ANNO DOMINI ~Allium~
***FIRST CHAPTER OF 2018!!!***
Thank you for reading! This is my first upload of the year. Here's to another year of light novels and fiction writers...
BOOK 1, CHAPTER 10: ABSOLVING BULLET
“I can’t believe you actually missed three classes, Chris!” Garret Faux Pas exclaimed during lunch while sitting in the large cafeteria. “Tell me it isn’t so!”
“It’s so,” Chris replied, opening a bag of trail mix from his lunchbox.
“What happened?” Drake was surprised as well. “You were so close to having a perfect attendance award at graduation.”
“My phone got messed up, and the alarm didn’t go off,” Chris told him. “I slept in. My parents leave for work before I get up, so nobody was around to wake me up.”
“Egad!” Garret nearly fell out of his seat from his dramatic reaction, clutching his chest. “It was always my fear that my phone’s alarm would fail me, and here’s an innocent soul who’s fallen victim to this quandary!”
“‘Quandary’?” Drake asked.
“A perfect attendance record … shot to death because of a damn phone’s incompetence!” Garret raved. “Chris, buy yourself an alarm clock!”
“It’s actually okay,” Chris said assuredly. “My phone, um, had a very important update.”
“What update is that important?” Drake asked. “It screwed you.”
“Uh ….” Chris was lost for words. “Well, a perfect attendance wasn’t very important to me much anyway.”
“Huh, I’d be mad,” Drake said. “That sucks.”
“Oh well, it’s done now,” Chris said with a shrug, munching on a handful of trail mix.
Suddenly, a scream rang out through the cafeteria, followed by several others. Instinctively, Chris stood up and looked around, trying to see what the fuss was about. Something had arrived and was terrorizing the students, he was sure of it. He prepared to have Gunnhildr ready to go, coming to terms with the fact his secret would be blown so quickly. The safety of the students took precedence over his secret, and that was what he had committed to.
The location of the commotion was indicated by the students’ reactions who were closest to it, and they hopped and shimmied away from the perpetrator. To get a better vantage point, Chris jumped onto the table, knocking over his lunch and startling his friends. His movements were effortless and quick.
Something darted out of the crowd of panicked students. It scampered across the floor as everyone scrambled to get out of its way. Before Chris could determine what the culprit was, Garret was already on his feet and running after it.
“Mont Blanc! No!” he shouted, chasing down his lively pet beaver. “Bad boy! Bad!”
Fred Karr, Lyonbole’s head custodian, was immediately on the scene. The sixty-eight-year-old was gripping a fishing net, his white hair wild from the action, his face a combination of excitement and distress.
“Snatch that beaver!” Fred declared boldly.
Garret and Fred rowdily pursued Mont Blanc around the large cafeteria. Many of the girls cooed at the beaver’s cuteness as most of the boys cheered him on.
Marilyn, who was sharing some Greek yogurt and granola with Katie Vickers, saw the beaver run past their table. Her face lit up as she caught a glimpse of Mont Blanc’s furry little head.
“He’s so cute, isn’t he?” Marilyn said as Garret and Fred plowed through a crowd of cheering boys in their pursuit.
“He’s adorable!” Katie squealed, holding up her phone to record a video of the action.
The chase eventually exited out one of the doors and down the hall, but energetic chatter of the event persisted.
Chris instantly felt better knowing it was just Garret’s beaver causing a ruckus. Looking across the cafeteria, he saw Robbie Smith was also standing on a table. Although shocked and confused, Robbie looked as if he had been poised to take action the way Chris had. The two noticed each other and shared the same relieved expression.
Tinashe Bronson was sitting next to Robbie and was staring at him questioningly.
“Robbie?” she asked. “What are you doing?”
Robbie had barely realized his reaction, having done it so fast and easily. He sat back down, thinking about the possibility of his superhuman abilities overriding his physiology.
“I was just checking out the situation,” he replied smoothly, playing it off. “That rambunctious Canadian kid brought his beaver again.”
Tinashe shook her head.
