Smiling in the Face of Hell

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Chapter 10

The morning sun of Hell burned metaphorical holes in her skull as she groaned loudly, turning away from it’s brightness that seemed far brighter than she recalled it really was.

Her movement had something else at her back shifting, making her pause as she flipped onto her other side to eye the other one in the room that was knocked out.

The night came rushing back at her like a freight train.

After the poison incident, Lionel took it upon himself to try hard to push himself to the point of passing out before he could really devour Scout. Although that was a short disappointment, she still remembered how clearly he made his point without even having to jump the gun. Although he did not go all the way with her, he still made her feel things she never felt before and it was a wild ride all on it’s own, she just could not possibly imagine what he could do to her when he was at his best and went all the way. That was definitely something she oddly looked forward to, but would never dare let Lionel know.

Scout eyed his relaxed features enjoying the sight. His brows were furrowed in that permanent light scowl he seemed to have at all times, even when he relaxed and smiled with her it was still there, probably a habit from hundreds of years of making sure to look as mean as possible.

He was on his side, facing Scout, one arm slung over her bare waist.

Soon she found her body ached straight from her core and a headache was threatening to split her skull if she did not do something about it soon.

She never felt this kind of pain before, she felt as if she did the most intense CrossFit session for the first time in her life and pushed her muscles past their limits, and her head just felt as if she smashed it multiple times against a hard wall for hours.

With a groan she pressed her palms to her eye sockets, trying to relieve the pressure that seemed to just pulsate under every inch of her skin.

Scout then stiffened as she felt something, a different kind of pressure poking at the edge of her thoughts. It was a strange feeling, especially with the thundering thumping her brain was doing.

It took her multiple moments to find that whatever was poking at the edge of her mind was standing right outside the door.

Great, uninvited guests, she inwardly complained looking down at Lionel, finding him still out like a broken light. She somehow felt like he never got rest like this, so she did not want to wake him when he seems so relaxed.

It was clear whoever it was was not there for him anyways. Scout rolled away, covering Lionel as she stood, making her way over to the closet quietly, finding what Johan had mentioned yesterday with an additional space for new clothes that somehow strangely looked like a perfect fit for Scout and her new body.

She was sure it was not hard to get her clothes, she seemed to fit in Lionel's own clothes somewhat, with only a little space to spare, she was much smaller as a human, but after the change, she grew tall and somewhat lanky, thankfully not too much so that she looked unhealthy.

She found that most, if not all of the clothes, were light coloured, mostly white and cream, she wondered if he could not think of any other colour to get her.

She grabbed the closest thing which was a long elegant gown, another consistent in the variety, it was mostly gowns and dresses, she was going to have to do some major work on this selection, she was not going to go commando with dresses for the rest of her life. The floor length loose dress with cool thin gold metal embroidery along the collar and at the ends of the flared sleeves, as well as a large open back that was nothing but more gold metal, decorated like lace.

The idea of putting actual metal in clothing like this seemed like a doomed idea, but it was clear this was not her average every day gold, since it was solid, it still was flexible and did not jab at her skin nor did it bend and stay bent, it was fluid and movable like any other type of cloth, but was cool to the touch, heavy and still hard like metal.

She was going to have to play around with that logic later as she stepped over to the door and whipped it open with no warning, once again placing herself right in the way of any view of Lionel who was still sleeping.

The poking immediately stopped as she stepped out, swiftly closing the door behind her before eyeing the tall Guo who stood with unchanging expression, acting as if he was not just trying to poke his way into her thoughts from the other side of a door, thinking he was being sneaky.

“Can I help you, Guo,” she said, her voice unforgiving, letting her annoyance with his presence shine through in her tone.

Her pounding head did not particularly help keep her attitude either as she seemed to no longer have any filter, one wrong move and Scout will undoubtedly send this man through a wall if he tested her.

“I have come to get the King to return to work, he disappeared yesterday and never came back, there is still quite a long line.”

She tilted her head to crack her neck, trying to relieve the pressure, unintentionally adding to that look of great annoyance towards Guo as she spoke,” look, Guo, do me a favor, I will get Lionel over there as soon as he wakes, I won’t let him skip too much work, so in the meantime, go ahead and stay away and stop inviting yourself over here, cause if you can’t tell, I really dislike you, and I am in no mood to talk calmly with your stick up the ass self.”

“With all due respect-”

Scouts hand shot out, grabbing the man by the jaw, effectively shutting him up as she leaned in a little close with a lowered voice,” Lionel is not here to stop me this time, now let’s get one thing straight here, buddy, when I tell you to do something, don’t you dare try and talk back to me, do you understand? You see, I am ignoring two very interesting facts, one being that you were carelessly trying to poke around my mind for who knows what. You know as much as I that it’s not particularly a law that forbids such a thing here, but I will just let you know I will not be so nice to you next time I feel you trying, do you understand,” she asked, feeling him stiffen, but his face unchanging.

“Second thing I would like to point out, no one is welcome here for the time being, that means the servants as well, so that means you not only let yourself in, but you let yourself in knowing you were uninvited.”

Suddenly, he unexpectedly fought back kicking free from her grip, to fly back, far back enough for her not to be able to grab him again, but not too far away to be safe from other things.

