Before I knew it, a week had passed since Alicia had started living with me, and while that didn’t sound like a very long time, it felt really long.
That morning was like any other. It was Friday, and Alicia and I did what we always did: ate breakfast and went to school.
“Summer break is coming up soon, isn’t it?” Alicia asked.
“Yeah. It’s about a month away.” I nodded, and then paused. “Do you want to do something?”
“I was thinking we could go to the beach,” she said.
Nodding, Alicia looked at the sky and smiled. “I’ve always wanted to visit a beach in the human world.”
“Do they not have beaches in the Underworld?”
“They do, but the Underworld only has one sea. The rest is made up entirely of land, and the sea isn’t that amazing.” Alicia paused for a moment, her eyes dimming as though she was remembering something painful. She smiled, but it wasn’t a full smile. It didn’t reach her eyes. “My father took me to the beach just once. It was before he became so embroiled in politics that I barely got to see him anymore. I must have been nine years old at the time.”
Hearing this made me realize that there was still a lot that I didn’t know about Alicia. I wondered if I would eventually get the chance to learn more. The prospect made me kind of excited. I wanted to know more about her. I wanted to learn everything I could about this girl, who had accepted me as I am, who didn’t turn me away for being a monster.
“If you really want to see the beach, then I’ll take you there during the summer break.”
“Yeah, though we have to pass our finals first.”
I chuckled. Neither of us were doing that well in our studies. Alicia was new and didn’t know much about human culture and history or science. Saying that, she was a whiz at math. As for me, well, I didn’t really know how talented I was in the academic department, since my test papers were usually sabotaged.
We entered the school building. As Alicia changed into her shoes, I looked in my shoe locker and frowned. There was the usual graffiti inside, with words like “Go die!” or “Freaks should disappear!” plastered over the interior. My indoor slippers weren’t there. I sighed.
I closed the locker, looked at her, and smiled. “It’s nothing. Why don’t you go on ahead? I’ll catch up to you in just a minute.”
Alicia frowned at me, but fortunately, she decided not to press any further. “Then… I’ll be waiting in the classroom.”
“Yeah. See you there.”
I watched as Alicia left, wandering into the hallway. Then I turned back to my shoe locker. After making sure no one was watching me, I opened the locker again, stuck a hand inside, and concentrated.
A small pulse of power coursed through my fingertips. Light and darkness coalesced before me, swirling in front of my hand. The darkness moved toward the graffiti, erasing it. I normally just left it there because someone would always rewrite it anyway, so there wasn’t much point in cleaning it, but I didn’t want Alicia to see this. Maybe I was a coward. Even so, the idea of her seeing all this graffiti made my stomach churn.
While the darkness cleaned off the graffiti, the white light swirled around like a vortex. Particles gathered together, bending and warping, until the light disappeared and a pair of indoor slippers had taken their place. They were shoddy. The “fabric” didn’t look at all like a slipper, and the “threads” looked like they were falling apart. It wouldn’t last more than a few hours. I would have to remake it during lunch.
I slipped them on and traveled up to my classroom. Alicia was there, sitting beside my desk, and there were several other people around her. It looked like they were attempting to start a conversation. Yet the moment I entered the room, everyone froze solid before rushing back to their seats. I frowned as I sat down in my assigned seat.
“Thanks for that,” Alicia said.
I blinked. “Why are you thanking me?”
“Those people.” She nodded her chin at the other students, all of whom had been staring them–at least until she pointed them out. Then they went back to pretending they hadn’t been staring. “They keep bothering me. I tried telling them off, but they wouldn’t listen.”
I had noticed that more people were trying to talk to Alicia. My guess was that, since she was talking to me, other people thought they might have a chance. It was too bad all their attempts did was annoy her.
Kotohime-sensei arrived in the classroom, and our class rep stood up. She was a mousy girl. Her brown hair was being worn in twin-tail braids and she wore glasses. I couldn’t remember her name, but that wasn’t unusual, since I didn’t pay enough attention to remember anyone’s name.
“Stand. Bow. Sit.”
We did as instructed, and then Kotomine-sensei started class by making several announcements, including the announcement of the yearly school competition. The home rooms would all basically compete against each other in various sports activities. There was the three-legged race, the four-way relay, the ball toss, tug-of-war, and several other activities.
I had never been to one of the sporting events before. The first and last time I had ever asked to be involved was back in middle school. My sensei at the time had come up with an excuse as to why I couldn’t take part, and I ended up sitting out of the whole event, watching from the sidelines. I never bothered trying to take part in any events after that.
