinking. “I
also remember tel
ling you not to call me that. You haven’t earned my trust yet
to be familiar
with me.”
He breathed out deeply, frustrated at her obstinacy. “Very
well, Miss Pope.
I shall refrain from addressing you to the name you reserve
to those deservi
ng of your trust.”
“Now, you’re mocking me,” she muttered under her breath
as she stood up i
n front of him with a fierce scowl. Then, she looked around
and was impre
ssed at what she saw.
There in the room stood the rarest form of furniture she had
only seen in t
extbooks. Whoever owned the place must be awfully rich,
not to mention, has
an impeccable tastes.
The walls were covered with intricate moldings reminiscent
of the time befor
e the French Revolution. The walls were painted in a delicate
blue with lush
velvet window treatments and downy pristine rugs covering
the floors. Her f
eet sank at the softness of the rug as she felt with her toes
something akin
to paradise.
She also noticed that she was wearing something different
from what she wo
re before blackness came over her. She glanced at the man
standing in fron
t of her with an unguarded compassionate look trained solely
at her.
“You would look much more comfortable in those,” he readily
explained, poi
nting at her.
She had no doubts about that as she felt the silk smoothly
rubbing against h
er skin. The clothes must have cost a lot. “Why are you
doing this?”
He looked away and took a couple of steps to bring more
distance between t
he two of them before he spoke again. “I have orders, Miss
Pope. I have no
choice but to follow them.”
“Orders from who?”
Kylos thought that she might as well know. “From the
Grigori,” he said.
“They’ve been watching you through me. They want you,
Clement.”
Her eyes rounded at the mention of the name. “The Grigori?”
she asked, suc
king in her breath at the mention of that name. The
Watchers. “But they’re
just a myth. What could they possibly want with me?”
He faced her again with seriousness that almost took her
breath away and mad
e her believe before he replied, “Better believe it, Clement,
for they are n
ot a myth. They’re real. And they’ve been closely monitoring
you, reveling a
t your skills and your spirit.”
She shook her head as she sat back hard into the fluffy bed,
puzzled. She kne
w he was telling the truth. But still, the truth was
unbelievable.
Kylos walked towards her and sat beside her on the bed,
offering a comforti
ng pat on her knee when what he really wanted to her was
kiss her and make
love to her right then and there. He cleared his throat and
controlled his
thoughts. It was embarrassing enough to have these kinds of
feelings be kn
own by his superiors. He wouldn’t let himself slip by having
her know his d
esire for her as well.
“Was all that hard to take in?” he asked teasingly. But the
mirth didn’t go u
p to his sullen eyes that glittered a green haze on her
dumbfounded state.
“What do they want from me?”
“They want you to learn to be a worthy agent of The Order of
The Grigori.
With the protection of the Grigori, you would be safer than
you were since
you began?”
“Began?” she muttered her question, not seeming to go
along with what he wa
s trying to say. Her mind’s a little fuzzy and half of what he
was saying w
as hard to believe. Not in a million years did she dream of
being in this s
ituation and less more when he said that powerful beings
wanted to recruit
her.
She was more of a soloist. It doesn’t sit well to be following
orders from
someone she wasn’t sure that truly existed. She can’t take
this man’s wor
ds as truth yet. She doesn’t know him. “How can I be sure
that you’re the
good guy when you kidnapped me and Harley would
probably be hysterical rig
ht now?”
“You don’t need to worry about your shop, Miss Pope.
Everything’s in order
. Harley’s been notified of your absence.”
“With what reason? And how did you know about Harley?”
she impatiently a
sked. She wasn’t used to this kind of hedging from anyone.
Kylos sighed. “I just know. She’d been told that you’re taking
the much-n
eeded vacation. Harley’s an understanding woman. You’re
lucky to have her
.”
“Yes, I am,” she agreed. Then, she fell silent once again. Her
mind whirling
and unable to settle down.
There were so many things that were left unexplained. But,
she couldn’t han
dle all the explaining at the moment. All she needed right
now was to be ca
lm and relaxed.
Kylos felt her emotions and before he could stop himself, he
pulled her into
a tight embrace and held her so affectionately that brought
the constraint
in him was slowly slipping away.
She had no will to fight him as she submitted herself to his
embrace, which
she hesitatingly admit that she enjoyed as the minutes
passed. She felt cont
ent to just be enveloped with his powerful arms and feel the
beating heart i
nside his muscled chest. The steady rhythm lulled her into
relaxation.
There’s so much she wanted to ask him, but her tongue ran
out of her and all
she could do was stay there in the warmth of him and smell
the soothing sce
nt that drove her to think such erotic thoughts that she
would likely do if
circumstances were different.
The facts still nagged her that the man holding her wasn’t
even human.
“You feel it, don’t you?” he asked quietly, savoring the
closeness of her.
She knew what he was getting. She pulled a couple of inches
away to look up
at his handsome face. “How is it possible? I swear. I haven’t
known you be
fore yet I get this feeling that I’ve known you all my life.”
He reached up to caress her cheek and stared at her eyes.
“Because you d
o know me, Clement. Your soul knows me.”
She closed her eyes against the gentleness of his touch and
was lost.
There was something about him that eerily made her soft as
a pudding and wan
ted to just stay there in the comfort of his arms and never
leave- ever. But
, of course, there were issues to consider, questions to be
answered and a p
articularly curious mind to be appeased.
Reading her mind, he said, “The Order needs your skill,
Clement. I was task
ed to hone your skills to be a better agent when the time
comes.”
“The time?”
“War has been waged over thousands of years ago,” he
began. He stood up fro
m the bed and paced the floor in front of her. “The forces of
evil wanted t
o claim this plane to be theirs but the forces of goodness
wouldn’t allow th
at. God had deigned that this plane be solely in the
possession of the morta
ls. The forces of evil, being stubborn as they are, wouldn’t let
it rest.”
He stopped pacing and looked at her straight in the eyes,
casually leaned hi
s shoulders against the bed pole behind him. “They have
been wreaking havoc
in your world, tempting your mortal souls to the dominion of
evil. There was
strife, chaos and death . . . all because of it. It is our duty to
make the
m realize that there’s nothing for them in your world.”
“How did the Grigori know about me?”
Kylos smiled. “They know everything that God haven’t
hidden from them. T
hey knew about you the moment you were born. But the
signs only started
after your parents died.”
She nodded, remembering the day of her parents’ funeral
and she saw somethi
ng that a normal teenager shouldn’t be seeing . . . a normal
person shouldn
’t be seeing.
She was amazed that she had the gift but had been terrified
as well. The vi
sions came and went throughout her life and she learned
how to control them
as time passes.
She began to muster her fears and resigned to the idea that
her gift was no
t a temporary one that can be shut off any time she wants.
Sometimes, she w
ished she didn’t have that ability for she could feel every
little bit of e
motion that she was sometimes helpless to offer consolation
for it especial
ly when the emotion comes from someone who would shun
her and deem her a fr
eak.
She learned earlier on to deal with it and knew that it comes
with a responsib
ility that she wasn’t sure she could fill up.
Clement looked up at him and saw the shadow of a
devastating smile was stil
l there on his handsome face that played havoc on her
insides. She couldn’t
help but smile back. “Guess there’s always someone
witnessing my life afte
r all. I was beginning to think that I would grow old and die
without a sig
nificant other to reminisce me,” she said.
The smile on Kylos’ face disappeared. “Don’t say that,” he
quietly said with
a hard edge to his voice. Those words were sad as well as
fierce, a contradic
tion to his angelic features.
“Don’t say what?” she asked incredulously. “Sooner or later,
I’m going to di
e. Or is the fact that I’m mortal totally escaped you?”
He dropped on his knees in front of her and took both of her
hands in his, l
ooking up at her face. His hands were big and warm. “Don’t
say that. You sho
uldn’t say that.”
“Why do I get the feeling that there’s more that you’re not
telling me?” sh
e asked as she stared back at the soulful eyes of the
handsome man. Of cour
se, she wasn’t used to having a handsome being kneel
before her in that way
. It was kind of humbling.
He lowered his head before speaking. “I have been
monitoring you for mor
e than five years now, Clement. I have watched you and
grew fond of you.
I have stayed away in the shadows so you wouldn’t notice
my presence. It
was hard especially when you have the keen sense like our
kind.”
She breathed out hard and squeezed his hands. “Do you
think I’ll get mad up
on hearing that?” she asked, smiling down on him as she
tipped his chin to
look up at her. “I am more understanding contrary to popular
opinion. But f
ive years is a long time. How on earth do you live your life?”
He let out a bitter laugh. “Life? I don’t know if this would be
considered as
a life, Clement,” he started to explain. “I train people like you
to battle th
e forces of evil. Together with my brethren, we exist only to
be trainers and
warriors.”
Her empathic ability was at work and she sensed the
sadness in him. “I am n
ot an authority in immortality, but there should be times that
you’re allowe
d to be yourself, to live in the way you wanted it to be All
you people have
is time.”
“Not if the responsibility of saving mankind rests on our
shoulders.”
That put a lid on it.
She sighed. “We are all beings burdened with responsibilities
that we’re not
sure to fulfill. I am just wondering why with all the power of
God, He coul
dn’t do something to stop all of these?”
Kylos stood up and sat beside her again. “God gave free will
to men. That
dampens the whole power thing.”
Clement remained as still as a log as thoughts ran through
her mind. Most
ly, she was thinking what would happen to her now that
she’s somewhere sh
e doesn’t ever know where.
“You’re in Chasan’s place – a friend. There’s no need to worry
as long as I
’m beside you.”
She scoffed at that.
He smiled, reading her thoughts. Even without using his
telepathic ability,
he could gauge her emotions just by looking at her
expressive face.
“Cut it out,” she ordered. “Your mind-reading is freaking me
out,” she adm
onished half-heartedly.
“It freaks me out, too, sometimes,” Kylos said chuckling,
earning him a gor
geous smile from Clement that took his breath away. “You’re
beautiful,” he
blurted out unexpectedly.
He couldn’t believe he’d just blurted what he was thinking
aloud. It was un
characteristic for him to lose control over his words before.
He partly blam
ed her for it. If she hadn’t smiled that way, he wouldn’t feel
this heated,
uncomfortably wanting to strip her naked and make love to
her in the lush be
d they were sitting on.
Common sense stayed him.
It wouldn’t do well to have romantic ties with a pupil. It was
against the r
ules of conduct. Besides, The Grigori would know and
Clement would be reassi
gned to train under another trainer. He guessed that would
be a better solut
ion to curb his carnal wanting of her. But, the thought of
never spending ti
me with her didn’t sit well with him. He had accustomed
himself to the disco
mfort and learned to control his desires as well.
If he had the will to control himself.
She smiled broadly, feeling what he was feeling. She reached
up to touch hi
s cheek, trailing her fingers against the smooth sides. “Who
are you, Kylos
, whom I can’t seem to keep a straight face with for long?
Nor an ordered t
hought? It seems as if I’ve known you for a long time.”
Kylos sucked in his breath as he let her touch ignite
something inside him.
He closed his eyes at the sensation. “You cannot deny the
feeling, Clement
. You have no idea how much control I have to practice for
more than five y
ears of following you.”
“Following me,” she muttered, letting her hand fall down on
her lap and let o
ut a long sigh. “It’s a little disturbing to think that I was being
followed
for a long time. Very disturbing.” She shook her head against
the shiver that
crept up in her arms.
“It’s not malicious, if that’s what you’re thinking,” he said,
opening his eyes
to see a slight frown on her face.
She shrugged. “You can tell if I’m thinking it was, could you?”
He actually smiled at that. “I remember correctly that my
mind-reading is f
reaking a particular woman out,” he teased her, loving this
time with her a
nd the playful banter between them.
“And I didn’t expect that you would actually stop in my
behalf,” she said, s
miling and took his right hand in her smaller ones. She
marveled at the obvi
ous strength in that hand as it swallowed up hers, making
her hands appeared
dainty . . . small. “You’re to train me, right?”
He nodded, loving the way she explored his palm, tracing
each line as if mem
orizing it.
She looked up and fixed her eyes on his. “I’ve dealt with
demons almost all
my life, Kylos. I am ready.”
He nodded again, cupping one hand on her cheek and
leaned forward. He tenta
tively brushed his lips against hers, feeling her let out a
sweet breath. H
e grazed his lips hoveringly against hers. He pressed those
beckoning lips
with a kiss that stole away all control and only warmth
settled in. He deep
ened the kiss, exploring the sweetness of her. Her every sigh
captured betw
een them.
Then, he suddenly pulled his lips from her responding ones
and trailed kisses
all over her face, brushing his lips at her closed eyes and
lingered in her
temples, breathing her comforting scent.
She laced her fingers through his and tightened her hold, not
seeming to let
go. She felt his arms going around her and crushing her in a
tight embrace.
Her cheek rested against his chest, hearing the wild beating
of his heart,
feeling his emotions and sharing them with her own.
He knew she was afraid of what was to come. But, he’s the
most afraid for t
he both of them for he had actually fallen. He had
succumbed to the one thi
ng that was forbidden to his kind.
To fall in love with a mortal.
***
Eleven
Ninety-four days later . . .
“Clear your mind. Let yourself be one with everything. Smell
the salt in the se
a breeze. Be one with the air . . . the wind . . .”
She calmed herself down. Blindfolded, she let her body
attune to her surroun
dings with just the voice of Kylos guiding her.
Then, she ran, swinging her sword and slashing the glass
bottle suspended in
the air in two.
Kylos had been teaching her everything she needed to know
to become an age
nt of The Order for almost three months in the astral plane.
She couldn’t
quite understand how they knew that a day had gone by
since it was all-day
there and experienced no darkness. She only relies on Kylos’
and Chasan’s
word that time was passing fleetingly there.
She heard from Chasan that she was supposed to join the
others in Q’uen, T
he Order’s headquarters. But, Kylos convinced the Higher
Council to permit
him to train her in Chasan’s place instead. Kylos did a lot of
convincing
and she was left clueless as to what exactly did he do in
order to be per
mitted. From the look on Chasan’s face when she asked and
was met by silen
ce, Kylos did something very grave and serious. She couldn’t
question the
Kuriote much.
She learned more information about the celestial hierarchy
from Chasan, alt
hough he was not very informative. She sensed that he was
keeping a lot fro
m her, but she had no guts to dig deeper. Common sense
halted her to do tha
t together with the kuriote’s reluctance to enlighten her
more.
Kylos wasn’t that much open-mouthed about the whole thing
either. If what s
he was feeling could be accurate, he carried a great deal of
fear for her.
He feared for what her curiosity was leading her to. He has
so many reserva
tions, all bottled up inside him that she couldn’t penetrate
the barriers t
hat he had erected to guard them. He had no intentions to
explain anything
to her other than what she was supposed to know. He had
also enlisted Chasa
n help to guard his words and thoughts when around her.
She almost felt like she was being treated like a leper.
She wanted to understand him, but he never gave her the
opportunity to do so
. It seems as if he was guarding her against the others. That
was all she co
uld gleam from his actions.
But why?
During that time, she’d only seen him and Chasan. If she
tried to ask abou
t her shop, Chasan would only answer, “You have nothing to
worry about, ch
ild. Everything’s being taken care of.”
Kylos was the most beguiling she’d ever met. Every minute
spent with him he
ightened her feelings that she couldn’t yet categorize as love
since it was
too early for that assumption. But she could very well feel
what he felt t
owards her. Their time together only made him more
miserable as she learned
that what he was feeling was against the rules – it was
forbidden.
She cannot fault Kylos for following the rules to the letter. His
existence w
as entirely based on those rules. To break them would be
fatal not only to hi
m but also to her.
She tried to talk to him about it, but every time she would
have the nerve to
confront him, he’d go the other way. The looks he sent her
every time they c
rossed paths were so intense and desire burned in those
green eyes of his. Sh
e’s not blind not to notice it. She’d also be a saint if she’ll
say she wasn’
t affected by it.
The tension was getting to them.
It was hard enough to dampen her emotions when they’re
training. The off-tr
aining time was worse since he practically stayed away from
her, treating h
er like a leper when it was obvious that he wanted to be with
her every min
ute and every second of he day.
One time, when she was fed up by his attitude towards her,
she halted his st
eps before he left her in front of the bedroom door she uses
during her stay
in Chasan’s home.
She dragged him bodily inside the room with a vise-like grip
on his arm tha
t brooked no questioning.
“Why are you avoiding me?” she asked, her hand shooting
up to grab his arm
again when he tried to leave and anchored one leg against
the door, stopp
ing any means for escape.
She wanted to see his eyes but he continued his downcast
look.
She gripped tighter.
He winced at the sharp pain that hold brought him. He still
didn’t turn to lo
ok at her in fear that he might see the soulful eyes that
would trigger his d
esire and snap his control. He sensed that she wanted to
look straight in him
. But, he was afraid of what she would find there.
“I don’t want you getting involved with me,” he said in a
hard tone of voice,
laced with frustration and certain tone of finality. “The
circumstances will
be dire if we harbor feelings for each other. I don’t want you
getting hurt,
” he rasped out his explanation between gritted teeth.
She could feel turbulent emotions inside him that he was
trying to conceal
from her. It wasn’t working. Then, a sudden realization
entered her mind.
She took both of his arms and gently shook him. “What did
they do to you?”
Kylos finally did turn to look at her, begging her to let it up.
But the deter
mined look that shone in her eyes cannot be denied.
If he knew her more, he would know that he had the tenacity
of a jellyfish.
She pulled up his sleeves and saw burn marks all over his
arms, partially h
ealed but still reddened and tender. She looked at him and
saw his green ey
es turning dark moss in color, imploring her to stop what she
was doing. Sh
e shook her head and walked behind him, and lifted his shirt
up.
There in his muscled back were riddles of healing welts,
some scars had heal
ed and looked to be about three months old, the flesh still
tender around it
. Then, some were quite new. Her heart constricted at the
sight, reaching to
touch the longest welt and heard his hiss of pain. A tear
rolled down her c
heek unchecked.
“How could they do this to you?” she whispered, wanting to
take the pain w
rought by those lacerations to her own.
“It’s nothing, really,” he replied, tugging his shirt down and
faced her. Th
en, he saw her tears freely flowing down her face. Those
tears tugged his he
artstrings and couldn’t do anything but lean down to touch
his forehead to h
ers, closing his eyes, inhaling her faint lavender scent.
“Don’t cry, Clem,”
he reassured. “Don’t cry for me.”
She tried to wipe her tears with the back of her hand but he
grasped them in
his hold before she was able to. “I can’t help myself,” she
said apologetical
ly. “They have no right to do this to you, Kylos.”
He let out a bitter laugh. “Actually, they have every right to
do it. I have b
roken a lot of rules and did some things that aren’t worthy of
mentioning. Thi
s is what I have to endure in order to keep you here.”
“Why do you have to be mutilated like this? This is a severe
punishment,” sh
e tried reasoning again, scolding herself when her tears
seemed to flow nons
top against her will. She tucked her head under his chin
instead. “I thought
immortals like you don’t get scarred or bleed,” she muttered.
“We do,” he replied. “When we are dealt with weapons or
means of punishment
that isn’t made of the mortals, we suffer the pain and the
effects of it.”
It was unfair. To be scarred for all eternity was barbaric and
unjust. She c
uddled closer, careful not to bump his wounds. All she
wanted to do was ease
the pain that she knew was hurting him very much. If only
she could take th
em to herself.
Kylos read her thoughts. “Don’t think it, Clem. I could stand
them, but you
cannot.”
She pushed herself against his hold and glowered at him, her
tears still unco
ntrollable. “It’s just like a man to be so damn . . . well, manly.
Can’t stan
d them? That’s illogical, Kylos, and you know it.”
He tried to take her back in his arms but she stepped back
and crossed her
arms in front of her, assuming a challenging stance. Then, he
watched her
change in moods. “Then, let me rephrase that. An immortal
could stand the p
ain but a mortal would die from it.”
“Still, it’s not fair.”
He fell silent, blocking her empathy ability to feel his
emotions as he just st
ared back at her.
She dropped her arms to her sides and a tender look crossed
her face. “Sto
p being a martyr for once and speak to me. Talk to me,” she
pleaded. “Tell
me who you are that you should be subjected to this kind of
punishment ev
en when you are immortal.”
That request was too hard to deny, considering that her
heart was there . .
. bare for all to see. He cupped her face between his hands
and looked at he
r unblinking. “In our world, we are known as the Sadrin,
dynamis under the l
eadership of the Grigori.
“The hierarchy was set up to bring order to the world, yours
and mine. If on
e Sadrin would ever disobey a direct order from a Grigori, the
punishment wo
uld be capital. . . severe. I have disobeyed and I have
expected this. My
punishment was just a taste of what will happen if I should
fall like Lucife
r. It is expected, Clem. I have been prepared for this
outcome.”
The sadness in those words cannot be contained as she
reached a hand to cares
s the side of his face.
Unshed tears glittered in her eyes, piercing the wall of self-
preservation in
his. “Even immortals like you should suffer because of love.”
She shook her
head against the burning in her heart. “Don’t deny it, Kylos. I
can feel eve
ry emotion you feel.”
He placed a hand atop hers on his cheek and whispered
softly, “I do love yo
u, Clem. But, even heaven conspire against us. Love is an
emotion that a Sa
drin is forbidden to have. There’s nowhere we could be
together.”
Clement buried her head in his chest and let her tears fall
down silently. “W
e could be in each other’s heart where it matters most.”
He let out a quiet bitter laugh. “I don’t think you fully grasp
the truth, C
lem. My heart is not my own. My whole being is not my
own,” he pointed out.
“A single beat of my heart could be heard through distance
and time. My ever
y thought could be read even in this very moment. It is the
harsh reality th
at I have to live with throughout my existence.”
She glanced up at him and shook her head at him. “Then
why do you persist
in keeping me close to you that you endanger every waking
moment of your
existence just by looking at me differently?” she asked,
wanting to conf
irm what she could feel coming from him.
Her heart calls out to him in a rhythm he couldn’t ignore. He
cupped both he
r cheeks with his hands and leaned forward, a few inches
from her face where
he stared at those beguiling eyes of hers. “Because I love
you too much to
be parted from you,” he said, bringing his lips to capture
hers in a kiss th
at stole her breath away.
She clung to him, careful not to touch the healing scars on
his back and arms
. She poured herself in that kiss, drowning in the sensation
that only he cou
ld arouse in her.
The kiss was consuming, borne of desperation.
He slanted his mouth against hers in a feverish kiss that left
a trail of burn
ing sensations in its wake. He trailed kisses in her throat, her
neck, and her
exposed shoulder, gently nipping his way around it. His
hands caressed her sk
in, feeling the silkiness through the palms of his hand as it
rested in her na
pe to mold her body snugly to his.
She could feel his power, his strength, with those hands that
skimmed her bo
dy, igniting something unfamiliar under her skin. The tingling
feeling drove
her senseless, unable to resist the sensuous motions of his
body sliding he
r toward the promise of pleasure that was utterly a union of
bodies and spir
its.
He laid her gently down the lushly covered soft bed, kneeling
on the floor b
efore her and saw her glazed look as she looked down at
him. He quickly took
off his shirt in one motion, grimacing against the sting that
resulted.
She saw his grimace and touched his forearms, gently
skimmed her fingers to
his shoulder where she could see the end of a vicious healing
scar. She le
aned down and placed a tender kiss against the puckered
skin, hearing him s
uck in a breath. Then, she grazed her mouth from his
shoulder to his arm; w
anting to take away the pain those scars had given him
though her kisses.
He closed his eyes through her ministrations, feeling her
kindness with each
touch of those lips that he craved to savor . . . to devour with
kisses. Wh
en, he couldn’t stand the agony of her sympathy, he grasped
her head and dip
ped his head towards her inviting lips.
Her body was full of sensations as she let him undress her,
carefully baring
her body to his. He was thorough, bringing each inch of her
skin alive . .
. loved. With him, there were no thoughts . . . only emotions
and sensations
. Her body hummed at the gentle stroking of those powerful
hands. He touched
her in places that left a pleasurable heat.
He was gentle with her, wanting to prolong every touch . . .
every sensation
that ignited between their bodies. He touched her, gently
stroking the center
of her heat and felt her readiness.
She sucked a breath as she felt him drove deep inside her,
filling every fibe
r of her being. She held on to him, loving each thrust that
held a note of on
eness. She equaled his strength, needing all of him and the
sensations he bro
ught her with each stroke . . . each touch.
She could hear his ragged breathing against her shoulder as
he took her ple
asure to his and added more that they were left grasping for
breath, knowin
g that there’s uncertainty waiting for them both but tried
desperately to b
lock the unpleasant thoughts away. She touched the damp
locks on his nape a
nd brushed her fingers through the locks, bringing him to a
kiss that seale
d a promise they knew they couldn’t keep.
He shook with the urgency of uniting with her. He couldn’t
control the welli
ng pleasure each stroke brought moans from her. He filled
her, wanting to st
ay nestled in her embrace . . . in her warmth. Then, he felt
her trembling a
nd joined her as heaven called him with that single act of
pleasure in the a
rms of the woman he loved.
***
Twelve
He collapsed at the space beside her in the bed, bringing her
close to his sid
e with one arm as he nuzzled his face against her neck,
touching his lips in t
he tender spot just below her ear.
Clement threaded her fingers with his, placing chaste kisses
all over his pa
lm and knuckles that drew a sigh from him. “I love you,” she
whispered close
, claiming his lips in another deep, consuming kiss.
She can’t get enough of him. She’s practically floating . . . in
a daze.
She pulled a little from him, but was still close enough to see
his eyes that
turned into a dark moss-green color. Their depths were
unfathomable with sil
ver flecks glittering as she looked closer. She trailed a finger
along the br
idge of his nose, leaning up to kiss the tip teasingly. “Do you
have any regr
ets?” she tentatively asked.
There was uncertainty in her eyes, he could see. He shook
his head at her, ho
lding her tighter against his body. “I have no regrets when it
concerns you,
Clem. I shall never have regrets even when I face the
inevitable,” he said, p
lacing a kiss on her forehead.
She hushed him with a finger across his lips. “Don’t say
that,” she pleaded
, feeling his emotions that brought pain deep down in her.
“Don’t think abo
ut that, Kylos. They would eventually realize that they were
wrong to restr
ict us. Ours is the stuff many people only dreamed of. You
understand?”
He doesn’t like to feel this vulnerable. He was powerless and
incompetent as
he lay there with the single person he doesn’t want to get
hurt because of
what he was.
If he were an ordinary man, he would be able to make her
the happiest wom
an in the whole world. He would give her everything within
his reach and
they would be happy together.
But that was not the case.
They were both condemned even before he saw her the first
time more than f
ive years ago.
Clement grasped his face between her hands and stared at
him, her tender
look unwavering, making him love her more. “I am most
happy now than I ev
er had,” she confessed in a hushed voice.
She silently prayed that God was hearing her pleas for the
both of them. S
he also tried to transcend her thoughts to those whose
watchful presence w
as bringing them doom that was both unreasonable and
unfair.
He snuggled closer to her and breathed in her comforting
scent; invading h
im and making him relax and forget the impending doom for
the time being.
He doesn’t want to spoil the beauty of what they’ve shared.
Then, he suddenly felt a stirring inside him, wanting her
again.
She chuckled against his head and smoothed a hand through
his hair. “I need
you,” she softly said close to his ear, her words held more
meaning than t
he obvious physical yearning inside her.
He leaned up and saw her smile. He smiled back and dipped
his head to kiss
her, slowly this time.
The urgency had been spent and all he wanted to do was
savor each and every
inch of her and prolong their joining.
Clement had no doubts that he would be the ultimate lover
the moment she
saw him. He was all man and pleasure with just one look.
She wasn’t mista
ken.
She twined her arms around him, bringing him closer and
breathing his scent
that awakened her senses anew. She held on to him as he
brought her to tha
t place only they could share.
Clement woke up in the warmth of the sun’s rays shining
through the windo
w and the warmth of the body snugly plastered against hers,
making her sm
ile even before she opened her eyes.
She trailed a hand at the hip close to her without opening
her eyes and hear
d a muffled groan of pleasure. She quietly laughed, opening
her eyes to see
Kylos’ grinning face with his adorable tousled look that made
her want to st
ay right there in bed with him all day and all night.
Reading her mind, he leaned down and gently nipped her
shoulder, grazing his
lips along the satiny flesh. “Insatiable minx,” he muttered,
kissing a path
towards her collarbone.
She arched her body to the hungry lips and let out a moan.
“You must have a
lot of practice doing this,” she said, grasping his head and
leaned down to
mold her lips to his.
He rubbed his legs against hers and caught the moan that
escaped her in his
mouth, deepening the kiss and asked in-between chaste
kisses all over her fa
ce, “You really know how to start the day right, don’t you?”
he teased her.
“Do I have to answer that?” she teased back, biting his lower
lip and sucked
the tender morsel into her own, catching the laugh that he
let out as he let
her be the aggressor this time.
A night of passion made her uninhibited with him, which
delighted him a
nd made him become more comfortable around her. But he
knew that everyt
hing between them was temporary.
He tried to forget that fact and focused all his energy in
satisfying the wom
an cuddled next to him.
He would treasure every minute spent in her arms,
surrounded by her warmth,
her scent, and her inhibited all-out passion.
She pulled him away from her with her hands framing his
face close enough to
make her see the flecks of silver in those green depths that
she so loved.
“Stop thinking about it, Kylos. I hate sensing your troubled
emotions. I am
here and let’s spend this time together with no worries.”
“I completely forgot that you’re an empath,” he commented,
wanting to retur
n to what they were doing. “I shall try,” he added in a
whisper.
She held him fast. “I guess that would be enough although
that still chafed
a bit, you know. I want you to share your worries with me.
That’s what lov
ing someone means, sharing oneself to the one you love,
may it be joy or so
rrow.”
He closed his eyes as he let out a deep breath. “I’m sorry. It’s
just that I
have become accustomed to dealing with it by myself. I
know you’re right.”
“Of course, I am,” she said, caressing his face. “But you
don’t have to do t
hat anymore especially when I am here,” she added, staring
at his eyes as he
guided one of his hands to lay against her chest where her
heart was beatin
g frantically. She wanted him to understand that what was
happening between
them was for the long run. “I am willing to be by your side . .
. always. No
secrets, okay?”
Sensing that she wouldn’t budge, he reluctantly nodded. “I
shan’t keep my f
eelings secret from you,” he quietly added.
“Promise?”
He nodded again. “I promise.”
She kissed him passionately then, still holding his face
between her hands a
s he felt his hands caressing her body, completely bare
against him, strokin
g it and basked at the moans of pleasure that escaped her.
“You penetrate my soul,” he muttered against her lips.
Those words rushed through her. His emotions warmed her
inside and out. Sh
e was breathless through it all as she succumbed to the
burning passion th
ey had fanned into a steady rhythm that turned into a
symphony.
He soared with her, showering kisses all over her body,
bringing both of the
m to the pinnacle of their union.
She felt all of him come alive. She embraced him and took
him in, never wan
ted to let go. She wanted all of him.
He looked at her glazed face, lost in those tempting lips and
pools of passion
burning in her eyes. He buried his face in the tresses that
smelled of all of
her being.
He collapsed atop her as she cradled his head in her bosom,
threading her fin
gers through his hair, loving the silky feeling of it, placing a
chaste kiss
atop his head and let out a sigh. “You hold my heart, Kylos,”
she confessed.
He was unworthy. But, those words felt good to hear.
If she could only know what will happen as a consequence of
their actions.
He was unwilling to tell her that. He wanted to prolong this
certain kind of
happiness. He wanted to lie there with her body beside him.
Every fiber of his being was for her alone.
This happiness was temporary and he loathed for it to end.
***
Thirteen
Armaros seethed in anger as he watched the blatant
disregard for their comm
and right in front of him. He gnashed his teeth together to
control explodi
ng in anger all together. He must remain composed at all
times especially w
hen confronted with a very persistent being.
He whirled around, his robes swinging in the motion as his
gaze darted on th
e presence of Eato.
He was not bothered by the kuriote’s presence in his hall.
The magnificence
of his guest was to be accounted for though, looking like a
celestial prince
in his white garment and shining aura. But, he wouldn’t step
down and hand
the reigns to the likes of him. “You have no dominion over
here, Kuriote,” h
e said calmly, a contradiction to the sparks that spew from
his look. “This
is Q’uen . . . not Kalidon. Your will is useless here.”
Eato was never the one who gets scared off that easily by
someone like Arm
aros. He stood his ground and challenged the Grigori with
one of his intim
idating looks that should send the other to see to reason. He
wouldn’t bac
k down with someone as hardheaded as this one.
“I have orders directly from Michael. You know who he is,
don’t you?” Eat
o continued, ignoring the irritation sent his way. “You would
not heed th
e command of those whose will might as well be from your
Father’s lips? T
hat would be dangerous indeed, if you ask me.”
Eato more than wanted to let the other submit to the
request. He would see t
hrough his order in telling the obstinate Grigori what must
and should be do
ne.
As far as he could remember, he was always being given the
most difficult t
han the others of his kind considering that he’s directly
under Michael the
Seraphs Order. He was always the one who carries unsavory
news and orders
and often received the blunt of it all.
So, he was used at this show of stubbornness from the
Grigori that was curr
ently shooting daggers at him with glowing dark eyes.
Armaros let out a short bitter laugh. “Since when do I have
to heed Michael
’s commands? We are not part of your kind, Eato. Better
relay that message
to your superiors.”
“There’s no need for that,” came the booming voice of
another that came w
ith a phantom wind.
Hearing the familiar voice, Eato stepped aside to give way to
the newcomer
. He hid a shadow of a smile for the coming sparks caused by
the coming ch
astising.
He does love seeing something this exciting upfront.
Armaros bounded to his feet to face the magnificence of
Michael the Seraph,
standing a few feet from him. He hasn’t seen the general in
a long time th
at he was suddenly feeling uncomfortable at the looks he
received from the
seraph.
“You may not follow orders from me, Armaros,” Michael
started, seeing the
grimace on the Grigori’s face and continued, “But you will
follow them for
you and the mortals’ sake.”
“Kylos had violated the code, Michael. Certain actions needs
to be done to
make an example for the others,” Armaros tried to reason.
Michael shook his head, disappointment glittering in his
eyes. “Kylos’ cir
cumstances were meant to be. It was predestined,” he
explained. “If you so
much as interfere, certain plans would go awry. You have
already interfer
ed and many were angered by your actions. I myself am
angered by your disr
egard to our requests. You are in a dangerous position of
losing your auth
ority here, Armaros.”
“Kylos is a Sadrin. He’s in direct command from me,”
Armaros pointed out.
“He had stepped over the bounds of propriety, broke the
laws that governed
us. I am but an advocate of the laws. Without them, we
would have been go
ne . . . annihilated by the same forces that you and I are
guarding the mo
rtal world from.”
“I know how you valiantly fought for betterment. I am only
saying that in orde
r for the cycle of destiny to continue, Kylos and Clement are
an essential par
t of it . . . they are fated to be.”
Armaros remained silent, deep in conference with his
brethren through his
thoughts. He couldn’t decide upon a matter as serious as
this by himself
. “The Council will convene to discuss this matter, Michael. In
the meant
ime, I cannot say the words you wanted to hear. Kylos knew
beforehand wha
t the repercussions would be to pursue an uncharacteristic
romance with t
he mortal woman. He’d been warned time and again, but the
stubbornness of
men had rubbed on him.”
Michael was obviously displeased by those words. He gave
Eato a silent c
ommand to descend and sought out Chasan.
Eato took his leave, disappearing with a light mist that
vanished after him.
Armaros couldn’t guess what was running inside Michael’s
mind at that ver
y moment especially when he saw Eato leave. “You must
understand, Michael
, that there are rules here that even you couldn’t manipulate
to your wil
l. The Grigori doesn’t answer to you. We only answer to our
Father.”
“If the Father commands you to stay away from Kylos and
Clement, would y
ou do it?”
Armaros nodded. “With sufficient reason, yes,” he replied.
“You are obvious
ly keeping something from us and we don’t like it. My
brothers and I will d
ecide what’s to do. We will take into account your pleas. But,
don’t keep y
our hopes up. Things are differently done here.”
“All I see is bureaucracy, Armaros, and it doesn’t sit well with
me. If you
still wanted to come between those two, I advise you to look
down and see
with your heart what your mind was clouding your vision to
see.”
“I won’t suffer this desperate attempt to sway me to your
tune, Michael.”
His anger snapping, Michael growled low in the back of his
throat. “You wil
l suffer me, Grigori!” he raged out, unable to control his
annoyance any lo
nger.
Armaros raised one brow at that as he witnessed the glorious
prince snap. “Y
ou must need a little help in controlling your rage, Michael,”
he taunted. “
It wouldn’t look good if your soldiers would ever see you like
that.”
Michael breathed deeply as he closed his eyes. His thoughts
traveled to the
other one who would get angrier than him. He heard the
shout of rage through
the distance and he smiled a bit. Then, he opened his eyes,
totally in cont
rol of himself again.
“You’d best let us handle this, Michael.”
The quiet tone in that voice that suggested not to deliberate
more on the m
atter. It was to be expected. He knew that the Grigori
wouldn’t comprehend
something that was totally kept from them in the beginning.
He greatly appreciated their deeds.
The Grigori had watched over the mortal world as avidly as
they could, stan
ding by as they protected it together with Verchiel’s Shadow-
Stalkers.
Their love for the mortals was noteworthy. But their love held
a condition t
hat they should never get intimately involved with any
mortal for any reason
whatsoever. This code they firmly upheld to the letter. All
those under the
Grigori’s dominion adhere to this code as well.
The main reason behind this decree was that they
considered it too perilous
as well as tragic to pursue this path since a mortal and
immortal would neve
r be together to live normally.
Besides, there were more important matters that they need
to see through fir
st before involving themselves to something disastrous as
loving a mortal.
“There’s really nothing you can do,” Armaros added with a
shrug. His might
y shoulders were robed completely in black, a somber coat
that reflected t
he atmosphere around Q’uen. “Kylos is not one of your kind,”
he added. “Yo
u’d best prepare yourself not to hope much. These kind of
things are bette
r dealt with sooner before any complications might arise.”
“All I hear in this hall is the echo of stubbornness and
inability to unders
tand, Armaros. Perhaps We made a mistake by approaching
this matter to you o
ther than your other brothers . . . say Penemue?”
It wasn’t a secret that the two brothers don’t get along well
for the past
five thousand years. Penemue was called too mellow by
Armaros’ standards. B
ut the head of the Grigori sat before Michael and if anyone
could influence
the rest of the brothers more effectively and convincingly, it
would have
to be Armaros.
Armaros laughed aloud, his booming voice almost shook the
rafters of the d
omed ceiling. “Are you trying to cause adversity among the
Grigori, Michae
l? If you are, you’re wasting your time.”
Michael came forward, close enough to let the sizzle of his
anger be felt.
“A dire circumstance begets aggressive action. You of all
know that.” Then,
he sighed aloud. “I commanded Eato to come here in hopes
that one of the G
rigori will see to reason and grace Us into complying.”
Armaros shook his head at him. “Rules are set to avoid
chaos. You know tha
t Michael. I am only seeing that the rules stay unbroken.
Kylos knew the r
eason behind it. He fairly well knew what will happen if he
persists. Why
can’t you accept that, Michael? Is your reasoning becoming
diluted through
the centuries as well?”
The taunting of the Grigori got into Michael’s nerves.
“Because rules are m
eant to be broken!”
“Not in this hall!” Armaros retorted. He slammed his fist
against the armre
st he was leaning on. He bounded to his feet in a challenging
stance that be
spoke of great rage to be unleashed.
“The reasons behind Our request for your cooperation are
too grand to tell
without exposing too much,” Michael said in a low voice only
Armaros was
able to hear.
