Chapter 4

Somewhere in Europe, April 5th, 10:03 p.m.

"Damn it again!", Azrael grumbled, inaudible to the people out there, "Go away!"

He had been sitting in the end of the air pipe for several hours now, but people patroled past at such short intervals that escape was out of the question. Frustrated, he peered out of his unwanted prison. A short stretch of meadow stretched in front of him, which was then replaced by a narrow strip of bushes and trees. Behind it the ground looked conspicuously flat, it could be a street, he wasn't sure.

Another soldier trudged through the picture. Azrael quickly withdrew deeper into the darkness of his hiding place. He was still too weak to fight, especially against so many men, some of whom were heavily armed. He had never seen weapons like this before. They were much smaller and more elegant in his memories. Not so martial and armed with aiming device and lamps.

But he had to get away from here, at night the time of mankind was naturally over and his was dawning. Also, every minute he stayed here increased the risk of being spotted and getting a few bullets. So he had to be discreet. Carefully he began to work on the grille so as not to make a sound. The grille creaked softly and immediately he paused to listen breathlessly for approaching steps. But nobody approached. Relieved, he fumbled on.

A screw stubbornly resisted him and he was very tempted to break it out. He glared at her angrily, which of course she generously ignored. He took a deep breath and tried to calm down. Hustle and bustle was of no use here, he had to remain completely calm and focused, as with his previous assignments. Slowly he felt a sense of clarity that he always needed in such situations. He tried to turn the screw out again, this time successfully.

Immediately he grabbed the grille before it could fall forward. He let the metal grate slide quietly to the floor and stepped out elegantly. He immediately put it back in its original place, he wanted to leave as few traces as possible. Because he was sure: even if he managed to disappear - which was not yet done - they would be looking for him. Whoever "they" were.

Azrael pressed himself close to the metal so that it was completely swallowed up by the shadows to the human eye. And not a moment too early, because another soldier, no, a female soldier, passed by. He was about to sneak on when he stepped on a dry branch. There it was, the discretion. He winced and resented his own inattention. That wouldn't have happened in the past. There was only one option left.

The secret of his success lay in him, this time meant quite literally. A mysterious liquid flowed in his veins, which was bound to him forever and is subject only to his will. He just called her his COMPANION. Azrael felt HIM flowing through his veins full of energy, the extensive meals had saved and healed HIM. He didn't know what HE was and why he had received HIM, but what he knew was that HE was alive. Azrael grew a blade from it in a split second.

At first a fine mist rose from the palm of his hand and formed the rough outlines before the liquid became hard and sharp like no earthly material. Nothing withstood this weapon. He was the perfect weapon. The dagger blade flickered with an uncanny life of its own and fine waves ran along the surface. Somehow logical that people would mistake him for the Archangel Michael with his flaming sword. Only one thing was bothering it: it wasn't him, not at all.

Incredibly agile Azrael shot out of hiding and cut the soldier's throat before she even knew what was happening. The dead body weighed heavily on his chest and before he let it fall he let it slide gently onto the floor. That was quieter. The corpse slipped out of his hands at the last moment and hit the floor with a thud. He got a hot shower of blood. Startled, he held his arms in front of his face, at least to be protected there. "Not again," he groaned, barely audible as he looked down at himself.

The hot water flowed down on him in small streams and made the clothes stick annoyingly to his skin and chafed in the most unusual places. It must look terrifying, covered all over with clotted and fresh blood. He unconsciously retracted the blade. A fine, dark mist wraps around his forearm like a snake and creeps under his skin.

He shook his head to get the sticky hair off his face, but the result of his efforts was more hair in front of his eyes. Hastily he stormed off when, not too far away, he heard the pounding of a human heart. But there was one good thing about him: his once bright white clothes, his pale skin and light hair melted as well as with the surroundings, he no longer stood out like a fly in the milk.

Like a snake he writhed along between the bushes, but then stopped dead in his tracks, because barely two meters away a soldier was leaning against a tree, luckily with his back to Azrael, otherwise he would have been noticed long ago. Damn what now? He looks around searching. There had to be a way to get past him unseen. A crippled branch above him came into view. It was thick and gnarled and swayed slightly back and forth in the wind.

Perfect. His eyes continued to follow the branch. The corresponding tree next to him had deeply furrowed bark, as if made for what he was planning to do now, but still looked quite young. Azrael's gaze touched the soldier in front of him again. Two more with huge, futuristic-looking weapons (well, he was in the future, wasn't everything futuristic?) Joined the first and began a conversation. Quickly now, as long as they were distracted.

"Ey, Stan, seen what?"

“No, everything is quiet here. Just really freezing. "

Azrael went down on her knees and jumped off hard. His hard, long fingernails literally dug into the bark of the tree two meters above the ground. He skilfully crawled up in the blind spot of the three men. A stormy breeze came up. The branches around him creaked and the leaves rustled and hid all the noises he was making out of clumsiness.

"When will the replacement come?" The first asked with his head bowed to at least protect himself from the coolness of the wind.

Azrael didn't mind either cold or warmth, he was always at ambient temperature. The only thing that bothered him was sunlight. But now it was luckily night and he had one less worry.

He elegantly climbed the crippled branch just above the men. In total calm he formed a short bow and pointed an arrow at the unprotected neck of the person closest to him. He took a deep breath and concentrated.

“Will you come to the pub later? I've already seen some hot machines ”, a bald person turned to his companions and grinned dirty.

Azrael rolled her eyes. Men. Some things would probably never change, even in decades and centuries. But somehow the normality of the words Azrael stung deep in the soul. What right did he have to kill these soldiers? They just did their job and didn't get in his way or threaten his life. He chewed his lip thoughtfully and slowly lowered the bow.

What was the matter with him? Since when did he want to kill bystanders? It had never really been his way, it was so uncivilized, so primitive. So human. A little ashamed of himself, he released the gun in his hands. Fine wisps of mist wrapped around his wrists and found their way back under his skin.

The men below laughed and parted, and the guard was happily left alone with Azrael. Now he could and had to go on. He'd wasted way too much time. He patiently timed a perfect moment when he jumped into the branches of the nearest tree.

Still a bit clumsy, he made an animal noise, but he was lucky that at that moment the wind was noticeably freshened and the trees creaked ominously. But he had to be more careful because the guard looked carefully from side to side, there was no amateur at work here. He got from tree to tree unmolested until he arrived at the road, as he had correctly suspected.

All hell was going on there. Lights were set up everywhere and people cavorted between tents and strange four-wheeled equipment, which after a long period of observation reminded him of Benz automobiles and motorized carriages, which he was one of the first to see. It would be clearly harder to get through here unseen.

To his left the strip of forest ended a short distance away, but to the right he ran a little further. Skillfully taking advantage of the shadows, he investigated whether there was a good place to disappear. But the hustle and bustle on the street hardly decreased. Cursing silently, he stopped at the very edge of the trees. He had to come up with something else.

Pondering intensely, he watched the goings-on in front of him. Lots of people in military-style uniforms ran around. Suddenly the screaming intensified and a dense crowd formed a little to his left. What was going on now? Azrael knew that doing so would double if not triple the risk of being spotted, but he just couldn't tame his curiosity. Schnell climbed as close as possible to the crowd.

"Ey, rest! Get back to your posts! ”Yelled a woman with a straight bob that fell just under her chin. The crush dissolved amid grumbling. The woman had to be something like the leader, maybe an officer?

