Two Kingdoms (Page 27)

Her head falls back, and she smiles as her eyes close like she’s enjoying something. “Gotta go. Malek is trying to summon me, and I can’t find this imbalanced royal escort Heratio swore was wreaking havoc and tipping the scales topside.”

The Paca on the screen stops talking to herself, looking around like she senses something.

“Heratio, I think your angel radar is messed up. I feel no imbalances that are lethal. You’re supposed to be a master of balance too,” that Paca says loudly, eyes up like she’s saying this to the skies.

Snow is falling, blanketing the ground, piling up on the gravestones she’s walking around. Not much has changed in that cemetery in the past five hundred years.

She sighs like she’s agitated, and when she turns around, I suck in a sharp breath, because on the screen is a very familiar man.

“Unholy hell, Heratio,” that Paca snaps, throwing her hands up. “Why are you sneaking up on me? Do you want me to explode your head?”

That man’s name is not Heratio. That man’s name is…Harold. Even through the unkempt beard and ragged clothing, I recognize him. I know very few people in this life, after all.

Gage’s hand is suddenly pulling me closer to the four of them. I’m not even sure when or how I’ve moved this far over in the room without realizing it.

The five of us stare at the screen, needing to see what happens next.

“There is an unbalance, Apocalypse,” Harold tells her, smiling grimly. “Know that I get no joy from this.”

I startle when past Paca’s eyes suddenly widen, and my eyes drop to the tip of the sword sticking through her stomach. One second it’s not there, and in the next it’s back again.

Her head lazily drops as she staggers, the blade still sticking through her, somewhat resembling this latest death I just suffered. Her veins start turning red, slithering through her as red blood drips from her lips and the wound in her abdomen.

Her eyes pitifully look up at Harold’s as she drops to her knees, and that’s when Rafael steps into view, eyes hard and cold like he’s handling an issue and not taking my life.

“Betrayal isn’t an imbalance I was expecting,” that Paca says so quietly that almost no one else hears it. “Someone’s going…to regret…that,” she adds on a strained whisper.

She doesn’t even spare Rafael a glance.

Harold looks away, turning his back on the girl whose red blood is melting away the snow.

“Have no pity for a being incapable of offering you the same if the roles were reversed,” Rafael states hollowly to Harold’s back.

It looks like a long, agonizing death happening as her body violently convulses, and she crawls across the ground, heaving for air, trying to speak like she’s going to call out for help or say something important. The attempt at speaking ends with her choking on her own blood.

I almost want to look away, but my eyes stay riveted to the screen, worried I’ll miss something too important if I so much as blink.

“A blessed champion’s sword dipped in the blood of a righteously balanced angel can turn us mortal and kill us, if we’re topside,” Manella says from behind me, proving he’s fully awake for the family movie night, as we all watch me slowly die on the screen.

When I collapse to the snow, lifeless and still bleeding out, the two angels finally vanish from sight.

Without regret.

Without guilt.

After all, I was just The Apocalypse. Why should they care?

I ignore the fresh tear that rolls down my cheek, blaming it on the emotionally taxing forty-eight hours. I can’t even look at anyone in the room right now, aside from my Horsemen.

The four of them are staring at the dead girl on the screen, not displaying any visible emotion. It’s like they’ve shut down their feelings, or maybe they’re indifferent, since they don’t remember how much that version of me loved them.

This is the day it was all taken away. A very long lifetime that was just ended so easily after surviving for so long.

As my body begins flicking to ash, swirling in the wind, instantly decaying, the reel stops playing.

“A true coward stabbed you in the back, because you wouldn’t be their new champion after theirs was slain,” Lucifer goes on.

Staring at the blank wall, I swallow thickly, the pain intensifying in my temple.

“Jahl’s rebels have been trying to kill your guys for months now, until Father became lucid and intervened. He immediately started the rebel culling to keep them away for you,” Lilith goes on. “Even after you’ve been dead for five centuries, you’re still his favorite. Such a spoiled little c**t.”

