CODEX Part 4: Among the Living

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Maze of Mirrors

Zoe couldn't believe that after all these years, she was still so easy to manipulate by young men with brown hair and puppy brown eyes. Caleb was a persistent person and he didn't budge from her desk until she accepted to go with him to the carnival.
"We have enough time to spare. Shouldn't we wait until later tonight?" She asked as she followed him on the streets of New York.
It was a particularly sunny day which Zoe was not a fan of. People tend to go out a lot more when the weather is nice and warm which automatically meant there were more chances to interact with strangers. Ghosts were sometimes so lost that they would move around as if they were still alive, still having errands that needed to be completed. But because the sun was shining so brightly, it was harder to see the difference between who was alive and who was dead.
"During one of my chats with Mepalham the demon, he asked me about the way I see the world." Caleb started as he fell into a rhythm next to Zoe.
"Of course he did," she mumbled and rolled her eyes. Mepalham's growing interest in her was an aftermath of that stupid war in hell.
"He said that you cannot see colors. Is that true?"
"I'm not color blind but I can't differentiate between bright and dark colors. Everything is rather pale through my eyes." She explained before she turned and pointed at a store. "There is a red dress behind that window but it looks as if it was so used that its color is fading. But I'm not affected by this. Even when I used to draw my webtoon, I didn't really have a problem."
"You draw?" Caleb asked glancing at her with sparkling eyes. It was nice, seeing her open up little by little.
"Yes. I'm sure Mepalham covered that portion of my life in his introductory class." She said sarcastically. "I used to run away from everything supernatural until I decided to use what others can't see in my advantage."
"And why did you come to America?"
Caleb had a way of asking the most inconvenient questions in the most nonchalant manner. He was simply curious, nothing more, but his journalistic mind knew exactly what subjects to touch.
Zoe sighed and looked up at the sky. There were so many reasons why she left London but one was especially hard to speak about.
"I felt like I was suffocating. It was unbearable."
"Because you...killed many people?" Caleb asked meekly, remembering that important piece of information.
"I had an anchor, a person that no matter what happened was always there to support me. I was hanging onto him and in the end he had to sacrifice in order to bring me back." Only talking briefly about Ezekiel and Zoe felt her heart break all over again. "He didn't deserve to die so young. It was all because of me and my stupid mark." She said growing angry at Beelzebub and Lucifer. If it wasn't for their greed, she could have lived like any other human.
"Mehrdir said that you two are mates." Caleb said rather innocently.
"We are." Her reply was immediate which surprised Caleb. "I marked him without meaning to. It felt like the right thing back then but now...he's not exactly the most reliable demon."
"He said that too. But shouldn't demons be tricky and, well, liars?"
Zoe nodded as she thought about all the creatures she had met during her lifetime.
"Their specialty is to disappear when you need them the most."
The way she emphasized that idea made Caleb think about Elijah. He heard several times already how he was supposed to be some place else and yet he couldn't care less.

Zoe and Caleb walked around the city for a few hours until the sky turned a beautiful orange color. The twilight was not the same in between so many skyscrapers but it was still a nice sight.
Mehrdir was in the park, watching the same view. He had his hands in his pockets and he looked like a posing model. Some bystanders did take photos of him and some women complimented his looks but Mehrdir knew it was all just appearance. The truth was that his body was just a shell, made in order to remember how he once looked. It wasn't real; nothing was. He was just a doomed soul that eventually became a demon. Actually, he was worse than trash.
"Oh, you're here already?"
Mehrdir turned his head when he heard Caleb's voice. Next to him was Zoe who had a faraway gleam in her eyes, as if she was remembering an old memory. Caleb glanced at her from the corner of his eye and hummed to himself. From the moment they entered the park and noticed Mehrdir in the distance, Zoe's eyes focused on him and only on him.
"The carnival is here, isn't it? Where else could I have gone." The words came out colder than the demon intended to.
"Let's go then. I really can't wait to see what they came up with!"
Zoe smiled at the way Caleb seemed to resemble a child at times. Mehrdir couldn't help but soften up at the sight of it.