Now that the ranks were thinning, he could see the reason for the excitement: the body of the soldier who had killed Azrael had been found. Her entire body was covered in clotted blood. For a long time the leader looked at the woman in front of her.

“Take them to the cold store and have them examined carefully,” she ordered a man next to her, who nodded militarily and set off. The leader slowly straightened up and looked thoughtful.

"Madam?" Asked another soldier next to her.

“It broke out, it may already be here. Send everyone to their position, no spot can be left unguarded. Just tell them what they need to know. For you he's a terrorist, understand? ”She asked and the man went on his way. The woman's gaze slid over the trees. Azrael quickly withdrew into the deep darkness between the branches.

What now? How was he supposed to go unseen now? He had to hurry, before all the soldiers were there, he had to be through. He studied the lights intensely or whatever these machines were. Thick cables ran between them and ran through the entire base like veins. An idea rose in him. A malicious smile split his lips and caused the still slightly damp paint on his face to crack and partially peel off in particularly thickly covered areas. How about a bloodletting?

Making perfect use of the moving shadows, he crawled all the way to the edge of the road and climbed the highest point he could find without being seen. Concentrated, he closed his eyes and took a few deep breaths to clear his mind and prepare for what was to come. He sent it to the first cable he could find and followed it attentively through the thickening network to its source.

All the cables ended in a large tin box, which was covered by a smooth plate on top. The box just glowed with energy. What actually flowed in the cables? Electrical current? Oil? Gas? Water? In the end, it didn't matter, the main thing was that the lights went out. Because then people were helpless and Azrael had a simple game.

As if with two gigantic hands, he began to hit the box and squeeze it together. Sparks flew and the metal bent screeching under the enormous load. The lights throughout the camp began to flicker ominously. Well. Azrael caught up briefly to the epic finale.

He tore the box with full force and it cracked loudly into many parts. The people who had previously followed the dance of the metal box with their mouths open in disbelief ran screaming for cover to avoid being hit by the fatal projectiles.

A woman with a long braid went down when a long piece of wire pierced her calf. Sharp pieces of metal cut the face of a young soldier nearby. And suddenly the darkness flooded the street and took back what was hers. Azrael opened her eyes, exhausted. All of this happened to him as if in slow motion. It was good that he had eaten something before, otherwise he would never have been able to do that. Telekinesis was extremely strenuous, especially from such a great distance. He felt a bit dim, but pulled himself together. Now he couldn't afford to make mistakes.

He spread his wings elegantly. He was still trembling with tension and tried to calm himself down. The people below him didn't notice. How also, with the noise they made? They ran back and forth in excitement and yelled at each other in various languages. "Come on, now the emergency generator is going on and stop crying like old women!" The leader ordered the panicked crowd around her. Azrael would have loved to ram her fingernails into her tender cheeks, but unfortunately there was no time for that. He had to hurry and escape while it was still dark. Maybe another time.

The wind was favorable and gave him a push from behind. He threw himself heavily into the air and glided with a few flaps of his wing high above the heads of the people across the street. Even now nobody bothered to look up. They never expected an attack from above. Stupid creatures. Just because that didn't apply to them, it didn't mean the same to their opponents. Hadn't they learned anything in all these centuries?

It rustled loudly and reached the treetop opposite and quickly withdrew between the branches. But someone must have seen him because there was a loud cry:

“That was something! Come on, the light. Quick! ”Azrael was just able to duck her head before the light drove away the darkness again. Damn it, he really had to let go now.

"Twenty men arm themselves and come with me!" The leader's voice ordered loudly. Very bad. He jumped from branch to branch much more attentively than before, but below him the people were still inexorably catching up.

“Stand still and come down with your arms raised!” Shouted the human woman. Okay, they didn't want it any other way.

He jerked around on a branch and looked for a stable stand. The loud trampling of people through the undergrowth came closer and closer. Suddenly, extremely calmly, he let a bow rise from his hands and pulled the string through.

Immediately an arrow appeared, which the first man got straight into the thigh. It flew right through it, leaving a tunnel of scorched flesh. The contours of the arrow melted while it was still in flight after it had crossed the human body and a swirling shred of mist returned to Azrael and united with the bow, almost seeking protection. Light waves ran along the surface, giving it a lively look.

The soldier's body was torn backwards in the barrel and two others fell. Immediately he sent two more arrows afterwards. The first hit a beefy man in the upper arm and sent him to the floor screaming loudly, the second went exactly on his knee and let the human body fall over. Everything happened in slow motion for Azrael.

Three more arrows found their target before the humans returned fire, with Azrael being meticulous not to kill the victims. Taking them out of the running was enough. In addition, he did not have to fear revenge from possibly remaining relatives, because often several of the same family served together in the army. At least in his day it was.

He quickly retracted his weapon and fled further over the trees. There were fourteen left. Normally it would have been easy to do, but he felt weak from the show in the camp and somehow also wrapped in cotton wool. He absolutely had to eat something again and then sleep. He was incredibly tired and the stress was slowly taking its toll. His body did not recover from the rigors of the dungeon as quickly as his mind.

With clenched teeth, Azrael mobilized his last energy reserves. He jumped hard from his branch and jumped several meters through the air. Waving his arms, he was struggling to balance when he landed. But he had underestimated the strength of the branch when he jumped, because it gave with a crash under his weight and it was too late to react. With a loud outcry, he also hit the mossy forest floor. But he had to go on, he didn't have time to take care of his aching shoulder.

"Curse again!" He growled involuntarily and struggled to get up. The people came closer and closer.

A flaring pain in his knee made him refrain from further headless flight. Panting in despair, he looked around. He had to eat something to heal and strengthen himself. But to do this he had to distract and divide them up. In a flash he retreated behind a thick bush, but beforehand smeared plenty of blood on the nearest tree and laid a false track of kinked branches. Now he could only hope it worked.

The remaining men burst loudly out of the thick undergrowth into the tiny clearing, which was now lit by a multitude of lamps. Azrael withdrew deeper into the protective shadows. The people all stood back to back to keep an eye on the whole area. The clearing became dead quiet, only the steady rustling of the trees in the wind filled the air.

"Where did he go?" Asked one after a while in a whisper and was hissed down for it. Azrael was completely silent and breathed in the rhythm of the gusts of wind so as not to make a sound.

“It's that long,” says a tall black man with a slight nod in the direction of the wrong lane.

“No, that's a trap,” contradicted a young soldier. A perplexed silence fell over the group as they waited for a sign from their leader. That was the moment Azrael had been waiting for.

He sent his mind around the people in a wide arc and looked for a small, dry branch. The crack when he broke it with the gift, echoed deafeningly loud through the dark silence of the night. The leader with the bob reacted immediately and signaled several people to go in that direction. Only three soldiers - luckily without them - remained in the clearing and apparently were supposed to wait here.

Again a tomb-like silence fell over the clearing. Two of those who stayed behind turned so that they had their backs to him and stared bored into the darkness. The third in the group, a very young pimply soldier, had moved a little away from his comrades and came close to Azrael's hiding place. That was the opportunity, it occurred to him.

"It's all shit here!", Cursed a long-haired young man, "They'll find it in the end and experience the most epic fight ever and we have to rot here in this freezing cold!" In anger, some earth and moss flung up with his foot, when he stomped like a little child.

