Chapter III: Sinister Intentions
“Oh! And by the way,” said Nissa shrilly. “I’m not seventeen. I’m twenty-three.”
“Oh,” said Azrael. Was she mad about something?
Azrael flicked on one of the light switches in his office to reveal a spacious room. There was a desk at the far end opposite the door and to the left were two couches organized around a short, rectangular coffee table. To the right of the desk, Azrael had a collection of weapons on his wall including guns, swords, and experimental weapons of his own modification.
Nissa crossed the room and sat on one of the couches crossing her legs. She turned her back to Azrael and folded her arms.
“Hey,” Azrael said to her, “you said that Omens choose their own way to use their power, right? What made you choose belly dancing?” Azrael asked, placing his sword on the wall. He then sat down at his desk shuffling some paperwork.
“Well, actually,” began Nissa, warming up a bit, “I didn’t choose belly dancing. My mistress did.”
“Mistress?” Azrael dropped the paperwork into one of his drawers. He then pulled out a rather old and huge book out of another drawer. “What do you mean?”
“Well, don’t you have a master that you learned how to fight from?”
“Oh!” said Azrael, flipping through the dry pages. “That kind of mistress!”
“Yes, that kind of mistress. Well she recognized me as an Omen and took me as an apprentice; and she was a belly dancer, so that’s how I learned to use my powers. You’d be amazed at what I can do.”
“I’m sure,” he replied, looking through the old book. “Let me see; L-M-N-ah ha! O!” Azrael scanned the pages quietly in a foreign language that Nissa couldn’t understand.
“I’m hungry,” she said after a while.
“I have some jerky in a drawer over here.”
“It’s a good source of protein and doesn’t rot. And it’s tasty. Want some?”
“I guess so.” Nissa slipped off the couch and walked over to Azrael’s desk as he pulled a bag of jerky out of a drawer.
“Teriyaki flavored,” he said, giving her the bag.
“Ooh,” replied Nissa sarcastically. “Got anything to drink?”
“Vodka, whiskey… or tap water.” Azrael took two bottles, one clear and the other brown, from another drawer.
“Such illustrious choices.”
“There’s no need to get lippy.”
“Sorry. Just a little agitated. I guess I’ll take the tap water.”
“Both the faucet and glass are in the bathroom, though you may want to clean it first.”
“Where is the bathroom?”
“Through the door next to the wall-o-death.”
Nissa walked past the desk, through the door beyond the wall, and up a staircase to the second floor where there were two rooms. One was the bathroom; the other was Azrael’s bedroom.
While passing his bedroom, Nissa had an urge to explore it a bit. After all, he did say she could have the bed. She paused at the door, but decided not to go in since she thought she might be betraying his trust. Nissa wanted to be on his good side. And she had a feeling that if Azrael caught her, he would use the reason that she didn’t want it as an excuse to throw her out.
While Nissa got her water, Azrael moved his fingers over the Latin text of the old book quickly being able to read, write, and speak it fluently. The book was a full history on all the slayer families in the world from the year 2012 AD to 2900 AD written by the Maleiorcum. He didn’t remember why he had it, or when the last time he looked at it, but he was happy to have it now. Had it been Grand Master Alaric who suggested taking it with him? And why?
Now that Azrael really thought about it, he couldn’t remember why he had left. He knew he had a reason, but after three years of almost perpetual boredom, his reason seemed to have faded away.
But that wasn’t important right now. What was important was finding the Omens, which he couldn’t. There were hardly any “O” family names and most weren’t true demon slayers.
There were two kinds of demon slayers: charismatics and normal humans. Charismatics had gotten their powers, known as charisms, as gifts from Hyperion that were either passed down through the family, given to a person at baptism with the intention of becoming a demon slayer, or after a person had proven themselves worthy and sworn the demon slayer’s oath. For normal humans however, killing a demon was almost impossible. It involved a lot of praying, sacraments and sacramentals, and using regular weapons. Often times, exorcists were extremely helpful.
