Memories of a Soul in the Underworld Ch22

Story Summary

Long ago I sold my soul and doomed myself to an eternity in the Underworld. I was treated like a slave for centuries, but no more! I'll find a way out of this destiny or die trying!

Chapter: 01, 02, 03, 04, 05, 06, 07, 08, 09, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27

Josephine's study was a tall narrow room constructed mostly from oak. Full of ancient books that had been crammed into any available space, to the point where there was almost no room to stand.

My new mistress sat behind a large desk that consumed half the room. Her face emotionless, eyes glaring down at me. I didn't know if she was attempting to be intimidating, but I was certain that I could beat any mind game she threw my way.

I slowly sketched one of the few magic spells I knew, onto a crumpled piece of paper. Indifferent to her critical gaze. I made sure to make a few rookie mistakes (I didn't want her thinking that I was too smart) before handing it over to her with a smile.

Josephine sat back to analyze my drawing. Looking over each symbol like she knew what they meant.

"Is this it?" she asked, like she had expected something more.

"Yes, Mistress," I obediently replied.

"And you learnt this from a book?"

"Yes, Mistress."

"And the title was?"

"The name alludes me, Mistress." I faked confusion. It came easily after years of practice. "If you would be kind enough to allow me some more time, I'm certain that it will come back."

I could remember the name perfectly well, but I had no desire to spill all my secrets at once. I intended to let them out as slowly as possible. To dissuade her from selling me straight back to the Soul Market.

"Very well." She nodded and rolled up the page. "Let me know as soon as you remember."

I nodded with a smile and she sent me out of the room.

Despite her obvious wealth, Josephine was unaccustomed to souls and seemed hesitant to give me orders.

Not that I minded.

I was certain that I'd found myself an easy master, and was content to do just enough to prevent her from sending me back for a refund.

My first few days were spent exploring her three story townhouse and untamed front garden. The overgrown trees blocked most sunlight from entering the lower floors, making it difficult to see the accumulating dust and moldy corners.

The house was full of expensive silverware, leather furniture, and faded pictures of Josephine's late relatives. The parchment was yellow and the paint was flaking, as though they'd sat untouched on the walls for centuries.

I was determined to find out all I could about my mistress. Her history, her habits, any weaknesses that I could use to my advantage. To me, all human relations were like a battle, and I was determined to work her like I had with the hotel owner.

It didn't take long to discover that she had no living family, with only her mortal servant, Macy, left to keep her company. The old woman was a great source of information, and had no qualms about spilling our mistress' secrets without any idea of my real intentions.

"It's so nice to finally get some help around here," said Macy as we polished silverware together in the kitchen. "Josephine seems to care little for the state of her home, but these forks have been driving me mad for years."

"I'm more than happy to help," I said with fake enthusiasm. "I'd love to do whatever I can."

Macy looked at me and smiled. "And to think that Josephine spent so many years refusing to get a soul. I just knew that this would work out well."

"If you don't mind me asking, why has the mistress refused to get a soul until now?"

"Oh, Heaven knows," she swore. "You'll soon find out that Josephine has many causes, souls being one of them."

"Is that so..."

"Everyone in this town knows that once she gets an idea into her head, it's almost impossible for her to let it go. I keep saying that's why she hasn't found herself a husband."

"So I take it that there's never been a Mr. Beaumont?"

"Oh, God no. Many gentlemen showed up here over the years, some of them half decent, but she turned every one of them away. Faaaaar too picky if you ask me."

"Sounds like a fascinating story."

Macy opened her mouth to say more, but she was distracted by the rain which had begun falling against the foggy glass windows.

"And to think that it was sunny when I got up this morning," she muttered and shook her head. "I highly doubt that Josephine thought to take an umbrella."

"I could bring her one." It was the perfect excuse to find out where the mistress disappeared to every day. "If you'd like me to."

"Would you, dear. That would truly put my mind at ease."

"It's no problem." I smiled. "I do after all, only exist to serve."

Macy directed me to a large stone building in the center of town. The people referred to it as Parliament, and it was the only place in Hell which allowed a chosen few to govern the Underworld.

Outside was a large statue of Azazel. Several meters tall with a large crown and scepter resting upon his outstretched palms. Eyes glaring down at the building, so that the people inside wouldn't forget who controlled them.

Past the large oak doors, I found halls full of mortal clerks and rich men in suits. I peered into several rooms to find them sitting on lounges smoking, playing card games with women, or drinking the day away while occasionally discussing politics.

"What do you think of that mad woman's idea to change taxes," said one man while sipping his wine.

"Lord if I know," his friend replied and laid back on a couch to nap. "I'm far more interested in the end of year ball. I do hope they improve the smorgasbord. Last year's cheese was subpar."

I eventually found Josephine in a large room full of hundreds of red carpeted chairs. She was standing on a large wooden podium in the center giving a speech, but over half the audience were talking amongst themselves or napping. As though her words meant nothing.

I watched from the doorway, unable to hear a thing, until she angrily slammed her hand down on the podium to grab everyone's attention.

"As I was saying!" Josephine boomed. "If we increase taxes on the wealthy and distribute them towards services to help the poor, then we could effectively reduce the level of poverty in this town!"

"And why should our money go to lazy slackers who don't work!" cried a voice from the crowd.

"They're not lazy!" Josephine yelled back. "Many of them actually want to work, but can't."

"Bollocks! If they want money then they can go get a job!"

"But most of the jobs they can do have already been given to souls," said Josephine. "It may be impossible to compete with free labor, but-"

"Not another crazy rant about souls!" cried one man.

"We already heard enough about this last time!" yelled another.

"If we provide free education to the poor!" Josephine cried. "Then we can direct them into more suitable jobs and improve the economy!"

"Ludicrous!" called someone. "Whoever heard of sending those sorts to school?"

"That's got to be the worst idea you've come up with so far!" yelled a guy from the other side of the room.

"But we'll never know until we try!" Josephine exploded. She slammed her hand down on the podium with so much force that it shook.

"Order! Order!" yelled one small elderly man with round glasses. He banged a wooden hammer against his desk behind her. The room went silent and all eyes were on him. "Miss Beaumont," he said condescendingly as though speaking to a child. "Let me remind you that we already have an effective system in place for dealing with poverty."

"But-" she attempted to argue but he ignored her.

"It's simple," he continued. "We allow the elite, our best and brightest, to amass large funds. They in turn create businesses, factories, and jobs for your beloved poor. Increasing taxes on the wealthy would only hamper their ability to provide work, and society would collapse. Increasing the poverty problem."

"No, you're wrong!" she cried back. "The system is broken!"

"Well, the new mistress certainly is interesting," I laughed to myself.

