The young elf and the older man were both dead. Eva had never really talked to either of those security guards. Her interactions were strictly limited to Lucy and Daru, the two demonic members of Brakket’s security team.
Who were both missing, according to Juliana.
Eva closed her eyes and concentrated on feeling out for any demons around.
She quickly found Zagan. His power was just so overwhelming and radiant that missing him would have been impossible. From his power, Eva got a vague sense of direction. She couldn’t tell exactly how far he was, but it was in the direction of the main school building.
Ylva was somewhere in the opposite direction, inside the city. If Zagan were the sun, Ylva could be compared to the moon. A large body that was difficult to miss as long as it was around, but not quite so overwhelmingly radiant.
In comparison to them, Catherine would be more like a star. At least, so long as Eva wished to continue her celestial bodies analogy. It was there, but not all that prominent. So much so that it was almost a strain just to sense her.
The analogy broke down with the fact that there weren’t a million other demons to help cloud out Catherine’s existence. In fact, there were only three. None of which felt anything like Lucy. They could be Daru as Eva hadn’t interacted with him since her most recent treatment and didn’t know what he felt like to her senses.
All three of them and Catherine, were somewhere in the direction of the school building.
“Has Martina Turner been summoning demons?” Eva asked as she snapped open her eyes.
Martina hadn’t been part of the whole meeting where they agreed not to summon things anymore, so it was possible that she had gone ahead and done so. Wayne or Zoe should have mentioned something. Maybe they forgot with the whole cathedral thing. Or, more likely, Martina Turner just didn’t care about other people.
While waiting for Juliana to respond, Eva gave a quick glance towards their resident vampire.
Serena was still sitting on the floor with her back against Eva’s desk. Her gaze was fairly blank, but none of her muscles were tensed in the slightest. So long as she stayed like that and regained her sensibilities, Eva would be perfectly happy.
If Serena did go berserk again and couldn’t be neutralized without harming her, Eva would probably choose Juliana over Serena. Eva had grown fond of the vampire over their little vacation, but not that fond.
Juliana stood off to the side with her armor clamped firmly around her neck, though most of the rest of her head was uncovered. Eva did take the time to note that her hair was shorter by almost half compared to how it was when she had visited the other month ago. Her long blond hair now stopped somewhere just below her shoulders.
Shoulders that were currently lifting up and dropping in a mild shrug. “How should I know?”
“Well, you knew that the security guards were dead. With how I’ve been gone for the past week, I thought you might be a little more informed than I.”
“I literally got into town just an hour ago. The only reason I knew about that in the first place was because of notices posted around the town stating that an investigation was ongoing.” With an armored hand, she gestured back towards her bed where a suitcase lay open. “I haven’t even unpacked all the way.”
Eva glanced down at her watch. Her family was driving in at five in the morning? Unless one of them had recently come down with an acute case of vampirism, Eva couldn’t quite understand why they would travel overnight. Better yet, why not send Juliana on the Brakket school airliner.
More importantly, for the moment at least, daylight was fast approaching.
And Serena was still sitting on the floor.
“Help me hang up some of these blankets,” Eva said as she tore the covers off her bed.
“Sunlight and vampires don’t exactly agree with one another,” Eva said with a nod towards Serena.
Juliana’s eyes widened for just a moment before she moved up next to Eva. “Oh.” Her voice dropped to a whisper that Eva was certain could be heard with whatever enhanced hearing a vampire might possess. “What’s up with that anyway? A vampire?”
“Serena is a friend of Zoe and Wayne,” Eva said as she had Juliana hold up a corner of the blanket over one of the windows. “She was helping me kill Sawyer.”
Eyes wide, Juliana opened her mouth to say something. It snapped shut before she reconsidered. “Sounds like I missed out.”
Eva grinned. Juliana almost sounded disappointed, but she had a smile on. At least someone was happy about that.
Putting her mind to the task at hand, Eva decided how she wanted to hang the blankets. She didn’t have any duct tape with her, which is what they had used to hang up blankets all throughout their trip, but that wouldn’t be much of a problem. Pulling out her dagger again, she cut a thin slit along her upper arm. The blood flowed outwards, hardening into sharp nails.
