Big Eyes Hide Big Secrets
The festival ended on Sunday morning at 11am. The artists walked onto the stage and were applauded for a while. Iaosur was standing behind Zoe, more bored than anything.
“You didn’t tell them anything worth knowing.” She’d heard that statement before. “You’re only attracting danger around them. You have to tell them and you have to leave.” He took care to emphasise the last word.
“I know.” She probably knew too much now.
After her trip to Hell and her second meeting with her brother, she realised just how cruel reality was. She was trapped in between being a demon and a human; she’d been placed in a certain position, and she had to choose. She had already made up her mind and thought very carefully if what she was going to do was for the best or for the worst.
“You don’t have to worry. The only one going to Hell is you.” His encouragements sucked. “But not yet. You’ll know when the time comes.”
“When the dark side of the moon will face the Middle World, the Commander will take its rightful place in front of the most impressive legion of demons,” she mumbled. Iaosur patted her back happily. He was super excited to see how she was going to deal with the Holy Brotherhood.
Zoe wasn’t the only one who could see the demon, though. Two more people had their eyes on him.
“Hey, Hans!” The human turned from his subject to his friend. He smiled and brightened up. “After the ceremony ends, we’re going to karaoke.”
He nodded. Hans wasn’t feeling like going but he didn’t want to blow his cover. In the end, he was coming from a long line of Hunters. His big break was coming; he could feel it.
“I’m not going.” She was very stubborn, even more than before.
“Come on! It’s karaoke! You can dance and act stupid without people judging you! And you can act all lovey-dovey with Zek.”
The two culprits stared at Chen grudgingly.
“I’m not going. I have a demon bound to me, in case you forgot. An angst demon.”
Chen rolled his eyes, like that was the dumbest reason he could come up with. Next, he turned to Zoe.
“I just got a trip to Hell and have a lot of things to sort out. I’m not feeling like swaying a tambourine around and dancing.”
Chen pouted and sat on the bed, whining. “You guys are no fun. We should be glad that we’re still alive.” He was talking too soon for someone who just got dragged into her life. “Fine. I’m going withou—”
“Actually, Ezekiel. You should go.” He opened his mouth, ready to explain why that was a bad idea but she interrupted with, “No. You helped me a lot and I transformed your festival into my own issue. Go and have fun with your friends. I’m going to be here when you come back.”
She smiled softly. That single smile got to Ezekiel’s heart and he quickly surrendered. He left with Chen a few minutes later, leaving Zoe alone.
“Are you sure you want to do this? You don’t know for sure if it was her.” She got on her feet and stretched.
“It wasn’t only her.”
Iaosur lay on her made-up bed and rolled around. He could hardly express how much he liked the new and improved version of Zoe. She was finally acting like the commander.
Zoe went out shopping, just like any other girl. She chose the biggest and most popular shopping centre in Shibuya; many people, many ghosts and too many familiars. Their energies were mixing up and Iaosur could pass as nothing but an innocent ghost.
She walked around for two hours and actually bought something for her parents. When she stopped for a break, she went to a fast food court, placed in the middle of the shopping centre. It was the best place to see everything and everyone.
She bought a small pizza with pepperoni; she loved pepperoni. Actually, she loved anything spicy. Zoe took care to eat it very slowly. She checked how Alec was and how Fallen was doing. It wasn’t a surprise that her fans were excited to see what would happen next. She had no idea, truthfully.
Zoe called her parents and asked her mother how their break was. It seemed her father got an irritation and they had to go back home because he needed special treatment. She called someone whom she hadn’t spoken to in more than a few years: Terrance. He was freaked out and asked her if she was safe and healthy. She chuckled and agreed that she was acting a little out of character.
When Zoe left the shopping centre, it was dawn. She was careful on her way back to change the subway a lot and end up in a bad District. As she was going down a dark alley, she passed a few thugs. She made sure to get stalked to the next corner.
“Hey, girl. I think you got the wrong District!”
Zoe blinked innocently and looked around her. She had to be stupid not to notice the danger.
“Oh. I thought this is a shortcut to my hotel. I’m deeply sorry.”
Zoe bowed twice before she brought her hands in front of her chest. She glanced to her right and left and noticed a few familiars looking at her suspiciously.
“Well, I’ll be going. Thanks for telling me.” She smiled nervously and tried to go back where she came from. One thug stopped her.
“Now, now. We can’t let you go like that. You have to show us your gratitude.”
“I already said thank you.”
The thugs laughed. One of them grabbed her hand harshly and pulled her close to him.
