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Chapter 2

(- - - ) indicates flashback

I was patrolling the recently made grassland in Hell, observing how well the plants had adapted. The jaded jasmine shrubs were thriving, the lily roses were in blossom and the grass was sprouting. So far the plants had adapted well. From what I had seen, the new animals had thrived as well. I was pleased with how well things had turned out. Satisfied, I headed to the castle.

"Very well done, Nyxie. I must admit, I didn't think this idea would work out well. Hell almost looks habitable now." Len walked up to me as I approached the doors.

A little startled by his sudden presence, a few of my feathers flew off. "Uh, thanks. I didn't think it'd work out so well myself."

He raised an eyebrow at the feathers floating down, blowing one from his face. "Molting?"

I made a face, my lips pursing and going to the left. "No, it's just a reaction to suddenly being startled." I looked up to the elder-literally. He was so tall, I had to nearly break my neck to look him in the eyes.

"Any other ideas you might have to help my realm?"

"Not right off, no." I started going in, a bit tired.

"Very well. You seem to be on our side, so any other ideas or ways you can help would be appreciated, Princess," Len bowed his head a little.

Okay, now that was baffling. That was the first time he had ever referred to me by rank. I guess he was finally convinced that I meant no harm. I walked inside, looking around. I spotted the Council Crystal, an orb that held the life of Hell itself. I raised an eyebrow, suspicious. "Hey Len, is that really the Crystal of Hell?"

I heard him walk up behind me as I approached the Crystal. "Indeed. Why do you ask?"

"Something doesn't feel right about it. It feels....different."

He raised an eyebrow. "What are you saying?"

"This one is...different somehow. I don't know how." I couldn't shake this nagging feeling my intuition was giving me about the crystal.

"Perhaps it's because you haven't seen or smelled it before?"

That was a possibility. "Maybe, but my intuition is usually never wrong."

"I'm sure it's nothing." He walked away, down the hall and into his office.

I'd only seen the inside of his office a few times. From what I had seen, gems sat upon the desk, papers sat in a basket to the left hand corner and there was a mesh type bag. I didn't know what the bag was for but I assumed it was for gems deemed too corrupt to be granted life again. A little bored, I decided to go for a walk around Hell. I'd only been in select parts, mainly for my safety. I could hide my wings and halo all I wanted, but my scent was something that was non-concealable. Though I couldn't hide in fear as long as I was living in Hell. I had to show the demons that I wasn't afraid to defend myself. I ventured north to the mountains, readying myself for whatever may come my way.

I heard a familiar cry and turned left to see my dragon, Kyoko. She had followed me from Heaven and had been taking a little time to explore her new home. She landed beside me and snorted, tilting her head. "Yes, Kyo, I know I'm going a new way. Sooner or later I have to venture into new areas and show the demons I'm not a weakling." She was my familiar, we had such a strong bond that I could tell what she was saying to me. She snorted again and flicked her tongue. "I can't let others protect me forever, either. The only way to show I'm strong is to prove it." Kyo nodded and looked forward. "So how was your exploration? Do you like our new home?"

Kyoko stamped a foot and swayed her tail, giving a little whimper. She looked to me and flicked her tongue. "Yeah, I know there isn't much grass or shade here. But I'm working on that. I've planted more trees and grass seeds. There'll be more shade soon. And you're a nightshade dragon, why does shade matter to you?" She just swayed her tail and seemed to smirk. It was possible my dragon was just giving me a hard time. Nightshade dragons were the most beautiful and hard to tame of the dragon breeds. Among other breeds were Day and Night Glory dragons, Nexus, Water dragons, Nebula, Night Glory, Tri-Horned Wyverns, Desipise, Cavern Lurkers, Ribbon Dancers and Black Marrow dragons. My little Kyoko was a hybrid of the Nebula and Black Marrow dragons. So I named the breed nightshade. It seemed to have caught on after a while as a few other dragons like mine had been named similarly.

