Tales from the Devil's Cafe

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Chapter 4: Soul Hunters

I utilize them to hunt down mortals with the intention of escaping their debt, especially the foolish ones who will go to great lengths to avoid me and to hide themselves. They are not to be mistaken as grim reapers nor do they work for Death, merely they are those who are bound by contract to serve me as long as they repay their own debt to get their soul back. They may not be necessarily loyal to me but under no circumstances can they betray my orders.

Under specific reasons they become what they are, to how they choose their end is entirely their own decision. However, should they fail to carry out their mission – I will not hesitate to send them to the other realm for eternal damnation.

At the Devil's Café,

The very definition of pouring cats and dogs realized itself on this annoying day, the window's glass panel produced a tap continuously, the air chilled to the bone and the sky a sickening dark grey – an ominous weather. A befitting day for a tea party according to the Devil, or so it said.

"Vienne," a sweet childish voice called, "Vienne! Where are you?" she requested again seated on an antique stool facing a mirror with her enchanting image. Golden curly locks gathered around her petite shoulders, her soft delicate pink lips formed a pout. "Gracious! Where is that girl?" she was getting impatient.

A knock on the door, "You called?" Vienne announced as she entered into the room, glancing at the evil entity in its latest disguise. A little girl about the age of nine, dressed in an elaborate red velvet gown decorated with roses on the bottom hem and a laced bow behind her back. Her eyes, a sunny gold shade brimming with unsaid anticipation and a hollow depth depression, the mood an unrivaled thunder storm.

"Vienne come and tie my hair." Her order definite, the servant in question obeyed with no choice. She moved carefully to her master's side, gathering the silky locks she worked them into half tying the upper part with a matching red ribbon. "Vienne you're going to house sit alone today."


Gazing at her reflection in the mirror, "Don't give me that confused look, you heard me. I'll be attending a tea party, one that requires the presence of all Hell's greatest. Every generals and archdukes will be there, including the six royal families...Honestly I really detested such a gathering, but in order to please the elders it can't be helped." displeasure evident in her voice, "Oh, if you're looking for Amamiya and Lycurgus, they're both at the St. Regis. Preparing the little tea treats that evil creatures seem to crave so much, even my great granduncle had requested for such delicacies during his 99th funeral."

Vienne heard the odd number, but remained silent as her master continued the conversation. "As I was saying, you'll be all alone in the café. So try not to break or burn anything, at least until I have returned with the duo." The little lady got up from her seat and took a final turn at the mirror, "Splendid."

"Are you leaving by a limousine?"

"Don't be silly, you know how lethal traffic hours are in New York. I'm taking a shortcut." The Devil closed its eyes and murmured a single foreign word incomprehensible to the human understanding. In an instant an illusion portal materialized before the little girl, a swirl of purple and black liquid substance seen within the unknown realm. "Be good and I'll bring a gift back perhaps," she passed through the portal and along with it disappeared into thin air.

"Have a safe journey…" the unreachable words left with Vienne as she closed the door to the master's room.

'Ding' the doors to an elevator opened, "My lord, the guests are awaiting." Lycurgus greeted the young girl who walked out. "Let's quicken our pace then, they can be quite grumpy when I'm late. Honestly, among all places at the St. Regis. Hell they might as well suggested the Plaza! Can't they keep a low profile for once? Decades after decades, one grand venue after another, I swear they must have taken a liking to luxury and glamour indulgence."

"My lord, you're talking about Hell's grand gathering here. A lesser venue would have been most unbefitting, don't you agree? And your displeasure's clearly shown on your disguise." Following close behind his master, the wolf spirit immediately remained silent as the little girl halted her steps at the grand ballroom entrance.

Turning her head slightly back to look at him, "Am I suppose to put on a sickeningly sweet smile and greet everyone hello even though my foul mood could rival the thunderstorm bellowing outside? Oh how joyful…" with a light tap on the heavy mahogany doors, the object swung opened automatically. "Hello honorable guests! Having a blast?" the Devil greeted with a grin and a death aura emitted from inside.

