“When I was a boy, my mother used to tell me stories of Angelic men who’d visit her family when she was a young woman. She told me she’d never laid eyes upon anyone more beautiful – at least on the outside.
“Mother had a younger sister who one of the men took a fancy to. They all knew he abused her in several, awful, ways but the men wrought magic on her family so none could fight their charm.
“Aunt Tilly was used then when she ended up pregnant, the Angelic men left. They knew the child was cursed because of how black the father was. My grandparents wanted the child to be killed but Tilly pleaded with my mother to help her. I couldn’t understand it when my mother told me but she said when I had my own children, I would understand the bond that existed between parent and child.
“My mother helped smuggle Tilly away: she had fallen pregnant with me and knew her parents would disapprove. They had an outdated mind-set.
“My aunt and mother went separate ways because in their hearts they knew that the Angel man would return to find out what had happened to his offspring and Mother didn’t want another encounter. She never could get rid of their hold entirely; proof of that lies in the fact she named me after an Angel…
“One of them visited us when I was twelve,” Eae smiled wryly; “When my mother said they were ‘Angel men’ I thought she was referring to their beauty. I had no idea she meant they were actual Angels.
“The one that visited was a friend of the one who took a fancy to Tilly and he’d always liked my mother,” Eae said the word ‘liked’ in a way that let Nithya know it wasn’t a good thing, “Mother fell quickly under his spell again. She began neglecting me because he wished it so and took everything from her. Then he left.
“Mother was so crushed she existed as only a shell of herself after that. By the time I was eighteen, she’d taken her own life.”
Eae’s voice was devoid of emotion but Nithya saw pain and anger lying in his eyes depths. Despite herself, she found herself caught up in his story and filled with sympathy. She reached out to stroke his cheek then withdrew, flushing at her own forwardness but Eae only smiled.
“I think he tried to remove my memories or make sure I couldn’t speak of what I knew but he was cocky, overconfident. I remembered everything. I went to University and threw all my efforts into finding out more about the Angels. I knew they were powerful but they deserved to suffer and if anyone was going to find out the answer as to how, it was going to be me.
“Then I found the Crossfire’s. Most of the stories were warped but I’d stumbled across a document that told a different view. It had actually been written by Angels themselves. The beauty of overconfident people is they often make mistakes like leaving that book in the archives.
“The Crossfire Legend,” Eae breathed, “How it intrigued me. Angels were destroying Demons left; right and centre at that time then these three siblings emerge led by the eldest and his wife. They rallied the Demons and fought back instead of cowering and for a while the surprise was on their side but the Angels outnumbered the Demons fifty to one.
“The Crossfire’s were killed eventually and most Demons lost their nerve and took to hiding. I became obsessed with this idea: what if there was someone to inspire the Demons and there were Demons with enough power to even out the lack of numbers?
“I began to research Demons and try to find some but they’re – you’re – very good at concealing yourselves. When you and Senka appeared I thought there was something different about you. You were good at the act, though, so I couldn’t be sure.”
“How did you work it out?” Nithya whispered, not bothering to pretend anymore. Eae reached out and mimicked Nithya’s earlier gesture by touching her cheek except he didn’t pull away.
“No one is that beautiful, Nithya, no one Human. Your beauty is supernatural but I realised a long time ago you were no Angel because you lack their… heartlessness. Their souls – if they have any – are black whereas yours… yours shines. Please, Nithya, truly I want to help you.”
Nithya sighed in bliss and leant into his hand so it framed her face.
“No one’s ever worked it out,” Nithya admitted, “I’ve never opened up, never felt like this. I don’t know what to do next.”
“Well, whatever is decided next, we’ll go through it together,” Eae smiled, tenderly.
Nithya smiled, hesitantly, back as an unfamiliar emotion filled her heart.