Alouna didn’t bother with dressing, she had a mission and ran as fast as she could down the coast in nothing but her underwear. She held a book tightly to her chest and hurried through the still sleeping dimly lit city. She stopped quickly and hid behind a lamp post while a city guard casually walked past her and she started off again. She hurried up to Baal’s house and opened the door. She was fast up the stairs and started for Baal’s room, paused and quickly turned back and hurried into Ai’s room.
“Psstt!” She poked Ai’s arm.
Ai’s eyes opened inhumanly fast from her slumber, “Alouna? What time is it?”
“Uhhh… I don’t know. But I need Kuro.” Alouna bounced on her toes.
“Kuro?” Ai sat up confused, glancing at the clock, “It is four in the morning, and you are not dressed. Are you trying to catch a chill?”
“It is called a cold. And I am fine, I need Kuro!” She complained.
“What is going on here?” Baal quickly came into the room, half awake ready to fight the danger.
“Relax, it is just Alouna. She is here for Kuro.” Ai yawned.
Baal groaned, “Why?”
“The man in my head gave me a present for him!” Alouna held up the book, “Where is he staying? I will go get him myself.”
“No, you will not.” Ai grabbed her and pulled her under the covers, “Enough with the play, dearest. You can wait till the sun comes up. Kuro will come by sometime then. Now, go to sleep.”
Alouna groaned and tried to wiggle free, “but-”
“Alouna!” Caleb came marching up the stairs in a robe, circles under her eyes, and a very displeased look on her face.
“In here.” Ai called out.
“I’m going back to bed…” Baal announced and pointed her toward the door as he headed back to his room.
“Baal…” Caleb covered her eyes, “Pants…”
“My house…” He grumbled disappearing into his room.
Caleb shook her head, “Swear males of every species are the same… Alouna what in the world are you doing?”
Alouna popped her head out of the covers, “The man in my head gave me a present for Kuro. I was going to give it to him…”
“And this couldn’t wait till morning because…?” Caleb rubbed her eyes.
“Well-… I mean-… I guess-…” Alouna tried to explain, “I suppose it could have…”
“Come on, let’s go back.” Caleb sighed. “We shall return when the sun comes up, Ai….Ai?”
“She is asleep again. And she has me in the teddy bear grip.” Alouna gave Caleb a thumbs up, “I will stay here.”
“Alright, I will come by in the morning, then.” Caleb sighed and headed back out.
“It is perfect and then boom it is too bright and hot.” Kuro complained as he followed Baal, “Tell me again why you had to come get me at such an ungodly hour?”
“It is almost eight, how is this an ungodly hour?” Baal answered, leading the way down the path toward his house, “Not my fault you used up all your energy with Maow.”
“I will use my energy as I please, thank you.” Kuro grumbled.
“Whatever.” Baal sighed, “I came to get you because Alouna wanted to see you. She hasn’t stopped since she woke up. Just play along, she means a lot to your mother. It was Ai who told me to come get you in the first place.” Baal watched a butterfly dance around his face for a moment and then off to the flowers that trailed along the brick pathway. Then something caught his eye near the butterfly and he stopped.
“Hey!” Kuro stopped quickly, nearly running into him, “Dumbass! Don’t do-” He jumped backward like a cat, “What the hell is wrong with you!?”
Baal held out a small wasp toward Kuro’s face by it’s wings. He held back a laugh, “Wow…” He watched as the hairs on Kuro’s tail flared up.
Kuro’s cheeks went red and he quickly pushed down the small hairs. “Don’t do that.”
“You are scared of wasps?” Baal chuckled.
“NO!” Kuro growled defensively, “They are just gross looking that’s all! I mean look at him! Nasty little fucker!”
Baal looked at the tiny wasp in his fingers as it squirmed trying to get free and an evil smirk spread across his face.
“Don’t you fucking dare…” Kuro growled.
“Don’t do what?” Baal said in a mocking tone, “This?” He shoved the wasp in his face.
“Stop!” Kuro backed away quickly but Baal was relentless and chased him with the small bug. Kuro hurried down the path, “Knock it off!” He yelled over his shoulder, “I mean it! I will punch you!”
“Punch me and I will shove it down your throat!” Baal laughed following close behind him.
