Rona’s dreams of getting back into Heaven were slipping from her grasp.
You just want to get back into Heaven, Virgil’s words echoed through her mind.
Was that all?
No. She wanted to beat Goliath. She wanted to prove to herself that she was still a warrior. She wanted to kick Pitroth’s ass one last time. She wanted to rub it in when she saw Belfagor again. Wasn’t that enough?
Nope. She didn’t want to fail. She couldn’t live with herself if she failed again. She couldn’t look Angelica in the eyes. And perhaps, she even hoped that she could right an old wrong by doing better this time around. What was so wrong with wanting a second chance?
But what did any of that have to do with Virgil?
Then suddenly, something hit Rona harder than Goliath ever could.
Angelica had asked her what her mission was.
Rona’s mission was to be Virgil’s Guardian. And being someone’s guardian meant caring for them. She had to care for Virgil, the person. The person that she’d gotten to know over the past week or so. The person that loved his family. The person that wanted to be a director someday. The person that had once made her laugh so hard that her ribs hurt. The boy who’s hopes rested squarely with her. It no longer mattered what her initial reasons for accepting the mission were. The mission itself had to carry her through.
It didn’t matter whether or not Virgil was special.
It didn’t matter whether or not he wanted her as his guardian.
It didn’t matter whether or not she lived through the ordeal.
It no longer mattered whether or not she got back into Heaven.
She was Virgil’s Guardian Angel and he needed her.
That was all that mattered.
“I like your new toy,” said Goliath as he walked up, twirling the ball and chain, an evil grin formed on his face.
Rona rose to her feet and stood with her arms relaxed at sides, her eyes fixed on Goliath.
“Are you giving up, Warrior Female?” asked Goliath. “I commend you for knowing when the battle is lost. As you give in to death just know that you have fought well…for a girl.”
With that Goliath hurled the kettlebell in Rona’s direction.
She calmly sidestepped just out of the way.
That seemed to catch Goliath off guard.
Rona charged him head on, roaring with fury. She threw a punch at Goliath’s face, but he caught it in one of his massive hands. Rona hoisted herself up and bit him hard on the wrist. The bite broke skin, and Rona held on tight, as Goliath tried to shake her off. She released her bite and used Goliath’s bent knee as a step to jump up and gorge at his eyes. He cried out in pain as Rona dug her thumbs into his eyes. He eventually managed to break free, throwing Rona to the floor. She wiped the blood from her mouth. She grasped her kettlebell tightly in both hands. She bashed it across Goliath’s face, denting his helmet and spinning it sideways. She swung it again and again, knocking Goliath backwards with each blow, until the two of them were back outside in the courtyard. She swung it in an upward motion, knocking Goliath onto his back. She brought the Kettlebell down on his head over and over and over again until he stopped moving.
And then she bashed him a couple more times.
She tossed the kettlebell at two Infernal who were getting the best of Terrence, before leaping in to aid Donny who was getting badly beaten by one of the demons.
“Come on!” called Rona, supporting Donny under the shoulder and running toward the hole she had made in the building. Terence followed, holding his arm at the shoulder.
“Fire in ‘a hole!” yelled Isaac as he tossed a grenade behind him. Blowing back some oncoming demons.
“We gotta’ get to the top,” said Rona.
The four of them ran up the two flights of stairs of the collapsed balcony, dodging construction materials as they did so. They followed the exit signs until they found the stairs leading up. They ran up several flights of stairs; Rona at the front, pausing occasionally for the Templars to catch their breath. They had run several stories above where Rona had come in the first night before she burst through an exit door and onto another landing. There was a spiral staircase leading up to a glass ceiling. There was a surge of energy moving around up there. Rona knew that was where Virgil was—and Pitroth.
A roar echoed from below.
And he was pissed.
There seemed to be no stopping that guy.
How had David done it?
Virgil and the others repeated Pitroth’s words involuntarily, in a dreamlike state. Virgil knew that he wasn’t speaking English, yet he could understand the words that he was saying. He was calling on all people in the city to accept Legion Pitroth as their master. He could feel the power of the Blood Gage working, using him as a conduit for its flowing energy.
“Yes! Yes!” cried Pitroth with glee. “Soon all will be Infernal!”
A storm brewed outside. The low rumble of thunder shook the panels of the building. Lightning blazed through the sky. Lightning! A bolt of lightning could send out an electronic pulse strong enough to fry the electrical grid, right? Hadn’t he heard that somewhere? With every ounce of his will he called to the lightning. “Come on,” he begged. “Strike me.” The lightning seemed to be striking closer and closer. Red light emitted from the Blood Gage. Lightning cracked through the glass and struck the Blood Gage. Virgil’s body twisted from the impact, but he felt no pain as the power surged through him.
Then suddenly the lights went out.
Virgil felt the sudden halt of electricity that had been coursing through him.
