Tag Archives: Lucy

009.023

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“Lucy?” Eva called out as she crept into the dormitory room assigned to the demon in question. Unlike the student demons—who were all housed in the Rickenbacker—Lucy’s assigned room was over in the Gillet. Eva honestly didn’t think that she had ever been inside. It was eerie. She was so used to everything being where it was in the Rickenbacker that walking inside its identical twin sent shivers down her spine.

Everything was mirrored. Instead of turning left at the top of the stairs, she had to turn right. The dorm rooms were on the wrong side of the hallway. The doors even opened to the wrong side.

Eva really just wanted to pop in, say sorry, then pop out.

But Lucy was hiding. Or rather, she had pressed herself flat and was hiding between the drawers underneath one of the beds.

“Lucy, I can see you. And sense you, for that matter.” Eva started tapping her foot.

By the third tap, Lucy had started squirming out from under the bed. She didn’t push out a drawer to do so. Tentacles emerged through the thin slits between the wood of the frame and the actual drawer. It was somewhat disturbing to watch at first, when not much of Lucy was actually through. Even knowing how her body looked through her blood sight, Eva didn’t know how she maneuvered around all four sides of the rectangular drawer without either tangling herself up or getting part of her caught on the other side. Somehow, she made it. A moment after piling herself up on the floor, she spread out to a proper humanoid form.

“Here to tear me apart again?”

“I’m not going to tear you apart. And it’s your own fault for not letting go.”

“You could have just pelted me with fireballs.”

“I tried fireballs.”

“I was supposed to let go after thirty direct hits from students’ attacks. You only made it to twenty-two.”

“Did chopping off each tentacle not count as a direct attack? Because I probably chopped off more than that.”

Lucy shrank in on herself—literally—before shaking her head. “I don’t know. I wasn’t expecting to get torn apart.”

Eva sighed as she placed a hand on Lucy’s shoulder. Something Lucy initially flinched away from until she realized that Eva wasn’t going to hurt her. “Look, I’m sorry about all that. I might have gotten a little hot-headed. How about this, would you like to go to a feast? You missed the big after-event dinner last time. I bet you could even sit up at the professors’ table with all the other important people! It will be fun! New experiences!”

“I do like new experiences. And fun. As long as it isn’t the hurting kind of experience.”

“Great!” Eva slapped Lucy on the back. “I’ll see you there.”

Time to go visit Anderson and ensure he knew to leave out an extra seat.

— — —

As Eva sat in the middle of the event closing feast, she couldn’t help but wonder if Anderson’s smile could get any wider. The results hadn’t even been announced yet. Brakket was obviously going to win. They wound up with seven crystals. It would have been eight, but one crystal had been taken out of the boundaries of Brakket’s camp right at the last second.

No crystals outside the border of the camps counted for any team in the end, so Brakket was in first place. Second place would be going to Isomer with five crystals. Nod Complex and Faultline had two each, and Mount Hope was left with one. And that was thanks only to Irene being unable to carry that one. All other crystals has been ‘in transit’ and therefore uncounted.

So with Brakket in the clear lead, it wasn’t hard to understand just what Anderson was so happy about. Still, in Eva’s opinion, he could at least have had the decorum to look a little subdued before the results were officially announced. At this point, she would find it hilarious if Redford and his judges had some other criteria for who would be winning first place.

“He’s still there,” Juliana whispered, setting down a fork.

She leaned in so close that Eva actually scooted away. Even still, her voice didn’t quite carry to Eva’s ears despite them sitting right next to each other. Luckily, what little did reach Eva’s ears, combined with her burgeoning lip-reading skills, was enough that she could understand.

In response, Eva didn’t offer anything but a slight hum. Juliana couldn’t lip read. More, she didn’t want to say anything just in case one of the many air mages around was using magic to carry what little air Juliana disturbed to their ears. She doubted anyone was doing so, but she couldn’t be sure.

“I can feel him. And his magic.” Juliana said, apparently not picking up on the reason for Eva’s lack of response. Though Eva couldn’t really blame her. This feast the day after the event and her kidnapping was the first opportunity for them to be together without her parents in the immediate area.

Of course, her parents were still at the feast—Zoe had invited them up to the front of the stage. They weren’t sitting with Juliana though, and apparently that was good enough for her.

