Ashes to Ashes
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Hana didn’t feel good the next day, her headache returning early in the morning. It was a burden she couldn’t shake off. Painkillers sometimes worked, but lately, she’d stopped using them. She’d let go of her hope to survive, and now she was only counting down the days. According to the doctors, she had maybe four more weeks left, at most. She wanted to get it over with, her bitterness growing with each passing day.

The only thing that could distract her from her fate was a green-haired demon who came by every single day without fail. Sometimes it was in the mornings, other times in the afternoon. Kāi was persistent. Even though she was a picture of misery, the stubborn demon kept reappearing, his mind set on winning her over. So far, he hadn’t gotten anywhere.

However, on the sixth day he came by for a visit, he had a plan in mind—a plan that was sure to succeed, in his opinion.

“Hana, I’m back!” he called through her flat, not spotting her in her bedroom, so he walked to the living room. He found her on her sofa, a book on her lap, and a steaming cup of tea on the small coffee table. Her brown hair was tousled and she seemed tired. More tired than usual. The shadows under her eyes spoke of sleep deprivation. Kāi was suspicious, thinking that something was off, but he couldn’t pinpoint it. Compared to other humans, Hana wasn’t as energetic. He hardly ever saw her leave her home on her own volition. And he was sure that since he’d brought her to Paris a few days ago, she hadn’t left the house anymore. He figured he had to do something about that. In here, she certainly wouldn’t have a reason to smile or fall in love with him.

“Hana?” he said when she just stared at him.

“Kāi? What are you doing here?”

“Silly, shouldn’t you know that? Our game is still on,” he snickered, sitting down next to her on the sofa, close enough for her to smell the scent of ash that lingered on him. He’d never cared about personal space, she’d noticed that a while ago, and frankly it didn’t bother her.

“I’ve been thinking about something lately and I wanted to ask… Can you do me a favor?” she asked shyly, unsure if he’d be willing to do something for her despite only knowing her for a few days. Demons weren’t exactly known for their helpfulness.

“What is it?”

“I want you to take me somewhere,” she said. “Please. It’s my wish to see as many places as possible… within the next 24 days.”

“That’s all?” he grinned. “No need to look so glum, sweetheart. This sounds like fun, so I’m in! Where do you want to go?”

“Well, for starters, I’ve always wanted to spend a day in London,” she said.

“Good, then that’ll be our first date destination,” he decided and gave her a flirty wink.

Heaving a sigh of relief, she got up and walked into the adjacent hallway to get her shoes and a jacket. She was glad that he didn’t ask any intrusive questions about her unusual wish because she didn’t know if she could have answered those. Even though she struggled to find happiness in her life, she still wanted to enjoy what remained of it. In those few weeks, she wanted to make as many memories as she possibly could. Perhaps then she could die without regrets.

If someone had told her she’d spend her last days in the company of a demon, she would have laughed in their face, but here she was… And if she was honest with herself, then she didn’t mind Kāi’s presence. On the contrary. She’d been lonely before, the only people she had talked to lately being her doctors, and after her last appointment, she’d even avoided them. Kāi was like a breath of fresh air in her life. Despite his weird habits and antics, she found herself drawn to him. Maybe it was his tenaciousness to get close to her that made her cave in so quickly, she wasn’t sure.

He boldly took her hand, a hint of a blush appearing on her cheeks when he leaned in, staring right into her eyes. His proximity had a strange effect on her, making her feel warm, almost giddy.

“Are you ready?” he asked in a low voice that caused her to shudder in anticipation.

“Yes,” she answered. Not a second later, she stood in the middle of the Tower Bridge, surrounded by many tourists who were all chattering excitedly and snapping photos. Overwhelmed, she stumbled backward, right into Kāi who steadied her.

“Careful, sweetheart,” he whispered into her ear. “Wouldn’t want you to fall.”

Her blush intensified, forcing her to hide her cheeks behind her brown hair. “Don’t worry about that. Let’s go!” she said and started walking over the bridge. Her eyes strayed over the glimmering surface of the River Thames down below. Some ships were rocking softly on the water, most of them filled with tourists. Even though it was fall, the weather was pleasantly warm, so she soon opened her jacket, enjoying the comfortable atmosphere.

Hana was so in awe of her surroundings that she completely forgot about the demon following her like a shadow. As usual, his appearance attracted a lot of attention, but he didn’t mind. He ignored the humans, his eyes set on Hana. He was only waiting for her to finally show a smile, but she didn’t. It was easy to see that their outing had lifted her mood, nonetheless, she didn’t look happy. Kāi didn’t understand what stopped her. There had to be a reason for her constant sadness, and he would find out what it was.