Calming down, Armaros sat again and took thought. “Secrets
are not tolerated
here when it concerns one of our own,” he said. “But, I shall
wait for you
to enlighten me and I shall find a way to convince my
brothers if I am satis
fied with your reasons. Other than that, there will be no more
negotiations.

Michael seethed. He didn’t count on hearing the Grigori
make this matter int
o a condition.
He silently tuned in the other conspirator and received a
hesitant agreement.
He breathed in and finally relented. “I shall better show you
instead for yo
u to understand fully well,” he said reluctantly as his face
was masked in a
unexpressive mask..
Armaros nodded.
Michael stepped aside to make way for the floating Grigori.
To stand by his
side.
They vanished together in a phantom wind with nary an
echo left in the hall
s of Q’uen.
“Take heed, Chasan,” Eato implored. “By sheltering them
into your home, yo
u are bringing the wrath of the Grigori onto yourself
especially when ther
e’s history between them and you. You would sacrifice so
much for Kylos an
d they won’t forgive you for interfering this time?”
Chasan snorted and turned a sad look at his kin. “They love
each other, Eat
o. Look inside you and you can feel the rightness of them
being together. T
hose stubborn fools are acting just on their best interest as
always. I’m n
ot one to cower in front of them. We have unfinished
business, yes, but I w
on’t let that matter come between what is happening now.
They almost destro
yed me before and I won’t let that same fate come to those
two. They are no
t gods to be feared at, Eato.”
“The philosophies of life are not our concern. Those two have
no reason to
hide here in your hall,” Eato countered, darting a look at the
courtyard wh
ere Kylos held Clement’s head in his lap, toying with her rich
chocolate br
own hair while smiling down on the woman. They looked like
a completely nor
mal couple enjoying the warmth of the sun. “They are not
your responsibili
ty,” he pointed out.
“Right,” Chasan sighed, his eyes trained on the couple after
seeing Eato’s at
tention focused there. “it’s true that they are not my
responsibility, but I’
m morally obligated to intervene especially when I know that
they are unjustl
y treated. No being should be subjected to hide something
as pure as love.”
“Like what happened all those years ago?’
Chasan nodded, unable to say something about the past and
endanger the very
lives that he was still trying to save. “Tell me something,
Eato. If you w
ere given the opportunity to change places with me, would
you bolt your doo
r in front of someone who is badly in need of shelter?”
Eato fell silent, deep in thought. A frown appeared on his
angelic feature
s and then turned a hesitant look on Chasan. “I would do the
same as you h
ave done. Perhaps more if given the circumstance,” he
muttered. “But then,
I would be bothered with the repercussions of my decision
later on. That
alone would make me miserable.”
Chasan let out a short laugh, reading his kin’s mind. “Having
trouble wit
h your charges again? You should have thrown them in Jinos
care a long ti
me ago and you would have been free to do what you were
supposed to be do
ing without being bothered to pacify two obstinate
agathodaimons you have
adopted.”
Eato smiled at the reminder of the two adopted children he
cared more than h
is life.
It wasn’t a secret that Eato’s two fosterlings were a handful.
A Charae were
beings akin to the Sadrin. They’re agathodaimons, entities
created to prote
ct. They delight in assuming human form, to roam about the
mortal world and
get close to the gifted. They only take command from their
foster father. In
that case, the twins only follow orders from Eato.
The kuriote has his hands full trying to control them since
they were young
. He took upon himself the responsibility and the challenge
of raising them
that was too much for him, flighty beings of fire that they
were. But, Eat
o took pity on them and delegated himself to see through
their care even th
ough he sometimes wished he didn’t.
“Aeno and Meno are asking too many questions as always.
Their curiosity wi
ll get them in trouble someday,” Eato said, rubbing a
graceful hand agains
t his throbbing head.
Chasan grinned more. “I could almost see Aeno’s tantrums.
She often gets cr
anky when you are telling on her. Her brother can’t do
anything about it ei
ther, I presume?”
“Aeno is a unique being,” Eato pointed out, actually
defending his fosterl
ing. “I love her,. Truly I do. But sometimes, I think I’m too soft
when de
aling with her. One moment I am vexed at her and then, I
would completely
lose my train of thought when she starts with her
monologues about love an
d justice and so forth. It’s hard to get in a word when she’s in
one of th
ose moods. Then, when she’ll stop and look at me and see
my vexation, she’
ll come into my arms and would embrace me to no end.”
“You are too kind to them,” Chasan stated, his sight
suddenly returning to
Kylos and Clement that were coming their way.
The two looked so happy that Chasan was torn inside. He
wanted to protect
them and at the same time, keep the peace with the Grigori.
Three months o
f harboring the two was enough to cause strife among the
celestials and th
e Grigori. His hands were tied.
Unlike men, he has no free will.
Eato, feeling Chasan’s troubled thoughts, started to get up
and disappear be
fore compromising himself to talk to Kylos . . . or Clement for
that matter.
But, Chasan took hold of his arm and stayed him. He
groaned and reluctantly
faced the couple.
Kylos’ smile froze upon seeing Eato. “What are you doing
here, kuriote?”
Eato shrugged, settling his gaze somewhere other than
Kylos’ furious stare.
“I am just looking out for Chasan here,” he muttered. “I have
every reason
to be concerned with him, you know.”
Kylos nodded. “You have and I apologize for sounding
hostile.”
Clement jabbed an elbow to Kylos’ side to get his attention.
And when he l
ooked at her, she nudged her head towards the direction of
the unknown bei
ng to her.
“Clement, I want you to meet Eato, a brother of Chasan,” he
introduced. The
n, sensing her apprehension, he added, “He’s a friend.” He
turned a pointed
look at Eato to confirm that.
Eato nodded. “I am that, believe it or not. But then, I can’t
take sides in t
his matter since it doesn’t fully concerns me. I am only
troubled at the circ
umstances that may arise out of this. You perfectly know
what I am talking ab
out, don’t you Kylos?”
“We did nothing wrong,” Clement blurted out defensively,
coming in front of
Kylos and challenging Eato with a heated glare. “And if
you’re here to spy a
nd tell the others, I might as well tell you that I won’t stand
by and let o
thers dictate what I decide with my life.”
“That’s easy for you to say, human,” Eato growled low in a
voice that took
a menacing tone. “You’ve been given free will unlike the rest
of us who sh
all never know freedom as long as we exist.”
“Please, no need for harsh words,” Chasan intervened,
sensing the hostile tu
rn in the exchange. “Eato, you better leave and trust me to
do the rest.”
Clement held out a hand to stop the disappearing act. “Don’t
go,” she said.
Her eyes turned golden brown in that moment, sensing that
she had somehow
offended the being. She really wasn’t cut out to be a bad ass
to a good fel
la.
Eato stood his ground and watched as Clement held out a
hand to him, which h
e took to his own and felt her tight grip in it.
“I apologize for sounding that way,” she added. “I admit that
I get a little
anxious when that topic arises. I can’t see why so many
people need to concer
n themselves in my affairs . . . in Kylos and I?”
Eato took a step forward and beheld her gaze, his own
turning sad. “It is
a sad day when you were born in the wrong world, Clement.
You are very wor
thy to be amongst us.”
That compliment took her breath away as she let the kuriote
hold her in a ti
ght embrace.
She’d come to get accustomed to the embraces from beings
such as him. They
tend to give a lot of embraces that actually calmed her
down. Maybe it’s
one of their powers that she wasn’t fully aware of.
When Eato gently pulled away, he tipped her chin up with a
tapered finger a
nd whispered for her ears only, “You and Kylos are meant to
be, Clement. Th
ere are some of us that will see to that.”
It was too much for her to take. She burst into tears and was
snatched from
Eato’s arm and snuggled deep in the arms of Kylos, who
soothed her by brus
hing his hand through her hair.
She hiccupped. “I’m sorry,” she muttered. “I am not usually
this emotional,”
she added, trying to look directly at Eato with a warm smile.
Eato tilted his head to the side to memorize the two of them
in a tight embr
ace look like. It was genuine affection and love that went
between Kylos and
Clement that it was so obvious not to see. Then and there,
he took a silent
oath that he would do anything to help the couple in any
way he could.
Clement smiled more, sensing Eato’s emotions. She
automatically listed hi
s name among those people she would love forever.
The grateful look she gave him almost sent him overboard.
He finally accept
ed the truth why Kylos was ready to risk all for the mortal
woman. She has
the certain kindness that soothes and a beauty that was skin
deep.
He curtly bowed his head to her and then glanced at Chasan.
“Please take th
ought of what I’ve said. I have some unruly charae to see
to.” Then, he van
ished with a heavy mist on his wake.
Chasan was only able to smile fleetingly at those parting
words before he
sobered again as he faced Kylos and Clement. “Trouble,” he
announced.
***
Fourteen
Seattle, Washington
Present Day
Fumes settled on the ground like a heavy mist that swirled
and enveloped her
feet as she scurried to the one place she would be safe for
the meantime.
Her sore feet and the puny shoes she wore offered no
protection from the cold
that stung her face, bit her flesh and the bitter cold chafing
her skin.
She sighed aloud as she rubbed her hands together to ward
off the coldness f
rom seeping and settling in.
Damn! It’s cold!
A few more steps and then - C’mon, girl. You cannot stop
now.
She looked behind her shoulder without stopping on her
near-run pace. She’s f
altering, each step she took felt like her feet were turning
into lead. Her h
ead was pounding painfully as well. She tried to ward off the
hazy feeling as
her sight was beginning to get blurry.
A few more steps, girl.
Sanctuary was within her reach. She prayed for another bout
of energy. But
, she knew no one would answer her prayers. It’s as if God
was in deep slu
mber and wouldn’t hear one of His children seeking for His
help.
She was totally alone.
A tear slid unchecked down her cheeks and she sniffed
quietly.
She knew she was doomed to die a horrible death one way
or another. She knew
it for a fact and she embraced the thought of death with all
her being as s
he wished that the afterlife were a lot more different,
bearable compared to
the misery of her life she was failingly leading now.
Pain and sorrow was all she ever knew since birth. Happiness
was but a myth
according to her personal dictionary.
If there’s a heaven, will she be able to reach it? Was it like all
the wonderfu
l images she’d seen in books? Was it like a fairy tale?
Her legs became numb as she swayed on her feet. Then, she
had no will for
any further movement.
She collapsed on the wet pavement facedown with a thud as
blackness claime
d her at last.
He saw her as she fell to the ground, a pitiful lifeless body
that looked to be
dead from the distance.
He was careful to stay inconspicuous, following her in a
sedate pace a coup
le of feet away from her as not to alarm her anymore than
she already was.
He doesn’t want to scare her more than she already was.
He immediately rushed to her side when he saw her collapse
without another
thought. She needed help and he’s the most convenient one
to assist her.
He kneeled beside her fallen body, felt for her pulse on the
base of her neck
and breathed out a sigh of relief at the steady rhythm his
fingers had detec
ted. He laid a hand on her cold cheek and wanted to pass on
some warmth to he
r but to no avail. She looked deathly pale . . . cold and
struggling for lif
e.
Without another thought, he scooped her up in his arms;
feeling her lightne
ss and carried her to a place he knew she’d be safe –
Argonea, his home.
Never before had he acted so impulsively by bringing her in
his own home wi
thout the counsel of someone. It was unheard of for him to
act that way, bu
t the pitiful condition she was in was more than a reason for
him to take h
er in.
His heart ‘s not made of stone.
Diego saw his master come in with a dirty bundle, which
looked like a dirty
looking person in his arms. He didn’t say anything nor asked
questions as
he briskly walked ahead of his master up the stairs and down
the long corri
dor to open the door to one of the guestrooms nearest the
main staircase.
“Fetch Tonka, Diego. She needs medical attention fast,” his
master said wi
th enough urgency without looking at him.
Nodding in understanding and noting the dire tone on his
master’s voice, D
iego rushed out of the room without closing the door behind
him and disapp
eared down the hall to fetch the medic.
Inside the bedroom, she was laid gently down the pristine
sheets and was she
d of her dirty clothing without her stirring awake.
He felt his heart constrict at her depressing condition. There
were bruises
all over her body; some light purple and the others had a
bluish tint in the
m that was also swelling. There were also numerous shallow
cuts riddling her
arms, neck and back. Even her face was not spared.
He brushed the dark mass of hair from her face and lingered
his hand to her c
heeks, thinking that even in her condition, she looked
beautiful. All that eb
ony hair framed a delicate face of an angel.
Snapping himself in attention, he reluctantly left her side to
get some wate
r and towels from the adjacent bathroom.
When he came back, she was still lying prone in the middle
of the bed and he
started to wash her of the grime and dried blood from her
body, starting with
her face. He was careful at it, putting less pressure as he
cleaned her cuts
and bruises.
While at it, Diego suddenly appeared with Tonka close on his
heels.
Tonka rushed forward and took a look at the woman. “What
happened?” he as
ked, concern laced in his voice and face.
“She had a close call with those who wanted to kill her.”
Diego, searching for something to do, saw the basin of
dirtied water and th
e dirty towels beside it and made himself useful by getting
some fresh ones
and some clean water as well.
Down only to her underwear, Tonka examined her bruises
and her wounds. The
bruise on her temple worried him as he took her
temperature and said, “Sh
e has a high fever. That would be the effect of the
concussion. I’m going
to try and heal the damage in her body but for the trauma in
her brain to
heal, it would be entirely up to her. You can now leave me to
my task, you
r grace.”
He did and left her alone with the very capable hands of
Tonka. But he was wor
ried all throughout the waiting after he sent Diego to retire
for the night si
nce it was really quite late.
It worried him that she might not want to wake up anymore
after what she h
ad been through. He knew she was rushing to safety. Safety
meant the Churc
h, of course, where her friend Father Paul was residing.
He ached to see her in that condition. If he only didn’t take
an oath to sta
y away from her until the right time came, he would have
saved her all the t
rouble she was put in the moment she became aware of her
extraordinary gift.
Now, his presence had been compromised.
He needed to think of something to salvage the present
situation in his favor
.
An hour passed before Tonka opened the door and
confronted him. “I’ve done
my best, your highness. The rest is up to her.”
“She will wake up then,” he said, hope in his eyes.
Tonka shook his head. “I can’t guarantee it. A human mind is
a complex thing
. I may be able to fix it, but the will to live rests on the
shoulders of th
e person,” he said, looking at the other with barely
concealed regret. “That
’s one of the complexities the Supreme Divine gave the
mortals. Prayers are
needed, your grace.”
A chill entered the corridors, signaling the arrival of
someone.
Oriel appeared in his somber mood as he stood in the
threshold of the guest
room and looked at the unconscious woman in the bed,
covered in the soft bl
ue quilt. He stayed there a while before turning his gaze on
the two whispe
ring in the corridor.
He walked towards them in his elegant and assured steps
with his long dark
hair sweeping behind, swaying with each step he took. His
black boat bill
owed behind him.
Tonka bowed his head in respect and straightened up after
Oriel inclined h
is head to acknowledge him.
“She should not be here,” Oriel immediately said directly at
the other after
the formalities. “This wasn’t supposed to happen.”
“I have no choice. I couldn’t possibly leave her to die on the
cold pavement.

Oriel shook his head. “It is disastrous. If she wakes up and
found herself he
re, she’ll get hysterical. What would you do then, Zethos?”
Oriel was right to say those words to him. After all, he came
to depend on
him for thousands of years. He knew him more than anybody
else. “Then, te
ll me what to do.”
Oriel shook his head. “I cannot think of any at the moment.
But, I would ev
entually.” His shining eyes glowed at the darkness of the
corridor as it be
spoke of quiet sadness. “Stop doing this to yourself, Zethos.
Do you think
you could force things to hurry up. I know what went through
your mind when
you carried her here.”
Zethos had no ready reply to that. He turned away, unable to
stand Oriel’s fa
ce. “She was unprepared . . . unskilled. She had no training
to save herself
as I watch her struggle in keeping herself alive. It was painful
to see her s
o helpless, Oriel.” Then, he whipped around in anguish. “I
was the only one t
here to help her.”
Tonka, sensing that he shouldn’t be there, took his leave by
bowing to the t
wo. He vanished with a bluish-white light at his wake,
misting up and desist
ing completely after.
Totally alone with Oriel, Zethos made no attempt to
apologize for what he d
id.
Oriel tried to get through him again. “It still doesn’t justify
the reason why
you brought her here. You could have taken her to the
hospital or to the priest
she calls her friend.”
“I have thought of that, Oriel, truly I did. But, at this time, I
don’t think th
e priest would be any help. And the hospital is far away.”
“As if distance is the real issue here,” Oriel muttered under
his breath. “You
are full of excuses that still doesn’t justify your erratic
thinking.” Oriel
sighed aloud as he paced the floor in front of Zethos. “Maybe
it is time to ta
ke this matter into the hands of the Grigori. You have
mentioned that she wasn
’t trained. Then, it would be a good solution. This is the right
time to intro
duce her to her true purpose.”
Zethos panicked. He knew what the Grigori would do to her.
They would train
her alright . . . train her to become their soldier and make a
living by s
laying demons. That wasn’t what he wanted for her. He
wanted her to live a
quiet normal life with her gift permanently in slumber. In that
way, the tr
auma of having demons constantly on her trail would be
erased in her consci
ousness.
Oriel could read his thoughts very well and felt a rush of pity
for his frie
nd. “What’s done cannot be undone, Zethos. You of all
should know the meanin
g of those words at heart.”
“But there are other ways to –“
“There are no other ways, Zethos,” Oriel cut in. “I will see to
this. You’d b
etter stay away from her in the meantime. Do it for yourself,
please.”
Zethos, beaten with those imploring words and the look Oriel
gave him, step
ped down and brooded. He let Oriel do the right thing for he
has no capacit
y of thinking straight when his heart was concerned.
Oriel watched him walk away without another word. Then, he
went to the gu
estroom and quietly entered, stopping a few feet away from
the bed.
He heard a woman’s voice in his head, talking.
Love is a difficult thing to quench, Oriel. Grant Zethos some
respite, will y
ou?
Not in a way that you would like, Athena. He should be able
to control himse
lf for his sake . . . everyone’s sake. The plan would have
gone awry if he w
ere left to his own devices. He can’t discipline himself when
it concerns he
r.
If you were in his place –
Oriel laughed silently. I am not, thank goodness. And if I
were, I would do
the same he did. I would have done exactly what he did as
well as those he
was still thinking to do and more. God help me then.
God wouldn’t.
Oriel sighed and defended the Supreme Divine. He had to
see through other
more important things than to be a go-between in matters
such as this.
Like what? The taunting didn’t escape his notice.
He seethed in concealed anger. You have no right to question
the Supreme D
ivine, outcast! Have you no other poor mortal to amuse
yourself with?
The censure in his words reverberated through the distance
and angered Ath
ena. But she stilled her anger at bay and remained calm. He
could hear her
ragged breathing of control. He felt a mixture of annoyance
and amusement
.
Will there be no peace between us, Oriel? Am I to expect to
have this kind o
f hostility from you every time we talk?
Expect whatever you want, Athena. I don’t care.
Now, why don’t I believe that?
He didn’t answer her as he immediately tuned her out of his
thoughts. He ha
d more practice in doing that expertly through the ages.
Then, he sat beside the prone body on the bed and noted
more than a few thi
ngs that was different. The body was fragile looking, totally
changed from
before. But the fire that burned inside the body raged like
the way he reme
mbered.
He fleeted a hand to reach a stay lock of that dark hair and
tucked it behind
her ear. Then, he dropped his hand on his lap in deep
contemplation.
He knew what he was supposed to do.
Suddenly, his mind made up, he stood and great eagle-like
wings appeared
from his back, enveloping him and he disappeared from
sight.
***
Fifteen
The Council of Grigori convened.
The matter concerning Kylos had been decided and Michael
was not that hap
py with the decision. He only received the disturbing news
from Eato and
he couldn’t conceal the anger brewing inside him any longer.
After he had shown Armaros the real reason for his request,
he had every co
nfidence that the Council’s decision would be in favor of
them. But, he gue
ssed wrong. Armaros didn’t sway his brothers to let the
matter drop.
They had reached the decision within moments and he
couldn’t do anything
about it. Like what Armaros mentioned, he had no power
over the Grigori o
r those under them.
He had expected Penemue to be swayed at least, but he was
wrong to think o
f that as well. Penemue resigned at his other brothers’
decision in the ma
nner of punishment.
It wasn’t really harsh, but the news of the forced separation
would be too m
uch to break.
Eato had the unsavory task of being the bearer of the ill
news. He was seet
hing in rage as he sought out Chasan before actually going
in the latter’s
home. He needed some kind of moral support.
Chasan had to be beside him when he let the news out to
Kylos himself. Their
hands were practically tied, unable to do anything at that
moment other tha
n watch the fury of a Sadrin come to life. But that doesn’t
mean that they
would stop from thinking of a way to make the situation
bearable for the lov
ers.
Eato was confident that Michael would think of something.
He appeared in Chasan’s home to be greeted with a grave
face from his kin,
bespoken of weariness. He turned his head to see if anybody
else was pres
ent. When he saw none, he relaxed a bit.
“What say you, Chasan?”
Chasan shook his head. “The Grigori called Kylos not a while
ago. He left wi
th a look that tells that he won’t be coming back. I have my
hands full cont
rolling a hysterical female.”
Eato swept his black coat as he suddenly turned on his heel
and purposely
stalked the location of the woman. Chasan followed him in
the same manner.
Eato doesn’t need to be told where look as his senses came
in handy. There’
s no unfamiliar plane with him, being a Kuriote.
When he opened the third room to the left of the stairs, he
immediately saw
her, curled up beside the four-poster bed she recently shared
with Kylos. He
r head was buried between her knees that came to her
chest, making her look
small and crying the silent tears of a being hurt beyond
salvation.
His heart constricted at that image as he slowly walked
towards her and knee
led in front of her sobbing form.
Clement looked up, her face ravaged with tears and saw the
sadness in the ku
riote’s eyes and fresh tears rolled down from her eyes.
“You’re late,” she a
ccused, her chin trembling.
Eato reached out to cup her cheek and leaned forward,
rubbing his thumb to
stop the tears from falling. “I’m sorry,” he whispered.
“There’s nothing we
could do to dissuade the decision in your favor.”
Her tear-streaked eyes glittered in the faint light that came
in through the
windows as she stared at him. “I know,” she quietly said.
“There’s no one who
could help us. Ours is a lost cause.”
The resignation in that voice stabbed Eato’s heart quite
painfully. As if the
re’s nothing else left to do, he opened his arms to her and
watched her hesit
ate for a moment before letting go and snuggle in his
embrace. He felt her te
ars continuously flowing through his coat, soaking it wet as
he smoothed her
hair with gentle strokes – like a father to a daughter.
Chasan couldn’t bear to see such sorrow from Clement. He
left the room, alm
ost running to get away from it and stopped when he stood
in the landing of
the stairs, his eyes roaming at the wide expanse of marble
and plaster.
It was empty, like the eternal life bestowed upon him. He
breathed in deeply
.
He leaned heavily against the cold wall as he sought the
presence of someone
to ease the misery that settled in his home. He couldn’t
abide the remnant
of the misery already settling in every nook of his halls.
A glow of bluish-white light appeared in front of him and
suddenly, he was
crushed into the arms of the only being he could turn to. The
familiar arms
enveloped its warmth on him, telling him without words that
he was not alo
ne.
Chasan started to explain his sudden summons, but a single
finger that linge
red against his lips hushed him.
“There’s no need for words between you and I, Chasan.”
He let the warmth soothe him and his halls. There, in those
arms, he felt who
le . . . invincible, a rare emotion to have for someone like
him.
Inside the room, Eato could feel another’s presence outside
the door. He k
new who it was and he didn’t question it. He had his hands
full soothing C
lement, calming her down with hushed words of comfort as
he let her empty
her tears on him.
He knew it was kind of sorrow that won’t go away until all
tears were spen
t. Clement was unfortunate enough to have that kind of
sorrow.
She hiccupped and pulled away at arms-length, apologizing,
“I’m sorry to du
mp on you like that. I know what’s to happen, Eato. I know
perfectly well t
hat the last time I would see my Kylos was before he left. I
won’t be seein
g him again and that breaks my heart.”
“I know. But don’t despair.’
Clement sniffed, using the back of her hands to wipe the
tears away. “Is d
espair not open to me as well? Happiness and contentment
was forbidden to
me. Why not take everything else?” she wailed sarcastically.
“Your bitterness is speaking through you and I can’t fault you
for that,” he s
aid, shaking his head at her. “Just remember that you still
have a duty to do.

She nodded while sniffing. “Yes. I am aware of that. That’s
also the last th
ing Kylos told me before he disappeared from my life. Ain’t it
a coincidence
?”
Her attempt to amuse only made Eato sadder.
She felt that and a frown settled on her face. “Are you here
to take me so
mewhere where Kylos won’t be able to find me?”
“I am not,” he replied. “You will stay here until the Order
would find a train
er to complete your training.’
She snorted. “Kylos trained me well. I’ve been trained well
before I met hi
m as well. I need no further training. If the Order doesn’t see
me fit to d
o my duty, they could always fire me and send me home
where I would wile aw
ay my days cursing the day I was born mortal.”
Eato tilted his head to the side and stared hard at her.
Understanding her by
knowing her thoughts or what her heart was telling her to
do.
Being one of the Kuriotetes, also known as the Dominations
or Lords of the
elements and the physical plane, fourth in the level of the
celestial hiera
rchy and the spirits of wisdom, he had the power to know
human emotions and
understand them like the seraphim, cherubim, and thrones.
He’s one of the
busiest of his kind, who answers solely to Michael the Seraph
for he has th
e governance of the fire element on the physical plane, a
most destructive
yet important element to the cosmic balance.
He could fathom the fire in a human’s heart; see through the
inhibitions th
at cloaked the real emotions underneath. He could make
that inner fire glow
and remain steady if he was commanded to. But, he could
only influence, no
t force upon a being to do his will.
He knew that it was what Clement really wanted, but he
couldn’t tell if she
would be let go that easily. Once the Grigori has you, there’s
no coming bac
k. Didn’t anyone tell her that?
“Kylos did,” she answered, nodding with a small smile that
never quite reac
hed her eyes. Then, she breathed out hard, her control
almost wavering at t
he mention of Kylos. “He also said that it was a good thing
since we’ll nev
er be separated and he’ll not come back into being my
private stalker anymo
re. He hated doing that, by the way.” She let out a bitter
laugh at that an
d then, breathed out deeply again. “Guess he was wrong in
assuming that.”
His poring gaze was unfazed at her tear-streaked face. “Will
you stop lovin
g him because of this?” he asked. Of course, he already
knew the answer to
that. He only wanted to remind her of it.
She stared back at him. “I’ll never stop loving him,” she said
evenly. “Not i
n a million years,” she added.
He nodded, standing up and said, “Good. I want you to
remember that every t
ime you feel like giving up.” He held out his hand to help her
up, clutchin
g her strong grip.
When she straightened in front of him, she leaned close,
stand on her toes a
nd gently brushed her lips on his cheek. Then, she pulled
back from him with
a warm look that glittered in her eyes.
The fleeting kiss was for the kindness he’s shown her . . . a
miserable stran
ger to him that deserves none such kindness. Yet, he still
gave it without an
y hesitation, making the whole thing more heartfelt and
sincere.
“Does that mean something?” he teased, bringing a shadow
of a smile from
her.
“Thank you,” was all she replied as she walked out of the
room and tuned h
er thoughts to the person whose heart was entwined in hers.
Eato didn’t follow her. His own thoughts were suddenly
pulled in conferenc
e with those who were mightier than him. After some time,
he sought out hi
s charae. Great white brown-tipped wings appeared from his
back, envelopin
g him before he vanished out of sight.
He has his orders and he needed it done quickly and
precisely. He knew the r
ight beings for the job.
The twins will be delighted.
***
Sixteen
The tinkling bells sounded as the door of the café opened
and a breath of fre
sh air came in from the outside.
“Hey, Harley!” Ella Johnson greeted the younger woman that
came inside the
café a little after ten that morning with a face-splitting smile
she reserv
ed only for those who were worthy of such welcome from
her.
Then, she sent a baleful glance at the general direction of
Lou Welles, who
choked on his latte when he caught her look.
There was a silent war raging between them, consisting of
heated glares and
sarcastic glances sent in each other’s face. Lou sent Ella one
of his own ho
stile looks back and deliberately ignored her attempts to
give something bac
k for equal measure. She started it and she would have to
end it. That’s wha
t he thought.
Ella, looking flabbergasted at the audacity of Lou to cut her
off, made a fa
ce before giving Harley her full attention, completely
changing from looking
like a she-devil to adopting a cheerful Buddha-like serenity.
“Hey, Ella! What’s new?” Harley asked in her usual cheerful
mood, crouchin
g down and stuck her face against the glass encasing the
various display o
f cakes and pastries. Her mouth watered at the sight of those
delectable c
reations; sweets that played havoc with her innards as the
smell wafted to
wards her. She looked up to Ella’s smiling face and made an
imploring look
. “You’re not going to help me choose, aren’t you?”
Ella smiled broadly, shaking her head. “I can’t, honey,” she
said, enjoying
the child-like excitement in the younger woman’s face.
“You’ll have to do al
l the choosing by yourself. Cakes are a lot like life, you know.
You – “
Harley grinned up at her, interrupting and looking down to
make a decision.
“Yeah . . . the sweeter they look, the better they taste. It
would also cost
me a lot when I have my dental appointment,” she said
glumly.
Ella laughed at that, drawing the attention of Dennis, her
husband, who ca
me beside her and grinned at Harley with a casual greeting,
“What’s for to
day, Harley? More of those creamy tarts you gobbled up
yesterday?”
Harley smirked at him and made a face. “I paid dearly for
that, although I d
on’t gobble.”
“Sure thing, honey,” Dennis said, grinning back at her
broadly.
The first time they met her was when Clement came in with
her to have coffe
e. Like most folks, they became weary of her at first because
of her punk a
ttitude and appearance. But, as the days passed by and they
see that she’s
a good person, she grew on them and they had some fun
time ribbing at each
other after that.
The younger woman also has a sweet tooth. That made her
in Dennis’ favorit
e persons list.
Letting out a deep breath, Harley pointed. “I’ll have two
slices of that Glaz
ed Blackberry Cake . . . oh, make that three, please. And a
box of those Moch
a Cream Horns.” She smiled after that, rubbing her hands
together like a chil
d, biting her lower lip to stop herself from salivating in the
open.
Dennis, nodding his approval on her choices, went on to
prepare the orders as
Ella punched in the total on the cash register.
After paying, Harley went out of the café in high spirits,
practically hoppin
g from one foot to the other as she went her way to open up
the shop.
It was quite early but after receiving a message that her
boss was entrusting
her to the take care of the shop while she’s gone, she would
open the shop j
ust like her boss used to do.
After working for Clement and earning her trust through the
years, Harley c
an efficiently run the shop even with her eyes closed.
Anyway, Clement need
ed to go away, fool around and bask in her long awaited
vacation in years.
She dutifully assumed the managerial authority like a pro
and made sure tha
t everything goes on well so she could impress the boss
when she comes back
, probably earn that elusive bonus at long last or a glorious
vacation.
Still grinning like an idiot, she suddenly stopped on her
tracks; the smile
all but left her made-up face as she heard the summons from
someone very fam
iliar and very dear to her.
Her hurried steps brought her in the empty back alley near
the café, totally
secluded from prying eyes. There before her, a light mist
hovered before he
r eyes and great brown-tipped white wings appeared. She
lowered herself to d
rop in one knee while still holding the pastries in her left
hand.
She bowed her head and felt the presence crouched low
before her kneeling f
orm and playfully tipped her chin up, tapping one elegantly
tapered finger
against the tip of her nose. She grinned broadly, roses
blooming in her pow
dered face. “Eato,” she greeted, beaming at him.
Eato helped her up and beamed at the parcel she was
holding. “Is there some
for me?” he asked enthusiastically.
She nodded as she held the parcel to him. And like a child,
she watched him
rummage with enough enthusiasm that made her let out a
quiet laugh. He ope
ned one of the Styrofoam packed cakes and drew out a
plastic fork. He took
a forkful into his mouth and closed his eyes as if in ecstasy.
His smile tu
gged on her heartstrings.
“Good, huh?” she asked, walking close to him stopping a few
inches from wh
ere he’s at. She loved seeing him like this, a bit loosened up
than the im
age he always has to maintain when he was among his kind.
The somber Eato
doesn’t sit well with her. This was more to her taste.
He looked at her with twinkling pools of violet eyes and held
his fork for her
to take a bite.
She nodded, munching away. After she swallowed, she
turned serious and sai
d, “I know that sweets aren’t your reason for seeking me out,
Eato.”
He dropped the fork inside the Styrofoam pack beside the
half eaten cake,
and looked at her with an equal amount of seriousness. “I
have a mission f
or you and your brother, Aeno.” He used her real name, a
name he gave her
when he adopted her together with his twin brother some
nine hundred years
ago. In the charae language, her name meant
‘compassionate fire’, whereas
her brother’s meant ‘gentle fire.’
They were outcasts from their own kind, a handful of
mischief-makers that
can’t be tamed. They weren’t given names, only
distinguishable by callin
g them The Charae Twins - The Pyro Gemini.
Eato was the only one kind enough to take them in his care
when no one wan
ted them for they spell trouble wherever they were. The
others thought tha
t he was insane to take on the challenge of raising two
extremely destruct
ive agathodaimons such as them.
After nurturing them with love and patience, the twins took
no orders fro
m anyone other than him, even when the command comes
from someone more po
werful than Eato. They reasoned out that they owe no one
their allegiance
other than their amore – their foster father, the only being
who showed
them unconditional love.
They were his constant companions for many centuries.
They draw their stren
gth through his guidance. And Aeno . . . well, she’s a handful,
but she’s g
ood and loyal and he loved her. That’s the most important
reason why he kep
t her still even with all the discouragements he gets all the
time from the
others who constantly complains about the twin’s attitude,
especially Aeno.
“I am always ready to do your bidding. But, I can’t vouch for
Meno to be be
side me on this nor have his full cooperation.”
Eato shook his head, dreading for what’s to come. “Have you
been fighting
each other again behind my back?”
“He started it,” she defended herself in almost a wail. “You
should do the ‘
discipline’ thing with him this time. I only told him that he’d
been slackin
g when you’re not around and I am the one who does all the
work.”
Eato closed his eyes to calm himself down. Then, he reached
for her arm an
d brought her closer to sit beside him on a broken truck tire.
“You’re old
er than Meno. You should be the understanding one.”
“You always scold me. You don’t do more than glare at him
when he deserve
s to be scolded more,” she ranted, stomping her foot hard.
“How come you
always sided with him? Is it because he’s male and I’m not?
This is nuts!

Eato frowned. “You should know better than ask me that
question, Aeno.”
Seeing that frown and the quiet voice he used on her, she
melted with a loud
sigh. “I’m sorry. It’s just exhausting to be the one scolded
every time.”
He wrapped an arm around his shoulder to draw her closer
to his side as s
he dropped her head against his shoulder and calmed down.
“Do you remembe
r the time I told you that you should take care of each other
when the ti
me comes that I won’t be around to watch over you
anymore?”
She pulled back to look at him through clouded eyes. “I don’t
like it when
you say things like that,” she muttered in a hard tone. “Stop
saying that y
ou’ll go away. You make it sound so permanent.”
He tugged the chain in her ear playfully. “I am only making
you ready for an
eventuality.”
“Well, I don’t like it. So, please stop,” she demanded,
bringing herself to c
uddle closer to him, laying her hand against his chest.
“You’re freaking me o
ut,” she muttered.
He almost forgot how young she was compared to the others
and by looking
at her, he was convinced that she would be the stronger one.
Meno was equ
ally strong, but lacked the determination that Aeno has in
abundance.
He dropped a kiss on top of her head and held her tightly to
his side, feeli
ng her arms encircling his waist. “If that time comes, I want
you to go to O
riel. You know him, don’t you?”
She nodded, bumping his chin as she did as she tightened
her hold on him.
“I told you to hush up, Eato. You’re freaking me out with this
talk. Tell
me of my new mission instead. That would make me
excited.”
Giving up trying to make her emotionally stable, Eato
reluctantly surrender
ed to her insistence and told her of the mission. He
whispered it into her
ear in a language only Charaes knew and understood. She
nodded every once i
n a while as he told her the plan. She almost rubbed her
palms together as
excitement was building up inside her.
“You still have to break this to Meno. He tuned me out even
with my peace o
ffering in tow.” She pointed to the pastries.
Then, as if hearing her at last, an intense blue fiery light
appeared and wi
th it her twin brother, who looked none like her for he was
elegantly clothe
d in a sharp black suit and dark blue silk tie that
complimented his eyes. H
e looked so polished like he came out of the cover of GQ
magazine.
He stood atop the edge of the building, calmly looking down
on them with hi
s usual air of arrogance and haughtiness. No doubt he was
listening in atte
ntively on them for quite some time gauging from the scowl
he directed at h
er.
Aeno looked none like her twin.
She wore torn jeans faded with frayed ends and a wide
silver-studded belt p
erched at an angle on her hips. Her black cutout sleeves t-
shirt has the wo
rds PUNK RULES written in bold and glittered letters in the
middle. Her dee
p purple-dyed leather bomber jacket was studded with silver
buttons and cha
ins hanging from the collar to the shoulders. She had
numerous piercing tha
t made light-hearted people flinch just by looking at her. Her
head was sha
ved and the little hairs that were left were dyed in electric
blue with dee
p purple highlights that matched her jacket.
The only sane thing in her body was her eyes. They were the
same deep blue c
olor like her twin, full of life and warmth.
Meno jumped down in one fluid motion before them and
respectfully bowed be
fore Eato after steadily landed on his feet. He fleetingly held
her gaze a
nd then looked away, cutting her off.
She couldn’t remain quiet after that blatant slight on her.
“See, what I mean
, Eato? He’s the stubborn one and I get to be scolded every
time. I’m not the
one slacking off this time. And all I get is that haughty look.”
Meno glared at her. “You’re really a loudmouth, Aeno,” he
retorted, knowin
g that she spilled her guts on Eato before he arrived. Then,
he gave her a
once over. “No wonder you scare people away. Look at you!
You’re barely n
ormal!”
Aeno huffed and stood up, challenging her brother with her
hands fisted at he
r sides. “Normal? You call yourself normal when you
desperately try to look l
ike some Italian model that you end up looking like a fag?
You try to look pr
etty even if you look ridiculous. You waste your time being
this . . . this .
. .” She was gritting her teeth for control in respect for Eato
when she rea
lly want to smack her fist in her perfect brother’s face.
Meno was equally enraged. His sister always managed to
reduce him into tha
t state where all his refinement became fodder for hell’s
scavengers. “You
’re not the epitome of normalcy as well, Aeno. You used to
look pretty and
wholesome,” he said, remembering what she looked like
before this century
came to be.
She was the most beautiful sibling any male could ever
have.
She almost laughed at that.
Eato, sensing that Aeno’s control was slipping, came
between the twins and h
eld out both hands in front of each to make them stop and
not draw attention
to them from the passing people. “Stop this quarrelling,” his
ordered, his
voice, not more than a whisper was controlled but had a
sharp edge to it.
He looked back in forth in the faces that he held dear. “If you
like to make
a spectacle of yourselves, go ahead and fight in the middle
of the street for
everyone to see,” he added, frowning at them.
Aeno calmed down, breathing shallowly, but still scowled at
her brother as
she crossed her arms across her chest. “And here I was
thinking of you when
I bought an extra slice of cake,” she muttered.
Meno still heard her and his gaze dropped to the parcel lying
on the ground.
His heart softened at the thoughtfulness of her. Then, he
looked back at he
r and saw a small smile tugging at the corners of her mouth.
He can’t stay a
ngry with her for long. He blamed it in her infernal ability to
rob him of i
ndignation with a single smile. She knows it – everyone
knows it.
