Perhaps it was because of my past, or maybe it was due to my powers, but I’ve never enjoyed committing acts of violence.
There must have been something wrong with me right then. This moment, as my fist caused Belial’s face to distort, some part of me felt the utmost satisfaction, as if nothing could be better than the violence I had just enacted. The other part of me was horrified.
Belial hadn’t even noticed my presence until it was too late. He must have been blinded to everything but Alicia. My fist crushed his cheek, a loud crunch! echoing across the area as his cheek bones snapped like a twig. Belial was blasted backwards from my attack, crashing against the ground and tumbling along the surface for several meters before stopping. As he clambered to his feet, I glared at him.
“I don’t know what problem you have with Alicia, but it’ll be a cold day in the Underworld that I let you kill her.”
Belial’s face twisted into a snarl. “Damn Nephalem. Freaks of nature like you should do everyone a favor and die!”
A lightning bolt of dark matter raced at me, but I forced power into my fist and punched the attack with all my might. I ignored the sting of our clashing powers as I sent the bolt flying away from me. My knuckles, black, cracked, and bleeding, healed quickly as I channeled my angelic power into it.
“That’s not going to work this time,” I shouted. “I’m through playing with you!!”
Power coursed through my body, rushing through my vains, suffusing with my blood vessels, enhancing my body. I’ve never used this much power in a single go. While it hurt, a feeling akin to my body being slowly torn apart from the inside out, it also felt like I could take on the entire Underworld and Heaven by myself.
Belial did not appear to agree. “Do not think you’ll win just because you have power. A brat like you could never defeat me!”
“We’ll see about that!”
I shot forward, my wings flapping. Sixteen spheres of energy appeared around me like a halo. They did not remain there for long. I launched them at Belial, who swatted at them, though a snarl of pain escaped his lips as the powers burned his skin. I grinned as I launched another projectile, with more power this time, and watched in satisfaction as Belial’s snarl turned into a howl.
Devils are weak against the divine. The power of light that angels wielded was a holy power. As a Nephalem, I had that same power. While a devil who was stronger than myself might be able to block it with minimal damage, that was only if they had more power than the angelic attack.
As a Nephalem, I had been born with a lot of power. Belial, strong as he might have been, could not match me in raw power.
I appeared before him, having dashed forward while he was distracted. Our fists collided together. Thunder clapped as discharges of energy erupted between us, creating gusts of wind that tore at the ground. The earth cracked. A crater formed underneath us. While my adversary wore a snarl, I screamed my battle cry and unleashed more of my power.
Belial was sent flying.
I leapt out of the crater and chased after him, black and white spheres of energy erupted from my fists as I punched the air. Belial tried to punch several away, but they drilled through his defenses, burning the skin of his forearms. A frustrated roar escaped from him. The frustration lacing his voice turned into pain as I drilled into him with another blast of angelic energy.
Mighty wings blacker than the night sky flapped as Belial rushed away from me. A game of cat and mouse began. I chased and he fled, swerving and barrel rolling to avoid my energy attacks. It looked like he had finally learned his lesson.
Explosions rocked the ground as I attacked with everything I had. Because I wasn’t used to my powers, the most I could do was toss around projectiles, but every projectile was packed with enough energy to destroy a lesser demon.
Wanting to finish him more quickly, I increased the potency of my attacks, charging longer to increase their power. Instead of projectiles the size of baseballs, I was tossing basketball sized spheres. Belial turned his head and glared at me as my attacks hemmed him in all sides. He was doing an admirable job of dodging, but I only needed to get one good attack in.
Belial flew into the warehouse. I scowled. Was he trying to hide? Charging up another attack, I waited until my projectile was half the size of me before tossing it. The gigantic ball of unstable energy slammed into the warehouse.
