My heart raced and my sweaty hands opened the door so hard it slammed against the wall. I ran desperately down the corridor and down the stairs, the sound of my steps echoing in my ears, until I pushed open the heavy glass door leading outside. The cold wind that greeted me made me halt, and it was only then I noticed how my chest burned and how my breath left my lips in heavy white clouds. With urgency burning through my mind I looked for Michael, scanning all those unknown faces, until I found him.
And there was the creature too, just a few steps away from Michael's group, standing with his back against a tree, watching them just like I used to. I simply stood there, unsure of what to do. I recalled that Steph hadn't been able to see him but, even so, seeing him so close to Michael left me terrified. That same dark smile touched his lips, confirming my fear, and his purple eyes glowed with a crimson light. I watched as he raised his head to look at the treetop above him and, panicking, watched as a thick heavy-looking branch start shaking, almost as if someone was jumping on it. And I knew immediately what he was up to.
I ran again, not even thinking about what I was about to do, and bumped with all my might against Michael, pushing him out of harm's way just in time; the heavy branch falling with a loud thump right where he'd stood a second ago.
For a moment everything was quite and all I could hear was my own breath. And then worried voices started filling the air.
"Michael! You OK?"
"How in hell did this thing fall?" asked another boy, kicking the branch that was so heavy it didn't even budge.
"Hey, Michael! You're bleeding!"
I looked up at him in alarm and noticed the thin thread of blood trickling down one of his cheeks. He swiftly cleaned it away making it easier to see the small cut on his skin.
"It's nothing," he answered and looked back at me, smiling gently. "Hmm, thanks. You've probably saved my life."
A wave of warmth ran through my body. I hadn't thought of doing something as heroic as that. In fact, I really hadn't thought of anything at all.
"Ah ... it was nothing," I murmured. "I was just walking by when I noticed ... I acted without thinking," I confessed, feeling too embarrassed at being the center of attention.
"Michael! You better go and disinfect that," one of his friends advised. "You say it's nothing, but it won't stop bleeding. Stop acting the hero and come with me to the infirmary!" he practically commanded, holding him by an arm and helping him up to his feet, dragging him towards the north building. Michael laughed, filling me with that warm happiness that made my heart soar, and followed his friend obediently.
"See you later," he told me at the last moment, peering over his shoulder to wave at me, and I raised a hand, trying to respond but, at the same time, too entranced to do it properly.
"Were you hurt?" asked a boy, who had been present during my shameful moment the day before.
I blinked returning from my dream world. "Um, no, thank you," I answered in an almost inaudible voice and stood up.
He smiled politely. "Good. Well, I'll see you later."
"OK," I answered once again, not knowing what else to say, and watched as he too, walked away.
The sound of a low laughter quickly erased all the feelings of warmth from my mind. And yet my anger spoke louder, overthrowing my fear, and I clenched my fists turning to face him.
"What the hell do you think you're doing?" I demanded, probably too loudly, since everyone that looked at me would see me arguing with a tree, and his laughter was replaced by an amused smile.
"Really, really interesting."
"Didn't you say we had a Contract? You tried to kill him!" I accused him, furiously. That he would kill me, I could accept. But someone else getting hurt because of me was simply inadmissible.
"Oh well, so much drama," he complained with a tedious sigh. "Let's be real, shall we? If I wanted him dead he'd be dead," he claimed with absolute conviction. "I only wanted to see what kind of Human he is. On the other hand, as you so clearly put it, there is no Contract until you've accepted its terms." He released the full intensity of his presence and, once more, I felt like I was being crushed to death. "But really. A Human like that ... you have quite the bad taste in men. Can't see why any woman would want a man like him. On the other hand it makes everything else all that easier. Almost too easy, even."
I lowered my gaze, truthfully depressed, the memory of what had happened the day before still very much alive in my head, and sighed. "What's the use? No one can do anything about it."
"If it's him that you want, it's him you shall have," he asserted with that sarcastic smile.
"And what can something like you do? Will you make him see things that aren't really there every time he looks at me? Or will you make him think that he wants me, even when he doesn't? In the end, he will never love me. It'll all be a big illusion," I contested, speaking from the pain that still lived in my heart, and heard him take a deep breath.
