Out of all the demonic academies scattered throughout the world, providing education for the spawn of human and supernatural couplings, Nessus was one of the more elite institutions.
Its hallowed and illustrious halls catered for those from old, wealthy demon families and of course, the odd scholarship misfit. Every half demon on their 112th birthday would be considered eligible for enrolment at such academies.
The Dubois family had enjoyed seventeen generations of students educated at Nessus and Vex Dubois, now in his final year of an advanced diploma in demonic combat and finance, was simply the latest in a line of handsome, wealthy graduates destined for the upper echelons of supernatural society.
Vex watched apathetically as his friend Kane drunkenly threw an ugly antique vase across the room, colliding with a low hanging chandelier. The gum-drop coloured shards of which subsequently rained down sickeningly against the head of a previously giggling party guest. The young woman let out an indignant screech as glass fragments quivered in her neck and cheek, rivulets of blood staining her dress.
It was the dress, apparently, that she was most annoyed about. Her eyes darkened and she quickly charmed the jagged spikes from her skin and healed their wounds. All anger was forgotten a moment later however as Kane apologetically conjured her wine glass into solid gold.
Kane could fix most problems with his gleaming, pearly smiles, his fangs shimmering against dark skin. Kane’s horns were blood ruby, intertwined and looped at the top like the twisted flax hieroglyph and oiled with myrrh.
“One of these days you won’t be able to trick your way out,” Vex drawled lazily as Kane approached him with a mischievous wink. Vex was well acquainted with his best friend’s illusions and no doubt the gold goblet would be cheap faux Venetian glass again by morning.
“Never,” Kane declared emphatically, “I know not to dig myself a hole so deep that even I could not crawl out,” Kane snarled the last part of his sentence with a gleeful look as long, vermillion talons extended from his fingers.
“Put them away,” Vex huffed, “I don’t want to lose an eye.”
“Scylla is sizing you up again,” Kane grinned, gesturing not too subtly over to where one of the other students was stood, giggling with her friends and occasionally peering over hopefully in Vex’s direction. Eventually she seemed to gather the courage to beckon Vex over, a gesture he managed to pretend he hadn’t noticed.
“Let her look,” Vex’s lips twitched with derisive amusement. Scylla was desirable enough, her Rumpelstiltskin-spun hair shimmering in the candlelight, however she wasn’t quite what Vex was hankering after this particular evening.
“Everyone wants a piece of you,” Kane hissed, sitting back in a ratty velvet armchair out of which several alarmed scarabs quickly scuttled. “I don’t see it myself,” he grunted, grabbing one of the hapless beetles and biting off its head. “What’s so special about you Vex Dubois?”
“Come to my rooms later and you can find out,” Vex smiled ferally as his friend pulled a horrified expression and threw the remains of a chewed arthropod carcass at him.
Vex smirked and leaned back in his chair, cracking his neck and inhaling the nearby incense of blood and moonstone. He knew full well he was handsome, tall and leanly muscled with sleek dark hair and honey brown eyes.
Plus, there was his name and demonic rank - that would surely draw in some of the status-seeking flies like a pot of sticky honey. His horns and tail too, were of an impressive girth and a deep obsidian colour flecked with iridescent quartz.
“Oh look, an aquatic demon,” Kane murmured curiously, interrupting Vex’s train of indulgently narcissistic thought. Vex glanced up to see a slender young man with azure metallic hair and coffee coloured skin hurrying through the fray carrying a pile of books. The demon’s bright blue scaled tail, no broader than a fountain pen, was wrapped nervously around his leg like twined ivy.
“I told Namrah we shouldn’t hold parties in this room,” Vex sighed. “It blocks the way to the Science Library.”
“It’s the weekend, who in the seventh circle is going to be wanting access to the library?” Kane chuffed.
Vex watched as the blue haired demon tried his best to duck and weave past the inebriated revellers, his tiny tail twitching and tightening every time someone strayed too close. Vex guessed the young man wasn’t much over a century old, roughly the same as Vex.
“Look at the state of his clothes,” Kane sniffed disapprovingly. “That’s a scholarship student for sure.”
Vex raised an eyebrow as he observed the demon’s overly neat, pressed grey trousers and green woollen sweater vest with a sewn on patch.
The demon’s shoes were also clearly recently shined with polish. No one with money ever exercised such diligence in maintaining their attire. Vex glanced down at his own charcoal sweats, scuffed white sneakers and flint hued shirt, his apathy reeked of money.
“Oh, there he goes,” Kane chortled, taking another swig of his drink as Vex glanced back up to see a large possession demon stumble backwards into the blue haired young man, causing the pile of books to be sent flying.
Vex stood up, ignoring Kane’s confused callings of his name as he pushed past party guests to reach the other demon. In the fray, the aquatic demon had managed to off-balance Scylla who had crumpled to the floorboards in a cloud of puffed lace skirts and affronted gasps.
Scylla also seemed to have spilled some of her drink as a strange, gleaming, rose-coloured liquid had splattered across the blue haired man’s hands.
“You okay?” Vex asked, peering down at the young man who was sat on the floor, blinking around himself in surprise as if he wasn’t quite sure what had happened.
“I –” the man stammered.
“Here,” Vex sighed, reaching out to haul the aquatic demon up by his arms, some of the sticky pink drink smacked tackily against Vex’s palms, causing him to grimace and almost immediately regret his uncharacteristic Good Samaritan behaviour. The other man only reached Vex’s chin and was alarmingly light and skinny.
“Thank you,” the man said nervously before hurrying to gather the strewn books. Vex picked up the final one, a flimsy thesis on summoning theory. He turned round to hand it back to the demon but it seemed that he had already disappeared.
Vex huffed, dropping the book again where it landed with a dull thwack on the dark floorboards before falling victim to a number of parading stilettos, some girded with embellished blades like Boudicca’s chariot wheels.
“What about me?!” Scylla demanded indignantly as Vex turned his bored gaze back to her. A second later, however, Scylla seemed to notice that her drink had spilled. Her black eyes turned white with fury as she violently twisted her head about to assess the damage.
“Vex, Vex,” Scylla’s circled friends giggled as Scylla herself began to paw at the floorboards, almost frantic. “Come and drink with us!”
Vex forced a tight smile, flashing his sharpened fangs to coos of appreciation. “Sincere apologies my beauties, but I am already drinking with a friend,” he replied, swiftly turning and sauntering back to where Kane was waiting with a bemused look on his face.
“What was that about?” Kane asked, burping loudly, his breath smelling alarmingly of beetles.
“Just like you said,” Vex shrugged, “some scholarship demon. Thought I’d lend him a hand.” Vex stared down at his palm, expecting it to still be sticky but finding that all of the sugary pink concoction had already evaporated.
“Well aren’t you just a doll?” Kane snorted before pointing towards Scylla who had seemingly regained her composure and was now fluttering her eyelashes and plumping her pert, purple lips. “So are you going to bed Scylla tonight or will I get lucky?”
“Go for it,” Vex shrugged, recalling absently that the strange man’s lips had been a pale blue. He wondered what kind of aquatic demon he was descended from? “Oh but Kane,” Vex called out, “don’t forget what you said.”
Kane paused from where he had been preparing to make a bee-line for Scylla.
“Don’t get yourself stuck in any holes you can’t claw out of,” Vex smiled nastily as his friend laughed and groaned in disgust.
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