Chapter 44:

Volume 2: Chapter 3: Discovery - Part 7

Nephalem


It was a lot later than I had expected when I arrived home. The sky was dark, the stars were out, and many of the houses that I passed had shut off their lights.

My original thoughts were that I would be home in time to watch anime with Alicia and Yūgure, but it must have been close to midnight as I entered the front door. Trying to be quiet, I took off my shoes and snuck in. Everyone was probably asleep. I didn’t want to wake them.

“You’re coming home awfully late,” a voice called out as I passed the living room. I froze.
Alicia was sitting on the couch. The lights were off, so I couldn’t see her very well, but the buxom silhouette was a dead giveaway.

“What’s wrong? Got nothing to say?” she asked.

I relaxed. “I didn’t think you would be up, so I was trying to be quiet.”

“When you didn’t arrive home in time to watch anime with me, I grew worried and decided to wait for you.”

“I-is that so?”

Something about this situation seemed odd, off, wrong somehow, but I couldn’t figure out what.

Alicia stood up and walked over to me. Her steps reverberated through the mostly silent room until, stopping directly in front of me, she frowned.

“Did you have fun with that girl?”

A chill entered my heart. I knew that she was talking about Gabriel. She couldn’t have been talking about anyone else, but that would mean she knew what I had been doing. I thought back to those times when I felt someone watching me. That must have been Alicia.

I’m… sorry,” I said. “I didn’t mean to keep this from you.”

“Then why didn’t you tell me?”

“I don’t know.”

“You’re lying.”

I winced. “It… I promised Gabriel I would keep it a secret.”

“And you didn’t find that at all strange?” Alicia asked, lips peeling back to reveal her grit teeth. “You didn’t find it weird that she would ask you to keep your meeting a secret from everyone?”

“I figured she didn’t want to deal with the trouble that came from being seen with me,” I mumbled. “And I didn’t want to trouble someone who wanted to spend time with me.”

“You’re too naive!” Alicia snapped suddenly, and the force of her voice made me take a step back. “Are you really that stupid? If that girl actually wanted to spend time with you, then she should have proudly proclaimed that you’re her friend! She shouldn’t have any reason to hide it!”

Frowning, I said, “you don’t know her circumstances, though. She might be here for an important job. If people learn that she’s been spending time with me—”

“Oh, don’t give me that.” Alicia placed her hands on her hips and glared. “There are over one million people in Saitama. Not everyone is going to know who you are, so it shouldn’t make a difference if whoever she works for finds out about it. Open your eyes, Jacob. She’s not spending time with you because she wants to. She’s probably an enemy who’s trying to get close to you.”

Something spread through my body, white hot like fire, a raging inferno of anger. This was the first time I had ever felt angry at someone. Maybe it was my anger that made me speak, but in that moment, upon hearing those words from Alicia’s mouth, I snapped.

“You’re just upset because Gabriel accepts me!” I shouted before I could stop myself. “Gabriel is the only person who doesn’t cringe when I touch them, who doesn’t tense up when I’m near them! She’s the only person who has never expressed wariness whenever I’m around! Even you sometimes look me as though I’m about to stab you in the back!”

Alicia’s eyes widened. “That’s—”

“But Gabriel doesn’t do that! She talks to me without reserve! She treats me like a human being!” My eyes felt hot and salty as all of the emotions coursing through me like an out of control forest fire poured out of me. “I’ve never been so completely accepted by someone else in my entire life! Even if I like you, I’m not going to let you take this from me!”

I didn’t give Alicia a chance to respond as I whirled around and stormed up the stairs. Before I entered my room, I heard Alicia’s shout of, “She’s going to betray you!” before I slammed the door shut.

Hurrying over to the bed, I threw myself face first onto it. I took several deep breaths. As my anger subsided, I suddenly felt a deep sense of shame, a self-loathing over what I had done. Speaking to Alicia like that had been wrong. I felt awful, but I also didn’t want to apologize.

What should I do to fix this?

Exhaustion hit me seconds later. Spending all that time walking around, and then getting angry, had sapped my energy. Only one emotion penetrated my brain before I fell asleep.

Regret that I might have just lost my first friend because I had lost control over my emotions.


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