Origin - Six - Rending Nightmare
Alice didn’t stick around. She imagined the police already had her name from the incident at the school. Having them catch her here, in a mall that just got attacked... Well, it wasn’t a good look..
Fortunately, the place had cleared out. She noted some security and some young men waiting with them on the edge of the food court, far enough that they weren’t threatened by the imps that had been there. She hoped they couldn’t see her in the partial darkness she’d plunged the food court in. And in hoping that, the darkness thickened.
Alice took that as her cue to leave.
She glanced around, then ran over to a shop, vaulted the counter, and pushed into the backstore. There was a tiny space for the employees to sit, rows of shelves, a large fridge, and a backdoor that she discovered was locked.
Frowning, she glared at the lock, then summoned Dream Charter and sliced the hinges apart with a swipe before she tugged the door out and shoved it aside.
She discovered a few employees hiding in the long corridors at the back of the restaurants where pallets and a few forklifts were parked and abandoned. Alice ran past them all and found an exit that opened up to the back of the mall.
From there, it was relatively easy to cross a road and find a fire escape that brought her close enough to roof-height that she could make the jump.
In the meantime, the roads were filled with the whirring sirens of police cars and ambulances and, to her horror, what looked like army trucks that rushed after the first responders.
Those were followed by news vans, and curious onlookers that she just knew were going to rubberneck and jam up traffic.
But that wasn’t her problem. She was supposed to be in school.
Tugging her phone out, she checked the time and winced. Her classes started half an hour ago. This was going to cost her some points, she just knew.
Alice almost felt like skipping out on class, but that would just make it more suspicious. Besides, there was someone she dearly wanted to have a very pointed discussion with.
She hopped from one roof to another, making her way across the city and back towards her school, the path a little faster now that she’d done it once before. Her wandering imagination and worries did cause one little issue though.
On jumping between two buildings, she misjudged the distance and found herself coming short.
Alice’s heart skipped a beat and she swung her arms around, but she was in mid-air already, and she wasn’t going to make it.
Then the shadows between the buildings coalesced into a great appendage that reached up and she bounced off the top of it to land with a skip onto the next roof over.
She stopped running, hands going to her knees as she panted and her heart settled. She made a mental note not to allow herself to become so distracted while roofhopping. After shaking off the momentary lingering fear, she patted down the pants of her costume, then continued hopping her way school-ward.
On arriving across the street, she dismissed her costume, returned to her school uniform, and climbed down a fire-escape back onto terra-firma. Crossing the street, she jogged to the front of the school, then slowed down. There was a man standing by the door, arms crossed and looking unimpressed.
“Uh, hi,” she said.
“Students aren’t supposed to leave the school grounds, or enter after class has started,” he said.
She blinked. “But... uh...” Licking her lips, she jumped to the first excuse she could think of. The truth. Or the partial truth. “There was another attack,” she said.
He straightened. “A what?”
“An attack. Like what happened here. At the mall in the city.” She gestured behind her, in the general direction of the mall. “I had to see if everyone was safe.” She hoped he would understand that as her meaning she wanted to check up on her family more than anything.
He frowned, then pulled out his phone. The waiting as he tapped away was excruciating. “Huh,” he said. “You’re right. What the hell is happening to this city.”
“I think that’s where the problems are coming from, yeah,” she said.
He gave her a strange look, then nodded her into the school. Alice thanked him in passing, then walked at a pace that was just short of being a jog. She needed to get her things from her locker, and then get to class. A class she shared with Marcia.
It was impressive, she noted, how fighting imps and demons could be less of a strain on her nerves than walking into class a few minutes late.
On arriving at her classroom, books tucked against her chest, Alice opened the door and peeked in.
The teacher, an older lady with glasses perched on the end of her nose, looked unimpressed with Alice. “Hello?” she asked.
“Ah, hello. Sorry, something came up, and I had to take care of it.”
“I see,” the woman said. “Well, get to your seat. Ah, but miss,” she added, freezing Alice on the spot.
Alice’s eyes locked with Marcia and she promised the girl through her gaze alone that they’d be talking. “Yes?” Alice asked.
“We were in the middle of a lesson, and I was wondering if perhaps you could assist me,” the teacher said.
A few students snickered, and Alice felt her heart plummet. It was only fair, she supposed, that the teacher rake her over the coals at least a little. “Sure,” she said.
“Could you read the sentences on the board?”
Alice glanced past the teacher and to the board. There were three sentences written there, one above the other. They were all the same, she noted, though spaced a little differently, and maybe with a changed word here or there. “It's with such profound happiness. Such a hallelujah. Hallelujah, I shout, hallelujah merging with the darkest human howl of the pain of separation but a shout of diabolic joy,” Alice read. She glanced at the teacher who seemed confused. “Did you want me to read the other two?” she asked.