“He oughtta keep that critter under control,” she said. “He shouldn’t bring it here in the first place.”
Across the cafeteria, Chris saw Robbie sit down, and that acted as a cue for him to do the same. Crawling down to his seat, he merely looked at his ruined lunch.
“That was weird of you,” Drake told Chris. “You moved really fast, dude. Are you that scared of beavers?”
“Uh, I don’t know what happened.” Chris gave a goofy grin. “Impulse, maybe?”
“Your lunch is a mess.” Drake handed Chris a smooshed sandwich. “I can pretty much see the footprint in this.”
“Yeah, I didn’t think about it first,” Chris replied. He quickly picked up his scattered food and put it into his lunchbox, looked back to where Robbie was sitting, then stood up from his seat. “I’m gonna go talk to someone.”
“What do you mean?” Drake asked, narrowing his eyes.
“There’s someone over there I wanna talk to.”
Drake looked at Chris disapprovingly.
“And leave me here alone?” he said hotly. “Garret took off, now you too?”
Chris knew Drake had a history with getting mad easily, so he brushed it off as just another time Drake’s temper swelled. Despite his cool demeanor, Drake was rather short-tempered.
“I just want to talk for a little,” Chris said, picking up his lunchbox. “I’ll see you later.”
Drake didn’t reply, but his irritation was obvious as he adjusted the neck collar on his polo shirt; as usual, he was well-dressed.
Chris walked over to Robbie, who looked at him. Somehow, Robbie knew it was coming, and the solid look Chris wore indicated a serious conversation.
“You got a moment?” Chris asked him.
Robbie looked at Tinashe, and Tinashe just looked at Robbie.
“Uh, yeah,” Robbie told Chris. “I’ll see ya, Tinashe.”
“Okay,” she said, confused.
Robbie followed Chris out of the cafeteria. There was an area nearby with vending machines for students to buy food from, but it was usually vacant because they were the healthy vending machines filled with fresh fruits, vegetables, low-calorie/fat/carb options, water, and more. Just as Chris had hoped, there was nobody else around.
“What is it?” Robbie asked, noticing they were alone.
Chris took a deep breath before answering. He needed to be direct.
“There’s something in the school,” he said. “Something … bad.”
“Bad like how?”
Pausing to think about his response, Chris was suddenly interrupted by Excalibur. The Bluetooth earpiece was turned off, allowing Excalibur to access the phone’s speaker.
“There are evil entities wandering around the area,” Excalibur said from Chris’s pants pocket.
Chris was surprised by Excalibur’s willingness to speak to another person. Robbie, however, stared at Chris quizzically.
“Who’s that?” he asked, pointing to Chris’s pocket.
Removing his phone from his pocket, Chris showed it to Robbie. Excalibur introduced itself.
“I am the Excalibur Artificial Intelligence application for Christopher’s smartphone.”
Robbie rubbed his chin.
“Isn’t that the app you were downloading the other day?” Robbie asked Chris.
“That’s the one,” Chris replied.
“Whoa, cool!” Robbie leaned in closer to look at the phone, although it was only Chris’s home screen. “Is it like one of those intelligent personal assistants?”
“Yes,” Excalibur answered. “It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Robert Smith.”
Robbie was stunned, almost frightened.
“It knows my name!” he exclaimed. “How’s it know who I am?”
“This is where it gets kinda complicated,” Chris replied with a meager smile.
“I know who you are because of your encounter with Lavi,” Excalibur told Robbie. “You have been chosen by Lavi, and that automatically enters you into my database.”
Robbie’s mouth hung open. He looked at Chris, who just nodded at Excalibur’s explanation.
“That means Mr. Kampton, er, Lavi is connected with this,” Chris said to Robbie. “And you told me you know our vice principal is an angel. It makes sense.”
“Yeah, but …,” Robbie replied, struggling with words, “but, this is just, uh …. I-I don’t know what this is!”
“The long explanation can wait until later,” Excalibur said. “However, it is as Christopher said. There are dangerous entities in this school. Two of them.”