She then knew what Lionel meant when he said he was challenging him, because she suddenly felt the tingle of his clear challenge, it was clear as day. This was how there was a difference, this was the kind of defiance that was protected by the law, she felt it. This feeling was nothing like the feeling that Theodor had yesterday which got him killed. That was the only thing that had Scout holding back and not giving Guo the same fate.

“Guo, buddy,” she began, attempting to ease his situation, feeling somewhat forgiving that moment, maybe she felt pity that he actually wanted to challenge her, because she was more willing to overlook his cocky attitude than she was before.

However he seemed to be done with listening to her,“ I will take no more of your nonsense, it is my job to make sure the King does his job, that transcends any petty attempt at keeping me away, now let me through to the King.”

Scout had to commend his courage, but throwing down a challenge like that can only excuse him from so much,” you see Guo, you are in no place to talk back to your Queen, one,” she began, grinning wickedly,” and if you really think I am going to let you throw around orders just because you have challenged me and my seat, judging by your attitude, you know that ‘challenging the seat’ lets you get away with a lot of things, but since you have yet to actually challenge Lionel has me wondering if you are just taking advantage of the law that protects you from being punished for acting out of line, tell me, am I wrong?”

She measured Guo’s reaction and found he was great at hiding his reaction, but looking past his outer shell she was able to sense his riot of messy emotions. It was a brief peek before he caught on and shoved her back out, no longer able to sense such things anymore. He must have had one hell of a wall up around his mind.

“I show my true intentions so that it is no shock when I make my move.”

Scout tilted her head to the side thoughtfully,” that is a terrible strategy to tell your enemy what you are planning. Try again,” she pressed, inviting him a second chance to explain himself.

“I do not need to explain myself to you, now if you will, let me pass.”

Scout crossed her arms, shaking her head,” you just do not get it, do you?”

Guo scrunched his brow but before he could respond Scout put her hand up,” pressing a challenge to save you from speaking out of turn may fly for Lionel, but you see, it will not for me. You may have shown retaliation towards me in the heat of the moment, but you and I both know that even if you wanted to, you can not attack me, nor does your challenge mean anything to me.”

Guo once again stiffened, glaring as she continued,” I am Lionel’s soulwoman, which means I am off limits. You cannot challenge both me and Lionel, you can only do one of us, and you already challenged Lionel, therefore, I am instantly off limits for this ‘challenge’ no matter what. We both know the only way to properly relieve that Challenge is to be killed by your efforts in the Challenge. For you to carelessly take the challenge off of Lionel to challenge me now just to save your hide only proves that you are only pressing on the challenge law to save yourself from punishment for your careless and disrespectful attitude whenever you please. Therefore, your challenge is now eliminated and you no longer hold that privilege to challenge either of us, something I, as your Queen, have every right to do.”

He clearly did not think she was smart enough to actually figure all that out, he being the few who actually know about her being a fresh demon, he did not think she learned such things, but as Lionel said, she absorbed all of his knowledge on Hell and it’s laws already, and she knew them. That also showed a boatload of his personality trying to take advantage of his Queen by trying to outsmart her.

The second she said it, was the moment the tickle of a challenge left her senses, his right to challenge either of them had been blocked until she thought he deserved the right back.

She waited for his ‘will all due respect’ blabbering, but got nothing but silence from him, his face hard.

Scout blinked, putting her hands up in question,” why aren’t you talking now? Not so confident that you can outsmart your Queen? Disappointed I’m not some idiot like you thought I was?”

The man reluctantly ducked his head,” no ma’am, I never thought you were an idiot,” he ground out.

His anger from actually having to show respect fueled her inner fire, she loved it,” Oh, your chance to suck up to me is long past, don’t try and lie to me,” she said with a scoff as she grinned,” oh it must hurt so bad to have to be put back into place, doesn’t it. It’s been how long for you? Only 412 years and 97 days since the last time you were in this position,” she watched him get even more irritated with her words, annoyed that she found out, from Lionel unknowingly the day before, that he has played this game with Lionel for 400 years and Lionel did not care to fix it cause he found no point. Scout wasn’t going to stick her head into it and let him have his way, but the moment he tried the same thing with her, she was quick to put him in his place, knowing without a doubt after that his challenges were nothing, because he knew Lionel was too prideful to kill him on the spot and let him have his ways. It must hurt to have such a ‘foul proof’ plan backfire when a woman showed up.

She loved it.

“Now, back to what I was saying, I will take care of making sure Lionel makes it to work, you can go ahead and find your way out, and remember you are not welcome in this house without permission.”

“Yes, my Queen,” Guo ground out, turning and actually doing as she said and not arguing, leaving immediately.

Scout huffed as she turned and opened the bedroom door, only to find Lionel sitting up, smiling from the bed.

She wondered if she will hit a wall with his patience, she has already done so much, she wondered if she was ruining all he had going on here by making changes like she was doing without even asking him about them first.

Lionel then laughed, telling her what she already knew, it seemed there was less of a wall between their minds the longer they were together just as he had said, she had no doubt by the end of this day he would be able to hear each and every single passing thought of hers.

“I do not mind your changes, I do not particularly care about anyone who angers or upsets you so if you wish them to be gone then I have no problem with it. So far your changes are all very nice and refreshing, just look at the garden. You had no control over that, sure, but I still would have never seen such a thing without the Tree favoring you and changing it for you. With you here, I no longer need something like Guo entertaining me and crawling up my ass anymore, so although it was fun while it lasted, I no longer need him anyways,” he said only addressing a few of the more recent changes she made verbally.

