It took a week for me to hear back from Nybbas - a week of driving myself insane with frustration, irritation, and - dare I say it - concern for the boy. It was honestly ridiculous. There was no reason for me to care that much about him; he was just another pawn in this game. I didn’t even know what his purpose was in getting this ring-
Just then, a thought occurred to me. What if this had been Sirio’s plan all along? To get me attached to the boy, then steal him away, causing me to focus all of my energy on getting him back, while, in reality, he was just distracting me while he came up with a plan to get the ring. This was Damian’s purpose. That had to be it; that bullshit story about testing to see if Damian recognized me seemed flimsy at best. Sirio kept saying I’d gone soft and gullible, and it seemed I’d proved him right.
Well, no longer. I was going to show him just how un-soft and un-gullible I was. Fuck Damian. There were more important matters at hand than one human who would die sooner or later anyway. I’d wasted enough time falling for Sirio’s tricks; it was time I focused all my attention on the ring. I was done chasing after Damian and done trying to get Sirio’s help. I didn’t need either of them. And to prove it, I teleported myself right in to the center of the head of the GITS’s office that very minute.
The older, bald man nearly fell out of his chair. I cocked my head. “Hello,” I said easily.
The man reached for a button on his desk, but I was quicker. I restrained his hands, my shadows effectively cutting off any magic he could try to perform. Then, I encased us in a shadow bubble; even if he tried something as undignified as screaming for help, no one would hear.
I said again, “Hello.”
The man, whose tag on his desk identified him as Venti, simply glared at me, the muscles around his jaw clenched tightly shut.
“You’re so polite,” I commented sarcastically. “Venti, is it? No wonder I always forget your name; I guess I mixed you up with a Starbucks order.” Hey, I thought I was funny. “Listen up, Venti,” I said, pacing in a circle around his desk, “do you know who I am?”
Of course, I knew that he did, but I wanted to hear him say it anyway. He didn’t. He refused to say anything.
“Well, in case you didn’t know, I’m your worst nightmare,” I said, then paused. “Actually, I should rephrase; I’m not only your worst nightmare, but also the worst nightmare of those people. Yes, those ones right there, standing with you in that picture in a familial formation.”
I pointed to the frame on his desk. Venti’s eyes widened, and I knew I was right. Family was such a weakness. Humanity was such a weakness. So easy to manipulate. If someone threatened my brother, I’d tell them to have at it. Hell, I’d even pay them to follow through.
Coming around to the front of his desk, I placed my palms flat on the wooden surface and leaned in close. “I don’t enjoy confrontation, so I’m going to make this quite clear and simple, and I’ll be out of here in no time. You’re going to tell me everything you know about the Bane of Mortals - and I mean everything - and then I’m going to disappear like I was never here to begin with. If you don’t, or if I even have the slightest suspicion that you’re holding back, not matter how unfounded, your wife and kids are going to suffer the absolute worst kind of death imaginable, and you’re going to watch. Understand me?” I finished, my voice deadly quiet. Venti nodded stiffly. “Tell me.”
“There’s nothing I can tell you that you don’t already know,” Venti said in a rush. “I swear that’s the truth. If anything, you know more than we do.”
I scowled. “What makes you think that? How do you know what I know?”
“I know that you tortured and killed Milliford,” Venti said slowly, sounding confused. “I assumed he told you everything.”
I hid my confusion. “Tell me again.”
Venti shook his head. “I can’t. You got to him before he reported back to me with whatever breakthrough he found. I-I thought that was your intention.”
I straightened. “It was,” I said authoritatively. “I was just… testing you. Still, tell me everything you know or your family dies.”
“The Bane of Mortals was a ring containing the essence of Chaos. It grants the wearer control over anyone with a majority of mortal blood-“
“Majority?” I asked. “I think you’re mistaken. It controls anyone with any mortal blood at all.”
Venti hesitated. “You’re correct, then. My information must be faulty,” he acquiesced.
“The ring was lost over a thousand years ago; it was rumored to have been locked away during the time of turmoil between the forces of Light and Dark by the mortal sorcerers. It contained too much power to fall into the hands of either side.” Venti swallowed. “No one has found a lead on it since. That was, until Milliford. That’s all I know, I swear.”
I scrutinized him. A bead of sweat ran down the side of his head, and I deemed that he was telling the truth. This Milliford character seemed to have the information I needed. Too bad I’d killed him. Oh, wait, I hadn’t killed him. I think I would have remembered.
If that goddamned Sirio was framing me yet again for his dirty work, I swear to Satan…
“Fine,” I told Venti. “I’ll spare you. Just know this: you can’t trust Sirio. I heard he’s working for you, and honestly, he’s worse than a demon. I’d cut him loose if I were you.”
Venti didn’t seem eager to take my advice. Truth be told, he didn’t seem eager to do anything, seeing as he was still being forcibly restrained by shadows.
“Well, nice chat,” I said. “Next time I come back, I might not be so merciful. Watch out.” I added just to keep my reputation somewhat intact. With a dramatic flap of my cloak, I disappeared down into the Nether.
When I got back to my apartment, I found Nybbas waiting for me. He was just closing the refrigerator door when I stepped in, and he hopped away immediately, looking guilty. I made a mental note not to open the fridge.
“Nybbas, you’re here,” I said, trying to force down the hope and excitement that was welling up in me. I didn’t care about this kid. I didn’t. I was over it. Even so, I might as well hear what he had to say. “Did you find him?”
Nybbas looked at me with wide eyes. “I’m sorry, Baxel,” was all he said.
It was all he needed to say.