The engine purred beneath the black hood as 300 horses carried the Charger up the freeway. The flat roads that crisscrossed like the stitching of a quilt inside the city had long since disappeared behind as the car raced up the mountainside. The steep road was no match at all, and John shifted down, letting the engine roar while it carried him up quickly. A long road stretched out before him. It was one he’d been down many times before, but this time was different. John shifted gears again and the old engine growled in response, carrying him away from his home that lay nestled far behind him. How many times had he made this trip? Too many to be sure, each time he’d returned; but this time he didn’t plan to, at least not for a while. This was a familiar road, but the time for familiarity was behind him. John needed something new. Some new locale, a new path, somewhere he could go for a while to escape his thoughts, his feelings, the guilt he felt behind him. An adventure, someplace far away, somewhere he’d never been, that’s what he needed right now.
John followed the highway along as it continued up the mountain. He’d long since left the congested streets of the city behind him in favor of the open road. It was here that he could really let the Charger open up. He pushed his foot down on the accelerator as the RPMs continued to climb. The engine let out a powerful roar as he raced through traffic, his left hand on the wooden steering wheel as his right hand rested on the shifter. There was no better therapy than the open road before him, the window down, wind whipping his shaggy brown hair about, the radio playing some of his favorite music; but this was a familiar road. It was time for something new.
After a while he saw a sign for an exit. It was one he’d never been down before and it seemed to go off in another direction, winding up the mountain as a smaller two lane road. There was something about it, though he wasn’t sure what, that drew him towards the ramp. Whether it was the arrangement of numbers on the sign or the road itself, he didn’t know. John guided the Charger down the exit before slowly turning left onto the two lane road. He pushed the pedal to the floor and the tires squealed in delight as the car raced down the new path.
John’s right hand moved from the light colored, wooden steering wheel up to the rear view mirror. His thumb flicked the tab at the bottom as he adjusted it slightly, catching his own gaze as he did. His green eyes looked a little brighter than they had that morning; and while he’d cleaned up well, they still looked tired and worn. Dark bags hung under them and he rubbed his eyes hoping they’d go away. Behind him he could see the reflection of his duffle bag in the backseat, a week’s worth of clothes inside. Was this the right thing to do?
The road wound around the Cliffside slowly, and as John hugged the rock wall tightly he was treated to an amazing view of Station in the distance. There it stood at the base of the mountain, his home: Station City, Colorado. The shadow of the mountains that loomed overhead had already begun encroaching in on the city as the sun’s rays disappeared behind their peaks. Slowly, one by one, the city lights came on, illuminating its countless buildings, streets, and tracks. It became a shining gem in the distance, nestled within the craggy expanse of the Rocky Mountains. It truly was beautiful; he’d always thought it was. It had been his home for the better part of fifteen years now, and while it was the place he’d grown up, loved and lost so much, it was somewhere he didn’t want to be right now.
John glanced to himself in the mirror again as he drove along slowly. Was this really what he wanted? He wasn’t sure; the one thing he was sure of, though, was that he wouldn’t find any answers down there. It was too busy, too loud, too crowded, and all of it was too close together. After all, it was a city filled with as many memories as people. While he knew he needed to get out, he couldn’t help but feel like he was running away. Memories of the past began to well up within his mind; a cold winter breeze, the cars rushing past him like a blur, an empty hospital bed. The city down below held nothing for him now, at least that’s what he was telling himself. None of that really mattered though. The Charger growled as he pressed the gas down, speeding up along a straightaway.
The road continued on as the sun set further along the mountainous horizon. The Charger’s headlights clicked on with the flick of a switch and they illuminated the asphalt ahead. John watched the dotted lines passing beneath the hood and he counted the numbers between each solid stripe. The road was rough and bumpy and John did his best to avoid the ancient potholes that covered its surface. It had clearly been years since the road had been maintained, but seeing as John had yet to pass a single car since he’d turned off the freeway, it made sense why the road had been left to ruin. He started to space out as he drove along. His body seemingly running on autopilot as his mind was somewhere else. The hypnotic dotted lines and the flashing reflection of the lights off of the caution signs in each turn put him into a trance.
Suddenly something caught his eye, pulling his mind back as he looked up from the road. It had been like a flash of lightning in the distance. John leaned forward and glanced up to look for any storm clouds, but all he could see was the dark blue evening sky. A few scrappy wisps floated about here and there, painted pink by the setting sun, but nothing significant enough to herald a bolt of lightning. It was odd; he hadn’t seen anything on the weather that afternoon about a storm. He flipped the radio on scan and listened for any word of about the weather. Another five minutes later and still there was nothing.
