In this world, five out of a hundred has a soulmate.
It’s a rather unusual number – a rough estimate, they say.
The Netherworld is a very vast, mysterious place. In the city lies tens of thousands of people, and in the nation, there are more than hundreds of cities. It’s not just cities; there are also provinces, villages, regions – fiefs that the noble demons rule. Beyond the border, there are countless more countries ran by high lords with a wider span of land and a higher amount of people living in those lands. Point is, in this world, that rough estimate they say cannot be trusted – it is unsuitable and insensible.
Statistics is an unreliable source because, with numbers that low, they might as well just conclude it with one statement –
“There is no possible way to meet your soulmate,”
Asmodeus Alice, at the young age of ten, is rather practical and pragmatic.
His mother sighs out of dismay as she shakes her head because how could her son out of all individuals be this unromantic? Being realistic and constructive is an impressive skill but when applied to the subject matter of romance, being such is merely similar to being hard-headed. Also, their bloodline was that of a succubus, mind you. It makes the Head of Lust sink into a state of shock – her dainty hand pressed against her chest as she tries to match her son’s determined gaze.
“Are… Are you certain you’re my son, Alice-chan?”
And as she takes a step back – overreacting again – the Head Butler catches her saying,
“Please get a grip, Amaryllis-sama,”
She then pouts at the sentiment because no one understands. It takes her a good minute to recover before she goes into a long rant about how this particular subject is the most important issue and branch of study. She goes on and on, making an impromptu speech about how the universe is always speaking to us and how they’re sending us little messages, causing coincidences and serendipities. She also says that there’s something more than just meeting other individuals, that there’s a reason for those small instances we stop and look around – to believe in fate.
“I still do not understand, mother,”
Ten-year-old Alice is confused.
He then looks down on his lap with his eyebrows furrowed because it’s the first time he fails to comprehend something. It’s not that he refuses to believe, his brain is simply insisting that it’s impractical and that he cannot do anything about it. The thought of trusting it is nonsense. He understands the idea but he doesn’t know why his mother is so adamant about it.
Why have faith in something that won’t ever happen?
“In this world, five out of a hundred has a soulmate,”
Amaryllis repeats the sentence for the second time.
It’s the opening for every book talking about the said topic, a line he’s heard multiple times before. Even children are aware of the folklore and how it goes. It’s a legend that many demons hoped and believed in, a tale backed up by no evidence and only by subjective experience. Those experiences could be fake – the writings could be made up but for some reason, even with knowing that, many still choose to believe in the phenomena that the naked eye cannot see.
“Don’t you want to be one of those five, Alice-chan?”
A game of luck, something similar to gambling.
Magenta eyes glaze over with wonder and for the first time in a hundred centuries –
The Wheel of Fortune has started to turn.
Usually, the bed itself is just an operating table where Alice’s dreams slice him to pieces.
He has nightmares more frequently than peaceful sleep – a side effect of too much studying and having a young imaginative mind. He dreams of monsters chasing him through the woods, dreams of the unknown lurking in the deep. He dreams of the sky falling apart like the text he read in the passage in the Book of Ether and he dreams of meeting the Demon King. The last one is a questionable one – it’s more so honorable, why fear? Thing is, Alice knows how strong the being is, and as a reasonable ten-year-old, he knows that if they ever meet, the best thing he’d be able to do is grovel at his feet.
Nevertheless, tonight is a little bit different.
Blue eyes bluer than the rivers of the glimmering night.
Blue eyes containing fifteen billion years of cosmic evolution.
Alice thinks that he’s standing in front of a mythical being; thinks that something that beautiful seems too good to be of this world. Then again, he hasn’t been here before. He’s dreamt of forests but he’s never seen trees that tall, never seen bugs that glow gold, never seen fog that doesn’t poison nor suffocate. Everything seems ethereal – extremely paradisical as if moving in slow motion in another dimension. If it weren’t nighttime, it looked like everything would bloom if the light touched.
Alice is wonderstruck.
They make eye contact for one, two, three seconds before the creature retreats, fear on his face due to realizing that the demon had been staring a bit too much. Reflexively, Alice’s hand extends to suggest a halt but their distance is much too wide and the other is ready to bolt. As if too desperate, he snaps out of his stupor and calls out a word –
The result is immediate because the creature pauses on his feet and Alice wonders what he’d look like under that flimsy cloak. It’s as if the current scenario is out of a fantasy book and he’s here, meeting a higher being. The other’s head slowly turns and instead of divide wonder like he feels, he’s met with a face full of fear. Alice gasps in the realization that he hasn’t made a good first impression.
“Are… Are you also lost?”
He tries again and receives a scared flinch.
Alice is a bit dismayed.
“Should we… Should we try to get out of here? Together?”
He tries on the friendliest smile he could muster as he keeps his hand extended for an invitation.
