Three days had passed since Portentia was given Midnight, and she was still practicing her technique more often than not. With the blazing speed with which she learned, I was amazed she hadn’t mastered the weapon already. I wasn’t certain I could accomplish as much sparring with Alma even if I had Portentia’s abilities. Her diligence was truly incredible. As I walked to Alma’s wing, I wondered what I’d be learning today. The number of bruises I accrued from training since the convention was rather remarkable. Luckily, the weather was cool enough now that no one was questioning why I wore long sleeves all the time, and I was quite capable of cooling myself with a spell now when a building is too warm for comfort. Walking into Alma’s office, my eyes locked onto her and my heart seemed to leap in my chest. Every day was like this, as if I were seeing her beauty anew even though I had seen her earlier in the day. Part of the difference was how she usually dressed for training. Alma was typically covered from the neck down in expensive, but completely unrevealing, dresses. For training, she dressed far more casually, often wearing sweatpants and a tucked-in t-shirt. How she could make the plainest clothes seem fantastic was amazing to me.
I knew I was staring, but I couldn’t completely comprehend that Lady Alma Lucy Pendreigh V was wearing jeans today. Sure, they were dressier than sweatpants, but I never thought to see her in them. “What?” asked Alma, her eyebrow raised inquisitively. “Nothing. I’m just… umm.. Are we not having a lesson today?” I asked. “Of course!” exclaimed Mai as she stepped up beside me. “Today, we’re going on an adventure!” added Ai, coming up on my other side. “Well, I am glad you two are optimistic about this endeavor, but you better not let your guard down. Don’t expect me to come to your rescue if you get yourselves in a pinch.” stated Alma matter-of-factly. The twins were smiling joyously, but what Alma said had me worried. “What precisely are we doing?” I asked. “I’ll explain on the way. Come along.” commanded Alma as she walked to the door. I found myself staring at her posterior instead of moving. I hadn’t seen Alma wear anything that form-fitting since she wore a bodysuit while sparring with the twins in their gym. “Alma sent us to buy her jeans this morning.” explained Ai. “She didn’t bother trying them on until a moment before you arrived.” added Mai with a smirk. “You know that I can hear you quite well, don’t you, girls.” stated Alma, several yards ahead of us now. Her walk suddenly seemed a bit more rigid, and I hurried to catch up. The twins were suicidal.
My business’ limo was waiting around front, and Alma appeared much more comfortable when she was seated inside. Ai and Mai helped themselves to a drink, and I worried about what they were drinking before this apparently dangerous expedition began. I was feeling tired enough just due to today’s jobs and the late hour. I couldn’t imagine imbibing something that’d slow my reflexes or make me drowsier. My thoughts were soon interrupted by Alma saying, “Today, we’ll be going down into the sewers. I expect each of you to maintain a light, keep the sewage off your clothes, create breathable air around yourself, and defend yourself against any attackers. We very well could meet more than I expect with all the twists and turns beneath this city, so don’t stray too far away from me either.” That part was obviously directed at the twins as she stared them down. Then she continued “There was a Slayer’s close descendent here when this city started growing rapidly. He took a great interest in its development, designed a number of buildings as well as the waterworks, and personally created hidden passages in everything built from his designs. I fear at least some fault lies with him regarding this city’s extraordinary number of supernatural creatures.”
I waited for more explanation, but Alma didn’t say anymore for several minutes. “So what are we doing?” I asked. She looked at me, her beautiful eyes drawing me in, and said, “I thought that was obvious. We’re hunting down dangerous creatures in the sewers. The type I expect to find this outing is best left as a surprise.” Instead of assuaging my growing unease, Alma’s words intensified them. If she wasn’t going to protect us, my chances of survival were far from promising. I didn’t have any hope of competing against anything that could possibly harm Ai or Mai. They were too fast, too strong for a mere human to even challenge. I frantically started planning my spells. The light I could pull off with great ease. I imagined sewage could be handled with the water spells I knew. Creating breathable air was a complex affair I had only learned a few days before. I worried that fire magic would be dangerous underneath the city. With what Alma said, I could surmise that some of these pipes were over a hundred years old. If the air around me was transformed by my spell, I wouldn’t be able to smell any dangerous gases. The only other real weapon in my arsenal was telekinesis. I could apply enough force with a spell to easily crack concrete, but I couldn’t imagine myself bludgeoning a creature unconscious. As long as I could keep from getting killed, the twins would probably help me. I hoped.