She tilted her head to the side as she waited for his next
move. Eato didn’t
have to push Meno to make the move as he let his arms fall
on his sides and t
ook a couple of steps back, giving the twins their privacy
with a smile of hi
s own.
Meno took the couple of steps between the two of them and
crushed her to him
in a tight embrace. He breathed in her familiar sweet scent
and buried his
head in her neck. He missed his infuriating sister a lot.
She had nothing else to do but clutch him close, rubbing and
patting his mus
cled back in a comforting manner, then let out a deep
breath. “I’m sorry,“ s
he whispered against his ear.
He shook his head. “You don’t need to be sorry. Most of the
things you said r
an smack to my guts that I felt the need to strike at you. I’m
an idiot.”
“At least you’re my idiot baby brother,” she teased, hearing
him chuckle.
Eato felt wonderful seeing them like that that he finished off
his cake in
record time and was starting to pop some of those Mocha
Cream Horns that Ae
no loved into his mouth, grinning.
Meno slowly pulled away from her and they both grinned at
each other like a
bunch of loons. Then, he kissed both her cheeks as she
cupped his face bet
ween her hands, patting it then moved away in time to see
Eato’s mouth full
with the tarts.
Her splitting grin became a full-fledged laugh. “I swear. Eato.
I believe you
’re more than a child than a foster father with you sitting
there and looking
so pleased with yourself right now.”
Eato winked at her with a silly grin.
That grin turned her insides into mush. He’s so handsome,
powerful and oh-so
very sexy with all those thick, glossy dark-blonde hair that
fell below his
ears in slight waves that swayed with his every move.
The tender look in his glowing violet eyes comforted her in
every way ever
y time they focused on her. He made her body tingle with
one look.
Then, sensing something coming, his face suddenly turned
serious, and all
mirth wiped from his face. The incoming presence was
intense and threateni
ng.
Meno saw the change in him and with his hand still clasping
his twin’s sligh
tly smaller ones, he walked closer to Eato. Aeno shivered as
she felt Eato’s
trepidation.
A sudden change in the air signaled that someone’s
approach. A chill settle
d down on Aeno’s skin as she slightly trembled and gripped
her brother’s ha
nd tightly.
Someone comes.
As far as Meno could remember, his sister was one with the
senses that could
detect danger a mile off. It was one of the abilities that he
was unfortuna
tely been neglected to be endowed with, much to his dismay.
Not that he was
looking forward to having it though. It’s more a curse than a
gift really.
“You dare plan against the Grigori!”
The booming voice was accompanied by the appearance of
Semjaza, one of the
nine Grigori. A formidable presence dressed all in black,
blending in wit
h the dark, fathomless eyes that faced them.
***
Seventeen
Semjaza towered over them balanced atop an electric post
with arms crossed
over his chest and a menacing look on his hardened
features. His intimida
ting manner brought sparks through the distance towards
them.
Eato stood up, challenging the newcomer with a fearless
stance as the twins
stood guard on either side of him and the three jumped high
on the rooftop o
f the building facing the Grigori.
Semjaza gave them a mocking smile. “Enough of this show
of bravado, kuriot
e. I know you fear me.” I can see it burning in your eyes.
“Fear you? Now, where did you sense that lie?” Eato
sneered. “You have no
power to order me around, Grigori. As you can see, you’re
not in your terr
itory.”
“Territory or not, I could still challenge you just for the
audacity you hav
e been showing of late. You should learn more of the humility
your kind had
been preaching for ages.”
Aeno was enraged on Eato’s behalf, but still remained
controlled beside Eat
o even though all she really wanted to do was wipe out the
smug look on the
pompous Grigori. She controlled her anger by silently asking
for divine in
tervention.
“I didn’t know how threatened you are of a simple
Domination, Semjaza. Per
haps I was wrong to think that we don’t have power over
you,” Eato spat ou
t, his scowl intensifying.
Semjaza uncrossed his arms, scoffed at those words and
clapped his hands to
gether mockingly. “That’s a nice show of bluffing, Eato.
Perhaps it’s not f
or my sake that you do this show but for the sake of your
charae. We all kn
ow that you’re nothing but Michael’s lackey . . . a mere foot
soldier.”
Aeno stepped forward. “Don’t you dare speak to Eato with
such disrespect,
Grigori,” she threatened, her voice changed into something
completely diff
erent as she shed her human form and turned into her true
form.
Consuming, bright red flames enveloped her and she
became a formless mass t
hat floated hoveringly and glowed the menacingly at the
threat of the Grigo
ri. Her eyes glowed the bright blue as Meno tried to control
her by reachin
g for her arm. But, she was beyond control now. Her
protective instinct had
surfaced. Eato didn’t attempt to stall her either.
Semjaza wasn’t the least bit threatened. “You should know
better than inter
rupt in something you have no business meddling in,
charae,” he taunted. “E
ato, really, can’t you control an ordinary charae?”
Eato gripped his hands together and a sudden burst of
energy enveloped them,
conjuring a mystical energy barrier for the real world not to
be destructed
by the fight that would arise. He conjured the barrier to
protect the morta
ls and to conceal their world as well.
The barrier was akin to the astral plane in both atmosphere
and structure bu
t not quite so. It’s a seemingly real world that coexists with
reality that
no other being can enter without the knowledge and
permission of the one who
had cast it. Only those with enough power could make the
mystical barrier.
It will only diminish if the one who cast it would fall.
He knew that what he had felt for a long time now was
coming true. There’s g
oing to be a fight whether he liked it or not.
Meno immediately transformed into a blue flaming formless
mass with the s
ame glowing blue eyes like his twin.
The twins floated around, encircling Semjaza, letting their
flames drift near
and scorched the Grigori’s clothes bit by bit.
Eato’s brown-tipped white wings appeared from his back,
and shed his coat i
n one motion. A long, ornately crafted sword appeared from
inside his righ
t wrist. He grasped the hilt in one fluid motion. The weight of
the sword w
as familiar in his hand as he made slashing movements with
it.
“I knew your kind doesn’t play fair,” Semjaza muttered
under his breath as he
felt the scorching fires of the charae slowly getting into his
skin.
Eato gave him a small smile, his violet eyes burning with
concealed anger. “
They are rather protective, you see. Their purpose is to
protect me and noth
ing else. Do I need to protect myself from you, Grigori?”
Semjaza laughed aloud, taking off his jacket and dusted his
black pants from
the scorches the charae had done in them. His black long-
sleeved shirt was
open to display his throat that throbbed with anticipation.
“Perhaps I am th
e one who should ask that, not you, kuriote.”
Eato shook his head. “You have challenged me. I can see it in
your eyes. But
, one thing eludes me, Grigori. What am I accused of in the
first place?”
“You still play the innocent, I see. Do you really think that the
Grigori
wouldn’t keep tags on you, Eato?” Semjaza asked with a
raised eyebrow. “Th
e moment you gave that quite passionate promise to the
mortal woman to aid
her in her affair with the Sadrin, We knew you would plan
something that
would shake the balance. I was right. Since then, I’ve been
monitoring you.”
“You have no proof,” Eato replied, itching to give the
arrogant being a taste
of his sword.
“On the contrary, my brothers are standing as witness,”
Semjaza said, lettin
g out his double bladed sword that came out of his wrist that
transformed in
to a long staff with two sharp blades on each end. The silver
of the blade g
linted viciously at them. “Unlike your kind, The Grigori shares
thoughts. Ev
en at this very moment. They are all the proof I need.”
“Are you going to fight me before you convict me of
something that wasn’t
concrete yet? You and your brothers assume too much. That
was one of the
reasons why one of your brothers fell down from grace. Or
have you forgo
tten that there were ten of you.”
Semjaza charged at Eato with a rage that cannot be
described. Everyone knew
that he’d been close to Azazel before the latter fell down and
joined rank
s with Lucifer.
Before the disgraceful event of Azazel’s descent to the
Netherworld, they’
d both go down in the mortal world together and taught men
their knowledge
in protecting themselves with weapons and enchantments
that could be gath
ered from plants and minerals.
The poison of Lucifer’s words clouded his brother’s judgment
and eventually
was corrupted with evil. Semjaza can’t think of another way
to restore Aza
zel to his normal thinking.
But the memories they shared and the closeness cannot be
changed.
Eato knew he hit it hard with those barbed words and he had
every reason fo
r it. He anticipated the Grigori’s anger and he matched every
single blow w
ith his strength of arms. He also knew that the twins wanted
to help in the
fight, but like what Semjaza said, that wouldn’t be fair. He
gave a silent
command for the twins using his mind to step aside. He felt
reluctance fro
m them especially from Aeno.
This fight is between the two of us. His command using
telepathy restrained
her.
Aeno didn’t like it, but she respected his command. She and
Meno remained in
the sidelines, silently watching the fight without the will to
come and res
cue their foster father. She seethed in anger.
The slashing movements of Semjaza were desperate. The
blasts of energy tha
t came from his hands came in rapid successions that Eato
deflected with h
is own and avoided some that went through buildings and
residences. He did
n’t have the time to see the destruction around them as he
matched skill w
ith skill . . . power with power.
Eato could sense the desperation in each move as he
attempted to reason ou
t with Semjaza through his thoughts.
“Armaros didn’t tell it all, didn’t he?”
“I have every confidence in my brother’s sincerity and
integrity.”
Eato sidestepped to his left to block the blow that could have
severed his r
ight arm. He pivoted on his heel and continued, “Then, you
were deliberately
duped for he left out some pertinent facts as to why we
sought out his assi
stance in being lenient with Kylos’ and Clement’s case.”
“We do not base our judgment on requests, kuriote. The
Sadrin knew the con
sequences of his rash behavior. He would not be shown an
ounce of leniency
for his stupidity.”
“His stupidity was falling in love? C’mon, Semjaza. You
should know better
than base your judgment in something as concrete as love.
Your Father is
an advocate of that emotion since the beginning of time. Let
me enlighten
you and stop this insanity.”
A true spirit of wisdom, Eato wanted nothing but
understanding from both si
des. He saw the desperation leaving but stubbornness still
prevailing. He t
ried again. “Don’t you think you should know the real deal
before you react
so?”
“What’s there to ponder at? I have read your thoughts in
planning to fool
us. You cannot sugar-coat those thoughts by making me go
along with this p
retense of enlightenment.”
“Stubbornness if really common to all Grigori, huh?” Eato
asked, almost at t
he end of his patience. He silently prayed for more. He
needed it.
Semjaza sneered at him and dealt him with another lethal
blow.
Eato parried and stepped aside; backing a few steps away as
his harried brea
thing heaved his chest.
Semjaza glanced at the charae and their burning looks gave
a diverse effect
on him. He laughed. He turned his attention back at his
opponent. “Your go
od looks are wasted, Eato. Perhaps you should settle in
monasteries and con
vents like those of your kind so your feathers wouldn’t be
ruffled much. Yo
u’re much suited in that line of work.”
“Prince Michael would have something to say about that,”
Eato replied. “Cont
rary to your beliefs, my kind is well-trained to face threats
such as yourse
lf. We defend when it is necessary.” Then, he added through
his thoughts, “S
ee to reason before regrets were all that would be left,
Semjaza.”
The Grigori shook his head. “Like the order of this world, I
have sworn to
stay by the decision of the whole Council. I cannot let myself
be swayed by
someone who thought less of those rules we lived by.”
“My purpose had ended then. I can hear Him calling me. You
know how this w
ill end. If you don’t kill me, the balance you’ve mentioned
will be disrup
ted.” Then, he said aloud, “The hour grows late, Grigori.” He
brought the
blade of his sword close to his face in a pose that signaled
something for
thcoming.
Eato was already resigned to what was coming. With one
hand against the co
ldness of the steel and the other gripping the hilt, he tried
one last tim
e, “Kylos and Clement should be together for the diadem had
been awakened
inside the woman.”
Semjaza was deaf to all as he slashed his sword and severed
Eato’s head fro
m his body.
A blinding bluish-white light enveloped them and the
magnificence of the ku
riote. Eato was now ready to travel back to the Supreme
Divine after saying
the parting words for the loved ones he was leaving behind
telepathically.
“Don’t despair, Aeno . . . Meno. I shall live in you- in your
hearts where
I shall be forever. Remember my words to you Aeno. Oriel is
waiting for you
. Take care of yourselves for me.”
The barrier collapsed along with Eato.
Anguish roared in Aeno’s ear. Her flaming form assumed a
human-like body, c
lothed in airy clothes made of a soft and delicate fabric that
molded her c
urves and brought a sense of ethereality to her. It was her
most comfortabl
e form, the one she usually assume when she’s in Kalidon
with Eato.
She sported a long black hair that fell past her waist in
ripples and waves,
tied with ribbons of the same material as her clothes in a
crisscross manner.
Her glowing blue eyes spoke volumes of her pain.
She looked at Eato’s ascending spirit and her heart tore into
pieces. She sh
outed aloud, in inaudible words that made all sense to Eato
and made those n
ear her tremble in fear with the shaking her shouts dealt the
ground.
Meno was beside her in a second, his arms coming around
her, not scorching
her in his still flaming form. He soothed her with soft words,
consoling he
r, but she remained inconsolable. He felt her anguish that
mirrored his own
. No one, not even him, can restrain his sister anymore.
Her gaze was held by Eato’s sad spirited face and she
mouthed the words her
heart was screaming aloud. “I love you . . .”
Eato’s spirit cried at her pain. But it was inevitable. She knew
it.
She heard Eato’s voice in her head. “You are my heart, Aeno.
Take heed of
my words and not let hate take control of you.”
Semjaza, sensing that he should not linger anymore, was
about to leave when
Aeno cast a mystical barrier disabling him to do so.
She stopped him with a bolt of fire hurled directly at him only
to be dodged
and went straight in another building, shattering that
infrastructure into
pieces. The ground gave way and swallowed the rubbles that
were once a magni
ficent structure.
He turned to face the furious charae in all her beauty and
power.
“You will die, Grigori,” she roared, holding another ball of fire
in her hand,
a much larger one.
Semjaza scowled at her. “If you kill me, the wrath of the
Grigori shall fal
l down on you and you shall know no peace throughout your
immortal life.”
“Do you think I care for your threats? For what you did, I
shall never know
peace. You will never understand.”
“I understand that you’ve lingered long enough in the mortal
world to devel
op those puny human emotions,” Semjaza replied, bringing
his double-bladed
sword in a challenging stance. “I will rectify that,” he added.
Meno, changing in his human form, stood before his sister
and withdrew from
the insides of his wrists long double-edged swords with black
blades and r
ough edges that glistened in the light.
Aeno tried to shove her brother away but he wouldn’t budge.
She whispered i
n their native language, “Don’t be an idiot, baby brother. I
can take care
of him.”
He didn’t glance at her when he replied, “I know. But, this is
for Eato. You’l
l be the backup this time around, sister.”
Foolhardy as it may seem, Aeno understood him. Plus, his
stubbornness wou
ldn’t cave in. He wanted it so much that she cannot find a
means to disco
urage him.
And so it began . . .
Semjaza knew it was only a matter of time and he’ll be
defeated. But, by wh
om, he doesn’t know. The only known fact was that there
would be only one s
tanding inside that barrier alive. He wouldn’t let either
charae be that on
e.
Meno was magnificent in the fight. She had witnessed him
fight before, but
not like this. He gave it all, as if he was invincible. She could
see clear
ly that Semjaza was coming out of breath. But she wouldn’t
be cocky this ea
rly. Anything could go wrong and she wouldn’t allow seeing
his brother dead
in the hands of the one who slew the one she loved and held
dear.
Semjaza was not a fool to come and face them unprepared.
The charae thought
he did, fools that they were. He knew very well how to take a
charae out o
f commission and he did so now. He quickly withdrew from
his trouser pocket
a small vial that he prepared for the eventuality that would
trap the char
ae’s spirit inside with the right incantations. He made a quick
dive close
to the ground, putting some distance between him and the
charae and did his
work.
sen i jen mori tu malek sana
sen i mo-i tani le manu ta ka-i-mana
tu vei sala i nanek jam-i ala
te non susa i ni-a kin-ta vana
The first incantation made, Meno became numb and unable
to move a single m
uscle. He stood there frozen in his tracks and the blades fell
to the grou
nd.
mei-ai ten-nen i vana tori qu
san la-i-na tani le jan-i-ma
tu vei men-nem kuvan-i si te-i-na
jan ivion-i-man suloni i revennem
Aeno panicked and tried to rescue her brother, but Semjaza
raised a hand and
lightning blasted her hard across her chest. She flew in the
air and landed
on a heap some distance from her brother. Smoke clouded
all around her as s
he saw her skin being smote and her clothes were rendered
in tatters. Her ar
ms and legs were burned but she could still feel herself
amidst the pain. Sh
e tried crawling back to save her brother.
Semjaza made quick work as he saw Aeno trying her best to
get to her brot
her. He growled low and menacingly, “Don’t you know how
to quit, charae?
You are powerless. Stop being a hero and leave before I get
to you. Save
yourself.”
“Never,” she gasped out, her throat aching as she crawled
harder. “I won’t l
et you take my brother from me!” She couldn’t stand the
look on her brother’
s face as he slowly turned into the blue formless flame and
slowly disintegr
ated. She couldn’t even hear his shouts for help.
Semjaza felt a pang of guilt at what he had to do but he
doesn’t have a choic
e.
vien tanuma la-i-nen tu vana
sana quen ja-i-muna zavane
nanek jan i-veira semennem tu vana
gik-ian sana le vien nanek ivannem
He chanted the last of the incantation, opened the vial and
watched as the m
ale charae transform into a wisp of air and entered the vial.
He put the sto
pper back on and quickly stashed it away before the female
charae gets to hi
m. He could already see her gaining her strength back.
Aeno put all her strength to stand up, wincing in pain for her
effort. She c
lutched her broken arm and faced the Grigori as bravely as
she could. “Bring
back my brother or you shall taste the wrath of a charae.”
“Spare me your threats, girl. I am more powerful than you.”
She sneered. “Don’t insult me to my face, Grigori! In this
plane, you and I a
re equals.”
She was right, of course.
Semjaza wasn’t expecting the fire bolt hurled at him so
quickly that he was b
arely able to duck before it struck him. It hit him in the arm,
staggering at
the pain of that blast. He outstretched his hand and lighting
appeared, stri
king her back.
She stumbled down on one knee, catching herself from
falling completely int
o a deep excavation that resulted from the fights.
She tried to stand up straight again. She was not quick
enough. Lighting st
ruck from her back and she fell down hard in the ground.
“It’s inevitable, charae. You are not my match,” he said,
holding a lightning
ball in one of his hand, ready to hurl it at her. He drifted
closer to her a
nd sadness came over him at the sight of her broken body
slumped in a piece o
f debris.
He crouched low, a few inches from her fallen body and
leaned close to her fa
ce, the lightning ball extinguished from his fist.
He caught a stray strand of her hair and rubbed it between
his fingers, inh
aling the sweet scent of it and whispered, “Why do you
meddle in matters th
at doesn’t concern you?”
Aeno let out a short mocking laugh as she struggled to face
him. Her eyes st
ill glowed blue as she held his gaze, squinting a little at him.
“You wouldn
’t understand even if it knocks you over your head,” she shot
back saucily.
“Enlighten me then,” the challenge in his voice sounded
almost caressingly.
“Is it because the woman is mortal and therefore powerless
that you risk you
r own life for a petty affair?”
“It’s only petty in your eyes.” She coughed out blood after
that.
He shook his head. “We are all created with a purpose. Kylos
knew what his
purpose is and that doesn’t include dallying with a potential
agent. He k
new better. But, living amongst mortals had made him adopt
human emotions
that weren’t supposed to be. He broke the code, committed
treason among hi
s kind and now, the death of Eato and perhaps yourself is in
his hands as
well.”
Realizing something, she glared at him. “You knew, didn’t
you?” she gaspe
d out, coughing some more blood. “You knew and yet you
still remained stu
bborn. Your brother made you see, but you still see blindly
what was othe
rwise obvious.”
“Past transgressions are not something we meddle in
especially when it doesn
’t concern us,” he said matter-of-factly. “You should have
taken that in min
d when you blindly followed those who used you as chess
pieces to do their w
ork. For your innocence, count yourself lucky that death is
not your path to
take. Let me make you experience the bitter taste of
mortality that you are
willing to risk your life for.”
Semjaza placed his fingers in his lips and touched it to her
forehead. Black
ness claimed her, rendering her unconscious.
An angel had fallen.
“Alexis, if you were here, you can be able to tell me what the
stars are sho
wing me right now.”
He sighed, darting a glance at the empty room that once
held the laughter o
f happy people. His laughter and the laughter of the one
person he missed t
he most.
The room was completely empty amid the furniture and the
books scattered
all around.
Then, he glanced back at the sky, at the same spot where he
saw a brilliant s
tar once was.
***
Eighteen
Clement wasted her time in training after Ysem, another
Sadrin and trainer
of the potential agents, came to pick her up in Chasan’s
home.
Chasan was reluctant to let her go as Kylos had entrusted
her to him, but his
hands were tied and he was given a direct order from
upstairs to let her go.
She didn’t make a fuss. She followed meekly and seemed to
thrive in Q’uen,
where other potentials trained under the watchful eyes of
the other Sadrin.
Ysem was a solemn person. He didn’t speak much and
reserved his words only
to address her in matters regarding her training and ways of
combat. He d
idn’t give her any encouraging words or made her feel at
ease or even a li
ttle bit comfortable. The most she received from him was a
grunt when she
did something satisfactory. He’s worse than her sword
master back in Japan
. He was silent or in deep meditation most of the time.
He had another student. His name was Raiha. Like their
trainer, he’s a medi
tating type of guy. He liked solitude most of the time, but he
smiled at he
r when he passed her by or they accidentally bump on each
other.
Clement knew nothing about what happened to Kylos after
he was summoned o
n that dreadful day. She learned beforehand not to ask any
questions arou
nd after Chasan warned her about it. She took that advise at
heart.
Q’uen was the grandest place she’d ever been to. There
were numerous halls c
onnected by bridges made of black marble, gilded with iron
grills that were
artistically made, showcasing frescoes of the great ages of
men, from the cl
assical era to the renaissance.
The halls were magnificent in their diverse styles. Her eyes
bugged at her f
irst tour of the place where Ysem didn’t make a lot of
introductions to the
different rooms and halls. He only warned her to stay away
from the restrict
ed areas with a tone that suggests dire consequences would
be afflicted to a
n offender.
She knew firsthand the wrath of the Grigori to those who
they deem an ‘offe
nder’.
Q’uen was almost close to what she guessed heaven looked
like. Although sh
e knew in her heart that it was far from heaven. If the ones
running the p
lace could be so cold and vindictive towards what she had
found with Kylos
and now would never be again, then, it couldn’t possibly be
heaven.
The despair in her heart cannot be concealed and Ysem was
resigned to her re
served and elusive attitude. It was as if there was a silent
agreement betwe
en the two of them not to delve deep in each other’s past –
each other’s liv
es.
She had a feeling that Kylos’ fall from grace was not a known
fact amongst t
he Sadrin and she was not that surprised that the Grigori
would keep it tigh
t.
If word gets out, there wouldn’t be peace around Q’uen ever
and she wouldn
’t be there right now.
Raiha gave her a more detailed tour after he saw her
wandering alone lookin
g like a lost puppy. He was sympathetic and became her
designated tour guid
e. He was there much earlier than her and knew the place at
heart in such a
short time.
She silently thanked him for that kindness.
Some of the other agents-in-training were friendly and the
others were too
serious to make friends with. There was one girl that she’s
taken into thou
gh. Her name was Axyne, a friend of Raiha and a very
outspoken girl that re
minded her of Harley. Her unconventional ways was like a
breath of fresh ai
r in a place that she could almost hear her own breathing.
Thinking about Harley, she was troubled by the state of her
shop and took h
er worries to Ysem. The Sadrin only told her that she would
soon find out s
ince, “You’ll be sent back in your world shortly after you
complete your tr
aining.” That brooked no more questions as she eagerly
waited for that to c
ome.
She became a little cheerful after that, but not wholly so.
She can’t contai
n herself at the anticipation of going back where she started
although she h
ad changed in such a short time. The memory of the time
she spent with the o
ne she loved would forever haunt her.
Time passed in Q’uen.
She pretty much got bored staying there in almost six
months and she openl
y shared her anxiety with Axyne and Raiha. The latter had no
reservations
since he was used to that kind of environment. Axyne, on the
other hand, w
as of a like mind.
“Do you think it would be possible to let us back at the same
time?” Axyn
e asked in her hushed voice, fearing that someone would
come eavesdrop on
them. It was almost impossible to have enough privacy in
Q’uen with all
the Sadrin and the other agents roaming around. Not to
mention the mind-r
eading going on.
The only ones that were quiet were the halls of the Grigori
itself and it w
as forbidden to venture that way without being summoned.
“I am not really sure about that,” Raiha replied, taking a
deep breath as he
attempted yet again for the third time to close his eyes in
preparation for d
eep meditation. Axyne wouldn’t let him though.
Clement knew that the girl’s an orphan, just like her, with no
family to call
her own. But, she mentioned a priest that she considered
almost as family. C
lement had the perfect solution to the girl’s fears.
“You could always stay with me, Axyne,” Clement said,
taking hold of the
younger woman’s hand and giving her a warm smile. “I
would be more than
happy to have you with me.”
Axyne was touched to her bones. She shook her head
instead, contradicting
what she was really feeling. “That’s too much kindness,
Clem. I think you’
re just plain loony to let me in when you barely know me.”
“One thing’s sure about The Order. They don’t recruit bad
fruit. You’re he
re like the rest of us, which means you’re not the enemy. And
believe me,
if you are, you’ll be poof,” Clement said with an exaggerated
motion that
made Axyne laugh. “That’s all I need to know about you,”
she added.
So, they agreed.
Eight months in Q’uen and Clement was finally summoned in
the presence of
Araqiel, one of the Grigori who was going to be her leader.
She was a nervous wreck even before she set foot in
Araqiel’s hall even if
Ysem was by her side, her designated escort. She felt like
she was walking
towards her own execution.
They entered side by side. Their dark ensembles were fit for
the occasion
. Ysem prepped her about the common courtesies she had to
remember when i
n the presence of the Grigori. She prayed she wouldn’t forget
anything.
They stopped in the middle of a circular domed marbled hall
that was illumi
nated by a clear glass enclosure that enabled the sun’s rays
to let in, mak
ing the whole room somewhat cheery compared to the
atmosphere of the other
halls.
Her head was bowed low all the while, didn’t have the
chance to see Araqiel
enter. She suddenly felt Ysem fall on one knee and she did
as well. Then,
she heard the gentle yet powerful voice coming close to her.
“Rise up, my child,” Araqiel said, taking her arm to guide her
up, her head
coming only up to his shoulder. He had one elegant finger
tipping her chin u
p to look straight at him.
She saw a glorious face full of kindness and patience and felt
her fears wash
away in the blink of an eye.
He was a handsome young man, even for an immortal. It
was disconcerting to
place his fair handsome face to the way he spoke at her.
He doesn’t look older than she had expected, considering
that he was suppos
ed to be around before men were created. To tell the truth,
he looked right
about her age, and she’s only twenty-six. Then, she mentally
calculated hi
s age and still was left dumfounded at the way he looked and
sounded.
She made a quick note of his features.
He had thick dark brown hair, slicked back from his face that
fell past his
chin but hang just above his lean muscled shoulder in slight
waves that shim
mers at the light that illuminated the hall. His eyes were dark
and brooding
but had a subtle golden glint in them. His nose was straight
that bore a cl
assical angle, making him look like one of those Greek gods’
statues she saw
on the Metropolitan Museum.
He stood there elegantly, ramrod-straight with an almost
scholarly look abou
t him. He wore a black cassock-style coat, which was
buttoned severely up to
the base of his neck, outlining the lean muscles of his chest
in a subtle m
anner. A pair of cufflinks that bear a silver cross secured the
sleeves. The
collar has red piping on them. His elegance was the stuff
only seen in an A
rmani runway show.
If this was a Grigori, she wondered what a common female
would do if all o
f them were paraded before their eyes?
Riot.
The look in his eyes was such a contradiction. If the kindness
she’s seeing
can be manifested thusly, how come they have sanctioned
such a bitter puni
shment to her and Kylos?
Araqiel could read her thoughts and he became somber as
he looked at the S
adrin and said, “Leave us, Ysem. I want to spend some time
with Clement in
private.” His gentle voice echoed around the hall.
He waited until Ysem was out of sight before he led her to a
long corridor a
nd out into the massive gardens.
She walked meekly by his side, darting a glance at his
expressionless face e
very once in a while to catch some sign of evil behavior from
him.
He smiled.
She suffered through his silence as he helped her to her seat
and sat opposi
te her in a canopied garden set. They were surrounded by a
picturesque array
of flowers and shrubs that emanated a sweet fragrance in
the air. It made h
er nerves settle down as she patiently waited for him to
begin while her eye
s were still lowered to her hands clasped tightly in her lap.
Her anxiety wa
s escalating in a dangerous manner.
Araqiel had expected a hellion from the stories he heard
from his brothers.
They painted her in a way that she turned out to be a
complete troublemaker
that he was weary as well as curious to meet her.
Unlike his brothers, he doesn’t have a habit of wasting his
time spying on t
he Sadrin and their agents. Nor attune himself to their
thoughts. That attit
ude angered the more conservative of his brothers especially
Armaros and Sem
jaza, the worst offenders. He would reason out that he had
complete trust on
his Sadrin and their charges that he doesn’t need to keep
tabs on them all
the time, which was perfectly true.
If memory serves him right, his brothers had repeatedly
called her the ‘ban
e of an immortal’s fall from grace’. But, having met her and
glimpse throug
h her soul, he couldn’t fault Kylos for falling in love with her
and commit
the ultimate dishonor to the Code. He saw none of those
supposed character
istic from her. He sensed only warmth and strength in her
that he appreciat
ed the most.
“Look at me, child,” he requested, beholding her smoky
brown and very expr
essive eyes when she did and he let out a sigh. “Your
thoughts are running
rampant, Clement. You should try to control them if you want
any privacy
at all,” he advised.
“I don’t quite follow,” she replied, confused.
He leaned forward with his hands clasped together, resting
on the table in
front of him and his eyes turned soulful. “I know you value
your privacy, e
ven with your thoughts. But, if you don’t learn how to block
them from pryi
ng minds, you’d better learn quick,” he pointed out with a
curt nod.
She finally understood and gave him a smile.
He leaned back on the chair and made himself comfortable
as he sought to
enlighten her more. “That is why Ysem and Raiha are always
in deep medita
tion. It was the first thing I taught Ysem when he was
created and came t
o be my Sadrin.”
She nodded again and thought that if Araqiel was giving her
that advise, the
n he wasn’t that bad.
He laughed hard at that, slapping his knee as he guffawed.
“You have to lea
rn real quick, my child. Or else, every one of my brothers will
pounce on y
ou,” he said in between chuckles. “Well, I am glad that you
think that anyw
ay,” he added with a wink.
She blushed. “Can I speak freely?” she asked timidly, her
voice only a whisp
er.
He heard her all the same and nodded, his laughter reduced
to a smile. “Sur
e,” he said. “Go ahead.” You can ask anything you want,
child. Fear not.
She took a deep breath and asked the one question that had
been burning in
her the moment Ysem told her that she would be able to see
her shop again
after she completed her training. She knew she had
completed it and she w
anted to hear it. “Are you going to send me back now?”
Araqiel crossed his legs and remained silent as he stared at
her, his dark e
yes transfixed on her face. “Are you ready?” he finally asked,
tapping a fin
ger in his chin. “Are you confident that you could handle
them on your own?”
“Them . . . being the demons?”
He nodded. “When you go back, you’ll be different. You’ll see
twice as yo
u had and more since your gift was completely enhanced
once you entered Q
’uen. Even your sleep will be troubled. Are you sure you
could take on th
e duty as an agent of The Order?”
He posed her a lot of questions that she doesn’t know how to
answer.
He could read her hesitance very clearly. “I know how it
feels, Clement. I’v
e seen the rise and fall of civilizations, watched millions of
people die fo
r power - waged war against each other, and nations fall to
the corruption o
f evil that had propagated the world we had been protecting.
I have fought a
gainst the forces of evil for such a long time that I am left
with only one
purpose: to guard the mortal world.” He let out a deep
breath and continued.
“No sane person could rightly say that he or she is ready to
face the uncer
tain. But, I wanted confidence from you . . . confidence that
you would do y
our best to safeguard the mortal world like we had done
since the world began.”
She stared at him, thinking very careful before uttering a
single word. She
was afraid that the wrong words would make him think less
of her.
Araqiel stood up from his seat and went to her, crouching
low beside her cha
ir and looked at her solemnly. “I feel your pain, Clement,” he
said, reachin
g out to touch her cheek, trailing his fingers at the planes
down his cheekb
ones.
The warmth of his palm pooled her eyes with tears that she
was unwilling to
shed.
“You seek your old life to take comfort and forget the
bitterness of a love
gone awry,” he continued. “Believe me when I tell you that it
wasn’t easy to
punish someone because of that single emotion that our
Father glorified wit
h. But, certain things are out of our hands, you see. The law
is the law. Yo
u cannot change it no matter what reason you can come up
with for disobeying
it.”
“I know,” she muttered, burying her head in her hands as
she felt his hand sm
oothing her hair like a father to his child.
He couldn’t offer more words of comfort for he couldn’t think
of any that s
he would take like to hear. He just crouched there and let her
pour her tea
rs and made hushed sounds.
When she had control of herself again, she uncovered her
tear-streaked face
and assumed a hard look. “I am ready, your grace,” she said,
leveling her lo
ok at him.
He nodded and straightened up, reaching for her hand to
stand close in fron
t of him. He grasped her head between his hands and
cradled it, running his
thumbs to the wet trail left by her tears and leaned down to
kiss her fore
head. “I give you this grace to protect you,” he murmured.
Then, he pulled
a couple of inches away, dropping his hands from her head
and placed his ri
ght palm on the top of her bowed head and chanted.
After a minute or two, he stepped back and appraised her.
Her head still b
owed, she wasn’t able to see the concerned look on his eyes.
“You would be
sent back with a couple of things that you would be issued
with. Ysem wou
ld take care of that. He would also be the one to contact you
in case you
were given a mission. However, you would be assigned a
partner, someone wh
o would live close to you. You will know that person once
you’ve been sett
led back in your world.”
Thinking that it was a signal for her to leave, she dropped on
one knee in fr
ont of him with her hand above her chest.
“Rise, my child and look at me,” he ordered.
When she did, he took both her hands and hovered his right
palm in her right
wrist where she felt a slight burning sensation. Then, she
looked at that wri
st and saw a brand, like a tattoo but colorless. It has the
symbol of a drago
n in flight with wings spread out in the center of a circle that
had nine con
caves with little leaves hanging around it. She glanced back
at him with a qu
estioning look since Ysem forgot to tell her anything about
this.
“That’s my standard. It symbolizes power over the nether
plane and dominan
ce in the earth that I have guarded since the beginning of
the mortal worl
d. You will find out soon what I’ve just bestowed on you,” he
explained. “
Take care, Clement. You are going to be a fine agent of The
Order.”
As a parting courtesy, she took his right hand and kissed the
backs of it.
He smiled at her tenderly, patting her shoulder and vanished
from her sight.
***
Nineteen
“Do you have any news about Harley, Clem?” Ella asked,
pouring her a cup
of freshly brewed coffee and sat down opposite her in the
booth.
Clement was preoccupied as she looked up when Ella’s voice
interrupted he
r, shaking her head. “I’m sorry. What’d you say?” she asked,
bewildered.
Ella tilted her head to the side, a frown appearing in her
face. “Harley?
” She knew how troubled Clement was the moment she
found out that Harley
had gone missing. She could only sympathize with the
younger woman.
Clement let out a deep breath, clearing her head. “It seemed
as if she disap
peared from the face of the earth,” she muttered with a
deep sigh. “I’ve run
a missing persons report with the police and kept tabs on
them. But nothing
came up,” she said, her voice sounded defeated, tired and
frustrated. She w
as purposely trying to evade the older woman’s look.
“You’re tired, Clem,” Ella stated the obvious, crossing her
arms against he
r chest as her frown intensified. ”Can’t get enough sleep?”
she asked knowi
ngly.
Clement was not allowed to tell anyone about her other life
full of unsavory
things she had to do in the name of goodness. So, she lied to
one of the pers
ons she was protecting the world for. “Sort of,” she said.
Ella tsked at that, hollering Dennis to hurry up with the
cinnamon rolls th
at just came out of the oven. Then, she turned her attention
back at Clemen
t, taking the younger woman’s hand resting on top of the
table into her own
and smoothed a hand at the callused ones. “You’re working
too hard,” she m
uttered, noting the taut veins in Clement’s hand, tracing
them with one fin
ger. “I saw your lights on and heard blasting music up in your
apartment th
e other night. It was past midnight and I came out to have a
puff, can’t sl
eep myself.”
“I’m working out to exhaust myself enough to sleep,”
Clement replied, whic
h was actually true.
That night, she woke up a little before midnight in a sweat as
she had a ni
ghtmare where she saw Kylos pierced at the heart with one
of the demons tha
t was stalking them. The demon was different from the ones
she was used to
slay before. She recognized it as an ifrit, the ones Ysem
warned her about
during her training.
The ifrit had his hand taking out Kylos heart and was about
to take a bite out
of it. It was disgusting and made her snap out of it, troubled
and shaking.
Her nightmares must be one of those things Araqiel had
neglected to tell he
r about when he gave her the emblem on her wrist. The
brand was a fascinati
ng thing. A normal person couldn’t see it. Only those with
the gift could.
She also remembered Araqiel mentioning that she would
soon find out what h
e had given her. She wasn’t expecting it to be so intense
though.
Since returning, her visions had become thrice its potency.
She began to see
things that her former self wouldn’t have.
The visions haunted her even when she was walking down
the street or takin
g a shower. And she had endured it all for almost two weeks
upon returning
.
Ysem visited her only once to introduce and get acquainted
with her partne
r, Rafael Valencia, an agent under Gadreel, another Grigori.
He’s a depend
able person, always clear-headed and courteous.
The moment she met him, she immediately knew that she
could trust him with
her life. There’s calmness in him that made her like him
instantly.
He made their first meeting comfortable as possible. Ysem
was present duri
ng the whole orientation thing. Rafael was contemplative
then, and when Ys
em finally left them alone to get more acquainted, he broke
the tension by
saying, “Want to have a date with me, babe?”
Surprised, Clement laughed aloud, knowing that he was
blatantly teasing her.
“Can’t, babe,” she answered truthfully with a smile tugging
on the corners
of her mouth. “I have to be honest, you offer a pretty nice
proposal,” she a
dded, appraising him.
He presented a very nice package. The South American type
usually does – g
orgeous and irresistible. His smile could stop the heartbeat
of an ordinar
y woman.
But, she’s not ordinary and although she found him
handsome, there’s only
one person who could make her heartbeat thump wildly. She
added in a hea
rtfelt manner, “I’m sort of into someone, babe.”
He feigned hurt as he clutched his chest dramatically. “Ouch!
Got jilted wi
thout even trying. You sure do know how to break a man’s
heart, babe.” His
grin told a different story altogether. He’s really a charmer –
a complete
lady’s man.
“You’ll have to stick around to count them, then,” she said,
grinning back at
him.
Rafael was conveniently assigned in the neighborhood, just
like what Araqie
l said. He’s a real estate developer by day and an agent of
The Order by ni
ght. He’s wealthy, but you wouldn’t think about that when
you’re in his com
pany.
Hell, she didn’t even know until she went to his office one
time to talk to
him. There, she was astonished to have people held him in
regard like he’s a
reincarnated Midas.
