Seven/Three



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7/3


The cold night air was still. There wasn’t so much as a breeze blowing through the abandoned town. It was as if the wind was afraid to blow, out of fear of disturbing the powers that were about to clash. Even town itself gave an unnatural air. Alongside a wide stretch of road, were a few rundown buildings, and the remains of others that did gain Mother Nature’s favor. Standing tall at the end of the road was a stone church. While perhaps it was once the center of the town, it now served as more of a grave stone; marking the site where many unfortunate souls met their end.

While no one in their right mind would dare approach such a decrepit place, one person did. A man walked through the pure untouched snow that blanketed the road. Though the word man would be pushing it; he was barely out of his teens. He was a little over six feet tall, with messy spiky brown hair. And while a normal person would have to wear layers of thick clothing to tolerate the cold that called the land home, all he wore was black leather jacket over a white t-shirt, accented by his slightly tan skin, and blue jeans.

The crisp cold air completely enveloped him, yet he didn’t as much as shiver. All he did was keep walking. He didn’t look around at his surroundings, or seemed to be bothered by the aura of evil that surrounded the town. He had a certain presence about him, like a mix of calmness and indifference; something almost inhuman. Even his eyes were unnatural. Around the iris was solid black, but the color faded to white as it approached the pupil.

As he walked forward toward the church, the man’s head was pushed to side as loud bang shattered the silence of the town. A lone bullet bore its way into the man’s head, piercing his skull, tearing through his brain, before finally going out the other side. He didn’t so much as flinch the bullet exited his head. As blood dripped onto his shoulders, he slowly tilted his head and looked to where the bullet had come from.

A normal human would’ve been killed instantly, but he was not a normal human; or even human at all. The holes on the sides of his head quickly closed up with fresh layers of skin. And inside his head, bone, brain matter, and nerves were all restoring themselves. But how could this be? What kind of creature was the man?

He stared into the darkness of one the abandoned buildings, and sharpened his eyes. His keen vision allowed him to see who had attacked him. “Come out.” He said in dry tone.

Right as he spoke, a young man nervously rushed out of the building. He wore a long white rope, stained with dirt and grime. His appearance was reflected perfectly by his clothing. His face, as youthful as it was, was covered with scratches and dirt, and his dark blonde hair greasy and disheveled. And not only that, but dark circles around his eyes indicated that he hadn’t slept in days. He stood to the back of the person he attack, and saw the numbers 777, formed in a circle, tattooed on the back of his neck. He tossed his pistol to the ground and fell to his knees.

“Please forgive me my lord!” The boy pleaded as he bowed his head. He pushed up his right sleeve, and put his hand to his head. On his right hand was a tattoo of a pentagram, with an Ouroboros symbol in the center. “I thought you were someone from Eden.” He put his hand down, and put on an optimistic smile as he looked up. “You see, we were able to call it to our world, but no one could tame it. But now that-” Before the boy could finish, a bang echoed, and bullet ripped through his skull. He fell into the snow, and his blood began to stain the frozen water red. As the life drained from him, his smile was replaced with a look of shock and horror.

“Looks like he didn’t get the memo.” Walking to the boy’s corpse was tall man clad in a red jacket. He was six and a half feet tall, with pale skin, and piercing red eyes. He had medium length raven hair that was parted in the middle and swept back. Under his red jacket was a black under shirt, and strapped to the left side of his blue jeans was holster.

The red eyed man holstered his black pistol, and pulled out glass sphere that was held on black chain. A red light pulsed around the sphere, and ball of gray ball of light flew out of the corpse and into the glass sphere. The man tucked the sphere away, and looked at the man in black.

What the man used was known as a Soul Flux: An object that allows the user to extract the soul of fallen person, and claim it as their own.

“Why are you here, Atero?” He asked, with a look of confusion.

Atero looked out at the church. “The same reason you are, Rosoeus.”

“I told you, call me Roso.” He said with grin. “This branch must’ve been cut off for a while.” He said as he looked down at the lifeless body. “All the other sects of Ouroboros I’ve come across already know about us, so this one must’ve been off the grid for at least a month.”

Ouroboros: A group of lost souls, desperately trying to tame and gain demonic power. They had successfully recruited countless people to join them, and give up their souls in exchange for power. Both Atero and Roso had committed acts that had gained them the wrath of Ouroboros.

Suddenly, Atero and Roso heard a bellowing crash from inside the church. Roso looked at his right hand and noticed a red light pulsing off his 777 tattoo; the same one Atero had on the back of his neck. He then saw a white light pulsing off of Atero’s mark.

“Looks like he’s here too.” Atero knew what the glow meant. The three you bared the mark of 777 had been gathered.

“I’ve wanted to meet him for a while.” Roso said with a grin. He hadn’t yet met the third one who had the mark of 777.

Atero didn’t say a word, and walked toward the church along with Roso. As they neared the stone structure, the sound of fighting got louder and louder. The splintering of wood, the crushing of stone, and the clash of metal, all these sounds echoed throughout the silent land.

As the two neared the church, the large wooded double doors were blasted open; sending countless slivers of wood flying outward. Crashing through the doors was the body of another man; around the same age as a Roso and Atero. He had wavy short dirty blonde hair, and wore long sleeve blue shirt, with blue jeans. In his right hand was long rapier. The blade was dark blue, and longer and wider usual, and had two jagged edges. The guard was composed of a series of black spikes, and resting between the guard and the blade was a metal blooming blue rose.

Thinking quickly, a circled of red light appeared around Roso’s shoulder. Out of the ring came a large transparent red hand and it caught the man in blue; keeping him upright as he slid back. Roso called the arm back into the ring from which it was summoned, and all traces of it vanished.

All three of them looked as winged being soared out of the door, and flew to the top of the church. It rested its feet on the top of the steeple, and looked down at the three. While the being had the appearance of a human, it was anything but. What stood at the top of the church was a Devil, brought into the world at the cost of human souls.

The Devil was male in appearance, and all he wore was cloth wrapped around his waist. While the cloth was once white, it was charred black, and stained with blood. But that could be said for is entire body. His feet and hands were charred solid black, and appeared more like talons than actually human appendages. The rest of his body was covered in soot, and traces of dried blood. In his right hand was large battle axe, and he appeared of hold the massive weapon with ease. And of course, out of his back, were two large black wings.

The Devil looked down with arms folded with an expression of disgust. “Disgusting.” He said as he spat at the three. “Humans wielding the power of Devil’s is absolutely disgraceful. The true Kings of Darkness would be ashamed that their power was given to such lowly creatures.”

“That’s our target.” Roso said as he pointed his gun at the Devil. He fired a single shot at the target, but the Devil tilted his head and caused the bullet to miss. “Figured it wouldn’t be that easy.” He placed his hand over his black, and in flash of red flames, and large claymore appeared in his hand. The blade itself was long and crimson in color. The handle was black and at the top was the head of a dragon, with the beginnings of the blade in its mouth. And wrapped around the handle was a long red ribbon, around four feet in length.

Roso swung the blade down, creating a small gust of wind. “Let’s get this over with.” He said with an arrogant smile.

The Devil scoffed at Roso’s arrogance. “What chance do false kings have against a true devil?” He waved his hand, and sea of shadows appeared along the long road. Slowly, putrid and disgusting creatures began to rise out of the shadows. There had to be at least one hundred of the dark creatures come up from the shadows. “Face the forces of Hell!”

With those words, the Devil swooped down and swung his massive axe at Atero. In a flash of thick black energy, a long sheathed katana appeared in his left hand. With amazing speed, Atero held up his sword and intercepted the attack. While the force was strong enough to bend his body, and crush the ground beneath him, Atero didn’t seem at all effected by it.
He glanced back at the other two. “Roso, Azuleus, handle the demons and leave him to me.”

Azuleus, or Azul for short, glared at Atero. “Just make it quick. I don’t have time for this.” He had more pressing matters to deal with, and saw their assignment as wasting time.

Atero didn’t respond to Azul at all. He gathered his strength and pushed the devil back into the church. And in black flash, gave chase.

With Atero focused on the Devil, Azul and Roso focused on the demons. Azul charged forward and madly swung his blade, cutting any demon unlucky enough to be in his way; causing them disappear in a black mist. As he fought, a demon lunged at him with its black claw. Fast enough to respond, Azul held out his hand, it became covered in a layer of sparkling sapphires. He grabbed the demons claw, the armor like jewels keeping his hand safe, and swung it around in a circle; knocking the demons around him into the air.

Azul then placed his hand on the rose of his blade, and countless glowing blue petals scattered around him. The petals danced through the air and formed a shield around their master. The demons fell on the petals, and the petals shredded them to dust. Azul continued to fight, and when a demon stupidly tried to attack him, the petals would rush to intercept the attack. The combined strength of Azul’s sapphire armor and petals gave him an almost unbeatable defense.

Roso was fighting hard as well. Thought it wasn’t like he needed too. The demon hordes well easily to the power of his blade, and it took barely any effort for him to dispatch them. “Azul!” He shouted as looked to see his fellow king fighting.

“What!?” Azul yelled as he crushed the skull of a demon with his hand.

“But me some time okay! I’ll end this in one shot!” He said as quickly jumped back to the stone steps of the church.
If it meant ending the battle faster, Azul would do as he was told. He cut his way to in front of Roso and fended off any demons that came his way.

Roso gripped his sword with both hands and raised it above his head. A circle of red flames appeared as his feet and stream of fire lit up his blade. He poured his energy into his blade, and the flames grew larger and larger. When he was completely consumed by the red flames, a large transparent red circle appeared at the tip of his blade.

Given enough time to prepare his attack, Roso was ready to finish off the demon horde. “Devour! Crimson Dragon!” Roso swung his blade down, and a massive transparent red dragon erupted from the circle. The dragon was completely covered in red flames, and as it blazed forward, it incinerated everything in its path. It flew through town, and then up into the sky, before dissipating in a shower of fire.

When the attack was done, Roso fell right on his rear. He hadn’t expected it to be so taxing on his body, but he remembered something that could help him. He pulled the soul flux out of his pocket and held it to his chest. The gray light flew into his heart, and Roso felt his power start to return.

He stood up, and looked at the damage he had caused. The ruined buildings had all been reduced to ash by his fire, and all the snow had been melted away; revealing the scorched earth. The only thing that his fire spared was Azul.

The petals had shielded Azul from the wrath of Roso’s flames, but they themselves had taken some damage. Only a quarter of the original amount of petals remained, while the damaged ones returned to Azul’s sword. To offset the petals that were consumed, Azul covered himself in his sapphire armor.

Azul dispelled his armor, causing the crystals to slow disappear into a fine blue dust. He called his remaining petals back to his sword and the blue rose returned fully formed. “All that leaves is the Devil.” Anyone else would’ve been left in awe at Roso’s power, but Azul was more worried about the time wasted on their “assignment”.

“It’s up to him now.” Roso said as he glanced back at the church.

In the field behind the stone building, Atero and the Devil were having a fierce battle. Both had worn the other down quite considerably. Atero’s clothes had large tears in them been from the Devil’s axe; the only proof he had actually been hit. While the Devil’s body was covered in fine cuts.

“Disgraceful, that I cannot best a false king.” The Devil said through breaths. “However, I’ll wager my pride as Lucifer’s servant that I shall kill you!” He charged at Atero and swung his massive weapons with both hands. Atero side stepped the axe and dealt a quick slash to the Devil’s side; spraying blood on the snow. The slash was so fast it didn’t even appear that Atero unsheathed his sword.

The Devil let out a scream as pain as he clutched his side. While the wound quickly healed, even a Devil can’t heal themselves forever. He would eventually run out energy, and be unable to heal his wounds.

“Servant? Who do you think sent us here to kill you?” Atero said in monotone voice.

The Devil’s eyes widened in shock. He could not believe that Lucifer would order his death; especially after just getting out of Hell. “Lies….” He muttered under his breath. “LIES!” He grabbed his axe tightly and a stream of fire erupted around him.

“Believe me if you want to, that’s your choice.” Atero fully unsheathed his sword, revealing the glistening black blade. He threw the black scabbard to the side, and in disappeared into a black mist. “Sulobaid Omiex.” When Atero spoke the incantation, a blast of air radiated from his body. His sword slowly became covered in thick black flames, and the same black flames began to form two black wings on his back. And a black crown, covered in white flames formed above his head.

The Devil looked in horror upon seeing Atero release his full power. He came to the stunning realization that the person he mocked, thought of as less than him, was going to end his life. He couldn’t understand why Lucifer would allow such less being as humans to have that kind of power.

“Why…why…” The flames around the Devil grew higher, as did his confusion and anger. “Why would you be given that power!?” He swung his axe as hard as he could, and watched in shock as Atero cut his weapon in half.

Atero swung his sword and two blades of black energy flew off of it. The blades flew straight into the Devil, and cut his arms off. Bleeding heavily, all the Devil could do was scream in protest and shock. Atero disappeared in a black flash and a black blur surrounded the devil. The Devil’s body was quickly covered in cuts, and his blood splattered into the air. He couldn’t understand it, what was the point of giving humans the power of Devils? What was Lucifer thinking giving the creatures they despised so much their power?

Suddenly, the blur disappeared and Atero appeared behind the Devil. Atero summoned his scabbard, and sheathed his sword. His blade disappeared in a flash of black flames, and his crown and wings slowly did the same.

“It’s strange that you, a true Devil, don’t know why Lucifer allowed us to gain this power.” Atero said as he kept his back turned. “Just like you, we’re nothing but pawns to Lucifer. Something to be used until we’ve served our purpose.” The Devil didn’t say a word. His body was slowly consumed by flames, until he was reduced to nothing but ash.

While the battle was over, Atero didn’t come out of it unscathed. A sharp spread from his heart, and shot over his entire body. Atero hunched over and began to breathe heavily. The pain was so strong it would’ve killed a normal human. But the pain was the price he had to pay for using the Sulobaid Omiex. It allowed him to access his full power as a devil, but his human soul could only handle it for so long. That’s why he didn’t want to use it until he had too.

“Looks like our assignment’s over.” Roso said as he and Azul came walking up from around the church.

“Good.” Azul said with a hint of annoyance in his voice.

