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The only one whom I actually allowed to have my work on his website is Armaell who invested the time to compile them into pdf.
“One step forth, two steps back.”
- The Journey to the Afterlife
***Kingdom Newerth, Capital City***
“It's truly hilarious! The whole academy is talking about it,” Adea proclaims loudly. She raises the cup of coffee and grins.
I rub my temple and raise my own cup to take a sip. “What? Is it really that big of a deal that you had the prince one evening for yourself? I am a little disappointed that you two didn't go all the way. Though I guess young people aren't bold enough for that. Are the others envious and making up rumours to get their pitiful revenge?”
Adea blushes. “That's not the case and it was mean. And no, I meant something different.”
Jimmy cleans the table between us with a towel. He really found fulfilment in tending to my shop. “You have to forgive the mistress. It is still early and she didn't have her coffee yet. She can be quite edgy without her morning shot.”
Adea follows Jimmy with her eyes as he continues his work with the other tables. “Sometimes he freaks me out. What's going on between the two of you?”
I shrug and don't answer.
After a moment Adea continues, “Anyway, I was talking about one of the teachers. Marcus, he has quite the reputation for being an impenetrable fortress. That's regarding his magic and his love life. And just two days ago, after the ball, people saw him leave the hotel which all the couples use; without the upper part of his suit! Apparently he got laid and his princess decided to take a memento.”
I freeze. “Princess?”
Adea nods. “Yes! Isn't it normal to call the mysterious woman a princess? She bedded the second prince after all! But that's not the important part of the rumour. Apparently Marcus is running around like a headless idiot and trying to find her, but she disappeared without a trace and the recorded aura from the ball's entrance-sphere is useless. He doesn't even know her full name. It's like from a bad fairy tale. Just that everyone is mad at the mysterious woman for ditching him.”
The gears in my head creak. “Maybe he didn't perform to her satisfaction? But second prince? He doesn't look like the first prince. There is no similarity between the two.”
She scowls and squints her eyes in suspicion. “Duh!? That's not surprising. They have different mothers after all!”
I need more coffee. “Different mothers? Ah, now that you mention it! The king was married twice; Perseus is from his first, but she was killed in battle during the last spirit invasion. He had three children with his second wife. Marcus, the second prince, Lilith, first princess, and Caden, third prince! And you say that this Marcus has a good reputation?”
Adea's head bobs up and down in agreement. “Unlike the first prince, his two brothers aren't misusing their status. Marcus is even working as a teacher and I must say that he is one of the better ones. He isn't a war hero like Perseus, but he clearly cares for the people and has a much better reputation. His brother is the one who is a notorious womaniser, though he holds a high rank in the DF. That's what makes the whole rumour even more surprising.”
Shait! By Dedessia's sewers! Send me through a spirit army! I fucked up. Now I can't risk going anywhere near the campus!
Adea frowns upon studying my expression. “You look like you bit into a lemon. Is something wrong?”
I shrug. “Not really! I just met someone at the ball. He called himself Marc and didn't really give away anything about himself, other than that he is a teacher. I found him quite pleasant and one thing led to another... and we ended up in bed. I also stole his shirt and his jacket as a memento. They are above us in my apartment. I expected that both of us understood that it was a one-night-only encounter.”
Sometime during my speech, Adea choked on her coffee and spit it all over me. Of course Jimmy immediately rushed to my assistance and is now trying to dry me with a clean towel. Adea is now staring at me, shocked and wide-eyed. Coffee is dripping down her chin.
I tilt my head. “Do you think that this Marc fellow and your Marcus are two different persons? There is always hope. Well, it's his own fault for holding back important information.”
Adea slams her head onto the table. “You can't go anywhere near the campus!”
I already got that far. “At least we now know the repercussions of your wish!” I smile.
“My wish!? You are the one who fucked up!” Adea points at me.
I point at myself and smile. “Have you forgotten? Jinn! I explained how this works.”
“You said that you aren't a jinn!” she shoots back.
“Oh! Back to not talking? I tell ya-”
An ear-splitting siren interrupts Adea and I look up. The noise is slowly declining, just to rise in strength a few seconds later. It sums up to a wailing crescendo which can hardly be ignored. I notice that the people on the street are changing directions, some are even running.
“What's wrong?” I ask curiously.
“Spirit alarm! Have you never heard it? Something is attacking the city.” Adea answers with a shocked expression. I get to my feet and head over to Jimmy who is listening to the radio. Upon arrival he informs me of the latest news. “Some idiot dabbled with portals and gave the spirits an anchor point. They are invading the Tandeen district.”
I scratch my chin. “That means we retreat to the shelters like everyone else?”
Jimmy nods. “I'll just close the shop. There should be time.”
