My stomach was churning in circles.
It was the last day of the sports festival, and all of the students and faculty were present, just like the previous day. Unlike yesterday, Alicia and I were standing within the crowd of students. We were taking part in the festival today.
Almost everyone from school was present. There must have been over seven or eight hundred people. Standing in a sea of human bodies, I don’t think I had ever felt so alone before. No student would stand within a meter of me. There was a literal clearing around me because all of the students were too afraid to get close.
A hand grabbed mine, warm and inviting as delicate fingers entwined with my own, making me look down. Soft hands. Milky skin that shone like porcelain. I looked up, past the hand and arm, and into the scarlet eyes of Alicia, a princess of the Underworld, daughter of King Bael. Her face was alight with supportive reassurance.
“Thank you,” I said.
“You’re getting better at showing gratitude,” Alicia replied with a grin.
Several people were standing on a stage in front of the school building, three people, a student and the principal and vice principal. Of the three, it was the student council president who stepped forward.
Nanami Hoshizaki, the Student Council President, stood before the assembly of students and faculty, her bluish hair swaying in the breeze. Dark eyes stared at them all, sweeping over everyone. When they landed on me and Alicia, her pink lips twisted into a distasteful frown.
For a moment, I was sure she’d tell me to leave. Her next words shocked me.
“What is this?! Why is there a gap in the formation?! Everyone, close ranks!”
It wasn’t a request. It was a command. Everyone heeded her call.
I almost screamed in shock when Alicia and I were suddenly pressed in from all sides. This was the first time I could remember being so close to so many people, at least in this capacity. Whenever I walked home, people avoided me. When I walked through the school, students moved out of my way. When in class or anywhere, really, everyone made sure to keep at least two meters of distance from me. That was how it had always been.
“Unity,” Nanami began, “that is what these sports festivals represent. Of course, they are also a means of testing your physical boundaries, of showing off your prowess in front of your family and peers. However, above and beyond a physical competition meant to embody the laws of nature and survival of the fittest, this competition is meant to bring us students closer together. As we embark on the final day of the sports festival, I hope you all think upon these words.”
I didn’t know much about Nanami, but she seemed to be an honorable sort, though I was judging her based only on what I had just seen. Having never seen her around school before, I didn’t know what she was really like.
Nanami wasn’t the only one to give a speech, as the principal also gave one to the students. Once that was done, it was time for stretches. Alicia and I followed along with the principal and everyone else as they went through a series of calisthenics. Some of those involved pairing up. Naturally, Alicia paired up with me. It wasn’t like anyone else would come close to me.
“Could you push a bit more?” Alicia asked. “Don’t worry about being gentle. I’m not some fragile doll.”
“I never said you were,” I replied.
Alicia was sitting on the ground, her legs spread out in front of her. I knelt behind her. With my hands on her back, I pushed her forward. As she requested, I applied more pressure. My face felt like it had caught fire when she moaned. It was a strained moan, one of discomfort, but it sounded so, well, sexy, I couldn’t help but blush.
We eventually traded places. She helped me. Then it was time for the sports festival to begin.
The athletics this day were numerous. First was the team tug of war, which involved a group from each class fighting against other classes. It was a tournament style competition, so whoever won went on to the next round, until there was eventually only one class left standing. I was surprised to see that our class were victorious. After the tug of war, it was the three-legged race.
Mine and Alicia’s event.
“Are you nervous?” asked Alicia.
“Of course not,” I said. “I just feel like I’m about to vomit.”
Alicia chuckled. “Try to hold it in until after the race, at least. You’re important to me, but I don’t want your puke all over my clothes.”
“I’ll do my best.”
Our legs were bound together as we stood at the starting line with several other pairs. Alicia’s arm was around my waist. Mine was around her shoulder.
I tried to keep my breathing under control, but I couldn’t stop from being nervous. This was my first time being in a sports festival ever, and I was participating with Alicia, my only friend. I didn’t want to let her down, but I couldn’t stop the questions that entered my mind. What if I failed? What if I tripped and we both face planted against that ground? What if what if what if what if. There were so many things that could go wrong.
“Calm down,” Alicia said, her arm squeezing my waist in a reassuring manner. “We know each other way better than any of these other people know their partners. We’ve got this.”
“Yeah.” I took a deep breath and blew it out. “Yeah, you’re right. Let’s do this.”
“That’s the spirit.”
A loud, shrill whistle was the sound off, and Alicia and I, along with everyone else, quickly burst into action. One team fell almost seconds after they started running. The rest kept pace with Alicia and I as we trotted toward the finish line. One two. One two. One two. One. Our bodies moved in surprising synch. Slowly, inexorably, we pulled ahead of the pack. One two. One two. We were just ten meters from the finish line. One two. One. Five meters. Alicia and I increased our pace. One meter. Almost there.
Alicia and I crossed over the finish line. The ribbon that marked it broke as we ran through it. There was no cheering, though some mute clapping echoed around us. It was probably Matilda and Yūgure. I didn’t care that they were the only ones clapping. I looked at Alicia and smiled.
“We did it.”
Her return smile was something that I would treasure for all eternity. “That we did.”
I guess sports festivals weren’t so bad, after all.
Since this is the end of volume 2, I figured I would write an afterword, just like you see in real Japanese light novels.
First, I would like to thank you all for reading. I hope you enjoyed the story so far, though be sure to let me know if there was anything you didn't like. I think it's important as a writer to know both the likes and dislikes of the people who read my stories.
Nephalem is a series that was born from watching far too much anime and studying various religions and myths from around the world. Part Highschool DxD, part world mythology, part my own imagination, Naphelam is a series that takes both original and unoriginal concepts, and melds them together. That's what I hope, at least.
I've been an anime fan for about 20 years now. I first started watching when I was 8-years old. I grew up on Pokemon, Digimon, Slayers, and Dragonball Z. Of course, later on, my love for anime expanded and I began watching every show that came out. Since then, I've added manga and Japanese light novel to my lists of things I love.
Ever since I discovered Japanese light novels, I've become an avid fanatic. To date, I've probably read upwards of a hundred LNs on Baka-Tsuki, and I've since become picking up all the light novels being published by Yen Press. Currently, I've got Accel World, Strike the Blood, Log Horizon, KonoSuba, RE:Zero -Starting Life in Another World-, No Game No Life, Spice & Wolf, The Irregular at Magic High School, The Devil is a Part-Timer, Death Parade Raphsody to the Parallel World, Sword Art Online, and Goblin Slayer. I hope to get many more.
Once again, I would like to thank everyone who read Nephalem. If you enjoyed it, please do not forget to like each chapter that you've read by clicking on the heart button. I'm not sure when volume 3 will come out, but I hope you'll enjoy it when it does.
This is Brandon Varnell. Author. Entertainer. Wannabe Harem Protagonist. Signing off.