Luke and Mark felt the tension between the two friends and decided to walk in front, leaving them to fight or make up or whatever they wanted.
Even if they openly shared their feelings—but not to each other—Zoe was still mad at him. However, Ezekiel’s personality wasn’t allowing him to go home and do something else. He wanted to stay there, with her.
“Why are you frowning?”
Zoe ignored him. She was walking in front of him and didn’t even glance at her surroundings.
“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.
He 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 regarding the wall.
Zoe caught up to them fast and walked the rest of the way with them. After they said their farewells, the two boys entered their apartment.
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. Two people and Eneizar were standing inside, watching a man who looked ready to kill.
“Is that what you call a commander? You can’t even fight me!” a tall guy shouted in what Ezekiel supposed was anger.
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 travelled back to the four men.
They were all demons, weren’t they?
“Actually, I’m one hundred per cent human.”
Ezekiel entered her apartment warily. If he hadn’t been scared of demons before, he was certainly scared of that guy. Moreover, he didn’t even look dangerous; skinny and dressed simply. Nothing about him looked dangerous, yet he was.
“How did you find him?” he asked Eneizar. The vanity demon was the only one Ezekiel knew.
“Iaosur did. They’re old—” He stopped and glanced at the human, who was glaring at Iaosur passionately. “Let’s say they met before, under some suspicious circumstances.” Ezekiel frowned at that vague answer.
“He possessed me and made me kill two girls. I barely got rid of him only to have him come and ask for a favour,” the stranger responded, glaring at Iaosur from the side.
“We had so much fun!” Iaosur chuckled and leaned back lazily. The angst demon actually looked content. But it was obvious he wanted to annoy the heck out of the new human. “Recognise it, Rowan. You loved being the bad guy.”
Rowan scoffed. He wanted to say something, but Zoe cut him short.
“Get out of my house.” She was really bold, but after she got hit by a stranger who somehow got into her home, she was ready to use the baseball bat if she needed to. Iaosur appeared behind her and wrapped an arm around her shoulders.
“How can you say that? He is my present!”
Rowan looked like he wanted to be anywhere but around the demon. Zoe knew how that felt.
“Zoe, meet your teacher. Rowan, meet the commander.”
Rowan’s eyes narrowed after he found out who he was there for.
“This girl is not the commander. She’s just an unfortunate human.”
Zoe’s eyes widened. Mehrdir and Eneizar rolled their eyes at her reaction. Iaosur chuckled darkly and pulled Rowan up. With the flick of his hand, he got the human next to him.
“Look, friend. You like it or not, your pitiful life is in my hands. Or maybe you want to go back to your old life?”
Rowan’s eyes widened. He glanced to the side at anything that wouldn’t be animated, like the door to the kitchen, which became very interesting.
“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 crash at her place; much like Ezekiel.
“Why did you agree to come here?” Rowan was looking through his stuff when Zoe entered the living room with a cup of tea in her hands. She placed it on the coffee table and pushed it towards him. He acknowledged her gesture with a nod.
“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 was probably a former thug.
“Were you part of a gang?” He nodded. “That explains a lot. Angst demons don’t just possess anyone.”
But how would she know for sure? Zoe had never met one before Iaosur; she just hoped she was right.
“How did you end up with three demons around you?” Rowan asked, grabbing the cup of tea off the table. She chuckled and sat next to him. “A complicated story?” he asked, raising an eyebrow.
“They have always been there. They changed places, some came and some left, but they have always been around me.” She closed her eyes, sighing heavily, before she opened them. “Life is nothing but dark mist in my eyes.”
Rowan frowned. He was sure that the commander would be a guy. That way everything would be easier; killing him would be easier. But the commander was a girl who wanted nothing but to be normal.
“Stop looking at me like I’m dangerous,” Zoe mumbled, watching him closely with her big eyes.
“Well, you should prepare yourself mentally. We’re going to start your training tomorrow.”
It was the middle of the night and Zoe couldn’t get to sleep. She was overwhelmed by the presences in her home. Having Mehrdir and Ezekiel was enough, but the dark fairies became very interested in her life and they gathered in the kitchen. 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 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 bent 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. It was even weirder because they were men.
“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 against the opposite 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 else!” 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.
They rolled their eyes. They weren’t exactly her babysitters. Just because they had to keep her safe, that didn’t mean they wanted to.
“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 and get all amused.
“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 was curious what she knew about the people that were after her and the inheritor.
She was sweating and she didn’t even do much. 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.” She rolled her eyes and caught the water bottle he threw at her.
“Why are you repeating that?”
Well, that certainly answered his questions. She knew absolutely nothing.
“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.” Rowan froze. “What? It’s something bad isn’t it?”
“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 that 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.” She was completely taken aback by that fact. “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.”
But after Rowan explained everything better than Mehrdir and Ezekiel, she started to doubt herself. Maybe she didn’t have the sign, but she was born on a full moon.