The Last Light
Ciara raised her gaze at the stacked boxes on top of the rack. With her short arms and legs, there was no way for her to reach it. She stared at it with a small frown. After searching the room for a stepladder, she found the next best thing: a stool. She brought it near the rack and placed it for her to climb.
Even on top of the stool, the box was still too far for her to grab, but she still could reach it with the tip of her finger. She nudged the corner, and it caused a chain reaction. The stacked boxes fell on top of her and pushed her off the stool.
A trickle of green blood dripped from her forehead. It felt as if a bee stung her right on her head. Dizziness overwhelmed her. Suddenly, a faint and caring voice called out her name.
“Their first child was fated to leave this world before she could even open her eyes. Her bloodline has been good to me, it pains me to see their descendants about to feel so much grief. So, I gifted them, you, who was born without a parent. A creature of deceit. Fear not, I will bless you with my magic, so they would not recognize who you truly are. A warning, do not reveal your true nature, or my blessing will come undone, and all their love for you will turn into fear. Heed my warning, child.”
As Ciara grew, the wonderful life she had with her family muted the spirit’s warning. She had thought of herself as one of them and did not doubt it. She was a human because her parents were human. Her existence was not something she questioned about.
Until one day, her entire life came crashing down. It was her first day as a freshman at a local high school. It was a normal day as usual, but she heard a scream for help after she got home.
“Please help me!” She knew who it was. Ciara rushed into her home to see her mom with a broken leg near the bottom of the stairs.
“Ma?!” She kneeled beside her. Panic set in as her mom writhed in pain.
A feeling deep within her compelled her to place her hand on her mother’s broken leg. She did, and a surge of power pulled into her, then made its way to her hand. A subtle green light cast over the broken bone. It snapped back into place and healed perfectly.
She may have fixed her mother’s broken leg, but it came with a heavy price. Her true nature was revealed, her eyes darkened into nothing but black, her skin changed to green, and even her face’s features drastically morphed into another person.
Ciara’s mother looked on with terror and just like how the fairy warned, all her love and care for her turned sour. She screamed at the monster beside her, she didn’t recognize who she was or has no recollection of Ciara as her daughter.
The young girl was shocked as her mother wailed her arms with immense fear. She thought her mother had gone insane until she saw her reflection.
“Ma, it’s me, Ciara!”
Nothing but a scream of horror.
“What did you do with my daughter? You monster!” She pushed Ciara against the wall. A jolt of pain came from behind her head, she reached it and saw green blood on her fingers.
Tears welled up in her eyes, she couldn’t stand watching her mother in this state, so she ran as fast as she could and never to be seen again. She was confused and scared until the fairy came to her and took her in. They told her the truth and apologized, but it was already too late. The life she had known will never be hers anymore.
By now, it’s nothing, but a distant painful memory.
She came to this academy, seeking a fresh start, but just like the fairy warned, she was a creature of deceit. Nobody could trust a changeling. Most would avoid her, while the few would seek to use her. Because she has a special ability to change her form into anyone she desires.
It’s an ability she hated. She was not a liar, and to use that power would mean to admit she’s one.
“Ouch…” Ciara placed her hand near her head and a glow of green light healed her cut.
She stood up and set aside the stepladder. Once everything had been cleaned up, she brought the boxes with her.
Maybe she was destined to be alone, who would dare give a creature of deceit a chance?
But then again… “Ciara, hey!” A familiar voice called out to her.***
Jonathan thought the hallways would be at least crowded, but it seems most of the students had gone home. He only had Sigil Studies class for the day. Eri had left him to go settle some business of her own. As he wondered what to do next, Ciara could be seen at the end of the hallway.
Shrugging his shoulder, Jonathan caught up to her. “Ciara, hey!” shouted Jonathan with a big smile on his face.
Ciara’s shoulders perked up, then relaxed when she saw Jonathan. A small smile formed. “Yes?”
“Do you know anything about Hypnos’s Poppies?”
“It’s a rare plant. Why do you ask?”
“I saw it in a pamphlet somewhere. I never heard about it before, and I thought you might know something about it.”
