Welcome to Circlet School ~ Chapter Four Part One

I slept awfully that night. An oppressive force soaked through my troubled dreams, and I woke in the middle of the night with the feeling of a weight on my chest.

‘Sleep!’ an angry voice in my head order. ‘Go to sleep you little rat!’

‘Yeah, I’m trying!’ I thought back angrily before flipping over and pressing a pillow over my head.

After that, I slept like a rock, but a rock that was at the bottom of a river, covered in turbulence and being crawled over by bottom feeders and creepy crawlies like that. It was deep, but unpleasant.

I couldn’t remember what had made it so unpleasant when I woke up to the sound of someone else’s alarm going off. No pleasant chimes and chirping of birds from my phone. No, Bjorn’s beep-beep was a full five minutes of sleep ahead of mine.

I wanted to throw a pillow across the room. Five minutes of sleep stolen from me! Five! Whole! Minutes!

Deteremined to get my night’s worth of shut-eye, I put the pillow over my head and rolled over. Blissful rest sifted over me for maybe, oh, a minute? Just enough for me to feel rested and charmingly happy. Then, a woman’s wail belted out, complete with crystals and chimes and healing twang-twangs in the background. I couldn’t recognize any words, but I was sure it was from some chakra awakening disc or something.

I bolted up, smacking my pillow over my legs. No sleep! No sleep for me!

Grumpy beyond reasoning, I rolled out of bed. Grabbing up my stuff, I made my way to the communal men’s bathroom where I had an aggressive shower. About halfway into it, I realized I was throwing a tantrum over five minutes of sleep. A bit ridiculous, if you asked me on a normal day.

So I tried to calm down. I figured this was leftover bad vibes from last night, both from the ritual and my strange sleep. Why would a spirit try and wake me up, only to tell me to go back to sleep? Weird.

I visualized white light coming down from the water spout, hosing me with cleansing properties and washing all my nastiness away. Relaxing, I just stood there and rested, feeling blissful and spiritually happy.

It worked for about five minutes. After that, for whatever fucking reason, the water turned ice cold in a snap. Maybe it was on some sort of timer that was meant to save hot water or something like that. Well, it worked. I got out of there, cursing and swearing under my breath like a very unhappy christian.

Once more in a bad mood, but doing my best to control it, I slapped my clothes on over my damp body and left my hair to its thing and marched out of there.

I got out of there, head down and scowling to myself. There was the math teacher and Sapphire milling around while Crystal and Aurora were lazily making their way to the showers.

“Shoes,” was called after me, and I half smiled to myself before shutting myself into my room. There, I passed a hand in my hair – my very gooey hair. My very, very, conditioned hair.

“Fuck!” I exclaimed, realizing that while I had let the water bathe me from the face down, I’d wholly forgotten to rinse out my hair. Which, by the way, had some very manly conditioner in it. It was supposed to make my hair flex and do push-ups on its own or something.

But I was hell-bent on not going back into the shower, sulking it like a child and feeling like my very adult patience was already running thin. So I toweled off my hair, hoping that that would be enough.

Hint: it was not. But I wasn’t in the habit of checking my reflection before leaving my rooms or apartments. Usually, my hair was fine from the bathroom reflection → where I had obviously not done a check-up, now had I?

Deciding that I was going to be patient and kind today whether I wanted to or not, I left my room, locking it as I went.

“Hey,” said Crystal, walking up to me. She was also freshly showered and just leaving her room, smelling like palo santo and had a big grin on to boot it. But over her shoulder, I saw Amethyst approaching, solemn and dressed in black with no silver.

“Hmm,” I said, deciding that this was going to be an interesting day.

It was. Amethyst walked with me and Crystal and Bjorn, emanating an air of solemn drama. Crystal tried to smile and comment on the beauty of the day (which was beautiful. All sunny and stuff.), but Amethyst gave her a cold stare. Crystal muttered that it was a beautiful day anyways, and that was that. We made our way to the eating hall, where the other teachers and staff were trickling in.

Breakfast was a muted affair. At least it was for me – until someone commented on my hair. I lifted my head at that.

“Done something to your hair?” asked – what was her name again? The math teacher. Paulette! She was sitting across from me in boho styled clothes, her mousy hair in a shoulder-length frizz.

Frowning, I reached up to my hair. It was still slick, but should have dried by now. I made a face. “I forgot to rinse out my conditioner,” I muttered under my breath. Then, with another face, I asked “Does it look that bad?”

She began to giggle hysterically. I couldn’t help but grin at myself.

“Just don’t do that when the students are here,” she said, half-laughing. It made me grin more. Life was fine, I decided. There was stuff to laugh about- and then a loud voice clearing made our faces drop.

Amethyst was standing imperiously, looking around the table as if we were all about to be judged by herself.

Sapphire set down her spoon with a severe expression. “This can wait until after breakfast! Can’t it?”

Amethyst trembled in outrage. “Food is the time to discuss openly-”

“It is a time to rest,” said Sapphire tartly. “And we want everyone’s attention on the issue, not on their food. People might want to take notes.”

“Cakes and ale is always a time for discussion-”

“This is not cakes and ale, this is,” Sapphire looked down the table. “Soy milk and fruit loops. So sit down.”

Amethyst thumped down, eyes teary. She sniffled in a miffed way. I was grateful for the reprieve. I did want to eat in peace.

“This is going to be fun,” muttered Paulette to me as some small chit-chat rose around the table. I raised my eyebrows and nodded.

All too quickly, my bowl of cereal and toasts were gone. Trays were taken away. We were all sitting back down at the table, and Sapphire had taken out a notebook and pen, bearing a painstakingly patient expression.

“Very well,” she said, with the air of a long-patient military commander about to hear about all their troops’ shenanigans. “The floor is open. We will-” Amethyst shot up to her feet. Sapphire’s eyes narrowed but she continued, lifting her right hand “Go around the table starting from my right-”

“Counter-clockwise?!” demanded Amethyst as if this was an outrage.

Sapphire lowered her right hand to lift her left. “Starting from my left. But that means you’re almost last to speak,” she said pointedly at Amethyst.