"Now take it easy, Alessandro. Chill out, "said his comrade with a decidedly cool voice," Maybe they'll all die and then it's up to us to save the world from this terrorist. Think positive! ”A grim puff answered him.

Azrael slowly retreated deeper into the darkness, but deliberately cracked a dry branch. Staring at the pimple face in front of him, he waited for its reaction. Hopefully he didn't inform the others, just followed him. It was visibly working on the young man's face. Unsure, he turned to his still arguing comrades who were discussing the coolest way to die. Azrael screwed up her eyes No, no, no ! The soldier jerked around again, put on a determined expression and lifted his rifle, which compared to his puny figure just looked ridiculous, a little higher. Should he play the hero, that was fine with Azrael.

He pulled back with a rustle and the boy followed him like a lapdog. When they were far enough away, Azrael stopped. Silence spread around them and covered the scene like a shroud. Only the loud breathing of the human could be heard. Even the wind sounded muffled.

"Hello?" The soldier asked softly in a shaky voice into the all-encompassing darkness. He was frozen with fear now, surely realizing what a big mistake he had made. Or maybe not. No matter.

"Hello?" He tried again, louder. The beam of light from the lamp on the barrel of the weapon flitted back and forth excitedly.

"Sam? SAM! “, It came from a long way off. The Sam ?! Azrael pushed the thought to the back of his mind, but something advised him not to forget the name. Incredibly careful not to make a sound, he crept around the boy.

Azrael was so close to him now that he could almost feel the rapid heartbeat on his skin.

"Where are ..." he began, little one, but the rest was drowned out in a high-pitched, girlish scream as Azrael tore his carotid artery with his razor-sharp teeth. Within a few seconds, the slim body was bloodless and its injuries began to heal noticeably faster. Already in his mind somewhere else he dropped his power bar on the floor. It could go on.

Only his senses, sharpened for centuries, saved his life in the next moment, which was a barely perceptible crack, followed by a low hiss. Instinctively he dropped and immediately got back on his feet with an elegant leap. Now he saw what almost killed him. A man aimed his gun at him and looked puzzled at his victim's unforeseen reaction.

Azrael reacted in a flash and knocked his gun out of the guy's hand with one leg and after a complete turn grabbed him by the throat with one hand and pressed him against the nearest tree. The human did not have time to react and looked at him in disbelief. His gaze slid past Azrael to the pale corpse on the leafy ground.

"Sam!", The man sobbed almost silently and now Azrael noticed the similarity of the facial features. Were they brothers?

Unconsciously, he turned his head to the dead man and this tiny distraction was mercilessly exploited. He nudged Azrael hard with the head, causing his hand to loosen slightly around the soldier's throat. But Azrael caught himself again and rammed a newly formed knife into the man's side.

The human gasped loudly and doubled over. A loud crash interrupted Azrael at work and he turned to flee without bothering about the pale soldier. Bullets flew past him and only missed him by a hair's breadth.

"Further! We mustn't lose him! ”He heard the leader shout.

Azrael just ran, the escape dominated all his thinking. Branches hit him and scratched his arms, which were held protectively in front of his head. He had to get rid of people, better now than later. But how? His mind raced and he could hardly think further than the next step because of the panic and exhaustion.

Suddenly the forest stopped and wide flat fields stretched in front of him as well as a peacefully slumbering village that nestled idyllically between the hills in front of him. Cursed! Now he was without any cover. As if in confirmation, one shot brushed his biceps and spun him around in shock. The wound hurt strangely and he didn't feel it close as usual.

Fire spread from her in a circle and ate its way through his veins. He clenched his teeth to cope with the pain. She must have put silver in it. Did everyone know his weakness? He finely felt the screeching of his COMPANION as a part of HIM that had been unlucky enough to be in his arm was corroded and died. HE was downright mutilated. He withdrew deep into Azrael's body and sought protection in his brain, because there HE was safe from the metal. Azrael could no longer count on HIS help.

“Merde!” He swore through his clenched teeth in French out of old habit. Soldiers broke out of the thicket. In his world of pain and panic, he was numb and a little belated to react. He stumbled on and was now very close to a wall.

“Stand still! Yelled the woman behind him.

Azrael was looking straight at her and staring into her eyes. He smiled and shook his head as if at a disobedient child. The wound on his arm sent red-hot stitches down his entire side.

His bloodied hair flew lightly through the air as he turned and pushed himself off the ground with full force. He literally ran two steps up the rough wall before he got hold of the gable. Only now did the people overcome their astonished paralysis.

Immediately he found himself in the hail of bullets again. With a loud groan, he pushed himself up and crawled onto the roof. Here the bullets no longer reached him and for a few moments he lay on his stomach, breathing only in spurts. Exhausted, he closed his eyes. How he would have loved to have slept a little or just dozed off ...

"No," he whispered to himself in his native language and clenched his right hand into a fist. His long female fingernails dug into his sensitive palm and this sharp pain brought him back to reality.

He jerked himself up on all fours and hurriedly took a look at the situation. Next to him a worn-out soldier was pulling herself up to him on the roof, who was immediately pushed back down by Azrael with a targeted kick in the face. The human woman's nose crunched under his bare foot and she shrieked as she fell down.

Azrael got to her feet and stumbled on. There were crashing steps behind him and he accelerated. An alley now opened up in front of him, too wide to just jump over it. He gritted his teeth and jumped off powerfully as he reached the edge of the roof. He felt the breeze as the person who had been chasing him couldn't brake in time and fell screaming into the depths. With wings outstretched, he glided along, but a roaring pain in his left wing spun him. He was hit.

He fluttered awkwardly the last few meters and crashed hard against the house wall, but by luck he got hold of the gutter with one hand. Again he pulled himself up with difficulty and sought fire protection behind a chimney towering high in front of him.

Panting, he pressed himself against it and examined his newest wound. It pounded painfully in time with his heartbeat and he felt a corrosive foreign body between his bones. The silver had to get out of his body as quickly as possible, because now Azrael himself began to feel the numbing effect of the high dose. It got slightly dim around him and he had to blink several times to focus on the injury.

Quickly, before his resolve could falter, he dug his thumb and forefinger into the wound. The intense pain made him cry out briefly, at a pitch that humans could no longer perceive. He got hold of the projectile and jerked it out. He roared again and went black for a few moments. But he had to go on, because he felt the people coming closer.

Gasping loudly, he pushed himself up and stumbled on. He felt the wound slowly begin to tighten. Very good. But at the edge of the roof he stopped, arm-rowing, because people had positioned themselves in front of him on the street below and now a dozen rifle barrels were aimed at him. He stumbled back a few steps, but immediately felt cold metal between his shoulder blades.

"One more movement and you'll get a bullet in the back!" Hissed a deep male voice, out of breath.

Azrael cautiously turned his head and out of the corner of his eye saw the man he had killed in the forest. Apparently not. Behind the soldier he felt two more. A stalemate, but hadn't he mastered much more hopeless situations? Yes, you were in full possession of your strength and no one knew your weakness, a voice rang out inside him, which he simply ignored. He closed his eyes. The gun behind him cracked menacingly.

"No, Garrett, we need him alive!" Shouted the leader from below.

