Chapter 4: Why do we love?

My world is ravaged by war.

Not just any war, but a hopeless war fought against demons from hell. But war itself…is hell. It tears people apart, shreds them into little pieces, and leaves them there to die. War is a demon, much like demons are a part of this war.

I had one thing in my mind right now; to find Odium. This was his doing, I knew it. This was what he meant by his so called 'new orders'; they were the orders regarding his next massacre. I should have known.

I cried out his name until my voice was hoarse and reality started to separate from fantasy. This is a dream, I thought, a terrifying nightmare that I was going to wake up from any moment now. But the thing about living in this war-torn world is that, too often, you don't wake up from your nightmares. You live in them.

I finally spotted him, amidst crumbling buildings and pools of crimson blood. He didn't seem like Odium anymore, the Odium I had travelled around with for a while, the easily bored, deep and meaningful, cynical and thoughtful Odium. He looked like demon lord Odium, the same person that instilled terrible fear into my soul, not so long ago, on the day of our pact. He had blood dripping from his claws. As our eyes met he didn't even seem to recognise me. There was only a raw, animalistic intent to hunt and kill. Despite knowing very well that he could possibly break our deal, I ran up to him in desperation, screeching words that I couldn't even understand myself. He stopped his piercing of his claws into human flesh, and the bodies around him dropped to the ground, lifeless like fragile little rag dolls. He turned so that he was facing me square on. That hungry look in his eyes never changed, but I saw a spark of intelligence in them.

"Odium, stop!" My screeching finally became discernible. "Is this what you meant by new orders? This? This brutal, cruel massacre? I didn't think you were one to take orders Odium, but since you are so willing to obey, I order to stop this insanity right here, right now." My shaking knees and broken voice gave away that in fact, I wasn't so sure of myself. Despite my words of confidence, deep down I was terrified.

Odium stood stock still, as I saw that spark of intelligence in his eyes ignite to become a flame. I looked down and saw that his fingers were moving, twitching, drumming. He was thinking. Thinking about stopping, thinking about killing me, thinking about how to kill me, I don't know. But I knew for certain that Odium was thinking, because he always drummed his fingers when he was. It was the only close-to-human habit he had.

Odium smiled. And when he did, the malice flooded in his crimson eyes once more. When I was travelling with Odium, his eyes were usually a maroon colour, a magenta when he was especially calm. But now, in his hungry, demonic state, they were the same blood red as day one of our deal. He revealed his teeth, which were a lot sharper than I had seen before. They too, like his claws, were dripping with blood.

"I don't take orders from little human girls." He crooned as he licked the blood from his claws, expressing obvious savouring of the taste.

"You have to," I whispered.

"Oh no I don't," he whispered back.

And, with that, he ran off towards wherever his next victims would be, away from me. I gave chase, and even in my excellent physical condition I barely managed to keep him within sight. As Odium ran, he slashed villagers that were running away from him without stopping. I had no choice but to follow him, and ignore the crumbling bodies that fell to the earth beside me. The screeching of the minor demons continued, and these sounds mingled with the screams of dying people.

I was crying tears of frustration, but I hastily wiped them away with the back of my hand. I was so angry. So frustrated. I was frustrated at my own inability to do something, my own helplessness, my own stupidity for not realising earlier. But most of all, I was frustrated at myself for hoping. At the back of my mind, I had always hoped that Odium had something in him. Something human. Something that made him different to other demons; he was thoughtful, wise, and had the tiniest sliver of compassion in him. And that was represented when he spared me from being killed. But now I realised, that tiny sliver of compassion wasn't really compassion at all. All he wanted was a form of entertainment, a form of distracting himself from the pain that is immortality. Me.

He was still running, and I was still crying, but straight ahead I saw something that made my blood go cold. There were two figures, straight in Odium's path of destruction. Two small, short figures that I instantly recognised as children. They stood statuesquely still, glued to the spots they were in, paralysed with fear. As I redoubled my efforts to catch up to Odium, I noticed the features of one of the boys. He was a young boy, probably no more than the age of ten. He had spiky blonde hair and wide blue eyes the colour of summer skies.

Samuel.

"Samuel! Run!" I roared, despite knowing that there was no way in the world that these two boys could possibly outrun a fully grown demon. I pumped my legs harder, fully sprinting now, as Odium neared the two boys with his talons stretched out. I finally came within arm's distance of Odium, and in a last burst of renewed fervour I wrapped both my arms around his waist. I intended to stop him with that, or at least tackle him to the ground. But he didn't falter for one second; he kept on running, shaking me off like a dog with water.

I crashed to the floor, feeling an intense pain in my left ankle and blood trickling down from grazes on my face. Nevertheless, I got back up, and limped as fast as I could, dragging my left leg behind me. Each step felt like little demons were gnawing away at my ankle. The adrenaline negated some of the pain though; I felt nothing but fear.

"Odium, stop!" I screamed with hot tears pouring down my face. "You can't kill them. They're only children, for goodness sake."