Amethyst sat back down, nodding like a martyr. Sapphire looked down at her notebook. “So. Here’s how we will proceed. First we are going to discuss our thoughts on last night’s episode. Then, once we’ve all voiced our worries and impressions, we are going to try and brainstorm some ideas. Resolutions.”

Everyone nodded. “Sounds good,” chirped Cheryl.

“So, you have the floor.” Sapphire turned to Aurora, who was directly to her left. I realized with a dismal twist in my stomach that there was only Aurora and Cheryl, then it was my turn to speak.

Aurora took in a breath. Her makeup was on a savage point, all hued in red and purple, her corset laced tightly and her hair in a dramatic updo. But for all that explosion of personality, she was quiet for a moment.

“I think, theoretically, that last night was a disaster, in many senses,” she said. “We definitely started off from a space of impurity, hence the chaos happening, but by allowing such destruction to happen, we’ve made the situation worse. I think. And,” she took a pause, starign down at the table before herself. “I think that there definitely needs to be some action taken. Last night was an improbable coincidence, but I do think it was a sign that something is wrong. Personally, I do not have a big ‘radar’. I don’t sense much. But I do know that such things are often signs from the beyond. So,” and then she shrugged in dismissal. “That’s that.”

Sapphire nodded, scribbling away at her notebook. “Any particular fears? We will get to how to fix this later, for now we’re just focusing on expressing ourselves.”

“Well, I think I speak for everyone when I say,” she looked at Amethyst “that we are all terribly sorry for your loss. Those were cherished pieces for you, and it’s a huge loss to lose a statue, never mind several.”

The table nodded all around (even Sapphire) and Amethyst bowed her head tearily.

“Thank you,” said Sapphire. Then she gestured to Cheryl with a hand. “Cheryl?”

Cheryl inhaled like she was dragging on a cigarette, fingers pressing over her lips. Then she shook her head and let it all out. “It was a bloody frickin’ disaster. I don’t know what went wrong, but that’s bad vibes right there. If there wasn’t any to start out with, there certainly is now. How do fix it, I don’t know,”

“We’ll be getting to that later,” murmured Sapphire.

“Yeah, well,” Cheryl made a face. “We’ve got work to do. That’s where I stand.”

Sapphire nodded and jotted down some more stuff. Then she pointed at me with a palm.

I wanted to hide under the table.

“Uhm,” I fidgeted, then clasped my hands before me on the table. Staring at them, I tried to make sense of everything I felt. “From the perspective of someone who was helping to run the ritual last night,” I paused again, hoping this wouldn’t go over too badly. “I think that perhaps the ritual didn’t go over well.”

There was a pause. Eyebrows raised as if to say ‘you think?’ and I realized I’d probably missed the point.

“What I mean, is, uh, I think something about the ritual made it all go down in flames.”

There was a loud gasp from Amethyst. Everyone else cringed or remained neutral as best they could. Amethyst gawked and looked up and down the table. I cringed so badly.

“I’m sorry, but it didn’t,” oh gulp “feel? Quite right. I uh-”

“How can you say that?” squeaked Amethyst.

Sapphire held up a hand. “Keep on, Thunder.”

I cleared my throat and stared down at my hands. Focus, focus. “I think, and this is maybe just my opinion,” but I doubted it, but I also doubted anyone else would speak up on it. “that the ritual was poorly executed in some way, and that this discord of energy-”

Another outraged gasp.

I barrelled on. “This may have been what caused the fire to get going. It was definitely a sign, but a sign of what? We’ve got to think beyond black and white, bad and good. So, I think we should really, critically, think about ‘why’ the altar went up in flames.”

There was a dramatic pause. I looked around, watching the stiffly poised faces around me, and the shell-shocked look on Amethyst’s face. “I’m done,” I muttered.

“What are you saying?” shrieked Amethyst. “That it’s my fault?”

“Not directly,” I muttered, but the damage was done.

“How can you say that?!” Amethyst shrieked, up on her feet now and trembling with indignation. “I worked so hard on that ritual! I asked you to officiate! I tried so hard, even placing people correctly-”

“Please sit down, it’s not your turn to talk,” said Sapphire dryly.

“Am I not allowed to defend myself?” Amethyst railed.

“You haven’t been attacked. Sit down,” was the command.

Amethyst plunked down, breath heaving and tears barely restrained.

Chaos & Kuryo (novel 3) Chapter 19 Part 1

Chaos POV

It was a stupid idea. Just – only I would think of something like it.

“Just walk out there and say you want to meet her,” the other me had suggested. Stupid idea.

Stupider yet, I tried it.

“Hey!” I stood in the middle of a street full of medieval peasants. On one side of the street, before tall buildings that looked straight out of the modern era, there were several knights in shining armor. “Shit-faces!” I called out, marching towards the knights.

The knights lifted their visors. Peasants rushed just out of the way – then turned around and stared. It was like a good old-fashioned showdown. Me on one side of the street, the knights on the other. I began crossing the open space. People gasped and pointed.

“Demon!” More than one cried out. Why? Must be the eyeliner or something.

I marched straight up to the guards, flicking my swords out into my hands. That made them jump and recoil. Ten steps away from them I stopped. “I want to meet the god-slayer!” I declared.

The guards took a good look at each other. Then, as one, they charged at me. Crap.

I took them head on, magic coursing over my swords. Metal clashed on metal, and I began making short work of them. These were certainly not as well trained as those who had been attacking the nuns. I needed no fancy tricks to knock them to the ground and skewer them mercilessly.

The last three, as seemed usual, began to run away. I chased after them, wholly expecting to be led into a trap. They would round a corner and bam! There would be a hundred of them and I would be screwed.

But still, I chased after them. Maybe because I trusted the Sephira to be watching out for me? Maybe, more likely, I just knew that I had to. I had to do this.

We rounded a corner and the three soldiers disappeared into a building. I chased – and was stopped by a very solid door that refused to open.

“Augh!” I shouted, kicking at the solid glassy thing that was most definitely not fragile. Stepping back, I was thinking of which spell to cast when a voice said “Hey, demon.”

