The prodding of the pencil against my arm pulled my attention away from the news article I was reading about a recent mass murder in Rome.
“Hey, Sai, what question are you up to?” Tiff asked me in a hushed voice, continuing to poke at my arm as I tapped away at my iPod, searching for a decent song to listen to while I worked. Only managing to ignore her for a short while before the repetitive sensation became annoying, I looked over at her and frowned, and she gestured down to her Maths work. Briefly looking down at it, I rolled my eyes and told her that I was nowhere near where she was, pushing my work over to her as I spoke before returning to seeking a song. She took it, skimmed over it quickly, and started to laugh. “Sai, seriously, you’ll get in trouble if you don’t do it!” She pushed it back to me as I shrugged nonchalantly, not caring whether I passed or failed this particular class.
“It’s Maths.” I grinned at her before plucking her pencil from her hand and waving it around. “Besides, you’re not doing any work either.” I gestured at her computer, which she was using to chat to one of our other friends rather than to access a calculator, like she had told the teacher she was doing. This caused her to glare at me in mock anger before she reached over, snatched her pencil from my hand, and poked her tongue out at me. Then she returned her attention to her computer, and I laughed before saying, “You really should do your work as well.”
“I know, I know,” she replied, although her tone indicated that she was not going to. I sniggered before looking back down at my paper, then grimaced as I perused the textbook for what had to be the thousandth time. I hated Maths, and while I knew what I was doing – living for billions of years allowed me to amass a wealth of knowledge – I still didn’t really want to be doing it. “Hey, Sai, have you seen this?” Tiff suddenly asked, distracting me from my current train of thought. I looked over to see that she was showing me a picture of something I didn’t quite understand. So I shook my head, and got the long explanation of what it was (which still didn’t allow me to understand it).
The bell rang a few minutes after I managed to get her to quiet down. Tiff and I quickly packed our school work up before hurrying out of the classroom, ignoring the fact that the teacher was telling us to do some homework tonight in order to complete the tasks. We hurried to our lockers, quickly put our stuff away, and got food before heading outside into the sun. It was a beautiful Monday morning, and while Tiff had spent a lot of it complaining, even she had to admit that it was good weather.
As we headed towards the plaza in the centre of the school, something caught my attention. There was a person standing on the roof of one of the buildings, and as I looked upon him my eyes widened. I could immediately tell that he was not Human, but Nephilim. He was looking right at me, and his dark brown eyes seemed to pierce my very soul.
“Sai…?” Tiff asked. I looked over at her to see that she was staring in the same direction I was. “What are you staring at?”
He must be using Magic to hide himself from non-Nephilim, I thought, my eyebrows furrowing in understanding… and slight alarm. “Nothing,” I said to Tiff, although I really wanted to tell her that there was a Nephilim on the roof, watching me. It wasn’t just any Nephilim, either; this one in particular was called Soren. I knew him from a fair while back, but I didn’t know why he was hanging around, especially because he was the sort of Nephilim that didn’t really like being in areas that large groups of Humans frequented. Why is he here?
I looked back up at the roof to notice that Soren was gone, and as Tiff and I started walking towards the plaza again, I told her about his presence. She seemed shocked to know that he’d been hanging around, because she said, “Is he after me?” in a worry-saturated voice.
Her thoughts, while a little wild, had root in rightful caution; she was in constant danger from the Nephilim. Especially because she was one of the only Humans in the know about my people. However, I sincerely doubted that she was being targeted; she was very savvy on keeping information under wraps. “Soren is a civilian; I think he’s after me, rather than you,” I said as we reached the plaza and immediately spotted the rest of our friends. Our conversation changed as we walked over, and to the others, it appeared as if we were talking about school work. The shift in conversation was an automatic response, as neither of us particularly wanted to involve the others in a secret that could get them killed. They didn’t really seem to be interested in our conversation anyway; they were all arguing about something quite trivial. Tiff and I shared a look and shrugged as we sat down; the others said quick greetings to us both before they all got back to their arguing.
They argued for the entirety of recess, while Tiff and I spoke about the band that was her recent obsession. When the bell rang for the next class, Tiff and I both groaned. We both had to go to a class that we despised now, mainly because the teacher never shut up, and we hardly ever got work done.
While we were walking back to the locker bay to get our stuff, however, we were both stopped when Soren stepped in front of us. Nothing was said for a few minutes, but the hard glint in Soren’s eyes didn’t sit well with me, and I narrowed my eyes at him. “What are you doing here? Get out of our way,” I hissed at him, extremely wary and suspicious of his unknown motives.
“Come with me,” Soren said, his voice cold and monotonous, “Or I’ll have no choice but to force you.” As he spoke, he took a single step forward; that single step was just one too close, and I gently pushed Tiff back. Since he hadn’t indicated who he was talking to, I automatically assumed that he was after my Human friend, even though I had earlier told her that it was unlikely Soren was actually going for her.