"Hey soul!" snapped a middle-aged politician as he walked past. "Go get more tea!"

"I'm sorry, good sir," I said with my best smile. "But I'm afraid that I don't belong to this establishment. Therefore under no obligation to fulfil your request."

"Then whose soul are you?" he barked.

"That's an agreement between myself and my master. An agreement which I have no obligation to disclose to you."

The politician grabbed my shirt collar and shoved me against the wall. Furiously looking straight into my eyes in an attempt to be frightening. But there was nothing that mortal could do to hurt me, so I didn't even flinch.

"Fucking soul," he muttered once it was obvious that he couldn't win. He then shoved me against the wall once before walking away.

I straightened my shirt collar, then returned my gaze to my mistress. She was looking straight back at me with eyes wide with bewilderment.

I smiled and merrily waved, but Josephine quickly returned her eyes to the front and continued her argument.

"There really is no need for you to come here," snapped an irritated Josephine as we strolled back together in the rain.

I obediently held my umbrella up to shield her from the downpour. I could have brought another, but I hoped to use the close proximity to engage her in conversation. Her shoulders almost brushed against mine, and I was so very proud of myself for trapping her there.

"I'm perfectly capable of taking myself home," she added.

I smiled. "Of course you are, Mistress."

"It was Macy, wasn't it?"

"Your servant did express concern over your well-being."

"Well… No matter what she says, I can take care of myself. There really is no need to wait on me like..." She searched for the right words. "Some kind of slave."

"Whatever pleases you, Mistress."

"And there's no need to talk to me so politely either. All Mistress this, and Mistress that. You can use my name."

"If you insist, Mistress Josephine."

She sighed and crossed her arms.

"Please forgive me," I laughed. "It's a small habit that I can't seem to break. I've spent so many years waiting on rich lords and ladies, that I truly don't know anything else."

"Well," she paused as though thinking of the right way to reply. "You don't have to be that way for me."

"I'll do my best, Mistress Josephine." I sadly hung my head. "But I'm afraid that it may be beyond my humble skills. I've been a servant for so long, that I have no idea what else to do with my time."

Other than learn how to get you wrapped around my finger, was the thought that I didn't dare voice out loud.

"And just how long have you been in the Underworld, Ethan?"

My smile almost faltered. Everyone knows that old souls easily go mad, but the Soul Market could show her my record, so it wasn't a question that I could easily lie my way through.

"I'm not sure, Mistress... I changed masters several times and lost track. ….My first master perished in a New Province rebellion, so you could say that I came to Hell a little before then."

"The New Province Rebellion! But that was over two hundred years ago!"

Two hundred years?

The number shocked me. I rushed to say anything to hide my mortification. "Yes, Mistress. I have unfortunately become what some would call an old soul."

"There's no need to worry Ethan, you're nowhere near as old as-"

She stopped mid sentence. Eyes widening in shock.

I followed her line of sight to see four large men in overalls and caps, emerge from between two buildings, completely oblivious to the falling rain. Their hands were shoved in their pockets. Fingers securely wrapped around hidden weapons. They reminded me of the kind of trash who'd lounge around street corners shouting abuse at passers by, but what stood out most was their eyes. I'd seen and used that look enough times to know that they were trying their best to exert power over us.

"Again?" said Josephine.

"Again!" Her words shocked me. Like being surrounded by four gangsters was an everyday event for that woman. "What do you mean again?"

"Well, if it ain't the queen of bleeding hearts," said one guy with a hair cut so terrible that it must have been done with a blunt pair of scissors. He pulled a large metal pipe from his jacket and confidently swung it out before him. "Why don't you learn?"

"You know these people?" I hissed at Josephine.

"They're hired thugs." She eyed them wearily. "Paid by some aristocrat who doesn't want to see change."

"No, that's where you're wrong!" cried another guy with bright red hair and a face full of freckles. "We've actually been paid by a tone of rich aristocrats who don't want to see change!"

"And one guy who wants you dead!" added the thug behind him.

"But being the nice guys we are," said the pipe guy while taking a few more practice swings. "We gave you a warning. Take one step into parliament again, and there'll be consequences," he pointed his weapon straight at my mistress' head. "Remember that?"

"Of course I remember," snapped Josephine. "And I thought I told you to take that stupid request and shove it up their arses!"

"Well… this is your very last chance!" the pipe guy cried back. Trying his best to appear frightening even though it wasn't working. "Agree never to go into parliament again, or we'll beat the crap out of ya!"

"You don't frighten me," said Josephine.

As impressed as I was with her bravery, I thought it would be better to just agree with him, then run.

"Hey," I hissed to Josephine. "Maybe you should just say-"

"You can go back and tell whatever scum who hired you that change is coming, whether they like it or not!" Josephine snapped before I could stop her.

"Well, then I guess we've got no choice." Pipe Guy shrugged. "Boys!"

He gestured to the other men and they encroached on us. Ripping whatever weapons they had from their jackets. A knife. A crowbar. Freckles flexed his fingers, then began chanting a spell which must have been magic.

There was no doubt that they fully intended to beat the crap out of my mistress.

I thought that could be my moment.

I'd picked up a few tricks of my own over the years, and defending Josephine from a group of thugs would be the perfect way to gain her trust.

I rolled up my sleeve and took one step forward. "Mistress, if you would allow me-"

"Get back!" she cried and shoved me behind her.

The umbrella went flying into the air. I tripped on the pavement and fell back as Josephine fearlessly rushed head first towards the four men.

Pipe guy raised his weapon, aiming to smash it straight into her skull, but Josephine ducked and slammed her fist into his stomach. Sending him flying backwards like he'd been kicked by a horse.

He flew several meters before crashing down into a puddle on the cobblestone street. Rolling several times before his body came to a halt.

He was still like that for a moment. I thought the thug may have been dead, until he groaned and attempted to pull himself to his feet. The idiot almost succeeded, but soon collapsed back to the ground. Moaning in pain while clutching his stomach.

Everyone else (myself included) looked at Josephine with fear and awe. Shocked that such a petite young woman was capable of such impossible strength.

"Who's next?" she snapped and brushed her wet hair back out of her eyes.

Josephine looked so determined and fierce. She raised her fists, and for one short moment I thought that my new mistress was truly capable of anything.

But then that moment ended.

Josephine coughed. Blood dripped from her mouth. And then the coughing continued like she'd succumbed to a fit.

My mistress collapsed to her knees. Like whatever insane strength she possessed moments earlier had suddenly evaporated.

"Get the bitch," moaned Pipe Guy from the ground.

The remaining men dashed towards her with their weapons held high. Confident that they wouldn't lose against her weakened composure.