I spun. There, in the middle of the empty street was a young woman, probably in her twenties. She was all in black, a scarf wrapped around her head, wearing a long shirt and jeans with a sword in her hand. “You were looking for me?” she asked, striding forward.

“Are you the god slayer?” I asked sharply. I was busy!

“That is me,” she said crisply, drawing to a stop beside me. The door opened for her, and she waved at me to enter. “Come.”

Uhh. I looked from her to the door, and back. “Why?” I asked.

“Because it’s polite,” she said flatly. “Or do you want to speak in the street?”

I just looked at her. Was this a trap? I really didn’t know what to do.

“Are you a friend of Kuryo?” she asked. “He’s inside.”

“Kuryo?” my eyes flew wide. “I’m looking for him!”

She nodded into the door. Okay. I walked in, senses on high alert.

We were met by the most polite-looking reception desk. The god slayer marched past it, and we went into an elevator. Or at least, it was like an elevator. It sort of lifted us up in a ray of light and vwoosh- we were up on another floor.

“You must tell me what you are here for,” she said as we began walking down a starchy corridor, all white and steel.

“I am here from the Sephira,” I said flatly. “I’m to stop you from killing any more gods.”

“Hmm.” she looked at me from the corner of her eyes. Then, with another ‘hmm’, she smiled. She gestured to a door on the right, the only one there. “Your friend is in here.”

I let her open the door. Our eyes crossed, and she ushered me in with a neutral face. Or was there a smirk?

Cold air struck my face. A smell, a smell of – battlefield? Spices? Somehow, I knew it was Kuryo, and a very unhappy Kuryo at that. Without thinking, I launched into the room.

It was like a giant meat freezer, complete with corpses and all. There, on giant hooks, dangled beings with halos, crowns, and mystical animals wrapped around them. But there, closest to the door-

“Kuryo?” I yelled, running towards him. I skidded on a patch of ice and almost collided with him.

Kuryo spasmed. He was hanging from a hook that was protruding from his collarbone, his eyes rolled back in his head. He wasn’t breathing- but I could tell he wasn’t dead either.

“He hasn’t died. None of them have,” she said calmly, stepping to my side. She crossed her arms, looking Kuryo up and down. “It’s strangely hard to kill them.”

“What?” I looked from her to Kuryo.

She nodded at the room. “These are the ones who wouldn’t die.” Then, tilting her head to the side, she added. “Help me kill them.”

“What?” I fairly yelled. I patted Kuryo’s face, felt his arms. I wasn’t sure what I was doing. Searching for some sign of life? There was none, but – I swore he moved, his arms twitching.

“You want to negotiate? Hear me out. You will have your friend back, if and only if you help me kill the last of the gods.”

“What?” I repeated, panic flooding my mind. Kill the last of the gods?

“The gods are a pest on these worlds, and they are cruel and fickle. I will give you back your friend, sans powers, if you help me with the last of the gods.”

“I can’t do that!” Morally, I meant. Killing one god was enough-

“I know who you are,” she said sweetly. “You’re a god slayer too.”

“I am no such thing!” I stepped between her and Kuryo. “I-”

“Chaos,” she said sweetly. “Don’t you want your friend back?” Yet she drew her sword.

Behind me, a tortured sound escaped Kuryo. From the corner of my eye, I saw him spasm, head flinging back. I stepped to him, and his hand gripped at my arm. It was a death-grip, vice like and too strong for Kuryo. His eyes suddenly focused on me, and they were desperate.

She stepped to us, sword scraping over the floor. “Or should I kill him before you? Just to make a point?”

I flicked out my swords – and my arm was yanked. With a sickening thud, I felt the sword slam into flesh. Into Kuryo, dead in the heart.

“NO!” screamed the woman. In a flash her sword swung – I ducked – and Kuryo’s head went rolling. I staggered back, my sword dripping cold blood. The body, headless, didn’t dance or anything. It didn’t even spout blood. It was cold.

But she wasn’t. Her eyes were wide and she was breathing like she’d run a marathon. Wild, her eyes fixated on me. “Where is she? Where- do you have the powers?”

“What powers?” I asked stupidly.

Chaos & Kuryo (novel 3) Chapter 9 part 2

Kuryo Pov

Things were now moving in the ship. We were breaching an atmosphere, launching into a magnetic field – I could hear all this through the spirits of the beings that strolled around with purpose now. We were about to touch down onto their home planet. There, something was to be done with us. I caught glimpses of a platform, of wages and wares – we were to be sold.

Hah. I may not be Charr, I may not be the world’s greatest planner, but I could wing up an idea here and there. Slowly, I’d attached myself to strings within the souls of these beings. Like a web, I’d spread my connections and control. Now, like a spider at the center of my web, I’d spread my lies and was partly in control. Not too much so as to create a problem that they would notice. No, just enough to have my way.

I’d fed them the idea that my pod was special. I was already sold. My tube was to be set aside and not unloaded with the others.

I wondered how far I could push this idea. Could I have them release me outright? I wasn’t sure. I’d decided it safer to play, well, safe. I would be unboarded differently. Not sent to the slave market.

This planet was shaped suspiciously like earth, a largely blue blob in the center of a galaxy. I sensed a mirroring, a sort of discord caused by two things that were so alike yet essentially different in my mind.

I saw the planet through the eyes of the pilots, watched and experienced their anticipation as we circled lower and lower to the cities.

Here, the cities peaked in large spires. Something about them was strange to me. Aside from these peaks, there was very little tall buildings. Very little growth. The cities were small still, the forests large.

It was when they reached the crude docking bay that I sensed it. The discord wasn’t just within me, it was in here too.

As the pilots left the ship, happily stretching their legs out into the fresh air of this world, I saw through their eyes humans gawking at them. Humans who rushed out of their way. Peasants, the aliens thought. Lowly creatures. So stupid, another thought.

They strolled away, and I let them slip from my grip. I needed the captain’s focus. She was supervising the moving of their bounty, of all the tubes containing the future slaves and pets. She had mine taken from the ship and set aside beside the ship. The others were loaded onto hover carts that whizzed them away.