“Not a chance, Soren,” I said simply. “You’re not taking Tiff.”
Soren stared at me, his expression changing from a blank mask to one of confusion. “Why would you assume I’m after the Human?” he asked, still with a cold voice. “No, Sai, I came here seeking you. Now, come with me, or I’ll make you.” He took yet another step forward, but this time, I didn’t push Tiff backwards.
“No,” was my curt, warning reply. Back off, I thought, glaring at him and baring my teeth. “I refuse to come with you.” I looked back at Tiff. “Get inside, head to class. I’ll join you in a minute, okay?”
She shook her head. “No way,” she whimpered, her voice quavering. “I’m not leaving you.”
I sighed, but didn’t try to force her to go inside. Once her mind was set, it was set, so I simply went back to staring at Soren. We both glared at each other – Soren with cold eyes, me with burning eyes – for about five minutes before I heard Tiff yelp in horror. The sound wasn’t one she would have made normally, or with just Soren and I there, so it caught our attention. Both of us looked towards her, and noticed that she was staring at a swiftly approaching group of people. All of them were wearing black, tight-fitting bodysuits, but the one who got my attention was a woman who was clearly the leader of the group. She had long black hair, which was tied into a low ponytail, and dark green eyes… and those dark green eyes were hard and clear, filled with a purpose.
And I had a pretty good idea on what she – and her little squadron – was after.
“Run!” I yelled as I turned on my heel and started fleeing towards the school building, knowing that they wouldn’t dare follow us in there due to the risk of being seen by Humans. Tiff followed suit, yet Soren stayed back, obviously not the target here and hardly able to be considered in league with Tiff and I. The group immediately tailed us, catching up very swiftly; being Nephilim, they could run a lot faster than Humans could.
Tiff cried out abruptly, and I skidded to a stop as she tripped. She threw her hands out to stop herself from smashing face-first into the concrete, a movement for which I was relieved she did, but I couldn’t get to her in time; the moment she fell, the Nephilim were upon her, dragging her to her feet and holding her tightly before the leader started to order them to take Tiff away.
“Hey!” I yelled angrily, causing the woman to look back at me with curiosity glimmering in her eyes. I was not going to stand for these people kidnapping my best friend. “Release her this instant!”
The woman smiled, although the smile was humourless and cold. “I’m afraid we cannot do that, Sai,” she said softly. I growled, clenching my teeth and curling my hands into fists. “This Human girl has been marked by the Nephilim Council and must front them.” The woman turned her back to me and ordered her soldiers to continue dragging Tiff away, but my Human friend started screaming and kicking up a fuss, tears running down her face as she tried to get free with no results.
“Why?!” I yelled, causing the woman to look at me again. “She’s done nothing wrong!”
“She knows of us,” the woman said simply, keeping her tone clipped. “She is viewed as a threat, and she must be dealt with in a suitable matter.”
“No!” I yelled in anger and annoyance, and the woman raised an eyebrow at me. I shook my head. “It’s not her fault! It’s mine! Leave Tiff alone!”
“While it may be your fault, Sai,” the woman said, her voice frosty as she harshly glared at me, “She is not allowed to know about us. She is, therefore, a threat to the Nephilim secret, and must be eliminated.”
“Then I want to come along!” I exclaimed angrily, stomping my foot. This time, the soldiers dragging Tiff away stopped moving and all stared at me, and even Tiff herself stopped struggling and stared, wide-eyed and tearful. “I am not going to allow you to take my friend before the Nephilim Council for something that isn’t her fault!”
The woman remained silent for a few minutes, then turned to her soldiers. “Release her,” she said, and as soon as the words left her mouth, the Nephilim released my friend. Immediately, Tiff ran over to me, and I hugged her tightly. “Your terms have been accepted. Now, come along,” she said briskly, and I nodded. Yet, before we left, the woman looked at Soren and said, “Will you come along as well?”
“No,” he said, his voice devoid of emotion. That was all he said before he walked calmly away, and the woman shook her head before leading us towards a convoy of identical cars, all black SUVs. She opened a door and gestured for both Tiff and I to get in, and we did without saying a word. The woman closed the door after we’d both put our seatbelts on, and got into the driver’s seat. After two more of her men had joined us in the vehicle, the whole convoy started moving, and I looked out of the window at the school as we departed.
When I could no longer see the school, I sighed and leaned back into the seat that I was sitting in. I wasn’t scared, but I could tell that Tiff – sitting in silence next to me – was terrified.
I looked over at her and put my hand on her shoulder before saying, “Hey, it’s going to be alright.” I ignored the look that the woman gave me in the rear-view mirror as I spoke. “I won’t let them hurt you.”
“You mean it?” Tiff asked, her voice a choking sob as tears ran freely down her face.
