I had prepared a simple breakfast of eggs, toast, and orange juice. I finished eating before Alicia, who ate while I took a shower. After I had finished washing the dishes–Alicia helped dry them–we left the apartment and began our journey to school.
The June air was warm, and it would get warmer still. Summers in Saitama could get pretty hot. I supposed I should be glad I wasn’t living somewhere like Okinawa, but then again, Okinawa did have a beach, so perhaps it was a trade off.
There were a number of people on their way to school, students who, like us, were walking in groups. I noticed that we were drawing attention the moment we walked onto the main road. It wasn’t hard to feel the eyes of every student on Alicia and I as we walked past them. Their gazes pierced me like blades.
“Is it just me, or are we drawing a crowd?” Alicia asked.
“It’s not just you,” I said morosely. “We’re definitely drawing a crowd.” I sighed. “And I normally try my hardest to keep from drawing attention.”
Alicia glanced at me out of the corner of her eye. “Because of how people are afraid of you?”
“Bingo.” Raising my hands, I used them as a brace for my head and looked at the sky. “Since everyone is so scared of me, I always try to remain unobtrusive. Invisible. So long as I don’t bring too much attention to myself, most people will pretend I don’t exist.”
“That sounds lonely.”
My lips twitched into a smile. “Yeah… but that’s how it’s always been. I suppose you could say I’ve gotten used to it.”
“What about your parents?”
“I don’t have any.”
“Everyone has parents.”
“Sorry. Let me rephrase that. I don’t know who mine are.” I paused to gather my thoughts. “Supposedly, I was found in a garbage can outside of a hospital. After that I ended up in an orphanage. Stayed there for a couple of years before I was kicked out thanks to an… incident. It was probably for the best. The matron didn’t like me very much.”
“I’m sorry,” Alicia whispered.
I glanced at her. Alicia’s shoulders were slumped as she stared at the ground, yet her eyes didn’t seem to be looking at anything. I worried that she might fall if she didn’t pay more attention to where she was going.
“Why are you apologizing? Like I said, that’s just how it is. You hear about stuff like this happening all the time.”
“I suppose. I’m still sorry.”
“Then thank you, I guess.”
I wasn’t sure what else to say; it wasn’t like anyone had ever said they were sorry to me before. In fact, most people wouldn’t even talk to me. When they did talk to me, it was in one or two words, and then they left as quickly as they’d come.
We reached Saitama Private Academy soon enough. Students flowed in through the front gate. Alicia and I wandered in as well, passing by several large trees and patches of grass. A few students were loitering around. Some were chatting with friends, while others looked like they were hitting up members of the opposite sex. I did my best to ignore how every conversation paused when Alicia and I walked by.
Schools in Japan were all pretty uniform. They were always a single four-story building, which looked a lot like someone had taken a few building blocks and stacked them together. Saitama Private Academy was a four-story building with numerous large windows and a fence surrounding the roof.
We entered the school, our feet tapping against white tiles as we wandered up to our shoe lockers. My indoor slippers were currently in my bag. I’d had to bring them home to clean them. I opened my locker. There was graffiti written all over the inside. Words like “die, yankee!” and “monster!” painted the interior. I ignored it and put my shoes inside of the locker, closing it before Alicia could see. I’d clean it up later. I suppose it was fortunate I had brought my indoor slippers home with me.
After changing our shoes out for indoor slippers, we walked up to the third floor and entered our classroom. Only one person was present aside from us: a nerdy-looking boy with glasses who was paying too much attention to whatever he was reading to notice that someone else had arrived. This allowed us to converse in private.
“You mentioned before that your father had created some policies that other devils didn’t like and that’s why they attacked you,” I pressed Alicia. “What kind of policies could elicit such a violent response?”
“Father believes we should make peace with humans,” she told me. “I’m not sure how much you know of our history, but several centuries ago, there was a massive war between angels, devils, and the fallen. That war had reduced our numbers drastically. Because devils have such a long lifespan, it’s more difficult for us to reproduce, so few children are being born.”
“I know a little about the war,” I professed. “What does that have to do with making peace with humans?”
“It’s because humans can be transformed into devils if they have strong desires,” she lectured. “The desire for power, a strong yearning for money, a powerful and evocative lust. A person who has a particularly strong desire has the ability to become a devil, and humans who are reincarnated into devils have an easier time reproducing with us.”
I didn’t know much about reproduction beyond what it entailed, but I assumed that this theory of Alicia’s, or rather, her father’s, had already been tested and proven. It sounded a lot like there was a science behind it. I thought back to my lessons on anatomy and biology, the reproductive cycle specifically.
“If you can reproduce with humans, that means your bodies are compatible enough that you can have children,” I said. “Why not just have kids when their human? Do you have to change them?”
“Yes.” Alicia paused. “Well, technically, we don’t. However, if a devil were to have a child with a human, then that child would only be half-devil. The ultimate goal is to repopulate our species with full-blooded devils.”
That made sense, in a weird way I guess. I wondered if being only half-devil meant only having half the power and lifespan of a normal devil.
“I’m still not sure I see the problem. If you transform a human into a devil, then there shouldn’t be any issues, right?”
“There are plenty of issues.” Alicia’s smile was filled with a sort of vitriolic bitterness, as though she was about to discuss the source of her greatest frustration. “Within the Underworld, there are a group of devil families known as the Purest Faction. They believe that adding human blood into the mix will sully our purity. This belief has essentially split the Seventy-Two Pillars into two groups: the ones who follow my father and the ones who follow Lucifer.”
I leaned back in my chair and crossed my arms. “That sucks. It seems like no matter where you live, there will always be people like that.”
By this point in time, most of the students had filed into the classroom, and, perhaps it wasn’t surprising, but myself and Alicia were getting most of the attention.
“Oi! Oi! What the hell is going on here?” one boy whispered.
“When did that yankee freak get close to Alicia?” another asked.
“Did you hear? Did you hear? Kaori saw those two walking to school together,” a girl gossiped to her friends.
“Like, OMG. You’re kidding me, right? Who’d want to hang out with that boy?” asked another girl.
One of their friends nodded. “Jacob scares me.”
“He’s a total yank.”
I tried my best not to let the voices bother me. This was how it had always been. I was pretty used to this kind of treatment, though it was a little different thanks to Alicia’s presence. Mixed in with the usual hatred, I could sense jealousy. It was to be expected. Alicia was the gorgeous, new foreign student who everyone was talking about, and I was the piraya that people did their best to pretend didn’t exist.
It was good fortune that Kotohime-sensei walked into the room a second later and started class. As the class representative had them all rise, bown, and then sit back down, I relaxed into my chair and tried to remain invisible for the rest of class.
It was just another day.