The resulting explosion lit the area like a star going nova. A bright flash was followed by a massive discharge of energy, which rippled across the ground like a shockwave. Chunks of dirt were torn from the ground as the steel frame of the warehouse flew across the sky. I stared into the explosion, unblinking, waiting for it to die down. When the howls cut off and the explosion receded, I frowned at the large crater where the warehouse had once been.
Was Belial gone?
I landed on the ground, my socks touching the scorched earth. Ignoring the pain, I looked around, searching for a sign that would tell me if Belial had survived or not. There didn’t appear to be anything. At the same time, I don’t think I’d pumped enough raw power into my last attack that my foe’s body would be obliterated.
I took a single step forward. Then I froze. Something had grabbed my leg. I looked down to see, much to my shock, a hand of darkness jutting from the ground. It had grabbed onto my leg and was squeezing hard enough that I could feel the bones creaking.
A magic circle appeared above my palm, and a projectile shot out, slammed into the hand, and caused it to disintegrate. Any relief I might have felt from this was short-lived. Dozens of hands suddenly shot from the earth. They soared into the sky, high above my head like the tentacles of a kraken, and, much like that beast of the deep, these hands quickly flew down toward me, as though to crush me in their grip.
“Now I see,” a voice said behind me. I spun around to find Belial standing several feet away. I’ve no clue how he’d hidden from me, not at first, but then I noticed the massive hole inside of the crater. He must have created that and hid when I unleashed my attack. “I understand why so many fear you monsters. To be capable of destroying a warehouse of this size is impressive, yet you’re barely using any of your power. Nephalem. What terrifying creatures you are.”
I clicked my tongue but said nothing. I couldn’t increase the potency of my attacks, or I’d run the risk of getting Alicia caught up in them. What should I do now?
“Since you’ve given me such a grand showing, I believe it’s time I returned the favor,” Belial said.
My muscles tensed as I prepared for Belial’s assault as best I could. I didn’t know what he was planning, but I was running out of ideas, and I couldn’t risk anymore wide area attacks like that.
The attacks didn’t come from Belial, but from the numerous hands that were even now jutting from the ground. They fell toward me. I got the feeling they were trying to crush me between them and the earth. I raised my hand, a magic circle appearing above it, and launched several projectiles that plowed into the hands, destroying them with ease.
I took a deep breath. Then I blinked. Then Belial was right in front of me.
My eyes widened. He moved so fast!
His fist filled my vision, and I threw myself backwards to avoid it, but then a dark hand shot from him as if his limb was extending. It then grew bigger. Larger and larger it became, until it was about the same size as a large truck. Its fingers were stretched out as though trying to grab my head and squash it.
I destroyed the hand with a light projectile, yet rather than disperse, the dark matter merely became tiny spheres of inky blackness. They crackled and fizzled. Each sphere was like a black star floating in the sky. As one, the spheres darted toward me.
A maddening dance began with me at its epicenter. Spheres came at me from every angle, every degree, every direction. There was no way to dodge them all. I tried creating a shield, but I didn’t have enough control over my own energy for that. I couldn’t create a bubble around myself. The most I could do was create a single layer shield that acted similar to a wall.
Sharp pain like the sting of a hundred bees flared along my back, sending agony rippling down my spine. It almost made me fall. I caught myself, but then a sphere grazed my arm, burning my flesh. It was a small wound. As a Nephalem, I was resistant to both light and dark attacks. Even so, it still hurt.
I realized quickly that I might have to take a few hits if I wanted to escape. To accomplish this, I covered as many vital points as I could and, with a flap of my pinions, I flew upwards, ascending into the sky. There spheres followed. They peppered me, hitting my legs, my arms, my back, my wings. I could feel them. It was like a hundred thousand wasps stinging my flesh. On their own, they would have been negligible, but together, the accumulated damage was enough that I almost lost control of my flight.
Spiraling through the air, I straightened out when I noticed there were no attacks coming from above me. I uncovered my face. The air in front of me was clear. Knowing what I needed to do in order to win, I sought out Belial and found him floating about ten meters to my left, his arms crossed and a shark-like grin twisting at his mouth.