“He hasn’t said a single word since teaching me how to use his magic.” She ran her fingers through her hair, tugging slightly as she went. “What if he is upset? Am I not entertaining enough? What–”

“You’re getting a little loud,” Eva said, her own voice still a whisper but not nearly so quiet as Juliana had first been. “Besides, you worry too much. Obviously he hasn’t…” Pausing, Eva considered her words.

Shalise looked in their direction, obviously having noticed that they were speaking. She raised a curious eyebrow to which Eva just smiled. Eva had told her what had happened in the privacy of their dormitory room, so she wouldn’t have a problem bringing her into the conversation—she was the expert of the three of them on having a demon inside her, after all. However, that would just increase the volume of their words. Better to just table it for the moment.

“He hasn’t tried to escape, so nothing to worry about.”

“Easy for you to say,” Juliana said in a much more normal tone of voice, slouching her shoulders as she shoved around her food, mixing the mashed potatoes with the mashed lychee.

Before Eva could say anything else, a certain vampire plopped down in the vacant seat directly opposite Eva. Saija, to his side, narrowed her eyes as she looked over to him.

But the vampire didn’t even notice. His smug face had eyes for nobody but Eva.

“Who are you again?”

His smile slipped into a lip-curling scowl. “Your humor is lacking.”

“Oh, except it wasn’t a joke. I honestly can’t remember your name. Do you know it?” Eva asked, glancing towards Juliana. At the shake of her head, Eva turned towards her opposite side where Shalise also shook her head. Turning back to the vampire, Eva frowned. “There you have it. Nobody knows who you are.”

It took a great deal of effort to suppress her smile as the vampire ground his teeth together. “I’m–”

“Before that,” Eva said, holding up a hand, “Juliana, do you mind if I try something?”

“Ah… that depends. There are a lot of things you might want to try that I do not particularly want to be involved in. Or that my mother would like me involved in, for that matter.”

“Oh don’t worry,” Eva said with a wide grin, “nothing scary. Just a thought experiment. Let’s say that somebody can jump but we really don’t want them to…” She trailed off and waited.

It took a moment. Not a long moment. Soon enough, Juliana had a similar grin on her face. “I think I can do that,” she said. And then she started mumbling, more to herself than to Eva. “Though we should change it to communicate. That way writing it down or sign language wouldn’t work. I should probably make sure there aren’t any dead man’s switches, though I might have to think that one over for a bit on exactly how to word it.”

“Take your time, I doubt it needs to be done tonight.”

The vampire’s impatience at being ignored peaked. He put a fist down on the table hard enough to clatter the plates and cutlery. A few people glanced over, but no more than what was usual for Eva kept looking for very long. “What are you two talking about?” he said.

“Like I said,” Eva said, turning back to the vampire with an even wider grin. It was almost as big as Anderson’s. “Just a thought experiment. Don’t worry if you’re having a hard time keeping up. I wouldn’t expect a rot-addled brain to comprehend.”

His dead eyes narrowed to thin slits.

“I don’t know what you’re playing at, but try anything against me and you’ll regret it.”

Eva snapped her face back to a serious expression. It wasn’t the easiest thing to do. Especially not while entertaining the thought that Juliana could use Zagan to get rid of her vampire problem. “Right. I wouldn’t dare so long as you’re holding any secrets over me.”

“And don’t you forget it.”

“So, what did you come over here for?”

The vampire—who still had yet to introduce himself properly—straightened his back as he stared over at Eva. “The third event will be beginning after the New Year’s holidays. The two of us will be able to participate once again. I was thinking we might have another little wager.”

“About my blood again?”

“What else?” he said with a smug shrug.

Eva frowned. Even if Juliana could correct his ability to open his mouth about things she didn’t want said—without him knowing at that—it would still be best to keep him believing that he could say something. If only to prevent him from trying to and potentially finding a way around whatever Juliana was going to do.

Really, it would be so much simpler if the Elysium Order did their job. Though Eva supposed she was partially to blame for that. And then they might also catch wind of Serena, which she didn’t want to happen. Not all vampires are terrible. Just all of them that weren’t named Serena.

Supposedly Wayne’s sister was also a vampire, or so Serena had said, but Eva had never met her. For all she knew, Serena was an absolute anomaly and Wayne’s sister would be insufferable as well. Then again, thinking about it for a few minutes, Serena was fairly insufferable in her own way. It was just that Eva had gotten used to it.

“Why don’t we raise the stakes?”

“What do you have in mind?”