“Oh, uhm, it’s certainly a rare plant. It only grows in Greece. I think they used it to treat severe cases of insomnia. It’s highly potent, just eating the plant without grinding it is enough to knock someone out for a couple of hours. I think you can find it at the certified apothecary in the city. Not a lot of them sell it because too much of it can send the user into a coma.” Ciara tapped on her boxes as she waited.
Jonathan didn’t realize he was lost in his thoughts. “Oh, sorry. Those boxes look heavy, can I help you with those?” He took some off her and accompanied Ciara to the garden behind the academy’s main building.***
The lampposts illuminated the streets as the sun began to sink over the horizon. Inside his bedroom, Jonathan pulled out the same thermos he had for years. It seemed like a normal thermos at first glance with its cute knitted coat and a defined dent. However, it’s not the thermos or the coat he was interested in, no, it was hidden underneath the cover.
With a quick pull, he put down the thermos and turned the coat inside out. Six throwing knives were strapped to the side of the coat. Perfectly balanced and sharpened, complimentary from back in the days when he was active. It was odd, he didn’t think he would need it after he quit the squad, but here he goes again.
He slipped the knives into the tactical sheaths strapped around his legs and arms. To hide the knives, he used the sleeves of his shirt and the cuff of his pants.
His sight wandered to the inquisitor badge on his bed. At first, he sighed, then he took it and slid the badge into his pocket.
A knock on his bedroom door pulled his attention. He set aside his backpack and made his way to the door. He waited for the second knock. When he heard it, he opened the door to see Eri waiting for him. “Are you ready?”
Jonathan widened his eyes at the woman before him. She was donned in a sparkly blue dress, it wasn’t tight-fitting, but more of a loosely draped over her muscular body. A dress made for a Greek goddess. Diamond earrings, necklace, and bracelet; the full deal. Even her midnight hair was tied into a ponytail to show off her naked back. Despite the occasion, she still carried her trident. “Aren’t you overdressed for this party?”
“What do you mean?”
Ciara popped from her bedroom in a full skirt summer dress bathed in yellow. A circlet of flowers rested on top of her hair, while a beautiful lilies' corsage wrapped around her left wrist. She fidgeted as Jonathan kept his stare on her. “Do you like it?”
“Like it? I love it. Both of you look so damn beautiful. Wait, I thought it was going to be like a small house party.”
Eri sighed. “I think you misunderstood what Ms. Ciara said. It is a small party, there will be no parade at the end of it.”
“Wait, a parade? I think there’s something wrong between your definition of small and my definition of it.”
“Oh, you didn’t know? The party is going to be at the Nephilim embassy.” Ciara placed a hand on her arm. Her eyebrows raised as she worried about Jonathan's state of confusion.
“I think someone forgot to tell me the details.” Jonathan stared accusingly at Eri.
Eri shrugged. “I’m your protector. Not your secretary. Shall we get going?”
“Screw it. Let’s go.” Jonathan closed the door behind him.
“Are you certain? Because I feel bad not saying anything before inviting you.” A guilty frown on her face as she lowered her gaze away from Jonathan.
Jonathan shrugged his shoulders. It disrupted a part of his plan, but an opportunity to get into the embassy with a good reason was a chance he couldn’t miss. He could probably dig a few good information about the murder there while on the pretense as a party goer. “Yeah, come on. We are going to be late if we keep chatting here.”
The horse-drawn carriage waited for them outside the house and brought them to the embassy. Undines guarded the gate and perimeter fence due to what happened yesterday. Jonathan doubted anyone could pass them without proper authorization after seeing first-hand what an undine is capable of.
After the carriage stopped, Jonathan got out first and gave his hand to the two women behind him. It was a gentleman's thing to do, or at least, that was his intention. Eri stared at Jonathan with skepticism but accepted it otherwise. When it was Ciara’s turn, she flushed bright green before accepting it.
As they walked toward the door, a guard stopped them. It wasn’t an undine, but judging from his look, he was a Nephilim. “Welcome. May I inquire about your names?”
Jonathan and the rest told him their names. He took a while to check the list, but when he found it, he took a bow. “Please excuse my manner, security has become our top concern after the incident yesterday. Lady Lucy welcomes you all with warmth.” He opened the door.
