DEATH SULKED MOODILY from the armchair in his living room, a bag of ice in his hands, nursing the wound on his eye. To his right sat his three brothers, two of which were roaring with hysterical laughter while the last sat furthest away, a book in hand and completely uninterested in their conversation.
“Well, that went well, didn’t it?” Conquest ridiculed, clutching at his belly while shaking his head. His words spilled with poorly kept chuckles, all barely suppressed. “Not only did you spectacularly fail at bringing Addison Pilediah to Hell, but you’ve also got yourself injured, destroyed whatever trust she might have for you in the future, and also gave the poor girl some nightmares that could possibly last for the rest of her life.” He listed the points off one by one, checking them off using his fingers.
“It could’ve worked,” War tried to argue. Nevertheless, he was still wearing a shit-faced grin, one which was starting to irritate Death. “If she had never discovered that our dear brother was pretending to be Cassiel, she might’ve agreed to it.”
Conquest shook his head. Snowy white hair swayed by the sides of his face as he moved like snowflakes in the light winter wind.
“I told you guys from the start that it will never work. And even if it did, she will be horrified when she finds out she had been tricked. It was a failed plan from the very beginning.”
“Shut up,” Death hissed between clenched teeth. Blood trickled a little from under the bag of ice, his wound agitated. “If she had willingly followed, we wouldn’t be in such a mess right now.”
“Correction.” Famine slammed his book shut with his two palms before laying it on the coffee table in the center of their living room. Leaning back on his seat, he folded his arms across his chest. “If you hadn’t wiped her memories during her childhood years, we wouldn’t be in such a mess right now.”
Death frowned. “It was for her safety. If I hadn’t done so, I would’ve had to bring her here when she was still a child. No child belongs in Hell.”
The laughter in the room died down at Death’s words. All four heads hung solemnly, various faces flitting through their minds. There were plenty of children in Hell, all through circumstances that were less than desirable. Unfortunately, most of them died to reasons relating to at least one of the four brothers.
They were harbingers of the apocalypse, after all, not angels that save and rescue. Their job exposed them to one disaster after another. At the helm of it all was their leader, the spirit of death. All mortal lives are short. Sooner or later, Death greets them.
“So what are you going to do now?” Conquest asked, his voice much softer. His head was still slightly bowed down, elbows resting on his knees as he stared at the colorful rug which sprawled under the coffee table, mindlessly tracing the patterns with his eyes. “We can’t give up. And even if we can, there’s no way you will give up so easily.”
All three brothers trained their eyes on Death.
The dark-haired man slowly lowered his hand which held the bag of ice, resting it on his thigh for a moment. Droplets of condensation dripped from the bag, seeping through his pants and onto his skin but he couldn’t properly feel the thrilling frost. Even though the cold that seeped through might make a warm living body jump, Death was as his name.
How could the dead still feel the same sensations as the living?
Flinging the bag onto the table, all four brothers watched as it slid, leaving a trail of clear liquid across the dark wood. With the obstruction gone, both of Death’s eyes could be clearly seen again. They were round orbs of metal, swirling pools of silver that sparkled in the light but held secrets in shadows. It had always been difficult to read his mind. Though the eyes were windows to one’s soul, Death had always kept his window tightly locked, the key thrown away. If anybody wanted to know his thoughts, there was only one way to find out.
Depending on his mood, he might answer.
Bracing himself with the armrest of the chair, Death stood to his feet, towering at his full height. He turned, crossing the room towards where Famine sat before walking beyond, only stopping once he reached the cupboard near the door. A single golden lock kept the doors barred shut, intricate carvings doing nothing to reveal the mystery behind the contents.
However, it was a secret that the whole family kept.
While none of the servants nor the residents of Hell knew what was inside that famed cupboard of Death’s, the four brothers knew very clearly of its contents.
With a wave of his hand, a click sounded from the lock before it fell open, dropping into Death’s opened and readied palms. He caught the golden lock swiftly before stuffing it into the pocket of his coat, opening the doors with a slight creak. Immediately, a wave of wails reverberated across the room, loud and piteous, almost as if they were wordlessly begging for help.
Laid on all the shelves from top to bottom were glass jars, each tightly corked and sealed. Inside each jar was a gender-neutral humanoid shape, the ‘hair’ floating around their ‘faces’, completely unaffected by the effects of gravity. There were no clear features on their ‘faces’, a mere doll with no eyes, no lips, and no distinct personality. Meanwhile, they had no obvious legs. The lower half of their bodies simply molded into one tail like that of a snake’s. The mannequin-like figures in the glass jars were all a pale green in color, glowing softly with a beat that resembled a beating human heart. It grew bright before dimming, bright before dimming, continuing the cycle ceaselessly.
On each jar, there was at least a single crack in the glass. Through the cracks, the wails leaked through, trailing into the room once the cupboard doors were thrown open. A total of twenty jars were kept locked inside, one for each year ever since Death had started his project.
“It’s getting worse,” Conquest commented with a sigh.
“It wasn’t as loud last year when you last checked the jars,” War agreed with a shake of his head.
“So?” Twisting his body so that he could meet Death’s gaze, Famine rested his head on his hand, asking. “What are you going to do now? He will definitely make a move now that we’ve forced him into a corner.”
“And we ought to be smart about it,” added Conquest. His face darkened ominously, warning, “Cornered beasts are the most violent of them all.”
“What else can we do? We act first, of course. Lady luck favors the bold,” answered War.
“Wilhelm is right.”
Death’s eyes were still glued on the glass jars, checking each crack to make sure they were still salvageable, checking each figure to make sure they still had time. That was what they needed most, ironically. Despite their immortal life spans, they were always out of it.
Returning the lock to its rightful place, Death clicked it shut, effectively cutting off the stream of cries that came from inside the glass jars. With the cupboard doors shut and locked, the room was plunged back into silence. Only the crackling of the logs in the fireplace could be heard.
Turning around, Death wore a daring smirk. In the red light of the fire, his gray eyes seemed to take on its shade.
“We act as soon as possible with a counter of our own. It is time, brothers, to start round two.”