The first chapter of the revamped EatD series starts here. If you're a newcomer, then welcome, you're just in time! If you're a returning reader, then I hope you find this ride just as pleasurable, if not more, than the last.
Krystal did her best to keep one hand stirring the soup in front of her, knowing that it was in the one pot that loved to boil over. The instant she took her eyes off of it, it would probably destroy the surface of the stovetop. Unfortunately, her cell phone was ringing and very much out of reach. She reluctantly let go over the spoon and ran the small distance between her kitchen and the dining room table of her small, two bedroom apartment.
She snatched up the phone, not recognizing the number and realizing that it was probably a job. "Hello?" she answered, in the deepest voice she could muster.
"Is this Chris Reinhart?" asked an unfamiliar man.
"Yes, this is him," Krystal answered, wincing. She still never got used to the whole entire pretending to be a guy thing. She knew it was her own fault for dressing completely asexual on her first job to clear demon bats out of a cave, but was it really her fault that the people who hired her kept calling her a "nice young man"? Just then, she heard the sizzle of a boil over from a pot and frantically went back into the kitchen.
"My name is Adam Marshall and I'm calling because we're in need of... of an exorcist in Greenland Terrace," he said, hesitating a bit. "You were recommended to us."
Krystal gritted her teeth as she took the pot off the stove and tried to wipe down the hot stovetop, where the soup had spilled. "What do you need help with?" she asked, trying to maintain her masculine voice.
"A girl went missing a few hours ago, but some people in the town suspect that a demon might be involved." That would explain the skepticism in the man's voice, Krystal thought. He probably thought it was a runaway or a regular kidnapping. "We don't want to take any chances and no leads have turned up, so..."
"I can be over there tonight," Krystal said. As they discussed the price and arrangements, there was a knock at Krystal's door. She kept talking to Adam as she walked over to open it. She placed a finger to her lips when her guest came in.
Seth Allen walked into her apartment, amused as she tried to finish cooking and negotiate over the phone. He had dark brown hair and brown eyes, and he was dressed in jeans and a t-shirt - the summer weather made it nice enough to wear. He listened closely to the conversation Krystal was having. It sounded like they would have a late night job... When Krystal hung up, he asked, "Where's it at?"
"Greenland Terrace, which is up north," Krystal said as she went back to the kitchen. "So we'd better eat fast and then we're taking your Jeep."
Seth sat down at the table, dropping his messenger bag down next to him. "A job so soon after the last one."
"That haunted library was too easy," Krystal sighed, bringing out two bowls of soup before going back into the kitchen to get bread. "A girl has gone missing."
Seth began to eat, but in between having a full mouth, he asked, "Isn't that what the police are for?"
"They have volunteer teams searching for her and they're investigating like a normal disappearance," Krystal said. "But there's a demon living in the woods."
"...it isn't a spider demon, is it?" Seth asked quietly. "Because I'm staying in the car this time."
"It's probably not a spider demon," Krystal sighed. "Are you still upset about that?"
"Yes," he said. "Because you have magical holy powers and I don't."
"You have a gun," Krystal said.
"And you have a magical sword, which makes my pistol look like nothing," Seth countered. "That was the worst job."
Krystal ate quickly and put her bowl in the sink. "I think the crazy demon that wanted a bunch of brides was worse."
"You were dressed as a guy, so he wasn't hitting on you," Seth said, finishing up.
"Speaking of which, I need to get dressed," Krystal said, going down the hallway and disappearing into her room on the right.
Seth put his bowl in the sink and sat on the couch in the adjacent living room, peeking down the hall. "And you ended up helping that demon marry the girl he really wanted anyway! I thought that was a happy mission?"
"I thought he was going to tell that I was female," Krystal called out, changing in her room.
Seth smiled at the thought. It was funny, really. Krystal was a beautiful girl, with blue eyes and blonde hair that went a little past her shoulders. Athletic too, from all the terrible demonic encounters they had since they decided to work together over a year ago. Now they were both 19, making a living off vanquishing or negotiating with demons.
"Alright," Krystal said, coming out of her room. She was wearing baggy pants, a parka with the hood up over her baseball cap, and bandana over the bottom half of her face.
Seth laughed. "How do people think you're a boy wearing that?"
"Hey, it's saved me from a lot of trouble," Krystal argued. "They think I'm going through puberty, so I can get away with it."
"Well, let's get going 'Chris'," Seth said, grabbing his messenger bag. Krystal had her own small backpack and her strapped to it. "We've got a girl to rescue."
"This is really farther north than I thought," Seth said, navigating his Jeep along the highway, taking the exit to get to Greenland Terrace. It was about an hour's drive from the area where he and Krystal lived.
"It's not too bad," she said, looking to where the mountains were in the distance. "A lot more in touch with nature than our place."
"Which makes it prone to weird demons," Seth said.
"Hopefully it's not another man-eating devil," Krystal sighed, gazing at the night sky through the car window. "It's really scary when a girl goes missing." She was holding on to her phone, having not received a second call from Adam. That meant that the girl was still missing.
Seth drove down the main road, past quaint little plazas and side roads that led deeper into suburbs. They drove by the heart of the town, lit up by signs of varying businesses, before they turned off onto a smaller road that eventually led them to a beautiful, two story boarding house. It was constructed from red brick with white wood paneling around the windows. As Seth pulled into a paved parking lot nearby, Krystal marveled at its construction.
"It's huge," she said, getting out of the car and taking her backpack with her.
"It's supposed to have around fifteen rooms," Seth said. "Sure beats a motel, huh?"
As they approached the front door, its porch light on, Krystal said, "It's always nice when I negotiate lodging, but this definitely takes the cake. It's like we're in England!"
Seth rang the doorbell, peering past the boarding house to where its backyard gave way to a lush forest. There were other houses nearby, but the Greenland Terrace Lodge stood off by itself, on a large plot of land. "Think that's the forest?"
Krystal nodded. "It extends behind most of the neighborhood, all the way to the high school. It's got to be the one."
There was a click as the front door opened and a woman, maybe in her mid thirties, peered out at them. She had long blonde hair and eerie red eyes, but looked terribly bored. "Are you the demon killers?"
