Thankfully for Beatrice and all others on the ground level, the firetrucks arrived before the flames could reach them. Everything above them, though, was completely and utterly destroyed… At least they could look on the bright side: The majority was concrete. It wouldn’t take long to scour, clean, then reapply the necessary utilities before refurbishing and reimbursing. If it was all wood, it would have been a different story, but it was cheap paneling. Easy enough to replace.
Though, in that sense, everything was easy to replace wasn’t it? For being so attached to her old car, Plank moved on quick to the new hotness. Francis switched phones without a second thought, so the question wasn’t what was replaceable but how fast it could be replaced. Anger gave way to sorrow fast enough, no? Sorrow to lethargy and exhaustion, exchanged for the cold embrace of sleep, where his mind replaced the buzz of reality with the calm, dead serenity of nothingness.
How soon, then, would his love be replaced? How fast would his pain be changed to something a bit more… pliable. In truth, there was no way to know in that void, but, at least there, he was able to hold on to Jessica. She was but resting in the aether, snoring away in his arms, her belly protruding a touch from the litter that was due any day from then. At least there, he had some semblance of stability, of conflict and life resolved, unlike what awaited him on the other side.
He could feel it, though. The Pull, the reeling of pulling his soul back to a world that had no idea what they were truly about to unleash. He could hear them, too, the Gates of Hell thumping, creaking open with each crick of the reel forcing him away from innocence, from haven –not for him, mind. No… He would be perfectly fine.
After all, he had some… personal therapy to partake.
He groaned, wrenched away from his bliss at last, taken from that abyss to the cold, hard asphalt of the parking lot –of Vereor Nox Academy, at least. They had the “decency” to move him out of the way for the firetrucks to do what they do best: Get in the way while their masters piddled away, waiting for the fire to burn down enough before they could blast it. Some attempted for the steps, but Lilith was too kind to inform them there was no one left upstairs. There probably wasn’t, but, knowing Lilith, she would have been more than happy to let them die to bend over backwards for those lousy humans. And Johnny was standing there, watching it, glad to be cucked.
BUT Francis didn’t care about them, anyways. He didn’t care how Lilith allowed herself and others to be fucked, nor the show Johnny was indulging in. He didn’t care about the centaur nor the orc or even the witch that all waited for him to wake.
What he cared about was where Jessica was.
She was robbed from his arms as he slept, taken from him. The flames already frothed at his maw, but he had his answer, seeing the ambulance pulling back into the parking lot of the apartments. A short shit hopped out of the front seat (though, admittedly, was still taller than all of the goblins) and rushed over to Lilith, handing her an envelope.
“More tests need to be done, but here’s the prelim,” the short shit stated as Lilith opened it.
“Carbon monoxide poisoning?” Lilith muttered, and pulled out her phone. “One moment… Strange… Tae and the other fairies don’t mention detecting any traces before they left their shift that morning.”
“Her lungs were saturated in it. There were several fractures as well, but those occurred posthumously. We’re waiting on a tox screen to see if she has anything currently in her system, but she does have a record of drug abuse on file. Shorted her father’s painkillers to sell them on the streets.”
“With his consent, most likely,” Francis grumbled. Groaned as he realized what he had done. “Inside words and out, you fucking dumbass.”
The damage was already done, though. Those parasites noticed he was awake. Specifically Bridget. The witch cried out, fawning over him, flinging herself into his embrace as she sobbed and cried and made good use of those alligator tears.
“Oh, Francis,” she whispered, her voice so ragged, so hoarse. She was a great method actor. “Darling. I’m so sorry. I’m so very sorry.”
“Get off me… Get off me!” He grumbled, barked as he shoved her off. He stood, his ears pricked towards Lilith still, but because of her blubbering he missed a good portion.
“… Still. How did the carbon monoxide get in,” he caught Lilith pondering as the short shit walked back to the ambulance. “He gives off a bit due to his body’s chemistry, but it dissipates within a few moments. For it to reach lethal levels when he’s not home-”
“Are you sure you should be contemplating this in the open?” Johnny said, gesturing to Francis. “He could be listening.”