Rona and the others tripped over each other on the spiral staircase.
“Your guy finally came through,” said Rona.
“I don’t think that was my guy,” said Donny.
“What?” said Pitroth.
There was a moment of confusion where no one seemed to know what was going on.
“Run!” shouted Ward in the darkness. There was a mad scattering as everyone tripped over one another in a mad dash for the staircase; the teenagers trying to escape—the Infernal trying to prevent it. Virgil didn’t move. He just stood holding the Blood Gage up and listening to the mad scatter going on around him. Teenagers screamed and Pitroth barked orders. Virgil felt an overwhelming sense of relief. His queen had come to his rescue after all.
Learn to play without her.
Virgil could feel the power of the Blood Gage welling up in him. He aimed the stone at Pitroth and let loose with all of his will—his rage. A blast launched from the stone, slamming into Pitroth and sending him flying across the room.
The backup generators kicked in providing light. Rona and the others moved up the staircase. There was a huge commotion moving towards them. A gaggle of screams and grunts as Infernal wrestled with teenagers as they made their way down the stairs.
“Look out below!” called Ward as he came sliding down the banister as if it were a firehouse pole. Rona stopped him as he attempted to slide by her. She pulled him from the banister.
Ward pointed upward.
Rona went to say something else when one of the Infernal slammed into her, knocking her over the side of the banister and sending them both crashing to the floor below. Luckily, they weren’t that high up, but Rona still felt the impact when she hit the floor. She leaped to her feet, just in time to side step the charging demon. It was the cop-turned-Infernal that she had fought in the park. He swung a punch at her, but she dodged it, kicking him in the knee. She landed a right hand that knocked him back. Rona ducked another punch, positioning herself just below his shoulder. She tripped his leg and used her hip to toss him onto his back. She allowed the demon to recover to his feet before landing a spinning back kick square in the demon’s chest. The Infernal flew through the air, his head smashing through a nearby window, shattering the glass. Rona leaped over to him. She grabbed him by his robe and hoisted the demon’s body upwards, severing its head on the jagged glass at the top of the window. He collapsed to ash.
Donny sat on the staircase, holding a wound on his leg, one of his arms hanging limply at his side. He looked down at Rona. The look on his face told her that he was out of the fight. Terrence finished off some of the Infernal as they tried to get down the stairs. The narrowness of the staircase gave Terence the edge as he swung his sword. Isaac looked over some of the frightened kids, who were still crying and trembling. They were attempting to push past him and get down the stairs but he forced them to sit and accept his aid.
“Is this the exit?” said Ward as he walked down the stairs and headed for the door leading to the other staircase.
There was an angry roar from just outside of it.
“Perhaps not,” said Ward as he ran back up the spiral staircase.
Crap, thought Rona.
She searched herself for a weapon. She found the blade of the Elnign dagger, but there was something else the too: her lucky stone. That gave her an idea. She took the stone from her pocket then removed her hoodie, revealing her sports bra.
“Brilliant idea! Offer yourself to him so that he will spare the rest of us. Splendid!” said Ward.
Rona ignored him. She twisted the sleeves of her hoodie, creating a small pouch in the middle. She placed the stone in it and began twirling the shirt like a sling. All eyes were on her as she did so.
No one looked particularly hopeful.
Rona was intent on ending Goliath. But how? She’d hit him in the head with a big hunk of metal just a short while ago and that didn’t kill him. Terrence had shot him in the head. Neither had been invented during David’s time. She was stronger than David. She’d punched Goliath and kicked him, yet he kept coming. She had stabbed him with her best weapon and he had broken it. And to top it all off, she had previously hit him in the head with an even bigger rock than the one she currently possessed—then he had proceeded to kick her ass. Belfagor’s words echoed in her mind: sometimes legends are fudged in order to embellish the more crude methods of the hero.
Goliath burst through the door with a loud crash. All of the people on the stairwell jumped. They watched with baited breath as if witnessing a gladiator competition below them.
Hate emanated from Goliath as he stood in the doorway, which he had made bigger by bursting through the door in order to fit through. His shoulders heaved up and down as he breathed heavily. He glared down at Rona and she gazed up at him. His helmet was gone and she was pleased to see that she had at least left her mark on him. His face was badly bruised. One eye was swollen completely shut; blood leaked from the other eye. This was the angriest she had ever seen him. He looked in no mood to complement her fighting prowess. He wanted only to kill her.
“I’m impressed Male Warrior. You showed grit, determination and tactical superiority in defeating that door,” said Rona.
Goliath looked in no mood to be mocked.
He was bigger than she was, stronger than she was, better than she was. What would David do? How did he manage to beat such a larger, stronger, and better man?
Goliath raised his sword. He bellowed a war cry and charged Rona. She twirled her makeshift sling faster and faster. How, she thought. How?
