Eva popped into the gate room of the women’s ward. As Arachne hopped off her and grew back to her full height, Eva pulled out her cellphone and sent Zoe a message stating that she had put out the fires and was taking a rest at the prison.
Not entirely true, but not a lie either.
At least it would keep her from worrying when Eva didn’t end up at the apartments.
Heading out of the gate room and into her own room, Eva added a fresh bit of blood to her warding scheme. It was somewhat annoying that she had to do so. Eva had cleaned out a handful of people in the recent months—Zagan, Lynn, and half of Juliana’s family to name a few. That she was readding one of those people so soon was just a little irksome.
But things were strange. If someone who had been looking into the enigmas more than anyone else around wanted to be her friend at the moment, Eva couldn’t really deny them.
Devon didn’t care about enigmas. Especially not with his new wind on Catherine’s ritual circle—though that had hit a small snag with how decimated the demon population was at the moment. Catherine was quite picky in just who was allowed in her ritual. She kept flip-flopping over having Arachne because of her dubious demonic origins. Lucy was still out of sorts and not in any shape to participate in a ritual.
Which just left Devon’s carnivean.
To the best of Eva’s knowledge, Anderson hadn’t summoned any demons and neither had anyone else. Being able to feel demons now-a-days took a lot of guesswork out of figuring out how many demons were around.
Devon and Catherine had been planning to summon a demon. They had actually tried but wound up getting a few enigmas instead. Four separate tries ended up with them summoning nothing but enigmas. Whether that was because of the specific demons they had tried or because Hell was once again being infested with enigmas, Eva couldn’t say. And neither could they.
In regards to Catherine and Devon, the last Eva heard, they were holding off for a time before trying again.
Arms crossed in front of her chest, Eva plopped down on the couch in the common room. Lynn had said that she would be along in five minutes.
It was nearing ten.
“You shouldn’t trust her,” Arachne said as she sunk into the couch next to Eva.
Just as Eva was starting to grow impatient.
“I know. If she lies about the time to get here,” Eva said with only a slight sarcastic tone in her voice, “who knows what else she is lying about.”
“She tried to kill you. Multiple times. She will try again.”
“Probably.” Eva frowned, dropping the sarcasm in favor of a more serious tone. “The enigmas threaten life as we know it. Void, by your account, is merely bored. Potentially troublesome, but not the all-consuming horror that Nel described Life’s plane of existence as. Something that no one wants Earth to end up as.”
“You’re putting your hopes on the notion that a human will set aside their emotions because of a possible apocalypse.” Arachne paused, shifting in her seat ever so slightly closer to Eva. “In my admittedly limited experience with humans, a stressful situation will only agitate her feelings. She’ll look for an opportunity to stab you in the back. Possibly literally.”
Eva shrugged. “I’ve survived all of her attacks so far. Fought back quite decisively, as well. Sawyer’s sneak attacks have always been worse and I’ve survived all of them as well. And have come out stronger, if I may say so myself.”
Looking up at Arachne, Eva added, “I didn’t have you during any of those encounters. Circumstances always conspired against us being together. If I can help it, we won’t be separated again. Not in school or outside of it.”
Arachne stilled before a small smile grew on her face. “I appreciate that.”
“Now,” Eva said as she clapped her hands together. She didn’t clap to cause any explosions, merely for punctuation as she changed topics. “Is that woman ever going to show up?”
The moment the words were out of her mouth, Eva felt a circulatory system enter her range. She watched as it approached the front door of her women’s ward. With her real eyes, she watched a tentacle reach around the side of the door as it pushed inwards. Devon’s scraggly beard poked around next.
The rest of him soon followed.
“Good,” he said with a gravely voice, “you’re back. The carnivean mentioned feeling a demon. I was hoping it was you.”
“Did you need something?”
“The week before your school restarts, we’ll be performing both your ritual as well as Catherine’s.”
Eva nodded along. Depending on which end of the week Devon would go for, that was anywhere from three weeks away to a full month.
But he didn’t continue along. Devon started to leave.
