All the Ugly Things
Chapter 1: Change of Heart
Paradise was unreachable. Heaven was distant. Eden, a wistful dream. Utopia, an illusion. Humanity manages to sustain that mirage of perfection through a perspective clouded with lies of riches and happiness. We know better, though. We demons, the essences of hell, know that there is no true love in the world. Only hate can go beyond skin deep. Humans are just beasts on a leash of obedience and social politeness. They're controlled by fear of ruining their ego. So pitiful. All they have is their impression on others.
Demons aren't so lowly. We are powerful, immortal, and intelligent. We aren't slaves for each other, like humans, but instead we serve the needy. We spend our free time devouring souls, preferably sinful, tainted ones. However, some of us happen to be sympathetic to the human race, and decide to put themselves on the market. Whoever has the nerve to summon them got a limited period of servitude from the demon. But, once the demon had helped the human achieve their goal, they got a reward. A soul and a life all in one. Usually we only get a single soul, but not in servitude. Once the human grows attached to us, we move in for the kill. Fresh meat plus a dark soul equals one happy demon.
Once every fifty years we grow hungry and restless, so that's when we put up ourselves for summoning. For me, it's been about two hundred years, so I am ravenous. And everyone knows that a ravenous demon as powerful as me is not a good thing. For anyone, humans and demons alike.
Therefore, I put myself up for grabs almost as soon as I woke up in my stone coffin.
I lay there, staring for a minute, until a hungry growl ripped from my throat and I chucked the top of my coffin to the nearest pillar. My teeth were bared and my hands clenched into fists as a migraine rocked my head. But confusion struck me just as hard as my hunger did. My temple that I'd had built was crumbling and deserted. Overgrown, uncared for, empty offering plates littering the ground at the base of my coffin.
Everyone was… gone. Skeletons were strewn about the abandoned premise of my battered castle. I put a hand on the edge of my coffin to find it covered in the dust of years of neglect. Lost souls wandered around aimlessly, too old to be eaten, too restless to be freed. None of them saw me though, for they cannot see anything with a beating heart, no matter how cold, cruel, and toxic it may be. I felt as if poison were being pumped through my veins instead of blood. Icy poison that made me shiver. But the more I think about it, the more I come to realize, maybe the problem wasn't my blood. Maybe it was the loneliness I felt. The sensation of being stranded with no one but your own lonesome and ghosts of what was. Memories to haunt you forever, or until someone freed you from their bonds.
And that's when I became aware of someone's eyes watching me. I whipped around in my coffin, twisting the upper half of my body to see behind me, to find a girl there. She was no more than six, a sapling of striking beauty, even to me. Her blindingly white hair graced the floor where she stood, broken patches of moonlight streaming through the deteriorating pillars to shine softly on her pale face. Her eyes were a glowing blue color and her lips were turned up in a small smile that had just the slightest hint of sadness.
Suddenly, I was overwhelmed by a driving urge to protect her from any harm that may ever befall her. I shook my head to clear it and looked again at the young girl who had the beauty of a goddess and the essence of a ghost. No, not a ghost, a spirit.
"Would you like some help, good sir?" Her voice was as soft and fluent as silk as she reached out her tiny pale hands out to me as if to embrace me. She was like a magnet, drawing me to her as if I were just simply a stupid human who knew no better. But I wasn't.
I scowled at her, resisting the urge to take her up in my arms and keep her safe for eternity. Nothing would touch her. No! What am I thinking? I'm a demon, not some soft, swooning, gentle-hearted human!
"I'm fine," I growled, stepping lithely out of my coffin and onto the dust-covered floor. I brushed off my black clothing sharply, feeling cross at having let this human girl under my guard. Twisting, I cracked my back with a satisfying pop and then looked around, trailing my red eye and blue eye across the ruins of my shrine. It was such a shame all those delicious souls went to waste like that.
The girl on the other side of the floor dropped her thin arms and looked down at her bare feet sheepishly.