One wouldn’t think that he was actually the President of the
Real Estate fi
rm. He wears simple clothes, but if you have a keen eye,
you’ll recognize t
hem to be expensive designer clothes ranging from Calvin
Klein to Valentino
. He either drives his Ford Explorer, Jag or walks. He looks
just an ordina
ry man in contrast to someone who has assets amounting to
millions of dolla
rs.
On the second day of her return, she was devastated to find
that Harley still
hadn’t reported to work. She then filed a missing person’s
report in the loc
al police. She decided that she had to close the shop that
day and concentrat
e on the tons of paperwork waiting for her.
The curious thing was, she realized that the time she spent
in Chasan’s ho
me and in Q’uen was different from the norm. One month
there was equivalen
t to a day in the mortal world. Thus, she had only been away
for nine and
a half days.
She later on found out that the Grigori can manipulate time
only in their do
main. They could maximize it for the sake of betterment.
Her other employees had taken turns in the hot seat with the
investigators i
n the Police Department at her insistence. They all said the
same and that w
as: “Harley didn’t come in the morning the day before to
open the shop like
she usually does since the boss had her vacation.“
The chance that she might have been hiding because of
embezzlement was ou
t of the question since Clement checked everything and
nothing’s missing.
In fact, everything was in order, more so than when she was
managing the
shop.
Clement had the gravest feeling that something happened to
Harley because
of her. She doesn’t want to involve The Order though, as
much as she neede
d assistance. Rafael, being her partner and all, was the only
one who knew
and gladly helped her.
During the nights, they patrolled the streets and somehow
managed to get bac
k in their respective homes sustaining bruises, minor wounds
and a couple of
, but still in one piece.
There’s just this one time that Rafael told her to take the
night off when
he saw how exhausted she was. But, she couldn’t rest when
demons lurked i
n her dreams. The midnight workout exhausted her enough
to catch a catnap.
Then, she was up and about.
Ella regarded her through hooded eyes and said, “You know,
there’s a good
therapist just around Ursulines. Maybe you should check it
out. I’m worrie
d about you, honey.”
Dennis came to the table, placed the tray filled with
cinnamon rolls that we
re still hot from the oven, and then sat beside his wife.
“Ella’s right, Cle
m. You’re supposed to be relaxed after you had your
vacation. But, you came
home more stressed and tensed than before.”
“I’m fine, really. Just a little disoriented. I’ll finally catch the
rhythm aga
in after a few days,” she replied, taking a huge bite out of
the roll when she
spotted Rafael entering the café. She waved at him.
Rafael walked to her direction and let her scoot to make
room for him.
Ella offered him some coffee and he smiled his thanks,
giving her a melting
smile.
Catching the sudden silence, he raised a brow.
“We’re just about telling Clem here that she should see the
therapist down
Ursulines,” Dennis explained to Rafael when the younger
man turned a questi
oning look at them after Clement retreated to her irritating
silence.
Ella and Dennis thought that Rafael was Clement boyfriend
when they first
met him. He’s a handsome young man, well established as
they have been tol
d. His manners were impeccable and he’s a mixture of fun
and seriousness,
balanced with his good looks and nice built. Then, when they
saw that ther
e’s nothing romantic on the way the two treated each other,
they accepted
that Rafael was just a friend.
They warmed at Rafael just like they did to Harley because
they could sense
that he’s a good man and if Clement would reconsider, the
man was actually
quite a good catch. But, if the years they have stood witness
to Clement’s
character held fast, they knew that that possibility was not
likely to come.
Ella jabbed her elbow to get her husband’s attention and
made a signal for t
hem to leave the two alone.
Rafael gave Ella a grateful look and took the seat opposite
Clement, which
the couple vacated. “What’s it all about, Clem?” he asked,
drawing her gaze
at him.
She frowned. “I have a strange feeling that Harley’s
disappearance was som
ehow connected to me. I have been at it for weeks.”
“If there’s a connection, Ysem would have probably
contacted us by now,” he
said, running a hand through his wavy black hair in
frustration. “I’ve pul
led some strings to get it done, Clem. It wasn’t easy but the
same reports
came in just this morning. There’s no trace of Charlize Kane.”
“Are you sure? Maybe they haven’t tried all they could,” she
said in almost
a wail.
He pointedly looked at her. “They did everything they could,
Clem.”
“That’s preposterous! No one could disappear from the face
of the earth with
out a trace unless - “
He shook his head. “You’re drawing the wrong conclusion
and deep down yo
u know it. Ysem would tell us right off. That’s what being an
agent mean
s. We’re a team and everyone would be told if something
would endanger o
ne of its members.”
“What if –“
“Stop it,” Rafael cut her off. “You’re stressing yourself out. If
Harley wa
nted to be found, she would be. From the things you’ve told
me, the woman w
as impulsive and very independent. Maybe she decided to
take a break hersel
f. That’s the best case scenario we could hang on to.”
“But, she knew she couldn’t leave the shop unattended until
I come back,”
Clement said, scowling at Rafael’s lack of compassion. When
he continued s
cowling back at her, she opted to keep her mouth shut and
she ate her cinn
amon roll in silence.
Rafael knew she was deliberately trying to shut him out. He
didn’t like it.
Partners were supposed to share everything that the other
would later on be
entangled with. He considered this situation as something
that he would get
seriously mixed up with in the future.
Clement growing feeling of foul play concerning her
employee was rubbing
on to him. If this Charlize Kane was somehow connected to
The Order, wh
y the hell wasn’t Ysem had the grace of telling them
something?
***
Twenty
Armaros’ look on Kylos was piercing . . . haunting. “Why do
you still serve
me, Kylos?” he asked irritatingly.
Kylos looked up and beheld the anger of his liege. He had no
words to say t
hat would appease the Grigori. He was miserable and it
shows in everything
he does . . . in every move he made.
He lowered his head instead and feigned ignorance, not that
the Grigori wou
ldn’t sense his hesitance. “I don’t know what you speak of,
your grace,” he
said.
Armaros bounded from his seat and slowly walked towards
him, obviously r
iled. When he was a couple of inches away, he raised Kylos’
chin with on
e finger. “You sulk and I know how miserable you are. Do I
not deserve t
he same devotion you are now feeling for this mere mortal
woman?”
Kylos looked straight in Armaros’ dark eyes and the fire
inside him was evid
ent in his eyes as he replied, “Clement is not an ordinary
woman, your grace
,” he said, managing to still sound courteous in spite of the
anger burning
inside him.
Armaros backed up a step from him and crossed his arms
across his chest, app
raising him fro head to toe. “I should be angry with you,
Kylos,” he said bi
tingly. “But, I truly pity you for the thing you experienced
with the woman
is not supposed to last.”
“It would last until we want it to,” Kylos replied quietly,
stubbornly.
Armaros tilted his head to the side with a scowl on his face.
“Do you not co
mprehend the bigger picture here, Sadrin? You cannot insist
on what you want
. You are forever a soldier of the Grigori and such position is
not meant to
take on lovers especially one that is mortal!”
Kylos stubbornly remained silent, letting the Grigori stew.
“You may think that others will help you in your plight. But,
the truth is, n
one will come forward to help. I - ” Armaros stopped as he
heard a distant vo
ice in his head speaking to him.
That’s enough!
Then, a phantom wind swept through the hall and an armor-
clad being appeare
d in all radiance. Great white wings were spread out, taking
up all the spa
ce as it disappeared and the face of Michael the Seraph was
shown. The scow
l in that angelic face was frightening.
Kylos, recognizing the newcomer, lowered his head in
greeting and muttere
d, “Your highness.”
Michael looked tenderly at the younger being and reached
an affectionate ha
nd to pat the shoulder. “Rise up and let me look at you,
child,” he whisper
ed close.
Armaros, enraged at what was happening in front of him,
interrupted. “What
brings you to my hall, Michael – again?”
Michael whipped his head to face the Grigori and matched
that rage with his
own. “You dare to take that tone with me when I came here
to tell you what
your stupid brother had just done!” he raged. “I should wage
war with you
now and be done with it instead of my going here to
personally tell you of
it.”
“And what are you going to tell me?”
“Semjaza killed Eato, imprisoned one of the charae and
condemned the othe
r one.”
Armaros shouted with anger, his voice thundering around
the hall, conjurin
g Semjaza before them.
The cowering form of the Grigori appeared and one look at
the menacing fac
e of Michael sent him behind Armaros, using his brother as a
shield.
“There’s no mercy to be shown for such an act,” Michael
retorted, seething w
ith anger as he clenched and unclenched his fists at his sides
when what he
really wanted to do was ram it in the face of the Grigori.
“Eato is one that
I hold dear. His demise is a curse upon your house, Grigori,”
he added.
“I heard him plotting against us, brother,” Semjaza wailed,
still hiding be
hind Armaros and peeking glances at the Seraph. “I did what
I had to do to
save us from further humiliation. They have played with us
for so long that
I took matters in my own hands.”
“By killing a Domination?” Armaros asked, anger towards his
brother playi
ng havoc with his judgment. He knew very well what Michael
would do and h
e would do anything to protect his brother from the glint of
Michael’s bl
ade.
Michael had nothing but loathing to the cowering being the
moment he felt Ea
to’s spirit rising towards the Supreme Divine. He had
lamented at the loss.
He was inconsolable in his grief and he can’t think straight
for hours. Raph
ael had given him a tonic to calm his senses after his pacing
had nearly dri
ven The Healer to tears. “This atrocity should be settled
either with my swo
rd or another that will be favorable to me.”
Sensing what the Seraph was getting at, Armaros stood with
legs braced apa
rt. “You’re wanting a trade?”
“Yes.”
“My brother’s life for the Sadrin?” Armaros asked
incredulously.
“Seems like a fair trade,” Michael answered, darting a glance
at the silent K
ylos not far from him. “Eato’s end would be justifiable in that
settlement.”
Armaros fell silent, in conference with his other brothers and
the decision
was – “You can take the damn Sadrin. He’s of no use to me
anyway.”
“A wise decision,” Michael muttered. “If you try and kill
another one of m
y brethren, I would wipe out all of you,” he growled, turning
around and b
eheld a look of shock on Kylos face. “You are coming with
me, child, and y
ou shall never set foot in this place ever again.” With those
words spoken
, he enveloped the both of them with his wings and was
gone with the phant
om wind.
Armaros turned to Semjaza with all his fury. “Your
recklessness almost res
ulted to war that we couldn’t possibly win,” he ranted. “Have
you any idea
what you caused. Eato was Michael’s lieutenant, a spirit of
wisdom that w
as scarce now. The numbers of the Dominations had
dwindled into a handful
after the war of the heavens. That would mean a great tip in
the balance.
Have you thought at all?”
“When I heard the kuriote plotting against us, I became deaf
to all reasoni
ng,” Semjaza confessed, sinking down the padded chair
close to him and buri
ed his face in his hands. “My hands are stained now,” he
added forlornly.
“What have you done to the charae?”
“If you’re thinking that I should undo it, I can’t. Only time
would save tho
se two agathodaimon.”
Armaros couldn’t have thought that his day would amount to
this disaster.
“You’re totally out of your mind. How could you cast a spell
that you know
not how to undo?”
“It was a spur-of –the-moment thing, brother,” Semjaza
defended. “The femal
e would be given a chance to prove herself worthy of her
immortality when s
he experienced fully what it means to be mortal. None such
antidote or reve
rsal would help her. The male charae is safe in the vaults
until his sister
would be strong enough to free him.”
Armaros shook his head vehemently. “What you did was
irreparable. Not to me
ntion, cruel. We are a specie that doesn’t do that. We are
watchers, protec
tor of the mortal world, not judges. That office is reserved to
our Father
alone. For that, you have condemned your own spirit. You’ll
be entangled in
the web of your own device. Your spirit is now dependent on
the course of
the charae’s fate. Have you thought about that at all,
brother?”
Semjaza can’t think at all. He sat there, brooding and
thinking about the
mistake he’d made. He wanted nothing to do with the
charae, but Armaros wa
s right. He was now as much a part of the charae’s fate than
he would have
imagined. It brought him no comfort that he would be
helping instead of p
unishing.
“You now see the folly of your actions?”
Semjaza looked at his brother intensely and replied, “I shall
be in my hall fo
r the time being. I need time to think about things.”
With those words, he vanished from the chair he had been
sitting on.
Armaros sighed aloud, sensing his other brother uncloaking
from the corner
of the pillared hall. “How long have you been there, Araqiel?”
“Before Michael appeared.”
Armaros took the few steps to his throne-like seat and
slumped forlornly, re
sting his chin in his hand and his shadowed gaze fell to his
approaching bro
ther. “Why is it that you were late?”
“I’m not,” Araqiel countered. “I was just in time. Besides, you
should have
sensed the trouble our brother had done if you have not
been too harsh on
your Sadrin. Think that I wouldn’t know that you guard him
like a watchdog?
Your senses had been clouded of late and I couldn’t say more
on that as yo
u have yourself to blame.”
Armaros glared at his ever-calm brother and watched him
take his invisibili
ty cloak off and slung it across his shoulder before retorting,
“What would
ruffle your feathers, Araqiel? Why is it that every time
there’s trouble a
foot, you always come out steady and damned composed?”
“I’ve learned to control my emotions as efficiently as I can,”
Araqiel replied
.
“Have you taught that to your agents as well?” There was
animosity at wha
t Armaros was implying. He was the one who reassigned the
mortal woman to
Araqiel’s roster of agents anyway. Now, he was regretting his
decision.
Maybe he should have given the woman to Baraqijal or
maybe to himself.
Araqiel cocked his head to the side and taunted his older
brother. “As a mat
ter of fact, yes,” he replied. “I did teach them to learn how to
control the
ir emotions and thoughts so none could read their minds
without their permis
sion and abuse their privacy.”
“As you have been doing for thousands of years,” Armaros
questioned with a
n arched brow. “You have disciplined yourself, turning off the
radar as th
ey say. You have accomplished a great deal, brother.”
“I am acting in the best interest of those who fight with me
as what Father h
ad taught us time and again.”
Armaros sighed aloud. “Do you think I’ve forgotten His
teachings? This is t
he only way that we had survived this long. Staying in
contact with each ot
her was the only efficient way to make things orderly.”
“You can’t control everything,” Araqiel silently remarked.
Defeated, Armaros buried his face in his hands and a sob
escaped him.
Araqiel walked closer to him and comforted his brother by
smoothing a hand ov
er his head. “It is alright to cry, brother. It’s just me here.”
Armaros thought that even if there’s only Araqiel in his hall,
he needed to
compose himself for he has a reputation to protect. If he
broke down, there’
s no telling what the others might think of him. He needed to
be strong and
deemed every failure as a lesson learned.
He schooled his features and dropped his hands from his
face to look at the
solemn face of his brother. He noted none of the weariness
he could sense in
him through the controlled dark eyes of his.
Armaros silently wished he wasn’t the eldest and therefore
was not the one to
call on all the shots. He envied such control as he struggled
to maintain a
certain semblance of sanity.
Araqiel had no idea what his brother was staring at him for.
As much as he’d
like to read his mind, he didn’t for he didn’t want to.
“A lot has happened this day that I think I should retire to
Maegra for the
time being,” Armaros said, turning his mind in conference
with the others.
“I’m leaving you in charge of Q’uen while I’m gone, Araqiel,”
he added for
everyone’s benefit. “I know you’ll do well as I have every
confidence in y
our capable hands.”
Araqiel nodded slowly. “If that’s your wish, I have nothing to
say against
it,” was all he said. He wanted to say more, but he restrained
his tongue.
There’s no reason to become hostile when he could sense
the weariness of hi
s brother. Maegra would do well in Armaros current
disposition.
Maegra, a place they often visited when they wanted to be
suspended in deep
meditation, was a series of temples erected at the side of
the highest mount
ain in the world, invisible to the mortal’s eyes.
It was one of the last sanctuaries they call their own as they
spend time t
here when they become weary of their immortality and
wanted to become close
to their Father and His grand design.
Araqiel loved that place, spent a lot of time there than in
Q’uen. It was wh
ere he learned to control his thoughts and block unwanted
mind readers.
Araqiel watched his brother walk out of the hall, dejected
and depressed. He
really felt sorry for him, as he knew the burden he carries as
the head of th
e house.
He glanced around the hall and thought of the things he
would do while he’s
in charge.
It wouldn’t be fun now.
***
Twenty-One
A moonless night was the hardest. The dark was
unfathomable as she groped
in the darkness in search of the path.
She couldn’t believe that she’s lost!
She couldn’t very well admit it though. She hated to be
laughed at especiall
y if that someone was her partner.
“Hey, Ax. Are we there yet?” There’s a hint of amusement in
that voice that
she wanted to slam her elbow into something that would
really hurt.
“Shut up, Raiha,” she growled.
He sighed. “Don’t be stubborn and let me lead the way,” he
said. “Or do yo
u want to spend the whole night huddled here in the
dampness?”
Axyne knew he was right that she was just being stubborn as
usual. She can’t
very well hand the reins to him after Asad, their handler, had
specifically
handed her the mission for her to lead.
Sensing her thoughts, Raiha laid a comforting hand on her
shoulder. “Don’t wo
rry, Ax. I promise not to tell. You could lead after I get us out
of this dar
kness.”
Sighing in defeat, she muttered. “Better cross your heart as
well, Rai.”
He did in the darkness, flashing his white teeth in a grin that
was all she sa
w. She slapped his arm for that and heard a yelp. She
grinned.
She loved the feeling of having this kind of relationship with
another person
since she had no one to call family and Raiha seemed like a
brother to her .
. . a brother that she could boss around.
Raiha took the lead, surprisingly adept at dark places as they
wove through t
he bushes and finally saw a far away light from a post. She
let out a relieve
d breath.
Then, the hairs in her nape stood out tensed. She tried
focusing through th
e dark. “We have company,” she whispered close to Raiha,
turning her back o
n him as she circled the path.
Raiha was immediately on her side and said, “Stay beside
me, Ax.” They had
their backs plastered against each other as they waited for
danger to revea
l before them.
The air became eerie, giving off a putrid smell that almost
choked them.
“Someone dared to come to our territory,” came the
singsong taunting voice
, wickedly chuckling and twirling around them.
“Maybe we should teach them a lesson to keep to their beds
at this time of th
e night,” came another voice, slightly higher in pitch and
sinister as well.
They were circling them, closing down on them as she felt
their presence wit
hout the benefit of her sight.
Axyne took her gun out of her gun belt and cocked it, ready
to take aim an
d fire away. She’s fearless now, more than she ever had
before as she was
looking forward into taking some of those bastards out of
commission. “Com
e out,” she shouted in a challenge.
“You’re treading in dangerous waters, little girl,” another
voice sounded, dee
p and resonant with a trace of authority in it.
Raiha grasped her other arm with a silent command to stay
calm.
“We see you . . . you don’t see us. What makes you think
that you’ll stand
a chance against us, puny mortal?”
“Fight fair and you’ll see,” she retorted.
That brought a lot of chuckles and guffaws.
“Such arrogance!” quipped one of the demons. Then, an
exaggerated sniff fol
lowed. “I can smell pride in the air – makes me feel good . .
.”
She seethed in anger as she gritted her teeth at the
insistence of Raiha to k
eep cool. It was damned hard but she tried her best. It was a
good thing that
Raiha was her partner. She drew her control from him in a
time such as this.
Raiha knew that they were outnumbered, probably three to
one. He wasn’t sur
e, but he could sense it. He tried to relay his thoughts to
Axyne but her m
ind was closed by the rage she was feeling.
“There’s such a thing as stupid, little girl. Or haven’t you
been educated t
hat we do not fight fair?” the one with the voice of authority
asked, drawin
g a couple of added chortling with that posed question.
“Does your vocabular
y include demon, mortal?”
“It does. But I couldn’t very well call you that when I’ve yet
to see you,” she
retorted.
Raiha, growing impatient, growled, “Cut this chit-chat and
show yourselves
.”
The demons quit laughing at the menacing tone Raiha used
and the one with
the voice of authority said oh-so smoothly. “Then, we’re
happy to oblige.”
Fiery cascade cut through the darkness and fanged beings,
hideously disfigu
red greeted them. She fired her gun in rapid successions as
she engaged the
demons into a fight. One held a flaming whip and it struck
her arm.
Pain cut through her, making her stagger back a couple of
steps because of
it. She heard laughter and she became furious. They dared
laugh?
She took her other weapon out, a retractable blade that
stretched out as a st
aff with two spearheads that she twirled with her arms,
hacking the air the b
lades cut through.
The whip-wielder grinned at her, his pointed teeth glinting in
the dimmed lig
ht that the fire had cast. A single distorted finger beckoned
her closer.
The whip lashed at her, catching her cheek by the tip. She
felt blood oozing
from the open wound, but she ignored it and the pain that
accompanied it.
She charged, shouting her battle cry as she sent her weapon
in a blow-by-bl
ow motion that rendered the demon in sweat. She
mercilessly jabbed the blad
es in the demon’s body, feeling the pleasure of hearing the
heaving fetid b
reath. The demon sent his whip slashing in her direction
again and again, m
aking her bleed more as she felt it slice through her flesh.
She could feel
that she wouldn’t last long with the amount of wounds
riddling her body. H
er body can’t take any more of the beatings. But still, she
fought.
She stepped on her side, deflecting the flaming whip with
her staff and it
twined through. She pulled it with all her strength and finally
disarming h
er opponent as the whip flew from the demon’s grasp. She
flipped through th
e air and quickly finished off with one blow that severed the
head when she
landed a foot away from the defenseless demon. A cloud of
black smoke enve
loped her and vanished with the air.
She wasn’t fully prepared to fight another as a wave of
dizziness came over
her. Another demon attacked her at her back, piercing her
with a sharp dagge
r just a few inches below her right shoulder. She cried out in
pain as she s
taggered on her feet with that blow.
Her strength left her completely as she fell down hard on her
knees and fel
t her body gradually going numb. She fought to stand up,
but her limbs woul
dn’t obey her.
The next thing she knew she heard an anguished cry of a
man rushing to get
near her. She couldn’t see through her blurring vision as
darkness finally
claimed her.
She could smell flowers in the air. Was that jasmine? Or
lilies? Her olfacto
ry senses weren’t working well.
She lightly sniffed and heard scuffling feet near her and
hushed voices talki
ng in a language that she couldn’t understand a single word
of.
But, that didn't bother her at all. She felt great – languorous.
Her eyes rema
ined close, as she wanted to savor the tranquility of smelling
the scent of fl
owers and the softness of the bed she was lying in.
“You’re totally insane to bring her here and with the other
mortal, too!”
“Probably. But I don’t care anymore. She needed me and I
rescued her. That’s
not a sin that I would be punished for. And if it is, I’ll gladly
take the
consequences my actions might bring. I have no regrets now
more than you’ll
ever know. I have waited for a long time.”
“You must have forgotten the stipulations of the oath you’ve
taken. She can
not know who you are and jeopardize the extent of both your
destinies.”
“You worry too much, old friend. Perhaps there are some
loopholes in that oa
th that would enable me to help her in her time of need. It’s
like helping a
n ordinary mortal that I just came by.”
A heavy sigh and a rapid clicking of footsteps that left in a
hurry was all she
heard next.
She hesitated before she opened her eyes and the sight that
greeted her took
her breath away.
The most enchanting face loomed above her and the most
intriguing amber ey
es she’d ever seen stared at her with a smile. Comforting
warmth emanated
from the depths of those eyes that held her attention. She
wanted to cover
her eyes to ward off the spell of that gorgeousness, wreaking
havoc with
her perturbed senses.
She managed to draw the covers up to her head.
“What are you doing?” came the amused voice of the man.
Jeez, even his voice made her want to smother him with
kisses! Stop it! You’
re acting like a complete idiot, she scolded herself. “Hiding,”
she croaked
out her reply.
He pulled the covers down to reveal her reddened face and
smiled down at he
r. “You don’t need to do that. I won’t harm you,” he said.
Curiosity got the best of her and she allowed herself to look
at him, to take
note of all his features and saw not a single flaw. He must be
a higher bein
g, considering his otherworldly features. No human can look
like him.
His grin appeared, taking her breath away as she stared up
at him with a be
mused look. She had the uncanny feeling that he was
reading her thoughts an
d was amused by it. “Feel free to look,” he teased, his smile
broadened, co
mpletely disarming her.
He reached for both her hands and guided it towards his
face, spreading her
fingers over him that she had no will to resist it. She was
boneless as sh
e watched her own hands skimming through his smooth skin
and wondered how s
uch a being could be there in her company and be able to
explore that beaut
iful face all to her heart’s content.
His skin was warm against her touch. She watched him close
his eyes as if i
n ecstasy as she trailed her fingers over his face with his
hands urging he
r still. Then, she threaded her fingers through his thick
blonde locks, del
ving and molding her hands in his scalp. She heard his
quickly indrawn brea
th and knew she should stop now or she’ll be jumping him
any moment without
knowing who he was first.
Her heart hammered away and her body was tingling all
over. There’s someth
ing odd about the man that she can’t shake the feeling off
her system. He
was like a magnet and she was a metal and all she wanted
to do was caress
him and nothing else.
She watched him leaning closer to her and she caught
herself before succumb
ing to what her traitorous body was making her do. His lips
were throbbing,
tempting her to ravish those bits of flesh.
Stop it! She doesn’t know this man and knew she shouldn’t
act so recklessly
. She’s foremost an agent of The Order. Certain acts of
decorum should be a
pplied no matter what situation she was in or where she was
currently at.
He drew back and looked sheepish when he looked at her,
then he turned his
head to the side and muttered, “I’m sorry to have frightened
you.”
She wanted to grab him to her and soothe the sudden
sadness that she felt fr
om him. She controlled herself. “You haven’t frightened me.
It’s just that I
don’t know you yet.”
He looked back at her and attempted to smile but failed
miserably as the sm
ile didn’t quite enter his eyes. “That’s my fault. I should have
been more
sensitive. I know how disoriented you might have felt when
you woke up in s
uch strange surroundings and me taking advantage of your
fragileness.”
She wanted to retort that she’s not fragile at all, but kept her
mouth shut in
stead. “Who are you?” she asked in a whisper, with steel in
her voice.
He hesitated for a moment. The secrecy behind his identity
should be kept.
But if he doesn’t give him a good answer, she’ll only become
hysterical. Tr
uth won out as he gave up. “I’m Zethos,” he said a little
roughly than was
intended.
Then, he stared at her, looking for any outward reaction from
saying his na
me, like expecting some spark of recognition from her
largely impressive ey
es.
Axyne frowned in deep consternation and asked the question
that was burni
ng in her mind, “Are you a demon and have spared me only
to torture me?”
There was a moment of incredulous silence before he broke
down with a laug
h, a full-throated laugh that brought goosebumps all over her
body. The so
und was so soothingly familiar yet strange because he’s a
stranger.
His amusement died down after a while, but traces of it still
shines throug
h his enigmatic amber eyes that bore through her. “I’m not a
demon and I’m
not into torture. Although, I could be flexible and change the
outcome of t
he ‘torture’ you are obviously contemplating right now into a
pleasurable o
ne if you want,” he teased, wiggling his eyebrows at her.
Dead goodness! He has a sense of humor!
Cocking a brow at him, she said, “All tortures are detrimental
one way or
another.” She gave him a teasing smile of her own and then
suddenly turne
d serious when her thoughts went back to the matter at
hand. “So, if you’r
e not a demon and not into torture, what am I doing here
and where’s my pa
rtner?” she demanded, darting a look around her and saw no
one else except
the gorgeous man in the room with her. She suddenly
became nervous.
Zethos became thoughtful. He could sense the deep-seated
panic in her. See
king to calm her down, he said in a gentlest manner
possible. “You were wo
unded quite fatally and I had to bring you here to heal you,”
he explained
. “Didn’t you know that you and your partner were sorely
outnumbered? You
couldn’t stand a chance against the demons you
encountered. You were in th
e middle of their nesting ground,” he added, deep concern in
his eyes.
She shook her head to clear her mind. Wounded? She felt
absolutely fine. Th
en, snapping in attention, she pulled down the sheet and
looked at her arm
where the demon’s whip slashed her. There was a long-
healing scar on it. S
he skimmed a hand to her face and felt another.
“You look fine now than before I saw you.”
She closed her eyes and remembered a shout she heard
before she fainted.
Her eyes flew open and arched a questioning brow. Was it
he?
He looked away. “Your partner is in the other room. He was
badly wounded
but not like you. You have a stab wound in you back that was
almost too h
ard to heal.”
“Did you heal me?”
“No,” he muttered. “I knew someone better in healing.” He
thought of the
look on Tonka’s face when he was summoned. He almost
dreaded what the Ler
rion, spirits that heal that was among those who remained
by his side thr
oughout his exile, had to say.
Tonka had been direct upon seeing her condition. “I cannot
guarantee that she
’ll be out of danger after I heal the wounds she sustained,
my lord. The last
time I healed her left enough damage to her that I don’t
think that this lat
est battering in her body would be completely restored.”
“Do your best then,” he ordered as he paced the floors
outside the opened d
oor to the guestroom while he waited.
Hours passed when Tonka went out from the room and faced
Zethos with unco
ncealed worry. “There are signs of trauma, my lord,” he
quietly announced
. “She had gone through some terrible experiences that I am
not certain t
hat she would have the will to wake up this time,” he added.
Zethos turned his back to the Lerrion and threaded his hand
through his hair
in frustration and rubbed the back of his neck. “She has to
wake up,” he insi
sted in a mutter.
Tonka remained silent, watching his leader struggle.
So, Zethos stayed by her side throughout her confinement,
concealing her pre
sence in his home from Oriel and on the fourth day, she
stirred, making his
heart leap in his throat and unfortunately letting his guard
down and Oriel
burst in and raged furiously at him.
“You promised, Zethos,” Oriel accused, his robes swishing in
his angry tirad
e.
Zethos fell silent through the ranting and the raging and only
got a word or
two in between Oriel’s sermon. He can’t fault the Potentiate
from being con
cerned.
Now, as he looked lovingly at the woman he had broken his
oath for, he felt
no regrets in bringing her in his home again and saving her
with her equal
ly wounded partner.
Just looking at her conscious self nearly drove him to act like
a demented m
an. He wanted to take her in his arms and never let her go.
But, he was not
disillusioned. He knew that it would only take a couple of
hours before the
meddling ones would come barging in and demanding he
fulfill his oath to the
letter or suffer the consequences.
He couldn’t really understand their unfair demands of him
when they always
say that it’s for his own good. His common sense told him
not to let this
woman go. He wanted to spare her the suffering and the
unhappiness that h
ad plagued him for thousands of years.
But seeing her now and the unrecognizing look she gave him
tore him apart.
The interfering lot was right. He should bide his time for the
right moment
.
Sometimes he wished it wasn’t so.
“Please stop staring at me. It’s kinda creepy,” she
whispered.
He snapped out of his thoughts and gave her an apologetic
smile. “I’m sorry,
” he muttered. “You must be hungry. I’ll ring for a meal if you
like,” he ad
ded.
He turned to leave but the sudden grab on his arm stopped
him, whipping hi
s head towards her.
“Don’t go,” she pleaded, sounding more a demand than a
plea. “You haven’t to
ld me enough to make me trust you . . . or think that I’m
really safe here
in this place.”
She wanted to sound nonchalant, but anyone with a keen
sense would know t
hat she’s nervous.
She wanted to kick herself for doing that when the real
reason she doesn’t wa
nt him to leave was to have him close to her. She felt at
peace with him that
baffled her really.
Zethos sank back on the space beside her in the enormous
bed and grasped the
hand that held him still. He gently held it and didn’t let go.
She did not tr
y to disentangle her fingers from his hold.
Then, Diego hovered just outside the room and a silent
command passed thr
ough master and servant. Diego nodded and left them.
“Do you feel that you could trust me yet, Axyne?”
He knew her name? How?
He read her thoughts, troubled by her confusion. “I’ve known
you for a long
time now,” was all the reply he said in her silent question. He
didn’t exp
ound more on that.
“What are you . . . uhm . . . Zethos?” The strange sounding
name rolled fro
m her tongue that seemed familiar but not so. She was
confused.
“Let’s just say that I’m not a demon and not an agent of The
Order. You can
trust me just as well,” he replied, entwining his fingers
through hers in ca
sual manner that made her heart jump.
There was an awkward silence that followed. She was busy
contemplating his
words and trying to control herself from the temptation he
presented at t
he same time. Her breathing became shallow.
Diego appeared in the doorway and for the meantime,
Zethos’ attention was
engaged somewhere. He bid the man enter and watch him
set the side table w
ith the heavy tray he carried, laden with enough food for five
people. The
n, he left.
Zethos disentangled his fingers from hers and took a bowl of
steaming soup.
She scooted to sit up, grimacing at the sharp pain that subtle
movement brou
ght her. Her ragged breath stayed the scream that she
almost let out.
He took a spoonful of the soup and began to feed her.
She felt like an invalid. It was really unnecessary to treat her
like that.
But the slightest movement she made sent a shot of sharp
pain through her
arm and back that she knew she wouldn’t be able to eat
comfortably if she w
as left on her own. And her stomach was grumbling with
hunger.
Zethos took pleasure in feeding her, watching her close her
eyes at each si
p and each bite he brought to her mouth. She smiled at him
in gratitude whe
n she had a chance and that brought warmth straight into
him.
When she was full and couldn’t take another bite, she stayed
a hand to his
offered one with food. “Thank you, Zethos,” she whispered.
Such simple words that meant more to him than she would
ever imagine. Her
voice sent chills running down his arm especially when she
said his name
accompanied by her fiery aquamarine gaze.
He stilled his wildly beating heart and was able to place the
dish back in the
tray without clattering the silverware.
When he looked back at her, he saw her wincing in pain with
beads of perspi
ration on her forehead when she moved. He tried to smooth
the covers around
her, tucking her in with care to her condition.
“You’re in pain,” he said in an accusing tone.
“It’s nothing,” she countered. “Just a minor discomfort.” Her
breathing was
labored, belying her words.
Zethos gave her a look of disbelief, but he didn’t push it.
“You should rest,
” he said, casually brushing her hair from her face and
tucking some stray eb
ony strands behind her ear.
The gentle touch of those hands wove its magic and she was
left with both a
we and pleasure. It was more than she could take.
She reached for that hand and brought it to her lips,
brushing his palm with
a kiss. “Thank you,” she murmured against his skin.
He felt the urge to make love to her right then and there, but
he remained p
lacid and didn’t show her how that simple act made him feel.
He wanted oh-so
much to tell her, but he shouldn’t . . . yet.
The fleeting graze of his hand on her scarred cheek
comforted her and she sl
owly fell asleep. He watched her while she still held on to his
hand, the sp
ot where she brushed her lips against burned with a longing
in his heart.
Oriel appeared after a few minutes and watched
unflinchingly at his friend’s
sadness. He felt every troubling emotion from Zethos that he
didn’t have to
heart to tell him what he was about to say.
Zethos felt Oriel’s presence but didn’t acknowledge it. He
fumed a little,
thinking that he couldn’t stay beside Axyne long enough to
have someone dis
turbing and interrupting him.
“Do you think it had been easy for me to stay away from her
this long?” Ze
thos asked in a low voice, smoothing a hand through the
sleeping woman’s h
air.
Oriel came forward and laid a hand on his friend’s shoulder.
“You should kn
ow better than ask me that, Zethos,” he answered. “I’ve
been by your side t
hrough the ages of men and watched you search. But there
are things that sh
ouldn’t be hurried, things like this.”
“I know,” Zethos quietly replied.
“Your patience would be sorely put to the test from now on
more than ever
, Zethos,” Oriel commented.
Zethos disentangled her hold from his hand and stood up,
finally facing his fr
iend, giving the other a serious look. “I shall have to do a
little adjusting
to the oath I am beginning to regret on swearing in.”
Oriel shook his head. “Are you going to bring this up to
Prince Michael?”
“I sure am going to. It is high time that they hear what I have
to say on my
own fate.”
Oriel saw that look before and he doesn’t have the will to
sway Zethos when
he was in that state. He unwillingly stepped aside as Zethos
stormed out o
f the room in a bluish-white glaring light and vanished.
***
Twenty-Two
The atmosphere in Athena’s hall was tensed as the
unexpected appearance of
someone who swore not to come before her arrived. Her
attendants had their
feet glued to the ground, astonished and unable to stop from
staring at the
magnificent creature robed in opulent robes that glittered
from the lights
illuminating the hall and purposely walking towards the
goddess like a sta
lking panther on the prowl.
All sound completely ceased as the clicking of footsteps
echoed around the
domed hall.
Athena bounded from her seat and took hesitant steps
towards the towering p
resence of her cousin. “Zethos,” she greeted in her all-
powerful voice and
sent her attendants to leave them be with one sweeping
look.
The people left in a hurry, but some curious ones lingered in
the shadows i
nconspicuously, wanting to be the first to relay a potential
gossip that wo
uld shake some of the boredom in Olympus.
Everyone around only heard about the infamous Zethos from
the stories of t
he muses and the chattering of Athena’s maidens. But to
behold the gloriou
s prince was worth more than those stories.
Athena knew the incorrigible eyes trained on them and
reminded herself to re
primand the worst offenders later after the ordeal she had to
face. “This is
an unexpected surprise,” she said, interrupting the
uncomfortable silence t
hat settled after Zethos stopped a couple of feet away from
her and glared a
t her the whole time.
“You wouldn’t hold it against me if I tell you that I don’t
believe any of tha
t crap,” he sneered back.
Athena noted the change in him throughout the centuries.
He had adopted the
mortal’s penchant for crass words and she was amused by it.
It showed on her
flashing eyes. “You’re right,” she relented. “I have been
expecting you to
come here and grace me with your presence for . . . let’s see
. . . uh . . .
three thousand years?” The mocking tone was evident with
every uttered word
, but that didn’t impress Zethos.
He scowled at her. “For someone renowned for being wise,
you seemed lacking
, cousin. You know perfectly well that I detest the way you
interfered and
take it upon yourself to dictate the way I should live out my
life.”
“I am only acting in your best interest,” she countered,
stomping her foot ha
rd that the ground trembled.
He ignored her tantrum and resumed his taunting. “You also
tricked Prince
Michael into agreeing with your scheme. That was
unacceptable.”
“I expected to be thanked, not to be sanctioned as a
meddling fool for car
ing too much for someone whom I - ”
“You what?” he cut in. “You’re private puppet on a string?”
She shook her head vehemently, tears burning to be shed
from her eyes. “I
am only being compassionate,” she gasped out as she
stepped back and casua
lly sat on her chair, refusing to look at the fury on Zethos’
eyes. “Is co
mpassion a crime now, Zethos?”
“It is when you expect the recipient to follow every dictate
you set for hi
m to do without question,” he replied. “I’ve expected more
from you, you kn
ow,” he added.
“You always do even when I chose to follow my father. You
expected a lot f
rom me,” she said in a hard voice and slammed her fist on
the armrest. “Yo
u pushed me to be more than a goddess for the mortals
although I knew you
don’t favor the way I held myself above them. I did what I
could for them,
teaching them all they have to know and readying them to
fend for themsel
ves.”
“And make war amongst themselves as well,” he interrupted.
She vehemently shook her head. “It is not my fault that
mortals had the evil t
endency wrought about by their free will. I only tried to curb
their skills to
the betterment of their lives.”
“You always have an excuse. But there’s one thing that I
cannot accept from
you and that is your superior way of manipulating me and
my life.” He was
relentless, and he knew he was hurting her. But, he couldn’t
think of any o
ther way of getting through to her. “Did you also plan for me
to beg to be
released from the unprecedented oath you forced me to
take?”
“No!”
“Then, I am disappointed, Athena. I thought you’re the
wisest among of you
r family.”
“Damn you, Zethos!”
He let out a bitter smile. “You already did,” he said, then
turned on his hee
l and walked away.
Athena stopped him. “I’m sorry, Zethos,” she called out.
Zethos stopped and whirled around to face her, seething in
concealed anger
. “You’re too late in apologizing, Athena. You should have
thought more be
fore you devised your scheme and letting in Prince Michael
and Hela in it.