“He is, but he’s already thinking the same. He’s putting the puzzle pieces together with us… and… he deserves to know.”
“Damn right I do, but you’re wrong,” he muttered, growling. Fresh flames washed down his chin, his wings aching as they stretched and lashed out, spraying dust around from the gusts they generated. “I already know who did this, and, even if it wasn’t specifically her, there’s a list. I’ll run down the entire fucking thing if need be!”
“Whoa, Francis. Calm your tits,” Penny said, patting his shoulder- and she was lucky she wasn’t on that list. Instead, he only knocked her arm away, only drew a little bit of blood. What’s a gash between friends? What’s five between besties? “The fuck, dude!”
“You shouldn’t have touched him, wizard. He’s in a lot of pain,” Bridget said, nestling into his arms once more. She nuzzled his chest, sniffling, squeezing him so tight.
But he would squeeze her tighter.
“Francis, no!” Lilith shrieked, but it was too late. The girls around him screeched, reeling back as the witch in his arms vomited blood. She tried to wheeze; he could feel it around his talons, her lungs contracting, fighting against their intrusion. How rude of them. He was only trying to give them some FRESH AIR. Maybe they’d prefer to be on the ground, then, forgotten, forsaken, but at least they wouldn’t be alone! There was a throat with it, a spine joining for the ride, along with a heart and entrails, all winding out as he wrenched them, inch after inch, watching the life drain from her eyes again. That spark in them; was it… Ah… it was. The light of betrayal, of understanding.
Only now, when she was dying, did she understand.
He left her with the darkness of knowledge, crushing her head down into her vacant chest, and shoved her into that mound. It would be nothing in a few moments, anyways. Just like before, yet not for Desiree- YET NOT FOR JESSICA. Guess they weren’t important enough. A manticore fighting for her cancer-ridden father wasn’t as important for the future as a ditsy, vapid, smothering, baby-crazed ginger! Guess it would be easier to work with; one didn’t have a soul to begin with.
Oh, but it was time for class. Time for all good little boys and girls to go to school, and that means it was time to tackle the day anew. He had his nap; he was ready for anything. As suspected, the body was cleaned, forgotten as he stormed towards the stairs. Students, once howling on the steps, were now only staring at his ascent, at his hands bathed in blood. The clawing at his mind was stronger than ever, the buzzing so loud, their screams so prominent… as were the pink eyes, but they made sure to keep their distance, stayed out of his wake. For only Death followed; Destiny had no hand in this day. He will not forget. He will never forget, and he will never forgive.
Bridget’s class. That’s where they congregated. That’s where they conspired. Third floor, right hallway. Six doors down, southern door. However, he had a feeling for another group and checked detention first. Wouldn’t you know; he was right. The lycans were there, guffawing… silencing as they saw his hands.
“Oh wow,” Mandy said, rolling her wrist as he approached. “Somebody’s having a bad d-”
The other three screamed and fled towards the sides as he grabbed her by the top of her head, twisting her hair hard enough to rip her scalp. He yanked her off the desk, slamming her into the ground, and, like a tag, her hair ripped as he flung her at the back of the room, leaving her skull exposed. Such a mix of emotions, a shock to her system, unable to truly process as he jumped upon her. Literally. His toes, those hardened talons, tore so easily through her middle, pulling at it like a hawk or a vulture at fresh game, eviscerating, leaving the innards to steam and stew on the cold ground.
He rose his right leg, rested the reddened edges behind her head… and shoved it down into the tile, cracking both it and her skull in one, fell pound. But why stop there? Brains were a fine thing under the toes, after all. Like… grapes at a vineyard. Shame he only had enough for one foot, but, by the end of it, that gray matter was more than ready to be a wine.
“Now,” he said, wiping his toes along her black tank top, clacking on the ground as he wheeled towards the others. “One of you want to tell me which of you put the hose in?”
