Lilith left not too long ago, and so did the aberrant ambiance that surrounded her. However, Mallory had to deal with the trouble of getting used to the horrible, horrible vibes and sensations he felt just by being around her. That meant hours and hours of chills, distress, and goosebumps on end and Mallory swore he felt like he was in hell again. He was, of course, stuck in a room with death itself.
For Mallory, Lilith was, contrary to her role as a death goddess, not what he assumed her to be. Mallory had the misfortune of witnessing her more... Inhospitable side by having his glamour wiped away in seconds by sheer magic alone, but he deemed her kind after she learned that he served no threats. Sure, she had the aura, but that was it. She looked no different from a mother missing her adult son when he watched the two pass the time together chatting the whole afternoon.
While Mallory felt relieved to know that he didn't have to deal with the heebie-jeebies anymore, he had to admit that the house felt a little lonely with just him and Elian.
"Your mom..." Mallory blurted. "She's actually pretty sweet. And young." He squinted his eyes. "Too young."
Elian gave him a strange look. He raised a brow with his mouth partly open, corner raised as he scoffed.
"You've only seen five percent of her wrath, Mallory," he jeered. "The deities of death here in Lelriera are one of the kindest, but they're never to be messed with. Especially not Dearil. Wouldn't want to piss off the god that keeps guard of our version of hell."
Mallory quivered, almost sarcastically, at the mention of 'hell'. He didn't expect to have a home away from home. But the thought of having a different 'hell' in an unknown world piqued his curiosity. Was it different from where he used to be? Since Lilith mentioned that demons were never a problem in Lelriera, then would that mean he was alone? An undead, alien demon. Mallory mocked the absurd thought, and yet he was living-or undead-proof.
• • •
It was now eight in the evening. Mallory and Elian had the liberty to take a nap they knew they didn't need during the past few hours, and Mallory was in the middle of a case of sleep inertia when he heard the clamor of books landing on tables and unceasing page-flipping. Perhaps having a sharp sense of hearing was less of a perk when you needed to get some undisturbed shut-eye.
"Elian, what the fuck?" Mallory groaned. He rubbed sleep away from his eyes as they adjusted to the cool, white light that illuminated the living room.
Just right near the coffee table, Elian could be seen squatting on the floor with several books around him. They were all covered in either leather or heavy paper while some had ornate stitches with open spines. On their covers were titles written in a myriad of languages-old world and Lelrieran, ancient and modern alike. Some were even adorned and embellished with decorative engravings and embossments. It was a wonder how Elian managed to collect these books, notwithstanding where he got them in the first place. A local bookshop like that one they visited not too long ago would be a probable source, but it'd be uncanny for one store to singlehandedly supply a curious god with an endless hoard of books.
"Mallory! Glad to know you're awake," Elian said from behind a stockpile of compendiums, grimoires, and lexicons. His eyes were still pressed on the pages of whatever book he was reading while he tried to reach out for another book.
Mallory yawned and chuckled at the sight of Elian making grabby-hands at a book to his far left, still refusing to look away. He then took the book and extended it to Elian, who mouthed a 'thank you' in return.
"So, did you find out anything about that book you just bought?"
He squatted on the empty space beside Elian and glanced over the page his eccentric companion was reading. It was in Latin, and as Elian was about to flip the page, a couple of names caught his eye-Astaroth and Sitri. Mallory's brows creased and his eyes shifted into an inky black for a moment before returning to their normal state, just as Elian was about to close the book.
The Pseudomonarchia Daemonum. The False Monarchy of Demons. Mallory wasn't surprised. Of course, they'd be in there. Part of him even wanted to believe that he'd be the seventy-third demon in the Ars Goetia too if he were born a little earlier.
"What was that for?" Elian asked, cracking open another book right in front of him.
"What was what for?"
"Your eyes. Did something piss you off?"
Ah, gods, Mallory thought. He must've sensed it.
"And yes, Mallory, I sensed it. I could even read your thoughts if I wanted too."
The demon made a mental curse. He never once thought of interacting with the divine, especially not the ones he was already well-acquainted with. But who knew that it would be this nerve-wracking?
"Well, I'm sorry if you find me disappointing and a pain in the ass, but I couldn't help it. It's in my nature. Believe me when I say that this is the first time I've read your thoughts, though."
Mallory blinked, feeling a little sorry for the deity as he went through the books in silence. He wanted to apologize, but he felt a tad too flabbergasted to even think up of something. While Elian had his oddities-not to mention that they've only known fragments of each other despite living together for months-Mallory still found him charming, if not a little awkward at times.
"Well, I know the demons in that thing. Personally."
He looked over at Elian for a possibly disgusted response, but the latter just nodded.
"And, well..." He started combing his hair with his fingers, and a tinge of pink stained his pallid cheeks. "They were my exes."
Elian darted his head towards Mallory.
"I mean their human guises! Not the actual demons, okay?" Mallory exclaimed. "Except maybe Sitri... Reagan, as he was used to be called. That was his name as a human, and he's a little different from the others I've met."
"How so?" His divine fellow blinked and cocked his head. This was the first time Mallory saw him with his nose out of the books in a while.
Mallory sucked in his lips and lowered his head. Precious memories came into his mind-the day they first met in high school, the years he spent chasing after him in secret, the moment they dated, the betrayal, and the inevitable pain that followed. He cherished them, no matter what happened between them. He was his first love after all, but Ophelia's loss still left a nasty scar on his heart. That took him years to understand, and an eternity to forgive.
"He... He remained with that guise until he followed me to hell. He never took on another human identity since."