The other’s posture is a bit curled up as if faced with a threat before he sees those blue eyes ponder in consideration. Alice then frantically nods when he receives a head tilt, too excited when he moves closer after a long antagonizing minute, fingers about to touch but alas –
“Time to wake up, young master,”
The dream immediately ends.
David feels guilty.
Amaryllis is overjoyed.
“Ara, ara. Are you in your rebellious phase, Alice-chan?”
She dreams of her son talking back to her at least once. The boy has always been too obedient and compliant – the picture-perfect child every parent wants to have. Then again, the Head of Lust is different. She finds that to be uninteresting and wants to have a bit of fun. It feels good to mess with your children, you see. She dreams of going through those drama scenes wherein they go what do you know about me, mother!? as they storm out of the house in tears.
Basically, she wants a dramatic lifestyle.
The ten-year-old looks up from his plate and his mother’s smile brightens because anyone could tell…
Anyone could tell that Asmodeus Alice was pouting.
“What seems to be the problem, dear?”
As a reply, magenta-colored eyes glare in David’s direction. The servant's sweat drops.
“Please forgive this humble servant, young master,”
“Ehh? What happened, David?”
“This morning, I made the grave mistake of waking up Alice-sama,”
“But isn’t that what you usually do?”
The Asmodeus heir shakes his head in opposition and it immediately grabs the attention of the two adults inside the room. They know that an explanation is coming because Alice is never this petty. They kind of want to know the reason as well since it’s a bit unusual for this to happen. Perhaps there’s a deeper reason, perhaps there’s not. Anyway, Amaryllis is just glad to see this happen.
“I was having a good dream,”
“Of course, Alice-sama. My apologies,”
The boy then nods in reply, accepting it per usual.
His mother, on the other hand, is a bit sharper with her question, asking,
“What kind of dream was it, Alice-chan?”
“I met something… someone,”
The forest, the smell of the earth after it rains, misty dawn with the sky still asleep – Alice lists down the details of the setting one by one like a detailed student. In return, his guardians intently listen, nodding at his remarks from time to time. He remembers being clothed in his white formal clothes, strange since he went to sleep wearing his pajamas. It’s an odd detail to remember but he does. He also remembers the small floating lights. He remembers that flimsy dark cloak and that beautiful face.
“I do not know who it was,”
Blue eyes, he remembers blue eyes.
Amaryllis’ hand pauses mid-air, the teacup she was holding thankfully not spilling over. Alice blinks because he sees his mother’s smile falter. David looks guiltier now as well.
“It looks like we have to continue our lesson today, Alice-chan,”
The First Law of Insomnia states that the first unknown face you meet belongs to your soulmate. It is highly impossible for the brain to generate a highly detailed illustration of someone’s visuals without having a basis. One does not remember that much detail after waking up as well. In the ten years of Alice’s life, there are only a handful of individuals he’d ever find beautiful and none of them have blue eyes.
His mother says and Alice gasps, his heartbeat hammering against his chest.
“I will also refrain from waking you up from now on, young master,”
From beside the door, David comments with a fond smile.
Dreamscape – or so the place you meet your soulmate is called.
It is where one’s body arrives, not entirely true but not entirely false.
Alice’s smile is so big his cheeks are hurting. He finds it endearing how his soulmate is shy, hiding behind the tree and peeking to look at him. With how that hood shifts he could see hints of blue hair. Truth be told, he really wants to see the entire picture but as his mother told him, don’t be too hasty, Alice-chan! Be a gentleman and take it slow! He can’t be scaring him like what happened last time. Apparently, time is warped in this space thus he doesn’t really know how much time they have.
“We meet again,”
He tries not to let the excitement leak into his voice as much as possible.
“My name is Asmodeus Alice. It would be an honor if you’d allow me to know yours as well,”
The other’s lips purse together and he nervously fidgets on his place. Nevertheless, he reveals more of himself to the demon, bare feet making contact with the ground. Alice takes note of that as well remembering that whatever you see your soulmate wearing is what they mostly wear in real life. It’s a good explanation for his attire but for the other… Alice can only fathom what. Wearing no shoes is an odd attire for a demon’s everyday life.
The other doesn’t come closer. All he does is reveal himself, that’s all.
He timidly says before getting on his knees and bowing until his forehead meets the ground.
Alice’s eyes widen and he panics, too torn between the choices of coming closer and keeping his distance. In the end, he does the former because his soulmate doesn’t seem to be looking up from the floor anytime soon. His hand makes contact with his shoulder and Alice can feel the grass against his knees.
“You do not have to bow! We are on equal terms – “
The words that come out of his mouth during that moment are out of desperation to get his point across. Finally, the other looks up due to his senseless rambling; both of them sitting on the damp forest floor. At this point, the demon doesn’t care if he gets his white clothes dirty. It will not transverse to reality either way.
