I spiraled backward at least twenty feet, colliding face-first into another tree. Three weeks had passed since we began the hellish lessons. And with each week, Amelia’s training grew more brutal . I barely had time to launch into the basics before she increased the level tenfold. She probably figured that I would be the kind of guy that wouldn’t take her seriously because she’s female. So, she went full sadistic. But come on, I’m not a goddamn sexist. That sweet and innocent attitude of hers is the perfect guise for the ruthlessness that landed her in a spot with the elite six. I kind of feared her for the first time. Just a little bit. However, thanks to her deadly lessons, consisting of nine hours of training a day, in a measly three weeks I was much stronger, faster, quicker on my feet. I still had a long way to go, but at least I was making progress.
I stood slowly, head aching. All three of Amelia’s friends were watching and commenting. Apparently, Amelia wasn’t brutal with them, claiming that humans were too fragile.
“Don’t think about the block, just do it,” Amelia said for like the billionth time. “If you wait there while I charge you, surely I will figure out ways to get behind you. Quick ascension being the first thought.”
Quick ascension’s a fancy way of saying teleport. Not everyone can do it though. Fortunately. “Let’s try this again. I’m going to come at you, stronger than before. Block my sword-strike the way that I’ve taught you. Only dodge if you find yourself unable to block, unable to counter.”
I nodded as she retook her position, grasping her sword. Then she bolted toward me, fucking fast. She wasn’t a blur like when the training first began but still fast nonetheless. I charged for her, not waiting, feeling for where she would strike next. Yeah, I took Amelia’s lessons seriously—I’ve paid for them with a promise of a child for fuck’s sake. She teleported but I was one step ahead of her…for the first time.
While it was a close call, I barely managed to block her attack. She smiled and continued the sequence. I struggled to block the strikes. She deliberately slowed down with each swing, changing styles to see how I reacted. After twenty moves, she stopped, nodding. I was still on edge, remembering the pain from the last time I let my guard down. Amelia didn’t attack. She dissipated her blunt short sword, smile on her face. Her friends all gave nods of approval. I still felt a little embarrassed. Amelia didn’t break a sweat. I was covered in it, muscles aching, power low.
“That’s all for today. Tomorrow, I’ll teach you some new tricks.” She turned to her friends. “Up for a jog before I change out of these shorts?”
“Sure,” Keisha replied. The others nodded.
When the women left, I hit the shower, changed into a fresh pair of jeans and a black shirt, then headed out for a late-afternoon walk. It was a cloudy Thursday, breezy, but comforting. About two blocks later, I found the chapel. The place was cool, clean, and empty. Services were only scheduled Sundays and Wednesdays. The angelic power swirled around me like vines, some outlined me, some of it bounced around the area like care-free kids. It wasn’t visible of course —it’s a force that could only be felt by the appropriate beings or those who accepted it more than themselves. Word of advice, don’t accept it more than yourself.
I held my hand up and drew upon it. It itched as it entered my palms, recharging my tank, and even curing my fatigue. I honestly couldn’t explain why this happened—leftover angelic power is a mystery. Shit, angels are a mystery.
I left the chapel, full of power, and ready to cause trouble. Beer. Yes, beer. Weeks had passed since I last had one and the five o’ clock atmosphere begged me to get some. Without Amelia’s nagging, I was free to fuck off. And that’s what I did: found a bar, flashed the usual fake ID, and ordered seven large beers. Someone sat beside me.
“I’d like to order eight beers,” he said, “and one for her.” I watched him point at a blue-eyed, black woman with long straight black hair, decked with a couple of expensive-looking necklaces and bracelets. She smiled, sitting by him, suddenly under the spell of his devilish charm.
I gulped down my first beer and exhaled a sigh of relaxation.
“It just amazes me,” he said.
I turned to him, second beer in hand. “Amazes you?”
“Aren’t you holy types supposed to be all pure?” Sin said, his arm around the woman. “You know, unable to consume alcohol.”
“Pure?” I took another swallow of beer two. “There is wine in Paradise Realm. Drunkenness is not allowed, though. It’s a disgrace to your clan.”