The sight of his arrogant grin upset me. I charged angelic energy into my left hand. Light coalesced until a tiny ball had formed. Then it expanded, growing into the size of a basketball. It wasn’t enough. I put more energy into it, made it grow two, three, five times bigger, until it was about half as large as I was tall. Only then did I send the thing packing.
It flew straight and true, blitzing toward Belial at speeds no mortal could fathom. I expected the attack to pulverize my enemy. It wasn’t until the giant ball of energy was nearly upon my foe that I noticed something unusual. Gripped within Belial’s right hand was a sword, long and thin, and composed of what seemed like pure darkness.
Belial thrust the sword into my projectile. The energy sphere rippled. Then, like a bubble, it popped.
“What?” I asked of no one in particular.
“It’s just like I thought.” Belial chuckled. “You might have a frightening amount of power, but you don’t have the ability to use it properly.”
I didn’t know what he was talking about. Sadly, I wouldn’t get the chance to find out.
Pain erupted in my leg. Something had latched onto my calf, burning it like molten lava. It felt like my leg was being melted off. I glanced down. My leg was being gripped by a hand–a hand made entirely of Belial’s dark energy.
“This isn’t going to end well, is it?” I asked through gritted teeth. My answer came when the hand gripping my leg yanked on me, and I was sent flying toward the ground at speeds that made my eyes water. The earth came closer and closer. I had barely a second to comprehend my situation before I struck the ground.
I all but swallowed my tongue. The coppery taste of blood filled my mouth as my vision became blotted out, my mind overridden with pain. I blinked several times to try and clear my eyesight. I was lying on my back, on the ground, which had cracked around my body. The bright sun overhead made me want to close my eyes again. Groaning, I rolled over and clambered to my feet.
I didn’t get very far before another hand latched onto me. It was my arm this time. A scream tore itself from my throat as I was slung through the air. I was slammed back into the ground. My back screamed in protest. Then I was lifted into the air again.
Gritting my teeth, I destroyed the hand with a light-based projectile. Barely a second passed after I had destroyed the hand that another hand latched onto me. This time it had grabbed my head.
I screamed as my face was burned by the dark energy. The air whistled around me as my stomach flew into my throat. I screamed and kicked and tried to destroy the hand gripping me, but my concentration was shot. I couldn’t do anything. I was powerless. I–
The hand lifted me into the air. With his other hand, Belial created a magic circle that launched numerous projectiles that struck me in the face. Each hit felt like a combination of jackhammer and lightning bolt. It struck with incredible force, leaving me breathless, and at the same time, the attack sent jolts of mind-numbing anguish through my body.
Biting my lip to keep from crying out, I charged my angelic powers through my hand, unleashing it in a single burst. It was all I could do. Fortunately, it was enough. The hand vanished, bursting apart like a popped balloon. Without something holding me up, I fell to the ground, landing on my hands and knees.
I was in bad shape. Battered, beaten, bloody. My insides felt squishy and baked, like they’d been simultaneously crushed and burnt. Blood trickled from my mouth. I must have had internal bleeding. There was a loud ringing in my ears, as though my head had been rung like a gong. Everything, and I did mean everything, hurt.
“Heh…” Belial’s low chuckling captured my attention. The man was walking toward me. “You Nephalem really are a hardy breed. I can see why Heaven is so afraid of your kind. You’re quite the threat.”
I felt a frown appear on my face. This devil knew a lot about Nephalem, but did he really know about my kind, or was he making this up to taunt me? I wanted to ask. However, I didn’t want to give him the satisfaction of letting him know that I was curious.
A small surge of power caught my attention; I didn’t turn my head, but my eyes strayed to Alicia. She was kneeling on the ground. Blood smeared her chin. She looked like she might have internal bleeding, but there was a fierce determination on her face, and her eyes burned crimson as she channeled magic through her body. She looked at me and nodded.
I understood. She wanted me to stall for time.