You should have known that I wouldn’t want this kind of
path. Damn it! I
was ready to die then,” he raged.
Athena floated down to where he stood with her dress flying
about her in a
windless space. “I should have done a lot of things,” she
replied. “But, se
eing that you are heading towards an end that would damn
you more, I had to
do something. I could see your heart’s wish clearly than
anyone else, cous
in. You desire not to be parted from your beloved even in
death. I have don
e this for you. If I had let you do what your sorrow had driven
you into, y
ou would not be accepted in the arms of the Supreme
Divine.”
“That was mine to decide,” he retorted, clenching his fists at
his sides. “Y
ou took that choice away from me.”
Athena bowed her head in defeat. “I am not perfect,
Zethos.”
“Clearly, you aren’t or you wouldn’t have left Omiron when
you were given
a choice to stay,” he sneered.
Athena snapped her head up to glare at him and said,
“That’s plain cruel.”
“Now, you feel what cruelty is,” he gasped out, turning back
on his way out o
f her hall and left her looking after him.
He never glanced back at her.
Athena stared at the empty space where he stood and
accused her of being unf
eeling. It was true, what he said. She didn’t give him a
choice and played w
ith his life like a puppet on a string. But, he was wrong to
assume that she
did that out of boredom.
She heard the whisperings from her impudent attendants
who stayed and wit
nessed the whole unpleasant encounter.
Lightning flashed from the outside directly in the hall, resting
in the pal
m of her hand. Her voice, like thunder, echoed through the
walls. “How dare
you ignore a direct command, impudent creatures!”
The scuffling of footsteps was all she heard as she was
finally left alone, w
ith her misery as her companion.
Michael heard her thundering voice echoing through the
distance and knew wh
at exactly had happened. He also anticipated the encounter
to take place so
oner or later.
He had warned her about it, but her naiveté surprised him.
Maybe it was stu
bbornness that made her feel confident that Zethos wouldn’t
accuse her of a
ny distasteful thing. She was clearly mistaken.
Michael bided his time before he came next in line. He didn’t
wait that long.
Zethos appeared before him, kneeling on one knee. Always
courteous, Micha
el realized how much he liked Zethos much like his father
Zenos.
“Rise, Zethos,” he commanded.
Zethos stood on his full height, coming on eye-level with the
Seraph. “I m
eant no disrespect by coming here unannounced, your
highness,” he started.
“But, certain grievance made me come directly to you.”
He waited for the nod and continued. “I have taken an oath
prematurely that
I have no means of escaping from. I wished to be released
from it, you see
. I see no reason why you can deny me this request.”
“Sounds like more a command to me, Zethos,” Michael
commented. “You are
asking me to break the oath you’ve sworn into that concerns
not only you
but the rest of us now.”
“It was a mistake in the first place. You -”
“A mistake that had made you anticipate life more than
ever,” Michael cut i
n.
“If searching through the centuries of men can be called
living, that is, your
highness.”
Michael smiled a little. “The oath is unbreakable, I’m afraid.
Even if pre
maturely done. It was done with a purpose and that, dear
Zethos, was the r
eason why we held you back before you compromised the
purpose of your dest
iny.”
“A purpose that I see nothing that could benefit me or the
others involved,
” he countered. “I have waited so long,” he added, His tone
changed to that
of a defeated creature who’s begging for clemency.
Michael laid a hand on his shoulder. “She will come around
without forcing
her. You’ll see.”
Zethos shook his head forlornly. “The right nudge would
hasten it. Why not
make me do it?”
“Because you are the wrong person to do it, Michael said,
attempting to pu
t reason back on the younger one. “Haven’t you realized that
yet? You lose
yourself when you’re near her. You’ll endanger her more if
you did the en
lightening. It would come naturally to her. No need for any
nudging from a
nyone in that matter.”
Zethos became silent. He knew that Michael was trying to
make him listen.
He was listening now, but deep in his heart, he knew that
Axyne deserved t
o know everything. She was kept in the dark long enough.
Yet, if he acted
on his own, he’ll be challenging the authority of someone he
shouldn’t mes
s with.
“Now, do you see reason?”
Zethos looked straight at the Seraph’s eyes and realized that
his hands wer
e tied. Oriel was right. He would not be successful. Though
he wouldn’t all
ow to be estranged from Axyne yet again.
Michael read his thoughts and shook his head. “You cannot
be swayed in th
at wish, can you?”
“No,” Zethos answered.
“I guess as long as you stayed true to your word not to
reveal more than you
should, I would allow you to do it,” Michael said with a
defeated sigh.
Zethos bowed before him and walked away smiling. He was
glad that someth
ing came out good after all. He had permission now and
whether the woman
likes it or not, he wouldn’t be her shadow anymore.
***
Twenty-Three
“I can’t believe that you still manage to do this kind of gigs,”
Rafael shout
ed over the DJ’s booth in one of the clubs Clement
moonlights as a DJ to.
Clement shouted back, “I have to get back to my own life.
Besides, I’ve alrea
dy booked this before I was . . . uhm . . .detained.”
Rafael nodded. Life must go on. They have to juggle between
two separate liv
es and he couldn’t fault her from not canceling this part of
her that enjoye
d it so much, if he could surmise that from the look of her
now.
She was totally in her groove – in her element. She was
bobbing her head w
ith the beat of Basement Jaxx and Puretone while one hand
was busy clickin
g on the keyboards and the other one holding the
headphones to her ear wit
h her eyes closed and her body moving to the music.
She’s hypnotic to watch. Anyone within the radius would fall
in love with h
er. He was one of those unfortunates. He knew he couldn’t
since she was his
partner and all and she had set her sights on someone else
that he was yet
to meet. And the way she treated him was obvious that she
saw him only as
a friend and an older brother, nothing else.
Her head was a mass of little braids slicked back from her
head in artistical
ly made cornrows that shines in the pulsing lights of the
dance club.
When she opened her eyes and saw him avidly staring at
him, she frowned a
nd shooed him off. “Get a drink and stay away,” she
shouted.
Rafael wasn’t offended in the least. In fact, he was amused
that he could m
ake her uncomfortable. It made him feel that he stood a
chance with her eve
n for a curt moment.
His feet brought him to the bar and ordered a beer. He
continued watching he
r from afar, content to just watch her. He intended to stay
there until she’
s done and take her back to her home. Partners were
supposed to do that, gua
rd each other’s backs. He wouldn’t shirk his duties especially
when he was b
lessed to have a partner such as she.
It was well past midnight, yet the Saturday night crowd was
just getting st
arted. Clement was widely known in the clubbing business as
DJ Pope. She mi
xed popular club mixes with some of her originals that she
made a little fo
llowing.
The place was jamming with bodies dancing to the beat.
Addicted to Base by
Puretone sent the people gyrating wildly in the dance floor
as she infused
her own beat into it, mouthing the lyrics of the song.
The jumping and the smell of sweat, cigarettes and booze
permeated the air.
It was something that she was used to. Her eyes adjusted at
the orbing light
s and knew that someone ominous was watching her. She
tried to ignore it, im
mersing herself in the music itself. Whoever it was will have
to wait. They
couldn’t very well attack her in plain sight of the public in
fear of exposi
ng their world to the general public.
She was approaching her final ten minutes and she clicked in
Origene and N
ightcrawlers from her playlist to complete her set. She
looked at the mana
ger signaling in on her and nodded. The next DJ was also her
friend, DJ Ma
rk E. She waved a hand with a greeting smile and went back
to her job.
It was soothing to be amongst people she had something in
common with.
When the last beat ended, cheers went up and Clement
needed to take a bow a
nd waved at the hooting crowd. It was usual to have one last
encore and she
anticipated the hollering of the crowd for a one time.
“Be signing off after this,” she said through the mic and
clicked Paul Oak
enfold’s Starry-Eyed Surprise. “Thank you! You’re a great
crowd!”
The crowd went wild as the dancing continued and DJ Mark
E. went up the b
ooth beside her to prep up.
He shouted near her. “Great night,” he said.
She nodded. “Yeah,” she replied, giving him a friendly tap on
his arm. “Nic
e to see you, Markey,” she added.
Then, she packed her stuff and went out the booth, her feet
going straight t
o where Rafael waited.
She was waylaid by a couple of fans, shaking her hand and
shouting their app
reciation to her ear. Her head was left buzzing with it all
when a sudden ch
ill passed through her body. She looked back over her
shoulders and in all d
irections but her eyes cannot detect anything, nor her
senses. It was alread
y gone.
Her feet started moving and she pushed pass the people
blocking her way and
suddenly stopped in front of Rafael, her breathing labored.
Rafael took notice of her panic and immediately grabbed her
arm and they ru
shed out to the exit. He only stopped to turn and look at her
with his hand
s anchoring her by the shoulders and shook her. “What’s the
matter?”
Clement couldn’t quite catch her breath. The fear inside her
was too great t
o quench. She was shaking her head. “I don’t know,” she
rasped out. “I felt
it pass through me and then it was gone.”
“What was it?”
She looked up at him with scared eyes. “I don’t know,” she
said. “It was so
mething much more different than those we have
encountered so far. That thi
ng that went past me was something more powerful. I still
get the chills, y
ou know.”
Rafael calmed her down by patting her back. “Ysem would
have to be alarmed
by that,” he said, taking hold of her hand and walked briskly
to his waitin
g car parked in the sidewalk. “Let’s go to your place.”
He drove in less time and soon they were inside her
apartment, safe. Clement
was still trembling, so he made her tea and let her sit down
on the couch w
hile he was at it. Then, he called Ysem.
The Sadrin immediately appeared and took one look at
Clement and immediately
sat next to her and held her in his arms, trying to shake the
fear out of h
er like a father to his child.
Clement took comfort in that embrace as she snuggled
deeper in Ysem’s massi
ve chest. There was no need for words as the Sadrin read
her thoughts – all
of it.
Rafael set the cup on the center table and took the seat
opposite them, st
aring at the calming woman. Then, he looked at Ysem with
worry in his eyes
. “What do you think, Ysem?”
“Harbonah had been set lose. He now had another body and
he’s out to get w
hat he was seeking for in the past three thousand years,”
Ysem announced i
n a not too subtle manner.
The two agents knew who exactly Ysem was talking about.
They had been edu
cated in the demon hierarchy and what to expect when they
were left on th
eir own devises after their training in Q’uen. They also knew
what the de
mon was searching for.
“Harbonah is indestructible, distasteful as it is. We’re not
expecting that
it was so.” Then, he turned his attention to Rafael. “It would
be wise to st
ay put for the moment and wait for the Grigori’s next order. I
advise you, R
afael, to stay here with Clement for the meantime. I need to
go back to Q’ue
n and await his grace’s decision,” Ysem said, letting Clement
push herself a
way from him and reached for the cup of tea that Rafael
made for her.
She visibly choked at the bitterness of the tea. She almost
dropped the cup i
n the carpeted floor but caught herself in time and gracefully
placed the cup
back on top of the table.
Rafael clearly didn’t bother counting the amount of
tealeaves to boil as the bi
tter taste settled in her tongue. Or, was it deliberate?
She knew that he wasn’t used to do domestic things like
making coffee or te
a. He had lots of money to hire someone to do that for him.
Yet, the though
t of him going through the trouble considerably warmed her
heart. She suppr
essed it and looked at Rafael balefully instead.
Rafael smirked at her and then deliberately ignored her.
“Why is he after me?” Clement asked, drawing Ysem’s
attention to her.
“I can’t rightly say why, Clement. But I would soon find out.”
With those
words, Ysem disappeared.
Clement sank back on the couch and let out a troubled sigh.
She rubbed her
throbbing head with the heel of one hand, not bothering to
look back at Raf
ael. “You’ll sleep in the couch, buddy,” she said.
Rafael nodded. He didn’t have the inclination to tease her
about their slee
ping arrangement since he knew she wouldn’t make a fun
opponent at her curr
ent state of anxiety.
As much as he would like to cuddle beside the beauty, he
didn’t dare. Ther
e was enough going on in the moment to be thinking such
lecherous thoughts
.
It was like a dark cloud hanging over them that the tension
seemed to be mo
re than any of them could take.
There’s no one who’ll be sleeping comfortably that night.
That he was sure o
f.
Clement got up from the couch and walked towards her
room to get some pillo
ws and blankets, moving more like an automaton really. She
felt Rafael’s em
otions and it mirrored hers exactly as much as she wanted it
to be otherwis
e. It sucks to be doing nothing but wait for instructions.
When Clement was out of sight, Rafael let out a worried sigh
and sank his h
ead down near his knees to contemplate on what to do. He
was not one of tho
se people who willingly wait on instructions from authorities.
It was frust
rating.
He hoped that whatever Ysem could find out about that thing
that haunted
Clement would be favorable to them.
Araqiel had about enough worries to make him retreat to
Maegra for the rest
of his immortal life.
Q’uen was washed by worry and anxiety as a new threat had
been prowling t
he mortal world and had been stalking the agents one by
one.
How can Armaros leave him in charge of everything in this
time of crisis?
He paced the marbled floors and couldn’t mask the worry in
his face when
Ysem appeared before him. He stood there with his arms
akimbo and legs b
raced for more bad news.
“It’s after Clement, your grace,” Ysem instantly said upon
straightening up
from his bow.
Araqiel nodded calmly, but his insides were burning with
fury. He called Mi
chael the Seraph through telepathy.
The Seraph appeared in full armor with the phantom wind
and a scorching glar
e settled in his glorious face. “I know,” he said without
bothering to let t
he Grigori speak first. “My troops have been alerted and the
Potentiates are
now abroad. I shall be informed as soon as possible.”
“Three of our agents are already slain, Michael. And two are
wounded. I ca
nnot allow more to perish,” Araqiel thundered.
Ysem stepped back and blended in the shadows, stayed
there until he could s
peak to Araqiel again, alone.
“What do you know of Harbonah and his troops?” Araqiel
asked, not moving
from the spot he was standing at.
Michael sighed and rubbed his forehead frustratingly. “Three
thousand years
ago, the Potentiates, under the leadership of Oriel, and a
considerable ar
my of Omiron faced Harbonah and his army of ifrits.
“Oriel supposedly killed the demon lord. But we all know that
demons like t
hat kind isn’t easily slain. Unfortunately, Harbonah’s spirit
had been recl
aimed into the Netherworld where Lucifer had kept it until he
was released
now when he felt the sudden resurfacing of the lost
Diadem.”
“It was told that the Diadem is forever lost,” Araqiel said with
a frown, tot
ally immersed in Michael’s recounting as well as thinking of
all the connecti
ons bridging between the past and the present that would
affect the future.
Michael continued. “I tried telling you about it. Harbonah
managed to hide
the Diadem from everyone including Lucifer in hopes of
reclaiming it and us
ing it to rule both mortal and nether planes. I’ve shown
Armaros before but
you weren’t all convinced to help us.”
Araqiel shook his head. “The Grigori would die first before
that happens. We
have guarded the mortal plane throughout the centuries of
men. We had forti
fied the defenses in all sides by the astral plane for that
purpose. Even Or
iel, your own kind, would not allow such a thing. There would
be a full-fled
ged war if Lucifer attempted that course of action.”
“Do you think that Lucifer is stupid enough to attempt such a
thing if he isn
’t prepared? He had been preparing for thousands of years.
His armies are vas
t.” Michael let out a bitter laugh. “Oh, that will happen all
right,” he cont
inued.
“The forces of the Grigori would stand up against his marid
and ifrit troops,
do not doubt it,” Araqiel stubbornly insisted.
Michael shook his head “With the Diadem, Lucifer will
accomplish that goal
,” he said. “He found out about Harbonah’s grand plan after
three thousand
years of torture and gave him a temporary body. Thus,
Harbonah is now tie
d to do Lucifer’s bidding and retrieve the Diadem from
whence he hid it. H
e would do it or die a thousand deaths in the hands of his
master.”
Araqiel was stupefied for a moment when a sudden
realization hit him. “Ky
los and Clement.”
“Yes,” Michael confirmed. “The Diadem is within Clement’s
womb, growing
as we speak,” he added. “Now, do you finally realize the folly
of your s
anction?”
Araqiel ignored the reproach in Michael’s tone. He was
sightless as his eye
s wandered in space. “We should make it safe,” he gasped
out. Then, his at
tention darted in the general direction where Ysem was
hiding.
Ysem appeared from the cloak of the shadows and bowed
low before the Seraph
and the Grigori. “Your graces,” he said before he
straightened up and awaite
d his orders. He was itching to leave the hall to warn his
charges after all
he’d heard in the two’s conversation. He was mostly agitated
to hear about
Clement’s role in it all. The Grigori really need not tell him
what to do, b
ut he still waited for the go-signal.
Araqiel’s serious look pierced the Sadrin’s mind
accompanied by the grave c
ommand that seemed to tell more than he did. “Make haste
to Clement’s side.
She should not be harmed. I shall open the channels and
raise the alert to
all.”
Ysem left and vanished.
Araqiel turned his attention back to Michael. “How can this
be happening
without you knowing about it beforehand?”
“I am not the Father, Araqiel,” Michael reminded balefully. “I
am not that o
mnipresent and I do not pretend that I am,” he added.
Frustration reverberated throughout the hall as Araqiel called
his brothers to
his side to decide what to do.
His brothers were not cooperating and wanted to have their
conference throu
gh thoughts instead.
Michael, seeing that he was needed somewhere else, took
his leave in thund
ering footsteps and a phantom wind at his wake.
Araqiel was left to discuss everything with his brothers. They
all agreed th
at it was not the celestials’ problem anymore since the
mortal world they ha
d painfully guarded since the beginning of time was in grave
danger.
Baraqijal lost two of his agents and Ezequeel one. The loss
was more than a ca
talyst for those two to decide that they’re in for a full out war
if it ever n
eeded to resort to that course.
Baraqijal was the most vocal since he was rather fond of his
two agents, who
’d been in his service for a long time now, and the death of
those two he mo
urned with great grief.
There’s nothing more to be said as the alert was given to the
agents abroad
and Q’uen was in red alert.
Armaros was also given notice and came back but didn’t
take the leadership
from Araqiel; much to the latter’s chagrin. Instead, he
organized the troop
s and sent an envoy to the Olympians and the Nordic as well
as those people
who dwell in the astral plane.
The envoys returned with good news.
And so, it began . . .
***
Twenty-Four
“Axyne, please,” Zethos pleaded furiously as he struggled to
keep her in bed
by gripping the sheets tightly that she was trying to
disentangle from her le
gs.
He was a lot stronger than her and she knew that it was
pointless to fight hi
m, especially in her current condition. But, she still wouldn’t
back down, ob
stinate as she naturally was.
He saw the grimace that came over her face and knew that
she was still in p
ain from the stab wound she got on her back, which was the
last blow before
she lost consciousness. It was healing fast, as well as the
numerous whip
slashes all over her body. But that doesn’t mean that she can
get out of be
d. Not on his watch.
Well, there was no doubt that she’s on the road to recovery if
her stubbornne
ss could be an indication. Although she pretended that she
was fine, he could
see that she needed a lot more rest to be that. It was
obvious that she’s st
raining to gain more energy just by lifting her arms.
“I need to get up,” she insisted, pulling the covers from his
grip in what s
eemed like a tug-of-war going on between them. “You’d
better take those hand
s off, mister, or else –” she warned and gave him a baleful
look, keeping th
e threat hanging for his imagination.
Zethos wasn’t the least bit intimidated. “Or else what?” he
growled and added
, “I won’t let go of this sheet and you will stay in that bed, or
so help me
–“
She let go of her hold on the sheet and had the satisfaction
of seeing him s
tumble back. She grinned triumphantly.
“Minx,” he muttered derisively before breaking out with a
smile tugging at t
he corners of his mouth.
Axyne caught her breath at his handsomeness and had the
unquestionable ur
ge to jump his bones.
She wanted to laugh at her lecherous thoughts but managed
to get out a smirk
instead.
He then looked at her warmly, making her think that he read
her thoughts. H
is piercing amber eyes didn’t leave any doubt about that.
A becoming blush crept up on her cheeks, heating her up.
She inwardly shook
herself and cleared her throat. “Why are you keeping me
here when the alert
had been given to all agents of The Order?” she asked, not
really concerned
at the sudden scowl on his face that was fully directed at her
as she tried
to divert her mind into a less destructive thought. “I should
be out there p
atrolling and doing my job,” she pointed out.
Zethos towered over her. “I’m keeping you ‘coz you’ll not be
any good to fig
ht in your current condition. You’ll only be killed,” he said the
obvious. “
Your job now is to get well.”
Axyne let out a ragged breath, signaling her defeat. Then,
she accidentall
y bumped her throbbing arm against the wooden headboard.
She almost shoute
d in pain but held herself in check.
He saw the brief wince on her face and helped her get
settled back under the
sheets that she previously wanted to rip into shreds. “Stop
being such a da
mned hero all the time. Just once, can’t you think of
yourself?”
“Not when my friends are in danger,” she replied, sinking
down the mattress
.
“You’ll be more than a danger to them if you insist on going
out there and f
ight. I bet you won’t be able to hold your weapon straight,”
he said, glarin
g at what her struggling had done to her stitches. “Look what
you’ve done,”
he accused as he held her arm closer for inspection. “If you
die of infectio
n, you’ll only have yourself to blame.”
Axyne gave him silence.
Then, they heard scuffling in the entrance of the room and
they both turne
d to see Raiha up on his feet and limping towards them. He
nodded at Axyne
and inclined his head to Zethos. “You look awful, Ax,” he
greeted.
“Well . . . thanks for the reminder, buddy,” Axyne retorted
with a huff. “Yo
u don’t look so fabulous as well, Rai. You look like a pack of
wolves got in
to you,” she added.
Raiha limped, skirting his aching body at the other side of
the bed and slum
ped down heavily beside her.
He took a closer look at her scarred and bruised face and
couldn’t resist c
hiding her to release some of the tension he sensed within
her, lightening
the mood inside the room. “You’re the one who looked like a
pack of wolves
had gorged you up and spit you out,” he commented,
earning a punch on his s
houlder and saw the grimace on her face after that. “Jeez,
Ax. You should r
est more, get your strength back. One more hit and you’ll
end up six feet u
nder.”
“You really have a wicked sense of humor, Rai. I like you
better when you’r
e meditating a lot.”
Raiha glanced at the worried man beside Axyne on the other
side of the bed
and felt something comforting in the way the man held his
friend’s arm an
d the look on its face when he saw the jagged marks riddling
along her arm
s and neck.
From what he gathered from Diego, Prince Zethos was not an
ordinary being
.
Then, he quickly learned not to let Diego expound more on
the origins of his
master. It was complicated enough to understand the man’s
animated story-te
lling with a nasty bump on his head and his throbbing leg
that was getting a
little itchy inside the cast.
He fought the urge to get the damned thing off and risk
tearing his ligaments
in the process just to have the satisfaction of scratching the
itching skin.
Diego could really go on and on with tales of Prince Zethos
and how kind h
is master was. Diego also mentioned something about caring
for the woman s
o much that the prince had been spending the last twenty-
four years by her
side without her knowing it.
After that slip, Diego ordered Raiha to keep that to himself
and promised n
ot to tell another soul. Raiha was forced to promise to shush
when he saw
that Diego was dead serious and would probably clobber him
with the steel b
asin he was holding at the moment if he didn’t.
Now, being in the same room with both the prince and
Axyne, he believed w
hat Diego had accidentally told him.
Prince Zethos was the complete opposite of Axyne though.
He was refined, gr
aceful and kind, whereas Axyne was a loud, obstinate and
has no regard for
authority, a total antithesis.
Although those were some of her unsavory traits, there was
more to be admir
ed in Axyne. She’s kind to those who had shown her
kindness. She’s fiercely
loyal and would gladly walk through hell for someone she
considered close
to her. He could attest to that trait more than anyone. She
also has a very
strong belief in justice.
Maybe those were the things that Prince Zethos saw in her.
It would be a riot to stand by and watch the two of them. It
would be a very
entertaining thing to watch.
“Stop staring at him, Rai. It’s disgusting,” Axyne interrupted
her partner’s t
houghts.
Raiha shook himself and looked at the pale-faced woman,
saw the beaming sm
ile, which was a contrast to how she’d just spoken. He smiled
back. Then,
he noticed that her hand firmly grasped Prince Zethos’ hand
that was parti
ally concealed by the covers. Her knuckles were white from
her grip and he
deduced that she was in pain.
Zethos rubbed the back of her hand soothingly with the pad
of his thumb, try
ing to take the pain away from her even a little bit with his
touch. Then, h
is eyes turned to Raiha, a silent request passed from him to
the young man b
efore his gaze returned to Axyne.
“Now,” he started. ”You see that your friend is perfectly fine,
unharmed an
d on the road to recovery compared to you. Matters with The
Order will have
to be kept on hold while you get well. Will you now listen to
me and rest?

Axyne scowled back at Zethos, although her show of
obstinacy was ruined wit
h a wince and reluctantly said, “Alright, Nurse Hatchet. I’ll
rest.” She wa
s really pale from her exertion a while ago.
“I should perhaps leave now,” Raiha said, standing up slowly
and walked lim
ping back towards the doorway. Then, he glanced back on
his shoulder and ad
ded, “Don’t try to get out of that bed until you’re completely
healed, Ax.
I’d hate to have to carry you on my back in case you faint
during a mission
.” He laughed a little after that.
Axyne glared at her partner and retorted, “Let’s see who
faints first.”
She watched Raiha leave and let out a sigh. She was now
alone with the gorg
eous man and the air around them turned a little
uncomfortable. She hesita
ted before turning her aquamarine eyes back at those
hypnotic eyes of his.
Zethos knew from the play of emotions in her face what she
was thinking wit
hout actually reading her mind. “Stop being stubborn, okay?”
His request wa
s like butter melting in a piece of toast. She had no choice
but to surrend
er.
Axyne then saw the sadness in his eyes and reached to rub
the crease forming
between his brows with the slightest of touch. “I’ll try,” she
whispered ba
ck, giving him a soft smile.
He nodded, thinking that that would be enough for the time
being as he saw he
r face softening. He felt a rush of heat searing his insides at
that sight of
her. All he really wanted to do was shower her with kisses.
She’s an admirable female, complete opposite from what
she was before but
undeniably precious to him.
The thought that she suffered a lot of wounds, scarring her
body, through ba
ttling the demon forces she was faced with made him furious
on her behalf. I
n a matter of seconds, his desire for her was replaced with
concern for her
and a protectiveness that made him silently swore to keep
her safe or die do
ing it.
She shouldn’t suffer so. If there’s a way to take the pain
she’s feeling to him
self, he would do it within the blink of an eye.
He caught her hand in his and gently placed a kiss in the
center of her palm.
Then, he leaned forward, so close that his breath fanned the
wisps of ebony
hair that came free grazing her cheeks. “Sleep now,” he
muttered against her
forehead, touching his lips and lingering to that spot before
he brushed his
lips tenderly against her skin.
That was all he could give her at the moment as his
discipline would slip a
way if he kissed her someplace else he knew would be the
start of something
he wouldn’t be able to control.
She slowly closed her eyes and immediately fell into a deep
and untroubled
sleep. Her breathing became shallow.
He watched her in her slumber, rubbing her tensed hand
that still clutched h
is. Even in her sleep, she had the urge to hold on to
someone. To him.
He loved the sensation that action brought him. It was like
fuel to his sou
l, making him feel alive than ever. If only he could nudge her
memory along
. But, he had long decided that he doesn’t need her past
memories to remind
her. She was already gradually falling in love with him.
Then, he heard a gentle woman’s voice in his head,
interrupting his time of
peace with Axyne. He silently cursed his lack of privacy. He
scowled.
“You may deny it all you like, Zethos. But you have to
understand that all I
did was because of you.”
“I don’t care for your half-hearted explanations, Athena.
You’ve interfered
more than you should have. I should never have agreed to
anything you have
to say three thousand years ago. You should have let me die
then.”
“How can you say that? Look at you now. You are with her.”
He scoffed. “Without any memory?”
“You cannot expect everything to be easy, cousin.”
Then, he tuned her out. He wanted nothing more from her.
The only thing that mattered to him was the woman who lay
in his bed, recupe
rating from the ordeal that she was not supposed to be
engaging at in the fi
rst place.
Oriel appeared by his side. “There’s trouble, Zethos,” he
whispered close.
Zethos reluctantly looked up and gazed at the seriousness in
his friend’s fa
ce. He suddenly stood up and inquired with one look.
“Harbonah is out loose.”
Zethos growled in fury, dashing from the room without
looking back at Axyn
e. Oriel followed behind him. He went straight to the armory
where a scow
ling Justice, the head blacksmith of his house, greeted him.
Justice was the only one who can act around Zethos like that,
curt and obnoxiou
s at times, not that it was deliberate. It was just that the
blacksmith was lik
e that to all people, be it the prince or a servant.
Zethos acknowledged the curt bow Justice gave him with an
inclined head. Th
en, he went straight ahead to the stacked cylindrical wall
encased with a p
rotective glass where numerous weapons were suspended in
a protein enriched
liquid. The weapons were alive, made of organic materials
and kept alive i
n that state of stasis.
He circled around and found what he was looking for.
His hand passed through the thick glass encasement and
summoned the weapon
with the will of his mind. He reached farther and the weapon
floated to his
grasp, extracting it and let his arm out with the glittering
sword from th
e encasement. He started swinging it in hacking movements,
the blade cuttin
g through the air and produced an eerie zinging sound. Then,
he held it al
oft and it passed through his wrist and into his body.
He turned his heels back to where Oriel stood watching him
and said, “I ha
ve been waiting for this moment for so long. Now, my sword
shall finish wh
at its purpose was made for.”
Oriel cannot question those words. It was hard to come
between Zethos and
his oath. He himself has a lot of rage to avenge what
happened those thous
ands of years ago.
Justice stood quietly aside, watching their liege and thought
that Prince Z
ethos was wise to choose such a weapon, a weapon made
with him as an inspir
ation, a weapon intended only for him and no one else. The
fact that it was
a living organism meant that once it was absorbed into the
body of the wie
lder, it co-depends on the host. It gathers strength and
fortified itself t
hrough the power of the handler. It was one of the reasons
why the sword wo
uld be more powerful than the one he used three thousand
years ago and was
lost.
Justice, as a blacksmith, marveled at the creations
suspended in stasis awaitin
g their rightful masters.
Zethos caught the look of admiration in the blacksmith’s
face and nodded se
riously.
“The forces are ready,” Oriel said when Zethos walked
beside him out of the
door.
Zethos nodded. “Good,” he muttered as he stormed out of
the room with enoug
h fury burning in the pit of his soul that no one could stop
him let alone
talk sense into him.
Oriel had more sense than that. He made sure that he had
assembled his tro
ops of Shadow-Stalkers before he went there to tell Zethos
about Harbonah.
There’s no more need for advice.
Thunder rumbled on the horizon, mirroring Zethos’ mood
that cascaded down
to the forces he will command with Oriel by his side.
Clement couldn’t stand being cooped up like she’s under
house arrest in he
r own home. She was fuming on her heels, unable to look
calmly at her guar
ds.
Ysem was acting much like a mother bear with Rafael doing
the same right a
fter the alarm had been raised. She was guarded like she’s a
bloody Hannib
al.
She bounded up on her feet and exclaimed, “Enough! I’m not
an invalid to be
guarded 24/7. I need to get out of here. You - ” she turned to
Ysem, her p
iercing look unwavering, “ – insult yourself by having no faith
in my abil
ity to defend myself.”
Ysem scowled at her, a first time he’d done that so far. “I
have my orders
, Clement. Not you or anyone for that matter could make me
abandon my duti
es.”
“You’re acting unreasonable!” she screamed, stomping one
foot hard on the f
loor, making the room tremble a little.
Rafael started to walk out of the living room before Clement
turned to him.
“Oh, no you won’t,” she said, halting any means of escaping
her fury.
Rafael looked sheepishly at her, twiddling his thumbs inside
the pockets of
his jacket with his head bowed low.
“You two are ganging up on me and I don’t like it,” she
continued ranting, p
acing the floors with enough anger that it was a miracle that
there’s no smo
ke coming from her heels. She stopped pacing long enough
to glare at the two
. She had the satisfaction of seeing Rafael actually turning
pale in his fee
t. She almost laughed aloud but she suppressed it. Let them
stew for all she
cared.
“If there’s one person who should be backing me up, it
should be you Raffy,
” she said, drawing a deep breath. “You’re supposed to be
my partner for cr
ying out loud,” she added.
“Even so, Clem. I’m still bound by The Order’s command.”
Ysem nodded at that.
She gave up, throwing both her hands up in the air. “Screw
you!” she scream
ed before storming out of her apartment and slamming the
door after her. Th
e hinges rattled with the force of it.
Rafael visibly cringed. She’s scary. “Do you think we should
follow her?”
“No need,” Ysem replied, shaking his head at him. “She’s
sensible enough t
o venture out. She’s probably in the shop where she’ll be
safe enough.”
Rafael nodded and turned to the kitchen where he could use
the phone to call
the office and tell the people there that he won’t be coming
to work that d
ay. After he made the call, he leaned heavily against the
counter and let ou
t a deep sigh.
Clement, still enraged at the stubbornness of those two
idiots, was bending
her frustration in the keyboard of the sound station in the
middle of the sh
op. She punched the keys like she was trying to break the
thing. She had the
wicked sense of picking up all the angry songs from the
archives and making
a new playlist that would rock the house – literally.
Disturbed’s Down With The Sickness started playing. She
turned up the vol
ume, drowning in the loudness of the music.
Her employees had the good sense of staying away from her
the moment she
appeared looking to do murder. It would be best to stay out
of radius whe
n the boss was in one of those moods.
The atmosphere around the shop was tensed. Harley’s
disappearance worsened
it. Clement was tightly wrung out when she felt something
go through her,
chills settled in her bones much like the night before.
The last note of the song ended and Papa Roach’s Last
Resort started playin
g.
She heard someone mocking her, the laughter was laced
with a malevolent tone
that made her grip her arms tighter around her. Her eyes
darted around her
but she saw not a trace of what was haunting her. She felt it
near but could
n’t guess its exact location. She visibly trembled, her eyes
widening in fea
r and her senses fully alert as she scanned the area
surrounding her over an
d over again.
“Pretty lady,” the voice said in a singsong voice, caressingly
her with enou
gh evil oozing from those words. “Play with me pretty lady . .
. You have so
mething of mine and I came to collect.”
Clement shook her head to ward it off only to hear more
laughing. “Stupid
mortal! Do you think you could stand against me? I know you
perfectly kn
ow who I am. I’ve been in hell and back to make sure that
my investment i
s safely tucked away. Your stubbornness wouldn’t save you,
woman.”
She became sick, wincing at the excruciating pain in her
stomach. “Son of a
bitch,” she muttered under her breath, clutching her
stomach tighter. She st
ruggled to breathe, panting. It hurts so much that she was
doubled over from
the pain.
“Don’t fight it, pretty lady,” the voice came again. “I always
get what I wan
t . . . one way or another. It’s inevitable, pretty lady.” Then it
began to s
ing in an obscene manner about a lady with big brown eyes.
The music was still blasting, making her unable to call for
help with her cons
tricting throat and the excruciating pain in her guts.
She felt like she’s being torn apart. She fell on her knees and
screamed at
the top of her lungs, “Help me!”
“No one can help you now.”
Then, she collapsed on the floor of the sound booth -
unconscious.
***
Twenty-Five
Zethos stood before the heavily guarded walls of Evanom,
Iblis’ stronghold
. It was the exact same spot he stood in three thousand
years ago. Now, he
wasn’t alone. A hundred of Oriel’s Shadow-Stalkers stood
behind with Orie
l beside him.
“Harbonah!” he shouted, rattling the grounds as he watched
the marids guard
ing the walls scamper inside the stronghold in fear of him.
“I killed you before!” came Iblis’ booming voice accompanied
by a thousand
shrieking laughter. “Do you want to be killed yet again?!”
“I neither need you nor like to behold your disgusting person,
Iblis. I seek
Harbonah and you will do as you are told.”
The stubborn set in his jaw brooked no questions. But,
considering that he
was addressing a shaitan, the result would be unexpected.
The demon hordes
were now appearing on all sides from the ground, slithering
like serpents w
ith their hideous faces and bat-like wings flapping
menacingly.
Iblis’ wrathful shout thundered the halls and rattled the
heavy metal doo
rs. “You dare command me in my territory?! You have no
power here! You do
not order Azazel or make demands!”
“I will dare more than that, demon!”
Facor, one of Iblis’ marid general appeared a couple of feet
from Zethos, he
avily armed and had the sullen face someone bent on doing
his master’s comma
nd. His fangs shone in the red glints of fires from the pit that
surrounded
them as he brandished his sword from the inside of his ribs,
tearing his clo
thing off into shreds.
“We face each other again, Zethos,” he hissed, his eyes
dancing with twin fi
res that shot daggers at his opponent.
“I did not come here to face you, demon,” Zethos retorted.
“Unfortunately, Harbonah is busy at the moment and you
shall have to settle o
n me,” Facor replied, floating a couple of inches from the
ground as if in fl
ight but hovered still in the same spot.
Oriel saw something disturbing in the marid general.
Something he really does
n’t wish to see in his enemy. It was the resigned look that
was different fro
m the last time he saw the marid. It was as if the demon
really doesn’t wish
to engage the celestial troops into a battle and was only
being forced to do
it.
Then the answer to his puzzlement came into his mind.
“Help me . . . “
Oriel was so baffled that he didn’t reply lest Zethos would
know that the
marid demon was communicating with him.
Facor looked directly in Oriel’s eyes for a fraction of a second
and the burn
ing embers in those fathomless eyes was that of a lost being.
Help me . . . H
e implored this time.
“Why should I help you, demon?”
“They have betrayed me and banished my brother, accusing
him of something
that he didn’t do which I have found out was just a ruse to
get my brother
out of the Netherworld for good. They dumped him in the
mortal world with
out any memories and left to wander like a beggar on the
streets. I cannot
rescue him as they have threatened to do that to me
likewise. I am now t
o serve them despite that.”
“So, you think you could switch sides now? That is not
possible.”
Was that the real reason why the marid was hesitating in
initializing the at
tack. He just stood there, grasping his sword like he was
waiting for someth
ing. Since Zethos’ purpose was to deal with Harbonah, his
friend was standin
g there just the same – waiting. Then, as an afterthought,
Oriel added, “I w
asn’t aware that a demon like you is capable of emotions
other than lust and
cruelty.”
“We are also beings.”
Oriel almost snorted aloud at that pronouncement. “That is
true. But, I don’t
trust you. In fact, I was bred to annihilate each and every
last one of you. D
o you think it’s sick to ask someone like me for help when all
I really want i
s to kill you?”
“I know about you. That is why I know you can glimpse false
from truth.”
“You are only misleading me. Your tactics had improved for
the last three t
housand years.”
Oriel sensed desperation in the marid general. “See through
me then, Potentia
te. I spoke truly.”
It doesn’t take a long time to know that Facor was indeed
telling the truth. “
Before I help you, what can I get in return?”
“You can bind me to you, to serve you for all eternity. Just
help me find my
brother and secure him. I am guessing that he knows
something that the Duke
s were afraid of letting out. My brother is after all one of
Apollyon’s gene
rals.”
Apollyon, also known as Abbadon the Destroyer and chief of
the demons of t
he seventh hierarchy, was originally one of the fallen angels
with Lucifer
that succumbed to evil and was now condemned in the lower
regions of the
abyss, awaiting for his release in the day of the Final
Judgment where he
would play a major part in as had been decreed by the
Supreme Divine. It w
as prophesied that he would be unleashed with his demon
hordes and will to
rment those that do not bear the Seal of God upon their
foreheads.
“You are taking great risks in assuming that I will help you. If
I do, what g
uarantee can I have that you won’t strike me at the first
chance you get?”