“Um... It is with such deep happiness. Such hallelujah. Hallelujah, I cry, hallelujah that merges with the darkest human howl of the pain of separation but a cry of diabolical joy.” She skipped down to the third and last and read that one aloud too. “It is with such deep happiness. What hallelujah. Hallelujah, I scream, hallelujah merging with the darkest human howl of the pain of separation but with a scream of devilish joy.”
The teacher was eyeing her now. “You speak Spanish and English,” she said.
Alice was taken aback by the statement. “I... don’t?”
“You certainly read them,” the teacher said. “Go sit, please.”
“Okay,” Alice said.
She sat, then eyed the board, confused. It was only when she focused that she really noticed that the words written there weren’t in Portuguese at all. Well, one of the lines was, but the other two were in different languages that she didn’t speak... even if she understood every word written. She muttered one of the lines under her breath, but soon stopped. She was muttering in a language she didn’t know but she understood what she was saying all the same.
Alice swallowed and sat back. She would be investigating that later. But it seemed rather benign and even helpful to have as a skill. She just couldn’t see why or how it worked with her other magical girl abilities.
Then again, magic could be strange.
She opened her book up to where the person next to her was and followed along with the lesson. They were going over the history of Portuguese and its ties to other European languages as part of an introduction into some of the more advanced parts of the language.
Alice let the lesson roll by her as she cast surreptitious glances towards Marcia. Every time, she found the girl staring back at her with a knowing little smile. Marcia’s hand was on her lap, and she was notably writing with her off-hand.
Had she not reported that Alice broke her wrist to anyone? Has Alice broken her wrist? She wasn’t sure, but she could still vividly remember the crack and snap the girl’s wrist had made. Somehow the memory was sharper than the fight in the mall.
The moment the bell rang Alice gathered up her things, then came to stand next to Marcia’s desk. “We should talk. In private,” she said.
There was some giggling, and when Alice looked around she noticed a few girls pressing hands over their mouths to hide their mirth. She went over what she’d just said, then suppressed a blush--successfully. She wasn’t going to let some dumb misunderstanding on someone else’s part keep her from doing what she needed to do.
“Sure,” Marcia said.
She stood, and started to gather her things one-handed. Alice stepped in to help. “I’ll carry your things,” she said before leading Marcia out of the room.
They went up and up, eventually arriving at the school’s roof access. The door was locked. Alice pressed her hand to the lock and flooded it with shadows. She could probably learn how to pick a lock, sensing each tumbler with her darkness. Instead she froze her darkness in place and wrenched it around with enough force that everything in the lock was ripped apart. The door opened.
Marcia came to a stop a few steps behind Alice, her skirt flaring out as it caught in the wind and her hair fluttering along with it. “So, you wanted to chat?” she asked with the same smile as always.
“What are you?” Alice asked.
“Just a simple girl,” Marcia answered with a smile.
Alice glared across the gap between them and for a moment it seemed as if the entire world darkened, as if thick clouds came between them and the sun’s light.
“Oh, you’re scary,” Marcia said without a hint of chance in her voice. “So, you don’t like my story?”
“That you’re just a normal girl? No, I don’t. What are you?”
Marcia tilted her head. “I’ll tell you if you make a deal with me,” she said.
“I can rip it out of you,” Alice warned.
The young woman pouted. “No fun. But fine. I’ll tell you exactly what you want to hear.”
“No,” Alice said. “You’ll tell me the truth.”
“Are you sure you don’t want to make a deal out of it?” Marcia asked.
“Fine,” Alice said. “A deal. You tell me the truth, I don’t kill you. How’s that for a deal?”
Marcia grinned. “Deal!” she said. And then Alice felt a faint, cold shiver run down her spine.
The next thing she knew Marcia was on the ground Alice had Dream Charter in her hand, and the blade was whispering a hair’s breadth away from the girl’s neck. “What was that?” Alice demanded.
Marcia smiled. “We made a deal. You can’t go killing me now, not as long as I tell you the tr--” her face contorted in obvious pain and sweat immediately appeared beading across her forehead. She wretched, and Alice almost pulled back. “Okay, okay, no, you can still kill me. But I must tell you the truth. If I do lie, then you have to kill me. Fun, isn’t it? Probably the worst deal I’ve ever taken.”
“So, what are you?” Alice asked.
“I don’t actually have to tell you, that wasn’t part of the deal.”
Alice pressed her sword closer.
“But I will! Because I’m nice like that.” Marcia sighed. “I’m a succubus of the Second Circle. While most of the clans of hell wanted to deal with you the old fashioned way, we thought it might be nicer to just... say hi. And now I have you riding on me, so altogether, things aren’t going that bad.”
Alice realized, quite suddenly, how compromising their position was.