A flurry of delicious scents lingered in the hall while a piece of subtle classical music seemed to be emanating from the inside. Jonathan entered and his jaw dropped. It wasn’t a small party, after all, it was a ball. Many of his presumed schoolmates were wearing either a suit or a dress. There’s no doubt about it, Jonathan was certainly underdressed for this occasion.
Jonathan's sight wandered as he strode the hall. There are no undine soldiers on sight. It seemed they were only allowed to guard the perimeter and the gate. Instead, most of the guards here consist only of Nephilim.
His sight wandered again and caught a familiar red-haired Nephilim. The host of this party, Ms. Lucy. She leaned on the railing of the second floor and overlooked the party from there. She opted for a sleek snake-skin suit with an unbuttoned black shirt for this evening. For a host, she seemed unhappy to attend her party.
Again, his eyes wandered to a corner where Jonathan spotted another housemate of his, Olivia, she also opted for a suit except her reminded of one of those military formal suits along with a short cape on her left shoulder.
Everyone's attention seemed to be drawn to the alluring succubus near the buffet table as she strode her way to Ms. Lucy with two wine glasses. It was another of Jonathan's housemates, Ms. Melody. She drew many wandering eyes because of her revealing, body-hugging red dress. The bottom of the skirt has a slit that reveals her thigh. It’s no question her status as a succubus and her scrumptious body will draw the eyes of male or even female in the room.
“Wow…” Ciara looked with awe at the ceiling above her. A sparkling diamond chandelier hung from it and decorated with extravagant gold-embroidered black fabrics. Her sight then wandered to the banners on the wall. It held the emblem of the Nephilim government: a pair of blackened feathery wings inside a triangle with a single eye in the middle.
“That is the symbol for the Nephilim government. The government is led by the longest living Nephilim in the entire world, Sir Lucifer Morningstar.”
“Wait, The Fallen Angel, Lucifer?” Jonathan looked at Eri with wide eyes.
“It would be best to not call him that in front of other Nephilim, or at least in front of his daughter, Lady Lucy Morningstar.”
“Thanks for the warning. So, she is his daughter.” Jonathan turned his gaze at Lucy as she crossed her arms with an annoyed frown. “Is her father here?”
“I don’t think so. Sir Lucifer is very busy leading Paradisum City in the arctic. The last I saw him was during the Undine royal wedding back at New Marina, but that was a year ago.”
“Lucifer Morningstar, I wonder what he's like.”
“The first impression I have of him was a calm and doting parent. He wouldn’t stop talking about his daughter with my parents.”
Jonathan turned to Ciara. “I have no idea what to do at this kind of party, do you have any idea?”
“I haven’t been one to either, but I heard of it,” Ciara confessed.
“Excuse me, why is that question not directed at me? Obviously, I have more experience in this matter,” Eri glared with a hurtful frown.
“I mean, it’s because… You know. You.” Jonathan stepped back with his hands raised. “Woah. Woah. I don’t mean it as an insult. I thought you weren’t that kind gal, you know. Since how serious you are.”
“That’s- that’s! Untrue. I love attending parties and dancing and enjoy the savoring delights.” It was the first time for Jonathan to see Eri this agitated before. His statement must have hit harder than he had expected. “I’ll show you.” She grabbed Jonathan and pulled him to the center of the ballroom.
Jonathan hasn’t the slightest idea of how to dance, he froze. Of courses, his body froze, He never danced before except for wiggling his arms around. Eri offered his hand to him. Jonathan scratched the back of his head. “I don’t know how to dance, so go easy on me.” He took her hand.
Eri placed Jonathan's other hands on her shoulder while her own pressed against his back. Before they knew it, off they went, swirling around the court. It was rough at first, Jonathan was stepping on his dance partner’s foot a lot, but it didn’t bother her. As they went on, Jonathan finally got the hang of it or at least tried to match Eri’s rhythm.
A joyous smile on her face was a pleasant surprise for Jonathan, it was infectious and soon found himself matching that smile. He laughed at how bad he was, but Eri was more delighted to have a dance partner so early on at this party.