“Oh good, I was worried-” Ai noticed the two running toward them before Kuro quickly ducked behind her, “Oh!”
“Hiding behind your mommy, how cute.” Baal teased.
“Screw you! Put the thing down!” Kuro hissed.
“What is he talking about?” Ai wondered about looking for the treat.
Baal laughed loudly. “Chill, I threw the wasp away once you started running. Got your ass into gear, didn’t I?”
Ai chuckled “Wasp? Baby, are you really scared of wasps?”
Kuro’s cheeks grew red again, “It isn’t fear!” He complained, “They just…gross me out…that’s all…” He pouted.
“KURO!” Alouna came running out, “Good Morning!” She hopped on her feet and grabbed his hand, “Come on, come on!” She attempted to pull him into the house, but Kuro quickly pulled his hand back, causing her to fall back onto her rear with an ‘oof’.
“Don’t touch me.” Kuro hissed and walked inside.
Ai helped her up, “Best to listen to him.” She patted her head and walked inside herself.
Alouna dusted off her borrowed nightgown and hurried inside after them. “I have questions for you and I have to tell you stuff.” Alouna climbed up on the couch next to Kuro as he sat down, “Now I don’t have to go all the way to Rainy Cove to ask. Will you teach me all about Gehenna? About Lord Leviathan, who he was and how he came to be? And could you teach me all that Fakir taught you?”
Kuro raised a brow. “uhhh…what?” There was a lot to unpackage there.
“Fakir said you’d be a good teacher to me. That you were the only one who had the ability and knowledge to answer all my questions.” Alouna grinned ear to ear, “Oh also, here!” She presented a small book out in front of her. “Fakir said that you would know what to do with this. I tried to read it but no matter what I did, I couldn’t open the book. I don’t-“
“WHAT DO YOU MEAN FAKIR SAID!?” Kuro grabbed her by the arms and pulled her to look him in his eyes.
“Fakir…?” Ai breathed in shock.
“Yes, Fakir. He is your friend right?” Alouna answered again.
“Where did you see him? Where is he?” Kuro’s expression was vague.
“Last night, the man in my head remembered his name. Said he was called Fakir.” Alouna pointed to her head.
Kuro let go and pondered what she meant “Man in your head?”
Baal sat down next to her. “Alouna, how often do you see him? What does he look like?”
“Not very often.” Alouna stated. “He just started talking to me and only when I am asleep. He is tall, with a slim face. His hair is a sliver in a ponytail. And he has really pretty purple eyes with white irises.”
“That is Fakir…” Kuro’s voice faded to a whisper. “Where is he?”
“He said he is in between. He doesn’t like that I go there to see him when I sleep, but I don’t go on purpose…” Alouna shrugged.
“The in-between? Then he is dead…” Baal whispered with sadness in his voice, “Kuro…”
“No, that doesn’t mean he is dead.” Kuro quickly interjected. “Fakir is powerful, he frequents the in-between. He met the bringer of death there. He even let me come with him a few times to meet him. That means he is alive… he has to be…” He looked down at Alouna’s hands and took the book. “It’s the book he and I wrote together. It had been in Fakir’s library when Gehenna disappeared. You know what this means?! It means Fakir is still out there, and Gehenna too! We have to-“
“Kuro, stop. Wait a second.” Baal interrupted.
“What? Why?!” Kuro glared at him.
“Because that isn’t correct.” Baal started to explain. “During the war, Fakir and I spoke with each other. He worried about the outcome of the war, as with all of us. But he couldn’t let it show he was scared, he forced himself to stay strong to boost the confidence of our people. I asked him how he was able to do it? He had that book on him. He said it helped him stay strong, because the hope of the war ending and everything going back to the way it was made him hopeful. The book wasn’t in the library, Kuro, this doesn’t mean Gehenna is still out there.”
“But it does mean Fakir is! He is reaching out! He needs us!”
“I don’t think so…”
“Why are you so against the idea?!”