I turn towards Adea while Jimmy closes the roller shutter and locks the store. The customers already left anyway, some without paying! At least I've made sure to remember their faces.
But now that I look at Adea, her expression is lost and frightened. But not by our earlier conversation.
“That's where Mom works.”
I grab Adea's arm and pull her out of the shop, so that Jimmy can lock the entrance. “Your Mom will surely escape to the nearest shelter.”
She shakes her head. “You don't understand! Tandeen is were the poor make their living. They have only a few shelters and those will be full in no time.”
Then she grabs my upper arm. “Please! Go and save her.”
“That's not so easy. I can't fight an entire invasion force,” I answer.
Adea leans onto me. “Please, it's my second wish if it must be! I know that you are more than you seem. The way you speak and how you sometimes don't know obvious things. I never insisted on knowing what's going on and I will never tell anyone. You don't have to fight the damn spirits. Just get my Mom to safety.”
I sigh. “This will have repercussions. I can prophesy that much.” I gesture for Jimmy. “Go and get the car. At least buying the damn thing was good for something.” Taking Adea's arm, I pull her towards the parking lot which is located a few blocks down the street. Jimmy sprints ahead of us.
“You bought the car?” Adea asks surprised.
I smile. “Yes, these vehicles are so rustic! I have to get one to my father. He will have a lot of fun while taking it apart! He likes those kinds of things.”
Jimmy stops next to us on the road and we get in. Moments later we are on our way, surely breaking all the speed limits. Our driver manoeuvres expertly through some side streets, cutting the way short. This way he also avoids the heavy traffic and quite a few street lights. I am honestly surprised about his expertise with the car, though not so much about his knowledge regarding dark side streets. “Don't you need directions, Jimmy?”
“I already brought Adea home, once. I didn't forget,” he answers solemnly. I pat his head. “You turn out to be surprisingly useful, good job!”
A single tear runs down his cheek. “That's the first time you've praised me.”
Adea clings to the door-handle as Jimmy takes us into a sharp curve, causing some cars to veer to the sides. “If I wasn't so frightened for Mom, I would insist on learning to know the relationship between you two!”
As we quickly near our destination, we advance faster because all the traffic is trying to get away from the battle zone. Some hastily assembled DF units are also making their way there, but they simply fly with levitation magic and don't waste their time with us.
The neat and tidy city looks more and more like a warzone. It is clear that the DF already fought the spirits and drove them back. The ground is covered with the corpses of civilians, soldiers and spirits.
It is a massacre. The remnants of a fought battle. But there is no guarantee that they got all of the spirits. Some rogue elements might have been left behind.
I notice that Adea's face took on a green shade upon seeing the destruction and the corpses, so I hurry to lower the window next to her seat. If she has to puke, she may as well do it out the window.
“There is no point in driving any further. If Adea's mother is so deep inside the battle zone I doubt that she is still alive. Adea, where would your mother most likely go in case of an attack?” I ask.
Adea is clearly not herself and as pale as a ghost. “She always said to run down the main street towards down-town when something happens.”
I nod towards Jimmy and he complies, speeding up as we arrive on the indicated street. He manoeuvres around the wreckage like a professional and it doesn't take long until we encounter five spirits who are gathered around a manhole. One of them is desperately trying to get into the much too small opening.
Jimmy hits the break and the tires screech as we come to a halt. “Too many. Too many.” He puts the car into reverse, but I open the door before he can turn the car.
“Get whoever is hiding down there. I'll draw their attention.” I get out and pull my left crystal-bracer out from under my clothes. It looks more like a piece of jewellery to be honest.
“Don't! Those are lycans!” Adea calls out, but Jimmy locks the doors and manoeuvres the car to the side.
I concentrate on the bracer and form it into a featureless mask. No time to be gaudy. Then I place it on my face and release my aura, drawing the spirits' attention. They are vaguely humanoid with wolf-like features. All of them bare their teeth upon looking at me.
Walking forward, I let go of my control and spread my wings. It feels good to have them back! Next are my horns and the tail.
Then I spread my hands to embrace the first spirit who jumps at me. It wrestles with my strength, but my inner mana manipulation is stronger than it. It sinks its jaw into my shoulder, but the teeth don't penetrate my skin. Its limbs flail helplessly as I increase the pressure and with a howl of pain its spine yields.
I drop the corpse and raise my finger to taunt the remaining spirits. They are nothing more than foot soldiers. Maybe on the level of a mid in Dedessia's ranking system.
Finally they manage to break their frozen state and surge forward. I jump to meet them, using my wings as shields against the ones who come from the side.
Using one of my father's spells, I send a spark of chaos energy at the one in front of me. It howls and chars to a crisp. The one who went in from below twists in mid air and grabs my leg. I feel myself being flung around and into the nearby wreck of a car.
