Monday, May 27, 2013

Monday Night Chinese v5 Part 4: Anti-Studies

Part 04: Anti-Studies
.           “Come on, LeRose.”
“Come on, nothing.”
“You know you want to.”
            “Grimshaw, I’ll punch your nose in again.”
            “Just this once?”
            “Do you like it when I break your nose?”
            “It heals after a few seconds. It’s worth it if I get to touch you.”
            “You’re disgusting, you know that?”
            In front of the doors of his Chinese restaurant, out in the hallways of the Afterlife, Levi stood and witnessed the droll argument of the Reaper duo Grimshaw and LeRose. LeRose always sounded so much rougher than she looked, and it pained Levi to hear her speak; often she was crude, and she was narcissistic, vain, and shallow. Grimshaw any better. He was obsessive and a little unstable, in Levi’s good opinion, and somewhat of an idiot lacking basic common sense. It gave Levi nothing but pure joy to poke fun at the two of them because they deserved it, one hundred and eighty percent.
            Grimshaw went in to grope LeRose’s chest and she responded in kind by punching him in the nose, resulting in a loud crack. As she turned to leave, LeRose finally took notice of Levi. She rolled her eyes.
            “Friggin’ prick. He has to be a masochist.”
            “Victoria. Robert. How nice to see you both. What do you want?” Levi slipped past the Reapers and into his restaurant, not bothering to hold the door open for them. Frankly, he had no desire to speak to either one, since neither had a demon to give to Levi.
Ever since word had gotten around about his little trip to Astoria, his coworkers had tried cornering him to get details about the city and the Guardians, a class of workers very few people outside of the Ferrymen got to interact with. It was because of this that he avoided staying in any one location for extended periods of time, even his restaurant, so people wouldn’t be able to track him down. To a lesser extent there were those who were also curious about the Black Hearts, their coworkers, that he had been able to heal once he had gotten back. They too were subjugated to frequent questioning. Some were of the opinion that Levi had attained a higher level of being, like reaching Nirvana, which gave him extra special powers that people were jealous of. This of course was not the case, but rumors still persisted.
            “Why can’t you show us some respect and call us by our work names, Levi? We don’t see you calling Blue by his living world name.” Grimshaw pushed himself through the door after LeRose, his nose already healed and showing no signs of the break LeRose made a minute earlier.
            Leaning against one of the restaurant booths, Levi responded, “Blue is a legitimate nickname, it’s part of his actual name. Hand to God. Maxwell Bluefield, all-American boy.” Levi stared the two Reapers down, and added, “It helps that I like him, too. Now what do you want?”
            “You’ve turned into a real douche ever since you decided to go British,” LeRose spat, simultaneously taking that time to put her rouge hair in a ponytail so Grimshaw would stop trying to play with it.
            “LeRose, how many times have I told you not to use such coarse language?” Levi nodded his head at the female Reaper. “Is that what they’re wearing in the living world now? I might have to change my wardrobe.”
            Levi was referencing LeRose’s rolled up skinny jeans and the oversized plaid button-up shirt she wore over a black tank top. Grimshaw’s style was similar, with tight pants, a striped v-neck and black-framed glasses. Because of Levi’s infrequent trips to the living world, he got a lot of his latest clothing ideas from Reapers, many of whom, for some reason or another, still tended to keep up with modern fashion. Alice was one of the few exceptions.
            “HR wants to see you, and while you’re at it could you tell her to give Grimshaw to some newb? I’ve been here thirty years, and nobody shows me any respect. I’m tired of being stuck with him.” LeRose swatted Grimshaw’s hand away from her ponytail Levi winced at this; Grimshaw made him uncomfortable.
            “We’re supposed to be in pairs thanks to Raphael, LeRose. Where’s your partner, Levi?”
          “Uriel got bored, so I dropped him off at his playground with Blue. You try keeping a ten-year-old occupied.”
            “How’d the kid die, anyway?” Grimshaw asked, leaning in closer to catch the details.
            “Old age,” Levi responded, using his index finger to push against Grimshaw’s forehead. Grimshaw looked perplexed. “When you die and work for the Afterlife you can choose whatever age you want for your appearance. You learned this in training. What does Human Resources want with me?”
            Grimshaw brushed Levi’s hand aside. “Probably wants to talk about your attitude. Or Astoria.”