Krystal and Seth exchanged glances. "That would be us," she finally said.
"...is that supposed to be your work outfit?" the woman asked, scrutinizing Krystal. "You look like a gang banger with that bandana over your mouth."
Seth stepped forward. "I'm Seth Allen, researcher, and this is Chris Reinhart, the actual exorcist. He tends to hide his face so he doesn't get pursued by demons later. It's best for him to conduct himself confidentially."
"Right," she said, holding the door open. "You get to stay here for two nights, no charge. Food costs extra."
They sheepishly went inside and the woman closed the door behind them before going behind the front desk to the side of the foyer. She took down their names in her guestbook with a sigh. "I can't believe Adam convinced the Lamets to hire you," she said, shaking her head.
"We're a precaution," Seth said. "In case there is a demon. If there isn't, then we will help out with the search."
"Pretty expensive search party if you ask me," she said. "By the way, I'm Abby Kasaguri, owner of this place. Here's your room key," she slid it over to Seth, "and if you have any concerns or questions, let me know."
Krystal was looking at a decoration hanging from the wall by the front door. It was a piece of wood hanging from a red string, all of it held up by a thumbtack. She touched it and it hummed briefly with energy. "For someone who doesn't believe in demons, it's strange that you have a warding charm," Krystal said, looking at Abby.
The woman gave her a sad smile. "My husband made that, for a good luck charm. Took some red yarn, tied it to some chunk of wood, and told me it was magical," she said, laughing. "He probably would have enjoyed seeing you guys. What a spectacle. You even have a magic sword on you, Chris?"
Krystal held up her hands. "It's important to have a weapon when dealing with demons, so-"
Abby shook her head and started down the short hallway that led to a large open area. On the left was a large dining room table and swinging doors that led into the kitchen. Right in front of them was a staircase that led to the rooms upstairs and to the right was a large living room area. That was where some people were seated, talking quietly.
"Your heroes have arrived," Abby said. "One bookworm and one teenage thug."
A brown haired woman with short haired turned and said, "Abby! This isn't a time to be joking around!" Her eyes were red from crying. The dark haired man next to her rubbed her shoulder soothingly. Another man with pepper gray hair and sharp features was staring off into space, his elbows on his knees. He was nicely dressed and well kept, though quietly distraught in his own sense.
Abby shrugged and left the room, going into the kitchen. "Glad you could make it on such short notice," the brooding man said. "I'm Adam Marshall, a local pastor here."
Krystal and Seth introduced themselves before sitting on a couch opposite everyone else. The woman was crying again. "I'm Matt Lamet and this is my wife, Melanie," the dark haired man said. "Our daughter Mina is the one who's gone missing and... we really hope it isn't a demon, but Pastor Marshall said we can never be too careful." Matt passed a picture over to them and Krystal took it. It was obviously a school picture, of a fourteen year old girl with short, wild black hair, blue eyes, and a pretty smile. Krystal could already imagine what type of girl she was from the photo - the kind to participate in school activities, do well in school, be popular with the boys... an all around good girl.
"While I have never encountered the demon in the woods, I believe it exists," Adam said. "About ten years ago, we had a similar incident, though it was taken care of. Whatever lives there now hasn't been in contact with us at all until maybe now."
"What makes you think it's a demon?" Seth asked. "We just want to make sure so we aren't wasting your time."
The Lamets looked to Adam. "Mina's backpack was found abandoned not that deep into the forest, but any trace of her has disappeared. Her phone isn't picking up any signals and search teams have combed the area multiple times. A young girl couldn't have disappeared so quickly."
Seth and Krystal exchanged looks. "We will do what we can tomorrow morning," Krystal said.
"Tomorrow?" Melanie asked. "You can't do anything-"
"The night is not a good time for them to go looking," Adam cut in. "The disappearance happened in the afternoon and it's safer for them to go at first light."
The Lamets held each other and after a bit more talk, the two of them left. Adam waited a few moments before standing up himself. "What kind of demon is it?" Krystal asked, she and Seth also standing up.
"I suspect chaos," he said. "If I thought it to be a devil, I'd be far more concerned."
A chaos demon... one that had a human form, but possessed incredible powers of darkness. "Has the demon made contact with anyone since the girl went missing? That's strange if it's chaos," Krystal said.
Adam sighed. "I don't know what kind of games it's playing. Mina is a good girl, it's a shame..." He trailed off, concerned. "I hope you two find her."
With that, he said his goodbyes and left. Abby came out of the kitchen, looking around. "Did the pastor leave?"
"Yeah," Seth said.
Abby let out a sigh of relief. "Crazy guy really thinks it's a demon. If he's a pastor, shouldn't he be doing the exorcising himself?" She looked at the two of them. "Are you guys religious nutjobs too? Because I may have to consider moving you to the draftiest room in the house."
"No, we're secular," Krystal said, holding up her hands defensively. "Promise. You don't have to be religiously affiliated to fight demons, though traditional exorcism techniques are passed down in a lot of religions."
"So this crazy stuff is taught at Bible study?" Abby looked at Seth. "And what about you? Do you fight, too?"
Seth patted the holster strapped to his right leg, comfortably at arm's length. "I've got no talent for fighting demons, so this is just a self defense measure. I do all the research."
Abby looked between them. "So he has a gun and you have a magical sword."
Krystal laughed nervously, but Seth said, "Do you know anything about the demon in the woods?"
Abby crossed her arms. "I'm afraid not. I know Eveon got lost there once, but my husband found her within an hour, so if there was a demon there, he probably would have come across it..." She trailed off. "Things were pretty weird when she was younger, but we haven't had anything happen recently."
"Excuse me," Krystal said, "who's Eveon?"
"My daughter-" Before Abby could finish, the front door open and then swung shut as a young girl came walking down the hallway. She had blonde hair pulled back into a ponytail and the strangest purple eyes that Krystal had ever seen. The girl, obviously Eveon, walked over to her mother, looking suspiciously at Krystal and Seth. "Eveon," Abby said, noticing how her daughter smelled of dirt, sweat, and grass. Her t-shirt and jeans were dusty. Abby picked a twig from her daughter's hair. "You should go take a shower."