Caleb forced Zoe to go on all rides that they could find. She ate some cotton candy and was taken aback by how sneaky were the game stores. Caleb tried to win a unicorn plushie for five minutes before Mehrdir replaced him and won from the first try.
"It's in the wrist," commented the demon as he surprised everyone around him, including the vendor.
That happened quite a lot afterwards to the point that Zoe swore it was more of a date between them and she was third wheeling.
When time came to enter the improvised haunted house, none of them flinched.
"I can make this very interesting if you want me to." Mehrdir said with a devilish smirk. "If I let my mask fall, even the bravest men would run screaming."
Caleb's eyes widened and sparkled in the dim reddish light.
"No." Zoe said in a decisive tone. She turned to Caleb and repeated, "No. Let's just quietly finish the tour."
The young journalist pouted and moped for the rest of the way. Mehrdir made sure to walk beside Zoe just to see her reactions. But the profiler had such a cold façade that Mehrdir almost didn't recognize the human he fell in love with. He couldn't help but blame himself for her change in attitude and even in appearance.
One of the last things that Zoe wanted to do was go to the bathroom. She searched for it for several minutes until she decided to ask a clown. He pointed at a little building and she went inside without thinking twice. Going to the bathroom was easy enough but when she came out she noticed that because the light was dim in the corridor, she hasn't seen that there was a curtain towards another section of the building. Curiosity got the best of her, and a feeling that seemed to draw her in. When she saw the mirrors, she scrunched her nose.
"How do I get out of here now?" She asked out loud, not waiting for an answer.
She walked around for a while, sometimes actually enjoying how dysmorphic her reflection was. But at some point the whole atmosphere seemed to have changed. She passed a mirror that was twice as tall as her and she didn't see her reflection. No, instead she saw a monster. She stopped and touched the mirror with wide alarmed eyes.
"Very pretty, isn't it?"
Zoe stopped breathing for a moment when those red eyes appeared before her. The rest of his body came into the light as if he walked out from a tunnel.
"My best creation as of yet. But then again, lately it's been more of a work in progress." Lucifer's voice echoed in the building.
"You are in the Void." She said in a breathy voice. "How can you do this?"
"Mirrors are gateways to hell, don't you know that already? The Void is not outside hell, Zoe. Besides, I am the Loved One. You cannot defeat me."
"Then what it is that you want from me?" She asked feeling cornered. His voice was coming from everywhere and his eyes were watching her carefully.
"I want you to reach your potential. I only saw a glimpse when Ezekiel died. But what if more people follow into his steps? After all, what matters if a few humans die here and there?"
"No. Nobody will die anymore because of me."
"I already knew you were going to say that. You see, I have a lot of free time down here so I decided to switch my tactic."
"What..."
"Your dear beloved Mehrdir never told you about his family, has he? The one he created for himself. Oh Zoe, you know nothing about your mate."
"You're just a deceiver."
"Am I? They already visited you. They actually left quite a bit of mess behind but what can I say? You are hard to impress. But Zoe, they are so young and fresh. So easy to convince that the only way for them to become immortal and gain revenge on society is through my inheritor." He explained with a wicked chuckle. "You fear that one day you will lose control? Maybe you should or else someone else will kill you first. Those eyes of yours and those marks are very valuable."
"I'm not going to believe a liar like you. I'm done with this games that you play."
"Is that so?" He asked sounding and looking rather happy with her answer. "My, how have you changed Zoe. You are defying a Prince so boldly. The demons inside is waking up, isn't it?"
Zoe froze in her place. She gulped as she felt Lucifer's dark aura surround her even if in truth, he wasn't even there.
"Don't fight it. You seemed to enjoy it down in Hell, especially when you killed Jasper."
"You forced me to do it. I had no choice."
"Me? I never force anyone to do something. I tend to give them the necessary push but I never force them. You acted by yourself and you made a show out of it." Lucifer added seeing the defiance in her eyes. "And there were innocent victims too. Like Ezekiel." He said narrowing his eyes at the way her body tensed. The fallen angel smiled to himself as he made sure his reflection appeared all around Zoe. "Ezekiel sacrificed himself although he never got to know what exactly happened in Hell. He didn't see the monster."
Zoe's hair was covering her face since she bent her head in order to better control herself. But Ezekiel was still a very sensitive subject and she could feel the demon struggling to get out.
"Don't fight it, Zoe. It's inevitable. Your transformation is inevitable. You are the inheritor now."
Zoe raised her head and glared at Lucifer's cocky expression. She felt this electric current going from her toes and up her spine into her head. The serpent shifted on her back and it stung worse than ever before.
"Accept it and you will see just how different the world will be. The power you will have over both humans and demons is far above what you imagine."
A low growl escaped her throat and Lucifer wished he could be there so that he could physically throw her off the cliff.
"Shut up." She whispered before she pressed one of her hands on the mirror. Her fingers were elongating and she seemed to suffer greatly as the demon squirmed. "Never mention Ezekiel again." Her voice was a mix between hers and a creature not of this world.
Lucifer's reply was to laugh. The sound echoed throughout the whole building and only aggravated Zoe's condition. The serpent was moving constantly up and down her back and the endless knot was bleeding. Her soul felt like it was splitting between Beelzebub and Lucifer. It was a burden having both marks deeply tattooed on her body and moreover, on her soul.
It was hard to say what happened next because not even the Loved One could have foreseen it. All the mirrors shattered in tiny pieces and uncovered someone who has been watching everything in silence. This anonymous person stayed and watched Zoe suffer by herself before he walked out. He had to make a very important phone call.

Meanwhile, the Vatican returned to being rather quiet. Now that The Holy Brotherhood was taking care of the rising demons, the priests and cardinals could go back to ignoring the existence of a spiritual problem.
Bart was in his office, drinking his coffee during a very quiet and nice morning. He hummed to himself as he walked around the room, smiling at all the books and décor he had. It was fulfilling to know that after such a long time he was reinstated in his function. His phone rang and he stared at it for a few seconds before finally answering. Whatever the caller said, it brought joy on his face. He thanked the caller and hung up. He put his coffee cup on the desk and exited his office. His steps were light, almost as if he was skipping. The smile never left his face as he went into the utmost secret room in the Vatican. It was right below the old archives and he had to go through a series of tunnels in order to finally go up some stairs that seemed to lead nowhere.
Bart opened the door with a key that looked just as antique as the knob and sighed.
"I have the best news, my little friend." He started as he turned to the being that was flat face on the ground. He looked horrible and was restrained by chains around his hands, ankles and neck. He wasn't behind bars because there was no need to; instead, there were very detailed signs written around him.
The creature looked up but he didn't say a word.
"Aren't you curious to know how she is?" Bart asked approaching the demon. "Don't you miss your master, Eneizar?"
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