“From what it sounds like Kuro, is he wanting you to move on! He told her to have you teach her, not for you to come after him!” Baal shook his head, “I would love for Gehenna to still be there and for Fakir and Lord Leviathan to be alive and well. But we have to stop asking for the impossible, Kuro! It has been sixty years and you have looked all over for Gehenna with no luck and we have heard nothing of Gehenna either from anyone else who has looked. Now a child meets Fakir in-between, he didn’t tell her to save him, or to get help, he told her to find you to teach her. It is time Kuro, let’s get past this and start living for now. Do you really want to spend the rest of eternity looking for something that isn’t?”
Kuro shook, heat rising in his eyes, his body tensing with rage, “Shut.the.fuck.up.” He growled, “You know what I think it is, you don’t want to stop playing leader. You don’t want to not be in charge anymore.” He said in a rather calm tone but it felt off. Like he was about to snap at any moment.
“Are you serious?! Don’t be ridiculous!” Baal looked insulted.
“Or perhaps it is because you are still hoping that this would happen.” Kuro pointed to himself and then to Baal, “Get it out of your head! Because ‘we’ will never be together.”
Baal didn’t say anything, his expression blank. Kuro stood and stared at the book in his hands for a moment, “I will find him… I will find my father, and I will return us home. I don’t care if you will help me or not anymore, I see where your loyalty lies. When I do find our home, you can just stay your ass here since you love it so much.” Kuro began making his leave.
“Wait, don’t leave.” Alouna jumped off the couch.
“Shut your damn mouth.” Kuro hissed at her.
“NO! I won’t! Fakir-“ Alouna protested before suddenly being met with an opened palm smacking across her face so hard it knocked her back onto the ground. The act elicited a gasp from Ai. Kuro looked down at her for a moment and then stormed outside.
Ai quickly rushed to Alouna’s aid.
“I’m okay, I’m okay” Alouna tried to calm Ai’s panicked expression.
Ai sighed with relief, “He’s quite strong, a smack like that to a human child is dangerous. Hold still, let me-” She paused, watching Baal hurry after Kuro, “Oh no… Baal, don’t. Please don’t fight with him.” Ai begged quickly following after him.
Baal ignored her running up behind Kuro, raising his fist high and slamming it down hard over Kuro’s head. Kuro fell to the ground but for only a second before leaping up and jumping at Baal. They wrestled with each other, clawing and punching in this fit of rage. The commotion attracted the attention of Lillith, who stepped outside beside Ai holding a small demon child.
“STOP IT!” Ai yelled at them, making a large ball of water above her head and fling it at the two of them. This time however, it didn’t faze them. This wasn’t a cat fight anymore, it was a dog fight.
Kuro made a spike of some kind of black looking sand form around him and struck Baal’s back. Baal gasped and gave a roar of pain and anger, grabbing Kuro’s arm and with a mighty twist the area echoed with the snap. Kuro didn’t respond to it as one should, instead he slashed his other hand across Baal’s face. Just as things seemed that they were only going to get worse, the water that was thrown at them froze into blocks of ice, which pulled them apart and restrained them.
Alouna stood with arms open as if holding the two of them apart. A bubble covered in ice glowed above her chest as a small golden Koi swam around inside.
Ai stared at Alouna in disbelief but quickly pulled herself together. “Baal! Kuro! Stop this madness now!” She screamed at them.
“Fakir dodged a fucking bullet with you!” Baal screamed at Kuro. Kuro’s eyes seemed different, darker and more unstable somehow. Baal and Ai recognized that look. Ai gasped in fear. Kuro gave a deep guttural growl that came deep from his chest, dangerously through his throat and out of his mouth in the form of a deadly hiss.
“Kuro…” Ai breathed as tears swelled up in her eyes, “Please not again…” she cried.
Kuro looked at her and his face changed once again. His eyes seemed to focus and his face relaxed. It was like he was waking up. “Mom…” He gasped through his heavy breathing.
“You are nothing more than a monster!” Baal yelled at him, “Look at you! A ticking time bomb who fucking throws a god dame fit every time he doesn’t get his way! You are a danger to the brethren you say you are so loyal too! Fakir would have never wanted you as mate! You are a fucking PSYCHOPATH! GET OFF MY ISLAND AND DON’T COME BACK!”
“BAAL!” Ai screamed. “Don’t say that!”
