Even if they openly shared their feelings—but not to each other—Zoe was still mad at him. Ezekiel’s personality wasn’t allowing him to go home and do something else, though, because he was curious what Iaosur prepared for her.
“Why are you frowning?” Ezekiel asked, moving so that they were walking next to each other.
Zoe ignored him.
“Are you really going to give me the silent treatment? I didn’t even say anything bad. I only told the truth!”
She scoffed, but didn’t respond to him.
The brown haired boy stopped in the middle of the alley and threw his arms in the air dramatically. She didn’t even glance back. While ruffling his hair and trying to keep calm, he noticed something different about the wall.
Zoe caught up to Luke and Mark fast and walked the rest of the way with them. After they said their farewells, the two boys entered their apartment while Zoe walked the few more meters to hers.
Ezekiel was just walking out of the elevator when she unlocked the door. She entered first and closed the door behind her, locking Ezekiel out. He rolled his eyes and knocked once, twice; she didn’t open it. Ezekiel was ready to knock for the third time when the door opened suddenly and he got crushed under a feminine body.
His eyes widened when he looked in the apartment.
Zoe could barely get up after she got hit in the stomach. She felt like vomiting everything she ate that morning; actually, when the need became too big, she ran into the bathroom and threw up. Ezekiel’s eyes traveled back to the four men, taking a step back for his own safety.
"You're all demons, aren’t you?"
“How did you find him?” Ezekiel asked turning to Eneizar.
“Iaosur did. They’re old—” He stopped and glanced at the new human, who was glaring at Iaosur passionately. “Let’s say they met before, under some suspicious circumstances.”
“This demon here possessed me and made me kill two innocent girls." The stranger started, folding his arms in front of his chest.
“Get out of my house.”
“How can you say that? He is my present!” Iaosur exclaimed, feigning offense.
Rowan looked like he wanted to be anywhere but around the demon. Zoe knew how that felt and could empathize with him but not under these circumstances.
“Zoe, meet your teacher. Rowan, meet the commander.” Iaosur introduced the two to each other, Zoe's expression immediately falling into a poker face.
Rowan’s eyes narrowed at the demon before his attention moved on the girl in question. He let his eyes wander from her head to her feet and then back to her chest and arms.
“This girl is not the commander. She seems fine." Rowan concluded.
Zoe's eyes widened and she turned to the demons with exasperation. Mehrdir and Eneizar rolled their eyes at her reaction, deciding they should just shrug her off. Iaosur chuckled darkly and pulled Rowan up with just a flick of his hand.
“Look, friend. You like it or not, your pitiful life is still in my hands. Or maybe you want to go back to your old life?”
Rowan glanced to the side, memories of his past surfacing. He did not want to go back, even if that meant having to serve Iaosur for the time being.
“All right then. It’s settled.” Mehrdir got to his feet and pushed Iaosur’s hand off Zoe. “You need to learn how to protect yourself against humans anyway. Go with it,” Mehrdir continued firmly. Zoe glanced at Rowan and sighed.
An hour later, the demons left. Rowan had no place to stay, so he had to remain at her place, much to her disappointment.
“Why did you agree to come here?”
“I made a deal with the Devil once. Iaosur holds my contract.”
Zoe stared at him. It felt like she was judging him, but she was sincerely feeling sorry for him. Iaosur was an angst demon, therefore Rowan must have had a lot of issues.
“What did Iaosur mean when he threatened you? Was life so torturing that you decided you should sell yourself to Hell?" she asked to which he nodded in return.
Rowan frowned. He stared at her for a few minutes, not once averting his gaze.
"I'm not the commander. No matter what they believe, I know who I am." Zoe mumbled, watching him closely with her big eyes.
“I don't think you do. Demons don't just stick to humans without having a clear purpose. From what I know, the demons around you are very skilled. Why would such high ranked soldiers stand by you if you're not important?"
It was the middle of the night and Zoe couldn’t get to sleep. She was overwhelmed by the presences in her home and all the thoughts and theories swirling through her mind. Having Mehrdir and Ezekiel was enough, but the dark fairies became very interested in her life and they gathered in the kitchen, making a lot of noise. Besides, she had Eneizar and Iaosur to deal with and they even got a former thug to teach her how to fight.
“Are you awake?” Zoe groaned when she heard Ezekiel whisper.