I loved my dragon. She was a beautiful black dragon with a white skull marking and had gorgeous star like spots all over her in various colors. There were bright and dark blue, violet, red and green. Her wings were huge and hide webbed, connected by various bones in her shoulder joints. Her tail was silver tipped and looked frayed but it really wasn't. Her horns were curved backwards into a loop, the tips pointing forward. They were spotted with faint red spots, almost making her look bloody. I thought it was kind of funny myself. As for her powers, she could communicate with all dragon breeds, had a poison she could spray from her mouth alone or mix with fire, and was extremely powerful with just her claws, tail, and teeth. She had once told me how her breed had risen to be the most powerful of all dragons. And somehow that made her the queen of the dragons. I guessed it was because she was the first Nightshade dragon to exist. It was just a dragon social ranking thing that I would never understand.

We continued my journey north to the mountains, Kyoko eventually hoisting me up onto her back because I was "too slow for a dragon to walk with." With a smile I laid stomach down on my girl. Kyoko had been in my life for as long as I could remember. We did pretty much everything together-hunt, sleep, travel, train even bathed in rivers together. She was a scaly sister to me. Kyo snorted and bobbed her head, jostling me. "Yes, Kyoko, I'm awake. I was just thinking of how long we've been together." She gave a little chuff sound, her way of laughing. "You're an old lady, too. In dragon years you're like, a billion and three." Kyoko swatted me with the tip of her tail. "Oh come on, you know I love you. Just think how old I am in human years. What would that be?" Angels and demons aged faster and lived longer than humans due to our powers. Yet it was also our powers that kept us looking so young. I was in my 25th year as an angel. So how did the conversion go? 15 human years per angel year? I never really was clear on how the conversion went, but I was guessing in human years I was around...dead. I chuckled, realizing in human years I was 375. Damn, did I feel old now. Did demon ages convert differently? Probably. Or maybe they didn't count the years at all. Who knew? Thanks to Kyoko, we reached the mountains much quicker. We came across a mouse demon just lounging in the sun.

He jumped up rather quickly when Kyo lightly tapped him with her claw. "Oh shit, hi! Am I in your way?"

I poked my head up from over Kyo's and laughed. "No, she just likes to mess with people. Don't you, girl?" I slid down from her back and bowed my head. "I'm Nyxie, new around here. Sorry if she scared you."

The demon looked to Kyo, who was slightly smirking at him. "Uh, I'm Nero." His gaze turned to me. "So you're the Nyxie I've heard so much about."

Intrigued, I tilted my head. "Oh? What's been said about me? I don't really pay attention to gossip."

Nero sat down and leaned against the tree he had lounged on. "Word was that there was an angel who had betrayed Heaven, saved the prince, joined the royal ranks, and changed Hell's landscape for the better. There's more, but it's mostly bad stuff about what you are and how demons don't like you."

"I figured there'd be like a ninety nine percent consensus against me. After all, I am in the demon realm. Gossip aside, it's nice to meet a friendly demon."

"It's nice to meet you, too. So, I gotta know straight from you. What made you turn on your own kind?" His little ears twitched in anticipation.

I knew that would come up. "I can't really explain it. I just left like I had known the prince before and couldn't bring myself to kill him. I couldn't do it even after he attacked me on the roof." I sat down, remembering the event all over again. "All I could do was defend him. Both of us were extremely baffled but it worked out."

"I'm glad it did. A lot of us were getting sick and tired of all the deaths and needless fighting. I don't think anyone really remembers why the war started anyway."

"I could tell you. Angels are always told it in their training." I looked to Nero, his chestnut hair bobbing as he nodded. His hazel eyes gleamed with curiosity. "Okay but be warned, this is the angels side of the story here. It's gonna be biased. Lucifer was in love with a mortal and kept his true identity from her. One day, he couldn't take the secret anymore and told her. Panicked, the woman rejected him. Out of heartbreak, Lucifer went to the Goddess and begged for her help. However, since he had broken one of the major laws in Heaven, he was denied. Outrage adding to his heartache, he attacked. Once defeated, the Goddess cast him down. And thus it started." I sighed, still annoyed with how simple it was. "So, as cliché as it sounds, it all started over a woman."

"I see. What ever happened to the woman?"

I smiled. "She's the queen now. Her name is Rosalyn. I heard she appeared looking for Lucifer while I was on trial in Heaven. Man, how I would have loved to be there to see his face."

