I was in the kitchen when Damian came down to get food for him and his sister. The old lady whose name I still hadn’t learned slaved over the stovetop and you know why? Because I told her to. I didn’t even have to do it threateningly or scare her into compliance. I just said, “Make me breakfast,” and she did. This ring was glorious.
“Hey,” Damian said as he came into the room and surveyed the spread of pancakes, french toast, eggs, and bacon. “Wow. You didn’t have to go to all this trouble, Mrs. Grant.”
She smiled. “Yes I did.”
Damian took that as normal and shrugged. “Well, thank you.” He began loading two plates with food. I ate my pancakes in silence, and after a minute, he looked over at me. “I feel like I should be thanking you.”
“I feel like you should too,” I agreed.
“But I’m not,” Damian said.
I raised a brow. “Oh? Why’s that?”
“Well, number one, what’s the point of me thanking you for undoing a horrible thing that you did in the first place?”
“And number two, you lied to me,” he accused. “You didn’t tell me the whole plan.” Damian scowled at me, probably thinking he looked properly intimidating and angry when, in reality, his hair was a little greasy and stuck to his forehead, and his face was still smeared with gray-black dirt from the Nether. All he pulled off was the disheveled, slightly homeless look.
“Ah, that,” I said casually, plucking a strip of bacon from the plate in the middle of the table.
“You put my sister in danger. You got her involved again,” Damian continued.
I looked up at him innocently. “But I cured her first.”
“That doesn’t change anything!”
“Yes it does,” I objected. “She could’ve refused to cooperate. She could easily have just not cut Sirio’s hand off and let him try to kill me. It was her choice.” I wiped my greasy fingers on a napkin. “Which, might I remind you, she was only able to make because I cured her first.”
“Well, yes, she chose to help you, but only because she thought you were going to kill me if you didn’t get the ring.”
“And does that change anything?” I asked.
“Yes! It’s manipulation,” Damian answered.
I gave him a blank look that clearly said think-about-what-you-just-said. “All I’ve been doing this whole time has been manipulation.”
Damian opened his mouth to refute that before realizing that he shouldn’t. “Well. I guess maybe I foolishly thought you might be beyond that.”
That shut me up for a moment. I cleared my throat then replied, “Well, no harm done.”
“Taryn has multiple broken ribs.”
“No permanent harm done.”
Damian scowled at me, picking up the plates of food. “I guess that’s what I get for trusting you.”
“What, your sister shadow-free, new skills that no human sorcerer has ever been taught, and the angel who killed your parents locked away for good?” I snapped. “Yeah, that’s what you get.”
Damian didn’t compromise his dramatic exit by doing anything other than storming out, but I was certain that my words would get to him sooner or later. He’d see that I was right; that he did come out on the better end of this deal. Maybe that would be enough for him not to hate me permanently. Though, at the moment he was being an ungrateful, whiny little bitch, so I found myself caring less than I should have what he thought.
Pushing my plate away, I scowled. I wasn’t hungry anymore.
There was something that had been eating at me all morning, and it resurfaced again after that confrontation with Damian. I decided that I had ignored it for long enough; Damian and Taryn were both alive and more or less healthy and they obviously didn’t need or want me hanging around. Which was fine. I had some errands to run.
“Take care of anything Damian and Taryn need,” I told Mrs. Grant, feeling the ring grow warm as it forced my command onto her. She nodded. “Don’t speak to anyone else.”
Not caring that she was watching, I gathered the shadows around me and dropped down into the Nether. I didn’t have to go far to reach the cage in which I’d left Sirio, and he saw me approach. He was still in bad shape, but better than the night before. Still, without his light powers, he didn’t pose any threat of escaping.
“Come to your senses at last, brother?” Sirio asked.
I stood with my hands in the pockets of my coat, looking at him. “Why do you call me that?”
“Brother,” I replied. “Is that not something you want to forget? I know I do.”
Sirio gave a halfhearted shrug. “It’s who you are. Sometimes I feel you need a reminder that we do, indeed, share the same parents. There’s a shred of light in you just like there’s a shred of dark in me. Your light is a weakness. My dark is a strength.”
“You’ve got a little more than a shred, I think,” I muttered.
Sirio smirked. “Well, then. Maybe you’ve got a bit more than a shred as well.”
I frowned down at him. He was looking worse than I’d ever seen him. Usually so clean and put together, his suit was now torn and stained with blood and dirt. His face was worn and tired, and his usually golden hair was a limp shade of dull yellow. “Well, that’s not why I came to see you.”
“I knew you actually cared about me,” Sirio said with a shit-eating grin.
“Yeah, that’s not why either.”
Sirio sighed, waving the one hand he had left. The other had stopped bleeding at least. “Well, get to it, brother. I don’t have all day.”
I smirked at that. “Well, don’t let me keep you from your busy schedule of bemoaning your life. I was simply… thinking about what you said yesterday. About Damian having Dark blood. How do you know that?”
“It’s not important.”
“It is to me,” I replied. A stream of shadows probed Sirio’s stump of an arm, and he winced.
“Come on, Baxel, can’t you let me have at least a shred of my mystery?”
“What is it with you and shreds today?” I muttered. “But no. Tell me.”
Sirio sighed. “When the man whom I tortured for information about the ring - Milliford, I think his name was - broke, he really broke. He told me everything, far more than I wanted to know.” Sirio shifted on the ground, wincing as his arm was jostled. “He said he’d taken over the job about a decade ago when the man who’d been researching for it was killed. At first, he was worried that he was killed because of how close he was getting to the ring, but then he realized that it was something else entirely. Milliford supposed that his predecessor was killed by the demon he was hunting.”
“Okay…” I said. “What does this have to do with anything? And I thought he was looking for the ring, not hunting a demon.”
“I’m getting there,” Sirio said. “He was hunting this demon because he’d found out that his wife had an affair with it. He threw away the search for the ring in favor of hunting this demon down, and, in doing so, he killed every mildly evil thing that crossed his path, which happened to include Resa. I killed both him and his wife for that,” Sirio finished grimly, his eyes on the ground. He looked up at me. “Those were Damian’s parents, supposedly. Cornelia and Gregory.”
I blinked at him. “Wait, so let me get this straight: Damian’s mom slept with a demon, had Damian, kept it a secret for a bunch of years, then Gregory finds out, is like ‘what the fuck?’ and goes on an angry killing spree, kills your girlfriend, and you kill him and his wife, making Damian and Taryn orphans.”
“Pretty much,” Sirio agreed.
I mean, then there was the whole question of why a magically-knowledgeable person would have an affair with a demon, but I dismissed that pretty quick. I mean, look at me. Who wouldn’t want a piece of this?
“Okay, but how do you know the affair produced Damian and not Taryn?” Before Sirio could respond, I answered my own question. “Never mind, it has to be Damian. Taryn was affected by the Nether, but he wasn’t. Not really. I think he was only weak because of the energy he used on the shadows, not the Nether itself…” I was pretty much talking to myself at that point. “Well, shit.”
“This means that there’s another demon out there,” I said. I backed away from the cage urgently. “I have to go make a call.”
“Bax-“ Sirio began to shout, but I was gone before he could finish.