“We’ve got to get to that chapel down the road,” I paused, observing the area with a wary eye. We appeared to be in a house of bland brown furniture, old paintings that looked as if someone confused art and vomit, four windows, and stale air. “Where are we?”
“An old safehouse,” Amanda said. “We used it back in the demon-hunting days.”
“Are we far from your house?” I asked her.
“Kind of,” she replied.
My phone rang. Or at least what sounded like a ring. It’s amazing it still worked after what I put it through.
“You’ve reached the Viagra Testers, how can I help you?” I said.
“I guess Amelia wasn’t satisfied with your first time,” Devante retorted. “Good to see you’re still alive. My sorcerer’s circle is losing their minds over this sudden power spike, nut jobs.”
“Yeah, you can thank Michael for that,” I said.
“Michael? Wait, you mean THE Michael?”
“Mister Archangel himself has come to kill me,” I said. “That’s why I told you guys to run. Lucky my phone’s still working.”
“How’d you escape, man? He’s supposed to be incredibly powerful, right?” Devante said.
“Devante, he killed the misthanger queen with hardly any effort. We didn’t feel his approach, he just appeared.”
“Then you may want to get moving if you can,” Devante said. “What do you want us to?”
“There are four hunters,” I said.
“Damn! Talk about overkill,” Devante said. “I better bring out my best skills. And hopefully this ordeal won’t be a letdown like that mess with Karma.”
“You idiots will follow me to Hell and back, even though I never earned the loyalty,” I said.
“The earning has to start somewhere,” Devante said. “And hey, I hope we’re earning yours too.”
I smiled. “Meet us at the chapel down the road from Amanda’s house. Be careful, because Michael and his freaking hunters are flying around in the area. They split up to cover more ground.”
“I’ll let the others know. They’re waiting for my reply back at Secure Corps.”
“Don’t go inside the chapel, just in case Michael stops there. Hang nearby.”
“Well, there is an IHOP—”
“Bye,” I said then hung up. My phone beeped and vibrated. Who the hell could be texting me at a time like this.
Lightweight, where have you been? Are you too wimpy to drink anymore? I’m in your city now.
I nearly flinched, remembering that I gave my phone number to the death goddess. Another woman. Well, it’s not like that, so Amelia shouldn’t kill me, right? I haven’t seen the drunk since I left Arlington. Wait a minute… I texted back: We’re a little fucked. The archangel’s here with four hunters to kill me. The return text was: Have fun with that, maybe if you’re lucky, I’ll get assigned to retrieve your soul. I sighed but before I moved in to text my reply, I looked up to see a puzzled Amelia.
“What are you doing?” she asked.
“Well, I was going to convince a reaper friend of yours to help us,” I said.
“A reaper friend of mine…” Amelia folded her arms. “Please tell me you’re not talking about the drunk.”
I smiled sadly. Amelia poked me on the forehead. “Let’s not. Your fangirl won’t be sober enough to even say—Michael’s here!”
“Geeze, you don’t have to insult her like that,” I said with a chuckle.
“No, I’m serious,” Amelia said. “He’s downstairs.”
My holy senses exploded, activating the fight or flight inside. “Everyone, place a hand on my shoulder, we’re ascending out of here.”
Ah, if only life was that easy. All four hunters burst through the windows at that moment. Three of them dove on top of Amelia’s friends, preventing contact. Not that it would matter anyway. I felt a rare burst of power cover the area for nearly a mile. Anti-ascending barrier.
“Take the humans out of here,” the afro hunter said without taking his eyes off me. “They don’t know any better.”
“You got it, Xavier,” Bronze said. They forced Amelia’s friends up and marched them downstairs. Michael came in seconds after they left. Many thoughts flooded my head as I debated what to do, ranging from using my twelve minutes to hold him off, trying conversion again, or shooting many bullets. These ideas were terrible. For one, they probably had a counter to conversion.
One does not get lucky with the same tactic twice. There is no real way to know if Karma wasn’t simply going easy on me, just to make sure she didn’t destroy her political husband. No bloodlust, no seriousness—which means even my lock one state was a gamble to try on freaking Michael.
Oh well, fuck thinking. I manifested a fully loaded Desert Eagle and frantically fired at both Michael and Xavier. Michael didn’t move.
My eyes widened when the bullets curved around him as if afraid, like little cartoon bullets. Xavier dove to the side, then rushed me.
Her transformation to the divine state answered before I finished the question and she was on Michael like the way hornets would be on the poor soul stupid enough to kick their nest. I dashed through the already broken windows while charging power into my hands and feet.
Then like Spiderman, I hustled down the three-story house. When I got to the ground, the man with the awesome afro landed a few feet ahead, silver rapier pointed at me. Heavenly-light surrounded him, in a two-foot thick wavy outline. I manifested a Japanese katana.
We were in an opening, just a dozen yards wide, surrounded by woods. The cool, cloudy weather set a gloomy tone, almost as bad as the misthanger queen’s manor. No wonder the safehouse had been abandoned. This situation sucked. Without the cover of the city, I’d have trouble getting away.
“Hold up, Xavs, you can’t hog the fun all by yourself.” Bronze descended beside him. A second later, Cellasia and Vor did too. I did not like where this was going.
“Are you suggesting four on one?” Cellasia said. “Please tell me you’re not.”
“Can we really not just capture and take him to Lord Conus?” Vor said.
“You see, this is why I don’t like having Venus clan members among the hunters,” Cellasia said. “Even Lady Amelia, their star, hasn’t done her job.”
“He’s her lover, bonded,” Bronze said. “And she’s not cold enough to waste her childhood boyfriend.”
