Koyl Kumonov stared at the suspicious rain that poured outside the windows of the airport terminal. He was still in the reception area and should have been heading deeper inside to find the waiting area for his flight, but he knew that was useless. Countless people had poured into the airport to avoid the weird weather outside, so it was more crowded than ever before. Koyl could hardly shift his weight without bumping into someone. Getting from one place to another was nigh on impossible, worse than navigating through a big convention or mall during the height of attendance. Either way, no planes would be lifting off with such an irregularity outside.
“Is he picking up?”
Gabriella Kumonov shook her head as she handed the phone back to her husband.
“Are you sure it was him who called?”
“So says the caller ID. He probably called because he’s worried, but that doesn’t explain why he hung up. He knows where we are, so I figured he would have come by to find us.”
“What should we do? I don’t like the idea of driving in this rain, but I’m starting to get worried. Maybe we should go out and look for him.”
Koyl shook his head. He knew that wouldn’t work out. The odds of finding someone by randomly driving along the streets were low. On top of that, there was doubtlessly chaos in the parking garage with people trying to leave the area in a panic. Sitting and waiting things out was the best thing to do for their own safety, but that didn’t help their mental fatigue caused by worry.
“Vasil’s smart. If he’s in danger, he’ll find a way to safely deal with it.”
Koyl wanted to say more to comfort his wife, but he quickly became distracted by the commotion that was starting up around them. People began to press in against them in order to make room for a group of people who came through the entrance and cut straight through the middle. Koyl felt Gabriella slip her fingers into his, gripping tightly to make sure they didn’t get separated by chance. Koyl took advantage of his superior height to gaze over the shoulders and heads of the people around him and see what was going on. A swarthy man with straight black hair pulled into a short ponytail (Was he Indian? Native American? It was hard to tell) led a group of men who were probably EMS workers, pushing a small cart filled with little bottles filled with what may have been water.
“Good morning, everyone! Could you please bring anyone with a golden symbol on their forehead forward, please? These men will quickly purge their bodies of whatever is in them, so please don’t fret. Those of you who were caught in the sudden downpour are advised to wash off the rain as soon as they can—we have wet cloths and spare clothes for you here, as well as a hose outside; under cover, of course. There shouldn’t be any lasting effects, but please come forward if you have any questions or concerns. Thank you all for you time.”
There was an immediate rush of movement, mostly people wanting to wash themselves off as soon as possible. The EMS workers patiently insisted that the people with the golden symbols emblazoned on their foreheads be brought forward and treated first. Koyl pushed through the crowd of people to reach the dark-skinned man, pulling Gabriella along with him. He found his target standing away from the crowd in front of an elderly lady who had the red symbol on her forehead, her entire body limp. Considering how all of the others like her were still standing with their heads lolled back, as if held up by a piano string, it was fairly impressive that her concerned family had been able to get her to sit down at all. The dark skinned man gently coaxed her to drink the liquid in the bottle he held, letting it drool down her throat. Light slowly returned to her eyes and she began blinking, showing that her conscious had returned. The man murmured something under his breath quietly—probably a prayer—and then raised his hand, rubbing it across her forehead. The symbol easily smudged off, as if it were a pencil mark.
“Excuse me.” Koyl tapped the man on the shoulder to get his attention as soon as he’d finished politely accepting the family’s gratitude and stepping away. “Do you have a moment? I have a few questions.”
“I’m a priest from the Church who volunteered to help out.” The response was almost immediate and given with a light tone. “My name is Uzumel. We’ve already gone through the other places where people have gathered along the way here. Other than that, I don’t think there’s much more I can tell you about the general situation.”
Koyl felt the doubt that appeared on his face. The way this man acted, it was pretty obvious that he was more involved than a simple ‘volunteer’, but those details weren’t really the issue to begin with.
“I was wondering if you’d seen my grandson along my way here. He’s well-built in a lean way and has this intimidating expression on his face all the time—he gets sharp eyes from his mother. He may come across as a joyless young adult. He has the same hair as me and his skin is just as pale.”
“I didn’t see anyone like that taking cover anywhere.”
Koyl felt Gabriella quake with worry beside him. It looked like they might really have to head out and look.
“I wouldn’t, if I were you.” Uzumel looked right into Koyl’s eyes. “The rain might be mostly harmless, but it’s still pretty dangerous out there.”
This man could read his mind?
“Are you talking about the flames in the sky?”
“I am. Until that thing is gone, no one should go back out into the rain.”
“So he says.” Koyl patted Gabriella’s shoulder in surrender. “We’ll have to wait it out.”
Gabriella nodded quietly, looking as if she didn’t have the energy to bother protesting. Uzumel observed her for a moment before a grin appeared on his face.
“I’ll look around the places your son would be in danger in. If I don’t return with him or with bad news, you can assume the best, right?”
