After gathering everything I needed, I went up to the cash register, where the owner of the store rang me up for my purchases.
Fukiyama Miyata was an old man. He could even be called ancient. His shock white hair was thin and falling out, wrinkles covered his face, and he stood with a noticeable slouch. The hands that rang up my purchase were weathered and covered in sunspots. I was honestly amazed that he hadn’t retired.
He did not speak to me. Still, considering how the normal response store owners had was to ban me from shopping at their store, I was grateful to him.
I made my purchase and left the store, two plastic bags in my hand. Then I began to make my way home.
Saitama Prefecture was a landlocked prefecture of Japan. It was located in the Kantō region of the island of Honshu and was part of the Greater Tokyo Area. There were 40 cities located within the Saitama Prefecture. I lived in Saitama, the capital city.
It was expected of a city such as this, but Saitama consisted of tall buildings–apartments, mostly–mixed in with smaller buildings like convenience stores, novelty shops, bookstores, karaoke bars, and also a lot of buildings that used traditional Japanese architecture. Sometimes a shop would have a modern look, all flat roofed and made of bricks. Then right next to it there would be a building with a sloped roof, lintel posts, and a zen garden. It was an unusual dichotomy.
As I walked home, I spent a few moments admiring the scenery. Even a monster such as myself could appreciate the beauty surrounding me. No, perhaps it was because I understood what it meant to be a monster, to be alone, that I could appreciate such beauty.
The feeling didn’t last. About halfway to my apartment, a strange chill rushed down my spine, and the hairs on my arms prickled.
Being what I was, it was only natural that I would have strong sensory abilities. While wasn’t what someone would call a natural sensor, I was born with a high sensivity to various kinds of energy. It caused a lot of problems when I was younger. There were many occasions where I’d panic because of a foreign energy presence. I’d tell the matron at my old orphanage, but she’d never believe me, not until it was too late.
Out of all the types of energy that I was sensitive to, the two kinds that I could sense particularly well was demonic and angelic energy.
Someone was using demonic energy. Multiple someones. They were also close.
Could this be what Azazel had been talking about?
Knowing that I would need to investigate this at some point, I turned on a dime and rushed in the direction I had felt the energy coming from. Something passed over me as I did. I looked up to see a barrier over my head. It was a black and white barrier that undulated as if it was a bubble that might pop. I felt a mild urge to turn around and leave and deduced that this barrier was designed to keep humans from entering this area.
I rushed into an alley as the direction of the multiple energy signatures changed. Someone was on the run, and that someone was being chased. Even as I continued to move, I sensed one of the presences that I had been chasing suddenly vanish. Then another, and another, and another. Had they been killed?
Bursting out of another alley, I rushed into a side street next to a large apartment building. Three corpse littered the ground. Their bodies were twisted like broken dolls, limbs splayed out as they lay there, unmoving.
They weren’t human.
I went up to one and knelt down. This creature was humanoid in shape. Were it not for the heavy brow-ridge, lack of eyebrows, red skin, and horns, I might have mistaken it for a human. As things stood, there was no way I could have misapprehended what this was. It was…
“A lesser demon.”
Lesser demons were creatures from the Underworld. They were sort of like a magician's familiar, except they were bound to serve devils. Lesser demons weren’t exceedingly powerful, nor were they all that smart. Even so, they were more powerful than the average magician. For someone to have killed three of them, they must be strong.
I continued on. Another presence vanished. I found another corpse located in an alleyway. It looked like half of its body had been obliterated. The other half lay face first on the ground, the edge of its torso frayed as if its hips and legs had been burnt off.
More presences vanished, and I quickened my pace, following the trail of bodies that the combatants left in their wake. By the time I reached them, 21 lesser demons had been slain, and there were only six presences left. They had stopped moving.
I rushed around the corner where I felt them. I wasn’t sure what I had expected to see, but the scene before me was not it.
Alicia was one of the six presences that I had felt, and she was injured. She leaned her back against the wall, blood dripping down her face and her left arm hanging uselessly at her side. With one eye closed, she used the other to glare defiantly at the five lesser demons arrayed before her. Yet even though she had defiance in her eyes, the way her body shook and her legs wobbled signified that she was reaching her limit.
I acted without hesitation.
The first lesser demon to die was killed when I stabbed my hand through its back. It didn’t even have time to squeal. I had pierced its heart. Pulling out, I allowed the creature’s body to drop to the floor and attacked the one on my left. I lashed out with my hand again, infusing just modicum of energy into my knife-shaped hand. The creature’s head was severed from its shoulders.
By now, the others had noticed my presence. The three remaining lesser demons hissed and spat at me. The one closest to me, on my right and slightly behind me, tried to attack me with fire-laced claws.
I shuffled to the left, avoiding the attack, which sizzled as I moved past, smelling of burnt ozone. Then I slashed my hand at the demon in a cutting motion. The creature’s torso was sliced open almost to its spine. Blood spurt from the open wound, splattering the ground in bright carmine. The lesser demon gurgled as it tumbled to the floor like a ragdoll. It didn’t get up.
Two sets of footsteps echoed behind me. I spun around, my hands outstretched and a magic circle in front of them. A sphere of light appeared from one circle and a crackling orb of darkness emerged from the other. The two attacks were simultaneously fired, striking their targets with pinpoint accuracy. These creatures barely had time to scream before they were consumed. When the attacks died down, not even their ashes remained.
The last lesser demon tried to run. It may not have been very smart, but even it knew that I could not be beaten.
I wouldn’t let it run away.
“Sorry,” I whispered as I waved my right hand, creating another magic circle. A wave of white energy was unleashed. It washed over the creature, which evaporated as its body was burned by an energy that was the antithesis to all devil kind.
With the battle having met its conclusion, I took a quick moment to regain my senses. I didn’t like fighting. I didn’t like killing. I consoled myself with the fact that I did it to protect a classmate. It didn’t help.
Thinking of my classmate reminded me that Alicia was still there. I turned around to address the girl, to ask why these creatures were attacking her, but I couldn’t. Alicia had long since slid down the wall. She sat on her backside, her arms and legs having fallen limply beside her, and her head was tilted toward the ground.
It wasn’t until this moment, but I finally noticed something that I had missed due to the situation. She had wings. Two black, bat-like wings jutted from her back. They were limp now, but they let me know that this girl was a devil.
I knelt next to the girl, placed a hand underneath her chin, and lifted her head up. Her eyes were closed. She was breathing evenly, however, which led me to believe she had just lost consciousness. A check at her reserves of magic confirmed this. She’d run out of energy.
What should I do now? Well, obviously I couldn’t leave this girl on her own. She might be attacked again, and I could never forgive myself if I let someone die when I could have saved them. So, then, the best option would be to take her back to my apartment and dress her wounds.
My decision made, I made gingerly scooped the girl into my arms, cradling her head in the crook of my neck and being careful not to aggravate her injuries. The scent of sweat mixed with a fragrant shampoo filled my nose. I tried not to think about that, just as I tried to ignore the way her left breast felt against my chest.
Bad thoughts, Jacob. Bad thoughts.