“Nichole Morgana Pierce! What do you think you’re doing here?” my dad yells as soon as he stops in front of me.
I don’t have time to respond before he turns to Wraith, anger blazing in his black eyes. “And you! You were supposed to keep her on Earth and safe! What were you thinking bringing her here? Do you have any idea how easy it will be for Kendra to find her?”
“I’m the one who asked him if we could come,” I say quickly before he can yell at someone else.
He pauses in mid-breath. “You what?” he asks, his voice dropping an octave with fury.
“Kendra came to me at Wraith’s home,” I reply, looking down at my feet. “If she can get to me there, then she can get to me anywhere. Dad, this is supposed to be the safest place for me, and it won’t be until Kendra is gone for good.”
Henki and Wraith stay silent, watching the confrontation.
“Dad, don’t you want to be with mom again? This is the only way,” I try.
His head snaps up and I see anguish in his eyes. “Nikki, there isn’t a day that goes by that I wish I could still be with her. But keeping you safe is what matters now until you can ascend to the throne.”
“But we both know that can’t happen until someone does something about Kendra. Until then, you’ll just keep ruling and fighting wars here and you’ll never see mom again. Do you think I like seeing you so unhappy all the time? You see her almost every time you look at me, dad. You will never be happy until you’re with her again.”
He shakes his head. “That doesn’t matter! You did exactly what I told you not to. You may be a princess, Nikki, but you are still grounded! I am placing you on castle arrest until this blows over!”
Henki snorts behind me and my dad turns his gaze to him.
“And you. What is a Shadow doing with my daughter? What are you even doing outside of the Shadow District?”
Henki bows. “I am here to assist the Shadow Princess on her journey. As I came upon her invitation, I can journey wherever she does for as long as she’ll have me.”
And the anger reappears in my dad’s eyes as he looks back at me. “You know how dangerous Shadows are! What were you thinking? Were you even thinking?” He turns away and runs his hand through his already messy hair, a sign of how stressed he is. “You two are coming back to the castle with me,” he says, pointing between Wraith and me. “And you and yours are all going back to the Shadow District where you belong!”
“Before you came here, human, there was a time when Shadows and all other ghosts could walk amongst the dimensions freely. After all, it was in Sepulcrum that many of us made the transition between Shadow and ghost. But since you did not see the supernatural side before your mother-in-law ruined it, I will forgive your ignorance,” Henki says cooly, his raspy voice the only sound.
If color existed over here, my dad’s face would be turning purple right now. “My ignorance? And who do you think you are to talk to your Shadow Lord in such a manner?”
I feel Henki smiling. “I am Henki, one of the original fifteen ghosts of the supernatural side.”
And even though this is a serious situation, I can’t help but smile at the look of amazement on my dad’s face. I’m pretty sure it mirrors how my face looked with Henki first told me who he was. Even Wraith smiles a bit.
“And why are you traveling with my daughter?” my dad finally manages to ask after picking his jaw up from the floor.
“We have a common enemy. I am helping see her safely through the dimensions on her journey,” Henki replies simply.
“For how long?”
Henki shrugs nonchalantly. “Until I am unable to accompany her further. Fear not, Shadow Lord. I have no dishonorable intentions with your daughter.”
Dad runs a hand over his face and looks at me again. “Nikki, you’re just a kid. And you’re going to journey to Gahenna with an Eidolon and a Shadow, and take on Kendra by yourself?”
“But I’m not just a kid, dad. I’m three hundred-sixteen years old.” I feel a small amount of satisfaction at the quick look of shock on his face. “I can do this.”
He shakes his head and looks down at the reigns in his hand. “So you want me to send my only child whom I love more than life itself on a journey through all seven dimensions of the human hell to confront and attempt to kill one of the first ghosts ever formed? What part of this sounds sane to you?”
“Dad, you were born in the late seventeen hundreds. By all accounts, you should be dead by now, not ruling a supernatural world full of other spirits. While your physical form may be gone, your soul still lives on here. What part of that sounds sane, dad?” I point to myself. “And me. I’m the product of a human and a ghost, a union that shouldn’t even exist. And yet, here I am.” I move my hands to my hips. “I have spent my entire life living on the brink between two different worlds that were never meant to coexist beyond the relationship between life and death. You’ve always wanted me to pick one world and stay there. Well, now I am. There’s nothing left for me on Earth, dad. I belong here.”
I watch a montage of different emotions rush across his face. We’re all silent, waiting for his decision. I don’t know why, but I have the strong feeling that whatever he decides will change the course of this journey, if not reshape the entire supernatural side.
Dad sighs. “Alright, Nikki. You win. You’re right. But you’re taking someone else with you besides just a Shadow and an Eidolon. I don’t care how powerful they might be, I’m sending someone else with you.”
“Shadow Lord, what makes thee think that Henki and I cannot care for the Shadow Princess alone? We would rather cease to exist than let anything happen to her,” Wraith interjects, speaking up for the first time since we arrived in Supulcrum.
“Speak for yourself,” Henki says under his breath.
“Your feelings for Nikki are the exact reason that I refuse to send her on without someone else,” dad replies. “If things come down to a fight, then I need someone else that I can count on to make sure that she gets out okay. Nikki doesn’t need someone to martyr themselves for her safety.” He turns and motions to one of the armored guards on a skeleton horse behind him. “You’re going with them.”
“It would be an honor, Shadow Lord,” the guard says as he removes his helmet.
The only warning I get is the sudden absence of movement behind me before Wraith is standing in front of me, his hands wrapped tightly around the guard’s throat.
“I will not travel with this man,” Wraith shouted, his voice shaking with rage.
I take a step back. This is nothing like the docile and stoic Wraith that’s spent the past few days with me.
The guard smiles and pulls at Wraith’s hands. “It’s always nice to see you too, brother.”