“I apologize if I confused you in any way,”
He now realizes that they speak different languages. It’s a detail he should’ve remembered during their first meeting. He still doesn’t understand why his soulmate bowed though. As he speaks, all he receives are confused head tilts to the left and right and Alice fondly smiles in dismay before he shakes his head.
He points towards himself,
“My name is Asmodeus Alice,”
It’s a start.
“Although there are indeed a vast number of languages, what we speak is the official language of the Netherworld. Everyone should at least know a word or two. You did not use any difficult words did you, Alice?”
“I tried to be courteous as much as possible, mother,”
Amaryllis hums in reply, trying to think things through. It sure did not make sense.
“Are they younger than you are?”
“I am not sure. He is much smaller than I am, mother. Much thinner and paler as well,”
Blue eyes, blue hair and pale skin. If only he could see under that cloak, then he could list down the details of what he was wearing and associate it with a certain group. Oh, speaking of clothing. The ten-year-old opens his mouth to speak again but was unfortunately cut off by a remark coming from his mother –
“Oh, it’s a male,”
Alice flushes while Amaryllis and David chuckle to themselves. Gender isn’t really an issue in the Netherworld but it is indeed a bit special to their family. The Asmodeus heir lets out an embarrassed half-whine when he sees his mother mouth the word incubus.
“A son-in-law, huh,”
She giggles making her son redder. A son-in-law will definitely make things more fun.
Alice clears his throat, attempting to glare at his parent but failing to do so because he was teased using the topic of his soulmate. He’s way too struck on the subject to do that. The child then straightens his posture, attempting to steer the topic back to its proper direction.
“I remember seeing him not wearing any shoes, mother,”
Amaryllis blinks and it takes approximately four seconds for her to process the information before,
There’s silence for quite a while and it makes Alice alarmed.
She then heads towards the bookshelf to grab something.
When Alice opens his eyes, he’s alone in the dreamscape with his soulmate nowhere to be found.
It makes him confused and he remains still for a moment or two before he calmly looks around, his heart beating loudly and hands turning cold. He wants to call out a name but is quite unsure of what to say. There’s also the fact that he doesn’t know what it is – his soulmate’s name, that is. Thankfully, the scare doesn’t last that long. He hears the soft rustle of grass behind his back and his face immediately lights up when he sees the familiar figure approach from the dark.
“There you are – “
About to approach but immediately stopping himself when he remembered how uncomfortable the other was with proximity. His actions seem to go unnoticed because as his soulmate halts a few meters in front of him, he’s met with the most dazzling smile that makes his heart constrict. It’s a bit unfair, really. Perhaps this is the red string of fate as well because Alice may not know anything about him but he already adores everything he sees.
He mumbles under his breath, waving a hand. He hopes that the gesture is understood, it will be, right?
The other stares before his face flashes with recognition,
Ah, that’s cute.
Alice presses his lips into a thin line, refraining himself from smiling when he sees the other cheerfully wave back. It’s not like they’re seeing each other for the first time. The demon is a bit glad that he’s given a chance to redeem himself because scaring off his counterpart during their previous meeting wasn’t really his intention.
“How are you?”
He tries to ask and his soulmate nods again, pointing at him saying,
Alice blinks, his face flushing before he sees the other point at himself.
“Suzuki Iruma. Azu-kun – “
For some reason, Alice’s heart is so full he feels like it’ll burst.
Slavery is illegal in the Netherworld.
It is both immoral and against the law for one demon to be owned by another. Instead, what they have are ranks on the hierarchy pyramid. It is a system that everyone follows – a system that becomes effective the moment a demon reaches the age of fourteen. Even if slavery is indeed not allowed, it does not mean that it did not exist back in the day. There are countless records of it happening in multiple accounts. Then again, that event had long been done and abolished. Laws had been put up as well to prevent it from happening.
Point is, in the current time in the Netherworld, there is no existing act of slavery.
“Perhaps he is an orphan, madam,”
Amaryllis shakes her head because even those are rare. Orphans are usually taken in by their closest relatives; demons are too close knitted for that. Although the universal laws are different, it’s the same in most countries due to moral values. Orphans are also rare because demons getting ill and dying due to accidents are rare. Their lifespans and immune systems are way too strong for that. Also, why would an orphan be barefoot? It’s a well-known fact that the system tries to ensure that orphanages are one of the best in the world. It’s either the answer is different or there’s some sort of corrupt organization somewhere.
Unfortunately, the name Iruma doesn’t ring a bell either.
“Barefoot and wearing a cloak? Do orphans wear cloaks inside the house, David?”
Alice flinches on his seat as if he’s the one affected.
His mother does indeed have a point.
“Why is he dressed like he’s on the run?”
The ten-year-old feels a bit guilty because he doesn’t have any more information to offer. The past few nights he’d been meeting with Iruma were of the two of them chatting, trying to figure out the basics of communication. He felt like asking would be a bit too abrupt. He also doesn’t know if he’ll be able to express his question properly. Would it sound invasive if he asked? Alice is worried. His mother then proceeds to tell him to remember each and every detail as much as possible and he swears that he will.