            “I was afraid of that,” Levi said. He sighed. He had spoken to her once since he had gotten back from Astoria six months prior and that was when she had assigned Levi to take over all of the Black Hearts that had been brought in and all the subsequent ones after that, for Afterlife employees were still going missing. Out of the thirty that were gone, seven had been found and turned back thanks to Levi’s efforts. HR had promised that later on they would talk about his time in Astoria and other important matters he was now unfortunately a part of and it looked like that time had come. “No use prolonging my departure, then.”
Levi pushed Grimshaw out of his way and headed for the exit. He did so hate spending so little time at his restaurant, but it couldn’t be helped. He pushed open the door and held it open for Grimshaw and LeRose.
“Come on you scamps, out you go.”
With a disappointed groan the two Reapers went out the door, Levi following suite.

HR was a Listener like Levi, but had been around for at least an extra hundred years. Lately he wondered if she remembered her past at all, since Levi could barely remember his own. She was the official head of the Listener Department and the one who assigned people to special cases, like Levi with the Black Hearts. She dealt with a lot more as well, like when people caused trouble, but none of that really mattered to Levi at the moment. He hardly ever saw her, and preferred it that way.
He entered the coffee shop, HR’s special area in the Afterlife, spotting the short-haired blonde woman. She was the only other person in the restaurant, sitting at the counter and holding a mug of coffee. As Levi drew closer he could make out the writing on the mug; it read World’s Best Boss. He uncomfortably took a seat next to her.
“Levi, I haven’t seen you in a while. I hear things have been a little tough.” HR’s voice was smooth like Levi’s, having had even more practice than him at sounding calm, reassuring and in control. Was this how others felt talking to him? He hated it.
“You undershot. I was looking for was problematic, but you do win a consolation prize of a banana.” A cup of coffee appeared next to Levi. He stared, uninterested at the dark liquid in the mug.
HR smiled warmly. She looked so sincere and so casual in her teal cardigan, thin white dress and sneakers. “Have you seen Laura since you’ve been back? I spoke with her when Blue and Alice brought her in, to make sure she was good to come back to work. You’ve been doing a fantastic job reversing what the Man in Gray has been doing.”
“Raphael,” Levi said, swirling the coffee in his cup.
“The Man in Gray. Friday Panache called him Raphael. I told you that a while ago.”
“Knowing Friday that name could very well be made up.” HR laughed, and Levi couldn’t help but laugh with her though he didn’t know if it was willingly or part of some spell of hers.
“Alright,” He said, “you broke the ice. But just a little. What did you ask me here for?”
“It’s time to talk about Astoria,” HR replied.
Not particularly wanting to talk about his time there, Levi tensed up.
“I already know everything that happened. I received a… unique report from Friday.”
“Then do you know why he calls me Monday?”
“No clue.” HR daintily took a sip of her coffee and when she was finished she smacked her lips a little. Levi found it endearing. “You know the stories of No One. I’m here to fill in some blanks.”
Levi nodded silently.
“Raphael is more than likely an agent of No One, I’m sure you’ve figured that much out. Working as an Anti-Listener, he can turn perfectly normal souls, including Afterlife workers, into demons. He probably does this for No One, so he can feed.”
“We must make a lovely target, a group of souls all gathered together in one place like this.” Levi rapped the countertop with his knuckles.
            “Indeed we do. Having everyone stay in pairs isn’t enough.”
            Levi pushed the coffee aside.
            “I’m sorry, would you prefer tea?” HR asked. Levi gave her a stern look.
“What do you really want to talk to me about, HR?”
She laughed gently. “You’re sharp, you know that? Nobody’s ever given you much credit for doing your job, but you’re good at it. You deserve recognition.”
“I don’t want it.”
“It’s not your choice. The Kings want to speak with you.”
Levi didn’t respond.
“I hope now’s a good time.”
Still no response.
“I’ll open the doorway, then.”
Because of her position, HR could open doorways to other places herself. And true to what she had said, she opened the proper doorway for Levi for, over the counter, an old wooden door with the sigil Levi had seen in Astoria appeared out of the haze. The rest of the room vanished, leaving HR and Levi to stand in blackness.
“Fine, I’ll go. But I insist on disliking vehemently, just so you know.”
HR smiled at the comment and nodded for Levi to move forward. He complied reluctantly, moving forward and grasping the brass doorknob, turning it ever so slightly. The door opened with a flood of light. Levi stepped through.

