“You’re coming in too low, Samuel,” the master said. “How many times do I have to say it? Just because your opponent’s shorter, doesn’t mean your punches should be that weak.”

“Yes, master,” Sam said. He had lost track of how many times he had said that word today alone.

“Show him how it’s done, Thiago.”

“Yes master,” his friend answered and walked towards him.

Sam clenched his jaws when he saw Thiago’s mocking smile. He shook his head and raised his hands in guard position.

But it made no difference. Even with the glove, Thiago was too fast for him. The moment their professor said to start, Thiago’s punch became a blur, got through his defenses with ease, and landed on his jaw. Even with the protective gear, the blow made Sam dizzy as he fell on the mat.

Even blinking, it took a while for the room to stop spinning. When his eyes got back to normal, Sam took off the glove and grabbed the arm his friend offered. “You’re too strong,” he said.

“Yeah, I know,” Thiago said, pulling him up. “But the fact that you don’t like hitting people helps.”

“Sorry for not being a brute.”

Thiago laughed. “I don’t know why you decided to train Muay Thai all of the sudden. If you really wanna fight MMA, you should stick with Jujutsu. You’re better at grappling shirtless guys anyway.”

“Don’t make it sound gay.” Sam punched him in the shoulder. “And you’re just saying ‘cause you suck at it.”

“I’d rather hit my opponents than get on the floor with them,” Thiago said, punching Sam back.

They lined with the rest of the students. They greeted the teacher, thanked for the lesson and headed to the locker-room.

“Hey Sam.” Thiago’s voice reached to him from the partition dividing the showers. “You still haven’t said to your mom and Mirela you wanna fight professionally, have you?”

Sam kept his eyes closed as he washed his hair. “I try every time they bring up college stuff and all, but… it’s hard to say.”

“Yeah… I can’t see them supporting you,” Thiago said. “Actually, I imagine your mother crying and going to church to pray you don’t go down that path.”

Sam chuckled weakly. He had imagined the same thing. “And Mirela will be pissed off.”

“Either way, you’re screwed. Good luck.” Even through the wooden wall, Sam knew his friend was smiling.

“Yeah, thanks for the support. I really need that.


“I don’t know what I’d do without you.”

“You’d probably wrestle shirtless guys to the ground.”

They had finished changing and were walking towards the bus stop. “Where do you wanna eat?” Sam asked.

Thiago closed his eyes and crossed his arms. “Your mom’s cooking today, right? Let’s eat at your house.”

“You just want a free meal,” Sam said and then laughed.

“I want your mom’s food—”

Though his mouth still moved, Thiago became mute to Sam.

It only lasted half a heartbeat, but Sam first saw a pillar of light in the corner of his eyes. Then he heard the explosion, so loud it made his entire body tremble. As he turned to the sound, he flew backward with the shockwave.

The sky became the ground and the ground became the sky. Then they changed. Again and again. Sam felt his senses going away and closed his eyes. It made no difference. Even without seeing, he still felt the world spinning.

He hit something, or someone, he couldn’t tell, and stopped flying. He tried opening his eyes, but the world hadn’t stopped spinning. He tried standing, but he had no control over his numb body. With no strength in him, he laid there, wherever he was.

“Sam… Sam…” From somewhere far, he heard someone calling his name over the buzzing in his ears. Hey… I know that voice, he thought through his hazed mind. Sam felt something against his chest.

“He’s still alive,” another voice said, echoing near his heart.

Using every bit of concentration he had, Sam forced his eyes open. The world seemed so bright it made him wince.

“Sam!” He saw Thiago and a woman he didn’t know kneeling near him.

“Better if you don’t move,” the woman said when Sam tried standing. “You could have something broken.”

Sam closed his eyes, concentrating in himself. Despite the pain, numbness and the urge to vomit, but it didn’t seem felt like anything was broken. He tried sitting first. “I think I’m okay,” he said, his voice hoarse.

The woman looked worried, but when someone screamed for a doctor, she stood up and hurried to someone else.

“Hey man, are you really alright?”

“I’m not dead,” he said, getting a chuckle from Thiago.

“If you’re saying those idiot jokes, you must be. I’m fine, by the way.”

“Good. That was my next question.” Sam looked around and saw a curtain of smoke from the park at the end of the street. “How long was I out?”

“Not long. A few minutes.” Thiago sighed in relief. “They’re saying it was a gas leak,” he added when he saw Sam staring the smoke.

“Gas?” The sudden pain made Sam hold his head. “And that light?”

“Light? What are you saying? Did you hit your hea—”

Another explosion killed Thiago’s voice.

Sam covered his face out of reflex.

“Another one?” He heard Thiago’s voice, followed by a cough.

When the shock wave passed, Sam grabbed Thiago’s arm and with the help of his friend, he stood up. His eyes stung, his ears rang and his throat was sore. He blinked until he could see, but the smoke still covered the area.

What’s… that… Sam couldn’t believe his eyes. In the middle of the smoke, he could see two blurry shadows. He blinked, doubting his eyes. But as the smoke cleared, he confirmed. Two people coming out the explosion. “Who are them?”

“Huh? What are you talking?”

He… can’t see them, Sam realized, looking at his friend puzzled look. For a moment, he thought it was one of Thiago’s stupid jokes. But even he wouldn’t do this now. He looked around. It should be impossible to ignore the two men walking down the street clad in medieval armor wearing. But no one seemed to pay attention to them.

The tall one said something Sam couldn’t hear. The short one nodded and closed his eyes.

Sam recognized it. He’s concentrating… Fear coursed through him at the same time. I have a bad feeling about this.

“Let’s get out of here,” he said, trying to pull Thiago. “Now!”

