Two Kingdoms (Page 33)

“I’m only a hero when I’m saving their lives,” I mutter, concentrating on not dying when a mean little fanged plant tries to take Mario’s poor head off.

Despite the conversation at hand, there’s no blood dripping from my nose.

Pausing the game, I look over at Lamar. “You sort of have that Luigi vibe about you. Care to go see a pawn shop about the plumbing with me?”

“Don’t try to make it sound cute. I can’t go there. I’m still on restriction because of false allegations,” Lamar goes on. “All because that phony balance elder-slash-fallen angel knew a shape shifter tried to kill him and still blamed it on me. I think he’s trying to get me into trouble.”

I nod like I agree, and I go to start unplugging the Nintendo.

“What are you doing?” he asks me.

“I need you to carry this. I can’t,” I explain. “You don’t have to go in if you don’t want to.”

He glares at me.

I zap myself topside like it’s the easiest thing to do, landing in the alley beside the pawn shop. In all actuality, I’m very surprised how quickly and well I did that.

Someone should pat my back.

Lamar immediately shows up, and he thrusts the Nintendo at my chest.

“Just call if you need me. I can hear everything from out here just fine,” he assures me.

Nodding like that’s acceptable, I head into the pawn shop where Harold immediately looks up from behind the counter. He doesn’t look too surprised to see me here.

“The first time I walked into your shop as a real girl, there was true shock and terror in your eyes. It wasn’t because you didn’t know who I was. It’s because you did. And you knew I’d eventually be repaying you a visit, hence the reason you’re not bothering to feign surprise today.”

He stays seated behind the counter, putting his phone down on the glass top. “I played along, since you pretended not to know me. Much easier to do than to deal with your bratty sense of entitlement when people don’t play along,” he says a little harshly.

“You’re judging me for being bratty? You realize you helped kill me, right? I’m the one who should be upset right now, and I am. Very. Especially since—”

“I’m no fool, Paca. I was then, but I’m not now. I was blind to how diabolical you could truly be because it was beyond my noble comprehension. I’ve been through hell, literally, and worked my way into this position the hardest way possible—all because of you,” he bites out.

“You killed me, and you’re mad at me for what? Letting you take the opportunity? You clearly betrayed me. I watched the reel,” I’m quick to point out as I walk over and put the Nintendo down.

He points his finger at me as his eyes turn almost lethal.

With a snarled upper lip, he says, “I did help kill you. For all the right reasons. The main one being to prevent you from imploding in hell when your balance inevitably went off kilter from your purely selfish decision—”

“Skip the feud and reasoning—it was still a betrayal. We were friends, weren’t we?”

He snorts/groans. “Of course not. Friendship between us was an imbalance—you’re evil and I’m not. Peaceful enemies would have more accurately defined us.”

“Well, I’m pretty sure I thought of you as a friend, and you lured me out to have—”

“You’re the one who betrayed everyone. You wanted to be killed. You purposely allowed us to misinterpret all your actions and motivations, instead of telling us whatever lunatic plan you had prepared. All because you are a raving lunatic, you evil little girl,” he adds in a very sour, very frustrated tone.

This argument easily worked out in my favor when I ran over it in my head.

He continues on with his rant when I wait too long to speak. “I worked my way up to this spot, and almost immediately, four unknown phenomes show up on my doorstep. Helping them find direction only restored my balance more, you twisted little monster. You set me up to have to take care of your boys as my punishment—you forged an attachment between me and the Four Horsemen, Paca. That’s wrong on so many levels that has cut my soul so many ways now that I know for sure.”

Again, I open my mouth to form an argument, but Harold has more on his chest, apparently. He circles the counter and starts walking toward me.

“Now you’re whining and crying about being killed like the predictable little hell spawn you are,” he adds as he starts pulling various weapons out, setting them on the counter one by one.