"How is it you know all this?" Nero ruffled some leaves from his hair. His eyes were wide with amazement.

"I'm curious and ask questions. Though, sometimes I think the gods get annoyed with me. But can you blame me? I'm living in a place that's the exact opposite of what I'm used to. I wanna learn about my new home." My thoughts stopped, my wolf ears perking. Something in my intuition was telling me to look into the little thicket of trees. As usual, I followed my instincts. Nero stood up and walked with me. Digging into hollow tree trunks, in piles of leaves, under rocks, nothing was left unexamined.

"What are you doing?" Nero poked his head out from behind a tree trunk, trying to follow me.

"My intuition is telling me I need to dig around here. I don't know why, but my instincts are never wrong." I was digging in some dirt when my claws hit something solid that made a clink sound against my claws. It was shiny and there was a shimmer inside it. I kept digging until I could pull it out.

"Holy shit, that's the Crystal of Hell! How did you know?" He stared at me, mouth slightly open in awe.

I just blinked, stunned myself. "I just...knew. I saw one in the castle and it felt off. Now I know why. We have to get this to the elders." I skipped out of the trees and to Kyoko. "We gotta get to the castle, Kyo." I looked to Nero. "Care to join? She flies smoothly."

He laughed a bit. "Why not? I'd never seen or ridden a dragon before."

I helped him climb up when he approached. "Hold onto the back spike in front of you. She flies smoothly and quickly. Let's go, girl!"

And with that we were off to the castle. Sure I could have flown myself but a dragon could fly farther in shorter time. And the view was amazing from a dragon. We reached the castle in minutes and I immediately ran inside, pushing the doors open with my shadow powers to save time. Breathless, I asked the first person I saw where Len was.

Zukira blinked, a bit confused. "I think he's in the meeting room with the others?"

"Thanks, Kira." Nero had just gotten into the castle when I ducked down the hall. I heard Kira point him where to go as I (nearly) ran face first into the meeting room doors. I took a moment to catch my breath before entering. Nero caught up as I opened the doors.

All of them went quiet as I walked in. Len was first to speak, of course. "Nyxie, what is so urgent that you had to interrupt us?"

Panting a little, I leaned against the table. The crystal was tucked in my arm. "I found...the real Crystal of Hell..."

"What are you talking about, Princess?" Veraque tilted his head.

I set the crystal down on the table. "I found this in the woods on the mountains. My intuition was giving me an unsettling feeling about the one on the stand and now I know why."

Len got up and closely inspected the crystal, giving me time to flop onto the floor. It wasn't until I ran it that I realized how long the hallway was. "This is the real one!"

"But how did it get to the mountains?" Salax frowned.

"It doesn't matter," Len waved his hand. "What matters is that we have it back."

Furo looked between the crystal and I several times. "How in the hell..?"

"Perhaps I should have listened to your intuition-especially about this. I give you my word that your instincts will be acknowledged from here on out." Len left the room, coming back minutes later with the fake. He inspected it for several minutes. "This is a fake. Furo, dispose of it. I shall keep the real one with me at all times now." He returned to his place at the head of the table. "Thank you, Nyxie. Had it not been for you, we might have all been in serious danger." His gaze moved to the quiet mouse demon beside me. "And who is this? Did he have the crystal?"

I heard Nero squeak as I stood. Len was a very intimidating elder, so I didn't blame him. "Oh no, this is Nero. I met him while I was out there. He had no idea the crystal was there, I assure you of that."

Len looked over Nero and nodded. "Very well. We will return to our business now, if you don't mind."

"Nope, carry on," I turned on my heel and walked out, closing the doors after Nero was out. "You didn't have to come all the way up here."

"That was the first time I had ever seen the elders. I was curious."

"Fair enough." I walked slowly, still a bit winded from my sprint down the hall.

"There you are!"

I squeaked as Queen Rosalyn tackled me amidst the floating feathers I molted. "Hello, Queen?"

"We; as in the king, Erys and I, have planned out the wedding for you and your Prince. It's tomorrow!"

"Tomorrow?!" I squirmed out from under her squishing me against the wall. "Why wasn't I told about the plans? Let alone included in them? I am the bride to be, after all!"