With just a stone?
The male brain.
She twirled her sling around and around as fast as she could, taking in a deep breath. When Goliath was in range, she exhaled and let loose her stone, sending it hurdling towards her adversary.
Everyone seemed to hold their breath.
The stone struck Goliath square between the legs with a loud thud.
A collective “Oooooo” rang out from Ward and the Templars.
Goliath’s mouth dropped open, but no sound came out. He dropped his sword on the floor with a clank and covered his groin with both hands.
The giant fell to his knees.
Rona dropped her hoodie to the floor and calmly walked towards her downed foe.
“Not cool,” said Terrence.
“Dirty,” said Donny.
“Bad form, love,” said Ward.
Isaac shook his head.
“Quiet,” said Rona, “Or you’ll be next.”
All of them covered their groins at the same time.
“You are a cheater, just like David!” spat Goliath, still apparently immobilized from the blow.
Rona said nothing as she walked over to Goliath’s sword, took the handle and hoisted it up to her shoulder in one labored motion; the weight of it knocking her momentarily off balance. Even on his knees, Goliath was still taller than she was.
“You are treacherous—ruthless! You have no honor! You are not a warrior! You play by no rules! You will do anything to win!”
“You’re right, about all of that,” said Rona, coming to a halt in front of Goliath. “Spread the word.”
She swung the sword once, reducing the once mighty Goliath to a pile of ash.
Pitroth recovered from the blast that Virgil had hurled at him. He walked toward Virgil menacingly. No matter how hard he tried, Virgil could not get the Blood Gage to launch another attack. Pitroth punched Virgil in the stomach, knocking the wind from him. He fell to the floor, unable to make a sound. Pitroth lifted him up with ease.
“What do we do now, master?” asked Lee in a panicked voice.
Pitroth didn’t answer. Instead he dragged Virgil across the room. Despite his struggling, Virgil could not break Pitroth’s grip. Pitroth raised his staff and blasted a whole in the wall, revealing the rooftop outside. He dragged Virgil toward the hole. Virgil bit him on the leg, eliciting a shout of pain from Pitroth. The demon let him go and he managed to crawl away. He made it to his feet and attempted to run, but Pitroth was on him again, before he got too far. He shoved Virgil to the floor and kicked him in the stomach, knocking him out. He dragged Virgil out onto the rooftop.
Rona bounded up the last step and landed in the dome-shaped room. One of the Infernal, the construction worker from before attacked her. She threw him effortlessly. He landed on top of a row of candles, bursting into flames before dropping to ash. The psychiatrist from the school ran at Rona. Rona slipped to the side, grabbed one of the candles and jammed it into the demon’s eye. She cried out in pain before incinerating and reducing to ash. Lee glanced around the room and a look of panic crossed his face. He leaped through a nearby window.
Rona could see Pitroth making his way to the edge of the rooftop, pulling Virgil along with him. She sprinted as fast as she could. Pitroth whirled around to meet her. He used Virgil as a shield and pointed his staff at her.
“Stop there!” he shouted.
Rona stopped. Pitroth’s face had lost all trace of humanity. He gritted sharp teeth and stared at her with red eyes. Rona could still tell that he was flustered and unsure what to do. Despite all of his demonic power, at the moment he was nothing more than a cornered rat.
“Who are you?” he shouted.
Rona took a step forward.
“Stop! I’ll throw him over the edge!”
Virgil looked too weak to stand let alone prevent himself from falling over the ledge.
Rona took a step forward. “Go ahead,” she said. “I didn’t come here for him. I came here for you.”
“Who are you?” shouted Pitroth.
Rona channeled her energy causing her eyes to glow yellow.
“Who are you?”
Pitroth let loose a blast from the end of his staff. Rona stuck her hands out in front of her and stood her ground. The blast impacted her, pushing her back a few feet, but she held fast, hands outstretched, holding the blast back. Luckily, this blast didn’t seem to have the focused power that it once did. Pitroth’s energy was confused and his confidence was gone. It manifested itself in his blast. Rona pushed forward, taking slow steps toward Pitroth and pushing the blast back as if deflecting water from a hose. Pitroth dropped Virgil to the floor and placed both hands on his staff. Rona willed herself forward with all of her might. She pushed forward with one big, driving motion. The motion propelled her forward and drove Pitroth’s own energy back at him, blasting him backwards.
Before he could recover to his feet, Rona leaped over to him. Pitorth held up his staff to block the punch, but Rona punched right through it, splitting the staff and landing the punch right on Pitroth’s jaw.
“It doesn’t matter who you are,” said Pitroth, through a mouthful of blood. “You can’t stop us! We’ve already won! The eyes are up–”
Rona jammed the blade of her dagger through his mouth before he could finish that sentence.
Pitroth was a pile of ash before he knew what hit him.