I nodded. “You’re my friend. No way am I going to let them hurt you,” I said, my voice defiant. My eyes glittered with anger at the Nephilim that were taking us to the Nephilim Council. I didn’t care about the fact I was getting some sceptical looks from the soldiers and the woman.
Tiff gave me a forced, miserable smile. “Thanks, Sai,” she said softly, looking down at the floor of the car. She said nothing else, and I decided to drop conversation as well. There was no point in forcing it; it would only be strained and awkward.
Huffing, I crossed my arms and looked out of the window, watching as houses and buildings raced past. After ten minutes of watching the town go by, the buildings disappeared and were replaced by fields, trees and shrubbery. I grimaced, knowing exactly where we were heading, and out of the corner of my eye I saw Tiff look briefly out of the window. Her eyes were still wide and filled with fear, and I sighed, knowing that there was nothing I could say that could comfort her now.
After about twenty minutes of silently driving in the countryside, the convoy reached a large mansion that looked like it was owned by a large and wealthy family. In truth, it was the governmental building of the Nephilim, and housed the Nephilim Council, which only consisted of a handful of members. Most of the Nephilim politicians resided elsewhere, so the mansion was never the busiest place in the world.
As the convoy pulled up, I reached over and took Tiff’s hand, squeezing it gently. It was my way of showing that I was there for her, and when she shot me a grateful smile, I knew that she’d gotten my silent message.
The woman made us step out of the car, and as we did, the other Nephilim in the front passenger seat took the driver’s seat. Just Tiff, the woman, and I got out; the rest of the soldiers departed, leaving us three alone before proceeded to make our way inside.
The Nephilim Council mansion was a piece of architectural beauty, but I didn’t appreciate it, not today. I hardly came here – I’d only come here three times before – but I usually appreciated the place whenever I did. At present time however, I couldn’t, not while my closest friend was in danger of being either tortured, killed or sold into slavery. None of those options was particularly pleasant.
“Follow me, please,” the woman said as she led Tiff and I through the twisting hallways, knowing precisely where she was going. Both of us remained silent as we walked, although I did hear Tiff whimper a few times.
Soon enough, we reached a large door that looked like it was supposed to be in a castle rather than a building like this one, and the woman made us wait before she walked inside. For a few brief minutes I thought about making a run for it, then decided against it; Tiff wouldn’t be able to escape from the Nephilim, and there was no way I was leaving her behind.
“Enter, Sai of the Firstborn and Tiffany of the Humans!” a booming voice ordered from inside the room as the massive doors swung open, and both Tiff and I jumped before nervously sharing a look. We then stepped inside only to be plunged into darkness.
There was only one spot of light in the centre of the room, and I led Tiff over to it, knowing it was only there for us. We both stopped in the centre of the circle, waiting nervously for the rest of the room to light up, and slowly it did.
The room was small. There was a semi-circle table around us with five Nephilim seated behind it, and behind them was an upraised chair and desk. That chair was occupied by the head of the Nephilim Council.
I narrowed my eyes as I met the gaze of the Council’s head, although I kept the rest of my face blank, and he smirked. His name was Tyrus, and he was the last of the four Firstborn that had been left alive after the Nephilim Massacre. Surprisingly, he’d taken a while to reach his maturation age; whereas most Firstborn had matured around the ages of sixteen to nineteen, Tyrus had matured at the late age of twenty-nine. He was far older than that, however, although he was younger than me. Even if our appearances portrayed the opposite.
As the door to the Council chamber closed, Tyrus’ smirk widened. “Tiffany of the Humans, you have been summoned before the Nephilim Council to determine your fate,” he said, that smirk seemingly plastered to his face. There was malevolence in his voice, and it took all of my strength to not clench my fists and bare my teeth. “As you are a Human who knows the secret of the Nephilim, you are seen as a threat, and you must be dealt with.” His eyes glittered with dark glee; he was clearly enjoying this. “If you or your friend,” he said, looking over at me as the glee disappeared from his eyes, “Have any arguments, speak now, or this trial shall soon be over.”
“I have an argument,” I said, stepping forward and gaining the attention of the entire Council. In these sorts of events, only Tyrus really spoke, but the Council listened and advised Tyrus on what his decision should ultimately be. “Tiffany is not at fault. She has kept the secret of the Nephilim, while it is I who revealed it to her. If anything, I should be the one punished, not her.” I kept my voice steady as I spoke, trying to keep my tone neutral. Anger would not serve me well.
Tyrus frowned down at me. “But you are no threat to us, fellow Firstborn,” he said, his voice gentle, although I could tell that he was angry about me stepping forward with an argument.
“I told her the secret. It is law among the Nephilim to keep the secret, is it not?” I inquired, and Tyrus was completely silent. I knew I’d gotten him, so I continued with, “If anything, I should be punished. Release Tiffany, and allow me to take the punishment meant for her.”