“Lucifer’s not done with you three just yet.” Said a man leaning against the church’s wall. He was a rather tall man, who wore a white dress shirt under a black sport coat with sleeves rolled up, and a pair of matching black slacks. Around his neck was necklace that a piece turquoise at the end that stood out from his bronze skin. His black hair was pulled back with a single bang falling down his face.

“Hey Aurus, how’ve you been?” Roso said with a smile.

“I’ve been good, going here and there.” Aurus replied.

Azul didn’t care for small talk. “Tell Lucifer I don’t have time to play the lapdog.” He said as he shot Aurus a glare. He knew the risks if he defied Lucifer, but he didn’t gain the power of a devil to be Lucifer’s servant.

As Azul began to walk away, Aurus raised his voice. “We’ve found her.”

Azul stopped dead in his tracks. “What?” He slowly turned his head and looked at his Aurus. His expression was like a child who found out Santa Claus wasn’t real; a mix of shock and disbelief.

Aurus gave him a strong nod. “Yeah, we know where she’s being kept.”

Azul ran up to Aurus and grabbed him by his collar. “Tell me where she is!” He yelled as he shook Aurus violently.

“Calm down.” Aurus grabbed Azul’s hands and held him back. While it took him a moment, Azul calmed down, or at least as close to calm as he was going to get. “You done?”

“Yeah.” Azul said as he threw his hands down.

“I’ll tell give you the details when we get there.” Aurus said as he looked at the three. He held out his hand and a purple light swirled around it. He slammed his fist to the side then it suddenly stopped, even though it hadn’t touched anything. A crack appeared in the open air, and slowly spread out into many more. Finally, the cracked space shattered like glass, and revealed large rift; filled with mix of swirling purple and black energy.

The three knew that the rift would not harm them. It was simply a means of teleportation, and Aurus had used it on all three of them at one point or another. They all walked through the rift, and it quickly closed behind them; leaving no sign it was ever there.

With all the devils gone, a strange type of peace covered the lone church. Even though it was stained with the blood of countless souls, it would stand as testament to them. It would serve as a gravestone, marking the place where so many met their unfortunate ends.

While the church would remain silent till the end of days, there was one who thought to pay his respects to the fallen. He sat in the only pew not destroyed by Atero’s battle, enclosed in shadow. He folded his hands and bowed his head. But would not pray for the past, or the present, all that mattered to him was the future.

“And the Kings of Darkness would gather for the first time. With the Shadow as their guide, they will march on those who claim to be born from paradise. When they return, only one shall still stand, while the other two wallow in their own darkness. Then the Kings will part ways once again, and only be reunited to save the soul of their natural enemy. They will part again, and the third time they come together, they shall witness the Fallen Angel rise.”

The clouds slowly parted, and moonlight shone in through the hole in the roof. While the man stayed in shadows, the light of the moon enveloped his right int. And though there was a scar, a series of numbers could be seen on the top of his right hand placed in a circle: The numbers 666.


*This is a story I've had in my head for a while. I hope to write more on when I have time. So, thoughts, suggestions, and all that jazz.*
 

KingdomKey

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Do my eyes deceive me? Spirit actually posted his top secret 7/3 story here? Just joking. I was really excited to read this, and it lived up to my expectations. I felt like I was reading a book as I read through this opening chapter; which is one the highest compliments I can dish out around here. Atero despite being indifferent, has the most jaw dropping attacks I've ever seen. Azul sure doesn't like to waste time, but it was really cool to see Roso drop in by shooting Atero's attacker in the head. Definitely one of the more easy going runners amongst the group, and that scene was executed beautifully from the way you wrote it out. I can't remember if I was told about Aurus or not, but I thought the cliffhanger ending was awesome. :D

The only minor critique I could give you, is that you need to fix some of your spelling errors. I think I only spotted two of them, and I can point them out, if you like, Spirit?
 
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7/3

Chapter I
Kings

[Black]

The untainted snow crushed under his shoes, and the pale moon light shone down on him as he walked into the abandoned town. Decrepit houses were lined up on his left and right. What remained of the wooden walls were scorched black, and the thick beams that supported the structures had been snapped in half. The roofs that weren’t caved in were blanketed by snow, and didn’t have long till they fell as well.


And standing at end of the road was a towering stone church, but like all the other buildings it was nothing more than a broken shell. Walls of wide rock had been blasted out, and the large stain glass murals had been shattered. But strangely, the tall steeple was left intact, as well as the large wooden doors.

While the town might have once been filled with life, and sounds of people, none remained. The only sound that filled the town was the faint wind, which was only a whimper.

The still, frigid, air pushed down on him, but he did not feel it. Even though a simple black jacket over a white shirt and jeans were his only clothing, the chilled wind did not affect him in the least; all it did was ruffle the bangs of his spiky brown hair. His steps remained constant and uninhibited as he walked on the lonely road.

Not long ago, he would never have stepped foot in such a place. He would have never even visited that desolate part of the world. But, that sentiment could be applied to everything he had done in the past seven weeks. He had been thrown into a world that he, and most of humanity, never knew existed. But the dark reality he now occupied had always been there, drifting parallel with his own.

As to how he became drawn in to the shadows of the world, he didn’t care to think about it. In reality, he didn’t care to think about most things. Everything he had done in the past seven weeks, the people he met, the people he killed, few things left and sort of mark on him. His heart was almost as empty as the town he now stood in.

He took none of his surroundings in. His clear black eyes remained fixed on the forgotten holy place, and while his body moved closer, his mind was empty. He didn’t walk with conviction, or and sort of purpose. It was as if his body was moving on its own

As he was a quarter of the way down the main street, the eerie tranquility was shattered by a piercing bang. Before he could process what he had heard a lone bullet bore its way into the side of his head. The chunk of metal tore through his skull and brain before exiting out the other side. Blood splattered on the innocent snow, and trickled down his slightly tan skin and on to his white shirt; staining it red.

He stood perfectly still; barely even a breath escaped his body. Any ordinary person would have been killed instantly.

However…

The wounds on his head quickly closed themselves. Destroyed nerves intertwined to fire once more. Brain matter copied itself to replace what was damaged. Bone restored itself to seal in his restored cranium. Fresh layers of skin covered the reborn bone, and strings of brown hair shot out. And in a moment it was if the bullet never made pierced through his skull. The only evidence he was harmed was the blood that was on the snow and his body.

The man in black turned his head to right and stared into one of the ruined buildings. His dark eyes cut through the shadows and he saw who had shot him. “Come out.” He said. His words were empty. They lacked any sound of malice or demand.

His eyes followed a frail figure as it scampered and stumbled out of the broken building, and fell at his feet. It was boy, most likely in his early teens. His tattered clothes, greasy hair, and sunken cheeks suggested he been hiding for some time. And in his trembling, bony, hands was a gray pistol.

The boy looked up at him with his mouth agape, and tears forming in his bloodshot eyes. “Please forgive me, my lord,” the boy said. He pulled down his sleeve and presented the back of his right hand. On his hand, tattooed in black ink, was a snake swallowing its tail inside the center of a pentagram. It was the symbol of the organization known as Ouroboros.

Though religion would be a better word describe the group. They had been around for thousands of years, and in that time sought to tame demonic power. And like the symbol suggested their numbers were seemingly infinite. The man had encountered the group a few times, and done things to incur their wrath. But from the boy’s appearance, and reaction, it was safe to assume that he had not received word from the organization in weeks.

“W-we,” the boy said as he looked at the ground, “we were able to summon one, but we weren’t able to control it. It…it slaughtered everyone. I don’t even know how I was able to survive. But,” the boy looked up, and his ragged eyes brimmed with hope. “But know that you’re-”

Those were the last words the boy would ever say. Another bang rang out through the silent land, and bullet shot though his skull. The hope drained from his eyes, along with his life, and as he toppled on the ground a looked of horror was engraved on his face.

He looked down at the murdered boy and watched as his fresh blood melted the snow; forming a pool of crimson. His placid eyes focused on the boy’s face, and the final expression he would ever make. The youth’s eyes were wide open and blood flowed from his mouth, as more gushed from the small hole in his head.

What had the boy done to deserve ending up as corpse in the forgotten land? Was it cruel to just leave him to rot in that frozen place? He was probably just scarred and alone. From the way he looked one couldn’t call what he was doing living. His family was most likely dead. If anything death was probably a kindness.

But these pointless thoughts of morality in the act of taking a life did not exist in the man’s mind. No, what he was thinking was a simpler and more immediate question. Who?

He followed the invisible trail of the bullet to the one who fired it, and saw the poor boy’s killer. Flipping the hem of his red coat to the side, and holstering his jet black pistol, was a familiar face. He smiled at the man in black, and gave a small wave.

“Hey, Atero,” He said.

Atero. Even though he had received the name only seven weeks prior, to him, it felt like it was always his name. That day, when he got his new, yet familiar name, was also the day he was reborn.

Though the more time that past the more of his memories of that day seemed to blur. He still recalled all that he was told when he was brought back from the clutches of death, but what he did the first few days seemed to drift further into the emptiness of his mind. But he didn’t care if he forgot. To him, if something didn’t leave an impression on him then it wasn’t important. And only three events left a mark on his empty soul.

Atero looked at the man in red as he walked toward him. “Sangurosso,” he said.

“I told you, call me Rosso,” his smile was friendly. One wouldn’t have been able to tell he had just murdered someone in cold blood.

He hadn’t known Rosso for long, and it was fair to say he didn’t know him at all. The last time he’d seen him was he was clinging to life, with a massive gash across his torso. He could have just left Rosso to die on that stormy night; drenched by the rain and his own blood. But, he didn’t. He saved the man in red’s life, the same way he was brought back from death’s door.

But why had done it? Why had he given a complete stranger a second chance? Atero had yet to find an answer to that question, though he would still be content if he never did.

Atero stood over the boy as Rosso walked up to his side. “Guess he didn’t get the memo,” Rosso said as his red eyes looked down at lifeless corpse. “I’d say this branch has been off the grid for a while now.”

“I know,” he said. Atero stepped over the body and continued walking toward the church.

“Wait up,” Rosso said as he rushed up to Atero’s side. “So how’ve you been?”

His empty eyes remained shot over and up at Rosso. While he was tall, Rosso still stood half a head taller. He hadn’t noticed their height difference the last time they met; since he was lying on the ground then. He also didn’t notice that they appeared to be roughly the same age; around their late teens early twenties.

“Why were you sent here?” Atero asked. He wasn’t aware that Rosso had been given the same assignment as him. To send both of them seemed like a waste, even to him.

Rosso stretched and put his hands on the back of his head; letting his black hair cover them. “Same reason as you, I guess,” he cocked his head to the side and grinned at Atero. “But I get what you’re trying to say. I think it’s overkill sending both of us, too.”

Atero returned his gaze to the fallen church ahead. The way Rosso was speaking to him, someone would’ve mistaken them for friends. But to call them friends would be a blatant lie. Even the word comrade was far from describing what their actual relationship was. To Atero, stranger was an accurate term to describe Rosso to him. He didn’t know why he chose to be reborn, or what he had been doing since then. The only reason he knew his new name was because someone had told him; not that he was interested enough to ask.

Suddenly, Atero felt a slight pressure on the back of his neck. It wasn’t painful in the least, but it was enough to get his attention. He looked over at the man beside him and noticed a red light faintly pulsing in his right hand. Rosso presented his palm, and Atero looked at the glowing mark on his hand. The mark was the number 777 arranged in a triangle; the same mark he had on the back of his neck.

“You’ll always know when the three of you are close together.”


Atero recalled those words, and what they meant. The three who were marked with number 777 had been gathered. It would be the first time the Kings of Darkness had all be together since they were reborn.

“He’s here too,” Atero said.

“Oh, the other guy, like us,” Rosso replied. “What was his name?” He cocked his head slightly to the side, and with a raised eyebrow butchered the second king’s name “Alu, Azam, Amlo? No, those aren’t right. Ama, Azlu, Azumo…”

“Azulamo.” Atero said.

Rosso snapped his fingers with a quick aha! “Azul, that’s it.”

Hearing the name, and saying it, reminded him of the last time he had seen Azul. He could still see Azul’s crying face clearly in his memory, and him begging to be reborn.

“Please, make me like you! It’s the only way I can save her!”


Azul begging for power didn’t sway Atero one way or the other. Azul could’ve offered up all the treasures in the world, and he wouldn’t have given in. Even though the reason Azul wanted power was because of him, Atero never felt guilty because of it. And even though they had known each other, Atero felt no attachment to his former friend. He could’ve easily walked away, and left Azul to grieve. Yet he didn’t. Out of an unknown impulse he made Azul the second King of Darkness.

That impulse, doing something without knowing why, was something Atero had yet to understand. Giving Azul his power was the first time he experienced it, and saving Rosso was the second. But why did he give them the power like his? Why? Why?

“It doesn’t matter,” Atero mumbled to himself. He didn’t care if he found the answer to the question…Yet.

Why?


The word was like neon glow amidst the black void of his soul. He truly didn’t want an answer, yet the question was still there; and nothing he did would rid himself of the florescent characters.

“You say something?” Rosso asked.

The noise brought Atero out of his own mind, and returned him to barren world he walked through. He didn’t reply, and continued to walk with Rosso at his side. But he knew, when he was alone again, the question would return.

As he neared closer to the church sounds began to echo from it. The distinctive melodies of wood snapping, stone being broken, metal clanging against metal, and battle cries reverberated in Atero’s ears. And before he knew it he and Rosso stood at the stone steps leading up the large wooden doors.

The sounds of battle grew louder and more violent as he stared up at the door. “Maybe we should knock.” Rosso said, as a sly grin formed across his lips.

Suddenly, the large wooden doors exploded open. Splinters of wood and fragments of metal scattered out into the air and shot towards him, but Atero stood firm. His arm extended outward and with one swipe of his hand a blast of wind shook the air; all that could be seen of his arm was a black flash. The shattered pieces of the door blew away and were hurled to the ground; while Atero remained completely unscathed. His hand returned to his side and he stared into the darkness of the church.

“You could’ve used that on me,” Atero looked over at Rosso, and the number of wooden fragments lodged in the man’s body. Rosso hurriedly pulled each of the fragments out and tossed them to ground; and like when Atero was wounded, his wounds healed almost instantly. “So your power’s wind?” Rosso said while looking at Atero’s arm.