Robbie was all ears.
“Dangerous entities, huh?” He became serious, even though he didn’t fully understand.
“We know that one of them is inhuman and can’t be detected by most humans,” Excalibur explained. “However, Christopher was able to see it, and there is a high probability that you can detect it too, Robert.”
Robbie put both his hands on his head, as if trying to hold in the new information without his skull exploding.
“I’ll be real with you,” Robbie looked at the vending machine containing his favorite dehydrated fruits, “this is ridiculous. But … I saw Mr. Kampton. I saw his wings with my own two eyes. And Revere Park was a whole bangarang altogether! That was evidence enough that something crazy can exist. That’s the reason why I can buy this, even only partially.”
“You are beginning to accept the reality of the world,” Excalibur told Robbie. “Not only the human world you have known, but of the world as an entirety. It is my advice to you that you accept these facts quickly, otherwise you will be at a disadvantage.”
Robbie sighed loudly, giving in to what Excalibur was saying.
“Fine,” he said sharply. “W-what should we do? What should I do?”
“We should take care of the threats,” Chris said. He held out his hand and grabbed onto Gunnhildr as it appeared from thin air, his face firm with confidence and a sense of duty. “And I have a good idea how to deal with the first one.”
The halls of Lyonbole Public High School were quiet and empty while the students were still in the cafeteria. Moving quickly without creating echoing footsteps was a fine balance Chris and Robbie had to make as they searched for the ancient being. Excalibur was able to tell them the direction and distance of the target, but could not provide accurate navigation because Excalibur didn’t know the layout of the school. Consequentially, the two students needed to determine on their own which hallways and stairs to take, making their situation more challenging.
“I think it’s on the top floor,” Chris said while they were on the move. “We only have one more flight of stairs we can use.”
Robbie was skeptical, feeling more anxious by the minute.
“Are you sure you can, ya know, do something about this thing?” he asked. “That yo-yo-slingin’ kid ain’t here to help, and I really don’t wanna see you blow half the school away.”
They approached the last staircase, standing at the landing while gazing up at the numerous steps. Chris understood his potential powers were destructive and frightening, but he was confident.
“This gun should do it.” Chris looked at Gunnhildr in his hand. “Lavi told me it fires something called absolving bullets, and they should be effective against unholy things.” He looked back at Robbie. “From what it sounds like, this thing we’re after is unholy.”
“But it didn’t work yesterday,” Robbie said flatly.
“Yeah, but I have to have faith that it will.”
“This is basically a crapshoot,” he said sullenly.
Not wanting to admit it, Chris nodded truthfully.
“I’m detecting the location of the ancient being,” Excalibur announced. “According to the distances between the previous floors, it should be one floor above you and not very far from the top of the stairs. There is a possibility that it will be in sight as soon as you reach the top landing.”
The boys were silent, looking at each other, conveying their feelings with simple facial expressions. Having nothing to say, they started up the stairs.
Each stair was climbed with deliberation. Chris had to wipe the sweat from his forehead before it dripped into his eyes; he was unable to hide his nervousness. Robbie was able to control his breathing using techniques similar to the ones he used to psyche himself up before a basketball match, although there were obvious reasons as to why those same techniques currently weren’t as successful.
A little more than halfway up, Excalibur spoke.
“It’s coming this way.”
The boys froze in place, their hearts beating faster.
“It is?” Chris whispered, not knowing what else to say.
“Directly at you,” Excalibur replied. “It might be aware of you two.”
There was little time to react to the warning. A blackness floated down from above the boys, fluttering like strands of fabric caught in a cloud of smoke. Being perfectly black and having no apparent depth or mass, it was difficult to judge how far away it was, but one thing was certain: it was coming closer.
“There it is!” Chris shouted, not noticing the echo his voice made as he pointed up at the ancient being of malevolence. “That’s what I saw!”
“Huh? Where?” Robbie asked, his eyes wide with fright.
“It’s right there! That black thing!”
“Chris! I don’t see anything! I can’t see it!”