"Well, it looks like I may have my moment after all." I smirked and dashed towards the fight.

The guy with the crowbar swung his arm back to attack as soon as he saw me coming, but I waited for him to shift his balance forward to strike. It was then that I ducked, grabbed his shirt collar, dropped down, and used his own momentum to roll him over my body, then throw him to the ground. Just like how the short commander taught soldiers how to fight on the battlefield.

I then ripped the crowbar from his slack grip, and tossed it towards Freckles who was halfway through chanting a spell.

It hit him straight in the mouth and he fell backwards.

Despite my quick assault, there was no time to defend myself from the last guy with the knife.

He viciously slashed it towards me like a mortal who'd never been in a fight with a soul. The blade ripped through my jacket sleeve, but harmlessly passed through my body.

I took one step back and then shoved my palm through the blade. All the way down to his hand and wrapped my fingers around his fist.

He appeared confused for one moment, which was the opportunity I needed to jab my fingers straight into his eyes, and shove one knee into his groin. The thug howled in pain and then collapsed to the ground, hands covering his eyes as blood began running down his face.

All four of them were down, and it was our only chance to escape before they pulled themselves together.

"Mistress!" I cried and extended one hand towards Josephine. She was still on the ground soaked through from the rain, hair plastered to her face and wet clothes hugging her petite frame. Leaving little to the imagination as I tried by best to focus on her face. Those large dark eyes were wide with bewilderment, like Josephine couldn't believe that what she saw was real. "We have to go now Mistress!"

Josephine snapped out of her daze and took hold of my hand. I pulled her to her feet, wrapped one arm around her waist as support, and dashed away.

The rain had grown heavier by the time we reached Josephine's home. It was fortunate because it masked our escape, but we were completely soaked through. I glanced to Josephine to see that the blood had disappeared from her clothes. Washed away with the rain, as though nothing had happened.

"No, not this way," Josephine protested as she pulled me away from the front gate.

"But this is your hous-"

"There's a back door."

She guided me into a narrow alley behind her home. The dirt path was littered with half buried trash, and obscene graffiti decorated the brick walls between houses.

We stopped before a large metal gate covered in vines. My mistress pushed me away. Uneasily balancing on her own feet like she was still in pain. Josephine then took a large rusty padlock between her hands, closed her eyes, then quietly chanted under her breath.

The lock snapped open with a click.

Josephine smiled for one moment, but then lost her balance and collapsed against the gate. Trembling fingers desperately gripped onto the metal bars. Breathing heavy like she had to force the air through her lungs.


"Just go inside," she rasped.

Josephine pushed the gate open and I followed her along a narrow stone path. Through the untamed back garden which resembled a dark forest. She weakly pushed away thick branches which hadn't been trimmed in years. A lot of effort for a rich woman who conveniently had a soul right behind her.

"Let me help you, Mistress?"

"I'm fine, Ethan." We arrived at the back door and she gestured for me to enter first. "There's no need to be so concerned."

"If you say so, Mistress," I muttered. Confused as to why she so firmly insisted on doing everything herself.

We stepped into the laundry room. A white porcelain sink and several metal buckets gleamed in the darkness.

Josephine carefully shut the door behind us, then collapsed onto a small wooden stool by the wall. Letting out a sigh of relief. "I just need a few minutes to pull myself together," she said weakly. "Let's just wait here a moment."

I sighed and leaned up against the sink. Examining my new mistress. As though her secrets would spring forth if I looked hard enough. "Mistress, if you don't mind me asking, why didn't we go through the front door?"

"It's Macy," Josephine sighed. "She worries too much. God knows what she'd say if I walked in like this."

Her soaked appearance hardly seemed like something to worry about, but my mistress appeared edgy, like she was afraid of getting caught.

"Your servant seems to care about you very much, Mistress."

"Yes. But sometimes, sometimes it's too much. And completely unnecessary." Josephine pulled a towel from the pile of linen beside her and began to pat down her face.

Without thinking, I walked over, took another towel, and began drying her wet hair. It was just a habit left over from waiting on other young masters, but Josephine flinched, like it was completely unexpected. I realized my mistake, but she didn't push me away.

"You're very strong mistress," I said while thinking of her punch which sent the thug flying.

"As are you," she whispered back.

I laughed. "Only mere tricks, Mistress. Which fortunately worked, because most mortal men tend to underestimate souls."

"Then you could say that what I did was also a trick, although perhaps a little more complex." She snatched the towel from my hands and began to dry her own hair. "My father had a great love for fighting and developed several of his own techniques. He hoped to one day pass them onto a son, but alas he had to make do with me."

"I'm sure that he would have been proud of you, Mistress."

"Really? How would you know?" she bit back. "Did you ever meet him?"

I rushed to apologize. "I'm sorry, Mistress. It was wrong of me to make unnecessary assumptions. It's only a shame that such a great technique hurt you-"

"Listen Ethan," she interrupted. "Please don't tell Macy about the fight today. She's already worried enough without knowing that people are attacking me on the street."

I didn't know why she wanted to hide it, but I decided to play along. "As you wish, Mistress."

Josephine looked up and caught sight of my torn jacket sleeve. "You're hurt."

"I'm fine, Mistress."

"Nonsense, I can see it right here." She attempted to grab hold of my arm but I backed away.

"I'm a soul, Mistress."

"Please let me take a look, Ethan."

"It was nothing Mistress, just a mere slash." I rolled up my sleeve to show her my bare arm. "See, completely fine."

Josephine examined my skin. Her eyes flicking back and forth just to make sure that I wasn't injured. "That's a relief," she sighed. "I'd hate for someone else to get hurt because of me." She wrapped the towel around her shoulders, then slipped off her soaked shoes. "It was kind of you to help, but there's no need to do that again. People like that are only interested in me. You should just run if it happens again."

Her concern was comical. I hadn't seen anyone worry about a soul's safety in what felt like forever.

"There's no need to worry, Mistress," I laughed. "Something like this is nothing. They could have sat there and stabbed me for hours and I wouldn't have felt a thing."

Josephine tilted her head in confusion. "Not a thing? What do you mean?"

"Well," I began to explain, but then decided that it would be better to show her instead.

I looked around the room for something I could use. There was plenty of soap, several washboards, and a metal pole for drying clothes. My eyes finally settled on a pair of rusty scissors upon a high shelf.

I took them in my hand and stood before Josephine. "I'll show you." I flicked the scissors open and held them above my translucent wrist.

"Wait-" she tried to protest, but in one quick sweeping motion I swiped the scissors down. They sliced cleanly through my arm like cutting through smoke.

"No!" Josephine cried and jumped to her feet.