Odium stopped this time. He was towering above the two children already, whom were looking up at him with horror pasted on their little faces. They were still rooted to the spot, too consumed by their fear to run away. He turned to face me, one eyebrow raised.

"And why do you care?" He hissed. "You don't even know them. You humans are so stupid."

"I don't why I care, I just do." I said with a shaking, broken voice.

"Oh yeah, empathy right? And whatever other stupid emotions you humans experience, like kindness and compassion." He looked at me with a mixture of disdain and loathing. "Well then let me tell you. Kindness doesn't exist. It is merely a by-product of humanity's desire to survive. People are kind, because they expect kindness back. Kindness is merely a poor excuse for selfishness. The same with what you call 'love.' Love is merely a by-product of humanity's need to reproduce. They love so that they can find the best possible mate, for the best possible offspring, for the best possible chances of survival as a race. Love doesn't really exist. Humans are selfish, just like demons are. But us demons don't need means of survival, because we are immortal, and therefore we do not have these stupid emotional by products."

"You're wrong." I whispered as I shook my head. "There's more to existence than selfishness and survival. Humans have a bigger purpose than that. We're here to live, not survive, for other people and not ourselves."

I looked with disappointment; as long as Odium had been speaking, the two boys still had not used the opportunity to run away. Odium looked at me sceptically for my beliefs. "Prove it." He said almost childishly.

I wanted to buy time, as much as I wanted to prove him wrong. So I took a deep breath. "Maybe the first humans who realised what kindness was, did it for personal gain. But that's not the case with everyone. You may not know, because you're a demon, but often we are kind, or compassionate, without ever thinking what we can get back. We just think that this person doesn't deserve what he or she is getting, and act on that. It's a part of our nature. We don't think about why we are kind, or what being kind gets us in return. And most of the time, being unkind is more advantageous than being kind. But humans still display kindness, because we have evolved from being purely selfish to partly selfless. Kindness has evolved, from selfish actions for personal gain, into something great. Where we no longer think about ourselves, but for other people."

"Love, I don't have time to discuss these matters with you. I have a job to do." He said, although not once breaking eye contact with me. He was listening, I knew. He was interested in my beliefs, because they were so opposite to his cynical outlook. Because they proved something wonderful that Odium couldn't comprehend before. Meanwhile, I saw that the two boys were slowly, quietly, slinking away.

"It's the same with love." I continued. "Maybe love started off because the first humans discovered that it kept relationships closer, which provides a better chance for the survival of offspring. Maybe it started off as ensuring optimum production of healthy offspring, and from humankind's need for connections with one another. But love has evolved from that initially selfish purpose, just like kindness has. Why do we love? Why don't animals love, even though they still manage to produce healthy offspring? Why are there homosexuals in this world? Surely, they don't experience love to produce offspring, because they obviously can't. And yet the hard, cold fact is, they do. Maybe they are persecuted for their love, as many people don't approve of it, but it doesn't stop the fact that they can and that they do. Humans are more complex creatures than you think, Odium. It isn't about surviving anymore. It's about living and being happy and making the most of our lives."

The boys were far away in the distance now. I don't know if I was fervently expressing my beliefs anymore, or buying them time. I desperately wanted Odium to know that there was more to human life than he had originally thought.

"And what about death?" I didn't give Odium a chance to interrupt me, in case I didn't get a chance to say all that I wanted to say. "When one of our loved ones die, we feel sad, depressed, and for some of us this pain can ruin our entire lives. But when an animal in a pack dies, their family doesn't mourn for them like humans do, because this is unnecessary. From a survival perspective, it is more advantageous to forget about people we have loved before once they have died, because they are no longer of any use to us. But that's not the case with humans. We can't unlove someone, because our emotions run deeper than its original intended purpose for us to reproduce. Even though that loved one is of no use to us anymore, or by your theory, even though we can't reproduce with them anymore, we still love them. We let their deaths ruin us, hurt us, and if humans were truly as selfish as you made them out to be, we would forget them the moment they became of no use to us. But humans have stronger connections than you think, Odium, whether it be through love, kindness, compassion or friendship."

I took a deep breath, and it was then that I realised that I was crying. Something in me hurt, and it wasn't my ankle.

Odium looked at me with contemplating eyes. There was a small flicker of defeat in them. His fingers were drumming beside him. But soon enough, this interest dissipated and his eyes switched from magenta to blood red again. "We'll talk about this after I've completed my job." He said huskily.

"No!" I screamed, but my ankle prevented me from stopping and following Odium. I limped as fast as I could, but it wasn't nearly enough. I could only watch from a close distance, as Odium neared the two boys with one talon ready to strike. Ready to kill. I sobbed harder and harder, but no amount of sobbing was going to give a demon compassion.

Suddenly, there was a soft white light and the melodious, pure-noted chime of a bell. The world seemed to be bathed in this light, and everything seemed to stop. One white feather floated to the ground, right in front of my feet.