She felt his contentment with everything and knew without him speaking further that he didn’t care about all the things in his home that she broke so far that have been fixed already anyway, didn’t care for his whole house of servants she unintentionally dismissed. He didn’t hate that she promised Guo that she would make him work because he already knew even without Guo, she would do it anyways. He didn’t particularly care about her making him let Pers go before. He actually loved it when she told him what to do, even though she thought for sure because of simply the fact he was a King that he would hate it, but he truly just did not at all. He truly just did not mind anything that she has done since she got there, whether intentional or not.

She stared at his eyes, not looking elsewhere as he threw the covers off of him and casually strolled over to her, completely nude,” so you knew he was taking advantage of the law just to talk back to you and he had no real intentions of fighting you for real?”

Lionel nodded,” of course, I let it happen because it was fun to watch, he always put up a fight but always lost anyway, so I did not let him get away with everything, I just wanted someone to talk to me without looking at the ground and not speaking their minds, it’s hard to find such curious creatures here and it was boring enough down here to let it happen.”

Scout nodded slowly,” so I got rid of your little friend? Sorry ’bout that,” she apologized as he grinned, shaking his head.

“No, not at all, demons like him come and go on occasion, he was just the only one who stuck around and played by the rules of the Challenge law just so he got to get away with all his disrespect. As I said, I lost my need for him years ago and his attitude never did change so it was getting boring anyway. I am honestly surprised you felt the challenge shift to you so easily, your learning power is out of this world, not to mention you recited law right back at him,” he mused as he leaned over to press a warm kiss to her forehead, a safe and calmer gesture than that of which he showed last night.

He really did have outstanding control and even had a sense of when it was appropriate to go farther than that. She had no standing proof of course, but she trusted what she saw the few days she had been there.

With that he stepped around her to get some clothes, seemingly had something on his mind to do,” lets go to the surface,” he blurted, making her turn to raise a brow as he quickly dressed in something a little more modern looking, with what looked like jeans she never realized he had, and a plane grey v neck shirt.

“The surface? Like back on earth? I can leave Hell?”

Lionel snickered as he approached Scout to put his hands on her waist,” Yes Scout, you are now a demon so you are free to go where you please, you have no real chain to Hell like myself and everyone else, so you have far more freedom than even me, I am willing to bet even Heaven would be alright with letting you in, but who wants to go there,” he scoffed, all on his own, thinking she might actually want to do such a thing. She wondered if he heard her wondering if she could leave or not before, which was why he suddenly was all up for going to the world of the humans so easily. Somehow she did not ever think that was an option for him to do such a thing, but from somewhere deep in her brain, it reminded her that those of royalty, so the King and the seven princes, were generally given somewhat of a free roam the surface, they just could not cause anyone harm or approach Heaven without prior permission and prep from the King.

She did not fight it at all, she had been wanting to take a breather for a while. The constant reminder that she did not truly even belong in Hell had her wanting to step out and just get away from it all. How much things had been bothering her she felt as if she had been down there for years already but no, two days tops and it was already proven to be too much for her to handle, this was going to much harder than she ever wished it was.

“Scout, it’s alright to feel that way, you don’t need to think it, just tell me when you are feeling like things are too much, its to be expected and I’m not cruel enough to lock you down here and make you suffer,” he said gently, essentially inviting her to be more open to share her thoughts when she gets uncomfortable or needs a break.

“It’s only been two days, it’s impossible to just come out and complain about things because I can assure you I have many complaints, but I never had someone to talk to much less confide in my problems before so sharing things like that by myself with my own mouth will be hard. And speaking of not talking, when am I going to get clear peeks into your thoughts,” she accused, having yet to hear or see anything except what he wanted her to.

Lionel grinned as he took her hand and turned from her to stare at the nearest wall of the room, where she saw a familiar circular portal show up,” don’t worry, when you get stronger it will come around, my walls are very tall and strong, and for a good reason, as you felt for yourself Guo is not the only one who tries to take a peek in my head, I need to make sure no one can see anything. I have had years of practice and building so my wall is beyond what I even need it to be, while yours is pretty tall as well, courtesy of the Council, it’s only enough to keep the average demons out. So about Guo level and lower.”

She wondered why she did not know this like she seemed to know other things without even asking, was her strange learning powers that botched?

“So the Princes can see in my head,” she asked, eyeing Lionel as he smiled down at her, leading her through the portal.

It was a strange but familiar feeling, the only difference was there was a noticeable shift in the temperature from the other side.

When she glanced around to get an idea on where they even were she only saw walls of what seemed to be a stone basement from a very old fashioned place. She did not even see what was above her, but the old and vintage look of the brick walls around she felt like that alone gave her quite a solid guess on what the rest of whatever building they were in was like.

Then there was the smell, she was greeted with the strange smell of moldy wet rocks and a hint of wood rot that she guess must have been coming from somewhere above.

“I did not think I would feel almost happy to smell mold,” she mused under her breath, shaking her head when she found herself in a strange moment of appreciating the smell as if she once took it for granted. She was acting like she hasn’t been on earth for centuries, was she just being that extra? Or was all the change that she went through in only 2 days really affected her that hard and fast that she wished for normality again before giving anything else a chance.