On the other side of the door was an elaborately decorated chapel. It looked to be older than Levi himself; he had seen churches like often in England, and he strangely felt at home for just a moment in the place until he heard the soft vacuum of chaos invade his ears, a cacophony of spilling sin, blood, peace, rage, tyranny, tranquility, love—all things that could not possibly mesh but did. He looked towards the front of the chapel at the three thrones occupied by the Three Kings and knew they were behind the noise, using it to get the Listener’s attention. Very well, Levi thought. They had it and he would grace them with his presence. He made his way forward towards the altar, and, with each bench passed, he had vague memories of sitting there with other newly recruited workers as they were briefed on the Afterlife, and he wondered when the last time they were filled had been. Finally the subject stood before his kings, but he felt no sense of loyalty to them.
The eerie lads that sat in the thrones bore a striking resemblance to one another, which left Levi feeling unsettled, like they were mere copies of one another. Each one looked like they were torn right out of a drawing from a 1950’s advertisement; they were properly dressed in slacks and buttoned shirts and either a cardigan or a suit coat, and each wore a bow-tie as well. Their cheeks were unbelievably rosy, and their eyes, those eyes so piercing they made Levi’s dull by comparison, were also unnaturally large. Each had a different color hair as well; in the center was the blond, and on either side was a red head and a brunette. They were illuminated by a light source that flooded in from the stained glass mural behind them, furthering their near angelic appearance. He remembered them looking a little different the last time he had seen them.
Every spirit that worked for the Afterlife was chosen by the Three Kings and met with them for training. That was the only time Levi had met with them, and back then they had linen shirts, coats, cravats and breeches; he remembered thinking they were probably dandies. Otherwise, he simply knew them as a pain in the buttocks. They were the ones a tear or two above people like HR and made the rules, and doled out the punishment for those workers who tried going rogue. They were also the ones who decided when a worker had fulfilled their contract and could move on to Astoria, and from there it would be decided if and when they would reincarnate, or if they would move on to Heaven. Sometimes Levi wondered if the Afterlife offices were actually a purgatory where all the workers were being purified before being allowed to peacefully move on, and he wondered what he had done in life to deserve not getting to live his second life in peace.
“All hail the kings,” Levi said snarkily. He hoped to get across the message that he didn’t wish to speak with them.
“Levi,” the blond one spoke, “how are you?”
The way his hair was styled reminded Levi of duck fluff because it was so feathery and yellow and otherworldly, strangely enough, when coupled with his sapphire eyes. He was a little too Aryan Race for Levi’s tastes but then again he wasn’t there to impress Levi.
“I’d be better if Grimshaw wasn’t around. He’s an ice muncher, you know. Munch munch munch. It drives me insane. I don’t suppose you’d like to get rid of him for me?”
The blond one smiled. To be fair, he had been smiling the entire like a creeper the entire time, looking oddly pleased about something, but Levi liked to think the smile grew just a bit larger thanks to him. By contrast, the other two looked a bit downtrodden and said nothing.
As if by some divine providence, which Levi wouldn’t put past the blond one as to possessing, he acknowledged Levi’s unasked question about the melancholy that ailed the other two Kings.
“We ask you don’t mind the other two,” he said using the royal we. “They are resting.”
“So I’ll be speaking solely with you then?”
“I suppose you have a name?”
“Don’t suppose this, suppose that. Stop wasting time, Levi. We know you’re curious as to why we asked you here.”
The blond one’s sharper tone startled Levi noticeably, but the blond one keep smiling away.
“You may call us Malachi.”
“Malachi.” Levi let the name roll around in his mouth, getting accustomed to it. They had never revealed their names during training.
“Be careful with that name, Levi. Names are important. Nod if you understand us.”
Levi nodded.
“Now, as to why you’re here,” Malachi started. Except for his mouth, he did not move a single inch. “Everything within the Afterlife is in balance. We have… had… the perfect number of workers. Every person has a purpose, no one is expendable. We have the final say on what goes on, and the Man in Gray spits on our authority. Do you understand?”
“No, could you try explaining that while talking down to me again? I’m sure that would do the trick.”
Malachi stared Levi down, and Levi could tell the King was winning.
“We will tolerate none of that, Listener,” Malachi warned. Ferocity and fear welled up in Levi. Malachi uncurled the fingers on his right hand, and grasped the arm of his chair. Levi could feel a deep pressure burrowing in to him. He felt like his soul was going to be crushed, right then and there. “We easily could have turned this in to a disciplinary meeting over your unauthorized trip to Astoria, where you, a Listener, not an assigned Guardian, prisoner or normal spirit, do not belong. But we saw fit to overlook that. Do you understand our generosity?”
