Marcus was driving the Van that reminded Alexus of the bandwagon for swats, while Simon was sitting next to Marcus, keeping him awake. Half the Van was filled with high-tech computers that Timothy was using; he played the latest first-person shooter game. Alexus doesn’t understand how he could get bored so quickly, especially since he has a game he can play during the whole trip.
“Are we there yet?” Timothy whined for the twentieth time in the past couple of hours.
“Shut up, Timothy, or I’m going to cut off your tongue!” hissed Crystal as she waved a dagger in front of his face.
“Hey, chill. We don’t need to resort to violence, you know,” Timothy halfheartedly chuckled, gulping in the process. “If you’re not careful, you might poke someone’s eye out.” He pushed the hand holding the dagger away from his face.
“Then shut up. I’m trying to sleep.” Crystal stashed away her dagger and leaned back into the seat, trying to get comfortable. Finally, she closed her eyes to get some well-needed sleep.
“Sheesh, someone got up on the wrong side of the bed.” Timothy brought up his headphones and went back to playing his game.
They weren’t the only ones in the Van: Crystal, Jones, and Alexus were sitting on one side of the wall, while four more familiar faces were sitting opposite. They were Kathy, Jessica, Sara, and James. For some reason, Simon’s team consists of mostly girls; he has more girls in his group of followers than any male would get jealous of.
Kathy Elson, No. 54, was a typical blond hair female. Big boobs, bombshell of a curve, and very red lips. Even her looks were first class, though the Dragon Scale suit that she was wearing made everything more accentuated. And thankfully, she wasn’t the stereotypical blonde either. Instead, her hand was busily flipping her knife back and forth while popping bubble gum. Alexus didn’t get much of a chance to talk to her, but that was only because she rarely spoke. Timothy had attempted to talk with her but failed every single time.
Sara Bihar, No. 62, had a slight northern accent. In the middle of her forehead, there was a red dot called a Bindi. She told Alexus it was commonly worn on India’s female population; she said it’s a sacred symbol of the cosmos in its unmanifested state. Not only that, this was the exact area that Zheng talked about the third eye. At the very least, one thing that differentiated her from the other girls was that she’s always reading. He had never seen her without a book.
Jessica Simmons, No. 88, was quite small, possibly four feet eleven, and looked close to a young teen. She had confessed that she was over twenty-five years old, but it’s quite hard to tell because of how she looked. The soft eyes, cute puffy cheeks, and even straight brown hair pulled back into a ponytail didn’t help, especially when she twiddled her hair with her fingers. The worst part of it was her voice. That sounded like a pubescent child.
Finally, James Toronto, No. 55, was quite a decent guy. He was the complete opposite of Simon and radiated positivity when he wasn’t speaking. Not even passing six feet, he was also quite buff with a nice combo of a beard and mustache. Every time he smiled, even the end of his eyes started to crinkle up along with his smile, reminding Alexus of a Santa Claus.
They were quite a mishmash of people; Alexus wondered how Simon could get these three people together without a severe clashing of personalities. Then again, his group wasn’t considered the best when socializing and working together. They were barely passable, but somehow they managed to pull it off fine.
Alexus, on the other hand, couldn’t sleep. The rough bouncing off the road made it difficult, especially because he heard Illinois had one of the worst roads out of the many states. Even in one hundred forty-nine years since he went to sleep, nothing had changed.
Daisy was tucked away in his side pocket, curled up sleeping. It’s a strange place for her to sleep in, but she was his contracted spirit. She knew instantly that something was going on. Even though he left her behind, she somehow made her way to the Van and snuck into his pouch. It wasn’t until they were halfway to Springfield did he hear a small meow.
Alexus thought he was going crazy until Crystal pointed it out. She played with Daisy for a while until she was satisfied. After that, he couldn’t do anything about her; she stuck close to him as if it wasn’t a big deal. Plus, she wasn’t just a normal cat anyways, so there wasn’t too much of a problem.
“Hey,” James called out towards Alexus. He sat up straight and looked around him to make sure that he talked to Alexus. When Alexus pointed to himself, he nodded.
“How often have you gone out demon hunting?”
“Three times. I wanted to go test out my strength, you know.”
