THE SOUL TO TAKE

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CHAPTER FIFTEEN

*

Anna's heart went out to Orphie. She felt bad for him being stuck in such a miserable existence. Still, she tried to find some silver lining in it all to cheer him up.

“It can't be all bad. Surely you get to meet some exciting beings. And look at this way, one day you will find your own beloved, and she will set you free,” Anna said.

Orphie chuckled. He wished that Anna were the girl for him. But alas, that was not meant to be. She did give him one thing though-hope. And it was a favor he wanted to return to her. Up until now Orphie had been deliberately taking the long way through the maze because he wanted to prolong his time with Anna, but it was selfish of him and wasn't his selfishness the reason he had ended up in the underworld in the first place? So Orphie decided that there was no time like the present to change.

“I know a quicker way to get you guys through the maze, but I warn you it is a hellva lot more dangerous. Are you up for it?” He asked.

Anna grinned. Danger was not an issue with her. Since she had died (which felt like thousands of years ago) and became a soul collector, she had come to think of danger as being a close friend.

“Not at all. Let's do this!” She exclaimed.

Sira rolled her eyes at Anna. She was under the impression that Anna could be such a child at times. But because she liked Anna, and Sin was family, she would go along with anything to help out. She had already decided she would lay her own life on the line in order to protect those she cared about. Sin and Anna fell into that category.

Orphie walked right up to a side of a wall made of bushes. He stood up on his hind legs and placed his front paws on the bushy wall. With his glowing yellow eyes tightly shut he concentrated on the path he wanted to find. Within seconds the wall parted and revealed a jagged path. If possible the path that just came into being had even less lighting than the path they had been traveling.

Eyes open, he glanced back at his charges and nudged his head in the direction of the new path.

“This way,” Orphie said quietly.

He hated to lead them through this new area, but it would be quicker. He would just have to make sure to look out for Anna. It was this path that had cost him to loose so many beings on the journey; it was for that reason he usually took the longer route.

While it was true he had wanted to prolong his time with Anna, he also hadn't wanted to put her in harms way. Or at least he had wanted to keep the chances of any harm befalling her to a bare minimum, but he also understood her urgency to get to this Sin character. If he himself would ever find a woman he could love, then he would move hell and high water to save her from any and all danger.

Anna gingerly followed Orphie. She had only walked a few feet on the new path when the old one became closed over by the bushes mending back together. Already she was feeling uneasy about the new direction and could sense something not right, but if this would help her reach Sin quicker, than she would just have to suck it up.

Sira kept close behind Anna. The way she figured it was simple. If danger were to arise, then she would be able to defend Anna from the back. And while she didn't hold much confidence in Orphie, she had little choice but to trust him to protect Anna from the front. If they were lucky they would make it out of the maze with all their limbs, organs, and other vitals intact. Anna. While Anna was a soul collector, Sira still wasn't sure if she was fully immortal. There was something about the girl she wasn’t able to put her finger on. She didn't smell right to Sira; instead, she smelled abnormal. But despite not knowing what Anna really was, Sira didn't doubt the girl.

It was clear from the short time she had spent with her, that Anna was exactly as she appeared. Anna didn't try to hide anything, she rarely lied, and…. well, Sira was sure Anna wasn’t so great of an actress that she could be fooled by her. After all, Sira was the leader of the mischief demons, and she was well schooled in putting up an act. But, Anna? Sira highly doubted Anna could put up any kind of front; her aura glowed too brightly.

Orphie remained on high alert and that alertness paid off.

“WATCH OUT!” He yelled to Anna.

“Huh?” Anna said confused.

She was not prepared for the giant monster dog that just plucked her up in its big hairy claws. The monster turned her around making her stare into a pair of eyes that were huge, dark, and cold. She got the impression she was staring into an abyss.

“Help...” She squeaked.

Sira halted in her steps. The giant dog had come out of no where. Sira’s eyes had been scanning every area they were walking, so she was baffled as to how she could have missed seeing this!

The dog was about ten feet high. It was standing on three paws, and the fourth one was clutching Anna. Its fur was matted with a dark, sticky substance. It was also missing patches of fur. It had three heads and all three of them were staring at Anna. Each had their lips pulled back in a snarl, and big droplets of drool were crashing to the floor, creating a mini pond around its gigantic paws.