Back at the café, Vienne was seen idling around the kitchen preparing a cup of hot chocolate when suddenly the hanging doorbell rang signaling a presence of someone. Leaving her task at hand she went to have a look at the seating area, 'Strange, there shouldn't be anyone coming and the Devil didn't mention expecting any guests…'

Noticing a tall lady dressed in a body hugging black leather trench coat and high killer boots, Vienne stopped dead in her tracks as the said figure turned around to face her. Piercing deep rose crimson eyes gazed straight into her rainy blue ones, and the air that surrounded her chilled to the bone. Just then a flashback of her past infiltrated her mind in an instant. She froze as the memory rewind and played back like a tape recorder. All the events that lead her to the Devil, before she met the entity of darkness, when her life was a normal one shown in such realism she felt it was déjà vu all over again. 'No…I don't want to see…not again…please…Get it out of my head! No! No! No! Why the suffering again? Stop it!'

She laid on the ground, breathing shallow as blood flowed from the wound in her heart, some dripping from her red tainted lips as she lost grip of the knife held in her left hand. The physical pain was unbearable but at least it lessened the emotional ache weld up for a very long time, she didn't mind the temporary relief even as she was close to death's grip. For an eternal she felt the frustration of not knowing how to erase the hurt in her heart, until the desperation that drove her to end everything in a single suicide act. That was her last chance to release the everlasting suffering.

'All I ever wanted was just to be loved…and yet no matter what I do or how I changed myself, the denial of such a feeling towards me was always there. My parents, my family, my friends, people whom I don't know, the world…everyone seems to deny me…no one notice my existence…'

She heard the familiar voice again, "It would have been better if you were not born!" first her deranged mother who would always repeat with tears streaming down her pale worn out face. Then her father who would complain when she failed to compete or when he had an argument with her mother.

'I'm not supposed to be here…I cannot exist…I have caused them suffering…it's my fault…everything would have been better if I'm not here. Why must I exist? If only to be hated in return! I hate myself! The most spiteful person…is always me.' Silence, the unbreakable spell continued on. "Look at her, such a pretentious girl! Always acting so naïve and well-mannered. No wonder she has no personality." The betrayal of friends, those of her only contact outside of her family, she thought of as her only hope in some form of acceptance.

'I'm weak, I can't trust anyone…I don't have the courage to…I am such a coward.' A deep loneliness invaded the conscious within, a replica of her grieving shown in the reflection of her eyes. The tears overflowing like a waterfall carrying emotions of sadness and anger, of remorse for the way her life turned out. Pain shot through her head, so immense and uncontrollable to the point she was unable to stand. Dropping to her knees, Vienne lunged forward as she felt a sharp object pierced through her heart. Her scream echoed in the café.

"Evé! What are you doing?" a second presence made an appearance in the café, this time a girl with a ponytail dressed in high school uniform. She wore a red Scottish print pleated short skirt with a short sleeve black shirt and a ruby small tie around her neck, with high socks and covered shoes. "Here, wear your shades before you direct the girl to the brink of insanity." Handing a pair of sunglasses to her tall partner, she went over to have a look at Vienne. With a snap of her fingers, she awakened Vienne from the momentary trance.

"W-Who are you?"

"We are soul hunters with a special delivery for our master. Sorry about the commotion earlier, my wrong for not being cautious." With shades shielding her rose crimson eyes, Evangel kneeled beside her partner. "Thanks for the protective eyewear Val, but please refrain from reprimanding your senior in front of another. What will she think seeing a little girl giving order to a grown woman?"

"Sensibility versus ignorance, besides you should be alert among mortals. They can't stand against your powers. It's your responsibility to take precaution measure when one is around. Also I'm sixteen and five years experience ahead of you, in terms of seniority I am your superior."

"I'm just joking Val. When you said that with a straight face, it's really scary…" looking over to Vienne, Evangel smiled at the confused girl before helping her to stand. "Pardon about the confusion, I don't mean to cause you such distress. It's just that I didn't sense your presence in the first place. My name's Evangel, nice to meet you. And my partner here is Valkyrie."

The girl dressed in uniform walked up to Vienne, "Can I leave this with you? Please pass it to the master when he returns. Be careful not to drop it or lose it." Calmly she handed a mid-sized pouch to Vienne.

"By master do you mean the Devil? And may I ask what the content is inside?"