She couldn’t let Ezekiel sleep where the demons were lurking, so she improvised a bed on the floor in her room. It had sounded better before he entered the room when she was changing. She remembered the difference between vanishing in thin air and having to actually leave.
“I take that as a yes. Isn’t it suspicious?” Ezekiel continued.
“What is?” She heard Ezekiel shift but didn’t turn. She was comfortable staring at the ceiling.
“They got you a trainer, but it doesn’t help you with anything because you don’t have to fight humans.”
“What is so suspicious about that? If people get the wrong idea and see me as the commander, won’t that put me in danger?” Ezekiel pouted and rolled on his side. That was true, too. “Besides, there are strict rules about me and dark magic. No matter how much I’d like to, I can’t break them.”
She froze. That was a different point of view from hers and the ones around her, but she preferred to obey than have something bad happen to her.
“You said it yourself, Zoe. Maybe it’s time for you to break one or two rules.”
She got up quickly and leaned over the bed. Ezekiel stared up at her with a blank expression.
“But what if you get sent to Hell if I disobey?”
He hadn’t thought about it like that before, but he was already in too deep to back off. Weirdly, he really liked the adrenaline it gave to him.
“Let’s say you don’t care, but what about the others?” she asked, knowing how bad that could end up.
“Once we got in, we knew exactly how much we would risk.”
“You, Andy and even Rowan know, but what about the rest? What about my new human friends?”
Ezekiel sighed and closed his eyes.
“You should care for yourself more than for others. There are higher chances for you to get to Hell than us getting killed.” He didn’t mean to sound so cold but that was the reality. That was her reality.
She gave up and got back in bed.
“I know that,” she grumbled.
In the morning, she woke up squished between two demons.
“Wake up, wake up!”
She groaned and pushed Eneizar off the bed. He fell with a loud thud, he was too excited to make a big fuss from that.
“Wake up!” He threw his arms in the air and the bed threw her across the room, straight against the wall. She moaned in pain and fell on her butt.
“That was a little extreme, don’t you think?” Even for Iaosur who was the most evil out of the other devils, it seemed too much. They weren’t allowed to hurt her in any way; at least, not directly.
“I can’t wait to see her get beaten up by someone!” Eneizar was standing still, but she could swear he was jumping up and down in his head.
“I thought you were supposed to be protecting me,” Zoe muttered, getting up, her shoulder hurting like heck from the hit.
"We never said that," Eneizar muttered, glancing at the shorter demon.
“Are you all right? I heard you got thrown against the wall.”
Mehrdir appeared too late, like always. But he was a demon nonetheless and he couldn’t help but chuckle.
“I can’t believe I missed it.” He was imagining it happen while she was rubbing her head in front of him.
“You’re such an asshole.”
Well, he was a demon in the end.
Mehrdir led her outside, to the parking lot. They were supposed to meet Rowan there after he took care of some things. It was only eight in the morning and Zoe couldn’t imagine what he had to take care of at that hour.
Ezekiel wasn’t there when she woke up. She was sure he went to Chris to gather more information about the commander. Mehrdir disappeared right after she got in the parking lot. Thankfully, the other two didn’t appear in his place.
“Are you ready?” She shook her head furiously. Rowan chuckled. “Well, you don’t have a choice with acquaintances like yours.” He didn’t have to remind her that.
Rowan walked in front of her and told her to concentrate on what he was going to teach her.
“It’s for your own safety anyway. It will help you at some point in time.” She nodded. At least he wasn’t going all Spartan on her. “Now, there are fifteen steps to fight and defend. First, if you can, reason with the attacker. That won’t work in your case.” She sighed. “Turn your body to the side so that your right shoulder, or left, is facing your attacker. Raise your fists into the air to protect your body—not too high, so that you don’t end up blocking your line of sight, but not too low as to offer no protection to your head.” Her eyes widened. He was already going into a lot of details. He helped her get into the right position. “To block a punch, use an open hand and push the fist out of the way enough so that it does not hit you somewhere that it may cause damage, such as your head or stomach.”
“What if it’s a demon?”
“Then you don’t have a chance to survive. He will kill you before you get to blink.” Rowan’s answer sent chills down her spine as well as it annoyed her.
She bit her lip and tried to suppress the need to say something mean.
“Okay. Go on.”
He nodded and got back in his original stance.