There was a looming silence in the Council chamber for a long while, then Tyrus sighed and said, “Lydia, please escort these two outside until I summon you again.”
“Of course, sir,” the woman from earlier said as she stepped out of the shadows at the side of the room. She strode over to us and gestured for us to follow, and we complied. We walked out of the room, with the massive doors closing behind us, and as soon as they were shut, Lydia said, “You’re brave, Sai.”
I stared at her. “I’m not brave. I simply don’t want to see my friend die,” was my cold reply.
Lydia did not smile, nor did she laugh, but she did snort. “You remind me of someone,” she said, but she fell silent as the Council chamber’s doors reopened, and we all stepped back inside, the doors closing behind us. The Council had clearly come to a decision, and as soon as Tiff and I stepped into the room’s centre, Tyrus focused on us.
“The Council and I have reached a verdict.Tiffany of the Humans, you are free to go. However,” he said, his voice coloured by a tinge of dark amusement, “Your memory and knowledge of the Nephilim are to be removed.” As Tiff nodded and bowed her head, accepting this ‘punishment’, Tyrus looked down at me. “Sai of the Firstborn, you are to come with me, and you shall receive the punishment meant for the Human.”
I nodded before I looked over at Tiff. “I guess this is farewell, then…,” I said as I pulled her into a hug. “Thank you, Tiff, for being such a good friend.” Tears pricked in the corners of my eyes as I spoke.
Tiff hugged me tightly in return. “Goodbye, Sai,” she breathed sadly, releasing me from the hug as Lydia walked over and led her away. I turned back to Tyrus once she was gone, and waited for him to take me to a part of the mansion that was reserved for dealing with Humans… or unruly Nephilim.
“Follow me,” he said gruffly as he strode down from his Council seat and towards a door at the back of the chamber. I followed in silence, wondering what my punishment was to be. Most Nephilim were not dealt the death sentence; usually, we were just tortured. In my case, it would be horrific – if not a travesty – if I was sentenced to death; as a Firstborn, I was valued, and most Nephilim sought to preserve the lives of the last four Firstborn.
So it came as a shock when we entered a room that housed what appeared to be an electric chair.
I turned to Tyrus. “You’re… You’re not planning to kill me, are you?” I gasped, scarcely able to believe the very idea, and my horror only grew when Tyrus cruelly smirked at me and nodded. “You… You would kill a Firstborn?!”
“This was to be the Human’s fate. And you said you would accept it.”
“This is madness! You’re corrupt!” I hissed, taking a step back. As soon as I did that, however, I got frozen in place, and Tyrus smiled at me as I realised that he’d psychically frozen me in place. “Let me go!”
“You offered your life in place of your friend’s… Are you now taking your words back?” he asked carefully, his eyes flashing with dark joy as he telekinetically began to crush my heart. I grimaced, knowing that he was well aware I wasn’t taking my words back… but there was no way I was going to let him kill me.
“Never!” I yelled before meeting his eyes, and the second I did so, the crushing pressure on my heart disappeared, and I was freed from the psychic bond as Tyrus began to scream in agony and clutch the sides of his head. As he collapsed to the ground, I turned and ran out of the room, back through the Council chamber, and out into the main foyer of the mansion. I immediately saw Tiff and Lydia heading towards another room, and I yelled, “Tiff!” as I ran over to them.
Both of them turned to me, their eyes widening in shock, before Tiff said, “Sai? What—”
I shook my head as I grabbed her arm. “We have to go. Tyrus is corrupt! He just tried to kill me! No Firstborn would want to kill another Firstborn, as a general rule of preservation!”
“Excuse me?” Lydia asked, her voice shocked, and I turned to look at her to see that she looked stunned. “Tyrus… tried to kill you?”
I nodded. “Yes. He was going to kill Tiff in order to ensure that the Nephilim secret didn’t get out, but usually they change that to severe torture if a Nephilim offers to take the punishment… You would be aware of that.”
Lydia nodded in agreement. “Then I have all the proof I need. Tyrus is indeed corrupt, and I think I know what he’s been corrupted by,” she said, smiling ruefully. Tiff and I shared a look, confused, but before either of us could ask what she meant, she said, “Come with me, and I can show you what I’m talking about.” Her face was stony as she spoke, that smile having fallen away, but Tiff and I still agreed to go with her. Somehow I doubted we had much of a choice anymore. “Be forewarned, however; what I have to show you will change what you know about the Nephilim world. Even you, Sai of the Firstborn, will not be expecting this.” Alarm bells started to ring in my head upon hearing her warning. “Knowing that what I have to show you will shatter the lie you know as the truth, are you still willing to come with me?”
Tiff and I shared yet another look, but this time, it was not one of confusion. Instead, it was one of determination, and we both nodded before I looked back at Lydia and said, “Yes.”