“If Nod Complex comes out on top of Brakket, I’ll supply you with a weekly vial of my blood for a year. Fifty-two vials, in other words.”

“I see no issue with that.”

“If Brakket wins…” Eva tapped her chin in thought. “An equal amount of your blood.”

She had no real concrete plans, but she was a blood mage! If she couldn’t find anything worth doing with it, she probably needed to rethink her choices in magic specialization. The vampire hadn’t done anything really worth killing him over, but she was sure there would be several other annoyances she could come up with.

If worse came to worst and Juliana couldn’t get rid of their problem, she could always try out the sense-sharing spell. Despite her poor experience in using it on Sawyer, two days of spying on him could easily reveal whatever backup plans he had.

“My blood? Why would you want my blood? You don’t drink blood, do you?”

Shalise made a face, looking almost like she was going to be sick.

Eva ignored it. “I don’t drink blood,” she said with a shrug. “However, I’m not averse to making money. I’m sure vampire blood can be used in all sorts of potions and magical reagents.”

“Selling my blood?” He scoffed, shaking his head. With a prideful flourish, he stood from the table. “It won’t matter. If you think I haven’t learned your tricks. And this time, you won’t be allied with the…” His lips curled again as he trailed off, shooting a glance at the Isomer table. “Elysium Order,” he eventually finished, sounding more like he was swearing than actually talking. “But I can agree to your bet. Fifty-two vials. Plus no less than ten direct feedings.”

Did he have to be so creepy about it? It was hard enough to keep her smile from faltering. Shalise had her eyes closed and her nose scrunched up. Even Juliana had shoved her meal away from her as she stared at the vampire.

On the other hand, Saija’s glower at having the vampire sitting next to her reached its peak. “Great. Now that you’re done, do you mind?” She wafted her hand in front of her nose. “Ugh. Dead people. Reeks like raw fish. Or worse. You shouldn’t be allowed around everybody’s meals. It’s not like you can eat it anyway.”

“No one asked you, demon,” he snarled.

“Your breath isn’t doing you any favors either,” she said, turning her head with her nose wrinkled. “Even if you’re dead, you could still have a mint every now and again, right?”

Eva cleared her throat before more snide remarks could be thrown. Not that she really minded, but the nuns had started to stare. “You should probably head back to your school’s table. I’d rather have as little known fraternization as possible between us.”

He gave a slight snort but turned and walked off towards the Nod Complex’s seating.

“Creep,” Juliana mumbled under her breath, to which Shalise gave a few vigorous nods.

“Yeah. I wish Devon would get on with my next treatment already. Apparently my most recent treatment made me unpalatable towards one other vampire. Maybe another would work on this guy.”

Juliana’s back stiffened. “Other vampire? The one from our room?”

“Yeah. She’s been around somewhere. I saw her just after the hunters attacked. Not since though, I wonder where she’s been,” Eva mumbled to herself. “But don’t worry, she’s back to her normal self. No lunging at you and trying to eat you. Too much, anyway.”

“You sure know how to make people feel better,” Juliana said with a sigh.

“I do try,” Eva said with a smile. She was going to say more, but Anderson chose that moment to get up on center stage.

As with the previous event, he introduced Wallace Redford. Redford stood from his seat—he wasn’t next to the quetzalcoatl this time. In fact, Eva couldn’t see the quetzalcoatl anywhere around. Maybe her presence had been a one-off thing. Redford announced the results exactly as Eva had expected. Brakket first, Isomer second, Faultline and Nod Complex tied for third, and Mount Hope fifth.

Throughout it all, Eva barely paid attention. The results were a mere formality at this point. Though she did give Irene a thumbs up when Brakket was announced as first. Had it not been for her, Brakket and Mount Hope would have tied for second underneath Isomer.

And, frankly, Irene deserved a little praise. Getting carried around by Saija all night didn’t look like the funnest thing that could have happened.

Irene didn’t look all that happy at the minor praise. Though she smiled, she quickly ducked her head and stared down at her plate, avoiding eye-contact with everyone else for a few minutes until she thought nobody was looking.

To be fair, nobody was looking. Eva only observed her through her blood sight. However, her thoughts were interrupted before she could consider Irene more.

“The next event will be held the second week of January. As with the other events, you will be unaware of what is required to succeed until immediately before the event. Enjoy your holidays, though do not neglect your training. It just might mean the difference between success and defeat.”