“You have the power to bind me and keep me at bay. I shall
serve you in the
utmost of my ability for the exchange of my brother’s
welfare.”
“So be it. Prove to me now that you deserve my help and
protection.”
Facor didn’t waste time. He threw his sword in the air and
eliminated half o
f his men that were directly behind him, shouting in his fury.
His sword retu
rned to him and he finished off the rest.
Oriel was impressed. There was more to say in someone who
could kill his o
wn kind for the sake of a banished brother.
Zethos was more than surprised, he was shocked at what he
was seeing. His
enemy was making mincemeat of his own army. Shaking
himself in attention
, he extended his arm and out came his sword from his wrist
and dealt the
marids close to him to their death.
Iblis’ shout thundered at the betrayal of his own general. He
descended upo
n them with more of the ghouls at his disposal and reduced
Zethos’ forces i
n half. Then, he was before Omiron’s prince once again.
Zethos, more than ready this time to face such an opponent,
engaged Iblis i
nto a fight to the death. The thought that he was there for
Harbonah was co
mpletely forgotten as the demon overlord matched his skill
like they were a
damned yin and yang.
Iblis wasn’t expecting that Zethos would be in top condition.
He was heavin
g in exertion as he deflected the blows that came down on
him. He was getti
ng tired. Then, one blow slashed his shoulder, making him
stagger on his fe
et. He countered with one of his and caught Zethos on the
leg, spewing bloo
d all over the ground.
“This ground had the taste of your blood, Arranto. It feels like
a homecomin
g.
Zethos didn’t care to reply on the demon lord’s mockery. He
was relentless.
Iblis wouldn’t be defeated in his own domain. He extracted
another sword f
rom his ribs and swung the two blades in a crisscrossing
motion that was f
ocused on Zethos’ head.
He played with his sword with a smirk glued on his hideous
face, silently
deciding that death was too good for the Arranto prince. He
would love to
keep him alive long enough to make him squirm in torture
for his arrogance
and foolhardy attempt to defeat him in his own territory. He
managed to d
isarm Zethos and blinked behind him, holding him close at
sword point.
Iblis’ blade grazed the vein on his neck, making a little jab
that let a dribb
le of blood run down his throat. Then, he shouted, “Stop this!
I have your dea
r prince in my grasp.”
Everyone stopped on their tracks and turned on Iblis’
direction.
Oriel almost rushed to his friend but was held at bay by
Facor’s hand in his
arm. He scowled at the marid general at the audacity of
touching him as he
felt the demon’s hand leave his hold on his arm.
“You cannot,” Facor whispered close. “Your friend will stop
breathing before
you get to his side.”
Oriel reluctantly acknowledged that he was right. “What do
you want, Iblis?

“Oh, the Great Oriel speaks at last,” Iblis mocked, tightening
his hold on Ze
thos. “I just want to play with your friend here,” he added.
“Release him this instant or you shall rue the day you
challenged me!”
“Brave words for someone who shouldn’t make demands at
all. I have your pr
ecious friend and I intend to keep him in exchange for
sparing your hides.

“That’s not acceptable,” Oriel retorted, itching to hack the
demon into pieces
.
“Oh, you will accept it. Or do you wish to perish with dear
Zethos here as w
ell.” Iblis couldn’t help but roar in laughter after that. He was
in command
now and he intended to have it his way.
Zethos shouted above Iblis’ laughter. “Get out of here, Oriel!
Leave while yo
u still can!”
Iblis guffawed. “Well . . . well . . . aren’t you the martyr,” he
mocked, lic
king the blood off Zethos’ throat and smelling the fear in his
captive’s body
. “I believe I shall enjoy demonstrating my power over you.”
Oriel gritted his teeth, gnashing them together in anger.
Then, he made a de
cision. “I shall come back for you, Zethos! I promised, I
would rescue you.”
Then he vanished along with his troops with Facor following
behind.
“Do that!” Iblis shouted back before he turned his attention
back at Zethos
and gripped the head with his large hand. “I shall show you
what we do to
unfortunate captives like you,” he promised.
Zethos’ look held disgust and none of the fear he formerly
felt and have Ibl
is discern a while ago. He looked at the demon lord with
disdain dripping fr
om the very pit of his soul.
He had no doubts that Oriel will rescue him. He had to buy
time for his fri
end and he would keep his end to make sure that he would
stay intact before
Oriel decided to come and get him.
“You do not know what Iblis would do to your friend. He
would be tortured so
severely that I cannot guarantee that he would be extracted
the same as he
was before, in perfect condition,” Facor tried to get in Oriel’s
mind.
He was now bound to the Potentiate like he had suggested.
No other being co
uld release him from Oriel’s side without the celestial’s
consent. He was t
rue to his word when he swore that he would serve the
celestial throughout
eternity in exchange for his brother Lerto’s safety and
security.
The prophecy foretold regarding his future by one of the dark
seers of Abig
or was beginning to unfold.
The binding changed his appearance from his former
swarthiness to almost lo
oking like an agathodaimon, pleasant-looking and almost
youthful save for h
is large built similar to that of Oriel.
His black hair had been cut short with a few strands falling
down across his
face. Although looking almost like one of the Potentiates
under Oriel, his fa
ngs were still visible when he spoke and his eyes were still
the fathomless d
ark orbs that he concealed with dark glasses at Oriel’s
advice.
Both his wrists were branded with the symbol of the House
of Bismyr where
Oriel belonged.
He also now wore a collar-like chain around his neck that
serves as another b
inding tool with Oriel’s crest in the middle of his throat,
embellished in go
ld filigree and weighs so light he cannot even feel that he
was wearing it.
He now wore a dark brown hooded robe around a complete
black ensemble that
was buttoned all the way to his chin. It was uncomfortable
but he had to
get used to it. He was now a servant of the Potentiate.
“I still have to save him. He’s essential to-” Oriel stopped
himself before
he revealed too much to his new ‘henchman’. He still does
not trust the mari
d general. He could very well be pretending and was actually
a spy sent to h
im to keep tabs on the workings of the celestial world.
Facor shook his head in exasperation. “You still meant to
gather your troops
to rescue him when you do not have a guarantee that he’s
still alive.”
Oriel knew Iblis would keep Zethos a little while longer to
amuse himself.
And knowing Zethos, he would do something short of stalling
his execution
.
Oriel needed help and he knew where he could get it. The
only problem was
keeping the marid general out of it and by his side where he
could keep an
eye on and perhaps know more of the reason why the
demon suddenly defecte
d to the other side of the pole.
It was unlike anything that had ever happened in the history
of good and evil
.
The balance had been tipped over because of the turn of
events and he couldn
’t find a way to make it right again.
Axyne felt uneasy the moment she opened her eyes from a
dreamless sleep to
see herself alone in the room with no sign of Zethos.
She’d grown accustomed to having him hovering around her
like some mothe
r goose or something. Damn these dratted feelings!
She groaned at the pounding in her head as the feeling of
dread escalated. She
couldn’t shake it. There’s a dread that settled in her heart
that she shivere
d at the terrible feeling that it concerned Zethos.
Seeing that she wouldn’t be able to answer her own
questions, she got up fro
m the bed and went out of the room barefooted. She was
unfamiliar to the maz
e of corridors and stairways that greeted her. She frowned in
confusion as
to which direction she should take. She’ll get lost in a matter
of minutes.
She stomped her foot against the carpeted floor hard and
her frown turned i
nto a full-fledged scowl.
Then, as if conjuring the man she learned was Zethos’
manservant, Diego, th
e man stood in front of her, his face a mix of anxiety and
dread.
“What happened, Diego?” she asked, couldn’t conceal the
concern in her voi
ce. She tried calming down enough to pry the fellow with her
questions.
Diego, in the verge of breaking down, said, “Prince Zethos is
taken, my lad
y. He’s being held prisoner and Master Oriel can’t think of
any way to resc
ue his highness.”
Axyne reached to grasp the man’s shoulder to anchor
herself. “When did th
is happen?”
“While you were resting, my lady.”
“I do not believe that Oriel couldn’t think of a plan,” she
countered, trying
to stay calm for Diego’s benefit. “I’m sure he’s at it at this
very moment.”
“I believe Master Oriel is not that capable of planning at the
moment, Mi
ss Axyne,” another voice interrupted them coming from the
shadowed hallwa
y.
Axyne looked at the newcomer and was bawled over by the
beauty that faced
her. She gasped for breath. “Who are you?” she asked
breathlessly, slowl
y coming into terms with the beautiful face of the woman.
“I am called Justice,” the woman said, bowing her head at
her.
Axyne was having none of that. She extended a hand to the
woman and saw th
e surprised look on that beautiful face before she shook the
offered hand.
Axyne smiled. “That’s more like it,” she said with a nod.
Justice knew that the mortal was more than worthy. She was
quickly developi
ng tender feelings for Axyne that she smiled back, warming
up inside to the
fact that Prince Zethos was blessed to have something to
look forward to i
n the form of the girl.
“Well, that settled, I want to know the facts,” Axyne said, her
voice becomi
ng business-like, calm but had the hard-edge in it that
brooked no questioni
ng until she got what she wants without forcing anyone.
That earned Axyne Justice’s eternal respect for her. “Maybe,
you’ll be more
comfortable in different clothes and meet me in the hall?
Diego will escor
t you after you change.”
Axyne looked down at herself and blushed at her bare feet
and wrinkled paja
mas. She looked shabby and vulnerable wearing something
shabby. She quickly
went back inside the room, closed the door behind her and
went straight in
to the dressing room adjacent to the bathroom. There, she
found a closet fu
ll of clothes all in her size, thinking that Zethos must have
something to
do with it. Bless him.
She dressed hurriedly and looked herself up in the full-length
mirror facing
the closet. She decided that she’ll have to do and then went
out of the roo
m to be guided by the waiting Diego towards the hall.
Justice greeted Axyne with a warm smile. Axyne thought that
she needed time t
o adjust herself to the exceptionally beautiful creature’s
presence. It was r
eally unsettling to face Justice without turning into a
bumbling idiot. No cr
eature has the right to look like her! Axyne thought.
And she’s a woman! She shouldn’t be affected as such!
Thank goodness she sti
ll has her wits about her or she’ll disgrace herself.
She wasn’t surprised that Justice wasn’t alone waiting for
her. Raiha was ther
e, seating on one of the lounge chairs scattered all over the
hall and was gri
nning at her. She returned that greeting with a smile that
reached her eyes, g
rateful that he was alright.
Sure enough, she was briefed at the situation and halfway
through the tellin
g, Justice was alerted to a summon from Oriel, the Potentiate
general. She e
xcused herself and vanished from sight before Axyne could
utter a protest.
Axyne sighed and tried contacting Ysem. But there was no
telepathic answer.
That worried her a little as her mind turned to devising a
plan to rescue Ze
thos.
She ignored her pains as she can felt Raiha’s eyes trained on
her all the ti
me. It was disconcerting, but considering that he was with
her when she beca
me unconscious, she couldn’t fault the man for being
concerned for her well
being.
Her mind was running in out of options. She hesitated from
sharing them yet
with her partner since all her plans involved her doing most
of the legwork.
She intended to carry it out and she’ll never be left out.
Kindness begets kindness. She remembered that from one of
Father Paul’s s
ermons.
First and foremost, it’s her duty to stick to the plan. She’ll go
and take Zethos
to safety or she’ll die trying.
***
Twenty-Six
It’s harder than she thought it would be. It’s a good thing
that Raiha was s
tubborn enough to make her irritated at him and made her
decide to let him c
ome along.
After receiving a go-signal from the authorities, Axyne was
adamant to be the
one to go. A little disappointed that their superiors didn’t
give her much o
f a fight and readily agreed at her request. Then, the next
thing she knew, J
ustice was fitting her with weapons in the armory.
The moment she stepped inside the large room where Justice
spends her time,
her eyes bugged at the artistry of the weapons arrayed
there. She was more
surprised to know that Justice was Zethos’ head blacksmith.
It was unchara
cteristic to have such a beautiful being appointed to have a
position reser
ved to a large brute of a male.
Chuckling at Axyne’s assumptions, Justice patiently
explained that a Lerrio
n, which she said she was, were beings that specializes in a
field and phys
ical appearances don’t hold much on the field a Lerrion
would undertake.
Justice made a couple of examples, telling Axyne that a male
cousin of hers
specializes in Horticulture, taking delight in flower
arrangements and such.
She gave Axyne a conspiratorial wink after telling her that,
indicating tha
t this male cousin was a big man and very much masculine
although in touch w
ith the tender side of nature.
Oriel reluctantly conferred to her about the plan he thought
of. She knew th
at the Potentiate only agreed on her taking on the mission
out of desperatio
n. But, desperate times calls for desperate measures and
she’s the only one
they got at the moment. The other agents are holed up in
alert with Harbonah
and his demon horde out on the loose and seeking the
gifted.
Since Evanom was highly guarded and would easily feel a
celestial’s presenc
e, it was convenient to send in an agent of The Order
instead. But, in orde
r to go there, Axyne would have to be transported there in
stealth and comm
unications would have to be cut off the moment she sets foot
in the strongh
old for her safety.
Raiha was so hard to shrug off after being notified of her
suicide mission,
saying that if she was dead-set in going there, she doesn’t
have a choice bu
t have him by her side since he was “Your bloody partner!
Put a lid on that,
Axyne. Either I go with you or you will stay here and kick
around doing not
hing.” She can’t argue anymore after that.
Now, she was silently thanking that Raiha was as stubborn
as she was and h
ave his level-headedness come in handy to help in scour the
walls.
She’s now hanging upside down a black stone tower,
approximately one hundre
d fifty feet from the ground with Raiha holding her weight at
the topmost f
or support. Since she was lighter, she’s the best and capable
one to scale
the walls and drop inside the single window that they
believed held their m
ission.
She ducked her head, peering carefully inside the dimly lit
tower room and a
lmost let out a gasp when she saw Zethos chained against
the wall, his head
lolling to the side. Seeing that there’s nobody there inside
with Zethos, sh
e tugged on the rope once to signal Raiha to lower her
steadily down.
She held on the ledge of the windowsill and stepped inside,
careful not to m
ake a noise. She unbuckled the rigging and tugged the rope
twice to let Raih
a know that she’s in.
The rope was pulled up a little for concealment. She jumped
down the windo
w on steady feet, making no noise as her eyes immediately
darted throughou
t the room, quickly scanning for any possible threat before
taking off the
belt that held her gun and some other weapons she had with
her.
She stealthily approached Zethos and her heart cringed at
the sight of him –
tortured and defeated. He was bare-chested and displayed
his skin cut and t
orn with blood dripping from the wounds. Pain drifted over
her heart as she
pulled her sweater off.
Then, she felt him stirring awake. His amber eyes rounded,
recognizing her
as she came close. She placed a finger against his lips and
pleaded with on
e look not to make a sound.
She took out a wet tissue from her pocket and wiped the
blood and grime from
his face, careful not to hurt him as a wince escaped him the
moment she tou
ched his face with the alcohol soaked tissue. She patted it
along his cuts w
ith his amber eyes half-closed and staring at her throughout
her ministratio
ns.
“What are you doing here?” he whispered brokenly.
“To rescue you, of course,” Axyne replied quietly, hushing
him up with an
other silent command. “Hold on a minute, okay?”
He nodded curtly.
She threw the dirtied tissue on the filthy ground and took out
a laser blade
from inside her gun belt. She dropped the gun belt down on
the ground while
she cut the chains from him that secured him upright against
the wall. Afte
r succeeding to free his right arm. The little strength that
remained in him
surged and he grasped her waist, plastering her against his
bare chest and
hissed, “Are you nuts? You shouldn’t be here.” The
accusation in his voice w
as unmistakable. She ignored him and freed the other arm
that was still shac
kled on the wall instead. He still held her close with one arm
around her wa
ist.
She felt a little comfort at the telltale sign that he wasn’t
that defeated after
all and still has strength left for the getaway.
Then, she looked up at him while he staggered a little to
stand upright and
tossed her sweatshirt at him. Thank god it was the biggest
one she could m
uster at the nick of time. It wouldn’t fit him otherwise. “Wear
it,” she sa
id, brooking no protests from him. Then, there was a
moment of tender sile
nce between them. She reached one hand to caress his
cheek, her eyes drawin
g his in a stare that seemed to transport them somewhere
else.
Then, she broke the silence by dropping her hand to the arm
that encircled her
still and pried it off her. She could feel his reluctance but
danger lurks an
d the sooner they were out of the place, the better.
He can smell her scent laced with the fabric of her sweater
as he put it on
and that alone brought his back, energized and his mind
racing at the possib
ility that maybe Axyne had regained her memories enough
to risk life and lim
b to rescue him.
Seeing his smile, Axyne grabbed his arm and whispered,
“This is not the tim
e to get jolly, Zee. We should get going.”
The look he gave her almost melted her defenses. Then, she
put a clamp on
it. He cupped her cheek and lovingly cradled it. “I knew
you’d come,” he w
hispered close.
“Thank me later when were safely out of here,” she briskly
replied, control
ling her emotions from getting wayward.
Her senses alert, she spun at the sound of the incoming
footsteps and quick
ly tucked her gun inside the waistband of her pants and
pulled Zethos to bl
end in with the shadows only to be grasped by vise-like
hands, brawny and f
ilthy arms from behind. Then, a shriek echoed around,
piercing and alerting
the tower guards.
What was she doing? Was she completely out of her fucking
mind? She couldn’
t be vulnerable not when full control of her senses was
essential for this
mission to be a success. She can’t afford to get sloppy, not
when Zethos wa
s beside her.
More footsteps sounded. With superhuman strength, her
adrenaline pumping
, Axyne fought with the hold on her and quickly disentangled
herself fro
m the arms holding her down. Zethos was quickly beside
her, both of them
dashing towards the open window.
The putrid air greeted them as they stopped short. Zethos
was about to hurl
down when she held an arm to stop him from falling. Then,
she saw that the
rope she used earlier was completely gone. She looked up
and saw no sign o
f Raiha or the rope.
She darted a panicked look at Zethos and he immediately
held her tight by
his side and jumped out of the window.
Down they go, hurtling like a rock in such a speed that she
could almost fe
el her spirit was being separated from her body and was
being left behind.
Though her trance, Zethos shifted his weight and said in a
commanding voice
that drifted to her. “Hold tightly, Axyne.”
It was a like a caress and she visibly shivered, closing her
eyes as she did
what he asked, wounding her arms around his waist as
tightly as possible, t
hen she closed her eyes as the ground closed in, waiting for
the impact of b
ody meeting the hard ground.
There was none.
The most she got was a little jarring as Zethos dropped on
the ground on all
fours as effortlessly as a cat with her much like a Tarsier
holding onto a
tree branch. She was snuggly attached to his side that when
she disentangled
her arms, she felt needles and pins from it. She must have
held on to him t
o tightly to make her muscles protest the sudden movement.
She grimaced.
Zethos saw it and was immediately worried. “Are you okay?”
She grunted, pounding on her arms through gritted teeth.
“I’ll be fine,” she
muttered.
He took her arms and smoothed his hands, making her arms
sizzle as if an ele
ctrical shock went through it, although less damaging. He
was really gifted
in this.
“Thank you,” she said, earning a quick brush of hand on her
cheek. It mad
e the moment most uncomfortable for her.
Gaining some semblance of control, her eyes darted from
where they once w
ere and his barely ragged breathing form.
He was shaking his head as if he knew that he rattled her
senses somewhat.
Then he grinned down at her through the darkness.
Although his face was covered with cuts and bruises, she
could still admire
him all day and never get tired. He’s like light in the dark
with his handso
me looks undiminished.
She let out a flabbergasted breath. “Cool,” she gasped out,
smiling back at h
im.
Then, they hid in the shadows, blending in like a couple of
demons themse
lves with her leading the way into God-knows-where.
After sometime, she knew they were lost with a couple of
marid troops on thei
r trail. Lord knows those creatures can smell their essence a
distance away a
nd they can’t be too careful to fall under their traps.
She was getting frustrated and very uncomfortable at
Zethos’ nearness that s
he spent most of the time gritting her teeth for control while
they were hid
ing.
His incessant cheerful manner of rubbing her in the wrong
way was quickly ge
tting on her nerves. He constantly pointed out that she
shouldn’t be there a
nd that she was still recuperating from her wounds to take
on another assign
ment. His accusations were short on telling her that she’s
stupid to be so r
eckless.
The ungrateful wretch!
Adding to her discomfort was her inability to get them out of
that mess adde
d with the constant rubbing of his delectable body against
her back, which n
early drove her into jumping on him and pass the time in
carnal pleasures ri
ght then and there.
He could also read her mind, which made her embarrassed
at her wild thought
s coupled by her uncontrollable hormones when it concerned
him. She took so
lace in her ability to be ornery at the drop of a hat, heaping
her frustrat
ion on him by engaging him in an argument, a contest of
wills that was tota
lly a welcome respite considering their situation.
So, there they were, in the darkness without a plan to get
themselves out of t
here safely.
Then, he kissed her.
She was taken by surprise at the deep, soaring kiss that
drove all her inhib
itions away. That was unexpected and deliciously wicked to
do that amidst al
l the danger they were in.
She succumbed to his power to drive her into insanity,
letting herself lose i
n that consuming kiss and those powerful arms of his that
grasped her body ag
ainst his taut muscles. Her hands itched to feel all of him, to
trail kisses
all over his handsome face.
Reality saved her from completely losing herself. She
punched him hard on
his arm the moment he released his hold on her.
The reaction was a wake-up call. She ranted at him, telling
him that he sho
uldn’t be thinking along the lines of seduction when they’re
in the middle
of a demon’s domain. She so wanted to make out with him
again but her sense
s told her to control her libido and focus on more dire
matters such as whe
re Raiha could have been.
Barely escaping from the sudden appearance of some marid
troop and Zethos
listening to the group’s conversation, panic seized Axyne at
the mention o
f Raiha’s whereabouts after threatening Zethos for keeping
that tidbit fro
m her.
Common sense told her that it’s extremely dangerous to
rescue her partner
but what could she do. Her oath didn’t include
abandonment. She was torn b
etween keeping Zethos and herself safe and rescuing her
partner.
Then, Zethos pierced her consciousness by babbling about
not losing her aga
in.
“Again?” she asked, not sure why he was suddenly feeling
agitated and almost
desperate. She was relentless in her inquiries though,
wanting to hear it a
ll. “What the hell are you talking about?”
He hesitated from spilling it all. When he saw the determined
set of her jaw
and the malevolent sparkle in her aquamarine eyes that
were bluer than gree
n right then, he knew he was defeated. He tried to coax her
out of it, telli
ng her to forget anything he might have said. But, knowing
how obstinate she
could be, he’s doomed to tell. Damn that oath.
He gradually enlightened her by asking her why she didn’t
ponder on the re
asons why she was always the one sent in most of the
dangerous missions an
d the amount of secrecy surrounding him or who he was. His
questions were
met by curious burning eyes that hurried him along. He still
hesitated in
telling her everything. But, he was defeated and there’s no
turning back n
ow.
“I have loved you since the beginning of time and would still
love you ‘till t
he end of time, wife.”
“What?!”
His confession brought more curiosity and puzzlement than
he cared to answ
er at the moment. She silently commanded him with a raised
brow to explain
everything to her without leaving anything out or he’ll catch
hell.
He did, reaching one hand to her, grazing her forehead with
his touch and tra
nsferred his thoughts of the past into her consciousness. It
was brief and le
ft her troubled.
When she opened her eyes again, they rounded for a minute
before turning in
to a furious look directed at him. “I am not your bloody
Katiana, Zethos,”
she hissed close.
“I know,” he muttered under his breath as if he just realized
that fact.
She turned deaf on him. “I am not this woman you are
referring to,” she cont
inued. “And I don’t care what you believe. This is me now
and I don’t apprec
iate being treated like the reincarnated love of your life.”
He turned his back on her and shook his bowed head. “I’m
sorry, Axyne,” he
said almost to himself. “But, before you judge me. I have to
tell you som
ething.”
She crossed her arms against her chest, not budging from
the spot and glared
at him. “I am waiting.”
He whipped around to face her with an agonized look. “It’s
hard you see, kn
owing that you’re Katiana’s reincarnation.”
I’m not Katiana! Her mind screamed those words that she
controlled from spi
lling out, afraid that the marids were close by to catch them.
They were st
anding on dangerous ground and he picked this inopportune
time to blurt tho
se things out. What a dratted wrong sense of timing!
The most she did was gave him a furious look and said
nothing. She really w
anted to scream, but knew they’ll be dead in a second if she
does that.
He heard her thoughts as clearly as if she’d shouted them.
His demeanor ch
anged at the sensible course of her thoughts and quickly
apologized. “I’m
sorry,” he whispered close. “This would have to wait for
another time. Now
, we need to get your friend out and leave this place before
we’re swarmed
with demons and can never get out - ever.”
She nodded her agreement and followed him without
speaking or even utteri
ng a single word.
Iblis’ hall was almost empty and Zethos stealthily leaped up
a ledge that o
pened to a window on the second story of the structure,
doesn’t need to kno
w if Axyne was following or not since he could sense her
anywhere she might
be.
He had such keen senses that left her in awe, marveling at
his extraordinary
ability. They were like thieves, going about in the most
dangerous place sh
e’d ever been quietly and carefully.
It’s a good sign that they’ve been able to conceal
themselves and was able to
go inside the hall without being detected.
Zethos could hear the chattering of a group of demons far
ahead. He immed
iately found where Raiha was held after listening intently at
the braggin
g demons, telling each other how pathetic humans were. He
was thankful th
at Axyne doesn’t understand what the demons were saying.
They wove their way with him leading her through the maze
of corridors in
darkness carefully, ready to take cover when demons
approach.
Her heart was hammering wildly; the sense of adventure
accelerated her heart
beat. She followed him silently, knowing that he was leading
her in the righ
t direction. She trusted his instincts. Soon, after going
through numerous h
alls and walking through stairs, they entered a dimly lit room
like some kin
d of a torture chamber.
In the middle of the room was Raiha, suspended from the
ceiling, facedown
with chains hooked at his back, holding him aloft. At first
glance, he lo
oked to be unconscious. But, when they got closer, Axyne
found knew her fr
iend was awake, struggling to breathe and too battered to
move.
She placed a hand on Raiha’s head and said, “Hang on,
partner.”
Raiha groaned in pain, obviously delirious.
Zethos inspected Raiha’s condition and knew that it wouldn’t
be possible t
o get the chains out of him since they were hooked around
his spine, the s
kin and muscles torn from his back. He was bleeding
uncontrollably and his
blood pooled down the floor where they were standing on.
Axyne looked at the worry on Zethos’ face and shook her
head in denial. “W
e’ve got to save him,” she whispered close, her voice
shaking with emotion
.
Zethos placed a hand on her shoulder with sympathy. “He
would still die even
if we get these chains out of him,” he replied. “He lost a lot
of blood alr
eady.”
Resigned to that fact, she turned her back on the sight and
left Zethos to re
lease her friend from bondage.
Zethos made quick work at it, making sure that Raiha
wouldn’t cry out in
agony as he pried the metal hooks from the man’s broken
body. If they wer
e found out, Raiha would gain two companions in that
chamber.
“Axyne,” Zethos called out in a low voice. “Help me carry
him.”
She immediately helped him haul the limp body, careful not
to jar the deep w
ounds at Raiha’s back. She could already feel her clothes
beginning to seep
with her friend’s blood. She ignored the sticky feeling as she
focused all h
er energy in carrying the lifeless body.
It was hard to maneuver with the dead weight as quick as
they wanted. Plus,
she couldn’t stomach seeing her friend in such a way. Just
holding him clo
se and feeling the lifeblood draining from him was tearing
her insides apar
t.
Zethos, sensible although his insides were equally troubled
and in turmoil, le
d the way out of the hall.
Darkness was all they saw in the passages as they struggled
with the dead w
eight of Raiha. Zethos knew that it was just a matter of time
before they w
ere found out. He also sensed Axyne’s panic amidst her
show of control.
Shouting and shrieks of alarm reverberated around Evanom.
Zethos and Axyne quickened their pace and were soon
outside Iblis’ hall a
nd blending in into the shadows. Then, Zethos laid Raiha
down with Axyne’
s help.
They have to get the hell out of there soon. “Hold on to me,”
he ordered Ax
yne.
She obeyed without a word and the moment she touched his
arm, they vanis
hed.
***
Twenty-Seven
“There’s something you have to know.” Michael’s voice came
to the distrac
ted Kylos.
Kylos became alert. It had been a grueling time since he was
taken from Ar
maros and his purpose for living had been altered without
giving him a cho
ice. He felt like he was one of those pieces in a chessboard
manipulated b
y those who held power over him.
Michael talking to him now through telepathy was a surprise.
“What is it, y
our highness?”
“Clement needs you. You should go to her.”
Alarmed, he bounded on his feet and fear settled in his
heart. “What happen
ed to her?”
“Harbonah assaulted her and took from her what was
foretold - the Diadem
that you helped release in her womb. I think you can assume
how that happ
ened. She’s now trapped in the dream world where no one
can reach her and
make her come back to the world of consciousness. Go to
her, Kylos. She
needs you.”
Then, Michael ended the connection.
Kylos didn’t waste time. He disappeared from the hall to be
with his beloved
.
It was easy to locate her as their connection to each other
became a lot stron
ger after they slept together. He could feel her calling to him.
The sight that greeted him was more than he could take. His
heart was wren
ched open at the lifeless woman illuminated by the dimmed
lights provided
by the hospital’s ICU.
Clement lay in the hospital bed with life support plugged into
her. The beep
ing and the clicking of the machines were like a requiem.
She was totally alone, vulnerable in her state of coma. He
rushed to her side
, sat on the chair next to the bed and gently held her cold
hand, rubbing the
m to warmth. “Wake up, love. Your Kylos is here,” he
whispered close to her a
s he glided one hand to caress her cheeks, trailing his fingers
over her lips
, brushing a tender kiss against her passive lips.
He saw the steady pulse on the base of her throat and
lingered his hand at t
hat spot lovingly. He took her lifeless hand to his lips and
brushed kisses
over her knuckles, wishing for her to wake up through his
kisses, his touch
and the wild beating of his heart. “You cannot die. You must
not leave me to
spend all eternity without you now that I’ve been set free
from serving the
Grigori.”
Nothing. Not even a twitch. He was devastated to find her in
that state, a wo
man full of life and now was in the brink of death.
He wasn’t sure what joke was playing on them, making her
like this. Harbonah
. . . Diadem . . . they don’t make any sense at all. Couldn’t he
have peace
and happiness he had desired all his life with the woman he
loved above all
else.
Escaping the watchful eyes of the Grigori wasn’t what he
was expecting. He h
ad gained freedom at what price? The life of his beloved? It
all seemed unfa
ir . . . unjust.
Rafael came in the room quietly, was waiting outside for
quite sometime wh
en he saw the robed man appearing inside and was huddled
close to Clement.
He doesn’t the man other than he could feel no evil vibe
emanating from h
im, but could definitely categorize him as immortal..
He watched and waited in concealment, witnessing the
devastation and the f
amiliar way he held on to Clement. Then, he finally realized
that this mus
t be the one Clement was talking about. The one whom she
mentioned she lov
ed.
What a lucky and unlucky fellow.
How could Clement fall in love with an immortal knowing
that it was against
all the rules of The Order?
Maybe there’s more to be told, but Rafael had no time to
wait for someone
to tell him. He turned the knob and silently entered the
room, careful not
to alarm the man. He stopped three feet away from the bed
and waited to b
e acknowledged.
Minutes passed before Kylos asked, “How?”
Rafael hesitated for a second and said, “We just heard her
scream for help
and saw her lying unconscious on the floor at her shop. The
music was so lo
ud and she was just there. Ysem and I heard her and came
bounding down to h
er rescue but it was too late, she was already unconscious by
the time we g
ot to her. I dialed 911 accidentally. Ysem thought it was a
wrong move, say
ing that he could just take her into Q’uen. But, I told him that
there were
a lot of witnesses and it would seem very odd to orb her out
of there.”
“Did you sense anything malevolent prior to seeing her like
that?”
“No,” Rafael answered. “Although she said that she sensed
something last nig
ht right after finishing a gig. That’s when Ysem found out
that Harbonah was
set loose and a red alert had been raised to all agents of The
Order, viewi
ng it as a threat to all thee gifted.
“I see,” Kylos said with a sigh.
After a few minute of silence, Rafael couldn’t hold on to his
curiosity an
ymore and asked, “Who are you?”
Kylos looked behind his shoulder and faced Rafael with sad
eyes that were p
iercing. “I am Kylos, a brethren of Ysem.” That was all he
said before he t
urned his gaze back at Clement.
“You love her, don’t you?”
“More than you’ll ever know,” Kylos replied.
Rafael sighed. It’s no wonder that the couple was fighting a
lost cause. It’
s pointless to have a relationship between a mortal and an
immortal. Every co
de pounded in an agent's brain was clear to point that out.
He sensed that Kylos was giving up and Rafael had the deep
urge to shake so
me sense into the man to think of something to help
Clement instead of grie
ving for her when she’d not yet dead. There’s still time to
rescue her.
Kylos rubbed his hand on his throbbing head and tried to
think of a way to
revive Clement. He’s the supernatural being. He should not
be powerless com
pared to the rest of the mortals. But he couldn’t do or think
of anything t
o save the woman he loved. His mind was turbulent, his
brain cells shutting
down one by one.
If he had known this would happen, he would have found a
way to keep her
safe sooner.
He had been kept in the dark for most of his unfortunate life.
He’d been m
anipulated by everyone he came across, trying to wield their
power over hi
m for their own sake. Now that he needed help, no one
would come and help.
It was as if he was abandoned in his time of need.
No Prince Michael . . . no Grigori. Now, he realized that he
was completely
alone save for Clement.
Feeling his depression, Rafael thundered, “Snap out of it,
man, and be a lit
tle more useful,” bringing the other man’s wrath on him.
“What do you know of being useful when you aren’t a little
bit,” Kylos retor
ted, glaring at the man.
He saw the same look in Clement eyes every time he asked
and teased her abo
ut her love life that he saw in Kylos now – the dejected look
of a hopeless
heart.
Rafael shrugged his shoulders nonchalantly; ignoring the
heated look sent
his way. “You’re mourning for someone who ain’t dead yet.
Are all you peop
le like this up there?”
“I don’t believe I understand you, Rafael Valencia.”
Rafael stared at Kylos with mouth hanging open. He was
surprised that the
man knew him even without telling him his name.
Kylos looked a little amused. “Just because you haven’t given
me your name
doesn’t mean that I don’t know you. I know everything about
you, what too
thpaste you use of what you do first thing in the morning. I
wouldn’t have
left my beloved in the care of a stranger, now would I?”
Shaking his head, Rafael asked, “Then, why did you leave
her in my care? Ju
st curious.”
“I trust you.”
Rafael nodded, showing nonchalance at the compliment.
Kylos turned back at Clement and a thought entered his
mind. “I could get in
side her consciousness but it would take a great deal of time.
I haven’t don
e it before.”
“There’s no harm in trying, right?”
Kylos shook his head, and held Clement’s head between his
hands. He leaned
down to touch his forehead against hers and concentrated
on the task. He ne
eded to get to her before it’s too late. Piercing one’s
consciousness was d
angerous and none of his kind had attempted to do that
before. Maybe he’ll
be successful. No, he needed to be successful.
Rafael watched with avid eyes, silently praying for divine
intervention.
Kylos felt her shaking and could sense her pain. He held
tightly and implore
d, “Don’t die on me yet, my love. The fight is not yet over.
You need to han
g in there longer.”
She struggled, grimacing in pain. Rafael was about to come
closer when Kyl
os ordered, “Don’t come closer.”
“But, she’s in pain,” Rafael replied, worry in his voice.
“I’ll try to take the pain away,” Kylos said. “Just stay where
you are,” he
added, and then whispered close to Clement, “I’m here now,
my love. Everythi
ng’s going to be alright.”
But, she didn’t hear him.
***
Twenty-Eight
He yearned and yearned for something he could hold on to .
. . something th
at would make him feel alive again.
His was a bleak life held by lies, deceit and mystery. He tried
to live a normal
life, but that wasn’t his destiny.
’Alexis!’ He heard his mother calling him in the core of his
memory. It was
such a joyous sound . . . a sound that he would not hear ever
again.
He missed her. She was all bright and peaceful. Her face was
like being
made out of joy. Her every smile was a wealth of calmness.
Even the memo
ry of her calmed him somehow. His brother was much
stronger than him. Mi
sha always knew what to do.
Then, he heard a sound . . . footsteps coming from the
shadows. He turned h
is attention to that sound and saw a lone figure emerging
from the dark spa
ce from behind him. He waited, sitting on a large rock with
arms crossed ov
er his chest.
Her face held a look of fear and disorientation, and his heart
called out to
her. But, a nagging truth entered his mind. “What are you
doing here?” he a
sked, wary of the intrusion. “You’re not supposed to be
here,” he added accu
singly.
He was staring into the barren pools of water surrounding
them, rippling w
ith a sudden wind whipping around like a whisper. His gaze
darkened when s
he continued to be silent.
It’s impossible for her to be there. This was supposed to be
his world, his
to inhabit in peace and contemplation. She’s not supposed
to be there with h
im.
She looked lost as she darted her glance around, wondering
aloud. “Where
is here anyway?”
An extremely tall man with long ash blonde hair stood up
from a large rock
he was sitting on and started coming towards her. His look
was shrewd and c
alculated, as he floated to where she stood, barefooted.
He stopped a couple of feet from her, still floating a few
inches from the w
et ground and leaned close, his face a mask of curiosity that
burned at her
face. “This is my dream . . . my world. You are not supposed
to share this
dream with me without my consent. “
His voice gentled compared to his early outburst. And the
eyes that looked
at her now were sorrowful gray depths that told more than
he was saying.
“Your dream? How can I possibly be here?” she asked,
looking around.
He shook his head. “I have no idea. But, whoever you are,
you should leave h
ere. It’s extremely dangerous for you to be here.” Then,
straining his head,
he heard a distant call from a distance . . . someone calling
for her.
No one calls for him as far as he knew. It must be for her.
“Can’t you hear
that?” he asked. Then, he looked back at her. “Someone is
calling you.”
She shook her head. She heard nothing. “Who are you?” she
asked, looking
him up and down.
He floated closer, just a hair’s breath away. “I am Alexis,” he
said with en
ough pride in his voice. ”Who are you?”
“Clement,” she answered, seemingly feeling comfortable
with him for no rea
son. She could feel that he’s not immortal. He’s human like
her. But, how
was it possible that they could be sharing the same dream?
Her thoughts mirrored his.
“You are burdened, Clement,” he interrupted her thoughts.
“Maybe that’s th
e reason why you are here. Or is there something that made
you or forced y
ou to be here?”
It was wishful thinking in his part. Maybe his brother Misha
sent this wom
an to take him back and he was needed, not that he could
help anyway. He v
iewed himself more like a burden to his brother.
“Maybe. I am not really sure.” She dropped down on her
knees, her back hunc
hed over, not caring that she was getting wet just by doing
that. Then, she
sobbed, burying her face in her hands.
Her tears tugged at his heart as he sank beside her, rubbing
her back in com
forting strokes, and produced a handkerchief out of nothing.
“Here. Use this
.”
She thanked him with inaudible words before she burst into
tears again, bury
ing her face in her hands with the piece of cloth getting
drenched with her
tears that she was unable to control.
“I’m sorry,” she apologized, blowing her nose with the damp
cloth. “I bare
ly know you and here I am, crying like a lunatic. You must
think that I’m c
razy or something.”
“It’s alright to cry when you are burdened. Sometimes it
helps to release so
me of the tension inside you.”
She snorted. “The problem is, when I start, I can’t get to
stop,” she said, hi
ccupping and trying to make some semblance of sensibility
to her current state
of distress.