“No,” Atero returned his stoic gaze back to the gaping hole before him. “That was just the force of me swinging my arm.”

A short whistle blew from Rosso’s lips. “Damn, that’s a little scary.”

Atero didn’t find his strength to be impressive. Before he was reborn he too would’ve marveled at the power he now wielded, but those feelings of wonder were lost on him. He saw his abilities as things that were simply a part of him; nothing more, nothing less. He never sought to hone his skills, or improve his abilities in battle. If it were up to him he wouldn’t use his powers at all.

He looked into the shadows and a silhouette stepped out of the church. As the figure walked out the ruined structure the moonlight shone on him, which made the patches of blue diamond on his skin shine. “Azulamo,” Atero mumbled. The second the two noticed each other, Azul’s cold blue eyes shot into Atero’s black ones, and the grip on his intricate sword tightened.

“What the hell are you doing here?” Azul asked as he brushed some of the debris out of the mess of dirty blonde hair on his head. The strange blue stone on the side of his face and hands disappeared into a fine azure dust, and he walked down the scorched stone steps.

“Hey, I’m Rosso,” Rosso walked toward Azul, and presented is hand; though Atero already knew how is former friend would react. “It’s nice to meet you.”

Azul's icy blue eyes remained fixed on Atero, and he didn’t so much as glance at Rosso; just as Atero expected. Azul walked toward him, and he could tell how Azul felt about their reunion. The battle ragged man walked down the stairs past him, and Atero could almost hear the sound of his teeth grinding against each other.

Rosso stood on the steps and gave Atero a quizzical look. Even if he felt the need to, Atero wouldn’t tell Rosso of his past with Azul. To him, the three were nothing more than strangers, and he was content with leaving things that way.

“A rose,” Atero said. He looked back at the sword Azul gripped so tightly. The jagged blue blade was connected to a guard that curved around the handle. A series of short dark spikes curved with the guard, and the place where it met the blade was an incredibly detailed blue rose.

Azul stopped and his head tilted back toward Atero. “What of it? You should know why it looks like this.” His frozen eyes looked at the mark on the back of Atero’s neck. “What about yours?”

“I don’t know,” Atero replied. Azul was referring to shape of Atero’s weapon. Like Azul, Atero also had a sword. He was told the form the blade would take had something to do their- him, Azul, Rosso, and others like them- reason for being reborn. As he said, Atero hadn’t the slightest clue why his sword was the weapons it was; since he had no reason to be reborn, and didn’t remember if he ever had a reason.
But like Azul said, he did know why the former’s sword was adorned with a blue rose.

Atero stood silent as Azul’s eyes burned their way into him. He looked away, seeing no reason to talk about their history, and into the darkness of the church. “So you killed it?”

“Its body is still there,” Azul replied. “But it stopped moving.”

“Then it’s not dead,” Rosso said with crossed arms, “If it was dead there wouldn’t be a body.”

As soon as Rosso finished a scorching light shone from inside the shadows. A burning sphere of fire raced toward Rosso; cutting through the darkness. Atero could’ve easily intercepted the attack on his own, but he didn’t see any reason too.

Rosso looked back and his crimson eyes locked on the ball of fire, while he kept facing Atero and Azul. Suddenly, a circle of red light appeared over Rosso’s shoulder and a large red transparent hand was birthed from it. As the fire was about to hit its master, the hand opened and grabbed the blast of flame.

A shock wave was born from the clash of powers which rattled the decrepit structure. A small grin cracked across Rosso’s face as he spoke, “It really was a waste,” the red hand squeezed the flame, crushing it, and a shower of sparks exploded forth with a gust of wind.
In that instance, when the Rosso snuffed out the fire, the church was illuminated completely. It was a brief moment, and Rosso and Azul couldn’t have seen anything, but Atero’s onyx eyes saw what it was they had been sent there to eliminate.

The glowing arm slithered its way back into the circle beside Rosso’s shoulder, and circle of red energy closed; disappearing in puff of red smoke. “There really wasn’t a point in sending all three of us.” Rosso said. The red glow from his right hand grew brighter as a crimson flame was born over his palm. He put his hand over his shoulder and crushed the flame. The fire exploded into a trail and raced down and up, swirling violently in a strange, controlled way. Flames contorted and compacted into a long shape, before finally flickering out in a flash of light.

Where the flames were, and resting in Rosso’s hand, was a massive sword. Just like Azul’s weapon, his was also rather unique. It’s most striking feature was the dragon head that connected the handle and the blade; the blade looking like it was being birthed from the dragon’s mouth. “I can deal with him on my own,” Rosso swung his blood red sword with ease; the long red ribbon on the handle fluttering alongside it.

Atero agreed with the statement, and knew with absolute certainty that Azul felt the same. Just one of them was enough to deal with their target, and to send all three didn’t make the slightest inkling of sense. The thought didn’t come from any sense of pride or arrogance, but from pure fact. Azul had weakened it enough that he was able to walk away with only a few scratches, Rosso had blocked its attack without even using a fraction of his power, and Atero knew his strength could overwhelm anything he faced.

Why had the Kings of Darkness been gathered to eliminate a target, when any one them was more than capable of it alone?

It was yet another question whose answer made no difference to Atero. He turned away, but the second he did, a low growl echoed from the darkness reached his ears.

“I won’t be bested,” Atero glanced back at the source of the words. “By false kings!” A mighty roar shook the ground beneath his feet, and he stared into the dark. A black shadow flew from the church; bring a hurricane of fire in its wake. The torrent of destruction blew past Rosso and Azul, and went right for Atero. And as the target he was sent to kill brought down its long axe something happened.

The wind stopped howling. The shattered pieces of stone and wood stayed suspended in the air, and the streams fire crept across the empty space. A slew of black feather's floated gently in place, as his target moved ever closer, but to Atero he might as well have been miles away. There were no longer the sounds of destruction that rattled his ears; they were instead replaced by a lone silence.

That silence. That crippling lack of sound. It was one of the few, if only things, Atero found comfort in. While he found no joy in using his powers, or any satisfaction, those brief moments seemed to bring a sort of feeling to him. It was as if he was turning the world off, and in that instant, he was completely free of everything.

There wasn’t a single thought in his mind. He didn’t wonder why he had done the things he had, when he had no reason to. He wasn’t even concerned about the creature that was intending to kill him. No, as he stood completely still, yet moving at an incredible speed, he only thought of nothing.


*Well, it's been a while since I actually wrote on this, and when I re-read it I didn't like it all that much. So I decided to redo it, and I hope you all like it. So, suggestions, comments, critiques, all that stuff.*
 
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KingdomKey

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No wonder this sounded familiar. I mistook this as something new only to find out you rewrote it, Spirit. Okay, I still like the original better because, I felt like there was more dialog between the three of them and much more exciting as far as the action goes. In this one, I felt like Atero is much more stoic than before and fits him better; considering the snippets you've given me in your VM's about Rose and how little he smiles. As a result, I'm guessing Azul is Ash then? (I'll have to look back later at the snippet you've shown me. Can't keep these characters names straight. Lol.) The story itself was good, more detailed than the last one but, I liked knowing more about Ouroboros. And who the 777 Kings were really up against. :) I don't really have much to critique on this in particular.
 
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No wonder this sounded familiar. I mistook this as something new only to find out you rewrote it, Spirit. Okay, I still like the original better because, I felt like there was more dialog between the three of them and much more exciting as far as the action goes. In this one, I felt like Atero is much more stoic than before and fits him better; considering the snippets you've given me in your VM's about Rose and how little he smiles. As a result, I'm guessing Azul is Ash then? (I'll have to look back later at the snippet you've shown me. Can't keep these characters names straight. Lol.) The story itself was good, more detailed than the last one but, I liked knowing more about Ouroboros. And who the 777 Kings were really up against. :) I don't really have much to critique on this in particular.
I'm already thinking about rewriting it again lol. I'm not sure how well I pulled it off, but I wanted the way Atero is to reflect in the writing style. That's why everything's so slow, and there isn't a lot excitement. That's why after the chapter title it says "[Black]", since black is Atero's color. The parts focusing around Azul will say [Blue], Rosso [Red], and the all the other characters will have a word or a color. I think it's a novel idea, but I'm not sure I'm good enough to pull it off quite yet. It's okay, I have trouble with them too sometimes lol. Yes, Ash is Azul, but they're so different it's easier to think of them as different characters (at least I do). The parts about Rosso will focus more on Ouroboros, and you'll lean more about them. I'm not sure it that's good or bad.
 
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But that moment of reprieve didn’t last long. He felt his power begin to drain at an alarming rate from the use of his Black Flash, and knew it was time to act. His right hand brushed over the mark on the back of his neck, dragging a heatless black flame along his fingers. His hand tightened, crushing the black flame and causing it to expand outward. The flames swirled into an ebony vortex.

The black fire dissipated and revealed his long black katana. He gripped the white handle and swung his blade down the creature’s chest. The ebony steel glided through the creatures flesh like it was water, without the slightest hint of resistance. He turned his hand as his sword exited the creature’s chest, and brought it back to create another cut horizontal to the first. With a flick of his wrist, he swung the blood off of his sword, and the crimson liquid splattered on the ground.

With a small thought Atero deactivated his power, and he was met with a flood of sound. The creature let out a hideous scream, and its wings blasted his face with a burst of wind as they bushed it back and upward. It retreated to the top of the steeple, and stood on top of the cross; clutching the wounds Atero had created.

“Filthy humans,” it said as it spat down at the three. “To be bested by you is a blemish on my honor, as a servant of Lucifer.” The cuts Atero had made were seared shut by trails of orange flames. While flashier than his regenerative abilities, they were no different from Atero’s. Because what the creature was, was what Atero, Azulamo, and Sangurosso were.
Devils

He recalled when he had been told what he had become. After waking up on the cold sand, with all trace of his emotions burned away, Atero was told he had become a devil. He didn’t fully grasp it, but he was told that when becoming a devil, when the devil soul was placed inside of him, the negativity wiped his soul clean of whatever emotions he had.

But at the same time he wasn’t quite a devil either. Even though his soul had been cleansed of his human emotions, technically his soul was still human; even his memories of his time as human were still clear. He was what was called a Runner: A body given the power of devil, with the human soul being in control. There was more to it than that, but Atero didn’t find a reason to think of his rebirth any further.

At that moment he looked up at the devil he scarred, and watched its face twist and contort. Its charred talon like hands were wrapped around its axe, and it held the massive weapon with ease. Even if it was a devil, its body appeared like that of a normal man; with the exception of its black wings. The only clothing it wore was tattered cloth around its waist; and like its body, the cloth was stained with ash and blood.

“Your name’s Prigus, right?” Rosso said.

“Hold your tongue,” Prigus beat his wings, and pointed his weapon at the devil in red. “A false king has no right to speak my name! Your mere existence is insult to my lord!”

“Who do think sent us here to kill you?” Rosso asked.

A brief look of shock flashed across Prigus ash covered face, but was soon swallowed by one of anger. “Liars!” His fangs gnashed on his words, and his hands clasped onto his weapon. “My lord would not betray me!” The rage filled beast bent his knees and kicked off of the cross he stood upon, sending himself soaring downward. He was a foot of the ground within two seconds, landing between Rosso and Azul. His wings flapped toward the earth, stopping him from crashing into it, as well as blinding the other two devils with a screen of snow and dirt.

Atero’s onyx eyes peered through the thick cloud, and watched it be blown apart by Prigus’s wings. He stood firm as his target flew toward him. The mad devil roared as he brought his weapon toward Atero. And in a split second, there was nothing. The silence, the only thing Atero found solace in, returned. He rested his eyes and took a deep breath; basking in the peace he created for himself. Releasing the air in his lungs, and opening his eyes, Atero returned to his task. While the time he could keep his Black Flash activated had increased since he first learned to consciously use it he could still not keep active for more than ten second; unless he wished to have all of his strength drained.

He stepped forward, passing alongside the devil floating in midair. But unlike before, Prigus seemed to move; though slowly. The fact Atero was able to see him move was a testament to his speed; as well as his desire to kill Atero. Taking his long sword, Atero cut through Prigus as he strode past him. His hand moved like a mad conductor; with no real effort, but a sense of random grace. The ebony steel slid through the devil’s flesh, cutting through his muscle, bone, and organs.

While his sword continued to glide through the flesh and bone, Atero recalled the last time he fought a winged being. His sword didn’t cut through her flesh as easily as did Prigus’s. No, it took the use of all of his strength to even cut into her. And her ferocious speed could actually match his; even with the use of his Black Flash. Whether this was because he had become more powerful since then, or that Prigus was simply weak, was another question which he didn’t care if he found an answer.

But that battle, where he faced his former best friend, it was the first time his body had been pushed to its absolute limit, and if it wasn’t for an unforeseen event, she would have succeeded in killing him. But why would he fight so fiercely, with no will, or desire to live? He had been told it was because of his instinct to survive; that his devil side would not let him die so easily; that when faced his death he would unconsciously fight with all of his strength. And he accepted that answer. It was easy to understand, and he could trace it to a definable source. It was unlike the other impulse he had felt.

Atero strode past Prigus, until he was at least six feet behind him. He braced himself for the rush of sound that would come, and released his Black Flash. It took only a single second from the time he returned his body to normal speed, till he heard Prigus soul curdling scream. He glanced back, and a rain of blood gushed out of the cuts he had made across the devil’s body.

Prigus dropped the ground with a moist thud. The beast flailed in a pool of red, and desperately tried to move. Atero found his slashes weren’t very thorough. Prigus’s body had been sliced many times over, but his limbs remained attached by long strands of muscle and nerve. The broken creature roared and cursed Atero as it tried to reassemble itself.

Atero could’ve ended its suffering in an instant if he wanted to. He would have to cut off the creature’s wings and piercing its heart with his blade; a simple task in Prigus’s weakened stated. It was the one of the few ways to kill a devil. The body could be mutilated, dismembered, burned, crushed, but as long as the soul was left intact it could be restored; though the soul could only last inside a broken body for several minutes before releasing itself.

Turning back toward the church, Atero began walking toward the other two kings. He had done his part. Either of the other two could finish the task, and then three would part ways. He strode over the snow, and Azul began marching toward him.

“Finish it off, now,” Azul said.