"I just came by to try the other side of the woods," the girl said, her voice shaking a bit. "Just in case."
Abby rubbed her daughter's shoulders. "It's dark out, so leave the rest of the search to the group. If you get yourself lost, that's not helping Mina at all."
"But I..." Eveon looked down at her dirty shoes, her flashlight in hand, a knapsack on her back. "I can't just stay at home when she's missing!"
"When Mina comes back, she's not going to hug you if you're all dirty," Abby joked.
Her words seemed to sting Eveon instead, the girl on the verge of tears. "I just want her to come back!" She began to wipe at her eyes before looking over again at Krystal and Seth. "Who are they?"
"They're the exorcists here to take care of the demon, if it exists," Abby said, not hiding how ridiculous she thought it all was.
"We're going to help find Mina," Krystal said. "Whether there's a demon or not, we're going to do our best to help out."
"Then why are you still here?" Eveon asked, her voice rising. "Why are you just standing around? If you're supposed to kill some demon, then why don't you go out and do it?"
"We're going early in the morning-" Seth started.
"The morning? And leave her out there all night?" Eveon asked. "That's stupid! She could be hurt or lost or... or..." She wouldn't allow herself to say it and she started crying again. "I can't believe the Lamets think it's a monster!"
Abby didn't stop her daughter when she went running up the stairs and turned to the right to go to her room. "Can't blame her," Abby said. "Her best friend disappears and then you guys are hired to go on a wild goose chase."
"Sorry for the inconvenience," Krystal said.
Abby went up the stairs to show them to their room. "The Lamets are paying for you to stay here, so it's money for me."
When they reached room 12 on the left side of the building, Abby unlocked it with her master key and showed them the room. "There's two beds and a bathroom. If anything comes up, I'm in room 3."
"Glad they got us a double this time," Seth said after Abby left. He set his things down on one of the beds, smiling as he sat on it. "This is far more charming than a regular hotel."
Krystal shut the door and put her bad down on the right bed, closest to the window. "Definitely. I asked for separate beds. I love you, Seth, but... well, not really."
They laughed a bit and Seth said, "Ouch, too soon, Krystal, too soon."
Krystal pulled down her bandana and stuck her tongue out at him. "We only dated a year, get over it." She went over to the bathroom and shut the door.
Seth sighed and laid back on the bed, looking up at the ceiling fan. Was it an entire year? High school already seemed like so long ago. Krystal had run away from home when she was 15 to live with her relatives and that's how she came to his school. She'd been practicing her exorcist arts and sword fighting all the time they dated, but he hadn't had a clue. They broke up when they were 17 and then two weeks later...
Seth attributed the devil pigeon attacks on their high school for what got him into the business. He'd always secretly been a fan of the occult and Krystal was secretly an exorcist (still in tender training at the time), but when they discovered that about each other, it was the start of their real friendship. Dating had been fun, but the exorcising business was far better.
"What are you thinking about?" Krystal asked, having been out of the bathroom for a while. Her baseball hat was off and her hood down, her blonde hair tied in a bun.
"High school," Seth said, sitting up. "About the pigeons."
Krystal giggled. "That was terrible. Josh was busy on a different job and I had to do it all myself. Devils can be weird things."
"I like them better than demons," Seth admitted. "At least for jobs. You feel less guilty having to hurt some crazy pigeons versus something that's a person."
Krystal nodded. "We only had a demon once... the guy who was kidnapping girls to be his bride. At least he was just trying to annoy an ex-girlfriend." That had been more of a negotiation job than fighting. Often times, exorcists had to act as go betweens rather than fighters. "I don't know what I would do if this really is a chaos demon."
"Call Josh?" Seth suggested.
"He has some serious guarding duty," Krystal sighed. "I haven't had enough experience or training if this ends up being huge."
Seth shrugged. "Hopefully it will go smoothly. Let's worry about finding that poor girl first."
"I can't believe this," Eveon muttered to herself as she furiously dried her hair with a towel. She had taken a shower, but dressed herself in a clean pair of jeans and a new shirt, deciding not to give up. If those two "exorcists" weren't going to go get Mina, then she was going to. There was no way she was going to happily stand by in her room with her friend at risk. Even if it was a kidnapper, if Eveon got kidnapped herself, at least she would be closer to Mina.
Eveon checked her knapsack to make sure it had food and water because it had been hours since Mina had run off. She would be hungry and thirsty and... Eveon shoved a first aid kit in the there, tears stinging at her eyes again. She didn't want to prepare for the worst, but if Mina was hurt, then it was best to be safe. She looked at her cell phone and hesitantly called Mina's phone again, for what seemed to be the hundredth time. As it went straight to Mina's cute voicemail, Eveon had to hang up before she lost it.
She pulled on her hiking boots, put on her knapsack, and grabbed her flashlight. She stopped in front of her mirror, pulling her blonde hair up in a ponytail. Surrounding the mirror and tucked into its frame were pictures of her and Mina. Though they could share all their pictures online, every couple weeks, the two of them would go down to the 24 hour photo at the local pharmacy and make prints of their favorite ones. Just a few weeks ago, when school started, they took one together.
Mina had set the self timer on her camera and pushed Eveon in front of it. The dark haired girl had intimately wrapped her arms around Eveon's neck, making the poor girl blush. There had been a few seconds of just Eveon standing there with Mina so close, their cheeks touching. Mina had smelled wonderful. Then the camera went off and Mina let go to check how it turned out on the digital screen.
"Perfect!" Mina had said and brought the camera over to Eveon to see. Then they were close again, looking at the picture of them rendered in so many pixels.
Eveon snapped out of her memory and plucked the picture off of her mirror. She stared at it, wanting nothing more than to be back to that day, when Mina was safe. She folded the picture and stuck it in her front pocket. It didn't matter that it would get crinkled - when she brought Mina back, they could print more copies at the local pharmacy. As many copies as they wanted. And they could take new pictures. Anything Mina wanted, Eveon would do if it meant having her best friend back. She went over to her window and carefully pulled it up before slipping through it.