“Yes,” Levi choked out, trying his hardest to resist the pressure. Once Malachi seemed pleased, he returned his hand to its original position of rest and Levi was freed.
“Fantastic.” Malachi’s cheery demeanor did not shift, remaining as fake as Levi now knew it was. “Now I’ll continue. If you think about it, Listener, you could compare everything in the Afterlife to the harmony of the elements. The Reapers are fire, the Listeners wind, the Ferrymen water and the Guardians earth.”
“Then you three would be the aether,” Levi observed. He couldn’t be quite sure, but he thought that Malachi had looked upon his guess approvingly.
“Very good. If you understand the elements well enough to know about aether, then surely you also understand how easy that balance can be broken. We are trying to correct this. When the Man in Gray arrived—”
“Raphael,” Levi interrupted. “Friday calls him Raphael.”
Levi thought he heard Malachi sigh but it was hard to tell since his mouth was the only thing moving.
“We prefer not to speak of Friday right at this moment.”
Some of the pressure was starting to build up around Levi again, so he nodded to show his understanding. “Sorry. Carry on, Malachi.”
“When Raphael arrived, we saw fit to correct some of the imbalance through you. That is why all the Black Hearts have been sent to you, and why you have been able to deal with them. Through our grace.”
Nodding, Levi felt it appropriate to thank Malachi, though he didn’t particularly mean it. It was simply a formality and he was sure the King understood and wouldn’t hold it against him.
“The imbalance has gone on too long. It needs more than a temporary fix. It needs resolved. Now.”
There was silence. After a minute of it, Levi assumed it was his turn to speak. “Okay,” was all he could think of to say.
“We can tell from here that Raphael has breached the Afterlife once more. We will send you straight to him.”
Levi frowned. “What exactly do you expect me to do?”
“Rally the troops.” Levi could have been hearing things, but he swore Malachi’s response had a layer of sarcasm and a subtext of ‘you’re an idiot.’
“We will send backup if you’re really that desperate. We simply thought it best to warn you first.”
Malachi must have thought he was being all generous or whatnot, but Levi felt like he had just wasted time. This was unacceptable; he was only okay if he was the one wasting his own time, otherwise it was infuriating. The King lifted up his hand and shooed Levi away.
“Off with you, Listener. You know what we desire. Now do it.”
Rather unceremoniously, Levi was flung across the chapel, and through an open door that led back to the Afterlife.

            Levi ended up back in front of the restaurant, where Grimshaw and LeRose still happened to be, bickering. Raphael was behind Grimshaw, whispering into his ear. Levi still hadn’t found his bearing and couldn’t focus long enough to point it out to LeRose. Grimshaw’s eyes grew steadily larger and when LeRose noticed Grimshaw wasn’t right next to her any longer, she turned and saw Raphael.
            “Oh no you don’t!” She shouted, running up and punching Raphael right in the nose. He fell back, and Grimshaw held out his arm, allowing a spear to form in his hand out of a haze. He thrust it at Raphael, but Raphael grabbed the spear and used it to swing Grimshaw, who was still hanging on, into a wall. LeRose, now holding a scythe, slashed downward but Raphael dodged to the side. Grimshaw tried once more to skewer Raphael, aiming for his chest, but the red mouth on Raphael’s shirt bit the spear, snapping it in half.
            “Both of you get out!” Levi shouted, finally shrugging off the effects of his sudden transport. LeRose did not take too kindly to that and started shouting obscenities. “LeRose, shut up and help Grimshaw—then get out! Go to HR before—”
            Grimshaw was convulsing. In a matter of seconds his skin turned crimson, black spikes protruded from his spine, and a white mask formed over his face with a single eye drawn on it. A black heart popped up on his chest. Raphael smiled, rushing up to the demonized Grimshaw. He pulled out one of his eyeballs, smashing it into a dust that reformed into a door behind. He grabbed Grimshaw and pushed open the door, leaping through.
            “Don’t think, just follow.”
            Alice came from behind, grabbing Levi’s arm and rushing for the door. He could briefly see Blue behind them trying to catch up.
            “Hey— take me, not the Ferryman!” LeRose shouted after a moment’s hesitation, but the door closed before she could move.

            The three stood on the side of a poorly lit road in the living world, underneath a flickering streetlight. Levi took a wild stab and assumed they were somewhere in Canada due to the moose he saw crossing the street, but said nothing because assuming did them no good; it didn’t matter where in the world they were. No, what Levi really wanted to do was tell off Blue for following him and Alice. It pained him to admit it, but LeRose’s presence would have been much more appreciated, as she could actually fight.