He definitely will.
“Our best guess is that he’s part of those tribes that are still in hiding,”
Like the endangered wolf demon clan. Due to their species, they prefer to live in forests and not amongst humans. She could think of a few more groups similar to that but those have distinct features to them – face marks, sharp fangs, aggressiveness towards strangers for example. Judging by her son’s explanation, it looks like the boy did not fear civilized demons and had any hatred for them. Perhaps he was raised in seclusion and did not meet any during his lifetime.
“It’s alright, don’t be worried. We might be wrong,”
Amaryllis says as she pats her son’s head,
“Take your time getting to know him, okay?”
Alice stares at Iruma’s side profile.
He’s both enamored and fascinated by it and it takes the other quite a while before he notices. After hearing his mother explain about secluded clans, he starts to wonder if she is indeed right. He knows a family who has canine ancestors and they have cat-like ears on top of their head. If his soulmate is indeed from an Animalia clan then there would be something similar. Alice is intrigued.
Iruma blinks, turning to look at why his friend has become so silent all of a sudden. They’re sitting on the forest floor next to each other, a bunch of flowers on Iruma’s lap. There’s not much to do in this setting and they can’t talk to each other due to the language barrier as well. At least Iruma had gotten comfortable with sitting close. Alice’s heart would’ve sunk if he continued to put up a wall and kept the distance. Perhaps it was because he realized that the demon wasn’t a threat whatsoever.
If it is that then Alice is glad that he’d at least gained a bit of his soulmate’s trust.
The hooded figure scolds, cheeks flushed, and puffed.
Alice feels a bit bad for thinking that it’s a cute sight. He never imagined his name sounding so endearing even though mad. It’s probably because Asmodeus Alice is too difficult for Iruma’s foreign tongue to pronounce. He didn’t mind, it’s a bit close to his original name anyway. He does hope that the other refers to him as Alice though – perhaps one day when they’re a bit closer he can ask.
Iruma goes on a long rant which the demon understands as a combination of da, de, di, do and dus.
He shakes his head scolding,
“Da – me! Da – me !”
Before he crosses his arms above his chest. The demon doesn’t know what that means.
Alice laughs so hard he almost topples over his seat.
It also looks like making flower crowns is a good way to take that hood off Iruma. The demon tries his best to intricately weave the stems, determined since his soulmate deserves the best. The one he receives is a bit clumsy but it’s a flower crown all the same. Five for art, six for effort and about a hundred more because it’s from Iruma – a total of one hundred six out of ten. It’s an overrated score but he’s been biased since the beginning. The rubric is unimportant and won’t be needed.
Iruma’s lips curl up at the present as he says,
The demon nods before he points at his head, asking the other to put it on. He doesn’t get his words across because the head tilts simply return once more and Alice groans in frustration. He immediately shakes his head and tries to clarify though because any sort of negative response seems to worry his soulmate. It looks like he really has to watch what he does from now on.
He worriedly calls out, upset blue eyes peeking at him.
Alice feels the conflict churn in his stomach before he slowly tugs at the edge of his soulmate’s hood, waiting for a response. It looks like it does the trick because Iruma immediately lets out a long ohhh before he rapidly nods and the demon sighs out of relief. His heart is beating loudly against his ribcage as he slowly tugs the garment off, blinking when he realizes oh, no wolf ears.
He does discover something else though.
“Your ears are cropped, Iruma-sama,”
Alice carefully says, gently pressing his fingers against them. Iruma’s eyes peer left and right before he bobs his head up and down, seemingly agreeing. At least he doesn’t seem to be bothered by the touching.
He says as he extends his hands out to gently grab Alice’s as well. Iruma thinks that they’re learning about body parts now because they do learn about words quite frequently. The demon looks like he’s about to cry, flushed and desperately nodding as soft hands tug at his pointed ears.
Nn! Whatever that means, you’re absolutely correct, Iruma-sama!
Alice feels his heart drop during their tenth meeting.
“There’s a cut on your face,”
He comments using his mother tongue, not minding the fact that Iruma wouldn’t be able to understand.
The demon narrows his eyes at the sight, both hands immediately cupping his soulmate’s cheeks to inspect his state, a grip on his wrist stopping him in the middle of it. Iruma looks uncomfortable but Alice doesn’t seem to care. He usually does but seeing the other injured sends his mind into overdrive and he’s worried. The cut isn’t deep, it’s shallow but Alice with his demon logic knows that cuts are supposed to heal immediately – ten to fifteen seconds after being treated with medicine.
You didn’t get yourself treated?
He wants to ask.
It’s just a scratch,
The logical side of him protests.
He then proceeds to catch something at the edge of his sight – bruises.