Atero looked past Azul, and kept on walking. “You know how to kill it, don’t you?” That question he knew the answer to it. Azul had seen firsthand how to kill a winged being. Atero walked past the devil in blue.

“Cut off its wings and pierce it’s heart,” Azul snapped toward Atero and grabbed his shoulder. “Like what you did to Eva!”
Eva. A name he hadn’t heard in weeks, yet still reverberated in his soul; at least the human part. During his life as a human her presence was the most consistent, and it was only right that she bear the title of his best friend. But those memories, and the feelings associated with them no longer had a place inside of him. Even though he could remember her with the most vivid of detail no feeling was brought up from those memories.

That could be said for his entire human life. Even if those memories existed within him, and he had truly experienced them, they did not feel like they belonged to him. When he remembered them, he felt as if he was viewing a film, and he was the sole audience.

Azul’s sapphire coated fingers dug into the leather of Atero’s jacket. It was delicate moment, but no matter what Atero said, the outcome would be the same. So he gave the most direct answer, “Exactly.”

Azul’s azure eyes widened, and his face twisted with anger. “You son of bitch!” His grip on Atero’s shoulder tightened and in his left hand he brought his intricate sword up, and prepared to bring it down on the first king.

What Atero did next was completely out of reflex. He flipped his sword back so the blade was pointing behind him and then, with a diagonal push, stabbed it into Azul’s shoulder. The black steel pierced Azul’s shield and made him lose his grip. Atero pulled his sword out, and spun around to intercept Azul’s blade. The clash of black and blue steel brought forth a high pitched clang, and Azul’s sword vibrated with a rage filled frequency while Atero’s remained still.

It was clear what Azul desired, and Atero could not blame him for feeling the way he did. Atero’s sword had stolen everything from him: his love, his life, and many of his emotions. And because of that all that remained in the second kind was a fierce love, along with a great rage born from that sole emotion. But even so, Azul had chosen his path. He had been warned of the consequences, and had been told what he would have to do. And despite that, he gladly gave up his life as human, so he could have the power to be reunited with his love.

But even so, Atero’s devil side would not allow him to be felled by Azul; even if it would quell the flame of anger within the second king. Atero knocked Azul’s arm back with a push of his sword, then brought his blade down the latter’s right shoulder; cutting through the layer of blue diamond that covered the wound caused by his first strike. His ebony steel stopped, and he jerked his blood stained sword from Azul’s flesh.

While a fresh layer of stone formed over the cut Atero had created, the blood on Azul’s blue shirt was proof that his Cobalt Shield wasn’t enough to counter the cutting power Atero’s sword. Azul undoubtedly realized that as well, though it meant little to him. The devil clad in blue leapt back, then pressed his feet against the frozen earth. His legs pushed him forward and the air shook from the force of his charge. A cry of hate rang from his throat. With his rage behind it, he brought his first toward Atero.

Atero stood still. Even without the use of his Black Flash he could have easily dodged, or countered if he wished. But before he was forced to make a decision, a flutter of red stepped between them. Azul’s fist slammed into the edge of Rosso’s crimson blade. The snow beneath them scattered, revealing the barren pat of dirt beneath their feet. The third king’s arm bent towards him as Azul pushed against his sword.

“Move!” Azul cried as he glared at Rosso. His shield stayed strong as it pressed against the sharp red metal.

“Cool it,” Rosso held onto his long sword with only one arm, and it shook as Azul pushed harder against the red metal. He grabbed the handle with his free hand, and with an upward swing pushed Azul back. His left hand dropped to his side, and he pointed his fearsome weapon at Azul. “I don’t know what happened between you two, but it can wait.”

Azul’s breath grew hot, and his chest heaved with rage. “Step aside!”

Rosso let out a sigh. “Fine,” he rested his sword on his shoulder, and drew his black pistol; etched in the metal were strange characters that Atero didn’t recognize; yet he could somehow read. Engraved along the barrel were the words, My soul flows through this weapon, and with it I shall rid the world of evil.

“I’ll kill him…” The third king trailed off as the invisible line of his gun ended at a pool of blood. “Where did he go?” A quizzical look overtook Rosso’s face as he looked at where Prigus once was.

Azul looked back, and his head immediately jerked back toward Atero and Rosso. “You let it get away!? You should’ve killed it when you had the chance!”

Atero was indifferent about Prigus escaping their sight. He had been told that the devil could not go far, due to not being bound to a human master. Prigus only had two options: contract himself to a human, and do their bidding; or die. If he had some semblance of feeling, Atero would actually have felt sad for the devil. But that wasn’t to say he couldn’t imagine what Prigus was feeling. From his point of view, Atero was human who had been given the power of a devil. A human, a creature that all true fallen angels despised, wielded their strength.

It was easy to understand why Prigus looked down on them; in his mind they were devils in name only; not true fallen angels like he was. And to not only face a human wielding the power of his comrades, Lucifer had been the one to order Prigus’s execution. Even though Atero had yet to meet Satan, Prigus’s faith in the Lord of Hell was apparent. And to be put to death by the humans he despised, by order from his master, it bred a kind of turmoil that Atero could only imagine.

It was strange; Atero did not feel anything, yet he was able imagine what someone else felt, as well as understand why they felt the way they did. It was the same way he understood why Azul hated him as he did. Perhaps the strain did no wipe his soul clean, and that understanding was a remnant of his time as a human. Or maybe empathy was an emotion inherent to all creatures; even empty ones like him. But that was another question whose answer he didn’t care if he ever found. Because that empathy was not the source of the strange impulse he felt. Even if he understand why someone felt the way they did, it was not strong enough to compel him to do the things he had. No, there was something else guiding his soul; something far beyond his sight.

“Look at me!” Azul’s shout brought Atero back to the world, and out of his thoughts. Atero looked the man in blue, and the second king’s glare was as hot as ever. “_____”

Atero saw Azul’s lips move but he did not hear the word; though he knew what Azul had said. Azul had called Atero by his human name. One of the effects of becoming a Runner was the removal of the devil’s human name. They did not remember it, they could not see it if it was written, and if someone spoke it they would not hear it. And even if they heard it in passing they would not recognize it as theirs. Atero was told it was done to distance them from who they were as humans; not that he understood how it was done.

Rosso looked at Azul, confused. “Is that his human name?”

Before Azul could reply, a voice boomed from the top of the church. “Humans!” The kings all looked at Prigus standing proudly atop the stone cross. “Whether or not or words ring true is of no importance. I pledged my allegiance to Lucifer for one purpose…” The devil’s black hand rose up from his side, and his finger stretched out; pointing toward the three. “The annihilation of all humans!”

From behind the Kings of Darkness a dark wind blew. Atero looked at a bright light emanating from the pool of Prigus’s blood. Orange flames appeared around them and raced outward. The trails of fire burned the land and drew a pattern around them. With the burning light at the center, the flames scarred the land with pentagram.

Prigus held out his hand, and arcs of orange electricity shot off his charred hands as he spoke, “By my right, as a servant of Lucifer and a true Son of Hell, I call forth the Creatures of Sin!” Black shadows appeared, like spots of blotted ink, around the pentagram, and from them hideous creatures clawed up from the ground. Blood dripped from the creatures’ open wounds. Their flesh was rotted and twisted; exposing muscle and bone. And with them came a horrible smell of burnt flesh and rot. “Humanities sin’s, I command thee! Aid me in crushing the false kings!”

The Kings of Darkness stood back to back. Even though Prigus called them by different names, the creatures they faced were demons: beings born in hell, who were never human, and lacked any sort of soul; and because of that, hungered for human souls. The creatures moaned and writhed as they circled the three. One of the twisted beings lunged toward Rosso, and was quickly cut down by the devil’s crimson blade; disappearing into black smoke.

“This wouldn’t have happened if you had just killed that thing!” Azul said, glaring at Atero. A demon lunged at him from down on the ground, but the second king snatched its hideous face up and crushed its skull with his diamond coated hand. The pitiful thing plopped to the ground, and twitched for a few moments before disappearing. The rose on Azul’s sword began to glow with a soft blue light.

In a flash of light, and the sound crystal shattering, the rose scattered and bright azure petals surrounded the second king. A lone demon jumped toward Azul, and the storm of blue intercepted the twisted creature. From simply landing on the petals, the pitiful thing’s limbs were burned away, and it dropped onto the ground. It growled and hissed for a moment as it tried to lunge at Azul, until the second king ended it by stomping his shoe through its skull.

“This isn’t the time to point fingers,” Rosso said. The third king stabbed his blade into the ground and a torrent of crimson fire roared out the dragon’s mouth. The flames circled around them, creating a wall, and the demons cowered away. While Atero could feel the searing heat, the flames did not seem to bother Rosso; his clothes were not even singed by the fire. “Here’s the plan: Atero, you deal with Prigus. Azul and I will finish these demons off.” Before the other two could reply, Rosso lifted his sword and the barrier around them vanished.

Atero found that Rosso’s plan was logical and sound. With his speed he would be able to finish Prigus with ease, and Rosso and Azul would be able to defeat the horde without using their full strength. He looked up at Prigus, still standing atop the stone cross. His heels dug into the ground and placed his other hand on his sword; pointing the ebony blade toward the twisting mass of demon’s.

He wanted to test a theory he had thought of during his brief skirmish with Azul. He never sought to hone his skills in battle, or find ways to strengthen his powers; that was true. However, he wanted to see what would happen if he let his devil instincts take control; if he allowed his reflexes to determine how he fought. He wanted to see if he could consciously trigger it.

Atero aimed his power at Prigus, and with a small thought told his body to slay the devil. That simple command was all it took. His knees bent his body lower to the ground, and the ground shook as he dashed toward his target. His black blade sliced through the horde that stood in his way; leaving a trail of black mist as he sped toward Prigus. He was at the stone steps in a matter seconds; he hadn’t even used his Black Flash; a testament to how fast he was.

He leapt up, and the church was soon bellow him; as well as Prigus. The target looked at him with an expression that was half anger and half fear. Atero brought his sword down, and it slammed into the pole of Prigus’s massive weapon. While he was spared from being cut by Atero’s steel, Prigus was sent crashing through the church’s snow covered roof. The wood and stone cracked and shattered against the devil’s body, but such a fall wouldn’t be enough to end him.

Atero returned to the ground, and stood at the hole where the holy place’s doors once were. He looked inside, and a rotted pew was hurled at him. The wood splintered and exploded as he batted it away with has hand. He took a step forward, and was immediately standing in front of his target at the back of the church. Atero stared into the face of the being he was about to kill, and whatever amount of anger that Prigus held had been replaced with absolute terror. His so called pride had vanished in the presence of Atero’s power.

With a swipe of his sword, Atero sliced off Prigus’s left hand. The terrified creature dropped his weapon and clutched the stub where his hand once was. Its wings wrapped tightly around it like a mother comforting a frightened child. Atero’s foot plowed into the poor thing, and sent him through the back wall; flailing across the snow; surrounded by a tunnel of debris. Stumbling and tripping, Prigus’s charred feet scampered across the ground. His wings spread out wide and with mighty flap the devil was fleeing into the sky.

Prigus was soon a spec in Atero’s sight. Even as strong as he was he could not jump high enough to catch his target. But that wasn’t to say he didn’t have the means to finish his assignment. He held his sword against the blackness of the night sky, and the moonlight shinned on the elegant yet brutal weapon.

“Omixe Sulobaid: Ebony Akuma.” Upon speaking the command to release his full power as a devil, in the language of the fallen angels, and the name of his sword a wave of black flames spread out from Atero’s feet. From his back, the same black fire formed two black wings. His sword became encased in the heatless black flames. And upon his head a black crown slowly took shape, and floated inside a nest of white fire.

His midnight wings folded in on him, and the black feathers caressed his body. Even if his wings were made of his demonic energy they still looked and felt like real ones. He had only used his full strength once before in his brief time as a devil, and to see his wings again birthed a pleasant warmth within his chest.

Did he actually feel something? The feeling was brief, and flickered like the flames on his blade. He searched his mind and could not trace the feeling to a definable source. In his own thoughts, he felt nothing upon seeing his wings; only the great strength coursing through his vessel. Yet, the feeling had been there; he had not imagined it.

How was able to feeling something when all his emotions had been stripped from him?

Pondering that question, his sable wings beat hard against the ground; sending him soaring into the sky. The wind pushed against him for a moment; only for a moment. High above the clouds, Atero appeared before his terrified target.
The look of utter shock plastered across Prigus’s face twisted and his mouth flew open, “Why would you be given those wings!? You, a lowly human!?”

Atero’s feet stepped upon the mist in the sky, “You are Lucifer’s tool, the same as me,” did he truly speak those words? “But there is a difference between the two of us.”

The shaken creature swung his bloody stub, and his words bubbled up from deep within his soul, “What is it?! Are you somehow superior to me!? Is that why my master has forsaken me!?”

“No, I am not superior to you,” Atero cut the open air, and sent two thin crescents of fire toward Prigus. The black blades reached Prigus almost instantaneously. They cut through the devils shoulders and wings, and flew off into the distance. “I choose not to shackle myself to the misguided wishes of another. I do what I must to fulfil my own desire. That is the difference between us.”

Prigus did not utter a word. His mouth was agape, his lips trembled, but he released not a single sound. His arms and wings fell toward the ground. But before he could fall with them, Atero plunged his sword through the devil’s heart. A look of confusion, shock, and fear was etched across Prigus’s face as his body began to fade into fine specks of black dust. As what remained of the devil’s body disappeared out existence, his trembling eyes begged the same question as Atero.

Why?

When Prigus’s body had disappeared completely, all that remained of him was as sphere of black flames: the devil’s soul. Atero lowered his sword, reached in his pocket and pulled out a small glass sphere on a chain. He held the up the ball, and transparent claws reached from the glass, snatched up Prgius’s soul, and pulled it inside. Atero quickly returned the Soul Flux to his pocket and began his descent.

His feet touched the ground in seconds, and it was time to deactivate his Omixe Sulobaid. Pieces of his crown had already flacked off, and feathers were falling from his wings. He inhaled deeply; filling his lungs with unneeded oxygen. He exhaled, releasing the air he stored in his body. And then, with the simplest of thoughts, deactivated his might power. His crown shattered, and his wings and katana turned back into the heatless black flames that gave rise to them. The symbols of his devil power flowed back into mark on his neck.

