The next day, my new schedule is in effect. I still have AP Lang first hour and AP Chem third hour with Emma and Riley. I now have AP gov fourth period and Calculus second period. This still gives me lunches with Emma and Riley. I also stop by the office to get a new ID that list the periods I don't have classes.

My four classes fly by and after lunch, I head to the shop. Once again, Agatha is the only one I see when I walk in. She looks as bored as ever. As I reach the counter, Neal walks out from the backroom and smiles at me.

"Afternoon Elizabeth," Neal says by way of greeting.

I smile and wave. "Eliza is fine."

"Well, Eliza," Neal says, leaning on the counter, "Today we begin your training."

"Joy," I mutter. "What's first?"

"Basic combat skills."

"I'm sorry, what now?"

Agatha smirks. "Fighting, genius. Unless you want to end up dead dead during your first fight."

I stare at Agatha in shock of a second, then look at Neal. "Is she being serious?"

Neal just stares at me. "Why wouldn't she be?"

"So, you're just now telling me that even though I'm dead, I could end up dead for real?" I ask.

"Technically you never were dead-"

"Agatha said Mr. Mors should have just let me die," I point out.

". . . Okay, you did almost die, but made a deal to extend your living life, so, yes you can still potentially be killed," He cedes.

"And reapers can still get hurt. Did you really think this job would be that easy?" Agatha chides.

I look at Neal, very concerned and hoping for an explanation.

"We'll cover that later," he says. He smiles, motioning to the door leading to the back, "Shall we?"


I sit against the wall, panting. For the last hour, I had essentially dodged around the room avoiding Neal and his attacks while tripping over my feet. He had finally relented and given me a break after my last glorious trip.

I glance at Neal. His breaths are still even and light. He doesn't look the least bit tired.

"Ya know," I say between breaths, "When you said you were going to train me, I figured it would be more training montage to begin, not you chasing me around the room." I can hear the raw irritation in my voice.

Neal looks at me puzzled. "What? 'More training montage'?"

I stare at him. "Karate Kid? Every Rocky movie ever?"

Neal's brows remained furrowed.

"Do you even watch movies?"

"Why would I?"

I close my eyes. "It means you'd teach me the basics, then actually do a mock fight or release me to do a real fight once I've mastered the basics." I open my eyes to look at him again.

He actually looks horrified. "Why would anyone release someone who just mastered the basics to do an actual battle?"

"That's not-. . . forget it. Why didn't you start by teaching me the basics?"

Neal holds out a hand, eyes narrowing. "Why didn't you just ask that?"

"I'm starting to regret even asking." I roll my eyes. Keep rolling them, mom would always respond, you might just find something back there, and with the look Neal gives me, he could have said it himself.

Neal sighs. "Because it would be a pointless waste of time."

I stare at him in bafflement, my irritation growing. "I would say the last hour was a pointless waste of time."

Neal takes a deep breath, pinching the bridge of his nose, "I was trying to get you to defend yourself."

"Which I can't do without training," I spread my hands, widening my eyes.

Neal gives me a look. "Don't make me side with Agatha."

I growl in frustration. "You people act like I'm supposed to know everything already. Well, newsflash," I push myself off the ground, "I just officially started working this gig as Death's apprentice," I begin pacing towards Neal, "And apparently, bigger newsflash, contrary to popular belief, I didn't magically learn whatever it is I'm supposed to know and as far as I was concerned, as of three days ago, the deal I made with death was a near-death experience fueled dream. Not that it would have made a difference because I had never in my wildest dream considered that reapers or Death as actual beings was a legit thing!" My hands had been angrily flying around while I ranted, but now they rested by my sides, nails biting into my palm.

Neal, amazingly, smiles at me. An actual proud, 'you did good' kind of smile. "I'm so glad that worked. Channeling my inner Agatha is hard." Neal points behind me.

I glance over my shoulder. My eyes widen as I spin around. All the weapons that had been on the wall float in the air behind me, pointed at Neal and me. I take a step back, bumping into Neal. The weapons follow. "Neal," I warn him, "This isn't funny. Stop."

I can feel him chuckling. "I'm not doing that."

What? I can't even get out that question. My jaw just falls open as my eyes widen in wonder. I want to ask him if he's sure. There's no way I'm doing that. . . . Is there?

My mind can't process the information properly. If I were a computer, a giant error message would be flashing on the screen. Just like that, my mind blanks.

All the weapons clatter to the ground, startling my mind back into working.