"Well, you were so busy with the landscaping project that we figured we'd just plan it out and surprise you." Rose smiled. "I guess the surprise is out. I just can't keep a secret."

I sighed. "Ya know, had anyone said to me "let's plan your wedding" I would have stopped to do so." I felt annoyed, and rightfully so. I was a huge part of the wedding. With a sigh I fixed my disheveled hair and shook my head. "What time tomorrow is it?"

"Well, Len wants to get it done first thing tomorrow so he can avoid a pile up of work later," Rose ushered me down the hall and into the throne room. "So we need to get everything finished now. The ceremony will be held in the garden, since that's the prettiest place in Hell. Do you already have a dress? Make up and hair planned out?"

I fluttered my wings to get her hands off my back. "I made a dress, yes and as for hair and make up, I planned to wing it. And I agree on the garden."

"I see what you did there," Rose grinned as she poked one of my four wings.

I twitched them at her. "It wasn't a pun but if it makes you happy." I shrugged and walked to my room, knowing Rose would want to see the dress. Sure enough, she was following me. Without a word, I unlocked my bedroom door, went to the closet and took it out. "This is the dress I was planning on wearing. I'm far from innocent so white is out of the question. Purple was another choice but there were no such color fabrics here so that went out the window. So I made the best of what I could find."

Rose studied the gown as if she were a tailor inspecting her latest work. "I approve."

"I wasn't aware you had to approve of my wedding dress, as I'm the one wearing it and Len is officiating."

"I'm the queen, you're the princess. Kinda like mom and daughter. I gotta approve," she huffed jokingly.

"Okay your royal-ness," I smirked, placing the dress back in the closet. I looked out the window to see what time it was. The sun was setting so it was evening. I didn't know how late in the evening, as there were no clocks or even a sun dial. "I think I'll get to bed. I've had a rather busy day and want to be fully rested for the wedding. Have someone wake me an hour and a half before the ceremony, ok?"

"I'll do it myself!" The queen replied, a little too eagerly.

"Alright, alarm clock," I chuckled and gently guided her out. "I'll see you tomorrow then," I nodded to her goodnight and closed the door. Stripping into just my shirt and underwear, I laid in bed and closed my eyes. With a deep sigh, I let myself relax and fall into the lull of sleep.

"NYX WAKE UP! LET'S GIVE YOU AWAY! GET UP!"

I molted at least a pillow's worth of feathers hearing Rose shriek like that. My hand reached out to find wherever she stood. I felt a nose under my fingers and pushed it. "Is that the snooze? Geez, you don't need to scream like that." Rubbing my eyes with a yawn, I sat up. My hair was everywhere but laying down.

Rose cracked up laughing. "Well, Princess of Hell, fallen angel, victim of a horrendous case of bedhead. Come on, Delirus and Zukira have decided to join the wedding. So now it's a double ceremony. Let's get you dressed, made up and married." She yanked my hand from my face and sat me in the chair by my dresser. Rose told me about how Delirus had decided to propose, since he had never felt more comfortable with anyone else before and other cliched romantic notions. Half asleep and only hearing half, I flinched as she ran my brush through my knotted hair. "Geez girl, how do you manage to tame this mane of yours?"

"By sheer luck. My hair never does what I want it to do."

"Well, I'll make it listen to me. We're gonna have your hair half up. And the part that's half up will be put in a bun. I'm sure I can manage that. After the bun is in, I'll side sweep your bangs to the right. From there, the dress will be on followed by make up." Rose paused, thinking. "Actually, dress yourself so you won't mess up the hairstyle." She kept combing out knots, finished and let me dress. "How do you want your make up?" Now she worked to put my hair up.

I flinched again as another knot was figuratively ripped out of my hair. "Just give me some eye shadow and maroon lipstick."

"Gotcha."

I sat motionless, feeling like a barbie doll as I was made up. Maybe I was too much of a tomboy but I didn't like playing dress up. Granted it was for my wedding but I preferred doing things for myself. When the make up was done, Rose showed me my reflection. "Wow, my hair must like you. It actually did what you wanted it to do. Not a single fly away anywhere."