Sneaking through the window was easy - there were no screens and all she had to do was climb down the trellis. When she reached the ground, she trudged through the grass, looking towards the forest. As she walked across the backyard, she began to think of her plan. She would turn on her flashlight when she was deeper in the forest so she wouldn't attract attention. Then, she could look for Mina-
A hand clamped over her mouth and Eveon tried to scream as another arm wrapped around her. "It's just me, the exorcist," a voice whispered in her ear. "Relax."
When Krystal let go of Eveon, the girl whirled around, shocked. "What are you-?" Krystal grabbed Eveon by the wrist and began to drag her back to the sliding glass door that led into the house.
"It's not a good idea to go out there," Krystal said, trying to stay quiet. She took Eveon back up to her and Seth's room, the young girl following along begrudgingly.
When Krystal opened the door to the room, Seth looked up from the book he was reading. "Looks like you got her," he said with a smile.
Eveon went and sat on Krystal's bed, her arms crossed. "How did you know?"
Krystal pointed at the window. "We saw you walking across the backyard."
Eveon looked between the two of them. "You guys better not try anything funny because my mom can totally paralyze both of you in one hit!"
Seth got up from where he was sitting on his bed. "And this where I take my awkward leave. I'll be down in the living room."
Krystal watched him leave and sighed when the door shut. "Eveon, you won't be helping anyone if you go missing, too." She sat down on the bed next to Eveon. "We're going to find her."
"But she's going to be out there for the entire night," Eveon said. "What if something bad happened to her and she's hurt?"
"Pastor Marshall told us that they've used search dogs. They would have found her by now if that were the case," Krystal explained.
Eveon shifted uncomfortably, her anger slowly turning into sadness. "And Pastor Marshall thinks having you guys come in will save her?"
Krystal nodded. "We'll do our best."
"If you're an exorcist, does that mean they think Mina's possessed by something?" Eveon asked.
Krystal chuckled. "Demonic possession doesn't actually happen in the way people think. There have been cases of humans being overtaken by a force so powerful that they change into a demon, but that's an irreversible change."
"So Mina's going to turn into a demon?"
"No - they think a demon took her and we may have to fight the demon to get her back," Krystal explained. "They think it's a chaos demon, so that might be hard."
"Chaos?" Eveon asked, perking up a bit.
"There's a variety of demons... or well, non human beings that are classified," Krystal started. "There are two major branches of demons, natural and chaos. Natural demons are in tune with the elements or they're reminiscent of animals, yet have a humanoid form. Devils are a baser, purer form of natural demons that typically lack a human form. Seth and I fight a lot of those, like giant spiders, demon birds, and one time we have a crab demon infestation at a beach on the west coast. There have been reports of devils with human forms or devils with pure elemental powers, like a giant fire beast."
"...you don't think a giant crab has Mina, do you?" Eveon asked, horrified.
Krystal laughed. "No, I don't think crabs are going to be in the forest. If it is a chaos demon, then she will probably be safe. Chaos demons are typically dark or light element based, but we consider the light chaos demons as angels. Besides the light angels and dark chaos demons are their ancestors, fiends. A long time ago, angels, chaos and natural demons, along with humans teamed up to eradicate the light and dark fiends. Fiends have all but died out, though they like to tell young exorcists scary stories about them all the time."
"That can't all be true," Eveon said. "Otherwise, I would have seen demons and angels and who knows what already!"
"They blend in pretty easily," Krystal said. "Most demons don't look much different than us."
There was a slight pause as Eveon thought more about it. "How did you become an exorcist?"
"I apparently came from a long line of exorcists on my dad's side," Krystal said. "He was the black sheep and refused to get involved in it, but when I found out from my cousin, I decided that I wanted to help people. I didn't start training until I was 15 and I ran away from home to live with my relatives."
"Do you know really cool things?" Eveon asked, looking at where Krystal's backpack and sword were.
"Yeah. But you can see that tomorrow when we go rescue Mina," Krystal said.
"Yeah, right. What are we going to do? Bust in there and... and..." Eveon trailed off. "We?"
"You want to see Mina, right? I'm sure she'll feel a lot better if her best friend is there to rescue her."
Eveon nodded, looking down into her lap. "I... I hope so."
Krystal noticed an edge of paper peeking out of Eveon's pocket and asked her, "What's that?"
"Oh, it's..." Eveon blushed a bit. She pulled out the folded up picture and gave it to Krystal.
She looked at the picture of the two girls and hoped that they would find Mina tomorrow. "You two are close, aren't you?"
"This entire thing... it's really my fault," Eveon said, her voice trembling. "I don't know if they told you, but she ran off because of me."
"Did you get into a fight?" Krystal asked.
"She got mad and ran off into the woods. I just let her go," Eveon whispered, covering her face with her hands as she tried not to get upset.
"Do you want to talk about it? It might help us when we look for her tomorrow."
"Alright," Eveon said. "But... um, I don't know you're name."
Krystal wasn't sure what her name had to do with anything, but she smiled behind her bandanna and said, "Chris Reinhart. Seth Allen is my partner in crime downstairs."
"Okay, Chris," Eveon said, fidgeting nervously. "Mina got mad at me because of a boy..."
"High school is definitely way better than middle school," Mina proclaimed as they walked down the rapidly emptying hall of their school, going to their lockers. It was mid-August and the first two weeks of school had passed rather uneventfully.
"That's for sure," Eveon said as they stopped at the locker they shared. She bent over to turn the dial as Mina watched her. When Eveon opened the door, a dark haired boy their age came over to Mina.
"Hey," he said, smiling at the two girls. "Survived another day?"
Mina gave him a playful shove and his hazel eyes lit up. "I think you're the only one who's surviving around here, Ken. Eveon and I are doing pretty well."
"That math quiz was hard though," Ken said, looking to Eveon.
Eveon shook her head, trying not to laugh. "It was easy. Most of the problems were from the homework."
"It... it wasn't that easy," Ken stammered. "You probably only think that because you're smart."