"It is true that any of those solutions would be faster and much more effective in the ways of solving your little problem," he agreed in an almost condescending voice. "But, unfortunately, at the time, I don't possess what is needed to make any of those things possible." I raised my head to look at him, trying to understand what he meant, and was inevitably caught in his violet gaze.
"What do you mean?"
"Both options you've mentioned imply the manipulation of one's being. Be it your being or his being. And it's not that I can't do it," he added with a certain pride.
He smiled, balancing his shoulders forward and pulled away from the tree. My whole body shook uncontrollably and I gave three steps back, even though he hadn't taken a single one towards me.
"Something like that won't even be necessary. All that is needed are a few pushes."
"Why? If like you said I belong to you and you can claim my Soul whenever you want, why bother?"
"That's none of your concern," he replied coldly. "Worry only about deciding." His cruel tone of voice made an invisible knot squeeze my throat.
"Deciding? What's there to decide?" He smiled cynically and I frowned, calling upon the small remains of courage I still possessed. "If that's how it's going to be, then there are a few terms I want to add!" I stated and he tilted his head, his dark hair sliding over his white shoulders. I was sure he was going to refuse, or that he'd get angry with my audacity, but a slight expression of curiosity took over his face. "And these are non-negotiable!" I added, my heart beating like crazy.
I swallowed hard, fearing I was interpreting his disposition wrongly, but either way I had nothing to lose.
"I want you to guarantee that you won't harm any of the people around me!" I demanded and waited fearfully for his reaction.
He stood silent for a moment, his expression undisturbed, looking like a statue once more, until he finally straighten his back.
"Is that it?" he asked, as if he'd been expecting more, and I felt lost. Was that it? His question made me desperately rack my brain in search of more conditions I might add, but I couldn't remember anything else, even though I was sure there was bound to be other ways that would help me control that creature's actions. "If that's all I accept your terms," he added with a sigh, looking completely indifferent, and his soft voice broke my thoughts, robbing me of any possible argument.
"That's it ... then," I whispered with the feeling I'd just condemned myself to hell, too tired to even be afraid anymore, and he smiled.
"Not yet," he retorted and I watched terrified as he lifted an arm, his index finger pointing towards me. For a moment I thought he was about to shoot some kind of magic lightning and strike me down, reducing me to ashes. "That mark on your wrist is proof that I'm obliged to fulfill this Contract," he informed me calmly and the burn on my wrist stung as if the simple mention of its existence were enough to make it hurt. He looked amused.
"Come here," he commanded, beckoning me with his long, white finger, but I found myself unable to obey.
I knew that now that I'd made my choice there was nothing to be done about it. For the time being there was no other way. Maybe afterwards, maybe I could find a way to Seal him in that book again, or even destroy him for good. I would desperately cling to those thoughts as my last source of hope. Right there and then, that was the only I could do.
I had to make use of all my will power to overcome the fear and finally managed to drag my feet across the ground, my knees shaking with each and every step, as I forced myself to obey his command. I stopped right in front of him, noticing for the first time how tall he was, probably even taller than Michael. His white hands moved, making me hold my breath as I recalled the pain they had brought me, but he didn't touch me. Instead he pulled at the dark satin wrapping his body and uncovered his chest, his skin as white as his hands, his muscles finely outlined.
"Kiss me," he said in his intoxicating voice and rested a finger over the place where his heart should be. "Only then can you be certain that I'll fulfill what has been agreed." I didn't understand. I didn't want to understand. The only thing I wanted was for everything to be over as soon as possible.
I leaned forward, my tense body trembling, and he pulled his hand away. I allowed my lips to touch his skin, cold and soft like silk, and sweetly scented, and kissed it briefly. When I stepped back I noticed a mark similar to mine had remained. The red of the burn against the fairness of his skin almost shocking, and yet he hadn't even winced when I vividly recalled having screamed in pain.
He covered himself again and his movements made me step back even further.
"Now our Contract has been sealed," he confirmed, although I couldn't feel anything different, I was still me and the same from just moments ago. "I must go now. We'll meet later." And before I could say anything else, he disappeared leaving that sparkly dark dust in his place.