Valkyrie laughed a little at the question, "You really are an interesting girl. No wonder Lucifer favors you, a change from his usual servants. Vienne, you chose to be with the Devil and yet you refuse to acknowledge the leash on you. No matter how ironic it may seem be sure not to over do it. Angering the master is not a wise move." A smile so insincere greeted the other girl in front of her.

"My matter is of no concern of yours Miss Valkyrie," bluish grey gaze sharpened at the brown hair student.

"True, but master won't be pleased if you are hurt on our account. So as a reminder please handle these fifty souls with care, some are rather vicious if I may say." Looking straight at the pouch held in Vienne's hands, she smirked. "Let's go Evé, our job here is done."

"But Val, we just got here. Can't we at least stay for tea? I'm thirsty…" Evangel whined like a child, pulling casually at her partner's skirt. No response prompted her to try again, "Please? It's been three days straight without sleep and rest collecting all those souls! We're not robots for God's sake!"

"Of course we are not. We're just slaves for the Devil who held our soul captive until we repay our debt! Just soul hunters and nothing more…" the statement rendered Evangel to be quiet. The hurt intonation in her partner's voice surprised her. A few moment of awkward silence passed by before Valkyrie relentlessly let out a sigh, "Fine, we will rest awhile. I must be tired too."

"Yay! Vienne could you please bring us some Chamomile tea?" Evangel requested while she took a seat at a nearby round glass-top table. Sinking in comfortably into the velvet padded chair, her partner joined her at the next seat.

"Get me a mocha instead, you can put the charges on tab. Just inform Lucifer we were here." Valkyrie leaned back into her seat gazing straight at the fair beauty that stood opposite her. "Sorry if I offended you back there."

The statement took Vienne by surprise, she shook her head lightly. "Please wait a moment…" disappearing into the kitchen she went directly to the refrigerator and opened the freezer box. Inside there were a few mysterious containers in all sizes and colors, a place where Amamiya kept specially ordered ingredients and deeper into it a secret compartment where the Devil momentarily stored personal parcels received. After placing the pouch in the safe place and sealing it, Vienne closed the freezer box. 'I wonder how many more of these tormented souls will be kept here…'

"So what's gotten you in such a bad mood? It's not like you to lose your composure back there, Val." Deep rose crimson eyes searched her partner's dazed aquamarine ones behind the black shades. No answer came, but Evangel pressed on. "Come now, it's not healthy to keep everything to yourself. Share once in a while." The aquamarine orbs hid themselves behind closed lids.

"Restlessness…there's a feeling that's haunting me, I can't exactly say what is it but something is on the verge of happening."

"A bad omen?"

"Maybe, I can't be sure. As the end of the number approaches I'm…I'm afraid…" her eyes opened to a darkened gaze as she looked at her fidgeting hands on her lap. "Evé, how many more do you have in your balance?"

"Two thousand, and you've only got two more Val. Give it your best, it's your final shot at gaining–"

"Freedom, I know. But what happens after that? When the contract is finally dissolved and I got my soul back, then what? I'll go to heaven with all the sins I've committed? That's not going to happen…"

"No, but you can be reborn and live as a human again! Isn't that great? You did say you don't want to work for the master anymore, so this is what you have wanted all along. Your wish is finally coming true." Scooting closer to hold Valkyrie's hands, the tall huntress waited for a response.

"Is that really my wish? After all the chains are broken, I'll have to go through the cycle again. And live as a common mortal," she was laughing to herself in a mocking manner at that point. "At first it was the only goal I've in mind, but after witnessing how those mortals ended up as captured souls I couldn't be more bothered anymore. The sympathy that I felt for them initially, gradually lose its hold on me. And next was hatred for their own foolishness in trading their souls for personal gains, just as I was. I saw my reflection in each of them. It made me hate myself more and before long, I was incapable to hunt. My ex-partner abandoned me and then finally I decided to remove all humanity within myself. After all, the dead should not possess any living emotions. Such burdens are unnecessary."

"Val! Don't say that…you have a partner now and our mission has always been a success. Without any emotions doesn't mean you are any less humane than any human being! Emotions are born from within our hearts, you can never throw it away nor lock it deep somewhere! You may not show it physically but you can't deny that you felt it inside at times. Emotions are not limited to mortals or immortals. In fact they exist in every living being in this world, regardless of who you are."