Bruises on his soulmate’s fingers and bruises on his arms and wrist from where the cloak had shifted down. It’s a realization that makes the demon nervous, an information that makes his breath hitch because as far as he remembers,
“We might be wrong,”
“Is someone hurting you, Iruma-sama?”
Rule number two states any vast change done in real life will also show inside the dreamscape.
“Azazel-sama said that there are no records of any family named Suzuki, Alice-chan,”
Alice worriedly purses his lips at the information before he asks,
“Perhaps they just missed it, mother? A different spelling perhaps?”
The Head of Lust then proceeds to explain that they tried each and possible one they had. It’s easy for the Demon Border Control to find information nowadays. They have each and every demon’s detail recorded both on written and digital data. If it’s a child’s then the possibility is that they have it in their system. It mostly consists of birth certificates, registration forms, any digital and physical copy there is. This Suzuki Iruma on the other hand, they did not. No record of any individual that could be a relative as well.
And this was already using Babel Tower’s latest technology.
Alice is actually pretty lucky. Normal citizens – also most nobles – would not be allowed to have access to this. They made an exception due to Asmodeus Amaryllis, the Head of Lust. She promised them information regarding the subject because discovering one’s soulmate is infrequent, few and far between. If it is for educational progress they decided that immunity was allowed.
“He is hurt,”
Amaryllis fondly smiles at her son before she bends down on her knees. She then extends her hand to brush her fingers against Alice’s flushed cheek, trying to soothe the obvious frustration that was showing up on his face. Nowadays, this kind of expression on the child’s face was frequent. She’s glad that he’s feeling something because as members of the Asmodeus family that’s what their instinct says – protect, love, and take care.
“I have to find him, mother,”
There’s a crack in his voice, magenta eyes glazing over with a thin filter of tears.
Alice is genuinely upset.
“Of course, dear. I will help you find him,”
She gathers her son in her arms, softly brushing his hair as she lends him her shoulder. There is no sob, per usual because it’s Alice. She does hear a sniffle nevertheless and when that left arm of his rose, she was more than certain it was because he wiped away a tear.
“But there is no need to be so impatient,”
Amaryllis advises, more so informed on the matter itself. She is an adult, well-versed in the different types of love – its ups and downs as well as its strengths and weakness. The Head of Lust finds it an honor to help her only child in the area she specializes in the most. In the future as well, she hopes to be doing the same, hopes that Alice would run to her and ask her opinion first above any other.
“We often want it so badly we ruin it before it begins. Overthinking. Fantasizing. Imagining. Expecting. Worrying. Doubting. Just let it naturally evolve, my dear. He is yours, fate said so,”
She then pulls back to meet his eye, magenta meeting magenta,
“The universe has existed for billions of years and by chance, both of you ended up living at the same time. How fortunate, that counts for something. I am certain that your paths with cross, Alice,”
The ten-year-old nods as their foreheads meet,
“I am sure of it,”
Amaryllis then presses a kiss against her son’s cheek.
Alice likes it when those blue eyes are focused. So focused they look like they’re ringed with gold.
Iruma has gotten comfortable enough for them to sit together with their shoulders bumping against each other. He remains silent and stares as those bruised hands carefully and expertly fold a piece of leaf – origami, or so he said –, a bunch of cranes sitting at the other’s bare, injured feet. It’s a complex form of art and even Alice who had been observing quite intently fails to comprehend how that small piece could turn into a bird.
He watches as his soulmate rips off the sides to make a square and realizes that oh, he had been resting his head against his shoulder for a while now. It’s Alice’s unconscious form of affection and his cheeks flush but he makes no move to retreat. He glances upwards and sees that the other pays no heed as well so he comes to the conclusion that it should be alright.
It should be alright, yes?
“We are soulmates anyway,”
The demon loudly blurts out, Iruma turning to look at him, wondering if that statement was of any importance. It’s usually like this since they can’t communicate using words. Alice shakes his head in apology, nervous that the other would notice his proximity and greatly relieved when he doesn’t say anything about it. It’s either he didn’t notice or he’s allowing this to happen. The ten-year-old likes to think that it’s the latter, better dream big.
Then, something unexpected happens.
Alice’s eyes widen and he immediately sits up, a look of alarm flashing unto his features.
Iruma blinks, surprised by the sudden shift before he sees the demon’s face slowly brighten. The rush starts from Alice’s lips then to his cheeks and eyes. He looks so animated and it makes Iruma giggle. It’s a good word, or so he thinks. He’s been hearing Alice say it a lot ever since they met as well. Since it’s a word that is always repeated, despite its difficult pronunciation, he was able to remember and pronounce it correctly. Alice looks like his birthday came a few months early and truth to be told, that might be the case.
The ten-year-old frantically nods and if his mother or David had seen this, they’d say that it’s rather out of character for him to do so.
“That’s correct, Iruma-sama. You and I are soulmates!”
