World“s First Demon Lord Chapter 49: Keeping Your Emotions Bottled Ends Up Making Them Explode Quite Messily, Apparently
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April 19, 1:04 pm, Canberra, Australia
How long had he been working on this essay?
Gadiel took what seemed like his hundredth break of the day, staring out the window. His head was throbbing. His head felt like it was overstuffed with information. It had been that way for what seemed like hours now, but when he checked the time, he realized that he had only been studying for forty minutes.
He sighed, and stared out the window to the plaza below. Here, from the third floor of the library, he could see students milling about. Most of them were heading to and from classes. Some were stopping by the Refractory for some lunch or a quick shop.
Gadiel knew needed to focus. This essay was due today. He had already done the research and the outline; all that was really left was to write it all down.
Yet for some reason, his brain refused to cooperate. It had gotten to the point where Gadiel simply wrote nonsense for the final third, just to vent his frustrations.
He laid back in his chair, looking up ay the ceiling. White, bland, unremarkable. Absolutely nothing of note on the ceiling.
But above it...
Over the past few days, people seemed to remember that the fourth floor of the library existed. That said, the area was still taped off. The reason?
It looked like a war zone up there.
Gadiel hadn't paid much attention when he was up there, but he saw the footage on the news. Well, on the newsclip he watched on YouChube. Entire shelves burned black, the metal melting the structures, while other shelves had a thin layer of frost covering them, damaging the older books, causing them to expand and lose their legibility.
Seeing the consequences of his battle like that...it made him question if he had made the right decision.
He felt the weight of the guilt settle in his stomach, and was briefly annoyed. Didn't he have enough to worry about? With essays, Tarik, his family…
Why was he making time to feel back about a library?
'Because it was your fault,' whispered a voice in his mind. 'Because it wouldn't have happened if you didn't lose control.'
He tried to reason with himself. If he hadn't lost control, then both he and Tarik would've died.
But try as he might, Gadiel still felt bad. Why did he still feel bad?
"Screw this," he muttered, and slammed his laptop shut. He stuffed his laptop back into his bag, and headed out of the library.
His head was too full of thoughts. He needed to calm down. So he headed to the one place that always helped him relax.
The gym was a small, two story building just beside ANU's Union Court. It took about five minutes for Gadiel to get there.
The smell of sweat and too much deodorant hit him as soon as he walked in, and Gadiel felt marginally calmer. He nodded at the receptionist as he walked past over to his locker, where he took out his gym clothes.
After changing into a black tank top and neon green shorts, Gadiel headed over to the treadmills. Start off with a light run, just to get the edge off.
However, just as he reached the treadmill, his phone rang. He picked it up, realizing it was Tarik. Smiling, he answered the call.
"Can you help me with my essay?" Tarik's depressed voice clearly conveyed to Gadiel that he was in his room, probably in his underwear, lying on his bed. He had probably just woken up too.
"You know it's past one, right?" he teased. "Aren't you a little late getting up?"
"Who said I was just getting up?" Tarik grumbled.
They chatted a bit, and Gadiel could feel the tension slowly leaving his body. Despite not being able to completely quell his anxieties, a good talk with Tarik always did help. Even if it was only a little.
"So are you gonna help me or not?" Tarik pouted.
If Gadiel could saw him in person, he probably would've said yes. As it was, the Tarik in his imagination was quite adorable. But…
He explained how he had his own essay to finish, and how he was at the gym.
"Why are you at the gym if you've got an essay?" said Tarik. "Also, weren't you almost done with that essay?"
"Yeah, well," Gadiel sighed. "I'm just...not in the mood..."
Tarik was silent for a moment.
"Is this about the library?" he asked pointedly.
For some reason, Gadiel felt his face grow hot.
"Riiiiiiiiight," said Tarik, letting Gadiel know exactly how much he didn't believe him.
"You know, if you don't want to do this whole monster hunting thing, you don't have to force yourself for my sake."
Gadiel blinked rapidly. What? Where had that come from?
"What are you talking about?"
"It's pretty obvious that you don't want to do this," said Tarik.