Looking up at her current partner, she released her hands from the earlier hold. "Having a half demon giving me a lecture, Evé you are such a hypocrite. If that is the case, then why do you insist on being a full human being? What's so bad about being different when you implied every living organism are the same. As half demon you have powers and a longer life span, why change that with a contract?" Reaching for the pair of shades, Valkyrie removed them to show her partner's hypnotic eyes. "Does the ability to see past one's soul and lifetime really bother you?"

"No, but it troubles those around me." Evangel retrieved the wayfarer sunglasses from Valkyrie's grasp and wear it again. "I guess it's my punishment for pushing you to talk."

"Regretting it?"

"You must be joking. A little frustration from you won't hurt me. Besides it is good to let out all those pent up worries of yours, everything will be alright Val. You'll see," an understanding smile graced her elegant face. The little sunlight that crept through the windows shone on golden tresses of soft blond trimmed in a short sleek style, really befitting the ex-model who once graced the cover of every high-end fashion magazines. Evangel Rhodes was the envy and beloved of everyone, fans adored her on runway and fashion icons wanted her as their brand ambassador. All was well until she accidentally exposed her powers and hurt the one most important to her. The meeting with the Devil was destined as her penance.

"Is that so?" gazing at the direction where the small streak of sunlight came from, Valkyrie got up from her seat slowly and walked towards the antique frame window. "Evé, doesn't that girl intrigue you? Her contract with Lucifer, what do you think her intentions are?" she questioned while lazily looking out at by passers outside the café.

"I don't know, but I'm sure she has her own reason."

"Fear of death perhaps? But eventually she will die too when the master collects his debt. Then what's the purpose of having a contract if not for money or fame? It doesn't seem for revenge also…"

"Why are you suddenly so concern about Vienne? She reminded you of someone close? Someone similar to yourself,"

The remark piqued Valkyrie, "What are you saying? We are both very different. I entered into a contract for my own selfish reason. I wanted revenge for my brother's death and I know it can't be done with just my own strength. I needed help from a greater intervention, and my plea got answered. So now I'm reaping what I sow."

"That's just your reason to evade the truth. Val, haven't you told him yet?"

"Who are you implying?" staring back at the tall blonde's direction, Valkyrie looked serious.

"Who else, the person you have been chasing right to the underworld. You wish to see him again."

"For no other reason than the fact that he's an indirect cause to my brother's demise and nothing more…Don't get the wrong idea."

"I hear denial in your voice Val," Evangel teased as her partner warningly glared at her. "You'll miss him and you'll regret when the time comes. This is your final chance to tell him."

"What good will it does? He still holds someone dear in his heart, and even if I did open up to him I have to leave at the end. I'll only end up being hurt regardless if he accept or reject me."

"At least there won't be any regret left within you. If you want to say goodbye, you can say it in a proper manner. No holdbacks when you move on to the next life."

"You don't have to remind me that. Anyway what is important now is to get our last job done, to await the master's next assignment." Recomposing herself, Valkyrie moved back to her seat just as Vienne emerged from the kitchen carrying their drinks on a tray.

"Workaholic as usual…" Evangel slipped in the casual remark with a shrug as the drinks were placed on the table. Her partner's ability to change back into serious mode didn't surprise her anymore than the rare chances of actually seeing the veteran soul hunter display her inner thoughts out in the open. Often that stern characteristic dominated the major part of Valkyrie, particularly during missions where one absolutely can't afford to be careless lest they don't value the life line granted by the Devil and decided to go for self destruction. Even though soul hunters were not mere mortals anymore, they were still susceptible to wounds from attacks. With what little healing ability granted to them, a lethal strike proved deadly to vanish into nothingness.

The sound of bell rang throughout the café for the second time on that day. Appearing from the entrance a mysterious dark cloaked figure surprisingly drenched stepped into the compound. Instinctively both soul hunters got up from their seat and shielded Vienne behind them. "Identify yourself." the simple command spoken by Valkyrie ignored as the figure continued its stride towards the group.

With each careful step the sound of heavy boots on wood planks echoed, closer and closer until the gap of three steps between them did it halted. "You are…" a sense of familiarity prompted Vienne to voice out suddenly, the wet cover removed by the figure in a swift manner as it landed gracefully onto the floor. Short warm blonde tresses and crystallized green eyes were the noticeable traits that greeted the ladies. "Mr. Constance?" rainy blue eyes immediately became aware of the unconscious figure carried in the arms of the demon vampire.