It might be somewhat dangerous to leave her own crystallized blood around Serena. The vampire might try to eat it. Of course, she would wind up taking down the blankets and possibly exposing herself to the sunlight when that came around, so hopefully she could resist.
Without turning her head, Eva watched the vampire through her blood sight. She hadn’t so much as moved when Eva cut open her skin. There had to be a smell. Probably a good one at that, given how often Serena mentioned scent around Eva.
But her muscles were dead. Indistinguishable from an actual corpse.
Shaking her head, Eva used her blood magic to drive the nails into the wall near Juliana’s hands.
The act of shaking her head sent Eva wobbling slightly. She quickly caught herself, but the light-headed sensation stuck around.
She really needed another vacation. A real one this time.
But this was Brakket. No rest for anyone, wicked or not.
Really, she didn’t need Juliana’s help to hang the blankets. She could have held up the blankets at the same time as she used her magic to attach them. Having Juliana help her gave them an excuse to interact. It also kept Juliana from standing around awkwardly while Eva worked.
Though, with her suitcase only partially unpacked, she could have finished with that.
“You said that your family was staying in a house?” That might be a good reason why she hadn’t taken the Brakket Academy flight. It didn’t account for the hour at which they were traveling, but maybe with multiple people able to drive, they had just taken shifts.
Juliana gave a clipped nod as she held up the other corner of the blanket. “They wanted me to stay with them as well. I refused. My brother and father have only got more overbearing since Zagan showed up wondering why I wasn’t going to school anymore. I need a little space.”
“Doesn’t your mother need like… physical therapy or something?”
“She’ll be in bed, chairs, or her wheelchair for almost the entirety of the school year. Exercising is going to be very important. The doctors gave a list of things for her to do and how often to do them. They weren’t all that happy with her decision to come here. But… well, you know how headstrong she can be.”
“I doubt that someone who can throw down with Arachne would be stopped by a few doctors,” Eva said with a firm nod of her head. That nod gave way to a sorry sigh.
“Where is Arachne anyway?” Juliana asked as they moved over to the second window.
Eva did not miss the careful pace and neutral tone that she used. She looked off to the side, pointedly avoiding a glance in Eva’s direction.
During her visit earlier in the year, Eva had ensured that Juliana and Arachne would not cross paths. It just seemed to be a poor idea for the two of them to meet, given that Arachne was technically responsible for Genoa’s current condition.
Now, at least she wouldn’t have to worry about that.
“Arachne died. Her head exploded when nun lightning hit it.”
Juliana’s head snapped over to look at Eva with wide eyes. For a moment, she just stared. After that moment, she walked over to Eva and wrapped an arm around her shoulders in a loose hug.
“I’m sorry,” she said softly. “Are you alright?”
“Yeah. I’d say that I am fine. I’m not sure if that would be the truth or not. But it really doesn’t matter,” Eva added with a shake of her head. “I can’t just stop living because Arachne isn’t around. Besides, she’ll be back eventually.”
There was a short exhale from Juliana before she spoke. “How long?”
“No idea. Another month. Maybe a year. Ten? Fifty? I don’t know how a demon’s death truly works. The carnivean was back in a few months. So was the succubus that had her head crushed by Prax. The last time I asked Arachne about it, she told me that her previous death had been at least a few decades.”
“That’s… a long time.”
Eva half chuckled. “Yeah. You could say that.” Ducking out from Juliana’s hug, she tore the covers off Shalise’s bed. “Let’s get this other window covered before the sun comes up.”
While Juliana lifted up the blanket, Eva formed another four blood spikes.
They weren’t very large, but her headache was worsening. Between the transference circle, two feedings for Serena, and these spikes, it was starting to add up. Though it was now nearly five days ago, the blood she had packaged up for the vampires was probably adding to her anemia as well.
She doubled down on her thought to take a few days for a real vacation. A little rest and recuperation.
“What’s with us being in dorm three-one-seven? I thought they had split us up when I came back, but then I saw all your things lying around.”