“It may be possible that Robert does not possess enough clairvoyance to detect its presence,” Excalibur said in its usual emotionless tone.
The being’s movements indicated it acknowledged the boys and had taken the offensive. It was at that very moment … while Chris gripped Gunnhildr in his trembling hand … while Robbie continued to look around in bewilderment … while Excalibur offered no further input … Chris realized there was nobody else suited to the task other than himself.
A pressure sensation began to sink down on Chris, a sort of spiritual urgency wanting to mimic weight against his soul. Although he could not explain what he was feeling, it was quite obvious it was not his imagination. Time seemed to slow down, possibly due to Chris’s rushing adrenaline, and he noticed the source of the pressure sensation was the malevolent assailant.
This must be the negative energy Excalibur told me about! Chris thought.
The strange, ephemeral, intangible feeling reached down into Chris and tangled with a similar feeling that suddenly emanated from himself, and the two feelings quickly mirrored each other. For a moment, the energy within Chris felt like it matched the ancient being’s energy, meshing like gears and powering a sudden itch he could feel in Gunnhildr.
Aiming the holy handgun at the ancient being, Chris pulled the trigger, wishing for an absolving bullet to be released.
A soft puff noise was accompanied by a silvery flash from the end of Gunnhildr’s barrel, appearing as a quick laser-like beam. The absolving bullet pierced the being of malice and hit the ceiling, vanishing as if nothing had touched the ceiling’s matte tiles at all. Surprisingly, the black being didn’t show any signs of pain or anger, but slowed its descent before dissipating into thin air.
Within seconds, there was calmness, but security eluded the boys.
“I think it’s gone,” Chris whispered, not fully confident. He looked all around and saw nothing out of the ordinary.
Robbie was still shaken up, clutching the stairwell’s handrail, although he had not seen the being for himself. Yet, he had clearly seen the shot fired from Gunnhildr, in all its anticlimactic glory, and wondered what on Earth had just happened.
“Really?” he asked, staring straight up. “Uh, what … what just happened?”
Excalibur confirmed. “I am unable to detect the target, as it disappeared on the spot after it was struck by the absolving bullet. Therefore, there is a great possibility that it was defeated.”
The bell rang suddenly, signifying the end of lunch, but the two boys continued to stand in place, unaffected by the ringing command to get on to the next class. There wouldn’t be much time before students would arrive in that very stairwell on their way to their next destination.
Looking at each other, there was the unspoken agreement between Chris and Robbie that school-related activities had just fallen several ranks down the priority scale.
“We need to figure some stuff out,” Chris said as he made Gunnhildr vanish from his hand. “Um … I just don’t know what.”
“Yeah,” Robbie replied quietly. “But, I mean, we’re at school right now. We have class … and other stuff, Chris.”
“I know.” Chris took a few seconds to think, but his mind wasn’t working as efficiently as he would have liked. “But, I think school can wait.” He looked at Robbie who was quiet. “This seems more important, doesn’t it?”
Robbie strained his brain for something to say.
“Ehhh … I mean, maybe,” he said. “Man, what was that thing? There really was something there, right? That I didn’t see?”
Chris nodded, his face dead serious.
“Yeah, there was. It was different from the thing we fought in Revere Park. Even though it was brief, I think it was stronger. I’m glad I took care of it so fast.”
Robbie chuckled and rubbed his face. The belief was slow to come and hard to sink in, but he knew it couldn’t have been a lie … not with Lavi, Aleph-Naught, Excalibur, and Gunnhildr. Being bombarded by proof of the situation simultaneously with naturally inclined skepticism, Robbie had become the next advocate of the phrase “seeing is not believing”.
“Okay,” Robbie said airily as voices approached from down the hallway, “should we find a private place?”
“Yeah,” Chris replied. “The restroom?”
“Nah, not private enough.” Robbie considered the options. “I know. The gym storage room. Nobody should be using the gym until afterschool practice.”
The voices were getting louder and closer.
“Works for me,” Chris agreed.