“Thank you Wallace,” Anderson said, stepping back into his spot as Redford headed back towards his seat. “Now, before we all disperse for the evening, I do have a few… announcements to make. I do not wish to imply that Brakket Academy may be unsafe; however, there was an incident recently that I feel it is necessary to make everyone aware of.”

At Eva’s side, Juliana shifted, she moved her hands down to her lap and mimicked Irene in avoiding people’s gaze.

“There was an attempt at kidnapping a Brakket Academy student over the weekend. Mage-knight Genoa Rivas, Eva Spencer, and the demon Arachne managed to recover the student unharmed shortly after the incident; however, the kidnapper managed to escape. Until the situation can be resolved and the perpetrator captured, students are not to wander Brakket City unaccompanied. Anywhere beyond the dormitory buildings is considered off-limits for the time being. If you need to shop for clothing, supplies, or anything else, please ask one of the professors you see up on stage,” he said with a wave of his hand back to the assembled teachers and headmasters.

Lucy, Eva noted, waved right back with a bright smile on her face. Eva wasn’t certain if she was supposed to have been included in that grouping, but maybe someone would ask her. That might be amusing to watch.

“Finally, if you see a woman with bright red hair down to her shoulders and an eye patch over her right eye, please keep your distance and contact help immediately. She may be wearing metallic armor.” He lifted his wand into the air and drew out a series of flaming numbers. They hung in the air just above his head. “I highly encourage everyone to add this number to their speed-dials. There will always be someone manning the phone ready to dispatch assistance.”

He clapped his hands together. The numbers kept hovering over his head, but his morose expression shifted back to a bright smile. “However, we expect to have the situation well in hand. Be aware, be safe, but try not to worry too much. There are a few more lighthearted announcements to make before I let you all go.

“We’ll be hosting a special event on the twenty-eighth. Optional to attend, but if you wish to intermingle with your fellow schools outside a school or contest setting, this will be the event for you. There will be a number of games and prizes–”

Eva’s attention waned. Her interest in holiday events for the various schools rated somewhere between being stuck in Sawyer’s head for a weekend and being strapped to Sawyer’s operating table. If everyone else wanted to have some fun party, that was perfectly fine with her. She had other things to think about.

Catherine for one. The succubus was going to stop by Brakket later on to inspect the ritual circle. Eva still had yet to describe its purpose to Catherine—she wanted to see if the purpose was evident in the design. If Catherine said that the circle was designed to split apart the Earth and send both halves cascading into the Sun, then she might be speaking with Vektul about some miscommunication regarding the ritual.

If she did divine just what the ritual was for, Eva was really hoping she wouldn’t have too many concerns over it.

Of course, that was assuming it got finished anytime soon. With Juliana’s parents both going into a completely overprotective mode, she might not be able to help out much. Eva had considered asking her to use Zagan’s power to instantly complete it, but considering a second time, she really didn’t want any magic-induced errors to appear. The circle was almost finished. With her non-Juliana help, it wouldn’t take forever. Then they could go over the entire thing by hand, double checking it all.

Might still be a good idea to recruit someone else as well. And then she still needed the actual people to help power the circle. A combination of demons and humans. Juliana probably wouldn’t work anymore with her having been bound to Zagan. She could check in with Vektul, but better to be safe than sorry.

But that was still a little further off than even the completion of the circle.

The other big issue was the hunter. Despite Anderson’s claims of having the situation well in hand. Frankly, she just didn’t believe that he would do much of anything. He might believe it, but not Eva. In her opinion, Genoa was far more likely to do something.

Which might have been what Anderson was counting on.

Still, the possibility of him actually doing something didn’t mean that Eva would sit idle. The hunter was after her, after all. And she had just the idea in mind. She would wander around on the streets and get herself captured.

Her thoughts broke as the dinnerware before her began clattering. It was a small thing. The clattering didn’t last more than a few seconds. The only reason it was audible at all was because the entire room fell into a brief silence. Eva scarcely felt it herself.

“An earthquake?” Anderson said from up on the stage, confusion marring his features. He waited a moment as if listening for anything else. But nothing came. “Huh. Well, probably nothing to worry about. Brakket Academy isn’t just brick and mortar. It’s magic. It won’t fall to something as mundane as an earthquake. As I was saying, celebrations!”

Again, Eva tuned him out as she glanced to her side. Shalise had her arms wrapped around her and trembled. “You alright,” Eva asked, placing a hand on the girl’s shoulder.