“Ah, you missed all the excitement. Long story short, room three-thirteen got connected to my domain. The school gave us the room. However, with Shalise in another plane of existence and you officially dropping out of school—something I’m glad to see you got reversed—I was the sole owner of the room.
“That alone shouldn’t have been enough to allow me to link my domain. Not to mention the fact that I don’t know how to do that. Ylva thinks that it was the enigmas trying to push through into Earth that ended up making the connection. She showed me how to close it, but Martina felt that I should reside in a different room that had her name listed as an owner as well.”
Eva gave a slight snort. “Yeah. Annoying as well.”
“Speaking about Shalise, how is she?”
“Presumably, she’s alright.”
“She’s not in Hell. Prax is out of her head.”
“Well,” Juliana said as the second nail pinned both upper corners of the blanket to the wall, “that’s good. I’m not seeing the presumably yet.”
“Lynn Cross kidnapped her and I have no idea where they are. They were camping out in some woods on the other side of the world, but they could have easily moved since then. I’ll ask Nel to check the next time I’m around. Which will probably be as soon as we’re done with this.”
As she spoke, Eva sent the last two nails into the bottom two corners. It probably didn’t need the bottom pinned to the wall, but she didn’t want to risk the ventilation kicking up the blanket and letting the sun in while Serena was unawares.
Speaking of, Eva thought as she turned from the windows.
Moving up to Serena, Eva knelt down at her side. The vampire’s stillness was unnatural at the best of times. At the moment, it was actually starting to creep Eva out.
“Hey,” Eva said as she placed a hand on Serena’s shoulder.
The vampire flinched back. It was slight, but enough for Eva to pull her hand back.
Even with the slight start, Eva pressed on. “Are you alright?”
Eva frowned at the clipped answer. Obviously, she wasn’t fine. In fact, most times someone said that they were fine, it meant that they didn’t want to talk about whatever was bothering them. She had just about done the same to Juliana when asked about Arachne.
Still, Eva could respect not wanting to talk about certain things. Her sudden loss of control was probably something personal. A vampire thing that she just wanted to not think about.
That didn’t mean that she had to leave her entirely alone. “Can I get you anything?” Eva hesitated for just a moment before continuing. “I could probably spare some more blood if you needed.”
She didn’t really want to. Eva very much enjoyed her blood inside her own body and no one else’s. Unless, of course, she was about to explode said other person. She had no plans to do so to Serena at the moment.
Though, with her stomach already half full of Eva’s blood, she could put the vampire down if she went berserk again. Eva hoped that it wouldn’t come to that, but the possibility was there if it was needed.
If shedding another half-pint of blood could help prevent a rampage through the dorms and needing to obliterate the blood within the vampire’s body, Eva would gladly hand some over.
But Serena just shook her head. “No. I think I’ll sleep today away.” She looked up to Eva, the first real motion since she had propped herself up against the desk. With a sorry smile, she said, “I’m sorry that I won’t be able to accompany you.”
“That’s fine.” Eva put on a hopefully comforting smile as she stood up. “You’re free to stay here for the day. Use my bed, the one you’re leaning against, if you want.”
“Thanks. I think I will.”
So she said, but Serena glanced back to the floor, resuming her unmoving pose.
With a mental shrug, Eva turned to face Juliana. She didn’t have a chance to speak for Juliana opened her mouth.
“I’m coming with you,” Juliana said, trying as hard as she could to not look at Serena. “I can unpack later,” she said with a glance towards the open suitcase. “I want to know what’s going on as well. And I’m sure mom will want to find out sooner rather than later. Were it not for Zagan, I’m sure my father would have turned the car around the moment he saw the investigation notices.”
Eva nodded towards the door. “No sense wasting time then.”
Juliana didn’t need further urging. She pulled a light sweater out of her suitcase and slipped it on as she walked out of the room.
With one last look at Serena, Eva followed her out.
Hopefully nothing bad would come of leaving her alone in the dormitories.
Together, Juliana and Eva walked in silence. Given both the early hour and the fact that it was summer, not many other students were out and around the academy. They found no one on the stairs and, once they arrived outside, found no one wandering around the campus.
