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I watched as the demon's face tightened and twisted, fear and anger and irritation writing themselves in the fine lines creasing his skin, and I muttered, "What...what do you mean by complicated?"

"Those words. Repeat them again. Just once."

Brow furrowed, I did as asked—or, rather, as ordered. "Forsuile...val...val—as? F-farath, Balth—."

The final word hadn't entirely left my lips before the demon crossed the room and clapped a hand over my mouth. Startled by his speed, I could only stare up at him as he, in turn, stared at the window, dark eyes flicking ever so slightly as thoughts whirled through his head.

"And a man appeared, you said? Taller than me, brown hair, green-eyed?"

I nodded.

"It can't be," he whispered.

Pulling back from his hand, I asked, "It can't be what?"

The demon's arm recoiled, and he glared before turning, the motion whip-sharp, and he strode from the room. Though my body protested any extraneous movement, I levered myself out of the bed and followed him through the door, one hand braced on the wall for balance and the other held to my throbbing side. Blood stained the paint where I'd dragged my shoulder the last time I ventured from my sick bed.

"Wh-what do mean by complicated?" I demanded again. My voice cracked with pain, dry and brittle as old paper left too long in the sun, and yet I found a form of stubborn strength in my growing irritation when the demon paced my living room and refused to answer.

Bastard, I seethed in my thoughts before soldiering on. "Those words—do you know what they are? What language? And that man. Who...what was he?"

"I can't be sure, can I?" the demon retorted, the flat black of his gaze hard and hateful when it found my own. "What with your erudite observation skills."

"I was being murdered. Sorry for not paying more attention."

He scoffed and resumed pacing.

Something in that wretched chant had set the creature off. Individually, the words made no sense; they blurred together in my thoughts like running paint, and yet some ingrained intuition of mine could imagine how the syllables might form on a native tongue, sharp diphthongs and rolling phonemes, breaths stolen between words like a singer preparing for their next set.

One word, in particular stood out, both because the demon clearly wished for me not to say it, and because it sounded like a name: Balthier. If I wasn't mistaken, that was a diminutive for Balthazar, a biblical moniker. Catching my breath, I inquired, "Is that what he's called? That name? Balth—."

The demon shifted, moved like water had replaced his bones, and my back hit the wall a moment before the flat of his hand did, the resulting bang shaking the house to its foundation. "Don't say it, you stupid girl!"

"Don't presume to call me stupid in my own house," I retorted, pain and grief giving me energy I didn't otherwise feel. "I asked you what it meant, and you ignored me. What is it? What does it mean?"

"Stop asking questions."

"No." The creature loomed, and yet I held onto my indignation, let it sow steel in my spine and tamp down the agony pulsing through my ribs as I met his glower. Would he kill me if I pushed too far? I couldn't say—and I couldn't say I cared either, because continuing in ignorance chaffed worse than potential death. "Tell me."

He leaned nearer and showed his teeth, color again threading the blacks of his irises as a chill raced along my spine. I began to realize the cold came from him. Somehow, the demon seemed to suck the very warmth out of the air with his presence, and when his eyes flashed red as they did now, the cold only worsened.

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