Chapter 9 – The First Sensing
Lalia wasn’t sure why she’d worked up the courage to approach Salvador during lunch. Clearly it had been a terrible idea. She should have probably waited until he wasn’t around his friends. Then again…given all that had happened this whole ignoring her thing should have really finished. It was clear that there were big things happening around her and having him pretend like they didn’t know each other was ridiculous. Especially given what she wanted to tell him.
That morning she had woken after a rather restless night. She’d had breakfast with her parents before they left for work and she’d exited to find that Ethan was still at the front door. She gave him a bit of the leftovers from breakfast before putting on her coat and leaving for school. Ethan had taken human shape again though she knew he still wasn’t visible to anyone. The fog that surrounded his body was thick and sometimes obstructed his expressions from view.
“Are you…always invisible to other people?” she had asked.
“I can take on a fully human appearance,” he had responded with a shrug, “But that means interacting with humans and I’m not incredibly keen on that to be honest. Furthermore…” he had held out his arms for reference to his appearance, “I don’t exactly look presentable.”
“You can take a bath tonight.” He most certainly needed one given how dirty he still looked. She wondered if his hair had ever been washed given the state it was in. He didn’t smell though. She supposed that had something to do with magic. “Should I talk to Salvador at school today?” she had posed the question having a feeling on what the answer was likely to be but still wanting to put it into the open.
Ethan had surprised her by shrugging, “You do what you want,” he told her. “I’m not your boss. You’re my boss. Talk to him, don’t talk to him. Doesn’t matter. But don’t let him control how you feel about things. He’s not your boss either.”
Lalia had nodded but she still felt uncertain. The world felt new now that she was walking out in the open. Her eyes felt like they were catching things she’d never seen before. Whispers of magic lingering on surfaces that she’d had no idea existed. Out of the corner of her eye she caught movements in shadows. “Am I going to be attacked again?” she asked, shifting a bit closer to the canine figure walking beside her.
“You’re not giving off the same amount of power you were yesterday,” Ethan shook his head. “You continually absorb magic. Always have been. But with that pendant you couldn’t use any of it so it just built up and built up. Yesterday you were years worth of magic in a single body, easily smelled from miles away. Then you passed it on to me. You just smell like a witch now. You can see more than before but I doubt anyone will give you any trouble right now. I’m the one giving off the powerful aura and I’m a demon. It’s unlikely something will try and pick a fight with me.”
Lalia had nodded, she understood even if she didn’t like it. They arrived a block away from the school and Ethan departed there, not wanting to bring his energy into the school. Furthermore, he had reasoned, Salvador was within the school and could easily handle anything. As she approached she was confronted by Eshe who was immediately apologetic about the day before. She didn’t know what she had said that was wrong but she had sensed hurt feelings when Lalia had left. Lalia, given all that had happened from that point until now, had nearly forgotten it until she was reminded. She brushed it off with a smile, accepting the apology but reassuring Eshe that she was all right.
They entered the school and started first class and that was when she felt it. A foreboding and imposing feeling in the school. Something…similar to how it felt when she was Ethan but darker. More powerful but…muted somehow. As though this dark power was being hidden beneath a heavy blanket. She could barely grasp it herself and she couldn’t seem to find out where it came from but there was something here. There was something in this school somewhere.
She needed to tell Salvador.
At lunch the feeling had gotten worse as she entered the cafeteria. It was in this room somewhere. She could feel it but that muffled sensation seemed to be preventing her from locating it. She looked around for some indication of where it was. Looking for the dark fog that Ethan emitted coming from someone else. All she saw though was the shimmering figure of Salvador. He gave off a soft glow that was quite light and barely noticeable especially with the sun pouring in through the large windows. Whomever it was…they were hiding themselves. Even from her. There was no one in here that wasn’t a student as well. How long had it been in the school without her or Salvador noticing it? Salvador hadn’t mentioned anything about the school being dangerous.
She could wait until Salvador was alone. He’d like be more receptive to talking when they were alone. But something told her she needed to let him know about this sooner rather than later. She’d mustered up the courage to approach him and tap his shoulder. Though the response she had gotten had been far from pleasant.
