Friday. Two days had passed, and in that time, nothing had changed. Jacob had been listless, barely speaking more than two words, not responding to the provocation of other students, or even bothering to hide the graffiti in his shoe locker from her. It was like he had become a hollow shell.
Alicia had tried her best, taking every opportunity she had to speak with him, at school, at home. She had even forsaken watching anime to spend time with him. It didn’t matter. Nothing she did made him respond with more than a few words. She hadn’t seen him smile since before Gabriel nearly killed him.
School had ended some time ago, but Alicia couldn’t find any relief in it. Jacob had walked home with her. However, the moment they were home, he had gone up to his room, and there he remained. He didn’t respond to her knocking on the door. He didn’t respond to her voice. She had no idea what was going on in his mind.
She was sitting at the dining room table. On any other day, she would have been in the living room, either doing homework or watching anime. Not today. Today she was driving herself crazy trying to figure out how she could help Jacob, who was clearly suffering.
The more time she spent with Jacob, the more she realized it. Jacob didn’t love himself. He didn’t even like himself. It was more than that, however. It was like he had believed that he didn’t deserve to live, that all of the bad things that happened to him were his fault, that he deserved them for being a nephalem.
She’d never met anyone else with so little self-worth.
There had to be something she could do, some way she could bring him back to his old self—no, a way she could heal his heart and mind. She wanted to make him love himself.
But even if she said that, even if she wanted to do that, she didn’t know where to start. How could she convince someone who’d been told that he was useless trash who should die all his life to believe that he was important?
A cup of tea was set on the table in front of her. The hand who’d placed it there was small and colored like dusk. She followed the hand to the face of Yūgure, currently dressed in a maid uniform nearly identical to Matilda’s. The only difference was that Matilda’s uniform revealed a hint of cleavage. Yūgure didn’t have boobs, so showing cleavage would have been pointless.
“Please drink some tea, Lady Alicia,” Matilda, who stood next to Yūgure, said. “It’ll help you relax.”
“Thank you.” Alicia took a sip of the steaming tea, sighing as the warm chamomile spread from her stomach to the rest of her body. “This is very good. Your tea is excellent as always.”
“I cannot take the credit for this,” Matilda said. “The one who made it was Yūgure.”
“Really? Yūgure did?” Alicia needed a moment to process that. “Is that why you’re in a maid outfit, Yūgure?”
As Yūgure nodded, Matilda said, “indeed. She came to me the other day and asked me to take her under my wing. She wants to help Jacob by becoming his personal maid, just like I am your personal maid.”
There were several problems with Matilda’s words. The first was that Yūgure didn’t speak, so it shouldn’t have been possible for her to “ask” someone anything. The second was the idea Yūgure becoming Jacob’s personal maid. Alicia didn’t like that idea, though she also knew that now wasn’t the time to get into an argument.
“I see. I’m impressed,” she complimented the girl instead. “I don’t know anyone who can learn to make such wonderful tea so quickly.”
Yūgure nodded, but still, just like always, she said nothing.
“My Lady,” Matilda interrupted. “I wished to ask about your plans with Lord Jacob. I assume from the way you are sitting here, moping, that you wish to find some means of helping him overcome his current hurdle, yes?”
“Uh, yes,” Alicia admitted warily. Nothing ever good seemed to come when Matilda brought Jacob up. “I don’t know what to do, though. I think he would recover if he found some worth in his own life, but right now, he doesn’t even think his life is worth anything.”
“Yes, that is a problem,” Matilda agreed. “Fortunately, I have a solution that I believe will help you. Would you like to hear it?”
“At this point, I’d be willing to listen to a serpent if it said it could help me,” Alicia said.
“Good.” Matilda smiled as she laid her plan out to Alicia.
As she heard the plan, Alicia’s cheeks became beacons of fire, but even so, she listened with rapt attention. Matilda’s plan could work. No, it would work. It was exactly the kind of plan a succubus would create. What’s more, it was the kind of plan that she had seen in many of her favorite anime. It would work.
It had to.