It was all a strange contrast. Here were the humans dressed in medieval attire with huts for houses lining the streets, and there were the aliens with their great ship. The difference in them could be felt in their pride and superiority.

I Let the captain forget about me. She strolled away, off to visit a brothel. The other tubes were all gone. I was left unsupervised.

“Suzy,” I whispered to her soul, shaking her gently. “We need to enter my body again. Come with me.”

Suzy woke with a start, looking around with big eyes. She moaned. “We’re here! They’re going to sell us!”

“No they won’t. Come with me.” and I slipped down into my body, waking it with a start.

My limbs ached from not having moved enough. My head swam with low blood pressure, or so I guessed. Suzy slid into me, taking the back seat so to speak. She was like an extra subconscious, an extra battery in my mind.

Looking around, I latched onto my next victim. A human with a weak mind but a curious nature.

Come closer, I urged him.

Almost immediately, he did. Like he was just waiting for my invitation.

Just press that button, I thought sweetly in his mind. Let’s see what it does.

He did. It almost seemed too easy. But at that instant the glass around me (or whatever material it was) opened and the water burst out, releasing me.

The man yelled and jumped back, my hold on him broken in his surprise. I didn’t wait around. Shifting form, I donned my wings and flew up into the air. Wings pumping, the wind whistled past me as I flew off.

“We did it! We’re free!” Suzy squealed, celebrating loudly in my mind.

I didn’t really listen. I focused on flying higher, higher, so high that the air grew thin and I found myself at the top of one of the spires. I landed there on a balcony, thinking that I should be safe enough here.

But what is it with me and balconies? Every time I pick one, it seems like trouble breaks loose.

Chaos & Kuryo (Novel 3) Chapter 4 Part 1

Chaos’s POV

With a thud I landed in a blurr of brown and beige and green. My feet dunked down into slushy mud. I lost my balance and toppled over, arms flailing. I landed face-first in mud.

Ugh. What an entrance.

Spitting and cursing I propped up on my elbows. Before me, a breathtaking view of valleys and farm houses stretched in spring hues with mud spattered here and there. It was where Bella had once taken me to see the view – except now it was spring.

A lump rose in my throat. I crawled up to my feet, feeling betrayed by myself. I just had to come back here, didn’t I? Well, bugger it all.

I looked down at the black box in my hand, cursing myself and my squishy sentiments. I would go back and – something appeared behind me. My hairs stood on end. My magic senses went ‘warning! Warning!’ and I whirled, swords out.

Sparks skittered as I struck a magical shield. It shimmered with pastel colors in a bubble around a very un-pastel person. Lucifer.

Lucifer was all decked out in horns and black robes and the usual tall-as-hell-was-deep high heels that levitated above the mud. There was even the semi-permanent smug look to his face.

“Oh, it’s you,” I said, lowering my swords. I picked up the black box that I had dropped to defend myself. I wiped the mud off of it, then looked back up. Those crystal-like blue eyes were shimmering with amusement.

“Chaos, Chaos,” Lucifer tutted, bending over as if dealing with a child. “What are you doing here, hmm?”

I held up the box. “It was a mistake. I uh- just – wrong place. Don’t worry, I’m leaving.” Like I wanted to stay around here!

Lucifer held out his hand amiably. “Need help? I’m pretty good at fixing things.”

“Really?” I held out the box without thinking twice. Or rather, I thought too late. It was when the box left my fingers that I thought -hey, wait a minute.

“Thanks!” said Lucifer so cheerfully as he straightened, taking the box with him. “And thank you so much for coming back.”

“I need to go,” I said in a blurt “my friend-” but Lucifer was giving me that pitying look he reserved for… unfortunate people. I gulped, feeling screwed.

Lucifer snapped his fingers. Behind him in a semi-circle appeared a whole host of angels. “Take him,” he ordered, a nasty grin sparkling across his face.

I cursed under my breath. There was no way I was fighting my way out of this.

//////

Kuryo’s POV

“Hey,” I was dangling in nothingness, still. Time had passed, and yet it hadn’t. I’d dozed off – or had I?

I wondered if the other bodies that were dangling around were conscious. “Hey!”

But my voice didn’t seem to go far, nor to even echo. It was just absorbed by this lifeless darkness. No answers. Except- a twinge of amusement that came down the umbilical chord.

“You’re alive,” I mumbled, looking up at the thing that was above me. At the dark mass of the Academy’s depths.

A sliver of laughter came down the chord to ripple out through my mind.

Hi, I thought dryly.

Welcome to my world, the voice cooed in my head.

I squeezed my eyes shut, trying not to think of everything and anything. I needed to find a way out of here!

Laughter echoed in my mind. There is no way out, you sad little thing. We will digest you. You will end.

And, like the proverbial villain who never shuts up, the rant began.

It was a mistake, incorporating you so quickly last time. This time, we will do it slower. Yes, yes,.

That was followed by a whole chorus of sighs and laughs. Like every single piece that was shattered up there had its own voice for an instant. It gave me the creeps- yet I somehow understood it. I’d felt that shattered before.

“You do?” asked a tangible voice. I startled so bad, looking up.

A silvery head looked down at me. The skin was silvery translucent, the hair was white and thin, and its torso was child-like, the waist hidden in the darkness that was above me. Thin arms jutted from shrunken sockets to grip at the chord.

“Do you know what this feels like?” and that word, ‘this’ had been said by a million voices.

A strange eagerness was rippling from the being, from this infantile version of the Academy. It was like a heat oppressing over me. But I nodded, feeling a strange sort of sympathy within myself for it.

A sympathy that was noticed the minute I felt it.

“You like me!” the figure squealed, clasping its tiny hands together. It tapped and toyed its fingers together in excitement. “I like you too!” it blurted.

I laughed at this -creepy- but almost charming innocence.

The figure ducked back up into the darkness. Then, weilding a knife, it ducked back down. Knife held in its teeth, it swung down, gripping the umbilical chord with ease. I gasped, suppressing a wave of horror as the region beneath the hips swung down. It was a mess of octopus tentacles, all white and silvery and translucent like the rest of this body.