He laughed. “Then don’t.”
“That easy, huh?”
He nodded. Then he turned serious again after seeing her
calming down. “Li
ke what I’ve mentioned, you’re not supposed to be here,
Clement. It’s simp
ly impossible.”
“And yet, here I am,” she said with a sigh. Her tears spent,
she gave a weak
smile at the kind man comforting her. His eyes mirrored hers
in many ways,
feeling like she found a kindred spirit in him. “I think I am
dead, Alexis,”
she blurted out.
He shook his head at her. “That’s not possible. I don’t think
that I can com
mune with the dead - yet,” he said teasingly, coaxing her to
smile more.
“If I’m not dead, then, what must have happened?”
“Either you’re dreaming in your sleep or your consciousness
had left the ph
ysical plane,” he explained, standing up and reached out one
hand to help h
er up.
She grasped the strong hand and was amazed that she
didn’t notice how tall
he was before and limber. He’s also handsome.
“Where do you want to go, Clement?”
She hesitated for a moment before she beamed up a smile
at him. “I always
loved to go to the beach. Somewhere where there are white
sands everywhere
. Maybe somewhere in the Caribbean. Perhaps Bahamas or
Jamaica. That would
be the ultimate vacation, ever,” she said wistfully. “Is that
possible?”
she asked as an afterthought.
He just smiled at her. Then, in the blink of an eye, they were
transported into
her idea of the perfect beach.
She gasped aloud and whooped in laughter, running and
twirling around the
sands under the soothing heat of the sun. “This is
wonderful!” she exclaim
ed. “How did you do it?”
“It’s a dream. Anything is possible here. But beware not to
get attached or
even get comfortable or else you will be trapped here and
can never go back.

Just like me.
His words stopped her. She darted a glance at his somber
face and read betw
een the lines. “Like you did?”
“Mine’s by choice, Clement. I was not forced to retreat here.”
She went back to his side and touched his arm. “Why did you
choose this?”
“I have nothing left in the physical plane,” he said without a
trace of emoti
on. “Here, I could have peace where I can’t before.”
“It seems that you are burdened as well, Alexis.”
“It seems so.”
The graveness in him was slowly rubbing in on her. But, she
wouldn’t let it
. They’re in an absolutely gorgeous beach and she intended
to make use of t
his opportunity. How many people like her would get a
chance on spending no
thing for a vacation that could cost thousands of dollars for
just a brief
moment of pleasure before the credit card people starts to
harass you for y
our expenses?
She tugged his shirt to get his attention; giving him a casual
wink and a te
asing smile tugging at the corners of her mouth. She
wouldn’t let anyone fee
l less than who they were around her. “Then, let’s help each
other cope with
our burden,” she proposed. She inhaled the salty air and
sighed. “The sun i
s shining and the water looked so inviting, don’t you think?”
He looked at the glittering water and nodded. “I guess it
won’t hurt to try it.

They swam, washing away the trouble in their hearts and
souls. But, Alexis
knew that the joy of her company was just temporary. He
could still hear so
meone calling her from the distance although she couldn’t.
Sooner or later,
he would be left there all alone again.
“What are you thinking?”
Alexis glanced at her. He noted her preferred bathing suit; a
two-piece bathi
ng suit in a shade of pink that showcased her well-toned
arms and long legs.
There’s strength in every curve of her body. She’s looked
athletic . . . sexy
.
Maybe she’s a figment of his subconscious mind.
“Well?” she insisted with a tilted head and a quirked brow.
Alexis inwardly shook himself. “Are you a gazer, a seer or
anything that re
sembled one?”
Clement saw the worry in his eyes. She slowly went to him
and gazed up. “I d
on’t think that I am a fortune-teller, if that’s what you’re
getting at,” sh
e answered with a broad smile.
He smiled. “You don’t look like a fortune-teller,” he agreed.
“Yeah. I don’t even know how to palm-read. The only thing
close enough abou
t the occult that I got was the Horoscope,” she said, laughing
at his atten
tive face. “But, I do have visions,” she added.
“So, you are a seer . . . a visionary,” he stated with a curt
nod, his face full o
f hope.
She became thoughtful at that look and knew what was
going on inside his he
ad. His emotions were all running amok, telling her without
words that he w
as lonely. She became silent for a while and then let out a
deep sigh. “I’m
complicated,” she replied, letting him know that she’s not
comfortable in
telling him all about her yet.
He acquiesced.
The real reason behind his hopeful inquiry was to find a
kindred spirit in
her. Such gifts were a burden on its own and he had been
carrying it since
he was born. He somehow felt that she was the same with
him.
Clement felt his emotions and wanted to tell him all, but her
cautious natur
e was enabling her to do so. Even if he seemed like a decent
guy, there’s no
telling if he was from her side or the other side. She had to
be careful as
Ysem’s words reverberated in her mind.
Evil takes all forms. Beware.
Suddenly, she felt something sinister coming. She shivered
as their surround
ings changed together with her clothing.
Shadows swirled, forming all around them. She instinctively
clutched Alexi
s’ hand in hers tightly. “What’s happening?” she whispered
close.
“I don’t know,” he replied, protecting her by holding her tight
against his
body as he roamed his eyes around them.
His arms came around her shoulders, now decently covered
in a dark wool mil
itary-inspired jacket that fell slightly below her hips belted at
her waist
and wool trousers that matched. He, on the other hand, had
his former clot
hes, dry and unwrinkled.
Then they heard the laughing.
Clement tensed against his side, adjusting her eyes to the
darkness that was
quickly enveloping them.
“Whoever you are, show yourself,” Alexis commanded.
“Brave words for a common mortal,” came the sneering
reply. “The woman
knows me very well even without seeing me.”
“I don’t know you,” Clement countered, shouting and gritting
her teeth to r
emain calm.
“Sure you do. I am the one who’s going to kill you.”
Then, a bare-chested being came forward from the darkness,
tanned skin wit
h a malicious smile hovering on his fanged mouth. His eyes
were yellow and
glinted malevolently at them, daring them to a challenge.
Alexis tightened his hold on Clement and gasped out,
“Demon.”
“Not just an ordinary demon, boy. I am Harbonah and I came
to finish what I
’ve started.”
Kylos felt her in trouble. He tried to reach her but it seemed
too impossibl
e to communicate with her. He tried every means to connect
but she cannot he
ar his call.
Every possible tactic he could come up with failed. He tried
going through
someone in her consciousness before he was rudely shut
down.
He tried harder, smoothing her brow with his fingers and
closed his eyes tig
htly to concentrate more.
She began convulsing then, thrashing and wriggling from his
hold on her.
“Please, Clement. Open your eyes,” he whispered, begging.
Rafael stood there watching; helpless as he saw Kylos try
hard to bring her
back.
Kylos resumed in attempting to get to her, an impossible feat
considering n
one of kind had done such a thing before. He was doing so
now out of desper
ation.
Rafael tried to turn his head to the side, clenching his fists at
his sides.
Then, he saw Kylos nose bleeding. He rushed to the Sadrin’s
side and dabbed o
n a tissue to blot the blood from his nose. He didn’t know
that immortals lik
e him bleed.
Trying not to disturb Kylos, Rafael stepped back when the
bleeding stoppe
d and then, he suddenly watched Kylos fall unconscious over
Clement. He w
as in a panic.
He knew he was supposed to call the nurses or the doctor
but they won’t be
of any help to neither Kylos nor Clement. No medical
expertise could help
them now.
He tried shaking Kylos, but the man won’t budge. Then, he
hauled the body f
rom Clement and staggered at the dead weight but not
before he felt the eve
n breathing of the Sadrin and the steady rise and fall of its
chest. He loo
ked at the two prone body lying side by side in the narrow
hospital bed and
knew that Kylos had entered inside Clement’s consciousness.
He just wished
Kylos would be in time to rescue her, to bring her back.
He started praying again. Please . . . please . . . let them be
alright. He c
hanted the words again and again silently, wishing that he
could do something
more than stand there and wait.
“Finish what you’ve started?” Clement asked tauntingly, not
afraid anymore
as she shrugged Alexis’ hold on her and faced the demon
squarely.
Harbonah chuckled. “It’s so refreshing to face a mortal
woman such as yours
elf,” he taunted.
Alexis fisted his hands on his sides and said, “You’re not
supposed to be he
re, demon.”
Harbonah’s full attention focused on Alexis. He noted the
handsomeness of
the mortal and became enamored of him, sensing something
mysterious about
the boy that thrilled him. He floated closer, hovering near
the mortal man
and trailed one finger across the mortal’s right cheek. “Such
a fine spec
imen for a mortal. Although I do not appreciate the tone of
your voice nor
your question, boy.” Then, he put enough distance between
them glowering
with his yellow eyes glinting. “You do not have the authority
to tell me w
here I should or should not be.”
The moment of close proximity disarmed Alexis of his
defenses as numbness
came over him. Then, when the demon was away and he
had regained the full
control of his senses, he glared. “This is my world . . . my
dream. I am t
he authority here.”
“I don’t think so,” Harbonah disagreed, tsking at him and
crossing his arms
against his bare chest. “Such arrogance, I could almost taste
it,” he croone
d, darting his tongue out like licking an ice cream and made
disgusting nois
es in the back of his throat before turning back on Clement.
“You, pretty lady, needed to be taught a lesson.”
“I don’t care for your lessons, Harbonah.”
“Oh, but you do. You see, I safeguarded my treasure in your
genes and when
I came to get it, you won’t let me. Now, that’s rude.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Clement retorted,
clenching and unc
lenching her fists, gritting her teeth for control over her
rising temper.
Harbonah, temporarily bewildered, gave her a slow smile. “I
get it,” he quip
ped. “They’ve neglected to tell you that I’ve imbedded the
Diadem in your bl
oodline and put a little spell on it that would enable be to
retrieve it one
day when the time is right. Only I could get it from you, you
see. The spel
l I put was to have it in dormant state until the seed of an
immortal would
awaken it and would eventually release me from Lucifer’s
bondage. Pretty cle
ver, huh?”
Clement’s frustration tripled, not grasping a single word the
demon was say
ing. All she heard were riddles and confusion. She couldn’t
distinguish fac
t from lies anymore. If what the demon was telling were true,
how come none
of the higher being had the foresight in telling her everything
that conce
rned her – her whole life?
If she would take the demon’s words as fact, then, she’s
nothing more tha
n a pawn in something devised ages ago. Her whole life had
been one damn
plan to have power.
Harbonah grinned when he sensed that he was getting into
her, finally. “Hav
en’t you wondered why you are alone, pretty lady? Once a
direct female desc
endant reached the age of thirteen, the girl is destined to be
alone to car
ry the coveted Diadem,” he explained. “That was one of the
most intriguing
part of the spell, you know. It’s for safeguarding. The spell is
also desig
ned to make you tough enough to carry it.”
She remembered then what it was like before the accident . .
. her mother an
d father. They were happy . . . content . . . complete. There
was so much lo
ve in their little piece of heaven that the tragedy was a
major setback for
her. She wanted her family back!
The loneliness after the accident almost rendered her insane.
She became dea
d inside and unable to go on living. Then, she discovered her
unwanted gift
and the way she tried to block the images, to shut it off that
nearly drove
her into a mental institution. If not for her being ‘the heiress’,
she would
probably have a permanent residence in some remote
sanitarium.
All the things that happened to her in the past suddenly
made a little bit of se
nse although it’s still painful to recall the grief and the
devastation.
Alexis, confused, reached for her arm. “You don’t know what
he was talking
about, do you?” he tentatively asked.
“No,” she answered without glancing at him.
“No one’s supposed to know,” Harbonah said, clearly
listening attentively.
“It’s a secret,” he added in a hiss. “Now, your purpose will be
complete wh
en you’re dead.”
Clement was not quit prepared to defend herself when a bolt
of energy struc
k her across the chest, hurling her a couple of feet from
where she stood.
She landed on her back, sprawling.
Alexis tried to help her, but Harbonah outstretched his hand
and held him pa
ralyzed.
Harbonah grinned at Clement. “You should have died when
you lost consciousn
ess. Could have saved me the trouble of locating you. You
picked a fine pla
ne to hide in. You have no idea how hard it was to go inside
this particula
r ‘dream’, haven’t you?” he asked, didn’t even wait for her to
say somethin
g. “I should have guessed that you’ll hide in a gazer’s
dream.”
Alexis, hearing the demon’s words was surprised. He tried to
conceal his tr
ue self from anyone, yet, this demon had known all along.
“Wretched creature,” Clement hissed, standing up on her
feet and staggered a
little before controlling her wobbly legs.
“I’ve been called worse,” Harbonah replied, laughing aloud
and sending ano
ther energy blast in her direction. He watched her fall hard
on the ground
facedown that delighted him, he smiled. He almost rubbed
his hands togeth
er.
“Clement!” Alexis shouted, using all his will to move,
concentrating in con
trolling his own body again. He accomplished that and
hurriedly ran to her
side, shielding her from Harbonah’s attacks. “You’ll have to
go through me
first,” he challenged the demon, his face set in a scowl.
“Oh, I’m scared,” Harbonah hissed, making a little
exaggerated shiver, pokin
g fun at Alexis’ bravado as he dealt the man energy blasts
after another.
Smoke fanned around them as Alexis choked out blood,
doubling over in pain
. He would stand his ground no matter what. No one could
get inside his do
main and treat him like this.
“Go away, Alexis,” Clement muttered behind him, struggling
to get up. “Go
now before you’re killed.”
“No,” he stubbornly replied. “I will protect you.”
“You can’t, boy,” Harbonah answered for her, shaking his
head mockingly at Al
exis. “No one can protect her now. It’s is her fate. So, step
aside and let m
e finish it. I promise I’ll spare your hide.”
Alexis gritted his teeth, stubbornly shaking his head in
defiance.
Harbonah toyed with an energy ball on his fist and cradled it
lovingly, mock
ing them second after second as he held some suspense in
the air, prolonging
their anxiety. “Step aside, boy or I’ll definitely kill you,” he
warned hal
f-heartedly.
“No.” The stubborn look Alexis gave the demon was searing
and unwaverin
g.
Clement could feel that Alexis was dead-set in protecting
her. Too dead-set i
n fact that left no doubts that he was willing to die for her.
But, she made
up her mind. She’s not having any of that.
Resigned, Harbonah replied, “Suit yourself,” and hurled the
energy ball dire
ctly at them and eagerly waited for the fireworks to come.
Clement, with all the willpower left in her, muster enough
strength to reac
h for Alexis arm, shove him away hard and placed her body
in front of him,
shielding him at the very last moment.
The energy ball struck, collapsing the alternate world into
nothingness.
“Noooo!!!” the shout coming from someone who came just
in time to see ev
erything.
***
Twenty-Nine
Her convulsions stopped. There wasn’t any pulse.
Kylos came out choking. Suddenly alert, he turned to the
side with widened
eyes and saw Clement’s body. Trembling, he bounded on his
feet and grabbed
her close, feeling neither a heartbeat nor a pulse. He
couldn’t hear anythi
ng, not a single beat.
The sound of the flat line on the monitors echoed around the
room as nurse
s and doctors rushed in, disentangling Kylos’ hold on
Clement’s body.
He was swept aside, unblinking and in total shock. He was
too late. Too late
.
Rafael held him back from the rushing medical staff,
clutching his shoulder
s from the stampeding medical people. He had witnessed it
all, saw everythi
ng like a bystander and was left blaming and cursing himself
for being help
less – completely helpless.
Kylos struggled against the agent’s hold, willing his fears
weren’t coming
true. He shook his head at what was happening. This wasn’t
supposed to be.
He wanted nothing more than to see her smile at him again
or tease him and
kiss him and make love with him . . . stay with him forever.
Then the events following this tragedy replayed in his mind.
He got though to the dream, saw Harbonah wielding a large
energy ball and h
urled it in the direction of a strange blonde man shielding
Clement when sh
e leaped up and took the shot on her own. His shout was the
only thing he l
ast heard as he was thrown back in reality.
She sacrificed herself to save another.
“Kylos.”
Someone called him through his mind. He ignored it as his
face was a mask
of pain and sorrow.
“Kylos.”
“No. “
He wanted nothing more to do with those who made
Clement this way. He shoo
k his head, trying to block them from his head. They had
abandoned them in
this great need for help and protection. Now, Clement’s
death will be in
their conscience. If they have a conscience.
“Kylos . . . please!”
He remained silent . . . unresponsive, watching the doctors
and nurses stopp
ed reviving his beloved.
“Noooo!” Kylos shouted, running at Clement side and shook
her furiously
. “Damn it! Wake up! Wake up!”
“Sir. You have to leave us to take care of her now,” a male
nurse interrupte
d him, trying to bodily remove him from the patient.
“Don’t touch me!” he shouted at the nurse with a
threatening glare.
The nurse stepped back and Kylos returned to grasp
Clement’s lifeless body
against his, rocking her in his embrace and whispering soft
words against h
er unhearing ears.
For all the world to see, Kylos looked like a lunatic.
Rafael stormed out of the room, angry at what had become
of his partner. He
cried out Ysem’s name through telepathy, cursing and
ranting in behalf of
the pain he witnessed the room. No one should have to go
through like that.
Then, he heard a far away thunder, Kylos voice echoing
inside in an inhuman
tone of voice as the occupants of the room suddenly burst
out with pale fa
ces masked in horror as they scampered out with their
rounded eyes and fear
written all over their faces.
Rafael dashed inside the room only to find it completely
empty.
No Kylos or Clement.
Fear and sorrow was the only thing left inside that room.
Rafael stared at nothingness, shouting for someone to come
and rescue him
from going crazy himself.
They would be safe there. No one would find them nor dare
to interfere in the
ir lives ever again.
She felt so cold.
He wrapped his arms around her lifeless body, willing her to
live for him.
The only word comprehensible that came out of his mouth
was ‘Please’. But,
no amount of pleas could make it alright again. He needed
more than the o
uter shell that was Clement. He needed her vibrancy, her
smile and her lov
e.
“Kylos.”
He wouldn’t answer. He wanted nothing more from them.
What good have they
done to him? Yes, he discovered love for the first time
because he was a S
adrin, but that was all he got for a benefit.
He wanted her back. But, they wouldn’t grant him that wish.
He was just a se
rvant after all, a chess piece in the board game, nothing
else.
There’s too much that happened. Too much had changed.
His origins held hap
piness for him and Clement. And the price he got was losing
the one person
that made sense in his pathetic existence.
“Clement, my love. Here . . . you shall be safe and would live
forever with
me.”
Chasan attempted to talk him out of his plan. “She’s gone,
Kylos. There’s not
hing more to do but accept that. It is her fate.”
“No. It is not her fate. I will not accept that explanation.” He
stubbornly
replied and closed his eyes to ward any more of those half-
baked sympathet
ic gestures and words of comfort. There won’t be any words
that could bring
her back whole again.
He created their abode in a single thought somewhere in the
astral plane tha
t would be a sanctuary to them both. He carefully laid her
down in the middl
e of a soft mattress upon a canopied bed. He sat down next
to her lifeless b
ody, marveling at her ethereal beauty that will be preserved.
“It’s time to take her back to her people, Kylos. She needed
to be buried and
blessed.’
Kylos closed his eyes, shaking his head. “I am the only one
she needs.”
“That’s not true, Kylos. Her friends also grieve for her. Allow
them to griev
e for her. Bring her back with the mortals.”
Chasan’s words were true, but Kylos refused to let her go.
There must be a
way to bring her back. He refused to give up.
“She sacrificed herself for good, Kylos. Even as you stay
beside her, her sou
l’s traveling to the Halls of Spirits. There’s no way to bring
her back.”
“What made you think that?” He buried his face in the crook
of her shoulder
and inhaled the familiar lavender scent. “There’s no more for
me to do now
that she’s gone. What’s the purpose of living without the half
of me?”
“Fight for the good of all things. I know that would be her
wish.”
Kylos shook his head and a bitter laugh escaped him. “I have
no more reaso
n to fight when she’s already gone.”
“Then fight like what she would do if she was still alive.
Continue her deter
mination to fight for the good in her world.”
Kylos remained completely still, unwavering. He tuned the
kuriote out of hi
s mind and spent his time beside Clement with no care for
time.
He stared at her with lonely tears falling down his cheek. It
dropped down
on her lifeless hand. He rubbed his thumb on her hand,
caressing it, hold
ing it delicately. “Why did you come into my life only to leave
me behind
for all eternity? We were supposed to be together. We were
supposed to be
happy. I was willing to exchange my immortality to be with
you. What shoul
d I do now?”
Answers eluded him as he continued to look at her empty
body, willing her
eyes to open up and gaze at him with love he knew was only
for him.
Then, with the last of his strength, he enveloped them in a
barrier, suspend
ing time around them.
Rafael had about enough of this interrogation. He was
questioned again and
again and his answers still remained the same. What else do
they want fro
m him? The complete truth? They can’t handle the truth.
Anyway, he had no
desire to be locked up in a padded room wearing a straight-
jacket.
“Are you sure you have nothing else to say, Mr. Valencia?”
Rafael glared up at the police officer. “I told you everything I
know. Why
can’t you just release me so I could find my friend? What
more do you need
to hear from me?”
Detective Henry Burns shook his head and tucked his hands
inside his trouse
r pockets as he circled around the detention room, ignoring
the two police
guards inside the room with him and Rafael Valencia. He also
ignored the gl
aring man. He intended to get answers one way or another
without resulting
to any violence since he wasn’t a violent man. “I have to
advise you agains
t that, sir. We are doing everything we could to locate the
body of Ms. Pop
e.”
“Apparently, you’re not doing all that you can,” Rafael
countered, his glare
intensifying. “Your advice means nothing to me, detective.
So, if you don’t
mind, I have more important things to do other than play to
your tune.” His
sarcastic tone carried an amount of vexation and worry.
Detective Burns knew exactly what those feelings were as he
had been through
that time and again for the past decade of being a Homicide
Investigator. T
he most perplexing thing was, the present case wasn’t a
homicide. They’re ap
parently dealing with a body thief. And according to the
hospital staff atte
nding the said patient, the thief vanished out of thin air.
He’s not a mystical believer. His mantra was he’ll only
believe it when he se
es it and if it was highly documented as truth, then he won’t
contest it.
Not in this case.
He knew Rafael Valencia pretty well. A self-made millionaire
from New York
who transferred to New Orleans a couple of months back.
The man has a cle
an record aside from some parking tickets, just minor ones.
But, he could
sense something foul in this investigation. Rafael Valencia
certainly know
s something and was trying his best to conceal it from
everyone involved i
ncluding him.
Clement Pope’s body should be located or there will be a lot
of explaining
to do. If he’ll concede with this man’s words that he wasn’t
acquainted wit
h the suspect, then, the case would be a lost one. Miss
Pope’s body would n
ever be found.
“If you’re through detaining me and keeping me here, I’d
better leave,” Raf
ael said, biting his tongue from saying some nasty words.
Sighing aloud, Detective Burns conceded defeat but with a
backup plan on h
is sleeve. He’ll have a round the clock surveillance of Mr.
Valencia and h
e would make sure that he would solve the mystery behind
the disappearance
of Clement Pope’s body.
He loved solving mysteries anyway.
“You may go, Mr. Valencia. But, the moment we find out that
you have some
thing to do with the disappearance of Ms. Pope, we shall see
you back in
here and behind bars.”
Rafael didn’t like being threatened by anyone, even if that
someone has a l
oaded weapon strapped on either side of his upper torso. He
stood up on his
full height and glowered at the officer. “You do that and my
lawyers will
beat down on your doors, Detective Burns,” he said in
parting, threatening
back, and stormed out of the interrogation room.
Detective Burns was left inside the room and took his walkie-
talkie to mak
e his men move with his orders the moment Rafael was out
of sight.
Rafael was really pissed off as he marched to his Jag and
drove off. Then,
Ysem graciously appeared on the seat beside him. “What
took you so long?”
he demanded, almost shouting.
“There’s too much going on that I can’t expose myself to all
those people.”
Rafael darted a look at him and stepped on the gas, taking
the sharp turn
in a daze, making Ysem grab hold onto something. He
grinned wickedly. “Y
ou probably know what happened.”
Ysem nodded. “Kylos took Clement’s body out of grief. He
cannot be talked
out of it.”
“I’m sure you guys are an effective talker,” Rafael
commented snidely. He l
et out a deep breath. “If you immortals knew what that man
was going throug
h, you’ll understand why he did it and refrain from being a
know-it-all and
stop hounding him. He just lost someone he loved and
believe me when I say
that it broke him into pieces being there and did everything
he could only
to find out that his efforts were all for nothing.”
“Do you think we’re that heartless not to feel his pain? He’s
one of my bret
hren, we all share his sorrow,” Ysem raged, holding on tight
as Rafael took
a sharp turn again.
“You don’t have to convince me, Ysem. It is he whom you
should worry about
now. All I need to do is keep the authorities out of my trail
and stop De
tective Burns from delving into something not meant for him
to find out.”
“So, you feel something coming?”
Rafael nodded. “This detective isn’t a quitter, I’ve guessed
that much. Don’t
you know I’ve been detained in that police station like some
damn criminal f
or three hours? I’d sooner bet that he would do anything to
get to the real d
eal and that spells trouble for everyone. Better keep the
others notified. If
I fail to wriggle out of this mess, prepare them for an
eventuality of expos
ure.”
Ysem became thoughtful for a moment, seeming to have a
private conversati
on with the others. “There are measures that can be done,
Rafael. The Gri
gori will make sure that nothing would expose our world.”
“Sure, bring them all into this,” he said sarcastically, then,
he sighed. “I’
m not a big fan of them at the moment, so, why don’t you
tell the big boss to
lie-lo for a while. I need to shake off Detective Burns from my
trail,” he s
aid, laughing a little at that. “Even as we speak now, I can
feel that he had
me followed and had my car bugged.”
Rafael knew before he was released that Burns was going to
have him follow
ed. He can’t guarantee that the detective would come
empty-handed. He had
a strange feeling when he saw the determination in those
weary blue eyes t
hat stared back at him before he left the precinct.
Although he looked older, Detective Burns was around his
age and had lots
of energy to spare in tracking down something not meant for
him to know. N
or any mortal for that matter.
Ysem read Rafael’s mind and placed a comforting hand on
the latter’s shoulde
r. “I trust you,” he said, bringing the agent to glare back at
him.
“Of course you do,” Rafael replied. “How else would I
become an agent of T
he Order if you do not trust me?”
They reached his place in the Garden District with its palatial
dimensions an
d splendid architecture. Rafael hit the breaks in the driveway
directly in fr
ont of the double doors. “Tell Gadreel that he owes me big
time for this,” he
said before Ysem disappeared out of sight.
He sighed, turning the engine off and slamming his fist
against the stirring w
heel. Then, he leaned his head on his hands that grasped the
steering wheel in
frustration, closing his eyes as he let out a deep breath.
This was one hell of a mess.
***
Thirty
Axyne wanted to run. But where?
There wasn’t any place she could go, nowhere she’ll be safe.
Seeing Zethos
in the light brought back everything that happened back in
Evanom and the t
hings he said . . . the kiss they shared. She almost lost him.
He almost di
ed and it didn’t bear thinking what might have happened if
she wasn’t her u
sual stubborn self and went ahead with her rescue mission.
Seeing him made
her uncomfortable and perplexed.
Now that they were safely back in Argonea, she felt clueless.
She doesn’t k
now how to react.
It was a good thing that she was kept busy by Raiha’s side or
else she’ll e
mbarrass herself more than she already was. The excuse of
being with her pa
rtner was a good alibi although whenever she saw Zethos
roaming around, she
get the feeling that he was trying to convey something to
her
Raiha, on the other hand, was struggling with his life and his
wounds were
extensive that even Tonka, the Lerrion healer, can’t do
anything to save hi
m after patching him up. They need a miracle to make her
partner come out o
f this ordeal arrive. She couldn’t fathom the thought of him
dying, not whe
n he came to mean more to her than just a ‘somebody’.
Besides, there would
be hell to pay if his family found out what happened to him.
from the stori
es she remembered him telling, there was a sister in Japan
that would raise
hell if something happened to him. And Axyne wouldn’t want
to be the one t
o break the news to that fearsome sister.
Almost at wits end, she even threatened the good doctor of
bodily harm if Ra
iha dies. Tonka vehemently told her that although his kind
are deemed to be
the best in their craft, they couldn’t possibly cure a man’s
spirit. And the
re lies the dilemma. Raiha’s spirit was damaged beyond
repair. Tonka said th
at Raiha’s lifeline was waning and there seemed to be no
drive from within h
er friend to go on living.
At that bitter epiphany, Axyne almost run her sword through
the good docto
r. It was a surprise to realize that Tonka was more than
capable to defend
himself and fight her, something that she wasn’t expecting
since she assu
med that he wasn’t war-trained from his occupation and his
gentle ways. Bo
y was she wrong!
Tonka might be gentle in speaking and in ministering the
wounded, but the
re was nothing gentle about the way he held her arm and
glared at her tho
ugh her tears when he felt her compulsion to run him
through with her swo
rd for telling her the truth. He was an empath among other
things anyway.
reminding her that doing him in wouldn’t make Raiha as
good as new in a
no-nonsense tone of voice, he somehow got through her.
“Do you think that you’re the first to threaten my life by
running me throu
gh with your weapon?” He snorted. “Oriel and Zethos have
done that countles
s of times and I’ve been trained to fight long before mankind
learned how t
o forge metal. So, instead of pouring your energy at the
anger of it all, b
e strong for your friend and help him realize that there
something here to
come back to.”
Tonka made a rationale advice that made her let go of her
defenses and sob a
gainst his chest. He rubbed her back comfortingly and said,
“There’s nothing
wrong in crying, Axyne. Sometimes, it is best to just let it
pour out and t
hen you’ll feel even slightly better afterwards.”
She nodded and that was the start of a good friendship
between them.
Zethos, being badly wounded himself, never left her side
even if she deliber
ately ignored his presence.
He could sense that she was infuriated with him. He took it
all in a stride
and stayed there anyway, a couple of distance from her but
still near enough
to hear her breathing and feel her hopelessness. He would
force her to endu
re him and his presence.
Then, sensing that all her hostile glances won’t do the work,
she spoke with
out turning her head at him. “What are you still doing there?
I don’t want y
ou here.”
Zethos snorted.
She whipped around to see his poker face and rage
consumed her. She had eve
ry reason to be angry at him. If she wanted to be loved by
someone like him
, it’s not on the fact that she was a reincarnated love of his
life. She wa
nted to be loved for what she was now, not for the past.
He could read her thoughts and he looked away in shame.
“You don’t get it, do you? I am not Katiana, Prince Zethos,”
she said harshl
y, enunciating every word to take effect.
He stood up on his feet and walked directly in front of her
sitting form. “Y
ou have to understand what agony I have been through for
the past three thou
sand years.”
She looked up at him and wasn’t the least bit intimidated.
Her face change
d dramatically, sympathy etched in her eyes. “I can only
imagine,” she mut
tered. “Nevertheless, you have to stop treating me like
you’re my long los
t Romeo or something. I can’t allow myself to fall under a
trap of somethi
ng that happened even before my ancestors were born.”
He slowly crouched down so he could be on eye level with
her. He reached a
hand to touch her face but she deflected it. He sighed, his
hand dropping d
own on his side. “I’m sorry to burden you with the truth. It
was insensitiv
e of me.”
“You meant to keep it from me, then? Until when, Zethos?
Until your frie
nds tell you to go ahead and make poor Axyne know
everything?”
“You were going to remember it eventually. But, I was rash
and couldn’t wai
t for so long.”
She became silent, not looking at the sadness in his face.
She turned away
from him and crossed her arms against her chest. “Maybe
it’s a good thing t
o know now so I could stay away from all of you.”
He grasped her arm painfully and shook her. “You’re not
going to leave me a
gain,” he hissed. ”You want me to court you, don’t you? I will
do that. I w
ould do anything for you. Why can’t you just open your heart
to the possibi
lity that I don’t care anymore. I don’t care that you’re
Katiana anymore!”
She pried his hold on her shoulder, slapping it away when he
wouldn’t budge.
Then, she started pinching. Still, he won’t take off his hands
from her.
She could feel exasperation from him as well as a trace of
amusement. She at
tempted to bite his hand then.
Finally, he let go.
She poked his chest with a finger, seeing him wince as she
accidentally p
oked one of his wounds. She grimaced. But, her momentary
contriteness was
replaced by a bout of renewed anger as his words echoed in
her head. “Co
urt me? Are you serious? I don’t want anything from you!”
Realizing that she was shouting, she lowered her head and
said in a hushed
voice. “The past will always hound you, Zethos. Even if you
attempt to win
my affections, the thought of Katiana would always be with
you,” she said,
looking up at him and continued while she pointed at his
chest, “in your he
art.”
“What if I proved you wrong? What if I prove that it’s you I
love and not
the memory of Katiana?”
She shook her head. “I . . . I don’t think that’s possible,
Zethos. In your m
ind, you see your dead wife whenever you look at me. It will
only come betwee
n us. So, please leave me alone and get on with your life. It’s
pointless, yo
u see.”
He took both her hands in his, trapping them there close to
his beating hear
t and implored her with his amber eyes shining, solely
trained in her face.
“I’m afraid I cannot accommodate you in that request,
Axyne.”
She snatched her hands from his grasp and stood up, looking
down on his still
crouching form. “Do I have to spell it out for you, Zethos?”
she asked, seet
hing in controlled anger at his inability to see reason. “I don’t
want you,”
she added in a hiss.
“You lie. You’ve wanted me the first moment you looked at
me. Even withou
t the memory of Katiana, you desired me as I have desired
you. I don’t ca
re if you don’t remember the past.”
She scoffed. “Yeah, right. Next thing you know, you’ll be
professing your u
ndying love for me. Like I would believe that.”
“You’re a hardheaded woman,” he stated as he stood up on
his full height and
stepped closer to her, backing her up against the paneled
wall. He trapped
her there with his arms on either side of her rigid arms.
“I’ve heard a finer description that that,” she retorted. She
could smell the
freshness of his breath and the clean scent of his cologne.
She focused her
attention on the tic that formed on the side of his face. She
wanted to reach
a hand and smooth it off. But, she wouldn’t dare, not when
she was still see
thing from his stubbornness. And here she thought she was
the obstinate one.
“You have to take my word this time, woman!”
She raised an eyebrow at his tone. “Oh, so you are putting it
that way, huh?
Exacting a little brute force won’t get you into my pants,
buddy.” Then, as a
n afterthought, she asked, “Is that what this is all about?”
He smirked. “If that’s my intention, I would have done it by
now and we wo
n’t be having this conversation anymore.” He brushed his
hands through his
hair in frustration. “Can’t you show a little compassion for a
wounded ma
n?”
A smile tugged at the corners of her mouth against her
better judgment. Ho
w could she keep up her seriousness when the most
delectable being she’d e
ver come across with corners her?
Those enticing lips urged him to trail his tongue and taste
her sweetness, t
he same sweetness he sampled before.
He stilled his hunger for her and returned his hand beside
her head, putting i
t too close for him to feel her raven locks brushing against
his knuckles.
“If you’re a man, that is.”
“I am more a man than you could ever think of, Axyne,” he
said a little har
sher than what he intended. When he saw her look of
disbelief, he added, “W
as that hard to believe?”
“It depends on your definition of a man, Prince Zethos,” she
said.
He let out an exasperated sigh. “You have to believe what
I’ve said. I don’t
care if you remember or not. I’ve been attracted to you the
moment I saw yo
u.”
She smiled back at him sarcastically. “But, you see, Zethos. I
don’t believe
a damn bit of what you said or that mojo you just did to
make me understand
because to tell you frankly, I don’t give a damn. So, forget
about the cour
ting thing ‘cause I don’t want to have anything to do with
you or your damn
past life. I am the present and if you can’t get past that, I
believe there’
s nothing more to say. Even if you shout your affections for
me, I won’t bel
ieve you ‘cause I can feel your thoughts and they are still
hung up on Katiana.”
He couldn’t say anything that would counter every word she
just said.
Having said her peace, she shoved away from him and went
out of the room t
o get some fresh air.
Zethos was left clenching and unclenching his fists. Even
though he wanted
to block her words, what she’d said rang true. Katiana would
always be a pa
rt of him. But, the truth was, Axyne more than made him
realize that she wa
s more to be loved than the past.
She’s right to be angry. She’s the present, that was clear
enough, and no a
mount of power could make him travel back in time and
prevent the catastrop
he that happened with Katiana and him. He also accepted
that she wouldn’t h
ave him unless he’d made it clear to himself that she’s the
one he wanted a
nd not the past.
He was a fool to make someone like Axyne believe what he
was saying when
he’d just dumped the truth about her past life – about
Katiana and what h
appened three thousand years ago. Now, he understood why
Oriel and the ot
hers advised him to stay away from her until she regained
her memories.
But, was that coming or was it just something they said to
make him wait th
is long?
He called Oriel and Athena.
The two simultaneously appeared.
Athena darted a glance at the unconscious Raiha and her
eyes became sad. “H
e’s dying,” she said, her heart constricting at the unpleasant
feeling that
death hang around the room.
She’s been monitoring this mortal from the moment he was
born and held him
in regard. It was a pity she couldn’t keep him.
After being in the service of The Grigori, Raiha was among
those mortal sou
ls that would be un-claimable. After dying, he would travel in
the outer pl
anes where the House of the Spirits lie and awaited the
Supreme Divine’s fi
nal purpose for them.
She glanced back at her cousin and saw that Oriel was
solemn as well. She
missed the Potentiate very much that she wanted to wrap
her arms around hi
m. But, that was unlikely to happen. Even without trying, she
knew that Or
iel doesn’t like her even a bit. She doesn’t know why.
Oriel felt Athena’s scorching look directed at him. He
pointedly ignored he
r and asked Zethos, “Why did you call us?”
“Is there anything you wished to tell me?” Zethos asked
back.
Confused, Oriel shook his head and then whipped his
attention on the femal
e outcast. “You’ve kept something,” he accused.
Athena, unable to bear the heated looks, turned her back on
them and slowly
sat beside Raiha. “I don’t know what you’re implying, Oriel.”
Oriel fisted his hand. “You deliberately lie, outcast! You think
your game wo
uldn’t be found out? Spill it!”
Athena cringed. Then, she let out a deep sigh. “Alright, I’ll
tell.” She gath
ered a little courage before facing them while sitting on the
bed. “Axyne’s m
emory as Katiana wouldn’t resurface, ever. It’s one of the
glitches in the re
incarnating part, you know.”
How could he be so stupid? Granted, he knew nothing about
reincarnation. He
was too focused on his duties and responsibilities as the heir
of Omiron tha
t he never took the time to know about other things aside
from guarding the
passages. He should be knowledgeable about these things.
But instead, he’s b
een stupid . . . a first class idiot.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” Zethos quietly asked, dejected
that he wasn’t inf
ormed about it and eventually made a fool of himself in front
Axyne. He wan
ted to blame someone. It was convenient to do that to
Athena. But, he was n
ot faultless himself.
Oriel was enraged. He couldn’t understand. It’s possible to
reincarnate s
omeone with the past memories. What happened to
Katiana’s memories? “You
messed up,” he said, realizing what happened. “You and
Hela messed up, d
idn’t you?” He let out a bitter laugh.
Athena glared at the Potentiate. “It’s nothing to laugh about,
Oriel.”
Sobering up, Oriel pinned him with a gimlet look. “You knew
all along and
you didn’t even bother to have the decency of telling us? Are
you really t
hat spiteful, Athena? You have caused endless misery! And
at the expense o
f your own kin!”
Athena was hurt, ashamed with the gravity those words had
made her realize.
He was right. She deliberately kept that to herself for a little
amusement
. Being immortal was getting a tad boring. But, three
thousand years of kee
ping the truth would cost her much.
Oriel was steaming as he paced the floor and gave Athena a
disappointing l
ook every once in awhile.