Another flash of light lit up the sky. John slowed down and looked around for any sign of a source. It wasn’t a tower, it’d been too bright, but it also wasn’t lighting as there’d been no bolt. The light had flashed bright, disappearing as soon as it had come, almost like a camera. He scanned the mountainside all the way down to the valley below before returning his gaze to the road. It was at that point he saw something. Ahead of him, moving through the air was… a girl. John blinked and rubbed his eyes, sure that he was hallucinating, but when he looked back she was still there. She moved through the air like a gymnast, her body flipping around in a large aerial. Long flowing blonde hair streamed behind her as she spun. Her body was covered in a white dress that looked decades, if not longer, out of its time. As she turned to face him, John gazed looked into the deepest yellow eyes he’d ever seen. Their gaze locked together for the faintest moment before she disappeared. John blinked quickly and shook his head. The girl was gone. Had she even been there in the first place? He stopped the car, pulling off onto the shoulder and opening his door quickly. The cool evening air wrapped around him like a blanket as he stepped out onto the asphalt. He looked around frantically, almost certain of what he had seen.
Another flash caught his gaze as a clap of thunder rang out. John turned around towards the source just in time to see something else. He nearly hit the dirt as something passed by over the Charger at an insane speed. It was some kind of massive bird. Black wings, or maybe grey, stretched out nearly as long as his car had been. John turned around fast and looked behind him, but couldn’t see anything but the dark night sky and the empty road ahead. He stood up slowly, his heart racing. Was he losing it? He knew he wasn’t doing too well, but this was excessive. Suddenly another thud, much closer this time, nearly made his heart stop.
John turned around to face his Charger and was shocked at what he saw. Standing on his hood was… a person, a man to be precise. He was around the same height as John with short white hair and a pale complexion. The man wore a pair of tight fitting blue jeans and a loose t-shirt. On his feet, above the two dents in John’s hood were clean, white sneakers. John studied the man slowly, his breaths shallow as he tried his best not to make a sound. Where had the man come from? Had he jumped down from above? John glanced upward; the only thing the man could’ve fallen from was one of the many tall pines that lined the hillside John had parked beside. And from that height? There’d be no way he could’ve survived without breaking his legs. Suddenly the man turned to face John.
“My, my… You poor little lost soul…” His voice was calm, but carried the slightest hint of malice. His eyes were closed, yet John could feel the man looking right through him. “It’s the wrong place at the wrong time for you.”
John moved to say something, anything, but before his body could even react the man disappeared. It was as if he had simply vanished into thin air like a ghost. John looked around frantically for the mysterious figure. Were it not for the dents on his hood he would’ve surely thought he was losing his mind. Suddenly another flash of light lit up the night sky, but this time it was far brighter than before. John held his hand up to shield his eyes as a terrible explosion rang out in his ears. He felt himself being thrown backwards; up became down and down became up as all sense of direction flip flopped. For a moment everything felt weightless before he came crashing down hard. He slammed into the dirt and pavement face first and rolled to a stop some feet away. He couldn’t move, his body wouldn’t respond. Through the red liquid that was rapidly filling his eyes he could barely make out the figure of someone approaching. It didn’t look like the man from before, this person was shorter. John blinked to try and clear his vision, but it only made it worse. His hearing had become a high pitch whine in his ears that slowly grew fainter. Before everything faded away, John could swear he heard a voice. It belonged to a girl, to her.
“God, no… why?” Her voice shook as she spoke. “Why you? Why here? Why…?” She knelt down beside him afraid and took his hand. “You… Wait. I, I can fix this.”
He was weightless. His body hung suspended, motionless, as if floating in water. It was heavy and no matter what he did, his body refused to respond to the commands he was giving it. He could feel himself sinking deeper. The weight pulled him down further and further from the light until suddenly something reached out. He felt it grab hold of him, pulling him away from the darkness he was descending towards. Something held him just above the water. He tried to open his eyes, he wanted to see where he was, what he was doing. He needed to know.
John slowly opened his eyes; they were heavy, just like the rest of his body. His mind was like a dense fog, as if he had been asleep for too long. Slowly his senses returned to him. He was lying down on his side, resting his head against something soft. He blinked and took in the world around him. Everything was white, the sky, and the ground, everything except for… her. He saw her when he rolled over, coming face to face with the girl whose lap he currently occupied. Her hair was a bright blonde that flowed all the way down to the middle of her back and tapered off at the ends. She was clad in a long, beautiful white dress that would’ve looked out of place anywhere else. Noticing his movements, the girl’s gaze moved down to meet his own. Their eyes met and John got the first look at the most yellow irises he had ever seen in his life.