“Avoid using ‘wild hook’ punches, where you throw your entire arm and shoulder into a punch in a manner that is similar to a large C.” He exemplified for her. “From a fighting stance, a punch should come out from the centre of your body. You will want your punch to come in quickly and return quickly—don’t leave your arm hanging out where the attacker can grab it. You can also kick to do damage. A kick should come from the foot that is back in the fighting stance. Bring up the leg and lash out, bringing it back in so the attacker has no chance to grab it.” He signalled for her to try it. She did well after such a long explanation but her body was still too weak to move quickly. She needed a lot of training. “This may seem like a silly and trivial thing to consider, but knowing how to throw a punch with a proper fist can save you from hurting yourself. You will want to keep your fist closed and tight. Your thumb should be located on or underneath your index and middle.” She moved around and tried to throw a punch at him. He caught it easily. “Be certain that you keep your wrist straight when throwing a punch, as this can also help prevent you from injuring yourself.” She nodded. She liked the lesson so far. “Posture is important, too.” He checked her condition and it was definitely not strong. He walked behind her and pulled her back. “Keep a straight back, fair walking pace, hold your head high, and if you are walking through a particularly bad area, resist the urge to look away from those around you. Look everyone in the eye, but keep focused on your destination. This does three things: lets people know you are alert, allows you to identify anyone, allows you to say hello if you know anyone.” She scoffed.
“What if it’s someone with ghosts around?” He hummed and patted her shoulders.
“That doesn’t have any connection with what I’m trying to explain.” She pouted, ready to scrunch her shoulders when he pulled them back quickly. “Attackers will often approach their victims, trying to play it innocent or to threaten you. This will mostly happen in a quiet place where you might expect people to be down the road at night. Keep an eye out for people who might approach you.” She was ready to ask something when he interrupted her. “People, not demons. I’m teaching you how to fight people, Zoe.” She shut up instantly and tried to keep the questions out of her mind. She wasn’t fighting against people. Her enemies weren’t humans. Or were they?
The lesson continued like that. He would explain and exemplify. Afterwards, he would tell her to do it. She threw a few punches and kicks but she was weak when it came to fist fighting. Rowan grew curious what she knew about the people that were after her and the inheritor because from what he could see, she was living in her own little world.
She was sweating and she didn’t even do much. Compared to her condition, Rowan was perfectly fine. Of course, he wasn’t the one who had to run around the building for an hour and do other exercises.
“It’s for your safety.”
“Stop saying that. No one's going to attack me," she muttered grumpily.
“There is a group of people; Christians and not only. They’re hunters trained especially to find people like you, people that have some kind of connection to the Underworld. They’re called the Holy Brotherhood. The Commander and the Inheritor for them are like the rarest species of animals for collectors. They’re ready to kill in order to get them.”
Zoe felt like she could use a pill in that moment. One that would erase everything from her memory.
“But I’m not the commander and I have no idea who’s the inheritor.” she took care to emphasize.
“The commander has to lead the demons to the inheritor. Do you even know how the story goes?” She blinked. That was enough for Rowan to realise the demons kept her in her own safe bubble before he continued, “Every fifty years, an inheritor is born. He’s the secret child of the Devil and has the ability to see and do incredible things. For centuries now, the first baby born on a full moon has been killed. But the world changed and the story became just a story. The Holy Brotherhood, however, continued the work. But now with this technology and ignorance, they lost track of the inheritor.”
“I’m not the inheritor.” She narrowed her eyes at him and crossed her arms in front of her chest.
“The commander is nothing but a piece of Beelzebub. While being possessed, a woman was pregnant. That’s how the commander was born, but since the Devil needed someone human with supernatural abilities, he let the commander live. Basically, you are the key to find the inheritor,” Rowan continued, watching her rub her neck and sigh.
“And why do demons keep me safe?”
Rowan tilted his head to the side and stared at her in astonishment. Didn’t she understand that already?
“Because you are the commander. You are their commander; piece of Beelzebub, the leader of the greatest legion of Hell. You can crush demons in your hands. You only need to learn how to. It seems they’re keeping you away from magic, though. I think it’s because they’re afraid that your conscience will kick in and you will kill them and the inheritor.” He stretched and rubbed his stomach. “Ah. Let’s go eat.”
While he was walking away, she could only stare into space.
“But I’m not the commander,” she started. “I’m definitely not the commander.”