There's a Demon in my Basement!
"Snow?" Ciana's voice was small and meek. "Did you just… was that you?" Timidly she peeked out of her stall.
Snow just shook her head and gestured towards the door at the end of the bathroom. She was positive the laughter had come from there.
As silent as humanly possible, Ciana sneaked up to her and took her hand.
Almost in an instant Snow felt safer. And confident enough to speak. "Hello? Is anybody there?"
Another chuckle. This time Snow was able to better concentrate on it. It was light and high-pitched. Like that of a little girl.
"Yeeeees…" The voice that answered matched the chuckle.
Ciana and Snow looked at each other in confusion. There were no words necessary to understand each other at that moment. The question was clear: What was a child doing at school in the middle of the night?
Even Snow, with her limited understanding of Mortal society, knew that this wasn't a normal occurrence.
Unfortunately for Ciana, that was as far as her common sense reached. Snow had yet to see enough horror movies to know how bad of an idea her next course of action was.
"Have you lost your orientation?" With a smile Snow let go of Ciana's hand and walked over to the assumed position of the child. "Shall we accompany you to your parents?"
The stall door opened a little bit. "Oookaaayyy…" The kid was stretching the vowels unusually long.
"Uh, Snow…" Ciana grabbed the girl's wrists again. "Are you sure this is a good idea?"
"Huh? Why would it not? Should you not always escort a lost child to their parents?" Without any of the girls noticing the stall opened completely.
"Okay, look - you're right, but there is a time and place for everything. And this ain't it."
"Why is that so?"
"Because at this hour the only things you should encounter in a school are dead."
"Huh." Snow contemplated those words for a few seconds. "I am not sure if I am alive."
"Well, good thing you're not encountering yourself then - seriously, Snow! This is a ghost! If we're lucky!" In unison, they turned their heads to the child staring back at them. She was a ghost, that much was obvious since her lower body was half transparent.
Drake was annoyed at this point. First, the other two left them waiting, then they had to deal with the creatures spawning seemingly out of nothingness. It took around four of them for the demon to notice that they had no shadows. Thus they were illusions that Drake ignored from then on. The obvious consequence of this was an army of them. By now they were surrounded by the monster, some of them even started to nibble on Drake's flesh. While the demon knew they weren't real, that didn't make it less annoying and once again they pushed away one of the creatures. What on earth took the girls so long anyway?
A bunch of icicles bore through the zombies. The illusions dissolved leaving only Drake and their saviour. Immediately Astaroth ran up to them. "Drake! Where are the other two?!"
They nodded towards the bathroom door. "I am not allowed to go in."
"Huh?" That made the other demon halt their movements. "Why not?"
Astaroth opened their mouth, then closed it again and looked at the door in confusion. For a short moment, they seemed to consider waiting before they shook their head. "Doesn't matter! Blake got kidnapped by a bunch of flower petals!"
The demon was about to question that statement but the door swinging open interrupted them. Snow and Ciana left the bathroom - however, they weren't alone. A little girl tagged along.
"Who is that?" Drake questioned.
Astaroth shook their head. "Introductions later! B got kidnapped!"
"What? By who?" Ciana looked at Snow then at the child between them.
"I- I don't know. He was there and then he was gone and there were so many petals and-" They shook their head. "We have to- look for him!"
"Calm down." Drake just crossed their arms in front of their chest and leaned against the lockers again. "You should be able to just sense the direction he is in. There, easy solution."
The other demon looked at them for a few seconds before they lowered their gaze. "I... It's..." They sighed. "I don't feel anything."
"Like in general, or-?"
"In regards to Blake!" In frustration Astaroth's fist hit one of the lockers, leaving a noticeable dent in it.
The child looked questioningly at Snow who just nodded. "Uhm... Mister...?"
Astaroth looked down at her, obviously in no mood to talk. Normally, they would have been ecstatic to meet a child (and being allowed to interact with them), but right now was just not the time.