No matter how much she thought she could deal with things, it was clear that not being at all prepared was what lead to her very quick fall.

Who in their right mind would ever be ‘prepared’ to fall into Hell, where they do not belong and turn into a demon to become Queen of Hell in one day. Scout would like to think no one who was sane.

Lionel lead her up a pair of stairs to reveal what she strangely already figured by using her scent and hearing, a two-story old styled home that creaked in random places because of wind outside, no furniture except a single covered couch in one place and an old crusty carpet in front of the front door. She had no doubt there was nothing up on the second floor above their head, this was clearly an abandoned place that Lionel must have scouted out to used to have that portal, which she noticed did not move or disappear like every other porter she has seen thus far.

Making those observations opened her mind to the reason that she unknowingly learned probably from Lionel from some time being next to him as a demon. There were set portals that stayed open around the world for Lionel and the prince's free use. Lionel was able to open a passage to any one of these portals from where ever he pleased, and had no problem, whereas the Princes had to use specific doors for them to work. Since hell and earth’s surface were unavoidably two different worlds, a door like that was required to get between the two, so that was why Lionel could not use his normal transportation ability that he used frequently in hell, however now that he was on the surface, he could do it.

It was like thinking of it as a free roam game, you had to be in that world or area to speed travel around it.

Lionel then paused right before opening the front door, glancing back at Scout who was lost in her own mind, catching up on what she apparently already knows, eyes slightly narrowed, a smile threatening to pop out as he spoke with a steady tone,” did you just compare traveling to a video game?”

Scout snapped her eyes up,” I mean, yea, why not? It’s a perfect example of how things work,” she argued.

“But for who,” he challenged.

Scout paused for a moment, then shrugged,” For myself, future reference,” she said huffing at his questioning,” why, don’t like being compared to human games?”

Lionel shook his head, a chuckle under his breath,” not really, plus, there are many non human creatures hiding on the surface, I have no doubt many are in the gaming and entertainment industry, so some or many ideas and concepts are probably not that far off from the real thing in some of those games. Not to mention that just regular humans can have a very scary level of imagination and seem to come up with things not too far off themselves, they probably knew someone in past lives and are remembering it as ideas to use to create something they think does not exist.”

That got oddly deep in the moment as he continued on, leading her out from the old rundown building to show a dark street, practically empty.

As she looked around her surroundings, trying to find anything recognizable,” I did not know you knew so much about human things,” she mused, wondering just how much he did know. After all, she was a human till a few days ago, so if he had known anything about the humans that she did not originally know, she would not notice because she already absorbed so much knowledge from him.

Talking on the subject did not seem to trigger her internal memory yet, so she asked questions to get her gears working, she was aware she had the answers, but just could not find them yet,” what kind of creatures are on earth,” she asked, before she brought up another question that she was wondering but did not want to forget in the heat of the moment following Lionel around,” and where are we?”

Lionel glanced around, eyes somewhat distant,” Tivoli, just outside of Rome, my hometown, back when Earth was my home.”

Scout glanced around eyes wide,” You remember your hometown?”

Lionel scoffed,” of course I do, although for many years after falling to Hell I had lost a lot of who I was, but after a while I found myself again, and once I became King I returned to Earth to explore a little, see how much it changed, and that was when I found my brother.”

Suddenly, as if he avoided her very first question purposefully, knowing bringing up his brother would push out what she knew was there but just need a jumpstart, she felt somewhat of a rush of things come to her as if it was all her own memories, almost seemingly recalling moments. Within only moments of surfing Lionel’s memories, that served as knowledge for Scout, she had done and answered her own questions.

“Your brother, a Vampire and an Elder, which is an equivalent to a King of Hell here on the surface, right?”

Lionel looked down at her his face full of shock as if he just got a slap from something unexpected,” yes. I happened to tune in as you were getting your own fill of things, does information always come in such a rush like that,” he asked, sounding breathless for some reason.

Scout cleared her throat, shaking her head,” I mean, no not that I know of but I guess since I am now aware of that part of me, I was in the middle of the transition and felt it this time. Why, what's wrong with you,” she asked, eyeing his stiff posture that relaxed after she called it out.

He shrugged lightly,” I don’t know, I guess since I never felt such a thing, surprisingly, it took me off guard, you aren’t winded after all that?”

Scout squared her shoulders, grinning,” nope, totally fine, how about you, you look a little startled about it,” she teased, watching Lionel nod in acknowledgment at her playful observation.

“Now you're just shoving it in my face, I may be old but I can still get a surprise,” he said with a pout.

Scout nodded, patting his arm,” of course, of course.”

Before they could continue their bantering, a strange face popped up. It was strange because she has never has seen this man herself, but she knew who he was because he was a leader, and his face was well known in Lionel’s memories as one of the Vampire elders, a friend of Lionel and his twin brother.

She was bombarded with a lot of information in the light of this man’s arrival, but she took it all in stride, trying not to act surprised to learn more about Lionel’s brother who she learned through this man instead of Lionel that he was his twin and the coincidence of both of their positions, while self-educating herself in the moment about the entire vampire community on the surface. James offered different information than Lionel in regards to his brother and the vampire community

“King,” James said, his voice almost monotone, turning to look at her at his side,” Queen, it’s a pleasure to meet you so soon.”