The being swung down straight before me, the tentacles wrapping around my stomach so the head was just a little above me. The knife was drawn out from the teeth and pointed at my throat. “I’ve got a knife!” the child giggled.

O-kay? I forced myself to stay calm, neutral, pushing all other feelings aside. “I don’t have one,” I said lamely.

The being giggled. The knife was waved in my face. “Just remember.” Then the knife was swung around and planted straight into their octopus hip. It jutted out, the skin torn but not bleeding.

“Now,” the being looked at me, tilting its head to the side. A sigh came from its lips, but I felt a rush of voices in my head. Questions, probing eyes, as if all my thoughts were being sifted through. A question was pulled out of me.

“Who am I?” squealed the being, as if so excited to have someone to talk to. “Well I- I never thought of that!”

“Ah?” I half-laughed, feeling giddy from my senses screaming danger.

It leaned in so close our noses brushed. Its fingers toyed with my ear, the one with the split lobe that had been so long ago. The being grinned. “I remember this. Your escape. I remember you. I remember everything, except -” it took in an angry breath, then hissed in my face. “I am nothing. I have no voice, I have no time, I have no feelings, no agency! I get no friends.” It leaned back, hands locked behind my neck as it arched back, back, back, until all I saw was the tip of its chin and its chest.

“I am alone in my multitude,” it crowed, half sobbing. “I have no friends.”

A feeling radiated from it, raw emotion that invaded me. It was wounded, miserable, shattered, and weak. Frightened, lonely.

I found myself pitying it. Hadn’t I felt that way after surviving the Academy? I’d had no one, not even Charr with me for the first little while. Even then, Charr could only understand so much. I collected partners, but they never filled that strange void within-

“Exactly,” cooed the spirit, drawing me out of my thoughts by rising up again to look down at me. “I’m so alone.

I gulped, not liking how I was seeing myself echoed in this being, this part of the Academy.

Chaos & Kuryo (Novel 3) Chapter One, Part Two

“We’re all going to die,” said Aaliyah firmly. She was sitting on the couch, dripping snow. She hadn’t taken her hat or boots off, and didn’t seem to realize what was going on around her.

We all sat crowded around her, listening intently. Chaos was on the floor stirring a pot of hot cocoa they’d made, serving it into mugs. Right now, there was fat chance of anyone drinking it.

“I dreamt it,” Aaliyah said softly, hugging herself. Her gaze drifted off at the TV, not really seeing it. “We all drowned.”

Chaos offered her a mug of cocoa. I shook my head at them, but Aaliyah took it.

“We all died,” she repeated softly. “But I can’t remember how it happened. There was just all this water and you,” she nodded at me “Couldn’t keep your head above it. There was a shark and -,” she shook her head. “We all drowned.” She looked at Chaos. “You had a wooden crucifix that floated. That was all that was left behind.”

Chaos looked down. We all lowered our gazes. No one knew what to say.

Maybe now’s a good time to say that Aaliyah, being a golden dragon, had rare predictive dreams. She dreamed of the future. Needless to say, dreaming of all of us dying had never happened before, and wasn’t a good sign.

Chaos cleared their throat. All eyes turned to them and I cringed inside, expecting something, well, cringe-worthy.

“You know,” Chaos said, swirling the coca in the pot. “In my realm when one god made a prediction, it was basically taken as a challenge by other gods. A sort of ‘hold my beer’ kind of moment.”

“This was a dream,” Jade said sternly. “It,”

“Was sent by someone,” said Chaos flatly. “And someone else somewhere is probably taking it as a challenge to make it not happen. So-”

“Our world is not populated by zillions of gods like your world was,” I interrupted.

“It’s not written in stone!” Chaos interrupted me back fiercely. “Just because someone says it, doesn’t make it true. It’s a warning, not a death sentence. And how many people have avoided the death sentence?”

“Not a whole lot,” I bit back.

“They’ve got a point,” said Charr quietly. “We can maybe do something.”

Chaos pointed the chocolatey spoon towards her. “Avoid water.”

“I’m thinking something else,” said Charr.

“Like what?”

“Well,” Charr gave me a meaningful look. “Maybe we should contact, you know, the principals.”

There was an unhappy silence. My stomach did an unhappy flip. I looked grudgingly at Charr. I knew she was right. Of all the times, this was as good as any to travel to meet the principals. But – I didn’t want to. “Can it not be tomorrow? I have an exam.” I said grumpily.

“You always have exams,” Chaos said.

I glared at them. “I should be studying right now, thank you. This is important for me.”

“So is this!” said Aaliyah sharply, near tears. “We might all die!”

I cringed. “Okay, let me do my exam first. I have to go study. But I promise, tomorrow when I get home, we,” I looked pointedly at Charr. “Will go visit the principals.”

///////

Chaos’s POV

Well, I was late for work by about ten minutes, spilled a latte on some jerk’s lap, and that was just the start. It was a long shift, I was bored, and every minute felt like drudgery. Really, I couldn’t wait to get home. Kuryo and Charr were going to visit the principals! Kuryo’s exam was in the early afternoon so when I finished my shift, he and Charr should be ready to go on their little dimension trip.

Well! I rushed home through the snow and buses, climbed up the stairs in a rush, and let myself into the dinky apartment that smelled like home.

The moment I stepped inside, I felt an energy. It wasn’t magic per se, but it was… a presence.

Well I didn’t have to look far, it was right in front of me in the living room and staring me in the face.

“Hi?” I said, my brain doing that dumb thing where it refuses to acknowledge what it’s seeing.

It was Kuryo, but not. In fact, take Kuryo and imagine he hit the gym, fronted a heavy metal band, and put on a medieval tunic and that’s what was staring me in the face, long angry hair included. Charr was sitting on the couch beside him, wearing a black dress that I had never seen her wear before.

“Who’s that?” she asked.

“Temporary roommate,” said another Charr, this one wearing clothes I knew, from the kitchen.