“Say it again.”
She bent her head and avoided looking at him. He chuckled and pulled her after him.
He entered a back alley and pushed her against the wall. The rest of the thugs entered after their comrade and made a circle around her.
“Say it again, kid,” he whispered. She felt like scoffing since she was definitely older than him.
“I’m sorry.” Her tone seemed different.
The thug raised her head and looked into her eyes. Except for the yellow circle in her eyes and the change in her demeanour, she was emitting some dark aura. It made him feel helpless. He dropped on his knees and continued to stare at her horrified.
“I’m sorry,” she repeated, yet didn’t sound sorry at all.
Zoe smirked and broke his neck easily. The thugs were ready to run but she stopped them. She killed them without trying too much. Beelzebub was a gluttony demon, but she wasn’t; she was a pride demon, and she could feel it.
It was silent. She only heard a loud scream before she smelled blood.
Suzy hurried down the street and took a sudden turn. She froze when she saw the mess. Some bodies looked like they got played with internally before they finally got bored and killed them while some were tortured while still alive, but how could that be possible?
“When you’re a demon, you realise that a lot of things are possible.”
Suzy gulped and turned around to face the criminal. Zoe’s hands were clean. She didn’t have any blood on her clothes or body.
Zoe raised an eyebrow and took a step towards Suzy. The girl took a step back unconsciously.
“You’re nothing but a criminal. I thought you may have a chance, but you killed someone. You will go straight to Hell!”
“I don’t see angels, so I don’t see how I can find salvation. I’ve been surrounded by darkness my whole life. You don’t know how that feels. You don’t know what insane means.” She took another step towards her, and Suzy took one back. “I wanted to be normal. I didn’t sign up for this position. The commander is nothing but a demon. Maybe you’re right, but right now, the commander is only human.” She took two steps towards her and cornered her against the wall. “I knew you’d come if I’d kill someone or do something suspicious so tell me one reason why I shouldn’t kill you right now,” Zoe sung, her eyes having such a strange twinkle.
“I’m on your side.”
Zoe chuckled and leaned in. Her eyes were scary and the yellow circle was making her look intimidating. It felt nice to have the power, finally.
“It’s the twenty-first century. You have to say something more convincing.”
Suzy licked her lips and straightened even though she was scared.
“I know someone who can answer every question you have. He can help you control your powers and he can help you fight the Holy Brotherhood.” Zoe tilted her head to the side and stared blankly at Suzy, who continued, “He knows who the inheritor is.”
That definitely caught Zoe’s attention. She backed off and Suzy sighed in relief. Being alive while being targeted by a demon was something rare.
She had to throw the dead corpses somewhere and be sure no one was going to find them anytime soon.
When Ezekiel got back to the hotel, he got a big surprise.
“What? I said I’ll be here when you return.”
Ezekiel couldn’t find words to explain what he was thinking in that moment.
“You’re covered in something red and I’m one hundred per cent sure it’s blood and dirt,” he stated, growing annoyed.
“You came before I had the chance to shower. I said I’ll be here when you return not that I won’t go anywhere in the meantime.” She was annoying. The new and improved Zoe was very annoying and a complete smartass.
“I liked you better before,” he muttered, walking past her. “Is there any chance for the old Zoe to come back?”
She shook her head. Ezekiel was disappointed. She’s been hard to handle before, but now he needed a leash.
Their airplane was that night. Their seats were pretty much the same as before. It was uncomfortable between Chen and Ezekiel and for some reason, it amplified when Hans sat behind her.
Suzy was in the back and she wasn’t happy with how things had turned out. Her master instructed her to watch the commander, not to be threatened by her.
Those hours in the air were excruciating. Zoe dozed off a few times but when the plane landed, she got sick again.
“You’re really bad with landings. You almost threw up on me!” Chen was the only person who could act so lively after he witnessed his friend go to and return from Hell.
“I have to take a seat.” She was stumbling around and her stomach was making weird sounds.
She could feel the need to vomit but kept it in. Suzy came out with a plastic bag and gave it to her. Zoe took it quickly and threw up everything she ate.
“Uh, excuse you, we can take care of her.” Suzy looked at Chen and judged him before she turned to Ezekiel.
“I’m Suzy and I’ll be in your care from now on.” She bowed and walked next to Zoe. “They’re not demons,” she whispered to the young commander.
“Of course not. I wasn’t born evil,” Zoe commented, a bit offended.
“So you are evil now.” She froze when she heard Mehrdir’s voice. He sounded amused. “Go home and relax, Zoe. It’s safe for the time being.”