“There were enough earthquakes in Hell,” she whispered.

Ah, right. Eva rubbed her shoulder. “Don’t worry. Like Anderson said, it was probably nothing. Some slight ripple from a far-off quake. And even if it is less benign, we’re all here this time,” she said, gesturing to the whole table.

Still… Earthquakes were rare in Montana. Not unheard of, but not exactly common either. And Eva wasn’t the type to believe in coincidence. It was probably that hunter. Since her sky beam had been destroyed, she was probably trying something else. This time from below.

Eva definitely needed to deal with her.

>>Author’s Note 009<<

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007.020

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Eva saw them arrive on her floor just as another of Lucy’s tendrils snapped off.

Zoe had her dagger out in her hand already while Juliana was in nearly full combat armor. Her face was clear, but she otherwise had a metal helmet covering her head. It looked as if she would be able to fill in the hole at the first sign of trouble.

They weren’t running with half as much speed as Eva thought they should be. Of course, one doesn’t simply rush Ylva. The rest of them had no excuse.

“I need you to destroy as much of the inside of the room as possible,” Eva said, shifting her gaze between Zoe, Nel, and Juliana. “And fast.”

In the short time that she had been left waiting for the others to arrive, Eva had shed more blood in an attempt to damage the shackles and other circles around Lucy. Whatever had been done to the door had also been done to the floor, rendering her efforts worthless for the most part. The ceiling hadn’t been protected. She had managed to destroy a few markings up there. Whatever was pulling Lucy apart had slowed, but not stopped.

Most of the circles and shackles were on the floor.

Nel would be the best person to help out. If her magic-eating lightning could remove whatever protections were on the floor, everything would be easier for everyone else. She didn’t even need to damage the floor herself, just enable Eva’s fireballs and Zoe’s lightning.

She was hoping that Juliana and Zoe would be able to overpower whatever damage resistance enchantments there were.

Unfortunately for Eva, and more so for Lucy, both women balked as soon as they caught sight of the room.

Zoe reared back as she covered her mouth with the back of one hand, gazing into the room with wide eyes. She recovered quickly enough and started lashing out with both lightning and razor wind. She gave no complaint nor asked what had happened as she set into her work.

Juliana did not fare half as well. She stumbled backwards, one hand clasped around her mouth and the other across her stomach. After a few dry heaves, she managed to hold down her lunch–or whatever was the last meal that she ate. Still, she didn’t immediately move to help. She stood to the side and breathed in a few gasps of air.

Opening her mouth, Eva just about berated Juliana for her weak stomach while Lucy needed help. The thought only lasted an instant before Eva turned away. Not in disgust. This would be one of those things that Juliana would berate herself over later. One of the things that had caused her to dabble her fingers in diablery in the first place.

Besides, Nel was far more deserving of Eva’s disappointment. The moment the augur looked into the room, her eyes rolled back into her head as she collapsed against Ylva. Really, with how she had acted during Sawyer’s torture, Eva didn’t know why she had expected anything else.

Berating an unconscious woman wouldn’t do any good.

Instead, Eva focused her irritation on her fireballs. Already feeling lethargic and annoyed from a thumping in her head, she had abandoned using more of her own blood. Passing out wouldn’t help Lucy at all.

Exploding fireballs worked well enough in place of her blood. In fact, they probably worked better. Maybe if she had Zagan’s blood with her, but that was back at the women’s ward. A casual visit to Ylva and Zoe shouldn’t have needed the blood. It was stupid and foolish, something that Eva wanted to blame on her anemia-induced headache.

The explosions were somewhat problematic. Though she had managed to destroy the floor containing the shackle right at the doorway, it had taken a lot of power behind the fireball. Enough that trying the same thing near Lucy would probably do a whole lot more harm to the already severely injured demon.

Eva was toying with the power near Lucy. So far, she hadn’t managed to scratch the floor. Before long, it might be better just to explode Lucy and hope that she could survive.

“Eva,” Zoe said. Her own lightning was having less effect than Eva’s fireballs. “The spot you just hit, on the count of three, hit it again with everything you’ve got.”

“I can do fairly large explosions,” Eva said.

“Probably not larger than Wayne’s.”

Eva shrugged and started building up a fireball.

“One.”

The same spot that she had hit previously was a larger scorch mark just at the edge of the main shackles holding Lucy in place. Whatever was peeling her apart could stick around as long as it wanted if she could get Lucy out of there. Unfortunately, scorch marks weren’t enough to break the shackles. They had been carved into the linoleum, not just drawn on with some chalk.