“Why?” The moment Thiago finished talking, the short one opened his eyes and swung his arm.

It only lasted a second, but from the arm flew a light, hitting the closest people. For a moment, nothing happened… then their bodies split around the waist. Before anyone realized what happened, the light flew through a building and it collapsed.

Sam pulled Thiago as the debris fell on them. He helped his friend to stand up, and then looked at the cause of all. Tall looked around, watching the scene with empty eyes… until his eyes met Sam’s. His face became tense and he put a hand on Short’s shoulder. The other one stopped swinging his arm and looked at Sam as well, his face lighting up with a smile.

Sam’s breathing became heavy and slow. His body trembled. Cold sweat came down his brow and back. Every fiber of his being screamed, telling him to run, but no part of him obeyed. They’re after me… With just one look, Sam realized.

“Run!” Thiago screamed and pulled Sam.

A second later, a column fell where they were standing just before. The noise woke Sam. He looked at the two men and ran to the other direction.

Thiago ran by his side. He turned his head to look backward. The two figures walked, but he knew they were after him. Short raised his arm again.

He grabbed his friend by the hand and pulled him to the other street. The next instant, Sam felt a shock wave passing behind him, destroying everything in its path.  

“What the hell?” Thiago stopped to look at the two-meter wide crack at the concrete. “Did the explosion reached all the way here?” he asked, but Sam pulled him again, pushing the people who stopped to see the house collapsing.

Who are they? Why are they doing this? Sam thought, running through the maze of alleys, hoping to get rid of them. But he had no time to stop. There was only one thing he knew for sure; They’re after me… Hope Mirela’s okay. Suddenly he felt a cold in his gut. She had prep school today… right?

“What the fuck was that? Another Gas explosion?” Thiago asked when they stopped to breathe. He pulled his phone. “Fuck, there’s no sign…”

Sam looked at his friend. “Thiago, go home. Check if your folks are okay. I’m… I’m gonna do the same,” he lied to him.

Thiago opened his mouth… and then closed it, nodding his head. The next instant, his friend was gone. Hope everyone’s safe, he thought, turning his head to where they came. He breathed out in relief. Part of him expected to see them. I need to go as far as I can from home… If they follow me there…

“Samuel!” Someone screamed and then suddenly a hand grabbed him. “Samuel!” It took a moment, but he recognized the face.

“Padre Nate?”

“Thank the Lord you’re okay,” he said. The priest sweated profusely, his face was red and just breathing seemed to pain him. “I’ve… been looking… for you.” He took a deep breath. “Did you… see the cause… of the explosions?”

Sam widened his eyes and grabbed the priest’s arm. “You saw them too? You know who they are?”

“Yes. I saw them, but I don’t know who they are,” he said, looking around. “And I know they’re after you.”

“How? Do you know why they’re after me?”

“I don’t know why,” he said. “And there’s no time to explain everything.”

“Why?” Sam grabbed the priest’s collar and looked him in the eye. “What’s happening?”

“I… don’t know… But you can stop them…” Padre Nate pulled the Holy Chalice. He closed his eyes and bit his lips. His hands trembled, but the red liquid inside never wavered. “If… if you drink this… blood… you can to fight them…”

Sam stared the blood, the surface ever still. His breathing became slow and his mind blank as the words echoed in his mind.

“What?” Sam shook his head and looked between the blood and the priest’s face. “What are you saying? Are you crazy?”

Padre Nate closed his eyes ran a hand on his pained face. When he opened his eyes, they were hollow. “Probably… but after everything, if I could keep sane, that would be crazy. But I know that you’re the only one who can fight them.”

“Is that one of those crazy religion things? Why would I drink that?”

“To save your family,” the priest said, his face serious despite the pain. “If they can’t find you, they’ll try your family.”

Sam heard nothing else. He turned around and ran home, his mind filled only with his mother and father. He looked around. He knew where he was, but at the same time, couldn’t remember the way home.

He ran at random, but before he realized, his legs brought him to his house. He slammed the door open, screaming for his parents.

“Mom, dad!” His heart burst in relief when he saw them in the living room. They were watching the news, the worry splattered on their faces.

“Alex!” a voice screamed behind him.

Sam turned and almost cried when he saw his girlfriend. “Thank god you’re okay,” she said, running to him.

But before he could reach her, a light blade passed through her. It happened only for a moment, but for Sam, everything went in slow motion. Mirela reached out her hand, but then her arm fell, and then her torso.

The next second, the house fell on them. He covered his head as the roof came down his head. When the world stopped falling, he pushed the debris until he was free.

“Mirela! Mirela!” He screamed, but there was no answer. He turned around. His mother and father were nowhere to be found. “Mom! Dad!”

A shadow loomed over him. Sam looked up and saw the short one towering over him, a smile on his lips. He raised his arm, but before he lowered it, something pushed Sam.

“Run!” It took a moment before he realized it was the priest.

The light blade cut where he was standing a second ago and then the house burst into flames before he could say anything.

His head was numb. He looked at the remains of his house. With his mind blank, Sam walked towards the flame, reaching out his arm.

Padre Nate grabbed him. “They’re dead,” he said, the tears coming down his cheeks.

Sam looked at the flames and then at the priest. The numbness spread over his mind and soul.

“Give me,” he said in a hollow voice, staring the flames with empty eyes.

The priest understood right away. “You’ll die,” he said, pulling the Chalice from his bag.

Sam took the Chalice and stared the liquid. Even after everything, it hadn’t lost a drop. His breathing became slow and steady. His mind was still blank when he brought the Chalice to his mouth and tuned it over, the blood spilling over his face and down his throat.


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