No matter how hard I tried, sleep wouldn’t come to me.
After a few hours, I gave up on it entirely. So much for thanking the fairy-angel for risking her life to assist in my escape. Her willingness to help made me wonder what kind of friendship she and Amelia had. I caressed the sleeping goddess’s cheek before getting dressed. It was clear night, the full moon brighter than the streetlights.
I need answers. So many questions but the most immediate one was the mystery of my mom. Seriously, who the hell is she?
Ascending to Paradise Realm to confront Conus was out of the question. I’d be a goddamn idiot to jeopardize all the effort I’d put in to escaping. I set aside those thoughts and took a walk. There were things I still wanted to know about the human world. Before I knew it, I found myself standing in front of the witch bar.
Oh well, beers. I needed several after yesterday’s clusterfuck. Most of the group had suffered minor injuries. We were lucky. Had Karma been serious about the attack, she could’ve brought an army of hunters and wiped us out. I shivered at the thought. It was only a matter of time before someone did propose such an idea. Maybe Yulese? Hell, one guy from the elite six above Amelia could function as a one-man army.
I looked at the witch bar again, then walked past it, charging power into my back. With the streets empty like this, ascending was cakewalk. I landed in front of the bar at a familiar town. I had learned that the name was Arlington. I flashed my fake ID at the fat fuck then strolled past him. The old bartender smiled, recognizing me.
“I knew we’d cross paths again,” he said. “Got a feel of things here, eh?” He sat seven beers in front of me and winked.
I quickly down the first one. “Let’s just say things are a lot better than ever, old man.”
He chuckled. “Where’s that gorgeous fiancée of yours? Or did you two wed yet?”
“No, we didn’t,” I said. “She doesn’t know I’m here.”
“Good, you’re not denying her,” he said. “She seems like a keeper.”
I downed two more beers. “I’m not good with the sappy talk.”
“Ah, the pre-determined love,” he said softly. “It saves you the internal embarrassment, the prequal of attraction but son, it’s simple. And you must do this for me. Tell her in the morning the first three ‘sappy’ words that come to mind when you look at her.” He smiled. “You know the words.”
I blushed and looked down at my beer.
“Three words, who needs ‘em,” someone two stools from me, said. I turned to see a raven-haired college girl, angrily gulping down an entire bottle of hard liquor. It hit me—I realized that she wasn’t an ordinary girl and not because of the red eye color. Her presence was neither demonic nor heavenly, but I couldn’t figure it out. “Oh, you like what you see, perv? Fucking men.”
I shook my head, then turned to the old man. “I never got your name.”
“Just call me, Zota.”
I froze, recognizing the name but he couldn’t be. “That...”
“Sounds like the great rumored archangel Zota,” he finished. “Can you feel a heavenly-presence from me?”
“I wouldn’t haven’t ever….why are you here?” I said. He’s known for cloaking his heavenly-presence.
The old man winked. “I’m just a bartender. Nothing more, nothing less. At least as far as you know.”
“Archangel Michael’s top-secret missions, I presume,” I said. Zota simply shrugged.
“Whatever could you be talking about? Too many beers?”
I sighed. Why did I even bother with trying to get answers from him? For some reason, an idea of the answer came to me. Lucifer was in this town, too… That could only mean that this could be a spawning point for the Fallen angel, maybe others. Zota’s one of the most powerful archangels in Paradise Realm. It’d make sense for him to keep watch of this place. Maybe some of this explained why I crash-ascended here of all places.
I felt cold, alcoholic breath beat my neck and turned to see the raven-haired girl right there.
“And I’m the perv?” I said sarcastically, turning. She sat beside me.
“You have poor taste in beverages.”
“Be nice, Selina,” Zota said. She snorted.
“You obviously know nothing about the art of cold beer,” I said, then gulped down my last.
“The line of every lightweight out there. Zota, fetch us about six or so shots of the Hangman.”
I assumed that was the bar’s special. I turned to the girl. “Didn’t you just down—” She finished the contents of a flask and slammed it onto the table. “And I thought I hated my liver.” I shook my head.
Zota smacked a dozen shot-glasses of death liquid in front of us. “I’m surprised you’re allowing this.”
He shrugged. “I’m not babysitting a bunch of adults. Besides, she could use these drinks with the job she’s carrying.”
“None of your fucking business, lightweight,” she barked then grabbed a glass.
“I sense a different presence from here,” I whispered to the Zota. “What is she?”
“Do you really want to know?”
“Now, I’m really curious.” I snatched a glass.
“She is of the Shinigami Clan,” Zota said. My eyes widened.
“Zota…what’s a death god doing here?”
“What the fuck do you think?” Selina said, in between mouthfuls of the Hangman.
I sighed then gulped the blueish liquid down, regretting it immediately. The moment was intense, the burn roasting me from the inside out. I wheezed, ignoring the hint of blueberry flavor.