"Did you get back together?"
Mallory shook his head. "I was the one who broke it off, and surprisingly, he respected that. By the moment I realized that it really wasn't his fault... I mean, demons have to feed, right? Even I thought I could stave it off, but... We remained friends, but I had a grudge on him for a year or two."
Elian pushed back the book he was trying to read and turned his body towards Mallory. "Was it because of this 'Ophelia'?"
"You read my thoughts, didn't you?"
The god was silent, but Mallory felt no resentment whatsoever. In fact, he was glad to be relieved of explaining the whole thing again to someone else. It's been centuries, but the pain still felt fresh like it just happened yesterday. The joys of being a damned immortal with a crazy memory.
"But yes, you're right. It was because of Ophelia. She had a contract with him, and of course, he was obliged to consume her once it was done and well, the rest was history. Reagan couldn't say no since he hadn't fed in years, and I know too well how dreadful that is."
Elian said nothing, almost in remorse for the demon's fate. But such was life. Even he was all too familiar with how fate decides to screw you over. He knew that not everything was meant to go his way, even if he was a god. But unlike Mallory, Elian had a choice-he could either force to stop it from happening and destroy its natural course and everything that was connected to it or let it run its course and avoid a trail of chaos.
And Mallory was the reason why he went for the latter.
"Okay, enough of me. I think you've had your fill of melancholy for the night." Mallory stretched out his arms and shifted in his seat. "Back to the book. Were you able to find anything?"
Elian sighed and shook his head. "No, not really. At this point, I'm just making assumptions about its contents, and from all these books I've gathered last night..." He gestured at the pile of books around them. "It's most likely a grimoire."
"I had a feeling it was one, particularly from its fancy-ass cover and the ominous-looking title, whatever language that could be."
Mallory backed away a little and stretched out his legs. Meanwhile, Elian took out another book from the pile and scanned it.
"Say, Mallory, what kind of language did you speak in hell?"
The silver-haired demon put a finger on his lips and thought for a while. "English?"
Elian raised his head for a second, squinted his eyes, and mouthed 'seriously' with his head turned to Mallory. The latter just nodded and went on.
"You see, demons have adapted or something and those were capable or intelligent enough went to the human world, or the surface as we called it, to mingle with humans so they could eat them up later. You know, form contracts and shit rather than wait to be summoned. There are still contracts, but it was just a matter of being charismatic, witty, or just plain seductive. So, that boils down to learning whatever humans did in the surface and applying that to the, uh, more civilized part of hell."
"Yeah. It sounds ridiculous, but it's true. For us, at least. It was different from the other circles were souls were tormented. The 'city', or at least that was what it seemed like, only had demon residents. It had its own hierarchy, which depended on how powerful and intellectual you are. The higher you were, the easier it was for you to head to the surface and make a human guise, and also make slaves of lower demons."
"And what were you?"
"Don't you know the answer for that already?" Mallory raised a brow.
"Should I call you 'prince' from now on?" Elian smirked.
Mallory snorted and rolled his eyes. "First of all, no, absolutely the fuck not. And second, let's go back to the language thing. You see, the demons spoke a tongue I never really got around to learning, maybe since I scaled the ranks faster than expected and that tongue was reserved for slaves or low-ranked demons. Since I was a cheat, being a descendant of Lucifer's human guise and all, you could say that I was the epitome of 'started from the bottom now we're here' and never had the opportunity to know what it feels like to speak that tongue. I was only in the lower ranks for a month and the tongue was barely spoken in the places I was in. Didn't help that slaves weren't always allowed to talk either."
All of a sudden, Elian felt like he found another piece for a puzzle he thought was impossible to solve.
"Mallory." A wide grin was plastered on Elian's face.
"Maybe that could be a key to our little puzzle here!"
Mallory widened his eyes at the possibility. A warm feeling welled up in his chest, but the brief moment of satisfaction he felt was cut short. Didn't Elian hear him? Or perhaps Elian did, but his frighteningly strong sense of optimism blinded-or deafened-him from that particular detail. He never fully grasped the strange demonic tongue. He knew bits and pieces, but his familiarity could barely let him string a simple phrase or two. Mallory felt no different from a toddler learning how to speak for the first time. Still, he felt a strange drive to recall what he could, even if meant translating the book with more blanks than words.
"You sure about that? It'd be a disaster with how little I know," Mallory sighed.
However, Elian shook his head and lent him the heavy book. "There's no harm in trying," he smiled.
Mallory's gave him a slow nod, and his fingertips grazed over the cover with slight hesitation. Soon, he gave in and tore it open-blue eyes scanning through the pages, glazed and focused on the complex writing and meticulous sketches of strange creatures. He pursed his lips and thought long and hard, closed his eyes, and fluttered them open again before turning to Elian-the latter watching him with anticipation.
"I can't read this shit."
Elian mouth parted bit by bit. "I-I didn't get that. Say it again."
The silver-haired demon locked eyes with the deity, his gaze piercing and austere. "I said I couldn't read a thing. The penmanship's shit."
Mallory heard a deep inhale and exhale from the god, who continued to stare at him with slow blinks and slightly parted lips. He took Elian's hand, positioned the book in his weak grip, and placed his own palm over the cover. He nodded slowly and flashed a faint, awkward smile just before standing up.
Soon, Elian was left all alone in the living room, confused and partially frustrated with the aftermath. He could still sense Mallory somewhere in the house, but he couldn't even bother. The disappointment he felt was far too strong, and it weighed him down and consumed what little energy he had left to even care.
"Mallory, you dumbass."