“Oh.” She spoke softly. “You’re finally awake.”
“I… I think so.” John could feel his strength returning to him and he managed to pull himself up out of her lap. “Where are we?” He asked, rubbing the back of his head.
“We’re inside a small barrier that I erected.” The girl answered flatly.
She had given him more questions than answers. A barrier? Of what kind? And why? He stared at the girl hoping for something else, but she simply stared back at him, as if she expected a response.
“A barrier...” John echoed in thought as he examined his surroundings once more, hoping for some clarity. He had thought he had given off a slight air of understanding, but the girl could see through his ruse.
“It’s like a pocket between dimensions.” She said in clarification. “Time moves faster in this one specifically.” She pointed upward to a large clock high in the sky that had eluded John somehow. A dozen dials covered a dozen faces above as they slowly ticked away, all at different intervals.
“Time..?” He stared up at the clocks above and watched them move. He wasn’t any closer to understanding the situation, and so he decided to question her further. “So… are you an alien? Or something?”
His question had apparently struck something inside of the girl and she let out a short laugh. This was in stark contrast to her character thus far, and perplexed John even further. He tilted his head slightly to the side and raised an eyebrow in confusion.
“No. Goodness, no. I’m nothing that interesting.” The girl stated. “I’m an Angel.”
An Angel, the word danced around John’s head. An entirely new avenue of questions that needed answers opened up to him. He knew what Angels were, he knew of religions and ideologies, but had never really taken part in such. He stared at the girl as he continued to toss the idea over in his head. She was certainly easy on the eyes, and he could understand why someone would call her an Angel, but now was not the time for such lines of thinking. Suddenly a realization set in.
“Oh God.” He muttered, connecting the pieces in his head. “I was…” He cut himself off before saying it. “I’m…” He stopped just short of uttering the phrase. John looked up into the girl’s eyes before speaking. “I’m dead, aren’t I?”
“Yes.” The girl’s gaze descended from John’s toward the floor. “Yes you are.” She repeated.
The cold grim truth had come out. John let out a sigh as he leaned back and rested his weight on his arms behind him. He stared off into the distance of the pale, white void as he thought. His body felt relatively normal, as far as things went, but then that could be due to the strange “barrier” they were in. There were far too many questions that needed answers, but John didn’t really feel like asking them now.
“It doesn’t really feel like I thought it would.” He suddenly spoke, breaking the silence. “I feel… normal, I guess.” He stated.
“Well.” The girl’s gaze drew back up to John’s once more. “How did you expect to feel?”
“I don’t know.” John closed his eyes and furrowed his brow before coming up with an answer. “More dead?” He tossed the idea out with a shrug of his shoulders. The girl attempted to hide a smile elicited by his response, but ultimately failed. John shook his head and leaned forward. “By the way, who are you?” He asked. “I mean I know you’re an Angel and all, but what’s your name?”
The girl seemed slightly shocked at his question. Her eyes quickly dodged contact with his as her cheeks turned a light shade of pink. She seemed to fidget in place slightly before she looked back up at him.
“I… I didn’t even tell you my name?” She seemed disappointed in herself. “I’m really sorry. I…” She stopped and took a moment to collect herself. “I’m Aerin.”
“Aerin.” John repeated the name, savoring it for a bit. “Well Aerin, I’m John.” He stated as he stood and held out his hand. Aerin took hold of it and they shook. “I think I’m dead.”
“Yeah… I know.” Aerin said, somewhat squirming in place. “I kind of…” She stopped herself as her cheeks once again flushed a shade of pink. “That’s kind of my fault.”
“What.” John didn’t particularly ask a question, he merely spoke a temporary placeholder that marked his extreme confusion.
“I kind of… accidentally… killed you.” Aerin said. “Sorry.” She looked up at him with a very innocent expression, like a child caught red handed.
“You… what?” John repeated his confusion.
“The first thing you should know about me,” Aerin began. “Is that I hunt rouge spirits, or Demons. I’ve been chasing one for a while now.” Aerin paused as she recollected some events within her mind. “A few days ago it entered your city, so I set up a barrier to fight it freely without damaging your world. But…” She stopped once more to see if John was following. “It managed to slip outside of the barrier right as I attacked. That blast, the one I fired, it was the one that killed you.” Her gaze dropped toward the floor once more in shame.
“So that guy from before, huh?” John remembered the man he had seen earlier atop the hood of his car. He paused and thought for a moment before a smile crept up onto his face. “So you’re telling me that I’m dead, and the person that killed me is an Angel?”
