“So, you’re back.”
When Ezekiel came home with someone, Rowan didn’t expect that someone to be Zoe.
“I took good care of your apartment.” The former thug grabbed something quickly from the coffee table and tried to hide something with his foot.
She inspected her living room, from the smallest vase to the biggest rug.
“One.” She pointed at Eneizar, who just walked out of her room. “Two.” She pointed at Iaosur, who was on the ground playing with Rowan’s phone. “Only two demons, and they’re acting suspiciously innocent.” She turned to Rowan. He shrugged. “Did anything happen while I was gone?”
The three males glanced at each before they looked at her.
“Some guys were looking for you. I think they were the two humans who don’t really matter.” Eneizar blinked innocently after he finished his sentence. She scoffed and turned to Iaosur.
“I didn’t possess anyone. You should give me a prize for that. Rowan’s soul, for example,” Iaosur teased, though he was probably more serious than Zoe liked.
Iaosur and Eneizar high fived each other and chuckled amusedly. Zoe watched in amazement as two dangerous demons were learning a lot of humanly stuff. They were acting immature, but that wasn’t a surprise.
They shook their heads. She looked at Ezekiel and he only raised an eyebrow. That was enough for her to know that she didn’t really lose any important events.
“I missed you, my bed.”
Those words were familiar. Ezekiel entered her room and saw her rolling on her bed with a happy smile gracing her face. He jumped on the bed and moved next to her. She rolled on her back and sighed.
“Thank you, Zoe.”
She felt like smiling but decided not to. That scene was repeating after exactly a year.
“What for?” It was her turn to ask.
But seriously, she was curious what she had to be thanked for; she hadn’t done anything nice for Ezekiel.
“For coming back.”
Her expression was blank. She gulped and turned her head to look at her best friend.
Zoe got up and crossed her legs under her, Ezekiel following her actions.
“I wasn’t going to leave you alone with these assholes.” He chuckled and hit her arm playfully. “I’m sorry I left so unexpectedly after what happened in Japan,” she sincerely apologised.
“I just hoped you would tell me before you’d do something. We’re best friends, remember?”
The smile that spread on her face was huge. It was the biggest smile he had ever seen on her face; it was rare, but it was genuine and worth it.
“Right. You’re my best friend. You’re my only best friend.” She raised her left hand and grabbed his right hand. She linked her pinkie with his and looked straight into his eyes. “Let’s pinkie promise.”
He laughed. It was childish, but why not?
“Fine. I promise I will always be your best friend, even if you become a demon and go to Hell. Commander or not, I will be your best friend.” Ezekiel repeated the title, hoping it would get stuck in her mind.
She tilted her head to the side and stared at him with a blank look for a few seconds.
“Then I promise I will never let go of my humanity. I will always treasure our friendship.”
They smiled at each other before she started to laugh and pushed him off her bed again.
Zoe was gone for a whole year. She called Alec and informed him that she was going to make a sequel for Fallen. He was happy, but not really.
“I’m full. I have a second writer and he’s annoying because he doesn’t draw his stories. He writes them.”
“What do you mean he writes them? That isn’t a webtoon.”
They met at a coffee shop and discussed a lot of things. He asked her where she went and why she was gone for so long. She lied through her teeth; she’d become a good liar after she got the proper training.
Zoe learned a lot while she lived with Suzy and her master. She found more people who knew about the commander and were fighting against the Holy Brotherhood. Practically everyone with medium powers was encouraging her to stand up in front of the cult and Beelzebub. She didn’t have to kneel in front of anyone.
“Exactly. It’s not a webtoon. Your webtoon is the only one I still am in charge of. I’m trying to extend my horizon.”
She raised an eyebrow and stared at him like he was stupid.
“Don’t you need skills for that?”
“Says the girl who vanished for a year. Did you bring me something, at least?” He glared at her and scoffed.
She seemed offended by his statement.
“Excuse me, but we only work together. We’re not best friends forever from what I remember.”
He leaned over the table and glared at her.
“Who said that?”
He frowned as he remembered. It was indeed him who told her that when they first started to work together. She’d been happy because she was thinking they could become friends, since she’d had none back then. But he refused vehemently. He bit his lip and got back in his seat. Damn him and his big mouth.
