the choice – part 1
The Black Diamond hotel was the tallest building downtown, towering over the glass skyscrapers with its dark clear windows. Owned by the notorious Carl Evans, the hotel hosted the biggest underground casino of Destrim, the most decadent restaurant, the hottest nightclub and the most luxurious suites. Living on the top floor with his teenage daughter, Carl was one of the wealthiest and powerful men around, as Destrim thrived on these pleasures. During the day, it was a city like any other. At night, men and women would go wild as the metropolis would light up and rival even the moon and stars.
Alyah looked at the bustling streets below from the place she shared with her father. She couldn’t believe a year had went by already. Today, she was turning 19, but she still felt 10. She didn’t want to be involved in this war where she’d be forced to choose between what became her two best friends. All she wanted was to go on with her life as it used to be, parties and fun.
Only a year ago, she was preparing to go out with some friends for a wild night. A year ago, she had just been a teenager like all the others, hating school and just wanting to get drunk and dance until dawn. A year ago, her world shifted as she learned she was supposed to play a part in a centuries-old war between Heaven and Hell.
An angel named Kiriel had come to her that night, just as she was meeting her friends. An angel who could freeze time just long enough to introduce herself and confuse the teenager before disappearing. An angel who had given her a coin so she could summon her at need.
And a demon had come to her the next day in the form of a bodyguard selected by her father. A demon with very little words, unlike the winged woman she had met the previous night. A demon that had told her to take her time with this decision as there was no going back.
Here she was, a year later, still in between.
“Aly? Is everything ok?”
The deep voice of her demon guard sounded behind her. She turned from the window to face Dantalian and smiled softly.
“I was just remembering something…”
He nodded, never the one to intrude her thoughts. She liked that about him. He was not only a great bodyguard, but also her mentor and friend. At his side, she learned to master this power of hers, power bestowed upon all Fighters to help them in their role to keep balance between the forces of Heaven and Hell in Destrim. Hers was linked to thunder and electricity. She trained hard, but she was now able to summon sparks between her fingers and toy with electrical devices. Dan had also taught her to use a sword, though she didn’t like it. The weapon always felt so heavy in her hand.
With a flap of wings, Kiriel appeared. She immediately jumped on the birthday girl.
“Happy birthday, sweetie!”
The angel hugged her tight as the demon just stood aside and watched with a smile.
“I brought a cake, an angel cake of course!”
The woman materialized the cake on the counter. She was always like this, light and cheerful. Alyah liked to think of her as an actual friend, who appreciated her for who she was and not for her status or her money. Then again, she knew Kiriel was also here by duty.
“What is it?” asked the teenager, sensing something was off.
The angel had put on a serious face as she was cutting the cake and putting three pieces on plates.
“Nothing. There’s nothing. Let’s just enjoy some cake, shall we?”
Alyah glanced at Dan who simply nodded and took the plate she was handed. It was a wonder how they got along so well, the three of them. Alyah knew there was some history between Kiriel and Dantalian, but she didn’t know the details of it. It was just the way they would act around each other. At times, it almost felt like they could read each other’s minds.
“It’s the war, right? It’s finally catching up with us.”
Dan whispered the words without looking directly at the angel. He was looking outside, as if searching the skies for enemies, his cake still intact.
Kiriel put her utensil down, unable to avoid the subject anymore.
“Alyah, I’m so sorry hun, but you will have to make a choice soon. They won’t allow us to stay in between very much longer.”
The teenager’s face darkened as she looked down.
“Why? Why does it matter?”
Dan answered while the teenager poked her fluffy cake around with her spoon.
“My guess, casualties. They’re losing too many soldiers to afford to have us play on the side.”
“They’ve let us until now, until you were ready. You are ready for this. You’ll have to choose with whom you’ll fight.”
“But I don’t want to! I don’t want to have to fight either of you. I don’t want…”
Kiriel got up and hugged the girl, stroking her silky black hair gently.
“I know sweetie, I know…”
Dan looked at both of them with a neutral expression, but as his eyes met Kiriel’s, he let uncertainty cross his face for a second.
“Is there no other way?” Alyah asked.
“Unfortunately, there isn’t.”
The demon was categorical, no space for negotiation. Just as his duty was to serve the King of Hell, Alyah’s was to decide to whom she will swear allegiance. If they were to break the rules, who knows what would happen.
“There’s been cases…” Kiriel started, hesitant.
The angel started at Dantalian, confronting him. He finally sighed and turned to Alyah.
“Cases of neutral Fighters. Those that deliberately chose to not choose. Right now, you’re still safe because you haven’t chosen, but the moment they require a choice from you and you refuse, you become…”
“A rogue. Someone who doesn’t take part in the war. It’s dangerous because anyone that finds you can kill you.”
“Which is why you have to choose so one of us can protect you. If you don’t, you can’t have a Guardian and you’re fair game for either side… I can’t let that happen.”
“And we would have to go back to our superiors for another assignment.”
“You wouldn’t… you wouldn’t stay with me if I didn’t take a side?”
“We can’t. You have to understand, there is so much at stake. And much of our powers are fueled by a vow made to our King and Queen. Our very existence is linked to Hell and Heaven’s rulers.”
“Even so… even so, I don’t want to choose. I’ll fight anyone that comes to me, but I don’t want to fight either of you. If they ask, that’ll be my answer.”
“Don’t be reckless, Aly! We can’t… we don’t want you to get hurt and we can’t protect you if you go rogue. Please, do not ask us to follow you.”
“I’m not asking you to forsake your allegiance, but I’m not about to let you turn me into a puppet in this stupid war either. I’ve made my decision.”
Alyah looked at both of them, resolute. She was terrified at the idea of being on her own again. Funny how it used to be fine for her to be surrounded by people that never really knew her, alone.
A flap of wings and three strangers showed up in the living room. A tall sandy-haired man stood in the middle, clearly an officer of the Heaven’s army with two guards escorting him.
“Good evening, Kiriel.”
The woman tensed up as she recognized him and took a few steps towards the white-clad man, positioning herself between Alyah and the angels.
“Rakiel. What are you doing here?”
Rakiel smiled and looked beyond Kiriel to rest his eyes on the teenager.
“Time’s up. Boss wants me to get an answer right now. And if she chooses wrong, I have the green light to end her before she joins with her allies.”
Dantalian growled and stepped forward, materializing his obsidian blade.
“I won’t let you do that.”
The angel drew his own sword and pointed at the demon with clear contempt, ready to obliterate him if needed.
“Please, Rakiel. We need a bit more time.”
“There is a war going on, Kiriel, or have you forgotten about it after spending so much time with these two? If she’s not one of us, she’s one of them, and you know what that means.”
“Just a few more hours. Please. By midnight, we will give you our answer.”
Rakiel frowned and sheathed his sword.
“Midnight. Not one second later.”
The angels left as suddenly as they had appeared. The silence that followed was heavy. After a moment, Dan stood down and put his weapon away and Kiriel sat down at the counter again, letting the tension die slowly.
Alyah stood there and watched them, more terrified than ever. That was not how she pictured angels. She thought they’d all be fun and nice, like Kiriel. Rakiel was kind of scary and she sure didn’t want to have him as an enemy. If she stuck to her decision of staying neutral, she would lose both Dantalian and Kiriel, and maybe die tonight. If she chose Dan, both of them might die and if she chose Kiriel… well at least she could give him time to leave before the emissary of Heaven comes back.
“So… you guys have any idea as to what we’re going to do?”