Kuro was silent, his face was stern but his eyes were hurt. With a hard pull he shattered the ice surrounding him. He looked at his arm, a blackened ugly disfigured mess and used his other hand to hold it up like a sling. He said nothing as he started away again, pausing only to grab up the book he had dropped.
“Kuro wait! Kuro, don’t leave!” Ai tried to follow him but Kuro broke out into a run toward the coast. “No! Kuroishi! Come back here! Now!” Ai begged as tears streamed down her face, but she had no choice, but to let him go. She couldn’t run and she was already far too exhausted to even try. She marched up to Baal and smacked him across the face.
“Ai, he was out of control.” Baal tried to defend himself, “He hurt Alouna, he could have killed her with a hit like that and look what he did to me! You saw those eyes, he is a hazard. What if he didn’t snap out of it? He could have gone on a rampage and destroyed everything we’ve built.”
“He went too far, he should never have raised a hand to her” Ai yelled through her tears, “But you are no better! You started that fight, you angered him. He had a shred of hope and you just had to stomp on it and what is worse you used something I trusted you with against him. My son is NOT a monster! He is lost, hurt and scared! He was just starting to open up more, he was just starting to become the person he once was! His wounds were so deep, they were just beginning to heal and then you just had to stab him again! You’d better hope he comes back! I will not lose my son again!” She smacked him again and turned to leave, but she started to stumble slightly. She grabbed her stomach and winced in pain.
“Ai, let me help.” Lillith came to assist her, setting down the kin, “Where to?”
“Anywhere away from him. I don’t want to even look at him right now.” Ai cried.
Lillith nodded, shooting Baal a dirty look before heading inside.
Baal waited until they were gone, he sighed and tried to pull himself away from the ice. He found it very difficult, he pulled again but had no luck, “Umm…” He looked to Alouna with bewilderment that she was strong enough to make something that could restrain him and then he looked at where Kuro was and how he was able to get out with what seemed to be little effort. He felt a deep rush of jealousy of his strength and a slight damage to his pride and knew had they not stopped fighting, he would have lost, but he was sure that he would have thought of something to turn the battle to his favor. Right? “Could you set me free?… please…” He mumbled, trying to hide his embarrassment.
Alouna approached. “Her ice melts on its own. She doesn’t have the ability to melt it.” She thanked the small fish and then the koi vanished with the pop of the bubble.
“Your soul’s ability to channel though hers with such power is impressive. This is annoying being stuck here, though.” Baal pulled again but with no prevail.
“From how it sounds, you and Kuro fight a lot.” Alouna sat down in the grass and drew a circle in the dirt. Seconds later, a large reptilian demon stood next to her. The creature stood about six feet tall with a long body. A large lizard-type head with sharp teeth peeking out of the beast’s mouth, it had two orange oval eyes on each side of its head. Its long neck was attached to its slim, strong body. Two small arms came down to two large claws on each one. Two bulky legs, with feet positioned like the hind legs of a cat, but with one large hooked claw on each foot. Lastly, was its long whip-like tail rising far behind it. Its scales were a shimmering black with a turquoise blue scaled belly. It made a few chirping noises and laid next to Alouna. She petted its snout and started picking little flowers.
“Because he is an asshole. He attacked you, remember?” Baal grumbled. “Hey, Hein.” He greeted the reptilian demon casually.
“He smacked me, not attacked me. Does it often get that bad?” Alouna asked as the creature responded with a low whistle to Baal.
“No, not usually. Usually a punch or two is thrown and then it is over. This time…” Baal sighed.
“You care for Kuro a lot, don’t you?” Alouna petted Hein.
“HA! Care about that dick, yeah sure!” Baal said sarcastically.
“Why else would you be feeling guilty about telling him to never come back?” Alouna asked.
“Because…!” Baal started, but sighed, “Because… things are exciting when he is around. Because I like when we brawl… not like what happened just now, but when it’s more… playful. We have good conversations and everything just gets more lively when he comes.”
“It angers you that he seems to only have eyes for Fakir, doesn’t it?” Alouna stated bluntly.
“But you have a mate. Is she your number two? The one you said yes to, since you couldn’t have Kuro? You love him and it angers you that he doesn’t love you back. Your pride can’t accept the fact that he will never run to your arms.” Alouna put a flower crown on top of Hein’s head.