The man was tall and lanky, the skeletal kind of lanky, not Scout’s healthy kind of lanky, he wore baggy long black clothes, but it the lack of meat and muscle on the man showed in his neck and hands alone, the few parts of him even visible. His head was bald while his cheeks were sunken in and it looked as if his cheek could cut anything that touched it but how boney he was. He seemed almost sickly slim, but according to Lionel’s thoughts about the Elders, she knew better than to overlook and underestimate this man’s age and power.

Scout slowly nodded her head to the man, straightening her back,” so just exactly who knows about me already,” she whispered over to Lionel, trying to act cool and unaffected.

“I can assure you every leader in Heaven and Earth knows about you, it’s impossible not to know of a new face in the leaders, if it is of any comfort, there are at least only 200 or so leaders, so at least it’s not the entire world,” James called, oh so casually as if there was nothing wrong with listening and responding to a question not even for him.

Before she could respond her eyes were attracted to an odd colour scheme she saw in her peripheral that she had not seen sooner on his feet, making her snap her jaw closed to refrain from laughing at this man right in his face.

She had a feeling his gaunt features and shiny bald head must have distracted her enough to hide that monstrosity on his feet, which was impossible to ignore.

Toe socks.

Plastic flip flops.

In the short time she had to see plenty of faces and people from all over the world as a gatekeeper, never has she seen such a bold statement before.

Not only was that combo just a sin all on it’s own, but it was also ten times worst when the socks were striped rainbow colours and the flip flops were a bright neon pink.

Suddenly something new brushed past her thought, and as if she opened a new door, her mind was flooded with the entire reason behind the strange choice of clothing, plus more.

The moment she realized why he wore such a thing while the rest of his clothes were black, she instantly took back her previous thoughts. There was no way a reason so pure would remain a fashion sin to her. Who was she to judge anyway, she should not have been so harsh about it in the first place?

She definitely was greeted with a lot more than just the story behind the socks and flip flops, a lot more than she wished to have, but she smiled it off, acting like she did not just automatically absorb this entire man’s long, very long, life,” pleasure is all mine James,” she let slip, feeling the rush of her headache make it’s grand reappearance after being muddled down for a while with Lionel close.

Lionel immediately noticed what was wrong, wrapping an arm around her waist to support her as the pain had her swaying on her feet,' all the minds on earth are much more open than those of Hell, you are going to have to learn how to close off your own mind and refuse information you do not want,' he spoke in her head, telling her what she already figured.

It made sense when only snippets and pieces of information from Lionel came at different times that it was because of his wall he explained, but how easily she just swooped in and completely peeked into James’s entire life and history told her all she needed.

If she was going to make visits to the surface to get away from Hell to take a breather, she was definitely going to have to work on this automatic download thing her brain did.

She was then very glad it seemed to be very early and there were not many people around them.

“Oh my, is she not used to the surface? I heard it could be quite harsh on a demon who has never seen the surface in such a long time,” she heard James ask, genuinely concerned, not at all wondering how she knew his name without an introduction.

Lionel was completely lax and trusting of this man as he shook his head, completely relaxed as all his attention was on her,” No, she was originally a human, it’s only been a few days,” the way he so easily said that to James told her just how very different Hell and the surface was.

Of course, he would not particularly have enemies on the surface, everyone probably knew what the cost of being in Hell and being Hell’s King was, there was no way someone would willingly dare even fight Lionel like demons in Hell would. The difference was almost frightening, but in the end, it made sense, and it was yet another reminder, of the hundreds of them there were, that Hell was a terrible and very dangerous place, even more so for those in power.

It also did not take a rocket scientist for her to notice the vast difference in power in general, although James, and the other Elders no doubt, were strong, there was just nothing virtually close to the power of Hell’s King, the scales of power of both worlds were very different and could hardly even be put side by side for comparison because the space between was just so vast it would be unfair.

She did not doubt that heaven was the only other place that held a candle to Hell’s power scale, since they did have to be close in similarity to keep the balance.

Earth in the middle was just not comparable to Heaven and Hell, and for a solid reason.

James snapped his finger, seemingly amused to have figured something out,” ah, I had heard the human gatekeeper had fallen on accident, I had not realized this and that were connected, you were that gatekeeper weren’t you? So that means that it was no accident,” James mused.

Scout smiled, clearing her throat, Lionel’s touch clearly doing a lot more to help her than she originally noticed,” surprised?”

James chuckled lowly,” no not at all, it only makes sense why you are on the surface, need a breather I take it?”

Scout followed by the example of Lionel and spoke comfortable with James, not feeling the need to hold back, nor feeling threatened enough to be weary about what was told,” yeah, I suppose so,” she said, clearing her throat, recalling her episode she had in the garden. Embarrassment has long begun to settle in for that, and she would accept that any day over depression over completely destroying someone any day of the week.

James nodded, his hands clasped behind him,” it’s understandable, I have only been there a few times over the centuries and cannot say I liked it any of those times,” he admitted with zero hesitation.

Lionel acted hurt by his words,” but I did so much to make sure you all were comfortable, was it really that bad?”

Scout watched the conversation unfold with a smile as James, once again, with no hesitation anywhere, nodded,” it was. Haven’t you noticed? It’s a hellish place to be, in no way will that place ever be comfortable.”

Scout snorted as Lionel crossed his arms,” how original,” he said with a scoff, shaking his head.