Alexus was shocked. For someone to deliberately go out and risk their lives wasn’t normal. His guess was either an adrenaline high when fighting or was forced to go out because of the higher-ups. The second option sounds about right, but from his voice, the chance of it being the first option was unusually high.
“Wait, why go through all that trouble to risk your life? Were you forced to go?”
James leaned forward towards Alexus, his hand folded on his lap. A mischievous smile erupted on his bearded face that told me that there was something more to his words. “I wasn’t forced. I volunteered.”
“Why?” Alexus asked, confused.
“Why wouldn’t I? Fighting a life and death battle is an exhilarating feeling that you can’t get enough of.”
A pure out battle junkie, that was what James was. These people looked for trouble or jumped into a bar fight without a second thought. They were considered troublemakers, riling the people around them into a brawl. Hopefully, James wasn’t the crazy type that egged the demons on and bulked up their powers for that extra rush of adrenaline. Alexus has heard people maxing out on their motorcycles, hitting up to 210 mph on the highway just for the pure adrenaline rush. That in itself was a death trap if one wasn’t careful, and being careful at that high of a speed limit was impossible.
“Fighting isn’t everything you know,” Alexus replied, even though it sounded a bit half-assed. “I wouldn’t want to fight for the rest of my life.”
“I do; the stronger they are, the more challenging and fun it gets. Don’t you have a goal in your life?” James stopped and stared at Alexus, waiting for an answer. When he didn’t speak, James continued talking. “Mine has always been living on the edge, finding a purpose to this wretched world.”
“Finding a purpose doesn’t need to end up in a life and death battle.”
James grunted. He chuckled as he shook his head. “It is a life and death battle. Sometimes you don’t find it until the last moment, and it hits you where it hurts.”
Alexus’s hands unconsciously tightened, frowning at what he had said. “I’m more of a passive-aggressive type.”
“Either way, this is one of your purposes in life, and it’s fighting demons.”
James had a point; right now, his second life revolved heavily around demonic forces, and he didn’t see himself getting out of this any time soon. That was a very depressing thought, just fighting for the rest of my life, but then again, that was life in general. Fighting to find a purpose, fighting to just survive, fighting to get something to eat.
“Yea, I hope that’s not all of it,” Alexus replied with a half-hearted sigh.
“Don’t worry; killing a few demons here and there would eventually numb out your mind.”
“Don’t listen to this muscle head,” said Jessica with her childlike voice. “All this guy does is fight and fuck.” The way she said the last word made Alexus’s eyes wide to the point where he thought they would fall out from disbelief. Hearing the F word coming out of her mouth made the whole experience surreal; it was like hearing a taboo word coming out of a child’s mouth. One just wants to scold her parents for even teaching such foul language to her in the first place.
Not only that, Alexus was becoming even more conscious of swearing, thinking about how he needed to curb his tongue in front of her.
“Don’t forget the booze!” James burst into a chuckle.
“See what I mean,” Jessica pointed at him annoyedly. “That’s all he thinks about. I wouldn’t be surprised if his descendants became some kind of intellectual idiots.”
“Little girl, that’s the three things all men need and their set for life.”
“Don’t call me a little girl!” Jessica pouted, puffing her adorable cheeks. Her hands rested on her hips, and she stuck out her chin at him. “I told you, I’m a woman!”
James snorted. “Woman, my ass. A good woman needs a nice rack and….” He paused for a moment as he looked at her, a sly grin creeping up his face, “an actual butt to go along with it.” His hands waved in front of him as he did a smacking motion, “Oh, and soft hands.”
Alexus was a bit taken back by his last statement.
“You disgust me. This is why women hate you, you know.” Jessica retorted back, clicking her tongue out loud as she rolled her eyes.
James snorted at Jessica, “This is why you are still a kid. You don’t understand the beauty of all this.” He waved to himself.
“Anyways…” Alexus tried to deter the topic away from this strange conversation. “Did you guys know the plan for the demon-hunting for today?”
“Nope, but I’m looking forward to punching them with my fist.” James chuckled. “I asked for a heavier firepower set and added a few more enchantments on the gauntlets.”
“That’s just a waste of sigils. Instead, you should’ve added a bit of speed; strength isn’t everything you know.”