"I... think I might know who did it..."
The change in Astaroth's demeanour was instant. They grabbed the child and held her up to their eye level. "Who?!"
Snow put a hand on the demon's shoulder before taking the girl from them. "This is Hanako. She is a ghost residing in the bathroom."
"Okay, okay- nice to meet you Hanako, what do you know?!"
Gently, Snow put her back on the ground so she could... float on her own two feet.
"Well... There are a few ghosts in the school but... there is also one spirit of nature." Hanako shivered a little bit. "The Sakura tree outside had been here for... forever. I think." Her eyes darted towards the bathroom door. "She is... a really scary lady. But there are always flower petals where she is!"
"A spirit living in the tree…," Astaroth mumbled, "In that case, I'll just burn it."
"Y-you can't! You'll just anger her!"
"Good - because she angered me as well!" Before Hanako could say another word the demon stormed off.
There was a vague feeling that he lost consciousness way too often surging through Blake. That and an incredible headache. Where was he? It was too dark to see anything. Out of reflex, he tried to raise his arm and create a small light ball only to realize that he was restrained. He blinked a few times before fully taking in his situation. Someone had seated him on a chair and bound his arms and legs to it. He growled lowly in his chest. What kind of joke was this?
"Ah. You're awake. Splendid." There was a clear hint of amusement in the stranger's voice.
"What- Who are you?! Where am I?!" What was even the last thing Blake remembered? He was... He was with Astaroth. And the others. They had been at school. Right. The tree. That stupid tree!
"Oh, I suppose I should introduce myself. Everything else would be quite rude, now wouldn't it?" The smile of the stranger was audible. Without any warning, they clicked their fingers and a bunch of flames ignited themselves.
Panic was the first thing coursing through Blake. It took him a few seconds to realize that the fire was under control despite the way it surrounded him in a circle. There was only one opening where the man who had talked to him sat. The stranger seemed to be quite well-off. He wore a suit which hadn't been cheap, his hair was combed back diligently. He sat on a simple chair, carefully watching every single movement of Blake. His hand rested on the top of a cane even though he obviously wouldn't need it while sitting.
"My name is Hades, God of the Underworld. Nice to meet you."
Blake blinked. Speechless he stared at the man in front of him. "Hades. God of the Underworld," he repeated slowly, "Are you... serious?"
"Well, I know, that your kind isn't too fond of me but-"
"Are you kidding?!" Each and every Mortal knew Hades' name, but people usually didn’t dare to say it out loud. It was an unspoken rule to leave the Underworld be and with it its God. Unless you wanted to summon a demon. And even then you shouldn't poke around said realm more than necessary. "I'm your biggest fan!" Obviously, Blake wasn’t like most Mortals. The panic had disappeared as quickly as it had come. There was an unusual glimmer in Blake's normally dim eyes. "I always wanted to meet you, oh my God, can I have your autograph?!"
"Uh..." Taken aback Hades looked at the human in front of him. "I-... uh.... sure?" There was confusion written all over his face, before shaking his head. "Look. I'm glad you're not... afraid of me. Even though I don't know whatever this should be called. But I haven't brought you here just for a meet and greet."
"Oh. Of course." The God of the Underworld probably didn't have too much time he could just waste on some Mortal. "Wait. Where even is 'here'?"
"Let me explain. You were close to an old friend of mine. And I wanted to talk to you for quite a while now. That pesky Mortal Realm is mostly out of reach for me, sadly. So I asked her to arrange a meeting."
Blake looked around like one would after accidentally leaving the train at the wrong station. "Oh... Uh... Does that... mean we’re in the Underworld?"
"On the way to it. Don't worry. You will be free to leave as soon as we're done talking." The restraints on Blake disappeared and instead, a cup manifested itself in front of his face. "I hope you like black tea."