Everywhere Alice looks, there’s complex magic blazing right in front of his eyes.
Alice is fourteen when he realizes that he’s in love.
Perhaps he has been ever since they met but he’s fourteen when he’s sure of it all.
He recognizes small details like that place on the back of Iruma’s neck. That place where he wants his fingers to fall, where he wants his arms to wrap around – that place. He’s more so fantasizing at this point – a bit embarrassed that he’s looking at his soulmate in such an impure manner. His stomach is filled with something terrible, some form of sickness he hates and refuses to understand. All he knows is that he wants moments like these to last.
Don’t rush, he remembers his mother saying a few years ago. This is why you are anxious, stressed, and disappointed. Trust that what was meant to be yours will be yours.
They are still looking for an individual named Suzuki Iruma.
Alice just hopes that despite the cuts and bruises, for Iruma to be safe. He has to be safe.
The demon feels like he’d be able to turn the world upside down if he isn’t.
“Why aren’t you closing your hand, Iruma-sama?”
Alice pouts, noticing that he was the only one attempting to intertwine their fingers. The other laughs at the remark and attempts to pull his hand back only to be stopped by the demon’s tight grip. He’s more so teasing his soulmate at this point. Unexpectedly, Iruma has a coy side and it frequently comes out when the other is visibly asking for affection and attention. He does end up surrendering himself though because as Alice leans his head against his shoulder like a cat, magenta eyes peering through pale lashes.
“I like you,”
Alice says and Iruma nods. He’s been saying it a lot recently but the other doesn’t understand. The concept of the word like is difficult to explain especially since they have no basis in each other’s language. They were more so winging it these past four years. Alice wonders if holding hands and doing these kinds of things has the same implication from where his soulmate is at. If so then it would be much easier.
The demon stares at Iruma before he slightly hums, leaning over for a kiss on the cheek.
“I like you,”
He repeats and presses another kiss.
“Do you get it now, Iruma-sama?”
The flush he sees is more than satisfactory.
David arrives to see the young master already awake and in a daze, sitting up on his bed one early morning.
Usually, due to the phenomena, Alice would be asleep up until ten in the morning.
That certainly wasn’t the case today.
“What seems to be the matter, young master?”
David asks as he shuts the door close behind his back, watching as Alice’s eyes slowly glaze over with tears.
And as if it still hasn't sunk in, he repeats,
“Iruma-sama is gone,”
The last Law of Insomnia states that the length of interaction and the number of meetings are not fixed.
Alice at first found the theory itself rather redundant.
It’s an idea that sounds subjective – something written by hand and seemingly out of a storybook. It sounded like a scam; some sort of trick that made people hope and wait for nothing. If only there’s a calibration that counts how much people invest, how much they ignore their fears of being hurt, caught out, or humiliated – this theory will rank first on the list.
Nevertheless, after experiencing it first hand, Alice now likes the idea that someone, somewhere, is made for him – forever. There are so many unspoken words on his skin – waiting to be read like braille, and what is he if not a demon blindly attached, desperate to learn his other half whole. Alice never knows where he is going with this. He crosses borders lightly like clouds every night, has memories of another place.
But now nothing else counts.
His mother’s hands against his cheeks feel cold and there are tears streaming down his face as he calls for Iruma-sama, Iruma-sama, Iruma-sama over and over again – this kind of fading, done in secret with the tail tucked safely between the legs. Imagine that kind of untruth, staring you dead in the mouth with a heart so cold it could keep a body perfect, keep it from being torn from becoming as soft as the earth that bore it. Was it even real?
“Go to sleep, Alice. Hope that you’ll go back to the old place – “
“All that remains is char: darkness and emptiness, mother,”
“Tonight might be different. Try it again, will you – “
His mother has tears in her eyes as well, smiling and crying in a way that made him even more hysterical. There’s a riff, a thought that crosses his head – obsessively, incessantly, and with maddening hunger to the point of suffocation. When he looks at her, even a moment, no speaking is left in him. His tongue breaks and thin fire races under his skin. There is no sight left in his eyes and loud drumming fills his ears. For the past four years, this individual has tried to use all the clues they have but found none.
There were none.
After so long, still, Alice feels helpless. As if he’s an outsider.
And he is not sure at all if love is salve or just a deeper kind of wound. He does not think it matters.
“It’s already been weeks,”
Fourteen-year-old Alice points out, his eyes dimmed and rimmed with red. There was something terrible in him at night and he could feel it grinning at him. He dreams of Iruma but the forest is on fire and the dark forest is full of light. Even now he wonders if this could be explained and bound by three-dimensional earthly existence because it sure doesn’t feel like it.
How did he sleep peacefully before this?
“All I have are nightmares, mother,”
Alice does not remember.
The paradox ensues when it’s announced that he’s passed the entrance exams to Babyls.