“I know, but this is what I wanted. I can compensate for the speed with what I already have.”
“You’re going to get yourself killed one day.” Jessica curled her fingers around her hair. “And when that happens, I’ll be laughing over your grave.”
“Kid, that’s why I have you watching my back. Plus, I have Kathy and Simon as well. So we’re a team.”
Jessica grumbled under her breath as neither caught what she had said.
Suddenly, a squeak of the wheels started to slow down and eventually went to a complete stop. The door opens and slams. Footsteps walked around the Van, stopping in front of the back door. Finally, with a rough wiggle, the door was forced open.
Everyone was fully awake, waiting for Marcus to speak. He climbed inside the vehicle with Simon following behind as he closed the door. Taking a seat next to Alexus, he spoke, “We have arrived at our destination.”
Quite a few of them were literally on the edge of the chair, listening in on Marcus’s words. Even he had his hands gripping hard, waiting for what Marcus would say.
“We’re going to split up into two teams. Simon is going to lead one while I take the other. Timothy brings up the blueprints of the abandoned mansion.”
“On it, boss.” Timothy quickly typed on the keyboard and brought up a digital hologram in the middle of the group.
It was a two-story mansion with thirty rooms, ten bathrooms, a large kitchen, and a recreation room. Even nicer was the wooden patio that was integrated with a hot tub. With the 3D blueprint rotating slowly in 360, Marcus pointed out where we would be entering.
“My team will go from the front entrance, while Simon’s will go around from the back. We’ll split up and take each half of the building as we enter.”
“Wait, what about people who aren’t that good with fighting?” Timothy replied, shaking his hand over his head. “ Like me?”
“You’ll be staying behind with Kathy and giving us surveillance from afar.”
“So only eight of us are going in?” Jones asked, not liking the thought of being separated. He shifted uncomfortably from one leg to the next, sitting down. “And how many demons are supposed to be in here?”
“Timothy started the Demon location radar,” Mark called out.
“Roger that.” Timothy clicked, and red dots were moving around in the mansion. They were quite a few underground, making me wonder if there was some kind of tunnel as the red dots just disappeared without a trace.
“Crystal and Jessica will be staying with you guys, setting up points to sharp shoot strays that come out running from the mansion. It’s only going to be the six of us. We need eyes in the sky to make sure that we didn’t miss any of them.”
Jones was counting the red dots and groaned. “There over twenty of them, and six of us will get rid of them all?”
“Of course. This is easy as pie.” Marcus wasn’t phased by the sheer number of demons crawling around the mansion. “See how the red dots disappear underground?”
The majority of them nodded, looking towards where Marcus was pointing. Quite a few red dots were going back and forth, disappearing.
“There is an underground railroad tunnel made in 1845.”
“You’re kidding me, right?” Jones’ eyes became wide. “ We’re going towards a haunted slave house?! Do you know how crazy that sounds!”
“Calm down,” Marcus raised his hand to calm Jones. “It’s not as bad as you think.”
“I’m going to be straight up with you; there is a reason why demons live there. You know just as well as I that the place is infested. The only reason it’s filled heavily with dark energy is because of the history behind that house!”
“History?” Crystal asked. “What history? I heard about the Civil War, but what exactly are we talking about?”
“Demons are attracted to areas with high pools of negative and dark energy, especially traumatizing events,” said Simon. “The eviler the acts are played in the area, the more dark and negative energy pooled in that spot.”
“That makes more sense,” Alexus replied; he had heard about that even when he wasn’t an Ouroborous. “So, the Cat Demon appeared because someone played with black magic, so in turn summoned darker creatures that shouldn’t be there to be born, right?”
“Exactly.” Simon snapped his fingers.
“So, what’s the story behind the mansion?” Crystal reiterated back to the question that she was asking.
“Everything.” Jones groaned. “This is like the worst mission for me.”
“I wouldn’t be so sure about that.” But, Simon replied, “the mansion has a history of women being murdered for the past century.”
“Great. Thanks, Simon.” Crystal glared.
