We reappeared in the glaring white room that miss FoxFace seemed to have dedicated as ‘the landing pad’ or something of the sort. Instantly we were surrounded by soldiers with big guns and, while the world was still spinning, Charr chucked me at them. “Take him!” I heard her shout. “And get a medic! Fast!”
Hands seized me, but they let me turn around to see Conan kneeling, blood making a mess of things. He was pale, but didn’t seem to be panicking. Always a good thing.
One soldier rushed to Conan. Bandages were produced and Conan’s shirt was ripped open to show the wound. Gah! Did I really do that?
Then, as if trying to blot out my guilt, I thought of something. “Wait!” I yelled, throwing myself at Conan. “You’ve got to take his collar off! Before she calls him back!”
In a fumble, Charr and I wrestled the thing – but it was padlocked. Shit! Cursing, I drew my sword- but another soldier drew a far more sensible looking knife. Within seconds the collar hit the floor.
“Oh good,” I said as Charr picked it up. “That’s good-”
And then she punched me.
Again, a tribute must be sung by a choir of angels about how fast Charr was. I never saw that punch coming. It just – smack!
The next thing, I was laying on my back and the lights were blinking above me. “-been wanting to do that for so long,” I heard Charr say.
Well, I guess I deserved it. I did almost kill her sweetheart, I guess.
I was hefted to my feet by soldiers. Conan was carried out by several while I swerved on my footing. Charr marched out, ignoring me like I was a bug or something. Then, hands clamped on me like they could actually restrain me, I was marched out of the ‘landing pad’.
Of course, I was taken straight to a cushy waiting room. I wished. Instead, I found myself dumped unceremoniously in an interrogation room, the door locked.
I didn’t try and fight my way out or sweat it. I just collapsed in the chair and sat back.
Okay, now was the token ‘time to reflect on your life’. Pretty sure, soon FoxFace was going to come in and try and bust a new deal with me. But what should I do?
My life was a mess. I had helped an egotistical maniac take over the two realms. So going home was out of the question. Maybe I should – just bum around the mortal kingdom? Would FoxFace agree to just leave me alone for a little while?
Wondering about the odds of that happening, I drew my dice from my pocket – and saw that it was not the one I used to have, but rather the one Amitabha had given me. Crap.
Grumpily, I tossed it onto the table. It gave me a miserable seventeen. Like hell that thing was useful. I must have hit a critical fail when dealing with Bella, for sure. But what had I been thinking? I was Chaos, not ‘mister healy-happy-vibes’. And I had been played for an idiot.
With a groan I dropped my head onto the table beside the dice. What was I going to do?
The question was one that, it seemed, I could think about for hours with my brain running in circles. Which is exactly what I did. Mental laps upon laps about why Bella treated me the way she did, why she shared her power with me, and what I was left to do now.
It was ages later that I realized that, huh, it had been a while. FoxFace was letting me stew? Odd. Smiling grimly, I wondered at whether FoxFace would be successful in whatever it was she was planning right now. Nudging the dice with a finger, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to ask this dumb dice something.
Well, it rolled a critical 20. I huffed. FoxFace was going to be successful. Dammit. Deciding in no small terms to just give up, I pulled my jacket closer around myself and kicked back in the chair, feet up on the table. Might as well sleep.
I swear, I had just fucking closed my eyes when Bam! The door shut and FoxyFace herself was grinning at me.
“Look what the cat dragged in, literally!”
I scowled at her. “Now what?” I sighed, kicking my feet down to the floor. FoxFace was all grins as she pulled up the chair opposite me.
“How are you doing?” she asked in that too-sweet tone of hers.
I rolled my eyes and just looked at her. There was no wiping out that grin, was there? “Bella and I broke up. You happy?”
“Poor you,” she said completely unconvincingly, what with the shark grin and all. “Do you want my sympathies?”
“Yeah,” I said snarkily. “All of them.”
She laughed. Tapping the table between us, she said “So how about this? Are you done side-hopping then?”
“I’m not on anyone’s side,” I said, drawing on my family’s neutral tradition – only to get laughed at.
“Bullshit!” said FoxFace happily, in a suspiciously good mood. “Now, you make up your mind, alright?”
I glared at her. “I’m not going to help you-”
“Why not?” she interrupted. “We’re the good guys!”
I glared harder. She held up her hands. “What do you want? We’re not going to pay you, you’re a spirit. We’re not sacrificing children to you, so doesn’t that tell you something?”
“You’re using me like a pawn!” I shrieked, something snapping in the back of my head. Must have been a nerve or something. “I am not-”
Her patient expression silenced me. I sat back into my chair and crossed my arms. “I’m sick of this. I want to be left alone.”
“Chaos, chaos, chaos,” tutted Foxface, drumming her fingers on the table. “You do know -” and she cocked her head to the side. “You can’t just walk away from a mess of your own making. You know that, right?”
I tightened my arms across my chest. “I did not,” and that’s where I left it.
FoxFace pointed a finger at me, aiming between my eyes. “You were sent to, essentially, quell Bella’s uprising. Now?” She looked pointedly up, then down. “She rules the two realms. It’s only because she’s pretty damn slow and disorganized that she hasn’t unleashed full hell on earth yet.”
An unhappy feeling settled in my gut. “How do you know that?” Who was her source?
She grinned. “Now listen up, kid. I’ve got a treat for you. You liked your home, didn’t you? You don’t want it destroyed?”
“I also don’t want the Pure Lands destroyed,” I sighed, seeing where she was going with this. “Which, Bella is probably going to try and destroy.”
FoxFace mimed firing a finger gun at me. “Bingo. See, you’re thinking. You can do this.”
I sent her my version of a murder note via the eyes.
“Now, you see,” FoxFace completely ignored my threatening look and seemed even more pleased. “She is going to either battle the Pure Lands or earth. We’re not sure which.”
“Pure Lands,” I muttered softly. “She just needs another portal.” Which, now that she ruled the two realms, she could bully people into making one for her.
“Ah, but!” FoxFace placed her fingers like a spider on the table between us. “She needs more worshipers here on earth to raise her power to allow her to defeat the Pure Lands. You understand that, don’t you? It’s all dandy and all to bully people into doing things for you, but if she wants to kill the Buddha essence herself, with her own hands, then she’s got to get a whole lot more powerful.”
I cringed. “Why would she want to kill the Buddha essence?” The source of all Buddha-natures, the essence that was all Buddhas in one!
FoxFace gave me a disappointed look. “Because she’s a demon? Daughter of Mara?”
“How do you know that?” I asked. “Besides, she has a blue eye. Demons don’t have blue eyes.”
FoxFace winked at me. “My source says its a tattoo.”
“A – tattoo?” An eyeball tattoo?! How come I’d never thought of that?
“So this means she’s about to unleash hell on earth, by the way, quite literally,” FoxFace summarized terribly. “Which was why she found Kuryo. He’s excellent at sending spirits here and there, even across dimensions.”
I shrunk down in my chair with a huff. That guy. Could people stop complimenting him?
FoxFace was talking on. “So we’ve stalled her by rescuing him. And you not being on her side anymore is probably throwing her for a loop – but not too big of a one.”
“So? Chaos? Want to help humanity?” FoxFace grinned. “Tell me you don’t want to be the goodguy in this story.”
I rolled my eyes. “Fine. I’ll do it.”
“Spoken like a true teenager,” she chuckled.