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Chapter Twenty

Our feet fell softly on the asphalt. Tiff and I walked side-by-side, alone. The others – Soren, Lydia, Hailey, Lilith, and Lucion – had all gone their separate ways. Hailey had been taken in by Heaven, to protect her and help her with her developing powers. Soren had stayed back at the safehouse; I’d discovered that he was actually the owner. Lilith and Lucion had returned to Hell, to help their father with his work. And Lydia was back in the Council’s service, employed as the person who hunted down Humans that happened to chance upon the Nephilim secret. But no longer did we kill them; instead, they were bought to me, and I merely removed the information from their minds. It was a better fate than death.

“I’m sorry,” I said to Tiff, my voice quiet. The people walking past us were paying no attention. “I really am. But… it has to be this way.” I had just explained to her what needed to happen. I had to remove her memories, and replace them with false ones. It was something neither of us wanted, but…

“I understand.” She had been so accepting, despite the fact she was hurt and shocked; I could see it written upon her face. “It’s… for the best.”

“Not just that,” I murmured, looking at who would soon not be my best friend. “It’s not just ‘for the best’. It’s for your safety.” I put my hand on her shoulder as we walked closer and closer to her family home. “It’s becoming too hazardous for you to know of my people, of the Angels, and of the Demons.”

She nodded, tears pricking at her eyes. “And… the others won’t remember you either?” she asked after a while. I had done the rounds, finding all my other school friends and removing their memories, replacing them with the illusion that they’d had a Human friend who had passed away at the start of the school year, and that Tiff had been grieving too much for her to come to school. That had been the best thing I’d been able to think of.

We stopped at the front gate of the house, and Tiff exhaled before pushing it open. She could hear the voices of her mother and father, who were arguing about something, and she could see her little sister in the lounge room window. A pang of regret twisted my heart; I hated playing with memories, especially the memories of a child. But it had to be done, and as much as I hated it, I followed Tiff up the garden path, and watched as she opened the door.

“Tiffany?” came the voice of her sister, who bounced up to both of us. “Oh, and Sai too!” She looked back towards the kitchen. “Mum, Dad, Tiff’s back! And Sai’s with her!”

I winced. This was it. Tiff and I shared a look, and nodded just as her parents stepped into the room. And as they did, I raised my hand and activated the spell that I had already memorised. Tiff’s eyes widened a bit, as did her family members’, as their memories were utterly decimated and replaced with the false memories that I had spent a few days perfecting. The entire process took a mere few minutes, and as my hand fell back to my hand, I whispered, “Goodbye… my friend,” and turned on my heel, leaving the house, closing the door behind me. And then I walked.

Using the same spell Soren had used to conceal himself from Tiff the very first day we’d been dragged into all of this, I walked through the town, hands in my pockets, head bowed. I felt horrible for doing this to my best friend, but it had been a necessary thing, and as much as I felt like my heart had been ripped to shreds and thrown to the wind… I was glad that Tiff was finally safe. Not just from Ryval, but from a world that would be relentlessly harsh on her. Humans weren’t the most durable creatures, not physically, and in a world that didn’t bother with mind games… in a world that was ‘hunter or hunted’… Tiff would not stand a chance, not without me… and I couldn’t always protect her.

I finally left the town, yet didn’t drop my glamour as I walked. I couldn’t risk random passers-by stopping and asking where I was going, especially because I was on my way to the Nephilim Council’s mansion. I had to take Tyrus’ place, now, as the last living Firstborn Nephilim. The Council had to have a Firstborn leader.

The walk was slightly long, but I didn’t mind. It gave me a chance alone with my thoughts. And my thoughts were not happy ones. I was lamenting. A lot had happened on our journey. I had done things I thought would never happen. I’d met my mother… and had ended up killing her to save the world. I’d met my father. I’d seen an Archangel die, and be replaced. I’d seen an Archdemon come into power. I’d met the most elusive Demon out there. I’d watched my friends die. I’d destroyed a relic of my people, and had come into possession of one that I’d never even known existed.

And I’d saved an entire race, which had been under threat just because I had once been killed.

I sighed softly, looking up at the sky. The sun shone on my face, warm and filled with happiness, but I gained none of that cheer. Instead, my heart felt sorrowfully empty, and as I walked up to the hidden Council Mansion, I looked down, knowing that this was the end of what had been a trying time. So I stopped, just outside the gates, ignoring the curious gazes of the Nephilim guards. They knew who I was; I was wearing a jacket with the left breast emblazoned with the Firstborn’s symbol.

“I’m sorry,” I whispered. “I’m sorry for not being able to protect you… Nathan, Aidan, Iris…” I shook my head, ignoring the lone tear that dripped down my cheek. “I’m sorry for having to leave you alone… Tiff…” I hugged myself. “And… I’m sorry for not being able to change your mind… Ryval. I’m sorry for not being able to save you from yourself.”

I turned to the gate guards, and asked them to open the gates. They did so quickly and quietly, closing the gates as soon as I stepped into the mansion’s grounds. And now, I didn’t look back. I just kept walking, briskly, up the stone steps and up to the wooden doors of the mansion. Here I stopped, and exhaled. This is it, Sai, I thought to myself. Once you step through those doors… this chapter of your life comes to a close, and a new one opens. A scary thought, but one that was true nonetheless, and I exhaled, pushing the door open.

And as I stepped through… the door closed behind me, marking the final moment of my journey.

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