"Oh no…Asenath! What happened to her?" Evangel rushed up to check on her injured comrade. Gashes of deep cut and bruises were apparent on the lithe body of an angelic lady with long flowing red hair, she seemed stable and soundly asleep in her current position. No sign of danger at the moment.

"She had a run in with a certain reaper on her mission, things don't go too well and I have to intercept." The gentleman faced Vienne in a calm manner, "We should lay her down for now. She needs plenty of rest to recuperate I'm afraid. The wound from a scythe is not to be taken lightly." Understanding his intention immediately, the fair beauty instructed the guest. "Follow me, there's a guestroom on the second floor where she can rest."

Evangel followed the trio up the side stairway, but not before shooting a brief glance over to her partner that remained rooted to her current position. Valkyrie was silent since the arrival of Constance, for obvious the matter of her injured friend concerned her more but the sudden presence of that individual made her immobilized. Her thoughts were frozen the moment she laid eyes on the demon vampire. The familiar gentleness in his voice alerted her of his company more than ever. She has yearned to see him, but she did rather not for the fear of going against her stand. The veteran soul hunter should have hated him like an enemy, the friend of her deceased brother who brought temptations over to the point of attracting the Devil.

The first ever meeting with Constance was brief. He was introduced as a Count and potential business partner that she remembered frequently hanging out with her brother then. Occasionally the Count would grace his appearance at the Lanson's historic mansion for short business discussions, and every time the study hall was off-limit to her.

The young girl she was then has no interest towards the secretive meetings, however she recalled well the luxury gifts the distinguish guest showered her with. From lavish dresses to fashionable accessories and handcrafted porcelain dolls, even as she deemed her fifteen year old self was too grown up for such toys. Although she has rarely spoken to the Count except for simple welcoming greetings and fond goodbyes, the gentleman had left such a deep impression within her through his kind and caring gestures.

Both her parents have passed on in her early childhood, and her only dependent then was her independent older brother. Left with the family's wealth and under the guardianship of strict grandparents, the Lanson siblings learned to only trust each other to get by the path laid out before them. The intervention of a stranger into their strong bond was unexpected, and Constance did just that. In such a short span he was accepted into their enclosed world, both brother and little sister were grateful with the presence of such an idolized person. He was like a mentor, a friend and a family member.

Then everything changed when her brother got back from London and was murdered brutally the very next day, the culprits were relatives who wanted control over the Lanson's fortune and they managed to bribe the court and hid the whole incident under the rug. She was to be sent off to boarding school or worst a mental institution, whichever that was more convenient to get rid of her.

On the night before her fate was to be decided, she tried to commit suicide. It was then she made contact with the Devil, and who else but the demon vampire was watching at the sideline throughout the process. He offered no help, no compassion even if they were acquaintances for awhile. Such hurtful feelings, and to think she would hope that he be her savior during those hardships. To be able to confide to him, to be held in his warm embrace and be told that everything will be fine, she has secretly wished that that would be her destiny. However, reality has always been cruel and vile.

She has chosen the path of destruction for revenge, to bring justice for her brother's death. Punishment was brought upon in the most torturous manner on those who wronged the Lanson siblings. Once that was done, her role as a soul hunter has officially begun and that was the last time she saw Constance. The solemn gaze he shot her was etched in her heart forever. She didn't know the meaning behind it, but she felt the ever slight sting effect hovering within her.

As it did now when she saw him again, "I guess this is good bye…" her faint whisper lingered on when she left the café. By the time Constance descended from the stairs, she was no longer there. Only her once somber presence and the summer peach scent she wore remained ever so light as with the little amount of sun ray that entered through the café's windows. "Bella please forgive me. It is not the time yet." Words so calmingly smooth yet filled with remorse subconsciously left the lips of its speaker, as the demon vampire too dissipated into thin air and disappeared from the café.

A month later in Paris,

"That's the last one Val, should we pack up and go?" looking over to her partner who stood on top of a steel railing on the observation deck in the Eiffel Tower silently gazing the midnight view of the capitol of France, Evangel waited patiently for a reply as she bent on the ground to pick up a ruby red crystal container the size of a thumb and placed it in a pouch where the results of their earlier hunt has remained.

