Alicia had spent almost an hour with Jacob after dinner, but curfew soon came, and so the two of them traveled back to their respective rooms.
Leonora was sitting on her bed when Alicia entered. The shower was going, so she assumed that Kaoru or Yūgure were cleaning off. As she closed the door behind her, the sound alerted Leonora, who looked like she’d been reading a magazine of some kind.
“Oh, um, Alicia,” Leonora greeted. “Good, uh, evening.”
What an awkward greeting.
“Good evening, Leonora.” Alicia walked over to her bed and sat down. Leonora’s was right next to hers, so they sat facing each other. “What are you reading?”
“This?” Leonora held up her magazine. “It’s just a travel guide. Donatello and I are new to Japan, so I’ve been reading up to try and learn everything I need to blend in.”
“You’re Japanese is awfully good for someone who’s only just arrived.”
“That’s because my brother and I were taught a variety of languages,” Leonora said, puffing up her chest as though she was quite proud. “I know Japanese, French, English, German, and Yugoslavian.”
“Why Yugoslavian?” asked Alicia.
“I don’t know,” Leonora said. “It was just something they made us learn.”
Leonora froze for a moment, but she quickly tried to recover. “Um, yeah. You know… my, uh, my parents!”
Alicia could tell she was lying. She didn’t call her out, though. Everyone had a right to their secrets. She had more than a few herself, and she would hate it if someone she didn’t know pried into those secrets.
“Well, it’s great that you’re doing your best to become accustomed to your new living situation.”
Trailing off, Leonora looked away from Alicia, then back again. She did this several times. Alicia frowned.
“Is something wrong?”
“What? Oh, no!” Leonora said. “Not at all. I was just wondering… well, it seems like you’re also not from Japan, so I was wondering if you had any trouble adjusting.”
“Hmm… not really,” Alicia admitted. “But I’ve done a lot of traveling, so learning how to adjust to a new country is pretty easy for me.”
“O-oh… is that so?”
Once more, an awkward silence filled the air, making Alicia really wonder if she should say something. This girl seemed to be really awkward when it came to making friends. It was like she wanted to talk with others, but she was hesitant for whatever reason. Was it because she was living in a new country with different customs than her own? Alicia didn’t know. She wasn’t one-hundred percent sure she cared either, but she didn’t want to be mean.
“I’ve been all over the world,” Alicia admitted.
“R-really? So you’re like a huge traveler, huh?” Leonora seemed more surprised than Alicia thought it warranted, but she decided to humor the girl.
“I suppose you could say that,” Alicia said. “I actually only settled into Japan a little over a month ago. Before that, I traveled to the United States, Mexico, Britain, most of Europe… I even spent some time in Africa.”
That had been one of her harder times. Africa was not only a dangerous continent if you didn’t know the lay of the land, but she’d been hounded by Belial’s minions. Alicia considered herself lucky to have survived. If she hadn’t been able to lead the group chasing her into a pack of hyenas, she might have died that day.
“Wow!” Leonora seemed legitimately impressed. “You really have been all over. I feel kind of bad for being so nervous now. This is my first time leaving Vatican.”
Alicia tried not to let her shock show on her face, but she couldn’t deny the jolt that coursed down her spine. The Vatican was the largest stronghold of Catholicism. It was where their main base was located. All of the people who became exorcists were trained at the Vatican.
Could this girl be an exorcist?
“It must be tough suddenly finding yourself in a new country,” Alicia feigned sympathy while trying to figure out whether this girl was an exorcist, or if she was just a civilian. Either way, she was definitely catholic. The Vatican didn’t let none-Catholics live there.
“It is!” Leonora was now completely engrossed in their conversation. “But it’s also really exciting. I’ve always wanted to travel the world and help people. Now I’m finally getting a chance to do that.”
As Alicia listened to Leonora talk, nodding at certain parts and asking questions on others, the shower turned off and Kaoru walked into the room. She was wearing two towels. One was wrapped around her body, while the other was on her head.
“Oh! You’re finally back, Alicia,” she said.
Alicia didn’t really know what to think about Kaoru. On the one hand, she was a complete ditz who talked about the most inane things, constantly forgot her homework, and was always laughing at people’s really bad jokes. On the other hand, Alicia had never once heard her say something bad about Jacob.
“Yeah, I’m back,” Alicia said.
“Great!” With a grin, Kaoru bounded over to her luggage and began pulling out some clothes. “Once I get dressed, we can finally chat!”
Alicia was almost afraid to ask. “Chat?”
“Yeah!” Kaoru placed pajama pants and a shirt on her bed, dropped her towel, and began getting dressed. “You know we can do some girl talk!”
So, she wants to talk about boys and stuff, Alicia deduced. That seemed to be standard “girl talk” with human girls. She wasn’t sure if she had anything to say.
“W-what are you doing?!” Leonora suddenly shouted. The blonde girl had leapt to her feet and was pointing at Kaoru with a quivering finger.
“Um, changing?” Kaoru spoke as though asking a question.
“You’re not supposed to change in front of other people!” Kaoru shouted. “Have some modesty!”
Kaoru stared at Leonora as if the other girl had just told her that Issei Hyoudou liked men. “Are you for real?”
Leonora stumbled. “H-huh?”