After Alec left, she got a surprise call from Jake. He’d found out she had returned and he wanted to clarify some things regarding Andrew. She was surprised he remembered she came back in the first place, since he was very drunk that night.
She didn’t leave the coffee shop but waited for him to come and explain his point of view.
“I’m sorry for what I said and how I acted before.” Well, that was an impressive start.
“All right?” She wasn’t sure how to respond to such a blunt apology.
Jake took a seat and started to fidget.
“I didn’t know you were so close to Andy and I didn’t know he talked about me with admiration. I wasn’t expecting it, truthfully.”
“Why not? He liked you.” The meaning behind her words was double, but she wanted Jake to realise that by himself.
“We got an audition for the same company, but Scarlet knew someone who could get us in without going through it.” She didn’t understand what was wrong with that and he noticed, explaining further, “But only me and Scarlet. As dancers. Not Andy.”
“And he heard you two talk about it?”
“I was shocked. I didn’t know what to do and I didn’t run after him. Maybe if I stopped him in time, he would be alive now.”
She watched the young man blame himself. It wasn’t a nice sight.
“Jake, he doesn’t hate you. He didn’t hate you back then either. He liked you too much to stay mad at you. Besides, you didn’t go with Scarlet.”
Jake still didn’t get the idea, though.
“When Andy died I felt like my courage died too. He used to say he was my number one fan.” He chuckled but his eyes were getting teary. “I really miss him.”
Zoe grabbed his hand and caressed it softly, her eyes staring so deeply at him that he felt like he was entranced.
“He misses you too, but he’s watching you from wherever he is.”
She knew that for sure and got exasperated by how much Andy talked about him: Jake did this today, Jake did that yesterday, and so on.
“Your bond will never break. You are best friends,” she finished when she noticed a faint pink colour his cheeks.
“Um—right. Best friends.”
She smirked and leaned back against her chair.
For the first time that day, she looked around the coffee shop. It was rather empty but that was good. On the other hand, she hadn’t seen Danielle. She was linked to the manager and she was always there, stalking him. He was talking with the barrister, yet Danielle was absent.
“Is something wrong?” Jake asked seeing as her mood suddenly dropped.
She looked outside and realised that the streets were empty.
“Actually, I think I need to use the bathroom. Excuse me.”
Jake watched her hurry into the womens’ bathroom.
Zoe checked for anyone inside the cubicles before she closed her eyes. A gust of wind blew her hair and she opened her eyes, her orbs yellow.
“Search for Danielle and report to me as fast as you can. And Andy; search for Andy everywhere.” Her tone was cold and authoritarian.
Being Commander came with a few quirks. She learned how to summon demons for her own sake and also learned how to send them back if they were crossing the line. Suddenly, being the commander wasn’t such a dangerous and stressful task.
When she returned, Jake was paying for his drink. He got a phone call from Stephen and had to leave. She didn’t ask for details and let him go since she already got what was looking for. Jake’s feelings for Andy were ambiguous, even for himself.
Zoe paid for her drinks too and left the store. She missed London in some ways. It had become her second home. Now that she remembered, she had to go visit her parents soon. They were curious about how she was. Besides, she was sure they would call some guy—Terrance—to forcefully bring them together and towards a possible marriage. That was a no, no. Terrance had his own life and she had hers.
She wanted to find someone on her own.
“Someone to like, huh?” she mumbled for herself.
The moment Mehrdir kissed her replayed in her mind. She blushed and shook her head quickly. He was a demon, she was still human. Besides, things weren’t easy with relationships between demons either.
“Demons don’t fall in love. Demons don’t fall in love.” She repeated it, but it only made her realise that she was already falling for the greed demon.
Who knew when it started? Maybe when he comforted her? Or maybe when he almost killed her? Probably somewhere in between.
“Hey! Zoe, is that you?” She looked over her shoulder and saw Hans. He had his phone in his hand and he was probably playing something.
When he reached her side, she realised she was right. He was a gamer indeed.
“You’ve been gone for some time. How was vacation?”
