There was movement, voices going in and out. Pain. She thought the pain would be stronger but it was going dull, replaced with an ever-growing coldness.
A voice, determined and scared. “Is it working? It has to work.”
Nova recognized the voice. It was Mathius. He was alive. A sense of relief went through her.
You should really be worried about yourself.
She frowned. The voice wasn’t hers but it rang in her head.
Who are you?
I’m your personal salvation. Shall we go somewhere a little more comfortable?
The blackness faded and Nova found herself in a white room. She was sitting in a chair with a brown table in front of her. On the other side of the table sat a woman with pink hair dressed in a power suit. She wore black cat-eye glasses.
“Let’s see.” She picked up a stack of papers and shuffled them. “Nova Davis. Age 20. Occupation: College Student. Major: Undecided. Parents: Dead. Status: Currently dying.”
Nova gaped. “What’s happening?”
The woman pointed at Nova. Nova looked down at herself. She was covered in blood. Most of it spilled from her arm and dripped down on the floor, forming a puddle. Surprisingly, she couldn’t feel any pain. She pressed her hand to her arm in a panic, but the blood continued pouring.
The woman cleared her throat. “That’s not going to work. Just don’t think about it.”
Surprisingly, Nova’s mind instantly cleared. She knew she was bleeding but it suddenly felt unimportant. She looked around her in confusion. “What’s going on? Where am I?”
“We’re in a sort of in-between. Lucky for you I grabbed that soul of yours before it flitted away,” the woman said cheerfully as she put the stack of papers down.
Nova gawked at the woman in disbelief. “You grabbed my soul.”
She nodded her head. “Yes, otherwise you would be D. E. A. D.” She tilted her chin up. “It was a close one. Almost slipped away. I did such a good job. Praise me.”
Nova found herself clapping though she had no intention of doing so. Cheers suddenly filled the room.
The woman preened. “Thank you, thank you. It was nothing. I just had to do world-bending magic but it’s what was needed.”
Nova shoved her hands down into her lap, forcing them to stop clapping. Her confusion deepened but more than that there was a cold suspicion growing inside her. “Why did you grab my soul?”
The woman’s smile froze and then she let out a dramatic sigh. “Fine, fine, I suppose Mathius gets some of the credit but I want it to be clear that I did all the heavy lifting. Your soul is so heavy with grief, depression, and all that whole, ‘I’m going to suppress all my feelings.’ So boooring.”
Nova tried to wrap her head around what the woman was saying. “Mathius? What does Mathius have to do with it.”
The woman gave her a look that clearly said, ‘Are you stupid?’ Then in the next moment, she vanished. Nova looked around and then jumped as a hand touched her shoulder. Suddenly, the pink-haired woman was sitting in a chair next to her. She grinned at her with sharp pointy teeth. Teeth that somehow Nova was only now noticing.
“Let me explain, Mathius is a terrible Summoner. Doesn’t know how to make a decent contract to save his life. But out of the goodness of my heart and of course the pure entertainment value, I decided to answer his call. And, seriously, this next part.” She started laughing. “No, wait, it’s too funny.” She laughed even harder and tears began to spill from her eyes. “He asked me to save you.”
The pink-haired woman threw her head back and laughed even harder. “Who does that? Who asks a demon to save someone?”
Nova stiffened and she pulled away from the woman but the woman’s hand tightened on Nova’s shoulder, her long manicured nails digging in. “Wait, wait. Don’t run away. Look, I’m helping you.”
“You’re a demon,” Nova said flatly.
“Come on. Do you have to be so judgy? Demons on Galius are totally different from demons on Earth. I mean we’re not even really demons. It’s just, you know, the closest word to describe my kind in your extremely limited vocabulary.”
“Right,” Nova said, doubt clearly on her face. She looked at the demon’s hand, waiting for her to let go of her shoulder. The demon just smiled.
“Anyway, we don’t really have too much time. Your soul is super insistent on getting to its next rendezvous, so if we are going to get your fixed up, we have to do it now. First on the agenda, do you want to live? You have to be pretty firm on that because if you don’t, no matter if I fix your mortal coil your soul is just going to zip right out of there.”
Nova hesitated. It wasn’t because she doubted what she wanted. It was because she felt unsure about this whole situation. She was trying to comprehend it and honestly, she was sort of freaking out. She took a deep breath. It didn’t matter how strange and crazy everything was. In the end, she wanted to live. “Yes, I want to live.”
“Yay!” The demon said and finally let go of her. She clapped her hands and practically bounced up and down in her seat. “Great, great. Now if you could just sign here.”
She flicked her wrist and a scroll filled with text spread out in front of her. “Just sign here and I’ll get you taken care of. No need to read the text. It’s just the usual stuff.”
“I’m not signing that before I read it.” Nova wasn’t stupid. She knew enough about contracts to know there was always a catch.
The demon shrugged. “You can try reading it but time is running out. You’ll have to read fast.”
Nova felt a wave of nervousness. Suddenly the sound of the blood dripping from her body was getting louder and louder. She closed her eyes and took a breath to try to calm herself. She opened them and took the contract in trembling hands. She started to read.
