|The Reaper's Mercy by Beki Yopek|
Glass imploded behind The Reaper and I pumped both wings and leapt backward by reflex. Grenade after grenade plunked down between Reap’s chair and the wrecked windows. Each one exploded within a second’s time. Over a hundred decibels slammed into my eardrums. All that stopped me from deafness and immolation was the physical protection my brimstone horns lent me.
The Case Notes I’d been writing fluttered every which way. They crumbled to ash and joined the maelstrom of debris that had been Reap’s office seconds earlier. The flames and the splintered office furniture devoured everything in the room except the building’s supports. Flaming file cabinets blew outward through the office door to plunge thirteen stories where they’d crash and hopefully alert the Motery Center’s banker demons and usher angels.
Tangs of metal and burnt wood charred the air I managed to breath amid the heat and dust. I staggered backward when Avarice swooped into The Reaper’s office. Her hair was as messy as the runway dress and pumps she wore. The Septuplet conjured a pair of whips with her Soliduction power and searched for me and The Reaper.
She wouldn’t find us. The Reaper had chugged a vial of brimvisibility and vanished as planned. We’d been expecting a Sunday ambush since we started writing down Reap’s incidents with The Coalition.
After a century of duking it out with the spoiled satanic skank, I knew how Avarice fought. Conjure expendable weapons first, then remove the biggest threats in the confusion and save her favorite non-magic weapons for last. Thank goodness she couldn’t conjure haloxite or brimstone. Even the sins re-branded had limits.
I slunk back into the smoke and dust filling the room to obscure myself. Avarice swung a whip at random through the middle of the wrecked room. "Come on out here, traitor. Killing you will convince The Coalition that I was right."
Was Avarice their leader if she had to convince them of anything?
Wrapping both wings tight at my back, I bent and drew the haloxite lancet pen I used for Blood Magic in place of my knife. I jabbed my thumb and crept to The Reaper’s burning office chair. Then I reached into the flames engulfing it to smear orange blood on the back.
Avarice’s eyes snapped my direction and she whirled both whips over her head.
I surged the unguided Blood Magic before the blood started boiling and the chair shot toward her.
She batted the thing aside with a wing and screeched, "You would live through this day if you were still on my side."
Fear of the past spurred the adrenaline into my veins faster than the threat of death did. I seized the only other object on the floor-The Reaper’s scythe-and raised the awkward thing in both hands.
Wings beating, I leapt toward her and threw out a flying side kick. The heavy weapon weighed me down enough for Avarice to lash both whips around my leg and hips. She wrenched them downward and I crashed, rolling through seared debris and smacking against the shattered window frames.
Seversoul tumbled like a wrecked helicopter blade toward The Soul Fountains below.
Avarice dropped a whip and drew a haloxite switchblade from inside one of her pumps. "All seven of us raised you to be my partner, Avaline. We raised you. The Coalition."
I arched my back and kipped up to my feet to take wing, but Avarice swept my legs out with the whip she’d kept hold of. "We cast The Convictionists down and adapted to Earth's metamorphosis. Why did you backstab us during The Industrial Revolution?"
Flashes of conversations I had with Nia back then hit me and I spat, "I was a better bodyguard than you deserved."
Her laugh was a banshee’s shriek. "You still fight and twist words rather than face what is true."
I twisted my hips and threw a leg sweep at her pumps. It whiffed by a foot. "What's true is I was never yours."
Avarice spread her wings and snarled, "Everything you are belongs to us. Your ideas and your training."
"You chose to teach me. I took that and did what you should have."
"Heaven Law will never erase the human farms we set in motion. Demons need the life force from our tortured souls."
"They don't need the eternal backstabbing game you forced on them. Demons. Need. Hell."
Her giggle was iced sulfur. "Pride will be jealous that I murdered her former student."
My ex-boss pounded her wings and lashed the whip that bound me. She flung me up against the ceiling and let me drop to the floor in a heap.
With that whip of hers, Avarice could keep me at a distance and no amount of martial arts would help.
Blood Magic was useless unless I bled on her whip. I could use that.
I shoved forward and reached for the leather weapon binding my leg. Avarice’s mocking laugh saturated the air while she beat her wings and ripped the whip upward. I smashed into the ceiling again and this time, Avarice readied the haloxite switchblade.
Flapping hard, I soared over her head and her knife slash missed my stomach by half a foot. Her enraged cry sounded like she’d taken a huge gut punch.
I pounded air and flew out the office's wrecked wall. I cranked some unguided Blood Magic and summoned the scythe I’d bled on moments ago. Its haft snapped into my hands from thirteen stories down.
Avarice didn’t emerge to fight me, so I seized the chance and smeared blood along the back of the two-toned blade and on the bottom of the handle. I would spin the blade at her like a cartwheel of death if she came at me.
Cautiously, I flew closer to Reap’s burnt out office to find Avarice’s arms pinned to the floor by an unseen force.
I cheered at the mad image of The Reaper sitting on Avarice’s chest, unseen thanks to the brimvisibility vials I’d mixed up. In two flaps I was back in the office where the Septuplet writhed against Reap’s invisible weight. Her whips disappeared when she conjured grenades in both hands, but she couldn’t reach over to pull their pins. So he wasn’t sitting on her chest. He was standing on each wrist with his legs spread.
Avarice writhed and twisted her legs and wings. “Avaline! I’m gonna tell The Reaper everything. I'll smoke you for what you did to us. You will be a jobless washout again.”
The Reaper’s snarl was a landslide. “Your threats are as empty as you.”
“Wh--what spell is this? Blood Magic? Incantation?”
A scraping sounded from the floor. That haloxite switchblade Avarice dropped vanished. The Reaper rasped, “Ava told me everything herself, you husk of a bitch. I did something no being from Hell would expect. I forgave her.”
“The Coalition will own the Three Domains. We will not st--”
A gaping wound sliced open Avarice’s ribcage and she screamed. Orange blood poured from the flesh and pale white ribs parted like curtains. Heavy bones clacking against the floor told me The Reaper had stepped off of Avarice’s body. Hefting the scythe, I brought it down like a sledgehammer on Avarice’s chest.
Smoke gushed outward from the corpse and Avarice’s body disappeared. While the smog remained, the glowing white life force siphoned into the scythe’s blade like she was just another soul we’d harvested. Her brimstone horns thunked to the floor and I picked them up. They were the only evidence that anyone from The Coalition had acted out against The Soul Fountains. Not that one being’s horns were enough proof that The Coalition had decimated Heaven Law. Without the Case Notes intact, they could claim murder, or tragic accident, or some other bs.
Magic made it way too easy to cover up a crime.
Dozens of wingbeats pounded the air behind me and I spun around. Motery Center demons and angels surrounded the thirteenth floor where I stood in plain view with The Reaper’s bloody scythe gripped tight. I didn’t know how much of the fight they’d seen, but I knew better than to let the adrenaline from the fight control me, so I stood tall and faced the flying crowd.
Waving both wings, I stepped aside to let Soul Fountains staff into the office. Some talked of calling the SPD, others spoke of an internal vendetta against The Reaper. The majority fell into asking me questions, piecing together the rumors from the past two weeks with the sudden explosions and raining debris that Avarice’s attack caused.
Amid the chaos of bringing order to the scene, The Reaper’s disembodied voice rumbled one word into my ear. “Lounge.”
An invisible hand took one of mine off the scythe and placed a vial into it. Brimvisibility.