His mother’s green Toyota was crowded with Liem in the passenger seat. Sure, the apprentice was slender and petite and took up less space than Ky did, but it felt weird. Wrong. Ky wasn’t remotely comfortable around Liem after what he did to Brave, the terrible things he said to him, or how he tried to steal Magnificent Night. He and Liem might share a common goal at the moment, but Ky would be hard pressed to call him friend. He could barely think of Liem as human; he was that cruel and ever ready with a lie or trick.
“So, what’s your sorcerer teacher like?” Ky asked in the hopes of breaking the awkward silence between them. He insisted on driving even though Liem wanted to teleport them. Ky didn’t have a clue how to teleport. Being reliant on the apprentice for transportation while in a foreign place could be outright dangerous, no matter how many times Liem rolled his eyes at him like he was an idiot.
“My master.” Liem turned his head from the window to look at Ky. “Master Tobias is a master sorcerer and has earned his title. It’s important you address him properly.”
“I’m not calling him fucking master.” Ky's glare dared Liem to challenge him on it. As the sorcerer who trained Liem, Tobias was probably just as bad, maybe even more.
“Then refer to him as Master Godwin—because he’s a master sorcerer, not because he’s your master, idiot,” Liem added when Ky made a noise of protest. “This is normal stuff, man. You just don’t know because you’re ignorant as fuck.”
Ky bit his tongue and gripped the steering wheel painfully tight as he took the next corner. Night was dark around them, and the quiet streets of Blackstone Falls extra empty at the current hour. If he tossed Liem out the car and kept driving, he doubted anyone would be able to prove it.
“Does he have a lot of apprentices?” Ky asked tightly, trying to derail his angry thoughts.
“Fuck, no. Do you think a guy like Master Tobias has time to teach every snot-nosed sorcerer wanna-be who figures out how to make a wand?” Liem snorted. “I’m his very first. He put it off for ages because he was so caught up in building his business. Being selected is a real honor.”
“Business?” Ky tore his eyes from the road to glance over at the slim apprentice. Liem looked deceptively young and sweet for all the terrible just beneath his surface. “Like a magic business?”
“Sure, but better. Any two-bit sorcerer can start a magic business,” Liem said with a wave of his hand. “Master Tobias trains demons, and only for the most important of people. Diplomats, CEO’s, celebrities. He’s about as famous as it gets for this particular thing.”
Ky inhaled deeply as his stomach twisted in an uncomfortable knot. “What… What do these people want demons for? They’re not sorcerers. What do they do with them if not use their magic?”
“Protection, mostly. Demons make great bodyguards if they’re trained right. Some people just like that the demons are rare and no one else has them.” Liem shifted in his seat and hunched forward until his bangs covered his eyes. “And some people like to fuck them. Some want to kill them, or just nearly. A demon can take a lot more pain than a human. You can do anything to a demon, and the law won’t get involved. Demons have no rights. Hell, most people don’t even know they exist. If Master Tobias didn’t spell them so people could see, normal people would never know a demon was standing right beside them.”
Ky’s stomach lurched, and his knuckles turned white from the tension in his hand. “Slavery. Your master is a slaver of demons.”
Liem raised a brow and glanced his way. “Well, yeah, demons are rare. Did you think they're allowed to walk around everywhere? People would be fighting each other to get them. It would be chaos.”
Ky snarled and abruptly slammed his foot on the brake. The car fishtailed in a squeal of tires, then jerked roughly to a stop. The hum of crickets filled the air as they sat on the dark road. “You mean people would be running around shitless because all the demons would be hunting down the asshole sorcerers who sold them into slavery. Being from another world doesn’t justify what you’re doing to them!”
Liem huffed and shrugged back against his seat. “When you meet Master Tobias, you’ll understand. No demon is going to fight him; they know he’s stronger. He’s killed more demons than I’ve seen in my entire life, and that was just during my apprenticeship with him. At least the demon slaves are allowed to live.”
Ky stopped trying to get his shaking hands to cooperate, hissed, and shot Liem a deadly glare. He paused when he found Liem staring out the window, a haunted expression on his young face.
“Do you want to kill demons?” Ky dreaded the answer before the question was fully out.
Liem considered it stonily and slowly shook his head.
“Then what? Power? Do you like hurting them? What the hell do you want from them, Liem?”
“Nothing.” Liem stared intently at the darkness outside the car. “I hate them. I’d be happy if I never saw another demon ever again.”
Ky tried to read Liem’s expression when he refused to explain himself. It didn’t matter; Liem was fucked, did fucked up things, and whatever was wrong he probably brought on himself.
Ky turned his attention to the road and resumed driving. The idea of confronting this Tobias Godwin was making him more uneasy after what he learned. As his nerves grew taut, his foot pressed heavier, and the car’s speed climbed on the empty back roads. Brave was alone with some sort of demon slaver, one who murdered demons like they were nothing. This was the man who had taught Liem demons were less than human. What would such a man do when he was asked to give up one of his demons?
Ky gripped the black link connecting him to Brave and held it tight in his grasp. He was still alive. If Liem was telling the truth, as long as this link was on his collar it meant Brave was still alive.