"But this ... monster not only killed my brother, it ate him as if he were nothing more than a worthless piece of meat!", Screeched the person addressed with approaching madness in his voice. Why did he have to be called Garret? These memories …

Without being able to control himself, tears welled up in his eyes. No, not now ... but he was powerless. A single tear welled out from under his eyelid and ran down his cheek without haste.

"No," Azrael hissed so softly that only the person behind him could hear something.

He hit the soldier's neck with his gift and inexorably squeezed the tissue together. With a gasp, his hands darted to his throat and he dropped his weapon. Azrael turned hatefully and stared into his eyes. Why did he have to remind him ?!

His face remained completely immobile, only from his eyes spoke such an abysmal hatred that the soldiers behind Garrett turned pale. The soldier meanwhile gasped more and more, so that his eyes bulged out. But this sight suddenly became too much for Azrael and he broke the soldier's neck with a silent scream, with only a tiny movement of the hand. Azrael's insides were covered with frost.

The body sagged lifeless and Azrael just looked at it for a few seconds. His gaze was inhumanly freezing cold as he slowly walked towards the two petrified soldiers. He simply ignored the balls around him and deflected them slightly using a narrow shield so that they only just missed him. One of the two - an older man - stood in his way, but a brief touch of his chest at the level of his heart was enough to make it stop.

Azrael was in a trance. This state always overtook him when his emotions boiled over. In doing so, forces were released in him that he could never have achieved in this way. But the price was the loss of all feelings and memories of that time.

When the man crashed lifelessly to the ground, he looked at the other person, a woman with a drawn face. She bowed her head and stepped respectfully aside. He had already forgotten her presence when he passed her. His gaze continued to slide to a chimney a little way in front of him. Perfect. He left the now kneeling soldier (she would refuse for the rest of her life to say what had happened on the roof) on the left and quickened his pace. He jumped on the edge of the chimney and dropped into it feet first. Bullets whistled past him.

Azrael slid down the narrow, dusty shaft and came down in a huge cloud of dust with a loud thump. He awoke from his trance. How did he get here? What happened? All he could remember was the sight of the person named Garrett, who was suffocating. Then it dawned on him: he had slipped off again . How many did he kill? How had he left all the people behind? But now he had more important things to do, he called himself to order. He crawled out of the fireplace, coughing, and had to stop for a few moments to orientate himself.

He had ended up in a romantically decorated bedroom with a huge four-poster bed. God, how cheesy he thought inside. Then he noticed the presence of two people in the bed in question who eyed him sleepily. Damn. He gave them a friendly nod, as if they were old acquaintances, turned and walked out of the room. Hopefully they thought it was a dream, he said inwardly as he gently closed the door behind him and listened outside.

He heard the soldiers arguing wildly and walking around. He crept silently down the long hallway. A bright cat appeared in front of him from the next room. They stared at each other for a few seconds in mid-motion, then the cat strutted on as if it were just another piece of furniture, albeit a bad smelling one. Azrael had to grin. That's why he liked cats.

He also kept moving towards the door, but froze when he heard noises from outside. In a flash he retreated into the spacious room and melted into the darkness. The front door was kicked in and he felt several soldiers rush into the house, including the leader.

“Search everything! We mustn't let him escape again! Come on, ”she commanded. The men nodded and dispersed. Three headed for the room. Damn it.

He looked around quickly. No hiding place in sight. But a glass door or something caught his eye. He quickly moved towards it and found a handle that he quickly pushed down. He saw a balcony in front of him. He quickly stepped inside and closed the door behind him. A street lamp grew out of the ground very close to the balcony. A plan matured in Azrael. He climbed onto the balustrade and balanced for a moment. He tensed and jumped over to the lantern. He got hold of it and dug his fingers into the cool metal. She swayed slightly under his weight. But now, quickly, before anyone noticed him. He climbed onto the narrow head of the lantern and looked around briefly.

The lanterns ran in a row down the street. And the gaps between them weren't particularly great. It was doable for him. Concentrated, he jumped to the next one and landed skillfully with one foot. Before he could lose his balance, he immediately jumped on to the next one, on which he landed with the other foot. So he hurried down the entire street without being seen by any of the soldiers standing guard below him. Even if someone had looked up, they would have been blinded by the light from the lanterns and would have likely mistaken the flickering shadow for an optical illusion.

Unmolested, he reached a small, quiet side street. He climbed the first roof that he came across. He then crawled flatly on, under no circumstances did he want to be noticed so close to the end. The wind carried scraps of the soldiers' noise to him. They clearly sounded perplexed and desperate now. Azrael rubbed her eyes wearily. He just wanted peace. He really needed sleep.

It slid elegantly down the sloping roof of the house until it only hung with its fingertips in the gutter. He slowly searched the dark alley for life. Nothing could be seen or felt. He let himself fall and rolled practically on the floor. Immediately he pushed himself back into the darkness of a corner of the house.

Not too far away he heard the clatter of guns and cramped steps trying to keep quiet. He hurried away. Now it was back to a game by its rules, just as it should be.

Somewhere in Europe, April 6th, 7:08 am

A faint hum ran across the metal floor on which Azrael was lying, ripping him out of his comatose sleep.

"What's going on?" He mumbled sleepily and sat up as if in slow motion. He was still exhausted and felt bruised. He looked around somewhat disoriented.

He was in a small, dark room that was completely filled with parcels of all sizes and shapes. Where was he? His throat was very dry and could use some red life juice ... The hum that had woken him continued.

Azrael frowned. What happened again? He pondered: yesterday he had broken out of his prison and, as it seemed, successfully escaped from his captors. And then ... and then ... Hm, what happened then? The wrinkles on his forehead became deeper as he searched more intensely in his sleep-shrouded brain for any information. He had escaped successfully ... and then he was hiding in a huge automobile!

He shook his head, grinning slightly, at his stupidity. But wait a minute ... why were there noises now? It hadn't done that yesterday. The room suddenly started with a slight jolt and Azrael almost lost her balance. Shit, the automobile drove away with him! And he didn't even know where to go!

He rubbed his face wearily. He had to be out of the reach of people. Somewhere where he could relax and no one could find him. He'd had enough of people for now. So where should he go? Where was the least of these vultures? Iceland, it occurred to him, nobody had ever wanted to live there. It was freezing cold all year round and it was actually always raining when it wasn't snowing or foggy. And that was the summer. Maybe it was the same today and only a few lived there?

Then there was only the question of where he was now and where he was going. He listened attentively outside. Music was playing very softly near him. She must have come out of the cab. Carefully, so as not to knock anything over and thus draw the driver's attention to his stowaway, he wriggled between the stacks of parcels and approached the source of the music. Another smooth wall appeared before him. He put his ear to the cool metal silently and focused on the noises that penetrated him. The music really started now. It sounded like a love story. He listened more carefully to understand the singer's language.

La mer ... Au ciel d'été confond ... Ses blancs moutons ... Avec les anges si purs ... la mer bergère ... riviera ... Infinie Voyez ... Près of étangs ... Ces grands roseaux Mouilles ... Voyez ... Ces oiseaux blancs ... Et ces maisons rouillées La mer

Aah, French. So he was in France. Or? But where exactly did the music come from? It didn't sound like a pin roller, but there were several instruments. Azrael frowned in confusion. Maybe one of those new records? The first was supposedly in 1898, but he didn't pay much attention to this invention at the time. Wrongly? In his opinion, nobody would prefer recorded music to music made live. After a while he shrugged. That wasn't his problem. The next time the car stopped, it would find out where it was. Tired, he lay back to his old sleeping place and fell asleep again within seconds.