He growled, and lunged across the room, catching Lupe by the arm. It had made it out of the room, and now lay on the ground beyond, cut off by the heavy door. She screamed; they all screamed, a distant murmur in his aching mind. He wrenched at her shoulder, turning her around, her face greened and pallid.
“A volunteer,” he declared, and his arm wings expanded, ripping into her face, peeling away the lids that dared to try and save her. “Tell me. Did you do it?”
“D-d-do wh-” She spluttered out, lost to her gags, choking on her own throat as it boiled and charred close. He pulled his mouth away, pushing her aside, leaving her to writhe and grasp at her chest, focusing on the other two.
“Well? Who slid the hose under the door?” He said. “It would have been the easiest way. No one else was at home, dark clothing -or fur-, nighttime; you tell me, and you might survive.”
“We have no idea what you a-” Luna started, clawing at her own neck as he pulled it out. Arterial spray was such a beautiful thing; if aimed right, it can create quite the tapestry. Her spine crackled against his claw, broken, leaving her a limb spraycan, painting the room with it as he sung and danced… leaving her on top of her other, unimportant half.
He sighed, and smirked at Victoria.
“Then there was one.” He growled, and marched towards her. She whimpered, fleeing, cowering, trying so hard to squeeze into the cracks of the Academy, itself, to escape him. Soft fluid rushed down her leg, tinkling on the ground as he loomed over her. “So was it you? Did you kill Jessica?”
“Does it matter?” She whimpered.
“Not really, but thanks for asking. At least one of you had an actual brain.”
Because she did show such insight, he was kind enough to give her what she wanted. It was a tight fit, but, with a few shoves, some well-placed tears, and plenty of grit, she was one with the academy wall. Only her right hand stayed out, curled into itself, left in the dark as he headed for his next destination. The voices still screamed in his mind, demanded he stopped, not to give in, but why bother? It was always inevitable.
He was the monster.
He was the terror.
He was the nightmare! He had been blessed; his family crest was a demon of death. Forsakened, he has been awakened. And now he has come to claim what was his!
The harpies (sans Cassidy because of course it wouldn’t be that easy) were in Bridget’s class. As was the new Bridget. Of course they rushed her; how dare they be without their lovely golems for more than an hour. She gave him a warm smile… then noticed the warmer, crimson cream on his hands and feet.
“Oh dear. Are you okay, Francis,” she asked, walking over- and it’s not often he got to kill the same person twice in a day. Literal double kill; her head twisted off with ease. The spine part? A bit tougher to pull out, but he made sure only it came out. Needed to bust the ribs along the way, tear off the organs as they came up through the mouth, but he had his straight blade. The handle was something to be desired, but nothing a bit of crude carving in her face couldn’t fix.
Ezra, Dixie, Ali, the others; they all puked. They all shrieked. They all ran for the door… which he let them pass. They did not matter. The harpies in the back, though? Oh, they knew they were the target. They did not flee like the others; then again, how could they when he was holding them in place from the daggers being flung from his eyes.
“Where’s your main bitch? Hmm?” He said, running his hand up the spine… stabbed through Brittany in the blink of an eye. She coughed-then-expelled quite a bit of blood as that back stabbed her for once. All that metal before truly tempered it for this day. He reached into her throat and grabbed the tip, pulling it up and through, wrenching it back. The room rippled from the release, the sternum cracking like a firecracker as it gave room for the innards, pouring out with another slash across the belly. He refused to let her fall, though, looking her in the eyes, glassing as she gagged and wheezed. “To think. You were the first harpy I groped… but the second one I was inside.”
He licked her cheek… then chomped down on her head. Her body flailed like… well, a chicken with its head cut off, stringing along its beauties on the ground until, with one, final kick in that fine ass, she fell over, flopping like a fish. She wouldn’t be alone, though. The others proved just as helpful… Maybe he was thinking too small. There were plenty of other women in the background that wanted him. Any of them could have done it. Perhaps it was time to cull the herd, since they so eagerly flocked behind, even with all desolation before them.