“We still need three demons for both of us right? Arachne, Catherine and the carnivean for me, but who all for Catherine?”
“If we are unable to summon any proper demons, Arachne and you will have to suffice.”
“Me? I’m not even a full demon.”
Devon rolled his eyes. “We know,” he said with a scoff. “You’re close enough—especially after your next treatment—that it shouldn’t matter. In fact, Catherine has changed from apprehensive to excited about the prospect of having you in its circle. You represent an unknown. Something that no demon apart from yourself possesses.”
“We would still prefer a proper demon.”
“I’m sure you would.” Frankly, Eva would as well. None of the demons looked like they had been in much pain during her ritual the other month, but they were much better at hiding things like that than she was. “Was there anything else?”
His tentacle reached up, scratching through his beard. He was lucky that it wasn’t a slimy tentacle. Lucy had a constant sheen covering her face and hair while in her human form. The thin slime wasn’t too noticeable other than looking like she was sweating constantly, but that was her entire body. Just an arm would mean Devon’s face would get coated in goop every time he touched his beard.
“Can’t think of anything prominent. Don’t die. You’re almost done.”
“I’ll try not to,” Eva said, voice flat. “Not really something I’m planning—”
Eva cut herself off, standing up as Lynn Cross popped into the gate room. Just because they had parted without fighting did not mean that Eva was willing to let her wander freely around her home. Arachne was right, she could be stabbed in the back at any time.
Though, in Eva’s opinion, it would be foolishness in the extreme to attack her in the middle of her home. Lynn knew that she was a blood mage. Eva had to gather a vial of Lynn’s blood before she could enter the women’s ward. If Lynn thought to attack, Eva could instantly turn the tables on her.
And Lynn had to know that fact.
“If you’ll excuse me,” Eva said to Devon, “I’ve an operation to perform.”
Devon raised an eyebrow, eyes shifting to the gate room door as Lynn stepped into the main room.
“A guest?” His eyes narrowed as he looked Lynn up and down. “A demon?”
“Worse. A nun.”
Devon took a step back, instantly on guard. His thumb idly ran over the rings of his human hand.
Though Eva had been joking, a nun was probably much worse than a demon to him. Demons could be dominated. In fact, demons were the best case scenario for Devon. Humans, vampires, and anything else couldn’t be handled by turning them to his side.
“Calm down. I’m expecting her. Or rather, I’ve been expecting her.” Eva turned to face Lynn, putting a frown on her face. “I was excepting her a good ten to fifteen minutes ago.”
“I took a moment to check around the camp, looking for anything to salvage.”
“Not what I was looking for.”
Eva shrugged. Unless it was some anti-demon or enigma weapon, Eva really didn’t care what she had been looking for.
“Very well,” she said, turning back to Devon. “Like I said, nothing to worry about. Just have to chop some arms off.”
“You ask me not to worry and then you say things like that,” he said, shaking his head. “Whatever. Do what you want. Just keep her away from me.”
Not having moved far from the door, Devon quickly moved back to it and started to leave. “And don’t get killed either,” he said before slamming the door behind him.
“Aww, he really does care,” Eva said with a roll of her eyes.
“Charming,” Lynn said. Her voice came out toneless and without any humor.
“You know, every single person I’ve talked to who isn’t named Shalise thinks that you’re going to kill me at the first possible opportunity. Or try to, at least. Even then, Shalise didn’t sound too certain of herself. It probably says something terrible about your personality.”
“I could make do without your taunts.”
“Not a taunt. Merely a comment.” Eva waved a hand around the room. “Take a seat,” she said as she made her way towards the potions room.
Arachne and Lynn glowered at each other, somewhat dancing around each other as Lynn moved towards the couch and Arachne towards the potions room door. Eventually, with a gesture of her arm, Lynn allowed Arachne to pass by, taking a seat as soon as the way was clear.