But that power came with a cost.

Invisible claws gripped his soul and squeezed it. Ghost like talons scratched and tore at his limbs. He buckled over and his hands pressed into the snow. He could only take gulps of air as the excruciating pain echoed through his bones. It was a kind of pain that no human could ever withstand. It was as if every muscle, every nerve, and every cell in his body was crying out in agony.

All Atero could do was grit his teeth, dig his fingers into the earth, and wait for the pain to pass. And it did. After a twenty seconds of unbearable pain, the invisible claws released his soul, and the talons retreated for the time being. While the aftershock of the experience rippled throughout his frame, it soon past as well; and Atero’s body was left feeling normal; if not somewhat tired.

He pushed himself from the cold ground, and brushed the snow from his jeans. It was over. He had completed the first assignment Lucifer had task him with, and was free to do as he wished once again. Standing in the silence of night he thought back to his theory. When he let his devil side take control it was as if his body moved on its own; and it a way it did. But he began to realize something: It wasn’t his instincts that took control.

During the battle his mind retreated into him, and it was if he was watching his body move. It was the same as when he felt the strange impulse; when he did things without knowing why. And when spoke to Prigus, as he felt the words pass through his lips, he felt that they were true, despite that they were not a reflection of how own thoughts. But unlike before, when he did things without knowing why, he knew why the impulse occurred. I was because he told it to. He allowed it take control. But now he was left with more questions.

Where had the impulse come from? Why did it speak those words to Prigus? Was it the devil soul within him? Was it some trace of his humanity that survived the strain? Why did it not take control indefinitely? Why was he chosen to inherit a devil’s power? Why did it seem as though the answers were infinitely far away, yet right in front of him?

Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why?

“Good job, Atero.” The words of the third king quieted the maelstrom of questions in Atero’s mind. Rosso walked to him through the ruins of the church with Azul trailing behind. “We took care of the demons, and from the looks of things you took care of Prigus,” Rosso gave him and thumbs up that was a little too enthusiastic. “I knew you could do it.”

“Then we’re done here.” Azul said. The devil in blue brushed past Rosso and began walking toward Atero.

“Lucifer’s not done with you three, not yet.” From the shadows of the crumbling church stepped a man with slicked back black hair and bronze skin. He walked this hands in the pockets of his black suit, with the tail of his white dress shirt scrunched up against his palms. He reached within the breast pocket of his black sport coat and pulled out an envelope. “I’m afraid you’ve been given one more assignment.”

Atero knew the man; or perhaps it was the other way around. He was the first person he met after becoming a devil, and like Atero and the other kings he was a runner who belonged to a trinity as well. His trinity was the 888, and they were known as the Infinities of the Shadows; though Aurus was the only one who remained. When they first met he who told Atero about the world of devils and angels. But out of all the facts he shared-details about demons, devils, and angels-none of them answered the questions that ate away at him.

“Hey, Aurus,” Rosso said with a warm smile. “How’ve you been?”

Aurus’s violet colored eyes looked at Rosso. “I’ve been good,” he brushed the single black bang that fell of his face to other side, and put on a wry grin. “I’m getting a little tired of being the go between for you three, though.” He closed his eyes and shrugged. “But orders or orders, nothing I can do about it.”

“I’m not doing it,” Azul said. He turned back and marched up to Aurus. “Tell Lucifer I don’t have time to be a lapdog.”

Aurus squared up to Azul, and his eyes dead turned dead serious. “You know you remember what I told you. You either fall in line, or you’re killed, those are your only two options.”

Despite the fact that Azul had to look up at Aurus, he wasn’t intimidated. “And I told you I don’t care. The only reason I became a runner was to save her, I don’t give a damn what Lucifer wants.”

Aurus let out a long sigh. “Fine, but at least read it first,” he presented the rustic envelope to Azul, and the latter snatched it from his hand. Aurus turned his back as Azul tore the envelope open and scanned the document.

Atero didn’t have to read it to know what it said; Azul’s reaction told him everything. The second king’s eyes widened, and his mouth fell open. The edges of the paper crumpled in his hands, and his eyes squeezed shut. “Is this really where she is?”

“Yes,” Aurus replied. “I have to go over a few more things with you before you set out, but that’s the gist of it.”
Azul opened his eyes, and the blue orbs shone with resolve. He wadded up the paper and tossed it the ground. “Alright, I’ll do it.”

Aurus turned back to the three and smiled. “Good, I knew you’d come around.” The shadow slammed his hand into the open air, and racked began to splinter off into space. The cracks twisted and shot outward, until the formed what looked like a door. The broken space shattered, and the fragments of reality sucked into a swirling mass of purple and black energy.

While it looked threatening, Atero knew better. It was a portal that could take Aurus anywhere he wanted to go; as long as he knew where he was going; and Atero had even used it a few times before. It was Aurus ability as a devil, just the Black Flash was Atero’s.

“C’mon, everyone in,” Aurus stood beside the gate and beckoned them inside, and Azul and Rosso quickly stepped through.

Atero stood in place, looking at the person who was there when he became a devil. If there was some secret about him, Aurus was the person most likely to know. His eyes narrowed in on the most distinctive thing about Aurus; at least to him. Resting around his neck was a simple string, and dangling from was piece of turquoise carved in the shape of a four pointed star. Looking at the jewelry, Atero could not escape the feeling that he had seen it before. Somewhere, deep in the black void of his soul, he had seen that star.

“You two Atero, the assignment is for all the Kings of Darkness.”

Listening to Aurus’s words, Atero did as he was told. But before he departed for his mission, he would ask the devil with purple eyes what he knew; if anything at all. And hopefully, he would find the answer to the question that had been consumed his soul.


[The Right Hand]

As the first battle the Kings of Darkness ended the cold land went silent once again. In honor of the evil being purged from the land the wind played a quiet requiem for all the unfortunate souls that had met their end in that place. And soon, the land would be forgotten completely. Even when the renewal of spring returned, it would not visit that place. The earth had drank too much tainted blood, and it been scarred by the vile creatures of Hell.

None would come to pay their respects for the dead. Instead, the rotting church would stand as the headstone, and the proof of all those that one called that place home. But before it slipped into the corners of memory, someone offered up one last prayer in the crumbling holy place.

He sat on the pew, folded his hands, and recited at prayer. But he did pray for the souls that had been given up to Satan. Nor did he pray that the land find peace, and meaning be given to the deaths that had occurred there. No, he prayed for the future, and for the Kings who had gathered on that cold winter night.

Black, Blue, Red,


One by one, the three kings gathered there,


By order of the Lord of Hell,


They were to end another fallen angel,


And so they did.


The Shadow appeared, and told them of their next labor,


The Kings marched


Upon those who claimed to be born in Paradise,


To vanquish two who called themselves Angels,


And bring another from the grasps of those lost children.


The King of the Crimson Flame


Meets the Whore whom he scars.


The King of the Azure Rose faces defeat


At the hands of the Hero.


The King of the Ebony Blade


Tastes death, but is returned


By the one who truly wears the Black Crown.

He finished and stared long at the mark on the back of his right hand. Though a scar covered it, the mark was as clear as the lights in heaven: the mark 666.
 

KingdomKey

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Azul is quite the hot head to cross blades with Atero. The fight scenes in this were intense. A thought came to mind when they mentioned how they couldn't "hear" their human name. What if it were to be written down instead? Anyways, Eva being slain down by none other than Atero is sad. I never would've guessed that's what happened to her. I hope being able to see Eva again doesn't turn out to have a catch. And the end with the man in prayer was intriguing to say the least. I feel like the prayer is more of a prophecy instead. :3 Good chapter overall, Spirit!
 
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Azul is quite the hot head to cross blades with Atero. The fight scenes in this were intense. A thought came to mind when they mentioned how they couldn't "hear" their human name. What if it were to be written down instead? Anyways, Eva being slain down by none other than Atero is sad. I never would've guessed that's what happened to her. I hope being able to see Eva again doesn't turn out to have a catch. And the end with the man in prayer was intriguing to say the least. I feel like the prayer is more of a prophecy instead. :3 Good chapter overall, Spirit!
He hates Atero at the moment, but there's a little more to it. The next part will reveal most of how Azul feels about Atero. Oh, you haven't seen anything yet, that was just a warm up. If it's written they just see a blank space. It'll be a little while till it's revealed exactly how everything went down with Eva, but the gist of it will be told in Azul's part. It's a little of both. Thank you :)
 
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[Blue]

The gate opened and Azul stepped forth behind Rosso, and Aurus and Atero were right behind them. Aurus clenched his hand and the portal slammed shut; a faint trace of violet mist that lingered for a moment was the only sign it was ever there.

He stood in front of a mansion. The building stood three stories high, and the walls were made of rough gray brick that were accented by the windows white shutters. At the second floor, above the intricately carved wooden doors, was balcony held up by two stone pillars.

Azul gazed upon the building, and noticed light pouring out of a window on the right side of the third floor. There wasn’t single light that illuminated the night other than that one. It jumped out to him immediately, and as his eyes focused on the bay window he sniffed the air. A sweet bitter smell appeared inside his nose as he looked at the source of the light; the scent was like dark chocolate. He wasn’t sure where the smell had come from, or why he inhaled when he did, but he felt the source of the strange odor was inside that room.

“Is this your place?” Rosso asked, his voice breaking Azul out of his train of thought.

Aurus nodded. “Yes. I don’t get to spend a lot of time here, but it’s nice to know it’s always waiting here for me. You know, to have a place to call home.”

Home. Just the word stirred the anger within Azul’s heart. He glared at Atero; the person he once called a friend; the person who was always there for him and Eva; and the person who had stolen his home from him. Azul gnashed his teeth together, and dug his nails deep into his palms. His fingers cut into his hands and blood dripped down his knuckles.

“This place is way better than the run down shacks I’ve been staying in.” Rosso said.

“Then get a place of your own,” Aurus replied. “You probably haven’t touched your bonus yet.”

Aurus was referring to the large sum money a person received once they became Runner; and he annoyingly referred to it as a “sign on bonus”. Each Runner was given a thousand pounds of gold, to do whatever they wanted with. With the advancement of technology instead of having to hide their gold it was all placed within an account, and they were given a black credit card to access it. Azul had asked Aurus to hold on to his, knowing he wouldn’t need it for a while.

“Nah,” Rosso said with a small laugh. “It would be too much of a waste.”

Azul felt there were more to Rosso’s words, but didn’t feel the need to ask. He didn’t particularly care for the man in red’s laid back attitude. He couldn’t understand how anyone could smile, act friendly, or laugh after the going through the strain. The scar left from the burst of negative energy when he became a Runner had not fully healed; and it he was unsure if it ever would. Whether for good or bad, the strain erased nearly every emotion he had, save for one. His love for his wife, Eva, was all that remained within him. And it was his desire to see her again, and make her happy, that spurred him forward.

He took a deep breath, unclenched his fists, and stepped forward. “C’mon,” he said, brushing past Aurus, Atero, and Rosso. He stepped up to the intricately carved doors and pushed them open. The moonlight poured inside the fast foyer, and the clicks of Azul’s shoes echoed throughout the mansion. He couldn’t imagine ever living in such an empty place. When he was human he and Eva shared a tiny two bedroom apartment. It may have been small, but it never mattered to him; or to her. Whether it was the dorm they lived in during their college years, her room in their last year of high school, or the fort of twigs they made when they were children, his home was where ever she was.

Aurus and the others followed behind him, and the mansion’s lord led them to the second floor and into drawing room; which stood in stark contrast to the other he passed. Documents were scattered about the oak table in the center, and the walls were lined with maps of the word; with red pushpins marking certain locations. Aurus turned on the light above them, and Azul stood around the table with the other kings.

At the center was a charred scroll folded out. Written in deep blank ink were words in the language of devils. If he was human, Azul wouldn’t be able make out what was written, but he was able to read it perfectly.

Kings of Darkness,


You are to march on the Children of Eden. You will slay two you imprudently call themselves angels. Within their stronghold you shall find the shell of the angel who was felled by the Black King, and retrieve her vessel. The Violet Shadow shall be given the location, and escort you there. These orders are to be fulfilled in seventy two hours, or you shall be executed.


As much as he despised being a servant of hell Azul didn’t mind following these orders. The table shook as he pressed his hands against the wood, and he snapped toward the door. “We’re leaving now.”

“No you’re not,” Aurus said. The shadow casually tossed two manila folders on the table he picked up from the desk behind him. “First, those order came last night so you won’t be leaving till tomorrow. Second, I suggest you read up on your targets first.”

“Why are you wasting my time!?” Azul’s fist slammed into the doorframe, and wood splintered against his flesh. “If we know where it is why don’t we go now!?”

Aurus ran his hand through his ebony hair. “I don’t know why, but those were the orders we were given. If we go against them then we’re as good as dead. And there are still a few things I need to do before I die.”

Azul gnashed his teeth, and was about to cry out again, but stopped when Rosso spoke. “You really need to calm down. Getting all worked up won’t accomplish anything.”

The blue king’s piercing eyes were trained on the devil in red; who looked at ease. “Don’t tell me what to do!?”

Rosso looked toward Azul, with a soft expression. “I don’t know what’s got you riled up, but going in with a hot head will only get you killed. The Children of Eden aren’t a group you should take lightly.”

Azul knew little about the Children of Eden. He knew they were humans who used the power of angels, and they had Eva’s body; the latter being the only information he cared to know. “I don’t have a reason to be scared of them. I could’ve killed the devil we fought tonight on my own.”

“Actually,” Aurus chimed in. “In terms of strength, Prigus was at the bottom of the barrel. The fact that it only took a few dozen human souls to summon him is proof of that.”

Azul stomped back to the table. “Then how many souls did it take to summon the devils inside us?”

Aurus looked off to side in thought. “I don’t know the exact number, but since our devil souls are from the Nine Trinities, I’d say it would have to be up in the hundreds, maybe even the thousands.”

A smirk dipped in anger cracked across Azul’s lips. “Then I have nothing to be afraid of.”

“Prigus probably thought the same thing when he faced Atero,” Rosso glanced at the first king, who was silently leaning against the window. “And look what happened to him.”