She tilted her to the side and frowned; she was confused.
“Vacation. Right. It was fun.”
Hans laughed and hit her back. It was a little strong for his body structure.
“We should meet these days and have a chat. I’m sure you will love what I’m going to tell you.”
She was even more confused than before. He winked and ran to catch the bus. Hans was a weird guy.
“Hey, Zek. Did something happen in univer—” She stopped when she noticed Mark and Luke on the couch. “Oh. Hello.” She waved awkwardly.
Mark was the first to react. He hugged her tightly and narrowed his eyes at her.
“You scared us when you left! Why didn’t you tell us that you were going on vacation with your parents?”
She glanced at Ezekiel, dumbstruck. He made a sign for her to go with it.
“Right. Vacation, yes. I’m sorry. My mother called and she sent the driver after me. I didn’t have time to say anything. I’m sorry I made you worry.”
Mark sighed and hugged her again. He liked hugging her, didn’t he? She patted his back awkwardly.
After she got another hug from Luke, she invited them to stay for dinner.
“I didn’t know you could cook.”
She rubbed the back of her neck and chuckled nervously. “I can’t. Rowan made this.”
The boys looked at the former thug, who was smiling sheepishly.
“Anyway, your cousins used your apartment while you were gone. You have a lot of relatives, don’t you?” Mark changed the subject and turned the light back on her.
“Cousins?” she mumbled. She got kicked under the table and bit her lip. “It’s a big family. I’m an only child, though,” she added quickly.
“Aren’t they so different? But it was fun to have so many guys around. We played football and went for drinks a few times.”
“All of you?” she asked, genuinely surprised. “Interesting.” She glanced from the corner of her eye at Ezekiel. He was trying to eat without looking grim; going out with humans and demons wasn’t exactly a fun experience.
“Yes. That Iaosur cousin of yours is really evil.” They chuckled.
“Yes. He is.” The smile on her face was forced. If anything, she looked like she wanted to torture someone.
“I think he cheated at every game we played,” Luke whined.
Zoe laughed, though it sounded strained.
“I will take revenge for you.” She heard the angst demon scoff in the back. Ezekiel frowned. He heard him too and she suddenly got an idea. “Actually, Ezekiel is very close to Iaosur.” The culprit frowned but the demon started to laugh. “Very, very close.”
He narrowed his eyes at her. She was a little bitch sometimes.
It was half past midnight when Zoe sneaked out of her room. Ezekiel was sleeping soundly on the left side of the bed, and somehow Rowan had taken his improvised bed. They were both snoring and mumbling in their sleep. It was funny to watch them but she had other issues.
She closed the door behind her and walked into the kitchen. Rubin was there, and he didn’t look happy at all.
“I found your little demon sneaking around for information. He got blocked somewhere, so I came in his place. Only fairies are allowed to sneak and provide information, Zoe. There are strict rules.” He sighed and stared at her blankly. “The Holy Brotherhood might have taken the ghosts and familiars in your neighbourhood.” She tensed.
“They want me to come out of my hiding spot and act, don’t they?”
“But if you do that, they’re going to capture you. You can’t die, Zoe. You have to maintain your position in Hell or the higher ranked demons will rebel.”
She bent her head and rubbed her face, tired of that cult already.
“I can’t get the inheritor involved, right?” Rubin gaped at what she just said.
“You found him?” She shook her head.
“I know his identity, but I don’t know where he is.”
Rubin was amazed anyway. He didn’t expect her to get involved in that so fast. But then again, the circumstances were forcing her to take a step forward.
“What about Andy?” She connected her needs to their needs.
“I don’t know where he went,” he responded.
Zoe sighed and dropped her head on the table. She mumbled something incoherent, but not even the fairy could make out what she said.
“Maybe they got him.” She raised her head quickly and glared at him.
“He’s smart. I know he’s just a simple ghost, but he is very smart. He wouldn’t fall into one of their traps,” she continued softly, assuring herself again and again.
“Never underestimate your enemy. Consider everything before doing something, too. I’m saying it for your own sake.”
The probability of Andrew getting caught was there. She didn’t want to think about it, but the possibility existed.