"Told you so. And now," Rose reached to a bouquet of flowers I guess she brought in. I took the bouquet and smiled. Black roses from my garden. A perfect touch. My wings twitched involuntarily, a reaction to being touched. Maybe she was smoothing my feathers. I looked back to see bows on some feathers. "What have you done?!" I was now annoyed. I didn't like bows, and trying to reach them was useless as they were just out my reach no matter how I spread my wings.

"Teehee," Rose giggled. "One more thing and you're ready," she held up a bottle and spritzed it.

My nose picked up the scent of perfume and I bolted up. "Oh hell no! I'll die in the gas cloud!" I ran from her as she sprayed twice. Rose was in front of the door and I didn't feel like jumping out of a window and ruining my dress. "Trapped," I ducked as Rose sprayed again. "NO I'LL DIE, DEAR GODDESS!" I ran again as Rose spritzed the perfume again and sat. Eventually I just sat on the bed, needing to catch my breath. "Fine, spray."

Rose just laughed. "You ran into the little puffs of perfume the first time you ducked. That's why I stopped spraying and sat."

"I hate you," I glared to the queen, miffed.

"Say what you will, but now you smell nice instead of like dust and trees."

"I like smelling like nature, though. I feel more connected to it," I frowned and stood.

"Well today you're connected to your mate."

A knock on the door cut us off. The Goddess, Astrania, poked her head in. "Whenever you guys are ready, we're just waiting on you. Zukira and the twins are ready."

I nodded. "Well, let's give me away. Though I sound like a raffle prize when said like that," I smiled. Nitacha walked in before Astra closed the door.

"I remember when you were just an awkward little girl trying to be yourself," Nitacha looked like she would cry.

"Well, I'm glad one of us remembers my childhood." I stood and let her take my hand. We walked out of my room and the castle, heading to the right outside. My garden wasn't far from the trees. The veil over my eyes, Nitacha led me so I wouldn't trip. I heard Len mutter to Erys and get a chuckle in response. Probably something along the lines of "you have good taste in women." Zukira joined me, Nia walking her down the aisle to Delirus. I was still agitated over the bows and perfume, but seeing Erys actually wearing shoes and a shirt just for me made that little annoyance nothing. Erys always hated wearing shirts and shoes. His air powers made him cooler than others, and wearing a shirt just stripped him of that connection. As for shoes, he was like me. The closer his skin was to nature, the better. He looked stunning to me. His jaw dropped when Nitacha lifted my veil and sat. A huge smile spread across my lips. 'What a perfect beginning to this day!' I held back tears, sort of tuning out Len's speech on why we were all gathered together. I hadn't realized that there was a huge gathering of demons until then. I was so focused on Erys, I hadn't seen them. It didn't matter anyway. My eyes were on my soon to be husband.

"Nyxie," Erys's voice interrupted my mental babbling. "You are my everything. My love, my world, my heart, my life. I don't plan on leaving your side, for fear I would not survive such a moment. I love you and as your mate I vow to protect you and see to it that you remain happy for as long as I can." His smile was dazzling each time I saw it.

I pushed back the lump in my throat to recite the vows I had practiced day and night since I had fallen for him. "Let my vow to you be this: I will never stray from you, my love will only grow. I will protect you from harm, love you for eternity. Let my voice guide you should you be lost and my wings carry you and keep you warm. With this vow, I give my heart, body and soul to you." It was his turn to push back tears as his smile grew.

Zukira and Delirus exchanged their vows but I wasn't listening to theirs. I wanted nothing more than to kiss my dear prince. The "I do's" couldn't have come quicker. When we were finally allowed to seal the marriage with a kiss, I threw myself at Erys, kissing him as passionately as I could. All the guests were cheering us newly weds on and calling our names. Len and Astra whispered things amongst themselves and smiled when they noticed I was looking.

"Come here, Mrs. Sentis!" Nitacha pulled me and Zukira to her in a huge embrace. "Welcome to the demon family, Zukira."

"Thanks," Kira smiled. Her bright sapphire eyes sparkled, her green hair resting neatly on her shoulders. Like me, Zukira was also an angel who had turned to Hell for a home. And ironically enough, she had found love as well. What were the odds? I nudged Kira, winking. "Run while you can," I whispered. We shared a laugh before Len tapped on my shoulder.

"I have a present for both of you. Come with me."