“You know…” Aerin responded. “When you say it like that, it sounds a whole lot worse.” By this point her cheeks were fully red with embarrassment.
“Man.” John shook his head. “I was looking for something, but… I never expected this.” He stood up and took a deep breath as he patted his sides. “So, what happens now?” He asked, looking down at Aerin.
“Well.” Aerin said as she stood. Now that they were both upright, John could finally see how tall she was; or wasn’t for that matter. She only came to around his chin, putting her somewhere around five feet or so, give or take. “Since you’re taking to this so well, we might be able to help each other.”
“Help each other?” John echoed her words with piqued interest. “How so?”
“This isn’t normally how we do things.” Aerin assured as she brought her hands to her hips. She seemed to think for a moment and sighed before speaking again. “There’s a pact that can be made between a human and an Angel.”
“A pact?” John echoed again. “What does it do?”
“First and foremost, I’ll tie your soul to mine so that you can keep on living.” Aerin stated. “At least for now. In return, you will become my Slayer. I will give you power to fight alongside me against my enemies.” She stopped herself again and John could see that she was hung up on something. “I know it must sound crazy and I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t believe me, but-“ She was cut off as John raised his hand.
“I get it.” He crossed his arms and closed his eyes. A chance at life again, a real life, wasn’t something he was about to let slip by. “We make this pact, I help you out, and I get to stay alive.”
“Yes, that’s right.” Aerin agreed. She stepped forward and approached him with her hand held outstretched. “Give me your hand.”
John did just that, and Aerin took hold of it with her left hand while she brought her right to her chest. She held her right hand in a position that reflected how a nun or someone of religious stature might pray. John’s attention was snagged by the large blue glyph that now circled them on the floor below. It was composed of several rings that circled inwards on themselves. Inside of each one was text written in a language John didn’t understand. The glyph shone a light blue and seemed to resonate within John’s own body. Suddenly his attention was diverted to the girl in front of him. Two brilliant wings burst from behind her and directed themselves upwards. They were solid white and covered in thousands of feathers. She hadn’t lied, she really was an Angel.
His eyes gradually dropped from the large wings to Aerin’s right hand. A glowing white sphere had appeared on her chest next to it. His eyes dropped down to his own chest, where he discovered an identical sphere exiting his body. It felt odd, like someone was pulling something terribly important from him; but at the same time, he felt at peace. The two spheres, one from John and one from Aerin, floated inwards before meeting each other in the middle. As they intermingled between them, John could feel a strange burning sensation running through every part of his body. He clenched Aerin’s hand in his own as he furrowed his brow until the pain subsided. Once it had passed he opened his eyes to see something inside of the sphere beginning to take shape. Aerin released his hand and reached out toward the sphere. She cupped her hands beneath it and the item inside slowly descended. Once the sphere had vanished, she held her hands toward John and motioned for him to take what was inside.
“What… is this?” John asked as he took the thing from her hand.
He dangled it in front of him as he inspected it. At first glance it appeared to be nothing more than a necklace. The chain was made of a silvery metal that glistened as he turned it. At the end of the necklace, a small wooden cross was fitted. He suddenly felt an incredible urge to fasten the accessory around his neck. It was the perfect fit, like it had been made just for his neck specifically, and it secured itself with a click. A surge of feeling rushed throughout John the moment the necklace was secured. Something felt familiar, like a distant memory, or that he had finally found something that had been lost for ages.
“That’s you.” Aerin stated. “Well, with a little bit of me sprinkled in there too.” She watched as John marveled at the necklace. “That’s the source of your power, so try your best not to lose it.”
“It won’t leave my sight.” John assured her.
“Good. You’d be useless to me if you did.” As soon as she spoke a loud bell rang out. It sounded as if it was coming from everywhere at once. “Oh no.” Aerin looked up above her. John followed her gaze to see the hands on the clocks slowly counting down. Some of the smaller ones spun round quickly as the largest slowly ticked away towards the end. “We’re almost out of time. Quick, hold out your right hand.” She instructed.
“Almost out of time? What do you mean? And why?” He questioned.
“You need to create your extension.” Aerin said with haste in her voice. “It’s like a physical manifestation of your soul that you will need to-“
“Is it a weapon?” John cut her off.
“Yes.” She answered flatly with an annoyed look on her face.
“You’re not very good at explaining things are you?” John jested.
“We don’t have time to argue!” Aerin shouted. “Just shut up and do what I say! Hold out your hand, pick one I don’t care!”