It appeared Orphie hadn't moved out of the way fast enough, because his body was trapped underneath the long thick tail of the dog. He was biting at the tail but it had no affect on the beast.

“Do something already, won't you?” Orphie said in a huff to Sira.

Sira looked at Orphie incredulous. The cat had to be out of its flipping mind. She was a demon not a god. And while she was impressively skilled in battle and had sweet fiery powers, she highly doubted it would make any lick of difference to the creature before her now. Though, if she didn't at least try something, then she would have to explain to her nephew how she let his girlfriend die; that was one conversation she didn't want to have.

She wasn't sure how to help Anna at this point, but she had a half-cocked idea how she might be free Orphie.

Sira held her hands out, making sure the angle of her hands matched the direction of the dog's tail. The palms of her hands grew hotter and hotter until a stream of fire blasted from her palms, hitting the dog's tail. It was an added bonus for her that the fire also singed the fur at the top of Orphie's head.

“WATCH OUT!” He shouted to Sira.

Sira put on an innocent face, and shrugged.

The dog was a different story; while it didn't notice its tail being nommed on, it did notice when its tail was blasted with fire. Sira wrinkled her nose at the smell of the burning fur and flesh and stood her ground as all three heads let out an ear piercing yelp.

“O-” Anna's cry was cut short.

The dog whipped and snarled at Sira, gripping Anna tighter in the process. If Anna were mortal, then the death grip would be equivalent to that of an anaconda's. As it was, she felt the crush of her body but knew she wouldn't die from it; well, she hoped not.

Anna didn't quite know what applied or didn't apply to the beings of the underworld. The only thing she did know was that she was no longer alive on the mortal plan and nothing there-unless she was in mortal form-could hurt her. She was only beginning to understand the vast difference between the two worlds. On day, if she survived, she wanted to know every secret the underworld held.

Anna dug her nails into the dog's paw, but her weak attempt did nothing to aid her escape. The dog was looking at Sira as if it was trying to decide which of its three heads would get the first bite.

Anna glanced down to warn Sira to run and to go on without her and go save Sin. Her mouth opened and then, abruptly, shut it.

Admiration filled her for what she was seeing. Sira was staring the dog down. Sparks flickered in her gold eyes, her feet was planted firmly on the ground and she had one hand on her hip; her other hand was to her front, palm up. It was a curious sight.

“PUT HER DOWN!” Sira commanded the dog.

The dog's belly lurched up and down, a deep rumble filled its chest, and a deafening roar came out of all three mouths. Anna had a hunch that the dog was actually laughing at Sira, and that was never a good thing.

Sira gave the dog a wicked smile. In her mind she pictured an elaborate sword that would be fitting for her petite form. Focusing on that image of a sword, Sira made sure her eyes remained on the dog as the sword manifested in her hand. No need to look; she felt it. It was lightweight and its hilt had the identical design her skin had: coal black and crimson stripes. The blade was gold like her eyes.

In one swift motion she bent her legs and jumped up as high as she could go. She sunk her blade into the thigh of the beast. Sira had no mercy as the beast roared in pain. Yanking out her blade, Sira climbed the monster, its short fur was plenty long to be used as a rope to pull herself up and up.

The beast still holding Anna, swiped with its free paw at Sira. A few times it almost caught her, but she smoothly dodged the swipes.

Sira climbed further up, just enough that she was positioned right over the arm that held Anna. She jumped from her vantage point, keeping the sword pointed down. The blade hit its intended target and sliced right through the beast’s wrist, causing Anna to plummet towards the ground while still ensnared in the dismembered paw.

Orphie ran around the area where he was sure Anna would land. He had it in his head that he had a fifty-fifty chance of catching her before she hit the ground. If he was correct, then she should land right on him; it wasn't ideal, but he would rather cushion her blow than have her take the full brunt of the fall.

Because Orphie was always highly observant of all he witnessed, he knew exactly what could and couldn't happen to immortal beings. Knowledge was power, and that kind of knowledge was worth having. He wouldn't give it up easy; but for Anna, he just might. Of course she hadn't asked, and he wasn't volunteering the information either.