Blake didn't but he wouldn't say no to anything the God of the Underworld himself offered him, so he grabbed it anyways. "Cool." He couldn't deny there was a childish excitement inside of him.
"I have been watching you, ever since you summoned my nephew."
"Your ne-" That realization hit him like a truck. Astaroth was Hades' nephew. They were related. And he had treated the demon like an idiot most of the time. ...Okay, Astaroth was an idiot most of the time but their kin was more than just powerful.
"Yes. Astaroth is one of my brother's many children. Which is why I feel quite responsible for them." He also created a cup of tea for himself. "I want to make sure they are in good hands."
Blake couldn't stop the nervous chuckle from escaping from his lips. Was Astaroth in good hands? Was he good for the demon? "I... see."
"I normally block off anyone who tries to summon them. But in your case, I decided to make an exception."
"Why is that?"
"Oh, you see. Astaroth may be old for Mortal standards. For a demon though, they are more like a teenager. The idea of some old man summoning them just didn't sit right with me." The God shrugged. "That and I knew they would never go through with your apocalyptic plans. Just like you wouldn't have."
Somehow Blake felt attacked. "I would have! And I still would! The only thing keeping me from doing so is Astaroth!"
"Yeah, keep telling yourself that." Hades didn’t seem to be faced by the fact that Blake disagreed so strongly. “It’s not like that would change anything.”
The human just sighed and took a sip of his tea. Disgusting. As expected. Yet, he wouldn’t complain. “So… uh… do I like… have to take a test or something like that?” Surely, the God of the Underworld prepared something for him. Maybe he had to defeat a Hydra or Cerberus or something like that. Whatever it was Hades had planned for him, he was sure it wouldn't be an easy task to solve. If he went through that much trouble just to make sure Astaroth was okay, he must have been thinking about this for a rather long time.
Hades shrugged. "No. Honestly, I saw an opportunity and I took it. I'm not Astaroth, who has knowledge of the future." The God took a long sip from his cup. "And looking at you tells me everything I need to know, to be honest."
"It does?" Blake raised an eyebrow. That could be either really good or really bad. He leaned towards the latter. Technically, he should be afraid of the God of the Underworld turning him into a pile of ash. But somehow he couldn't bring himself to feel anything else but flattered. How many people could claim to have been murdered by Hades himself? And so he simply took another sip of tea. Which was still disgusting. But he downed it without hesitation.
"Yes. While I can't see the future, I can very well see what's going on inside of you at this moment. You do realize you could have just asked for another flavour, right?"
Blake stared at him for a few seconds. Then he slowly shook his head, realizing that lying wouldn't be of any use to him right now. "...No, I didn't."
"What would be more to your liking? No, wait- don't answer. You seem more like the strawberry kind of guy." He snapped his fingers again and the liquid inside Blake's cup changed.
"Huh." The human took a sip for testing purposes. The bitter aroma was gone and replaced by a sweeter one. "Much better. Thank you."
"Are you comfortable now? Because there is something we need to talk about."
"There is?" Blake tilted his head a little bit.
Hades nodded. "Yes. You see... Astaroth has a rather... complicated past which should be handled with care."
The demon was furious. Had they ever felt this kind of rage?
Yes, they did. Probably not. They had just pushed open the door, letting it break when it hit the walls next to it when someone grabbed their wrist. "Ash, wait!" It was Snow who had somehow caught up to them.
"For what?! That insufferable little monster has taken Blake and-"
"Yes, but they won't return him if you burn their home."
Astaroth looked at her for a few seconds before shaking off her hand and clenching their fists. "Then what am I supposed to do?!"
"For now - listen to Hanako." She nodded towards the girl who was currently clinging onto Cianas leg and hiding behind the teen.
"But that's- I-..." They racked their fingers through their hair, before dropping to the ground and just sitting down. "Fine." If that wouldn't help they could still burn that tree into its next life.