She grabbed hold of my hand, but was shocked to see it still very firmly attached to the rest of my arm. Josephine then ran her fingers over my wrist. Probably wondering why my skin felt neither warm or cold.

"Can you see it now, Mistress?" I said. So proud that she finally understood. "There's no need to worry about my safety. All I am now is a ghost of a mortal who once lived on Earth. Some remnant left over to serve as an immortal slave for anyone with enough cash. I don't eat, breathe, or feel any physical sensations. I can't be cut or burnt. There's almost nothing in this world which can cause me pain, physically anyway. You can beat me as much as you please, and I will always remain in one piece."

Josephine lowered her head. "I'm so sorry, Ethan," she whispered. "You seem so real, that for a moment... I forgot."

It was then that I noticed water dripping down her face which wasn't from the rain.

It shocked me. I never expected someone so tough and privileged to give a damn about a mere soul.

"There's no need to cry for me, Mistress." I slipped my arm out of her grip. "I died a very long time ago."

Josephine spent the evening holed up in her study after the incident in the laundry. I hadn't seen a master spend so many hours researching since my days with Alistair.

I once glanced through a crack in the door to find her bent over the desk. Pouring over countless textbooks by a dull yellow lamp. Every once in awhile she'd sigh in frustration, and lean back in the leather chair. Massaging her temples as though whatever she was searching for was still far out of reach.

She continued late into the night, and I didn't see her again until noon the next day.

I walked past the dining room to find Josephine sitting at the long oak table, absently chewing on an apple while flipping through a small book. Blankly staring at the paper like she was too exhausted to concentrate. Often flipping back to previous pages like her mind had gone elsewhere.

I was curious as to what held my mistress' attention. A less experienced soul would have just asked, but I'd found ways of getting information using the subtlest means possible.

"Your lunch, Mistress." I laid a tray of fresh bread and vegetable soup before her.

She put down her book and blinked. "Ethan, this looks amazing. Wherever did you get the bread?"

"I baked it this morning of course." I poured tea into a small ceramic cup and placed it before her, along with a small cube of sugar and a miniature jug of milk. I took the opportunity to lean a little further forward to get a better look at her book.

A History of Soul Slavery in the Second Century, said the cover in small black letters.

Someone was suddenly interested in souls.

"You made this?" Josephine picked up the bread roll to examine it. "But this is just like the bakeries in town." She broke off a small piece and dipped it into the soup. Then popped it straight into her mouth without even stopping to consider whether it was poisoned. "And delicious too," she beamed.

"Thank you, Mistress." I smiled. "Your compliments mean the world to me."

It was then that Macy walked past the room and winked. I had no idea what the old woman was plotting, but she seemed far too eager to allow an old broken soul to wait on her precious mistress.

I ignored Macy and turned my attention back to Josephine. "I also had a chance to collect your mail, Mistress."

Josephine almost choked on her bread. She sat there bent over the table, coughing for almost a minute, until she regained the ability to form words.

"You did what!" she cried in horror.

"Your mailbox was overflowing onto the street, so I emptied it this morning."

"And you're still alive!"

"Well, there were a few explosives, some suspicious powder, and a package of nails which exploded and unfortunately shredded one of the shirts you kindly provided. But as I explained before, such physical dangers can't harm a soul."

"Oh…. Yes...of course." Josephine hesitantly nodded like she was recalling the moment that I showed her the true nature of my form.

I pulled several envelopes from my pocket and placed them down on the table. Josephine picked them up and examined the addresses, eyes widening in surprise like she recognized them well.

"Thank you Ethan," she said softly. "This is very kind of you, but there really is no need to-"

"There is no need for such words, Mistress," I interrupted. "I am a mere soul that you purchased-"


"Therefore it's my duty to serve you to the best of my ability." I solemnly bowed. "Nothing less."

Josephine sighed in frustration and looked back to her letters. Clearly irritated by my attitude, but decided to let it go.

That should have been a small victory for me, but I couldn't feel anything.

What I didn't tell Josephine, was about the messages I found hidden amongst explosives and poison. Long angry rants that went on for pages. Calling her dreadful things, and telling her to die in the most horrific ways.

I couldn't understand why my harmless looking mistress was the target of such hate, and I could only assume that it was the price she had to pay for going against the interests of the rich and powerful.

When Josephine wasn't in parliament, she was preparing for parliament, collecting donations, or writing letters in an attempt to gain more support. Her entire existence seemed to revolve around one social cause after another, with very little time left over for anything else.

I'd never met anyone like that before, and I found it hard to understand why someone as well off as Josephine, cared so much about improving the lives of those below her. Especially when she seemed to get nothing in return, except for the continued threats to her life.

I accompanied her door knocking that afternoon in an attempt to get some answers. But all I did was watch her go from door to door. Trying to appeal to people who couldn't care less.

"Please consider signing this petition," she begged an elderly man from the doorway of his two story brick home. "The city orphanage is beyond capacity with little medical support. They're literally just throwing children out onto the street, and that's if some disease doesn't kill them first. Parliament has so far rejected any plans to increase taxes on the rich but-"

And that was the moment he slammed the door in her face.

"Please reconsider!" Josephine cried, but no one came to answer. She raised her fist as though to beat the door in, but regained control of her emotions and turned away.

"Perhaps we'll have more luck at the next house," I said from the base of the stairs. There was a large pile of flyers balancing in my hands. All printed with large slogans, such as reduce child poverty and make a better future for the next generation.

Josephine took a sheet from the pile and deposited it into the mailbox at the base of the house.

"These people have no concern for anything that doesn't involve them," she angrily muttered. "They think they're above everyone else."

"Such an unfortunate thing, Mistress."

"I'm sorry Ethan," she sighed. "You must be tired. You're more than welcome to go home and rest."

Her words made me laugh.

"What's so funny?" she asked.

"Just your concern, Mistress." I smiled. "Out of all the work I've been forced to do, following you around town as you knock on doors must be the easiest of them all."

Those words silenced her for a few minutes. She chewed on her lower lip, and I could almost see the thoughts turning over in her mind.

"I've done some thinking, Ethan. If you're so insistent on making me meals and cleaning my home, then it's only right that I give you some kind of compensation in return."


"I mean money, of course."

"And what would I do with money," I laughed. "I don't eat, and you've already provided me with clothes."

"You could use it to buy something nice."

"Which would be taken away the moment that I change masters. It's impossible for a soul to hold onto any physical possessions."

"But there has to be something you want?"

To be honest, there were plenty of things that I wanted. My dead friends back. To not be a slave. To live as I liked without ever having to deal with the Soul Market. None of which Josephine was even remotely capable of providing.

"There's nothing," I lied. "Just your presence itself is enough for me, Mistress."