Leaving the door open as Eva started rummaging through the cabinet, she turned her head over her shoulder to call out to Lynn. “I have to say, I’ve somewhat neglected my potions upkeep. I can’t even remember the last time I brewed any. These are all at least six months old. Most older than that. Half of these ‘beneficial’ potions are probably more poison these days.”
Lynn’s voice echoed out from the common room, derision plain in her tone. “The more you speak, the more I consider taking my chances as is. Or doing it myself.”
Despite her words, she remained seated in the common room.
Eva pulled out one certain vial from the cupboard. A muted brown color potion. Not really what it was supposed to look like, but uncapping the top and sniffing at it, Eva didn’t find anything really wrong with the light citrus scent. It probably wouldn’t kill her.
It might not work as intended, but at least she tried.
“Here,” Eva said, tossing the vial to Lynn. “Same thing I took when I amputated my legs. It should make your entire body numb for a few hours. Though I did have to take about twenty vials of it, but potions don’t work too well on me.”
Lynn caught the vial out of the air, frowning at the color as she performed the same smell test that Eva did. Unlike Eva, she wrinkled her nose, pushing the vial away from her face. She opened her mouth.
For a moment, Eva thought that she was going to complain.
Lynn brought the vial to her lips and tipped it all back in a single swig.
She shuddered as her face twisted into disgust. The disgust quickly vanished as her face regained a neutral expression.
“Well, it works on my tongue at least.”
Eva waited, watching as the nun went slack-jawed.
“And rest of my body,” she slurred after a moment.
“Excellent. Let’s get to work.”
Eva drew her dagger as Lynn started removing her shirt.
The purple blotches on her arm reached just below her shoulder—luckily for Lynn, it would be much harder to remove the corruption if it had spread onto her chest. Eva couldn’t tell that anything was odd. As far as her blood was concerned, everything was normal.
The blotches cut off below her shoulder with a sharp line. Slightly curved.
“This is where the moonlight cut off,” Lynn started, slightly slurring her words as she traced the sharp line. “I moved my arm into the light before stepping fully into it. Obviously, I didn’t follow through with the remainder of the ritual.”
“If you had finished, would the corruption have been pulled away?” Eva mused as she cut a thin line into Lynn’s arm. “Perhaps it was only temporary.”
Lynn had abjectly refused to allow demon blood anywhere near her. Even after explaining that human blood wasn’t half a strong, she hadn’t agreed.
So if it wasn’t a clean cut, it wouldn’t be Eva’s fault.
“That wasn’t something I could chance. Not with Shalise sleeping a tent over. If something had happened… if I had turned into an enigma or otherwise lost my mind…”
“Probably good that you didn’t.”
Standing away from Lynn, Eva clapped her hands together right away.
The blood dripping out of the wound Eva had cut flashed white. When the spots died out from Eva’s eyes, Lynn’s arm was lying at her side, looking a whole lot more like mutilated beef than Eva had intended. However, Lynn herself didn’t look too bad.
Eva did let out a small groan as she hardened the blood around Lynn’s stump. “I should have had you move.”
Glancing down at the bleeding limb on the couch, she gave a half-smile. “Your loss,” Lynn said. “I feel…”
Whatever she was going to say, she didn’t make it. Her eyes rolled back in her head as she fell over to the side.
Eva shifted her mask around, molding the blood over her hair to give her a smooth and solid skullcap.
Arachne wasn’t with her. She was far too recognizable for what Eva intended to do. Even Eva’s mask could be recognized by anyone who went to the Elysium Order’s cathedral. Both Zoe and Wayne as well as the nuns.
Though Eva hoped she wouldn’t be running into one of them anytime soon.
Serena could recognize it as well, but Eva hadn’t seen the vampire in forever. She had left a note stating that she was going home. After that, Wayne had disappeared for a few days before returning alone. Presumably she was fine.
Eva had been somewhat put off by the simple note as a farewell. They had a somewhat awkward situation when she had lost control after teleporting, but Eva hadn’t held it against her. It was Eva’s fault for teleporting her, if anything.