He growled, almost… cheerfully, as he looked back at the door, at the glass, looking at those horrified onlookers –horrified, yet they were still there. Like good little sheep, they don’t run when danger is right before them. Don’t they see that the wolf is out to play? He started towards the door-
He looked back, his wings itching something fierce, rustling seeing that Fang Tiny behind. She even had an axe; how cute. It was an oversized thing, more at home in an anime or a video game, but he could see that its edge was no joke. Both beards of that gaudy monstrosity had a sheen to them that cut light, itself.
“Remember your promise,” she said. “You said you wouldn’t hurt innocents!”
“You see… about that… Turns out nobody is innocent. Not anymore.” He clenched his hands, his fists shaking, his nails tearing into his palms, adding a fresh wash down them and onto the floor. “You know, unlike your brother, you don’t have an army of Barbie Dolls backing you up.”
“That’s fine. I don’t need anyone!”
She vanished- but was slammed to the ground off to his left, pressed down by her own axe.
“I have no issues with you,” he said, lobbing that abomination across the room. “I knew you wouldn’t do it.”
“Oh yeah? Why is that?”
“Because you have literal zero interest in me –now, at least. You have my blood, so you and your freaky little family can do whatever the fuck you need. You wouldn’t kill someone that was simply with me.”
“And how can you be so sure? About ANY of that?”
“Are you saying I am wrong… Well, if we open up that line of thought-”
He roared, shaking the room, shattering the lights above as he dove his hand down towards her chest- somersaulting, landing both feet in the top of her head. He started to right, resting on her skull- only to roll forward, avoiding that axe- and catching her leg, pulling it. The beard finally had a taste of his flesh, but only a sampling. It slid off his arm wing, severing it as he wrenched at her shoulder, shoving her into the whiteboard- only to flip along it, the axe chewing its way through.
“So this is your plan? Keep me distracted?” he said, running out of board to roll along. He started to duck- only to leap, “spidering” on the top. The axe bit into the tile, left there as he lunged at her, sending her sliding across to the door. She kicked him off, flipping him through the glass, and he spun, rolling- flipping along the lockers instead. The crowd scattered before that axe and their dance. “You of all people should know my endurance- and my tolerance!”
The axe bit into his shoulder, and he pressed it down, catching it. His other hand wrenched at the handle, pulling her in, catching her by both wrists. Flames rolled from his maw, expelled towards her face- only to char a poor racoon-kin behind. They shrieked, running down the hall, setting off the sprinklers and alarms. Steam rolled from Francis’s shoulders, from his mouth, hazing his vision. Shame she wore such prominent perfume. He could tell that smell anywhere. Pinpoint it at any time. And she seemed to have gone back for another axe, sparking against the lockers as he hopped back from her sweep.
“She’s gone, Francis!” She bellowed, crying out as she cleaved through the mist. He allowed it to meet, lining up perfectly with the first, and he tore out both, one for each hand, swinging at her. “Oh shi… She’s gone! What does this solve?”
“Nothing, but it sure is fun,” he said, cackling. “Isn’t that what this is all about? Fun? Doesn’t everyone just want to have fucking fun!”
He roared again- turned to a shriek as he spun, yelling right in her face. The lockers behind crumpled under its weight, while blood ran down her ears, eyes, and nose, forcing her to her knees. The opening he needed. He rose both axes, and cleaved them as one.
Knocked aside by a familiar, black blade.
“Leave,” Mordred commanded Tina, stepping before her.
“Oh, gallant knight. Even YOU turn your blade on me now?” Francis said, bemoaning as he rose his arm to his face. “I truly am forsaken…”
He chuckled, turned into a full cackle- a roar as he tossed the left axe. It scraped along her visor, sparking, hitting her in the eye. His moment to shine. He slammed the handle of the axe into the great sword’s blade, shattering the iron handle. But loosing it enough to wrench it from his hands. He yanked it behind him until he could reach the handle, ripping through the ceiling as he swung it back around to face its owner, its creator.
“You know, I really don’t want to fight you,” Francis said. “There’s no way in Hell you’re involved.”