"I mean, I did say-"
"And it's also obvious that using your power is a trigger for you," Tarik went on. "If it hurts that much to use your power, then I don't want you to use it."
Gadiel went silent for a moment.
"But if I'm not there-"
"I can do it myself," said Tarik.
"But the tattoo-"
"I can check with my phone camera."
"But the monsters-"
"As long as I'm careful, I can beat them."
"Look. Gadiel," Tarik's voice suddenly became deadly serious.
Gadiel waited as Tarik took in a deep breath.
"I don't want to be the reason you hurt yourself," he finally said.
"Seeing you like that during the fight...and how you were afterwards..."
His voice trailed off. Gadiel couldn't imagine the face Tarik was making now. He gripped his cell phone tighter.
How could he be so stupid? Making Tarik worry like this?
"Tarik, I'm fine," he said.
"No, you're not," Tarik replied decisively. "And since you won't talk to me about how you're doing, or what it is that's bothering you, I can't help you."
"You couldn't help me even if I told you what was bothering me," said Gadiel.
There was a brief pause. Gadiel felt like he had said something he shouldn't have.
"You know I'm probably the only person you can actually talk with about all this, right?" said Tarik dryly. "Who else can you talk to about your superpowers without sounding completely crazy?"
"But that doensn't mean-"
"That I'm qualified? That I can deal with your pain?" Tarik mocked. "You're not the only-"
"Can you let me finish?!" Gadiel yelled. "Can I please get a word in edgewise, Mr. Wisecracks?"
Tarik went silent. Gadiel was a little surprised by the outburst; he hadn't known he had been holding it in.
"Go ahead then," Tarik dared. "Floor's all yours."
"You don't get it," said Gadiel. "You don't get what it's like to have to be so perfect all the time, to pretend to be something you're not in front of the people you care about!"
"What, because I don't have parents? Or a family?" Tarik snorted. "Do you know what it's like to be a black man?"
"What does race have to do with-"
"I can't get angry in public without people getting scared!" yelled Tarik. "As soon as I raise my voice, or act in any way that's seen as 'aggressive,' I suddenly become the Angry Black Man who doesn't listen to reason. Doesn't matter if I'm right. Doesn't matter if I'm not even angry – I could just be excited about something. But as soon as my voice goes up, BAM! Angry Black Man."
"So yeah, I think I know a just a liiiittle bit about having to act perfect all the damn time!"
"Okay, but that happens to me too!" Gadiel shouted back. "It's not just a black thing!"
"So we agree, that we both know what it's like!" said Tarik. "Which brings me to my point: how about you tell me about what the f*** is going on with you, so I can help you?!"
"I'm scared that you'll leave me if you know how f***ed up I am!" Gadiel yelled.
As soon as he said it, all the energy left his body. He didn't care about all the people staring; he was in his own little world, just him and Tarik. He leaned back against a wall, sliding down slowly until his face was in his knees.
"I'm just...I'm f***ed up, Tarik," he said. "I'm not...I'm not...a person..."
Tarik said nothing. The line stayed silent for a while, with Gadiel unable to even think of something more to say.
It felt like the words were bursting from his chest; he wanted to tell Tarik everything, about his childhood, about the things he did, the people he met, and the ones he abandoned. He just needed Tarik to tell him it was okay. To know it was okay to let the torrent out.
He just needed to hear the perfect words to make him speak. Otherwise they would never come out.
But deep down, Gadiel knew that those perfect words didn't-
Gadiel flinched as he heard the sounds coming from Tarik's end of the line. He frowned.
"Tarik," he said. "What's going-"
At that moment, the line went dead.
Instatnly, Gadiel felt something in his stomach tighten.
"Oh no," he whispered, instantly realizing the situation. He turned, barely realizing what he was doing, and sprinted out of the gym.
"Go get him tiger!" yelled the receptionist, but Gadiel payed her no mind.
It was only once he was halfway towards John's XXIII Student Dormitory did Gadiel realize that he was chasing a feeling. He could feel the sensation in his stomach tightening, pulling him towards Tarik. How did he know it was pulling him towards Tarik?