Zethos sank down on the edge of the bed and buried his face
in his hands,
unable to form a single thought as what was revealed made
him more and mor
e devastated. If he’d known, he would have done a different
approach or he
’d never allow himself to fall in love again.
That’s it!
He did fall in love with Axyne. He fell in love with her not
because she was
Katiana’s reincarnation but because it was her.
He fell in love with her determination, her sense of loyalty
and justice, he
r stubbornness to not give up even in dire circumstances,
and her ability to
make him burn for her. Being Katiana’s reincarnation only
made him stick ar
ound by her side and see those qualities in her.
Axyne was the one he wanted.
He bounded to his feet and went out of the room without
another word, leav
ing Oriel and Athena staring at his retreating back
dumbfounded. He had to
plan everything.
He once read something about absence making the heart go
fonder. That’s the
first thing in his agenda.
Oriel stiffened when he was left in the room with the
unconscious agent and
Athena. He has absolutely no idea what came over his friend
to rush out like
that.
He had no intentions of engaging Athena into a conversation,
afraid that he
might say more hurtful things. He knew he hurt her
somehow with his accusa
tions. He couldn’t help it when it was the truth. He needed to
tell her to
let her know that even an immortal can be capable of
committing foolishness
and mistakes.
They’re not perfect. He can personally attest to that.
Athena was completely uncomfortable to be left alone with
Oriel. He dominat
ed the very air she breathes. It was an uncommon
occurrence for someone lik
e her . . . the goddess of war, to be humbled into silence by a
shito. Not
even Michael has this effect on her. What was it about Oriel
that chafes he
r in the wrong way?
She wanted to lash out to him and make him see that it was
an honest mistake.
She didn’t intend for it to hurt anyone. But, she did exactly
that. She hurt
her cousin pretty bad, and she would atone for her folly
sooner than Oriel c
ould think.
Oriel tried to leave.
“Please say something,” Athena halted him.
Oriel turned to her and scowled darkly. “What do you want
me to say that I
haven’t said already?”
She looked away, ashamed to face his radiance. “I am
sorry,” she said.
“It’s too late for that now. Besides, you don’t owe me any
apologies.”
She snapped her head to look at him, her gray eyes dimming
with tears poolin
g, and said, “But I do.” A tear rolled down her cheek without
her knowing. I
t was the first time that she’s shed a tear in the presence of
another and t
hat embarrassed her more.
He shook his head at her, reading her thoughts and took pity
on her. “You
care more on appearances, I see,” he muttered. “Don’t you
get tired of pre
tending, Athena? You’ve caused your own cousin a great deal
of pain and yo
u sit there and ask for forgiveness from me when you should
be apologizing
to Zethos. He’s the one you owe your apologies to.”
“How can you stay so calm, Oriel? Don’t you have a heart?”
Oriel glowered at her. “I have and it solely belongs to God,”
he answered a
s his great wings enveloped him and vanished from sight.
Athena was left on her own, her face buried in her hands as
she cried her hear
t out at Oriel’s heartless reply.
How can she compete with someone such as God . . . the
Supreme Divine?
It was pointless. She calmed down and wiped the tears from
her eyes and sn
iffed. She looked at Raiha and wondered what he would do if
he’s been in h
er place.
The answer was clear.
She’s doomed to be alone.
***
Thirty-One
Axyne walked through the maze of tombstones at midnight.
She was to mee
t someone she missed so much.
The graveyard was silent, eerily so that she welcomed it with
the cool air wh
ipping her hair around her as she kept a sedate pace to her
destination.
She stopped in front of a familiar tombstone with an epitaph
saying:
HERE RESTS
RAIHA KIRISAWA
Born: June 30, 1977
Died: February 14, 2005
BELOVED BROTHER
DEAR FRIEND AND PARTNER
A VALIANT AGENT OF GOODNESS.
She lovingly traced the engraved marble stone. “Hello,
buddy.”
His funeral was as brief as the time she spent with him. She
was the only on
e who grieved for him the most as she found out that his
parents were both d
ead and his sister was living in Japan. There was no address
she could find
to locate his sister.
She partly blamed herself for his death. If she’d been a little
more stubbo
rn, he wouldn’t have come with her. Maybe, she should have
knocked him down
and therefore be alive today and not lying six feet under.
“Life must go on,” Araqiel said when he singled her out after
the funeral.
His eyes bore the look of someone weary of the world, of the
battle between
good and evil.
“Raiha’s death will only signal the beginning of yours,
Axyne,” Araqiel wh
ispered close, hugging her and giving her comfort.
“Remember that you have
the most important duty of keeping the world safe as what
Raiha would hav
e done if he’s still alive.”
Those were the last words she heard before she secluded
herself from every
one, including Zethos.
It was obvious that he came there to offer sympathy and
condolences, and ma
ybe try to talk to her once more.
She deliberately avoided him and kept herself away from
him. She doesn’t hav
e the time or the energy to talk to him. What she’d said back
in his home wa
s final. It was the truth and it would be best to sever all ties
before anyo
ne gets more hurt.
Zethos understood her. It saddened him though that she
would make him feel
more miserable as he already was. She was shutting him out
and he couldn’
t fault her for doing that. He would do the same if he were in
her shoes.
“Do you think I’m being unreasonable, Rai?” she asked,
crouching down to l
ay the flowers she brought above the cold marble. “I miss
you and I miss h
im as well. But, I can’t take him in when he’s very much
hung up with his
old girlfriend.”
She rubbed her forehead and let out a deep breath. “I’m so
stupid, you kno
w. I should have seen it coming. He wouldn’t have fallen in
love with some
one like me. He’s a prince. He’s handsome and he’s
immortal. We’re not sui
ted to each other.”
It had been two months after the funeral. It was also the last
time she saw Ze
thos.
After acting the fool, she resumed her duties and became a
lone agent much
to the disapproval of both Asad and Araqiel. She stood her
ground and stubb
ornly insisted that she could do without a partner.
The truth was, she couldn’t bear to lose another one in her
expense. She migh
t not be able to recover from it.
The good thing about an agent was being refurbished with
everything; hom
e, wheels, cash and gadgets. She doesn’t worry much about
money and wher
e to sleep anymore.
Some people would be happy in that arrangement. She was
not.
She took everything in a stride. She completed her missions
on time and she
stalked the night to slay demons as her work.
“I know what you’re going to tell if given the chance. I’m an
idiot and a lose
r.” She laughed a little after that and then sobered long
enough to glance up
in the star-filled sky, grinning at the twinkling stars that
fascinated her lo
ng before she had developed her gift.
I am a loser and he’s now gone from my life like what I’ve
told him to do.
Then, how come I feel so damn miserable?
She mentally shook herself, glanced back at Raiha’s tomb,
and straightened
up. “I should have made my life easier by becoming a nun,”
she muttered, bl
ew a kiss and left the cemetery.
Duty calls as she sensed evil coming from a nearby alleyway.
Her pace quic
kened as she grasped her weapon inside her coat.
What she didn’t expect was to find Zethos engaged in a fight
with a couple of
ifrits.
She watched him. He seemed to hold his own and was
actually having fun. Sh
e leaned against the wall and waited for him, smiling as he
did her job.
He was precise, making mincemeat of the demons. It was
impressive.
She stilled her heart from racing so fast just by watching
those muscles flex
with every movement he made. After all the months that had
passed, he could
still affect her in this way. It must be stopped.
After a moment, all demons were disintegrated, reduced to
nothingness. Plea
sed with himself, he looked up, pinned her with a longing
look before givin
g her a solemn smile. “What took you so long?” he asked,
closing in on her
while he adjust his coat and dusted his hands. He stopped
just a foot or tw
o away from her, waiting for her response.
She swallowed hard. His very presence made her tingly and
jittery. She couldn
’t help but feel excited in seeing him again this close that
she could see hi
s amber eyes glinting seductively at her.
It’s impossible to forget him. It was simply a matter of logic.
He could be
anywhere and everywhere if he wanted to. He could even
visit her dreams. W
ell, he had been in countless of times that she was beginning
to think that
she was seriously obsessed with this creature . . . this man.
“I was visi
ting someone,” she whispered, glad that her voice sounded
calm and there wa
s no trace of the nervousness she was feeling at the
moment.
“A boyfriend?”
“Something like that,” she replied, glimpsing jealousy in
those amber eyes.
“What are you doing here?”
He noted the agitation in her eyes and the way she was
wringing her hands
. It was obvious that he was making her uncomfortable. He
doesn’t care th
ough. He wanted her to feel uncomfortable. He had been for
many torturous
months.
“Having a little exercise,” he answered nonchalantly, dusting
off a speck fr
om his black coat without leaving his penetrating look from
her face.
He missed her so much that all he wanted to do was crush
her into him and ki
ss her blind, and make love to her right then and there.
“That’s some kind of exercise,” she commented, nodding at
the direction h
e had been to. “You want to do more?”
If she knew what kind of exercise he really wanted now,
she’ll be running
away from him without a second glance. He took another
step closer, bringi
ng him a foot away from her.
She could almost feel the heat from his body and she
shivered at what her mi
nd was telling her to do. She gripped her hands tightly
together to get her
to quit being tempted. He was so temptingly good that she
couldn’t take her
eyes off of him.
“I missed you, Axyne,” he whispered close. He searched her
face for somethin
g to relish in. Then, he saw a spark, a subtle spark in the
depths of her ey
es. “I’ve told you before that I will prove myself. I am ready,
Axyne. I’ll
prove to you that I am in love with you not with the memory
of Katiana.”
“I don’t know, Zethos. It seems hard to believe that right
now.”
“Then, that will be my greatest challenge yet.”
Conceding defeat, Axyne smiled. “You’re on,” she said. “So,
are you ready
to have more exercise.”
He grinned. “Yeah.”
They walked side by side, spending the night scouring the
alleyways and the
streets hunting for stray demons.
It was fun to be with someone she felt safe with. She felt
more and more att
uned to him as he fought by her side and they ate and talk
and exchanged ide
as.
That happened every night after that.
He made her laugh with stories of his peeping days. He
made her thoughtful
of stories about seeing people drown in the deceit of evil. He
made her tha
nk God for being alive every time they were together.
She talked about her days in the orphanage and how she
contemplated becomi
ng a nun. That was the one time she saw how horrified he
was at that thoug
ht. She could almost hear his grateful thoughts that it didn’t
happen. She
almost laughed at that.
She talked to him about anything and everything. She
mentioned her relatio
nship with Father Paul, the priest who was like a father to
her, how he ta
ught her everything about endurance and perseverance in
the name of God. S
he missed him so much.
There’s nothing not to like about Zethos. He was easy to talk
to although th
ere were times she wanted to pull his hair for being stubborn
in some topics
of discussion. Sometimes his ideas clashed with hers, but
still, it was enj
oyable to bandy wits with him. She supposed that was
normal.
She saw him as someone she wouldn’t get bored or tire with.
He gave her subtle glances every once in awhile that burned
with desire, fan
ning her own in the process. But, the most he did so far was
give her a kiss
on the cheek or hand. He tried not to linger either when he
was at it. All
in all, he was a complete gentleman, leaving her frustrated
after every chan
ce meeting with him.
By the eighteenth time they were together, she was the one
wishing he’d st
op being a gentleman.
She was becoming bothered by his superhuman control to
withstand their clos
eness. He had every opportunity to take her but he didn’t.
She began to hav
e unwarranted fantasies whenever they were together. She
itched to reach fo
r his head and kiss the hell out of him for good measure. She
wanted him to
sweep her off her feet and just do it.
Then, one night, while they were patrolling, her control
snapped. She reach
ed for his arm to stop him from walking. He turned to her
and gave her a qu
estioning look, and waited for her to speak up.
She focused her gaze on his chin, gathered enough courage,
and let out a de
ep breath. “What’s going on, Zethos?” she asked quietly.
He shook his head, puzzled. “I don’t know what you mean.”
She turned her head to the side, avoiding his intense look,
and asked, “Why
can’t I get you out of my system?”
He tipped her chin to look up at him and saw the uncertainty
in her eyes, an
d said, “I don’t have all the answers, Axyne.”
“I know I should have. But, I can’t think straight when it
concerns you or
whenever I’m near you.”
He knew what she was getting at. He was driving her crazy.
He was aware of
that every time she gave him one of those hot looks
unawares, boiling his
blood and making him think of lurid thoughts like getting her
naked in th
e middle of the street and making love to her with complete
abandon. Oh, h
ow he wanted to do that since he saw her again after months
of mind-wracki
ng absence. He wanted to tell her how he felt every time he
thought of her
and how painful it was to stay away from her. She knew the
answer deep in
her subconscious, but she had to realize it all by herself.
“Have you eve
r been in love?”
“I don’t believe I had,” she answered forlornly. “But that is
not the point,”
she stated, her aquamarine eyes gleaming defiance. “I am a
sensible person,
Zee. I should be able to sort things out in perspective. We’re
not meant to b
e.”
“Are you worried because you’re mortal and I am not?” He
didn’t wait for he
r to answer. “Those are inconsequential things that can
easily be remedied.
I am not divine, Axyne. I am more like a mortal in a sense.
You and I are
meant to be. It doesn’t matter what time we are in or that
you are Katiana
’s reincarnation. I love you . . . only you. Do you love me?”
He was so direct that she became still and rigid. He patiently
waited. But,
as the silence became overbearing, he became irritated with
her for just bei
ng stubborn. “Tell me,” he said, shaking her. “Tell me, Axyne.
Do you love m
e?”
How can she lie in front of the one man who can make her
heart thump wild
ly and without much effort?
The man surely was confident that he’d hear the answer he
wanted. He was so
sure of himself that she can’t keep a straight face given the
circumstance
s. Oh how she wanted to glue her body to his and kiss his
delectable mouth.
“Yes,“ she said, and immediately let out a whoop as Zethos
snatched her in
his arms and twirled her around while showering kisses all
over her face an
d neck.
They were drawing a crowd but they didn’t care. Zethos’
exuberant laughter e
choed in her ear as she gripped his shoulders and leaned
close to whisper in
his ear. “Is this what happy feels like?”
He stopped twirling her and slid her body down to stand
snugly against to
him. He hooked his arms around her waist and nudged her
chin to look up at
him. “This is but a prelude of happiness, Axyne.”
She loved hearing him say her name. She smiled and trailed
a hand across hi
s cheek. “I love you,” she said with enough emotion that
tears welled in he
r eyes.
“You’re not going to cry, are you? Think of your reputation.”
He was teasing her and her usual reaction would be to punch
him in the arm f
or baiting her. Not this time.
He was left breathless when she framed his face with her
hands and leaned on
tiptoes, bringing her lips to his, kissing him with all the
passion of a wo
man in love.
He had but a sample of her kiss in Evanom and was totally
thunderstruck wha
t a good kisser she was when she was the aggressor.
Probably did an intense
training in that area as well. That thought didn’t sit well with
him.
She felt his emotions and she tugged his hair to stop
thinking and participa
te or else she would kick him. That thought made him smile
against her lips.
Definitely. This was just a prelude to their happiness.
Nibbling on her lips, Zethos suggested, “Your place is one
block away. What
do you say I stay over and continue this there?”
“The most perfect suggestion I’ve ever heard,” she replied,
then laughed as
he dragged her in along in a run.
By the time they’re in front of her flat, she was out of breath
and he was stil
l grinning at her like an idiot, his hands all over her body. She
reached up an
d trailed her finger at his straight nose and placed a chaste
kiss at the tip.
“The key,” he muttered close.
Bewildered, she replied, “huh?”
He repeated, “The key.”
“In my pocket,” she said, not making a move to get it
herself.
He skimmed his hand inside her jean pockets, lingering at it
that drew a gr
oan from her. Anchoring her with an arm that encircled her
waist while she
continued nuzzling his neck, he inserted the key and got
them inside. He ha
d to drag her along.
“I was just wondering,” she whispered, looking at him. “You
don’t need a ke
y to get in.”
He wiggled his brows, telling her that he knew where her
house keys were a
nd he was teasing her. She laughed.
They were tearing at each other’s clothes and never got to
her bedroom.
There in the carpeted floor of the corridor, a few steps away
from the door
of her bedroom, they sprawled, kissing and caressing until
she was so fired
up and bothered. It was wild.
He shook from his need and when he completely lost control
of himself and bu
ried himself in her, he was surprised to feel the protective
membrane breaki
ng upon his thrust. Her eyes rounded at the realization that
she was still u
ntouched in a world where it wasn’t normal to still be a virgin
at that age.
It was a wonder that left him amazed that he haven’t known
about it since h
e’d been watching her almost all her life. Maybe he wasn’t
that interested i
n her intimate affairs before. Thinking about it, he never saw
her being int
imate with any man before . . . before him.
She knew what was going on inside his head and she
struggled with the mom
entary discomfort before tugging his earlobe with her teeth
and whispered
, “Stop thinking now.”
Pulling up to glance at her face, he stroked her cheek and
leaned down to kis
s her deeply.
She lost herself as he moved in the rhythm as old as time.
He was gentle an
d she loved him more for that. She knew he was expecting
someone experience
d in this kind of thing, but he was getting her nonetheless.
The moment she felt she couldn’t stand it anymore, she
shouted her orgasm wi
th his last powerful thrust that sent them both in ecstasy.
It was a first experience she will never forget.
The aftermath was more heart-soaringly sweet that was
making her all mushy.
He carried her inside her room and gently laid her down the
bed, then, he
cuddled beside her. He was the one cuddling, not the other
way around, plac
ing chaste kisses at her bare flesh every chance he got.
“How come you’ve stayed a virgin until now?” he asked
between kisses.
“You tell me,” she replied. When she got a nip for that, telling
her that th
at wasn’t a sufficient answer, she laughed. “Okay, it wasn’t
that I’m an ice
queen or something. I was just contemplating becoming a
nun before trouble
started for me. I guess I never got the chance of
experiencing it after that
. If you remember, I was raised in an orphanage run by
nuns.”
He nodded. “Maybe, your chastity stems from your longing
for me?”
“Oooh . . . is that male ego I’m sensing from you?” she
taunted.
“No,” he replied. “Just pure wishful thinking.”
She frowned. “Don’t get that started again, Zethos,” she
warned pushing aw
ay from him and sitting up.
He did likewise, facing her. “Get what started?” he asked,
puzzled.
She stared straight at him, gauging his reaction, and saw
that it was genuine
and he wasn’t going to start talking about his old girlfriend
again. She sig
hed and went back into his arms, loving the way his skin felt
next to her as
his arms went around her.
“Marry me,” he proposed.
She tilted her head to look at him and said, “No.”
His eyes rounded. “No? Why not?”
She shook her head. “Because it’s too soon. What can I say,
I’m a traditional
kid. I would have to be sure that I’m willing to tie myself to a
man for th
e remainder of my life before trying the knot.”
“And you are not certain about me?” he asked with
indignation that made he
r cringe. “Do I have to prove myself to you more?”
“No more proving something, Zee. I just want time.”
“You’re the most obstinate woman I’ve met!” he flustered.
She lunged at him when he tried to leave. She ended up
sprawled all over hi
s chest. “Okay, I’ll concede and agree to an engagement
period.”
Still glaring at her, he muttered, “How long?”
“Humm . . . six months will do.”
They were married after a month.
And it had been one hell of excruciating wait for both bride
and groom.
***
Epilogue
Bismyr had opened its doors for Oriel’s return.
They call out to him, his kindred, rejoicing at the prospect of
his return. Yet,
he still lingered. He still has work to do.
Zethos had found contentment at last in a new life he’s
building with his sou
lmate at last. After many lifetimes of struggles and strife, it
finally came
through for Zethos and Oriel can’t be happier for his friend. It
was past due
that Zethos be rewarded for all the pain he had suffered
through time. Axyne
was not Katiana, but she was more than worthy of Zethos’
love. She still had
the fire of a Taliantii inside of her that couldn’t be diminished
even if sh
e were to be reincarnated again and again.
“Your grace,” came a voice that appeared with a bluish-white
light flashing i
n the hall. Oriel turned and beckoned a hand, glad for the
interruption as he
just finished a troubling telepathic conference with Verchiel,
his superior.
Justice kneeled in front of him, bowing her head in
reverence, before straig
htening. She really was a remarkably beautiful being inside
and out. “Your g
race, you called for me?”
Oriel nodded, giving her a sincere small smile. “I know you
are aware of th
e marid in my hall?”
Justice couldn’t help but cringe. She had fought many
centuries against the
demon threats and now, learning that there was a demon
residing in that ve
ry hall, made her itch to exact vengeance committed by the
foul creatures a
gainst her people. She nodded stiffly. “Yes, your grace, I’ve
heard.”
Oriel can sense her reticence. He rose up from his seat and
took slow steps
near her. When he was but a few feet away, he said. “This
marid is differe
nt, Justice. Soon, you will know what I mean.”
“Begging your pardon, your grace, but I would be lying if I
didn’t say what
I truly feel about your arrangement with the demon.”
“You’re a sensible person, my child. Surely, you will
understand that there a
re certain actions tat defeats logic at times. Yes, Facor was a
demon general
under Iblis, but he’s also going to be an asset for our cause.”
“Trying to know the mechanisms of the underworld’s military
stratagems is a
risk that I advise you not to take, if you don’t mind me
saying.”
Oriel grunted. “Those words are expected from you, but I
also advise that th
ere are some things that are hidden from us that need to be
explored.”
“And one of those things is that demon?”
Oriel gave her a pointed look. “What do you think?” he asked
in return.
Justice let out a deep breath. “I have complete faith in you,
Master Oriel,
and I will cooperate in whatever you need me to do, but I am
going to do it
out of respect for you. I won’t promise not to kill the demon
when there’s a
chance that he becomes a threat though.”
“I understand,” Oriel said with an imperious nod. Then, as an
afterthought,
he added, “The demon needed to be fitted with weapons if
he’s going to ser
ve me.”
Justice ingested the order with reluctance. “When do you
need me to start?”
“As soon as possible.”
She nodded. “I’ll come back for the fitting at my
convenience, if you don’t
mind, your grace.”
“In your convenience, of course,” he agreed.
Then, without another word, she disappeared from the hall.
Oriel sighed. Things were going to change around here soon.
There will be te
nsion and there will be trouble. But he was one of those
beings who can orde
r tranquility out of chaos and it’s detrimental to have chaos
in his hall.
He can’t have any of that.
His mind followed the last thought he had before Justice
came and a little
smile tugged at the corners of his mouth. He had a short
telepathic convers
ation with Michael the Seraph the other day and he can still
remember the j
oy in the Sarim’s mind. Michael was so happy that
everything went well betw
een Zethos and Axyne that he persuaded the outcasts to
grant Axyne immortal
ity. They readily agreed for the love of their kin. It was a
small price to
give considering they all owe Zethos the kindness he’d
shown them througho
ut their exile.
Although Zethos decided not to return to Omiron, his father
was still glad
to have his son finally attained happiness and showered his
blessing on his
new daughter-in-law, whom he adored at first meeting, and
who remained baf
fled to have a whole new family of immortals. She strived to
get used to t
he idea one day at a time.
Of course, she also had to get used to having a husband that
could attract fe
males between the ages eight to eighty.
Even without the memory of Katiana, Axyne found herself
surrounded with the
remaining Taliantii of Omiron that opted to stay by her side
in the mortal
world. She couldn’t deny their heartfelt requests for her to
take them in,
not when her new father-in-law kept on hinting that the
females have nothi
ng to do back in Omiron and since she’s, as a manner of
speaking, their cap
tain, it’s only wise to let them be around her.
Axyne put her foot down that there would be rules if they
were going to stay
with her. That includes no hovering.
Oriel had a fun time watching over them. He was delighted
that Axyne stil
l remained her usual obstinate self and wouldn’t take crap
from anyone in
cluding him. It was no wonder Zethos would gladly stay away
from Omiron b
ecause of her.
When he wasn’t seeing the sparks firsthand, Justice, the
blacksmith, had a
fun time telling him all about him when she’s summoned to
his house regar
ding some weapons that he needed.
All stories don’t have a happy ending though.
Harbonah had failed to wield the Diadem when Clement
sacrificed her life to
protect it from his filthy hands. Lucifer was enraged and his
hatred echoe
d throughout the earth.
There were too many casualties. And too many that were left
in misery and
grief. Kylos would never be whole again.
There were messengers sent to where Kylos hid and all they
could say when t
hey return that there’s no amount of words that could
penetrate the unyield
ing ears of the Sadrin. He stayed there beside Clement’s
body so still, tim
e suspended around them. It was so heartbreakingly sad to
witness such grie
f preserved like a block of ice.
Oriel knew that this would happen. Not all stories end with a
happy note. That’
s the bitter truth of life.
His time in the mortal world has not ended yet.
He still had to find a way to free Eato’s charae from
Semjaza’s curse. The
y had been entrusted in his care the moment Eato saw his
own death. He had
sworn to take them under his care and he had been
neglectful. Now, he cou
ldn’t find a trace of them. All he had were vague clues as to
what happene
d. And all he could gather came from Araqiel.
And there was his new henchman, the marid general Facor.
He had promised t
o help and he would make sure to fulfill that promise
although he still ha
s reservations regarding the demon.
Depression was a familiar emotion to him now. It was a
welcome feeling tha
t he had been cursed to endure. If Camael had not driven
him out of Kalido
n, he would still be the innocent being he once was.
Yet, deep down he knew that Camael was wise to have
transferred him into V
erchiel’s ranks. Verchiel had been like a father to him and he
couldn’t as
k for more.
He couldn’t heap the blame solely on his former mentor’s
shoulders. He unde
rstood the reasons and he accepted them. It’s the bitterness
of immortality
that was getting into him. For five thousand years, Camael
remained quiet
and unresponsive to his calls, leaving him frustrated.
Those that was most attuned to him wasn’t the one he
wanted to be.
“What are you trying to accomplish, Oriel?”
Athena. Why can’t she be other than she was? She’s not a
welcome intrusion
but he still had to respond. “None of your business.”
“You can’t stay here forever. Your people are calling for you.
Can’t you h
ear them? They need you there. There’s nothing for you
here. Clement is de
ad and Zethos has Axyne. There’s nothing for you here.”
The audacity of the woman! “You don’t know me that well to
influence me on
my decision. What I do or don’t is none of your business,
outcast.”
“So, what you’re trying to say is that you’re ready to
exchange heaven for t
he mortals? That is absurd.”
“I don’t have to explain anything to you.”
“I believe I have every right to hear your reasons, Oriel
considering that th
ousands of centuries had bonded us together.”
“We are not bonded on anything. You have deceived and
manipulated everyth
ing for your own sake. Don’t think that I have forgotten what
you made Ze
thos believed all these years regarding Katiana’s soul.
Nothing you say o
r do with alleviate my opinion of you.”
“Don’t treat me like the enemy, Oriel. Believe me, I am not.
All I want is y
our happiness.”
“My happiness? That’s a laugh.”
Frustration crackled the connection between their thoughts.
“I admit to my f
aults and I am not proud of it. I just wanted to lessen the
blow to my cousi
n’s sensibilities. Do you think that if he knew that Katiana’s
soul wouldn’t
recognize him in its reincarnation he would act the same?”
“We wouldn’t know now, wouldn’t we?”
“Your sarcasm is uncalled for, Oriel. I may have done a
terrible thing by wit
hholding certain facts, but I did it out of concern for Zethos.
He knew that
deep inside his heart.”
“And do you want me to believe that he had taken time to
thank you about th
at recently? I believe that he had turned you out of his mind
for good.”
“I don’t need any reassurance of forgiveness from him. in
time he will know
that I did him good.”
“Yes. Keep on believing that.”
A mental sigh permeated the air. “Even if you think I’m the
very evil Oriel,
know that I will continue to open my doors to the possibility
that we can s
tart anew and eventually treat me as an ally because I am
and will forever b
e.”
“Forever is a long time.”
He heard her sigh again and sadness laced in her voice. He
doesn’t know wha
t it was about her that infuriated him so.
“Yes. It is a long time. And I am staking my immortality by
vowing to help
you as best as I can. You only need to ask.”
“You’ll be waiting in vain,” he warned. “I will not allow
anyone, least of a
ll you, to fool me into thinking that your help wouldn’t cost
me in the end.
Your offer is like a Trojan horse. There’s always a catch when
dealing with
people like you.”
She let out a short laugh. “No one can fool you. That’s why I
like you so mu
ch.”
He rubbed his throbbing head. “Do I have to take that as a
compliment? So far
, you’ve done nothing but try and infuriate, Athena. Perhaps
the real reason
with this constant pestering is that you have nothing else to
do in your glit
tering halls.”
“Stop mocking me.”
He smiled, the mirth not reaching his glowing blue eyes. “Oh,
yes. Can’t
let someone belittle the glorious Goddess of War and
Wisdom. Since when
did wisdom come in a war anyway?”
“Mortals have a way of labeling things and people. Your
baiting won’t do y
ou any good, Potentiate. You won’t like to gain my wrath.”
“I have more important matters to waste my time with than
gain anything fr
om you, outcast.”
“Soon, Oriel, you would realize my concern is genuine.”
He’s at the end of his patience. “Can’t you take a hint,
Athena? You should
realize by now that it’s pointless to pursue something with
me. All you’re g
oing to get is indifference from me.”
“I’m not a quitter, Oriel. Better get that in your head.”
Then, she tuned him out for the first time.
Grudgingly, he admitted to being amused by her incessant
insistence. He was
also amused that he was the only one who could ruffle her
feathers, so to
speak. Although he was amused by the audacity of the
woman to challenge his
will and his love for God, she wouldn’t accomplish her goal.
Not only had
he given his love for God, there’s also another that held his
heart captive
, a secret he had kept hidden from everyone except God . . .
maybe.
He had every reason and intention of spurning her. He
wouldn’t be happy wit
h her. That’s the truth. Athena never stood a chance.
He chuckled and then sobered up with a sigh. No, his time in
the mortal pl
ane hasn’t ended yet. There were too many loose ends to tie
up, too much w
ork to do that he had to postpone his homecoming.
Bismyr would have to wait.
In the far side of the world, someone’s phone rang.
“Hello,” he answered in a strained, impatient voice.
There was some static disturbance in the reception, as if the
caller came from
a very far distance. It wasn’t strange, actually, since he lived
in a seclude
d part of a bustling city. It was also seldom that he got any
phone calls when
he’s at home.
“Doctor Barishkoff?” It was a voice of a woman, a nurse, he
knew.
“Yes, this is he,” he replied. He was in the process of putting
on his pajamas
for the night after a long, exhausting day at the hospital.
“This is Emma Yates from St. Vincent’s,” the nurse
introduced herself. Ther
e was a trace of excitement in her voice that wasn’t lost on
him. “You’re b
rother woke up, sir,” she added.
He stubbed his toe at the exact time he heard that
announcement and muttered
a curse. His brother. Finally. “Be right there in ten minutes,”
he replied
and then he hung up.
He hurriedly pulled some clothes from his closet and dressed
in a pair of jea
ns and a short-sleeved shirt under a bomber jacket. No need
to dress fancy s
ince he’s not on-duty in the hospital where he kept his
brother.
He had not expected such news in this time of the night. It
was nearly midn
ight. But although he was too tired, the news suddenly gave
him strength th
at he never knew was in him still. He had despaired of ever
hearing that ki
nd of good news.
When he got out of his house and hurriedly went to his car,
he looked up in
the sky and noticed the stars were shining brightly down on
him.
“It’s a good omen, isn’t it, Alexis?” he muttered the question
as the air stir
red in a malevolent force that made him shiver.
Yes, it was an omen. Whether it was good or not was
uncertain.
***
Oriel
Yellow, pink, purple and red. Green, blue, orange and brown.
The colors kept coming by his eyes as the wind played on his
hair, sweeping
the dark wavy masses of hair against his young fair face.
He breathed in the sweet smell of the air and calmness
enveloped him. A smil
e flitted in his face as he continued listening to the sounds of
the trees s
waying and the flowers blooming.
From afar, he looked like a waif in his loosely clothed frame
that promised
the budding of a perfect warrior bred to become one of the
best – the mighty
.
“Oriel!” came a shout from far behind him, piercing the
silence and serenity
he loved.
He looked back on his shoulder and saw his dear friend
running towards him.
He waved a hand in greeting with a broad smile and ran to
intercept his fr
iend.
“I knew I’d find you here, Oriel. Everyone is asking where
you’ve been.”
Breathless from the run, Zachariel stooped down, hands
braced on his knees
to catch his breath.
Like Oriel, he wore the loose off-white garment common to
all Potentiates-in
-training. It was an honor to wear the clothing of the noble
order with the
embroidered soaring eagle rendered in silver threads at the
back of the shir
t.
Oriel pounded his friend’s back, helping him breathe
normally. Then he as
ked, “Why is everyone looking for me?”
“Did you forget about the ceremony? It’s about to take place
and you kno
w how Camael becomes when someone’s missing from the
line,” Zachariel sa
id, breathing shallowly now.
Oriel became nervous at the mention of Camael, their
mentor and superior.
“Is he angry?”
Zachariel shook his head slowly. “I don’t think so. He’s
smiling all througho
ut the inquiry.”
Uh-oh! Big trouble.
He’d rather face fury than the face of tranquility shadowed
by disappointmen
t. This was the third time he’ll be seeing that on Camael and
he’d rather no
t.
Zachariel saw the troubled look on his friend’s face and
offered a gentle pa
t on his back. “Don’t worry, Oriel. Camael would understand.
It’s just that
you love the outdoors so much that the grace of God often
takes you out of t
ime because of it.”
“You’re so full of wisdom, Zach. You’ll be the best Potentiate
when we gro
w up.”
Zachariel shook his head. “I do not desire to be the best,
only to serve to th
e utmost of my ability. To desire greatness would be to end
up like Lucifer.”
“You’re right,” he agreed with a nod. “Are you really sure that
Camael isn’t
the least bit furious?” he asked for some sort of comfort.
“Uriel and Jhudiel are with him,” Zachariel confessed with a
wink.
He finally breathed out the air he’d been holding and calmed
down. He kne
w how much Camael loved Uriel and Jhudiel that he wouldn’t
lose his tempe
r in front of his dearest friends, even when faced with a
wayward child s
uch as him.
They turned to run as fast as their young legs could to get to
the main hall
of Kalidon. The white towers shone like silver in the sunlight
and sparked
off like a gem from afar, twinkling with its reflection in the
jeweled water
s surrounding it. The abundant greeneries and all sorts of
flowers the color
of the rainbow that fragrant the air around complimented the
magnificence o
f their home.
Oriel always thanked God for such a beauty that there were
no words to de
scribe and no place to compare it with except maybe in the
halls where Go
d Himself abides and watched the world unfold before His
very eyes while
the singing of the Thrones and the presence of the Seraphim
and Cherubim
praising and glorifying Him.
“C’mon, Oriel! The bells are ringing!”
Oriel quickened his pace and ran after his friend, going
through a maze of
shrubberies before they entered the golden doors of the
main hall. They bot
h stopped short the moment they entered as Camael’s eyes
darted in their di
rection.
They both watched the imposing figure walk in sure steps
towards them as the
y noticed that all present there in the hall had their eyes
trained on them.
Camael, one of the celestial princes, and a powerful
commander of the Potent
iates that fights evil, walked with undefined grace and
strength towards two
of his charges.
His dark blonde tresses glinted in the lights of the hall like
spun gold; sw
aying with each step he took. His richly adorned velvet robe
encased a power
ful built, lean corded muscles running along his powerful
arms that held the
brand of the High. He has a dashing gait that never seizes to
amaze anyone
he passes by. Fair of face and glowed with the light of the
heavens, he cut
a splendid figure to be admired and reckoned.
Still catching his breath, Oriel winced at the seriousness in
Camael’s face.
“Come with me, the both of you,” Camael said in a low voice,
not breaking h
is stride.
The two boys followed meekly as they walked behind with
their heads down a
nd entered Camael’s private office at the end of the corridor.
The tall doors automatically closed after them and they
waited. Oriel was t
he most nervous as he twiddled with his thumbs clasped on
his back.
“Oriel,” Camael called in a very calm voice. “Come closer,
child.”
He did. This was even worse than he imagined.
Camael lifted Oriel’s chin with one elegantly tapered finger
and quietly said
, “Look at me, child.” His voice held a note of kindness.
Oriel looked up and saw the sadness in Camael’s face. His
heart was drumming
so fast and so hard that it was hurting him. He bit his lower
lip to stop t
he trembling of his chin.
“Do you ever wonder why we do these assemblies together
and complete?”
He shook his head, his eyes blurring with unshed tears.
Camael placed a gentle hand to cup the child’s face. “We
want to let God se
e that we’re solid . . . united to do His divine creed. We want
to be whole
in expressing our love for Him and to make Him know that
we’re ready to de
fend the goodness in the world that had gone bad.”
His voice was full of kindness that Oriel knew he doesn’t
deserve.
“Every time one misses and got lost track of time, the circle
isn’t complete
,” Camael added.
Oriel’s chin quivered and a tear escaped and rolled down his
cheek to the gen
tle hand that touched his very soul. “I’m sorry. I was out in
the hills surro
unded by the beauty of nature that I forgot the time.”
“I know, child. I know,” Camael said, dropping his hand from
Oriel’s face an
d continued to look at the young boy. He let out a sigh. “That
is why I don’
t think that you’re cut out to be a Potentiate under my care.”
“Please don’t send me away. I promise that I won’t lose track
of time again.
Just let me stay here,” Oriel sobbed and fell down on his
knees before Orie
l, hugging one silk-covered leg of his mentor.
Camael laid a gentle hand atop the boy’s head, caressing the
abundant wavy da
rk hair. “Nature is calling you, Oriel. Your heart is telling you
to be apart
from this Order. I am transferring you to the tutelage of
Verchiel.”
Verchiel, a warrior-like being of great powers and Guardian of
the Earth, tra
ins new Potentiates to do battle in the grounds where evil
lurks.
Before he even became a higher Potentiate, Camael had
trained under Verch
iel and considered him as a father. He’s wiser than him and
he knows that
Oriel would benefit much from Verchiel.
Oriel looked up and his face was soaked with tears. “Oh,
Camael. Please d
on’t send me away. My heart would break to be parted with
you and with ev
eryone.”
“As much as I love you, Oriel, your heart is not set to be here
amongst us. Y
ou drift and fleet and these halls cannot contain the desire in
your heart. V
erchiel would do most for you.”
Zachariel was crying as well. He knew how hard it was for
Camael to make
that decision when Oriel had been under him since he was
born. He’d grown
up with Oriel and the love of Camael for all of them was
beyond words. A
nd to lose a dear friend wrenched his heart.
Oriel tried to reason again. “I have no doubts that Verchiel
would be what
you say. I hold him in high regard. But, there are harsh things
and places
the Order he commands deal with that I’m not sure I am cut
out to do. I’m s
cared,” he said with enough trembling to make Camael
reconsider his decisio
n.
Then a thought entered his mind and knew that everything
would be fine. He
smiled down at the boy and said, “Don’t you worry, Oriel.
Distance doesn’
t hinder the love of those who keeps you inside their hearts.
Always be gl
ad and remember that we are all one and God holds us
together.”
“But I won’t be able to see all of you every day and every
minute,” he count
ered again.
Camael lifted the boy up to stand at eye level as he leaned
on the edge of hi
s table. “You will see us through your heart. That’s the most
important thing
of all,” he comforted the little boy whose face was streaked
with tears that
tugged at his own heart.
So, it goes.
Oriel was placed under Verchiel who was present in the hall
and that day was t
he last time he got to spend with his friends . . . his family.
He kept seeing the sad look that comes over Camael’s fair
face whenever he
caught his look. He knew he would be greatly missed. But his
real concern
was his new training under Verchiel.
He never expected everything to be easy from that day
onwards. His destin
y had forever been altered as he embraced the darkness
forthcoming when h
e took arms to become a Shadow-Stalker.
***