The first memory Dean Constantinou had was of his father. The tall, burly man laughing as he embraced Dean, a ragged beard scratchy against Dean’s cheek. He coughed and squirmed, but laughed with delight along with the man. It was also the first time he’d seen his father in person. Up to that day, the man’s sole presence in Dean’s life had been in photographs.
At a run, Nash soon caught up with the other two. “It’s the danger of the underworld, Nash,” Dio said, giving him a sympathetic smile. “You go there for the sake of one person, but you meet so many who seem deserving. The only reason I’m even going along with this is because of the stakes involved. Sad though the boy’s death was, Dean Constantinou is not the one we are coming to save. The town is.” He shook his head. “We will be lucky indeed if Hades allows us to take one soul from his care. Asking for many would be an insult. Particularly those souls who wander through Tartarus.” Nash sped up, until he was walking alongside Cassandra.
Nash stared vacantly out the classroom window. His mother had been behaving strangely all week, ever since he told her about his dream and the red-haired woman. The woman in his dreams had been… strange. A little scary, very pretty. Thinking about her left him with a dreamy expression on his face. This became embarrassing when the teacher called on him.
Silas Nash crawled through the darkness for an unimaginable length of time. The rough stone under his hands gradually smoothed, until it resembled glass more than anything else. In the distance, he could hear a distant thumping that reached right into his bones and shook them. It grew louder with each move forwards, making his stomach clench each time. He started counting seconds, and realized it was happening regularly, once a minute.
The basement was full of strange items that were apparently necessary to the ritual. “The rock-salt.” Irayama pointed, and Nash hefted an eighty pound bag over his shoulder, legs shaking slightly under the weight. “We will need to create a place of purity. Souls can escape easily if there isn’t a circle of salt ready to catch them.” She studied the walls. “There.” She pointed towards a rolled up scroll. Isabelle gently lifted it in both arms. “And of course, we will need to get Dean’s body.” With this, the old woman opened the door of the meat locker. She pulled a body bag out. All the racks had been withdrawn and discarded to make room for it.
Nash blinked at the blinding light of Irayama’s dingy basement. “How long were we in Yomi?” he asked, as he looked around. A portal to the underworld, sitting right in the basement of a suburban house. There was a large foosball table, and a meat-locker. He frowned. They didn’t seem particularly appropriate. Sure, he hadn’t been expecting the bones of one thousand dead samurai or anything, but she could’ve done better than this.
Izanami leaned against the boulder, panting and sobbing from the run and the rage. She had not been thinking when she had said those words to Izanagi. It had been said in anger. But so many of the words they shared with one another were said in anger. She hated that. And yet, they just seemed to come so easily when she was around him. Take what had just happened. She had died in childbirth, and watched her husband murder the child she had died for in a fit of pique.
The darkness was absolute. There was no wind in this place, and whatever was under Nash’s feet, it was not earth in the traditional sense. Every step was uncertain. It felt like climbing stairs in the night, not knowing whether there would be something there to meet your next step. Waiting for that awful moment when reality contradicted expectations. The powers Gene and Ariel had given him were not able to help. And in the realm of the dead, he didn’t even know where he was going.