Somewhere in Europe, April 6th, 12:54 p.m.

A rasping noise made Azrael wake up from sleep. What was going on now? With growing horror he saw how the door at the end of the room opened relentlessly. Cursed! A tired face with a gray mustache emerged and the eyes bulged out of their sockets when they saw Azrael. But this acted with the experience of centuries and rushed to the people.

He grabbed his shirt with both hands and pulled himself up at the same time. Still in the upward movement, Azrael threw the man with a half turn into the packages behind him. Everything happened too quickly for the human, he just had time to give a questioning grunt before disappearing headlong into the packages. Azrael paid him no further heed but stormed out. A mistake.

In front of him a square opened up with a handful of people who stopped in the middle of their movement to stare at him better. Then the sun's rays hit him with full force. Despite the thick layers of blood, his skin began to tingle as if thousands of ants were crawling around underneath. Instinctively he put a hand in front of his face and turned away from the disgusting brightness. He had to wait in the shadows and for the night. He looked around with narrowed eyes. At the other end of the square it opened into a narrow, shady alley. That was his escape route.

Without paying attention to the people standing around, he ran towards it and a few times pushed people out of the way who did not react quickly enough.

"Hey, after you!" He heard a rough old man's voice scream in French before his head was only filled with the throbbing thought of escape.

Relieved, he stumbled into the cool darkness of the alley and made that he got on before the people caught up with him. The whole houses looked strange, but his subconscious recognized them. But it did not penetrate into his mind, because he was only filled with a steady path, away, away , which shot through his brain at the same time as his steps to the ground.

He flitted right and left through the narrow streets that were filled with people. Where did they all come from? Panic threatened to overwhelm him. Gritting his teeth hard, he turned into a dark entrance to a dilapidated house that was completely covered with tarpaulin and scaffolding. He couldn't be seen, too many must have seen him.

Practiced he pressed himself into the shadow of the great gate. The steady sound of people talking came over him and somehow it had a calming effect on him. He let out a slow breath and concentrated on his beating heart. He silently counted the beats - one, two, three, four, five - until he was completely under control again.

Just breathing, he listened to the voices of the people around him, who did not notice him, although he was less than five meters away from them. It was French, but it sounded different, somehow ... he looked for a suitable word but failed. The closest it hit "more connected," it wasn't quite what he wanted to express. He listened more closely.

“Marie, how did you get the hair color? I wish I…"

"Today we recommend the carrot cake ..."

"Jean, bring me ..."

“Have you ever been here, in Paris? Yes? Then you may know that an exhibition at the Center Pompidou by ... "

What, was he in Paris ?! Hmmmm, it couldn't have been better, he told himself. Azrael remembered the houses he had seen in the beginning.

Right! There he had this one in 1820 ... what was his name? … Oh well, Charles Ferdinand de Bourbon killed and then this saddler Pierre Lavel? Level? Louvel! shoved into the shoes. The idiot really thought it was him and of course he was executed for what he "did". Well, that wasn't Azrael's problem, but he had gotten a fair amount of money for the assassination attempt. And what was even better: he had looked behind the scenes of the world of politics and power and had been able to enjoy everything as a silent observer.

It's always been his favorite thing to do in the world: watch and stay in the background, but make a confusing move every now and then to make the whole game more interesting. There was nothing more fascinating to him than watching for centuries what people would think of next. It was irrelevant to him whether in science or politics. It was always amazing what her mind produced.

Lost in thought, he stroked his cheek and had to control himself not to scream out loud in pain. He had completely forgotten that. How could he have forgotten ?! With a slight disgust (but also an undeniable fascination) he looked at the cheek-sized piece of skin in his hand and threw it away for a few more seconds. It clapped softly against the wall and fell to the dust-covered floor, where it stayed. Azrael looked at it thoughtfully. But now he knew where to go.

He got up carefully and peered out. Most of the people had withdrawn, only a few were sitting in the coffee at the end of the alley. But luckily I had to go the other way. As inconspicuous as it was possible for a blood-smeared, winged creature with only one cheek, he scurried down the street and immediately saw the alley he was looking for. He quickly hurried over to her and disappeared into the cool shadows of the houses.

Somewhere in old Paris, April 6, 2:29 p.m.

With all his strength he braced himself against the stone block that blocked his path. But the latter did not do him a favor and moved away; He also ignored Azrael's angry looks. But now, so close to the finish line, Azrael didn't want to give up so easily. He looked around, but there were few people to be seen and they were some distance from him. He crouched down on the side of the block and examined it more closely.

It was made like a memorial plaque (or, to be precise, like a tombstone) and covered a human-sized piece of graveyard soil. There were inscriptions carved on it so that he could read:

"Here rests in peace with God ..."

The upper half was overgrown with ivy and the name had become illegible over time. A cat stroked his legs and Azrael did her a favor, scratching her soft head. She purred so gleefully that even he had to smile at his dark thoughts. But the stinging of sunlight on the back of his head reminded him why he had come here.

Thoughtfully, he looked at the grave, which hid a secret entrance to the infamous Parisian catacombs, while he proceeded to scratch the cat's belly, which made it wriggle with pleasure. He had used this path so often before. But was there an entrance here at all, in the Montmatre cemetery? In the past, he had often gone underground in the ramified corridors, although he didn't really like the feeling of rocks above him. But because of his sun-sensitive skin and of course his job, it had been necessary.

Out of the corner of his eye he saw something between the thick ivy branches. Curiously, he brushed the heart-shaped leaves aside and a hollow became visible. It was just right for one hand. That's right, that's how it was! This drifting Baptiste had led him into the labyrinth below the city and always served as a guide until Azrael knew his way around even better than he did. Baptiste had also been his connection to his customers and had repeatedly arranged profitable business for him, such as the assassination attempt on de Bourbon. It was really fascinating who wanted him dead. But that didn't matter now.

Carefully he put his hand into the hollow and pressed it down. The cat that he had petted just now watched him curiously. Her tail twitched back and forth tensely. The grave slab moved a little down on this side, the other came up a little. Then it got stuck.

"Damn it!" Azrael muttered impatiently. He was tired and the burned skin ached. He just wanted to sleep.

He got up and pressed all his weight on the grave slab. Nothing happened for a few seconds, but then it gave way with a loud crack and he fell headlong into a narrow hallway. He hit the floor with a thud and lay on his stomach in pain. The cat looked down at him questioningly when Azrael managed, with a low moan, to lift her head and look around.

"Oh, man," he said and slowly sat up. The cat came elegantly down to him, sat down next to him, and mauled him softly. Apparently he had found a fan.

"Yes / Yes. It will go on soon. Just don't be so impatient. And thanks for asking, I'm fine except for two broken ribs, ”he replied sarcastically in his mother tongue (which the animals, strangely, seemed to understand somehow) and stood up swaying slightly.

The bones in question slowly began to grow back together under his skin. In a few hours they would be as good as new. He was breathing very shallowly because with every breath, glowing needles were sent through his lungs. But at least it was nice and shady down here.