When the pain lessens, I half wonder if she knows I’m hurting and cursing me with insults, while also gifting me doses of relief.

It’s like I’m trying to figure every little thing out, and too many contradicting things start flying through my mind.

She sighs like she’s terribly putout by this, as though they’re all numbed to what I just saw for the first time.

As though this has all gotten terribly drab and inconvenient…

I can’t siphon as a whole being. I can’t carry things when I siphon. I can’t create real weapons, but I think I should be able to do all of it. I can’t find my crown, damn it.

“Total downer,” Cain says on a yawn, only proving my assessment about their attitudes correct, and also seeming to lessen that persistent pain in my head.

I’ll have to process all this later when I don’t have an audience staring at me, waiting for me to make the next move. I’m not sure who the bad guy is right now, but I also know something about all of this still feels wrong.

“If Jahl isn’t a being, then why does it have a name?” I ask as I steel myself and face them.

Gage pulls me back, keeping my back flush to his front.

Rafael’s eyes are facing downward, not looking at anyone.

“Because everything has a name,” Lucifer says dismissively. “Jahl is from the angelic language.”

“What does it mean?” I ask him, ignoring the little throb in my frontal lobe that is pulsing with more and more pain.

“I thought it’d be obvious by now,” Lucifer says, sounding far more condescending than Lamar does when he pops that line off. His eyes hold mine as he finishes his dramatic pause and adds, “The English translation is beast.”

Well, this just got substantially more terrifying. And I already have a migraine.

Chapter 12

It grows silent in the room.

The guys have barely made a sound during this entire thing. It’s like they’re simply absorbing the answers to our questions while they’re accessible.

My head hurts so bad that it’s almost becoming debilitating. Swaying a little and cursing the fact I’m showing weakness, I glance down as a single drop of black blood drips from my nose.

Kai is suddenly in front of me, blocking me from view, as Lucifer and Rafael begin arguing anew.

In an almost drunken slur, I say, “An angel and the Devil are having drinks at the bar, and the Devil asks the angel, ‘How’s work?’”

“What?” Ezekiel asks as the arguing in the background gets louder.

Two heads turn into four, and then eight, as they blur in front of me.

“The angel tips his glass back and sighs as he puts it down, before saying, ‘All’s I can say is that ‘at least it’s not hell,’” I ramble on, not really sure why these words are spewing from my mouth.

There’s a loud rimshot drumming that follows that, and I glance over just as the pain eases somewhat, allowing me to see a lot clearer. The twins are twirling phantom drumsticks as they start a beat after that, drumming away.

The weird part is that it sounds like actual drums.

It’s as annoying as it is distracting, which is good, since it’s distracting me from my headache.

“You were designed to be a weapon to destroy the world and give souls mercy, should he ever escape,” Lucifer says to me, shouting the words like he’s still in argument-mode and has too much momentum to slow down right now.

“That’s just an excuse to keep her from using her power in any other way than the way you want,” one of the angels snaps, slamming his fist down on the table in frustration as the argument rages on.

“As the Angel of Death, you should understand that we all have our roles to play, Azrael,” Lucifer bites out.

The angel sighs and groans, massaging his temples. At least I’m not the only one with skull problems.

“It doesn’t make sense,” I tell the room, drawing all eyes to me, including Lucifer’s. “It’s out of character for me to run. My vanity wouldn’t have allowed it. I’m compelled to face things,” I answer, unable to tell the angels I do things that seem fearless even when I’m actually afraid.

Seems important they regain their faith in my fearlessness, since I want Rafael terrified of me as soon as possible. The throbbing in my skull eases just a little bit more as the twins’ drumming ceases.

“I went into the trials with no knowledge of who or what I was,” I say as I take a step forward, holding their gaze. “I fell from a hellfire firefall to face death with Famine.”

A sharp pain slices and renews the throbbing in my temple, but I work through it and try to keep it from showing on my face. Gage makes a sound behind me, but I press on, determined to get to the real truth.

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