The silence lasted up until the two reached the sidewalks outside the dormitory.
“Vampire–” “So you–”
Both girls’ mouths snapped shut as they turned to each other.
After a moment of silence, Eva smiled and shook her head.
“Just to make sure that I heard you correctly, that vampire is friends with our professors?”
“Yeah. I don’t exactly know how that came about, but they’re familiar enough that Serena gave Zoe a hug and Zoe returned the hug.”
“Huh,” Juliana said with a frown. “Not really what I would have expected.”
“Like I said, she’s normally a lot nicer than you saw. Teleporting had some adverse effects, I guess.”
“I meant Zoe. Friends with a vampire? Not really something I’d picture given all of mother’s stories about vampires.”
Eva shrugged. Her only real experience with other vampires were those in Idaho. They had been half threatened into playing nice, so their behavior probably wasn’t all that typical. And, even before they had been threatened, they had been under the impression that Eva and Nel were some kind of servants owned by Serena.
“But you were saying that Zagan kept you from going to a different school? That seems nice of him.”
There was a sharp intake of breath from Eva’s side. After a quick stumble, all of Juliana’s blood fled from her body to concentrate around her face and ears. Her ripe tomato impression was going exceedingly well, but it was somewhat worrying.
“Are you alright?” Eva couldn’t help but to ask.
“Fine,” she said with a forced cough. “Just swallowed a bug down the wrong pipe.”
Eva frowned. Bugs had blood. Granted, they weren’t something that Eva normally paid attention to. With it pointed out, she tried looking and couldn’t see anything that might have gotten caught in her throat.
“If you’re sure…”
“Yeah. Zagan,” she paused to cough again. “When he helped out in Willie’s domain, we had a sort of agreement about me leaving the school. Or not leaving it.”
“An agreement with Zagan?”
That didn’t sound good. He hadn’t really done anything to do permanent harm to Eva. Though, after their conversation before her treatment, she now believed that to solely be because of her unique position as a ‘non-template’ demon. Juliana didn’t have any such insurance.
“It isn’t anything big,” Juliana said, face as red as before. “But it is a bit personal.”
Eva waited, but Juliana fell silent and did not continue. Whatever it was, she wasn’t going to elaborate if she didn’t have to.
Taking a deep breath, Eva said, “I just–”
“It’s nothing. Don’t worry about it.”
“That only makes me worry more. Zagan is a powerful demon who essentially wants for nothing. If he wants something from you, it’s all the scarier.”
“I know what he wants.”
Again, Eva waited to see if Juliana would explain.
“So,” Juliana said after a few moments of awkward silence, “Sawyer’s dead?”
Though she had to frown at the obvious topic change, Eva nodded her head. “As far as I can tell. He was a necromancer, so I’ve been expecting all kinds of ways he could have cheated death. Nothing has popped up so far. Though, he only died last night. Maybe it will take a little longer.
“He also died in Hell. Are there reapers in Hell? Anyone to go around and collect his soul?” Eva mused, mostly to herself. Maybe he was floating around, plan foiled and trapped within her domain because he was on a whole other plane of existence from where he had probably planned on dying. “Then there was the fact that he died telling me that I should have killed him when I had the chance.”
“That’s not ominous.”
“Definitely not,” Eva said as she turned down a street a ways away from the Brakket Academy campus.
Living in a small city was actually kind of nice. Everything was in walking distance of everything else. Technically, most everything in Florida was within walking distance if she blinked around constantly. As long as she didn’t care about maintaining a low profile, getting seen wasn’t even an issue.
The apartment building that Ylva, Nel, and Zoe lived in was closer than most buildings to the academy. A few other teachers lived in it as well, the ones that didn’t own an actual house around Brakket.
As Eva stared up at it, she wondered just where Wayne lived. She had never had a reason to visit him at his home, but was fairly certain that he didn’t live in the apartment building. He probably had a home somewhere, but with the ability to freely teleport, he could live on the other side of the country if he really wanted to.