John raised both of his hands in a statement of surrender before holding his right hand out by his side. He was naturally right handed, so it only seemed correct for him to pick that one.
“Draw power from within yourself and give your soul a shape.” Aerin instructed.
John wasn’t too sure what to make of her instructions as they were nearly the definition of vague. Something whispered inside of his mind, it was faint and didn’t really seem to utter any real words, but John felt that he could understand it. He closed his eyes and followed the guidance of the mute voice within him. He imagined what his soul looked like, a pale blue orb. He visualized it in his mind and wondered what kind of a weapon he needed. What did Angels use to fight with, swords? Then again, he wasn’t an Angel at all, however the idea of a sword seemed appealing to him. It was sharp, and sharp things could cut. More specifically, they could kill.
The bell tolled above them once more. It was loud, reverberating throughout the white dimension around them and filling them both with a sense of urgency.
John could feel it. It was there, just at the tips of his fingers. He reached out, stretching his hand just a little farther to take hold of it. The moment that he did was the moment that he changed forever. Flames erupted around his body out of thin air. They licked at his skin, but did not burn. He was completely consumed by them, but it felt natural. His right arm felt heavy, and as the flames died down into nothingness once more, he looked over and saw it. In his right hand was a sword. It was long and slender with a black hilt and silver guard. It looked to be something akin to a claymore.
“Woah!” John shouted in disbelief. “That’s… This is a sword.”
“Yes!” Aerin shouted with joy, an expression John had yet to see her display. She seemed genuinely pleased at this turn of events, and it brought a strange warm feeling inside of him. “You’re a swordsman!”
“So that’s good?” John asked for clarity.
“Yes. The demon I’m chasing is a Mage, just like me. We only use magic, so we cancel each other out.” Aerin explained.
“Right.” John nodded and took hold of the blade with both hands. He swung it once and found it to be much lighter than he had originally thought. It sliced through the air with great precision as his hands moved, guided by something within him. “You need me to get in close and cut him.”
“Exactly. But…” She watched as he swung the blade to and fro. “Do you really know how to use that? I mean, you look like you do, but…”
“I’ve lived long enough to know how to use a sword.” John responded with a smile as he made another slash. “I mean, I’ve never used one, but this should be nothing.”
Suddenly the bell above them tolled once more. It was louder this time and seemed to reverberate throughout John’s entire core specifically.
“Okay, now quickly, hold out hold out your left hand!” Aerin urged. Seeing the question about to arise from John, she quickly explained. “I need you to cast a basic shield. Since you took to your sword so easily, this should be nothing.” John followed her command and raised his hand. “Block this.”
A glyph appeared over her right hand. It was blue and circular, similar to the one John had seen on the floor before. Suddenly a beam of white light fired from the spinning blue disk toward John. He concentrated on his left hand and visualized a wall of some sort, the same way he had called out his blade. But strangely, nothing happened. The beam slammed into his hand, causing him to reel back in pain. He let out a howl as he dropped his sword and clenched his left hand with his right.
“Ow, dammit!” He yelled. Despite his exclamations, the wound hadn’t been severe at all. He mostly screamed from the sheer shock of the matter instead.
Aerin stared at him in astonishment as he waved his hand around in an attempt to ward the almost nonexistent pain away. There was a look on her face that was complex. It was a mixture of emotions, mostly of shock and a bit of buyer’s remorse. She couldn’t understand why he hadn’t blocked the incoming spell, and wished to investigate why; however her thoughts were cut short as the bell tolled one last time.
“We’re out of time.” She stated as the sky began to change colors. “I hope you’re ready.”
John ceased his display and picked up his sword. His personality did a complete turnaround and he wore a very serious expression. The world around them slowly faded into obscurity before being replaced by a dark mountain road high above Station. John’s eyes adjusted to the difference in lighting and ahead of them up on a ridge overlooking the road, he saw a figure. They were suddenly greeted by a voice John had heard before.
“Ahh… there you are Angel! It’s been sooo… lonely here without you!”
Across the road, atop a dirt embankment stood the man from before. A demon, Aerin had called him. He didn’t particularly favor what John had imagined a demon would look like. This man appeared, well, human. John studied his figure slowly, examining him from head to toe. Nothing seemed to stand out, not his white hair, his casual clothes, nor his closed eyes; though they were a bit unsettling, nothing appeared out of the ordinary. However, as John examined the demon, he started to notice something he hadn’t picked up on before. Whether he had been too in shock from his first encounter, or his new powers had given him some otherworldly sense, he felt something about the man now. There was an aura about him that radiated an unknown intent. John wasn’t sure whether to expect a handshake from him, or a knife in the throat.