In the end however, Azrael couldn’t find the Omens. As far as he could tell, they didn’t exist, and the book he was using was supposed to be a complete history. “‘Complete’ my ass,” he said disdainfully, dropping the book back into its drawer. He took a swig of whiskey and shoved some jerky in his mouth.
Just then there was a knock at the door. Azrael looked at a clock he had on the wall; it said 22:30. It was later than he thought. “We’re closed!” he shouted. The knocker persisted.
“Mr. Chaos?” came a familiar voice. “I have your money and weaponry.” It was Cromwell. And at the mention of money, Azrael hurried to the door. “Ah! Mr. Chaos,” said the familiar pierced face of Cromwell.
“Hello. You have my pay?” asked Azrael, trying to hang onto his manners. “And my guitar! I had completely forgotten.”
“Yes,” answered Cromwell. “Turns out my manager had some money set aside for you before he was murdered. I also have Miss Omen’s payment, but she didn’t leave a forwarding address. Do you know where she is?”
“She’s here,” replied Azrael. At that, Nissa came back from the stairs holding a tall glass of water.
“Good evening,” said Cromwell, bowing his head.
“Very well, then.” From inside his jacket, Cromwell took out two short stacks of cash and handed them to Azrael. He then handed Azrael his guitar case with his bloody guitar in it. Before forgetting, Azrael gave Cromwell the contact information for the exorcist he had mentioned earlier.
“Good night,” bid Cromwell, who bowed again and left.
Azrael dropped the case and guitar right next to the door knowing that it would have to be fixed and cleaned after what it had sustained. He took a small vial of clear liquid out of his pocket and sprinkled the guitar case with it making smoke rise from the blood. He then walked back to his desk where Nissa was standing gnawing through a small piece of jerky.
Azrael dropped Nissa’s payment on the desk in front of her and returned to his chair and counted his own. Five hundred total. He should’ve taken the thousand he’d been offered. But then Azrael had to remind himself that slaying jobs weren’t done for profit. The Order carried them out as if they were sacraments slaying demons for free. Despite that, Azrael’s services still had its expenses: ammo, weapon maintenance, medical supplies, food and water. And since Azrael was in the city, he had to pay taxes and bills on his shop. No one became a demon slayer to get rich.
“Can you hold onto this for me?” asked Nissa, breaking the silence.
“I want you to hold onto some of my money for me since I can’t carry it all,” she said, pushing three-fourths of her pay to him.
He picked it up and added it to his own placing it all in a pocket in the inside of his jacket.
Nissa then stood up and hid the rest of her money somewhere in her costume. Azrael had averted his gaze when she did, not sure he wanted to know where she hid it.
Nissa took another piece of jerky and started working at it. She seemed to be thinking about something. Azrael watched her. Even though she looked somewhat troubled and was unceremoniously chewing at a piece of jerky, he still thought she was awfully cute.
“Where did the name ‘Maleiorcum’ come from? I mean, words with the prefix male- are often evil, like malevolent.”
“Well, have you ever seen a Maleiocur?”
“They’re sort of terrifying at first glance. To some people during the Oppression, they looked like distorted or wicked jesters beneath their cloaks. Someone who didn’t have a very good grip on Latin created the word ‘Maleiocur’ from the Latin words ‘malus,’ ‘iocus,’ and ‘vir.’ ‘Malus’ means ‘evil,’ ‘iocus’ is ‘joke,’ and ‘vir’ is ‘man.’ The creator slapped the three words together into ‘Maleiocur’ trying to create a Latin word for ‘wicked jester.’”
“And that stuck?”
“Yep. Someone did try to rename them ‘Benesapien,’ which means ‘good sage,’ but it didn’t work. They eventually took on the word ‘Maleiorcum’ as the plural and they gave it its own noun declensions in Latin too. I can tell you them if you’re interested.”
“No, thanks. But that’s pretty interesting. So, what happens now?”
“I go to bed,” replied Azrael, taking another gulp of whiskey.
“I mean, what happens now in life?”
“Well, I was thinking of going to the library.”
Azrael made a vague gesture. “Things. Origins. Mostly.”
“Origins of what?”