“He’s my grandson, actually. But you don’t have to do that—”
“It’s fine. No trouble at all. It’s my job, after all.”
The priest named Uzumel waved nonchalantly in farewell while shrugging of Gabriella’s protests, heading straight for the exit while easily weaving through the crowd of people in the reception area. Koyl frowned after him, trying to make sense of the strange feeling in his gut. What bothered him so much about that guy? He certainly seemed sincere and Koyl didn’t feel like he was lying. Was that it? Was it really so weird that a person could candidly tell the truth and expect nothing in return for their kindness, and yet smile so normally?
Was that even a normal smile at that point?
Not all rivers were fresh water. There were also some that were brackish with their higher salinity content. So even though it was normal to assume ‘river water’ was fresh water, free of any salt, that didn’t necessarily have to be true all the time.
This miscellaneous fact floated through Vasil’s mind as he drew back quickly, wiping away the salt on his hand. His attack had been blocked by a wall of salt that had literally spawned from the air, forming between him and the woman sitting on the lounge chair. From the corner of his eyes, he’d seen the rain around him act strangely, so he was sure that a lot of the salt had been drawn from there. But from the looks of it, the salt had also moved to fuse with the sidewalk and nearby road, as if by mistake. Vasil assumed it was from the road salt. This demigod’s ability wasn’t very precise, it seemed.
The person in question leaned forward, crossing her legs and smiling at Vasil with a spark of interest on her face.
“You’re pretty violent. I wasn’t trying to tease you—my offer was serious.”
“If that was it, I would have ignored it.” Vasil muttered irritably as he began to circle around the woman. “If I refused, that would be the end of it. But I don’t know how the other one will respond.”
“I can’t let you use the people in the airport as a hostages.”
That made the woman laugh. She hopped up from her seat, fishing pole still in hand, and knocked away the wall of salt beside her, letting it topple to the ground. Now that she was standing, Vasil noticed that she had a great figure. Her wet sundress pressed to her soft body to display all of her feminine curves. But Vasil knew that physical stature didn’t mean much when it came to demigods.
“That was not the logic I was expecting, but oh well. Can’t win ‘em all, I guess. So I guess the regular rules will have to do. After I force you into submission, you’ll have to work for me either way.”
The woman pointed the edge of her fishing pole at Vasil and Vasil tensed his body in preparation to move quickly once more once he saw an opening to target. The woman paused for a moment and cocked her head as if listening to something.
“...Oh, right. Introduction. Thanks for the reminder.”
Her eyes refocused on Vasil.
“My name is Luna Taubes. What’s yours?”
Vasil frowned in disapproval.
“I don’t want to tell my name to an enemy. It’s reckless.”
“Just tell me your first name, then. Do I really look like the sort to go and attack your family after this?”
“...Call me Vasil.”
“Okay then, Vasil. Show me what you got.”
Luna slashed her fishing pole through the air in what seemed to be a useless attack at this distance, but Vasil’s eyes locked onto the hook connecting to the fishing line and cleanly evaded with a simple side step. He immediately moved in, closing the distance between them with his hands gripped for a merciless punch. Luna ignored his advance entirely, pulling her fishing pole back to jerk the tip up as if she was reeling in a fish she’d caught. Vasil anticipated where the hook would come fro, based on where he’d left it and how she’d pulled on it and prepared to evade without turning, but he picked up a strange sound behind him that should implied that something else was coming his way.
With no time to waste, Vasil flickered his fingers behind him and willed everything behind him to stop.
And everything did stop. The sound of raining disappeared completely and the raindrops stopped falling. All of them. Including the irregular ones that flew horizontally like a wall of flechettes aiming to pierce his back. Luna shifted her grip on her fishing pole across its shaft and thrust it forward at Vasil’s head once he was within range, but he evaded by shifting his entire body while running, letting him ‘fall’ to the side without stopping his own momentum. This put him right underneath her swing, in her blind spot. Of course, the salt from the rain and road quickly gathered to form another shield, but Vasil wasn’t aiming for a contact blow this time. He through his open palm forward, stopping it right before the wall of salt that appeared. A brief moment passed in silence before the belated shockwave rang out, slamming into Luna’s fragile body and sent her several feet up into the air with a spin.
Vasil capitalized immediately. He stepped around the wall of salt and catapulted himself into the air with another shockwave, placing himself right next to Luna in midair.
Luna clicking her tongue was fully audible to him at this close range as she used her spin to bring her fishing rod slashing around, bringing what seemed to be a blade of salt spiraling around her like a rotor blade. The human body would be easily cut apart at this range and velocity, even if the salt wasn’t properly packed together to be a single solid—clearly she was used to close combat. But Vasil had anticipated a responsive move like this. He calmly pursed his lips and breathed out, letting out a high pitched whistle that split the air. The salt blades shattered harmlessly, letting Vasil reach out with his free hand as Luna’s shocked eyes widened further.