He looked up. At a height of two meters, the grave slab hung almost completely erect using a simple tilting mechanism. If you pressed one side down, it gave way and the other naturally went up. On the side where the plate was pointing up, rusted metal struts were now revealed, which made it easy to climb down. Maybe next time, he thought with a pained face as he climbed the struts. If there should be another time. He carefully pushed the plate back into its original place. He wanted to leave as few traces as possible, who knew whether they had already seen him in Paris and were now hunting him again.

His fan gave a questioning meow as Azrael stood down next to him again.

“Yes, we're going to look for something to rest now. And I already know where ... ", he replied quietly and looked into the corridor that stretched in front of them. It was so dark that you couldn't see your hand in front of your eyes. But it wasn't a problem for him.

He gently lifted the cat and sat it on his shoulder, where she immediately made herself comfortable and snuggled around his neck so that her legs rested on one shoulder and her head on the other. The disgusting stench of blood that was now wafting around him did not seem to bother her. In the pleasant darkness around them, he strode into the passage that stretched in front of him, towards his old hiding place. Let's see if it was still there.

Somewhere in the Paris catacombs, April 7, 12:12 a.m.

It was still there, just as he remembered it. He had walked for a long time, had changed levels several times (yes, there were several shifts in the Parisian underworld) and had now finally reached his old hiding place that had served him as an apartment for so many years. In a winding side corridor he walked along the wall and looked for the sign that he had carved the stone so long ago. There! An old A in the Babylonian cuneiform script, his favorite script, because he could read it without any problems because it was always scratched somewhere.

A very hidden gap became visible, through which one could comfortably squeeze through if the person didn't have a huge bulge. Then a large, circular cave opened up that could not possibly have been of natural origin. Azrael suspected that it must have been there in Roman times. Maybe it had served a sect as a ceremonial room? He had found ancient marks on the walls that even he did not recognize. But he had just accepted it, because nobody knew about his cave when he - of course very unobtrusively - had made inquiries. Some secrets simply remained unrevealed. Maybe it was better that way, he sometimes thought.

In the middle of the circular room, which was perhaps five man's lengths in diameter, there was an equally round platform with a recess, which was connected to the two-meter-wide path at the edge of the cave by a footbridge. At the edge of the cave he had found a semicircular niche, set up camp there and even built an extra room for his… tools that he needed for his work.

But the real special thing about the cave was the steadily flowing water, which - it seemed - came out of a natural opening in the rock and enclosed the platform. On the other side of the cave, the builders had created a deep basin, which had a narrow drain in the rock wall, so that fresh water always flowed into the channels and basins. He had always been very careful about cleanliness; he just couldn't stand being dirty and smelly. At times he was the only one in all of Paris.

Relieved, he headed for his former sleeping place. He crouched down and carefully lifted the sleeping cat off his shoulders. She didn't even wake up when he put her gently on the floor. Her paws twitched only slightly in a dream and she curled up tighter. He went thoughtfully to his "workshop", but it was rotten and apparently crumbled some time ago. It was just a pile of rotten boards and musty rags.

He stood in front of it with a sigh. Well, he wasn't going to stay. At least not very long. Although ... wasn't he the safest down here in the catacombs? In such a huge human city like Paris nobody would suspect it? And if he really wanted to go to Iceland he had to regain his strength and recover sufficiently, because the long flights there would not be a walk in the park.

But now he had to wash himself first. He had longed for that all along. He went over the footbridge to the platform and took off his bloodied clothes, which were already stiff with dirt. It was so comfortable that he stretched comfortably. Now, naked, he walked up a staircase that always wound along the platform and led ever deeper into the water.

It was pleasantly cool, although he didn't mind either the heat or the cold. He stroked his crusty skin and felt how the dirt was loosening in chunks. His skin shimmered very white in the darkness, because moonlight penetrated the cave indirectly through a crack in the ceiling and gave it something mystical, difficult to grasp.

Azrael didn't really need the light, but his fan would definitely like it. Some sunlight also came in during the day, but it was so diffuse and faint that he didn't have to worry. Now it was the turn of the hair. He went under and ran his fingers through the long strands. He repeated this procedure until it felt completely clean.

He paid special attention to the feathers on his wings. He washed out each and every one of them, which took over two hours and he had to contort a lot. Then he was finally clean, outside and inside. The washing had calmed his troubled insides and he felt very tired.

He dived one last time and then got out of the water again. He wrenched out his long, white hair and temporarily combed it with his fingers, thinning it quite a bit. He had to get or steal a comb (which was more likely in his case). He left his clothes where they were. He would wash them tomorrow (or was it tomorrow?) And get new, less noticeable ones.

He yawned so extensively that his jaw joint cracked loudly. Finally sleep. Still slightly wet, he lay down next to the cat and curled up just like her. The cat moved slightly in his sleep and snuggled against his chest. It felt incredibly soft and Azrael could feel its rapid pulse against his heart. It was such a peaceful, trusting gesture after the whole fearful and hateful escape that he smiled warmly and you understood why some had taken him for an angel. He closed his eyes and spread a wing over himself and the cat so that it was nice and warm and lay like a living tent. Then he fell asleep immediately.

Somewhere in the Paris catacombs, April 7th, 8:12 p.m.

He woke up feeling completely relaxed for the first time. Nothing hurt him and even the hunger was only gentle. He sat up smiling. Where was his fan? Searching, he looked around and discovered her in his blood-smeared clothes. Now she sniffed it and seemed to wonder whether the rags were edible. Then she strutted away and sat on the edge of the platform, where she began an extensive cleanup. Well, she had been lying on his dirty clothes for several hours.

Azrael shrugged and walked across the footbridge onto the platform. He grabbed his clothes and began to save what could be saved. Even when it was clean, it looked more like rags than clothes. There were cracks and holes everywhere, even in places where he couldn't explain them with the best will in the world. But he had nothing better for now. He put on the still damp clothes. It stuck and rubbed everywhere. That would be the first thing he would do: get new clothes. The cat watched impatiently and groaned.

"Yes, yes, it's about to start. Just a moment, madam, ”he muttered, straightening his t-shirt. "Okay, let's go!" He said, lifting her back onto his shoulders. Madam snuggled up against his neck and immediately dozed off again.

"How much sleep do you need ?! We only slept for a whole day, ”he said, amused, to the cat, who only commented on the teasing with a soft snort.

Azrael looked at the ceiling of the cave. The last of the daylight still shimmered gently on the rough rocks. So it would be really dark soon. Very good.

He walked lively into the tangle of corridors that he knew like the back of his hand from years of experience. Well, now and then he had made markings, but only in very confusing places.

After a long while - the sun was now below the horizon - he came to a narrow spiral staircase made of stone, which wound steeply up in a musty alcove. Carefully he put his weight on the steps, because they looked so fragile and old that the next breeze could cause them to collapse. It crunched softly with every step, but she withstood the strain.

Above, a manhole cover closed the exit to the upper world. It was very old and rusted everywhere. Fine chips of the rust loosened and fell into his hair as he pushed it open carefully so as not to make a noise. Who knew what was now about it? In its day it was an unused cellar, but was that still the case today? He peeked tensely over the edge - and looked in the middle of a busy street. Where did the house go ?! Fortunately for him, the gully was at the mouth of a poorly lit alley. Hardly anyone would see him.