Eveon stepped away from the locker as she put her books into her messenger bag. "Yeah, right. Mina's the only smart one here."
"That's not true," Mina said, grabbing her books and placing the ones she didn't need back in the locker. "Eveon, don't you need your Lit book today?"
"Aw crap," Eveon said, going back to digging in the locker. As she did so, she could hear Ken and Mina talk lightly about different things. She wondered if Ken liked Mina and if he did, she felt sorry for him. Mina was notorious for shooting down boys left and right when they hit on her. When Eveon shut the locker, she watched the two of them interact.
Mina looked really cute - a white flowy skirt with blue designs and a matching blue top, covered lightly by a grey cardigan sweater. Sometimes, she made Eveon feel like she should dress up more, but she liked her jeans and her t-shirts and it comforted her to see that Ken wore similar things. She wondered if someday Mina would leave her to go hang out with all the popular girls.
But then, Mina's eyes drifted to hers and she smiled at Eveon in such a way that made the blonde feel relieved. Mina was never going to stop being her best friend, that's for sure. Lately, Mina had been more affectionate and more attentive, even as she lapsed into strange moods. Sometimes, Mina would grow quiet during lunch, staring at her food while Eveon and Ken talked. Even during their last sleepover, Mina was awfully nervous, fidgeting in her bed all night when they slept next to each other.
"I need to go to my student council meeting," Mina said, looking between both her friends. "You'll have to tell me about gym class some other time, Ken."
"By then I'll have more stories," he said with a smile, watching Mina turn her attention to her best friend.
Mina gave Eveon a hug and pulled back slowly so that their faces were right in front of each other. "I'll see you in a little bit. You're waiting until the meeting is over, right?"
Eveon nodded, trying to avert her gaze from those beautiful blue eyes. It often felt like she was the only thing Mina ever wanted to look at. "Yeah. I'll be waiting on the bench outside."
Mina smiled at her again and then left down the hall, a fancy tote bag over her shoulder and a binder in her arms. Both Ken and Eveon watched her go before the boy said, "Do you mind if I accompany you outside?"
"So formal," Eveon laughed. "You make it sound like we aren't friends." She had known Ken from middle school, when they had a computer class together the second semester of eighth grade, but they'd only really gotten closer in high school now that they had more classes in common.
Ken shrugged nervously. "Don't want to intrude on you quietly waiting for Mina, is all."
Eveon shook her head as they started walking. "Nah, don't worry about it." They walked down the hall, passing other students, and finally left through the front doors.
As Eveon headed over to one of the black benches outside, Ken asked, "Are you doing anything on Saturday?"
Eveon paused, by the bench, not sitting down just yet. "Not really," she said, turning to face Ken. "Why?"
He stiffened, but his voice continued steadily even as his body betrayed his nervousness. "That new movie, the funny one, that you wanted to see, is coming out this weekend, right? I was thinking we could go together to see it."
"Sure. I'll ask Mina too!"
"I kind of... want it to just be the two of us," Ken said, his face turning red and his hazel eyes going straight down to the ground. "And we could have dinner before."
Eveon froze. "Are you asking me...?"
"Do you want to go out on a dinner and movie date?" Ken finally blurted out.
Eveon turned just as red as him before nodding slowly. "Y... yeah. That'd be... fun." She felt almost giddy and surprised. A boy liked her? And it was Ken?
Ken noticeably calmed down. "A... Alright."
Eveon nodded again. The two friends stayed standing across from each other awkwardly, not saying anything for a while. "I thought you liked Mina," Eveon said after a few minutes. She sat down on the bench, trying to get her thoughts together. Ken had really asked her out?
"What? No!" Ken proclaimed, waving his hands. "It's you that I like."
"Really? Why?" she asked, suddenly suspicious. "I mean, Mina's really cute and I know all the guy's like her, so-"
Ken sat down next to her. "You're really cute too," Ken said. "It just takes a real man to appreciate that."
Eveon started to giggle. "A real man? You're not even through puberty, are you?"
Ken puffed out his cheeks. "Hey! That has nothing to do with it! Being a good man is an internal thing, not an external one!"
Eveon looked at him. He was a good looking boy, dressed a little sloppily at times, but he was always clean and always amiable. He had a strange smile that was wide and his canines almost pointed, along with hazel eyes that she sometimes thought were yellow. Not to mention he kept his nails a bit longer than usual for a guy. She often teased him about being wolf-like, something he vehemently denied whenever she brought it up. "I guess you're right since you're almost a head taller than me," Eveon sighed.
Ken just gave her a goofy grin. "I'm glad you understand."
Eveon crossed her legs. "But... do you really like me?"
Ken nodded eagerly. "Of course! We have a lot in common, but I'm really glad we got to know each other last year. You're smart, funny, and really pretty... I just think we get along well, so I decided that I would go for it."
"And here I thought you were trying to get to Mina," Eveon laughed. "It's a good thing you settled on me. She would have shot you down."
"It's not settling. I don't like how you're so hard on yourself," Ken said. "Mina's great, but I'm interested in you."
"But you've been talking to Mina a lot."
"She's your best friend," Ken explained. "If I want to date you, I should get along with one of the most important people in your life, right? Besides, Mina is really closed off."
"You think so?" Eveon asked. "She's pretty nice."
"On the surface she is," Ken said. "I'm sure she's just as sweet underneath it all, but she doesn't open up to anyone except you. She's been distant lately."
Eveon paused to think about it. Maybe it was true that she and Mina shared everything between each other, but was Ken right? Was Mina that isolated or that distant? Lately... lately she had been acting strange.
"I didn't mean to speak out of turn," Ken said, noticing her silence. "I just want to know her so I can know you better."
Eveon snapped out of her thoughts. "Oh, yeah..."
"You're the one I like," Ken said, placing his hand on hers. "Not anyone else. I like you because you're beautiful inside and outside."
"You're such a sap," Eveon whispered, looking down at their hands. Unfamiliar emotion washed through her. Was this what it was like when Mina got hit on? But Mina never said yes to any boy that had thus come on to her. Mina would tell Eveon she was pretty, too. When Mina said it, it felt different than from Ken. For a moment, all Eveon could think about was how sometimes she and Mina would lie on her bed, holding hands, and talking about nothing. Sometimes exchanging compliments, sometimes giggling over stupid things.