"I'm sorry… If I upset you, sir," she whispered to her toes, which she dragged around in the dust. "I just thought that, after finding you here, you were some kind of god… Because you aren't a skeleton…" She gestured to the bones scattered across the various chipped stones. "So I went to tell Daichi. And he said we'd help you."
I turned and frowned at her, planting my hands with their black fingernails on my hips.
"And just who is Daichi…?" I asked her, narrowing my alternate-colored eyes to slits. The girl opened her mouth to say something, but she was interrupted.
"That would be me," said a shadow behind her. Immediately my eyes went from her beautiful, pale face to the tall man with his hands on her shoulders behind her. For a moment I thought I saw fear flash across the young girl's porcelain face, but if I did, she changed it quickly to a smile.
"This is my Daichi. He protects me. My Papa hired him to do that," she said with such cheerfulness I could automatically tell she was faking. Daichi's amazingly white, razor-sharp teeth gleamed even in the remote darkness of the sanctuary that had served as my resting place for many years. It was a wicked grin that I could practically feel the evil leak from him.
"It's a pleasure to meet you," he said in a cold, icy voice. But this "Daichi" wasn't about to scare me. I was too powerful to be scared of this pipsqueak.
I grunted in response, making a point of glaring at him, folding my arms over my chest.
"So, what are you doing to scare this kid here so bad?" I asked after examining him for a few minutes, gesturing to her with a sweep of my hand under my crossed arms. His smile grew wider, and wickeder if that was possible, as he cocked his head to the side.
"Why, I have no clue what you're talking about," he said in a sweet, incredulous voice. But I saw right through him, watching as the girl began to tremble lightly. I saw Daichi's long fingers tighten on her shoulders, and, to my surprise, hissed at him. But, I didn't mean to though, it just… happened.
Daichi chuckled darkly, causing the girl's face to betray her fear while her hands shook.
"Now look at what you've gone and done, boy," Daichi addressed me, pulling the girl backwards protectively so she rested against him. Then he leaned in and whispered in her ear, "Permission to kill, my lady?"
A growl tore from my throat as I stepped reflexively into a defensive stance, my hands curling into claw-like forms.
"Don't touch me, scum!" I hissed at him. He laughed and pushed the girl behind him and into the shadows, where I could still see her pale face peering fearfully around his leg at me.
"Well, my lady?" Daichi asked in a calm voice, though I could sense his impatience. It all just made me even more aggravated. And when I'm really aggravated, I roar like some kind of savage beast. Mistake number one.
The girl flinched and tears pooled at the rims of her thick-lashed eyes. Daichi stroked her soft hair with one hand, an affectionate look on his face as he glanced down at her.
"Don't worry, my lady. I'll take care of this man and we'll go someplace safe. Somewhere they can't get you, I promise," he said in a gentle voice. The girl let out a small squeak at his touch and looked up at him.
"Daichi, d-don't… don't kill him, please," she murmured. Suddenly, my anger melted like butter in a hot pan. That's how much power this girl had over me, and I didn't even know her name. Immediately my stance relaxed and my arms fell limp to my sides. My snarling face turned to concern; I could feel the muscles losing their tenseness.
"You… don't want me to die?" I asked with an incredulous tone, looking at her wide blue eyes.
She turned to me, her tears brimming over.
"I don't want anyone to die, sir."
That was the first time I'd ever heard anything like that. Not wanting anyone dead? Was this girl human?
And that's when I began to think… no. Maybe she's an angel.
I smiled softly at her, a rare occasion indeed, and stepped up to her to touch her cheek lightly with my black fingertips.
"Then I won't, sweetie. But your Daichi here is getting on my nerves; he's challenged me to a battle. And my pride is very important to me, love. Try to understand." She looked up at me with those wide eyes, filled with confusion and fear.
"O-Okay… If your pride is important… Just don't…" She didn't need to finish.
"I won't, honey," I said, feeling sick inside at how gentle I was being. I would have torn them both to shreds two hundred years ago, what was happening to me? Where has my demonic personality disappeared to? I was acting like a… human. I shuddered and turned to Daichi, whose crooked grin had long since slipped from his face.
"Well, Mr. Creeper, it's time for me to kick your ass."