“Two.”

Eva started compressing the gathered flames. This would definitely be a larger one. It was just what Zoe had asked for.

Hopefully she knew what she was doing.

There were shimmers in the air around Lucy. Enough of them to make it almost hard to see through. Zoe’s dagger was out and pointed straight at the disturbance in the air.

And she was taking a long time in getting to three.

All the while, Eva continued streaming fire into the small marble. She didn’t want to lose control of it while it was in her hand, but Zoe had asked for her best.

“Three!”

As soon as Zoe spoke, the semi-translucent bubble of air around Lucy went completely opaque.

Eva didn’t question the effect. She tossed the unstable marble of fire.

It landed just to the left of the already existing scorch mark. The moment it hit, the fragile shell of stable flames broke, unleashing everything inside.

Though she normally enjoyed a bit of heat, this was a bit much. Eva took a step back, shielding her face with an open palm as the wave of heat and noise rushed over her. Even half covering her eyes didn’t help block out the light.

For a moment, she stood in the doorway, not quite able to tell what was going on. She could still see through her blood sight. Juliana was behind her and Zoe had stepped around the edge of the doorway to avoid most of the heat. Whatever Zoe had done had worked. At least, in as far as Lucy was not a pile of ash after that.

But she couldn’t see the important thing. Was the floor broken?

Blinking away the spots in her eyes, Eva shook her head in an attempt to clear the fading ringing from her mind. As soon as her senses were back to a more normal sate, she took a look in the room.

Or what was left of it.

The floor around whatever shield or bubble or whatever Zoe had done was practically nonexistent. Only half of the couch was left behind, the rest was on fire. And that wasn’t all that was on fire. The curtains over the windows were smoking and the walls had embers glowing along parts. Over the kitchen counter in the back of the room, the windows had been blown out.

Given that the windows faced the street, hopefully no one had been walking around out there.

With her real eyes and a bit of closer look through her blood sight, Eva could see that Lucy had not survived unscathed. The skin covering her tendrils closest to the explosion had darkened and cracked. There was a bit of singing going on even on the opposite side of her body.

Whatever had been peeling her apart must have been damaged in the explosion. All of her tentacles were lying on the floor, writhing somewhat, but not being pulled from her main mass.

The important part was that she had survived. With her lack of a central heart or even a central brain, Eva doubted that Lucy would suddenly disappear into a portal to Hell. She would be able to heal as long as she didn’t bleed out.

It probably wouldn’t come to that, but Eva could ensure that it wouldn’t with her dagger.

“Careful,” Zoe said as Eva took a step into the room. She put a hand on Eva’s shoulder, stopping her from moving in any farther.

“I am.”

And she honestly was. This room had been set up to be extremely unfriendly towards demons. Half the markings inside were nothing that she had seen before. She almost wished that she had had the presence of mind to take a picture of it with her shiny new cell phone for Devon. He would have been able to tell her what it was all for.

But she hadn’t. She had been worried for Lucy and had immediately jumped to act on that.

Gingerly walking into the room, Eva approached the wiggling mass of tentacles. She had already broken the shackles that were right in front of the door. The shackles holding Lucy were broken as well. Much of the floor was broken between them and Eva couldn’t see anything on the walls or ceiling that might be dangerous.

At least, nothing between her and Lucy. Moving around the room, she could see some drawings around the kitchen windows and the bedroom doorway.

Eva stayed well away from there as she approached.

“Hey Lucy, I’m here.” Eva spoke in a soft tone of voice, keeping as calm as possible. “It’s Eva. You remember me, right?”

Lucy could be absolutely vicious when pressed. She had heard from Irene just what had happened to the enigmas that had infested her room. Startling Lucy could be a quick way to get herself killed.

The pile of tentacles didn’t respond. It just continued squirming around itself. Eva hadn’t really expected otherwise. In order to speak, Lucy not only had to form a mouth, tongue, throat, lungs, and everything else required, but she also had to use her tentacles to do so. With how injured she was, Eva wouldn’t be surprised if she didn’t hear from the woman for a long while.

It was reassuring that she wasn’t lashing out in an attempt to strangle Eva.

“I’m going to press the flat of my dagger against your body,” Eva said as she knelt down next to Lucy. “It will help stop your bleeding. Don’t worry. You’re safe right now.”