Because as long as she owned me, I could take a short break from the horrors of her kind.

Josephine didn't look pleased. "Why is it that you always say such strange things," she muttered.

"Well, if it isn't Miss Beaumont!" cried a man's voice from across the street.

I looked towards the voice, to see the old man with glasses who lectured Josephine at parliament, poking his head out of a gleaming black carriage window. He ordered his driver to move closer, and the carriage halted on the street beside us.

"Good day to you, gentlemen," replied Josephine coldly. Face blank. Lips twitching as though she was trying her best to control her emotions.

"By Azazel! It's her!" laughed the voice of another man who I didn't know. He pulled back the carriage curtain to unveil four of them inside. All politicians dressed in immaculate black suits. Intently staring down at us like we were barely worth their time. "And with a soul. Going from door to door asking for handouts like a beggar."

"I'd expect nothing less from the great Miss Beaumont," laughed another arsehole.

"Oh, the hypocrisy!"

"If my memory serves me correctly, wasn't it you Miss Beaumont who called on us to boycott the soul trade?"

"If no one buys souls, then the whole industry will crumble," said one of them in a high pitched voice, which I guessed was a bad impression of Josephine. "Then all the poor little Earth folk will be saved."

"And yet here you are with the very thing that you worked so hard to abolish. I only knew it was a matter of time before your true colors shone through."

"What do you have to say to that, Miss Beaumont?"

"Unlike some people, my own personal life has nothing to do with my policies." Josephine's voice was so frosty that even I felt uneasy. "What I choose to do in my private time is no concern to you."

"Poor return, poor return," the first guy laughed. "Let's see how your supporters will respond when they discover that their great marta for social justice can't even follow through with her own words."

"Onward driver!" one of them cried, and the carriage rolled back out onto the street.

Josephine stood there frozen and glared at the carriage as it disappeared into the distance. Her shaking hands clenched into fists.

"Mistress?" I asked when she didn't move.

"Please go home, Ethan." Her voice sounded so weak and exhausted. Josephine almost looked towards me, but then quickly glanced away.

"But your door knocking?"

"It's almost finished. All I need is a few more signatures, and then I'll take them to parliament myself."

"But the thugs from yester-"

"Have probably learnt their lesson, and won't bother me again."


"Just go home Ethan. Please," she begged.

I could have argued more, but a good soul should never question their master.

"As you wish, Mistress," I said with a bow and then left her alone.

Unlike Josephine, I didn't believe that the men who attacked her would give up so easily. I'd seen the desperation in their eyes because I'd experienced it myself. Mortals like that would have done anything in order to scrape a few bucks together.

That's why I went to find them.

I silently patrolled the roads, back alleys, and rooftops around parliament. Keeping to the shadows and trying my best not to draw attention.

I told myself that my actions were to protect my place with an easy master, and had nothing to do with any concern for Josephine's safety.

I eventually found the thugs lurking in an alley close to where we fought the previous day. Crouched against a brick wall covered in obscene chalk graffiti. One guy would occasionally glance around the corner for any sign of Josephine, while the others smoked and played cards.

There were five idiots this time, and the magic user was gone. Probably still recovering from having half his teeth knocked out.

"Where's that bitch?" growled Pipe Guy impatiently as he glared at the cards in his hand. This time there were two large steel pipes resting against the wall behind him. Like getting another one would somehow double his chances.

"Shouldn't be too long," muttered the idiot who I poked in the eyes. They were still bright red like he had yet to recover. "That stuck up bitch and her soul will pay for yesterday."

"Really? Is that so?" I said from the shadows at the end of the lane.

They immediately dropped their cards and hastily jumped to their feet. Eyes wide and faces pale like they'd just seen a ghost.

They then ripped out their weapons. Another pipe, two knives, and a short sword. An interesting combination, but still manageable.

"It's the fucking soul from yesterday!" Red Eyes cried like his stupid friends hadn't worked that out.

"I'm only going to say this once, so listen well," I said coldly. All the fake politeness gone from my voice. "Leave now, and don't come anywhere near Josephine Beaumont again."

Pipe guy dumbly blinked, like a soul threatening him was too much to comprehend. His face broke out into a grin, once those words finally penetrated his thick skull.

"Is that a joke?" the fool laughed. "You actually think that we're gonna listen to a fricken soul?"

"You will, if you know what's good for you," I replied.

"Are you actually threatening us?"

They all laughed behind him. Oh, how that was going to change.

"You don't scare us," Pipe Guy said while making an obscene gesture with his fingers. "You're a fucking dead ghost, fool!"

"So you're not gonna run?" I asked.

"Of course not! Didn't you listen to a damn word I just said!"

"Well then." I calmly pulled a handful of knives from my pocket. The freshly sharpened blades glimmered in the darkness. "I guess that it's time to play."

It was quiet that evening. I spent an hour carefully repairing my shirt, then found myself tackling the mess that was Josephine's study. Macy was too nervous to use the ladder herself, so she asked me to help her move all the books from the floor onto the upper shelves.

She passed them to me one by one, and I obediently arranged them into neat lines where the light couldn't reach. Trying my best not to show any interest in the ones that I desperately wanted to read.

Then there was a yawn.

I looked down to see Macy tiredly leaning against the bookcase. Eyes drooping as though she would nod off to sleep at any moment.

"I could finish up here, if you'd like," I offered.

My words made her jump, but she quickly composed herself. "Oh, that's very kind of you, Ethan dear." She brushed the dust from her apron. "But it's getting late. It's probably best if we rest up and leave this till morning."

"It's no real trouble." I smiled. "We souls don't require much rest, so I can easily keep working a little longer."

I thought she'd put up more of a fight, (only a fool would leave a stranger alone with such important things) but Macy removed a key from her pocket and placed it on the desk.

"Just make sure to lock up once you're finished," she tiredly said with a smile, then left the room.

I said goodnight and made a show of diligently working, but as soon as I heard her bedroom door click shut, I shoved the book in my hand onto the shelf and descended the ladder.

At long last I was free from her gaze.

Across the room on the opposite bookcase, sat a collection of books that I had yet to examine. The spines too worn and dusty to read, but I could make out several words which grabbed my attention.

I pulled one book off the shelf to examine it closely. Rubbing the dust away with my jacket sleeve.

Magical Theories and More, said the faded letters.

It confirmed what I'd long suspected.

Josephine was a magic user.

There was no doubt that the punch she used was a magical spell, along with the chant she used to unlock the back gate. Other than that, I saw her do no other incantations, which was unlike other magic users who'd perform spells daily like breathing air.

I placed the book under the desk lamp to read it more clearly. The language was complex and difficult to decipher, but I scanned the pictures and diagrams for anything I could use to improve my few pitiful spells. Carefully keeping one eye on the door in case Josephine or Macy suddenly appeared.