“That’s a little rude for an angel to say, don’t you think? Where’s your compassion?” I ask very seriously, eyeing the weapons a little skeptically. “For the record, just so we’re clear, I’m not here to be distracted until you kill me.”

I dart a look behind me, and move to an angle where there’s a mirror in front of me so I can watch my back. He really has no reason to roll his eyes at me right now.

“That’s why we didn’t want Lucifer’s blood in any of you. An eternity of blameless victims who strike at you five times harder, but somehow still truly manage to believe they’re the ones who were wronged the worst.”

“That’s because I was wronged,” I dutifully point out.

“It’s because you have no empathy, and you only care about your wrongs when you care about the person you’ve wronged. You play your games, forgoing the cosmic consequences. Lucifer’s blood is toxic that way.”

“You knew they were the Horsemen and didn’t report it. Why?” I ask him as he continues putting guns, bows, and crossbows on the counter.

“I didn’t know. At least…not for sure. I often wondered if I was being tested and if they were sent to me under the guise of evil to see how harshly I still judged without my wings,” he says quietly, hesitating as he loads a crossbow. “I didn’t want to believe you were powerful enough to truly do something as impossible as reset their souls.”

Filing that information away.

“Are you going to try to kill me with that? I really didn’t come here to kill you,” I decide to tell him when the weapons just continue to stack up.

“I know why you’re here. You want revenge against Rafael, and you want to strain my soul to torture me even more for my part that was played in your death.”

It takes the fun out of it when he makes it sound like I’m still the one true bad guy instead of the avenging angel here.

“What do all these have in common?” he asks as he gestures to the counter.

“They’re weapons.”

He nods absently.

“What do you have in common with them?”

“Is this where you tell me I’m not a person but just a weapon, and I shouldn’t have a voice in how I’m used?” I ask him.

“As I said, I was naïve when I was just a noble man. Clawing your way out of Lucifer’s clutches until you’re topside will make you have a deeper understanding about how twisted and calculated the dark minds can work.”

I’m not sure how that’s an answer to my question.

“The problem is, you’re the weapon, the ammunition, and the finger on the trigger…all at once. You’re a weapon at your core. For whatever reason, you’ve consistently confused that to be your nonexistent soul, and you’ve always protected it.”

His eyes cut to me and they narrow.

“So can the unused cosmic weapon be killed without a true soul?” he asks like he’s legitimately expecting me to answer a question of that caliber.

“Is this your angel-nice-guy way of calling me an expendable, soulless hell spawn? I have to say, it isn’t very angel-like.”

“You’re not emotionally capable of ever being a selfless hero. You’d never sacrifice yourself to simply save the world. But you combined with them may be enough to stop him without pushing that button and making it a null point. At the end of the day, you have a purpose to serve, and regardless of why you were created, you were always supposed to be a weapon. Not even you can get out of serving your purpose. You don’t get to destroy the world as much as you can and have a happily ever after. It’s just an illusion.”

I really want to argue that, but I swear, it’s like he’s waited five centuries to ream me. He’s way more prepared for this entire encounter than I am.

I got killed, and he harbors a grudge for some diabolical punishment. Unbelievable. So petty for an angel.

“I was stabbed, powers robbed, left to bleed out—all because Lucifer got his sanity back just enough to target me,” he says like he’s figured out Lamar was a patsy.

I gesture to the wall, eyes getting big as I try to silently warn him Lamar is just outside.

“Your cheerleader is too smart to coddle, Paca. By now, he’s already begun piecing things together with the wealth of new knowledge he’s obtained. He doesn’t expect Lucifer to care about him or treat him fairly, so don’t pretend to worry about his feelings when you have no empathy.”

He takes a breath and closes his eyes like he’s trying to calm himself down.

“Lamar is growing on me,” I say with a shrug. “This is not the conversation I wanted to have,” I add when my nose starts to bleed. “Can we do this over some plumber fun? You seem like the first person to have real answers that may make sense, even if you do play the victim too much.”

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