Baffled, I looked to Erys, who stood beside him. My husband just shrugged. I excused myself and followed the God. "What's up, Len?"

"It has come to my attention that both of you cannot remember your childhoods. I have the power to fix that. Would you like that?"

I blinked. Confused by this. "Uh, sure?"

"Why not?" Erys took my hand and I leaned on him.

"Alright. Both of you close your eyes. Take a deep breath. I'll place my fingers on your forehead. Imagine a door in your mind. A door to the past. I'll help you unlock that door."

"Ok," I breathed deeply and relaxed myself, holding tight to Erys' hand. Imagining the door, I pictured myself walking up to it.

"You don't need a key to unbury the past. With my help, you two will remember the same moment in time."

"But how can you-"

"Shoosh prince, and trust us for once," Len interrupted Erys.

"Fine, fine," he replied.

I felt a slight coolness as the imaginary door opened and images played in my head.

- - - - -

All I could see was a blur of shapes and smells, my heart racing.

"Hey bitch! Get back here!"

I turned to see a group of kids chasing after me. They threw stones at me, another keeping pace and trying to undress me. I was covered in bruises and blood, my wing bones cracked. I screamed and ran faster, flapping my wings to take off and land in a far off nest of trees. Catching my breath, I slowly climbed down as quietly as possible. Alone and bloody, I wandered through a forest. I'd lost track of where I was by now. No matter what I seemed to try, everyone I met could tell I was a half-breed. It was a non-stop instant mockery for me. People tried to pull out my feathers or even break my wings. Tears spilled over my eyes as I sat beside a reddish lake. The tears fell into the lake and made small ripples. I was only 8 but already I hated my life.

"What's wrong, girlie?"

I squealed, seeing a silver haired demon step out of the shadows. Scrambling back, I was cautious as always. "Stay away from me!"

He just tilted his head, confused. "Why are you so skittish?"

A little whine escaped my lips as more tears fell. "Because everyone I've met has only hurt me. Now go away!" I picked up several stones and sticks, throwing them at the demon.

My attempts to drive him away were easily dodged. "I won't do anything, I have no reason to. I don't enjoy hurting people." He approached me, jumping over a narrow part of the lake.

I backed up more. "That's what they all say. And then I'm featherless or have cracked wings." I started to walk away with a sigh.

"Don't go," he grabbed my hand, making me jump. "I'm made fun of, too. I know how much it sucks ass."

"You do?" I was still skeptical of him. For all I knew, he could be a good liar and just trying to lure me in before he hurt me like all the others.

"I do. I'm often called a girl and ridiculed for wearing no shirt or shoes."

"I did notice that about you. What's your name?"

"I'm Erys, you?"

"Nyxie. What were you doing here?"

"I was getting away for some time to myself. Thinking about how some kids can be assholes."

I tilted my head. "Rather mature for your age." I'd say he was about 8.

"Another thing that get's me ridiculed."

"Hm, I'm sorry. Kids can be ruthless."

"Yeah," he sighed and sat down, motioning me to do the same. So, I did but still kept my guard up. "So, why are you made fun of? I don't see anything wrong with you."

There it was. Should I tell him? Couldn't he smell it? "I'm a half breed. Or at least that what Nitacha tells me. She isn't sure who my actual parents are. So because I'm half and smell like it, no one likes me. They say I'm trash, worthless. Shouldn't have been born...The list goes on. I didn't choose to be what I am. I just...am..." More tears filled my eyes.

Erys wiped them away, startling me. "Don't let those assholes tell you that you aren't a good person. They're just jealous because you can go to any realm you want. They're just fucking stupid." Wow, did he have a bad mouth for 8. "I like your hair, I haven't seen that color before."

I blew at the bangs in my face. My bangs were red and the rest of my hair was black. "Thanks. I wish I knew which parent it came form. It's also another thing that gets me trouble around here."

"You're not from around here?"

"No, I'm just staying with Nitacha until I'm old enough to train in Heaven." I stopped mid-thought, my ears hearing a twig snap.

"She went this way! Let's get her!"

Before I could get away, I felt hands grab me and throw me in the lake. I tried to get up but I was held under. The pressure was released and I surfaced, coughing. Without wasting a breath, I climbed the nearest tree and clung to it.