They left the bridge and headed down the stairs to the riverside. It was flanked by trees and benches where more people mingled. Hana wondered if London was always so overrun by people. She had imagined it to be a bit less crowded.

As she strolled down the street, Kāi easily caught up to her and accompanied her. They passed the Tower of London and walked on, staying close to the river since Hana liked it there. Keeping his plan in mind, Kāi slyly slipped his hand into hers, holding it. Surprised, Hana glanced at him, and he could have sworn that she blushed a little, but it was hard to tell since she hid her cheeks behind her long hair when she looked away. He chuckled amusedly, squeezing her hand. That she didn’t pull away had to be a good sign. His lips quirked up triumphantly. It seemed like she couldn’t resist him after all.

They walked quietly for a while until Hana couldn’t keep her curiosity at bay any longer. “Kāi, who are you?” she asked.

“What kind of question is that?” he laughed.

She bit her lip, awkwardly staring at the ground. “Well, I was just wondering… if you could tell me more about you? I hardly know a thing other than the fact that you’re a demon.”

“If you want to hear a sob story about my past, then I have to disappoint you,” he answered and shrugged. “There’s not much to tell. I’ve lived in hell for a few centuries, occasionally visited earth to cause mischief and find entertainment… and that’s pretty much it.”

That was anticlimactic. She snorted and rolled her eyes. “That really sounds boring. Don’t you have any friends or acquaintances?”

His eyes lit up, a smirk curling his lips. “Oh, well… I have eight friends to who I’m particularly close. Most of them are staying in hell, but two have decided to live among humans.”

“Really?” she asked, her curiosity sparked. “They live on earth? Like regular people?”

“I wouldn’t call them regular. I mean, Läy pretty much is a normal guy, doesn’t do many exciting things… Baëkhyun on the other hand is extremely fun to annoy. He’s living with a human woman, and he gets riled up so easily whenever I try to make him jealous. Last time I came by, he nearly fried my clothes with his light magic.”

Hana gazed at him with wide eyes, astonished that Kāi was laughing about this. It sounded scary to her; making a demon angry on purpose couldn’t be a good idea, right? Then again, what else would she expect from Kāi? He was a daredevil, and also a bit strange to understand at times.

“Why is he living with a human?”

Kāi snorted in amusement, grinning at her. “Isn’t it obvious, sweetheart? Because that idiot is head over heels for her,” he said.

“So… so demons can fall in love?” she asked.

“Damn, Hana, what is it with all these questions? Why shouldn’t they?” Kāi chuckled. “Demons aren’t that different from humans. We’re just insanely strong, can use magic, enter hell whenever we please, live for centuries—”

“I see, I see. Demons are basically the same as humans,” she retorted sarcastically. “Kāi, that’s a ridiculous comparison.”

He squeezed her hand and smirked playfully. “If you say so,” he said carelessly, his gaze sweeping over their surroundings. They’d been walking for a while, and Hana felt herself getting tired. Maybe it was time for a break. She wasn’t in her best state after all.

“Can we sit down for a while?” she asked softly, not noticing his raised eyebrows.

“Are you tired already?”

“S-So what?” she replied in a stutter.

“Humans are so weak,” he breathed but didn’t complain any further. “Then let me show you a special place. We’ll be unbothered there.”

He touched her arm and used his magic to teleport. Her stomach dropped when she realized where they had ended up. The mischievous idiot had brought them on top of the Big Ben. They were standing on a ledge above the large clock, and many meters below them was the busy street. Her knees almost gave in. She swayed and threw herself at him, holding on tightly.

“K-Kāi, are you serious right now?!” she squeaked. “T-This is… how in the world is this a place for a break?”

“Don’t you like it? I think it’s great,” he said. She wanted to hit him for being so nonchalant about it. That clown was even smirking at her.

“N-No! Get me down, please!”

“But why? At least take a minute to enjoy the view,” he said as he embraced her body. She was shaking, and it was clearly because she was afraid. “You won’t fall, I promise.”

She hesitantly lifted her head that she had hidden at his chest to glance at his face. They were close to each other, so much so that she could see the dark lashes framing his piercing eyes. For once, he looked sincere, and she decided to believe his words. She held him tightly while she turned her head to take in the view

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