“Perhaps the headmaster would like to meet you because you ranked first,”
The headmaster and ruling head of Babyls, the archduke demon, Lord Sullivan is a well-known figure in the entire Netherworld. He is one of his mother’s higher-ups, just second to the Demon King and perhaps will be the next Demon King – there were gossip and news going around and such. Despite the honor of meeting such an individual implied, Alice finds himself completely uninterested. If it was him four years ago his reaction would’ve been different. Then again, many things change shape.
“Congratulations, young master,”
David greets, his mother smiling and chattering on and on about her son’s achievements.
“You look extremely displeased,”
A few moments later she sighs and her smile drops. She isn’t disappointed, she’s more-so worried. It’s understandable why her son is like this. She knows the reason why. Also, the Head of Lust is not that insensitive to think that heartbreak would heal in a flash – one bound by soul most of all. It’s been about two months ever since the dreams ceased for Alice. He’s gotten much better compared to his initial state but he is different.
The current Alice is much colder and stricter.
So impatient as if he’s racing against an enemy he cannot seem to catch up to.
“Iruma-sama will be proud to know that you’re doing well in school,”
The name makes the teen freeze on his seat, the ice in his eyes seemingly starting to thaw. His eyebrows knit and a smile makes its way to his face before he shrugs his shoulders. Iruma will be proud of everything he does. They could just be sitting around, not talking and that’d be enough. They never managed to communicate during the past four years. It was more so gestures and small phrases but they never really talked. Perhaps that was the only thing he ever regrets.
“He would’ve been much better than me if we were in the same school,”
An honor student perhaps? Alice would’ve liked to see that.
Amaryllis shows a fond smile before she lowers her utensils asking,
“Will you be alright with meeting the headmaster? At least hear out what he has to say, Alice,”
The fourteen-year-old hums in reply, thinking about it for a moment before he nods.
“If you wish, mother,”
It’d be good if he gains recognition aside from just academic achievement anyway.
Iruma-sama deserves the best soulmate there is after all.
As expected, Lord Sullivan’s presence is daunting.
The demon is not even saying or doing anything, he just has to sit there and even Alice could tell that he is a Lord. The man is different compared to his mother. The headmaster is bigger, taller, scarier – the type that will make you paralyzed on your seat. The ever so renowned Opera is also present, standing behind the archduke’s back. They have this monotonous expression on their face, almost unfazed but the Asmodeus heir could tell that those crimson eyes were glaring, looking down at him. As to what reason that is, he has no clue.
“I called you here because I want to ask a favor, Asmodeus-kun~”
Alice nods in recognition, teacup pressed against his lips.
“Would you be so kind to give up the opening speech for my beloved grandson?”
He then pauses, magenta eyes widening under thick lashes.
Lord Sullivan has a smile on his face and there’s silence in the room as they wait for Alice’s reply. The teen presses his lips into a thin line, slowly lowering his cup to the table before staring at the headmaster with his eyebrows furrowed. It’s a rather bold request and if they’re to judge by his expression, it is painstakingly obvious that he has taken offense by what they just asked him to do. Nevertheless, as expected, the adults’ expression does not change unlike him.
Alice feels like he’s being crushed by the pressure and at the moment one thought crosses his mind,
What was I even called here for?
It isn’t like he’d be able to refuse in the first place.
“Of course, Sullivan-sama,”
Always be respectful. Do not make an enemy out of the wrong people.
Then again, who would have thought that the archduke was this kind of demon? Many ought to mistake his actions as that of a doting grandfather but to Alice, it just simply screams nepotism. Who is that grandson of his anyway? Couldn’t he have just taken the position by scoring first during the exams? The teen can’t help but slightly smile at the thought because clearly, someone was having it easy.
I’m sorry, Iruma-sama,
“Ah, that’s right! As an apology, I’ll give you a copy of my grandson’s photo – “
Lord Sullivan starts to exclaim as he rummages through his desk.
Alice’s eyebrow twitch in irritation before –
He recognizes the boy.
Alice feels like he just finished flying a race.
“What on earth were you doing?”
Opera coldly says; unimpressed by how the Asmodeus heir is acting.
The piece of image between Alice’s fingers feel unreal, Lord Sullivan sitting still and staring at him with that smile on his face. The headmaster does not look angry but Opera does and the teen immediately realizes that they know. Iruma-sama alive and –
A weight is taken off Alice’s shoulders. He feels like he’s about to hit the ground if he weren’t currently sitting down.
“Do give him a call, Asmodeus-kun. It’ll be good for the two of you to meet,”
“Stop making Iruma-sama wait,”
Opera says and Alice who has his head hung low, softly and submissively nods.
It doesn’t take long before his eyes pool up with tears and he sighs out of relief.
When Alice returned home that evening, Amaryllis was confused at first.
Her son called out from the gates, hair a complete mess and eyes rimmed red with tears.