He seemed practically shocked that she would approach him. Panicked even, like he had no idea how to respond. Not to mention his friends immediately whistled and one of them, the basketball player, banged on the table excitedly. It made her uncomfortable and she wrapped an arm around herself. All the courage she’d had last night to confront him faded away as she felt the eyes of the other two both on her and leering at Salvador as he responded. He denied her request for a private conversation. It was a definite answer and she took a step back. “O-Oh…” she responded and immediately turned.
She could still hear their voices as she walked away. Lalia had never really been someone who interacted freely with others. There were certain people she found it easier to interact with than others and the boys at the school were low on the list of easy. Especially since they always seemed to have such brash and loud reactions whenever girls interacted with them. They probably thought she was interested in Salvador. She wasn’t. She definitely wasn’t. But not a rumour was likely to spread because of this one interaction.
Even still though she had to tell him.
No opportune moment came though. She didn’t have any more classes with him that day and never ran into him in the hallways without one of his friends with him. Jian she might have been able to handle, he was really sweet and polite as the Student Body President but Salvador was never just with him…at least for the rest of the day. From the glimpses she had of him he seemed…quiet but not unsettled as she was. She felt this darkness deep in her gut and it made her feel terrible. Was it possible Salvador already knew about it? Was this the reason behind why he never interacted with her directly? No. If he had known something was dangerous in this school he would have been attached to her by the hip.
The end of class came and she made up her mind. She’d go tell Ethan instead. He was a demon also so maybe they could come back and figure out where this presence was coming from. A person or something else entirely. She didn’t have the experience to understand what this feeling was coming from, all she could tell was that it made her feel exceedingly uncomfortable. There was…malice to it. She could sense an odd sense of anticipatory malice as though she was itching to get something done. Something bad.
The moment the bell rang she didn’t wait to try and find Salvador. It was unlikely he’d be alone anyway. It was better to leave and find Ethan and bring him back to the school once everyone else had gone home. She had to hope that would work.
Chapter 10 – The Basketball Star
Salvador couldn’t stop the guilt from rolling around in the pit of his stomach. He should have let her talk to him during lunch. Screw the harassment he’d get from his friends. He had to forget about that sort of thing now. Lalia knew the truth and she was exposed to danger. He had to get over his own teenage feelings and make her his focus. He berated himself for the rest of the day as he continued to utterly fail in following his own advice. He didn’t break away from his friends nor did he interact with her when they were around. He caught sight of her now and then but she didn’t approach him again and he couldn’t blame her. He’d screwed up.
He was supposed to be the warrior who protected her. Not an asshole teen that made her feel like shit. Clearly she had something she had wanted to tell him.
At the end of the day he couldn’t find her. She had likely gone home right at the bell. He couldn’t blame her. With her magic so low he couldn’t even sense where she might have gone. Home probably…back to that damn demon as well. That was frustrating as well. To think that demon would be the one helping her recover emotionally. She’d probably tell him what had happened. He could imagine the demon laughing at him. Mocking him. He wanted to leave the school and go find them.
“Hey Saly,” Jacob said as he clapped him firmly on the shoulder and gave him a jostle for good measure. “I’m going to go grab the keys for the gym. Meet you there.”
Right…he’d agreed to this. “Yeah, no problem,” he said, not being able to hide the disappointment in his voice.
Jacob didn’t seem to notice. “Great!” he chirped before jogging off.
Salvador sighed but made his way to the gym anyway. He set things up for Jacob. He wasn’t sure why he’d agreed to this. He wasn’t great at basketball. He was athletic enough, a little bit above average, but couldn’t really do a lot of sports well. It seemed being an angel didn’t give him an immediate athletic advantage over people. Made sense…it wasn’t exactly his purpose on earth to be a sports star. All the same he rolled out the large basket of basketballs for Jacob. He’d at least be able to help him clean. Though it was quite some time before Jacob showed up.
Salvador found himself sitting on the ground next to the basketballs waiting. What the heck was taking him so long? Probably found himself flirting with a girl. He checked his watch. It had been close to thirty minutes now. The school was probably completely empty by this point. He pushed himself up, determined to go and find the other when he saw the door open and Jacob waltzed in, dopey grin on his face.
“Sorry,” he grinned with that charming smile of his, “Got distracted.”
“By a girl?” Salvador asked.
“You know it,” Jacob responded slyly. He moved closer and tossed the keys to the gym across the room. They soared through the air and struck the far wall.