But that was all in the past. Focusing on the present, Eva had to ensure that she wouldn’t be easily recognized. She had bought an entirely new outfit specifically for tonight. Normally, Eva wore skirts and tee-shirts. She hadn’t worn shoes since her inhuman nature had been revealed to the school population.
Today, she had a long pair of suit pants with a dark button-up shirt.
And her mask.
Sitting in front of a well-lit mirror, Eva stared at herself with a frown. The mask on her face turned to a frown as well. It took a bit of practice to mimic her expressions on the mask. It wasn’t perfect. Anyone who looked too closely would realize that her mask didn’t move quite like a real face would.
But it was close enough.
“Now,” Eva said as she looked out at the array of chemicals on the desk in front of the mirror. “How do I do this?”
Reaching out, she picked up a circular container of powder that roughly matched her skin tone. Setting it down, she took hold of a jar of thicker goop. As with the powder, it matched her skin.
But Eva had no idea how to use it.
Having lived on her own since she was younger, Eva had never really gotten into makeup. People at her old school used it. Eva only rarely spoke with them. Her attending middle school had been solely to avoid any trouble involving the law coming after her for truancy that, in retrospect, had probably been wholly unnecessary.
It wasn’t like she was registered to live at the abandoned hospital.
None of her limited experience with others in school had led to an interest in makeup.
With a groan, Eva started slathering the goop over her semi-solid mask. The surface of her mask was hard enough that the makeup didn’t soak into it. Which was good for her control over the blood. If the blood became too contaminated, she would lose control and her mask would become a solid masquerade mask.
Unfortunately, the goop didn’t mesh into the mask the same way that it did with skin. Eva had to make the mask slightly porous to get it spread smoothly. There were still ridges and clumps of thicker makeup, but Eva managed to get it smoothed out for the most part.
Grabbing a brush and the powder, Eva brushed some up on her face. She had no idea what she was doing, but she was trying to give some definition to the smooth, plastic-like texture of the goop.
A bit of lipstick gave some color to her lips.
“Whatever,” Eva said with a shake of her head. It didn’t need to be perfect. It just needed to make her not look like her and not look like hardened demon blood. The makeup definitely accomplished both tasks. It didn’t really make her look like a human though.
Reaching to the side of the mirror, Eva picked up a short blond wig. Enough to cover the rest of her head that didn’t have makeup over it. It took a bit of molding of her mask to get it to stay on and not slip off, but eventually she managed.
Finally, Eva reached towards a small container. The large, full-eye contacts that Devon had gifted her long ago before she had lost her original eyes. She could have worn them earlier, but after missing eyes completely and going with the blindfold for so long, suddenly having eyes would have been strange.
And they were a nightmare to insert and remove.
She should have done so before putting on her mask, but it was easy enough to detach from the rest of her face without ruining the makeup. Not that it could really look any worse.
Eva had to pull down the lip of her eye as she slipped the edge of the contact under her eyelid. Pressing it into place, there was a bit of an air bubble on the inside. Nothing painful, but her eye would dry out if left too long.
She wasn’t planning on taking too long tonight.
“I look like a doll,” Eva said after she inserted her second contact and replaced her mask. “A doll that was left in the oven for too long.”
Whatever she looked like didn’t matter. She wasn’t planning on interacting with anyone. Her disguise only needed to function from afar. And on anyone watching on any security cameras.
Preparations complete, Eva turned to the window and blinked out onto a roof near her motel. A few quick blinks later and Eva found herself at her ultimate destination.
Not an extraordinary hospital by any means. Even for mages. With a simple red cross and large glass windows, Eva wouldn’t have been able to pick it out from a lineup of other hospitals.
The only thing that set this one apart was a certain patient on the third floor.
Having scoped out the building beforehand, Eva knew exactly which room to go to. Unfortunately, she wasn’t able to blink straight into the room. The curtains were closed. They had been earlier in the day as well. While she could blink into the hallway, that would be too revealing. Security cameras would suddenly see her. Even if she blinked to a blind spot, it would still be suspicious to show up on one camera but not the ones before. Not enough people could blink, doing so would narrow suspects.