“What? That’s what the facts state. Every thirteen years, the owner changes. Supposedly in 1799, it was owned by a white family who had a large plantation. They were rumors of females being murdered in the house as the slave woman started to disappear once every thirteen years. It wasn’t until 1888 did the owner changed hands and made it into a hotel. Following after, the hotel had the same recurring pattern of deaths that just don’t seem to break.” Simon leaned back with his head resting on his hand. “So far, the mansion went through fifty-five different owners until 2045, when they shut it down. Ever since then, it has been abandoned.”
“Great. We got a few demon fanatics that will go after us.” Sara didn’t seem so pleased; her eyes were squinting when she heard Simon’s story.
“Pretty much,” Simon replied.
“That’s good to know.” Crystal shook her head, “though what happened after 2045? Have there been any more deaths?”
Simon stopped and stared at Crystal dead in the eye. Then, he slowly leaned forward as a small smile erupted on his face. “What do you think?” His smile gave everyone a shiver.
“You’re a jerk, you know that?” Crystal grumbled.
“You’re welcome.” He chuckled.
“Okay, enough with the horror stories.” Marcus cut in and waved the stories aside. “Our priority is to wipe the place clean of demons, cleanse the house of dark energy, and go back home.”
“You make it sound so easy,” said Jones.
“Because it is easy,” replied James. “Nothing like a good skull bashing.” He snickered, enjoying the thought of fighting.
“Why do we have to go out hunting at night?” Jones whined. “Can’t we wait until morning?”
“Absolutely not.” Marcus snorted, downplaying Jones’ words as if it was nothing to be scared about. “You know just as well as I that the demons rarely show themselves, especially when we’re hunting a large number of them. So we want to get as many as them while they are awake. Plus, half of them wouldn’t even be able to manifest themselves during the day.”
“Yea…still….” Jones bit his lower lips, scrunching his eyebrows. “It will be best on our end to have the initiative to hit them during the day. But, right now, we’re playing on their playing field.”
“True, but we wouldn’t be able to get the source. For some damn reason, these demons like to hide. Cleansing it during the day will only get half of them. We’ll be too tired to get the job done by the time we finish. They spawn like rabbits if we’re not careful.”
Jones sighed. “Fine…but we’re not splitting up.”
“Of course.” Marcus nodded, understanding fully well. “Right now, breaking away from our team to go by themselves isn’t something I had planned when we entered.”
“Good.” Jones slowly nodded his head, a bit satisfied by Marcus’ answer. “That’s better than nothing.”
Marcus clapped, catching everyone’s attention. “Well then, ladies, let’s kill some demons?” He grinned as he pushed open the door. He effortlessly got out with a thud. He reached over and took out a gun on the side of the Van.
Simon followed after, and most of them streamed out from the Van.
Alexus noticed when they stepped out that not too far away from them was a broken metal gate, stating, ‘Welcome to Laura’s Paradise Hotel.’ Overgrown plants tangled around the gate, holding up the half-broken sign. As far as Alexus’s eyes could see, chain-linked fences were stuck out from left to right.
Off in the distance was the giant mansion, looming under the moonlight. It had an eerie beauty about it. History was still standing proudly as if the land was its own. Half the building looked brand new, while the other half was broken down and weathered by a storm. It was as if the building was rotting from one side and slowly moving over towards the other, which was weird to see such a stark contrast that Alexus wondered how it even came to be.
“Everyone got a radio?” Marcus asked, handing each one of them an earpiece with a mic.
Alexus took one and hooked it around his ear.
“Let’s move out.” Marcus waved his hand.
Everyone brought out their weapons while Timothy and Kathy closed the door to the Van. Crystal and Jessica had a sniper rifle. They both split apart, climbing up a tree or scaling on top of the Van.
Alexus reached over from his back as he drew out his sword. Plasma lights appeared from one end to the other, connecting the metal. Daisy was wide awake as she meowed at him once and went silent, watching everything going on. Then, they moved together, watching each other’s back. Simon pushed open the broken gate as it creaked open.
All of them passed through and continued heading towards the mansion. Quite a few of them had a flashlight holstered onto the gun itself, giving them a free hand if needed. Even his sword glowed with bioluminescent light, giving it dim lighting around him.
As they continued walking forward, a blood-curdling scream howled in the dead of the night, and they all froze.