“Ninety-five percent alcohol,” Zota said. “I reserve it for my reaper guests only.”
“Keep it that way,” I said seconds later, recovering.
“What a pussy,” Selina said. I noticed she finished…all of the shots.
“Twelve beers plea—” The words didn’t get out. The girl fell on me, unconscious.
“She always drinks until she passes out,” Zota said.
“Well, it’s a good thing you’re here,” I said. “Can I assume some dude tried to screw with her in her sleep and met an unfortunate end?”
The old man smiled. “I did find it cringingly amusing as he ran away, holding his groin, screaming.”
“Served him right,” I said. “Can you get her off me? I don’t want her going nutcracker—”
“Are you still a virgin?”
I glared at Selina, who looked up smiling. “It’d take one move and you’ll be falling face-first.” The reaperess laughed. “Nutcracker doesn’t even begin to explain how hard I hit. Anyone that fucks with me while I sleep will never have kids. Piñata-bashing is a more accurate description.”
Ther was an awkward silence before I snickered, which spiraled us both into laughter. Selina sat up.
“What’s your name? Or should I continue to call you lightweight?”
I glanced at Zota. He shrugged.
“It’s Epex,” I said, deciding to not care.
Selina’s eyes widened. “No fucking way, you’re THAT Epex? I’m a big fan.” I almost spat beer out as I burst into laughter. She continued. “No seriously, you have no idea how much I hate the strict rules. When I heard you came back with a no fucks given attitude, I was ecstatic. Ecstatic about your escape too.”
I managed to gain control of my laughter. “It’s not all fun and games, though. Unless you enjoy looking over your shoulder every goddamn minute.”
“Hunters?” she said.
“Hunters,” I confirmed.
Selina shrugged. “Freedom’s one hell of a price to pay.” I sighed, grabbed a fresh glass of beer, and chugged it down. Selina pulled out a phone. “Give me your number, lightweight. You’re not leaving me out of this fun.”
“Yeah, I don’t think so,” I said. “Do you know what would happen to me if Amelia caught me with the number of some girl from a bar six hours away?”
“Six hours away—what the fuck? Where do you live?”
“Middleburg,” I said. “I ascended here to visit the old man.”
Zota shrugged. “Selina lives in Paradise Realm.”
“Just give me your damn number,” Selina said. “I know Princess Venus very well and she’s famous. It’s not like we’re having sex. You’re my role model so I’m befriending you. Get used to it.”
I sighed and gave her the number. She sent me a text with her name, then made sure I saved it.
“Aren’t you supposed to be guiding souls,” I said. That solicited a glare from the reaperess.
“I’m obviously off duty,” she replied. “And I don’t want to talk about some of these fucked up souls. Until you’ve seen the shit I’ve have, don’t bring my job up again.”
I shrugged. “You obviously forgot that I’ve been to Hell.”
She blinked. “You’re right. I shouldn’t speak selfishly. Quite frankly, it’s a miracle you recovered internally, on your own like that. I’ve heard people that finished very short sentences still desired heavy therapy from the Venus Clan.”
“Well…Amelia’s the princess of the clan. Maybe she secretly healed me.”
Selina sighed. “From eight years of damage? No need to be modest, moron, you’re definitely special.”
An hour, maybe two hours later, I landed at Amanda’s door. The ascension was a bit of a struggle after the drinks, but at least I made it, somehow. Ladies and gentlemen, NEVER drink and ascend. It sucks. I hurried to the side of the house and released the vomit.
The next morning, I felt surprisingly fine…and I knew it was because of Amelia’s healing. Fortunately, she wasn’t present at the moment to rip me a new one. I threw on some casual cloths, then walked into the nearly-empty kitchen. Amelia, who was sitting at the table, closed a romance novel.
“Well if isn’t Mr. Flying and drinking,” she said. I shrugged. Then an idea came to mind.
“Let’s go on a date,” I said. “Right now.”
Her face lit up. “I’ll go get ready.”
Forty-five minutes later, we were off. Amelia’s more-cheerful-than-normal mood worked its healing magic on my psyche. It brought out the comedian in me, full blown. I kept her laughing as much as possible. We got food at nice restaurant—my amazing job allowed me to fork the bill with ease. Damn rich ancient witches.
After that, we walked to a nearby movie theater. Amelia insisted on a popular comedy. Turns out, a famous human by the name of Eddie Murphy knew how to impress his audience. After the movie, I humored Amelia with a walk along the beach—courtesy of that romance novel she read earlier. I didn’t mind holding hands, though. She was mine after all. I stopped her.
“Amelia, I love—”
A large wave splashed hard enough against us to grab our attention. We laughed. When silence struck, I kissed her. She kissed back, matching my passion.
“I know you do,” she said when she pulled back, “But I love you more.”
I felt the stupid grin form on my face. Yep, I’ll happily claim the title as luckiest man on earth, I thought as I caught a large black feather that seemingly fell out of the empty sky.
End of part three…
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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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