“That seemed a little unnecessary,” Salvador pointed out and he turned to walk to retrieve them. “Did it not go well?” Then why had Jacob been smiling? The behavior seemed odd though Jacob sometimes did things like that without explanation. It was annoying and frankly a little rude. It was a pain he was so good looking because honestly Salvador didn’t think he deserved all the attention and flirting that he did. He heard Jacob laugh from behind him and there was the sound of bouncing as he starting using one of the basket balls that Salvador had brought out for him. Salvador stooped to fetch the keys from the ground and started walking back.
“Lots of things are unnecessary,” Jacob shrugged as he jumped and tossed the first ball at the hoop. A perfect swish filled the air as he swooped through. “But we do them because it’s fun.”
“It’s fun to inconvenience people,” Salvador said with a roll of his eyes.
Jacob nodded, a smile on his face, “Sure is. It’s fun to trick people too. Make them do things they don’t want to do.” He cracked his smile in Salvador’s direction, “Like tricking you into coming here with me today.”
“You’re a bit of an ass you know,” Salvador frowned.
“Nah,” Jacob denied, plucking up another ball and giving it a few bounces before firing it at the basket. Another perfect shot. “I’m a massive ass.” Salvador’s frown deepened. The other wasn’t wrong necessarily but it seemed odd to have someone admit to being a terrible person. He watched as Jacob picked up another ball, “I’m a liar,” he explained, “I like leading girls on when I’m not interested. I like pretending to make friends with people. I like the look on their face when they realize they’ve been played. The surprise. The pain. The betrayal. It’s great.” He tossed the ball and this time it hit the back board before falling through the skirt of the basket with no further sound.
Salvador eyed him. What was he even getting at? But he couldn’t stop the feeling in the pit of his stomach from deepening. An ill feeling.
“Which is why I’m so excited for tonight. I could barely contain myself all day,” Jacob still wasn’t looking at him as he grabbed another ball and threw it without bouncing it. “For this moment.” Another ball and another soundless throw. “And that look on your stupid face.” He picked up a ball but this time he didn’t throw it. “What caused that delicious wave of magic yesterday Saly…” he said in a low voice.
Then Salvador felt it. Instantly. The curtain was lifted and he could feel it. Oozing darkness coming off of the basketball star. Flooding the room. Demonic energy. How had he not felt it before? He took a step back defensively. Jacob had been possessed by something.
“It’s not possession, if you were curious,” the other said, as though he was reading his mind, “I’ve been this since we first met. I’m really good at hiding it. I was surprised you never sensed it. But then again…” He turned his eyes towards Salvador, they had gone maliciously red with the whites of the eye now pitch black, “…I got the impression early on you weren’t exactly the brightest angel.” His face broke into a wide and maniacal smile. “Yes! That’s the expression I wanted!”
Salvador lifted a hand, starting to attempt a warding spell. Trying to react quickly but then the other used both hands to throw the ball toward him. What looked like a normal pass came with a wall of demonic energy that hit him like a train. It threw him off his feet, sending him flying backward. He would have flown for a while had he not collided with the wall. He struck it hard before falling to the ground, the ball bouncing away. The impact had hurt, he’d struck his head and his vision swam from the impact. He couldn’t lie down here though, he had to stand up. He struggled to push himself on to his knees but was stopped.
The demon had moved closer and hooked a foot under his armpit, with a kick up it flipped him and he landed heavily on his back. Before he had been so shocked he hadn’t made a sound but this time he gasped in pain as his head struck the floor of the gym a second time. The sneaker on Jacob’s foot slammed down into his ribs. The strike was heavy and the pain from it was like a flash of fire accompanied with a crack of his ribs bending and breaking.
“It’s been a fun four years,” Jacob grinned down at him. His appearance had only slightly changed. The eyes were clearly demonic and in his mouth his teeth looked whiter and shaper. “Imagine my surprise finding an angel attending school like a normal person. It was so easy to disguise myself. Hiding my energy worked because you were so fucking weak! You didn’t see a thing! You even came to my house!” He lifted his foot and brought it down again, this time on Salvador’s wrist, pinning his arm to the ground and causing him to scream as he felt the fragile bones fracture. “I thought to myself…why is an angel attending school. There has to be a reason. Honestly, I was getting bored and then last night I felt it! Something big. Something delicious. That had to be it. What is it Saly? Is it what I think it is?”