“Have you met another Nephalem before?” I decided to put aside my shame for Alicia. I asked the question that caused a sickening grin to spread across Belial’s face.
“I have personally never met a Nephalem,” Belial admitted. “But King Lucifer has supposedly fought with and killed several of your kind. He has always feared you Nephalem, feared your power and the threat you represent to our species.” Still grinning, Belial held out his hand. “However, I do not fear you. I want you. Join me, become a member of my peerage, and I will give you everything you could ever want. Power. Prestige. Women… Acknowledgement.”
From the sickening twist of his lips, I could tell that Belial knew he’d struck a nerve. For as long as I could remember, people had treated me like a pariah. If they didn’t outright ignore me, then they would bully me, beat me, starve me, isolate me. I had endured the hatred of other people for so long. So long.
“Acknowledgement. Love. Respect,” I whispered, wiping the blood that dribbled down my lip. “You have no idea how long I’ve wanted to have those things. From the moment I was first brought into this world, all I’ve wanted was to find people who would accept me, who wouldn’t fear me.”
Belial’s grin widened. “Then–”
“But I know what kind of person you are,” I continued, my knees wobbling as I stood up. Alicia was almost ready. The energy surrounding her was reaching a zenith. “You’re not the kind of person who can understand concepts like acknowledgement, love, and respect. Just from this meeting, I already have a clear read on you. You’re the kind of creature who likes to manipulate others for your own benefit. You make a lot of grand promises, but you never keep them because you find it much more fun to deny others and watch as they suffer.”
Belial’s face was turning a rather interesting shade of purple. He looked like a volcano that was ready to erupt. I wondered if magma might start pouring out of his ears.
“In other words,” I kept talking. Just a little longer. “The day I join someone like you will be the day angels decide to live in the Underworld.”
Angels were beings of divine power. Their strength came from Heaven, their home, which was infused with the power of God. Their powers were significantly weakened when they left their home. Those powers weakened even more when they traveled to the Underworld. In other words, no angel would decide to make the Underworld their home. Ever.
Enraged, Belial’s face twisted into something even more hideous than his normal visage. “Fine!! If I can’t use you as a pawn, then I’ll simply dispose of you here and now!!”
“Oh, I don’t think so,” I said with a smile. “You see, I wasn’t listening to you pontificate because I wanted to. I was keeping you distracted so Alicia could finish you off.”
I almost laughed at the stupid look on Belial’s face. It reminded me of this one show that Alicia had made me watch. In it, one of the characters was slapped in the face with a dead fish. His expression after that had happened was quite similar.
He didn’t get the chance to speak, nor do anything else. I leapt backward just as Alicia finished charging her attack, which she unleashed before Belial could do a thing. The last I saw of the red-skinned devil was the look of absolute astonishment that he wore. Then he was engulfed in a dark crimson beam of cylindrical energy.
The wind howled as the attack tore through the air directly in front of me, and I covered my eyes with an arm to try and protect my face. Chunks of concrete flew from the ground and slammed into my unprotected vitals. Pain erupted in my kidneys as something sharp struck them. I grimaced but did my best to ignore the rocks that peppered my stomach and torso.
At some point, the blinding light from the crimson beam died down, and the rock fragments striking my body stopped. Afraid of potentially suffering from even more damage, I tentatively lowered my arm and opened my eyes. Belial was gone. There was nothing left–nothing except his feet and calves. They were cauterized. It looked like the rest of him had been destroyed.
I took a single step. Pain flared all over my body, but I ignored it and stumbled over to Alicia, who was still kneeling on the ground, her powers exhausted.
“How are you feeling?” I asked as I held out a hand.
Alicia looked at my hand, smiled, and placed hers in mine, allowing me to help her to my feet. “I’m okay… but I’m… really tired.”
“You’re not the only one,” I muttered. “Come on. Let’s go home.”
Leaning on each other for support, Alicia and I began our long journey home.
I really wanted to sleep.