She grabbed the tissue from Suzy and wiped her mouth.
After their goodbyes and phone number exchanging, Ezekiel left with Zoe and Suzy. Chen couldn’t come because his not-girlfriend was waiting for him at the entrance.
“He’s either dumb, or doesn’t like her that much,” Zoe started.
“A little bit of both. After he woke up, his mind started to work a little bit different. He doesn’t see ghosts and things but he can feel their presence.”
Zoe acknowledged that new piece of information.
“Something about Lizzy is turning his feelings off. I think his infatuation was just for a short period of time.” Suzy glanced at Ezekiel curiously. “What?” he asked the new face.
“You’re connected to someone who’s inducing a lot of annoyance to me right now.”
Ezekiel sighed and laid his head back.
“Please, make him go away. When we went to karaoke back in Tokyo, he got me in trouble.”
Zoe chuckled and patted his knee in comfort. “That’s what an angst demon does. Even if the connection breaks, he’s still going to play around.”
Suddenly, Ezekiel realised something.
“What if I end up like Rowan?” Zoe watched her best friend amusedly. “I don’t want to be a runaway who does suspicious work for suspicious people.”
She started to laugh. It was funny because he was serious.
When they got out of the taxi, the driver seemed content. He threw a few worried glances at the three adults in the car who only a few minutes ago were talking about a lot of weird stuff like demons and thugs.
While walking down the familiar alley towards her apartment, Zoe checked out the wall. Nothing was different.
“You know, you never told me what was written there. Like, for real,” Ezekiel mumbled, glancing at the wall and seeing the same thing as before.
“The Master is forming an army. The Inheritor will lead it once he’s found and the darkness will engulf humanity forever,” Suzy responded. Ezekiel was confused.
“Isn’t that supposed to be the commander? How come you understand demon language?” the human boy questioned the new girl.
Zoe glanced warily at her too, curious as to what kind of answer she had.
“I’ve lived in this kind of world before. My grandmother was the commander a long time ago. She died, killed by the Holy Brotherhood. The next generation passed and the commander hid. Now, it’s you. But you’re different.”
“What’s so different about her? Aren’t commanders the same?” Ezekiel asked curiously.
Suzy shook her head.
“It depends on them and their life force. Zoe woke her gift from a very young age. My grandmother was in her thirties when she started to see ghosts and demons. Besides, you don’t hate it. I think that’s the difference. You love being the commander.”
It was bad enough when she was thinking about it, but now that Suzy had said it out loud, it made Zoe feel like scum.
“I think you’ve loved it from the first time you saw a demon. No matter how much pain they brought to you, you would always come back and find relief and safety around them,” Suzy continued her explanation.
Luckily, Zoe didn’t meet her neighbours in the hall. She was grateful for that because she didn’t want to explain why there was another person with luggage entering her apartment.
“Ah. I missed you my dear bed.” She was happily rolling on her bed when Ezekiel jumped on it.
“I missed this bed, too.”
She narrowed her eyes at him and pushed him off the bed playfully. However, Ezekiel didn’t find it funny.
“It’s my bed.”
He scoffed and glared at her. She didn’t have to push him so harshly.
“Did I say it isn’t? I said I missed this bed, too.”
She rolled on her back and linked her hands under her head. Ezekiel got up and jumped on the bed again. He shifted and ended up next to her.
“Thank you, Ezekiel.”
“Everything.” She turned her head to him and smiled. “You barged into my life and made it even worse than before. You brought your own baggage of dark stuff and you became yet another responsibility for me.”
Everything she said was true, but it wasn’t something Ezekiel wanted to be thanked for.
“But you also brought humanity and friendship. You helped me get out of my lonely home and showed me that I can have a social life if I try. You showed me that I can bring happiness too. You made my dark world a little brighter.”
Ezekiel froze, mostly because she was talking so much and it was so genuine that he got a chill. She wasn’t usually good at expressing her feelings since she was pretty much an introvert and hated human contact, but now it had been a few months and she’d learned—forcefully and under some questionable circumstances—that she hadn’t lost her humanity; at least, not yet.
“I don’t know what to say.” He was speechless. His mind was always thinking about the worst case scenario. Nothing was life threatening for the moment, so it made him uncomfortable.
“You don’t have to say anything. I just want you to remember this and never doubt your role in this story.” She moved a little closer to him and took his hands in hers. “You had an important role. You made a difference.” She smiled and kissed his cheek before she left the room.
Ezekiel blushed and touched the spot she just pecked.
“What just happened?”