So Eva walked in through a main door—not the front door, but not quite a side door either. There was a small lobby and it was still within visiting hours, so nothing should be too suspicious. Eva didn’t stop by the counter, but she did give a nod towards the attendant.
Nothing odd about that. People came in to visit all the time. So long as she acted like she knew where she was going and like she was supposed to be there, no one would look twice at her.
Even with her hideous face.
With her blood sight, Eva moved up towards the third floor without meeting anyone. It was easy to avoid them when she could see through walls.
She had to wait in the stairwell for a few moments before entering the third floor hallway. Just long enough to avoid someone walking from one of the rooms to the elevator.
She couldn’t avoid the security cameras, but no one would be staring at them until later.
Once the coast was clear, she headed into the hallway and made her way to the room.
“Hello, Martina Turner,” Eva said as she shut the door behind her.
The body of Martina Turner sat in her bed. Eyes closed, she gave no indication that she had heard anything. The only noise in the whole room was a steady beep of an electrocardiogram machine.
“I’d appreciate it if you’d respond. I truly don’t want to kill you.”
Eva walked over to the side of her bed, leaning against it. She had been hoping that there would be some reaction to her words. Even a slight heart rate increase. Something to indicate that someone was home.
“But from the looks of things,” Eva said as she pulled out her dagger, “you’re already dead. Your body just doesn’t know it yet.”
An incision of any size would be far too obvious. But all she needed was a pinprick. Removing the intravenous needle, Eva pressed her dagger to the tiny hole. She widened the hole as soon as the first bit of blood came under her control. Not much. Just enough to get a bit more blood under her spell.
As the blood coursed through the husk of Martina Turner, Eva replaced the needle. She took care to insert it exactly where it had come from.
The blood reached her heart and Eva froze it solid, blocking off a ventricle.
The electrocardiogram machine started beeping, making a great deal of noise. Eva took her leave immediately, not wanting to get caught behind.
She slipped into the stairwell just as the nurses and doctors raced down the hall towards Martina’s room.
Feeling somewhat disgusted with herself, Eva stayed behind just long enough to ensure that the doctors had stopped trying. Once they had, Eva turned the blood in Martina’s heart back to liquid before making her way out of the building.
A nearby alley had a duffel bag full of far more regular clothes. Eva removed her mask, stripped, changed, and placed her disguise clothing and wig into the shell of the mask.
With a clap of her hands, nothing was left. Wig, clothes, makeup, and duffel bag all vanished into oblivion.
Building up her magic, Eva teleported straight back to the women’s ward.
“It’s done,” Eva said, stepping into the common room.
Catherine looked up, eyes blazing red in her full demonic form. “I know. Thank you for that. I don’t pretend to care about whatever emotions you might have felt, but I know that our favors weren’t binding in the slightest. I appreciate you following through.”
“I don’t appreciate being asked.” Taking a deep breath, Eva shook her head. “But what is done is now done. What is next for you?”
“I think a position as the secretary for Brakket Academy has just opened up. I’ll be spending my time with Devon, researching. We’re so close. I can almost taste it.”
“Well, I hope that works out for you. You’re free to stay here if you want. Or pick a building. Plenty to go around. We don’t get electricity or internet out here though.”
“No time for games. Maybe after this ritual, there will be time for such things.”
“I’m looking forward to it. Both of our rituals, that is.” Forcing a yawn, Eva headed towards her room. “I’m going to turn in for the night.”
Leaving the succubus, Eva tore off her clothes and crawled into bed. She had promised herself that she wouldn’t ‘play the victim’ after killing Martina. Not even within the confines of her own mind. Self-pity, especially over something she did intentionally and with full knowledge of what she was doing, did not become her.
And yet, she had never killed anyone she had known before. Sawyer not withstanding. Technically, he had killed himself. Or just died on his own. No one she had spoken to for more than a few instants. No one she cared about—even as little as she cared for Martina.
It left a weight in her chest. One she had trouble discerning the true cause of.
Eva found herself not getting her usual amount of sleep.