Ken suddenly jumped up off the bench and grabbed his backpack when he looked at his watch. "My sister is going to kill me," he groaned. "I need to get home right away."
"It's alright," Eveon said. "I still have to wait on Mina."
Ken nodded. "I'll call you later tonight so we can make plans, okay? Make sure you ask your mom if you can go."
"I'm sure she will let me," Eveon said.
"She's kind of scary," Ken admitted.
"As scary as your big sister?" Eveon countered.
Ken looked at his watch again before scampering off with a groan, holding up his skinny jeans as they sagged while he ran towards his house. Eveon watched him go and leaned back against the bench, looking up at the sky. She was smiling all by herself, happy that Ken had asked her out. She probably would have been happy if it had been any boy, but she wouldn't have said yes to anyone. Ken was... well, she had never thought of him like that, but if she were to have a boyfriend, Ken would definitely fit.
Eveon was still smiling to herself when Mina came outside to meet her. "Happy to see me?" Mina teased, noticing the glowing look on her friend's face.
Eveon stood up and strapped on her messenger bag. "I guess," she laughed. "But that's not the only reason I'm so happy!"
They started to walk down the sidewalk, past the forest the surrounded the east side of the school. "What is it?" Mina asked, walking beside her. "Something good happen?"
Eveon nodded. "Ken asked me out on date!"
Mina stared at her, but kept walking. Eveon waited for a reaction - for a happy, excited reaction - but nothing came. Mina just looked at her blankly before finally saying, "He asked you out?"
"To see a movie this Saturday," Eveon said, feeling her smile lessen a little bit. "And dinner before it."
Mina finally turned away with a long sigh. "That boy... I knew something was up."
"I thought he liked you," Eveon said. "But I guess he really liked me all along."
"I thought that too," Mina said, shaking her head. "So I was getting ready to turn him down if he ever asked me out."
"At least you don't have to worry about that," Eveon joked.
"Yeah, but now I have to worry for you," Mina said quietly, looking over at Eveon again. "I'll give him a call later tonight to tell him to leave you alone."
Eveon stopped walking. "...what?"
Mina turned around. "You have to friend zone him early," she explained. "He's a great friend, so if we take care of it now, it won't be a problem later."
"But I don't want to friend zone him," Eveon said.
"Sometimes guys don't get it unless you're explicit-"
"I told him yes," Eveon blurted out. "I agreed to go out with him."
Mina frowned in confusion. "Why?"
"Because... I..." Eveon tried to grasp for an answer.
Mina let out a groan and turned around to continue walking down the sidewalk. "Great. Now I'm really going to have to do some damage control to keep him off of you."
"Wait, Mina-" Eveon trotted to catch up with her.
"You're too nice to say no," Mina sighed. "But I'll take care of it-"
"I don't want you to take care of it!" Eveon shouted.
Mina stopped. The two of them were in front of one of the entrances to the dense forest that stretched from the high school all the way to Eveon's house. "What do you mean?" Mina asked.
"I want to go out on a date with him."
Mina stared at her wide eyed, as though she could believe what she was hearing. Then, Mina slowly shook her head. "No way. You don't want to date Ken."
"What? How do you know?" Eveon asked. "I think he's really sweet and handsome-"
"But that doesn't mean he deserves you," Mina said. "You're really pretty and I think-"
"He thinks I'm pretty too. I've never had a guy tell me that," Eveon said. "I've never had a guy be interested in me, so I-"
"So you're going after the first guy who gives you attention?" Mina asked. "You should wait on someone-"
"I don't want to wait! I think Ken is wonderful," Eveon fired back.
Mina's face began to go red from frustration. "You think he's wonderful? He's probably no different than any other guy that's ever been interested in you."
"You mean all the other guys you chased off before they could even talk to either of us?" Eveon asked.
"Because they were terrible," Mina countered. "I only let Ken get close because he really is a great guy, but then he has to go and ask you out. He only wanted to be our friend so he could get to you."
"I thought you would be happy for me," Eveon muttered, looking away.
Mina stepped towards her and placed her hands on her shoulders. "Listen. You're going to find someone who will really take care of you and understand you," she whispered. "So how about you come over to my house for a bit? I still have a leftover cinnamon roll from the ones I baked yesterday, so we can share that and then I'll take care of the Ken issue for you."
Eveon shrugged off her hands. "Mina, I'm not like you!"
Mina stepped back, wide eyed, as though Eveon had said something extremely hurtful. The blonde got confused at Mina's expression, but before she could do anything, her friend said, "And what's that supposed to mean? That you're not like me?"
"I don't want to wait," Eveon said. "If I keep waiting around for Prince Charming like you then I'm never going to date anyone. And what if he passes me by?"
Mina calmed down slightly. "And you think it's Ken."
"I'm not saying it's Ken-"
"Do you love him?" Mina asked, her voice upset. "Is that why you're so insistent on dating him?"
"What's wrong with you?" Eveon shouted. "I thought you would be happy!"
"Happy that you're going to date some guy?" Mina screeched. "Of course not!"
There was a brief moment of silence as Mina took a deep breath and Eveon let out a frustrated sigh. "Do you like him?" Eveon asked. "Is that why you're upset?"
"What? Ken? No!" Mina said, shaking. "No!"
"Then why are you so mad?"
"Because you... you're going to..." Mina trailed off, biting her lip.
"If you don't have a good reason, then you should just leave us alone," Eveon said.
"Leave you alone, huh?" Mina asked, angry. "Fine then! Just go off and be with some stupid boy!" She headed towards the forest, walking off the sidewalk.
"He's not stupid!" Eveon shouted at her.
Mina turned around, the trees of the forest framing her. She looked so sad then, but Eveon was too upset to notice. "I don't understand why you would need to date a boy anyways. We can have fun without Ken!"
"I don't understand you," Eveon said. "You've been acting weird all the time and you're just... just so clingy!" She hadn't meant to say the last part, but it came out before she could stop it.