            “What’s the plan?” Blue asked, sounding a little too eager.
            “We kill him,” Alice replied quickly. “It’s death and kisses time, and I’m all out of kisses.”
            Leaning back against the streetlight, Levi scoffed, “Oh, is that all? We just kill him? Wish we would have thought of that sooner. And what does death and kisses time even mean?”
            “Shut up, something’s coming.” Alice lowered her voice. Raphael stood in the street as a car approached. The driver probably couldn’t see him as it didn’t slow down, but right before it ran into Raphael, he kicked it. He kicked it and the car spiraled out of control, smashing into a tree and making some rather disheartening crunching noises.
            Levi started, “Do you think…?”
            “Every day, don’t you?” Alice shot back.
            “I think he just killed someone!” Blue cried.
            The next thing Levi knew he was up in the air with Alice holding on to him, soaring over the street and then landing on the hood of the car. Through the windshield they saw Raphael whispering to the blond man inside, placing his hand inside the blond man’s chest and pulling out his soul. Alice, using the agility granted to her as a Reaper, kicked through the glass, hitting Raphael right in the head before he went any further. Her foot withdrew and she reached in, pulling Raphael out of the car. Levi had gotten off the hood of the car and opened the driver’s door, saying whatever came to mind to calm the soul that had been partly ripped from its body. This was a very delicate situation they were in and he had no idea how to handle it.
            “You’re not dead, but… you’re not living. I’m really not sure how to properly us the L Noise here…” Something hit the car with a loud thunk, and Levi turned towards the sound out of reflex. It was Alice. This wasn’t exactly what he wanted to see, Alice getting tossed around by Raphael. Levi prayed the demonized Grimshaw wouldn’t pop up to help Raphael. Maybe if she had Friday to help, that ridiculously strong man, things would go quicker. Or Blue. Blue. What had happened to Blue? Levi started stuttering, words escaping him.
            “Levi, focus! Alice is fine, LeRose found us and got involved.” Blue popped his head in through the driver’s side window. This startled Levi, who ended up hitting his head on the ceiling of the vehicle.
            Levi caught a quick glance of Alice holding a scimitar, charging Raphael, slicing him, while LeRose, holding a scythe, did the same from the other side. But no blood came out, only little mists of energy. Blue snapped his fingers to get Levi to focus. Levi thought back to what it meant when he had done that to Friday, scrunching up his face at the thought that Blue saw him as being unfocused, like the Guardian.
            “Blue, if you ever do that to me again I’ll drown you in Acheron.”
            “Top ten reasons why that’ll never happen. Number ten—”
            Levi shoved a finger in Blue’s face, shushing him. “If you shut up now I promise to tell you who cooks the food in the restaurant.” Tiny little vibrations crawled through Levi’s body as he found the right frequency to speak to the blond man’s soul. Words formed in his mind, he could feel the man’s given name pop into his thoughts, and he spoke, saying, “You have the potential. You’re… you’re a Saint, and because of that you’ll survive. You’re a Saint, but you haven’t fully awakened yet. You will, though. You will. This is your entryway, Kristjan Rupert Callier. This is your beginning, not your end.”
            The soul began to stir, showing more signs of self-awareness and sinking back into the body. Levi backed away. He had prevented any trauma, he hoped, from the experience, and the soul was returning to the body that wasn’t yet dead and could still house it.
            Off and away, Levi heard Alice swear loudly. He saw the mouth on Raphael’s shirt snapping off the tip of Alice’s scimitar. He was about to say something when he heard a terrible shriek coming from the seat next to him— the blond man, Kristjan was convulsing, shrieking at the top of his lungs, writhing and twisting and turning, body parts bending places they were not meant to bend. Blue tried holding him down and got smacked in the face; he ignored it and kept on trying.
            “Levi, make him stop!”
            “Do you want to do this?” Levi responded, frustrated.
            “Kind of, yeah, but sadly instead of your metaphorical tuning fork I got stuck with a boat oar!”
            “Then smack him with it!” Levi pushed down on Kristjan, the L Noise not connecting to Kristjan. Panic ran through Levi’s body, his teeth ground against each other. Raphael, even with only one arm, was too much for Alice and LeRose. Each of their cuts would leave a wound that would allow energy to seep out, which worked perfectly fine with demons as it would drain their energy from anger as well, but Raphael wasn’t a demon and the cuts weren’t slowing him down.