“Begone in the name of Heaven!” Salvador managed to choke, lifting his other hand with two fingers pointed at the demon’s head. The incantation was simple but effective as the beam that fired from his fingers caused the demon to leap backward and away from him. It didn’t strike but then again it wouldn’t have phased him.
The power coming off this demon was high. Incredibly high. He was likely from the 5th circle of Hell. They were powerful creatures and it would have been child’s play to hide himself especially if Salvador hadn’t been looking. Salvador cursed himself for that. He’d allowed himself to get sloppy. He’d relied on that stupid pendant to do all the work for him and consorted with a demon without even knowing it. Now he was at an incredible disadvantage. He definitely had a concussion, he wanted to puke, his ribs felt cracked and his wrist was broken. He kept his fingers pointed at the demon as he struggled to his feet, keeping his broken wrist close to his chest to cradle his ribs. “Begone…” he wheezed.
Jacob rolled his eyes, “What are you going to do? Singe me? Face it boy, I’m too strong for you to banish. You don’t know my name. Though for the record I also don’t know your real name. A shame. Though it does mean I can just keep hurting you until you give me what I want.”
“I’d rather die than give you anything demon,” Salvador spat. A bit of blood splattered as he spoke. He must have bitten the inside of his cheek upon the first impact.
“Well that’s too bad because I have no plans of killing you,” Jacob waved a hand, “I’ve waited for four years and I have so many plans to make you bleed. Do you know how rare it is to have a chance to make an angel scream?”
Salvador grimaced. He wasn’t in any position to win here but with his ribs as they were he likely couldn’t run either. He lifted his hand shakily but before he could fire the spell the door to the gymnasium opened. Both eyes moved to see the individual who entered. Salvador recognized him immediately. Shaggy black hair and a filthy looking set of clothing. The hell hound. Shit.
“Well, what do we have here?” Jacob asked, “A hell hound. Were you attracted to this power?” He held out his hands and more of his dark magic flowed into the room. It was becoming thick enough for Salvador to choke on it even if he couldn’t see it. “What a good doggy,” Jacob cooed, “I didn’t know there was a stray roaming in the neighborhood.” He gave his leg a pat, “Come here doggy. Give me your name and let’s work together.” Hell hounds resided on one of the weakest levels of hell, a servant class that typically served stronger demons. There was no wonder he had abandoned Lalia. The moment this dark energy had appeared he had likely been drawn to it. Why wait to make a move when a stronger demon could help him achieve it sooner.
Furthermore, he’d made no pact with Lalia. He was under no obligation to stay with her, even if she had named him. It was a weak connection. Salvador was now going to be facing off against two demons. His eyes moved between the hell hound and the demon, not sure who might strike first.
“You’re an idiot,” the hell hound said with a shake of his head, “How did you miss this for so long?”
“A-are you talking to me?” Salvador rasped, confused.
“Who else would I be talking to,” Ethan said as he strolled closer but instead of joining the demon he moved to stand between them, his back facing Salvador. “Sorry, I’ve got a master. Don’t need another one.”
Jacob’s laugh was a howl, “A hell hound serving an angel? This is fantastic! This is the first time I’ve ever seen such a thing!”
“He’s not my master either,” Ethan shook his head, “My Master would like if you kindly fucked off.” And with that his body shifted like fog into the massive shape of the wolf. His body ‘s fur curling like fire and smoke all at once. The feeling that came from Ethan was equally suffocating in comparison to the other demon.
The demon paused, taking a step back and eyeing the hell hound warily. “How does a hell hound have so much power?” he hissed, “Who is this Master of yours?” His eyes flickered back to Salvador and then the hell hound. They narrowed and a smile moved across his lips. “Interesting…” he purred. “Fine. I’ll leave things for now.” He checked his watch, “I have weekend plans anyway. Though…Saly I’d love if we could have another chat next week. I’ll give you a week to decide on the time otherwise I start leaving pieces of classmates in the hallway.” Giving a wink he waved a hand and his body dissolved, slipping away as though it were particles on a screen.
The shaggy head of the wolf turned to face Salvador, “You look bad off-” Ethan started to say but Salvador was in no position to listen or argue. The pain and nausea finally overwhelmed him and he fell to the ground, consciousness slipping away as he heard the hell hound calling out for his name.