“Excuse me, Kotomine-sensei.” Alicia stood up after their teacher asked if anyone wanted to take part in the three-legged race. “I would like to take part in the three-legged race with Jacob.”
Everyone froze. Whispers broke out. As I stared at Alicia in shock, Kotomine-sensei stuttered as she tried to change the girl’s mind. “Uh, erm, I don’t mind if you take part in the three-legged race, but I think you should try being with a different partner. Why don’t I pair you up with–”
“I’m going to enter the three-legged race with Jacob.” Alicia’s stern voice echoed with a strange, resounding quality. I perked up as the tiniest hints of demonic energy flowed from Alicia’s eyes. If I looked closely, I could just make out magic circles around her irises.
“Oh… of course I’ll let you and Jacob take part in the three-legged race together,” Kotomine-sensei said.
Satisfied, Alicia sat down, a smile plastered on her face. I frowned some more. Looking at Kotomine-sensei, I saw that her eyes were changing from a strange dull color to their normal vibrancy.
“Are you sure that was a good idea?” I leaned over my desk to ask Alicia.
“Of course it was,” Alicia said. “I’ve always wanted to take part in a school sporting event.”
“That’s not what I meant. I’m talking about the spell you used on the teacher.”
Her face turning red, Alicia said, “Oh, you noticed that. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. Anyway, what’s the harm? Now we get to do the three-legged race together.”
“Well, I guess there’s no problem,” I said with a sigh. Alicia smiled as though she had won some kind of victory.
The rest of our classes went by normally. Our teachers lectured us on history and math, and everything seemed to move at the pace of a snail. I didn’t pay much attention. It wasn’t like learning this would be useful to me.
Japan had a standard of living that most people adhered to. You did well in school, and then you either went on to college, university, a technical institute, or you jumped right into the workforce. Sometimes that meant working to take over the family business. However, most Japanese teenagers would eventually go on to work for a company.
I was never going to get a job, not because I didn’t want one, but because no one in this world would hire me. Chances were good that I’d start working for Azazel after graduating from high school. That meant I’d essentially be his bloodhound. My days would consist of tracking down malcontents who tried to ruin the tenuous cease fire that was currently happening between the three biblical factions. I’d get my hands stained in blood, becoming more tainted than I already was. What use did I have for an education?
Just like I had expected, my slippers began to disintegrated toward the end of my last class before lunch. I stood up, excusing myself from Alicia with the claim that I needed to use the restroom.
“Well, all right,” she said, looking at me oddly. “But don’t be too long or I’ll start eating without you.”
“Got it,” I said as I left the room and rushed into the bathroom. I locked myself in a stall and recreated my slippers. They were still crap. I wasn’t very good at using my angelic powers… or my demonic powers, now that I was thinking about it. To be honest, until Alicia came along, I hadn’t used either my angelic or demonic powers since that time five years ago…
I shook my head. It was best not to think about those times.
As I was about to head back to my classroom, my cellphone began to ring. After fumbling around in my pocket for it, I was able to answer the phone.
“Azazel? I haven’t talked to you in awhile. What’s–”
“Listen carefully, Jacob. There isn’t much time,” Azazel said with startling suddenness. “You’re in danger. You need to leave the school right now. Drop whatever it is you’re doing and get out of there.”
“I don’t have time to explain. Just hurry up and leave.”
I had never heard Azazel sound this freaked out before. His tone usually contained hints of either humor or sarcasm, or both, but it had never sounded frightened like this.
“Um, okay.” I decided to do as he asked. “Just let me get Alicia and we’ll leave.”
“Look, just forget about the devil girl and run!”
I frowned. “I’m not leaving without her.”
Azazel groaned. “We don’t have time for your hero complex right now. You need to–”
I hung up, turned my phone off, and pocketed it. While I would do as Azazel said because he sounded like he was on the verge of having a hemorrhoid, I wasn’t going to listen as he told me to leave the only person my age who had accepted me. It wasn’t going to happen.
Wandering back into the classroom, I was almost amused when several people rushed back to their seats upon my entering. I paid them no mind.
“Jacob, is something wrong?” Alicia asked as I hurried back to her. She had tilted her head, and her lips, which had smiled upon seeing him, were now curved into a frown.
“Maybe,” I began, “listen, I just got a call from Azazel, and he said that we need to–”
I didn’t get a chance to say anymore, because in that moment, all of my attention was stolen by a massive and malevolent power that crashed into me like the overwhelming force of a category five hurricane.