Hanako looked up to Ciana, who nodded and gave the girl a gentle push into Astaroth's direction. Timidly she walked up to them. "The-... She is scary but... She-... She isn't evil... She... she wouldn't just take someone like that.” The girl folded her hands in a futile attempt to calm herself. "There... has to be a reason..."
"Blake just slept! He didn't do anything!"
"I- I know!" But... I think... you should talk to Sakura before... uh... you know... starting a fire..."
Drake behind her nodded in agreement. "Yeah, burning things to crips is more my thing, anyway."
"Yeah, and you wouldn't be the first one to try."
In unison, everyone turned towards the newcomer. A woman who looked as if someone had copy-pasted her from a magazine for goth fashion stood behind Ciana. Her hair was dark purple, her clothing black and containing more leather than a spirit of nature should touch in their lifetime. But much more interesting was the fact that Blake stood next to her.
"Blake!" Faster than anyone could look, Astaroth was next to him and pulled him into a hug.
Blake himself just blinked in confusion. "Yeah, yeah I'm fine. Chill." With a displeased expression on his face, they patted the demon on their back. "Sakura here just... needed some help to pick out new clothes and thought I was the right one for that. That's all."
The spirit next to him just rolled her eyes. What a stupid lie. As if she needed a human to help her with anything. However, due to her arrangement with Hades, she let it slide. Instead, she focused on a certain ghost. "Hanako, you left your bathroom again."
"W-well, they needed help!"
"And you're bound to that room so go back before you use up too much energy." Sakura’s arm dissolved into a bunch of petals which pushed the girl in the direction of the bathroom she came from earlier.
“Uh, wait!” Hanako floated away from Sakura and towards Snow and Ciana. “Will you visit me again?”
“Sure.” With a smile, Snow looked at Ciana who just nodded.
“If you want me to come out during the day, you have to knock three times and call my name,” Hanako said, in the same way, one would teach a child.
Sakura just rolled her eyes while reforming her hand. “Whatever. Just leave my tree alone, Mortal shitheads.”
Astaroth squinted. “You attacked us.”
“I’m sorry, one of us planned to burn someone’s house and I can assure you it wasn’t me.” She crossed her arms in front of her chest and glared at the Demonlord.
“Yeah, you just-”
Blake grabbed Astaroth’s wrist. “It’s fine. I am fine. Nobody hurt me. So no reason to be mad, right?” He tried his best to smile. Just pull up the corners of your mouth and look happy.
Upon seeing the human's facial expression Astaroth immediately withdrew, bringing a few meters of distance between them. "Did you… Are you possessed or something?!"
It took way too long for Blake to convince Astaroth that he was indeed real and not some sort of alien clone. Without much hesitation, he put smiling on his mental "never again"-list.
But at last, they were ready to head home. Blake would definitely skip school tomorrow. There was no way he'd be getting up in three hours.
Neither he nor the rest of his group noticed Ciana staying behind with Sakura.
"Say, are the rumours true? Do you punish people coming close to your tree?" Curiously, she looked at the spirit, who just shrugged.
"No. I only scare them away. It's already annoying enough that they built this school here. But the rumours do very well in getting me some quiet. So, sorry. No murderer for you."
Ciana nodded. "It's still cool the rumours did lead us to a spirit." Proudly, she crossed her arms in front of her chest like one would while admiring the results of a job well done.
"Oh, drop the act. You knew where they would lead you." A smile that spoke of knowledge laid itself upon Sakura's face. "For how long will you keep on that peppy teenager attitude? It doesn't suit you, really. You could just tell them." The spirit's expression changed to a bored one.
The girl blinked in confusion. "What are you talking about?"
Sakura rolled her eyes and looked at the other teens which were departing further. "Think I didn't recognize you? Just do me a favour and don't murder them on school grounds. I really hate it when my roots suck up blood."
"Uh…" Ciana averted her gaze and shifted a little bit, seemingly nervous. "I uh… keep it in mind?"
"Good. And now leave Valkyrie."