At some point in her fall, Anna felt the paw lose its grip on her. She was now free falling to her death. Well second death anyway. She didn't bother to waste her energy screaming; the ground was coming up so fast. She had a sudden flashback of her first death. It was the same depressing feeling she was feeling now. Life was a bitch and so was death. Anna shielded her face as the ground finally rose up to meet her.

SPLAT!

Sira cringed from the sound of Anna's body landing on Orphie. She was rather sad because now she would have to inform her nephew that his girlfriend died because she couldn't think of a better way to free her from the giant beast’s hold than to cut off his limb; the limb she momentarily forgot she was hanging on to.

The beast was roaring in pain, stomping around on three paws and one stub. Sira felt compelled to put it out of its misery, so she did the only kind thing she could think of, she climbed again up on the beast til she was clinging to the fur right above its heart. She said a silent prayer for it before she sunk the blade into its chest, burying the hilt.

All six of the beast’s eyes rolled back in its head. It tilted forward and then tilted backward, before tilting forward once more.

Sira knew what was about to happen next, so she quickly climbed down the dog and made it to the ground before it crashed down, landing face-down and ensuring the blade would be forever buried in its massive chest.

Anna was feeling a lot of pain. Everything hurt in her body; she swore the very strands of her hair were hurting as well. How she wasn't dead was a miracle, but then again, she had already died once. Every bone in her body was broken. She knew she had internal bleeding, and she was more than sure that her face was smashed in since she did land on it. She wasn't sure what it was, but she felt a lump of something under her. Try as she might, she couldn’t move, and the more she tried, the more she panicked. Whatever was beneath her was making a sound, but the sound was too muffled to make out.

Orphie was feeling more than crushed, he felt like his body had gone six feet under into the ground from the impact of Anna's body. Clearly, he hadn't thought about the consequences of having her land on him from such a great height. Well, he was thinking and feeling now. It was such a shame he wasn’t able to die and get relief from the pain and suffering he was now feeling. It was tenfold since Anna was still on top of him.

Sira went to Anna's side. There were no tears in her eyes when she looked at the body. It wasn't moving. She did feel a pang in her chest that was something akin to sorrow. Kneeling down she brushed Anna's hair out of her face.

“Holy crap! You're alive!” Sira's eyes grew wide in astonishment.

Anna was glaring at Sira. Her eyes were not dull or lifeless as Sira imagined they would be.

Sira took a step back and tilted her head at Anna. She had no clue what to do. Now that she knew Anna was alive, it wouldn't do to leave her lying on the ground like a pancake, but she really didn't have a human size spatula to peel Anna up off the ground either. She realized that being the demon aunt of a nephew who had gotten himself stolen, and her now having to carry his pancake-flat girlfriend around like she was a pack mule, really sucked.

Pop. Pop. Pop. Anna felt her bones popping back into place. She wanted to scream from the raw agony she was feeling, but her vocal cords were also broken. As much of a nightmare as it was to feel the effects of her body healing itself...

Ohmygod! I'm healing.

That was just it. Her. Body. Was. Healing. Itself. It was amazing. It hurt like a mofo. She went back and forth from feeling amazed, to wanting to burst right out of her skin from the sheer pain it was giving her.

Once every bone was repaired, her face popped back out, the internal bleeding stopped and her brains grew back into one piece.

Anna finally could move and when she stood, it allowed Orphie's body to heal also. She watched as he went through the same wicked process as she had-and then some.

Anna waited until Orphie was fully healed, then she fired off questions, one after another before the first, second, and so on was fully thought out.

“What? How? Did you? Oh. My. Gosh!” Anna's eyes lit up, and she was hopping up and down. It was easy to see that she was excited from the discovery. Anyone else might have been horrified, but not Anna; she was thrilled.

Orphie sighed. He was just beginning to get his bearings back, and answering questions was the last thing he wanted to do. He was always the most irritated when his body had to regenerate from stupidity. It was lucky he liked Anna as he did, otherwise he would tell her to piss off.

“You’re. Not. Mortal,” Orphie replied rather annoyed.