Mind. Blown.

I shut the door behind me, just in case the world needed to not know about this. Yeah, something juicy was happening. I could feel it.

So, being me, I started talking. “Uhm, hi, I’m-”

“Why don’t you go get Kuryo?” Charr said, stirring a mug of something and handing it to the other Charr. “Tell him Kuryo has arrived.”

My mouth may have hung open for a minute while my brain just finished exploding in my head. Say whaaat?

Then the metalhead Kuryo gave me an angry look. I nodded and let myself back out.

I met Kuryo, the real one, at the bus stop.

“I need to tell you something!” I blurted as we met. Heads turned and I cleared my throat. Kuryo looked tired. He’d been up all night studying for this exam. For a moment, I felt bad for him. But then I remembered what was at the apartment.

“Okay, so, don’t freak, but,” I looped an arm around his shoulders and ducked our heads together.

“Is this a love declaration?” he asked hopefully, trying to make light of the situation. He really did look tired.

“Charr told me to tell you that ‘Kuryo is here’. Has arrived. Something like that.”

Kuryo looked at me, so tired. Then he sighed heavily. “Are you serious?”

“Yeah!” I nodded, eyes wide. “And there was this guy in the apartment, and he looked just like you! Except, I mean, he works out, and there was another Charr-”

Kuryo cursed and began walking towards the apartment building. Little flurries of snow were falling through the sky, floating delicately down. They peppered his hair.

“Do you – you know, you don’t have work or somewhere to go? Feel like doing groceries or something?” he asked me as we neared the curve in the street where our block was.

I took it like a traitorous punch to the gut. “What? You don’t want to include me?”

“No, that’s not it,” groaned Kuryo. I took his shoulders, and he drew to a stop, exasperated. “It’s just – this doesn’t concern you.”

“Doesn’t – but I’m, I’m a part of your life! I was in the dream too, wasn’t I? I’m involved!” a whole well of hurt began swelling inside of me. Charr had called me a ‘temporary roommate’ … were they thinking of getting rid of me?

“Yes but,” Kuryo said. A lot of meaning was in his eyes. “You’re,” and he searched for words.

My heart broke. “Are you dumping me?”

Alright it came out a bit louder but, mercifully, there wasn’t anyone around but the snow to hear. My eyes got all misty and stupid. “Are you?”

“No, but-”

“But?” I nearly shrieked.

Kuryo lifted his hands, trying to placate me. I was having none of it, scrubbing angrily at my tears. “I just don’t think it is wise for you to meet him.”

“Who is he?” I barked, knowing already the answer. A twin. A relative of sorts. Okay, alright, I get it. I’m not the type that you can bring home all proud and Charr was probably already invited home-

“He’s me,” Kuryo said flatly. “But from another dimension.”

“What?” My mind skipped a beat.

“See? This is too complicated,” he said. “Just – go to the grocery store or something.” and he began walking away. I rushed after him.

“He’s you? From another dimension?” I asked as I kept stride with him. He walked fast, trying to shake me off, but who was the one who did all the cardio huh? Me, that’s who. Little old student here didn’t do a whole lot of exercise.

“Yes, and we didn’t necessarily get along either,” Kuryo said as we crossed the street to our block. “Now if you’re going to stick around, you’re going to want not to cross him. Okay? Just – silent observer, okay? Just that. Don’t say anything.”

“And the – she’s another copy of Charr?”

“Charr is here as well?” he asked, whipping around to me. “You didn’t say that!”

“Uh,”

Kuryo hissed some curses and rolled his eyes. “Okay, well, don’t cross any of them, okay? Just – zip it. Okay?”

“I can do that,” I said confidently. Since when was I the chatterbox around here?

Kuryo gave me a nasty look, then drew the block’s door open for us both.

Chaos & Kuryo (Novel 3) Chapter One, Part One

“Chaos?” I asked, peering into the bedroom. Oh, they were there alright. Chaos was spread-eagle on the bed, flat on their back and snoring away like a demon. I rolled my eyes and walked in. “Chaos!” I had to shake their shoulder. So much for ‘warrior reflexes’. This lump couldn’t be woken up by a bomb!

“Hnh?” Chaos opened their eyes, blinking sleepily. They wiped some drool from the corner of their mouth. “Whut?”

I forced a smile on. “It’s your turn to make supper and -”

“Why don’t we order out?” was the oh-so-predictable offer. “My treat-”

“Chaos!” I snapped, suddenly on edge. “I have an exam tomorrow! Charr is busy too! You have to do your part! Cook! Supper!”

“Jesus on a stick!” Chaos was sitting up and rubbing their eyes, hair a mess. “Okay okay!”

“And it better not be those pre made rice cans, those are for emergencies only!”

“Okay, okay,” Chaos grumbled. “Just let me wake up.”

“Don’t spend all night doing that,” I snapped before turning and walking away.

Out in the living room, Charr mouthed me a ‘thank you’. We high-fived silently. I sat back down on the floor, pouring over the books and notes I’d spread over the coffee table. Charr was studying too, but was in less of a crunch than I was. At least supper was happening.

Life with Chaos in it was, surprisingly, not too chaotic. Chaos had taken a few weeks to get adjusted, but now they had a fake ID, worked a job in a coffee shop, and didn’t bust out the ‘warrior moves’ except in a martial arts class they’d fallen in love with. They were aspiring to become a teacher one day, once they worked their way through the belt system. Which, honestly, was fine with the rest of us. Chaos did their thing, and was now a happy and functioning member of society. Did we mention the happy part? Yeah, life was good.

Really, the only hiccup in this whole scheme was getting Chaos properly introduced to the whole poly lifestyle.

Now, polyamory wasn’t exactly the most common lifestyle in the world we were living in. It was quite trendy in student villages, but people tended to say they ‘outgrew’ it. Well our ‘cule was hopefully a little different.