Mina bristled, before turning and running into the forest. "I hate you!"
Eveon winced. "I'm not going to chase you," she shouted defiantly after Mina's retreating form as the girl disappeared into the woods. "Take the long way for all I care!"
Then she turned and continued home, stewing in anger that Mina would be so against her dating Ken. She didn't even bother to call the girl - they had taken the longer route through the woods many times before when it was too hot or they wanted a little adventure so she didn't worry about Mina. It wasn't until Melanie Lamet called Abby an hour later that Eveon realized Mina had never gotten home.
"It's my fault," Eveon said, wiping at her tears. "Because I wanted to date Ken and maybe I should have..."
"Those kinds of fights happen all the time," Krystal said, rubbing Eveon's back. "I'm 15, so I understand what you're feeling." Sure, saying she was a 15 year old boy was part of the act, but she understood what it meant to go through high school. "Mina was probably just overly protective and it's okay that you got angry."
"What if she's dead?" Eveon choked out. "Or someone did terrible things to her?"
"If it's a demon, we won't have a problem," Krystal promised. "Haven't you ever noticed anything weird in the woods? That probably means there is a demon." She didn't have any proof herself, but the spirit warding charm in the house made her suspect that Eveon's dad was wary of something.
"My mommy would never let me play in the woods alone, so I used to play with Mina all the time," Eveon said. "I got lost one time when I was little, but..." She trailed off, frowning. "Wait. Something weird happened today."
Krystal sat up. "Really?"
"I was looking for Mina and broke off from the group for a bit," Eveon said. "A girl... well, I guess woman, she was young, came up to me and asked me to follow her. She said she stumbled across a clue as to where Mina was."
Eveon still remembered her clearly. She had brown hair down to her back and dark purple eyes that rivaled her own. She also had a strange mischievous smile when she said she might have an idea of where Mina wandered off to.
"What happened?" Krystal asked.
"I began to follow her, but then Ken came walking up behind me, telling me not to separate from the group," Eveon sighed. "When I turned back, she was gone."
"She looked human?"
"Yeah. She had eyes like me, though," Eveon said, looking to Krystal. "My mommy had eye problems when she was young and after they performed surgery to correct her vision, they turned red. My dad's were blue, so they said that the colors combined."
Krystal laughed. "I don't think that's how that works. It's rare to have an eye color like that."
"Does that make me magical?" Eveon asked, eager.
Krystal patted her on the shoulder. "I can't sense an ounce of holy magic from you, so it looks like you're not exorcist material."
Eveon let out an indignant sigh. "Then how am I supposed to save Mina from the evil demon?"
"I'll do the beating, you do the rescuing," Krystal offered.
Eveon let out a sad laugh. "You really think it's a demon?"
"I hope so," she said. "Otherwise we're getting paid a lot to do nothing."
The two continued to talk, but eventually, Eveon fell asleep on the bed, curling up. Krystal looked at the picture of the two girls again, thinking about their relationship. Such jealousy wasn't uncommon between high school girls, but this... this felt different. She placed the picture next to Eveon and went downstairs, where Seth was nodding off while reading a book about forest demons.
"It has to be a chaos demon," Krystal said, startling him.
Seth jumped, almost dropping his book. "What makes you say that?"
"I just talked to Eveon," she said. She retold everything to Seth, including the fight and the strange woman in the woods.
"A woman, huh?" Seth asked. "You think she's strong?"
"Probably. I'm going to distract her and then let you and Eveon find Mina," she said. "She has to be holding onto her for a reason."
"Maybe a prank?" Seth suggested. "Maybe she's just a bored demon."
Seth frowned. "I was trying to be positive."
Krystal laughed and shoved his shoulder. "Just yanking your chain. When we do find Mina, let Eveon do the rescuing, alright? I'm sure it will help them a lot."
"Right, right," Seth sighed. "I never get to be the hero."
"They're 14 year old girls. Save the hero stuff for when it's a girl your age," Krystal teased.
Seth gave her a playful swat on the butt with his book and she whirled around, punching him lightly in the chest. They continued their quiet horseplay up the steps.
"Are we sharing?" Seth groaned, looking at where Eveon had taken over one of the beds.
"God forbid you share a bed with a girl," Krystal murmured.
"Do you remember that time you woke up from a nightmare and almost Holy Flared me?" Seth asked.
"We were in a Motel 5 so that was a sketchy place and when I woke up, there were shadows everywhere," Krystal argued.
Seth shook his head. "I'll be on the couch downstairs."
Krystal caught his wrist. "Hey, Seth. Thanks for being a gentleman."
"No problem," he said, smiling at her. "I still have some studying to do."
"...you're not telling my mommy about this, right?" Eveon asked as she walked off the beaten forest path to go to where she had last seen that strange woman.
"Nope," Seth said. "I'll take your threat about your mom disabling us in one hit seriously."
Krystal gave him a slight shove before she continued to follow Eveon. "We'll need you to get Mina out of there if we have to fight the demon," she said. "Besides, you'd follow us anyways, right?"
Eveon looked away guiltily, but walked past some more trees, deeper into the forest. "This is my fault, so I'm the one who needs to fix it. There's no way that I could stay home and do nothing!"
Krystal nodded, but then paused when she felt something strange pass through her. Eveon was up ahead, in a clearing, looking around. "Eveon? Have you been here before?"
"It feels familiar," the girl said. "I don't think I've been here, though."
Krystal turned when she realized Seth was no longer following them, but going off in another direction. "Seth?" She exited the clearing and yanked him by the collar. "Seth!"
He let out a slight choking sound and batted her hand away. "What? How did you get behind me?"
"We're over here," Krystal said, pointing to the clearing where Eveon was waiting, her arms crossed.
Seth squinted and then shook his head. "Over where? It looks really dark."
Krystal grabbed him by the hand and pulled him into the clearing, but a force stopped her. "...a barrier," she murmured.
Seth sighed. "That would explain why I can't see or enter this part of the woods."
"Can you hold on a second?" Krystal called to Eveon.