Nissa gave him a hard look. “Do I want to know what you’re hiding?”
Azrael shrugged. “It wouldn’t hurt if you dropped the subject.”
“I’ll go ahead and do that then.”
“Good. Actually, it would make a good excuse for going back to the library. I haven’t needed to do any real research since I moved down here.”
“I used to live in the mountains. The Austrian Alps is actually where the Head Monastery of the Order is located.”
“Really? I had heard that it was close, but I didn’t think it was that close.”
“You’ve heard of the Maleiorcum before I mentioned them?”
“Anyone who has heard of the Chaos family has heard of the Maleiorcum. And how rare do you think demon slayers really are?”
“There were a lot more of us a generation ago. But, this all begs a good question,” said Azrael, starting to look at her in a new light. “Where do you get your information from?”
“What was your mistress’ name?”
“Well, she may have had a full name, but I never asked nor was it mentioned.”
“Hmm… Well, in the light of that development, I’m going to sleep.”
Azrael corked his whiskey and put it back in the drawer with the vodka. He also put back the jerky after Nissa swiped one last piece. He then walked over to the closest couch and sat at the far end.
Nissa choked down the jerky and chugged the water down impressively. She then walked over to the couch and considered it for a moment.
Azrael looked at her. “What?”
“I… I usually sleep in the nude,” she replied.
Azrael gave her a hard look as if to say, ‘Bull shit!’ Instead he cracked a smile and said, “Don’t tease me.”
Nissa couldn’t help but smile back. And with a shrug, she lay down on the couch curling her body slightly and laid her head in Azrael’s lap which quite surprised him.
“Well, if you’re going to insist on sleeping down here with me, I don’t want you to freeze.” Azrael stood up, removed his gloves, and took off his jacket, dropping it on Nissa. It landed on her heavily. He sat back down, loosened his boots, and kicked them off without any grace sending one up and over the coffee table and the other landing behind the other couch. He put one of his arms on the rest and his other on Nissa as she cuddled up with his thigh. But there was one last moment of shenanigans.
Nissa pinched Azrael’s leg, saying, “Good night, Azrael.”
“Good night, Nissa.”
The next day, Azrael woke up with a crick in his neck and a stiff back. He looked at Nissa and she seemed quite content next to him. He pried his leg from her grip and opened up shop. The clock read 8:30.
Azrael again took out the jerky and whiskey from the night before, and had breakfast.
At about 8:45, Nissa woke up with a yawn. She got up and pulled Azrael’s jacket closely around herself. “One of the best night’s rest I’ve ever had,” she said, walking over. “I think it was your thigh as my pillow.”
“I think it was the jacket,” Azrael responded.
“What makes you say that?”
“It was blessed by the Maleiorcum. There are some interesting blessings on that thing.”
“Mostly to revitalize the body, mind, and soul, and to defend against harm done to the body and mind.”
“So, it’s armor?”
“Do your clothes do anything special?” she asked.
“Well, they’re mostly responsible for regulating your body temperature and the duster does help, but its main purpose is defense.”
Just then, there was a knock on the door.
“Come in,” said Azrael.
The door knob turned and in walked a man in about his late-sixties looking slightly worn down, like a member of the proletariat. Azrael noticed a slight slouch in his back and a limp. His eyes had bags under them and his nose was long. As he was half way across the room, he noticed Nissa in Azrael’s jacket.
“Is now a bad time?” asked the man in a soft voice.
“I said ‘come in,’ didn’t I?” asked Azrael, standing up.
“I could have imagined it.”
“Well, you didn’t. Now, what can I do for you?”
“Well, I’m not sure if I’m in the right place for a start. Is this the Chaos Demon Slaying Company?”
“Well, not very many people call it that anymore, but yes, it is.”
“I have a demon problem,” said the older man bluntly. “It’s taken over the house. It chased us out three days ago and has been occupying the house ever since.”
“How did it get in?”
“I don’t know. My wife and I were just sitting in the living room one day, and we heard someone coming down the stairs. We looked up, and it was a demon!”
“What does it look like?”
