Funny thing was, Amelia didn’t hold back in expressing her disgust with witches as we walked to the demon hunting ground. I won’t lie, there was some entertainment value deep within that. Amony acted as if she wasn’t bothered, focusing on Amelia’s friends, probably debating whether to offer them jobs or not. The ancient witch probably had more money than every billionaire on earth combined. I shifted my gaze to the succubus who seemed disinterested in everything. Her edginess showed as she trailed behind Amelia. She might have been a demon of earth, but somewhere within her was an instinct to oppose heavenly-beings. I suppose I couldn’t blame her. She didn’t know Amelia.
“Amony, is it?” Jade said. “Where is this hunting ground located?”
“At a graveyard,” Amony answered.
“Is it the norm to hire demons and devils?” Amanda said.
“Yeahhh. No offense,” Keisha said to Sin, “but I’d be worried about my soul being stolen or something.”
Sin laughed to her surprise. “Demons or devils can’t simply take your soul, unless you offer it to them.”
“Ah,” Keisha said. I could practically feel her relief. Devante shook his head.
“Didn’t your goddess explain anything to you?” Elly snarled. All eyes turned to her. Elly shook her head. Amelia simply shrugged.
“Sometimes things go in one ear and out the other,” she said. Elly’s cold eyes didn’t warm up to the goddess. I realized there seemed to be more than instincts at play there. Elly’s obvious hate was a message to all goddesses. To all heavenly-beings.
“Calm your tits,” I said, breaking the icy stare-down of the women. “We’re on the same team, so direct your egos at completing the job.”
The rest of the walk was in silence. The graveyard didn’t have any activity whatsoever. The temperature did seem to drop. I didn’t mind the chill.
“If this is the job, then congratulations. Epex, you make the easiest money around,” Keisha said. As if her words were the trigger, we all watched as a grotesque hand lurched from the ground, grabbed her leg, and pull downward. Keisha yelped, but saved face as she kicked the hand away and gathered her bearings. She and her friends were used to fighting demons. I overlooked the Yulese fight—pretty damn sure they had never fought against gods. And in the face of a foe that they couldn’t beat, the women panicked.
Anyway, we all sort of leapt into action, prepared to be the first with a kill. That went to Devante who launched a fireball, blowing the thing the fuck up. I expected more to show up right away but nothing happened.
“Everyone split into teams, and spread out,” Amony said. “We’ve got a lot of ground to cover.”
The graveyard was huge but even I didn’t like that idea.
“What is this, Scooby Doo?” Devante said. “The moment we split up, shit hits the fan.”
“That’s why I said to go in groups. This is a part of the job. If you can’t handle it, then you can leave.”
Devante didn’t bother with a further argument with our witchy boss. He simply shook his head.
“Half of us will go one way, the other half the other,” Amelia said. Amony looked as if she badly wanted to object. Her words wouldn’t change the goddess’s mind.
“You know, I should’ve brought Ruin, just in case,” I told Amelia as our group consisting of her friends and I walked in the opposite direction of the other group.
“You still have some ways to go with charging that thing,” Amelia said. We searched our half but came up with nothing. Nothing on top of nothing. Fucking fantastic. I wanted something to show forth and prove to Amelia that this job was worth it. But killing one stray demon wasn’t going to make the cut. She was already looking out me with glistening green eyes. Those eyes, reminding me of pure emerald. I don’t know what came over me, a strange feeling, but at that moment, I almost...almost decided Amelia was mine. I shrugged the distracting thoughts to the back of my mind. “So, this is your job, huh?” she said.
“Nothing different than a cop, security officer, the works,” I said.
“Well, if you look at it that way, I guess this isn’t too bad,” Amelia said. “Can’t complain about the pay.”
“What do you plan to do with all of that money?” Amanda said.
“Get my own place,” I said. They all blinked in surprised. “I—”
“I think it’s a bit too soon for that,” Amanda said. “I’m pretty sure you don’t want to live here.”
“Middleburg isn’t a bad place,” I said. I lightly tapped a gravestone with my foot as we walked past it. “I mean you’re living here, right?”
