There he goes again. No fear, no hesitation. He jumps head first into the fold. Some would call him stupid. Some would call him brash, reckless – Heck, I've called him all that before. But now that they're calling me that—Jamal in particular—well, it's interesting to see what it's like.
They have good reason to. They're in this because of me. We're here, in the midst of a city overrun by demons, fighting these said demons, because of me. But hey, we're also winning because of me. We're alive because of me. We're saving lives because of me. I know they hate me for it, but this is the right thing to do. And with the Mystics here, fighting this same fight, I'm more certain of that than ever.
I just helped everyone in a big way. There was a Hellgate in the sky a few minutes ago. I closed it. No more demons can come through it. They're stuck in the Hell that they belong. As for the demons that are already here, my friends are doing well to keep them at bay long enough for the Mystics to banish them.
From up here, I can see Chris running like a yellow streak, beheading and dismembering these ethereal monstrosities. It happens in a flash, but the more I focus, the more I see. I don't know why this is happening now—maybe the adrenaline, maybe the magic—but I can actually see Chris go through all of his motions. I see him raise his arm, holding his sword and slash through the dark, shadowy serpent to his left. I see him use his other arm pull out his sheath and use it as a stick to bludgeon the lion-like creature to his right. I see him leap what has to be at least ten feet in the sky to impale an owl headed griffin through the jaw.
And just as the dark, ghastly creatures begin to reform, I see an Asian man in red—not wearing red, he's wearing a white shirt, black leather jacket, and pants, but he looks like he's covered in a red light—shoot what I can only assume are magic bolts from his hands. Each bolt finds its mark, and none of the demons return.
Speaking of red, I see Jamal engulfed in fire from head to toe. He shoots forth wild and fierce streams out in all directions. Everything within his radius ignites. He's not giving the demons a chance to reform. He can't banish them like the Mystics, but he can make it so they stop causing him problems. It's working. He's mad enough to make it work, but there's a problem – a glaring one at that.
He's about to burn out.
I don't think I've ever seen Jamal break into a sweat, but, even from up here, I can see his forehead drenched. He's panting heavily. If I can get to him, maybe – wait, why is he—no not just him—everything around me is disappearing. Is this a demon thing? Are they trying to – no, this is familiar.
I feel cold. Not freezing or frigid cold, but cold like I'm in a place with no heat. The sky, where it was once black is now gone. The buildings, the city, the people, the demons, my friends, they've all gone. Everything is just white.
I'm in the Axis Mundi.
How did I get here? I didn't choose to come here. It was like I was pulled here. I look around and can't make out anything. I'm in this empty space and I can't make out anything. Up looks empty. Down looks empty. Everything around me is nothing, and try as I might, I can't find my way back.
Is this a demon thing?
“No,” I hear echoing all around me.
I close my eyes and try to clear my mind. There are too many thoughts racing right now. Each feeling and emotion carries with it its own tune, and I need to sift through them in order to get my bearings.
When I open them, I'm greeted by a familiar face.
“Jabari?” I see Jabari standing in front of me. He looks – he looks disappointed? Why is that? There's a strong, stern, grimace on his face. “Did you bring me here? I need to get back. My friends need my help. Jamal was about to – ”
“Why are you doing this?” Jabari asks.
“What? Doing what?”
“Risking your lives; risking your friends lives.”
“You should know why!”
“That's just it. I do know, and I don't like it.”
“You don't like that I'm following in your footsteps? You don't like that I'm trying to do what you failed to do? You don't like that I'm trying to save the world?”
“But that's not why you're doing this.”
“I just don't get it. How can you introduce me, introduce all of us to this world, and expect us to pretend it doesn't exist? We can help. We can do more than help. We can make a difference.”
“It was a mistake. I readily admit that. If I could go back and change it, I would.”
“No! It happened, and I'm thankful. I don't want to go back to how it was before.”
“Let this be. The Mystics are better suited for this.”
“I can make a difference!”
“Please, let this go.”
“I won't. I won't, and if you're not with me, then I don't need you anymore. We're done here.”
His action, or more accurately, his non-action tells me all I need to know. I don't have Jabari's support anymore. I don't even have his approval. I guess that means I can't call on him to help me like before. I can't ask him to teach me anything.
But that's okay. He's acting like a jerk. He thinks he knows me and knows what's best for me. He doesn't. He's too far removed from the situation to really get what's going on, and that's okay. He can stay in this Axis or in Heaven or wherever the Hell lost spirits tend to go. That's his problem, not mine.
I'm ready to go. Everything in me wants to leave this place – wants to leave him. And before I know it, I'm gone. No, not gone. I'm back. I'm back in the city, back on this rooftop, back in the midst of battle.
Jamal! I gotta save Jamal before he burns out. I run to the edge of the building and look down. To my surprise I see Duke standing over him. He's saying something. I'm too far away for me to hear it, but judging by the situation –
Wait, where are the demons? It took me a moment to notice this, but it's not night time anymore. Was it ever night time? It was dark so long as the Hellgate was open, but now—I suppose it's still cloudy, I feel a couple of raindrops dancing on my cheek, but now—it's kinda bright out. Where did this day come from?
