Alicia and I received a surprise when we returned home.
“My Lady, I am so pleased to see that you are safe!”
A maid had been standing inside of our apartment, like, an honest to goodness woman in a black and white maid outfit. She had black hair and dark eyes, and her skin was a lot darker than what I was used to seeing on someone. Her clothing had more frills than my wings had feathers. The only aspect about her that appeared to not look human were the two horns jutting from her head.
The maid had bum rushed us barely a moment after Alicia and I had entered our apartment. I thought she was going to attack us for a moment. I became surprised when Alicia shouted out, “Matilda!” and met the maid halfway. After that, they embraced in the entryway, hugging and crying like a pair of long lost sisters who’d finally been reunited.
I felt like a peeper, like I was getting a glimpse of something that I shouldn’t be seeing.
Because I didn’t think what was happening was for me to see, I decided to make some tea. I had a couple tea lieves that I’d bought because Alicia had told me she liked them. After making the tea, I set the cups on the kotatsu and waited for Alicia and the maid, Matilda I guess, to finish with the waterworks.
“I apologize for my unsightly display,” Matilda said after she and Alicia had joined him at the kotatsu.
“It’s okay,” I said, feeling more than just a little awkward. “So, um, you are…?”
“Ah, yes. Introductions.” Matilda, sitting in a proper seiza position with her feet underneath her butt, inclined her head toward me. “I am Matilda, Lady Alicia’s maid. It looks like you have been taking good care of My Lady. Thank you. I would have never forgiven myself if something happened to her. I’m glad that she found someone like you.”
I really tried not to blush. I tried so hard, but there was no way I could not feel utter embarrassment at being given such a heartfelt thank you. Alicia had thanked me several times before, and even now, I got embarrassed. Having someone else thank me? That was too much.
“Uh… there’s really no need to thank me… I just did what anyone else would have done…”
“Is that so?” Matilda hummed for a moment, then shrugged. “I thank you all the same. Even should you choose not to accept it, know that you have my heartfelt appreciation.”
If this woman kept thanking me, I was going to turn into a puddle of mush.
“I’m really glad that you’re alive,” Alicia said, glancing at me. I wondered if she had somehow sensed my discomfort. “When you never appeared at the hideout, I had grown worried that you were killed.”
Matilda smiled. “It will take a lot more than some simple-minded fool who’s all power and no brains to kill me. After I had you transported somewhere safe, I was able to hold out against Belial long enough for His Majesty Bael to arrive.”
That was a name that made me perk up. Even I knew of Bael. In the Lesser Keys of Solomon, also known as Clavicula Salomonis Regis or Lemegeton, he was known as one of the seven princes of Hell. In real life, Bael was the king of the eastern Underworld and widely acknowledged as the undisputed most powerful devil in the entire hierarchy, second only to Satan himself. It was he who led the 72 Pillars of Solomon.
And then I realized something. If Matilda was talking about Bael, then…
“You… you’re related to the king of the Underworld,” I said, pointing to Alicia with a feeling that was not dissimilar to being struck by lightning.
Alicia wore an expression that reminded me of a rabbit staring down the barrel of a shotgun. “Um, I’m his daughter… actually.”
I could’ve sworn a gong had just gone off inside of my head. My ears were ringing. Never in a million years would I have thought that someone from a royal bloodline in the Underworld would come to live in my dinky little apartment. This was like something out of a manga!
Alicia nodded. “My full name is Alicia Asmodeus Bael, daughter of Liam Androgorious Bael and Anastasia Fenelana Asmodeus.”
I covered my face with my hands. “You’re the daughter of the most powerful devil in the Underworld and a princess of the Seventy-Two Pillars.”
“I-it’s not something to make a big deal out of,” Alicia tried to defend herself. She clearly had no idea that this was, indeed, a big deal.
“I believe the one who does not understand the gravity of your heritage is you, My Lady.” Matilda agreed with me.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” asked Alicia.
“It means just what I said.” Matilda climbed to her feet. “Now, then, My Lady, you and I should leave.”
Alicia’s eyes bulged while shock coursed through my veins like an electric current.
“W-what?” she asked.
“You did not think I came all this way just to see how you were doing, did you?” Matilda asked. “His Majesty has been beside himself with worry. It took myself, Licentious, and four of the Underworld’s princes to keep him from coming to the human world himself.”
“Would that be bad?” I asked, not quite seeing the problem with a father coming to see his daughter–outside of what it would mean for me.
Matilda glanced at me with “Are you really that stupid?” kind of face. “Yes, it would be bad. Very bad.”
I decided to take her word for it.
“Do I really have to go?” Alicia asked.
“I can’t force you to, but if you do not go, then your father will likely come to the human world,” Matilda answered.
“I see… and I have to leave right now?”
“The sooner we leave, the better it will be for everyone involved.”
Alicia’s shoulders slumped. “I understand.”
“Thank you for your understanding.” Matilda bowed. “I will give you two some time to say goodbye. After that, we’ll be off to the Underworld.”
Matilda wandered toward the entrance, and I heard the door open and close, leaving Alicia and I in an awkward silence.
“So…” I began, rubbing the back of my neck. “I guess this is it, huh?”
I wasn’t sure what I wanted to say. Rather, I think there was so much I wanted to say that I simply couldn’t figure out what to say first. This resulted in me being unable to say any of the things I wanted to.
“So… I guess this is goodbye,” I said.
A sledgehammer of emotion hit me when I saw tears gather in Alicia’s eyes. She stood up, her head tilted toward the ground, her hair covering her eyes like a curtain.
“Yeah, I suppose it is.” A single tear fell down her cheek. “Well, thanks for everything! Goodbye!”
Perhaps it was because I was so dumbfounded, but I could do nothing as Alicia ran out of the apartment. It wasn’t until I heard the door open and then slam shut that my mind rebooted. Scrambling to my feet, I rushed out of the apartment and burst onto the walkway. Alicia wasn’t there. Neither was Matilda. Desperation fueling me, I leapt over the railing and landed on the ground floor. I rushed onto the main road, glancing around to see if I could find her.
She wasn’t there. Alicia had left. She was gone.
I looked up at the sky, closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and then blew it all out. I returned to my apartment, which seemed emptier than I remembered it being five seconds ago.
It was late. I needed to make dinner. I started cooking a simple stir fry. I didn’t pay attention to the tears stinging my eyes.
It looked like Alicia and I wouldn’t be taking part in the school festival’s three-legged race, after all. I guess this was what I got for getting my hopes up.