✧ In the House of Cosmos, the Cherubim - one of the High Orders of Angels in the heavenly hierarchy - are training newborn Angels to take over the posts that were left open when God threw the traitors from Heaven. But can the eternally adolescent divines ever live up to the great expectations? Will any of them be suited to fill out the posts of the High Orders, or will the Cherubim have to throw them all down to earth as Guardians? And what happens if one of them is playing with the same thoughts that once led Lucifer to his rebellion? ✧


8. Challenge

Lailah sighed discouragedly and followed Charmaine out of the classroom, through the halls and out of the main building. In reality though, she had to admit she was pretty excited. She'd been assigned whips as a weapon, something she'd never heard of before. She thought it was pretty bad-ass, but she didn't say it out loud. She wouldn't have her friends to believe she cared.

"I'm really glad we get to practice in the forest" Charmaine beamed. "I mean, it's just really beautiful. Calm, you know? I feel so good when I'm there"

"I don't think you're supposed to be calm when you're using weapons" Lailah pointed.

"No, but it does help to be focused and have a calm mind" Charmaine added. Lailah agreed by not arguing further. 

"When they send us down to earth, what do you think we'll do down there?" Lailah asked, changing the subject as they walked. Charmaine seemed to think for a while.

"Actually, I have no idea. Maybe we'll be watching the humans. You know, getting a hang of their ways. Guiding them, maybe. Why do you ask?"

"It just seems pointless sending all of us down there when only some of us will be assigned to posts on Earth" Lailah said, but she didn't really mean in. She was actually looking forward to changing things up a bit, and she made sure to shut herself up before she kept babbling things she didn't mean. Also, she didn't want Charmaine to know why she was excited. Deep inside, Lailah was tired of being in Heaven. She felt like all her hard work was pointless, and on the worst of days, she really wished she was God. Lailah thought it must be incredible to be him, but she knew her friends didn't like the topic. They didn't like to imagine what it would be like to be a leader.

"Raziel... He's the guy with the book, isn't he?" Charmaine suddenly asked as they crossed the first trees of the forest.

"What book?"

"You know. 'The Book of the Angel Raziel' wherein all celestial and earthly knowledge is set down" Charmaine rolled her forefingers in the air in a gesture that made Lailah understand that she was mimicking their teachers. Lailah vaguely remembered the lesson about the book. 

"I guess he is, then" she said.

"He's the Angel of Mysteries. Your kinda guy, actually" Charmaine teased, and though Lailah made a mocking snort, her interest in the angel peaked a little. 

"Is that was his book is about? Mysteries?" she asked.

"Do you never pay attention in class?" Charmaine rolled her eyes, but explained. "Yes, the book is known to contain the 1.500 keys to the mysteries of the universe"

"So basically this guy knows all the answers to the questions we have?" Lailah pressed.

"I guess"

"And he doesn't share them with anyone?"

"Well, the book is supposedly written in a language so arcane that no one else can read it. He must be really smart!" Charmaine exclaimed.

"He must be a self-centered dork" Lailah corrected her.

"Who must?"

Both the girls looked up to see a male angel, wings spread, standing in front of them. Lailah was frozen in place, completely breathless. This was the first time she'd ever had the honor of seeing an angel's wings. They were arching widely at his sides, shimmering with silver where the sun hit it. The feathers were perfectly voluminous, looking unbelievably soft. Lailah wanted to reach out and touch them, brush her face against them. She also wanted to snort indifferently and turn towards Charmaine, but she couldn't rip her eyes off his wings. Would he mind if she stepped closer? Maybe...

"Oh, sorry girls" he said, then he pulled his wings back and folded them away. Lailah then managed to clear her thoughts and get a look at the rest of the angel. He was tall, taller than both Gabriel and Raphael. His hair was a dark brown, almost black but not as black as Lailah's own, and his eyes were a deep emerald color. Right now, they were glinting with amusement. His face was handsomely rugged and had stubbles, making him look older than newborn angels even though they didn't age. 

"What are your names?" he asked.

"I'm Lailah and this is Charmaine" Lailah replied in her usual uninterested tone. Charmaine shifted her weight but said nothing.

"It's a pleasure meeting you" he said, his eyes revealing the laugh he didn't let out. 

"You're Raziel?" Lailah assumed. He nodded.

"I am indeed. I suppose that means you're both in my class" he continued. Lailah simply nodded, a gesture that made his mouth curl in a satisfied smile.

"We'll be gathering just over here" he pointed, then turned and began walking. The girls followed, Lailah's gaze fixed at his back where two holes in his shirt were the only sign of the majestic wings she'd just seen. His skin peeked out through them, and even though Lailah knew that an angel's wings merged perfectly with the skin, she was still surprised to see no scarring at all. Nothing but those neat holes. 

"How many students are in the Small Weapons class?" Charmaine asked after a while, finally breaking her silence.

"Thirty-two. More than the Archery class, but not as many as the Large Weapons class" he explained, not bothering to look back at her. 

"Most of my students are assigned one or multiple daggers" he continued, "but some of you are assigned more... Interesting weapons"

He came to a halt, turned around and met Lailah's gaze steadily. "Like whips" he added.  


*                              *                              *

Lailah curled her arm towards her chest, then swiftly extended it in the direction of the tree she was standing in front of. Her whip made a waving motion and hit the bark, but not hard enough to even make a sound. She growled at herself, repeated the movement and then growled again. It was useless.

"You're doing it wrong" Raziel said, suddenly beside her. 

"I can tell, I'm not an idiot" she snarled. "This is ridiculous!"

"It's because of your mind"


"You're not focused enough"

"Well" she sneered, "this is as focused as I get"

"You're using the wrong emotions. Your anger is uncontrolled, it's too overwhelming. You have to let your surroundings calm you"

She looked at him. "Try whipping two hundred times with no luck first, then let me know how you calm your anger"

"I'm not the student" he said, raising his voice. His gaze was cold and all not even a ghost of a smile lingered on his mouth. Looking at him now, Lailah thought no different of him than she had before meeting him. He'd fooled her for a moment with his beautiful wings and his friendly smile, but he was just another slave driver, exactly what she'd predicted; an arrogant, self-centered ass. 

"Then count your blessings" she snapped. "Maybe I should find my answers in that oh-so-clever book of yours? No, wait. I can't read them, because you want to be so damned unique"

At first, Raziel said nothing. His eyes pierced hers, his jaw tightened and his hands curled into fists. He opened his mouth to say something, but seemed to change his mind and let out a long breath instead, relaxing his muscles. 

"That is how you calm your anger" he said flatly. "And if you don't learn, you'll never become an angel. You're dismissed, go back to your dorm"

And with that, he turned his back to her, and Lailah - utterly baffled - dropped her whip to the ground and left.

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