Remain. [NaNoWriMo '16]

[Sequel to NaNo '15 novel Run.] Ruling the world isn't as easy or as fun as it sounds, especially not when a group of angry angels are thrown into the mix. What's worse is that Baxel is without his right-hand man, who just so happens to be the key to everyone's plans.

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10. Nine: Work That Image

 

    Riya looked surprised when I came storming into her office, and it wasn’t a good look for her. Her mouth formed into this weird horseshoe shape and her nostrils flared. Those dark eyebrows shot up and lowered like slender black caterpillars. 

    I needed to get away from humans for a while. 

    “Where’s Damian?” I demanded of her. 

    “Uh,” Riya replied, composing herself and flicking her thick braid over her shoulder. “I think he’s in the armory.”

    I frowned, surveying the mess of papers and coffee cups on her desk. “The armory? Why?”

    “I’m assuming to look at or use the weapons,” she deadpanned. 

    I made a face at her. “You’re oh so helpful. Thank you.”

    Riya smirked. “Why are you looking for him, anyway? I thought you just knew where people were.”

    “I do,” I replied immediately. “I was just… making conversation.”

    Her caterpillars shot up again. “What?”

    I tried for a casual shrug. “Yeah. I, uh, make it a point to stop in and chat with my servants every once in a while.”

    “Do you?” Riya asked, an incredulous smirk on her lips. “So I’m sure you also make it a point to know everyone’s names, right? I mean, that usually comes before regular chatting.”

    The act was too hard to keep up. Lowering my voice, I growled, “You tell anyone that I’m not my usual self, and I’ll make you forget your name.”

    Riya nodded in mock seriousness. “Ah, yes. The worst torture of all.”

    I punched her lamp and it went flying off her desk, crashing to the floor in a shower of glass. “Why aren’t you afraid of me?” I demanded.

    “Because you have a dog.”

    I straightened. “What?”

    “You have a dog, and I’ve seen the way you look at him. I’ve seen you throw toys to him,” Riya explained. “No ruthless demon takes time to toss a little rubber ball to a dog.”

    “I have to keep him happy,” I protested. “He’s just as ruthless and vicious as I am. Do you want him out murdering all you people?”

    “See?” she asked, making a vague gesture with her hand. “You say you don’t care and call us all servants, but you haven’t actually killed any of us yet. Vladimir Putin probably has a worse track record than you do.”

    I scowled at her. “What are you saying?”

    Riya sighed. “I’m saying that you play with a dog, you make empty threats to your servants, and you clearly care a lot about Damian in some way that I don’t even want to contemplate.”

    “It’s not-“

    She raised a hand. “I don’t want to hear it. I’m just saying that you try to be this brutal, ruthless ‘Overlord’ but up close? You’re just a powerful demon that doesn’t know what to do with all his power.”

    I stared at her. “How do you know all this?”

    Riya brushed a stray curl from her caramel skin. “I have a degree in psychology and minored in public relations.”

    “Oh.”

    “Yep.”

    “I kind of thought you were still, like, in high school.”

    “What can I say, I have a timeless style.”

    I stood there for a minute, trying to come up with a way to deny everything she said. Eventually, I blurted, “Want to be my publicist?”

    “Sure,” Riya said with a shrug. “Will I get a better office?”

    Looking around, I frowned. “When did you get this office?”

    Riya gave a sly smile. “I might have phrased things a little… precisely when Damian had the ring.”

    I approved. “Sneaky.”

    “Thanks.”

    “Alright, well, I really do have to go find Damian,” I told her, “so you get to work on my… evil image, or whatever.”

    Riya nodded. “I’m on it.”

    “Good,” I said, then swept from the room with a dramatic flair of the cape I had taken to wearing in the absence of my shadows. At least I could still feel empowered. 

    The armory was on a different level, so I made my way to the elevator where a pudgy man with a stack of files in his arms had already pushed the button. “Hello,” I said cordially. Image, image, image. He gave a little squeak that might have been a similar greeting. The elevator doors opened, and I slid my gaze towards him. “Step into that elevator and I will paint the inside of it in your blood.”

    The man let out another squeak as I took the step into the elevator. I didn’t turn until the doors closed behind me, and when they did, I let out a squeak. My cape was caught between the doors, and no matter how much I tugged at it, it wouldn’t come free. I hadn’t hit the button for the third floor yet, so luckily it wasn’t moving. With considerable reluctance, I sighed and turned to press the door open button. 

    As the metal slid apart, I came face to face with the pudgy man. He squeaked again. I tried to maintain my dignity as I tossed the freed cape behind me. I maintained eye contact as I reached over and pressed the button. The doors slid closed again, and I let out a breath. 

    Maybe I did need a publicist.

    When at last I made it to the armory, Damian was in there alone, a sword in one hand and a pistol in the other. I stood in the doorway for a minute, watching as he sliced the sword through the air, then stopped and raised the pistol to eye level, pointing at his reflection in the mirror. 

    “What kind of weird crossover did I just step into?” I asked, announcing my presence. 

    Damian’s hands instantly dropped to his sides as he turned to look at me. “I was just testing them. Seeing which one felt better.”

    I sauntered into the room, leaning back against the padded wall. “Why do you need either of them? You have almost every kind of magic at your disposal.”

    He gave a half shrug, turning to hang the sword back up on the weapons rack. “I guess your situation just got me thinking that I didn’t want to be dependent on magic alone.”

    That cut me, and I wasn’t entirely sure why. “My situation?”

    “Well, your, uh, lack of shadows. Currently.” Damian turned, seeming to realize that he needed to tread lightly. 

    “It’s not permanent.”

    “I know,” he said. “I just-“

    “Thought you’d show off?” I snapped, pushing myself off the wall and taking a step towards him. “Thought you’d master shadows and light and energy, and now human weapons too?”

    Damian blinked as I towered over him by a good… two inches. “I just thought-“

    “Yeah,” I cut him off, spinning so that my cape flew out behind me as I stormed from the room. “You didn’t think.”

    “That’s not what I-“

    I was already halfway down the hallway, and Damian’s voice didn’t carry any further. He didn’t come after me, even as I waited for a full three minutes for the elevator. He didn’t come after me when I collapsed a row of cubicles in anger, and he didn’t come after me when I locked myself in my room. 

    I hadn’t realized until then just how much I wanted him to.

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