He patiently observed a moment where there were only a few people around, slipped out and placed the rusty lid back in its usual place. Immediately it merged with the darkness in the alley. What now? Suddenly there was the sound of an engine behind him, approaching quickly. What's going on now ... he thought and just managed to jump out of the way when an automobile shot out of the alley behind him. He was trembling with shock and pressed closer to the wall next to him. The driver gave a loud tirade, but drove on, unimpressed.

Azrael did not recover from the near miss easily. He crept nervously through the darkness, always ready for a howling engine. A collision couldn't kill him, but the injuries wouldn't be pleasant. An icy wind came up and a light drizzle set in.

Carefully he lifted Madam off his shoulders and put the plaster on her too. Her eyes curiously examined the new surroundings. She seemed to be completely indifferent to the incident. She was just more used to cars than he was, he told himself as they walked down the street together, she was also much younger.

After wandering aimlessly for a while, he came to a wide alley that was completely lined with huge, incredibly tall houses. Azrael looked up in amazement. He had never seen houses like this before. How did they do it that they didn't collapse? There must have been a pretty strong wind up there.

Out of the corner of his eye he saw a group of young men approaching him, but it was too late to flee, they had already seen him and were noisily heading for him. Damn. He looked down and took a few steps back. He didn't have time for trouble. He also wanted to remain anonymous. That had always been hard enough for him, his albino-like appearance always stood out, no matter where he was.

And people reacted very strongly to his indifferent appearance, because he confused their usual points of view - either male or female, but never both at the same time. And if there is one thing people hated, it was to be confused. He turned away from the apparently drunk boys.

"Hey, what's going on? A little skinny man called to him. They surrounded him and Azrael bumped his back against a wall. Under no circumstances were they allowed to see his wings.

"No. I already know where I am. Thank you, ”Azrael replied in plain French, but didn't look the speaker in the eye.

"What kind of one are you ... or one ?!" When Azrael did not react, a tall one stepped up to him.

"Hey, answer! Or are you maybe such a fag? "Azrael did not really understand what a fag should be, so he left the comment uncommented and said:

“Could you please let me through? I still have a long way to go. ”Madam mauzed fearfully and Azrael looked reassuringly into her eyes. With his mind he said to her:

Everything will be fine, just don't worry.

"What was that?" Asked one with shoulder-length hair and looked around confused. Damn it, there was a receptive there.

"What?" Asked another back. Now Azrael thought the time was right for the escape, but another, previously unknown pair of eyes looked at him.

Suddenly an ancient hatred rose in him. He was too old for that shit. He had only just escaped a fate so much worse than anything these guys could imagine. What right did these children have to stop him? He could no longer control himself, he no longer wanted to control himself. It was his world, not human. When did you finally understand that ???

Something in the deeper layers of his soul cracked into a thousand pieces. There was only burning hatred. Coldly he eyed the young guys around him and his insides were covered as if by ice. There were five of them, but neither armed nor experienced in combat. Besides, they were drunk. That would be quick.

Azrael caught the drought's gaze and smiled, revealing his razor-sharp teeth. They shone ominously in the soft moonlight. The drought winced in foreboding and uttered:

"Man, what the hell ...?", But he couldn't finish his exclamation anymore, the Azrael kicked him in the chest with full force. He felt bones break under his bare foot.

The little human was thrown a good bit through the air and came crashing down on the opposite wall of the house and hit the floor with a dull sound. The others were paralyzed and stared at their injured comrade with huge eyes. And Azrael took advantage of this mercilessly. The one to his left he hit his head on the forehead, causing the young man to collapse unconscious. A thin clot of blood ran down his cheek from his nose and dripped onto the asphalt of the road. A fine smell of blood spread. Azrael felt the hunger flare up again, but he was completely in control.

With the swing of the head butt he made a half turn and kicked the person on the right in the soft tissues, which the latter acknowledged with a loud yelp and collapsed. Now the two remaining ones broke out of their rigidity and attacked him swinging their fists. Azrael dodged a badly aimed blow on his head elegantly and struck the attacker with the half-length hair with his fist from below on the chin. There was an audible crunch and the human screeched in horror:

"You filthy bastard! You caught my kiescher! ”But Azrael simply ignored the staggering figure and bent backwards, thus preventing a slap in his face from the last person still standing.

Azrael kicked his knee from behind, throwing him onto his back. He just uttered a loud "AHHHH" and lay sobbing while he clasped his lower leg, which protruded at a strange angle. Azrael sensed a presence behind him and spun around. He caught the blow of the young man whose jaw he had broken with one hand in the air, clutching the wrist tightly. The attacker tried to evade him, but in vain.

For a moment the two fighters just stood opposite each other and looked each other in the eye. Only the panting breath of the young man and some whimpering of his comrades filled the stillness of the night that had wrapped around them like a bubble. All other noises had ceased, even the incessant wind had fled.

There was nothing but anger in the human boy's eyes, but in Azrael's light amusement with barely concealed contempt. Did this person really think he could take on him? But suddenly the cheerfulness gave way to an abysmal freezing cold, which made the person understand immediately what an ancient being he was looking at. The gaze was filled with experiences from centuries and millennia; the being before him had wandered through the greatest joys, but also the deepest abysses, and could kill him with an ease that bordered on the absurd.

But Azrael just smiled at him - it was a smile full of pleasure at the cruelty he was about to commit, but it didn't fully mask the sadness about what had become of him - and it broke the boy's wrist with a loud crack. The human dropped to his knees, his mouth torn open in a silent scream and stared in disbelief at the destroyed hand before his gaze wandered back to Azrael. He observed him with scientific interest, as if the human being were nothing more than an experimental animal.

Azrael was hungry for now. He turned away and went to the young man he had thrown against the wall. He breathed in and out, panting, but was passed out. His entire body was totally bent and destroyed. Bones protruded steeply from his chest. It was so beautiful to look at. It would be a miracle if he could survive the night.

Azrael knelt on the floor and put his hands almost tenderly around the head of the dying person and turned his head to the side so that the neck was open in front of him. He greedily bit into the tender flesh in front of him and drew the deliciously tingling blood into himself. The young man gave a slight moan, but remained unconscious. A few moments later he exhaled for the last time and died.

Azrael put him down gently and swayed to his feet. Somehow it was wrong anyway. Everything here was wrong. What was he doing here? The air suddenly seemed too difficult to breathe and he just wanted to get away. But first he looked around for Madam. She sat in a corner and carefully watched what was happening. Somehow Azrael found her look reproachful and he made a side hidden deep within him swing. But he hadn't had a choice ... right?

He took a step towards her. But the cat darted like a shadow into a dark driveway. She stopped again and looked at Azrael for a long time, as if struggling with herself. But then she turned around for good and disappeared into the darkness. The night suddenly felt terribly ugly and cold. Irritated by the unfamiliar feelings, he absently licked his mouth to catch every drop of the red juice of life. Azrael walked slowly down the street, sad about the loss of his only girlfriend.

"Why?" Came softly from behind and Azrael collapsed.

He looked over his shoulder at the broken wrist man who was now crouched on his knees next to his dead friend.

"Why did you kill him?" The young man asked flatly and looked at Azrael with sorrow.

“It would have been more cruel to be left in death rings for hours. Azrael replied without any emotion in her voice. Before guilt (why guilt ?!) could overwhelm him, he ran down the street and when he was sure he was out of the human boy's field of vision, he started to run.

Somewhere in Paris, April 7th, 11:59 p.m.