"What's wrong?" Eveon asked, getting nervous. "A crab demon isn't coming, is it?"
"No, I need to talk to Seth." Krystal turned to her friend. "It looks like you will have to go back. Let Abby know that Eveon is with me."
Seth nodded. "Right. And..." He dropped his voice to a whisper. "Krystal, be careful. It has to be a strong demon to have a barrier around its lair."
"It's a strange one though," Krystal said. "Eveon and I can enter no problem."
"Maybe because you're blondes?" Seth joked.
Krystal shut her eyes, trying to sense what kind of barrier was around them. Her uncle Keith was a master of barriers and had tried to teach her about them, but... She opened her eyes. "We're both female. That has to be it. Why else would it let in an exorcist and a regular human girl?"
Seth sighed. "Well that sucks. What if it's another crazy demon looking for a bride?"
Krystal gave him a light shove. "It might be a female demon, so I think I'll be safe."
"Keep your disguise up just in case," Seth muttered. Then he waved, going back the same way to Abby's house. "Good luck!"
Krystal waved back and went to Eveon. "Seth can't enter the barrier, so it's just you and me."
Eveon nodded. "Why can't he?"
"...I think it's a barrier based on age," Krystal lied. "He's too old...?"
"Uh huh..." Eveon said. "Chris, right?"
"And the adult had to turn back?"
"We're screwed, aren't we?"
"...I'm the one with the magic sword-"
"But he's got a gun," Eveon whined. "I saw him pack extra ammo and he's the one you send back to my house?"
Krystal started walking to where she could sense dark energy. It had to be a chaos demon. "Guns don't work on strong demons. If they're a devil or a fiend, there's no effect. Chaos or natural are fast or strong enough to render bullets ineffective. You have to fight them hand to hand or with magic."
"Like fireballs?" Eveon asked, trotting to catch up with Krystal.
"I use holy exorcist arts, but yeah, I guess fireballs could work," she said, trying to hold back a giggle. She couldn't be acting female if she wanted to make sure the demon didn't figure her out.
After a few minutes of walking, they came to a wrought iron gate that was only two feet high. Beyond it was a nicely kept yard with white flowers blooming from the front garden. There was a Victorian style house there, large with quite a few bedrooms, but it was painted darkly, as though to blend in with the forest setting.
"It's like a haunted house," Eveon said, staring at the building.
"It's actually really nice," Krystal said, pushing open the unlocked gate. They walked down the stone path to the front door and the door was also unlocked. "We're probably expected."
"What makes you say that?" Eveon followed her inside to the dimly lit foyer.
"The demon hasn't come barreling out of the house to attack us. That's usually how these things go." Krystal paused, sensing the demon's presence in the house. "Or it's a trap."
"Do you think Mina is here?" Eveon asked, following Krystal as she went straight ahead, passing by the large sitting area and staircase to go to the double doors. She opened them and went inside into the dark room, Eveon following close behind.
"Well, it took forever for you to show up," came a silky smooth voice.
"It's the demon," Krystal said, making sure Eveon was behind her. She took her sword from where it hung from its scabbard strapped to her backpack. It had an elegant hand guard like a rapier, but a longer blade - thin, sharp on both sides, and curving to a point.
The lights in the room slowly brightened, revealing a beautiful young woman at the center of the room, looking so casual in a short cut black dress and matching boots that looked more for kicking than for fashion. She had brown hair and purple eyes - it was the same woman that Eveon had seen.
"Then you really were a demon," Eveon said, pointing at her. "Where is Mina?"
The demon cocked her head at the doors. "Go up the staircase and it's the second room to the left."
"Take Mina home," Krystal said. "I'll take care of this."
"Right." Eveon turned to leave, before turning back. "My left or your left?"
"Yours," the demon said.
"My left leaving this room or coming into the house-"
"Just check every damn room," the demon growled. Eveon quickly left at that.
Krystal let her sword drop. "You're not really an evil demon, are you?"
The demon smiled. She snapped her fingers and the doors flew shut behind Krystal. The furniture in the room (nothing more than a coffee table and two armchairs) slid up against the walls to clear space in the middle. "Depends on your viewpoint. Thank you for bringing Eveon here. I tried to get her during the search, but people got in the way."
"Just what are you planning?" Krystal asked.
The demon shook her head. "A little boy like you wouldn't understand. What are you supposed to be? An exorcist? Is that a new uniform that you all have to wear?" she mocked.
"H-hey," Krystal said defensively, looking at her clothes. "I just don't have special armor or anything-"
"I'm surprised they bothered to hire someone," the woman said. "Been here for ten years, so I thought no one knew I was living at this place."
"I've been hired to rescue Mina, so..." Krystal looked at the shut doors behind her.
"I haven't fought an exorcist in a long time," the demon drawled. "And if you think I'm going to let a skinny little boy waltz in here swinging his big sword around without any punishment, then you're not meant for this profession."
Krystal held her sword in both hands. "I don't want to have to hurt you."
"I won't go full power. Think of it as a training exercise," the demon joked, her hand starting to glow with dark energy. "What's your name?"
"Reinhart... Reinhart..." the demon mumbled. "Nope, doesn't ring a bell. Sounds like a last name an exorcist would have though!"
Krystal inched closer toward the door. "I really think I should..."
"It's a shame you aren't a girl though," the demon sighed. "Those are the best."
"Wh-what?" Krystal asked, her eyes widening in surprise.
The woman smiled. "You know... cute little exorcist girls? Hey, do you know any? If you send one to my house to 'exorcise' me, I won't hurt you too badly."
"I'm not sure what you're talking about," Krystal said slowly.
The demon licked her lips. "I rather love girls."
"Is that why you kidnapped Mina?" Krystal asked, glad that her bandana hid her red cheeks. Hell, glad that the demon didn't know she was a girl.
"Too young," the demon sighed. "Maybe if she were a few years older."
"This is getting really awkward," Krystal said, turning around. "I'm going to-"
A blast of dark energy shot right past her, hitting the door before fizzling out. Krystal turned slowly to the demon who was preparing another attack. "When your other exorcist buddies ask who beat you up, tell them it was Isaka."