“Thanks for waiting.” The feathers on Aerin’s wings fluttered as she spoke. John could feel the tension mounting in the air around them.
“It was only a moment, but it was the most painful few seconds I’ve ever had to endure…” The demon spoke with a smile as he gestured with his arms, holding them out beside him. “I could’ve run, you know?”
“I knew you wouldn’t.” Aerin asserted with a bit of a grin. “You’re having too much fun.” Her statement garnered a bit of a laugh from the demon across the road.
“You know me well, Angel. But it seems I can’t say the same.” He turned his gaze towards John. “You went and made a deal with a dead man, didn’t you?”
John could see the feathers on Aerin’s wings shake as she took a step forward. Her hands were clenched tightly into fists as she grit her teeth. “And so what if I did?!” She shouted.
“You must be really desperate to kill me then…” The demon smiled and turned towards John once more, who for this whole time had been watching quietly from the side. “Tell me, Slayer. What do you think about all of this?”
John unconsciously took a step forward, but as he did something crunched beneath his shoe. Looking down, he saw his reflection in one of the broken side mirrors from his Charger. It was the first time seeing himself since becoming this Slayer and he hadn’t expected the changes to be so drastic. His brown hair stood on end, as if electrified. The two halves, parted down the middle, waved about as the wind blew across the mountainside. His arms showed definition in their muscles he’d never seen before. Toned, like he’d been hitting the gym for years, which certainly wasn’t the case. The most drastic change, however, was that of his eyes. The dark bags and dull sheen he’d seen in them earlier were now gone, replaced with healthy, focused eyes. John clinched the hilt of his sword in his right hand as he turned his gaze back towards the demon before him. Slowly, he raised his sword towards his target.
“I’m not just some dead man.” He spoke, confidence in his voice he wasn’t used to. “My name is John, and I’m here to kill you.”
“Is that so?” The demon smiled wickedly, seemingly finding some new pleasure in the situation. “Say then, Slayer, how about we play a little game?”
“Game?” John questioned with an eyebrow raised. Over beside him, Aerin raised her fists in preparation for a fight.
“Be careful.” She ordered.
“It’s simple, really.” The demon assured with a limp wave of his right hand. “Even a human like you could understand.” Suddenly he raised his right hand, opening his palm in John’s direction. A blue glyph, not unlike the one John had seen beneath him and Aerin earlier, appeared inches from the demon’s hand. John could feel something happening in front of him. It was like a whirlpool, sucking something towards its center. “Dodge!”
Before the words had even left his mouth completely, a large bolt of light fired toward John. It moved at incredible speed, bridging the gap between the demon and him in no time. The bolt was a bright blue, just as the runes had been. It was similar in shape and size to the one that had struck the road, effectively killing him, just moments before. John’s body moved on instinct against the aggressor. He raised his sword high above his head and brought it down into the destructive spell. He had no idea whether or not the action would work; he didn’t really even know what he was doing. John moved, guided by a silent voice in his mind that directed his actions. Luckily, the gamble paid off. The blade cut through the spell like a hot knife through butter. The two halves of the spell flew around John on both sides. They careened wildly before slamming into the valley below, exploding into the woods and causing small fires to break out.
“Did you just?!” Both Aerin and the demon shouted in disbelief.
Somehow John got the feeling that his move wasn’t exactly run of the mill. He felt an odd sense of accomplishment as he looked at both their astonished faces. Aerin’s eyes were wide beside him as she struggled to find words to explain how she felt. Up on the ridge, the demon’s eyes were also open as he stood frozen, his arm still outstretched. His irises were small and black, and they stared at John analytically. John quickly twirled his sword in his hand, riding the wave that let him showboat, before bringing it down by his side.
“Oh this will be fun!” The demon shouted as he brought his left hand up to join his right.
A twin set of glowing blue disks appeared over the demon’s left arm. They spun in place in tandem with the ones on his right until they slowly merged together. John raised his sword once more, ready to perform his apparent game breaking move. However, this time he received a swift jab in the side before the demon even managed to attack. John quickly looked over in time to see Aerin push him out of the way.
“Idiot!” She shouted. “That won’t work twice!”
She clapped her hands together before thrusting them out in front of her. A large rune covered circle appeared just in time to block multiple bolts that the demon had fired at the same time. The spells collided with the blue wall, causing it to ripple but nothing more. John quickly picked himself up, slightly shaken from the sudden push.
“Alright then, what now?” He asked.
“Get in close!” Aerin ordered. “Try to hit him!”
“And what about you?” John continued to question.