His muscles stretched and contracted with comfort as he climbed the facade of the old house. Azrael only focused on the climb, his mind fixed on the next hold. He didn't want to think of anything else.

Then he would have had to admit that he was scared and that for the first time in a long time he didn't know how to proceed. That he had no plan up his sleeve. He should have admitted that nothing was and would never be the same again. He should have admitted that he was somehow tired of killing, even though he had every reason for revenge. And he should have admitted that something had changed him, but he didn't know what was different now and that made him tremble inside.

But since he was concentrating on climbing, he pushed all these unpleasant thoughts into a corner of his mind, where he could not hear them, but they fermented in him anyway. His hand clutched the gable and he pulled himself up in a jerk. He crouched on the edge and looked out over the familiar, new Paris.

Not too far away, the Eiffel Tower rose from a sea of ​​roofs. And there, there was Notre-Dame. And and and ... But somehow everything was different, he felt different. Was it because of his long "absence"? Paris had evolved, he hadn't. Or is it? His gaze swept over new buildings next to familiar ones, new parts of the city and streets where previously there had only been wasteland and mud. But was that all?

Azrael cocked her head and listened into the night with her eyes closed. The cool wind carried scraps of conversation and laughter to him, the sound of cars moving and the cawing of a single crow very close to him. Somewhere there was a clatter in the dark. Actually, everything was almost the same, even if a good 150 years had passed. Somehow the thought made him melancholy. What if basically nothing in the human world had changed over all those hundreds of years? They kept inventing things to make life more comfortable, but had anything changed in their heads? Had nothing happened there either?

Basically, Azrael thought as he watched the crow circling around, they were and always will remain the same. They had no choice and it wasn't their fault this time either. They just died too soon to develop profoundly. They were born, grew up, brought into the world, and died. In this short period of time, everything revolved around what they loved and what they chose as the meaning of their lives. Whether it be her offspring, money, fame or a religion, it made little difference in the end. Few he had known had ever looked outside the box and quite a few had deeply disturbed what they had seen and mixed up their innermost views.

The crow drew a final circle over Azrael's head and studied him out of her unfathomable eyes. He wished he could just sail away, but he had noticed a lot of bizarre things in the night sky that looked very distant like birds. But they seemed much too big for birds and they didn't move their wings. Besides, they were way too loud. Maybe they were created by humans? They reminded him of the glider pilots with which humans had tried to do like birds before. It hadn't worked out as he thought he remembered, only short distances had been possible. And that with favorable wind conditions, otherwise you will crash very quickly like this Berblinger.

Well, if that time Leonardo could have seen, Azrael thought with a smile, he would have burst into a real storm of enthusiasm. He had been very enthusiastic anyway, but had hardly finished anything. However, this had proven to be a bit unfavorable, especially when researching anatomy, because corpses did not like waiting to rot.

"Oh yes ..." Azrael muttered, smiling. Leonardo was a chapter in itself.

But now he had to go on to get new clothes. He got up and went to the edge of the roof. He looked around carefully. A street opened before him in two alleys that ran parallel to each other. The house they enclosed had an unusually smooth facade. Azrael figured it had to be made of glass or metal. Further back, a street crossed the two alleys, on which many people were walking. Hm. Maybe he should try to get information there first?

He quickly climbed down the side of the house that was most in shadow and dropped the last ten feet. He came up cleverly and carefully peered around the corner. Not too far away a tight-knit couple came up to him. He quickly retreated into the darkness of his hiding place - two garbage cans whose stench he luckily couldn't smell.

"... and then she said that Alice was up to something with Pierre. But actually she is with Robert ", the young woman told her visibly bored friend who only:

"Oh yes?", Interjected, which she didn't even notice but continued to babble:

“And she must know because she's still keen on Pierre. Maybe she's just doing it to get at him? She has always been such a scheming ... "

Then the two were over and the uniform babbling of the conversation (if you could call it that, it was actually more of a monologue) was lost in the night. Azrael just rolled her eyes. Women. And it was also hollow.

He carefully looked around the corner again. Nobody was to be seen. He quickly slipped on into the next cross street. He made that he got further. The closer he got to the busy street, the fewer the shadows and more and more lanterns spread their light. Azrael grimaced as if he had bitten into something sour. Did they necessarily have to make it harder for him than it already was? In the last cross street he ran parallel to the big one until he came to a slightly darker corner just before it. The main street turned right in front of him and a few people used it to stroll. Well, now he just had to wait.

What did he want to go as? Man or woman? Hm. Women were less often suspected of having done something - at least before that. But they always wore such impractical clothes. Not to mention a corset that he needed to look more feminine. First of all, men's clothes were needed. With narrowed eyes with concentration, he looked at every human man who passed him. They passed him barely a meter away, but did not see him in his rather makeshift hiding place: under a staircase which, luckily, consisted only of metal bars.

Today his luck seemed to have run out of luck, because for a long time he only saw thicker people or those who were taller than himself. The later it got, the fewer people were around. Shortly before he thought luck had left him completely and he wanted to return to his old hiding place, a younger man with a full beard came into his field of vision. He wore simple trousers (we would call them jeans, but Azrael didn't know that name at the time) and a simple shirt. Over it he wore a slim fit jacket. Perfect, thought Azrael, and tensed to attack.

Unsuspecting, the man sauntered past Azrael's hiding place. As if out of nowhere, Azrael appeared behind him, pressed his hand to his mouth to prevent the person from screaming and hit him hard on the temple with the edge of his hand. The man rolled his eyes and went limp. Azrael caught him before he could hit the ground and break and stain his clothes. He quickly pulled him behind the metal stairs and looked around. Nobody noticed. But the next passer-by appeared some distance away. He had to hurry.

He leaned down to the unconscious man and took off his jacket. Then it was the shirt and pants. He left the underpants where they were, it would have been gross to wear them. He carefully folded the things and tucked them under his arm. Briefly he bent down to the person. Yes, he was still breathing and was already beginning to wake up moaning. Hurry up now.

Azrael ran down the alley and disappeared into the darkness.

Somewhere in Paris, April 8, 4:31 a.m.

The clothes fit like a glove. Fascinated, Azrael kept stroking the fabric of the jacket, which felt so strangely cool, but at the same time velvety soft. Now he looked as normal as he could possibly be. He strolled thoughtfully through the park in front of him. Nobody but him was out here at that time. What should he do next? Shouldn't he move on? It was extremely dangerous to stay there.

He knew deep down that he had to leave Paris and that he needed some distance from the people first. But somehow it seemed wrong to flee now. Then they would have won. And that was the last thing Azrael allowed the people. Sighing, he sat down on the nearest bench and looked at the night sky. What did stars look like? People so often used them as symbols and aspired to achieve them. Would it be possible for them one day? His people could almost have done it, but then doom came upon them. They had brought themselves down.

A cold shiver ran through Azrael. He didn't want to think about that now. It had been a long time, but the memories still frightened him. He unconsciously clenched his fists. His sharp fingernails dug into his sensitive palms and black blood oozed out. He absently watched the healing process. Since his escape, the feeling that what had happened then was somehow connected to the present in this world has intensified in his chest. It gnawed at him, but he couldn't tell what the connection was. But it was important, he knew that.

Wearily, he rubbed his hands over his face. It didn't matter now. The only thing that mattered was what he did next. He made up his mind and got up. Slowly he strolled through the park and the moonlight made his white hair glow.

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