            A soft light broke through the dark, illuminating the front of the car. Levi and Blue looked forward, momentarily forgetting Kristjan’s seizure-like state. There, emerging from the darkness, was an old wooden door with the now familiar symbol from Astoria drawn on it in gold.
            The shadowy form of a woman with wild hair as long as her tall, slender frame walked out of the door accompanied by a smoke that crawled around the road, smothering everything it its path. She held Levi in a trance, he could not keep his eyes off of her, and he would have kept staring had he not heard an animalistic cry that differed from the ones Kristjan had been making earlier. Levi shot his head to the side; Alice must have produced another weapon, a sickle, because she pulled the blade of one out of the neck of Raphael.
            Stumbling around, he felt his wound but nothing spilled out except tiny whisps of energy. Would nothing stop him? How was balance meant to be restored if he couldn’t be killed? That thought triggered something in Levi’s brain. That’s what it was all about, wasn’t it? Balance? The Man in Gray and thrown off the balance, and Levi had been granted some sort of addition to his L Noise capabilities to counter the imbalance. So why, then, wouldn’t he be able to do something to finish off Raphael, or at least have some sort of ability that could help?
            Levi snapped his fingers to get Raphael’s attention, and when that didn’t work he stuck his fingers in his mouth and let out a boisterous whistle. That seemed to work, and both men locked eyes; Raphael’s menacing black and white eyes against Levi’s intense, emerald ones. Levi felt something within him tingle. His fingers twitched, but his gaze stayed true. There was a sound, faint at first, but it grew stronger, louder, and it sounded like static. But through that static Levi could pinpoint something else, a voice. A solitary, angry voice shouting against the static. He knew what to say.
            One step, two steps, three steps he took towards the sinister fiend. He could do this. With three simple words, Levi could cast a spell to defeat the wicked Raphael.
            “You don’t exist.”
            Raphael stumbled to his knees, clawing at the wound on his neck where thick black ooze spewed out, saturating his body. LeRose impaled his chest with her Scythe, creating a larger opening for more ooze to spill out. Raphael’s heterochromnic eyes burst, spewing white ooze that covered his face forming a mask with a single eye on it, and when his wounds finally sopped gushing, all that remained was a cloaked, masked mass with two tiny, broken wings.
            “Malachi was right, you did figure out how to beat him without my help.”
            Levi slowly turned his head to peer at the shadowy lady, assuming she was the one who spoke. His body tensed up. If a bullet it him, it would undoubtedly shatter because of how tightly every inch of his body was clenched.
            “You’re the Listener who walked the streets of Astoria. Friday told me about you, Monday.” No mouth on the shadow body moved. Was that normal? That wasn’t normal. “The Kings sent me. I am Merrill Collingwood, Guardian of the In-Between.”
            “I’m Levi. Now that we know each other I think it’s a wonderful time to start asking favors. That’s what friendships are based on, after all. Owing one another and whatnot.” Levi began regaining his cool composure; ‘negotiating’ was what he did day in and day out, and she was obviously there to help anyway.
            The shadowy woman didn’t speak at first. Levi noticed Alice and LeRose now stood on either side of Blue, and he saw strands of the shadowy hair creeping towards the vehicle, climbing up it, through the broken glass, and wrapping around Kristjan’s body. The hair lifted the now unmoving body up, and placed it gracefully in the woman’s arms. A pale, porcelain face broke free from the shadow surrounding Merrill. Her eyelids opened, revealing large and mesmerizing emerald eyes that looked eerily similar to Levi’s. She began speaking in a proper British tone.
“You saved him before he could become a Black Heart. However, damage was done to his soul and it won’t rest inside his body. I’ll have to remove it and his magical properties.”
            “I’m not sure I understand what that means.” Levi gulped. He swore he could hear the faintest ticking noise ringing in his ears. It sounded like an old grandfather clock.
            “He’ll be physical, unlike a spirit. He won’t be able to hide himself in the living world like you or I, either. This one here, this Saint, will grow faster than we could imagine. He’ll be an asset when No One rises.”
            Levi ignored the stares he knew he was getting from the other three; he would have to explain everything about No One and his inevitable uprising to them later. “Where will he stay?”
            Merrill paused thoughtfully, gazing at Kristjan. “We’ll find a place.”
            Levi nodded slowly. “Then do it.”

            Merrill’s face sank back into the shadows, and like a ghost she was gone through the door, shrouded in eerie smoke. Every trace that pointed to her being there was gone. Levi collapsed, still able to hear the incessant ticking noise in his ears that refused to leave him alone.

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