She immediately became worried and headed towards his direction, pulling him in for a hug and asking what was wrong before receiving a mix between a laugh and a sniffle. He then handed her a piece of paper, a photograph of someone and – magenta eyes widened, one look and she instantly realized who it was. It could only belong to one individual, she was sure of it.
Why wouldn’t she be? He always talked about blue eyes whenever he had the chance.
“He’s going to call him now?”
David asks his master who shushes him the moment he speaks.
It was about eleven am on a Saturday morning, the following day. Truth to be told, the young master wanted to call or message the other earlier but was refrained by the pair on doing so. That would be too early, they said. It’s already ten at night and you want to meet up? is another. Amaryllis insists that there’s a time and place for everything and Alice who wanted to do the best, followed through with the advice but failed to sleep during the night.
He’s currently a bundle of nerves on the verge of breaking down.
They’re both peeking through the door of Alice’s quarters, watching over the teen who was still hesitating on dialing that number. It was written behind the photo he received, neat and easily readable due to Opera’s handwriting. Perhaps Lord Sullivan and Opera were alright with this. Alice can only hope so.
“Stop making Iruma-sama wait,”
The teen sat up on the edge of his bed, starting to dial and waiting for the other side to pick up.
Amaryllis and David sent each other a smile before they slowly pulled back to retreat.
“Iruma-sama – “
“I know I told you to stop making Iruma-sama wait but I didn’t think you’d call this soon,”
For a moment, Alice is taken aback. He opens his mouth to speak again but is cut off by the servant,
“We’re currently downtown. Sullivan-sama is picking out things for Iruma-sama since school is about to start in a few weeks,”
There is loud chattering in the background as well as muffled voices near. Lord Sullivan’s voice is cheerful and loud and beside him – Alice rubs his eyes using an arm. Dammit, if he’s like this just from hearing bits of his soulmate’s voice, what would it be like when they actually meet?
Opera clicks their tongue on the other side of the line before they say,
“I’ll tell Iruma-sama that you want to meet so come now,”
And a moment later –
“Come now if you can,”
Unexpectedly, it is not that crowded downtown as he predicted it to be.
The streets are bustling with business and there are demons everywhere. Although it is the beginning of spring, the coldness of winter past still lingers in the air. He has somehow managed to convince his mother and David not to tag along – insisted that he’d be fine by himself. Now that he is about to do this – although it is not second thoughts that he has – he wonders if his nervousness would’ve been appeased if he had someone he knew close by.
Magenta colored eyes dart from corner to corner and it’s painstakingly obvious that he is looking for someone. It takes him two, three minutes to realize that he wouldn’t be able to find Iruma by himself. The place is wide and vast and for all, he knows they might be in a store somewhere.
Alice takes out his phone for the second time of the day to ask Opera-san where –
A familiar voice.
The demon feels like the wind had just been knocked out of his chest; like his heart is being squeezed. He unconsciously pauses on his feet to take a deep breath, looking around from where he’s standing, and maybe he’d find the visual to match.
And then a soft hum from the other side of the line.
“I’m going in blind here. Please tell me where you are,”
There’s a pause, someone else is talking before the line muffles for a moment and it reverts to clarity,
“Bridge. Let’s meet at the bridge, Azu-kun,”
The line doesn’t cut off and before the other even finishes his sentence, Alice is already running towards the said place. He knows where it is, been there multiple times before. The fact that Iruma is speaking his language doesn’t even cross his mind. He’s way too high on adrenaline, his blood, and pulse rushing. The distance isn’t even that far and yes, although he did run fast, usually he wouldn’t be this out of breath.
“Are you there?”
“Yes, I am Iruma-sama,”
“Sorry… uh… W-Wait a moment, okay?”
Alice feels flattered that he’s not the only one in a rush, that he could hear Iruma running as well. He hums in approval as he slows down his pace, walking further down the bridge until he’s standing near the center and leaning against the railing. A good minute and a half pass and he turns every time he sees a familiar shade of blue.
At that moment, he must have been looking somewhere else because –
Two familiar voices overlap – one from the phone pressed against his ear and another from behind his back.
Alice turns around, blue meeting magenta. Iruma looks like he’s out of breath, eyes just as glazed as his.
The demon mumbles, sounding almost breathless.
He hesitantly takes one, two steps forward before his legs immediately shift into a sprint and he gathers his other half into a long-awaited embrace.
“I’m sorry I’m late,”
Iruma voice is slightly muffled, his face buried against the crook of Alice’s neck. He’s wrapped up in a tight, desperate hug and the taller male looks like he isn’t going to let go anytime soon. Iruma laughs a bit at the sentiment, arms returning the hug as well.
“I’m sorry for disappearing on you. Something happened but I can explain,”
The demon nods his head as he replies,
“It’s alright, Iruma-sama. Just explain it now…”
He then loosens his grip around the other, moving back to affectionately cup his cheeks with his hands,
“Tell me everything that happened.”