“Only temporarily,” Jade said. “We’re only attending Middleburg University.”
“Still, it’s not a bad place,” I said.
“It’s not,” Keisha said. “With an exception of that hunter that attacked you. Or the demons that attack us every now and then. I think I’ve made over a thousand kills.”
I shrugged at the badass. “Kind of my point. The misthanger queen thought she could hide me, Amony and Sin did but really, it’s going to be the same wherever I go.”
“Well, there is no heavenly influence in the middle of a jungle,” Keisha said with a chuckle.
“The tribes,” Jade said with a sigh. “Not excluding the tribes, we haven’t discovered yet.”
“What about the desert?” Keisha said.
“Desert Indians?” Jade said.
“I wouldn’t want to live in the desert,” I said sourly.
Amelia shook her head and laughed. “What about the Artic?”
I rolled my eyes. The goddess simply smiled.
“Look, I’m staying here and that’s final,” I said. “I’ll conjure up some documents—”
“We took care of the documents weeks ago,” Amelia interrupted, still smiling. “Real ones. Why don’t you join Middleburg University? Maybe study criminal justice.”
“You really did the documents?” I said. “Holy shit, you guys are awesome. But why should I waste my time with school?”
“Amony’s job may not be around forever. With a degree, you could become the real deal, just working for the government.”
I sighed. “I guess being a detective wouldn’t be a bad idea but for now, I’ll pass. Fuck school.”
Amelia shook her head. “If I had to put my foot up your rear—”
I tuned her out as I sensed something. The air chilled slightly. A breeze rustled in a way that was just too out of place for my tastes. The hairs on my body rose maybe just a millimeter. An ordinary person wouldn’t be able to detect these things, but a paranoid demigod would pick up the signs damn near instantly. Amelia caught hold of my sudden game face, as well as her friends. They all looked around into what was now blackness. The streetlights didn’t reach the graveyard anymore. Dark clouds covered the moon. Then there was an unfamiliar voice, one that sounded like a mix between a drunk car salesman and a giant dying frog.
“There was a time where we once thrived upon the earth, blending in with humanity like it was nothing,” it began. We made sure we kept eyes in every direction, a three hundred sixty-degree coverage. The voice continued to talk. “Then we took control, not of all places but enough. Man couldn’t handle the job of ruling its people. A lot of times, they invited us, offering up something of high value in exchange for power. That included rituals of all kinds, some sacrificing their own for demons that they thought were gods. Even worse for the devils they believed in. It is funny, isn’t it? I thought I had seen it all until now. A group consisting of a demigod, a goddess from the above, and two humans. Did that oaf Conus finally lose the throne?”
“Do not badmouth Conus,” Amelia said.
The demon laughed. I knew it was a demon because the presence wasn’t as dark and dank as a devil. Still dark, but not super dark.
“You still defend him, but your memories spell out treason.”
“That’s because it was self-defense,” Amelia said.
“Is it that you still have intentions to return to the Above? You think Conus will accept you back with open arms. Maybe he would forgive you, but him? Ha! When he gets—”
He didn’t finish that sentence because I had already found him. I also had my hand around his scaly green throat. The lizard-like man gasped a laugh.
“My time is already out. I’ll see you on the other side, tissue paper. Meal! Stool!”
I squeezed hard, crushing the fuck out of his throat. My rage, my wrath was beginning to kick in. All the memories of Hell, Conus, and what humans did to me during childhood slammed into my head.
Then… A warm hand touched my shoulder. I gasped as I remembered my progression, my accomplishments, and even them…. whom I called friends now. Oh shit. I think I almost nuked the earth again.
I turned to see a determined Amelia. Her friends nodded at me.
“And never forget again,” she said and smiled. “Never.”
Too bad that moment of sappy happiness didn’t last as we saw them: a horde of demons, many shapes, sizes, and forms bursting their way from their graveyard hiding spots and running toward us.
I think they were pissed that their friend or boss or whatever was annihilated. Shit.
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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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