Over an hour passed, and all I managed to do was get myself worked up about not being prepared. The twins were teasing and drinking the entire way, seeming completely enthusiastic about what waited for us. When the car stopped, I jumped slightly at Alma’s touch. “We’re here. Come along.” she told me. I walked alongside Alma with the twins tailing us and kept waiting to see a manhole cover lift off the ground. The sewers in movies often looked disgusting. I could only imagine that the reality of crawling down a dark hole filled with human waste was even worse. When Alma stopped, I continued a couple steps before realizing she had turned to face a wall. I watched her press a brick into the wall, and stared in amazement when a section slid into the ground. I created a light as I followed her into the dark room beyond. There was a somewhat rusty, iron door and nothing else. After the twins were inside, Alma pulled a lever, and the wall closed behind us. Despite feeling the sound of it shutting was a bit ominous, I felt that Jarod would love to see this. Hidden passages in dark alleys were totally his cup of tea, though I wasn’t certain how he would feel about the next hour or so that passed.
The first bit was somewhat exciting with several more hidden passageways that we crossed. I almost felt like we were going to discover some lost treasure. Then we arrived at the actual sewer, and I gagged before getting my spell made. I wasn’t certain how long we followed that large, brick tunnel, but I was thankful when we left it for a somewhat smaller passage that had been concealed. “Prepare yourselves. Ai and Mai take the lead.” commanded Alma after we traveled for a while longer. I was tired, but adrenaline was pumping through me at Alma’s words. Something was near. I was trying, quite unsuccessfully, to look everywhere at once. There was something far less enjoyable about feeling I was in a horror movie than watching one. At any moment, I could be attacked. My ears were straining to hear anything past my light, but there wasn’t a sound. Minutes dragged along, and I wanted nothing more than to be home in my bed. We reached an intersection, and Alma told each of us to pick a route while she waited at the corner. I was covering my ears with my hands moments later as a loud, animal-like noise roared through the tunnel. An enormous, horned head was charging at me, and I barely dodged around the creature. Other creatures bellowed, and I was certain we were surrounded. The one that charged at me continued past, heading straight at Alma. The creature dropped to the ground a few feet from her.
I could see Ai down the opposite tunnel grabbing the horns of a creature. Then I recognized it. We were fighting minotaurs. Minotaurs were apparently real! “Turn around, you fool!” exclaimed Alma. Another creature was coming at me, but not at a full charge like the first. This one’s chest was disturbingly feminine, and it appeared to be carrying a large pipe. I ducked its first swing and then used a spell to tear the pipe from its grasp. The creature seemed surprised, so I took my chance to escape back into the intersection. There I saw a man-like body where the creature had been. “What are these, Alma?” I asked over the noise. She rolled her eyes, and I jumped as horns fell past my legs. Another one was dead. Before long, a body of a woman was next to the man’s. There was something off about their figures, more than the exceptional amount of hair. “They’re trying to kill you. Does it matter? I promise they’d eat you if given a chance.” claimed Alma. Staring at the corpses, I felt sick. Seeing more corpses by Ai and Mai wasn’t helping. There was a flash of light all around me, and I shielded my eyes. Then there was silence. I looked around to see all of the corpses were gone. Ai and Mai were coming toward us. “I thought these creatures were long extinct.” claimed Mai. Then Ai winked at her sister and said, “Looks like we were wrong.” I felt appalled. “How can you be so happy to see they’re alive when you were eagerly slaughtering them?” I asked.
The twins stared at me curiously as if I was the crazy one, and then Alma told us that was enough for today. As we walked out, she told me “They aren’t human, James. Given a chance, they’ll devour every human they can as well as any other meat they can get. Yes, they can take a human-like form, but they’re not as evolved as the werewolves or werelions you faced. Their minds are more similar to a beast’s than a man’s. My family protects humanity, not the creatures that prey on it. What would you have done if I wasn’t there to kill for you? Would you have dodged around until you were too worn out to fight? These creatures don’t tire as easily as you do. They would have killed you.” I wanted to argue that there was a better way to deal with the minotaurs ― I decided to still call them by that name. I wasn’t sure what could be done with them though. Wasn’t there a place where they could be set free without harming anyone? Though I hadn’t said much, Alma seemed frustrated with me by the time we made our way back to the alley. The limo arrived shortly thereafter, and I rode in silence to my home. Alma was holding my hand in both of hers, and I gently squeezed back. I really didn’t know what to think of her life, of all her killing. What was my life going to become if I continued spending time with her? I was undeniably attracted to her. Part of the reason I stared out the window was to avoid her eyes distracting my thoughts, but I wasn’t certain I could be part of her world.