"So there is something that you're interested in after all," echoed Josephine's voice throughout the room.

I jumped in shock and looked straight at the doorway, but of course she wasn't there.

My mistress instead emerged from a gap between two bookcases. No doubt through a hidden door that I'd missed. It made me question whether I was the one watching her, or the other way round. What had she seen? How much did she know, but didn't let on?

"I must apologize, Mistress." I slowly closed the book. Trying my best to remain calm. "My curiosity must have gotten the better of me."

Josephine walked over and I suppressed the urge to back away. Everything depended on my ability to remain natural and composed.

She leaned against the desk and examined the cover. Giving me a clear view of her exposed shoulders and neck. There wasn't a scratch on her, so I could only assume that there were no other threats waiting for her in the dark.

The men from the alley weren't dead, but I highly doubted they'd be walking any time soon. They may have put up a decent fight, but their constant miscalculations about a soul's body had been their downfall.

"Magical theories? An interesting choice." Josephine looked straight at me, and it took every ounce of effort not to shy away. "But I can't say that I'm surprised."

"It just caught my eye, Mistress." I picked up the book and went to return it to the shelf. "I do enjoy looking at the pictures."

"If you're so interested in magic, then I can teach you!" she called out from behind me.

"That's a very kind offer," I laughed while climbing the ladder. Too nervous to realize that I was returning the book to the wrong side of the room. "But as you already know, it's impossible for a soul to channel magic. It would only be a waste of your time."

"Then how about as payment!" She stood at the base of the shelf looking up. I was impressed by the ferocity of her eyes. "If you don't want money or physical things, then how about knowledge instead? That's something that can never be taken away from you, right?"

"Mistress..." was the beginning of my protest, but then I realized that I had nothing to say.

Before me lay a shelf full of magical books, like a scene from Alistair's study. The place that I still dreamed of when all hope was lost.

For one small moment I was suddenly the Ethan of two centuries earlier. The naive boy who fantasized of learning great magic, and dreamed of an impossible future which could never come true.

I knew that dreams were stupid and should be forgotten, but what was wrong with allowing myself to give into stupid dreams once more.

If only for a short while.

"Fine. You have a deal, Mistress."

After centuries of disappointment and broken promises, I was surprised that Josephine followed through with her word.

Her lessons began the following evening. She pulled me from the kitchen (away from washing dishes) and escorted me into the sitting room. There she sat me down at a small writing desk with a large pile of tattered books.

I wanted to ask if she'd lost her mind, but I was curious to see how long my new mistress could be bothered following through with her promises.

"It's been a while since I taught anyone." Josephine nervously paced around the room while flipping through a textbook so old that it was handwritten. "How much do you already know?"

"Only a little," I said. "Just bits and pieces that I picked up while serving other masters."

"Then it's probably best to begin with the basics." She put the book down on the desk, then passed me a sheet of paper and an ink pen. "You'll probably need these too."

"May I ask what they're for?"

"For writing notes, of course."

"Oh." I placed them down on the desk with the hesitation of someone who'd never been a student.

Most of what Josephine had to say were things I already knew, but I sat there and patiently listened to her words like I was hearing them for the first time.

"Do you know how mankind can use magic?" she asked.

"I have no idea, Mistress," I lied. "Please enlighten me."

"Well... It's said that people originated from another realm above this one. A place that they called Earth."

"Like me, Mistress?"

"Yes, like you Ethan," she said with a hint of hesitation. "Somehow our ancestors found ways to open gates through to this world. Here they discovered land, resources, and another element which they soon called magic."

"So that's how you can use magic, Mistress?"

"But it's not as simple as that." She shook her head. "Unfortunately beings from Earth aren't born with the ability to manipulate magic. Almost all human magic users gain their abilities through contracts with demons."

Of course it had to be contracts. Like my misfortune, everything in Hell seemed to revolve around damn contracts.

"Contracts, Mistress?"

"Yes. In ancient times mankind had to find a demon willing to make a contract. But that didn't always end well. The government now regulates the process, and there's even a department which grants licenses, if you can pay the fee."

"How about me?" I asked innocently. "Is it also possible for me to get a license?"

Of course I already knew the answer, but I wanted to see how she'd react.

Josephine was quiet for a moment, as though carefully choosing her words. "I'm sorry, Ethan," she said softly and I could hear the pity in her voice. "Even if you did somehow manage to get a contract, you can't channel magic without a solid body."

"Oh, that's too bad," I sighed in fake disappointment.

"But there are still other ways of manipulating magic, as you may already know." She unscrewed the top of a lamp and reached inside, pulling out a glowing yellow crystal the size of a coin. "Crystals like this are just concentrations of magic. These days they're used for lighting or weapons, but with the right insignias and combinations, the possibilities should be endless."

"That's amazing, Mistress."

"Most private research into this kind of magic was forbidden long ago." She placed the crystal back into the lamp. "But it does have some appeal to people who don't have the opportunity to get a license, if they can survive."


"Creating the right combinations can lead to the discovery of new spells, but a single mistake can be fatal. Causing either the crystal or diagram to explode. Plenty of researchers have been killed by their own work."

"That sounds absolutely terrifying."

"Doesn't it? And it's for that reason that almost all magic users, now choose to do magic using their own hands and chants."

"Chants?" I knew that my questions were becoming ridiculous, but I wanted to see how much she'd believe.

"Chants are what you probably think of as magical spells. A contract only grants your body the ability to channel magic, but you still need the right training and discipline in order to use it correctly. Without that, you're no different from any regular person."

"Oh, I see."

"Once you master the basic spells, you can do magic almost anywhere, even in this room." She gestured to the space around us. "There's already magic in the air, but it's invisible to the naked eye. Simply moving your hands, or willing it to do something, isn't enough. You must take command and shape it." She deeply inhaled. "I'll show you."

Josephine closed her eyes and held her open palms out before her. She then began to chant in a demonic language. Slowly, a yellow ball of light formed in the center of her hands. It grew larger and larger, until it became too bright to see her fingers.

I watched on with disdain. Envious that she could easily achieve something which was impossible for me.

Josephine opened her eyes and looked pleased for a moment (forcing me to hide my displeasure) but then her face winced in pain and the spell suddenly broke.

Josephine coughed. Then her legs gave out from beneath her. She collapsed onto the floor while gripping her side, body racked by coughs which seemed to come out of nowhere.

"Mistress!" I cried.

Before I knew it I was on the other side of the desk beside her. Attempting to help as she weakly shoved me away.

"I'm fine," she rasped in between gasps of air.