“I’m getting involved,” he said, and growled as Tiny only started to stand. “Didn’t you hear? Go!”
“She probably didn’t. Blew out not only her eardrums but most of her head.”
“I heard just fine,” she grumbled, and turned to face him again, the thrown axe in her grasp. “No one else will die this day.”
“The funny thing is nobody did have to die. Rather, nobody did die, but Lilith doesn’t give a fuck enough about puppies and canaries to erase it at the drop of a hat. The death of a wizard, though? That’s too far.”
“You’ve gone mad,” Mordred said, and reached into his chest. The darkness rippled, and a fresh blade emerged –which, if he had to guess, was an inch longer than his.
“Mad? Mad! No… No, dear Mordred… I’ve gone sane. My eyes have been opened after having the wool pulled over them for the last few months. I was… coddled, lulled into a false sense of security, of stability… but that’s never true, is it? I can never truly be happy, even when I put my foot down. Even when I say it is!”
He lunged, that great sword over his head, held in both hands.
Loosed like an arrow.
Mordred gasped, ducking away. His chance again. He pounced on his chest, rending at his helmet, aiming for those damned purple eyes. They might not be the pinks, but they would be just as cathartic to pop! Oh, it was such a queer thrill to hear a shade scream in agony, in anguish- gone too soon as he rolled off, avoiding the axe. He slid down the hallway, reclaiming his blade –half off, sadly. The last third met the light at the end of the tunnel, those steps and the crystal chandelier glimmering behind.
He pointed that flattened end at them, growling.
“You want me to stop? Then bring me the head of the one that killed her! That killed Des,” he exclaimed. “There’s only one person left that it could possibly be. Otherwise…”
He inhaled, and the air around her turned to a thick haze. His skin began to glow, those scales rattling, shimmering with such color. The metal lockers soon hissed, steamed, bubbled as his chest grew ever brighter. Yet no flames could be seen on his lips. None streamed from his nose, no matter how much he growled and panted. He didn’t know how he knew what he was doing. It simply… came to him. He wanted a solution to his problem, no matter the cost.
No matter the cost.
His chest ached, alive once more after being tossed through the wringer the day before. The dear heart inside cried again, after being broken, melting together as that heat rose ever higher. His scales, once a soft, hardened blue, crackled and popped, turning a bright red, matching the ever-thickening haze around and abound.
“What are you doing?” Tina said at last, and stepped forth, into the edge of that haze. Crying out. “The fuck!”
“It’s as I said,” he said, wincing. His chest was starting to really hurt, as if his heart was being literally ripped out. “One way or another, I will have justice. This whole fucking school shall burn! Fuck all of you!”
His head cleared a moment, save for a high, ringing buzz. He spun around, and looked down into the entry. Seeing Cassidy at the bottom. She was still wearing the outfit from the other day, while her face had several more bags. And tear trails.
The heat in his chest, the haze around settled as he leaped over the railing. His wings beat, actually slowing his ascent as he landed before her, looking down upon her miserable face. How his heart hammered in his throat, in his head, looking into those eyes… unflinching even as he grabbed her by the neck. She did not fight it, did not flinch, did not cower; she stood there, and simply looked him in the eyes.
“Why?” He uttered, fresh tears falling down his cheeks. “Why did you do it!”
“I love you,” she said. His answer. For everything. He growled, panted, looking her in the eyes, seeing the truth before him, the true, ugly truth.
But who cared about that anymore?
He twisted her head and kicked her down, bellowing one more time as he fell to his knees. Crystal scattered around him, the chandelier loosed in his bellow, and looked towards the heavens. Knowing they were now fully well out of his grasp. And there would be nobody praying for him… The doors to the Academy opened, and people in full riot gear entered, circling him… making him laugh.
“A bit late for that, isn’t it?” He croaked out, nodding to the harpy beside. “I’ve done what was necessary.”
Lilith stepped out from the circle, scowling at him… shaking her head.
“You’ve done nothing,” she said, and shot him in the head. It would have been more dramatic if it were a bullet, but no. Just a lousy dart that returned him to lala land.