“I don’t care—this job isn’t about personal feelings,” Cellasia blabbed to him. “There’s no beauty in being weak.”
“There’s no beauty in killing either,” Vor said to her.
“There’s beauty in completing a job for the good of our realm, and rising to the elite,” Cellasia snarled. “Honestly don’t know why we have to deal with newbies like you, anyway. Your uncle’s an idiot if he thinks that he could—”
“Enough!” Xavier and I yelled.
“I’m not dealing with this,” I said then fired the Desert Eagle at everyone except Vor. The three hunters dodged, their supernatural speeds reminding me that directly challenging god or goddesses isn’t exactly smart. Still, I had to push on. I charged power into my legs and took off in a sprint. An arrow zipped past me, hitting a tree. Cellasia quick-ascended yards ahead, blocking my first path to the woods. She pointed a finger at me and I just knew to dive to the side. A millisecond later, a giant beam of green power, the size of a house, rushed by, vanishing seconds later.
The flaming trail left behind made me flinch. I fired at Cellasia to get her moving and then took off in another direction. Arrows hit everything around me, as if Bronze missed on purpose.
There was a taunting feeling to the way he shot. My hope of getting to the woods vanished as Cellasia appeared directly in front of me this time, smiling, a finger on my chest.
“The gorgeous smile of death,” I said.
“I know, right?” she said. That’s when I felt pain so intense, I gasped for breath. I felt myself falling backward but forced myself with everything I had to remain standing. The burning on my chest raged. Sweat came off me in waves. My vision blurred a little. “Well, I guess that’s it,” Cellasia whispered in my ear. “There’s no beauty in your disappointing show of being a coward. And here you were, about to stand up to Xavier. What a joke.”
“And you find beauty in triple-teaming?” I said. “You’re the joke.” I pulled the trigger, smiling as she fell backward, realizing at the last second that she was just where I wanted her. I got up knowing very well that she wasn’t dead. There’s no deity-trapper to strip her immortality. Still, stunning the goddess was good enough and it gave me just enough time to dodge Xavier’s rapier. “Dammit, so close to the woods.”
“You’re a fool if you think we can’t track you in the woods,” Bronze said as he walked up beside Cellasia. “Get up, you lazy buffoon. As if an ordinary bullet’s going to knock you down for that long.” The wound on her chest finished healing. She smiled, then opened her eyes.
“Well excuse me for admiring the beauty of cleverness,” Cellasia said.
“More like your over-eagerness, letting him get that close,” Bronze interjected.
“Stand aside,” Xavier said. “This is my hunt.”
“I don’t think so,” Cellasia said. “I’m starting to have fun.”
“Punishing a criminal is not meant to be fun,” Xavier said.
“Yeah, in your book,” Bronze said.
“How about you go back and watch Vor,” Xavier said.
“No way, I’m not getting stuck with the ki—”
The hunters were so cocky in their power that they failed to realize that my hand was on the ground, asking molecules to change. This move was risky, as the amount of time it required could take me out of the fight, but what choice did I have? Fortunately, the molecules obeyed. The ground beneath the hunters changed into lava. Xavier jumped, pushing Cellasia as he did with his free hand. Bronze, fell in.
That’s what I saw as I hightailed it into the woods. Without the archer shooting arrows at me, I could take a breather. I mass-texted the others: No idea where we are, but— That text had no chance as a green beam of energy popped from nowhere and vaporized my phone. I sprinted harder.
“Playtime is over,” Cellasia said...from right beside me. Yes, she was running beside me.
“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me,” I hissed, then dodged to the side as she unleashed another beam. It grazed me, which hurt like hell. I unleashed a mound of force, but it had no effect—Cellasia didn’t budge.
My tank was just too low.
My heavenly-being senses triggered, causing me to dodge to the side just enough that Xavier’s rapier only grazed me. A double-grazing—this amount of pain threatened to take me out of the fight.
There was just no way I could take on all of these hunters. I’d be dead already if Vor was less reasonable. I realized that I had no choice but to manifest Ruin. Either that or die here. Ruin’s deity-trappers would also kill my chances of any kind of redemption whatsoever. Not that I cared anyway. They paused, noticing that I was acting differently. I silently called Ruin. It instantly manifested into my grasps, like a puzzle, building up atom by atom. So much power rushed through my veins, tingling every part of my body—I thought I’d faint from the pressure of it.
Xavier actually grinned. “Come on, you son-of-a-gun, let’s go.” His excitement surprised even his teammates as they looked at him in shock. He charged me with a speed I shouldn’t be able to see but time seemed to slow down. I easily dodged but didn’t counter.
The twelve-minute time limit, wasn’t worth wasting on these fuckers. With a single hand, I expelled force in all directions. It smashed to them so hard, the hunters were sent flying and couldn’t stop themselves. I figured they’d go for at least several hundred yards or so. If I knew how, I’d use this time to break Michael’s anti-ascension barrier. I rushed for the house, moving at a speed that would make even a cheetah smile.
When I entered, the first thing I noticed was Amelia’s friends tied up, unconscious. Smoke was everywhere as a result of the battle upstairs. Where’s Vor? I untied the women and shook them awake.
“Get ready to be out of here,” I said, then manifested them M9 pistols. I also manifested a marker and hastily drew a few deity-trapper circles all over. Then I infused them with as light as touch of power as possible—in my current form, it would be too easy to make the guns accidentally melt or explode. “Stun them with the circles if you must.”
I noticed the girl’s awed expressions. “What?”
“Why do you look like that—”
“We don’t have time, I’ve got maybe eight minutes or less left with this form,” I said then darted up the stairs toward the explosions.
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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 (It's a joke. These are among my favorite authors) , 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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