Aaliyah and Jade lived in their own apartment, strictly friends. Me and Charr had been happily nesting together as lovers before Chaos butted in. Now Chaos lived with us (their pile of clothes in the bedroom showed that, really, we didn’t quite all fit in here), but no, it wasn’t an endless storm of threesomes. How would Charr and I get any studying done like that? No, Charr and I were ‘going out’ and Chaos and I were ‘going out’ but so far neither Chaos nor Charr had the slightest interest in each other. Actually, Chaos had very little interest in anyone else in the ‘cule besides friendship. Which, by the way, was plenty. Chaos had a thing or two to learn about keeping friends on the good side of themselves.

“Are they coming over tonight?” Chaos asked as they shuffled out of the bedroom and into the tiny living room. They were dressed in black jeans and a metal t-shirt, somehow making the outfit look as rumpled as possible. Oh, and can we take a minute to applaud all of us in this ‘cule? We’d gotten Chaos to get a decent haircut. Now they had a mess of spikes that actually suited them and wasn’t any outlandish color. The doofus had wanted orange. Orange! But anyways.

“Who’s ‘they’?” I asked, pretty sure I knew the answer.

“AJ,” they said, using that awful self-invented acronym for Aaliyah and Jade. Who, by the way, Chaos shipped as a couple. Chaos was just sure they needed to break the ice and they’d start making out instantly. I told Chaos they were missing the point of friendship and, hey, here we go again. Chaos being bad at understanding friendships. The poor idiot was raised too lonely.

“No,” I said just as Charr said “Yes.” Charr and I looked at each other. We both snatched up our phones and checked our messages.

“Aaliyah said ‘no’,” I said.

“But Jade said ‘yes’?” Charr said, sounding alarmed. “That’s weird.”

Chaos banged a pot, then their head on the cupboard. A bunch of ‘jesus on a stick’s later, Chaos appeared in the living room. “Why’s that weird?”

I typed away at my phone, not answering right away. Charr was doing the same. Both of us were asking how Aaliyah was doing. Being a home-body, Aaliyah rarely went to parties. But she hated staying home alone, was still slightly jealous of missing out on any ‘cule fun, and so she tended to stick around whenever Jade came over. Alright, the two were inseparable in their own way. Jade was all peppy and Aaliyah all sober but they worked, you know?

The apartment door tried to swing open, snagging on the chain. It drew back shut and there was a banging on the door. “Open up!” called in Jade.

Chaos swore as me and Charr yelled at them to stop putting the chain on the door. How was Jade and Aaliyah supposed to get in here with the chain on?

“Demons!” said Chaos. “I’m telling you, someday someone is going to try and break into here -”

“And a chain is not going to stop them!” said Jade as she bustled in. There was snowflakes on her knitted hat and cowl, and she had her backpack on and a bag on her side. “Hey everyone!”

“Hey,” said Charr in her usual monotone as I rose to get my kiss from Jade.

“Hey, we were just messaging you,” I said as Jade nuzzled into my neck happily. I gingerly hugged her but damn, the outside of her coat was cold and snow was about to fall in my face. “Is Aaliyah okay?”

“Uh, well,” Jade drew back and began unwinding her cowl. “You know.” She pulled off her hat, making a fuss of dusting off the snow.

“She’s on her period?” asked Chaos bluntly.

We all shot Chaos looks. Thanks, buddy, for being that ice-breaker. Not. “How’s supper coming?” I asked sharply.

Chaos gave me a murderous look. “In hell we had cooks,” and they slammed a cupboard shut and began fussing in another cupboard.

Jade was now wrestling out of her coat with her backpack dangling on an arm. She writhed and wrestled and I went to help her.

“So uh?” I asked quietly as I helped Jade. “What happened?” Was she hesitant to talk because of Chaos? Maybe I could send them out on a grocery run or something if it was serious.

Jade made a face. Then she shrugged. Then she made another face. “I’m not sure,” was what she finally said.

“Oh come on!” Chaos yelled from the kitchen. Everyone jumped. Then, much quieter, there was a “Sorry. Pinched myself. Nevermind.”

Jade frowned. “You doing okay in there?”

“No,” the oh so great warrior wailed, coming to terms with their mortality when faced with a can opener. I, however, caught Jade by the arm before she could run away into the kitchen.

“What happened?” I asked softly. “Should I be worried?”

Jade made a face.

“She’s coming over!” Charr called out from the living room. “I got to her.”

More like, you harassed her until she gave in, but “Good!” I exclaimed, relieved. If Aaliyah was leaving her bedroom, it wasn’t depression (which she had had before) nor was it a serious period cramp. Maybe it was not that big of a deal?

“Just More Chaos”; Chapter Twelve, Part One

That night when we returned to the house, Aaliyah and Jade were nowhere to be seen. But, as promised, digging began nearly immediately for my body in the backyard. Bella kept our hands entwined as if she was afraid I’d run off somewhere. The moon was high, thin clouds wisping across the sky and blotting out stars here and there, and the temperatures were dropping what felt like ‘pretty far’, but which everyone assured me was actually ‘not so bad’.

Fuckin’ cold, I thought to myself as we shivered and stood around as my body was being dug up. Bella was insisting that it would be therapeutic for me to see my body dug up. “Jung would approve,” she said as if that solved it.

I bit my tongue and tried to keep silent.

Because, for the life of me, I still had no plan. Was I going to pitch myself dedicatedly to Bella’s side like a piece of used chewing gum? Was I going to bide my time and wait for a good opportunity? Was I going to try and flee pronto?

It was only when the body was being lifted up out of the ground by several disgruntled vampires when I got the feeling something was wrong. Maybe it was me picking up on Kuryo’s unease. Maybe it was me picking up on Bella’s trademarked nasty smile. Or maybe it was me thinking more than a step ahead.

“Bella,” I said cautiously, turning to look at the smug bug in a rug beside me.

“you should call me mistress,” she said, lifting her chin just enough. I bit back on a savage comment.

“Mistress,” I muttered under my breath, trying to remember to be polite. This could be important. “I don’t think this is a good idea.”

She lifted her mug of hot cocoa to her lips. A sip later, she looked me up and down. “You should be on your knees. I don’t like to see you standing so much.”