“I’m going to keep you alive!”
John was satisfied with that answer and so he sprang into action. With his claymore down low he ran around the magical wall Aerin had erected. He rushed in between spells that continuously fired toward him. The ones that got too close were suddenly intercepted by an equal force from behind John; Aerin was doing her part as she had said. Luckily the ledge that the demon was perched upon was within a good jumping distance. John leaped into the air and landed firmly on the rock that his foe was standing on. He swung his sword horizontally in a slash that he put all of his might into. The blade moved at incredible speed, but the demon had moved faster. He jumped backward quickly and the sword missed him by a mere inch. John suddenly found himself staring into a blue disk that floated just in front of the demon’s hand.
“Too slow!” The demon’s grin was as wide as ever, as if he knew he had won.
There was a sound of an explosion behind John and suddenly he lost his balance. The ground below him moved downward, and as it did a white hot beam of light burned directly over his head. The ledge he had been standing on had been violently reduced to rubble, just in time for him to avoid a potentially fatal attack. John fell backwards into the small landslide before rolling back onto his feet, managing to recover right beside Aerin.
“Thanks.” John spoke as he dusted the dirt from his body.
“You’re no good to me dead!” Aerin asserted.
The demon had dismounted the crumbling ledge far more gracefully than John had managed. He landed just down the road with a soft tap. The glowing disks around his hands and arms slowly faded as a dark expression came over his face. He seemed conflicted briefly, as if struggling between two alternatives. Finally, the look faded from him and two black disks appeared behind him, situated over both of his shoulder blades. Out of the spinning circles, two large wings appeared. Unlike Aerin’s beautiful white feathery ones, these were black and tattered. The magical disks faded away and the demon raised his wings and extended them up toward the sky.
“You know.” The demon spoke. “Two on one isn’t really fair.” He smiled. “I’d love to stay and play all day long, but I have places to be!” Suddenly he turned and waved back to them.
The two black wings moved with a powerful beat that generated enough lift to propel the demon up into the air in flight. In this state, the man finally looked like what he was, a demon; but John had to stop and wonder how wings that were so ripped and shredded could manage to create lift. He discarded that line of thinking as Aerin ran forward after her target.
“No you don’t!” She shouted up at him.
Her wings opened up and beat down, stirring up a powerful gust of wind. She took to the sky and followed after the fleeing demon. John, who unfortunately could not fly, was forced to run along the road after them. The demon didn’t seem to be gaining any distance away from Aerin but instead seemed to be leading her off on another chase. Perhaps this was his nature, that this was how he derived his sense of enjoyment? Whatever the case may be, John was running out of road. The mountain pass up ahead curved sharply toward the right, winding down lower toward the city below; the demon continued to fly in a straight line, in a matter of less than a minute John would be forced out of this chase. He had to think of something fast. The silent voice in the back of his head whispered something as a plan began to form.
“Aerin!” He shouted up at the Angel. “Do you have some kind of explosive spell?”
“Of course!” She fired back to him, moving her gaze between him and the demon ahead of her as she flew along.
“I need you to shoot one at my feet! I have an idea!”
“What?!” Aerin shouted. That’s… that’s stupid!”
“Just do it!” John shouted back. His voice was full of impatience as he was nearly out of road.
“Fine!” Aerin yelled as she clapped her hands together. Pulling them apart revealed a small series of circles between her palms. They rotated around like a gyro in her hands. “Don’t complain when this kills you! Again!”
“I’ll try my best.” John said as he readied himself.
The spell fired down toward him from up high. He ran hard and jumped over the edge, vaulting off of the metal guard rail. An explosion rang out from behind him and John pulled himself into as tight a ball as he could manage in anticipation for the shock. The cliff side behind him violently shook apart as the explosive spell impacted into it, just beneath John’s feet. A fireball of dirt and pavement rocketed out towards him, the shockwave thrusting him up into the air. He was propelled towards the demon, just as he had hoped.
“No way…” Aerin watched in awe from above.
John flipped end over end above the massive drop off below. He moved quickly through the air; however, the blast hadn’t been strong enough to close the distance between him and the demon. Slowly, he was beginning to lose altitude. Aerin quickly flew around behind John. She took hold of his hand and gave everything she had to hurl him towards his mark. Her burst of strength had been just enough, and John shouted out as he raised his sword high above him. The demon looked back over his shoulder and his eyes went wide at what he saw.