Azul looked at the person he once called a friend, and memories of the years he spent with Atero flashed through his mind. Atero rarely opened up, and because of that would come across as cold and intimidating, but there was kind warmth within him; anyone who knew him well would say the same. He always thought of others, and did everything he could for the people closest to him. Amongst that small circle, Eva was the closest to Atero. She knew Atero long before Azul, and the two shared a bond that was deeper than Azul’s and Eva’s.

But as strong as that bond was, it hadn’t survived Atero’s strain. When his black blade clashed with Eva’s spear there was no love to be found there. When he mercilessly mutilated her, plunged his sword through her heart and Azul’s, there was no sign of the bond he and Eva forged throughout their lives.

The sting from Atero’s sharp steel still echoed through his chest, and he was reminded of it when they clashed earlier that night. Despite everything he went through up to that point, not a single thing was able to pierce his Cobalt Shield; even Rosso’s sword wasn’t enough to cut through it. But Atero’s blade sliced through it like it was water.

In that instant he realized what it was Rosso was getting at. He recalled how filled with hate and confusion the devil Atero slayed had been, and how he was the same; while Atero was empty. There wasn’t a single thing clouding his old friend’s mind. And if Azul wanted the power to save Eva, like the power Atero had, he would have to learn to suppress cold rage inside him.

Taking a deep breath, and calming his nerves, Azul looked down at the dossiers Aurus had provided. “Who are the “Angels” I’m supposed to kill?”

“Good, we’re making progress,” Aurus said, flipping the folders open. Within them were photos of their targets, as well as summaries of each. “The first one is called David.” Even though only his face was shown, the towering presence of David could still be felt in the room. If his long face was and bulging neck were any indication, the body underneath his shaved head had to be massive.

“This guy’s over nine feet tall.” Rosso said, pointing at the number that indicated David’s height; his exact height was nine feet and four inches. “What did eden feed him?” There was lone silence after that, and Rosso’s fragile grin stayed suspended on his face.

Aurus rolled his eyes. “Tough crowd.”

Rosso shook his head and grinned slyly. “I’ve preformed for worse,” he snatched one of the documents from David’s dossier and his crimson eyes scanned it. “It says he uses the Holy Nails. If that’s the case he has to be one of their best,” he looked at Azul with worry. “Which means it would be smarter if we all fought him at the same time.”

What he was saying was obvious, but the way he said it made Azul recoil slightly. Even though he said it with blood colored eyes his expression was one that was without a doubt human. They were devils, creatures of Hell, to worry about one another went against their nature. But Rosso spoke with earnest feelings that couldn’t be denied. It was in stark contrast to Atero. A true devil who fought only for himself, with no regard for anyone other than himself. It was mind boggling how two Runners could’ve gone through the strain and turned out so vastly different. But while Rosso’s human side may have survived, there was no denying that Atero’s blade was sharper.

“If you want my opinion,” Aurus said. “As smart as it would be to fight them together, that isn’t the best course of action.”

“Why not?” Azul asked.

“The second you three get inside, Eden is going to come down on you with all their might.”

“You think I don’t know that? I’m prepared for everything they can throw at me.”

Aurus shook his head. “That’s not it. When they realize three Runners are inside they’ll prioritize their blood factory’s safety over everything. You’ll have thirty minutes, tops, to get to her.”

“Don’t call her that.” Azul’s voice grew low. He pressed on the lid that held in his bubbling anger. His fingers dug into the wood of the table; cracking the surface. “She’s not some “blood factory”, she’s a person.” There was a long silence after that, and Azul didn’t know what to say.

Rosso looked at him, then at Atero. “If time’s an issue, I think Atero should get her; since he’s the fastest.”

Azul agreed, but couldn’t bring himself to speak those words. To say them would be admitting that Atero was the one to save Eva, not him. That Atero was the one who belonged by her side, not him.

“No,” Atero said, glancing up at Azul. “You do it. I’ll deal with David on my own.”

Azul let out a silent sigh of relief. He turned his attention the dossier of the second angel. “So his name is Adam, and he’s the one guarding Eva.” The word man didn’t seem to fit the boy in the photo. He was only eighteen years old, but his gentle face made him seem younger. The bangs of his ash blonde, almost white, hair fell over his kind eyes, and he was smiling. And there was a line text under his name that did not fit his appearance: “King of the Angels of Eden.”

Aurus nodded. “Adam is the name given the strongest male angel. I don’t know what he’s done to earn it, especially since he’s so young, but it isn’t a title they just give away.”

“And he has Excalibur, too.” Rosso said.

“You seem to know a little about the CoE,” Aurus stroked his chin. “Have you had any experience with them?”

Rosso shook his head. “I know they’ve always clashed with Ouroboros, and I heard stories about them when I was kid, though I’ve never actually met any of them. But,” he looked Azul again, with that same worried expression. “That sword isn’t some legend, or fairy tale. It’s said that it can cut through anything, and it can take out a hundred people with a single swing.”

Azul could only imagine facing such power. And while part of him did fear it, his desire to save Eva snuffed out that flicker of fear. “So what? As long as I keep a cool head, and don’t let him cut me, I’ll be alright.” His blue eyes met Atero’s black ones. Atero’s eyes were solid and unwavering, as if nothing that had been said affected him. Was there any trace of his feelings left? Did everything they went through as humans mean nothing to him? Azul didn’t know for sure, though he had a good feeling what the answer was. His cold eyes narrowed on Atero.

“That’s enough for now,” Aurus said as he walked to behind the desk behind him. He reached under a shelf bellow the marked up map, and pulled a tall bottle of amber colored liquid and a glass. “Anyone else care for a drink?” Azul didn’t see the point in it. Even though they could taste food and drink, their devil bodies would break it down before it reached their stomachs. In other words: they couldn’t get drunk. Aurus shrugged his shoulders at the lack of a reply, “Suit yourselves.” He filled his glass to the brim and gulped half of it down in a single drink. “Oh, since we have a lot of time to kill, I’ll give you free range of my humble home.” He said with an over exaggerated bow.

Since Runners didn’t sleep Azul had twenty four hours to read up on his targets, as well as pursue the other half of his wish. “Does this place have a library?” Azul asked.

Aurus nodded. “Yes, in the west wing on the first floor.”

“Do you have any books about angels, and about souls?”

Aurus nodded once again. “I do. They’re pretty old so be careful with them.”

Azul snatched up Adam’s dossier and walked toward the door. Just as he was about to cross the threshold, Atero’s empty voice stopped him. “They call themselves angels, why?” Azul had wondered why the CoE called their elite warriors angels as well. They couldn’t have possibly been actual angels, could they?

“They like to think they are,” Aurus replied. “But they’re not like true angels like the ones in heaven.”

With his curiosity quenched Azul hurried out the door and began wandering the maze of Aurus’s mansion. The empty halls were dimly lit by the moon light, and frigid draft blew through them. But Azul didn’t feel the cold, and his eyes were able to see perfectly in dim light. After a few minutes of wandering through the beautifully constructed halls, and peeking his head into many vacant rooms, Azul finally found Aurus’s library. He was expecting there to be a few high shelves, if that, but the tall bookcases that lined the walls and stretched all the way up the three floors shattered his expectations. There had to be hundreds, if not thousands of books that occupied the shelves, and to search through them all would be a daunting chore. But it would be easy compared to everything else Azul had done to save Eva.

He sat the manila folder down at the single desk that occupied the giant space, alongside a mess of other books that had been left there, and began his search for the texts Aurus spoke of. He climbed up every shelf, looked through hundreds of old leather bound books, and after an hour of searching only found a single tome that spoke of angels. While there were still hundreds more books to look through, he decided to read though the one he found before scouring the tall shelves once again. He sat at lone desk, turned on the dim lamp, and opened the musty book. While it was written and ancient language, like the words of devils, Azul was able to read it perfectly.

The book told him of a time long ago, when angels were once allowed to visit the world of man. To combat the evil that humans brought up from the depths of Hell, angels would come down from Heaven at the request of humans, and do battle with the forces of evil. However, humans eventually began to lust after the power of Heaven, and sought to capture the Angels they summoned. Using demonic power they were able to strike down many Angels, and used their souls to craft power weapons, called Heaven Arms. After the death of many Angels, the Archangel Gabriel ordered that his brethren would no longer come to the aid of humans. Instead, they would be given the tools to battle the forces of Hell, and fight the demonic hordes themselves.

Azul continued to read. But even though Angels could no longer be summoned by humans, there would come a time when they would appear again. When the end of world drew near the souls of Angels would be placed inside new born humans, and when Lucifer rose up from the pit the Angels would awaken and do battle for the fate of the world.
While the book elaborated more about the nature of Heaven Arms, and how humans used the power of their own souls to fight demonic power, Azul found no point in reading it anymore. It only served to explain what he already knew. He knew that Angels slept within a few select humans, and that by coming into contact with a Devil they would awaken. And he knew that because he saw one of those Angels awaken in Eva.

His mind wanted to slip back to that day; when Eva sprinted toward the person she was closest to, to the man she was told had died, and touched his hand, then spoke in the voice of a righteous warrior of heaven. Yes, he wanted to relive that moment just like he had thousands of times since becoming a devil, but it wouldn’t bring him any comfort; it never did. It only served to remind him that he could no longer hear Eva’s sweet voice.

He shook those thoughts from his head; knowing it would only bring him pain. He would find a way to make Eva human again; that he believed with every fiber of his being. He would be able to see her smile at him once again, to hold her hand one more time, and to hear her whisper I love you.

With his wish recalled, Azul turned his attention to the open folder Aurus had given him. He opened it and poured over all the information it contained about the “Angel” he would face; though there wasn’t much knowledge to be gained from it. It told him about Adam’s height, weight, age, and weapon, but not much else. It said that Adam was rarely sent to out, unless the threat was truly great; which wasn’t often. He spent his time within the CoE’s many compounds scattered across the world, and honed his skills with his holy sword. It had been that way ever since he was a child. Adam was raised to be an Angel of Eden since the moment he was born.

Azul closed the file and tossed it amongst the other books on the desk. The only thing he took away from it was that Adam had far more experience in battle than him. But that small fact didn’t matter. Adam stood between him and Eva, and he would die for that; simple as that. It didn’t matter if Adam was a master swordsman Azul would still defeat him, and set Eva free. That’s all there was to it.

He rose from his chair, and started off to search the towering shelves again, when he noticed the other books that occupied the wide desk. He leaned over the desk, his hands pressed against the mahogany table top. He picked up one of the books and read its title aloud, “The Odyssey,” tossing the greek hero’s story back on the desk he picked up another book. “Pride and Prejudice,” the first addition made a heavy thud as Azul dropped it on the wood. He kept repeating himself: reading a title and then dropping the books back on the table. “World History, Proper Etiquette, the Epic of Gilgamesh, Beauty and the Beast, Making Friends: The Guide to Long Lasting Relationships, Snow White, ABC Phonics, Beowulf.”

With the last novel back amongst the mess of others, Azul looked long at each of them. He stood staring for a minute, trying to find some connection to the seemingly random tomes. Flipping the books open, one by one, he skimmed through each. There wasn’t any pages marked, or notes written in any of them; they contained nothing that told him of the person who was reading them. After five minutes of pointlessly looking for clues he turned away in a huff, and silently scolded himself for the time he wasted.

He searched though Aurus’s library for hours. He looked through every ancient text he could find. Poured through every musty sheet of paper he came across. And read through every single book that even mentioned the word Angel. But as the morning sun peeked through the wide windows, lighting the library with soft glow, Azul’s search for a way to fulfill his wish had not come any closer to being found. Although he was surrounded by stacks of old books, not a single one had the answer he sought. He leaned back in the stiff chair, and ran his hands over his face in exhaustion. Even a Runner’s mind had limits. There was only so much information he could take in before his brain had had enough.

Not knowing if it would make a difference or not, Azul rested his head on the cold wooden table and shut his eyes. If he was human, he would’ve passed out in a matter of moments, but his body did not long for the sweet embrace of sleep. As tired as his mind was he could not sleep, and he would never sleep as long as he lived. It was yet another side effect of having becoming a devil. His body didn’t require food, or sleep, and would never age. It was a body that could stand up to the mightiest of weapons, and brush off the fiercest of attacks. And it was the vessel that he needed if he was to fulfill his wish.

After a minute the clouds of exhaustion cleared from his mind, and the sharp mind of a devil returned.

The smell of dark chocolate appeared in his nose. His head snapped up, and there was girl standing across him. A waterfall ebony hair poured down the shoulders of her white sweater, and flowed down her back to her waist. She stared at him clutching the hem of her violet dress. And though her eyes were partially hidden by her hair, the whites of her irises were bright against her dark skin. She stood there, clutching her dress with her thin fingers, and looking at Azul.

He sniffed again, and took in more of the bitter fragrance that wafted off of her. She was the source of the scent he had smelled the night before.

Her dark eyes peered through the curtain of black that was in front of her face and at the pile of books Azul carelessly tossed on the table. It appeared that he found the person who was using the desk before him. He got out of his seat and returned to scouring the shelves. As he walked away his cold blue eyes stayed on the girl. While she appeared to be the same age as him, and the same height, she much thinner than other girls her age. In a word, she was flimsy.

When he was climbing up on the steep shelves she ran to the table, snatched up one of the books, and scurried under the large bay window. He stopped his search for a moment and watched her read. Even though she was a good distance away his azure eyes could see her perfectly; as if he was standing right in front her. Her frail hands clutched the hard binding of Beauty and the Beast, and she turned page after page. Azul kept on looking, and without realizing it he watched her turn fifty of the pages.

He had seen that sight before. He had stood across from a fragile being, who was reading a book just like that one. He had been watching him for a while, but was waiting for the right moment to talk to him. Since the boy was usually alone, it was just the matter of picking when. And on the particular day, in the park after school, he decided to. Smiling, he walked up to the flimsy looking boy.

“Hi, my name’s _______, what’s yours?”

The tiny boy’s sky blue eyes looked up, and peered the through the long brown bangs og his spiky hair. He looked at Azul, but didn’t say word.

Any other seven year old would’ve walked away, and forgotten about the boy who was always alone, but Azul wouldn’t. He knelt down and looked at the blank spine of the boy’s book. “What’re you reading?”

The shining blue orbs looked up from the pages, but his small lips didn’t move.

Azul’s lips turned into a line, and he let out a puff of air. “You’re friends with Eva, right?”