Oh, come on. I pretended I didn’t hear that. “If I go back into my body, what will happen to Kuryo’s body? Won’t it die?”

Bella’s eyebrows shot up exaggeratedly. Was she actually that shocked, or was she making fun of me? Making fun of me. “Oh my,” she said tartly. “Why didn’t I ever think of that?”

I looked down at the squishy mud mixed with snow between our boots.

“Did you really think I was going to believe that whole ‘voice of god’ shit?” she asked savagely. “I know he’s there. So don’t worry, unless he runs away like a little chicken, he’ll be just fine.”

So my body wasn’t a gift. It was her way of forcing Kuryo to show himself again.

“Did you just cue into that?” sighed the voice in my head of said person. I wanted to punch someone.

An icy wind whipped up, as if on cue. Bella huddled into her jacket and I hugged myself. It was so cold. She had mittens and a cute woolen hat on, and I had neither. Bugger it all, I wished to go home. For once, I was wishing.

“There we go!” A cry went up from the vampires and, ugh, there I was.

Bella shoved her mug at a vampire that was in the way and marched over. I followed gingerly. I guessed I would be needed. I was wrong.

First, three vampires slit their wrists and practically gushed blood all over the corpse. Which, yeah, I just tried not to look at it. Then, as magical vampires power did its thing, Bella just turned to me and said “Hop in.”

I looked at her like she was a dunce. No ritual? No preparation of the body and blessing and cleansing? No? Just – hop in?

Bella scowled. “Get, your soul, back in there! You can shower afterwards!”

I looked down. I mean, really looked down at the body. The light of the moon is softer, they say. Makes things look romantic, they say. Well fuck ’em. My body was chewed up, blood-splattered, and stinking. Could I take a hard pass?

“I don’t know how,” I fibbed, which wasn’t entirely untrue. Kuryo was the body-surfer. Not me. I just – no.

One look around, and the vampires looked totally fed up. Bella was, uh, extra unamused. Like, if the vampires were ten on a scale of unimpressed, Bella was a twenty.

“Conan,” she ordered sharply. “Put Chaos back in her body.”

I pressed my lips together. There was no answer from the back of my mind. Bella continued, not waiting. “If you don’t, I’ll kill this body and you’ll both die.”

I gulped. O-kay. Kuryo?

There was a pause. I looked around, desperate.

“Fine,” Kuryo sighed in the back of my mind. “Just – fine.”

With a pulse I popped out of the body. Just like -that- and I was out in the cold and open, then – Squish! Stuck in my yucky body.

And did it every feel yucky. Despite the vampire blood that had been doused over it, my body was stiff, cold, full of dried-up blood, and really, really, dirty. Imagine going from a nicely showered moment, and having to plunge into that.

Also I was out of air, and there was still a stake through me.

I gagged, gasped, limbs moving in jerky movements as I tried something, anything, to get air into me and pain out of me. It hurt like hell and I was freshly on my way to dying again when Bella stooped over me. There was a cruel smile to her, and she yanked the stake out of me.

Instead of blood gushing out, magic poured out like ripples of hot air → and I healed. In a rush of warmth my blood coursed, air got into me, and my hinges were greased. I jerked to a sitting position, choking on a clump of dirt in the back of my throat, blinking at the scene around me.

There was the vampires, a smirking Bella, but my eyes went to beyond, where there was Kuryo. His arms were crossed over his chest and he had on such a fed-up expression. I want to say ‘me too man, me too’. But I was too busy breathing air. Too busy looking around. Too busy being in the mess I created.

Bella offered me a hand. I took it, knuckles cracking and popping as I gripped her hand. Then I was on my feet. The world was fresh, the world was cool to the heat of my freshly awakened skin. Again, I couldn’t help but look to Kuryo. Something, something, was clicking in my mind. But I didn’t know what. Maybe that we were both in this mess together? Trapped, and we were the only things we had left? Or maybe the air hadn’t gotten to my brain fast enough.

Whatever. The magical ritual was over, I was alive and breathing, and that was that. We all trooped back inside, me tagging silently along after Bella like a little puppy dog. Kuryo came in last, grudgingly following everyone else in.

That night was when shit got screwy. I showered, plucked the worms from my hair, bla bla bla, and went to bed. Bella was already asleep like a rock, Kuryo was curled up with a blanket on the floor, and I found my side of the bed in the dark.

I tried my hardest to fall asleep. Counted flaming sheep, thought of nothing, did the whole deep breathing thing. Nothing. Guess my body didn’t need the rest. Whatever. I got up. And that’s when it happened.

“Chaos,” said a voice.

I spun around. No one. Spun again. No one. Was I losing it?

“Chaos, it’s the Lord. The god you defeated dishonorably, and so spilt the blood of the heavens upon the earth.”

Okay, that dramatic? Certainly him.

“What do you want?” I hissed, looking around. I stalked to the window and drew back the thick curtain just a crack. It seemed to make the transmission clearer.

“I want to tell you something,” the voice intoned.

I looked around again, nervous. What if Bella heard? Was I going to be in trouble, again?

“Don’t worry, she is fast asleep,” said the voice calmly. “Chaos, an uprising is being staged. Balance needs to be returned to the realms. This cannot go on. The spirit realms are not meant to be merged with the incarnate ones. Worse, she is about to launch an attack on the Pure Lands – she must be stopped!”

Gee, wonder who thought of that? Uhm, everyone? But still, I fidgeted and watched the bed for movement. My heart was beginning to sledgehammer in my throat. What if I was caught?

“We need your help,” said the voice steadily. “Are you ready to help?” and there was a dramatic pause. My ears were ringing and my heart was doing somersaults in my chest.

I took one final look at the figure in the bed. My first true love, my torturer. I turned my back on her and whispered to the moon “Yes.”

“Excellent,” said the voice after the slightest of pauses. “Be prepared. We will send you signals when the time comes for your actions. Until then, do nothing to rouse her suspicions. Nothing at all.”

“How long will this be?” I hissed, one eye on the bed behind me.

“Not long,” the voice crooned. “Not long at all.”

And that was that.

I really couldn’t sleep after that.