Home > One Apocalypse (The Dark Side #4)(16)

One Apocalypse (The Dark Side #4)(16)
Author: Kristy Cunning

They disappear after that, and I crack my knuckles as I silently wish for the day I can take them on by myself. Surely Paca made us more powerful too, we just haven’t reached that level yet.

Jude’s strangled, muffled roar of pain has me turning around, as he fights not to show too much weakness. But I know it must be damn bad if he’s struggling this much.

“Let’s get out of here,” Gage says in a quiet, lethal tone.

“We’re going to need to get a lot stronger,” I say in the same hushed tone, paranoid we’re being watched or listened in on.

We siphon out, barely managing to make it to the Heart’s true hallway, when the siphon cuts out and we all stumble into the walls.

“What the fuck is happening?” I snap.

“That illusion fucked with our minds,” Ezekiel says, shaking his head as he staggers as well, struggling with Jude.

Jude flops to the ground, cursing and grunting, as I sway on my feet as well.

“Just being in its presence was unbearable, and now the adrenaline is wearing off,” Gage says as he clutches the side of his head, blinking rapidly. “We really aren’t strong enough.”

“It feared Paca,” Jude says through strain, choking on his own blood again.

“Conveniently after her showdown with her siblings and her level-up,” I add.

The clicking of heels against the marble surface has my head jerking over to see Paca strutting down the hallway in a leather outfit of some sort.

It’s mostly a bunch of leather strips strategically placed over her body with tall leather boots to finish off the look. There’s a whip in her hand, and her lips are lined red, as she smirks at us.

“The blood has a temporary effect, apparently. I’m still powerful. Bow before me and this won’t be so bad,” she says as she cracks the whip, and…hits herself in the ankle with it.

She winces, but quickly schools her features. “That worked way better in my rehearsal rounds.”

She cracks the whip again, managing to snap it away from her body, as I just stare at her in confusion.

“Lick my boots,” she says as though it’s an order.

“Did something happen to her head too?” Jude asks from the ground as though that’s paramount in this moment.

He’s still drunk.

It’s probably a good thing for him at the moment, considering the agony Pico promised would come.

Paca’s expression changes, and she drops the whip as her eyes widen.

She turns phantom and zaps to her knees at Jude’s side, shoving his hair away from his face. Her eyes turn volcanic in the next instant, and the hallway starts to wilt all around us, pictures and frames bursting into flames.

“Who did this?” she asks as the walls begin to rattle.

Pico’s warning about her lack of control springs to mind.

“Calm yourself before you implode,” Ezekiel says as he kneels next to her, smoothing a hand up her back. “You weren’t ready for this level-up if you’re struggling this much to control it.”

“Who?” she asks in a chilling tone of her own as her voice seems to echo.

His eyes widen, and he answers as though he’s been compelled to do so. “Jahl.”

She stands abruptly, and I catch her hand.

“Where the hell do you think you’re going?” I ask her as she struggles out of my grip with too much ease.

She’s a lot stronger.

“To kill the beast,” she says.

I barely manage to throw my arms around her waist, and she cuts those creepy fucking eyes toward me as the room starts burning around us.

“Paca, stop! You can’t go fight him! You’re not ready. Control your wrath for now. Stow it. This isn’t something you can just charge into and half-ass your way through the motherfucking motions!” I yell at her, keeping her pressed to me so she can’t siphon without me, even when she goes phantom.

She doesn’t go phantom, though.

Did she break Lucifer’s hold? Because she went phantom moments ago.

“The twins said to bring Jude to you, and now I see why,” Gage tells her, grabbing her hand and pulling her away from me.

I look down as the flames roll over Jude, and his wound sizzles as the smoke stops pumping out of him. The fire extinguishes the red and black smoke, and Jude breathes out in some relief.

The flames all cease at once, and the smoke reappears.

Jude cries out as though he’s startled by the surprise reappearance, and he clutches his head as he begins to writhe on the floor.

Paca’s eyes return to normal, and she dives to his side, her hand landing on the wound as flames emerge. The smoke disappears once again, and Jude’s hand lands on top of her fiery one.

“Please don’t stop,” he whispers as his eyes roll back in his head and his body goes slack.

His clothes have turned to ash, and he’s naked on the ground. Mine are singed and almost burned, but just barely not. Gage’s are untouched, since he’s still a gladiator. Ezekiel’s are in the same ash pile next to Jude’s.

“He passed out. He’ll be vulnerable in this state if you let that flame go out,” Gage tells her. “Stay with him, Paca. Don’t go after Jahl without fully regaining all your power, and give us the chance to get stronger so we can redeem ourselves from this ambush.”

Her shoulders sag in defeat, and Ezekiel siphons the three of them away.