Who else would it be?
Gadiel reached the building for John's XXIII Student Dormitory, though it was more accurate to call it two buildings; one with the cafeteria and reception, and the student rooms in the building behind it. Gadiel rushed past a group of people coming out of the student room building, rushing up the stairs on the right.
He had been to Tarik's room a couple times before, last year before they started getting into each other. If it was the same room as last year…
Sure enough, the feeling in his stomach lead him to the third floor. The corridors were narrow here; only big enough for about two people to walk side-by-side. He turned sharply around a corner, to find one door in the middle of the corridor lying on the floor. He could hear the sounds of a struggle too.
"TARIK!" Gadiel yelled, rushing towards that room.
He stopped at the doorway, to find Tarik in his underwear, wrestling with a large, bat-winged, goat-headed, monkey bodied monster. For a moment, all he could do was watch Tarik's toned back muscles ripple as he held the monster back with his hands, the tattoo of the sun on his back glowing white.
"IIII-Y-Y-Y-YAA-AA-AAA-AAH!" the monster screamed.
"AAAAAAAHHHH!" Tarik yelled, somehow pushing back against the monster.
No. Gadiel noticed that it seemed like the monster was trying to let go of Tarik; there was steam coming off from Tarik's hands. The monster, in its desperation, flung Tarik towards the wall.
Tarik's grip failed him, causing him to go flying into the wall. He landed on his bed, winded. The monster immediately leaped forward.
Gadiel raised a hand, seeing red.
How dare you hurt him in front of me?
How dare you try to take him from me?
How dare you put your filthy hands on him?
In front of me?
How dare you?!
Immediately the world became cold. A wave of ice burst from the place Gadiel was standing, frost sliding over the walls and doors. The monster instantly froze, it's limbs locking in place, eyes expanding as they froze inside its skull.
But Gadiel wasn't done.
"How dare you interrupt my conversation with Tarik," he muttered, eyes cold.
He watched as the monster's body slowly fell, piece by piece. First a finger, then a hand, then more and more pieces, until all that was left was a pile of frozen monster body parts, piled on top of each other, the skull of the monster turning back to face Gadiel.
Its expression frozen in permanent terror, just before it hit the floor and shattered into a million pieces.
Gadiel's eyes went wide. No. No he didn't- he didn't mean to. He wasn't-
He looked up, only to see Tarik looking up at him with an expression of…
Their eyes met and locked. Tarik slowly got up, eyes never leaving Gadiel's. He walked up to Gadiel in the corridor, seemingly unbothered by the cold.
He reached out and touched Gadiel's face, gently caressing it as he walked in closer. His touch was tender and warm, warmer than anything Gadiel had ever felt before. A slow heat blossomed within his chest, spreading out of his body.
Gadiel's expression broke into tears, but he couldn't move. He simply stood there as Tarik watched him.
He felt safe. He felt seen.
It was too much.
"It's alright," Tarik whispered, bringing Gadiel into a hug. He was a head shorter than him, but somehow Gadiel felt himself get lost in his embrace.
"I'm here," he whispered. "I'm here, if you want me."
"Of course I want you," Gadiel whispered back, holding Tarik tight. "I don't know what I'd do without you."
"I can see that," Tarik chuckled. His voice was warm and caring, somehow delicate and strong at the same time.
Slowly, the ice around them began to melt.
"I'm afraid of being alone," Gadiel whispered. "I'm afraid you'll leave me if you know who I am."
"Let me make that choice," Tarik whispered back. "I cannot love all of you if you don't let me see all of you."
"It's ugly," whispered Gadiel, holding Tarik tighter. "I'm not proud of who I am."
"Show me," said Tarik. "I want to know."
"Do you really?" asked Gadiel, breaking the hug. He looked into Tarik's eyes with his own tear-filled ones.
Tarik's eyes was resolute. He held his gaze, and nodded once.
"I want to know you," he said. "I want to love you."
Gadiel's heart skipped a beat. He wiped away his tears.
"Okay," he said, and taking Tarik's hand and walking into the room, all of the ice around them completely melted.
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