Baal stared at her in a long silence, a small human child so mercilessly reading him. “I don’t want to speak of this anymore.”
“Lillith knows, doesn’t she?” Alouna started to pick more flowers. “But she still chose you. She must really care for you.”
“Alouna! This conversation is over! My love life is none of your concern.” Baal said sternly.
Alouna crossed her arms at him “What I am saying is that you shouldn’t let your selfish prideful feelings hurt the person who adores you and the person who you claim to adore. You made your choice and crushing Kuro’s hope to see the person he loves as some kind of sick punishment for not loving you is not okay. You are not the only one at fault for the fight, but you cannot ignore your contribution to it. No, your love life doesn’t normally concern me, until it directly affects me.” She pointed to the blackened swelling on her cheek, “I need Kuro to teach me how to be the Summoner Fakir said I can be with his guidance and you made him leave. I am holding you responsible for the delay in my learning. Until his return, I will be asking you questions as they come to me.” Alouna hopped up from her seat on the grass and to Baal and with Hein’s help of lifting her up, she placed a flower crown on top of Baal’s good horn. She nodded to Hein, “Can you help our dear friend out?”
Hein whistled and chomped down on the ice a few times and in a few minutes he was freed.
“If you could have done that, you could have spared me the embarrassment!” Baal let out an annoyed grumble.
“But then we couldn’t have had our conversation. You have longer legs than me, you walk almost as fast as I can run.” Alouna grinned, patting Hein’s legs, “If he returns, please tell me. Fakir said he needs to teach me.”
“I have some questions, and if you are expecting me to answer yours then you need to answer mine.” Baal grabbed her hand, “What do you mean by ‘needs to teach you’ and why you?”
“Fakir didn’t really say why, he just told me to find Kuro and have him teach me. He said it was important and no matter how many times he says no, keep bugging him till he says yes. Why me? I don’t know either, he said I have the ability, but he didn’t say what that was.” Alouna explained.
“Maybe Kuro is right, maybe Fakir can return with Gehenna and Lord Leviathan. I need to think about this for a bit.” Baal led her back into the house, where she was quickly snatched up by Ai and carried off to her room. He stood alone in his living room for a moment thinking of what she said to him. She was right, though he didn’t want to admit it. He should be supportive of Kuro, a least emotionally. If anyone could find a way to bring Gehenna back, it would be Kuro. He felt his chest get hot, and his heat start to sway. He groaned and remembered he was hit with Kuro’s venom.
“I feel like shit…” Baal walked into his and Lillith’s room where she was watering plants on the windowsill.
“As you should!” Lillith lectured. “I expect better control from you! Fighting like that in front of Ai, as if she doesn’t have enough stress on her!” She sat the bucket of water down with an angry slam and turned to lecture him more. “holy shit!” She hurried to his side.
Baal grabbed his stomach and held back the urge to vomit.
“Lay down, you are really pale.” Lillith hurried him to the bed.
“My skin feels like it is on fire… I feel so drained… I told him to never come back.” Baal cried, “I called him a monster.”
“Baal… did he use his venom on you?” Lillith stared at the blackened flesh covering Baal’s chest and expanding around his sides.
“It won’t kill me…” Baal winced, “This isn’t the first time it has happened. But damn does it hurt…”
“Good!” Ai entered the room with a pout, “He stabbed into your flesh with it. That is what happens when it gets into your bloodstream.” She huffed and started using her waters to pull the venom out.
“I thought you were angry with me.” Baal watched her assist him.
“I am angry with you, but that doesn’t mean I want you to suffer. Though perhaps it will make you think twice before jumping into fights with him.” Ai lectured, but she didn’t stop, however.
“How is Alouna?” Baal asked.
“She is fine, Kuro didn’t hit her all that hard. It only left a bruise. I am trying to make sense of why Fakir came to her though. Do you really think Alouna goes to the in-between in her sleep?”
“I don’t know… but I think…” Baal gasped in pain, “fuck…” He groaned, “we should watch her closely…” Baal grabbed her hand softly, “He will come back, when has he ever listened to me?” He forced a smile.
Ai smiled back at him with a hopeful nod, “Hush now, dummy, I need to concentrate.”