James smiled before returning his gaze towards Scout, making her straighten her back to listen,” as much as I would love to stick around and chat, I, unfortunately, have some business to attend to. Please, do let us have some time to properly get to know each other better,” he said politely reaching a hand out for a hand shake.

Scout nodded,” yeah, I mean, yes, that would be great,” she said quickly meeting his hand in the middle.

James lifted her hand to his mouth to give the back of her hand a kiss, taking her aback.

How old fashioned, that was the only thing that crossed her mind as he released her hand gently and bowed his respects to both of them and turned to be on his way.

Lionel snaked an arm around her waist, watching his old friend walk away, his touch bringing back a new wave of comfort and pain killing effects that his touches always seemed to bring.

“How are you doing? That was only one of them, there are two others who are just as old, even older,” he asked, peeking over at her to watch her expression.

Scout huffed, shrugging lightly,” I’m sure I will be fine, it was not all that bad, it’s just my head has been killing me since yesterday. If I get rid of this, then I will be probably more than fine.”

Lionel nodded,” from the transition most likely, it will take some time to simmer down, all your senses are probably jacked up a lot more than you are used to and you haven’t gotten accustomed to it yet.”

Scout nodded, she figured as much, even though she was practically reborn in every sense of the word, she guessed there was still somehow a part of her that would be overwhelmed with everything and cause an uproar over all the changes that happened so suddenly.

She would take being on the surface with billions of open minds of those on the surface over sticking around in Hell to wait and see who dared try her next with closed minds any day.

Lionel then pulled his arm back to pop out his elbow, inviting her to hook her arm through,” well then, shall we be on our way?”

Out of curiosity, she began to really try and focus when someone spoke to her. Just before James was speaking to her in French, and just like herself, neither James or Lionel seemed worried or even noticed it. Lionel then transitioned to Italian on her after James left, and she found there was something very sultry about him speaking Italian over any other language he might of spoke. There was something oddly lax and comfortable sounding in his tone when he spoke, whereas before, she could not clearly recall what language he was speaking, but one thing she did know for sure, he never spoke Italian in Hell, not even to her when they were alone. He was like two different people.

In Hell, he was the King.

On the surface, he was just regular Lionel who was born and raised in Italy.

Showing this vulnerable side of him spoke even more volumes of how safe they were on the surface versus Hell.

She tucked her arm through his as they moved on their way, talking like a normal couple, as if they did not just walk out of a portal that was from Hell and meet an ancient Elder Vampire on their way.

She could tell he visited the surface often because he was more than familiar with the modern customs, knew of both the touristy spots as well as the hidden gems only locals would know of.

Being it was the middle of the week, he knew where to take her without hitting too big of a crowd for her.

How they were walking around like nothing and not given weird looks was simple. Scout would have not known any better before, but with help of her knowledge sucking brain, she knew that they looked human and normal to everyone around them. Only those of high ranks of non-human variety would notice who they were, but thanks to Lionel, no human or low creature saw their real appearance.

Scout made sure to take notes, for future visits she might find herself taking by herself if Lionel was busy, like he should be now. Even though she still seemed to look more human than Lionel who looked very tall and elfishly majestic, she still needed to properly learn how to conceal herself in the event her body continued to change further into the unnatural possibilities.

Along with making sure to understand completely how Lionel shifted their appearance, as well as kept track of everything he showed her and things she saw that they did not stop by but wished to check out one day.

They spent hours just walking around, eventually took a 30-minute taxi ride to the heart of Rome to continue their journey, Lionel must have thought that she wanted to see more of Rome than his own place of birth. Both were very pretty and spectacular places, but Tivoli was much more interesting to her, even though the Tivoli that Lionel was born in most likely does not even exist anymore, and if anything, Tivoli is only a rough estimate of where his birthplace was, considering this man was born way beyond a time that might not even been documented fully yet. His memories surpass any known knowledge of his time known by humans, and even some old ‘ancient’ beings on the surface. He has outlived the oldest of the old, he was literally from a time no one knew of, and she found it fascinating.

With only his brother as the only other known one to match his age, he was literally the oldest one in power that is known. From what she understood, most of the others that should be his age have long died already in Hell, serving their time before finally being freed. Which means he entered the King's seat at a ‘young’ age, for his time to be paused and for him to be as old as he was.

She learned so much about Lionel since being at his side, she wondered if he knew how much she knew, but she doubt he didn’t know since he had his moments of catching a peek more than she can count into her head without her knowing.

Their day date went by too fast as the sun began to fall.

While leisurely walking down the street, in such a shockingly mundane way it was hard to remember that she was walking with the King of Hell. Lionel heaved a sigh, as if he also did not want to return, which she supposed that was just blatantly obvious.

“Would you like to return with me tonight or would you like to stay on the surface for a few more days?”

Scout peeked over at him, she knew somewhere in the back of her mind that he was implying to stay by herself. He could not stay on the surface for long periods of time or punishment will be due, he was hitting his time limit and needed to return before then. Due to her circumstances, she did not have such limits, so if she was to actually stay, then it will have to be by herself until Lionel’s limit restarts the next day.

She looked at the sidewalk in front of her, people watching to simply observe for a second. She saw many couples on dates around her, and she was shocked to feel like she belonged in that category with him, there was nothing off, he made her feel like a human. He truly did make her feel better, and with such little effort too. She was more than fine to head back and be alright again. She felt replenished, she got fresh air, but in the end, she did have to return and figure out what she was supposed to do. She did not sign up to be the Queen of Hell, but she was long past backing out of it now.