“It’s about seven feet tall, yellowish-grey skin, scrawny limbs and body, huge bulbous red eyes, claws for hands and feet, a tail, large mouth with a lot of fangs, and spikes all over its body.”
“Interesting. Most demons aren’t that detailed. Did it say anything?”
“Not really. There was something about a mission and a woman in black.”
“A mission?” Azrael glanced at Nissa and began to wonder if this demon had anything to do with Mephisto from the night before. “I’ll take the case, but I’ll need an address and probably a house key if one is available.”
“You won’t need a key,” said the man. “The demon didn’t bother to close the door after us. Sometimes we can see him in there pacing the ground floor mumbling to himself. He never leaves.”
That was certainly peculiar. If this demon was related to Mephisto in some way, why hadn’t it come for Nissa? Was it an apathetic demon? While most demons had rejected humanity and Hyperion, there were some who had rejected Diabolus as well. Was it possible that this one had overheard the plan, was about to carry it out, remembered its apathy, and then just didn’t leave? Farfetched to say the least, but nothing was impossible.
“Um…” faltered the man.
“Huh? Oh!” said Azrael, coming out of his train of thought. “I’ll drop by later this morning.”
“When?” asked the man.
“As soon as I can,” said Azrael. “Where do you live?”
“6234 West Flight.” The old man cast one more look at Nissa, then back to Azrael before leaving.
Nissa asked, “What was he looking at?”
“A beautiful girl in a man’s jacket cinched around her like she’s not wearing any clothes.”
Nissa clicked her tongue and rolled her eyes. “So, we have a job?”
“I wasn’t thinking of taking on any partners.”
“Good thing I’m joining you regardless of what you say.”
“Brazen. May I ask why?”
“Of course you can, but that doesn’t mean I have to answer.”
“Is that revenge for last night when I wouldn’t answer your question?”
“Not especially, but it’s a good idea. So, when do we leave?” she asked, taking a piece of jerky.
“Can you go outside in those clothes?”
“I walked here from the club like this, didn’t I?” said Nissa, shedding Azrael’s jacket.
“Then right after I put my boots, jacket, and gloves on, and re-arm. And after I hit the bathroom. Drinking does that to you.”
Once Azrael had returned from the water closet, he got his effects together, and they were on their way to the old man’s house. They walked there since Azrael didn’t have a car.
It was about 9:15, but there weren’t very many people out. And although the sun shined, it was still very dim. Master Schylar, the Order’s scholar and historian, told Azrael this was caused by the invasion of demons into the world. Depending on how many demons there were on Earth was reflected by the darkness of the smog. Master Schylar told him that the smog was slowly thinning and that it had been much darker almost a millennium ago. Back then, the sun had been completely blocked out for two years. It caused a great deal of damage and dismay.
Azrael and Nissa didn’t talk much on the way, but when they got there, Nissa started asking questions. “So what do we do?”
“Slay the demon,” replied Azrael.
“I mean besides that.”
“Liberate a household from the tyranny of the Devil’s companions.”
“I mean besides that.”
“If you’re hoping for more, you’re in the wrong business.”
“So… what? Do you think it’s a big job?”
“No,” replied Azrael. “I don’t even think I’ll need the guns I brought. Sounds like a lower level, apathetic demon. Should be an easy job.”
They found the house at the end of a block and peered through the door from outside. From inside they could hear mumbling and grumbling along with foot falls. Then the demon passed by the doorway. Nissa let out a small squeal of fright and quickly covered her mouth.
The demon passed by again and it looked exactly like the old man had described. Then they heard it climbing stairs. Azrael walked up to the door and pushed it open a bit. He squatted down and poked his head through a little. He saw the demon head upstairs and then disappear into a room on the left. It quickly reappeared and then walked down the hall into more rooms and came out again. Eventually it returned to the stairs and Azrael backed out.
Azrael and Nissa watched the demon do this for half an hour. They looked in through different windows making sure not to be seen and observed the demon just wander around aimlessly.
“Talk about the sin of sloth,” said Nissa after a while.