Whatever the case was with Wayne, Eva didn’t really care. It was just a momentary thought. She had no reason to visit him and didn’t want a reason to do so.
Taking the stairs up to the third floor, Eva found herself frowning.
The room up above that had previously held that overexcited woman was not empty. Neither the woman nor her companion were inside. Something else definitely was.
Being nothing but densely packed tendrils, Lucy had something of an odd circulatory system no matter how she looked on the outside. Because of that, she was extraordinarily distinctive. Eva could pick her out of a crowd made up of demons and humans far easier than anyone else.
And there above Eva was Lucy.
Trying to reach out and detect her with her sense of demons failed entirely.
Some kind of ward?
That was the only explanation that Eva could come up with. Lucy was still alive. If only just. Her tentacles were moving ever so slightly. Perhaps she was drugged.
With how much blood was splattered around the room, it could be that she was just about dead.
Shaking her head, Eva started sprinting up the stairs, past the third floor.
She paused just long enough to turn to Juliana. “Room three-oh-four. Ylva should be inside with Nel and Zoe.” Eva could see all three of them through her sense of blood. “Let Ylva know that Lucy is upstairs in the room of that woman I warned her about. She’s injured.”
Without waiting to see if Juliana would do as she had asked, Eva continued her sprint upstairs.
Eva had already lost Arachne. She wasn’t such good friends with Lucy, but she didn’t want to lose her as well.
Reaching the door, Eva didn’t hesitate in jamming her dagger into her arm. Smearing a ring of blood around the deadbolt and handle, she stepped back. Even her blood should be strong enough to take out a wooden door.
Eva clapped her hands.
Her blood vanished with a flash of light.
Blinking away the spots in her eyes, she found the door to be entirely unharmed. Not even a scratch.
Undaunted, Eva lifted one leg into the air.
The door might be impervious to magical harm. Maybe mundane as well. The wall right around the handle had streaks of unpainted plaster filling in some gap. It clearly had been repaired recently. It likely wouldn’t have the same protections.
With all of her might, Eva kicked out her leg into the wall.
Shards of drywall, wood splinters, and dust filled the air as her foot went clean through the wall. Suppressing a cough, Eva jerked her foot back as fast as she could. Just in case something was on the other side.
Waving her hand to clear the dust from the air, Eva peeked through the hole.
Lucy was lying in the center of the room, unformed, within a set of glowing shackles. Tentacles had been removed from her main mass. Bits of Lucy were spread around, some in piles while others were scattered around the room. Furniture had been shoved aside to make room for all of the drawings on the floor.
“Hold on Lucy. I’m here,” Eva said as she reached through the hole she had made.
Fumbling around, she eventually managed to flick open the locks on the door. There was a chain set in place, but whatever enchantments had been placed on the door itself did not apply to it. At least, not all of it. With a grasp and a pull, the chain came off the wall.
She had expected the chain itself to break, but it was the latch attached to the wall that actually came apart.
Door unlocked, Eva swung it open.
Being able to see the room in full view did not make the sight any better. In fact, it was worse. Most of Lucy was not part of her anymore. As she stood at the threshold of the door, one of Lucy’s tendrils lifted in the air.
Lucy was obviously trying to fight it, but her fight wasn’t going so well. She either lacked the strength or whatever was lifting the tentacle was just too strong.
The tendril went taut. For just a moment, it held steady.
With a light popping noise, the tendril snapped off Lucy’s main body. It went flying, smacking against a wall where it slid down to the floor. Black blood splattered everywhere both around Lucy and against the wall.
This had to stop soon. Lucy couldn’t take much more of it.
Eva just about took a step into the room.
A faint glow at her feet held her up short.
There were more shackles carved into the entryway linoleum.
More than shackles.
Despite her associations, Eva was not a diabolist. She didn’t consider herself one and doubted that she knew enough to be considered anything other than an amateur. Still, she had something of an education from Devon. Whatever was on the floor, it would definitely do more than just trap demons. She couldn’t tell exactly what it would do, but it would be painful.
Gritting her teeth, Eva froze and watched as another of Lucy’s tentacles started lifting up into the air.
Juliana better get here soon.