There were two very different sides of Scout yet that wished for different things, wanted to do different things. Due to the nature of her very fast departure from Earth to Hell, to being Queen of Hell, it was still all too fast, and Scout’s human subconscious is still struggling to catch up, while demon Scout already has developed and is ready to go with all her new soaked up information and knowledge that was taken in in such little time.

It was arguably that in that moment of time, she was sporting two very different sides of herself, and that can get very difficult to deal with if she just continues to rush in like Demon Scout wants without considering human Scout.

It was a dilemma, but it was surely something she needed to deal with if she expected to move on in her new life.

Her human half needed closure, that was the only way it was going to let her move on as a demon, and she had the luxury to have a chance to sort things out for herself so she was going to go ahead and take it for herself, because she was going to take all she can get.

“I think I will stay for another day,” she announced, glancing over to Lionel to find he already knew.

Even knowing that did not stop his shoulders from dramatically sagging,” of course, I won’t stop you, but as you know I need to go back already. Do you need any assistance getting around? I can call James if you need.”

Scout barked out a laugh,” you make it sound like you are going to dial him up on a cell phone and demand his presence,” she said jokingly, watching Lionel pout at being exposed effortlessly.

“I would have asked,” he said with a snort,” this isn’t Hell, and believe it or not, me and James are actually friends.”

Scout patted his arm soothingly,” yes I know.”

Lionel suddenly rolled his eyes,” ‘you're not supposed to say that, it ruins the vibes of a formally getting to know each other, stalker’,” he said in a mocking shrill voice, catching her off guard at his sudden teasing.

Scout burst out laughing, “I did not sound like that,” she said, jabbing her finger into his arm, making him shrink away in his own laughter.

That was literally only a few days ago, but it already felt like so long ago. Change sure was a scary thing.

Lionel bit back his original response, probably to continue the teasing bickering, but he held back heaving another sigh out of nowhere,” I’m being called back, I should go.”

Scout then nodded, collecting herself as well as he turned a corner and lead them to a quiet area.

“I don’t want to leave you, but I know for a fact you can’t get hurt, so you are safe,” he assured, more for himself than for her,” if you need anything make sure to call, even here I will hear you.”

Scout nodded as he stopped them in a dark corner, no one around to witness anything as Lionel did not even hesitate to make a portal.

She felt a heavy breeze hit her cheek, she imagined that it was hot, but it was impossible to really tell since she seemed completely immune and the feeling of anything over or under a certain temperature no longer exists it seemed.

“I won’t stay for long, just some things I need to do, it won’t be long,” she assured with a smile, waving.

Lionel eyed her hand, as if he could not believe she was that easily just waving him off,” that’s it?”

Scout raised a brow, confused on what he was talking about,” what?”

Lionel heaved the third sigh of the hour, stepping right in front of her to press his lips onto hers for a farewell kiss.

Scout leaned into it before he pulled back, a silly quirk on his lips,” you need to work on the whole soulmate thing.”

Scout breathed out a scoff,” give me a break,” she said, scratching her temple, embarrassed that at her age she knew nothing about being romantic, yet another world she needed to work on.

Lionel cupped her cheeks in his hands and gently kissed her forehead,” it’s fine, we will learn together.”

She nodded lightly, feeling somewhat of a rush out of nowhere from his forehead kiss, it was like a soothing spring breeze in her heart, soothing all her insecurities and anxieties that she did not realize she still had. It was very unexpected, but much appreciated.

Before she could ask if that was his doing for a piece of mind, he once again turned and left quickly.

Just like her to an extent, there were some things he did not seem to know how to properly deal with, and temporary goodbyes seemed to be one of them.

Not like she had room to talk, she has many of her own things she doesn’t know how to do herself.

With him through, the portal shrunk until it was completely gone, leaving a dark burn mark on the stone building he had the portal opened on.

His presence completely disappeared within moments, it was not like before when they were in Hell and he was doing his job as the King and she was at the mansion, where she still felt him, knew he was there. This was completely different, for he was completely gone, it was suddenly very nerve-racking.

Not feeling his presence had her suddenly feeling lost and alone. She had not realized how big of an impact he had on her in just a few days, and this lack of feeling him sure was shocking.

It took her multiple minutes to collect herself and calm her racing panicked heart.

Was she going to get anxiety all the time he left her side now?

Scout took a deep breath, shaking her head, surely it was something that will come around and she will get used to, this was the first time after all, and to completely not feel him at all is to be expected since he is back in an entirely different world now. After all, Hell isn’t someplace under the surface of the Earth’s crust like it is perceived by the humans generally. It literally is it’s own world, it’s own dimension that is not physically connected to Earth in that way. Of course, the gate itself does not help sell that considering it is opened downwards, however, details like that did not matter.

After she calmed herself, she glanced up to the dark sky.

In the middle of the city, it was hard to see the stars, but she still spotted a few beyond the small fluffs of clouds that floated through the sky.

She felt like she really had to take in and appreciate everything Earth has, but then again, she also felt like there was not really a need. It was as Lionel stated, she was not bound to stay in Hell, she can come and go as she pleased. While logically she knew she did not need to do any of this, there was still that nagging part of her that would not calm down if she did not.