The woman looked as if she knew what I was talking about. I concentrated a bit of power and peered into her heart. Ugh. A witch. Just what I needed to shit on my day. Most witches are idiots who serve the forces of Hell. They were feared way back when, so much so that humans created the infamous witch hunts. Nowadays, they kept their abilities hidden from the public.
Sin shook his head. “You are clearly intending to get drunk. I’m curious to know why you denied the crown of the universe? Are you an idiot? People would kill for such an opportunity.”
I downed the rest of the beer and grabbed number three. “It’s a long story. Even if I wasn’t wanted for treason, I just don’t care for the throne.”
Sin shook his head. “Let’s hear it—and look, I’m in no position to tell you this, but not everyone gets what they want. You were born in a unique position, destined for responsibility. Why didn’t you take it? Man up. Do what needs to be done.”
“I was like that at first, as a child,” I said. “But, among Conus’s trial, humans suddenly started treating me like shit. It didn’t help that I barely had control of my powers. So, I nuked the earth, twice in fact.” I downed the third beer. “Conus threw me in Hell and after a while of agony, I decided I had enough. I’m going to take control of my life with my own hands. How I got this far is either dumb luck, or ‘destiny’ agreeing with me.” Sin nodded…in understanding? “You’re strange for a devil. I thought they were incapable of giving a shit about anything.”
“Demi-devil,” he corrected. “And why do you say that?”
“Well, you’re surprisingly well-mannered, almost goody-goody like the angels.”
“Well, I suppose we both are guilty of stereotyping.”
A few seconds of awkward silence passed before we both laughed. Even the witch chuckled.
“I’m different from them. They can be mannered, too but with objectives on their minds. Backstabbing, conniving, dominating. I didn’t want to defy Father at first, but I also wanted to live among the humans, to find…something. A reason for my birth and my city. I often left home to visit and since I wasn’t bonded like everyone else, I stayed gone for days. Eventually I was ratted out by that snake, Lucifer, and the royal house confronted me. My title was stripped and I was banished to the human world. And as everyone departed, Lucifer mentioned something horrifying.” Sin sighed.
“That is?” I said.
“He told about the Fallen—and despite being the first—the rest were nothing like him. They’re composed of pure madness—”
“Yeah yeah, I heard the rumors about them,” I said, snatching beer four. “You’re not going to try and reclaim your title.”
“Nope. I’m just trying to survive,” he said. “The Fallen will eventually become a problem but not just for me. For you too.”
“Doubt it. I’ve got hunter problems of my own to deal with,” I said. “The Fallen take out their hatred on the stray demons they catch lurking around their territories. I’m pretty sure they don’t give a damn about…” I paused. What would happen if I encountered a Fallen?
“You’re thinking now, Epex,” Sin said. “You help me and I help you.”
I downed the fourth beer. “And how do you expect to beat a god?”
“I have my ways, though I’ll be mostly relying on your cleverness. Besides, you beat one.”
I sighed. “I won’t trust you. Fuck, I’ll be an idiot to trust a devil. Demi or not. Doesn’t make a difference to me.” I stood up and quickly downed my last three beers one by one. “I don’t see how the Fallen are my problem.”
“The mad Fallen don’t discriminate, they consume anything in their path,” Sin said. “You’d better start trusting sooner or later. That goddess isn’t going to be able to protect you from everything. Besides, we both are neither human, god, nor devil. Think about my offer. We’ll benefit more as a team.”
“I’ll consider it,” I said. “After you say the word, fuck.” Before he responded, I left. About a block later, I found myself a bench in a park and took a seat. Seven beers weren’t enough, but I’d have to let that hold me over until after dinner.
The second I got comfortable, I felt a holy presence. And it was hostile.
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- The Enlightener
Alvin Atwater is a man of humor, a starving author. With a unique writing style that can outshine even Jim Butcher, Patria Briggs, or Kevin Hearne, he is a character-driven lovable lump of mass. Born in Florida, he's on a mission to defeat his arch nemesis, Florida Man, once and for all.
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Author of the Blood for Soul series and a secret coming-of-the-age epic fantasy. Lover of anime and manga: so yeah, weeb shit? Fun. Sue me haha.
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