“Indeed.” Azrael picked up a rock from the street. The demon passed by the front door again, but not before Azrael had chucked the rock at its head. The rock hit its mark, ricocheted off, and landed in a chair in the living room. The demon stopped for a second or two, but didn’t look to see what had happened. It then started pacing the house again.
“Hmm…” thought Azrael. “Ready to go in?”
This time, when the demon went up the stairs, Azrael and Nissa followed it. But, when it had emerged from the first room, it didn’t see them coming up the stairs and kept on walking. It wasn’t until after it was coming out of the furthest room back to the stairs did it see them on the landing and acknowledged their presence by stopping. It held its mouth open for a minute or two just staring at them. Nissa was greatly disturbed by this. Azrael thought it was a bit creepy himself.
“What are you doing here?” asked Azrael finally.
The demon didn’t reply.
“Hyperion got your tongue?”
At the mention of Hyperion’s name, the demon started to scream in anguish. Nissa grabbed Azrael and hid behind him. When the demon had stopped, it stood there again, returning to stare down Azrael.
“How did you get in here?”
“I don’t know.”
“Why did you chase out the old man and his wife?”
“Chase? They fled.”
“Why are you here?”
“To search for the girl that his Darkness wants.”
“You’ve been master of this house for three days and you’ve done nothing. Why?”
“I don’t know…”
“Are you one of those demons who are apathetic toward both Diabolus and—?”
“Don’t!” shouted the demon. “But... probably.”
“Who is the girl that you’re looking for?”
“Some young woman donned in black who can move her hips like a pendulum.”
“Riveting,” commented Azrael. “This is getting real old real fast.” Azrael reached behind himself and pulled Nissa out into the open, asking, “Is this the girl?”
The demon’s eyes lit up. “That’s her! The one his Darkness wants.”
The demon started to move toward Nissa. But she locked eyes with him stopping him in his tracks. She popped her chest sending the demon flying down the hall and crashing into the wall behind him.
Azrael pushed past Nissa and charged forward. As the demon was getting up, Azrael grabbed it by the head and gave one violent twist. There was a snapping of bone and the light disappeared from the demon’s eyes as it died.
Nissa let out a sigh of relief. “That was easy.”
“Lower level demons often are.” Azrael picked up the demon’s body and threw it over his shoulder.
As they were leaving, the old man came running up to them. “You did it! You really did it!”
“’Course,” said Azrael. “It was a snap.”
“Fantastic! But I don’t have very much to pay you with.”
“Don’t worry about it. This job is on the house.”
“Really? Why is that?”
“Don’t worry about it.”
The old man didn’t protest. He merely thanked them and ran back into his house.
Azrael and Nissa then found an alley where Azrael threw the demon body down, and pulled the vial with the burning liquid from inside his jacket. The demon immediately erupted into fire when sprinkled with the contents.
“What is that?” asked Nissa, taken aback.
“A combination of holy water, sacred salt, and exorcised oil. Demon bodies don’t agree with it.”
“Why did you do the job for free?”
“The Order insists that slaying demons is a free service provided by the Order. We’re only allowed to charge for expenses, but not the work itself. Since I didn’t fire my guns, there were no expenses that needed to be paid.”
“Huh. Well, unfortunately for you, I’m not part of the Order, so I can make a profit.”
Azrael snorted. “Gonna buy a nice little cottage with all that demon slaying money you’ve got sitting in the metro bank?”
“Regardless,” said Nissa, “I do have expenses of my own. If you can’t tell, there are places on this skirt where it has been mended before. So how do you expect to pay your partner when you do a job for free?” she teased.
“You’re my partner,” Azrael replied. “Not my assistant. Go find your own jobs.”
“Ouch. How about a foot rub?” she said with a wink.
When Azrael and Nissa returned to the shop at about 10:00, there were actually four people standing around outside of it.
“What’s all this?” asked Azrael.
“We require the aid of a competent demon slayer!” exclaimed what looked like the richest one.
“Huh. Well, I am Azrael Chaos,” said Azrael to the group there. “This is my partner, Nissa Omen. How may we be of service?”
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