"No, you're not!" I cried defiantly. Tired of that woman always lying about her own health.

Josephine looked taken back by my outburst. The coughing gradually subsided and she grew quiet.

"I'm sorry to cut your lesson short, Ethan," she said weakly through the pain. Face turned away like she couldn't bare to look at me. "If you don't mind, I would appreciate it very much if you could help me to my room."

Josephine was almost too heavy for me to carry alone. She put one arm around my shoulder, and I helped her climb the winding staircase to the third floor.

I pushed open the cracked wooden door and helped her past piles of books and loose sheets of paper. The room looked like it could have once belonged to a young girl. There were light pink curtains by the window, and a small wooden music box playing in one corner. Beside it lay an assortment of dusty gold trinkets which shone in the dim light. There were also several small paintings adorning the walls. Mostly of young people, along with Josephine. All seriously staring at the artist with their hands clasped in their laps.

I helped her to the large bed in the center of the room. She slipped off her shoes, then collapsed on top of the dark blankets and velvet cushions. Lying on her back like a broken rag doll.

I pulled up a leather chair and took a seat beside the bed. Watching on like she could disappear at any moment.

Josephine glanced at me and sighed in irritation. "There's no need to make a face like that, Ethan."

"Really? And why would you say that?"

"I'm fine, honestly." Her gaze returned to the ceiling. "I just need to lay down for a bit, that's all."

"Are you certain?"

"Of course."

"Mistress," I sighed in frustration. Irritated that she took me for an idiot. "You're a terrible liar. Even I can tell that those sort of fits are abnormal."

"Oh, so you're a doctor now?" she snapped. "Sounds like I should fire that con man who calls himself a physician and hire you instead. Only you won't take money, will you? I guess I have no choice but to pay you in compliments and good deeds. If you even accept those."

"When are you going to tell me what's wrong with you, Mistress?"

"I already told you, there's nothing wrong."

I crossed my arms and patiently waited. Of course it wasn't my place to question her, but I found myself prepared to sit there for eternity if I had to.

Josephine glanced away and tried her best to ignore me, but she gave in once it became obvious that I wasn't going to move an inch.

"You're very defiant when you want to be, aren't you Ethan?"

"Only when it's necessary."

"Fine. I'll tell you. But you need to promise me that you won't tell anyone. Living or dead."

"That's... Something I can do."

"Well, it's like this…" She was silent for a moment. As though the truth had been hidden for so long that it had become difficult to voice out loud. "I used to be immortal."

"Immortal?" I breathed with disbelief, but it did make sense. The decay of her home and possessions was something that should have alerted my attention.

"Yes, immortal. There's this spell and-"

"I know what an immortal is, Mistress."

"It seemed like a good idea at the time," she said with a strained laugh. "Nobody wants to grow old, right? Years became like days, centuries passed in the blink of an eye. I really thought that I could live forever."

"Yes, I do know the feeling," I said while thinking of my own experience with so called immortality.

"The immortality spell is the final goal for most magic users. Succeed and you can stop your body from aging. But what they don't tell you at the academy is that the effect isn't permanent. The spell slowly wears off over time, and you need to repeat it every decade if you want to live forever."

"I have... heard something like that before."

"Do you see that picture over there?" She pointed to a small painting beside her bed. "Those are the friends I had when I was a student. Back before we started experimenting with dangerous spells."

I leaned in closer to see several bright smiling young people standing before a large stone building.

"They're all dead now," said Josephine.

I didn't know what to say, so I remained quiet.

"We were afraid," said Josephine, her voice wavering. "So we all promised to do it together. Our first immortality spell. But half of them didn't succeed. Their bodies were changed… ways which I don't wish to remember. The others succeeded. That time. But every time you repeat that spell it's like playing with your own life. One small lapse in concentration is enough to end everything."

I could see it. A younger and more optimistic Josephine eager to share her success, but instead opening her eyes to a room full of blood.

"Mistress, don't tell me that you also-"

"I was always so careful. I could perform hundreds of complex spells like flexing my fingers, but I became arrogant. I thought I knew everything. That I was incapable of making mistakes. But then one day I became distracted and slipped up."

"I'm sorry, Mistress."

"What is there to be sorry about?" she laughed. "It was all my fault, not yours. Fortunately Macy was there to get help before I bled to death, but they could only do so much to reverse the damage. Now this body can barely channel magic, let alone pull off the immortality spell. My fate is sealed," she said while staring down at her living hand. "I'm just a regular mortal now."

"But you said it yourself that there are still other ways of using magic."

"With those crystals? Of course. But immortality is something else. As much as I searched, I couldn't find a single diagram or old party trick, which even resembled something close." She shook her head. "But it doesn't matter anymore. I've decided that it's time to give up on selfishly prolonging my own life and living only for myself. I'd rather achieve something for the good of others in the little time that I have left. It's what the people in that picture would have done."

"I see..."

"Does it sadden you, Ethan?" She looked right at me. "To hear that your Mistress will die before you?"

"Of course it does, Mistress."

"I doubt that," she laughed. "We barely know each other. Someone like you has already lived long enough to see plenty of death. As soon as I'm gone they'll just hand you over to a brilliant new master. I know that I probably don't mean anything to you." Josephine almost sounded bitter.

"No, you're wrong," I said defiantly. "I would care!"

"Really? And why is that, Ethan?"

I searched for the words to explain the feeling I had when I was together with her. As difficult as it was. "You... Remind me of someone."

"And who would that be?"

"A master that I had a long time ago. He was very first one, in fact."

"He?" she scoffed.

"Yes, he."

"And how are we similar?"

"It's….. just a feeling." That sounded so stupid. "He was very studious, a little eccentric, but very kind to me. Even though I'm a soul."

The anger and annoyance evaporated from her face. "Do you miss him?" she asked softly.

"Sometimes….but not as much as before. It's been so long…. When I try to remember him." This was the saddest part of all. "I can barely picture his face."

Josephine looked away and returned her gaze to the ceiling. "Perhaps, that's something that the two of us have in common."

At first I didn't understand what she meant, but then I realized that if Josephine had lived for hundreds of years, it meant that like me, she had watched plenty of people who she loved die.

I wonder how she did it. Living century after century in that old townhouse. Surrounded by paintings of people who she could never meet again. Reluctant to make new connections with mortals because she'd outlive them. Giving into solitude just to avoid getting hurt again.

Yes, Josephine and I had far too much in common.

"You know," she said. "You're also very kind yourself."

I laughed. "Really? Is that what you think, Mistress?"


"I'm not so kind, Mistress," I muttered. "I've also done plenty of selfish things."

"Like what?"

I tried to think of the right way to phrase my words without shooting myself in the foot.