Eri could go on forever dancing but decided to stop when Jonathan was getting tired. They went back to Ciara, she was a bit jealous and lonely to be left behind, but Eri pulled her to the dance floor out of nowhere. It seemed she hasn’t had her fill with it. Ciara on the other hand was a little better dance partner than Jonathan. Soon even Ciara was infected by the sudden burst of joy from Eri.
Jonathan caught up his breath near the refreshment table, his eyes wandered to the orchestra playing in the background. The song they were playing was exciting and lively. Many students joined the dance floor. They were having a wonderful time.
A familiar voice greeted Jonathan, one he’s not mentally prepared for. His heart racing, when he turned, the alluring succubus stood behind him with a glass of wine. “Uhm…” After taking an unnecessary gulp, he continued. “Ms melody, right?”
“No need to be formal with me. So, returning to my earlier question, are you enjoying yourself?”
Jonathan turned his gaze at the two women dancing eagerly in the center of the room. A smile crept up to him. “Isn’t it obvious? But, it has been a while since I had this much fun with friends.”
“Were you alone before coming here?” Melody tilted her inquisitively.
“Sort of. I would meet interesting people during my travels, but it always ended short. I’m not big on staying in one place.”
“I see. I do hope you will be staying here a little longer. This place may be a bit overwhelming at first, but I truly believe this floating island offers more than a quick pit stop.”
A man dressed extravagantly in a suit joined beside Ms. Lucy. There were a few grays in his slick black hair, he chatted with Lucy in a friendly manner. Jonathan theorized that the man must have been a relative or a close friend to Lucy. Melody noticed Jonathan’s stare. “That is Lucy’s uncle, Roderick Gabblestone. He’s also the ambassador for the Nephilim government. This party was his idea.”
“His idea? No wonder Ms. Lucy looked annoyed from the first moment she entered.”
Melody hid a giggle. “Lucy’s idea of a party is chugging alcohol and high-pitched dance music.”
“I don’t blame her. That’s the kind of party I’m used to.”
“Oh, now I understand. It explains the attire you chose.” Melody scanned Jonathan’s wardrobe choice, and it made him feel a bit self-conscious about it, heck, even a bit shy of it. Melody giggled again at his bashfulness. “I think you looked great. It shows honesty.”
“Yeah, right…” His eyes were stuck on Lucy for some reason. “You know what? The party host shouldn’t be allowed to have a bad time at her party.” Jonathan cleared his throat loudly. “Hey, Princess!”
Lucy turned to him with a raised eyebrow, so did the few students near him. Jonathan pointed at the wine tower behind him. “I bet I can chug it all more than you.”
An energetic grin finally emerged, she jumped off from the second floor with her blackened wings spread out, then landed near Jonathan. With a glare, she took one of the wine glasses. “You better bring your A-game because I’m going to make you wish you never challenged me in the first place.”
A small crowd gathered around them, soon a chant can be heard repeating. Even Melody was politely cheering for her friend. Eri and Ciara walked to the crowd, they were wondering what was so interesting and pushed toward the center. The undine’s eyes widened in disbelief, and Ciara gasped with a hand over her lips.
A scene to behold as Jonathan chugged down a whole glass one after another along with Lucy. They were equal at first, but as soon as they had over fifteen glasses, one of them started to wobble slightly. It was Jonathan. They finished it all, and it seemed they were both equally matched, except for one thing, Lucy was still sober while Jonathan was swaying left to right.
“I thought *Hic* That was too much for me. *Hic* Who wins?”
“It’s a draw.” Melody stepped in.
“I agree.” Lucy nodded his head. “I wish the drink was stronger, but I can’t complain. You held your own一”
Jonathan dove face-first into the refreshment table and flipped everything over. Ciara rushed to her friend. “Jonathan!”
“Again?” Eri groaned.
“What do you *Hic* call a dancing sheep? A Baa-lerina. Hehehe,” said Jonathan before he knocked himself out.
As usual, Eri brought Jonathan’s unconscious body to an empty guest room for him to rest. Ciara wanted to come along, but Eri insisted that she stayed behind and enjoyed the party. Ciara was reluctant to go back because she wanted to stay close, but she didn’t want her new friends to perceive her as difficult, so she stayed behind.