"La Ville-Lumiere…that's what they used to call this place," her aquamarine eyes seemed to reflect the night time illumination of the scenery as Valkyrie calmly take in the relaxing breeze that brushed past her. She has never felt more at peace than her current moment.

"The city of light, you can never find a more befitting name for Paris. The view from up here says it all." Walking to her partner's side, she leaned on the railing and joined in the sight-seeing. 'I guess farewell is near for us Val, I wonder if you will miss me as your partner.' The half-demon's rose crimson eyes shifted their gaze with a questioning look towards the other soul hunter. Seconds passed as finally Valkyrie faced her partner on par. "It is time to report back to the master," turning once more to the view below her, she stopped her partner as Evangel took a step closer. "This time let me go alone Evé, hand me the souls." Her voice was firm and monotonous as she talked, while avoiding the look on the half-demon's face.

Evangel did as she was told and handed the pouch to her partner. "Then this is good-bye?"

"I'm afraid so…" the timid intonation instilled a hidden meaning.

"At least let me accompany you to the very end. We started this mission together and we should end this as a team."

"No! Let me end this on my own…you will have a new partner soon and your life as a soul hunter will continue on. It's another new beginning for you." Turning around to face her partner with a false smile, "Evé please don't make it harder than it already is, I need to do this as my end."

Determination burned in the half-demon's eyes as she stealthily hopped on the steel railing and embraced her partner strongly. "It will never be the same for me Val! You are the only one partner whom I consider as a close friend, you accepted me for who I am. You are a good friend till the very end and I'll miss you." Tears already flowed from Evangel's eyes uncontrollably as an overwhelming emotion took over her, "I can never forget you even if I wanted too, because you are that important to me. No matter where you go, you will always remain my best partner."

"Thank you Evé," tears misted over Valkyrie's eyes as she fought hard not to cry while patting lightly on her partner's back. "I'll always remember you too and you are a great partner to be with, thank you for everything you've done. For having such patience with me…" clear liquid substances released from their confines were flowing freely, carrying along unspeakable hidden emotions with them. The sadness, gratefulness, and love poured out from her as she savored the intimate feeling of being held, of being treasured by a friend she fought along with. Reminiscing back it was like a long endless journey to self redemption, but was to end soon.

After a few moments, both stopped sobbing and tried to regain control of their emotional breakdown. "Take care Val, and remember it is not the end for you." Smiling brightly for her dear friend, Evangel knew that Valkyrie's stubbornness couldn't be argued so she did her best in saying farewell. This was to be their last meeting for a very long time.

"See you next time!" pushing her friend gently away, Valkyrie jumped off from her spot and disappeared through a summoned portal to take her where her supposed final destination should be – the Devil's lair.

'Thank you so much Evangel…thank you…' those were the words that ran through her mind as she took the plunge. Not saying a direct 'good-bye' was the best she could do, at least a hope would still live within her no matter where she might end up.

Arriving at the familiar grounds of the underworld castle, she moved swiftly passed hallways to reach a door to a designated room known as Judgment Hall. A few brief knocks on the heavy door and it opened invitingly on its own, she felt a bone-chilling breeze but continued to take a step inside. Darkness and endless pitch black greeted her attendance, the place was a void, and nothing existed. She was used to it, the Devil would take its stride forward and she would greet her master. Somehow for an unknown reason fear began to form within the depth of her heart, her senses were disturbed and unstable. She was confused, it shouldn't happen.

"Isabella Lanson," shocked to hear her real name after such a long time she searched frantically for the source of the voice. "Bella…" turned around she was surprised to find the person who called her, and behind that figure she saw the one she missed most. Tears welled up immediately in her eyes once again as happiness has truly shown up before her.

"Brother!" running towards the two most beloved people in her life, she was welcomed with a warm tender embrace. At that moment she felt all of the suffering and burden lifted off her, and peace has claimed her in its entirety. She was happy and that was all that mattered, she didn't care what would happen next as long as the contentment she possessed does not leave her side ever.

"Welcome back, Bella."

"I'm home…Constance."

Soul Hunters / END

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