“I know that. I've known that since I ended up on the island. What I want to know, is everything. I want to know how it's possible I can bleed, how I have bones, and why I feel mortal here. I've always wanted to know, but I've never had the courage to ask and there was no one very forthcoming with information.” Anna said in a matter of fact tone.

Orphie half growled and half chuckled.

He had to hand it to her the girl was relentless.

“That would take forever to explain...but I suppose I could give you the simplified version. When you were on the island, did any souls get taken because they refused to get on the boat?” He asked.

Anna nodded.

“Okay, so you saw how their flesh was stripped from their skin and their bones turned to dust. Do you know how they had a body, when they were already dead?”

Anna's eyebrows furrowed. She had seen the same scene he was now describing when Kyrain had sent her soul to the underworld.

“Yea...but I wasn't sure how it was possible.”

“Simple. You are only given one body when you’re mortal. When you die, that body dies. When you make it to the underworld, you are given an identical body. However, that body isn't easily destroyed.”

Orphie continued, “Your underworld body is the same as your mortal body. It will bleed, it has bones that can be broken, the skin can be bruised, Ect. But, unlike your mortal body, this new body will heal itself. You can't truly die since you are already dead, but that doesn’t mean you can't feel like you’re dying. Are you following me?”

“I think. So when I will myself mortal in the mortal realm, is that body the same as the one here in the underworld?” She asked.

Orphie nodded, “It is, but on the mortal plane your body will heal much slower than it would if you were here.”

Anna thought about the wound she had received when she took the bullet for Sin. She had assumed that the wound hadn't been that bad, but now after what Orphie had said, it did explain how her wound healed much faster than Sin's scratched up side had.

“That actually explains a lot. Thank you, Orphie,” Anna said sincerely.

Orphie inclined his head to Anna but kept his eyes locked on her eyes. She couldn't have spent that much time in the underworld after her death; at least he hoped that was the case. He hated to think Anna was just ignorant, though she appeared to be smart enough. Still, one couldn't be too sure about beings in the underworld. It was rare they actually turned out to be who they appeared to be.

The thought weighed heavily on him, and since he didn't have an issue voicing his concerns, he decided to flat out ask her.

“After you died and went through judgment how long were you here before you went back to the mortal realm to do your job?”

“Umm, hang on and let me think.”

Anna had to think long and hard about the question, and when she answered him, the answer was an educated guess.

“I think I might have been here for a few days after that. Kyrain had to train me, and then he basically left me alone while I adjusted to my new state. In those few days I managed to piss off Shiva. I was in a phase and slept with one of her concubines. Of course, Shiva found out that same day and had me thrown into the mortal realm. She told Kyrain I was to learn everything on my own, and that she didn't want to see me back in the underworld again. This probably explains why I can't teleport here,” Anna said.

Orphie had to stifle a laugh. He definitely admired Anna's guts. There was no way he would have been able to work up the courage to piss off the queen of the underworld like Anna had. But her answer did explain why she hadn't figured out the body business. Most immortals who hadn't figured it out , it was because they were too naïve to notice. Or maybe they weren’t naïve but were just more careful with their bodies than Orphie.

Sira had been standing idly near by. She had listened to every word her fellow companions had spoken. Everything she had witnessed with the collectors, and the other immortal souls, now began to make sense. However, one thing still wasn't clicking with Anna. Anna couldn't just be like every other soul collector. Sira was one hundred percent sure there was something different about the girl. But what? She vowed she'd figure it out. She still cared about Anna; that hadn't changed, but now she was keeping her eyes peeled for any sign of strangeness about Anna. The girl's aura was lighting up like a bulb and that was not suppose to happen. Every immortal she had came across in her time, had never had an aura. It is not supposed to be possible because once you die there is no aura to be found. An aura surrounded the living. And it was clear Anna wasn't considered to be a living soul anymore. She was a very dead soul to be exact.

Sira would just have to keep a close eye on Anna until she figured this out. Whatever Anna was, could make her a good asset to have around; or Sira's emotions for the girl were clouding her judgment, and being around Anna could be the biggest mistake of her life.

“We should get a move on ladies,” Orphie finally suggested.

The other two couldn't agree more; they had spent way too much time in the maze all ready. At the pace they was going, it would probably take them two life times to reach Sin. They walked on in silence.


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