My eyes connect with Gage’s, as we share a silent look. He spins his sword until it vanishes, and his jaw tics.

“Maybe Paca is taking this more seriously than us if she’s advanced that much more than we have,” he states with some ire and restrained fury.

“One thing at a time. Jude needs to heal. We’ll discuss this after he wakes up,” I tell him as I siphon out.

I went from feeling powerful to helpless in the span of one day’s events.

Tomorrow better be fucking better than today.

Chapter 13

PACA

Jude has been still and unconscious for two days, and I’m barely not blowing up. Literally.

More than once the room has caught fire, and everything in it has had to be replaced. Multiple times. We’re now on the floor, because apparently the room got tired of refurnishing itself, and everything is heavily singed or in ashes.

The flame in my hand hasn’t gone out for even a flicker of a second, and my entire body is shaking with fear.

“She’ll need to rest at some point. We have to try to wake him and give her a break,” Gage is saying.

“No,” I state quietly as my nose continues to drip blood, the same as it’s done for two days.

My migraine is almost debilitating. I only crack a joke when I’m dizzy and on the verge of passing out.

I haven’t felt anything but serious.

Hence the reason I’m on a nuclear brink.

“Paca, you fought all your siblings, leveled-up, and you’ve been fighting Jahl’s poison for two days without any rest. He needs to wake,” Kai states softly from behind me, brushing my hair away from my shoulder as he kisses it.

The door opens and shuts, and Ezekiel walks in with Pico on his heels. I snarl in Greed’s direction, but he just quirks an eyebrow.

“Is that any way to greet a helpful brother?”

“You could have warned us about Jahl’s poison before it was used on one of them,” I say as I feel my eyes shift.

His smile falls as the room ignites, and he curses and hops around as he tries to extinguish the flame that’s spread to his arm.

“Paca, hear him!” Ezekiel shouts.

The flames extinguish, but my eyes refuse to turn back to normal.

“I see your control is still heavily lacking,” Pico says as he glances around the fried room.

At my glare, he swallows and rocks back on his heels.

“Lucifer has forbidden all of us, including your little annoying buddy—Lamar—from telling a great many things. Manella joked when he said he forgot to mention it. The truth is, Lucifer has blocked a lot of your information stream, and there’s nothing that can be done about it,” he tells me as he moves through the room, putting his hands behind his back as he studies a few of the scorch marks.

“Why?” Kai asks.

“Because he’s the Devil,” Pico answers, giving us a wry look. “He only gives you the information he wants you to know. He doesn’t want you to challenge Jahl, because you can’t win. You won’t hear reason when you set your mind to something, though. Never would. So he lets you learn things the hard way.”

He gestures toward Jude, and…frowns.

“Why isn’t he in screaming torment?” he asks.

“Because her flame overpowers the poison, so long as she keeps it pressed to him,” Gage answers, pushing off from the wall to move closer to us.

Pico opens and closes his mouth, but no words escape.

“Isn’t that why you told us to bring him to her?” Ezekiel asks him as he narrows his eyes.

“No,” Pico says hesitantly, curious gaze on Jude. “She needed to see the power Jahl has. Even from the confines of its cage, it still manages to do something this elaborate.”

He moves closer, and he waves his hand. Jude’s eyes blink open immediately, and he glances around the room. His eyes narrow on Pico, as one of his arms circles my waist and drags me fully against him.

My heart is in my throat as I study him. The wound closed up after the first few hours on the first day, but he didn’t wake.

“What’s going on?” he asks as his scythe appears on the bed beside us.

Pico gives him an amused expression. “You couldn’t handle Jahl’s lackies but think you can take me on?” he asks, almost as though he’s goading Death.

“Why are you here?” I ask Pico.

Jude’s thumb swipes my lip, pulling back blood that he examines, but I don’t pay him much attention. My eyes stay trained on the second most lethal person in this room.

Hell is full of untrustworthy people with suspicious intentions and incalculable motives. It becomes more and more apparent why the guys failed to trust me for so long.

It’s also more and more apparent why I’m not part of the unit yet. It’s hard to break through that wall when they’ve built it up and fortified it.

No one down here does anything because of the goodness of their cold, black hearts.

Pico’s expression changes, and a bowl of caramel popcorn appears in his hand, as he takes a seat on a mostly intact chair.

“Because I rather like my life the way it is. Humans are feeding Caesar more than ever, and I also feast quite plentifully in this era, more than any other. Aside from you, of course. Wrath will always be fed the most greedily,” he tells us as he throws a piece of the popcorn up and catches it with his mouth.

He gestures around us.

“Five centuries ago, you couldn’t have burned me that way. You relied too heavily on your storm surges—”

   
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