Vasil’s hand came into contact with Luna’s shoulder and a cracking sound rang loudly as they fell toward the ground once more. Vasil landed gently in complete silence and the sound of falling rain echoed through the air once more right after, as if on a cue. Luna slammed the butt of her fishing rod into the ground first to slow her fall, shattering the asphalt along the way. She leaned against her fishing pole for support, her breathing somewhat shallow from the pain of her fractured shoulder.
Vasil had made the right decision. In this rain, he couldn’t get the oscillations right, not with all the ‘noise’ around him. He’d be forced into close combat, but he’d be equally in danger if he used frequencies meant for human flesh at that range. What’s worse, the fishing rod carried a lot more power that it should have. He’d managed to neutralize the second biggest threat before she could even use her advantage against him—before she could even reason what his limits were, even. She was certainly used to fighting, but she didn’t seem to be particular good at it.
“You won’t be able to swing that pole around properly with that shoulder. Do you still intend to continue?”
“So now you’re getting belligerent?” Luna showed a contrary grin. “I’m still plenty capable without being able to swing this tool.”
“Not as much as you like. A demigod of the sea is limited to salt water. You’re barely managing by extracting the salt from your somewhat salty surroundings. You can barely control this rain, I’m sure. Is it because of the plasma?”
“Who knows?” The look on her face was barely enough. She was regretting her recklessness now. “Why is a demigod like you hanging around in a city like this to begin with? Whose demigod are you?”
“Any idiot who goes around attracting the attention of others deserves to be hunted down and killed by the Twelve of Apostles. If you’re the curious type with a loose tongue, it’s probably safer to just silence you now. Permanently.”
A bluff, of course. He just needed to scare her enough that her own life outweighed her pride. Before he could receive a response, the lighting overhead changed. Vasil looked up to see the flaming dome in the sky shrinking back and fading away, disappearing from sight. No sooner was it gone than did the rain abruptly stop as well, almost as if in response to its source vanishing. Not that there was any proof that the rain had been coming from there.
When Vasil returned his gaze to Luna, he found that she’d smartly taken the opportunity to retreat.
But still, what had even happened to start all of this?
“Well, well. That was quite the supernatural event. Scientists and researchers everywhere are going to have a field day trying to explain this. What do you think? What sort of atmospheric phenomena do you think they’ll come up with?”
Someone casually called out to Vasil from nearby, but it wasn’t the voice of anyone he knew. Vasil was strongly partial to just walking away at that moment. He was not interested in another tiresome problem to deal with. Especially not two in a day. But he knew better. Ignoring something like that could be a fatal mistake. Better to nip it in the bud now than let it screw things up at a worse time.
So he reluctantly turned toward the source of the voice.
What he saw was a swarthy skinned man who was regarding him with a smile that didn’t reach his eyes.
“Who are you?”
“Uzumel.” The man responded readily. “A priest.”
“And you came to talk to me because?”
“Honestly—No one in your family can remember the face of one of the pastors involved in your own relatives’ funeral. Sure, I was one among many, but I was there. I came all the way from Indiana, you know.”
As if Vasil could be bothered to remember the name and face of someone he didn’t expect to ever see or meet again.
“And what do you want with me? I don’t need condolences. Those won’t bring back the dead.”
“Do you want to know what happened here today?”
Vasil had tried to scare off this thirty-something year old man with harsh words, but he was met with directness that completely washed away Vasil’s hostility. What replaced it was sheer suspicion.
“...How on earth would you know what happened?”
“I kind of watched it happen. It might be hard to believe, but it’s probably a manmade phenomenon.”
“Yep. I saw some weirdos by the roundabout just before all this happened. I don’t know if it was for some movie or scientific experiment, but one of them definitely looked like an actor with a handsome face. The other one was wearing a pretty elaborate costume. You’d probably know him when you see him just with that description. I plan to go check out the scene again to see if they’re still there. Want to come?”
As if. Vasil was absolutely confident that one of them was dead. He didn’t know which one, but one had to be the demigod who started all of this and the other was the Apostle who put an end to it. Running into an Apostle now, in the outdoors, without a drop of ‘rain’ on him, was a one way ticket to getting himself killed.
“I have errands to run and I’m sure my sister is waiting for me to make breakfast for her. You can go, but that’s none of my business.”
“Well aren’t you an unfriendly person.” Uzumel said. “Sending me off alone to greet total strangers.”
And the two of them were supposed to be friends? Vasil was already feeling uncomfortable with Uzumel’s friendly speech habits. Without offering another word, Vasil turned on his heel and headed off in the direction of home.