“You’re seriously getting worked up about me changing in the bedroom? We’re all girls, so what’s the problem?”
“W-what’s the problem?” Leonora parroted. “It’s… well, it’s wrong to change in front of others, so, um… help me out Alicia!”
“What do you want me to say?” asked Alicia. “This is Japan. There are public bathhouses where people take baths together all the time. If this sort of thing gets to you, then you’re going to have a hard time fitting in.”
“W-what? Really?!” Leonora quickly scrambled for her guide book. “I don’t remember that being in the guidebook!”
“Guidebook shmidebook.” Kauro pulled on her pants, and then put on her shirt. “Those guidebooks don’t have everything you need to know in them, but in any case, I’m really surprised. Aren’t you foreigners supposed to be really bold?”
“That’s a common misconception,” Alicia informed her. “When it comes to nudity, even same sex nudity, a lot of countries are more prudish than Japan. Of course, Leonora is from the Vatican, so it might be even worse for her.”
Kaoru clearly didn’t know what the Vatican was, but that didn’t seem to bother her. Now that she was dressed, the girl bounded over to her and Leonora, throwing herself on Alicia’s bed, which made her twitch.
“Now,” the girl grinned, “it’s time for some girl talk! Alicia, you’re totes in love with Jacob, aren’t you?”
“W-what?!” Leonora stopped flipping through her guidebook. “Are you really?!”
Feeling like she’d suddenly been placed under a spotlight, Alicia tried not to let her cheeks burn. She failed. Her cheeks were burning. They felt like a pair of furnaces.
“Love? I… I don’t know…” she looked away. “I mean, Jacob is really important to me, but how do I know if this is love?”
“Hmmm…” Kaoru hummed as she studied Alicia with a look that was too sharp for her liking. “Do you ever find yourself watching him when you don’t have to? Or does your heart beat faster when you think about him? Do you ever find yourself thinking, ‘I wonder if he would like it if I wore this new dress?’ or something along those lines?”
“Well… s-sometimes,” Alicia admitted, though she didn’t know why she was admitting this.
Kaoru squealed. “Then you do love him! That’s so interesting! What do you love about him? Why do you like him so much? Is it because he looks like a total American badboy? Is that it?”
“Uh… no, th-that’s not it.” Alicia didn’t know what to do other than continue speaking, so despite her embarrassing reaching a plateau, she continued to talk. “It’s… it’s because Jacob saved me.”
“Really?” Kaoru’s and Leonora’s eyes widened. “Like, he saved your life?”
“Y-yes, he did do that,” Alicia admitted, “but he also saved me from my loneliness. When I had no one, Jacob offered me a hand. He kept me company, helped me when I had no one, and didn’t ask for anything in return.”
“So he’s like a white knight? Really?” Kaoru seemed so shocked by this. Leonora did, too, though Alicia couldn’t figure out why. “Wow. Most people would probably never suspect that Jacob was such a nice guy.”
“What do you mean by that?” asked Leonora. Alicia just frowned.
“Well, you know, Jacob is like a totally yankee,” Kaoru said, swirling a finger in the air. “He’s got blond hair, tan skin, and really broad shoulders. He looks totes like an American. He’s also got that, like, total bad boy vibe going for him. Honestly, if he didn’t always look so miserable, I’d probably think he was a total hottie.”
“If he’s miserable, it’s only because everyone in class treats him like crap!” Alicia stood up and glared down at Kaoru. “Jacob helped me when I was desperate and never asked for anything in return. When people make fun of him behind his back or mistreats them, he takes it all with an understanding smile, never blaming them even though he should stand up for himself! He is the kindest person I know, and I won’t have you saying anything bad about him!”
“Whoa, like, ease up on that killing vibe.” Kaoru gestured for Alicia to chill. “I wasn’t saying I disagreed with you. I was just saying that he always looks burdened, like, you know, he’s carrying a lot of weight on his shoulders.”
Alicia was so shocked by the insightful words that she actually fell back onto the bed. She had never expected to hear those words from Kaoru, who had always seemed so ditzy to her. It really made her realize that she couldn’t judge people by their outward appearances.
“Is the ne—is Jacob really that great?” asked Leonora.
“Jacob is like totes tolerant,” Kaoru said before Alicia could speak up. “I’ve been his classmate since last year, and he’s never gotten upset at anyone, even when people draw graffiti all over his desk, or steal his indoor shoes. It’s like he doesn’t even know how to be angry.”
“Huh… I never expected that,” Leonora muttered.
“Expected what?” asked Kaoru.
“Oh, nothing! I was just thinking about something.” Leonora waved her hands back and forth.
While Kaoru shrugged the girl’s words off and began needling her about her brother, Alicia frowned. This conversation had been enlightening. More than anything, she was now completely positive about one thing.
Leonora was somehow involved with the Catholic Church. She might even be an exorcist.
I have to tell Jacob and Yūgure to be careful around her and her brother.
Speaking of, just where is Yūgure anyway?
I would like to apologize for my long absence. To be honest, I became really busy and sort of forgot about this novel. I'll try to make more updates, but they might be sporadic. I hope you'll all forgive me for that.
I should mention this, though I think I have before. Nephalem is an unedited story, so there are probably quite a few grammatical mistakes. Feel free to point out any you find. Thank you.