Things would get by smoother if she can stop forgetting that and remember that she was going to be alright.

It was emotionally draining to keep thinking she was doomed. It was an insult to both her and Lionel to keep telling herself that, he would probably get tired of her real quick when he has been there for so many years and is actually there for a reason. She had to stop for herself and Lionel.

Slowly she brought her eyes down to the burned wall, straightening her back before closing her eyes.

She dug around in her brain and tried to actually find information she knew she was aware of and actually acknowledge the information on how to somewhat control powers from Lionel. Instead of going on ‘instinct’, she actually took the time to realize what she was doing, using Lionel’s own techniques to help guid her.

After taking a deep breath, she stared at the wall, she felt a tickle in the nape of her neck as she kept her thoughts on New York, specifically her apartment.

Sights, smells, what time it should be, every little thing she could think of.

The tingling spread from her neck to her arms and soon engulfed her entire body before she felt her ears pop.

All within mere moments, the tingling stopped, the air around her changed, the noises of the night city life of Rome were silenced, the ground under her bare feet changed from concrete to cool hardwood.

Scout slowly opened her eyes, swallowing the lump in her throat.

Around her was the familiar space she called home just a few days ago.

Sunlight spilled in from the windows from between the blackout curtains. The air was cold and crisp, the ac had been on the entire time she was gone, she recalled forgetting to turn it off that morning she fell, so it has been on since then. She imagined it was far colder than she actually felt.

It was just how she left it.

After getting a good eyeful to assure her human self that nothing really changed too much, she moved slowly over to the thermostat to turn the ac off. The number on the screen for the temperature inside the room read 54 degrees fahrenheit.

So yeah, a bit chilly.

After turning it off just for a feel of normality even though she technically could not actually feel much of a difference, she turned and walked over to the bathroom to wash her feet, taking the time to really scrub off the dirt and countless other things that coloured the bottom of her feet black from walking around all day in the city barefooted

The entire time she did not even think about such a thing as shoes, nothing hurt, she never stepped on anything, for some reason she just really was not bothered about it the entire day, and it showed through the dark nasty tinted water that spun down the drain.

When she finished washing her feet, she patted them dry with a soft towel. Her touch must have somehow gotten more sensitive as far as her hands went because the cheap towels felt way rougher than she knew they really were.

Is sensitive even the right word for such a strange sensation, she was not even sure, it’s like she felt it more. She truly had no way to explain what was going on, but she knew that her towels did not feel like that before and for a cool and crispy towel it should not feel this way.

As she stepped out to her room. The first thing she seemed to want to do is go to her closet. With zero hesitation, she peeled off the long white gown and pulled out some of her own clothes from her closet.

Right off the bat, sadly, her old bras did no good to help with her new body shape and size. If she cared to even bother, she would have to get new ones.

Her underwear barely fit also, but she was for sure going to have to stock up on new ones of those. She was fine with no bra, but no underwear is a big no-no for her.

She found that there were very few things she still fit in, the old clothes that she slightly out grown over the years that fit tightly before, definitely did not fit now. The only things she could get on her body were her granny panties and all the clothes she once deemed too big for her. Almost all of the ‘too big’ clothes now fit like a glove and was all she had.

She was happy to find that her favorite grey band logo t-shirt still fit.

She wondered if it was alright for her to bring her own clothes down to Hell, would Lionel mind her completely revamping that terrible wardrobe he had set up for her? On second thought, would they even survive or would they catch ablaze the second they get to Hell?

When she finished going through her clothes, she sat at the edge of her bed, peeking over at her new computer on the desk.

With a grunt, she stood from her spot and took a seat at her desk, turning on the computer.

Once it was on and fully loaded, her fingers did the work for her, checking her bank account, still there, as well as it’s very full amount. Her rent for this place was up to date, so this place was still hers. She still had her movie and tv show subscriptions, still had her pizza delivery account, still had everything.

She also was not missed at all, not that she expected to be missed. No one knew she left the earth for four days; that she basically died.

The only human who may have actually cared for her existence was her waiter at her normal dinner, but even then, he probably did not care enough to do or say anything.

After going through everything and assuring her human self that nothing changed here, she went ahead and shut the computer back down and rolled over to the edge of her bed to dump herself lazily across her bed.

Amazing what a few days out of one’s home can do. She felt weird trying to sleep in this place, not that she was entirely sure she was used to sleeping next to Lionel in his huge spacious bed in Hell either, it seemed like after her change, some of the things and sensations she once knew seemed to all rewire to what she now knew in Hell.

She was not even sure how that made sense, but to her it did. That firm split between her human self and demon self was just that deep that she had split thoughts and feeling about many things.

Was this even normal, she then wondered.

Probably not, not at all, but this was the only defense mechanism her inner self seemed to want to have, only creating more problems by putting that obvious split between two different parts of her life.

The thing was she was no longer human, so she should not keep hoarding these human feelings, would be the ideal way of thinking about it, but it seems it was far too complex to tackle all at once in one night.

She had a lot of work to do on herself, but hopefully with reassuring her existence was still valid on Earth would help calm that human part of her that still seems connected and stubbornly holding on to this life that is in every sense of the way useless to hold on so tightly to anymore. She had nothing to lose, but it seems that her persistent human side finds value in it and does not want to let go so easily.

The night was quiet and very still, it was easy for her to fall asleep.

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