“You came through,” I hear from behind me. I turn to see Ganya approaching me. She brushes her long, silver locks out of her face and says, “Truly impressive.”
“It's over?” I ask.
“For now at least. After doing this for so long, you come to realize that it's never really over.”
I missed it. The whole rest of the fight went on without me. They really didn't need me. At least for that part.
In the next few moments, everyone regroups. The other Mystics formally introduce themselves. The Asian man with the red aura is Hirohito. The Hispanic woman who helped out Noah is Iara. Shortly thereafter, we go back to their mansion of a house and three other Mystics. A black man, dressed in a grey pullover sweater named Adam. Another black man, lighter complexion—he might actually be mixed based on how brown his hair is—dressed in turquoise and black named Kevin, and a Chinese woman with short, blond hair named Huifang.
Apparently they were working on some other big and bad, demon related disaster on the other side of the world. They're just about to tell us how it went, but once again, my friends, these children, cause a ruckus that demands everyone's attention.
I don't know how it started. Noah said something. Jamal said something else. Jamal's already irritated, so everything he says will cause some sort of problem, and I guess Noah's done trying to be level headed. Oh, and Chris just wants to join in because he's an idiot. Maybe it really is time to go home.
“Alla y'all are stupid!” Jamal shouts out.
“Kai, quit bein' a jerk!” Noah shouts.
“Quit bein' an idiot! You're in the worst condition out of all of us! You're barely standing right now! I had to drag all the way back here! Don't tell me you're still dead set on – I don't even know what we're doin' here to begin with?”
“We were supposed to be lookin' for DJ!” Chris says.
“Well, I ain't seen him! Have you?”
“That's why we're lookin!”
“Chris, tell me you're not this stupid. This whole thing started with you. Tell me your plan wasn't to go fight monsters coming from Hell until one of the monsters told us where Darius is. How did I get caught up in this? Oh my God!”
“You got caught up in this because you were worried too! Trust me, I hate this crud we're in just as much as you do, but we started this together, and no matter how much sense it does or doesn't make, the only hope we got is with us sticking together!”
“All I'm saying is I'm done!” Jamal shouts out. “If we can't go home because that idiot over there – ” I'm the idiot he's referring to, by the way “doesn't feel like, then fine, but I damn well ain't gonna go on no more suicide missions with you people!”
“You people? What's that supposed to mean?” Chris says.
“Nexus, shut up.” Noah says. “Kai... Jamal... whatever! You're right! You're absolutely, positively, without a shadow of a doubt right! It makes no sense for us to go out fighting demons so we can find one guy, but sometimes we're stuck doing things we don't wanna do for no good reason!”
“But we have a reason!” Chris says.
“No, Nexus, we really don't.”
“Yes, we do! This started out about us looking for DJ, and that should still be the main thing that drives us. But if that's not good enough, look at it like this. Anyone of us coulda been him. Before all the Jabari madness and the demon stuff, we were just ordinary kids livin' our lives without a care in the world. Those are the kinda kids that get got! Now we know stuff! We know there's a threat out there, and we kinda got a way to deal with it! I already talked with Hiro, he said he'd be down with showin us some stuff get better at this. And if we can get better, we can do better. Now, I'm not sayin' we should drop everything an' become demon hunters for a livin'. You think I'm crazy, but I know. I'm jus' sayin' let's do a lil' sum'm sum'm, so we don't get got! And if we find DJ along the way, then hey, call it a bonus. Ya feel me?”
The whole room gets silent after that. The Mystics have long gone. They saw us fighting and left real quick, but the rest of us, me and the boys, we get real quiet. That's the first thing Chris has ever said since—probably the first thing he's ever said in his life—that didn't sound like – can I just say wow again?
“Fine,” Jamal's the first to break the silence. “Noah, what do we do now?”
Noah stands there for a moment. He folds his arms, strokes his chin, and looks at the floor. “I think the most important thing we need to learn is how to get rid of the demons for good. What did they call it? Banishing? Once we get that down, we should be set on defending ourselves.”
“No,” I interject. “I think the most important thing for us to do right now is head home.” I pause to take in the shock and amazement I see on their faces. The “what's” and “huh's.” It makes me smile on the inside. “I can get us back here when we need to. The more I use the Axis, the easier it is for me to find places, so I say we head home, rest up, then come back later. Noah is right though, we do need to learn how to banish demons as soon as possible, but right now – ”
“Then let's go!” Jamal doesn't even give me a chance to finsih.
Thereafter, we find the Mystics and let them know what we've decided. Duke seems leary to the idea of us still set on becoming a part of this world. He admits that he was hoping that argument would have led to us all abandoning it altogether.
“Well,” he goes on, “if that's how you want to play this, then I guess we can help. Just keep in mind, we're not your parents. We'll look out for you so long as you're not acting out on your own. If you do act out, anything that causes or leads to is completely on you. This is a big decision you're making, and I want you to understand exactly what that means. This is the last time I'm going to ask this. Are you sure?”
We look at each other. Everyone already knows everyone's standing on this, but ultimately, as a group, we give the same answer.