Eva waited just a moment before reaching her dagger out, slow and steady. For all she knew, Lucy wasn’t in a state to understand a single word that she had said. The moment she touched her blade to the tentacles, she might find herself without an arm.

But, nothing happened. The flat of her blade pressed against one of the more profusely bleeding spots just as she had said it would. Lucy wiggled, but didn’t try to reach out.

If anything, she drew back in on herself.

Ignoring the reaction, Eva concentrated on the blood. She didn’t do anything with it for a moment but press her dagger against Lucy. As it pumped through her body, Eva gathered more of it under her control. When blood reached the points where her tentacles had been pulled off, Eva hardened the blood.

It wouldn’t be comfortable. Plates of hardened blood, even without any sharp edges, would be inconvenient when walking around. Or crawling, or whatever Lucy did when she wasn’t shaped like a human. But it would keep her blood inside of her. That was the important part.

The blood at the tip of her dagger hardened as she pulled away. It was done. Lucy was still a blob, but she wasn’t a bleeding blob.

Standing up, Eva let out a sigh of relief. She had been worried. Real worry. Not some superficial concern like she had felt for Lynn Cross after just about killing her with a teleport. The only reason she had cared for and healed Lynn was because of Shalise.

It was a bit strange. Not something that she really would have expected of herself under the best of circumstances. And after tromping through her domain, Eva had been all but certain that she would have reacted with revulsion upon seeing Lucy outside of her human form.

With a shake of her head, Eva looked back to the rest of the group. Zoe and Ylva were both looking around the apartment, though Ylva’s eyes were glued on a certain half-a-hexagon on part of the undamaged floor. Nel was slumped against the door frame. Clad in full armor, Juliana stood over her. Two elongated bars of metal stuck out from her hands as she posed herself half-crouched and ready for anything.

Eva was at a lost about what to do now. Tracking down those people who had been living in the room was a good start, but perhaps not this very minute. Certainly, Lucy couldn’t stay here. She needed a safe place to rest and recuperate.

The women’s ward would work. Her blood wards might have been taken down by the Elysium Order in less than a half-hour, but they would keep plenty of people from just wandering in.

And that was a definite concern.

No one seemed to live on this floor. Perhaps the owners of this apartment room had rented out the entire place. Maybe they had done something worse. But there were people on the floors above and below.

Her explosion hadn’t been one of those silent kinds. People had definitely heard. Some of those in the closer rooms might have even felt it. A few people were already on their way downstairs.

But Eva wasn’t sure that she could just wander off with her. Lucy was contracted to Martina Turner. It might be some sort of faux pas to just run off with her.

Whatever happened, something needed to be done now.

“Zoe,” Eva said, “people are coming to investigate the noise.”

After snapping one last picture with her phone of a partially intact ritual circle, Zoe glanced back towards the door. “How many?”

“Uh, all of them?”

“Great. You don’t see the original occupants of this room anywhere?”

Eva shook her head. “Not anywhere in my range. Didn’t see them on the way up either.” Though she hadn’t exactly been paying attention then, she was fairly confident that she would have noticed someone familiar.

“It is probably safest for them to remain in their rooms.” She started towards the door, but paused. “So long as this place doesn’t burn down. Can you extinguish–”

A chilled wind blew through the apartment room. Nothing Eva or Zoe had done. It took Eva a moment to notice Ylva looking around the room.

The fires weren’t anything large. Small smoldering cloths or wood. Whatever was flammable that hadn’t been put out by the force of the blast. Though none of it was major, there was the possibility that it all could flare up and ignite something.

Not that it mattered. All the flames died instantly under Ylva’s gaze.

“Thanks,” Zoe said as she stepped out of the room to intercept the other tenants.

She went out, holding her hands up as she approached the nearest person. Not as if she were being held up by a gun—or a wand, as was more likely at Brakket—but in a calming manner, trying to assure everyone that everything was just fine. Perhaps not fine, but rather under control.

Whatever the case, Zoe could handle it.

Eva had more important things to focus on.

Namely, sitting down and taking a nap.

Now that the immediate danger and excitement was over with, Eva could feel herself becoming less steady on her feet. Between Sawyer, Serena, and now Lucy, Eva could barely extend her fingers. She simply couldn’t maintain the pressure needed to keep her palms open. Normally it wasn’t something she had to even think about doing.