"I….. did things just to protect myself." I thought of the abused housewife who I could have saved. "I also stood back and did nothing, when people needed my help."

"What else?" she asked like she could sense there was more.

"That is all, Mistress."

She huffed like she didn't believe me for a moment. "You know Ethan, I told you my secret, so it's only fair that you tell me yours."

Part of me did want to open my mouth and tell her of the horrors that I'd endured. To mention what I'd done. But I'd kept those memories and emotions locked so deep within myself, that even if I opened my mouth, no words would come out.

Even if I did tell her, she would only cry in horror and push me away. There was no one in this world who'd accept me once they knew the truth.

"There's nothing which would interest you, Mistress," I said quickly. "Only dull and boring memories." I got up to leave. "Now if you'd excuse me, your house isn't going to dust itself."

I walked straight towards the door.

"Ethan!" she called as my fingers brushed the handle.

I obediently stopped. Even though all I wanted to do was run. "Yes, Mistress."

"It's not good to keep the past bottled up inside. If you can't talk about it, then try writing it down instead."

I nodded, even though I had no intention of following her advice. "I'll think about it, Mistress. I'll think about it."

And with that I slipped out of the room and gently closed the door.

I couldn't sleep well that evening. My thoughts kept me awake. Partially because I was reminded that my mistress' death would inevitably come, and also because I'd begun to reflect.

When I was alone, and all was quiet, I thought of everything I'd seen and done. Alistair's mansion, the factory, the war, the souls who I tormented myself. I was once in their position, and knew exactly how it felt, yet I still broke their fighting spirit and used them to get what I wanted.

Perhaps I was just as bad as Foreman and all his sick friends.

"Oh, Ethan, you should have known that once you went that far, you'd never be able to live with yourself," echoed Alistair's voice from a dark corner of my room.

But I looked to see nothing there.

I began studying through the nights to distract myself from my own thoughts. Spending hours alone in the study. Reading any book or scripture I could get my hands on. Only immersing myself in those ancient pages seemed to make the voices disappear.

Someway through the first week, my tired brain decided that it would be a great idea to mix magical chalk with black ink, and I set to proving my theory at once. Painting page after page of paper diagrams in the laundry. Some so large that they consumed most of the floor.

I would rip them to pieces and start again at the smallest mistake. Consumed by a morbid search for perfection.

But it was wrong to immerse myself in silence.

With every stroke of the brush I thought of how things could have been different. If I had made better decisions, then people would not have suffered. If I had tried harder, then perhaps some of my friends would still be in this world.

But no matter how many grand ideas or brilliant plans I thought up, there was no way to change the past.

I had no choice but to live with my own actions.

Sometime during the night I gave into exhaustion and collapsed on top of my own work. Sleeping there for hours until I was awoken by the sound of someone moving around the room.

I tiredly opened my eyes to see Josephine sitting beside me on the floor, examining one of my paintings in the morning sun.

"Sorry. Did I wake you?" she asked softly.

"No, it's fine," I whispered, but then remembered formalities. "Mistress."

I sat up and rubbed my eyes, fingers smudged with dry ink. The black diagram clearly printed onto my white shirt.

Josephine covered her mouth and averted her gaze in a poor attempt to conceal her laughter.

I rushed to the porcelain sink and furiously scrubbed my hands, trying my best to remove all the ink. I soon discovered that it was also smeared through my hair and across my face. Like a small child who'd just discovered finger paint.

Josephine coughed and attempted to compose herself. "Nice idea." She gently ran her fingers along my painting in search of any mistakes. "Mixing the chalk and ink together. Definitely makes it easier to see what you've done, not to mention more portable. But does it actually work?"

"There's only one way to find out," I said while furiously scrubbing my hands with a bar of soap.

"Just do me a favor and try not to blow up my house in the process."

"I'll try my best, Mistress."

Josephine rolled her eyes, perhaps yet again unimpressed with my answer. She pulled herself to her feet and brushed the dust from her dress.

"I'm heading off to parliament. I'll be back sometime this evening."

"But Mistress-" I tried to protest, shocked that she was going back there again after all the attempts on her life, but Josephine quickly cut me off.

"Don't Mistress me," she snapped back. Ferociously stabbing one finger in my direction to emphasize her words. "What I choose to do with the rest of my life is my own decision. I will be there, and nothing in Hell can stop me."

I sighed in defeat, and weakly scrubbed my face. All the while wondering how I could get her out of the next mess that she'd inevitably create for herself.

"But," she said hesitantly. "You're more than welcome to come along ... if you want." Her face blushed crimson then she quickly looked away.

I examined Josephine curiously. Wondering what could possibly cause such a reaction in the stern woman. But such thoughts were quickly brushed aside by the joy of being invited. "Just give me a moment," I said and rushed to change my clothes.

It wasn't long before we encountered our first sign of trouble. A small group of thugs patiently waiting for us on the street. They were different from the men who attacked her before. Younger, perhaps more naïve, wearing worn and mismatched suits in a terrible attempt to blend in.

They pretended to be immersed in a conversation about politics, rattling off names of people who didn't even exist, but soon dropped their newspapers and briefcases when they saw us coming. One of them ripped out a potato sack full of wooden bats from behind a fence, then eagerly passed them around to the other six men.

"Jossie Belmont!" cried their leader. An emaciated teenager who'd probably lived most of his life on the street. "Get ready to meet your maker!"

The idiots charged towards us. Screaming profanities while wildly swinging their bats like they'd never been in a real fight.

Josephine glanced at me and smiled. "Ready?"

"Ready." I nodded back.

I ripped out a large sheet of paper from my jacket and rolled it out onto the ground. Unveiling one of the diagrams I'd painted the previous night. I took a red crystal from my pocket and placed it on the far corner.

The symbols lit up instantly, then red smoke and fireworks sprung forth from the center of the page. Incinerating the paper and clouding the street. It wasn't what I hoped for, but it was something.

"What the fuck!" One thug cried in surprise.

"Run!" Josephine grabbed my hand and we dashed through the smoke. Laughing together like children as the thugs swore and blindly swung their own bats into each other.

"You'll need to make more of those!" she laughed.

We ran free of the smoke and dashed towards parliament. Ready to face any challenge that those sly corrupt politicians threw our way.

I wasn't sure how it happened, but Josephine's dreams slowly became my own. Perhaps I wanted to atone for my past mistakes, or forget my old self, but I came to believe in her cause.

I thought that if we worked hard, then we could fix it all. Poverty, inequality, the Soul Market. Together we could make a better world where no one would have to suffer again.

But such dreams were only dreams in the end.

Chapter: 01, 02, 03, 04, 05, 06, 07, 08, 09, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27