The boy nodded, confirming he wasn’t completely ignoring Azul.

“Great,” Azul pushed down the boy’s book, and moved his face closer to his. “So what kind of stuff does she like? Is she a girly girl, or more like a tomboy? What’s her favorite color? Is she in any clubs, or anything like that? Does she have any brothers or sisters?”

The boy pushed his book up, trying to shield himself from Azul’s barrage of question, but the latter’s strength and persistence was too great. He winced, looked away, and his eyes welled up slightly. Azul didn’t see what he was doing, or truly care. And did not see the flat shoe, decorated in a floral pattern, coming for his face.

Her toe was planted firmly into his jaw, and pressed against his teeth. His neck snapped to the right and was pushed of his feet a few inches before falling face first into the dirt. The dull, pressure like pain was immediate, and his mouth was filled with the distinct mixture of blood and dirt. Water sprang from his eyes, but he buried his face in his shirt, and took a moment hide his tears.

“What do think you’re doing?!” He commanded the tears to stop, and looked to her glaring at him. That image of her was one he’d never forget. The sun shone brightly on her golden hair and lit it with a burning glow. Her soft facial features were twisted into a scowl, and a fire raged in her eyes. Her tiny fists were pressed against her hips. “Well?!”

Azul opened his mouth, but no words came out. His throat closed up, and despite his commands it refused to open. His stomach twisted itself into a sickening knot, and his heart beat so hard it was threating to break his ribs. He kept looking up at her, and wondered why he couldn’t say a word to the girl he loved.

She marched up to him, and jerked him up by his collar. “If I ever catch you picking on him again I’ll…” her heated words stopped when a frail hand was placed on her shoulder.

“It’s okay, he wasn’t picking on me.” The small boy looked up at Azul, and smiled. “He just wanted to know what I was reading.”

“Oh,” It was incredible how fast the fire inside her eyes died out. She let him go and scratched the back of her head in embarrassment. “Sorry, I kicked you like that. Are you okay?”

Azul nodded, and while his head went down he swallowed the blood that filled his mouth. “I’m fine.”

“Great. If you’re not busy, do you want to hang out with us?” She asked.

“Yes!” The word shook as it rose up from his heart.

“Okay,” She smiled at him. Her smile was just like the sun. It was somehow able to pull him in and capture him in its gravity. But he didn’t mind if he stayed in her orbit, and would gladly revolve around her. “Let’s go play on the monkey bars.” She ran off, smiling that gravity bending smile, and laughing a warm laugh.

Azul watched as her as she went, and basked in that moment. “Roses,” said the little boy standing with him. “She likes roses.”

With the frail boy walking beside him, Azul went toward Eva. And from then on, Azul spent every second he could with her. Even as they grew older, and his feelings matured as well, Eva hadn’t changed. She was still the same over protective girl who kicked him in the park. Atero hadn’t changed much either. While he grew up, even gaining an inch or too over Azul, he was still that quiet little boy with a kind heart.

Or, at least that was the case.

After everything that happened with Eva and Atero, Azul wasn’t sure if anything would be the same between the three of them again. He didn’t how much of Atero’s human side was left, if any at all. If there was any bit of warmth within Atero, some spec of light from his former life, Azul wasn’t able to see it. He wondered, Maybe Eva would be able to see it. She and Atero were closer than even Azul and her. If there was some part of Atero’s human self left Eva would be able to find it. When he saved her, she would be reunited with her best friend and they would…

Azul turned away, and shut his eyes. He jumped down, and landed with a thud the granite floor. With his back to the imposing case he drooped to the floor. All took was a small thought and the tips of his fingers were coated in a layer of blue diamond. He put his hand up his shirt and pressed his fingers against his chest. The freezing stone was somehow soothing against his beating heart, but it wasn’t what was going to ease his mind; to quiet the doubts that constantly sprang up within his soul. The remedy to that was something he needed to see with his own eyes, and feel with his touch. He stiffened his fingers and guided them into his chest. The Cobalt Shield cut through his flesh, flowed through his bones, and dispelled that torrent of demonic power that safeguarded his heart. It was a process that never brought him pain, only a slight uncomfortable feeling; but a feeling he was more than glad to tolerate.

His finger brushed against his beating heart, reached past it, and took hold of what Azul needed to see once again. With it safely in his grasp he pulled his hand from his chest. The wound closed almost immediately, and the only sign he reached within his body were small trails of warm crimson. But he need to see it. To see the tiny glass sphere, dripping with blood, that rested in his hand.

Azul cradled the glass in his hands. He wiped his blood from it and stared long into it. Within it was flickering gray flame being overshadowed by brilliant white one. The sight cut down whatever the doubtful thoughts he had been harboring, and he smiled at the glass he held in his hands.

“Hi, Eva.”

If the strain had left him any sense of humor he would’ve found it funny. He kept saying that he’d bring her back; that he’d return her soul to a human one, and reunite it with her body. And while it would take more time to make that wish come true, that didn’t mean wasn’t without her. In a way she was always with him, right next to his heart.

 

KingdomKey

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The small back story with Azul, Atero, and Eva. My gosh is Eva so dang cute and protective. <3 I never would've imagined Atero being fragile, let alone weak because, he's so strong as a devil. Then there's the orb Eva's soul is inside of. I was completely blown away by that, and Rosso seems to be the only one to keep a level head. I'm curious what it'd take to make him lose his temper or self control. :D Good chapter overall, Spirit. And I can't wait to see how the confrontation goes with the angels of Eden.
 
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The small back story with Azul, Atero, and Eva. My gosh is Eva so dang cute and protective. <3 I never would've imagined Atero being fragile, let alone weak because, he's so strong as a devil. Then there's the orb Eva's soul is inside of. I was completely blown away by that, and Rosso seems to be the only one to keep a level head. I'm curious what it'd take to make him lose his temper or self control. :D Good chapter overall, Spirit. And I can't wait to see how the confrontation goes with the angels of Eden.
She's still protective of him, even though he doesn't need it. Well, it'll be repeated a bit later, but it's to give you the impression that who Atero was as a human doesn't matter anymore; at leas to him. At least it's in a place where no one will think to look. He is, but Azul will calm down after a while. There is something that'll make Rosso lose control, and you'll see his other side. There'll be a little more build up, and then they'll go off to fight.
 
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He stared at the soul flux for what felt like hours, and decided that he had stayed in her orbit for long enough. “Goodbye, for now.” He smiled at the soul of his wife, and returned it gently to its place beside his heart. His bone and demonic energy would be the shield that kept her soul safe, and would continue to, until he found a way to change her soul back.

With his resolved restored Azul took a deep breath and rose from the cold floor. Taking a few new books with him he returned to the lone desk. His gaze shot over to the girl sitting under the window, surrounded by towers of books. He didn’t know if she was a fast reader, or he really was visiting Eva for hours; it was probably a cross between the two. He turned back to his own books, sat down, and read through them.

When he was finished, after only half an hour, he tossed the few tomes amongst the piles that took up space around him. He was beginning to wonder if what he was looking for was inside that library, and if it was, was he any closer to finding it. He turned his head to the windows at the sun pouring in. It was still morning, and he had nearly an entire day until he set out for his mission.

A chill ran through heart as he thought about the upcoming confrontation, but it was brief and flickering. That faint feeling was blown away by a churning anxiousness in his chest. “I’ll get to see her again,” he said to himself. He smiled at his words. Even if he wouldn’t be able to return her soul to her body yet, having her vessel would be the first real step toward reviving her.

A draft blew into the library, and carried with it a stink that crinkled Azul’s nostrils. The source of the thick smell of blood walked into the library, and tracked in dirt and blood on his boots.

“Hey, Azul,” Rosso waved and walked up the desk. “So, you’ve been reading, that’s cool.” His red eyes darted around the room, searching for a seat, but shrugged his shoulders once he found there were none. To compromise he sat on the edge of the desk and stretched out his long legs.

The sounds of footsteps caught Azul’s attention, and he looked around Rosso to see the odd girl scurrying out of the room.

“Do you know who she is?” Rosso asked.

“No,” Azul replied. The foul stench of blood wafted off of Rosso and up Azul’s nose. “What do you want?”

“I asked Aurus who she was,” Azul squinted his eyes and gritted his teeth. The bloody smell reeked of death, and pried at his memory of being covered in Eva’s blood. But he kept the lock on the event tight in Rosso’s presence. “And do you want to know what he told me?”

“What did he say?” Under his breath, Azul wished that Rosso would leave and take that foul stench with him.

Rosso swiveled around and put his right knee on the table. He looked down on Azul and grinned. “He said to ask Atero.”
The stink that flowed out of Rosso’s body faded out of Azul’s consciousness. He starred at the third king with his lips parted slightly. “And?”

The man in red turned and put both his feet on the floor. “What do you think?” He stretched and put his hands behind his head. “He didn’t say a thing. He just looked at me with that blank stare of his.”

“Figures.” Azul tossed his shattered expectations back into the corner of his mind.

“But I think I know who she is.” Rosso stood up and faced Azul. A glowing red circled formed on his back and out if sprung a transparent red arm. The vermillion limb bent and the hand placed all of its fingers on the floor; creating a makeshift seat for the third king. “You want to know?”

Azul let out a sigh. He had already resigned himself the fact that the information he was looking for wasn’t in Aurus’s library. And he had most the day to waste, anyway, so taking the time to listen to Rosso talk would bring him closer to Eva; at least that’s how he thought of it.

“So who is she?”

Rosso crossed his arms, and told Azul about the strange girl. “For starters, and I don’t know exactly how, but she’s a devil.”

“Don’t you mean she’s a Runner?” Azul scoffed at the ridiculous name.

Rosso shook his head. “Nope, she’s an actual devil. Like I said, I don’t know how, but from what I know she isn’t a Fallen Angel like Prigus was, and she doesn’t have a human soul like we do.”

“Then what does that make her?”

“I told you, I don’t know.” Rosso crossed his arms and looked off the side. “Anyway, Ouroboros had her locked up tight,” the third king dug his fingers into his elbows. “They kept her chained to a wall, and every day they ran a sword through her gut. They kept her in submission so that she’d never be strong enough to escape, and they used the blood they got from her for their own goals. They used it to make devil arms, and pumped it into their soldiers to make them stronger.”

Using blood to make weapons. The idea stirred up the anger that had been settling in Azul’s soul. He imagined that the Children of Eden were doing the same thing to Eva. And from Aurus’s words the night before, it seemed that was what Eva’s captors were doing to her. Having a weapon tear into her flesh, and her blood being stolen just to make weapons. He bit down on his tongue and used the pain as a path to escape that horrible thought.

Rosso continued. “After I became a Runner I was lucky enough to find where they were keeping her.” He put his shoulders on the desk and leaned forward. “And what do you think I found?”

Azul leaned forward and met Rosso’s gaze. “I imagine there was an entire army guarding her.” An entire army keeping the girl safe was another thought that brought him back to Eva. The CoE more than likely had an army of their best guarding her. But it didn’t matter what was in his way, he would cut down anyone who dared to use Eva.

“Yes and no,” Rosso shook his head, and a small grinned grin cracked across the corner of his lips. “Every single person inside was dead. And like you said, there was practically an army guarding her.” His grin stretched out into a full smile. “Hundreds of them were slaughtered, though the word butchered would work just as well.” A puff of air escaped his mouth, as is he was forcing himself not to laugh. “The walls were painted with red, and the floors were sopping wet with blood. Severed limbs and little chunks of flesh were scattered everywhere, and all the faces had the same horrified look of shock and disbelief.”

Azul tapped his fingers on the desk, and his eyes narrowed. “And you think Atero is the one who did this?”

Rosso leaned back in his makeshift chair. “I do. She’s here, and the cuts matched the ones he gave Prigus, so I just put two and two together.”

A layer of blue diamond formed on the tip of Azul’s index finger and he scratched at the wood with it. “But why would he save her? Why would he save a complete stranger, when he doesn’t care about anything?”

“You know him better than I do. That’s why I figured you’d be the best person to ask.”

The layer of varnish was peeled away by Azul’s finger. “I don’t know him…I thought I did.”

“You knew him when you were human, didn’t you?”

“But he’s different now,” The notched that Azul was carving became deeper. “He’s nothing like he was.”

“What was he like, when he was human, I mean?” Rosso leaned forward and rested his elbows on the desk.

“He was…complicated. He was close, but distant. Warm, yet cold. Happy, but at the same time he was sad. And even though people hurt him, he still stayed with them. He was a mess of contradictions.”

“Sounds like he’s better off the way he is now.”

Azul’s finger dove through the surface of the desk and cracks shot out form the hole. “No, he’s not.”

Rosso remained composed, and tapped away at the one of the cracks. “You said he was a mess of contradictions, you have to know how hard that was for him.” His eyes softened and his face became consumed with empathy. “To have so many conflicting emotions, it’s rough.”

Azul pulled his finger from the hole and folded his arms. “And you think being empty is somehow better?”

The third king nodded. “I do. Think about it. He may not care about anything, but that means he doesn’t have to worry about anything. There may not be anything for him to strive for, but he doesn’t have anything to lose, either.”

The corner of Azul’s left eye began to twitch. “When you put it like that, I’d rather him be like was. At least then he’d be easier to understand.”

Rosso blinked, and his eyes looked deep into Azul’s. “Are you sure you’d not just saying that to make yourself feel better?”

The layers of diamond spread from Azul’s fingers and over his entire hand. “What the hell’s that supposed to mean?”

Rosso leaned back in his seat and starred down the second king. “Aren’t you really the mess of contradictions?”

Azul shot up from his seat and hurled the chair across the cold floor. “Don’t talk like you know me.”

Remaining perfectly seated Rosso spoke, “You talk like you care about his wellbeing, when just last night you were quick to turn your sword on him.”

Azul pressed his hand into the desk; the legs of the wooden table bent and were on the verge of snapping. His cold blue eyes looked down on the man in red. “I had every reason to.”

Rosso released a sigh as he stood up. The hand he sat on slithered its way back in to the circle, and disappeared in a puff of red smoke. “I don’t know exactly what happened, but I’m guessing Eva is the angel we’re going after.” Azul’s eyes went wide and his mouth opened, yet he didn’t say a word. “And I can guess Atero killed her, took her soul, but left her body. After that you found out she could be brought back if her soul was returned to her body, and you asked Atero to make you the second King of Darkness so you could do that. But despite him giving you the power to get Eva back, you’re still so pissed at him for killing her that you actually want him dead.”

