“Please sit still. It’s harder to heal you if you move around a lot.”
“I-I can’t help it. It tickles.”
“Sorry about that. It’s because I’m not used to using my demonic powers for healing.”
“Y-you don’t have to apologize.”
With Xaphan having been all but erased from existence, the battle was officially over. Alicia was still hurt, however. That was why I had taken her to the nearest bench and had her sit down. Meanwhile, I knelt in front of her, my hands placed over the wound on her stomach. It was cauterized, which made reverting the injury to its original state difficult, but I was confident that I could fully heal her.
Energy leaked from my fingers and seeped into Alicia’s skin. The black miasma, visible even at night, caressed the cauterized scar in a manner that dark energy wasn’t meant to do. Yet even as I watched, the scarred tissue became smaller and smaller until it eventually disappeared.
“Can I see your back please?” I asked.
Alicia needed a moment to respond. “Huh? Oh, sure.”
Because the bench had a back, she couldn’t turn around. I had Alicia lie on her stomach and placed my hands over the wound on her back. Slowly, as though I were watching a video reversed in slow motion, the scarring disappeared.
“So,” Alicia began as I did my best to keep my demonic energy from doing what it was meant to do–destroy stuff. “You’re a Nephalem.”
Nephalem. That was the name given to those who were born from the union between a devil and an angel. They were considered an urban myth. A fantasy. There were no records of a Nephalem having ever existed, which relegated them to something of a boogeyman in the supernatural world. Parents who wanted their children to behave would often tell their kids that a Nephalem would kidnap them if they were bad.
“Yes,” I said. There was no hiding it now.
“And your parents…?”
“I don’t know who they are.” Once I finished healing her damaged skin, I took a step back and allowed her to sit up. “I’m sure they realized they had made a mistake after I was born and dumped me in the garbage that I was found in. I guess… I guess they didn’t want to care for a monster.”
It always hurt when I thought of my parents. Having no memories of them, I did not know who they were, why they had given birth to me, or why they had abandoned me after I was born. Perhaps they had been killed. Perhaps they hadn’t abandoned me. However, since I was still alive, it seemed unlikely that they were dead. More than likely, I had simply been discarded.
“You shouldn’t say that,” Alicia said softly. “I’m sure they didn’t abandon you.”
I’m not sure where she got her confidence from, but I didn’t believe the same.
“So… now you know the truth about me.” I scratched the back of my neck, feeling more than a little awkward. What was I supposed to say now that my darkest secret had been revealed? “I… well, I’ll understand if you don’t want anything to do with me anymore…”
“Don’t want… anything to do with you?” Alicia looked up at him as she parroted his words.
“Yeah… you know, because I’m a monst–”
A sharp sting on my cheek kept me from completing my sentence. I blinked several times, wondering what had just happened. Alicia had stood up. Her eyes were narrowed, and her left hand was returning to her side. I realized with a start that she had slapped me.
“I don’t know what gave you the idea that I’d abandon you just because you’re a Nephalem, but don’t underestimate me,” she said, and her tone was a lot harsher than I was used to. It reminded me of a katana, sharp enough to cut through even steel. “And stop calling yourself a monster. I didn’t noticed it before, but you keep saying that you’re a monster and I don’t like it. I don’t like how you put yourself down like that. Do you think I’d let a monster heal me like you just did? Do you think I’d be this close to a monster? I wouldn’t. That means you aren’t a monster.”
What a kind person. Even though I was a beast, a creature that shouldn’t exist, she was still treating me with kindness. I didn’t know why she was getting so bent out of shape, but if it bothered her so much, then…
“Okay. I’ll stop calling myself a monster.”
“Good.” She nodded, and, as if a switch had been flipped, her entire demeanor changed. Her posture became awkward. She grabbed at her left elbow with her right hand and looked down at her shoes. Like a curtain of crimson silk, her hair swayed forward to cover her eyes. “So, um, what now?”
“What do you mean?”
“You know. We were just attacked by a legion of devils led by a member of Belial’s peerage. Once word gets out that Xaphan is dead, I’m sure Belial will send someone else to ascertain what happened. It won’t be long before I’m attacked again. Do you still want me… I mean, can I still…”
It didn’t take a genius to figure out what she wanted to ask. While I hesitated for a second, I eventually placed my hand on her shoulder. She looked up as I gave her my most reassuring smile.
“Now that I know what’s going on, there’s no way I can let you go off on your own. Unless you have an objection to it, I’d like you to keep living with me.”
Silence stretched between us as Alicia stared me. Her astonished look eventually made me uncomfortable, and I looked away to avoid her intense stare.
Out of the corner of my eye, I glanced at her. Something was happening. It started slowly at first. A mere twitch of her lips, but like storm clouds parting to reveal the sun, a brilliant, beautiful smile appeared on Alicia’s face.
“Thank you,” She said, and her voice was infused with enough sincerity that I felt my entire face turn red.
“Y-you’re welcome.” I did my best to shake off my feelings self-consciousness. “So, why don’t we go home now?”
“Yeah.” She nodded, her smile bright enough to blind most humans. “Let’s go home.”
Still feeling self-conscious, I began my walk home with Alicia. It was late at night, or maybe early in the morning. I wasn’t sure because I had no idea how much time had passed since we bought that convenience store food. As I looked up at the star-filled sky, a thought occurred to me.
“By the way,” I began, and Alicia looked at me with a curious tilt of her head, “who is Belial?”
Alicia, in a display of impeccable grace and elegance, tripped over over her own two feet and fell flat on her face.
I looked at her in confusion.
Was my question really that weird?