Page 36

Jude’s words are cut off when the four of them are suddenly no longer in the room.

“They’re in the graveyard now,” Lamar says, opening his eyes as his jaw tics.

I cock my head, a slow grin forming on my lips. “I just gave you a command, and you totally obeyed.”

His jaw grinds more, and my smile only grows.

“Like an actual command instead of a gently worded request,” I ramble.

Still, he says nothing, just narrows his eyes on me.

“Dance for me,” I say with the same authoritative tone.

He immediately springs into action, and music weirdly starts playing inside the room as Lamar river dances and curses.

“This is humiliating and degrading,” he growls.

“Then stop doing it,” I say with an even bigger grin.

He and the music stop at once.

“Next time I ask a question, maybe you should just answer it before I make you do it,” I say as I move closer.

He gives me a hurt look. “You always admired it when I looked out for you and never made it your duty to remind me of my place as the others did. Well, the way they did before you became my friend, and I became your only friend who wasn’t a lover or family.”

I move to pick up my journal that fell from Gage’s hand before the siphoning. I open it and peer down before staring at my hand.

Just the right thought has the tip of my finger opening up and a drop of blood spills out onto the pages.

My breath goes out shakily, because I have no idea how I knew how to do that.

My eyes flit down to the journal, expecting it to be in English, but it’s not. Weirdly enough.

“What language is this?” I ask.

He peers over, studying it. “Romanian,” he says with a sad smile, then starts reading the words to me in translation. “War is the one who will always side with you first, because he thinks like you the most. However, don’t mistake that for him being weak or sweet. He’ll punish you for that. Regardless, his constant championing will keep you from feeling so outnumbered,” he reads aloud to me, frowning. “It’s almost like you wrote this to yourself.”

My lips tense, and my back stiffens. Why would I be writing to myself unless I expected to die?

“The next line is in Egyptian,” he tells me. “Old Egyptian,” he goes on, gesturing to the hieroglyphics. “Death is his opposite, in that he will push you to the last morsel of your sanity by forcing you to listen to all the facts. Without him, you’re too rash.”

He points to the next line.

“This is Russian, and I’m rusty, so bear with me,” he says, then starts reading. “Conquest will never do as you expect. He’s also your best warrior when you need him most. He’ll fight at your back even when he wants to throttle you. You need him to be that unpredictable variable.”

He flicks his gaze to me, but doesn’t bother telling me what the next language is before he starts reading.

“Famine will be your most solid advisor, but he’ll likely side with Death more than you, simply because he likes to annoy you the most. He’s secretly the most viciously protective of the five of you.”

The next words that appear look like gibberish.

“This is your own made-up language for your personal notes. If you wrote this to yourself, then you had no clue your memories would be gone when you returned.”

“But I thought I was going to die before I wrote this, and I clearly planned on coming back,” I say quietly.

“Which is certainly news to me,” he says as he clears his throat. “I thought you were gone forever. But then again, you were always paranoid, so it’s possible this was just a precautionary measure.”

“If I thought I’d have my memories, why write this at all?”

He shrugs a shoulder. “Maybe you planned for the absence of memories, but didn’t expect to lose your knowledge. You coveted your knowledge.”

Now I know a lot about the nineties, movies, current events…and not much else. Lovely.

I close the journal and look at him. “How do I find my father? Answer me this time.”

It’s a command that he follows with sad, kicked-puppy eyes. “You simply stay whole as you walk. Your blood will guide you to whatever location you wish to see.”

He sounds…pitiful. I pat his shoulder.

“If I can command people, I’m sure Lucifer can too. How are rebellions even possible?”

“Commanding the loyal isn’t hard. It’s commanding the disloyal that proves tedious,” he bites out, still miffed.

“You forget I don’t feel guilt, so you can stop trying to make me feel guilty for not trusting you or for questioning your motives,” I say with a bittersweet smile.

Turning, I walk out, moving down the hallway in whole form. The hallways change before me, shifting and moving, and creating a new passage I wouldn’t have seen as a phantom.

That makes this trickier. Phantom keeps me safer.

“Guilt is actually a second-generation purity, one of the very few adopted from the impurities,” he calls to my back, surprising me enough to turn around.

Usually I drift down a random path, and leave jaws unhinged as I strut away in peace.

“It belongs in neither, and should the scales ever tip back into purer times, it will be passed about again,” he says as he moves closer, another of my journals in his hand.

“Guilt is considered a purity for the time, because of the good it does. It forces one to heed their conscious. The guilt forces them to repent, to love unconditionally, to be there for someone who needs them, and to protect. Guilt has been accused of affecting free will on multiple occasions, and it remains one of the biggest debates today. But there’s no way to truly eradicate guilt, so they have to balance things.”

“I think I’ve finally found someone more random than me,” I tell him honestly.

Now I know what it’s like to be this side of someone who is spewing nonsense.

“But you’re a being with no conscience and no guilt,” he goes on, undeterred as he patiently moves toward me, finally stopping just a few feet away.

“You spent years searching for four boys, exactly four, who could love you and never envy the other. Four boys who could construct a bond like no other since. You searched until you found it, because unlike all the other children, you have patience. You selfishly shirked all your responsibilities until you found them, also, because you knew the world needed them and you wanted them to be yours. And you’re the only one who could have created them as they are.”

My brow furrows, because I’m not sure why he’s kissing my ass and insulting me at once.

“You’re a selfish being designed to be so. You selfishly demand things of life as though you’re entitled to them. You selfishly break the laws of balance and reason with yourself that you can tweak things to even the scales, despite the fact no one else is allowed to do this without a death sentence.” He grins as he says that, though I have no idea why.

“Because you selfishly know that they really can’t kill you because of all the balance you provide. So you do as you please with no regards for empty consequences,” he goes on.

“That sounds very reasonable if I’m not actually upsetting the precious balance,” I feel the need to point out. “But someone did kill me. Likely the Devil.”

He grins so broadly, as though this is familiar for him. Me pointing out the logic after him browbeating their version of the story at me.

“Indeed it is. Which is why they—the ones who take offense—never pretend to notice. I have no idea how you did this without upsetting the balance. It defies every law imaginable, and it worries me of how your fate came to be for this to have even worked. But you were always smart and selfishly selfless. You’re Lucifer’s favorite.”

He’s really trying to force this daddy’s girl thing.

“I don’t know whether to thank you or slap you,” I tell him, genuinely perplexed by the plan of action I need to take before I sneak away from his randomness. It could be catching.

“You had no conscience, no empathy, and no guilt, but you had reason. You didn’t have greed, so your reasoning capabilities kept you from exerting your excess amount of power without justifiable provocation.”

“So I won’t go boom because I’m pissed?” I ask, sincerely interested in this.

It’s not easy to make me mad, I’ve learned. I’m more amused by things or terrified. Not so much of an angry person. Jealous? Hell yes. Angry? Not usually.

But still…

His grin spreads again. “Certainly not. My point to all of this is the fact that you loved so hard, you did the impossible.”

He steps closer, pushing my journal into my hand, but holding onto it even as I grip it. His eyes stay fixed on mine as he speaks.

“You’re selfishly selfless. Which means there’s a reason you started all this. And you prepared to find the boys, but expected to have your memories, or at the very least, your vast amount of knowledge. In those journals, I’m sure you’ll find whatever you need. I’ll help when you let me. I miss feeling that love like only you could provide,” he says, the last part coming out a little quietly.

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