“Oh you have got to be kiddi-“ The demon’s statement was cut short as John’s claymore cut its way through his body. The sword sliced all the way from the demon’s left hip up to his right shoulder. In one swift motion, he was cut clean in half. The moment seemed to freeze for both John and the demon as they were held there suspended. “What an… interesting way to die.” The demon muttered as best he could. “Quite the turn of events indeed, killed by a Slayer fresh from the womb.” He looked down toward the man that had beaten him. “Did you enjoy yourself, Slayer? I know I sure did.”
“Enjoy myself?” John thought on the demon’s words. Deep in his heart he did enjoy what he was doing. He had finally found something else in life, something that he could do, that only he could do. “Yeah. I did.”
“Well, good.” The demon smiled. It wasn’t the same devilish smile he had worn earlier, this one seemed genuine. “I wish you luck, Slayer, because the next demons you encounter won’t be nearly as nice as I was.” The demon’s smile faded from his face. “Goodbye…”
John noticed that a glyph had formed in the demon’s left hand. It was a spinning gyro, similar to the one Aerin had just used moments before. Suddenly John was pulled down and away from the demon quickly by his left hand. Aerin had once again grabbed hold of him and forced him away from danger. A brilliant explosion illuminated the, night sky in the space that John had just occupied a second before. Aerin and John crashed into a grassy hillside far below the explosion and they tumbled down end over end on top of each other. While still holding on to his sword, John managed to grab Aerin with his free hand and shield her from many of the hard bumps that they hit on the way down. Eventually they came to a stop at the bottom of the valley; John lay on his back staring up at Aerin, who had landed on top of him.
“Idiot!” She shouted, scolding him. “That was stupid! Stupid and reckless, and dangerous! And… and…” Suddenly she stopped. Her cheeks burned a bright shade of red as she averted her gaze from his. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome.” John said as he pulled himself off the ground. As he did Aerin slid off of him and sat beside him. The two sat there on the grassy hillside in silence for a moment before he spoke again. “So… Is he dead?”
“Yeah. He’s gone.” Aerin said, back to her normal self. She gazed up toward the sky where the explosion had occurred. “He even tried to take you with him.” Aerin sighed and leaned back into the soft grass. “I guess he was corrupt all the way to the end.”
“He sure was a character.” John stated as he leaned back next to her. A chilly wind blew through the valley, causing the grass to dance all around them.
“You know…” Aerin said. “I might just miss chasing him down now.” She suddenly leaned forward. “Don’t get me wrong, he needed to die, but…” She turned to John to find that he was already standing next to her.
“Ah well.” John shrugged as he picked up his sword. He turned and held his hand down to Aerin, which she took hold of. He lifted her up before turning his eyes toward the city in the distance. “It won’t be long before the police come to investigate those explosions. We should probably get out of here.”
“You’re right.” Aerin agreed with him. “We should find a place to stay for the night.”
“Well, lucky for us.” John turned back towards her. “My house is just a few miles that way.” He pointed out toward the glowing outskirts of the city. “We should get there before morning if we start walking now...” He took a step forward, but stopped himself as he glanced down to his sword. “Hey, what should I do with this? People might get nervous if I’m swinging it around in town…”
“Oh, you can just sheathe it.” Aerin answered matter-of-factly.
“Sheathe it? But it didn’t come with one.” John said, lowering the blade and gazing down to it.
“Just do what feels natural, just like you did when you called it out for the first time.” She instructed. “It’ll take care of the rest.”
“Natural, huh.” John looked it over. “Alright then.”
He thought for a moment. The sword resembled a claymore, and it was quite large. Maybe it was too large to be sheathed on the hip, so… the back? He twirled the sword one last time before firmly placing it over his shoulder and in between his shoulder blades on his back. That seemed to be the sweet spot. Flames shot up around his body the moment that his sword came to rest. In the blink of an eye, the blade was gone, his hair fell down again, and he felt the muscles relax in his arms. With his powers gone, he was left as nothing more than an ordinary human again.
“Good job.” Aerin praised.
“Yeah, so let’s get-“ He cut himself off as he saw her.
Aerin was different now; she no longer resembled a text book Angel. The white wings that had outstretched behind her were gone and so was the long white dress that had covered her. She now wore a tight pair of blue jeans on her legs along with tennis shoes on her feet. An orange hoodie that was just a little too short covered her torso. The last feature that had changed on her was that of her hair; instead of long and flowing as it had been before, it was now up in a ponytail. The change was drastic, but John liked it. It seemed natural, much more so than her previous appearance, yet that didn’t stop the fact that he was still surprised to see it.
“How did you…?” He asked.
“Magic.” Aerin replied with a small giggle. She looked up at him and smiled. It was the first smile he had seen from her, and he would not soon forget it.