“Shut up!” Azul’s fingers curled into a fist, and his azure hand flew through the desk. The wood snapped and splintered against his strength. The folders that held the precious knowledge about the people who were keeping Eva from him gave up their contents to the air. His body shook in a cloud of dust, splinters, and papers.

“You need to control that anger of yours,” Rosso said, “If you don’t, Adam’s going to cut you to ribbons before you can get close to Eva.”

Azul raised his body, and looked up toward Rosso’s blood colored eyes. “Why do you care? You don’t know me, or Atero. This doesn’t have anything to do with you.”

“Yes it does. My life’s on line just as much as yours is.” Rosso eyes filled with empathy that stoked the flame within Azul. “You’re right, I can’t say I know you. But you don’t know me, either. Yet, here I am, trying to get to know the person I’m going to be fighting alongside.”

“We’re not friends, or comrades, or anything like that. We’re devils.” The blue flame of rage burned hot within Azul’s chest. “We’re creatures of hell, nothing more. The only thing that makes us similar is a number.”

Closing his eyes, Rosso took in a dust filled breath. He raised his right and reached toward Azul. Azul readied himself, and placed his hand over the number on his chest. In a moment’s notice he could call out his Azure Rose and do battle with the third king. Even though Rosso was powerful, he wasn’t as fast as Atero was, which meant he could be beaten.

Rosso’s hand moved forward, but he didn’t call his sword. His arm stretched out and he put his hand on Azul’s shoulder. A smile formed across Rosso’s face and he spoke, “I’m sorry about what I said, it wasn’t my place. But for better or worse, we’re stuck with each other, so you better get used to it.”

Azul didn’t move, or speak a word. Rosso’s hand was warm, as was his smile. But how? Azul couldn’t comprehend how anyone could go through the strain and still smile like that. His hand moved to his side, and the flame of anger died down.

“What was your focus?” Azul asked.

When a Runner experienced the strain, nearly every emotion they had was burned away by the mass of negativity. However, almost always, at least one feeling or desire remained. That emotion was called a focus.

Rosso’s hand slid off of Azul’s shoulder and into his pocket. “I’ll tell when we get back.” The only of the three kings who had an ounce of kindness took his leave, and left Azul standing amidst the settled dust.


[Hero]

“And they all lived happily ever after, the end.” Adam finished the story with a smile, and rested the fairy tale in his lap.
“What did you think of that one? It’s one of my favorites.”

The sleeping princess didn’t say a word, she never did. Against a pearl white wall she slept within veil of glass, on a bed of roses that were as white as her wings. She had been sleeping since Adam first met her. The warm feeling that sprung up in his heart when he first saw her was still fresh, and brought him joy even when he wasn’t in her presence.

He sat on the white floor, inside a white room whose walls were hard to see. The only thing that stood out was a large metal door that stood far from his back. He picked up another book and held it out toward the princess with both hands.

“What about this one? Would you like to hear it next? It’s about a boy who pulls a sword out of a rock and becomes a king.” The princess stayed silent, with her hands folded like she was praying. “Okay,” he opened the book and began reading.

As he read the story of the king of Camelot, Adam kept a smile on his face. Reading to the princess was something that always made him happy. Everyone read to him when he was a child, and after doing the same for her, he understood why. There was something about taking care of someone that made him feel warm and fuzzy inside. It was the same reason he didn’t mind staying by her side, and protecting her from monsters didn’t bother him, despite the fact he did it all by himself.

It had been a few weeks since he had be given the great task of protecting the princess. When Father Elijah told him he would be protecting an actual princess he was so excited. Not only had he never met a princess before, but he would get to serve her, and keep her safe from evil. It made him feel like a brave knight; like the ones in the stories his mother read to him. And when he saw her for the first time, and gazed at her beautiful face, he knelt down and swore his loyalty to her. He promised her that with his body and sword he would keep her safe, until the day she awoke from her slumber.

Adam’s voice went quiet. He closed the legend of King Arthur, and stood up. He stepped toward the sleeping princess and put his hand over the glass. Her closed eyes and solemn face met his; separated by a thin layer of glass. She looked so sad. That expression didn’t suit her at all, he thought. She should be happy, and smiling. But she was fast asleep, waiting to be woke up.

He had asked the father why she was sleeping, and was told that a monster had stolen her heart, and she would not wake until it was returned. Immediately, Adam drew his trusty Excalibur and went to reclaim what was stolen from the princess. But the words of Father Elijah held him back. “You are to be her knight,” he was told. “You are her shield, not her sword. The other Angels will return what was taken from her.” It was faith that let Adam sheath his blade. The father had never led him astray, and he believed his friends would do right by the princess.

“I can’t wait till you meet my friends.” Though it had been almost two years, he believed his friends would come by to say hello soon. Mary would smile, and ask him how he was doing; she was always looking out for him. Cain would make him laugh and give him a souvenir he got on one of his adventures. Seth probably wouldn’t know what to say. He was a timid little boy, and didn’t like to talk too much, but Adam was always able to get a smile out of him.

“And when you wake up, we can all go on an adventure together.” He smiled at the sleeping beauty, but she still wore the same sad expression. His smile grew brighter, in the hopes that would be bright enough to open the princess’s eyes. “It’ll be great. We’ll be together every day, and you won’t have to worry about that monster coming back.” He put his hand on the sword that dangled from his right hip. “Even if he does, Excalibur and I will take care of him.”

His hand slid over the golden hilt at his waist. The holly sword was his partner, and had been by his side since he was eight. When he was first entrusted Excalibur he could barely hold it. He didn’t know how he was going to be brave knight when he couldn’t hold a sword properly. His mother wiped the tears from his eyes, and told him that as long as he trusted Excalibur he would one day be able to wield it. And she was right; just like she always was. He learned to believe in his partner and became a warrior worthy of the sacred blade.

The gate at the far end of the empty room creaked opened. The sound of metal scratching against metal echoed, and Adam lit up at the sound. He ran toward the gate with a gleeful smile to meet his visitor.

“Mary, David!” His believing heart had been rewarded. Clad in white, two of his friends stepped into the room.

“It’s been a while, Adam.” Mary said.

“It sure has,” he took her hands in his and smiled at her. Her face turned a shade of pink that matched her braided hair.

“So,” Her pale blue eyes looked up at him, “do you think I look any different?”

Adam shook his head. “Nope, you look just like I remember.” It had been two whole years since he had last seen his childhood friend. She may have gotten a taller but other than that she looked just like the Mary he remembered.
“C’mon,” with her hands in his he ran with her toward the princess. “There’s someone I want you to meet.” When they stood before the glass encased bed, Adam looked at Mary’s odd expression. Her mouth was open and her eyes were glazed over by a layer of emotion. He imagined it was how he looked when he first met her. “Princess, this is Mary. She’s one of my best friends.”

Mary’s grip around his fingers loosened, and her arm fell to her side. Adam could see the thoughts filling her mind. She probably had never met a princess either, and looked quite shocked to see one as beautiful as the one he swore his loyalty to.

“She’s beautiful.” Mary said.

Adam nodded. “She sure is. She’s the most beautiful girl in the whole world.” Mary’s teeth sunk in to her bottom lip, and the emotion that was over eyes looked like tears to him. She must’ve been so overwhelmed by meeting the princess that her feelings were pouring out of her eyes.

“How do you greet a fellow Angel, Adam?”

The hearty words turned Adam around. He looked up at the towering giant who wore a stern grin. “Sorry, David.” He bowed to his friend, and heard a chuckle come down on him.

“Do not forget, a lack of manners is unbecoming of an Angel of Eden.”

Adam stood straight up, and made a cross over his heart. His mother taught him that that was how he was to greet those who wore the white cloak. He hadn’t seen another angel in so long that he had forgotten that. If his mother were around she would scolding him for forgetting something so simple.

David drew the cross over his heart and smiled down at Adam. That stern yet gentle face was always kind to him. When he was a child David let him ride on his shoulder. Being up so high made him feel like he could see the whole world. Even now he wished he could again; though he knew David would laugh at him for being so childish.

“You must remember, Adam, there is more to being an Angel than being strong.”

The words shook loose some memories in Adam’s mind. “I know. To be an Angel is to be kind. To be an Angel is to be wise. To be an Angel is to be just. To be an Angel is to be the light that burns away the darkness, and allows other to find their way.”

David smiled warmly at the creed of those who had the cross and apple on their backs. “Well spoken.” The tower of a man turned his gaze to the princess. “At long last, the Father has rewarded us for our patience. With her, we shall finally be able to crush the snake.” His giant stone like fists tightened, and there was a glint of joy in his eyes.

There was something else Father Elijah told Adam about the Princess. When her heart was returned, and she finally awoke from her slumber, she would seek to judge the world. She would bring all good hearts salvation, and slay all those who were evil. When that day finally came, Adam would remain by her side, until the world was pure and good, and even after that. He would serve the princess until the day he died.

“Father Elijah told me everyone else was looking for the monster that took the princess’s heart,” He looked at her sleeping face, and then at David. “Do you at least now where it is?” It was as stupid question, and the answer was obvious, but it was something he still felt he should ask.

David closed his stern eyes. “I’m afraid we haven’t. There has been no sign of the beast that stole her heart.”
Adam’s head dipped slightly, but he refused to let it hang. “You must believe. Always believe.” Those were the words his mother told him the last time he had seen her. Above anything else she had taught him, those words were the ones he would hold closest to his heart.

“We’ll find it, I’m sure of it,” Adam raised his head, and put his hand over Excalibur’s hilt. “And until we do, I’ll protect her.”

“You’re starting sound like a proper Angel.” From beneath his long hooded cloak David pulled out a sheet of white. “And to be a proper Angel, you must wear this.”

Recognizing it, Adam took the white fabric and wrapped it around his body. He adjusted the hood against his shoulders, and buttoned the two gold straps by his chest. He didn’t wear it unless he was being visited by one of the Fathers or Angels, but it always filled him with pride when he did. The fabric was light, yet he could feel the weight of the symbol at his back. The apple wrapped with thorns over the cross hung on the back of the cloak, but he could carry that tiny weight.

“That reminds me, your younger brother received his white just recently.”

Adam lit up. “That’s great. I knew Seth could do it. I can’t wait to see him so I can congratulate him.”

A chuckled escaped David’s tight lips. “That won’t be for a while, I’m afraid. Seth has to master his heaven arm before he can visit, and I’m unsure of how long that’ll be.”

“Seth’s a hard worker, he’ll master it in no time. I just know it.” Speaking of his little brother reminded Adam of his older one. “What about Cain, how’s he been?”

“Hard headed as ever,” David folded his arms. “I’ve spoken him about commanding the Doves, but he refuses. Says it is too much work, and he can do more good on his own.”

Adam laughed upon remembering his brother’s easy going attitude. “Good to know he hasn’t change.” A faint sound met his ears. It hit again, and again in succession. He recognized it as the sound of water falling on the ground. His eyes followed the sound to Mary, and the ribbon of red flowing down her chin. Her teeth had bit through her lip and blood trickled down. Her eyes were trembling and water was flowing down them. The sight was like a needle in Adam’s heart that commanded him to act.

He took her shacking hand in his, and her jaw set her lip free. A tiny light appeared over his finger and he pressed it against her lip. Her shacking hand stopped and her fingers wrapped themselves around his; but the drops of water that flowed out of her eyes didn’t stop. His light closed the wound, and he wiped the red from her face with his cloak.

“What’s wrong?” He asked. He smiled, hoping it would make her do the same, but her red stained lips didn’t budge.

“It appears seeing the princess was a little much for her.” David took Mary beneath his cloak and let her away; though her fingers stayed in Adam’s for a brief moment. “We’ll be back tomorrow. Until then, may the light of the Father guide you.”

“Yeah, see you then.” He waved goodbye as his friends stepped through the gate, and it closed behind them. The sounds of the locks tightening echoed and faded out in a moment; leaving Adam alone again.

He looked at the princess and stared long at her face. That sad look was just like the one Mary had. And like the princess, he didn’t think that look suited her at all. Whenever Mary was around him she always smiling, and to see her look so sad hurt his heart. But he didn’t want to let himself be sad. Whatever made Mary sad, he believed she would be able to face it. Even though she wasn’t an Angel yet she was still strong. She may have even been as strong as him.

His smile returned, and he sat down by his pile of stories. He picked up the story of King Arthur and began reading to the princess once again. As he read, he realized that he was running out of books to read. When his friends came back tomorrow he would have to ask them to bring him some new stories. And maybe, just maybe, he could read to them as well.
 

KingdomKey

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I find Adam slightly disturbing with his devotion to the girl sleeping away inside of a glass coffin. (Who I imagine to be Eva.) I wouldn't be surprised if Mary was expressing envy and sadness, because of Adam's choice of words after speaking about the princess. Poor girl. If only he weren't so blinded by belief. As for the encounter with Rosso and Azul, I was quite entertained. Rosso sure does know a lot about his comrades. Even if Azul doesn't feel inclined to be friends or more, at least he can be decent to him and learn his story about becoming a runner. Overall, I enjoyed reading this. :)
 
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I find Adam slightly disturbing with his devotion to the girl sleeping away inside of a glass coffin. (Who I imagine to be Eva.) I wouldn't be surprised if Mary was expressing envy and sadness, because of Adam's choice of words after speaking about the princess. Poor girl. If only he weren't so blinded by belief. As for the encounter with Rosso and Azul, I was quite entertained. Rosso sure does know a lot about his comrades. Even if Azul doesn't feel inclined to be friends or more, at least he can be decent to him and learn his story about becoming a runner. Overall, I enjoyed reading this. :)
Remember though, he's the brave hero protecting the princess. Yes, that was Eva. She was, when I get to her little section I'll explain why she feels the way she does. He's smarter than he looks, and picks up on little things easily. He heard Azul mention Eva's name, saw how he reacted when the mentioned the angel, and the note about the "angel being felled by the black king", he just put the pieces together. Azul's more confused about how Rosso can act the way he does, since he went through the strain after him. Thank you, Rosso's part's going to be next, though I'm having a little bit of trouble getting his part started.
 
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