Potions, being almost exclusively designed for humans, had been doing less and less for Eva over the past few years. Even still, taking a blood replenishing potion might not be a bad idea. She would have to take a good ten or so before it affected her even a fraction of what a human would need, but every little bit would help.

Of course, that was something of a personal matter. More pressing was the fact that there was an enemy about.

Someone had tried to kill Lucy. Not just kill, but torture her along the way.

Eva blinked as she sat down on the floor. Juliana had mentioned that both Lucy and Daru were missing. If Lucy was here, where was Daru?

Tuning her senses for the morail demon, Eva found nothing. He wasn’t in the building. Or if he was, he was hidden behind whatever suppression field had hidden Lucy. But she also couldn’t see him with her sense of blood, so he probably wasn’t around.

Taken away by the people who put Lucy into this situation? Fled? He may already be dead, back floating in the Void along with Arachne. If he wasn’t, maybe he had something left behind that Nel could use to track him down.

Glancing over, Eva found the augur slowly coming around. Thanks entirely to Juliana’s diligent efforts in waking her.

Likely a waste of time. She would take one look around the room and pass out again.

Or maybe not, Eva thought as she looked around the room herself. A good amount of Lucy’s torn tentacles had been vaporized by her explosion. The ones that hadn’t were gathered in the corners of the room. A far less gruesome sight than having them scattered everywhere.

Looking up, Eva noticed Ylva’s gaze. She had returned to the hexagonal marking on the floor.

“Thoughts?” Eva asked. She had no idea what the marking was. Her question was broad enough that it could also include thoughts on the former occupants. She had warned Ylva, or mentioned them at least, but obviously nothing had been done.

Ylva’s cold eyes turned up to Eva for just a moment. “Hunters,” she said as she looked back to the hexagon.

Eva brushed some of the lingering soot and debris away from the mark. The hexagon had a simple symbol contained within. Not any sort of magical sigils or runes, but a simple skull with feathered wings stretching out from behind it. “What is it?”

“A sign. A sign We have not borne witness to in centuries.”

“What does it do?”

“Do? Nothing.” Ylva’s head shook ever so slightly. “Not how it is now. Upon someone being released from their mortal restraints, it calls out an agent of Death. Nothing so high as a god of Death, but a mere servant such as Ourself. Used in ages long past to ensure that a loved one passed on properly, it has fallen out of use in recent centuries.”

“That’s…” Eva glanced back towards the entrance of the room. There had been shackles set up. Complicated ones. She had never seen anything quite like them, nor could she guess about their specific purpose. Nothing good, that was for certain. “You’re the nearest agent of death, aren’t you. This was a trap for you?”

“We came to the same conclusion.”

Eva looked back to Lucy. A thought crossed her mind and she almost reached out to pat the now still demon. She didn’t know whether or not Lucy would appreciate the contact. It might still be a bad idea to unnecessarily touch her.

“Would it have worked with Lucy? Demons don’t die like mortals do.”

“We are… unsure. We would not feel a demon’s passing under normal circumstances. Such a symbol would force the call no matter what died. The hunters believed that it would work that way, at least.”

Obviously, Eva couldn’t help but think. “So, you didn’t notice anything about them while we were gone?”

“Our observations were limited. They came and went at several points, never acting overly suspicious.”

“Well, they got Lucy in here somehow.”

“The woman carried in a larger case yesterday evening. We believed it to be mere luggage. Never once did we feel the presence of a nearby demon.”

“Neither did I, on my way here. I only found her because I can see through walls.”

“It is fortunate that you did.”

“So,” Eva said after a lull in the conversation, “how do we find them?”

If they knew about Ylva, they probably knew about Nel as well. She would look around for any part of them that might be used to track them. If they did know about Nel, Eva doubted that they would have left anything behind.

But they couldn’t be allowed to get away with this. She had learned her lesson from Sawyer. She was no good at long and drawn out torture sessions. A quick kill would get the same end result.

“We will be wary. Do not seek them. Anywhere they might live could be as trapped as this building. Charging into battle with a foe as prepared as this would end poorly.”

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007.019

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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.

“Hang up?”

“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.

Oh well.

“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.”

“Sounds complicated.”

Eva gave a slight snort. “Yeah. Annoying as well.”

“Speaking about Shalise, how is she?”

“Presumably, she’s alright.”

“Presumably?”

“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?”

“Fine.”

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.

“You first.”

“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.

She didn’t.

“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.

Something familiar.

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.

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