Cursing, I get up and dig my fingers into the wreck's metal, sending my mana into it. Using gravitation magic, I lift the car and club the first incoming spirit with it. The poor thing lets out a single 'yelp' as it is crushed under my improvised weapon.
Then Jimmy hits the pedal to the metal and runs one of the spirits over to get to the manhole.
The last one turns his attention to Jimmy's car and I use the chance to flash step into reach. As its head swivels back towards me, I strike out. Hitting its forehead, I send a burst of mana into its third eye, the eye to the soul.
Every soul has spirit connections to connect to its physical body. The third eye is the most important one of them. My death magic forcibly disconnects the spirit's soul from its body and the ugly thing drops dead.
Without its twisted body, the spirit's soul simply shatters and fragments.
I turn my attention to the manhole where Jimmy is helping a group of people out of their hiding spot. Adea is holding the hands of a woman who is lying on the ground, a ghastly wound on her stomach. From the colour of her hair I guess that it is her mother. The wound looks really bad.
Geez. Why did I have to play the wishing game? But once I set them, I stick to my rules. Adea wished for me to save her mother. It wouldn't count if she dies now.
Upon looking around, I find that the spirit who was run over is still alive. It's just a little broken, but its life force is still strong and pulses in my vision as a bright light. It tries to crawl away, but I can't let it do that. Walking forward, I plunge my left shadow wing into its back. It howls, but can't do much as I lift it like a skewered piece of meat.
Dragging it with me, I approach the group with Adea's Mom. Most of the people back off. Some even run away.
I ignore them and touch the mother's open belly with a wing of light. Then I start draining the life force from the spirit and channel it through me into Adea's mother. The wound closes quickly as the spirit stops struggling and shrivels to a dry husk. If there were some plants around, I could do this without a sacrifice. But the city in this area has just stone and earth to offer.
Once she is out of danger, I retreat my wing of light and toss the dead spirit away. “Get her into the car and out of here. I'll follow later,” I whisper to Jimmy and he nods, picking up Adea's mother.
Not a second too late. The two incoming auras are almost here.
I flash step away from the group of civilians, barely avoiding the axe-chop as Perseus's mana covered hand parts the air where I was just a second ago. He instantly returns to a fighting stance as Marc appears in front of the civilians to shield them from me. Or should I call him Marcus?
Perseus squints his eyes at me. “I hoped that you didn't disappear. Now I'll get my rematch!”
I close my eyes and block his hand as he appears in front of me. The shockwave flattens the house behind me and I reach out to slap him. He senses that there is no force behind my attack and doesn't even bother to block. We exchange blows like this seven times, each time another house has to pay for Perseus's idiocy.
Finally he stops his attacks and spits on the ground. “What the fuck are you!”
Marcus, who shielded the civilians, steps in. “Don't you get it? It... she is a divine level! You would have to lay waste to the city if you want to get through her defence.”
Being called an 'it' hurts a little, but I have to admit that my spirit form looks more monstrous than others.
“Then what can we do to stop it!?” Perseus asks, still in a fighting stance.
Marcus purses his lips, thinking. “Lure her out of the city? Though I don't get why she isn't attacking like the others...”
“Back at the mana storm it attacked with lethal force. Don't get lured in, it is just waiting for a chance. Must be one of the intelligent ones. Maybe she even is the one who opened the portal to get their forces into the city,” Perseus answers.
I use their bickering to bend down and pick up a pebble, then I wave my hand to get their attention. Both of them freeze like sheep caught in the headlights. Probably that's their first time to meet such a strangely behaving spirit. Pointing at my cheek, I pat it seven times.
“Maybe she wants to tell us something?” Perseus speaks his thoughts aloud.
“She slapped you seven times. Are-” Marcus doesn't get to finish his sentence.
Perseus reaches for his cheek and I flick my fingers, activating the delayed force-spell which I placed there, amplifying it with each slap. The force of my first slap is amplified and doubled for each slap I managed to land. That's seven times to be precise.
His head snaps sideways as the force is applied directly to his body. Spit, blood and a set of back teeth spray from his mouth as he tumbles over and over, landing in a mountain of rubble.
I throw the pebble at the group of civilians. My estimation of Marcus's reaction is spot on. Instead of helping his brother or stopping me, he moves to intercept the pebble. Which is just that, a pebble. Though he doesn't know that.
It draws enough of his attention for me to get away. I flash step, teleport, flash step, teleport, each time choosing a new direction and distance. The fourth time I conceal my aura and hurry to return to my human form. From then on I run, hurrying to leave the battle zone.
Adea and Jimmy have to be safe. I doubt that Marcus would simply leave their side after showing such protective behaviour.
I just have to hope that Adea won't snitch on me. Jimmy can't talk, even if he wanted to.