"Hey, look guys! She's a tree hugger now!"

One of the three kids had climbed the tree and grabbed my wings. "Whoops." He yanked hard, pulling me down to the ground.

Erys growled. "Leave her alone, you arrogant jerks!"

The white haired demon turned to him. "Hey, it's Ms. Serious!" That only got Erys to growl.

I was amazed as a tiny tornado randomly appeared on the kids head. "And you're the air head of the group."

I laughed, but that only made them turn to me again and throw me back into the lake. "Help!"

"Shut up, filth. No one cares!" A green haired demon stomped on my back, pushing me under water again.

I flailed my arms and wings in an attempt to free myself. Once again the pressure was removed and I surfaced in time to see Erys ramming the kid into a nearby boulder with his ram like horns. "Why are you doing this to me?!" I coughed out.

I shrieked as my hair was yanked. My scalp being wet made it hurt even more. A blue haired demon had me now. "Because vermin like you don't belong here! You should all be killed off before you taint the purity of our clean home!" He threw me to the shore and kicked my sides several times.

"LEAVE HER ALONE!" Erys attacked him, tackling him as well.

I rolled onto my knees and coughed blood, crawling as quickly as I could to a tree. Weakly, I climbed up the trunk to the nearest branch. "I hate my life!" I didn't care about living anymore but surely there was a quicker way to die than this. Erys defended me while the trio tried to get me out of the tree. I was convinced he meant no harm now. Unable to climb my tree, the kids resorted to throwing stones at me. One the size of my fist hit my stomach, making me cough more blood. Now I was getting pissed. "FUCK OFF!" The white haired kid flew back as I said that, other shadows seeming to dance as I screamed and cried. "I hate you all!" After I said that, the other two flew back. Erys stared at me, puzzled. I returned the glance briefly before I was tackled down. The green haired kid was trying to strip me. "GET OFF OF ME!"

"Yeah, right. No one cares what happens to trash like you. I'll do what I want!" He clawed at me and my clothes, leaving deep lacerations. His laugh was heartless.

"How dare you lay your hands on a girl without her permission, you fucker!" Erys threw air at him, knocking and pinning him to a boulder. I ran behind Erys, crying and bleeding more. Erys tackled the white haired demon, pinned him down and tore at him. The blue haired boy saw what had happened to his friends and took off running.

I was so tired, weak and beaten, that I just collapsed on the ground. "Nyxie!" He ran and laid my head on his lap. "You poor thing! Do they do this every day?"

I could barely nod. "Kiley, Marco, Caleb. Kiley has the white hair, Marco has blue hair and Caleb has green hair. Caleb has been trying to undress me, Kiley enjoys stoning me, Marco leads it all..." My voice was so hoarse from crying and screaming. I held onto Erys for comfort, trying to calm down.

Erys frowned, holding me as he gently stroked my hair. "Don't worry about them anymore. I'll protect you."

"Th-thank you," I sniffled through tears.

"Don't mention it," he gave me a smile.

- - - - -

I gasped, back in the present. Erys and I turned to each other at the same time. He had the same amazed expression as I did. "That...that was you!" So many feelings now overwhelmed me. Joy, gratitude, astonishment. The deja-vu feeling he gave me finally made sense. And from his expression, I guessed he had the same feeling about me. Tears spilled over my eyes as I squeezed Erys, biting my lip. "Thank you so much! You have no idea what that day meant to me! All this time I knew someone had helped me, and now I know who. Thank you, thank you, thank you!"

His embrace was even tighter than before. "I'm just glad you're back to me after all this time," he stroked my hair gently. "I was so worried about you after I couldn't find you weeks later."

I knew what he was talking about. More images of us playing together as kids kept overwhelming me. "I swore to return, and I did."

"I know. Let's go lay down together. We have so much to catch up on," he picked me up and we went to his room.

My heart was beating so hard I was sure he heard it. That had to be the best gift I had ever been given. My childhood sweetheart, who I had searched for, had been in front of me this whole time. No wonder I felt so close to him. Though with my memories restored, what other things would I remember? Hopefully more memories with my beloved husband, but only time would tell.

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