Rona made her way over to Virgil. She leaned down and scooped him up in her arms.
“Come on, talk to me, Teenface. Are you alright?”
“Yeah,” said Virgil with a weak smile. “Did you bring any weed?”
Rona let out a sigh of relief.
The night sky opened up and a pair of glowing eyes peered down at Rona.
“Oh, what are you looking at?”
The glowing eyes closed.
Rona gazed up at the night sky.
She hoisted Virgil onto her shoulder and made her way back inside.
Rona led the teenagers out of the front entrance of the building.
One of them was named Nicole.
Ward led the rest of them to Pitroth’s secret entrance, an underground passageway that led out into an alleyway several blocks from the construction site. Virgil demanded that Rona put him down once he recovered. He looked a little indignant about being carried in front of the other guys. There was a collective sigh of relief as sirens blared in the background.
“What took you so long, anyway?” said Virgil as they all stood in the alley.
“Did I not move fast enough for you, Princess?” said Rona with mock sympathy. “We had to fight our way to the top of a skyscraper.”
“Why didn’t you just capture a couple of Infernal, beat them up and take their robes? Then you could have just snuck in, revealing yourselves at the perfect moment.”
Rona exchanged looks with the Templars.
“I didn’t think of that,” said Rona.
“You need to watch more movies,” said Virgil.
“Or you could’ve disguised yourself as a prostitute and–” began Ward, but he was silenced when the three Templars aimed their pistols in his direction.
Rona stepped in between them. Ward shot the Templars a raspberry. He was smiling when Rona turned to him. “Ward, it would be best if you and I didn’t cross paths again.”
The smile left Ward’s face. “You gotta’ understand, Love, I was just doing what I had to do. I always knew it would turn out this–”
“Leave my city. Now,” said Rona.
Ward hung his head. He turned around and walked away. “You saved my life twice now. I’ll make it square with you one day, Rona. I promise,” said Ward when he was some distance away.
“If I never have to see you again, consider us even,” said Rona, almost to herself.
“You can hand over the Blood Gage now and we’ll be on our way as well,” said Terrence.
“Not so fast,” said Rona. All heads snapped in her direction. “I figured out why you guys never called for backup. The Blood Gage being missing is all a big secret isn’t it. I bet only a few higher-ups are privy to that information. It was smart not to let word out. Let’s keep the charade going. But since your people already botched looking after it once, I think I’ll hold on to it from now on.”
“You can’t be serious!” said Terrence. “We were told not to come back without it.”
“Then I suggest you guys start buying furniture,” said Rona.
“You’re making a huge mistake,” said Donny in a low and dangerous tone.
“No, I’m correcting one,” said Rona. “Don’t worry, it will be safe.”
“We will have it back,” said Donny as the three of them turned and walked away. Each of them shot her a couple of dirty looks as they walked/ limped away.
Rona turned to Virgil with a smile.
He smiled back.
“Let’s get a cab.”
Lou dropped them both off at their respective houses. Rona was greeted by the entire family when she walked through the door.
“Oh my god, we were so worried!” said Brittany as she ran up and hugged Rona. Claire looked as if a huge weight had been lifted from her shoulders as she embraced Rona as well.
“We didn’t know what was going on,” said Roger. “We lost power for a bit, there was a lot of commotion going on. We’re just glad you’re safe,” he said, joining in on the hug.
“I guess I’m not the weirdest person in the house anymore,” said Ashley with a smile as she joined the hug.
“Yeah, we love you, Rona,” said Clive as he and Dave ran over and hugged Rona too.
Even the dog came over.
They hugged Rona for a long time.
They hugged her until it got awkward, but Rona still didn’t force them away.
She had to admit, it was nice.
Even though she was pretty sure that either Clive or Dave copped a feel of her butt at some point.
Jay awoke to a knocking sound. He looked around groggily. He didn’t know where he was or how he had gotten there. The knocking sounded again. He sat up to see six, undernourished teenagers outside of his police cruiser.
Virgil’s mom ran to him when she saw him. She sobbed as she hugged him tightly. “I thought something terrible happened,” she said between sobs.
“It’s okay, Mom, I’m fine,” said Virgil.
“I don’t know what I would do if something happened to you,” she said. She released her hug, grabbed him by the shoulders and stared at him intently. “I need you. I need you, okay,” she said before hugging him again.
“Oh thank god!” said Virgil’s father when he saw him. “I was so worried,” he said as he embraced his son. “Are you okay, son?”
“I’m okay, Dad.”
“Your mother told me how you tried to protect your sister. I’m so proud of you, son.” said Virgil’s father through teary eyes. The words broke Virgil and he began to cry too.
Celeste walked up. She didn’t say anything. She just smiled and hugged Virgil. He hugged his little sister back.
“Don’t worry. I’m not going anywhere,” said Virgil.