As she read, the demon made a loud sigh. Nova continued reading. The demon let out another longer and deeper sigh. Nova ignored her and read more. Finally, the scroll was snatched from her hand.
“Seriously? You are planning to read the whole thing?” The demon looked annoyed. “You don’t have time! I can’t hold on for much longer.”
Nova trembled but looked firmly at the demon. “I’m not signing it without reading it first.”
“What a fool.” She narrowed her eyes. “Sign it or you’ll die.”
Nova folded her arms, trying to hide the trembling of her hands. “No.”
The demon stood up and glared at her. Then suddenly she grew bigger, her face stretched out and jagged teeth protruded from her mouth. Her ears grew long and pointed. Her eyes turned into a sickly yellow. “Sign it or die!”
A wave of power pressed down on Nova and she fell to the ground. Her hands splashed against the blood on the floor and she began to cough. Agonizing pain wracked her body.
“Sign it,” the demon said and another wave of power pressed down on Nova.
Nova could barely move from the pain and power. True terror went through her. She was afraid, so afraid. But… “No,” she choked out.
There was a long pause and then suddenly the pain and pressure were gone. The demon lifted her from the ground and gently placed her back in the chair Nova fell from. The demon primly sat back in her own chair.
“Well, that was embarrassing,” she said and she looked at Nova curiously.
Nova forced herself to meet the demon’s eyes. She was back to looking like a woman with pink hair, green eyes, and slightly pointed teeth. But when Nova looked at the demon’s eyes she could see barely contained excitement.
Nova tried to regain control of herself. The demon hadn’t ripped her apart and the pain was gone. She breathed in and out and the fear began to ease up.
“So here’s the deal,” the demon said as if nothing had happened. “I get access to ten percent of your mana pool and I get to stay with you for the remainder of your life.”
Nova blinked. “What?”
The demon shrugged. “It’s a good deal. A better deal than I give most. Only reason I’m giving it to you is because I like you. You should definitely take it.”
Nova nodded slowly. She couldn’t really understand what the point of the deal was and that scared her. The whole situation scared her and it really sunk in that she was about to make a deal with a demon. Still, she forced herself to push through. “You want to stay with me for the rest of my life. You don’t mean some sort of possession, right?”
The demon rolled her eyes. “No thank you. I have my own body and it is much better than yours.”
Nova looked doubtful.
The demon stood up. “Is it! Look at this.” She switched from a voluptuous figure to a willowy elven form. “I can change my body to whatever I want it to be. There’s no beating that. Why would I want your form with its genetic restrictions? Ugh, so lame.”
Nova frowned at her. “Can you possess my body with this agreement?”
The demon plopped back in her seat with a pout. “Ugh, fine. Yes, I can but only with your permission, and believe me I don’t want it. Mostly I just want the tie to you.”
Nova narrowed her eyes. “But why?”
“So many questions. Look, this is the last answer and then you have to make the contract.” The demon frowned and her expression grew serious. “I’m not kidding when I say I can’t hold on to your soul for much longer.”
Nova reluctantly nodded.
“The short of it is entertainment value. It’s boring in the Pits and I’m looking for a change. You have change written all over you and I want a front-row seat. Let me just say, you Soul Travelers never do things in half measures. So, the deal is I bond to you, and you bond to me and then we’re stuck together until you die for good. Easy peasy.”
“That’s it?” Nova said slowly, her mind scrambling to turn over the wording, looking for the catch.
“And the 10 percent of your mana pool. A girl’s gotta eat,” the demon said with a shrug.
Nova wasn’t sure if the mana pool thing was bad or good but she figured it was worth it to be able to continue living.
“Time is ticking,” the demon said.
Nova took a deep breath. “Deal.”
A red ring of light encircled Nova’s wrist.
A wide grin spread across the demon’s lips and her yellow eyes glowed brightly. “Deal!”
The light tightened around her and the demon’s wrist. It was like when she made the deal with Mathius, strange symbols appeared on her wrist and a red thread leading from her wrist to the demon’s appeared before vanishing.
The demon slapped her hands together. “Alright! Let’s get started.”
“Wait,” Nova said, her heart thumping in her chest. “Um, what’s your name?”
The demon rubbed her chin “Vicky? Hiba? Marcela? No. Felicitas?” She shook her head and mumbled a few more names before throwing her hands in the air. “Just call me Trixie.”
Nova narrowed her eyes. “That’s obviously not your real name.”
Trixie suddenly surged forward and pressed her finger to Nova’s lips. “Shh, no more talking. Time’s up. This is going to hurt, a lot.” She grinned.
Nova’s eyes widened and then a wave of pain went through her. It felt like her skin was ripping and tearing like her body was breaking and being reformed. She screamed as the pain grew and grew. Distantly, she could hear Trixie laughing.
“This is going to be great,” the demon shouted.
Nova screamed louder as the pain kept coming. Finally, she couldn’t take anymore and it started to shut down. But right before she passed out a blue screen popped up in front of her eyes.
[Translation pack online. Diagnostic 12.5% complete. 165 hours until completion.]
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